Sprayed with the blood of his brother, Tagor releases IIyra and washes himself clean all the while keeping an eye on IIyra. He didn’t want her to remain in this place a moment longer than necessary, and with the sacred site tainted with death and violence, it was going to have to be cleansed of evil. He rose with water dripping down his torso, and then looked back at the slain body of his brother. The last thing Tagor wanted was to have to touch the man, the man that tried to take IIyra from him. Snorting, Tagor ordered Jamai to take Sharma back to the village, and then get a group of men to come and fetch the body of murderous Marmut, then have the Shaman come and perform a sacrifice to rid the site of evil. Jamai slowly helped Sharma from the waters, checking her face for the large swelling bruise and cut that had now gotten worse. She was going to need treatment, and probably be out of action a few days at least. She would however be rewarded, for trying to shield IIyra from the raging Marmut.
With Jamai and Sharma heading back, Tagor turned and then scooped up his woman; IIyra and held her close to his chest, as he carried her out of the cool waters, and then made the long walk back to the village.
Njada lands – Village
The village itself was now abuzz with the news of what Marmut had done. Many were shocked and angered, while a few men questioned Tagor’s attitude to his new mate. It was clear he was going to have to settle this once and for all before the elders of the council, rather than have another buck decide he could try and steal IIyra away from Tagor. It would be a cold day in hell before he would dare allow a man within fifty feet of her.
Reaching their tent, a guard pulled back the tent flap and Tagor carried IIyra inside, placing her down gently as another pair of maidens arrived outside, both Njada women. When they heard and saw Sharma, there was no shortage of women that wanted to help care for IIyra. Whispers were she was carrying the future leader in her belly, and she was viewed to be an almost holy figure. Tagor allowed the women to enter and gestured with his hand to IIyra.
“Mate of Tagor needs touch. Rub and please her, then prepare her for feast.”
He would not stay for this, though he would probably enjoy watching IIyra getting massaged, but he had to deal with the body of his brother, as well as quell any disputes that arise from this unfortunate series of events. Would Tagor’s leadership be questioned? Only time would tell. Tagor gave his mate a half smile, reaching to touch her hair, before walking proudly out of the tent.
The two women set up their baskets of oils and smooth stones, and then one asked.
“Please, IIyra of Njada, disrobe and we shall help to relax and comfort you.”
Tagor, after washing the blood of his brother from his body, solved that problem by scooping her small form into his arms and carrying her back to their tent, following Jamai and Sharma as they did so.
The village was buzzing with gossip as they returned but Tagor ignored them all as he headed inside their tent. He placed her carefully on her feet before gesturing to the two Njada women who had come in behind him.
“Mate of Tagor needs touch. Rub and please her, then prepare her for feast.” he ordered. She was unaware of the thoughts currently crowding his mind but he graced her with one of his rare smiles before he left.
Afterwards, the two women stepped forward to offer their services to Ilyra.
“Please, Ilyra of Njada, disrobe and we shall help to relax and comfort you.”
Nodding, not feeling the least bit embarassed about being nude before other women, Ilyra removed her clothing, noticing there were blood stains on the front.
“Please burn those.” she stated, not wishing the taint of Marmut to touch her body in any way. One of the women nodded and quickly scooped up the material before tossing it in the flames of the firepit.
“New dress for you is being made. Very soft on skin.” she told Ilyra. She pointed to the bedfurs. “You rest and we take care of you and babe.”
Nodding, Ilyra moved to the furs with a grace and elegance that would make others envious that she was able to move so free. But she was an elf of grand lineage and despite her slave status, it was obvious her breeding and manners shown through.
The woman set to work on Ilyra, massaging her tense muscles and placing warming stones along her spine to draw any bad spirits from her aura and that of her unborn child. She was treated like a queen, and in a sense she was, being Tagor’s mate and future mother of his children.
A third woman came in some time later with Ilyra’s new dress, a fur so soft it made the hairs stand up on her body as it slithered over her petite form. It was of the purest of whites, as if it had been cured and set in the sun for a long time and held small beads down the front that complimented the color of her eyes.
There were matching boots to go with it and she slipped them on her feet, wondering at their softness and warmth.
“Winter come…will keep warm.” the woman stated.
“Thank you.” Ilyra replied. “How is Sharma? May I see her?”
“Sharma rest now. Medicine woman help. We go to feast to honor Tagor’s return to us and your place at his side. Great honor as mate. No disappoint Tagor.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Ilyra stated, eyes wide. Disappointing the man who saved her very life was the last thing she wanted to do. She would go and see Sharma on her own time and thank her for her protection and friendship.
The women, having finished with Ilyra, left the tent to lead her to the feast.
She hoped whatever errand had sent Tagor from her was fruitful, and was eager to see him at the feast.
Tagor sat within the largest chair of a large circle, that was part of a pit. The inside of the pit held a fire and also a round platform on which people stand before their peers when the council of Elders met. This day, there had been an emergency meeting called, as the death of Marmut and his slave had caused an uproar within the Njada community. Tagor sat stony faced, as a group of men, carried in on a wooden stretcher, the body of Marmut, who was placed beside that of the body of his servant girl, who had been beaten to death. The council elders all murmured amongst themselves, as this was not a normal occurrence within the village.
Suddenly from outside the large tent, a woman who wore exotic jewels and the clothes of a higher member of the Njada entered the council, crying and wailing. She spied the body of her son, Marmut, and then fell down at his side, and beat her hands on the ground, raising them up to the sky and begging why….why was her son dead? No one had told her the circumstances of his death, only that he was. Now, the truth was going to be revealed, since the wailing woman, was also the mother of the Chief, Tagor.
Tagor rose up, and then looked at each member of the Council in turn, as his mother’s sobs lessened. This was not something he had ever envisioned happening, not within his own family, but Njada rules of life had been broken and he paid for this with his life.
“Tagor come before you. to speak of the death of Marmut…my brother, and his slave; Kaleaf.” For a moment he paused, as his Mother raised her head, her tear stained face looking up at him expectantly but she was in for a very rude shock.“Kaleaf…was beaten to death by her Master Marmut, after he had seen Mate of Tagor enter village.” This brought a collective gasp from the members of the council, and this was when Sharma and Jamai entered the tent, both witnesses to the events that Tagor was explaining.
“Sharma and IIyra…Mate of Tagor went to the Basalt Falls to cleanse before feast. Basalt Falls is sacred to women, observed and agreed to by Council.” All the council nodded, knowing this was true, even Thiras knew this. Thrias continued to stare at Marmut, as he went into the final part of his defense. “Marmut…went to Basalt Falls to lay with IIyra…mate of Tagor.” More shocked looks and this had Thiras shaking her head in disbelief. She knew that Marmut had laid with Tagor’s slave’s before, and this was the first time there had been a problem. There was a part of this she was not getting, and Tagor looked squarely at his mother.
“Tagor mated IIyra in town of trade, and she carries young Njada son in belly. Tagor found Marmut, trying to attack IIyra. Marmut tried to kill Tagor.” He then snarled the last part, as every fibre in his being hated his brother for his betrayal.
“Tagor kill Marmut!”
At this the council went into meltdown and Thiras looked up at Tagor horrified. Her own son, killed her other. It was simply unthinkable. She shook her fist at her son, and then spat at the ground just near where he stood. Even though Tagor had acted in the right way, and by council law, his own mother rejected this, and shamed him in front of the Elders.
“You are no son of Thiras.”
With that, she marched out of the tent leaving many in a state of shock.
Possibly the only magic involved was the magic of a man who truly cared for the woman she was and not as a slave, or a brood mare.
Ilyra held her head high, ignoring the covetous looks being sent her way. She may have been a slave, but first and foremost, she was a Princess of Clan Tal, pride of the Winter Elves.
That was until a woman, who looked similarly like Tagor stopped her in the middle of the path and spat at her feet. Surprised, she jumped away from the liquid staining the ground and looked at the woman.
“You kill my son! You make Tagor kill my son! You no mate of Tagor! You die slow and painful!” she snarled. Ilyra’s eyes were wide as the woman spat angrily at her.
“Your son try to hurt mate of Tagor! You shall be quiet!” snapped an elderly man who had stepped up behind the small group. The man was known to all as Motka and he was Tagor’s grandfather. He had always loathed the fact that Thiras had somehow managed to trap his son into a loveless union, even though she had borne him two grandsons. Marmut had inherited his mother’s penchant for causing trouble wherever he went and hadn’t learned the value of hard work and apt rewards. Tagor was the opposite and he was proud that his son had chosen Tagor to lead their people when he had passed away. This had only fostered Marmut’s cruelty to unheard of levels. More then one slave had come from his tent bleeding, bruised and in pain.
Though his age was great, his mind was sharp and he stared down Thiras. “Son chose correctly for Tagor to lead our people. Marmut all your fault! Ban from village you shall be if you do not desist.” Motka glared.
Snarling in anger, Thiras turned and headed for her tent at the edge of the village. Motka turned kind eyes to Ilyra. “Mate of Tagor. Motka would be honored to take to feast.” He held out his hand to her.
“I would be honored.” she nodded, placing her hand in his. He drew her forward and they continued on their way. While they walked, Ilyra learned that he was Tagor’s grandfather, and was proud of his grandson and the leadership skills he displayed in leading their people. He was hard but fair and had refused many women as mates for himself, claiming he was looking for that special woman to share his furs with. She blushed when he gave her the once-over and claimed she would breed many fine sons to carry on Tagor’s legacy. She placed a hand over her still-flat stomach and hoped that was true.
Reaching the site of the feast, she noticed that many slaves and servants were rushing about and getting things ready. Motka lead her to a place that sat facing North toward the village.
“Sit here. Mate of Tagor share place of pride at feast.” Motka announced as Ilyra lowered herself to the furs at her feet. She nodded and he moved to sit beside her on her left. She assumed (correctly) that Tagor’s place was on her right side and couldn’t wait to see him. She wondered where he was.
Many of those that were the tribe elders and had sat in council when Tagor admitted that he had killed his own brother according to tribal law, had now made their way down to the feast area. Most were still talking about the events that transpired within the council tent, but there was no doubt, that Tagor had acted properly and by their way. Regardless of what Thiras wanted, or even for disowning her own son, it was clear, that this would not affect Tagor’s position amongst his people. On many occasions, he had been victorious in the wars against their neighbors and rivals, and had provided good and open communication with the trading nations, thus allowing the Njada to prosper for many years. He was both highly regarded as a leader and respected for his actions, which always spoke louder than words.
Thiras was angrily walking away from the feast ground, as the council approached and then began to pass her, as she hurled abuse and obscenities. Clearly, this was not over, even with her late husband’s father pulling rank and putting her in her place. She spotted Tagor, and if looks could kill….Tagor did not respond, or react, instead he held his head with dignity, and made his way to the feast grounds, where he was to receive a large welcome from his people; the Njada. Celebratory dancing began in the center of the pit, while Tagor made his way around to take his seat in the ceremonial chair. Of course, IIyra had been brought to take her place with the leaders, and on seeing Motka, he struck his chest fiercely and shouted a greeting in his baritone voice.
The music and drumming intensified, as large trays of food were brought around by owned slaves, each girl dressed in leathers and fine furs, that barely covered them. With their dark skins painted with exotic symbols, and their hair brushed to gleaming, they looked incredibly attractive under the lights of the torches.
Near naked women danced and enticed many of the Njada warriors, some women with bare breasts and just wearing beads and jewels, from the spice lands.
Tagor didn’t seem to be interested in the dancers. He sat on the right side of IIyra, and every so often, he stole a glance at her before maintaining a more regal pose. Tagor didn’t reach to touch IIyra, which was odd, since when they were at the slave market township, he did so in front of his peers, his men and the Sheikh. Was he troubled at all, by the death of his brother, the disowning by his mother, and having to face council? Perhaps a drink would make him relax, but for the first part of the feast, he sat and stared forward, clearly deep in thought.
Servant girls hovered around, and constantly were offering food and more wine to IIyra, but clearly the girls were timid around the hulking Tagor. He was normally more accepting, but only took a small helping of food, as the trays passed him.
Ilyra stared in wonderment at the large celebration going on before her. Naked and half-naked women danced about, enticing the Njada males while slaves passed around large platters of food.
From the corner of her eye, Ilyra watched Tagor. He seemed to be enjoying the feast, but with the expression on his face, his mind seemed to be far away. Every once in a while his fingers would twitch as if he wanted to touch her, but refrained from doing so. She caught the glances he gave her every now and then and couldn’t help but wonder if he was beginning to regret his purchasing of her.
His brother was dead because of her…and now it seemed as if his mother hated her deeply for it.
Serving girls kept bringing her food and wine but she declined both, not feeling very hungry at that moment. Motka leaned toward her to whisper in her ear.
“No food not good for babe. Make him weak and puny. Not strong like other Njada. Bring shame to house of Tagor. You eat.”
Ilyra looked at him, shame and regret shining in her gray depths. Motka shook his head. “You no shame Tagor. Marmut bring shame to house. Thiras bring shame to house. Not Ilyra. She bring pride to house. Pride to Tagor. Must hold on to pride like scars of honor Tagor wears.” Ilyra turned her head, eyes traveling over Tagor’s bronzed skin, taking in the many scars of battle covering his body. She had touched a few the day before as they lay together, admiring their texture. It made him seem more imposing.
Another platter of food was brought to them and Ilyra took some of the meats and fruits to nibble on, Motka giving her an approving smile as she did so.
“You will do, Ilyra of Winter Elves.” Motka nodded, patting her arm before turning his gaze back to the feast.
Ilyra ate her fill as the celebrations continued, continuously aware of the large man at her right-hand side, wishing there was something she could do to ease his mind.
One thing about feasts is that the drinking of wine, often loosens the lips of the guests, and after Jamai had come back from checking on the condition of Sharma, he spoke of the events that occurred at the falls. From his own account, and the way that Tagor had stood for his woman, it brought many looks from those seated around the fires, and those being entertained by the dancers. As word passed from group to group, it was clear that there was a renewed interest in the mate of Tagor; a woman who was worth more to Tagor than being a simple slave. Some of the men nodded, and raised their horn mugs up to toast their leader, other women were awe struck by it, but one that was interested, very interested was the medicine woman that had been at the side of the dying slave, the one that Marmut killed in a jealous fit of rage because she was not IIyra.
Slowly, the medicine woman approached the leader Tagor, and his grandfather Motka, along with IIyra. She started to speak in the old language, that had all the guests and dancers stop. Only the crackling of the fire pit could be heard, along with the echo of the wind as it passed through trees, and tent flaps.
Motka understood what she was saying, and leaned to IIyra to translate.
“Dekarya….Medicine woman…she says…Tagor’s mate chosen by the Gods. Son of Tagor grows in belly. She says…Son to be strong…ride great horse of the wild.” Motka then added to IIyra “No one has been able to catch. They say Horse of White from the mountains, be tamed only by the chosen. My own father spoke of legend of Great white horse” This must have meant, that IIyra’s son, was dreamt of long before the trade trip. Motka continued to translate. “Tagor’s mate carry mark. Great magic of Ice and strength of Njada. Gods pleased with Tagor and his mate.” The medicine woman reached for IIyra’s hand and placed in it a small bag, that contained a necklace. It was a charm that would help ward off evil…like that of Thiras. She glanced up at Tagor as she did this, and he simply nodded his approval. Dekarya then reached for Tagor’s hand and brought it to be placed on IIyra. She spoke quickly, and then looked at Tagor seriously. Telling him not to forget, he was the leader, yes….but he had to remember IIyra. Maybe that was what he needed, for he had held back during the feast. Now he felt more at ease. He moved his hand from IIyra’s hand, and then stroked her hair. It was a start, and surely by the time they returned to their tent, he would be far more attentive in private.
The village medicine woman came from her tent to the feast and began speaking. Ilyra couldn’t understand a word she said but Motka was kind enough to translate for her.
Her eyes widened as she listened to the woman’s tale, a prophecy foretold before the time she was born, before she’d become a slave.
The woman handed Ilyra a small pouch, inside of which contained a necklace she was told would ward off evil. In thanks, Ilyra immediately slipped it over her head, the beads warming against her skin. The woman then placed Tagor’s hand across Ilyra’s and spoke something to him and him alone. He nodded and the woman stepped away.
Ilyra was surprised when Tagor reached out and touched her hair and she graced him with a small smile. Maybe things weren’t so bad after all.
The blessings of the Shaman gave all that bore witness a sense of both awe and relief, for their leader had killed his own blood to protect his mate, but also the unborn child within. This child would bring great joy, not only to his parents, but as the future leader of the Njada. A man that will rise to ride the Great white of the wild. It meant the survival of the Njada, and the legacy that would go on for many hundreds of years to come. At the top end of the feast area, Tagor sat and watched the performances of the dancers and even some wrestling, which was always a good sport to enjoy. Tagor’s hand remained upon IIyra from the moment that Dekarya had placed his hand on IIyra’s. As much as he was Leader, he had to remember the importance of the bond between them. For a man like Tagor, he could not express his personal feelings publicly. So much he wanted to say to IIyra and to do to her, but for now he maintained a dignified stance. As much as it would have been unsettling for her, it was just as much so for him.
The final dancers came and performed their act, and brought the feast to a glorious end, with many a Njada man taking a dancer or slave girl back to their tents, to continue to celebrate the night, and the return of Tagor and his mate. Tagor rose from his chair, and turned back to his grandfather, and again he showed respect by striking his chest. There was no words passed, but Motka knew that he would speak with his grandson in the daylight hours. Tagor motioned with his hand for IIyra to rise, and follow him back to the tent, their home. He walked in silence, as those he passed bowed their heads in respect.
Tagor and IIyra’s tent
The candles had all been lit and the leader’s tent had been swept and cleaned. The furs all arranged and sewn cushions scattered in a pile. As Tagor entered the tent, he began to remove his ceremonial leather gauntlets, and began to undress fully, as IIyra would be coming inside. Again for a time, he was quiet and his face looked to be contemplating what to say when IIyra made herself at home. Normally, Tagor would be keen to take her on the furs, but there was something different about him. From the reflection of the candle lights, you could easily see the battle scars that riddled Tagor’s chest and back, scars he was proud of, each to show he had fought hard and won.
When he was fully naked, he approached IIyra and placed his large digit under her chin, so she would need to look up into his eyes. Large dark eyes gazed down at her, and if she looked close enough, you could see the unmistakable sign. He was deeply in love with her. Many might have thought he had been bewitched by her magic, but it was not magic at all. They had formed a bond that was above that of most others. He had chosen a slave to be his mate, but turned her into a Queen of the Njada; even at the risk of being ostracized by his own mother. Now, his people, his grandfather and the shaman had all come to accept and take pride in his choice, and now in the privacy of their tent, he could be true to her, and say what his heart felt.
“Greatest fight…winning IIyra.”
That is how he viewed it. Overcoming what people thought and believed. Raising a woman from slavery and to the most highest role in the Njada. He still had their respect, after everything….but did he have hers?
All through the celebrations, Tagor kept his hand over hers at his side. She felt such a connection with him, it was a surprise to her how quickly she thought of him as hers. For years she’d been a slave: used, abused, hit on and hit, beaten until she could barely walk for some form of disobedience and sold to the highest bidder when she was no longer deemed worthy.
And now here was this man…this warrior…willing to fight for her. She had stopped hoping for a savior in the years after she was taken from her home. She had just wanted to survive. She hadn’t put much stock into her own self-worth, hadn’t thought that anyone would want to fight for her. She had to fight for herself.
In the slave harems, it was killed or be killed and she had to fight for both food and a place to sleep. Had she killed? Yes…it was inevitable. But she’d been sick with grief the first few times it had happened. But then it became a part of her everyday life. She had learned the realities of life that she’d been sheltered from in the Winterlands.
So distracted in her thoughts she was, she hadn’t noticed the ending of the feast until Tagor released her hand and moved fluidly to his feet. He indicated that she was to follow him and after gracing Motka with a kiss to his weathered cheek, got to her own feet to follow him.
The walk was a silent one and those they passed bowed their heads in respect. She remained behind him, as she’d been taught, but easily kept pace with his long strides.
Upon reaching the tent, Tagor began removing his ceremonial garb. As Ilyra was a few steps behind him, she entered in time to see him removing the rest of his clothing. The firelight played against the scars on his back, badges of honor in past battles and she itched to reach her hand out to brush her fingers over them.
Instead, she remained standing in the center of their home, hands loosely resting at her side and her head bowed before him.
There was a change in the air as he approached her and his finger tucked under her chin so that she would look at him. His eyes were deep wells of emotion and her breath caught in her throat. Her hand reached upward, slim fingers wrapping around his wrist as he pinned her with his gaze.
“Greatest fight…winning Ilyra.” Though his voice was gruff, the words were spoken with a gentleness she never thought him capable of. Her eyes dropped low as she was unable to move her head due to his hand placed where it was.
“I’d given up hope a long time ago of finding salvation at the hands of my captors.” she whispered, her voice tight with emotion. Her gaze returned to his face, her eyes shining with tears. “You’ve restored my faith in that hope.”