It Comes In Fragments
He sat on the corner of the bed, leaning against the post, watching the gentle rise and fall of her breath, as she slept. The morning sunlight filtered softly though the windows and alit on light golden blond hair. Some days he could barely believe that this was his wife. No man had ever been so blessed, as he was to have won her heart. She opened her eyes, blinking against the light and smiled up at him. That was a smile he would traverse heaven and hell to be graced with. Gently, he reached out and caressed her face. “You are so beautiful.” Leaning down, his lips brushed hers, in a tender kiss.
She shifted in the bed, lightly guiding him in closer to her, returning his kiss. “I love you.”
“No man is as lucky as I, because the woman who owns my heart, controls my soul, whose beauty takes my breath away and inspires all the love this humble mortal can muster, bestows her love upon me.”
She smiled and kissed him again, but before they could go any further there was a pounding on the door. They tried to ignore it, but it was persistent. With a sigh, Chase reluctantly left his wife’s side and went to open the door. The man on the other side was frantic, swatting at the servants glancing at Sir Chase apologetically and trying to pull the man away.
“You must come quickly! We need your help!” The old man’s eyes were wild, his breathing ragged, and sweat soaked his clothes. “Please … please, Sir Chase.”
“Calm down, good man,” Chase said soothingly, resting a comforting hand on the man’s shoulder. “What has happened? Where are we going?”
“My village is on the edge of your Father-in-Law’s land. They came in from the east during the big storm, using the booming thunder and pelting rain to mask their approached.” The man was shaking and his knees grew weak. Chance took him by the arm and helped him to a chair. Taarna had already wrapped the bedding around her self and was moving toward her closet to get dressed. The old man took a minute to collect him self before he continued. “We fought them off the best we could, but we are poor farmers, not warriors, and there are so few of us. Sir Richard’s castle was nearest, so we sent for him first. I am too old to fight, so he gave me a horse and sent me to get you.”
“You have done well. Go to the kitchen and have the cook give you something to eat and drink.” He looked at the servants, “Send word to the stable to have my horse ready.” He glanced over to the closed closet door. “Are you coming, my wife?”
“Of course!” Taarna answered returning to the room fully dressed.
Chase tried to hide the smile of pride that snuck onto his face at the sight of his young wife. Beauty, intelligence, skill, and the courage of a hundred men; how could any man be luckier than he? He made himself turn back to the servants, so he would not spend the rest of the day simply looking at his wife. “Have my wife’s horse readied as well.”
Before a quarter of a hour had passed Sir Chase and Lady Taarna helped each other into their armour, retrieved their weapons and were well on their way to the little village.
Even from a distance it was obvious that the village had been decimated. Richard and his men had pushed the enemy back from the village, but they were vastly outnumbered and would not be able to hold the line much longer. Those in the village who were still able to fight were hanging back behind the line of professional warriors and taking on any who got past the main line of defense. Chase headed directly toward Richard and the heart of the fighting, but Taarna, who was still a better fighter on solid ground than on horseback, directed her course to help the villagers.
Taarna tried to look up and keep track of her husband when she could, but soon the enemy was reinforced and she not only lost sight of him, but also became too busy protecting herself and those around her to get distracted.
The bodies around Chase piled up quickly, causing his horse to prance back and forth around them, and making it necessary for him to try to find a more open area in which to maneuver. He glanced around him for a viable spot, distracting himself only for a few seconds, but it was enough for an enemy to take advantage and knock him from his horse. He hit the ground hard, pain radiating through him, but years of training and experience had him back on his feet almost instantly. He barely had time to retrieve his balance when an enemy warrior bowled into him.
“You will die,” the enemy hissed into his ear.
“ Not before you,” Chase hissed back.
Both men pushed back hard leaving enough room between them to bring swords to bear. As skilled as Chase was, his opponent was overpowering him and proving to have a skill level that left Chase staggering backward with each blow and relying on the slight advantage of greater speed to keep alive.
Taarna and the line of villagers were gradually moving closer to the main line of fighting. Soon they drew near enough that she could see her husband. Panic gripped her as she realized that with every blow the enemy was pressing Chase back and keeping him off balance. She pulled away from the fighting, calling her horse to her. The enemy was not going to allow her to remount easily, so it took her a few attempts before she was mounted and on her way toward her husband.
She was only halfway to him, when she recognized the motion of a dagger thrust under the ribs from the enemy’s arm. Taarna let out a quick prayer that the action was a miscalculation on the part of the enemy and not him noticing a weakness in Chase’s armour. Any hope she carried for that faded fast when she saw the stream of blood burble from Chase’s mouth. Digging her heels into her horse, she urged it to greater speed. The enemy did not even have time to turn and see her, as her horse bared down on him. Her sword came down sending his head falling to the ground like a stone.
Her horse had hardly slowed when she leapt off and ran back to her husband. Falling to her knees beside his unmoving body, she pulled him onto her lap and cradled him to her breast. Tears blurred her vision as she looked into her husband’s eyes. He forced a smile onto his face and raised a bloody hand to her wet face. Through ragged breath he said, with a heart so filled with love that it radiated from him, “I – I love you … wife.” Blood splattered Taarna’s face as he began to choke. She held him tight until the rasping breath ceased and his body went limp.
She was screaming his name over and over, when her older brother found her. Richard had to forcibly pry her away from her husband’s body. “Taarna! Taarna!” Richard yelled, trying to get through to her. “You have to let go, Baby girl!” He released her just long enough to fight off a couple of attackers, and then pulled her way. She was kicking and screaming, trying to get back to Chase. Richard smacked her hard across the face. Angry eyes turned to him, ready to attack, but soon softened to tears. As the battle waned, Richard held his sobbing sister in his arms, his men surrounding to protect them.
She did not remember much of the following days. They tell her she did not leave Chase’s body from the time it was on the field until it was put in the coffin and prepared for burial. She remembered holding his cold hand; long after everyone else had left the graveside. It was her younger brother, Castellan, already grown taller than she, who came to put strong arms around her and guide her way from the grave. Before she left, she leaned in to kiss him one last time, whispering lovingly, “I love you too, my husband. Always.”
There are some wounds that even time cannot heal, and some pain that does not fade with the passing of the years. Taarna stared out the window, idly playing with the pendant on a chain around her neck. She wiped the tears from her eyes with a far away sigh.
Taurna quietly crossed the room, setting a comforting hand on her daughter’s shoulder and handing her a cup of hot tea. “What is making my little girl so sad today?”
Taarna took the tea from her mother, staring at it as if trying to figure out if it were real. Her free hand moved from the necklace to the sword in her lap.
Taurna hugged her daughter from behind. “Chase was a good man. He loved you more than anything in this world.”
“I know.” Taarna said, fighting to keep the tears from returning. “I miss him so much it nearly kills me. It is only the memories of our time together that gives me the strength to keep me going.”
The older woman gathered her little girl into her arms. “Your strength was one of the things he admired the most about you. He would have wanted you to move on and continue to live your life to the fullest. He was proud of the warrior he was training you to be and loved the woman who made him the great man that he was. You have to keep working toward the vision of you that he saw you could be.”
“I am trying,” Taarna said with a timid half-smile, the tears finally winning out.
Castellan burst into the room, well as much as the most quiet of Taarna’s brothers could burst into anything. “Oh.” He said, timidly. “Have I intruded?”
“No.” Taarna said confidently, wiping the tears away quickly.
“I can come back later, if …” Castellan began.
“It is alright.” Taarna smiled.
“I was hoping to get in some sword practice and was wondering if my big sister wanted an opportunity to put me to shame again.”
“Don’t I always?” She chuckled. “I will be down in a minute.”
Castellan hesitated for a moment, feeling as if he should give her a hug or something before he left, but finally decided she might just want the minute to gather herself, so he turned and left.
Taarna waited until she was sure he was gone and turned to her mother. “Thanks, Mom.” She hugged the older woman tightly for several moments, before grabbing Chase’s sword and heading down stairs to kick her little brother’s butt.
Original work and all revisions © SAM Blaize and Self-Spirit