Reflections Flern-1 part 2 of 3

Two of those stooges, Fat Fritt and Strawhead Trell, were among the first of the brood to arrive. They took seats leisurely near Flern as if honestly taking in the view. They were not fooling anyone, least of all Flern. To be sure, she could not imagine spending time with either boy, much less a lifetime. Fritt was, well, fat. She could think of no nice way to say it. And Trell’s dirty blond locks always looked ratted and stuck out in the strangest ways. She sometimes wondered if he had straw inside his head in place of brains as well. At least, he sometimes acted that way.

Next came Vilder, the tall, blond, good-looking leader of the brood, and Kined who came puffing up the hill from where they tied off the horses. Kined immediately asked where Elluin went.

“Drud.” Pinn spoke over her shoulder, but her eyes stayed on Vilder. She did not have to say anything more. It was enough for Flern to watch Kined’s face drop.

Tird and Tiren came next, and Tiren walked right up to sit beside Thrud. He would have kissed her if no one was around. They were engaged, though not officially. Tird, on the other hand, just stared at Flern for a minute, and stared at Fatty and Strawhead to see where it might be safe to sit down.

Gunder, the last to arrive, hauled his muscular bulk up the hill. He usually got stuck seeing to the horses. He sat beside Vinnu and slipped his arm over her shoulder. They were officially engaged, and Flern watched as Vinnu had to stand on her toes to give the ponderously big boy a kiss on the cheek. And she did it without turning red in the least, which impressed Flern.

“What news from civilization?” Thrud asked, as if Flern and the others had forcibly dragged her away from all comforts and into the deserted wilderness. She got busy working on the other braid and nearly had it completed.

“Horse traders in the village.” Tiren responded, as if telling everyone, but he kept staring at Thrud, and smiled. Thrud did blush.

“Otherwise, same fat ladies and balding men,” Tird said, and moved to look over Pinn’s shoulder, to the village; still not quite ready to sit down.

“Better than fat men and balding ladies,” Kined said, having recovered from his disappointment at missing Elluin. At least Fritt and Trell laughed. Then they jumped him in a kind of physical display, mostly for Flern’s benefit; but Kined proved too smart for them. Flern thought of him as probably the smartest of the lot. “Hey!” he protested. “Isn’t this Tird’s job?” That seemed all he really had to say. Tird’s eyes got big, and he took off into the woods. Fat Fritt and Strawhead Trell, whooping and hollering, ran fast on his tail.

Flern sighed. What good was the physical display for her benefit if she couldn’t see it?

“Horse traders?” Pinn got back to the subject as Vilder sat down beside her. Flern thought that Pinn and Vilder were the most engaged of all, but they were always so formal together. Vilder and Pinn never touched, but Flern sometimes amused herself by thinking what the volcano would be like when they finally did. She imagined they might need the whole river to put out the fire.

“But here is the best part.” Vilder spoke up. “They are not from the West or North. They claim to be from the far south, beyond the end of the river, beyond the other river and beyond the mountains themselves.”

“From the sound of their native speech and the strange way they pronounce some of our words, I can believe it,” Kined said, as he stood to stretch and dusted himself off from his brief tussle with Trell and Fritt. Flern watched. Kined always kept his black hair groomed and his eyes were just as blue as Elluin’s, and even easier to get lost in. Flern exhaled.

“Maybe.” Gunder looked up long enough to get the word in. He and Vinnu sat quietly with their backs to a tree. His arm draped around her shoulder, and she held tight to his hand.

“Well, I don’t believe it.” Tiren tore his eyes away from Thrud long enough to add his thoughts. “I have heard of the second river and even a third, but people have only seen the mountains in the distance. No one knows what is beyond the mountains. It is too far.”

With that, Kined had another thought, and he spoke as he sat again beside Flern, his friend. “I heard there is nothing but swamp and marsh between here and the mountains, you know, where the rivers overflow from time to time. I don’t suppose you can raise horses in a swamp.” Flern smiled for Kined. She thought of Elluin and felt sick for the poor young man. He deserved better, maybe even her, and it was not the first time she thought that.

“But that is not the best part,” Gunder the hulk interrupted Flern’s thoughts.

“Oh, yes.” Vilder sat up straight and his eyes got a little bigger than normal. “The chief trader has a sword of the strangest making. It isn’t copper, but some metal I have never seen before. It is dull to look at, but it is as sharp as a blade of grass, and it is hard, harder than stone I think.”

“Harder than stone?” Pinn could hardly believe that.

Kined had another thought. “If we all had weapons of that metal, the Jaccar would not stand a chance.”

“Maybe.” Gunder just grunted. Flern only half listened. Her ears stayed out in the woods at the moment where she could hear the struggle and Tird’s yelps. Just when Trell, Fritt and their quarry came into view, something struck home in Flern’s mind, and she shouted.

“Bronze!” She had to see for herself.

“What are you doing?” Thrud asked as Flern jumped to her feet

“Flern, where are you going?” Pinn asked at almost the same time

Flern ran and shouted back. “I have to see it.”

Vilder got up and motioned for everyone to follow. He had seen the sword and thought it would be worth the trip.

“What’s bronze?” Kined shouted after her, and Flern smiled. He was always the smart one.

Flern ran down the hill and almost tripped and tumbled down in her haste. When she reached her horse, she heard from her trio of clowns.

“Hey!”

“Wait!”

“What?” That last sound came from Tird who could not see what was happening because he had been tied to a pole, face down. Flern did not stop.

Ever since Poseidon gave Wlvn those horses, Flern also knew more about horses than anyone imagined, and the horses obeyed her in a way that seemed hard to explain. To be sure, not as well, but almost as well as they obeyed Wlvn. Flern imagined Wlvn as a boy about her age, and one that looked exactly like her. She imagined the same red hair and brown eyes, so he might double as a male version of herself. She imagined his story, sad, hard, and frightening as it was. She wanted to believe good for him, but that did not seem to be possible. Still, it was one thing to have an imaginary boyfriend, and quite another to reflect, in a small way, the gift she imagined he received—and from a God she did not honestly know. That felt hard to explain even to herself, unless her imagination reflected more reality than she thought. Flern did not feel prepared to go there in her mind, so she turned her thoughts to the bronze.

Flern leapt on her horse and almost tore her dress in the process. The gentle horse bucked in surprise, but only for a second, and only a little, and then it took off, running at full speed. Flern had not quite shown that ability before, though she was clearly the best horsewoman of the lot. She only hoped to reach the village before the traders moved on.

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