Chapter Sixteen, Part Two

In the long evening before the planned night raid on the Ireblade, Eris was sat cross legged on the earth, nimbly fletching arrow shaft after arrow shaft, her fingers rapidly wrapping deer sinews wrapped in hide glue about the cropped pheasant feathers. She looked up through the falling lengths of her straggling dark hair as Nemnir cursed blackly for the tenth or so time.

“I aint sure Eris gave your tongue back to put it to such words, old friend.” Pierson said lightly as he added to his own pile of craftily carved stone heads. Sarai and Callia were pushing and securing the heads in the smoothed shafts before Eris and Nem could add the fletchings. Although, Eris had managed to pile up some forty or so that were well wrapped and secure, and Nem had only about eight, and even then they were of dubious worth. He held up his large glue smeared hands.

“Mountain-voln aren’t made for this kind of fine work.” He looked downcast, and Eris placed her own, much smaller, hand on his shoulder.

“We’ll need your help more when we face off against the Ireblade. Your strength and your blade.”

Nemnir chuckled. “Bollocks. Poison greened arrows are going to fly and make my sword worthless.”

“There will be a role for you, I know it.”

“You can stay back a little and put that hide shield to work defending Eris-” Pierson said, and got glares from her and his ladies. “What?!”

“I’m not waiting back like… like…” Words failed her, and Pierson was lucky at that time that Orrin came bounding over, just ahead of Jayk and two boys; Rog and Scal. She was starting to get a better grip on the names of their twelve adoptees. Rog was a tall, lanky, boy with a nervous energy that they’d put to good ends by encouraging him to follow the remaining Attavine scouts who roamed their territories by foot and with keen speed. Scal was scruffy even for a street-voln; his hair a permanent mess of knots, his nails and face near permanently mud stained. But it’d turned out that he was a more than fair bowman, with a keen eye and steady hand, and he enjoyed the challenge of it.

Orrin made it to their little crafting circle quicker than the three boys, but he still had to halt them as their words started to tumble out ahead of him. “Wait. Wait!”

“What’s this, storyteller?” Pierson asked, looking at the boys with curiosity written clearly on his face.

“Hush.” Orrin said the babbling boys. “I said that I should speak on your behalf-.”

Eris looked from the boys’ immature keen faces to the man’s serious expression. Suspicion grew inside her. “No.”

“Please… my lady… please, you should at least hear them out.” Orrin said carefully.

“No.”

“What’s going on Eris?” Asked Callia, confused.

“They want to fight this night.”

“Maybe you should hear them out.” Said Callia.

“They’re too young. It’s too dangerous.” Eris said curtly and went back to winding the sinews about the fletching.

“You said she’d listen to you!” Scal snapped at Orrin. “Because you’re her priest now, coz she likes you now-”

Orrin cut off his words by giving him a companionable bear hug. “Such funny things these young ones say!”

Eris looked up at him again, raising an eyebrow. “Go on then Orrin Storyteller and Priest. I’m listening as you said I would.”

“They’re not wrong Eris. Best they can recall of their ages they have about two to three years on you. Why can you fight and they cannot?”

“And she’s a gir-” Scal began, but was muffled by Orrin’s hand flat and fast over his mouth.

Eris stood, put her hands on her hips and leathers and regarded Orrin and the boys. “I’m woods-voln not city-voln; we don’t stop our girls from fighting because they might break a bloody nail! And I’m woods-voln so I understand how it is when greening fights greening. I know how horrifically the Ireblade have gone against our ways! And I’m Atta-Sutith! The Attavine are my people from a long way back. I have more right to be there than-”

“Than Pierson? Or Nemnir? Neither o’them are woods-voln. Nor are they Attavine!” Jayk said, blooming red in the face as the two woods-voln women still sat on the ground regarded him coolly with their green eyes. He breathed out again as Sarai finally spoke up for him.

“The boy has a point Eris. And from the looks of them these three are indeed likely to be older than you.” Eris glared at her, but she just returned the look calmly. “You weren’t pleased a moment ago when Pierson suggested protecting you from the battle.”

Eris looked from green eyes to grey to brown, and sighed deeply. “Very well. But don’t expect me to be healing all of you up again if you get pierced all the bloody way through with Ireblade greened arrows!”

She sat down again quickly, and her annoyance – her fears – translated into a furious spurt of activity with the fletchings, while the others wisely left her alone to her thoughts. Eventually she looked up again to see various shifts on the arrow workings had come and gone and she was just sat with Jayk and Orrin, quietly working on their parts of the task.

“That was an ambush, Orrin.” She said letting her displeasure show.

But it was Jayk who spoke up. “He just thought it’d be better coming from him. At least he tried to convince us of it. But me and Rog and Scal weren’t sure. We seen how he irritates you with his blathering on about how great you are.”

Eris held in her laugh at Orrin’s mortified face. Jayk looked at the older man smugly.

“You know you could get hurt Jayk. You and the others.” Eris said simply.

“No more than you could. And you are younger than us, some kinda god or not.” Jayk smiled.

“Blasphemy!” Said Orrin melodramatically, joking with the lad.

Eris looked to the pile of arrows that he’d made, and the pile Jayk had been working on. She could see that there had been a competition between them while she’d been stewing; the work had been done fast and haphazardly. Concern flared for a moment. Jayk had his sights on being as much a flirt with the woods-voln women of the Attavine as Orrin could sometimes be, but the storyteller had an advantage in his age, natural charm, and unscarred skin. So that competitiveness was leaking out in other places. Perhaps including the battle with the Ireblade that they were all headed to.

“Jayk.”

He looked at her with keenness and a touch of smugness that she’d addressed him personally. “Yes, Eris.” He emphasised his use of her first name and she almost sighed out loud. Boys!

“Orrin is your brother. Orrin… Jayk is your brother too.”

“Is this a doctrine?” Orrin asked intenetly, and if he’d had a quill and paper to hand she felt sure he’d have writ it down.

“No Orrin. It’s a statement of where we are and where we still got to be. Jayk, you can fight beside the others against the Ireblade. But no more fighting with them. Or with Orrin.”

Jayk nodded, suddenly serious. “Yes Eris Atta-Sutith.”

After that the two of them seemed to put in an effort to working better together, at least for the rest of that evening and the early night that followed as they prepared with the others for the raid on the Attavine. Eris watched them checking over each other’s bows and arrows, the older man making the younger boy practice his stance with the bow and for once without any complaint from Jayk at the apparent interference.

Pierson joined her as she watched them from a distance. “You’ve healed something else, is that so?”

“Maybe. They’re not all that different really.”

“Orrin was a priest in training. He don’t speak about it but he must have come from a good family. Wealthy. Jayk lost his to pox and lived on the streets. They aint that similar.”

“They’re both competitive. And maybe Jayk thinks he needs to prove more because of being a street-voln, and because of his scars…”

“Orrin is a pretty boy, aye.”

“I could try and heal them… his scars.” She spoke cautiously. “I think I could do that.”

Pierson nodded. “You would make him like you even more.”

She flushed red. “He don’t. Not like that.”

Pierson waved away the thought. “Forget I said anything. He’s a lad. And lads get ideas. And we got enough on our plates just now following the Attavine into battle.”

She nodded, hoping the red was fading from her cheeks. “G-good. Y-yes.” She stuttered, trying to hide how he’d unbalanced her for a moment. “We should gather up our people. Redril wanted to lead the raid when the moon was high, and that’s not long now.”

Pierson nodded and went about fetching those she thought of as ‘her’ people, the ones who’d be fighting this night. Him, Orrin, Nemnir, Sarai, Callia, Jayk, Rog, and Scal. Around them the few Attavine that’d recovered enough to wield bows were saying their goodbyes to what family they had left. Eris refused to even think of saying goodbye to her people. Her family. She looked at the three boys with their eagerness, and then, at the other end in terms of age, Pierson and Nemnir. Both hardly old, but experienced of fighting at the front. They knew what was coming and there was a grim darkness in their eyes.

“Orrin?”

“Yes, my lady.”

“Tell our story.”

He nodded, looked about their loose circle and began, his melodious voice weaving about them.

“They walked with the Attavine against the Ireblade. Following the winding paths of the woods they went. The rogue, the woods-women, the priest of the new god, the three boys who’d left the streets for leafy corridors, the giant hearted man. And leading them, Eris Atta-Sutith. She Who Once Healed and Harmed, bringing poison to enemies who’d turned against their own ways.”

Eris looked away to watch the Attavine, both trying to fight her fears and to avoid letting her friends see them welling in her eyes. She saw Redril walking about his own people, a familiar waterskin in his hand. The Atta. He was dripping it on their offered arrows, the pungent poison thickly coating the sharp edges. It should have been Attavine!

“Eris.” Said Callia softly, drawing closer, Sarai on the other side. “We have abandoned the Diarnilys as well, and greened our arrows with Atta. Your Atta.”

Eris was confused and looked to Sarai. “She is saying that we are ‘Atta’ now. Our children will be Atta. No Diarnilys would welcome them as half-voln, and we chose to no longer bear the name for that reason. And for you.”

Redril came finally to their circle, the waterskin held out for them, and Eris watched as those who had still had ungreened arrows offering them up to the touch of the Atta.

Orrin spoke as he lifted up his own arrows, bunched tightly in his fist.

“Atta they bore, the greening of the new god.”

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