Today, I take my leave of her. I will travel with him who is also her, but not her. I cannot think of her as her, or I betray everything that she dreams, and wishes, and lives for. If only she had been born a man, what a Lord she would have been for Trumgard! How sharp a mind she has, straight and true as any blade of her warlike people. But she is a woman, stern simplicity or no, kindness in her hands and love of family in her heart. Such women are the threads that hold family together. Such women are beautiful as earth, and sky, and wind, and galloping herds under lowering lances.
I can give her only fish that isn’t quite right, and respect. Only that. The rest belongs to others. Even we belong to others. But the memory of her honest eyes and mobile expressions will be with me as I go to my fathers, though it be a hundred years hence.
My best friend rides on the morrow while I stay behind. It doesn’t sting so badly to have a friend go forward when I do important things here, for his people and for him. He goes with her love and to a purpose. I stay with my blades and my bows and the watches I now assign. Idhelm’s second. How strange.
I am not a leg to him, and he is not a Lord to me. I have a friend. It’s enough.
I nursed him with his brother hanging on my knee as he took his first wobbling steps. That day he came was hard, backwards and stuck and days of pushing and pain until I thought I might give up entirely. His father gave up waiting and went to his cups. Small mercies. Small mercies.
Even then, he never did anything easy. Finally born, he was blue and needed the midwife’s hovering to draw his first weak cries. He didn’t want to nurse and nearly starved before he decided he would suckle properly. He got in the way when I tried to work, weak myself but determined to get Forwin away from that terror of shouting and flying cups. Forwin was so proud, so determined to show off his brother. Sunshine and shadow, laughter and tears. My boys had the world split in halves and shared the lot of it.
The Monster put my smiling boy in the Halls, and left his brother half a man. I see Forwin lost every time my Fremund struggles and gropes, off-balance and adrift. Today, my difficult, serious boy goes to free other mothers’ sons from a tyrant’s grasp. Today, he rides with a straight back, and he smiles as he steals his sister’s dowdy cap. Finally my baby boy has found his own sunshine. He rides with new brothers to be his own man, and I twist my hands in my apron to keep from holding him safe. My heart could burst from hope.
I can count well enough to see the hard winter ahead. Even if I couldn’t I see it on Mother’s face and the harsh new rules that hold the larder. I don’t know what to feel, so I’m angry. Why am I so angry? He asked, and I don’t know. I just am, and it burns at my heart whenever I see smiles and happiness and the easy, easy way other people live their life. Where were they? Why didn’t they stop it? I know the answers, but my heart doesn’t. It seethes and boils and festers until I want to hurt and kick and set things afire.
I feel a strange satisfaction that now other people get to know what it’s like to have nothing to eat and people hurting them. I’m so ashamed. I’m so awful. I am a bully.
I’m hungry now, but there’s no cheese.