“And then she surrendered like a helpless doe and I had the best night of my life.”
Triwold smirked at the boasting of his youngest sibling as he honed the edge of his skinning knife. The flickering light of the fire in their midst reflected upon the steel as he slid his whetstone down. Thorald grinned broadly, his story now finished, and he looked from Triwold to the middle sibling, Ysengrim, who was just shaking his head to himself.
“Come on! No one ever succeeded in warming that wench, but I did. Hah. And what a warming it was.”
Thorald sat back against a treestump, his green eyes toward the nightsky as he reflected upon something that, without a doubt in his self-loving mind, was yet another tale of glory to add to his already existing legend. Ysengrim scoffed.
“Dragging yet another gullible girl into your bed doesn't make you a hero, little brother.”
“Chirpy as ever, our Ysengrim. Did the frost get to your balls last night?”
Triwold remained silent, his eyes on the honing of his knife, as his younger brothers bantered and quarreled like only brothers do. He could not help himself – the corners of his mouth curled up slightly at the trusted sound of their voices, having a talk like a thousand others they had so many times during their lives. Both Ysengrim and Thorald looked like their mother, with eyes the colour of rough emeralds and hair like melted copper. Triwold had eyes like the brooks in the mountain passes – blue, cold and clear – and hair as sooty as an old hearth. Mother always said the gods had a strange sense of humour, to inflict Thorrn Grár and an exact copy after him upon the world, before she lovingly kissed both the cheeks of her eldest and her spouse. Triwold smiled as he thought of his mother, whilst Ysengrim and Thorald across the fire had now moved on to lovingly punching each other. He did not share his brothers' colours, but they shared a heartbeat. All the Grárs did.
That thought made him look north. Ysengrim released a laughing Thorald from his iron grip as he caught Triwold's gaze.“You know her, Wold. She's just taking her bloody time because she's following a bear's tracks. Or something.”
As the younger brothers stood up to prepare the elk they had killed, he kept his gaze turned north, and his thoughts were with the only sibling he had who truly looked like him. For as far as she looks like anyone... Thorald was cutting meat into strips as he pointed the bloody tip of his knife at him.
“You were the one who let her go, Wold.”
Triwold grunted as he put his honed knife away. “It makes no matter, and you know that. Tell her she can't, and she'll do it anyway.”
They all snickered at that. It was Ysengrim, as usual, who had to be the voice of cynical reason. “You both know what I think. We shouldn't allow this. She strays further and further each time. We all know she prowls those old ruins. No good can come of it.”
Triwold threw a twig into the crackling flames. “She's a woman grown, Grim. Not a girl in swaddling clothes.”
Thorald grinned in his usual fashion as he skewered their meal. “I think she found herself a nice strong man. I bet you both, she's in some cave under a pile of furs.”
Triwold gave his youngest brother a cold glance. “You know she'd kill you for saying such nonsense.”
“Oh, I know. It's why I say it when she's away.”
The elk had been young, and the meat juicy. Hours went by, and his brothers were growing more quiet as they huddled up in their skins. It always went without saying that Triwold had the first watch. He threw another branch on the fire as his eyes flicked north once more. If she would not be there at dawn, he'd go find her. Even for her, three days was more than...He jumped up at the unmistakable sound of a twig snapping in two under a footstep. In one movement, his sword slid from its sheath as he turned towards the pinetrees. The sound of steel being drawn woke up his brothers, as it always did. Muttering and clumsy from sleep they untangled themselves from their skins and furs and jumped up. Ysengrim stood by his side first, following Triwold's gaze.
“What is it?”“Might be a bear, might be worse.”
Another twig broke, a branch swayed. Then a grey, dappled mare stepped into the moonlight. As one they exhaled and lowered their weapons. Thorald frowned.
Triwold set his jaw. “That's it. Something's happened. You both stay here, I'll ride n--”
“I'm right here, fools.”
The brothers turned as one, two pair of green and one pair of blue eyes widened. Triwold could not help but smirk. There she sat, at the fire, picking at the leftovers from the elk as if she'd sat there all night. The flames reflected upon her pale skin, the blue patterns around her eyes, and the cold blue of her irisses. A gust of wind made her hair, a combination of loose strands of black and messy braids, dance around her stoic face. Her self-made boiled leathers were covered in mud and something that looked an awful lot like bone dust. Ysengrim cursed.
“Damn you, Tris.”
Triwold sheathed his sword with a smile. My sweet sister.