Escrita por: ThatArielPerson
Birta Stjörnu lifted her gaze to the open clearing in front of her. The mosswood tree above her towered, like a giant in one of the priest's tall tales. Sun filtered through, reaching thin fingers of light across the worn dirt at the end of the path. Not many people traveled past this point, you could tell, because the long grass grew thick and tall. There was a very short distance between where Birta stood, and the dark mysterious quiet of that forest; but she wasn't afraid.
Birta had been coming through this way for years, despite the supposed dangers that lurked in the shadows and around each bush.
I'm too old to believe in elves and spirits. she told herself.
A bird flitted off, causing the leaves near her left to rustle. Birta's eyes jumped to the sound, but her body remained relaxed. Her ears were used to the sounds of the forest, and did not frighten her any longer. Slipping off her shoes, Birta pulled the skirt of her dress into a bunch at her knees and carefully climbed over the fallen tree. Her feet sank into the damp grass, thick and as green as the kingdom's finest emeralds. As she pushed away from the tree, the rotting bark crumbled under her palm and her fingers slipped against the moss. She wrinkled her nose, and brushed her hand off on her already dirty clothes.
She could hear songbirds calling in the distance as she strolled across the small clearing. The sun filtered in ribbons through the top leaves of the forest, warming her face, and dressed the dust in the air with a pale gold shimmer. She could smell the damp earth, and the decaying plant life that would spur the growth of new mushrooms within just a few days.
Birta thought about picking more to bring back with her, but the last time she had, Lord Agnar had fallen ill for two whole weeks. She didn't want to risk it.
Birta's pale skin flashed like fire, as she passed under a ray of light. She started to play as she walked, jumping off small rocks, and picking the tiny white wildflowers that grew all throughout the tall grass. Before her lay a creek. She stepped carefully over the icy water trickling past, on it's way to join the great river as it wound through the land, past the castle she called home. Thirsty, she bent down to cup some of the clear liquid in her hands.
She took a long drink and wiped the back of her arm across her lips. Lady Eydís would have looked at her scornfully, with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
Once past the clearing, Birta slipped between the plants that hung down around her. They tried to cling to her, but let go reluctantly as she moved forward, their green leaves reaching towards her gently. Her long, thin fingers skimmed the curved stone of the temple. It was cold to the touch, cracked, and crumbling. She imagined that once, it would have been a marvelously grand sight to see.
Birta had come here often as a child, and often with Verndari Nótt, who was older than her by four years; until Lord Agnar found them one day. He had forbidden his three children from going past the clearing in the forest, and so Verndari had been scolded fiercely. Then he'd placed Birta, who was seven years of age, on his knee; and told her that there were unimaginable dangers in the forest, and that fairies of light had made it so that they could not pass the clearing, over three hundred years ago.
Birta had believed him- and he assigned guards to escort her and his son- but her curiosity was as fierce as the fangs of wolves, and so she couldn't keep away. Verndari had reached a strange age. They no longer bathed together, and he suddenly had no interest in their usual games. But the forest seemed to call for Birta, and the pull was so strong that she was soon sneaking away to walk the twisting trail to the ruins.
Birta climbed up to a ledge and perched at the edge of the crumbling stone. She rested her hands in her lap and let the sounds of the forest surround her. Come the next morning, she would be eighteen years old and considered a woman of marrying age. As she was not royalty or high born, and was an orphan, it was custom to wait eighteen years instead of fifteen. A cousin to the Nótt children had been married at fourteen to the Prince of another land, and Birta had watched as their ship pulled away from shore. She felt it must be terrible to be carted off to some strange place, with a perfect stranger for a husband. She was almost glad that as a nobody, the chances of her marrying at all were bleak. Almost.
"What are ya doin' out here?"
Verndari Nótt stood near a tree, leaning against it with a smug grin on his face. He'd startled her, and he knew it.
"Asni!" she exclaimed, sliding down from where she sat.
Verndari chuckled and raised his eyebrow, teasing her.
"My mother would love to have heard ya say such a word, now that yer goin' to be a real lady an' all." he joked.
Birta rolled her eyes and sighed.
"Lady Eydís would rather I wore flowers in my hair and batted my eyes at every man with gold in his purse." she complained.
Verndari crossed his arms over his chest.
"What's the matter? Don't like men?" he quipped. Birta glared at him.
"I don't like anything right this moment, especially not you badgering me, yeah?"
Her cheeks were red with frustration.
"No one is gonna want me anyway," she said angrily.
"I don't have gold, I don't have jewels, I don't have a fancy title like your sister, or you."
"Did ya think I wanted to be next in line to be Lord of Svartur Sól? Ya think I wanted my older brothers to be killed all those years ago? I wanted to run away with you and live in the woods! Or don't ya remember?"
Birta blushed and her lips curved into a smile.
"Aye, I remember." she laughed.
"What are you doin' out here?" she asked suddenly.
"You haven't been out here since your father caught us as that day."
Verndari shrugged and looked slightly out of place.
"Was a lot going on back then, ya know? My father needed me to take my brothers' place an' be a man. And you-"
"-you were growin' up as well. It was time to stop actin' like children."
Birta bit her lip, feeling suddenly foolish for not having addressed him in the proper manner. He wasn't her playmate anymore. He was to be Lord of the castle one day and she was just an orphan. That's all she had ever been.
Ignoring his yells, she raced past him, and deeper into the forest. She needed to be alone for a while longer.