“Naomi!”, Irwin exclaimed as he saw her.
“Irwin, bless my soul!”, she replied, surprised and thankful.
“Come,” he said, summoning his fellows to disarm the men they’d just killed and to take their horses, “follow me – you might want to reach higher ground before the battle starts!”
Irwin hopped onto one of the horses and raced forward, leading Naomi to a high hill that groped like a skull at the lush vegetation about its neck.
“Stay here!”, Irwin told her, “I’ll send Breinith to you as soon as I can! Where’s Gavine?”
“He’s, he’s-”, Naomi stuttered,
“Verily!”, Irwin exclaimed, “Climb the hill and stay atop it, no matter what, understand?”, and with that he was off, riding towards the south-west.
Naomi tried to warn him, to tell him that both Helwin and Rorik had gathered their armies there, but he was away too soon.
Naomi climbed the hill in all haste, and looked down into the dark forest. In the distance fires burned down to the coast.
Soon the drumming of hooves drew near. Naomi knew it was Breinith. She put on the glove and hid herself from him, too angry and disappointed to suffer his conversation. In a fit of rage she bit her tongue and kept her eyes on him silently, waiting to discover his treachery. He did not see her.
Breinith flung himself down on the crown of the hill and looked up into the starless night, which was being smothered by smoke and gathering clouds. Winter was at its worse. The bite of the night zephyr came swift to both observers. Naomi shivered; Breinith, feeling a chill, moved his feet.
Naomi wished Irwin had not bothered to send Breinith up to her – if the battle was lost then so were they. What could he do to stop it from happening? Breinith, evidently, would not fight to protect her – or so Gavine had said. Could it be? Had Gavine been scornful? She had never doubted her brother’s love for her. She could never find reason to blame him for anything. Would she blame him now, without certainty, for Gavine’s death? Naomi just could not help thinking that Gavine had died trying to save her and that she had not even known it was him. It was all Breinith’s fault. He was the coward, not she.
Breinith suddenly sat up, removing his helmet and breast armour and folding his arms in his lap as he heaved a great sigh. His disdain was evident. Had he learnt of Gavine’s death, Naomi wondered.
“Naomi,”, Breinith spoke to himself.
Naomi sat erect, baffled by this.
“Naomi, I meant to tell you – I mean, I -”, Breinith sighed, speaking to the night, “Naomi, I have to tell you something, something I should have told you long ago. I just, I couldn’t…because, you were in danger and you needed me. No! Wait. Naomi, I need you to know that there’s someone else. No. Darn. Naomi, where are you?”, Breinith sighed, taking his head in his hand.
Naomi stifled her breath as the truth dawned on her. Breinith rose dejectedly and stared down the slope, his fists clenched on his hips. Then he saw the horse grazing nearby, and realized that Naomi can’t be far.
“Naomi?”, Breinith called out fearfully.
Naomi did not stir.
“Naomi, where are you?”, Breinith called, looking around for her, “Naomi?”.
Breinith let his hands drop limply to his sides as he heaved another grave sigh. Then he picked up his armour and begun re-fastening it upon him as he descended. Naomi held her breath until he was gone, feeling the tears break loose upon her cheeks as he did so.
As soon as Breinith had mounted his horse and ridden away Naomi took off her helmet and gloves and wept sorely. Her whole being shook. She could barely breathe. Breinith had barely rounded the hill before hearing the sound. Against reason he veered his horse and made his way back up the hill, but she was swift enough to hide herself before he approached.
“Naomi, Naomi are you there?”, Breinith asked frantically.
Naomi did not reply. She could not.
“Naomi, if you’re there, if you heard what I said – I, I’m sorry. Naomi, can you hear me? Naomi, are you even there?”, Breinith questioning the dark eagerly.
She could not face him. As silently as possible she edged down the other side of the hill. Gavine’s horse ambled towards her unawares. It seemed as though it had heard her and could feel her presence. Careful not to startle it Naomi mounted and set it running. Breinith gave a start. Then it dawned on him – she had heard what he had said. Now she would blame him for everything! He cursed himself, weeping at his own cowardice. Not knowing what to do he jumped off his horse and threw off his armour, cursing the day he had earned it and flinging himself down in anger, his hands shaking with wrath.
Gavine, who had followed Naomi to Penn Hill and had heard every word of what Breinith had said, picked up his armour, now discarded, and dressed himself in quiet, hoping to surprise his friend. Breinith was listening for Naomi, for a hope of her return, and happened to hear one fiddling with his belongings.
“Thief!”, he shouted, “Back away from there!”.
Gavine gave a bow and introduced himself formally:
“Forgive me, Breinith, but I happened to have seen you disarm yourself, and, seeing as I’m off to battle with the enemy, I thought I might take back what is mine”
“Gavine, promise me one thing!”, Breinith replied, relieved that the stranger was no threat, “Promise me you’ll look after Naomi, if you find her?”
Gavine shook his head at Breinith
“She’s your sister, for Heaven’s sake! Save her yourself!”
Breinith’s face contorted as he realized that Gavine was right. Who could save her but he? No one knew of the prophecy but he. There was no other way. He got up, mindless of his vulnerability, and ran for his horse. There was no time to waste.
– extract from “The Silent Knight – the battle”