STAR MAN’S SAGA

 by Ralph F. Couey

 

Chapter 6

The summons from Jarl came to Fors in the Star House on a frigidly cold day in mid-winter. The words were simple and straightforward, directing Fors to attend the Eyrie Council meeting the next day. Fors carefully laid the message on the table, staring at the seemingly innocuous words. The import behind the summons was starkly clear.

The Eyrie Council was the first attempt at organization undertaken by the early tribal members when the disastrous news of the last war from the lowlands brought them to the realization that they must remain in the mountains to survive. Initially, it was only the means by which the work was organized. As time went on and that early organization became a self-sustaining bureaucracy.  The Council became an arena where issues social, legal, political, and logistical were debated and decided. The nature of life in the mountains, where people daily faced the hard choices of survival had historically created a common unity. But on occasion, even among this tribe of pragmatics, divisive issues arose. And the storms resulting from those issues often broke with ferocity across the Council table. Being on the trails for most of his life, Fors missed many of those storms, perhaps, he considered with a pang of guilt, purposefully.

Since Jarl's assumption of the role of Guardian, the Eyrie had moved out into previously unknown territory. Contact with the other tribes had grown from the rare to the commonplace. This outreach had created tensions among those who for the first time were confronting diversity. Fors' experiences as a Star Man and the tribe's ranking diplomat had taught him that humankind must eventually unite if the race was ever to return to its earlier glory. But others within the tribe did not share that perspective. To them, the unknown was a threat; a source of fear and suspicion. Some of those voices, Fors knew, sat on the council.

The tribe had settled into its winter patterns of living.  Necessary work still went on, but most stayed inside unless forced into the cold by some required task.  Defenders roamed the hills surrounding the stronghold on the watch for any threats.  This time of year, there were plenty of hungry predators roaming the mountains and it was the Defender’s job on these cold days to make sure they kept their distance.  In the Star House, the schooling of novices went on, mostly indoors, although they were also given cold weather survival training.  Fors was fully involved in these efforts, finding deep satisfaction in sharing the hard-won lessons of the trail. 

His tasks finally complete, Fors donned his heavy cloaks and snow shoes and tramped down the main path.  Arriving, he shared dinner and undertook more training with Kreston.  After a few hours, the youngster retired, somewhat goggle-eyed with fatigue after learning how to read and use maps. As the boy had left the room, Fors smiled ruefully to himself, remembering such mind-numbing sessions with his own father.

In the gathering darkness of a dying fire, Fors and Wenna held each other, and the Star Man unburdened himself. Wenna listened patiently, and then responded with a worthy bit of advice: "Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth firmly shut. And learn." Fors nodded in agreement. There was little of value he could contribute to such a forum, in any event.

They continued to talk, sharing the trivial events of their days, occasionally laughing quietly. The evening was growing late, and Fors knew he needed to return to his home. But, as such evenings had passed, he was finding it increasingly difficult to leave this remarkable woman. Lately, the simple act of walking out the door had evolved into many minutes of embraces, hand-holding, and long, gentle kisses. And during the day, despite the demands of his duties, he found it hard to concentrate at times, drifting off into a daydream of anticipation. Gradually, almost subconsciously, he realized that was approaching a point of decision. He knew that there hung between them an as-yet unasked question, one that would irrevocably change both their lives. Fors had spent his life asking tough questions of others, demanding of them fundamental changes in their actions and attitudes. Yet, this was different, and Fors often found himself warring with two parts of himself; the man who steadfastly made his own way in life, and the boy who had yearned for the solace of love.

They were both reluctantly contemplating the end of this time together. In the silence, the fire crackled and they could hear the occasional mournful sound of the wind blowing past the windows. Fors gazed into her green eyes, silently, gently tracing the contours of her face with his fingers. She sighed, somehow conveying the substance of her contentment in that simple exhalation. Within himself, he felt something slide into place; the time had come.

"For so long, I have lived from day to day, avoiding consideration of the future. I always felt that if I took care of today, that the future would take care of itself."

Wenna's eyes widened slightly, her breathing quickened, but she remained silent.

"But in our time together, I have realized that there are certain elements of the future that cannot be ignored." He paused, gathering his courage. "I have grown to love you and my thoughts about us now seem to turn more towards the future, to what may lie ahead. Whatever awaits in the days ahead, I know now that I want to face that future with you."

Fors watched her face carefully, almost warily, looking for the first hint of response. A moment passed, a seeming eternity, then Wenna's eyes glistened. In a shaky voice, with just a bit of her characteristic pique, she said, "I sense you have a question to ask me."

He steadied himself, then helped her to stand up. He took her hands, strong and capable, yet graceful and tender. He looked into her eyes, then carefully sank to one knee before her. He gently kissed her hand, and summoning up every bit of his courage, asked the question.

"Wenna, in the warmth of the love we share, I say to you that I desire that our two lives would become one; that together we would walk the road of life, with all the joys and sorrows, and victories and defeats we may encounter along the way. Will you complete my happiness and consent to become my wife?"

Her eyes overflowed, the tears now freely flowing down her cheeks. Fors waited breathlessly. She suddenly became aware of the passage of time, and nodded quickly, and in a voice shaking with happiness, she responded, "Yes!"

Pulling Fors to his feet, she threw her arms around his scarred shoulders. They embraced, holding each other tightly, as if to suspend time and make the moment and eternity. Pulling back, she whispered, "I could conceive of no greater joy and honor than to have you as my husband."

They kissed deeply, with a passion neither had to this point allowed each other to experience. As before, time seemingly went away. The night, the cold of winter, even the house and the buildings of the Eyrie faded away, leaving them alone in their own world.

After a time, they sat down, holding hands and sharing their happiness. Wenna still gasping a bit, said, "We will tell Kreston together."

Unexpectedly, a voice spoke up out of the darkness. "Tell me what?"

Surprised, the two turned and beheld Kreston standing with tousled hair at the entrance to the hallway. Wenna reached out her hand and Kreston took it, as she guided him to a chair. All three sat together. Fors cleared his throat and began.

"Kreston, your mother and I have grown very close these past few months. We have come to love each other very much. I have asked her to be my wife."

Wenna continued, "And I have accepted. We have lived alone, you and I, these many years since your father died. But time has passed, and I have found happiness once again." To Fors surprise, she said, "Kreston, you and I have talked about this possibility, and I hope you will accept this happily."

The room went silent as the boy looked from Wenna to Fors, his face devoid of expression. Fors had to remind himself to breathe, as they awaited the boy's reaction. Finally, he spoke. "You have asked my mother to marry?  Fors nodded. Kreston's gaze turned to his mother. "And you have accepted?" Wenna, in turn, also nodded. He turned back to Fors. "Are you now to become my father?"

Fors paused, and replied, "Stephen will always be your father. But I will guide you, teach you...and love you as a father should."

Kreston nodded slightly, then rose and placed his hand on Fors' shoulder. "It sure took you long enough." He then smiled broadly, and all three burst into laughter.

A while later, Fors finally found himself at the door, preparing to go home. As he donned his warm winter outer garments and snowshoes, Wenna and Kreston stood silently watching. Ready to go, Fors, after a moment's hesitation, reached out his hand to Kreston. The boy responded by embracing the Star Man. The boy then stepped back, smiling. It was a different face now. Open, and affectionate. Fors then embraced and kissed Wenna and headed out into the storm. Despite the cold and snow, Fors felt a warmth deep inside that he had not felt in his memory. It took some moments to discover the meaning of that warmth, but the realization brought him great joy.

For the first time, in a very long time, he had a family.

 


 "Star Man's Saga"
Copyright ~ Ralph F. Couey and the Estate of Andre Norton 2017
Online Rights - Andre-Norton-Books.com
Donated by – Ralph F. Couey

Revision: 2 ~ July, 2019

 Formatted by Jay Watts aka: “Lots-a-watts” ~ Nov. 2017 & Aug. 2019

Duplication (in whole or parts) of this story for profit of any kind NOT permitted.