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Rider of the Rohirrim
District 7

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Currently reading A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken.

The Offering

January 5, 2021


    The mother clutches her daughter by the hand, running an idle hand over the girl's black curls as the two of them watch the circle of men.
    "The feuds must cease," the tallest of the men declares. He is the girl's father, a thickset man with hair as uncommonly dark as his daughter's. "I have come to offer a gift to my half-brother, his honor the High King Collum. A gift of peace, an offering to signify our pact."
    "There will be no pact," snarls a man on the other side of the circle, hair greyed with the stress of the war. "I have won the war. You will die, half-brother."
    The girl watches with wide grey eyes, looking from her father to her uncle, uncertain of what occurs. She knows of the war. Many people have died. Her uncle is a dangerous man, but he is High King now. She wants to go and stand beside his father, take his hand, offer him comfort. He always smiles when she is there, because she is his only remaining child. Her sisters died of plague, her older brother by an arrow during a siege. Her father loves her because she has not died, and she is so full of life and spirit that it seems impossible that she will never die.
    "My Elsbeth," he murmurs when he is with her. "My strong and brave girl, you will outlive us all."
    The girl only laughs, because her father is so serious when he says this, and she does not know why. Nevertheless, she sense that he is even more serious now, as he speaks with the others.
    "I have come so that you will spare my life, and the lives of my people," he says. "It is in our ancient law that you accept what I have come to give you, due to the sacrifice it inflicts upon me."
    The High King grunts, an eyebrow raised, while the girl's mother pulls her closer. He turns towards the two of them, beady eyes black against his ruddy face.
    "Your rebellion has taken so many lives," he hisses to Elsbeth's father. "There is very little you can do to keep me from killing you and all of your supporters on the spot."
    "I ask only that you follow the ancient customs," her father replies. "We must have justice. The feuding among the family must stop. Mother would have wanted it."
    The girl knows that that word touches her uncle. Her grandmother died during the war. She wonders sometimes if the war killed her. She snuggles closer to her own mother, glad to have her safe beside her, so she can put her arms around her and never let go. Her mother pushes her gently away, however, and when Elsbeth tries to get closer she is not permitted. Put out, she decides it is because of the formality of the ceremony, and glares at her uncle with a pout on her face.
    "You offer a gift," he says, looking at her significantly. "Will you have the strength to give what's left? What tradition requires?"
    The girl watches her father struggle with his words. He is usually very sure of himself, but today he is not. He only nods silently, and then turns towards her mother.
    "Bring the child."
    Her mother nods without a word, and then bends to pick her up. Elsbeth, worn out from the waiting, is glad to rest her head on her mother's shoulder. She sits up, however, feeling dampness on her mother's collar, and then presses a small hand to her mother's cheek, which is wet with tears. She doesn't understand, but then her mother puts her down beside her father, walking away without another look back.
    "Mam!" the girl cries, turning to run after her, before a rough hand grabs her by the shoulder.
    "You'll stay here," her uncle says, bending down to look her in the eye. "Will you pledge it, my brother? That in exchange for peace you will give up this offering?"
    "I pledge," says her father, voice breaking. "I pledge for the peace of the kingdom my eldest child Elsbeth, in exchange for the lives of myself and every family under me, be given to my brother Collum, the High King. This offering I give him seals our pact of peace, so that I may not attack him and he may not attack me."
    The High King nods, but the girl, understanding very little of what her father says, begins to cry. Her father helplessly backs away, turning with his men. The deed is done. He leaves his crying daughter in the hands of the enemy, to return to peace.
    The High King watches the girl cry for more than ten minutes, unsure of what to do. Then he takes her by the hand. It is not a rough hand, as she first though, only calloused and hard from years of war.
    "Do not worry, child," he says in his gruff voice. "My wife and I have always wanted a child. There will be love for you in our hearts, and you will grow up a princess. Remember, you have brought peace to the kingdom."
    The girl dries her tears. She is a little older now, and she knows she must not weep so much anymore. After all, what the High King says is true. She will grow up a princess now. Princesses do not weep.


See History
  • January 5, 2021 - 8:32am (Now Viewing)

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  • The Ravenclaw Phoenix

    Wow, wow, wow. This. Is. Amazing! I just loved it. I liked how in the end the uncle wasn't as despicable nor frightening as we first thought. Keep on writing!

    about 1 month ago
  • Anne Blackwood

    I would read the heck out of a book about this.

    about 2 months ago
  • Syzygy (#words) (J.A.M)

    This is so sad and so freaking good <3 3

    about 2 months ago