Aura. - Part 16

Part 16

Edwin was quiet for a while as he still rode beside his brother then spoke. "I hope, for your sake brother, that you are right. Meanwhile, I would like to hear more about the progress you have made on your house."

"I am more than pleased with the results so far. Everyone has been extremely helpful. I doubt if there is a man, woman, or child, who has not helped in some small way within the entire region of my lands. Aura's past actions have a.s.sured me of their loyalty in a way that none of the protection I have ever given them in the past ever did. She did it simply by showing them that she cared."

"When do you expect it to be finished?"

"A few months after I return, or in late fall. This new effort of Vernon's will determine the actual date."

Vernon and his forces met the advancing brothers halfway through their journey and he got to the point right away.

"We must make haste Thorn. The invaders come from the South East and are more plentiful than usual. We have little time to spend making battle plans, so we shall have to make them up as we ride, or when we get close enough to see what we face. I have a terrible feeling that this war is going to turn ugly. I am glad you are by my side."

"Where else would I be Vernon? As for the fight being nasty, well, it usually is." Thorn chuckled, making light of the whole issue. There would be time later to get serious.

Vernon was not amused with Thorn's light-hearted approach. This invasion force showed every sign of being every monarch's nightmare. The enemy forces were reported to be huge. They would probably break off into smaller fighting forces. That would hinder all their progress and give them no rest or peace for months to come. He hated battles like this.

Vernon, as well as most of his men, was tired of the ceaseless warring year after year. They fought on only because to do otherwise would be to die. They also hoped that perhaps they might be given enough time between raids, to raise their families, or in some cases even time to have one.

"Well," Vernon thought to himself. "It would not be this year at any rate."

They came upon the enemy suddenly and a small battle resulted, which, as Vernon feared, scattered what they thought were the main forces. His army split up and chased down those they could catch. The a.s.sailing army had not been given time to reorganize for a proper attack and Thorn wondered how Vernon had gained information on them so quickly, as well as how reliable his source was. He had a gut feeling something was not right.

Thorn had never liked ma.s.sive battles. Too many men got hurt or killed in the crowding foray who would have otherwise not received a scratch. He preferred the type of fighting this was turning into, the cat and mouse game of a home army on the attack. He fought much better under these circ.u.mstances.

Vernon, unlike Thorn, preferred an open, ma.s.sive battle campaign. It was a style that generally brought a war to a quick end, with only mopping up exercises to do after, which freed him to go home. In this case he was anxious to do just that. Chatelaine was heavy with his child and she suffered with the pregnancy.

Chatelaine, in fact, had been more than happy to be rid of Vernon. He hovered over her and she felt smothered. She had wished that he could have gone on a peaceful mission, however, a wife had to expect these things, especially when her husband was a warrior.

Thorn engaged his enemy in battle on the second day of their chase. He caught up with them as they rose through a cleft in the foothills of the highland mountains. They fought like desperate men, as well they might, he thought. They had come to a strange land to battle with their king and now they were left to struggle alone for their very survival. A few men had escaped from the issuing battle and while this troop captured most of the stragglers, it was seldom that everyone was accounted for. He walked to some of the prisoners and growled at them in their own language.

"Before we even start, let me warn you, I am not a man to make deals. You either tell me what I want to know, or my wolf will take care of you." He had noticed how the men had watched the huge animal in horror as he had walked at his master's side and had decided to press his advantage.

Wolf, as if he had understood what was expected of him, acted his part to perfection, baring his teeth at the strangers as he growled deep from within his throat. The warning worked, as did Thorn's attempt to intimidate the men by getting the wolf to sit at his side. Something he had learned from Aura. The men stared in wonder at the man who could command such an animal then fell to their knees before him.

"Now," Thorn growled. "I want to know everything. How many men in the main forces? Why the attack now? Who leads you to our What you hoped to gain?"

"There were many ships. We were four hundred strong, the accompanying forces number just as many. We come for land to make our homes on. We follow Sillgrim. He is a great fighter, a great man. A leader gifted to us by the G.o.ds. If we attack now and win, we will have time to plant our crops so we will not starve in the winter. We have time to build homes so we will not freeze."

It made good sense, Thorn thought. The only problem was that the land they sought, already belonged to others, others willing to fight and die to retain possession. People who belonged here and who would die here.

"Where has your main force gone?" Thorn had not seen the of men these prisoners spoke of, and they spoke as if they were pa.s.sing on information that would be of little value to anyone.

"They followed us, many miles away. Our forces were sent ahead to lure your forces away. We are to scatter your men, thus weakening the main army. Our army would the sweep through the center, unfettered by the defending forces. This plan would deprive the Duke of his greatest warlord and his forces.

Whomever had that thought out those plans was a genius, Thorn thought, for the plan had worked perfectly. Vernon's forces were scattered, each faction had veered off on their own chase. The main enemy forces were now free to move through, just as they had been told. Vernon; on his own, was next to powerless and very vulnerable. He hoped he could get back to the battlefront in time. When he did and the battle was over, he hoped he would get a chance to meet the man who had thought out the plan in person. The experience would be quite an education.

"We must ride to Vernon as he is in danger. If we are too late, he will be dead by the time we arrive." Thorn wondered what type of shape he would find Vernon and his men in when he caught up to them.

Vernon had never been so happy to see Thorn and his army of men. He was facing a force of over three hundred men and that meant he was outnumbered four to one. Now the odds were drastically reduced, as Thorn's forces were larger than his own and twice as dangerous. With the way Thorn treated men he naturally attracted strong and aggressive followers. Vernon watched Thorn ride straight up to him with his news.

"Vernon, thank G.o.d we found you."

"Thorn," Vernon greeted him with a relieved smile, while interrupting him. "Your presence is most timely. We face the main force and without your army we were in trouble."

"We are still in trouble Vernon, for you face little more than half of the actual main force. To engage them in battle now, without knowledge of the whereabouts of the other half would be inviting a disaster."

"So what would you have me do Thorn? Turn and run?" Vernon snapped.

"Until we have some idea where the other half of the invading army that would make sense."

"You would rather run than stand and fight?" Vernon yelled in outraged indignation.

"Vernon, we could always fight another day. We need to know exactly what we are facing if we are going to win this war." Thorn attempted to inject a little reason in Vernon's manner.

"How do you know all this anyway? Can you trust your source?" Vernon wanted to know.

"Given the right choices Vernon, men will give away even their most precious secrets. We captured a small band of men who had been sent off as a lure to lead us away from the advancing army. Vernon, I will not fight this man, whoever he is. Not unless I have more information on the whereabouts of all of his forces. Not until I know his secrets. The things I have been told about him and his plans are all unfolding around us. I want to know what I am facing. He is dangerous."

Vernon wasn't paying attention to what Thorn was saying. He was only hearing what he wanted to. "You would desert me now when I need you the most?"

Thorn gave a frustrated sigh as he realized what was going on in Vernon's head. He knew he wouldn't be able to deal with him in a logical manner at this time. So he tried a different tactic. "Vernon, I would rather desert you now so you would be forced to retreat, rather then help lead our forces into a slaughter, for that is what I believe it shall be if we try to stand and fight now. There is no dishonor in an organized retreat in order that we regroup and learn more about the enemy. We can fight when we are better informed, rested and prepared."

Vernon grew silent. He did not like the choice he had just been offered. Fight alone or retreat. He suddenly wondered which side Thorn was on. Could these people be holding Aura prisoner and be threatening him with her life? No, he decided quickly. If these men had Aura, Thorn would have been down there already fighting to regain possession, even if he had to face them alone. Perhaps his advice was the best answer for the moment. If what Thorn said was true they really did not yet have the manpower to withstand the doubled forces before them. They would retreat to another site. He would do as Thorn wanted, after all he was his best warlord and he seldom ever made errors in judgment.

Vernon walked back to Thorn, who had stayed back as he watched his Duke battle with his indecision.

"Alright, we retreat for now, but whatever you do, do not lead us into the center of the other half of that army. Pick a good defensible spot and we will ride."

Thorn nodded his head and told the men to prepare to withdraw in as silent a fashion as possible. The enemy was aware of where they were and he knew they did. When they woke in the morning the army they were ready to fight would be missing. To figure out what had happened and how to deal with the loss of their enemy Sillgrim would have to regroup the two halves of his army. Thorn would be able to watch their forces merge and then he would know for certain what they faced. He would then know how to fight the man who had planned all this so ingeniously.


She was falling, spinning out of control into a void, surrounded by a darkness that pressed against her consciousness and tried to smother her. In her sleep, Aura opened her mouth and screamed. She then sat upright in her bed as she fought for air. Something was drawing her back in time and she could feel it.

Aura had fought this voyage, driven to do so by an instinctive fear, but now she accepted it as an unavoidable part of her future. She had to prepare herself, but had no idea what she should do, for she had decided that if she were to travel back she would find a way to stay there this time. The roller coaster ride between Thorn's world and her own was more than her shattered emotions could handle. She knew she could survive in his time, she had done it before and she knew, with all of her heart, that he was the one and only man she would ever want. It was a feeling that had strengthened over the period of their separation. She wondered about this often, during periods of rest from her learning. When had she fallen in love with Thorn? Or had it been something that had been there, waiting to be noticed?

She had made the acquaintance of an old priest in the last month and she decided, as she began to settle back down, that she would seek him out first thing in the morning. With his background and training she felt that he might be able to shed some light on what was happening to her. At least she hoped this would be the case.

Aura looked at her watch as it shone in the darkness, and sighed. There was no way that she would ever be able to get to sleep again, not with her heart crashing in her chest as it was. She decided that she might as well rise and pack what she considered her essentials, along with her gifts. She made several bundles filled with clothing and jewels, putting them with the others containing her strange a.s.sortment of purchases. She then sat on the side of the bed, half torn between watching the sunrise and staring at her packed belongings. She chose to take a very long shower instead, thinking it would, perhaps, be the last time she could. Where she was going she would be lucky to get a bath, there would be no more showers.

It was going to be a hot day, Aura noted later as she finished loading her stepfather's land Rover. The morning had barely begun and already it was warm. She got the keys from the rack then drove the Rover to the ruins where she had first disappeared. There she unloaded the vehicle and placed all the bundles into the cave. Sid, she took along with her wherever she went. After finishing she drove to the mission house where, it appeared, the old priest had been waiting for her.

"I had the strangest feeling I was going to see you this morning." The old priest greeted her. "Come in my child, you look troubled, it is past time we talked about what is bothering you. I have known this would come to pa.s.s someday. You have been unable to deal with the question which haunts your heart, but know not whom to trust. It is not so unusual."

The Priest escorted her into a small room, offered her an armchair to sit in, and a cup of tea. The room, it was obvious, had been designed to create an atmosphere of ease, a place where a person would feel comfortable telling their most inner secrets. The peaceful look in the Priest's eyes further added to the impression of security. She smiled at him then sank back into the padding of the chair as she took her place.

"I feel as if I have been driven here father, and cannot explain why."

"Would it help if I told you that if you tell me something in confidence, I am bound by vows to G.o.d, not to repeat it?"

"That might not be necessary. If I tell you what I have been through and what I have been told is the reason for it, you may not think me entirely sane. In fact there are times when I doubt my sanity myself." Aura admitted freely.

"It sounds like a grave secret." The Priest was approaching the subject in a much more serious mien. "Are you sure you are ready to speak of it? And if you are, are you sure it is something you want to share with me?

"I have no one else to turn to and the time has come to tell my story. I need to seek an ending and be at peace with my thoughts." Aura replied.

"Then tell me my child, and I shall listen." The Priest invited then sat back to listen to her story.

With a deep long sigh Aura began. "It all began about four years ago. I had gone camping in some old ruins by my stepfather's estate. When I woke father, I was no longer home, or even in my own time. I found myself in an ancient time. I lived alone in a cave for a time and it was not easy. I helped those I could and as I was able. After a while I began to feel free to move amongst the people. It was during this time that I came to the attention of one of the rulers, for that is what I believed he was."

"A King Aura?" The Priest asked.

"No, a Duke. I served him in a limited capacity, helping to care for his men when they were injured. In return he matched me to one of his great warlords and we were wed. We traveled to his home and I worked there to change the environment in which the people lived."

Aura paused at this point and glanced at the priest with lost eyes. She felt almost afraid to go on.

The priest waited for a few moments, then gently prodded. "Your husband, he treated you well? He did not beat you?"

"The man's name was Thorn and he was the Duke Vernon's right hand man. Vernon ruled everyone and everything about him except the Lord Thorn. My husband was a complex man, well educated, religious, proud, gentle and fierce when he had to be. He tried only once to force himself on me, well before I had met Vernon. Before I had been gifted to him as a bride. I had sewed up his wounds and nursed him through a fever."

"You were intimate with this man?" The priest asked in benign tones.

Aura lowered her eyes as she blushed deeply in embarra.s.sment. Her response to Thorn's touch and demands still caused her great discomfort. She moistened her lips with the tip of a tongue, and admitted.

"Yes, the night Vernon gave me to him. It was a result of a fight between us, a clash you could say, of cultures and personalities. We were married the next day and in the eyes of the Church and Vernon, what had happened was good and binding. I was, from that point on, the Lord Thorn's lady and wife."

"And after?" The Priest continued to press Aura for information. He did not appear to judge her or give any indication that he thought her story anything other than it was. He was there to listen.

"When we arrived at his home I worked and made a point of avoiding physical contact with him. He did not force me. In fact he seemed to be waiting for me to the make the choice to come to him. He worked as hard, if not harder than anyone I have ever seen, and his men respected and revered him as no person I had met before. A few weeks after we arrived at his home I was returned here, to my own time. I would be happy, except that the memories have become more real than the life I live now." Aura admitted.

"Why would that make a difference?" The Priest asked.

"I realized, after returning, that I have been fighting a growing attraction for Thorn. I had learned to love, my husband."

"And that would have, I am sure, meant everything to you." It was the words he had been waiting to hear.

"Perhaps, under normal circ.u.mstances, but Father, you must understand, he lives in our past."

"Then what did make the difference?" The priest was having problems understanding. He could see where the time factor would be a problem, but not the connection. Love was the binding factor. As for the many years that parted them, he had a hard time believing that they really existed outside of her imagination.

"He told me something on the last morning we were together. It was something which made me question how I got there in the first place."

The priest looked at her in surprise then prodded, wondering what explanation there could be for such an unnatural pa.s.sage. To be honest he found the story fascinating, even if it was fabricated. He wondered how her mind would connect it all.

"Which was?"

Aura gave him an unflinching look and answered: "That he had prayed to G.o.d for his true soul mate, the one soul in creation which was the true completion of his own. He felt G.o.d had answered his prayers by giving him me and that he had been found worthy enough to be granted his every desire."

The priest looked at her in amazed silence for a time then asked: "Do you know what you are saying?"

"No." She admitted. "I know Thorn believed that G.o.d had brought me to him, he used to say prayers of thanks everyday. I do not, however, have the faith to believe that the almighty would have reached centuries into the future to grant this man, or any man, for that matter, the answer to his prayers, or that the answer would be me."

"We should never doubt G.o.d's ways or the extent of his power my daughter. Tell me Aura, did you come to really love your husband, beyond what you have told me? Think about what you are about to say, I don't want you to mix physical attraction and love as so many do." The Priest warned her. He wanted her to give the matter greater thought. He wanted to know if she recognized the difference.

Aura lowered her lashes and answered. "I love him, but I had not realized this until it was too late."

"Have there been many men in your life, Aura?" The Priest asked. Perhaps her confusion stemmed from inexperience with life and the hurdles it could present.

Aura shrugged a shoulder and answered: "Friends, a few who would have wished to have become closer. I could not, however, manage to get past my feelings for Thorn. And father, they have grown over time, not lessened."

"Why have you come to me with this story? Especially as you bring me no reason to believe it is something that you have not made up?" The Priest wondered aloud.

"There is nothing to show. I returned to my own time with nothing but the clothes on my back and his ring on my finger. A ring he said he had crafted from something shown to him in his dreams and prayers. I come to you father because I am troubled. I am drawn into the web that shall return me to his side. At the same time I fear both the possibility of being returned here and living in the time that he does."

"May I see your ring Aura?" The Priest held out his aged hand to her.

She slipped the wide, but simple band of gold from her hand and gave it to the priest. He read the inscription, carefully carved on the inside of the ring, examined it closely then asked. "Do you know what it says?" He didn't tell her what he had noticed, that the writing was ancient and the metal was pure gold, something that had not been used in such a fashion for centuries because it did not hold its shape well in that form.

She shook her head as she answered. "I was unaware that it said anything. I have never taken it from my finger."

"It is written in Latin and loosely translated, it says to believe in the might of the Lord." The Priest translated for Aura as he read the inscription closely.

Aura's eyes grew misty as she held out her hand for the ring then returned it to her finger.

"I love him, but what happens if I am not allowed to stay with him? I would rather not go back at all if I cannot remain by his side. How can I make sure that I am not torn from his time again?" Aura asked, her voice sounding desperately lost.

"I am not sure, but I would think you should remove some of the obstacles. What do you have to bind you to this time?" The Priest replied as if in deep thought. What would he do, he wondered. The story was way beyond his belief.

"A few possessions. Nothing important. A family reacting through their guilt over the way they treated me before the first time I disappeared. Throughout my whole life I have been the unwanted and unneeded person in their lives. Forgive me father if I say that I do not feel at all bound to them." Aura admitted. She did not sound as if she was feeling sorry for herself.

The Priest nodded with understanding and sighed. "Perhaps you bind yourself through your fears and lack of faith. You say you are to return? When is this to happen? Have you had warning of this?"

"Today." Aura answered with benign indifference.

Again the priest nodded as he advised. "Go home, pack all that is yours, whether you want it or not. Leave nothing behind to bind you to this time. You say you love him? If this is true, love will show you the way. Believe Aura. Cling to he who believes. Have faith in your destiny. Let your heart bind you to him."

"You really do not believe me, do you father?" Aura asked, speaking low.

"Can you blame me? You ask me to believe in a lot. Would you believe?" The Priest asked. She was asking a lot of him.

Aura thought for a moment then smiled as she answered. "No, I do not think I would, but you know, I no longer care if anyone else does either, because I know what I speak is the truth. I am going home to my husband and I shall never return."

"You no longer fear to live in his time in history, as you were but moments ago?" The Priest asked.

Aura took a deep bracing breath, then admitted. "I might not be used to the life style father, but I can learn and I will."

"You will need to be strong in your faith my daughter." The Priest warned.

"Our love will strengthen my faith. I must go now, the time draws ever closer. By the end of this day I will be gone, never to return. Will you pray for me father?" Aura asked. She was scared, but she was determined to face what she felt was her future.