Aura. - Part 18

Part 18

Aura smiled again and nodded. She then moved off in her search for men in need of her skills. It seemed such a waste, but then war always was.

Sillgrim continued to watch Aura until she moved from his sight. She was arresting in her air of mystery and he wondered if she belonged to a special man, or was still free to choose. He wondered if he would ever be in any shape to be considered worthy, as he had been at one time. He no longer had a home or money and after they found out who he was, he wondered if he would even have a life. He then closed his eyes and fell asleep.

As Sillgrim's thoughts began to sway towards what had been, versus what now was, he remembered a name that had featured prominently during his travels in this country. The name was that of the Lord Thorn. This man was reported to be a fierce fighter, yet compa.s.sionate and fair. Sillgrim felt he could have supported such a man, if he had been the type to follow another. Vernon, according to all reports, was getting increasingly vain and weak. It was also rumored that he followed Thorn's council, although he was the Duke. Sometimes, Sillgrim reflected, it worked out that way. A wise man recognized his own weak points and sought council to cover them. He decided he would have the girl, what was her name again? Aura? There was something special about her.

Vernon found Aura in a grim mood, working over a boy who was barely a man. The boy had a gruesome sword wound, which had narrowly missed cutting through a major organ. The cut ran from his shoulder to his mid abdomen. The boy had pa.s.sed out and she had almost finished sewing him together. After she finished she checked his pulse and eye reflexes as he slept. She then sat back on the calves of her legs in fatigue.

Vernon waited until she was finished with the lad before speaking. "Will the boy live Aura?"

She looked up and gave him a crooked tired smile as she nodded.

"He will live. He will also be in a lot of pain. He will have a nasty scar to show for his efforts here today. Vernon, he was not old enough to be a part of all of this. People like him are the future of your land, you cannot afford to keep losing them."

"A boy becomes a man Aura. This was his time, his decision to make. It is a fact of life we all have to learn to live with. Even you. I realize that you are a woman, it is harder for you, but that is the way it is."

"Perhaps, but give him some time to heal Vernon, so he can grow and live a little before it is time for him to fight another day." She was quiet for a moment after that then she looked shyly up again and asked. "How is my Lord Thorn, Vernon?"

"Chasing the remaining forces, as usual. You know how Thorn is about loose ends."

Aura nodded, just happy at the moment to hear that he was alive and well. She then asked another question, one which meant more to her. "Has he missed me?"

"You remain uppermost in his mind and in his prayers." Vernon a.s.sured her.

"Would you do me a favor Vernon?"

"Anything in my power Aura, you only need to ask."

"Do not tell Thorn that I have come back yet."

Vernon looked askance at her and when she remained silent he prodded. "You had better give me a good reason for this silence Aura. Thorn has gone through h.e.l.l because of you during the last year."

"I know." She had the grace to look ashamed. "If I were to tell you where I have come from you would never begin to believe me. I have fought long and hard to get back to him, but I do not want him to just hear that I am back. I want to surprise him myself. I want this reunion to be special."

"A repeat of your betrothal night?" Vernon asked with a smile.

"If it is that which Thorn remembers the most of me, then yes." She answered.

"Thorn is a man. He will always remember the night you became his. I do not think it is much different for you, is it Aura?" Vernon asked.

She nodded then said. "I want to do things differently this time, if that is what we are going to do."

"Yes?" Vernon asked with renewed interest. It was obvious that Aura had something specific in mind.

"This time Thorn stands in the center of the room. Tell him you want to return something he has lost or something. I shall make my presence known at that time."

"Do you need new clothing for this?" Vernon asked.

"No. I might need some advice on what to wear though."

"Really?" Vernon was intrigued and he wondered what was going through her mind.

"Yes," she tossed him a wicked smile as she asked. "I wonder what type of effect I should try to achieve. Should I be girlish and sweet? Should I be sleek and sophisticated? Or do I wear something that, considering what your people are like, could start a riot?"

Vernon returned her smile and asked. "Which way are you leaning?"

"Well," she bit at her bottom lip in indecision. "I do not want to look like a child in his eyes."

"That is understandable, though I doubt if you could."

"Never the less, it leaves me with the choice of looking sophisticated or stunning."

"I am not so sure I know the difference." Vernon confessed.

"Perhaps then I should show you the dresses, that alone should be a revelation." Aura spoke. There was a teasing gleam sparkling from her eyes.

Vernon roared out laughing, considering Thorn a luck man as he did. He then moved the conversation onto more pressing matters. "By the way Aura, have you ran into a man out on the field called Sillgrim by some obscure chance?" It was a long shot, but one never knew and Aura had tended to a lot of people. He could either be dead, injured or he could have Thorn running hot on his heel breathing down his neck.

"Sillgrim?" Aura repeated, wrinkling her brow as she sought to place the name. She then remembered the man who had spoken to her on the field. "As a matter of fact, I have." She led him to a comatose man's side and whispered. "I would really prefer it if you did not disturb him just right now. He had some very serious injuries and needs the rest to recover a bit before he should even be moved, never mind the type of questioning you probably have in mind for him. I gather he is the leader of the invading forces?"

Vernon nodded his head and changed the subject. "Are you serious about your intention to return to Thorn, Aura?"

She recognized the serious note in his voice and nodded. "I never planned on leaving him in the first place Vernon. It just happened. I guess I had some unfinished business to take care of back home."

Vernon nodded again and pa.s.sed on his thoughts. "If you would have objected your return to his side, in any manner at all, I would have made it possible for you to be free once more."

"I love him Vernon," she confided as she looked into his face. "I never thought I would ever hear myself speak like this, but it is true. I have been so alone since I have been away from his side, now that I am free to return to him, I can barely wait for your banquet. Tell me, what do you have in mind for your band of invaders?"

"Thorn brought up a suggestion earlier which I had thought stupid at the time, but now think better of."

"Which is?" Aura asked.

"If they will consent to it, I would have them pledge their fealty to me. I will then offer them a parcel of land to live on. Thorn pointed out that we are all very battle worn and I agree. I tire of the bloodshed and the men tire of digging graves. Over five hundred men lay dead out there, some mine, some his. If all they want to guard our is land and a home then I say let them have their wish. We need to find a way to bring peace to our lands. But they cannot have all of it."

"And Sillgrim?" Aura wondered about the man she had met.

"I will leave him to Thorn. If anyone can do anything with this man, it will be your husband."

Aura was given another horse and she carefully picked her way to her cave. She packed what she could into more transitory containers then led her laden mount. The packages were not heavy, but the contents did make up quite a load.

Vernon had ordered the field cleared and cleaned. The injured were put into Aura's makeshift infirmary then Vernon left to find Thorn. If they were going to surprise the man he did not want anyone forewarning him of Aura's presence in any way. The thought had crossed Vernon's mind that he could use this time to get even with his friend. He was still smarting from the prewar battle of wits that he had lost. It was something that would need careful planning and consideration.

Within three days Aura had lost over half of her patients. Some had been carried out, but the vast majority had walked out. She handled both with equal professional and personal consideration.

Sillgrim proved to be the biggest problem for Aura as he developed a serious fever, two weeks after being moved to Vernon's stronghold. She spent hours sponging him down and trying to keep him alive, while he ranted about her in his delirium. After two days, she was more than happy to note an improvement in his condition.

Now, Aura decided, she could get on with her own life, although Sillgrim was still weak and would need watching for a while longer. But that part was minor.


It was not as easy to get back to normal as Aura thought it would have been. Thorn had returned home after chasing down the fleeing enemy, instead of returning to Vernon. He had sent Edwin to Vernon with his report, the prisoners and his apologies. Vernon told Edwin nothing of Aura's return. As she had remained behind to nurse Sillgrim until he was fit to move, and was not at the fortress, Edwin left, not knowing that she had come back. Edwin did not get to see Signi either, as she was having her own problems. Signi's betrothed had died in the battle, and to escape the reality of the situation, Signi had closeted herself in her room.

Aura oversaw the moving of her possessions herself and Vernon made her move back to his castle. She had mentioned the possibility of returning to Thorn's side, instead of waiting for him, however, Vernon insisted that if Thorn was to take her back that he would have to come in person to escort her home. He was not going to chance Aura making the journey on her own and not getting to the other end.

Having laid his rules down, Vernon further emphasized the fact that he meant business when he refused to leave Aura on her own for any amount of time. He was more than a little afraid that she might disappear. Thorn would never forgive him if he ever found out that he had found Aura then lost her. To make sure that she would never be tempted to return to the cave again he made sure that it was empty then ordered the mouth sealed, so it could never be used again.

To get Thorn to attend the banquet, Vernon realized he would have to order him to attend. This Vernon saw to in writing. He informed him in his letter that he wished to discuss Sillgrim and the plans they had laid. He wanted Thorn to meet Sillgrim in person, so they could see if they were compatible as close neighbors. He also wanted to know how Thorn planned to manage the man.

Vernon also mentioned, in the message, that he had, in his possession, something that Thorn had lost. He wrote that he would return it to him when they next met. He then set a date for Thorn to respond, knowing it would give him little time to make the trip.

Chatelaine had heard of Aura's efficiency at delivering babies and it made her feel at ease to have her nearby, especially now that her own time was on her. Aura smiled as she listened to Chatelaine's fears then offered her a few words of comfort and gave her some exercises to keep her occupied. Chatelaine was grateful and settled down to her tasks.

Signi was not as receptive to Aura's return.

"So, you finally decided to return. I must say you have given me quite a few surprises. I thought you would be good for my brother. I guess I must have misjudged you." Signi's voice was bitter and dripped with sarcasm.

Aura sighed as she accepted the sneer. She should have known that she would have uphill battle with Signi. She loved her brothers too much to not take desertion personally. Signi had also lost her sweetheart and that was something that Aura realized would make her feel even more waspish. Aura would have to make an attempt to get Signi to understand in another way.

"I do not know how to make things right between us Signi, but you must let me at least try."

"I trusted you once Aura and you let me down. You let us all down. How could you think I could ever trust you again?"

"It is hard, I realize that. I cannot even explain. I doubt if I can even begin to make anyone believe where I have been. In fact there are times when I can hardly believe what has happened myself. The important thing is that I have come back to be with Thorn. I have told Vernon this and we have made special plans to surprise him at the banquet."

"Another surprise?" Signi bit out frostily. "In which way this time Aura? I would have thought once was more than enough."

"Signi please," Aura begged as she tried to reason with her. "It was not my fault, nor can you begin to have any idea the lengths I have gone to in order to come back. I have had to sever my ties with my old life completely. I could not have come back to be with him, unless I was sincere and fully prepared to make the sacrifice."

Signi bit at her lip in indecision, for she did want to believe in Aura, if for no other reason than for Thorn. Vernon also had always believed that there was more to Aura than what she let on. Signi wondered if she would confide in her and asked in interest, as she let her curiosity override her animosity.

"So who were you Aura, that you had to make this trip to settle things? Was the break painful?"

"Not as painful as difficult. Where I come from, we live a different kind of life to what you know. The general population are more educated and sophisticated. Yet they are very much the same as you. We have a lot of things you could never begin to imagine. Come, I will show you my pet."

"Wolf is with Thorn." Signi stated as a matter of fact.

"I knew Wolf would stay to take care of Thorn. They should get along well." Aura spoke as she took Signi's hand and led her to her room.

"I think Wolf is the one doing the most caring." Signi gave a sad smile, the first sign of a break in her depression.

Aura decided that the smile, however forlorn, was a good sign and carried on. "I doubt very much whether Wolf is suffering much. Thorn is a good man Signi, with a great capacity for love."

"Now," Aura added, focusing Signi's attention on their former conversation as they closeted themselves in her room and she made her way over to a bag that moved. "I want you to meet Sid. Sid, this is the Lady Signi."

Signi took one look at the elongated reptile and looked as if she were going to either faint, throw up, or scream. The snake wrapped itself around Aura and poked its nose at Signi.

"Get it away from me." Signi breathed, terrified of the reptile. As she gained a measure of control, she pointed at it in revulsion and asked. "This is what you found difficult to leave?"

"He is quite harmless Signi," Aura tried to rea.s.sure her. "But no, this would not have been hard to leave behind. Signi, please, just think about it. You can see the beginnings of how my life used to be, versus how different it is now."

Aura put Sid back into his sack, and tried to think of something else that might be closer to what Signi might understand. She searched though a few of her bags, and emerged with her white gown.

"When you are interested in a man and you want him to take special notice of you, you dress in your best or most attractive gown, right?"

"Yes," Signi acknowledged as she watched Aura turn from her to strip the clothes she had been wearing from her body. She then dressed herself in the gown she had held, before turning to Signi to show off the effect.

"Aura!" Signi gasped. "You are half naked."

"Really?" Aura asked with an amused smile. "According to whose standards Signi? Where I come from, if you look good, dressing like this will merit you a look of appreciation. Nothing more."

Signi sauntered around her, trying to catch the full effect of the gown then replied. "Dressing like that here could get you raped. Thorn would personally kill any man who saw you dressed like that."

"Then I will have to take care to wear it only for him." Aura gave a broad smile and a wink. Signi could not help the smile that spread across her face.

"He would tear it off your back."

"I think not Signi. I would tell him it was made for the appreciation of a man with a gentle touch. Thorn would never hurt it. In fact, he would do what he could to show me that he was such a man."

Signi touched the satin, allowing herself to finger the material and exclaimed. "It is so soft and feels so smooth." Signi then looked at Aura as if searching for something specific. She sought the answer in her eyes as she asked: "You would welcome the advances that this dress would invite?"

Aura's whole face softened and lightened as she smiled dreamily and answered: "I have come for such advances, but only from Thorn. I am his wife and I have realized that I cannot live without him. I love him."

Signi burst into tears at that, seeking comfort for her own troubled heart. She wound her arms about Aura and cried on her almost bare shoulder. "I have lost my love Aura, what do I do? How can I stand to live without him?"

"Signi, even when we lose those we love, we go on. Somehow. Time does strange things. If we are lucky we can even learn to love again."

"I shall never love again." Signi sobbed.

"Perhaps not so soon, perhaps not in the same way, but Signi, you are too giving a person to never be able to love again, to never have children, or feel wanted and needed. Signi promise me that you will not lock your heart away."

As pleading did not seem to help Signi, Aura decided she would have to deal with her differently. The wounds were still too new for her to handle. She smiled then teased, reminding Signi of past adventures. "Besides, Vernon would never let you stay single. He would force you to wed if you tried to lock yourself away. Please Signi, give it a chance? Do not give up on life."

"I will need time." Signi decided as she withdrew from Aura's arms and left.

After Signi left Aura changed back into her ordinary clothes then went to check on the remainder of her patients. There were only four left, of which Sillgrim was the most prominent. Aura pushed him to move around, and although he hated to show how weak he still was, he did as he was told. He showed signs of getting better, however, he was not quite ready to leave her care.

Aura noticed how Sillgrim kept trying to draw her out in conversation and she was making a point of keeping her distance. He seemed to want to form a relationship with her. The last thing she wanted to do was give him the impression that she might be interested. She knew that the only man she would ever love was Thorn. It would be wrong to encourage another under those circ.u.mstances.

Vernon brought the whole issue to her attention as he had insisted on accompanying her. He had noticed the way Sillgrim continued to watch her. He noted how the man had looked at her when she had come around, and how he had tried to capture her interest. Aura seemed to notice nothing. The man needed something to take his mind off of Aura and Vernon.

After watching Vernon for a while, Sillgrim decided that the Duke was guarding Aura. But whom did he guard her for? The answer came to him in a painful flash. Only one man had the power to warrant such attention from Vernon and that man was the Lord Thorn. This woman was the Lord Thorn's lady.

Why was Thorn not here by her side? Had he been killed in battle? No, Sillgrim answered his question. Vernon would not watch her so closely if Thorn were dead. At first Sillgrim had thought that Aura was Vernon's favorite mistress. He had pushed that thought aside when it became obvious that she had no inclination towards him.

Aura finished her rounds and joined Vernon as he stood by the door. He leaned over and said something to her and her soft laughter floated across the room as they left. Sillgrim winced, as if in pain, then sighed. Her laughter would never be for him, but then what should he have expected anyway. He had come to conquer, to find a new home for his men and himself. He was now forced to think of life as the vanquished people. He had not once considered the possibility that he might find himself a prisoner. In fact he had never thought of what he might do with his prisoners should he have won.

Vernon led Aura to a secluded area, for privacy and began. "I want to talk to you about Sillgrim, Aura."

"He is recovering quite well, it must be your air." Aura reported, mistaking his interest as an inquiry into the man's health. "You have no pollutants or foreign germs floating about to infect him.