Suffice to say, Byrna was not happy. Her brother was the last person that she wanted to see in any circumstance, but especially in her own home, sitting at the table, and having a nice meal with the family. It was as if her nightmares were coming true in broad daylight.
Byrna’s hand clenches around her bow, but she knows that it would be useless to show any violence towards him. For one, it would be a major breach of hospitality. And secondly, Beltran could overpower her within seconds. As if he wasn’t strong enough eight years ago, he looks even more intimidating now. He was clad in iron scales, having taken off only his helmet to eat. By his side was a spear, with a solid shaft and sharp head.
And Beltran himself was just as she had remembered him. The sort of man little boys dream of becoming, blessed with strength that almost anyone would envy, and a hunter of vicious beasts above most others. He was twenty-six now, but it’s as if he hardly aged since he left at eighteen. Byrna couldn’t say the same for herself.
Byrnis Eddas, their father, seemed perfectly happy to have his long-lost son home. He had set bread and honey before Beltran’s place at the table, and poured him wine. Byrna bristled at her father’s generosity, seeing as Beltran hasn’t given anything in return for what he’d stolen years ago. Even now, he carries nothing but his own arms and armour.
Byrna’s seething is interrupted by her brother’s voice, which she hasn’t heard in eight years.
“Come and sit, little sister,” he invites her, “You’re late for my welcome party.” Beltran’s speech lacks any warmth whatsoever, as if chilled by his years in the Veiled Mountains.
It takes a prodding look from her father to get Byrna to sit down, and she lays her bow and arrows on the table as she does. In a silent response, Beltran places his spear atop the table as well. All Byrnis can do is concede to his children, lest he give up the tenuous peace they have at the moment.
“Why the sudden return, Beltran?” Byrna inquires, touching no food or drink.
“To visit my father, great my sisters, and mourn my mother,” He responds, “Does that offend you, Byrna?”
“Not so, Beltran. But I’m more offended by what happened eight years back, when you stole every thing of value from our home and left.” She spits, “I see that you’ve brought nothing to compensate for it. I’m sure you’ve made yourself rich in your trade, and yet you have nothing for us?”
“All the better for it, I think. Why would I give such riches to someone so ungrateful to have her own flesh and blood back?”
“Then you can afford your own honey, your own wine, and your own meat. You haven’t vissted in eight years, and I can see no reason why you would want to now.”
And as this goes on, Byrnis attempts to soothe his children, to no avail. Byrna ignores him, seeking to end Beltran’s visit as soon as possible.
And Bastra seems as if she doesn’t care at all, looking back and forth between her siblings as they argue. Why should she care about a brother she’s never known and a sister she’s never loved?
Beltran merely smiles before his response, looking perfectly self-satisfied at riling Byrna up with his mere presence.
“Isn’t the sight of ones own siblings sweeter than honey? And greeting one’s father richer than wine? But if you’re so distraught over it, Byrna, I’ll have you know that I’ll be gone as soon as my business is concluded.”
“And what business is that, Beltran?”
“Let’s see, shall we? I had visited mother’s grave, and I am eating at a table with my family after long years of being apart. Simple business, isn’t it?” He remarks, grinning and taking a sip of wine before he continues.
“But I do have one final task to fulfil before my leaving. And don’t fret, it’ll be over quickly.”
“What is this final task?” Byrna asks, edge and suspicion in her voice, hand reaching for an arrow.
Beltran mirrors her movement, hand reaching for his heavy spear.
“Sometimes, Byrna… It is better to show than to tell.”
And with that, Beltran takes hold on his spear and rises, twisting to the side, and drives it into their father. It takes hardly a second for the blow to fall, quick enough that not even swift Byrna can nock an arrow before her father is pierced by the wicked tip.
Bastra knocks her plate aside in her surprise, and scrambles away from Beltran. For a moment, she wonders if Byrna’s resentment of him was justified all this time.
Byrnis, on the other hand, crumples in his seat, remaining for a moment before falling when Beltran draws his spear back out. Blood stains the table, staining the bread, soiling the honey, and mixing with wine.
Byrna’s mind, quick and sharp as it is, can hardly grasp what has occurred before her. But her instincts can keep up. They tell her that she has no chance against Beltran, clad in iron and wielding a spear in their close quarters. Even if she can take hold of the axe by the door, or her father’s spear above the fire, she has not the skill not the strength to best Beltran.
But what she can do is run, and take Bastra with her. And so she does.
Bow and arrow in one hand, and Bastra being tugged along in the other, Byrna turns heel and dashes out of the house. She couldn’t tell if her father was alive or not, and she doesn’t stop to see if Beltran will pursue them. If there if one thing that she is better at than he is, it is speed. And with him weighed down by spear and armour, he wouldn’t be able to catch them if he tried.
Scooping Bastra up on her shoulder, on case she is unable to keep up, Byrna runs away. The village was not far, and she could call for help there, but she doubted that any, if anyone at all, would want to stand up against Beltran. He could not hide his crime, but he never bothered to hide his wrongs. Beltran believed himself to be untouchable.
And perhaps the belief was well founded.