Until the IV century England was ruled by the Roman Empire. Old Celtic tribes were forced to leave their culture and live according to the Catholic Church. Most of the tribes them changed their way of life but some tribes resisted. It was on the IV century that the Roman Empire fell and England, then called Britannia, was left free once again. Chaos was installed by tribes on war against one another. The Celtic tribes attacked the Catholic ones to make their culture prevail. Other tribes were called to help, tribes from the North: Anglos and Saxons.
First they came to help install order but soon these men noticed how fertile the soil in England was and this land was once again invaded by Barbarians. The Anglo-Saxon declared war against the Celtic tribes just to invade their territory and make it theirs. Anglia was founded and the first form of English was created. Christianity was reestablished and thus, Celtic tribes were being forced to leave their creeds behind. These were times of turmoil.
This tale is based on this time of terror and it tells the story of a Celtic princess named Keira and a Saxon warrior named Colin. Their path is bound to be different; they’re bound to be enemies until the end of time.
“He is just an amazing man and he will treat you right my sister.” Cathleen said.
Keira was seated on a wooden bench braiding her hair hearing her sister talking about Cahil. She had been promised to him since she was born and in her culture there was no way she would escape that marriage. At the age of 17 she was ready for marriage, to become a wife and soon the ceremony would be performed. She would give birth to the heir to the throne while Cahil would become king, replacing her father when God called him.
“I know…” Keira said vaguely answering to her sister’s remark. Cathleen was a year old younger than her and she too was betrothed to one of her father’s finest warriors, just like Cahil was.
“Why don’t you seem happy?”
“I am happy!” Keira exclaimed looking with her blue stare at her sister.
“You looked so serious…” Cathleen stated.
“Because I am concentrated trying to braid my hair.” That was her favorite way to wear her long red hair that reached her waist.
“Don’t forget I cannot marry Jacob until you’re married. You’re the eldest and you must be married first.”
Keira smiled. “Are you that desperate to marry him?”
“Aren’t you?” Cathleen opened her eyes and Keira shook her head. “How come?”
“Because I am father’s property and then I am going to be his property and I will have my duties as a wife…” She choked a little.
“Haven’t you ever kissed Cahil?” Cathleen asked with her green eyes wide opened.
“NO!” Keira frowned. “How gross!”
“It’s not!” Cathleen argued.
“You kissed Jacob?”
Cathleen nodded. “By the river the other day…” She hushed so no one would hear. “He asked…he had been asking for quite some time and…we’re going to be husband and wife right?”
“But it’s wrong!” Keira said. “You should not do that until you are married.” She fell silent. “You kissed him on the mouth?” She hushed.
Cathleen nodded once again. “It is good. I like Jacob…”
Keira started thinking about her feelings for Cahil. She thought he was a handsome man and cleaner than most other men in the tribe. He was of her father’s trust and the best warrior in the tribe. Cahil showed respect and patience with her but she was always very restrained when near him. She also had taken walks near the river with him but she never let him get too close to her, not even when he once tried to hold her hand. She liked him but she felt no desire for him. Cahil was ten years older but men should be older than women.
“I like Cahil too.” She said to her sister. “I just don’t want to kiss him.”
“But Keira…” Cathleen retorted. “…when you marry him you must bed him.”
“OH!” Keira almost yelled and got up. “You think of such things. I know that…I still have time to desire him. He’s handsome and muscled and he’s father’s best warrior. I will be very proud to be married to him and I am sure Cahil will treat me right and he is going to be gentle on our wedding night and with time I will like him more.”
“The king…the king…” A man yelled out on the street. Both Cathleen and Keira left the stoned round house. “…the king wishes to see you.” He said to Keira.
“What for?” She asked.
“The messenger has returned.” The man said.
Without saying anything else Keira started running to her father’s saloon where he reunited with his army. Though she hated these war affairs, she knew she would be queen one day so she liked to know everything. Cathleen followed her feeling anxious. The messenger had been sent months ago to find out something about the Saxons who were invading and destroying all tribes in the surrounding lands. When the sisters arrived to the local, the entire village was there and King Egan was standing with arms opened trying to speak to his people. Keira and Cathleen stayed on the back though they were sure their father had seen them for he nodded.
“People of Avon…” He yelled. “Our beloved messenger has arrived with news from our enemies the Saxons. They are planning to attack our village within short time. They have won war against our neighbors and now they are heading up North trying to find us. WE WILL NOT FALL!” He yelled waving his sword in the air. “We will fight and Avon will remain ours.”
Keira inhaled deeply. She spotted Cahil near other warriors. Their eyes met and she looked away but she then looked at him again. Cahil smiled at her and she nodded her head in acknowledgment. She thought about the conversation she just had had with her sister and she wondered why she hadn’t desired him yet. Cahil was indeed handsome and some women in the village had tried to conquer him but he was devoted to her despite his man’s adventures. She knew Cahil sometimes slept with the women of the tavern, they were due to satisfy the warriors. He was a man…she knew that…
“Keira…” He approached her. As an educated knight he bent to great her.
“It seems like hard times are approaching.” She said. Cahil nodded. “I am feeling a little anxious about this fight. Do we have enough men?”
“Your father is an excellent leader Keira. He would not fail. We will win this and we will keep this village safe. Avon is ours and no one will take it away from us. No one was ever capable of doing so, this is just another fight as many other we had.”
For a moment she stayed silent. She liked how confident he always sounded and she also knew she didn’t want him to get hurt. She always feared when he went to battle and for her father too. She grew up knowing he would be her husband so she grew up to respect him and somehow the sense of losing him affected her. If he died who would want her? Would she marry someone else?”
“You are very brave Cahil.” She then said smiling at him.
“I must reunite with your father in the saloon. Would you like to walk by the river later?” He asked.
She didn’t feel like it. She was too worried but as her mother once told her right before she died, she should always be kind to Cahil. By kind she assumed doing everything he wanted. Women wouldn’t survive by themselves, they always had the father and then the husband to take care of them. Even the poorest woman in the tribe. Those who hadn’t anyone would end up in the tavern.
“Alright.” She said.
Cahil bowed his head one more time and for the first time ever, she extended her hand at him. At first he just looked at her hand surprised but then he grabbed it in his. His skin was warm and she felt the callus of the sword but it seemed like a strong touch. Cahil smiled widely at her and then left. She smiled all alone, the contact hadn’t been that bad but still she hadn’t had no desire to kiss him, to know how it felt to have his lips on hers.
Hearing people talking loud and running steps outside, Colin pulled away his fur blanket and sat on the bed made of hay. Helga turned lazily on her side and wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Don’t go.” She purred kissing his back.
“Get dressed!” He ordered throwing her the brown tunic she wore.
“But we can stay a bit more.” She smiled at him.
“I am done.” He said worried with all the confusion happening outside. He grabbed his clothes and began to put them on and slipped his fingers over his long blond hair to adjust it a bit, when done he walked to the door.
“Are you going without your mail and helmet?” Helga asked.
“I am going outside not for war.” He said annoyed.
“Why are you so rude?” She asked sliding her arms inside her tunic.
Colin looked back. “Helga…you are just someone to satisfy my needs.” He said.
“I know what I am.” She smiled.
“I don’t want to find you here when I come back.” He said leaving.
People on the street were running around. He wondered why King Alfred had not called him but then he saw his messenger running in his direction.
“The King is calling for you.” The boy said gasping for air.
Colin nodded and the boy took off running again. He tried to walk as fast as he could as the entire village seemed to be out. People were talking loud, the prisoners begging for food and his head was pounding from the ale he had had the night before. The king was on his round saloon with all the others and people were gathering outside for some news.
“Colin!” King Alfred saluted when he managed to go inside.
“You sent someone for me.” He said.
All king’s warriors were sat on wooden benches and ale was being served on wooden cups. Colin shook his head disgusted with the scent of it. He had had too much the previous night for sure.
“I’ve had too much last night.” He said and sat on his usual place.
“We are going to war.” The king said. All men raised his arms and cheered loud, Colin included. “Avon is going to be our next conquest.”
“They are known for being tough.” Colin said. Avon was one of the few villages that still remained under Celtic possession. Most of England had been turned.
“But they are not better. We have more men and better armor. We are the Saxons…we come from the North…we fight better.” All men cheered again.
“When are we going my king?” One of the warriors asked.
“We leave tomorrow before dawn. We shall take three weeks to reach them.” King Alfred explained. “Gather all your weapons. Bows, arrows, axes, knives, swords…everything it takes to make them bleed and make their village ours. We shall kill all men and keep the women for us. All goods will be divided.”
“Aye!” Colin nodded satisfied. He loved to battle.
“You can go now and have fun my men for three long weeks wait for you.”
Colin got out of the meeting feeling thrilled. He loved to fight and to conquer and to win. He clenched his fists and grated his teeth as if facing the enemy already and then remembered the king said they would be away for long. He walked to the tavern and looked for Helga.
“Helga!” He called at the door. The woman looked at him satisfied and he simply motioned his head at her to go. If he was going to be away three weeks he’d better have a good night for it was going to be a long time without women.
Cahil and Keira were sat by the river’s bank and she had her feet in the water. He looked at her feeling satisfied with the woman the king had offered him to marry. Keira had grown up to be such a beautiful woman.
“I want to get married after this battle.” He told her.
“Do you think they are as tough as it is said they are?” She asked instead.
“Are you afraid?”
Keira nodded. “For my father and for you too. I heard stories of how they kill all men and children and women are raped.”
“Nothing is going to happen to Avon. Nothing Keira.” He promised her. “You heard what I said before?”
Keira nodded. “Aye. It is your call.”
“I cannot wait for you to be my wife.” He said.
Keira sensed there was love in his words but his hoarse voice suggested something else in there too. She shivered just to think about it. She knew nothing about being a wife but Cahil was expecting that of her. She had never been touched by a man, not even by him. She should marry a virgin and be one man’s only and that would be him.
“Aren’t you excited Keira?” He asked.
“I am.” She smiled but she felt part of her was faking. “But I am scared too.” Her flesh blushed a little.
“There is nothing to be scared of…I will teach you everything.” He said.