Life was returning to normal. Mabon spent her days caring for her babies, amazed at how much they had grown just in the short time she had been away from them. They really needed to find a new place to live before Finnall crawled right off the terrace. Arminas seemed quite content to sit and play with the toys his father had carved for him – a bear, a cat and an owl. Mabon swore that sometimes it looked as if he made them fight each other… but surely he was too young for that! When Finnall wasn’t crawling away, she loved to hit everything in sight with a wooden spoon Aelsa had given her to play with once. That spoon became a prized plaything, and Finnall was never without it, clutching it in chubby pink hands as she drifted off to sleep.
Mabon had not heard from Bjorke since before the incident. Kel had told her that Bjorke was safe, but was on a mission for the Commander, and out of reach. For the twentieth time that morning, Mabon fetched Finnall back from the edge of the terrace, and sat her down to bang on a clay pot. The noise was maddening, but it held her attention.
The sound of a slight cough, a throat-clearing, caught Mabon’s attention. She looked up to see Bjorke standing on the terrace, her hair wet, the scent of mageroyal oil almost overpowering. “Bjorke! Oh, thank Elune you are safe!”
Bjorke stiffened slightly. “I need to speak with you.” She looked over at Aelsa, who was playing with Arminas, and Aelsa gave her a glare in return. “It would be best not to speak in front of the whelps… I mean… “ Her face colored slightly. “The children.” Mabon looked at her mother, who nodded, then led the way down through the enchanter’s shop, and along to a small pond.
“We will not be disturbed here, Bjorke. It is quite private.” Mabon’s expression showed that she realized it must be serious, but still she flushed pink, as images of times spent at the pond leapt into her mind unbidden. She sat down, smoothing her dress out around her.
Bjorke stood uneasily. This task had to be done, and best done by her, but that made it no easier. “Mabon, I’m sorry.” Mabon looked up at her. It was obvious from the look on Bjorke’s face that she was sincere in her apology, perhaps for the first time in her life. The tall woman shifted from foot to foot. “I’m sorry he caused you so much trouble because of me. I never thought he was still seeking revenge after all these years. We’d worked together for a long time, so I thought he was over it. I mean… when asked me to look after you in the first place… I thought that meant he finally trusted me again. But I guess I was just the only way he knew to help you.” She paused, her hand reaching to her back pocket, but thinking better of it, left her flask alone.
“But for him to use you as bait… “ She shook her head. “I don’t think even Aelsa expected that. And she knew him better than anyone.
“I’m sorry you were stuck in that place so long. I didn’t think he would hurt you, but I wasn’t sure. I was afraid if we rushed in, he’d get desperate. I… I couldn’t take that chance. I figured you’d at least be unharmed in there. But… “ her voice trailed off.
“It’s alright, I understand. And I was safe, even if it was rather nasty there. Kel and I both agree it was the best decision. It really hurt him to leave me there, but he does see that you were right.”
Bjorke nodded, trying to get the rest of the words out. Her hand went for her flask again, but she didn’t grab it. “There’s more. I’m sorry… Mabon… I’m so sorry…. He’s dead, Mabon. I killed him.”
Mabon nodded slowly. She knew Bjorke would not have let him get away again; she had been expecting this news, as was Aelsa. She was a bit numb, and had not yet reconciled with the fact that Sven was probably her father, and yet he was willing to harm his own daughter.
The young woman stood, and hugged Bjorke tightly. “It’s alright; I know you did what you had to do.” Bjorke stood stiffly, ill at ease with the gesture of forgiveness. Mabon released her, and stepped back.
“Someday, I’d like you to tell me about why he wanted revenge. And I want you to tell me why Momma hates you so. But not now.”
“Your mother… do you want me to tell her?” Bjorke glanced towards Mabon’s loft, not relishing that task.
“No, I will. It won’t come as a surprise to her, either.” Mabon shrugged. “I think we both already knew. You just confirmed it.”
Bjorke turned to walk away, then turned back again. “If you ever need anything… anything at all…”
“I know.” Mabon smiled. Even though she was 15 years younger than Bjorke, she felt like she was the older one, comforting her friend. Bjorke looked so lost and alone.
Nodding again, Bjorke called her ram, mounted and rode off, not looking back. Mabon took a deep breath, and went to tell her mother about Sven.