Chapter 1


The day was clear and the air was crisp as Helena and her brother Tuomas rode side by side back to their village and their parents. They had been out since dawn hunting and had quite a good catch between them, though most of it was caught by Helena.


Helena was the best bow in the village and many of the boys in the village had found that out, the hard way. Tuomas was always amazed how many would repeatedly come back to try again to beat her, but none ever did.  Helena knew her brother wasn’t good with the bow and she would repeatedly try to let her teach him in return for him to teach her better sword skills, but he would not. He would always say “If father wanted you to be better at the sword he would train you”. It was always the same answer.


As they rode back Helena looked over to Tuomas and noticed that he was unhappy.


‘Tuomas, if you’re unhappy about me getting more rabbits than you, don’t come’.


‘What?’ he said only just noticing Helena was speaking.


‘Don’t come out hunting if you don’t want to be bested’.


‘I’m not worried about you getting more rabbits than me’.


‘Well that will be the first time. Then why are you looking so sad?’


‘Has father said anything to you?’


‘No. Why?’


‘It’s just that I overheard him talking to mother the other night’.


‘You know you shouldn’t be ears dropping, if father caught you you’d be for it’.


‘I know but I didn’t do it intentionally’.


‘So what were they saying?’ she asked interested.


‘It was about our cousin Vanora’.


‘What about her?’


‘It would seem she is with child again’ he told her.


‘So soon, she only had her last child in spring’.


‘I know and I think that’s why they were discussing it. Aunt Aeron has asked mother for her help’.


‘Help in what way?’ Helena asked wondering what could have prompted her Aunt to ask for her mother’s help in the first place.


‘Aunt Aeron wants mother to go to the fort and help Vanora with her children, then try to persuade her to leave the father of her children and come home’.


‘Aunt Aeron has no right asking mother to do that’ Helena said sounding mad.


‘I know and father said so to her. But you know mother, they argued about it. Father doesn’t want her to go’.


‘No mother shouldn’t, it should be Aunt Aeron if anyone’.


‘You know she won’t go near the fort’.


‘She’s crazy’.


‘By the way, how many will this make it that Vanora has had?’ Tuomas asked changing the subject from their Aunt to their cousin.


‘This will be her fifth child’.


‘Can women really have that many?’ he asked.


‘Yes Tuomas they can, and even more’.


‘You would have to be mad to have so many children’.


‘Vanora must love this man very much to have his children. One day I will have children to the man I love, and I won’t be counting how many either’.


‘You’re crazy as well’ Tuomas shaking his head.


‘Just you wait till you’ve met a girl’.


‘When I do meet a girl I will not be having half a dozen or more children’ he stated quite seriously.


‘We’ll see’ Helena said smiling and sped up.


When they reached their home in the village their father was there to meet them.


‘Good hunt?’ he asked them as they came to a halt and dismounted.


‘Yes father very good’ Helena said holding up all the rabbits they had caught.


‘Good, Tuomas take the rabbits to your mother and she will prepare them. Then take care of your horse’


‘Yes father’ Tuomas said and took the rabbits off Helena and went to find his mother.


Helena’s father Matthias saw that Tuomas was out of sight before he followed his daughter into the stable they had beside the house.


‘How many did Tuomas get this time?’ he asked Helena.


‘More than last time father’ she honestly said to him.


‘I see’ knowing Helena was probably covering for her brother.


‘Father, you really should teach him to be better with a bow’.


‘His bow is fine. If he wants to be a Knight it will be his sword skills that he will need the most’.


‘If that’s true, then why not teach me to be better with the sword’.


‘We’ve had this argument many times before, so do I need to repeat it again’ he said sternly to her.


‘No father’.


‘Helena I wish to talk to you about something very important’.


‘Yes father’.


‘Your mother has had a visit from your Aunt Aeron’.


‘She is well?’ Helena asked knowing her father was going to tell her what Tuomas had already told her.


‘Yes. She wants your mother to go to the fort and bring your cousin Vanora back’.


‘Why father I thought Vanora was happy there?’


‘She is’.


‘Then why must mother bring her back?’ she asked.


‘It would seem Vanora is with child again’.


‘Again isn’t that too soon after the last one she had, which was only in the Spring I remember’.


‘Yes it is, and that’s why your Aunt wants your mother to go and fetch her back’.


‘But mother can’t leave the village. Who would tend the sick?’


‘She will not be going’.


‘Then what is Aunt Aeron to do if mother doesn’t go?’


‘You know your Aunt will not go near the fort, so we came to an agreement on who should go’.


‘When does Tuomas leave?’ Helena asked believing it would be him to go to fort.


‘He doesn’t you do’.


‘What! You want me to go to the fort?’ she asked surprised.


‘Yes. I will tell you I didn’t agree to it at first knowing what goes on there, but your Aunt and mother believe that Vanora will listen to you’.


‘I haven’t seen her in six years father. I’m sure she won’t remember me let alone do what I ask’.


‘I know that, that’s why you’ll stay there with her, trying to persuade her to leave, till after the baby is born’.


‘How long will that be?’


‘At least six months, maybe a little longer’.


‘I’m to go there by myself?’


‘Yes, I'm sorry I would accompany you to the fort but I’m needed here in the village as you well know’.


‘Yes father. Is mother happy about this?’


‘No and neither am I. But you know how your Aunt can be?’


‘Yes I do. When do I leave then?’


‘You will leave first thing in the morning’.


‘What so soon?’


‘Yes I’m afraid so. But you will soon be back here, I’m sure of it’.


‘Yes father. I better go help mother with the rabbits and then I’ll prepare to leave’ she said sadly not really wanting to leave her family. But knowing that they have given her a great responsibility, she would try to live up to the great trust they have in her.


You are a good daughter’ Matthias said and watched Helena head towards the house to help her mother after she had hugged him.


As Matthias watched his daughter head to the house to help her mother for what he knew would be the very last time he sighed. Thinking back to the argument he had had with Siwan, Helena’s mother only a few short nights before.



‘Siwan you weren’t seriously thinking of going to the fort because Aeron wanted you to’ Matthias said.


‘Yes if only to keep her away from us and upsetting you’ Siwan said quietly.


‘I don’t want you to go’ he repeated.


‘Then it has to be Helena that goes as we agreed with Aeron when you put your foot down refusing to let me go’.


‘I don’t want her to go either. I know what goes on there, I don’t want my daughter hurt in anyway. I can’t be there to protect her like I can here’.


‘You don’t protect her here. She’s quite capable of looking after herself’.


‘You haven’t seen the way the boys of the village look at her. She only thinks they come to test her and see if they can finally beat her at daggers and the bow. One has already asked for her hand in marriage’.


‘When was this, you never told me’ Siwan asked not too happy that her husband has kept this from her.


‘It was a while back now. I asked Helena herself if she was interested in the lad or anyone for that matter, but she wasn’t’.


‘Then why keep it from me?


‘Because Helena didn’t want you to know, she knew you would try to get her to wear dresses more’.


‘What will I do with that girl, she’ll never marry if she continues like this’.


‘I don’t think she wants to, she wants things to stay as they are and to take over from you as our village healer’.


‘Do you think we should tell her about the job of healer at the fort?’ Siwan asked.


‘No I don’t think we should’ Matthias said but seeing the look Siwan gave him he added. ‘She might not need to find a job if Vanora takes her in’.


‘And if Vanora doesn’t?’


‘Then I guess she’ll become their healer’. Matthias said sadly knowing that if Helena did in fact become the fort’s healer she wouldn’t be returning home.


‘We should tell Helena about the healer’s job’ Siwan said.


‘I know but she’ll refuse to go, even though Vanora could need her help. You know how stubborn our daughter is’ Matthias said.


‘Just like her father’ Siwan said with a smile as she rose for her chair and went to her husband.


‘What do you mean like me? She takes after you more, especially in looks’ Matthias said wrapping his arms around his still beautiful wife.


Kissing her husband softly on his lips she pulls slightly from him saying. ‘If she takes after me then we might have another Sarmatian in the family’.


‘What! You don’t think she’ll fall for one of the Knights do you?’ Matthias asked worried. Being a former Sarmatian Knight himself he knew exactly what they were like.


‘Well if she takes after me then anything is possible’ Siwan said smiling at her worried husband.


‘She’s not going’.


‘Matthias she has to go, you know that as well as I do’ Siwan said.


‘I only pray to the gods she keeps her head and not fall for a Knight. It’s not the life I wish for her. I can’t believe you did knowing what could have happened to me’.


‘I prayed everyday to the gods and goddesses that you got though your service. My prayers were answered and I give thanks to them everyday I am with you’ Siwan said then kissed her husband again.


Breaking apart Matthias looked at his wife with all the love he has felt for her over the years they had been together. He knew she was right, Helena had to go she was needed, he only hoped that she keep herself safe.


‘Very well then she goes and we don’t tell her the real reason for sending her to the fort to become their healer. We only tell her she’s going because of Vanora’. Matthais said resignedly.


‘I don’t want to lie to her, but it’s the only way’ Siwan agreed.


‘I will write a letter to the fort’s commander and explain everything, especially about her not knowing the truth of why we’ve sent her there. I’ll tell him not to say anything unless it’s really necessary for her to know’.


‘Do you think this commander will honour our wishes?’ Siwan asked.


‘Yes I believe he will. The commander of the fort now is an Arthur Castus. His father Uther was my commander for a time before he was killed in battle. He was a very honourable man, for a Roman, unlike the others. I believe this Arthur, his son, is the same. I’ve asked about him since we made the decision to send Helena, so yes he’ll honour our wishes and protect her for us’.


‘Then it is in the gods and Arthur Castus’s hands now my husband. Pray we are doing the right thing by her’.


‘I will my wife’ Matthias said and lent down and kissed his wife again with passion.

 End flashback.


Helena didn’t say anything to her brother about her leaving knowing her parents would announce it that night as they ate their evening meal together, as they always did. As Helena knew her father did announce it at the evening meal, her brother Tuomas was both shocked and surprised Helena was to be going alone, but Helena also noticed he wasn't too shocked to hear the decision that she was to go at all had been made. It made Helena believe Tuomas knew the decision to send her to the fort to Vanora before it had been announced, which made her think that was the real reason he had been looking so sad on the trip home after hunting. But Helena also knew he was jealous too, as she would get to see the Knights that he so wanted to join to be one. The meal continued quietly after the announcement had been made and Helena saw the look of sadness in everyone’s face at the prospect of Helena’s departure the next day. Helena felt there was something else that needed to be said by her parents but neither of them said anything at all.


When the meal was finished Helena helped her mother for the last time and then made sure she had everything she would need for the trip and stay at the fort. She made sure she had her bow and quiver of arrows and her sword, which she sharpened, as well as the dagger that her mother had given to her some years back. She also packed a good supply of herbs and potions that she had made, in case she might need them, not knowing if she would be able to find any more that easily. She wasn’t sure where she would be staying, not knowing if Vanora would welcome her or not, and with that in mind her father had given her some coins in case she would need it for a room and food. After seeing to everything and checking her horse, as she headed to bed, she bid her parents and brother a goodnight for the final time, then she went to bed not really knowing what the next day would bring.



Chapter 2 Sarmatian Knights C2