PLUM FACE 2
The name she should have taken at birth had been long forgotten except by her mother, and she had been known since as Pen Alahn, Quiet Death.
She had not been expected to live long, cursed as she was by the gods with her limp. She had not spoken until her third summer, interrupting the Elders at the Feast of Thanks, screaming simply, “They Come”. The other women giggled and her father had slapped her hard to the floor.
She had not taken a man despite her now being in the third summer of her bleeding and, in truth, seemed unlikely to. She was plain and largely uncommunicative, and the warriors were wary of her. They laughed at her mercilessly but secretly were disturbed by her stare and silence.
They remembered her disappearance some winters before and her return; the wailing she did that night sat on the Rock of the Old Folk and the blazing night sun she summoned across the sky.
They remembered the time she had been attacked by a lone wolf while she collected wolfsbane and the sight of that great wolf the following day dead at the camp’s perimeter, its belly ripped open and its innards writhing with worms.
The name Pen Alahn was no longer thought to mock her fate but threatened those who threatened her.
It was not a day unlike others. Men hunted, women wove baskets and cooked, the Elders talked and children fetched water and played. In the forest around the camp pickets each kept protective watch, peering hard into the early morning mist. None raised the alarm, nor could have, as they were taken by unseen arrows to their throats, their only sound their gurgling blood and the soft splash they made in the bracken.
Then the raiding party were upon them. Death by spear and arrow came quickly to the menfolk in camp and other warrior pickets running to their aid. The band took grain and livestock and weapons. They took such young women and children as slaves as they could manage, slaughtering any they could not.
Pen Alahn threw a burning brand at a warrior in vain defiance but he laughed and smacked her hard on the skull with the flat of his blade. Through confused and blurred vision Pen Alahn saw that she belonged to a man with a purple face.