That night, Ara slept well. She dreamt peacefully and woke up with Aeron bustling around the room, he came over and told her good morning.
"We have a busy day, you have training to do." He said.
"Training?" Ara replied. Clearly too early for any kind of energy use.
"You think you're ready for battle right now?" He asked, in his mocking tone, his eyes wide with humour. Ara was silenced.
"Here, eat this." he offered, sitting next to her with some food on the thick wool blankets. They ate in silence for quite a while, in deep thought. Ara could hear the sounds of war in her head, and they slightly frightened her, but also caused something to rush through her, like adrenaline.
"We will start training at noon." Said Aeron, gently. A strand of coffee brown hair fell over his face. Ara couldn't help but smile, and when she realised what she was doing, snapped out of it and nodded seriously.
"What will you be training me to do?" She asked inquisitively.
When the sun was highest in the sky and the birds were singing high up in the trees, Aeron brought Ara out into one of the big clearings near the village.
"We have to be on look out, always. The king's men could be watching." He said in a low voice.
"They could?" Ara replied, a level of anxiety in her voice.
"Yes, but you need to do this, I think you know that more than I do." Aeron replied seriously. The sunlight was dancing off his face, and Ara noticed his eyes. They were the deepest of browns, like swirled melted chocolate, flecked with greens and blacks. The sun shone off them and made them almost glitter like diamonds.
"Your eyes.." Ara said open-mouthed.
"What about them?" He laughed. Giving her that mocking stare.
"They're.. just so.. " She tried to look for the words she wasn't brave enough to say. "Nevermind." She sighed. Aeron gave her a knowing look, and smiled, a half smile which again, made her melt inside.
"Right! On with the training!" He said, clapping his hands. They had ridden out on horses, who were grazing nearby on the grass. Ara noticed that Aeron's ride had two sword cases attached to the saddle. The boy collected them and unveiled the first sword. The case was black, iron, Ara would've thought. It was swirled and delicate, yet at the same time strong and sturdy. The sword itself was nothing like that of what Ara had seen before. The handle must've been silver, flecked with some form of red jewels, surely not real rubies? The blade reflected the sunlight into his face as he turned it over and over. It was nothing like the guard's weapons at the castle. This one seemed more special, unique.
"Wow, that's beautiful." She exclaimed, admiring it wide eyed.
"Yes, this one has been passed down for generations and generations in my family. I've always wanted to use it in a real battle, I practise almost every day."
Without warning, he drew the weapon back, and swung it in a perfect arc in front of him, Ara stood back in shock, almost toppling onto the grass. Aeron chuckled.
"Have to be faster than that! I almost got you!"
Ara felt a sense of stupidity and mockingly looked at him, before jumping up.
"And how may I fight back, without a sword?" she raised her eyebrows.
"No way am I letting you loose just yet! Watch this." He replied, laughing again. His laugh was heavenly, she longed to hear it all the time.
Aeron showed her techniques, and was actually rather taken aback by how fast she learnt. Within an hour, she had the basic knowledge of how to defend, and try and attack with a sword. And she seemed to be having fun doing so too. After two hours, the afternoon sun had worn them out completely, and they had collapsed on the floor in exhaustion.
"You have learnt well, Ara, I'm impressed." He grinned. Ara smiled.
"Whats that smell?" She wrinkled her nose. Frowning. Aeron sat up more, and did the same.
"Yes. It's much too early for the village fire, something is wrong. Quick, on the horses." He jumped up, dragging her with, and they mounted hurriedly, cantering off in the direction of the village.
Within ten minutes, they were nearing the settlement, and the smell of smoke was ever growing. Ara could see the great concern on Aeron's face, he knew this wasn't right. "Hurry!" He would yell when she fell behind.
They slowed near the edge of the village, and were shocked at the findings. The houses were on fire, every tent, structure and tree house was ablaze. Some people even were left on the floor dying, covered in blood.
"Good God." Aeron cried. "Mother!" He yelled, over and over. Ara dismounted at once and attached the sword to her belt, feeling safer with it there. There were cries of pain from the wounded, and people walking around in tears.
"Ara!" Aeron ran up behind her, grabbing her arm. "Stick with me! This is dangerous." He looked down to see the sword attached to her belt and almost said something but the cry of a villager made him glance in the other direction.
"Rowan!!" He yelled, running off in the direction of one of the large burning tents. His cousin could be seen lying against the tree next to it, blackened and exhausted.
"Aeron.." He cried quietly.
"What is it Rowan? What in God's name happened here!?" Aeron demanded, dropping to his knees next to the curly haired boy.
"The men, king's men, they came on horses, a dozen, at least. Probably more. And they destroyed.. everything. They've taken the women and the children. Aeron, they've taken Loré.."
The cry that left Aeron's body was unimaginably distraught, and made Ara shrink back. Sobs shook his body and Ara found herself dropping down and holding his shoulders in comfort.
"I'm so sorry, Aeron."
Aeron said nothing for a short while, then looked up at both of them, the darkness in his eyes growing like thunder clouds.
"They .. will.. pay." He glared. His voice like an angry wolf, ready for revenge. And revenge had never coursed so strongly through Ara's blood as it had in this moment. Yes, he was right, they would pay.