While I was working on Out of the Ashes, I used writing prompts to create some backstories for various characters. This is one of those stories.
The original prompt was called, “Mr. and Mrs.”. I wrote the backstory in two parts, and will post the first one here (the second will come later). As it is a writing prompt/backstory and largely for my own use, it hasn’t been edited.
The characters may not be recognizable yet, but the events in these two prompts appear in a different form in chapter one of Out of the Ashes.
“Son, did you hear what I said?” Hákon slapped Ari’s shoulder. “The good tunic, boy, not that one. This is an important event.”
Ari tugged off the tunic he wore. “This one is clean.”
Hákon said, “I am taking no chances tonight. The chieftain has only one niece of age to wed, and I want this alliance.”
“Why is it so important to you? You’ve already sworn to him, as have I. Brynja, hand me that tunic, the yellow one.”
The girl startled, then swallowed hard. She grabbed the tunic, her hands shaking as she handed it to Ari.
Ari frowned, why had his father married the mother of this fearful creature? He shook his head, it wasn’t his concern. He wondered what Ásta would think of the girl. He hoped his sister didn’t frighten Brynja, talking to that tree as she did.
Hákon answered. “You know the state of the farm. The man has wealth, and will provide well for his kin. We need more than his protection, we need his coin as well.”
Ari pulled the tunic over his head. “Doesn’t he have a son or a nephew or someone Ásta can marry instead?” He buckled his thin leather belt around his waist, then looked through his things for his comb. He didn’t object to marrying, not really, and he did enjoy the pleasures a woman gave a man. But he had no desire to be tied down to a family or a farm. His uncle Haukr had promised to take him trading, but when he’d seen his uncle last, Ari was still too young to go.
Now, he was old enough. Now, his father wanted this marriage instead.
“Brynja, go outside and help your mother,” Hákon said. Brynja jumped up and ran out the door without a word. Ari watched her go, wondering again why she behaved the way she did. She was as jumpy as a rabbit in a den of foxes.
“This man is important, he wouldn’t let his kin marry someone as simple as Ásta, a girl who thinks trees can speak to her. And son,” Hákon added. “Don’t discuss your sister’s condition in front of Yrsa and Brynja. She shames me enough as it is.”
Ari ran the comb through his hair and beard. “She’s not simple, Father. She just misses Mother.” He wondered himself sometimes if Ásta did have something wrong in the head, but he loved his sister even so. And she did her chores as expected; who was he to chastise her for doing something that harmed no one? But he knew how it irritated their father, and so he said, “I won’t speak of it any further.”
“Good.” Hákon held his son at arm’s length. “You’ve become a fine man, son, I am proud of you. Let’s go get you a marriage contract.”