Ran and Catharina enjoyed the sounds of music and singing provided by the men that sat around the big fire with drums. The flaming fires scattered around the table of food and people enjoying the night lit a path for them to see. Ran's chest was about to burst with excitement at all the new things there were for her to see. They had done nothing like this growing up, no outside fire with people to talk to and visit with. She remembered nights that she and Auntie Cat had sat underneath the stars with a small camp fire alongside Abbe. She was happy to be home and back among people.
Ran's laughter came to an abrupt halt when she and Catharina had to stop short to keep from running into Fiak. He still carried the anger from earlier as he looked at Ran as if he could kill her. "It wasn't smart to publicly humiliate me in such a way Princess; I am one of the best soldiers here in this camp." Ran squeezed Catharina's arm in nervousness as she replied as nicely as possible. "Fiak this is my future we are discussing and I never meant to humiliate you but you cannot expect me to choose you as a mate when all I felt from you was greed for the Chieftain throne and no interest in me at all. My father might have chosen his best warriors to honor but you forget I am also his daughter and I will not be forced into anything or on anyone." Fiak stood looking down at her his breathing growing labored by his anger. Ran truly started to worry this man might do something foolish until she felt a strong hand as her back as a very large body stepped in front of her. She knew by the long braid that hung down his back that it was Valdr that had come to their rescue. She was as surprised as she was excited, maybe this man did have an interest in her after all.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the low menacing voice that caused her to jump. When she heard his voice her heart beat faster, her breath catching in her throat. "Fiak just what do you think you are doing over here disrespecting the Chieftain's daughter. She was given a choice and you blew that chance. It is not her fault your greed overshadowed your charm you seem to think you carry. You were the only man in the group conceited enough to ask for the chance as her mate. None of the other men dared think themselves worthy of this chance."
"And what of you Valdr you think yourself worthy of this chance? You stood up before her the same as I." Fiak spit back getting closer to Valdr as if to challenge him. Ran stood so still in that moment with baited breath she too wanted to hear the answer to that. "You do not want to challenge me here Fiak, or maybe you do. If you have a problem with me let's make it apart of the festivities and I will take you apart with witnesses."
"Brilliant idea Valdr." They all turned at the booming voice from behind them and Ran turned to look back at Valdr when she heard his sigh. Pulling away from her Catharina, she laid a hand on his chest and looked up into his bowed face, "Valdr you don't have to do this. I appreciate you coming to our rescue but I never meant for it to get this out of hand." The slight twitch that she seen earlier in his mouth that to her seemed to indicate a smile threatening returned as he shook his head, "I will not as a warrior stand by and watch this disgrace to our tribe speak with such disregard to a woman. Especially, the Chieftain's daughter on her special day." Hi words caused heat to bloom through Ran's chest, yes he as said to a woman and that covered the whole tribe but he has also said especially her. The hand that lay on his chest still, tingled in the slightest. She was so distracted by the strange feeling she got from touching him his next words didn't register until he moved out from under her touch bringing her back to the present. Valdr turned his head to look back at Fiak. "Come on boy let's put the money where your mouth is. I challenge you to a fight for the Princess honor." Fiak looked at Valdr with a sneer and walked back towards the fire. Valdr looked down at Ran one last time and then walked slowly by her towards the appointed area. Ran wondered at the many emotions that she saw mixed in those eyes she wished she knew him enough to be able to read into the look he gave her as he looked down at her.
"Oh dear this isn't good Ran." Catharina sighed as she again grabbed Ran's arm to follow the men. "You're telling me Auntie we have only just arrived and already there is a scorned lover." Catharina burst into laughter as she shushed Ran who simply dropped her head with a smile. "I swear you have read too many romance novels young lady." She shook her head as they reached the place where they were to fight. Ran knew it was a bad joke at the moment but she tried to cover her discomfort at the situation with a lighter attitude.
Valdr pulled his shirt from his body and without thinking; Ran stepped up to take it. Valdr seemed surprised his eyes touching hers and she saw them widen slightly when he saw her move but handed it over as he watched her until she was once again safely standing to the side. Ran blushed under his stare but smiled as she folded the shirt against her as she crossed her arms over it.
Fiak did not bother removing his shirt, not that Ran noticed to awful much, she was too busy looking over Valdr's now bare back. Watching his muscle move under his skin with such breathtaking beauty her throat felt dry. "He is the one isn't he?" Catharina dropped her head closed to Ran's as she whispered the question. Ran looked up at her with haunted eyes, "How do I know for sure?" She whispered the question but their conversation stopped as a loud horn was blown. Still she turned the thought over in her mind. He was the only one so far that seemed to call to something deep inside her. Her breath seemed to leave her when he looked into her own his smiles that he worked so hard to suppress made her stomach flutter. When she touched him, she felt something she couldn't deny. "I think he is." She whispered but she didn't take the time to look up and see if Catharina heard her whispered reply she was too busy watching the unleashed power that moved beneath Valdr's skin. His muscles as they tightened and released reminded her of a graceful but deadly Saber tooth. She had always been mystified by the extinct animal that many thought long died out millions of years ago. They still lived and prowled through the forest and mountains hiding their existence much as her tribe did.
"Warrior Valdr had challenged warrior Fiak for disrespect to the Princess Ran. It will be a fair fight, no interruptions, no weapons and till one of them can fight no more." A wave of opinions went through the watching tribe. It a matter of moments Gildi and Rilo come to stand beside Ran as Rilo laid a hand on her arm. "Ran what has happened and why is Valdr fighting Fiak?" She said worriedly, Ran's reply delayed by the sound of flesh meeting flesh her head swung around to see Fiak bent over wiping blood from his lip with a look of hatred that covered his face. "You would fight a brother over this newcomer, this woman that grew up a stranger to us?" Valdr growled, "I would fight for her honor ,Yes and no brother of mine would speak to our women as you have today. You forget they are creatures to be held above everything." That was the last word he spoke before in a quick movement he swept his leg out in a spin that took Fiak off his feet. Ran gasped at the beautifully executed move, one new to her. She wondered in that moment if Valdr would be willing to teach her, if he accepted her of course. Rilo smiled a brittle smile down at Ran, "No worries Ran, Fiak has had this coming for awhile the two of them have never saw things eye to eye and everyone always wondered when Valdr would set him in his place." Ran nodded with a polite smile as she turned back to the fight. She gasped as Fiak kicked Valdr pretty low and caused him to double over. "Cheap shot" Catharina mumbled in disgust.
Agmundr soon approached them with a smile down, "Well Princess it would seem you have acquired a champion already." He smiled down at her and she could not help the giggle that escaped her as she shook her head. "No, surely not. Valdr said he could not allow Fiak to disgrace the tribe by disrespecting a lady. It is probably just as simple as that." Agmundr snorted and shook his head, "You are not familiar with us so I will forgive you the misconception. Valdr has never challenged anyone from our tribe before today for any reason. He is a quiet man that stays to himself unless we are out on a raid. I would rather have that man at my back than any other. He is a great warrior and a very dangerous one to cross. Fiak will wish he hadn't before this is finished." Ran was suddenly worried for Fiak and how much damage Valdr would do. Close behind that emotion was registering the underlining message Agmundr was handing her and she couldn't help the perverse pleasure that spread through her to think Valdr might just be championing her as he suggested.
She looked up to find Valdr's eyes pinned to her and Agmundr he didn't look to pleased by the man standing beside her but she didn't know him enough to be sure. The moment ended as Fiak came at Valdr again and the moment he had been distracted by Ran cost him as Fiak punched him in his jaw causing his head to snap back. Ran bit her lip nervous as she watched the fight. It seemed at that moment Valdr's strength overshadowed Fiak as he grew tired of this game. With a warrior's yell that sounded over the shouts of the men and women watching the sport Valdr had Fiak on the ground as he pounded his fist into his broke and bleeding face. When Valdr tossed Fiak down seeing the warrior was finished with the fight, his eyes raised to pin Ran to her spot before he turned and walked into the night.
Ran's eyes followed him as she wondered why he didn't come for his shirt she still held in her hand. Looking up she realized Agmundr had left also and she now stood with her Auntie. "Does that man affect you as Valdr does?" Ran looked up and shook her head as she bit her lip. "Then go after that man and let him know that. He probably thinks you were getting to know Agmundr even as he fought for your honor." Ran gasped as a sick feeling spread like fire in her stomach and looked the way Valdr had disappeared, "Well it wasn't that way." Ran whispered as she took off at a brisk pace after Valdr.
She caught sight of him after some searching, standing on the edge of the mountain cliff looking over at the valley below. She stopped a short distance behind him as she admired his tall muscular frame. The man was handsome enough to bring any woman to her knees. She wondered at his true heritage since his long hair was colored a pale yellow yet his skin was tan and smooth. She bit her bottom lip as she wondered what it would be like to run her hands and lips over the strong expansion of his back. Shaking her head to clear it of her thoughts of a man she wasn't even sure would welcome such thoughts she lightly spoke his name. "Valdr." She saw his muscles tense before his looked over his shoulder enough to see her and then turned back to the scene before him. Taking his silence as invitation, she walked forward as she held out his shirt to him. "You didn't take your shirt or allow me to thank you." He reached over to take his shirt from her tightening his fist around it before he looked back at the scene before him and pulled it over his head. She was sad to see him covered but relieved the distraction was gone. "You didn't need to come looking Princess to simply return my shirt." He said in a gruff voice. "No, you're right I didn't but I also wanted to thank you for sticking up for me back there. You went through a lot of trouble for me tonight and I am sorry that I caused trouble my first day here." Valdr dropped his head and laughed silently, "You didn't cause any issues Princess it was Fiak that caused the problem with his over inflated head. He saw a chance to be someone important around here and greed got the better of him. He forgets that with our kind a mate for one of the warriors like us is a rare thing and it's not something that should be taken lightly." He looked over at her as he spoke and for the second time tonight Ran wished she knew what was going through the man's head. She sighed as she sat as his feet on a large rock that sat nearby, her skin already feeling the cool breeze over the mountain, the chill of the dew that has started to kiss their skin as it fell. Her breath caught as she viewed the scene that held Valdr captivated, the colors that made up the rocks that fell in jagged edges further that she could see, a grey fog covering what lay below. "And what about you Valdr, is a mate for you something to be treasured too?" She couldn't help but as even as she feared his answer she held her breath waiting as she strained to see through the barrier that made her new home a mystery.
She heard his sigh as he sat on another rock not far from her, close enough she felt the warmth radiate from his tanned skin. "I don't know, I guess I never gave myself the chance to think about if I even wanted one. I have lived and breathed the life and training of a warrior and never stopped to think there could be anything else for me." Ran nodded her head.
"Tell me Princess where you have been all this time." Ran smiled over at him and then picked up a rock from the grass to toss over the edge, "First of all, I would love for you not to call me Princess. My name is Ranveig but my family calls me Ran, My father always wanted me to choose a warrior mate that was strong enough to run the tribe when he was ready to step down. He thought only a warrior such as himself would know what it took to make things work as they have. When I was eight he hired Catharina to look after me, gathered a few men to Guard the home in the mountains that we lived in and hired Abbe to train me in all the ways he thought I needed. He felt I needed to be strong enough to fight for our home and the tribe if needed I guess. I have been there since that time training with Abbe and Catharina and they have acted as my family in my fathers abscence. My father came to visit me every now and then to see what I had learned and spend the day with me." Ran finished with a shrug trailing of as she wasn't ready to share her heartbreak of her missing parents with him just yet.
Valdr shook his head and as he looked down at the ground. "I respect the Chief and would never stand against him unless I had to but I can't say I agree with him sending you away to be raised by staff members. I know they mean more to you than that but children are meant to have parents who love them. No one can teach their children the important things outside of being a warrior like a mother and father can." Ran smiled over at him, "I feel the same Valdr." His eyes met hers and for a moment they got lost in each other then with a smile, they both dropped their heads. "From what I have seen it is beautiful here and I love having other people around to interact with. It was always so quiet with just Catharina, Abbe and myself." Valdr nodded, "I can imagine so." He sighed after the softly spoken words. "Well Princess I guess we better make our way back. Agmundr might be wondering where you got away too." Ran wanted to correct him, to tell him she didn't really have much interest in the other man but wasn't sure that what he wanted to hear. Maybe he was using Agmundr as an excuse to get rid of her.
Seeing the hard look on his face the same that he carried when he spotted her standing with the other man as he fought Fiak she took a deep breath and looked up at Valdr laying a hand on his arm. "Valdr can I ask you a question about our people since you seem to know more than I?" He stopped and hooked his fingers in his waistband as he nodded silently, "Is there …Do we supposedly have one true mate for us? I mean, won't we know when we meet the right one that was destined to walk with us through life?" Valdr looked at her for a moment in silence before he nodded his head and with his eyes holding her spoke softly, "It is said you know the same way a human falls in love. The one meant for you will make you feel as no other can." Ran nodded and smiled up at Valdr, "Thanks for that. I think that is exactly what I needed to hear." He nodded back with a mixture of emotions flashing across his face again confusing her. Ran shook it off as he walked slowly beside her as they made their way back to the tribe.
"Valdr would you be okay with it if I asked to spend time with you again?" Valdr kept walking, her eyes on the ground as she feared he would turn her down. Ran sighed and looked at the growing fire as it got closer her heart had sunk to her feet as the silence lay heavy between them, at that moment she realized the one man she had felt might be her mate today didn't have a desire to claim her. Valdr stopped as Ran kept walking she took deep breaths to fight the tears she felt threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. She had been rejected by this man that turned her inside in knots. She would go back to her father's home and make a respectable life with Agmundr for her father. She truly felt as if Valdr was her mate and if she couldn't make this work with him then all that she had hoped for today was lost.
Finding a quiet corner to hide in under a tree just outside of the crowd Ran let a few tears escape her, her hand covering her mouth to hold in the sob that begged to be set free. Wiping her tears before taking a deep breath, Ran pushed Valdr from her mind and went in search for Agmundr.
When she spotted him, she turned on the smile she had hid behind all day and walked beside him as she asked him questions about himself. She didn't really hear his answers but she smiled and pretended to listen, her mind as much as she fought to push it out was back there standing with Valdr as he stood in the shadow's watching her with the other man. She felt the eyes that followed her, cursed the heart that beat her to death in excitement for Valdr and not the sweet man that was trying so hard to gain her attention.
Valdr stood in the shadows watching hating that he couldn't tear his eyes away from her beauty, saw how Agmundr placed a hand on her back as he led her to the table where there was food and wine. He watched her walk to find a spot to sit with the man as he talked and she shared that beautiful smile. Using his abilities he blended with the shadows as he stood watch over her until Agmundr walked her back to her Aunt Catharina kissing her hand before he walked away. A rage like never before swept over Valdr his eyes glowing red her knew as he felt the heat. Using his speed he ran to his cabin faster than anyone could see as he tore down a small tree with his bare hands. An inhuman howl coming from his lips as he vented his anger.
He needed to hunt it was simply the hunger falling over him that is all it was. He didn't really want the Princess if he did he would have never let her walk away tonight. He was simply going into a rage from the need to feed. He told himself as he again used his shadow walker abilities to cloak himself so that he could search undetected for a warm body to feed.