Forgive and Forget – Hilda's New Life
As the sun climbed lazily into the waiting embrace of the morning sky, the village beyond the hill looked peaceful…peaceful after the carnage that had raged throughout the previous night, peaceful after the departure of the complete despair that had filled her spirit.
Peaceful…after the fall of Grunwald and lifting of the darkness that had claimed this land for so many long years.
As she stood at the top of the windswept hill, the young lady found herself wondering if she must be in a dream – for, after all that had taken place the night before, she had not expected to be standing anywhere by this time.
And yet…here she stood, the wind caressing her gentle face as it caught playfully at her cloak of brown hair, the dewy grass dampening her white boots.
And there, beneath her wondering gaze, it stood…the village which had, ever since she had first set foot in it a few days ago, had changed her entire life.
Just as she was by her own presence, the young lady felt amazed that the small settlement was still there, still standing beside the lake…considering that, by right, it ought to have been crushed into the ground and its inhabitants slaughtered without mercy.
No…not 'by right'. 'Might is right'…that was HIS philosophy.
Him…Grunwald, the malevolent demon in whose cold and cruel fist of iron this entire country had once been held.
The self-proclaimed Ice Lord had held ultimate power of life and death over the people who dwelt here generations, their fear and suffering feeding his endless hunger for dominion over the fates of all mortals…the very dominion under which she herself had suffered at first-hand as he had, almost from its very beginning, controlled her young life.
For the most fleeting moment, the young lady felt a cold tremble pass through her body – with crystal-clarity, she recalled the long years that had passed as she had lived in Grunwald's stronghold, lived under constant terror of the cruelty that he would exercise at the merest whim.
The darkness, the overwhelming loneliness of her existence, had been more than enough to strip her of every last ounce of human warmth and compassion that she had ever known…which was just what her Lord and Master had wanted.
It had aided him perfectly in the long and gradual process of moulding and grooming her…into his Sister, a bringer of death and destruction, whom he allowed to go on living on the condition that she assist him in seeking out and wreaking ruination upon the lives of countless other unsuspecting innocents.
And that was her fate…to serve evil in bringing darkness and despair upon this land.
Arrived on the shore of this long oppressed country…and into her accursed life.
The young lady felt the warm light of the sun touch her face as it reached the top of the hill where she had been standing, carried away by the tide of reflection – as though it had caught onto her and was holding tightly, she felt her heart rise along with it.
The dark cold night had passed…and dawn had finally come.
As her eyes (always keen and observant) noted that the villagers were already fast at work rebuilding their home, she felt a stirring of emotions that she had only recently come to know…emotions that he had reawakened in her.
Hols…I ought to have known that you would get straight to work on rebuilding the lives of your friends.
As she watched the distant toil and effort, however, the affection and admiration in her eyes became mixed with the shadows of emotions that she had long known…emotions that the presence of her 'Brother' had made part of her nature.
For, not knowing the viper that they had taken to their bosoms, the villagers had also taken her into their home…and the memory of how she had rewarded their kindness and compassion now felt like the blade of a knife, piercing her heart.
With her charming smile and wonderful voice, both as perfect as a mirror of polished ice, she had won their trust with beautiful songs…and then gone on to tear their lives apart through trickery and deceit.
Hilda's eyes were round and startled as she heard her name called out by a sweet and innocent voice…one that she knew very well indeed.
The echoing cry was followed by the little girl who had been the first of the villagers to spot her…and who now ran to greet her.
Mauni, who had showered her with all the pure love of a child, ran towards her with small arms outstretched…and, as a smile of happiness dawned on her face, the shadows of doubt and uncertainty were banished from Hilda's eyes.
"Oh, Mauni…" Hilda laughed as she knelt and caught the younger girl in her welcoming arms – as she hugged her friend, the young lady felt the last of Grunwald's poison drain away from her spirit. "…I thought that I would never see you again!"
"Hilda! Hilda! Hilda!"
Looking over Mauni's shoulder, Hilda saw a swift flash of red…as an even smaller and yet much older friend came leaping and skipping toward her.
Hilda and Chiro, the squirrel, had not parted in kindness…
"I hate you!" Chiro's little black eyes, filled with tears, sparkled like a starry sky as she glared at the young woman who knelt a short way off. "I really, really hate you!"
Hilda trembled inwardly, her fingers with which she'd held the knife that had stabbed Hols as cold as ice, as the anger and pain in the squirrel's face burned into her. "Chiro…" she whispered, her voice faltering in the face of her of her friend's bitter condemnation. "I…I…"
…but, as she leapt up onto the young lady's shoulder and wept in happiness, there was no longer any trace of the rancour that had divided the two of them seemingly forever.
"Chiro…" Hilda whispered as she felt her friend's furry touch her cheek, "…oh, Chiro, you don't really hate me do you?"
Chiro's tears mingled with her own, telling her that she did not…
Hilda drew her breath softly and swiftly…as she heard his voice.
As she opened her eyes and saw him standing a short way off, gazing at her, Hols' expression utterly unreadable – as she rose to her feet, Chiro and Mauni still clutching her as though they thought she might disappear suddenly, Hilda really could not find it in her heart to blame the fisherman's son.
After all, any other two people would be irrevocably torn asunder by the experience that they had undergone last night…the wound that she had dealt their friendship, her bitter betrayal, could never possibly be healed.
So she thought…until Hols reached out, took her hands into his own and held them tightly.
Hols' eyes, so proud and yet so gentle, (the first thing she had ever seen in him) calmed and reassured her – and, as she saw clearly for perhaps the first time in her life, Hilda's lips trembled with another long suppressed emotion.
It was as though it had been kept behind a locked door without any previous hope of release…until, with his unconditional love and forgiveness, the boy had given her the key.
"Hols…" Hilda whispered, uncertain about what she so wished to convey – apology for her actions, gratitude for all that he had done for her or something else? "I…"
Vaguely, Hilda was aware of the fact that other villagers had come to meet her – among them stood the strong and handsome Lusan and his stunning wife, Pilia, both of them smiling as she and Hols gazed at each other.
A grin flashed across Hols' sun-bronzed face…and she knew that, whatever it was, it could wait.
They had all the time in the world, all of them…there was no more 'why' or 'how', only 'do'.
"Hilda…" Hols' broke the tingling silence as her heart pounded, "…let's go!" without warning, he spun toward the village, tugging at her wrist. "C'mon…everyone's waiting for you! Let's go back…together."
The insistent tugging, accompanied by her unfamiliar and yet exciting cascade offeelings, was simply irresistible – feeling the delighted laughter, rising up like water in a fresh mountain-spring, she gave up trying to comprehend everything that was happening to her and just went with the flow.
Hilda ran with Hols…and they weren't alone.
Alongside them bounded the bear, Coro, Mauni carrying the bouncing Mauno on his back whilst the young and vibrant Flep sat astride the sturdy shoulders of the stout villager named Boldo…all the friends Hols and Hilda found in their new village.
The village itself stood proud and firm, glorious in the sunlight upon the land it had nurtured since the beginning of time itself…waiting for them all.
So awe-struck was Hilda that she barely noticed the colossal and of Mogue, the Rock Giant, rising up from the earth in greeting – the darkness of Grunwald was gone from her heart and the light of her home, her friends, flooded forth to fill its place.
The nightmare was over at last…and a new day had come for Hilda, for Hols, for the village.
A new beginning for them all.
Whew…well, what did' ja think? Mind, this is only Chapter One…I have an idea for what Hilda could do next but, since it's not really enough to sustain an entire Chapter on its own, I'll need to think about it some more.
Anyway…hope you enjoyed this!