Love and Admiration
She loved Madmartigan. Sorsha knew that. She had to admire him, even the first time she saw him, dressed in a skirt and pretending to be a woman. She admired his resourcefulness, his fighting skills, his determination. In a situation with incredibly bad odds, he'd managed to get himself, Elora Danaan, and the Nelwyn Willow Ufgood out safely. He also managed to lose the trackers for at least two days.
It startled her, the first time he spoke words of love to her. The passion, so raw and primal, was a shock. After all, she'd only ever seen or felt such passion on a battlefield, in the middle of a fight. But his words set her heart to pounding, and when he kissed her…well, she was standing outside in the snow, wearing nothing but a thin nightdress before she realized how much that one firm kiss had scrambled her wits. Even watching him fight her soldiers set her heart beating faster.
Kael was a warrior, one of the best. But he didn't have Madmartigan's grace, or his speed. Kael liked brute force, and stabbing a man in the back if he could manage it. Despite the overwhelming odds, Madmartigan fought honorably, face to face. In a situation where most men would have abandoned the Nelwyn and child, he stood firm. When he'd taken her prisoner in the village, she hadn't fought. She'd still been confused, her sudden feelings of affection for him overtaking her battle instincts. She was shocked, a little. He'd been spouting poetry, unusual in a warrior, and now he was holding a sword to her throat. But she had to like his audacity, taking her prisoner. And she had to admire his loyalty, siding with Willow even when his own friend (she thought Airk was his friend) had advised him against it.
It had hurt, when she'd asked him about his words. When he said the spell she'd cast over him 'went away'. She'd been hurt, angry, and it had been the force of those emotions that led her to ram an elbow into his sternum and then run for it. She'd been more than willing to take a knife to him, if she could have gotten a hold of one. But then he pinned her to the ground, and she saw in his eyes that smoldering passion she'd wanted to see, and that he was just as confused as she was. Whatever these emotions were, he felt them too, and knew as little as she did about how to deal with them. It was that confusion…more than any desire to rejoin Kael, that forced her to run from him.
She watched him fighting in Tir Asleen. Knew this man was her match and possibly more. She'd never really known love, not the kind he showed her, unpredictable as it was. She watched him, his fight, his loyalty. He watched his comrade's back, something she'd never trust her soldiers to do in a million years. They might follow her, out of respect for her skills, and fear of her mother, but they'd not send themselves flying across a battlements to fight a troll for her. If, she had to admit, they'd even thought of such a thing. She watched him, and realized. She loved him. Loved his ingenuity, his ability to hold them to a stalemate, even against overwhelming odds. She loved the passion in his eyes, and in his touch, whether it was a fight or a kiss. However he'd wound up confessing to her…whatever had started this chain of events between them, she was grateful. And when he fell to the ground at her feet, weaponless and half expecting her to cut his throat, she knew she loved him too much to do so. No matter what happened between them…she'd never felt this way before, and she wasn't going to give it, or him, up so easily.
She knows she loved Madmartigan, that she'd give up a great deal to be with him, but she also knows that it wasn't that…not just that, at any rate, that led her to betray her mother. Her feelings for Madmartigan were the final catalyst, but if she's honest with herself, they only allowed her to admit the truth. That besides Madmartigan, there was someone else who caught her eye.
Willow. She doesn't love him, certainly not the way she feels for the dark-haired warrior who took up his cause. But in a way, she has to admire him, more even than she admires the man who stole her heart.
He's a farmer. He's said as much and one look at him, in his rough cotton clothing and boots, confirms that this is a man who never knew battle before now. He's also a Nelwyn, walking around in a world filled with people who are easily two and three times his size, at the best. He could walk under her horse without crouching, and the horse probably would barely notice his presence.
And yet, for all that he's no warrior there was courage, and fire in his eyes. The child Elora Danaan isn't his, but he protected her as fiercely as any true father would. Despite her instincts, her will, it touched her, the way he shielded the child. It reminded her, dim memories of her own father's touch, before his death. Her heart aches, distantly, reminding her of the times she's wished for a little more affection from her own mother. What Bavmorda rarely gave, if ever, Willow gave freely to a child not his own. She had to admire that willingness to love, even as she took advantage of it. Even as she sought to ignore it. She'd never admit it, but the reason she took Elora into her own tent that night at camp had less to do with guarding the child than it did with the memory of Willow's efforts to help her. Even chained to a cart and being dragged over the terrain at a brutal pace (for him) his first thought was for the child.
She admired his love, his protectiveness. And even more so, his sheer determination. The way he took advantage of his size, and any opening to move, always towards his goal. In the inn, where she first saw him, she witnessed him throwing himself into the path of the soldiers. No weapon, just his own body, acting as an impediment. Despite all odds, he kept going, pushing toward Tir Asleen. And though he'd found a ruin, instead of protection, he'd still fought.
It was one of her most vivid memories of the battle, aside from kissing Madmartigan. The memory of seeing Willow, staggering out of a broken doorway. The sword he carried was almost as tall as he was, and she knew he had no idea how to use it, beyond the very basic essentials. But the blade was bloodstained, as was he, and she could see the wounds he carried. She went later to the top of the tower, and found the two warriors he'd killed. No matter that the cause of death for one was the fall down the stairs. To have done that much, untrained as he was, was impressive.
She remembered going to him, watching and helping Madmartigan lift the battered figure from the ground. And even then, suffering from battle shock and his wounds, his tears weren't for himself, but for the child he'd failed to save. His words, gasped out between sobs, were what finally broke her completely from her mother's control. The knowledge that this man, with all his handicaps, had walked into this battle willingly for a child who wasn't his.
It's Willow's love that finally impressed her enough to take a stand against her mother, and she admired him for it. But as she rode with him, stood beside him in battle, she found more reasons than that. Despite his lack of training, he was a warrior worthy of the name. Not even close to her league, or Madmartigans, but more than good enough for a man who'd never held anything but farming tools. She saw too, his fierce determination. He couldn't ride on his own, and she knew that riding behind someone, with his stature, had to be uncomfortable. But she never heard him complain.
After her mother cursed her, cursed the army, she realized she'd been wrong about his weakness and uselessness as well. Beginner Willow might have been, but he had power. She woke after her transformation to find herself human again, and was shocked to hear Fin Raziel acknowledge that Willow was the one who brought about her own transformation. She knew what magic could do to the untrained, she'd seen the pain in his eyes as he sat on the ground, massaging one wrist. But he'd done it, he'd reversed one of her mother's most powerful and binding spells. And later, in the tent, she realized he was fully as ingenious as Madmartigan. The plan he drew out, while chancy, was one she'd never thought of. She couldn't help admiring the simplicity of it, and the deviousness.
She had cause to admire it again, standing in the tower, and his courage. She'd know he was terrified, walking into Bavmorda's sanctum. She'd even told him he didn't have to fight, and she meant it. And yet, he'd gone. And he'd won. The battle she couldn't win, the battle Raziel had lost…he'd won it through that fierce determination and quick mind of his.
She knows she loves Madmartigan, and she always will. The passion between them is a beautiful thing, and one she clings to. But it's Willow that she truly admires, admires enough to break away from the life she knew and start over again.
Author's Note: Kind of rambling, and the tense keeps changing, for which I'm sorry. But it's meant to be sort of a train of thought for Sorsha, because as a kid, I always wondered what she was thinking. So...enjoy!