The True Tale of Batlin

by Amazing Dragon

Part the First: Conception

In the little cottage the fireplace was the only source of warmth. Staring into the fire was Janar, the hunter, with a cold mug of ale resting on the small table beside his chair. His face was most solemn, betraying his dark thoughts. On the bed sat Yurian, heavy with child, working with her needle and thread on blanket to turn it into clothing for the baby. Her hand went to her stomach, rubbing against her womb to feel the child moving in her womb.

Finally, Janar stood up, and went to the barrel in the corner of the room with his empty mug. He started to refill it.

"That is thy tenth mug of ale," said Yurian cooly.

"What of it woman?" Janar replied sharply.

"Don't you think you had better stop?" said Yurian, starting to look flustered. "Thou shalt regret it in the morning!"

"Who art you to tell me what to do?" bawled Janar and he filled the mug defiantly before returning to his post by the fire.

"Fine," said Yurian, regaining composure, "do not listen to me then."

"Silence harlot!"

Yurian struggled to her feet, and said, "How dare you call me that, Janar."

Janar, feeling threatened, also got to his feet, "Don't answer me back!"

With that he strode forth and punched Yurian's face. Yurian slumped back onto the bed, and banged her head off the hut's stone wall. She began to moan and groan. Janar's eyes widened with fear as he realised the baby was being born.

Janar had doubted the baby had been his from the start. He had come home from hunting that day, in the forest of Yew, with only two rabbits. It had started out as a poor day for him. He had expected to bring down at least a deer or two with his bow. At any rate, night had began to fall and he did not wish to remain out after dark. He wanted Yurian to cook the rabbits, and he had some food left over from the last day's hunt.

Janar returned home to find the door to his hut broken open. The drawers and chest had been ransacked, all the gold was gone. They had even taken his spare bow and arrows. On the floor of the hut was Yurian. She was unconscious, and had blood over her face and hands. She had been clawing at her attackers, two masked men who had been terrorising the region. Immediately after tending her wounds, Janar had gone after them, despite her protests. The dangers of the forest had been forgotten by him. He had found the two warriors enjoying a meal... his food... by a campfire south of his hut. The fools had not bothered to cover their tracks.

Concealed in the shadows of an undergrowth Janar had loosed one arrow from his bow. It had struck one of the bandits in the back, knocking him to the ground. The second had stood up, and drew his sword. Janar had loosed another arrow, but this time had struck a tree behind the bandit. The villain had seen where the arrow had come from and charged towards its source. Before Janar could fire a third arrow the bandit had been on him. Realising Janar was unarmed, and he had a sword, the bandit had grinned sickeningly.

Janar had grabbed an arrow from his quiver and gripped it in his right hand. The bandit had laughed, "Is that the best you can do?"

Growling like a wildman, Janar had ran at the bandit and aimed a savage punch with his right hand, the hand carrying the arrow. The arrow then savagely punctured the bandit's forehead and into his brain. With a sickening crunch the bandit had fallen to the ground. Janar had kicked the body to make sure the bandit was dead, and then stole his sword and moved over to the first bandit. The arrow he had loosed had gone through the bandits leg and had been embedded in the ground. The rogue had shook with terror. He had turned his head to see Janar approach, and his face had gone paler.

"M-m-mercy, sir!" the bandit had pleaded. "Please... w-w-we didn't want to hurt your wife. It was Batlmound! H-he's... it was him who touched her!"

Janar had still advanced.

"Mercy! Mercy milord!" the knave had cried but to no avail. Janar, still fueled by anger, had removed his head from his shoulder with one final blow.

"No, justice," Janar had spoken the word before the bandit's head had hit the ground.

Those were the vision that had haunted Janar over the last seven months. Yurian became pregnant, but Janar was unsure who was the father. She had never talked about what the bandits had done to her. Was it he, or one of the rogues who had assaulted her? The thought of his wife with another's child drove him wild. Yurian noticed a change in Janar. Where he had once been joyful and happy, he now became distant and had bouts of melancholy which seemed to last longer each time, and as the baby became due she noticed these bouts became more frequent. He drank more also, in great quantites and came home drunk. He beat her, something he had never done before.

What little was left of the village of Yew was the tavern, and a few huts dotted around. More and more citizens were packing to live in Britain or the other expanding cities, and a few came to live in the forests. The actual village (for it was now officially a village, its population had gotten so low) of Yew was disappearing. Janar's hut was in the forest, about twenty minutes walk from the outskirts of the village. But it had taken him five minutes to run this far - he was an experienced sprinter - and he frantically banged on the first hut he came to.

"What is it?" said a woman's voice from behind the door.

"Come quickly, ma'am. My wife is about to give birth!"

The door opened, and Jaana the druid stepped out.

"Hold on sir, I have some remedies and potions here that will be of use," said Jaana and she stepped back into the hut. There was the sound of bottles clinking together and Jaana emerged with a basket. A few minutes later they had reached the hut. Jaana knelt by the bed as Yurian lay, breathing in the manner Jaana had instructed. Examining her closly, Jaana noted something.

"This woman has bruises on her head, and a large lump on the back of her skull," she snapped, turning to Janar.

The hunter took a step back, and said, "Aye..."

Yurian turned and smiled at Janar, and said, "I fell when the pains started."

Jaana, with a knowing look on her face, shook her head and said, "Okay. Just relax."

Janar, with a solemn look on his face, muttered, "I'm going out. I'll be back later."

Yurian, whilst whining with the agony of her birth, managed to squeak quietly, "Don't leave me!"

Jaana turned and saw Janar leave, a pipe and tobacco bag in his hand, and again shook her head, uncertain if Janar had heard and ignored her or simply not been able to hear. She thought it best not to get involved and began to tend Yurian.

Atop a grassy knoll, about thirty feet away, Janar sat and smoked his pipe. On this dark night where both moon waned, none could see him, yet he could see the light of the hut. He lost track of time as he smoked. It could have been minutes or hours as he sat on the knoll. His mind switched off, and he became oblivious to the thoughts of hate and the visions of the death of the bandits that had haunted him. Then, with a dull thud his brain suddenly came back to Britannia. His pipe had long gone out, and he turned and made his way back to the hut. The sound of a baby crying greeted him, and he turned to see Jaana looking gravely at him.

"The baby is fine, but the mother is dead. The labour was premature. I think the fall started it prematurely."

Janar stood, with his mouth open, unable to take the news in. He only suddenly became conscious of the druid handing him a baby wrapped in Yurian's blanket.

"Your son, Janar," she said. "What will you name him?"

Janar muttered to himself, "The little bastard killed my wife. He is no child of mine - he is a child of an evil dead man." Louder he said, "I shall name the child..." and he thought of the boy's true father, Batlmound, dead and buried in a shallow grave. "Batlin after his father."

Jaana looked, uncertain. Then she said, "Very well, Batlin it is."

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