WETEMAA - The Crown of Ellad

Ottwara - extract

(Before the first battle that the feuding sons of Ane resolved to fight, one of the knights noticed that Wanne’s mistress, who had the gift of prophecy, had plaited his locks as dead men’s hair is plaited. Wanne judged from this that Fedb foresaw his death, and with the permission of his lord he quickly returned to the castle in order to wed Fedb before the prophecy should come true.)

Fedb walked with Wanne as far as the courtyard. Wanne took her in his arms and kissed her. His heart was bleeding. He wanted to be gone quickly, for he felt that the longer his leave-taking from Fedb, the harder it would be for him to fulfil the oath he had sworn to Udi. Just as he was about to swing up into his saddle, he found he could not. He was compelled to go back to Fedb once again. She was standing in the moonlit darkness, so abandoned, so despairing, so unhappy…like the cold embers of a fire, like an extinguished candle, like a tree when the autumn winds have torn away its last leaf…Wanne fell to his knees at her feet, embraced her, and wept bitterly with his face pressed to her belly. It was a weeping that sprang from the depths of his soul, and Wanne had never wept so bitterly since the time that he had buried Halldor.

“If only I could tear my heart out of my breast and leave it in your hands,” he cried between sobs, “so that it would beat only for you! Just as I understand Gerund, who sacrificed his life for one night with your mother, so I understand Egil, who died happy for one smile from the Queen of Ottwara! Why can I do no great deed for the love that I feel for you? How can I depart and leave you here…alone among strangers….If anyone does you a wrong, I will not be here to defend you, I will have no peace in the grave, because I will be vexed with wondering if you are not in want….Oh Fedb, how can I go?”

Fedb raised him up from the ground and laid his despairing head on her shoulder. She stroked his hair, almost like a mother.

“You must go, for otherwise you would break you vow and lose your honour.”

Wanne looked deep into her eyes. They were like a timeless abyss.

“Which is greater – honour, or love?” he asked, and the torture that the question caused him was all too clear.

“A woman cannot love a man without honour,” said Fedb without ceasing to caress him. “Some things, Wanne, must come to pass, whether we want them to or no. Tomorrow you will be the bravest warrior under the royal mountain Mirabat. And I shall always be proud of you, although the wound in my heart that I shall suffer tomorrow from your mortal wound will never heal. We can do nothing against fate, but we can endure it with our heads held high.”

Fedb, sometimes you see strange and distant things..,” Wanne hesitated, “when will we meet again, dear one? How long will I have to wait for you on the banks of the Maavi?”

Fedb took a deep breath, as if she wanted to answer, but she said nothing.

“Fedb?”

“A long life awaits me,” Fedb eventually replied, “but we shall meet again. Yet before our meeting many things must happen. Blood must be reconciled with blood. Your sword will free Sanduk from the pit of misery into which your father flung him, and the hand of a man of our blood must take his in amity. A son of the line of Udi and a daughter of the line of Mar will heal the rancour that has arisen between the sons of An. When that happens, we shall meet again, my soul.”

 (Wetemaa – The Crown of Ellad)

Translated by Anna Bryson