Editor’s note: Please enjoy this excerpt from Legend of the Blood Raven by Devon McLaughlin. This part of the story centers on Bran, the young dwarf maiden, and her coming of age party. In this world Devon has created, dwarves mature faster than humans, and all dwarves—ladies included—are quite proud of their facial hair. During this celebration, a cryptic and rather momentous prediction is made about Bran’s future.
A few days later was Bran’s eighth birthday and her coming of age celebration. There was a big feast among the family in one of the minor feast halls. Yaffa and Varg dressed in their best war gear. Yaffa wore golden chains wound into her hair and beard.
The first time Bran saw this, she stared. Being the youngest, she had never seen her mother dressed in her war finery. She knew chains of gold and silver wound into the hair were for valor in battle. She noted at the feast table, her mother wore many more chains than anyone, even Varg her own mate. Yaffa’s eyes glittered at Bran when she saw her daughter’s gaze and she dropped her eyes in respect to her mother. She also noted the honor most of the other dwarves paid her. How could she have been so blind before? She hoped to one day to wear gold chains in her beard as well.
She scratched her chin considering. Her sideburns were well grown in and thick. Her chin hairs were just starting to sprout. It wouldn’t be long before she could start braiding her locks.
The mead flowed freely at Bran’s feast. The roast cave boar was the largest she had seen in quite some time and the platter was set directly in front of her. Her father gave Bran her first pipe, beautifully made white clay one with dwarf runes carved onto it. She and the whole family got a good laugh at her first attempts to smoke it.
Then her father bellowed for the family cleric.
“Today is my youngest daughter’s coming of age party,” he shouted to those gathered. “And I wish her fortune foretold. Tell me cleric, how rich will my daughter become and how brave will she be?”
Bran grumbled at this. Divination should be private, she felt. Not something to be on public display in front of all her friends and relatives.
It was obvious to all Varg had had a bit too much mead. His speech was slurred and he was staggering and spitting when he spoke.
Bran leaned over to her mother as the cleric vigorously shook the runes he carried in a plain wooden cup.
“What if there is evil ahead of me this year?” she muttered. “I don’t want that announced in front of everybody!”
Yaffa shushed her immediately.
“Kusa is too good at divining to do that to you. If there is evil, he will hide it in a rhyme or cleverly placed words. Never fear, my sweet.”
Bran suddenly grew very cold, as if a chill winter’s wind had gusted down the hallways from the gates above. The prediction didn’t sound like a good one.
The other dwarves pounded the tables and chanted Bran’s name, as the runes were shaken. Their voices rose to a crescendo and Kusa cast the runes on the floor. Then he held up his arms for silence.
They watched as his head waggled to and fro as he analyzed the pattern of the stones. The room grew very quiet.
“The child’s future is thus: This will be a year of immense change, growth and upheaval for you my dear. A sword will strike the heart. The hammer will smite the anvil and hooves will trample all before them. A great wave shall sweep the land this year and Bran will be at its center. Your people will need you most when you think all is already lost. You will carry vengeance on your shoulders and justice in your blade. Lightning will carry you from your purse. Strength you will have and strength you will need. And Bran,” Kusa said these last few words as if he and Bran were the only ones in the room. “Never forget where you came from.”
Kusa’s slate gray eyes held her for a long breathless moment. Bran suddenly grew very cold, as if a chill winter’s wind had gusted down the hallways from the gates above.
The prediction didn’t sound like a good one.
“A sword will strike the heart…” Kusa’s words echoed ominously in her head.
Bran suddenly felt very closed in and cornered. She couldn’t breathe.
“The hammer will smite the anvil and hooves will trample all before them.”
Predictions with hammers and anvils in her culture were weighty ones better suited for heroes and royalty. And they always came true.
She excused herself from the feast hall not caring at how obvious she was being. Dimly she heard her father jest about her having drunk too much. The whole table erupted in laughter. She didn’t care. She felt dizzy and lightheaded but not from the mead.
She needed space. She needed it now. She needed to breathe.
“A great wave shall sweep the land this year and Bran will be at its center.”
Bran squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, refusing to hear the words. But they spilled around her anyway.
“Your people will need you most when you think all is already lost.”
When she was out of sight of everybody, she fled. She ran as hard as she could down the tunnels not caring where she would end up. She ran until she felt her feet complain through her thick-soled leather boots. She ran until her chest hurt for want of air.
The maddening prophecy kept babbling about her.
“You will carry vengeance on your shoulders and justice in your blade.”
She felt a cold gust of air and followed it up a winding staircase. At its top was a room with a window overlooking the outside world. A cold, late winter breeze was blowing through it. Bran knew by speaking a simple dwarf rune she could shut the window and turn it into a blank stonewall again but she didn’t. Cold though it was, the air helped to clear her head.
“Lightning will carry you from your purse.”
The words faded slowly and she crumpled to the cold stone floor.
“Strength you will have and strength you will need.”
Her fist slammed the floor. What did it mean? What did all of it mean?
“Bran, never forget where you came from.”
Predictions with hammers and anvils in her culture were weighty ones better suited for heroes and royalty. They were some of the most difficult to decipher. And they always came true.
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