[part 1] [part 2]
She stood in front of her parents. Her hands clasped, her eyes cast downwards. Her bearded father reached for a small cloth bundle on the table beside him. He unwrapped it to reveal a shining necklace torc of simple design.
“We thought it was time for you to have this,” her mother said.
“Wealhtheow, you’ll be going away soon.” Her father looked at her. Wealhtheow was young and slender. He glanced at her mother, who was once also young and slender. Her mother’s gaze remained on Wealhtheow, unblinking.
Every warrior of the hall wore a torc similar to the one her father held. He had presented countless men with ornaments much finer. Unadorned Wealhtheow was no warrior; wore no treasure. Though the daughter of the king, she was just a daughter. The gold of the torc glinted in her eyes.
Her father had contracted her marriage, she knew. He would give her jewellery; she would display his wealth and power with fine gold.
Her brother entered, steaming from the rain outside. He had been learning to wield an axe from one of the weathered warriors. Seeing the torc, he approached their father.
“Whose is that?”
“It belonged to your Grandfather. It was won in battle from Onthrel the Swede.”
“May I see it?” Her brother took the torc and fastened it around his neck. Her father looked down at the boy.
“It is befitting of a young warrior,” he mused. He placed his calloused hand on the boy’s shoulder.
Wealhtheow’s face flashed as she fought for composure. She closed her eyes and regained herself. Her brother could have the heirloom. There would be others for her, newer and nicer, once she was wed. Wealhtheow stood straight, returned her face to its smiling docility.
Her mother watched her through half-lidded eyes.