She stood in front of her parents. Her hands clasped, her spine straight. Her bearded father reached for a small cloth bundle on the table beside him. He unwrapped it to reveal a shining 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. She was young and slender. He glanced at her mother, who was once also young and slender. The mother’s gaze remained on Wealhtheow, while Wealhtheow’s eyes remained on her father’s seated figure.
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 the flickering firelight.
Her father had contracted her marriage, she knew. He would give her jewellery; she would display his wealth and power with fine gold in her husband’s hall. 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 Wealhtheow, towering above his sister.
“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. “But you will earn your own, in time.” Wealhtheow removed the heirloom from her brother’s neck, holding the thick necklace of gold in her rough fingers.
“If you put your hand in the sea, it will ease your blisters,” she told her younger brother. Wealhtheow felt the ache of hours learning to wield weaponry when she was his age. She looked at her brother’s round face, his tousled blond hair. Once she left for her husband’s house, she might not see him again.
Wealhtheow’s mother watched her through half-lidded eyes.