The Wolf’s Cry: Chapter Two

It’s another weekend, and that means it’s time for another story post or two.  (In case you missed it, the second part of The White Cobra dropped on Wednesday.)  Here’s the next part of the fantasy serial The Wolf’s Cry.

As always, this is my own work, even if I’m not billing you for reading it.  Do not copy the text elsewhere or claim it as your own:  link back to the blog instead, or print it off to share.  It is my own creation and not for sale by me or anyone else.  Enjoy, and tell your friends!


Continued from Chapter One:

It was raining.  A middle-aged man in soiled working clothes lay on the sharp stones of the riverbank, sore all over.  He didn’t want to get up, but he knew he would have to sooner or later.  He opened his eyes.

He was lying by the same river he remembered dragging himself from, and in the same spot.  The young man still lay under the broken tree trunk where he had left him.  There was still no sign of the Viking anywhere.  Stretching, he arose.

Water dripped from the trees around him as he picked his way down the bank to the fallen tree.  He checked the boy’s pulse, and turned him over.  Good.  He was slightly bruised, but unhurt.  The man lifted him, and carried him a little ways up the bank, out of the rain.

Were those footsteps?  He pulled driftwood over the sleeping boy, and hid himself behind a massive oak—greater than any he had seen in Europe.  The trunk was more than five feet in diameter, and smelled musty—very musty.  He could almost smell the centuries of age in the bark.  But there were the footsteps again!  This time he was sure of it.  He peered out around the trunk, and saw the party approaching.  There were five of them, and they carried torches.  Their leader was a tall blonde man with long braids that held clay like that upon his own garments.  The Viking had seen the body behind the driftwood.

The older man watched intently as they roughly shook the boy, but when they saw that he was still alive, the leader motioned to one of the men, who threw the youth over his shoulder like so many potatoes, and the entire party turned around and started down river.  The man waited for a cautious moment before attempting to follow them through the woods along the bank.  He tripped immediately, landing face down in the soft, pungent green moss.

“They are gone,” said a thick voice near his head.  “The chief’s got his quarry.  Let’s go back.”

“They’re not all gone, Iago.  We’ve got one of them here,” said another voice, little smoother than the first.

“He’s not one of them, Furn.  Didn’t you see how he watched them on the beach?”

“For three races of gnomes, he’s their kind!  So why not just kill him at once?”

“Because,” said the older voice, musing now over a fresher thought, “if he’s afraid of them, then he may be persuaded to join our side!  He’s an Outsider, from the look of things, and is still fresh.  It’s a good thing we got him first.  Hand me your ax.”  With that, the mysterious Iago struck the man on the head with the flat side of his comrade’s ax, rendering him unconscious.

The two strangers lifted him with all their might over their shoulders.  He was slightly taller than average, and so became a more awkward burden for them as they carried him over the twisted roots of ancient trees.  Growing weary, they laid him momentarily on the carpet of leaves while they stretched their sore muscles.

“It’s a shame that they got the other one,” said Furn, as they resumed their journey.  “But we could never carry more than one, anyway.  We’ll take him to Scroop’s place, and patch him up a bit.”  Shortly thereafter, he was carried down into the hollow beneath the roots of a mighty oak tree, and laid carefully on the floor.  His face was washed, and ale was poured between his parted lips.  The man moaned softly.

Regaining his senses, he opened his eyes and looked around him.  He was among gnomes.

Little nut-brown men about three feet tall were leaning over him, whispering and talking, and poking and prodding him.  One very strong grip got his nose, and gave it a yank.  He sat up among them with a bellow of pain.

The gnomes had dug a neat little hostel beneath the ground, twenty by fourteen feet, but only about four high, by the learned man’s estimates.  The little men were powerful and stoutly built, with four digits on each tenacious hand.  One young wench was barefoot, and her smallish feet rode on four toes each.

There was a bar in the inn, and wine and water on tap, at one end, and at the other the door under the oak.  Each corner had stairs leading up to rooms in the boles of hollow trees above, whose gnarled roots festooned the walls and served as shelves for the many pewter mugs and candlesticks.  Two of the gnomes now approached him.  One of them spoke up, and addressed him with the voice which had named itself Iago.

“I am Iago, sir, and I welcome you—I mean—well, you see, we don’t generally get many Out—it is an uncommon honour to this humble inn for a man of your standing, who travels between the worlds, to take up your lodgings among us.  Y-you are from the Outside, right?  Oh—uh, this good friend is Scroop, our mutual landlord.”

The bare-headed, balding gnome blushed, and wiped his hands on a greasy apron.  In a slow, raspy voice, Scroop asked the next question.

“Well, what would you like for supper?”

*  *  *  *  *

When I awakened, I had no idea where I was, and not much more about how I got there.  I could only recall having floated on my back in a river eddy for what seemed like hours on end, and being dragged from the water by someone with a deep, coarse voice.  Then seconds…hours, maybe?…and I was picked up again, and carried—all sense of direction was gone.  I was surrounded by voices like the first one, and a blurry light—like one seen through clouded water—hovered over my face.  They brought it close for a better view, and I heard the flame sputter and hiss.  A torch, then.  Its glare blinded me, and I blacked out again.

I gradually realized that I was warm, and nearly dry as well.  I heard the voices again, speaking in whispers.  I opened my eyes and looked about me.

I was in a small house lit and warmed by a roaring fire on the flagstone hearth at its far end.  There was a pot over the fire, obstructing its light, and a frail, middle-aged woman leaned over that, blocking illumination even further.  She seemed to be okay, as women go (what I could see of her), but her clothes had been out of style since the days of the Vinland settlement.  I had never seen anyone else that strangely dressed before, except in history textbooks at school.  I glanced around the room.

Its only other occupant was a long, swarthy man, her husband.  He was very much like her, and a little like our Viking from that morning, and the two of them seemed very much to belong with the house.  It was their place, indeed.

The man of the house said something to his wife.  She moved to the other side of the fire, letting its light fall across his lean and wiry chest.  He wore a pair of leather breeches, and around his neck was the pagan hammer-amulet of Thor.  He held a bright, limp bracelet of gold in the firelight for inspection.  I saw the tongues of flame reflected in its single, flat stone.  It seemed to be rather late, so I checked my watch…

It was gone!  My left wrist—in fact, my whole body—was stripped bare, and I had been lain in this hayrick with nothing but a heavy cowhide between myself and the air circulating to the outdoors.  The sagging bracelet in the man’s hand was my own watch, which had stopped.  My condition also explained the funny smell that the fire had—blue jeans and polyester.  My old clothing was being burnt, and it might take a few days for them to make me some new ones.  I scratched my triceps.  Oh well, I thought.  Praise the Lord it’s Summer here.

The woman, looking up from the pot, saw that I was awake and whole, and ladled out a steaming bowl of her broth.  This was for the man she addressed as “Olaf”, who should be considered first, and then another for herself, and one for me, being careful not to serve into either more than what her lord already had.  Before partaking of her own, she brought mine to me.

She said something in a low, gentle tone, and somehow I understood.  Her voice was warm and motherly.  I sat up in the hay, and took the hot bowl with both hands, tipping it upward to sip the broth.  I burnt my tongue, and blew across the burnt tip of it to cool the pain.  I lowered the soup sheepishly, and blew over it where I held it on the cowhide in my lap.  Gingerly, I reached into the steam and plucked out a morsel of tender beef.  It was stewed with cabbage.  Just past rare, in a soup which was very well done.  Before it cooled, I had finished it, and it warmed my entire body:  so for a wonderful first meal in a new world, I gave my compliments to my host (though he couldn’t have understood), for having married such an excellent chef.

I was tired, so I lay down again.  I drew the hide up to my chin and shut my eyes.  I heard the sounds of my hosts as they ate their meal, and readied themselves for sleep in the low oak bed by the hearth.  I thought about my room back at The Viking Lodge, and Dad back there, worrying tonight after I didn’t show up.  Let him worry, I thought angrily, about someone still alive for once.  I thought about my bedroom back home in Georgia, and then about Jesse.  He was fourteen, and was staying with Mom’s folks.  No, this was the weekend he was to go up to the Appalachians with the Scout troop.  I said a prayer for him before I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke, the flax-locked woman was alone in the house, knitting something.  My host was working in the fields, apparently, for he was a farmer as well as a Viking.  His wife now saw that I was awake, and ran over to me, knitting-basket and all.  From the latter she withdrew a stretch of dark ribbon, marked with chalk at intervals of approximately three and one-half inches.  She smiled down at me gently as she rolled the ribbon so tightly on her little finger that the tip turned a lovely purple.

She spoke a few words in her strange, melodious tongue, and without waiting for any reply, she flipped back my blanket herself.  I was too surprised to move, anyway.  She stretched me out in various directions, and after she had covered me up again, she took up the tablet on which she took down the measurements, and trotted out the door to find a tailor.  I rolled over as soon as she had left, and decided that it must have been the soup.

Standing up, I searched the house—it was little more than a small hut, really, by modern standards—for something I might be able to wear.  There was nothing but the cowhide, as far as I could tell.  So I gave up, and went to the single small window to examine the vista.

I could only see one side of the view, but it was enough.  The house was located in the edge of a bit of a village or township, and the backs and sides of nearby buildings could be seen to the right and to the left.  Ahead of me stretched a fair-sized field of standing grain, in which several laborers were working.  It rolled slightly for a short way, and ended at the line of lush green trees which marked the river—in all likelihood the one from which I was saved last night—and beyond the river, the dark forest stretched onward up the mountainside.  The sight was breathtaking, but just then the door slapped shut behind me in the cottage.

His pale-skinned visitor was finally out of bed, my host perceived, and needing go to work in the field.  He slapped me between the shoulder blades and I turned around.  “Come along!” was the unspoken message.  “You’ll soon learn what serfdom is!”

He guided me toward the door, but I protested and gestured that I hadn’t any clothes on.  At this the man stopped, and, considering the matter for a moment, chuckled to himself.  He then removed his own leather pants, which were a bit too large for me, and instructed me to put them on, which I did.  Then as I clutched at the waistline to keep it even with my own, he finished escorting me out to the field.

When we got to the field, the sun was high in the sky, and the morning was half gone.  Another farmer approached my host, and addressed him.  He handed my host the tool, with the rustiest blade I’d seen on anything in a long time.  Olaf said nothing as the man walked away through the grain, but from the look on his face I knew that Lord Olin would never have accepted the implement, and the other would have had cause to remember whatever was in store for him.  Taking up his own better tool, he passed me the rusted one.

My host worked with a vigor that said “We haven’t got all summer,” and he was not about to make it any easier on me, either.  Since the chill of the river was gone, I was fit and able to haul my own share of the work load locally, and maybe part of someone else’s as well.  Swinging the sickle took both hands, and so the leather breeches fell down almost immediately.  That’s when I realized how very much I’d taken Levi Strauss for granted.

I set to work amending the issue however, by rolling them up at the waist.  But it was difficult, and cost time, so when they finally fell again, I borrowed a belt from another man, whose pants fit much better.  Resuming our respective stations then, we continued to work until mid-afternoon.  The sun then being hot overhead, we took refuge from the heat beneath the shade atop the riverbank.  There were perhaps seven or eight of us altogether—Olaf, myself, the man with the rusted scythe, my friend without a belt, and a few others.  Lord Olin, a great ruddy man with gold armbands on either arm, told a windy and dramatic tale in which he took credit for capturing me on the mountain, and throwing me in the river to settle my drunken head—and I knew he was making most of it up as he went, but it was fun to hear him boast in that far-off language, and to see his face turn red like that.

Someone pulled out some cheese and hard dark bread, and some country ale to wash it down.  This meal was shared among us, and we made a jolly company.  Two or three, including my lord Olin, opted to nap upon the hill, but the rest of us had seen the clear pool below, and made a dash for it down the embankment.  Our clothes were left upon the slope as we plunged heartily into the cold water.  I joined the other men in their wild frolics for a while, then withdrew.  It was just so soothing to lay on my back in the cool eddies, allowing the water to lap against my burned shoulders.  My feet hung limp in the placid pond, as the cuts of the stubble on my soft pads throbbed and bled—just a little.  A katydid chirped on a low twig near my head, singing me to sleep.

But I didn’t hear the others.  They had apparently moved on—back to their work or to their homes.  I crossed again to my own side, and waded upstream to the point at which we had entered the stream.  It was farther than I had expected.  The sediment we had stirred from the bottom had long since washed downstream, and as I climbed the torn bank, my landmark of recognition, I saw that the others had indeed departed—fully clothed, including my host.  As I looked out over the wheat field, half harvested in the setting sun, I saw the last of them as they stepped out upon the far road, their reapers over their shoulders.  I was naked and alone, and as the shadow of the mountains hastened the coming night, I thought of several guys from school who would pay to see me like this.  Then as I picked my way across the sharp stubble, I thought of some more.

Stars filled the azure firmament when I finally crept into the little cottage.  The fire was on, and there were guests.  Spying me, the man of the house gave a shout of laughter.

The others guffawed and belched, and I realized that I had been the subject of a cruel prank, one concerning clothes.  I began to get irritated, irritated and angry.  That’s when the goodwife came to my defense, running to my side by the door with her day’s work for me.  It was a new and properly fitted set of clothes, and she scolded as only hens and goodwives can as I sat down in the hayrick to put them on.  I had breeches, shirt, and belt, now, and was about to feel quite well dressed.  Something was burning.  I pointed to the pot, and afforded myself of the moments of her panic to clothe myself without an audience.

After the meal of dry bread, (accidentally) smoked venison, and cheese (a wonderful combination—you really must try it with ale,) the guests departed and we retired to bed.  Starlight filtered in through the open window.  In a matter of minutes I was sound asleep.

For the next eight weeks I worked in the field, occasionally alongside my host, but more often alone.  Slowly I began to learn the flowing and waltzing speech of these strange people who had taken me in.  It was almost nothing like Norwegian:  Hweilde, the grain that ripened.  Mannok, the forest of mighty pine and fir trees.  Eltafleiss, the old river.  Bergi, the iron-shod mountains round about the village they called Durn.  Mariah, the wandering whistling restless wind.

This, then, was the life of a peasant, in this medieval hamlet on the eastern slopes of the Bergi.  My host named me Bjorn, the bear—it was as near my Christian name Brian that he came.  And he was kind to me.  Gruff and short, but kind.  Lord Olin, chief of the town, would come over to talk with Olaf on quite a regular basis.  On many evenings, they talked about the weather or the harvest, for which Olaf was the chief’s foreman, or about the chances of the hunt in the morning.  But Olin always seemed to return to me after a while by some remark, or to throw strange glances out of the corner of his hard blue eye.

“He’s a great man, and a powerful, but no leader,” said Olaf to me one evening.  “But, he can get things done, or make them be got done, which is much the same.  Stay on his good side, if you can.”  This great, haughty, blustery chief fascinated me, in part because I knew that I in turn fascinated him.  And so my sojourn in Olaf’s house continued.

It came to an end one night as we returned from the field, passing by the chief’s house.  There were horses tied at the door, which indicated important guests to Olin’s hearth.  Voices came from within, and a comment was made by another laborer that Olin held high council this night.  Naturally, we were excluded.  Nonetheless, the eaves were well dropped around the doors and the window.  But nothing much could be gained in observation without the risk of being observed.

Someone suggested that we draw straws, electing someone to go inside to ask for a better whetstone for the scythes.  It was a shallow ruse, but it might work, and the scythes did need sharpened again before tomorrow’s work, up on the mountain.  I lost the election.  I think it was rigged against me.

“Mind your manners, boy!” said Olaf.  “Don’t interrupt until a proper break in the con-veer—in their talk.”

I entered slowly and as quietly as I could.  It didn’t work.

“Ah, yes!  Bjorn, my lad, I’ve been talking about you just now!”  The chieftain’s voice burst upon my ear.  It sounded much too friendly for him, and I smelled something brewing in the wings.  “Come on, lad, sit down!” he insisted, and I saw no other option.  I sat down on a pile of skins.

“No, my lad,” (and I wondered why he kept calling me that) “come sit with me, Bjorn.”  The Viking chief shifted to the left a little, allowing room for me between himself and a tall, blonde fighter.  (What I’d smelled was nothing more than a burnt soup of duck’s wings.)  I sat down, and was introduced to the company.

There were five in the company besides myself—on my left, my patron Olin the Red, then the begrimed Knutt, and the hot-tempered and restless Thor Torrson across the fire from me; Febold Odin sat beside him, with a scar from his brow to his jaw across his eternally bandaged right eye, but his left was keen, black, and fathomless.  He was a greater lord, even, than Olin, and may yet play some part in my tale.

Immediately to Febold’s left, and my right, however, was the one personage whom I had been pursuing in my dreams and dreading each waking hour.  His name was Regin, and we had met before.

“This is the reason I took you in on Midsummer’s Day, Bjorn,” said Olin, (which was not true).  “This is why I have brought you before this council.  This is the youth of whom I spoke!” he declared to the others.  A thoughtful frown, as of a wizard’s pondering, followed by the ghost of a smile, flickered like a snake across Febold’s countenance—as though to use this knowledge toward some gloated, secret end.  Knutt grunted in his throat, eyeing me askance, and Thor snorted a short time later an acknowledgment of facts received.  Regin’s green eyes flashed hot with the dragon’s fire of hate, and the corner of his upper lip curled back ever so slowly to reveal a large white canine, but none of them said a word.

The conversation presently resumed, and I was no longer its topic.  Ever so casually, I arose and made my way to the door, but as I touched it, the chief once more accosted me.

“I wouldn’t advise that, Bjorn,” he said, (though from the way events had turned, I had no intention of divulging them to any of the anxious ears outside.)  “Sleep here tonight.”  I retreated to a pile of hides in the corner, and lay awake for some time pondering.  But the last thing I recall before I fell asleep was the circle of chieftains still sitting at the fire, muttering to one another with lowered voices.

Olin’s steward awakened me in the middle of the night, and instructed me that I was expected.  “Master Olin waits outside,” were his very words.

I won’t forget that night.  The air outside was crisp and keen.  The wind shivered through the branches of the trees.  Unmapped constellations exploded upon the senses in all their glory.  The moon was high and bright, and she wore a mask I’d never seen before.  It was a new Diana.  I saw a golden orb beside her in the firmament—perhaps it’s Mars, I thought.  An owl cried in the forest.  Somewhere on the mountain, a fox barked, and the chief’s dogs answered the kindred call.  The scent of high meadows and cold waterfalls and wood smoke lingered over the rooftops.  No one spoke as the three of us set out.

We passed the town, and climbed a secret, winding path into the forest.  Olin posted the steward here to watch the road– from the cover of the trees, he could see unseen.  Olin led me on alone, and we climbed on until we reached a clearing on a hilltop encircled by tall standing stones.  A great monolith stood at the center, a runic pillar engraved with twining knots and ancient inscriptions.  I hated the place immediately.

My host drew me aside to speak to me, and he related the purpose of our mysterious journey.

“Bjorn, you were brought to this place because I have no heir, and so I intended that you should fill that role for me.  You will be my prince, and someday a king, if all goes well.  Tonight, Bjorn, I will make you my son!”

I was flabbergasted.  So this was why I, a stranger, had been shown deference at the High Council.  I must have been the only one there who hadn’t known.  Olin continued.

“Tonight, gods and mortals alike will see a wonder, as never was seen from Asgard to the Land of Giants.  Tonight, my boy, Tarn and Dioth meet above the Rainbow Bridge, and this one stone here will mark their dance.  They have only met twice since Tarn was lost in the cradle of time, and Dioth set out weeping to look for her lost love.  See—there!” and he pointed at the moon.  “This night they shall meet again!”

I looked and saw Ares, the red planet, larger and brighter than I ever recalled seeing him at home.  This, then, was Tarn, and he stood so near the contrary moon.  I translated:  the adoption was timed to coincide with a rare lunar eclipse of the planet Mars.  I’d have to look up the actual statistics when I got back to Georgia…

“They meet where Dioth climbs her highest point,” (now how uncommon is that?) “and the rite will take place then.  Under Tarn and Dioth, a son is born to me already a man.  You will be a great king one day, Bjorn, and shall see a son’s son after you.  But haste—!”  Someone was coming.

Olin peeled off my shirt, and they bound me fast to the icy pillar with leathern thongs.  The wind began to rise, and is whistled through the clearing.  It was cold against my ribs.  A single ray of light caught my eye from a lost fire deep in the forest, and the wind blew again.  I thought about Isaac on Mount Moria, and the utter paganism of tonight.  A thought burst into my mind unbidden, and I turned my head to see if the edges of the stone were sharp—could cut my bonds.  But they were smooth like the infant Merlin’s bottom, when the druids tried to sacrifice him newly born…No!  This can’t be happening!  The old image—of human sacrifice on ancient stone altars in the wood—now threatened to overpower my consciousness.

“Dear Lord God,” I prayed softly, “please deliver me…let me wake up from this dream!”

Out of the forest they came, a quartet of men old beyond their years, garbed in long hooded cloaks and each bearing a branch of one of their sacred trees in their left hands.  They circled the monolith, raising first oak, then ash, then elm, then holly against the sky.  I forced myself not to watch, turning my eyes upon the eclipse as the druids muttered their idolatries.  The moon had climbed quite high, now.  Mars’ trailing rim was now tangent to her orb.  A withered hand wrenched my chin down.  The chief priest fixed his black, burning eyes on my own.  As the other three burned the unholy branches behind him, he withdrew a silver knife from his belt.  Backing slowly, he plunged his hand into the fire, drawing from the mixture of the coals a clawful to anoint the blade.  This done, he wielded it over his head where it flashed in brilliant, jade-green fire.

Then as Tarn was embraced by Dioth, the blade rushed down, and it seared my chest even as it struck away my bonds.  In my agony I pitched face first betwixt the cold stone and the glowing fire.  My father (for now I thus must call him) rolled me on my back, and I saw Dioth spin in her ecstasy.  Spin and go dark.

 

When I awakened, I was once again on my oxhide bed, and Olin’s wife Guldred was kneeling over me with one of her excellent morning soups.  It was broad daylight.  I was alive!  I praised God for answering my prayer, and moved to sit up.  A searing pain cut the length of my chest, and I was convinced to lie down again—it had not been a dream.

“Lie down, son.  You need all the rest you can take.  Tomorrow your father is going to enroll you in the new Academy!  Your daddy’s big brother Febold—him that was here last night?—is a’goin’ to make my boy a warrior!  Your daddy is so proud!” she doted.  My chest was hurting, so I moaned.  This elicited just the maternal instinct I had hoped, and a salve popped out of some fold or another of her dress.  Laying aside the soup in preference for the latter, she rubbed my wound vigorously, and it hurt again, but only wholesomely, like the application of iodine.  The knife wound was already becoming a long, brown scar.  The pain sent static glitches across the images in my mind—the images of that old life—and I could fight no longer.  I passed into a fitful sleep, the soup untouched.

I rose early, as was my custom, and as I dressed I took a long last look around the strange little house which had so lately been my home.  I gazed at my new mother as she slumbered near the hearth, and was loth to leave so soon.  I searched the room for anything I might keep to remember my home by, and the late starlight from the window leaped back from the broom-slough pile under the window.  I picked it up.  It was a flat piece of metal, blackened on one side, and engraved on the other with large runes.  I wiped the engraved side vigorously against my sleeve, and soon I could read the B runestave.  The other runestave, something between a K and a P in appearance, I did not remember.  I spit across the surface to see if I could read it better.

Of course!  B. C.!  My own name, Brian Creighton, and I had almost forgotten it!  I saw a man in light, foreign clothes squatting in a field of tall grass under a March sun, his arms spread wide.  And a boy who had turned ten and lain down his crutches just yesterday, came first stumbling, then limping, then running to meet him—on my feet for the first time in two years.  As we embraced, Dad gave me the wide belt and the gleaming buckle with my initials engraved on its face.  It came with me on every major trip, but I never wore it any other time, except Easter and Christmas, and the Fourth of July.  It was a relic of a distant time, before I quarreled with him over his job with the government, when missing persons didn’t invade beyond the poster at the supermarket check-out.  Now the belt was gone, and all I had was a sooty buckle.  I’m keeping this! I thought to myself.  I heard my father’s voice again:  “Brian, let’s go now.”

“Bjorn, I said `Let’s go!'”  My father’s voice startled me back to reality.  It was much harsher and harder than the voice of the man whom I remembered, but it was as it had always been.  I looked down at my leather breeches and wondered how they could ever make something like this out of cotton.  Wool, maybe, but cotton didn’t even grow here.  I tucked the piece of metal into my belt, and went out to help load the horses.

Outside, the sky was bright with dawn, and the birds were singing down by the river and up in the forest.  The smell of the dew on the cut fields braided itself with those of the wood smoke from the village and the damp river mud.  I smelled the dogs in their runs near at hand, and the food which Mother Guldred had wrapped for our journey.  My father’s steward was to ride with us, for he had charge of my father’s books, and signed for him, for my father was unused to letters.  This steward was a thin, sinister looking fellow with a large nose and deep-set dark eyes that seemed at once fathomless wells and the keenest arrows that pierced one’s soul.  He was surprisingly strong but meek, with a meekness which spoke not of weakness but of a hidden and untold power.

The new light shown on his close-cropped black hair as he passed reins to my father, and then to me.  His own mount was saddled and ready, and so we three mounted to the saddle blanket.  Mother came out to say goodbye, and pried from each of us a farewell kiss, as was her customary desert.  At Mother’s insistence, I dropped a handful of feathers on the wind for luck—she said it was for luck, but I did it for her—and the wind caught them and threw them ahead of the horses, then swept them aloft and away.

“Asgard smiles on my men-folk!” she exclaimed, and I blew her another kiss before the road turned.  I think she understood.

To Be Continued…


Criticisms, denunciations, proofreading notes and pedantry may be left in the comments.  I welcome your feedback, as always.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s