My first attempt at storytelling. There's more, but just curious as to what you all think.

The Grove Part 1

The Drauger

Chapter One

Part 1.
The small clearing in the otherwise thickly wooded valley is still and quiet, though in the distance can be heard the crickets and the owls and a slight breeze whispering in the tall grass. A light scent of smoke takes to the air as a small flame can be seen by all around for what would seem to be for many miles in all directions. The lone bearer of the torch moves swiftly yet deftly through the underbrush and finally stops in the center of the grove, not far from a slow running creek that catches what little snowmelt there is high up the mountains this time of year as it pushes it out to sea.
Nothing can be seen of the barer of the light except the dark cloak that reaches the grass covered ground and the hood that droops over the forehead of the wearer, ever concealing the identity under its weave and stitching of calfskins and silk. The moon phase is new, but the stars, no matter how brightly they shine, could not cast the light needed for sight on this night. The Giantís Toe is high in the sky and the cool breeze beginning to stir signifies that the morning approaches from the east, quickly upon the streaks of light barely beginning to run over the horizon.
Whispers, barely audible above the breeze that just began to stir, add an eerie tone to the sound of the night, and seems to escalate along with the whorl of wind. The blades of grass begin to lay on their sides yet still manage to keep their hold in the ground. The light bearer stands motionless as its cloak flaps in the wind that is now blowing as though the eagle upon the gates is angry. Some have said that the one in the cloak is the eagle; others say the one in the cloak is a witch, an old hag who bags up the wind and storms, only to release it all at her will. But very few have ever seen who wears the cloak and is still alive. Many say that nobody that would know who the figure is or where the figure comes from is still alive after all these years, and that many winters old is the cloaked one. Fewer still have said that the cloak is empty yet has the form of a human only because it wishes to deceive those who would approach it, only to look upon the faceless shadow of Helís handmaiden.
The stars begin to disappear, not because of the dawn breaking the horizon, but because of the thick clouds rolling in from the west, whipping like beasts from Odinís Wild Hunt at the coming of dawn. The clouds soon hide all of the lights in the heavens from horizon to horizon, casting a complete darkness over the land, save the one torch alight in the grove whence the whispers still can be heard originating from. The cloaked figure takes the torch in both hands and raises it above its head and gazes into the flames, all the while the whispers seem to now come from the wind itself and from all directions, chilling the air. Just as the whispering grows into wails and cries of torment, the flame begins to spiral and brighten, casting sparks that evanesce as soon as they appear. The air is charged and heavy, the mood is dark, the veil between the worldís shimmers and quakes as its fibers are stretched to their limits, and yet the cloaked figure stands like a stone, holding the light up and still gaze-locked with it.
Like the axe suspended above the victimís head with all waiting in nervous anticipation of its fall, so too is the night that is being held in place, not allowed to give way to the morning light as is her wont, wishing herself to flee from such an unknown power as this. The whispers have evolved now into screams like that of draugers, the corpses of family members whose bodies will not rest in the grave and tether the soul to it, taking neither loaf nor horn for sustenance, yet hungry and thirsty, unable to quench the pain of hunger and thirst yet feeling it none the same. The sound of Niflheimís roar in the ears of men is said to drive a man to a madness that has no ending, and that not even death can bring escape from the claws that it digs into the hearts of those who hear it. The sound of the wind and all that is in it has built up to a roar and nothing can be heard by men except the pounding of oneís blood in his own ears. The sight of the lone torch amidst the chaos gives no comfort as it is finally extinguished by the storm that is tearing down upon trees and the field. The thunder lays silent amongst the din of this night, and the morning light can all but wait to draw its chariot through the sky.
With the torch flame gone cold, the world is thrown into a darkness so complete that nothing can be seen on this side of the veil. In this darkness, however, lies the pathways one needs not eyes to see, but only the sight of one who has closed his eyes can see the way that is laid. The senseless motion of one who has been covered over with snow, rained upon, and forgotten by Men for generations, is a decrepit creature, slow going with its joints moving laboriously and with a sense of clumsiness to it.
The drauger felt the calling from what must have been the other side, yet this has never happened before, nor has one ever thought it possible. To hear anything other than the dogs that bark and yip nonstop in the distance or the air wrapping around the sweet Death Mother when she glides by silently, calling out to someone in a tone that is barely more than a soft whisper in the ear of a lover, is strange and frightening, yet almost welcoming and inviting. Like a toy on a string, the drauger was pulled to what must have been the source of the strange sound being echoed throughout the shadows. It was almost as if the sound should mean something to it, and although nothing came to mind as to what it is, or what it wants, the creature was drawn to the pathway that was now opening up before it. Every awkward step, every stumble and fall, the drauger was both being held up by shadowy hands and pulled on from behind, the dark energies ever so reluctant to let one of these creatures go to the source of the sound and the eerie light. The closer to the light and sound it got, there arose such a stench of rot and filth and the creature gagged in disgust. The drauger was amazed that it could smell at all, much less determine if it were enjoyable or not.
As it found its way to the light, a light that seemed to be spiraling in on itself, the drauger roared in what began as a low, rumbling hum and became a thunderous crackling like that of lightning strike. The air was still sizzling with little balls of lightning streaking back and forth, colliding and popping with a loud snap whenever they struck each other, burning the air the torch needed to sustain itself. The hairs on its arms were coiled and the skin exposed to the air shrank and looked as if it was stretched over a walking skeleton. The eyes of the drauger had a layer of frost over the surface of them which also held the eye lids in place, and as the light went out, the first tears began to run down the creases of the face that time had forgotten.
This drauger, seemingly summoned from the grave it had known for so long, was now in a grove with trees and grass and the sound of crickets, somehow clothed in a cloak made of silk and calf skins.

Whispering to itself, eyes darting back and forth as if searching the eyes of its audience, the mumblings of the drauger began to manifest in a soft glow, flowing around the enchanter. Memories of whatever existence it had before, having slowly been coming to mind for the past few nights, the drauger has been reciting the words that had been coming to mind with unsurprising results. This shell that hungers and thirsts, grows weary at times, yet can touch, speak, communicate with others, has a strange appeal and feeling of normalcy to it.
A few times now it has come across a traveler on the ways, and oddly, the only thing of note was a strange glance from the side of eyes. The cloak of calf skins kept them from seeing what was underneath, which only raised suspicion but not enough for alarm. Only speaking when nobody could hear, the drauger kept to itself, learning the present from shadows of the past; shadows that slowly retreated from the dawn and quietly revealed the secrets of another life.
There are things here that look familiar and seem to draw the drauger in that it knows are useful. Plants in the shady side of a tree, skin from the stems of shoots that grow on the rocks, and many kinds of blooms that need to be ground into powders. Only knowing that it should collect these things, the creature of Nightís whispers bundles these in a sack of wool found along the way, as it moves like a grandfather would coming in from the snow. The form cloaked in calf skins may appear to be decrepit, but its body, much like its mind, is recovering memories and movements at a rapid pace, and this once screaming, scrap of a man, brought back from Helís domain by an unknown hand, comes now to a familiar land where the language used is understood quite well. A smile is not what was shown on the face of this creature; rather a satisfied grin of it all coming back together, all the memories that have been nothing but fragments and partial snips of sounds, smells, sights, sensations of pleasure, angst, and hatred.
This creature knows now why a ransom was paid to Helís purse for his release.
Blood vengeance.

Short story by Bonehead83
Read 162 times
Written on 2022-08-08 at 02:18

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jim The PoetBay support member heart!
Very rich in atmosphere, I hope you'll continue with the story.