Part 2 of The Grove. I hope you enjoy.

The Grove Part 2

Part 2.

The memory began like it had many times before, in a long-ago life, many generations before this one, when magic was more than superstition and a spell could last a lifetime. Three men on horseback with spears ten hands long crept up over the grassy ridge and up to the homestead that had been in the family for generations. All three touched their metal talismans in fear of the eerie presence that was known to linger and dwell in this home, and so without a word they set to the work they were sent out here to do.
One dismounted and grabbed three sticks and lit the ends on fire from the small pit of burning embers. He had to blow on them to finally get them to flame, but once all were lit, he handed each of his companions a stick. One to the back, one in front, and the third went off to the barn. Setting each building aflame, they called out to the occupants still inside.
“Bolverk! Today you will burn like your kinsmen in Hel!” The first one cried out. Nobody was grinning as nobody was thinking this would work. It took a spellcaster to kill a spellcaster, and all this was likely to do was to bring doom to the participants of this midnight raid.
“May the harm ye caused be weighed out upon you as you suffer this…” The sentence was cut short as the man could no longer fill his lungs with air. The other two with him stared in horror as the speaker gasped for breath while he clawed at invisible hands around his neck. His eyes, watery and glossing over, began to roll backwards into his skull, then his tongue protruding, a sickening blue nub between his teeth, swelled to twice its size and looked as if it was going to burst. With a sudden jerk from the saddle, he was thrown into the night sky and a hard sound of his body crashing to the ground was the last they knew of him.
Panicked at what they had witnessed, the remaining two attempted to escape the horror they knew they could not, and with the flames dying down in the sudden icy chill, they grabbed their swords. Better to die bold than cowardly, they let a shout into the darkness and challenged whatever it was that would have its way with them.

With a jolt, Egil’s eyes shot open. The dreamwheel had not gone that far in the previous visions of what was. Normally, Urd kept her secrets to herself, but this time she let the thread show itself a little more. Her sister, Verdandi, was not happy at all with Egil being here, seeing as his thread was cut long ago, yet here he was, and as far as he knew, of no fault of his own. The darkness with the whispers that drove him beyond madness was fading ever-so-slightly, yet the feel of the cold on his skin would not let his mind forget it.
The fire had gone to embers and there was a certain chill in the air, but the Sun was soon to climb over the horizon and the day was already here, so Egil threw back the skins and sat up, looking for a stick to poke the coals with. Reaching for a fallen branch, he heard the sound of steps coming his way from behind him. Acting as if this was no surprise to him, he picked up the stick and began to stir the embers. The sparks lifted and filled the air and Egil threw some sprigs in the fire pit, granting him a haze to thicken the morning fog. Silently he rose and without touching the ground, he moved away from the glow of the small fire that the dried-out sprigs now fed. By the time the short-lived fire burned out, he was paces away from where he had slept. Knowing the threat was still near, he closed his eyes, let his tongue flicker and spit, and barely audible, he chanted until he became the shadow in which he was enveloped in. He opened his eyes that were black, like they were nothing but pupils, and waited.
“Wishing me the songs to sing, I sing to thee a song of wishes. A wish for sight, without the light, while all else be blinded men.”
His vision sharpened like it was a clear day, although not even the stars in the sky, nor even traces of the Sun on the horizon cast any light. The world around him was pitch black. No sight, no sound, and someone frozen still just beyond his camp, crouching, eyes wide open trying to find any light to grant even the slightest amount of sight. Blindly and slowly, the Skraeling reached out its arms so as to brace itself against the sudden loss of senses. There was no smile upon Egil’s face, no enjoyment in this. Watching this fool fight the panic that was surely coursing through its body was no more pleasurable than eating.
“Again, the charm, to bind the arm, and fetter again the feet; silence the mind, so it can’t speak, and again, I speak the charm.”
Words again, spoken as though he’s spoken them a thousand times, rolled off his tongue like a snowflake slowly falling to the ground. The effect, however, was swift and brutal. The Skraeling’s arms were stretched outward and marks on its wrists showed the wounds from whatever it was that was pulling the arms to their limits. The feet were bound together and appeared as though they were in a hole in the ground, whereas the face of the Skraeling was that of one who cannot find the words to use to express whatever it was that was on its mind, or if there was anything on its mind, or if a thought had even been thought up. Egil knew what was binding this intruder, could even see the black ribbons pulling the arms and the pool of venom holding the feet. The dark wights swirling in and through the skull of this victim, numbing any thought before it could form and sending it below the threshold of awareness. This offering of life to the Whispers of the Night, as now he remembered the term, would awaken more of that which slept within him, and more and more would he become the Nott Runr, the whispers in the dark, the sound of the shadows.
“From seed to he who stands before me, for needs that be, commands unholy. The power, the mind, the hour and time, the how, the why, I claim to be mine.”
With this spoken, Egil lept at his victim. Dressed only in his underlenins and quick like a diving hawk, he found himself covered in the blood of the Skraeling several paces beyond where it was bound and could feel the life essence soaking into his body. Teeth barred and fingers out as if they were the claws of a bear, Egil began to scratch at the scar on his naval. The scar he remembered was there after the first sacrifice he made after his return. This part of himself he had not remembered the why of what he was doing, but just that it had to be done. This was the fourth time now this moon cycle that he’s opened this scar. The blood on his skin had absorbed into him and he could feel the changing within. New spells were spinning in his mind and his body began to twist and contort. The pain was so great that he opened his mouth to bellow out a roar of anguish, yet all that echoed in the forest was the sound of the wind as it rustled through the leaves and needles in the trees.
The day was still in its infancy when the pain subsided. Charging through an offering the way he did took libido, physical strength, and a deep desire to claim not only body of the victim, but its life’s spark. Egil was growing in size, height, weight, muscles; enough now that large men were no longer his equal in stature. Twenty-two hands tall, fourteen hands around the waist, with the strength of an auroch and the temperament of enraged berserker, none could be found to be his match. For as imposing as he was physically, it was his keen mind and quick wits that made him dangerous. The more he grew and remembered, it was the familiarity of the galdr that allowed him to formulate the incantations in the moment that made him unpredictable and so far, unstoppable.
Unstoppable, yes, but what was it that had stopped him before and sent him through Helblindi to gain the hospitality of Hel? So far there had been no memory to serve that question. Not only what had been the bane of him, but who and what brought him back? There was only the story of the Shining god, the son of the Alfadir, in which ever a ransom from Hel was even considered, so why was it that he was released from her fetters? The only way to answer these questions was to continue his way into the unknown and watch for the signs. Nobody knew him, for it had been generations since he was last a mortal, so he had chosen the name Egil to be called, but no family name or place of birth was odd. No stranger would enjoy the hospitality of a host for long if he could not say who he was. The folk would ask questions and seek out any knowledge of the vagabond from anyone who knew him, starting with the nearby homesteads but not stopping there. Soon the entire countryside would know of him and be asking about him and where he was from, who he was, and if he had broken troth with kin, hence being out on the ways. He needed to know more of who he was before he wanted his enemies to know he was here. Who were his foes that he was to exact vengeance upon, and what wrong was done him? He knew that only blood would be taken as wergild, but who’s blood was to be offered him. Before the light could illuminate the wooded land he was in, he set about looking for a cave.
The night fliers led him to what he was looking for. The cave entrance was small, facing west, and twisted and turned enough to conceal any daylight that might make its way in. He needed complete darkness, for it was only there that he could find what eyes could not see.
My body is dead. How is my mind still rambling when my body is dead! How has my spark not gone cold from the lack of spirit in my blood?
The weight of the cold dirt covering him blotted out all light, and the disfigurement of his corpse was to be punishment for his crimes against the folk, to be endured in the grasps of Hel. The cold Mother, who embraced each person placed within her bosom, was known to hold on to all who were given to her, and she held on with a crushing grip, never to be pried open. One time only, and then only for the High One, did she accept an offer with conditions to release one of her guests, but as it went unfulfilled, she kept what was hers and to all be damned.
I was chanting something but did not get to finish the charm. What was I chanting?
The powers that be, be powers in me,
Come forth in the breeze, come forth in the leaves.
Come as I bleed, in my moment of need,
Powers that be, come forth through me.
The wolf that prowls, has hunger unknown,
Gnaw it not on my skin nor my bones.
Lay me still, like those of war,
The spark kept within, holds open the door.
Egil found the echoes of his chanting throughout the cave most soothing. The low rumble of his voice repeating his charms to him, through him, and for him put him in a trance where it seemed as if he was lifted from the floor of the cave, and he let himself free of control so as what he knew would assume control would take it. As if in a dream where he could still dictate events, a half sleep, half meditative stance between the worlds of the mind and that of the flesh and blood, he envisioned himself the wolf of his charm. Hunger and thirst ravaged his body, and his pack was no better than he. Running through the forest of oaks, birches, elms and aspens, he was searching the night for more than food. The Lady of the Moon was calling to his mind and guiding him through the underbrush and bases of trees to a clearing. He knew this clearing, but not why he was drawn here by the Nights Matron, and as he entered the open field he became aware of how bright the Lady was in the sky, and suddenly aware of his packs intentions. The Lady of the Night had called him here because his bond with the wights of the land was strong in these parts.
Where his body’s ability could not match his minds desire for blood, the sprites of the woods, the streams, the rocks and even the Lady herself would intervene. His party of himself and his hunters had numbered only eight, seven of whom now had turned on him, whereas the ninth that was with them in the beginning had vanished somewhere between then and now. The ninth wolf, who was nowhere to be seen, would not betray him like these savage beasts he now found himself in combat with.
Egil forced himself to focus on the matter at hand. He must stay alive in this realm, this dreamworld of the nether, this plane that overlaid the waking world. Yet as the old sayings of men with long grey beards goes, one cannot stand against many, and slowly he succumbed to the many nips and bites to his neck and limbs. As he lay there still aware of his surroundings, his mutinous pack seemed to be pulling his body in as many directions as there were wolves. His fur, matted with warm, wet blood that appeared black in the moonlight, oozed slowly as his heart could only push what was returning to it, and that was diminishing with his every breath.
As his wolf-body was failing, Egil’s human form was also suffering the wounds of what his mind was playing out. The still darkness of the cave and the silence it breeds was broken only by the heavy breathing by this time. His own heart was soon so slowly beating he was sure it would be his end, but throughout the night it continued to beat.
The last lines of the charm, what be the last lines! Think, fool, before your blood gives out and the spark fades.
Broken my body, be it bent and bitten,
Spoken now and so it be written.
Flesh decays, once it is cold,
But the Nornir favor only the bold.
As one alone, against many to fight,
Fallen now, this moonlit night.
The Keeper sees to see it kept,
The spark for whom the tears are wept.
Dima. The thought of seeing her lying next to him on the ground as it soaked up his life force that bled from his wounds brought a wrenching ache to his breast. This new memory spun Egil’s heart and mind into a frenzy, causing his body to grow cold and stiff as it fell to the floor of the cave. Laying in the pool of blood that once kept his body useful, Egil was motionless, almost willing himself into Hel’s abode once more. Alas, to his dismay, his heart would not stop beating, and his mind would not keep quiet.

Part 3.

The wolf-eyes of Egil were glossy and still, yet still the slightest motion from his breast kept his spark his own. He could hear mumbled speech, feel his body being moved, and he knew his time was almost to an end.
Dima. His thoughts of her and her tears as she wept next to him on the ground told him he was to die this night. This time was different than any of the attempts on his life before, and it had to have been a kinsman, for only a kinsman would be allowed in his fylgiaweg, to run and hunt, to seek and kill. Bonds were broken this night, and he was to die. Seven wolves were to pay, seven lives set in everlasting strife against him now, and how did this happen to one as he? What kind of charm could be spoken of him without his hearing of it? How could a kinsman, of birth or blood-bonding, turn on him and turn his pack against him? And Dima, his love of life wrapped into flesh and for whom he had given his all for once already and whose heart was half of his own. She had not betrayed him, but where was she when he was torn asunder?
With a gasp and a jolt, Egil shot upwards from the floor of the cave, fighting the cold air down into his lungs that felt as if they were frozen, yet on fire. His breast was tight and resisted his efforts to expand, and so with wide eyes he looked down to see his body. He could see why breathing seemed impossible now, as he looked at his navel where he had been scratching. The scar was torn open and the flesh around the wound appeared to have been done by a wild animal. Wolves. With his eviscerated belly spilling out his entrails, it was no wonder he could not breathe. He worked his hand inside himself from below the ribs and found his heart. Holding the shuttering muscle, and coughing up blood, he began to chant. Sitting on his heels as his shins were flat on the ground, one hand in his breast holding his heart, he spoke:
The Greedy One, who hungers for more,
Has taken from me, who lays on the floor.
Gasping for breath, I resist now death,
A broken body is in need of rest.
Powers that be, the powers in me,
Take this flesh that encloses me.
From the ground and air, this life to spare,
And from seas to blood, this body to wear.

Waking from a sleep that left him hungry, thirsty, and sore, Egil rolled over and worked himself to his hands and knees before reaching for the wall of the cave. Bracing himself, he stood shakily, and began making his way to the entrance. His body was covered in blood that was flaking off like dead skin, but otherwise he was whole. He noticed the scar on his navel as he ran his fingers over the smoothed skin, warm to the touch and slightly swollen, but his breast was intact, and he could breathe again.
Coming to the entrance of the cave he saw the shadows were reversed, but how long he was in the cave he could not determine quite yet. His body needed sustenance and his mind was on fire with what he had learned of his past. Parts and pieces of memories seemed to be mixing and matching, then not make sense to him. He could almost see in his mind the bloody struggle that left him dead in the grove of yew trees and seeing Dima holding his entrails in her hands as his blood bled through her fingers. Seeing her in the bright moonlight that night from his fading eyes, he realized, had burned into the very essence of himself that the crime of that night would bring the world of those involved to a bitter and painful end. An eternal end.


Short story by Bonehead83
Read 151 times
Written on 2022-08-08 at 12:56

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