The Grove Part 3The 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.
Barely able to force the air out of his lungs to speak his deathcurse, he coughed up pink, frothy blood. The words began to flow as his mind raced to gather his thoughts as his body failed him.
Alone I go to the realm below,
To seek the home of Hel the Crone.
For winters and snow, alone I go,
As ended this life, of flesh and bone.
I speak to the mind, and powers that bind,
Go now to the hall, of hunger and find,
My will be it this, to return then in time,
And hear the call of the windless rune kind.
With his eyesight gone he had reached up to find Dima’s hand, struggling to follow her arm up so he could touch her face. She quickly took both his hands in hers and placed his palms on her cheeks and held them there with hers as she found her resolve to stop the tears as he lay dying before her.
Cattle die, and kinsmen die, and so one dies oneself.
One thing I know that never dies, the fame of a dead man’s deeds.
This body of bones and flesh was on the cusp of its end and soon it would be no longer counted amongst the living. Pulling his face to hers, he took in his last breath and pressed his lips to hers. Holding her head so she could not pull away, he gave her his hale and with little resistance she took it. He slid his hand to cover her mouth and held it as long as he could before his body would no longer obey his will. She held in the hale from his lungs and covered her own mouth so nothing would escape, holding it in with the tears she could feel welling up within. Sorrow and angst pulled her heart out of her breast as her heart broke into what seemed to be a thousand pieces. She gently laid him down in the grass and closed his eyelids. His blank stare into the unknown reminded her of the distance now between them and it was more than she could deal with at the moment. His mangled body looked as though it had fed a pack of wolves, starting from the ribs and down to his hips, with most of his entrails gone and scattered. She rolled up the sleave on her right arm and reached into his breast cavity to hold his heart in her hand. Letting it rest in her hand, she fondled the lifeless heart in her hand as her mouth began to form the beginnings of a whisper.
From wind and from snow, ‘cross the bridge to below,
To the land of hunger and thirst be known.
I send to thee, for you keep, until the runes
And I beseech.
The light of Night, this witching hour,
I hold in my hand, his heart and my power,
And bind within, the blood and his hale,
So it will stir again, the night of the gale.
Eyes closed and jaw clenched, she squeezed the heart inside his breast and made a fist. With a quick tug and a ripping sound, she pulled the heart out and laid it beside his head. She took his tongue and pulled it out and with an iron blade, cut it from the bottom upwards. Whispering over and over the spell aloud, she gathered the things she needed from his corpse; the heart, the tongue, the fingernail from his right hand’s pointer, and an eye, making sure the latter still had muscle and tissue attached. She carefully put the items in a bag made of calfskin leather that matched her garb and stood over his body. Putting the strap over her shoulder and securing the waistline, she made sure what she needed from him would not be lost, like he was to her at this moment.
For the first time in her life she felt cold, like a chill had set inside her bones and an icy will had resolved within her. She clenched her fists at her side and raised them upward to the sky, feeling the boiling rage within her swell up as she did so. The torrent of fire in her soul blending without flaw with the frozen blood in her veins gave her the feeling of a Banshee in a craze, ready for battle with an army of Berserks at her side against those who had made a blood enemy of her that night. Einar she loved, she loved him dearly, yet now his empty corpse lay at her feet as she stood in his blood. Tilting her head to the stars, she cried out with a wail of anguish and hopelessness. Her own life threatened to flee from the sorrow she harbored inside as she gathered her thoughts together before calling out to the Goddess Hel.
“Mother of All who come before you, though be they dead and silent, you hear them coming upon the wings of a moth, drawn to your embrace as you reject none who seek your refuge.” Dima’s skin began to crawl as she had caught the eye of the Swamp Wolf’s sister, who’s table is set with hunger and thirst, and whose cold touch is the dripping poison of disparity.
“Mother of Death! With your never-ending embrace, take now this man, this offering of flesh and bone, this hero who stood alone against many, this warrior of warriors. Fallen he has to the wounds of many, may he hunger and thirst in your hall!”
She knelt down beside Egil and put a cold hand on his hands that were laid across his breast. Tears began to flow once more as her resolve began to waiver, seeing his lifeless body on the ground in a pool of blood. Squeezing her closed eyes even more to push the tears away, she said to him,
“Einar, my love, my master, go now to the places far from the ways walked by the living. Go now to greet the hounds at the head of the bridge Helgrindi. Your hostess awaits your arrival, for I have sent her word of your coming and she has made a room ready for you. Do not wander far from her table, for it is there that I will call upon you to come back to me, so as one we may sit again at the tables of our ancestors!”
“Egil, my Einar,” she called out again, this time her voice taking on an ethereal aspect and chilling the air around her, “go, and though you may be covered with snow and left in the cold amongst the wolves and trolls, hold these words close to the innermost part of who you are. Remember me when I call to you from beyond, and say the words…”
She again knelt down and with her lips next to his ear, she spoke something only he could hear. From the corner of her vision, a shadow had caught her attention and she rolled across his body and effortlessly stood up, in one motion, and almost as if she herself was a shadow amongst the trees. It was then that she noticed the quick movement of the Dark Goddess and the hand around her throat. It made no difference that her feet were off the ground as the two of them were higher than the tops of the trees. Her eyes were bulging, almost out of their sockets, and no air was passing to her breast as she fought to control what she could, and that, she had learned from Egil, was her mind.
Almost immediately her body went numb and flew like a doll tossed up in a storm. Her mind was safe, and though her body was being broken by the enraged goddess, she went deeper into herself to hide from her foe. Part of her was screaming from the pain and felt as if on the verge of collapse, while deep within the pools of the mind she found the center of the storm. It was not until what seemed to her to be hours or days, or seasons or lifetimes, did she find herself in water and barely able to move. The blood in her veins felt so sluggish and her lungs had filled with ice. Eyes open yet still blind, she had the sense that this prison she had awoken to was that of ice, hard and unbending, like a tomb in the Northlands beyond the trees where none were said to survive.
She retreated back into her mind. The thoughts of how she became trapped in ice and the idea of Death grabbing ahold of her throat to choke the life from her body did nothing to comfort her. Drawing from the last of her mental stamina, she enclosed herself even deeper within the pools of her mind, ever drifting away in a sea of memories and dreams, knowing there to be a task unfinished but unclear as to what that was. “Sleep, my darling, sleep.”
She could see herself standing there but knew she could not interact. Nothing she could say would be heard, and nothing she did would be seen by her other self. This is a dream. She knew it was, as her voice was the voice in one’s head and not one heard by the ear. She then noticed that she was watching herself watch her other self from a distance, and then again that self too, was watching another doing the same. It was much like seeing a reflection within a reflection and always seeing it further and further away. That is how she felt, seeing herself become less and less and further and further away, lost in a dream that none knew she was in. Forgotten, alone, cold and entombed, the irony was not lost on her. She knew the Goddess would not find it fitting to be left out of the knowledge of what she had whispered and would not react kindly, but never could she have ever thought of a punishment such as this. The mind is a vast thing, deep and dark, and she had stared into the depths for too long and lost her hold on what was real, as this was her new reality now, the world of the mind, a world of terrors.
Wearily, Egil walked back to the trees where he had made camp however-long-ago and found his beddings. Not much to look at, but then again neither was he at that moment. He took the cloak of calfskins and shook it out, saw something crawl away as he did and shook it out again. His body was weak and needed nourishment, and he had thought about searching for what escaped but figured the effort would not be worth the little gain from such creatures.
Strangely there was no real craving for blood and flesh, at least not that of a sacrifice, but more of a craving for meat. He also felt less like he was watching himself act and more the actor now. With so many memories coming back and with them the pain of death and those affected by it, he picked up a stick began to carve into it some runes. Chanting his meaning and purpose of each rune he carved, he looked to the East and raised his hands holding the tine in his right hand.
Calling to the goddess of the Eastern Sky, he spoke, “Great goddess of the East, Mother of Renewal, see me now, a man upon Midgard who has been pulled back from Hel’s grasp and returned amongst men.”
Grabbing the tine now with both hands stretched above his head, he closed his eyes and continued. “Though mind and body were separated, peeled apart and lifeless, bound now again are they, and I stand here alive before you. Grant me your blessings of warmth and life and cast your loving hand upon me.
“With this blood I bless these runes,” he said as he cut his skin on his breast from left to right in a downward stroke, causing a wound with a gentle yet steady flow of blood spilling out. He set down the knife and put his hand over the wound to bloody his palm. Gripping the tine with the bloody hand where he had carved his spell, letting the blood color the engraved wood, he finished his sacrifice by tracing the Day to his east and spitting on the ground.
“May we go in troth to our ends.” These last words spoken, he took nine steps backwards and turned around. He grabbed some of the herbs and bast he had saved on his journey to this point and chewed them to a paste. Using this salve on his breast, he could not help but notice the scarring on his navel. The wound reminding him of his death, he thought of her pain that night, so vivid and clear and as much so was the agony.
Dima and Egil had talked about some of the things they had heard from a waywont from the Northern regions to the west. He had come across the traveler on the way between their homestead and the strand, about half a day’s walk from where the Thing took place twice a year. The old waywont had stories and news, so Egil had invited him to be his guest for a few nights.
Allowing the old man to warm by the hearth in the middle of the room, Dima had poured him a horn of mead from the last of the winter’s brew. The sacrifice to Ostera had been only given two nights before the old man showed up, so there was still some meat from the feast as well. Everything was as it should have been, with their obligation of hospitality not lacking, and the guest showing proper care to his hosts, that none of them had heard the approaching horsemen.
The first threatening sound to alarm them was the gust of wind through the hearth, then the log burning within popped with the sound of sizzling sap, and in this Egil took the sign. Hushing the old man and motioning Dima to move to the sleeping room, he took the sword from the decorated sheath and held it with both hands and brought the flat of the blade to his forehead. Calling to his ancestors for swiftness of body and mind, he kissed the blade and pointed it down. He closed his eyes and imagined a strong wind blowing from himself as if he were himself the Eagle who sits upon the gates. The boards on the few windows rattled violently and the fire in the hearth was close to going to embers when Egil began to hum.
All light went out and the room was suddenly cloaked in darkness. The old man surprisingly did not make a sound or even reach for anything to sturdy himself with, Egil noted. Odd that the stranger was not alarmed at all by this. Though completely dark, sight was not an issue for Egil as he stepped outside himself into the shadow. The shadow was tied to the world, the shadow was of the world, and the shadow was because of the world, and knowing where to step into it left the vail open to return. Practiced in the craft of shadowstepping, Egil was chanting the opening of the vail and stepping through into darkness, seeking out those who wished to do them harm that night.
The chill of the shaded side hit him instantly, though time seemed a lost concept. Keeping focused on his task, Egil kept his mouth moving and tongue flickering aloud so he could hear himself and keep the still silence at bay. Not doing so would twist his mind and the struggle to find one’s way back is less than that of finding warmth in an old hag’s heart.
With his hearing keeping him focused, he closed his eyes to open his mind, since in the shadow, the eye holds no sight. His rage was a consuming flame in search of something to burn and burn hot it would. As if pulling sparks from his feet and sending them up through his legs, Egil let the rage in his gut catch aflame. With this consuming rage welling up within, two men were seen by the mind’s eye of Egil, the Flame Bearer, on the side of the hall, unsure how to handle the sudden storm that had come upon them as they grasped for iron. No trinket would save them this night, Egil thought, as he gathered the will of the fire within him and then sending it forth upon them, like pushing a stone from your breast but the stone weightless and propelled more like a war arrow sent to its mark and striking through to the fletching.
The men saw only a dark ball of burning death the second before it hit them and pulled all air from their breasts, leaving them panic-stricken and dead before their hair caught on fire. Spitting a curse on them as he passed them, he licked his right pointer-finger and flicked it in the direction of the burning flesh and they turned into ash with a high-pitched wail, becoming only more dust in the winds.
As Egil turned the corner back towards the front of the hall, he stood still and closed his mouth to stop all sound. Something was different, odd, like he suddenly became the prey in his own domain. He exhaled and became one with the darkness, letting his shape ephemerally become one with the shade, as he himself was the shadow. All the shadow touched, he now touched, all the shadow hated, he now hated, all the shadow was, he was becoming, but not all did he want to be all like the shadow, he had to resist the lure of being the shadow. Being the shadow chilled your senses and numbed you, Egil knew, and this was danger flirting with terror. But yet the pulling of the shade, the ease at which it could happen and the painless transition of becoming that which is inevitable for mortal men, the whispering shadow’s echo in the night.
Paralyzed and succumbed by his thoughts, Egil found he was motionless and not unwilling to move, yet not caring to. Still, calm, uncaring, in the shadow is rest, in the shadow I need not worry, in the shadow I am one with the night, I am the shade, I am the night, I am a whisper unspoken, I am the whisper unheard.
I see the night as she moves, he thought, seeing dark swathes within the pitch black of the shadow. She comes for me.
A quick but intense burning sensation went through his foot to his knee. I have no knee; I have no feeling, there is no…what? Whatever had happened in his mind was gone, but he knew it had something to do with…nothing. He sensed he was letting go of something he knew, something he lived with a long time, but could not remember what it was or if it was real or if it…it, wait, what? Let go of what? What would I hold on to that would make me feel despair if I let go of it? Despair? What am I feeling this way for, the shade does not feel? The shadow does not feel, the shadow does not…but I do. A burning sensation in the foot, again, was present in his thoughts. This time though, it struck an anger within him that began to burn, and the burn began deep within every bone in his body.
Such pain in every part of him he had never experienced before; from the flesh of his body to the beating of his heart; the idea of having an idea felt like hot iron bindings around the inside of his skull, while his hands were fettered with ribbons of razors twisted together and around themselves and his wrists, making indistinguishable the flesh from fetter. His feet found nothing firm beneath them and although he was held still, he felt as though he were falling and falling.
What is this that pulls me from the other side? Egil had a moment of clarity amidst the chaos and pain and a thought had formulated. Breathe! Pulling air that felt cold and heavy into his body, he choked as his throat closed and he stood there gasping for breath. Worse than the shock of jumping into the frozen lake when he was a youngling, Egil was almost at a loss of what to do. It feels like I’ve been ripped from the shadowy realm and back into Midgardr. By the Gates of Hel, what is this? Knowing he must regain control, he sought to lose it as he allowed the rage within, the Berserker rage, this wonderful gift from the Alfadir, to take over. Anger and catastrophic destruction of all within reach mixed with the desire to crush all who oppose blended into the beautiful song of death, heard by all who have experienced the joy in killing, the calm invincibility of battle-hardened warriors who fear not weapon nor death, fear it not because they are death in the flesh, the death bringers who do so with cool efficiency.
Egil’s flesh felt as though it were on fire, yet he was unaffected by it. His brain was silent though it received from every part of his body that pain was present and to the point of failure, but he would hear none of it. The battle must be won, and he was the only one to fight.
A strong, female voice spoke to him from a distance, yet he heard every word clearly like she was next to him in time. Einar, son of Herjan, I see you standing alone when you must, and as a hero you will be remembered amongst the many who sit at my Lords table. In his hall a place is prepared for you at the feast, and many who have come before you have seen your deeds and await your coming, but it is not this night. Valhol awaits to hear you sing your death song, much as I await to guide you there, but that will not be this night. Fight until none are left standing to oppose you, and as others see you fighting alone against your foes, what they do not see is you fighting as one with us, as we fight against those who wish to take your name as a trophy and your skull as a drinking horn. See us now, Look!
Egil could see that which he never thought possible. A score of shield maidens in all their splendor and glory stood around him, radiant and beautiful, powerful and deadly. It was then that he looked at himself and smiled. His flesh that felt as though it were seared from his bones was whole. His bones that had recently felt as if they too were set in the furnace were without injury. A tear in the shadow barrier was roughly the shape of himself and he knew then that he was pulled out of the shade like he had thought. He would have said it felt good to be right, but with a chuckle and half a smile, he knew that was far from how it felt. Looking around he saw the shieldmaiden who spoke to him and began to say to her that should they again meet in battle, he would fight alongside her against any foe, yet before he could finish, she was nothing but a streak of lightning amongst the many shooting upwards into the heavens.
Dima had found Egil raving like a mad man, stark naked, dancing in the darkness and full of the moon it seemed. She ran back inside the hall and grabbed a long coat for him. From what she had seen he appeared to be uninjured, and he took the coat brought to him. She was interested in hearing what happened to him that night the riders came and went, since it had been three nights ago.
After she watched him enter the shadow and disappear, the old waywont took her hand and pulled her back into the sleeping room and told her to watch over him and make sure nobody enters the room and disturbs him. She began to argue but saw that he was instantly asleep and obeyed his command. She slammed the bolt in the door shut and grabbed an iron pointed spear and stood watch. No windows gave chance for entry, so her sole focus was the door. The old man sat with his legs crossed and hands on his knees, quietly mumbling it seemed. The thought of him shifting had crossed her mind and she could not quite dismiss it.
A sudden scream of pain and the roar of a fire mixed in the night air, and she was not sure which she heard first, but it was short lived. He’s lost his way. Dima’s eyes flashed with concern as she knew the voice in her head was not her own. The whisper giving her warning was almost moaning with pain as most of what she said was incoherent. Giving in, he must not become one tonight…the darkness is not empty. Dima had no idea what that meant, but the darkness not being empty reminded her of when she had stepped into the shadow and became lost in the stillness between realms. How Egil had pulled her back was never revealed to her, and her shame of not wanting to move had never been fully let go, nor was the fact that Egil had risked his life going back in for her. She knew there was much not spoken on the topic of that night, and the idea that she felt eerily complacent adrift the shifting shades was beginning to sound like only a small part of the story.
As things quieted down, the old man still in a trance and Egil still nowhere to be seen, even her grave concern began to give way to weariness and she began to give in, cursing every time she woke startled and forcing her body to awaken, only to find that she was dreaming again and then the dream was all she knew of the rest of that night.
I run quickly through the thickened woods away from the house. Swiftly I run like the wind through the boughs, carrying the mighty carrion spirits above the snow and ice. I run swiftly and strongly, my speed lifting me over thorn and vine, and still I run. I find fear in my heavy breathing, a fear unknown to me, unbeknownst for whom and whence it came. I find that it is this fear that now drives me, as it drives me away from my home, away from the hearth and towards the fen and heath. I start to look behind me to see what it is that I am in fear of, and it is then that my heart freezes at once and I am powerless.
Dima had again lept from her beddings, still with spear in hand, much to the displeasure of the old waywont who again was awakened by her fright. Realizing where she was and that she was in the waking world, she let out a cry of rage at the fright she was in and that it haunted her dreams still. Two nights now that Egil had been gone, and she was robbed of her sleep and joy, and she was jumping at every shadow that danced on the wall from the fire in the hearth. Egil, from the shade that hides you from me, hear me! I call to thee from the realm of Men Living, and I bid thee hail! And welcome. From wind wrought ways and frozen foes, seek forth the way to me by the icy flows. By frost and hrim, Bilrost and him who holds the way, follow the maidens shield o’ Grey.
The thought had then occurred to her that during the beginning of the fight, as Egil had called the wind and stepped into the shade, that the old man showed no reaction. She turned to face the old waywont and reactively stepped back a step and raised the spear when she saw that the old fellow was right there when she turned, less than an arm’s length away.
“Through Helgrindi!” She cursed. “What are you doing?”
The old waywont put his fingertip on the point of the spear and pushed it down. Dima calmed enough and lowered the weapon the rest of the way, seeing not a shred of worry on the old face in front of her, but rather an assertive gesture to let her know he was in control, and she should listen.
“What are you…” Dima began to speak, but the old man simply raised his finger again to quiet her, and she shut her mouth, beginning to grind her teeth as she tightened her grip on the spear.
“Along the way,” the old man began, “through the eyes of a raven, I saw the day he stepped too far. He heard the silence and stillness within, and became sightless, stooped, and sinned.
“He listed to the voice of madness and knew it, knowing what would become of him if he were to stop his galdr song. A risk he’s taken before and managed to escape from unscathed, but this time his song was needed, as the shadow was not empty. He sensed the presence of another and held his breath to heighten his senses, but that was all it took to fetter him.”
The waywont was making sense, his eyes were clear, there was no sound of uncertainty, but how could he know what happened on the other side when she knew he never left her side that night. As if reading her thoughts, he continued.
“I followed him in, before you ask,” he said with his face towards the door, but eyebrow raised as if looking at her with the corner of her eye, trying to catch her reaction to what he just said. “I shifted, yes, and I had you stand guard over my body to keep you in place. You did not need to go in there at that time. You, my lady, have more to learn before facing that which hides in the shadow.”
He raised his right pointing finger and with it tapped on the center of her breastbone to signify her heart, saying, “You hold too much here, and it makes you heavy, makes you a plaything to those that sit at the door. You need to let that debt be paid, and then you can become.” With his eyes sinking into hers, he used his finger to gently tap on the side of her head behind the eye and said, “This knows no guilt, this knows what it sees, yet this is blind to the sight of that which lays beyond the tear.”
Dima was still silent when he took a seat next to the hearth and motioned for her to sit next to him. He continued once she was sitting down, “You know much, as he hides only what he must from you, but shows you more than he probably should with the burden of your shame.”
With this mention of shame, she turned her head to him and with a look of scorn, she began to mock what he said. “…More than he probably should with the…”
Quicker than her eyes registered the motion, her body went limp yet was still upright. Her eyes widened when her mouth shut hard enough that her teeth felt like they broke. Her chin was forced upwards so her eyes had to train down to see what she could of the old man, and when she finally saw him, she closed her eyes so tight she began to tear.
What she saw she saw still, but this time with sight that her eye did not give her. This was not an old man, not some waywont wandering the countryside in search of a place to bury his bones. This was a… She could not even complete the thought as it was so absurd. There was no way this could be like this, this is madness.
Her thoughts were racing as swiftly as her blood. Her head was released from whatever it was that held it in place. She had seen Egil do something similar before, where the mind of the person he held was stooped in poison, whilst the arms and legs were bound with… She looked first to her feet, which she could not see. Looking down was like looking into a cave with no light. Seeing nothing below her knees where there were her feet and the floor just moments ago, now seemed horrifyingly void as it was if she were hanged in the heavens of the night sky. She wanted to run or fight or anything other than hang like this but found that she could not even feel her body. She could, however, move her head enough to see her arms stretched out wide to the sides, and that the ribbons of silk were woven with thornvine, each of which was causing a painful wound that felt as if it were piercing the bone through. What is going on here! This cannot go on!
Old man! She screamed inside her head, but not a sound would form in her throat. She begged and pleaded behind her empty eyes, but she could not convey any thought to her tormentor. Pushed to the point of her endurance, she let go resistance and quit the fight she had in her. As soon as she had done this, the pain stopped and the old man was letting her down to the floor gently, holding her head so as to not hit the floor. Her sight had come back last of her senses, and she had seen the tender look of the waywont and thought this is not the face of my tormentor. She looked at her wrists, doubted her sight and had to rub them before she accepted they were fine. Her feet were there too, and this was too much for her to take in at once, and she began to sob. With her hands over her eyes, in a half crouching pose, she felt the old man wrap his arms around her to comfort her. She began to lash out with a series of cheap blows to his upper breast and jaw before she allowed him to calm her down again.
“Do not mock good advice, which is known to you by the sting in your pride.” The old man stated like it like the weather, which annoyed Dima, but she had checked herself and accepted it, letting it sting the good sense out of her pride.
“Why on this side of Helgrindi did you do that?” She managed to ask calmly. Her demeanor that of a calfling; wide-eyed and bushy tailed. A look so out of place on her that she earned a snicker from the old man.
He closed his eyes and let out a slow, controlled breath, raking his fingers through his greyed beard and then letting his arm rest at his side. He stood still, eyes still closed, and slowed his breathing until it was almost unnoticeable. To Dima it appeared as if he had fallen asleep standing up, only adding to her frustration of the last few nights. Yawning against her will, she took a step towards the old man and suddenly stopped. Feeling her skin bump up like a featherless chicken, she could almost feel the ribbons around her wrists again. Quickly, she stepped back to where she was, turned around and walked away.
The old man was in a dream, but not sleeping. He found it amusing that he felt the pulling at the moment she was expecting an answer, but his focus was quickly drawn to the fact that his coming to the Drommeverd was at hand. This world of dreams was shifty and could easily turn into a sleep terror. Shifting the way he had so suddenly was not too much of a surprise to him since Egil was still in the shadow and the old waywont could feel the pull from Egil’s presence.
Letting his voice rumble in his throat, the old man slowly made his way around. He could only see what was in front of him and his peripheral was blind, hence why he called it his Drommeverd. Much, too, like his dreams, there were no voices to hear with ears, but only with the mind’s senses could he know what was being said, although up to this point the only sound was his own. Wandering the darkness like this, he knew, could leave him lost for time unmeasured, since here time is neither relevant nor figurative. What would seem to one here to be three nights could be three seasons or three winters, or a handspan in the sky.
Keeping his humming on-going was a task not to be taken lightly, for sanity is a slippery thing in the dark, and the goings on here had driven many men to madness of more than the mind alone, but a sickness of the soul in the man. None had ever recovered from this sickness to the old man’s knowledge. Resisting the howl of a freezing wind, he squinted his eyes as tears naturally moved to the corner of his eyelids. Breathing in gasps as the wind whirled around him, never letting him get his back to the wind as if the wind was more than just the wind, but the essence of the dead coming to drive him from this place or welcome him to it, the old man saw a glow ahead and as he walked closer to it, it grew in intensity and soon he could see the shapes of men dressed for battle. As this glow had its own source not from here, the wind he felt from the swirling glow had a different kind of chill to it, one he could not describe. It was then that he realized he been brought to this place to witness what few have ever seen, and none in his lifetime has told the tale of an encounter such as this, as this was the crossroads of what people call myths and legends and the realm of men and mortality.
Before the waywont was Egil in the worst kind of pain, when the soul is crying out in anguish as the flesh it is bound to is disturbed. These glowing warriors were pulling Egil’s feet from a pool of tar that he seemed to have been wholly covered in. The old man could see the frightening sight of Egil’s soul fighting to stay in the tar yet still bound to his body. Glimpses of a man’s soul outside his body was something he did not see much, nor did he relish the sight of the wailing ethereal essence and the screaming pitch was that of an ironwood hagtaesa in the witching hour. Bumps on the old man’s skin were raised at this sight although he was covered in fur. In the Drommeverd he was a wolf, his body left behind in the world of the flesh and he roamed these dreams as his fylgja. Egil was well versed in his magick and could step into shadow with his body and do many things, but the reason the waywont had walked with him on the ways was to teach this man the Ulfgaldr, the Wolf Chants.
The glowing warriors had encircled Egil to shield him from the storming wind and the hail that was now falling. He had seemed to have pulled himself together and gained control of his parts and was standing on his own. One of the warriors was having words with him, but as he began to speak, they all lept into the winds and climbed until the glow could be seen no more.
By the tip of the Spear! Valkyrjur! The wolf hustled over to Egil who stood there in the storm with what almost looked like a smirking grin and nudged his hand. Looking down at the wolf, Egil spoke only four words.
“Show me the way.”
Short story by Bonehead83
Read 71 times
Written on 2022-08-08 at 13:14
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