Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Barren Council

I ran through the forest, into hidden glades. Behind me a spirit chased me. I dared not face its evil, for it chokes me and strangles me.

I am an old man now.

You see, there are men like me. My wife knows me like her own wrinkled hands, but she does not know me underneath. Back when the land worshiped old gods, I was among the strongest of them. My clan were of the mountain people, and we were the power of the winter sun, when it would not set. When the seed of hate and blood gripped our hearts, I lost myself in pits of blackness among my brother. And I would awake not long after, my mouth filled with blood.

My first kill was when I was only a boy.

Our clan fought the river people and brought home prisoners. For the honor of our fathers, the young took daggers and slaughtered our broken foes. But my hand was weak; I could not kill like this. So, I ran, deep into the forest.

None came after me. But the mountain spirits pursued me. Ancient warriors of old, hounded upon my heels like hungry dogs. I shut my eyes, blindly running between knotted root and jagged rock, whispering. Closed inside my chest, I was gripped by a knot. I couldn’t breathe, and soon after I entered a dark sleep.

When I awoke, the old gods were there, sitting by dying firelight. Clad in golden armor and hammered leather, they spoke naught, their heads hung low. At their center, the All-Father was there, gaunt and thin. His weak, leathery arms hardly filled his garb. Out of the darkness, a cat eye glowed as the golden moon in summer, watching me.

“Before the world was,” High Father spoke in a frail voice. “I sat among the highest thrones. I commanded celestial armies, the likes of which not mortal can comprehend.”

Odin weakly laughed. His chuckles overcame him, causing him to cough in fits. He heaved dryly, lurching forward, covering his mouth with skeletal hands. Beside him, the bearer of Mjรถlnir raised his eyes, which dazzled like storms.

“Your people worship me? Us?” he said, his voice tinged with offence. “I was not worshiped when I was cast to Midgard. But our father played a con and sentenced us to share his burden. I was not meant…”

The High-Father raised his arm and shook his head with disapproval.

“Do not chide him my son. He has been marked. There is nothing we can do to him now.”

Then, looking back to me, the All-Father held out his hand bearing divine magic, so bright that I could not look directly at him.

“Our time is nearly finished here. Let us remain in the cave of the ancients to think upon our sins. Yours, however, has only begun…”   

I awoke in the glen, bruised and broken. My family’s cries called out to me in the early morning. In shame, I returned to them.

I met the people of Orn later, much later than this. My body was covered in scars, my flesh was torn and my bones were brittle. But their way was the way of peace, and so I have profited thus. The heathen council I remember still in my dreams, but I do not let my mind tarry upon them. They are forgotten, the spirits of the mountain folk. And I have come down from the pines to the fjords, where I may see the sun rise and fall as it may. This is the way it should be.

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