This is a snippet from a book I began writing long ago based on one of my past-life personalities, a Shaman by the name of Waridaz. It is the tale of the last 52 days of his life at a point in northern European history when paganism was losing its hold in favour of the new religion, Christianity. I’ve been reading over the material this morning and thought this would make an entertaining read as a short blog post. I may post further chapters and drafts of the story just to give it some air. Let me know what you think! 🙂
Chapter Seven: The Return of King Yaldo
From across the market crowd his eyes met another’s, and for some moments both men stood staring at the other. Recognition lay waking in the air between them casting a net across the sea of people, as if in attendance the people had borne witness to a fateful encounter that was to be short lived, but waited upon as if for an eternity. The space around the Goði had tightened, and his gaze was being engulfed by the undulations of passing people’s heads as they went about their daily business, lugging carts, holding children, or baskets and caskets full of wares and provisions, bartering their own produce in exchange for fine fabrics, leathers, livestock and other goods produced by neighbouring villages and wandering tradesmen. A cacophony of whistling, bleating and hollering had arisen from a shepherd herding his sheep through the crowd which parted and closed around him and his animals again as he sailed across to an open pen which served as an island for other shepherds in the middle of the ample market square, and where his sheep and other livestock would be sold to the highest bidder.
Schools of young children darted between and beneath market stands and legs squealing and giggling with excitement; chasing irritable flapping geese who honking and spitting tacked away from brown and black-haired dogs that stood barking at both. All creating whirlpools of confusion amongst the traders and village folk.
The Goði could scarce believe his eyes. The face who had stopped to look at him resembled that of a mighty warrior who had faced death in honour of his own life, and had once been so familiar to him as to be that of his own kin, Arag. But resemblance was masked by a face that was much aged and become sullen and coloured with the warming glow of the divine magical brew. The eyes bore no malice nor wild fighting spirit, but were lifeless and glazed and untouched by the spark of madness. The robust jaw line and well fed flesh of his cheeks were instead emaciated and hidden beneath a matted greying beard that belonged to a man with dark tousled hair, not the flame red tendrils that had made Arag appear so distinctive and dangerous. The stance of the man who regarded him with almost insubordinate curiosity was not that of a man who would go charging into battle screaming a death cry that would turn men’s blood into acid fear. Nor was his attire that of noble warrior, but that of a man who wore his entire life about his shoulders. A man who did not undress to sleep nor dream, nor bathe; and whose lips babbled silently in inebriated confusion.
Recognition faded and the man moved on disappearing into the anonymity of the morning crowd; a mere shadow of a glittering memory. Hope sunk into the depths of his heart like a lost treasure returning to its fathomless grave.
The Goði closed his eyes for a moment visualising the three-pronged form of the dragon-rune and allowed that to be his soothing balm, taking in a deep breath to steady his inner turmoil. Ek Erilaz raukr sawla – he uttered quietly to himself.
Du ruakre sín, hærtu Goði – replied another voice – Ekr Såra.
Wolfstooth opened his eyes, and turned his head to see a young girl standing beside him. Hå Såra – he answered and gently nodded his head in greeting. She smiled and took his hand clasping it within her own small fingers. Expertly she navigated him through the crowd and lead him to a stone building where inside sat an old man at a table preparing root vegetables for a large cooking pot which hung simmering over a ready fire.
Papa, we have a guest – announced the girl named Såra, who had spoken in Wolfstooth’s native tongue. The old man put down his blade and the turnip he was peeling and stood up to greet his grand-daughter and her guest, wiping his hands on his hose before pulling up a third stool and inviting the newcomer to sit with them.
Såra, take the man’s cloak and bring him some bread and a flask of my hot berry ale to drink. Will you not rest your staff and join us? – Wolfstooth lay his black staff to rest on the flagstone floor, and unbuckled the amber studded clasp that fastened his cloak, he draped the blanket of heavy blue wool across the young girl’s outstretched arms. He then hoisted off his pouch of provisions and belongings, placing it on the floor beside him. Moving down to his waist line he unfastened the sturdy leather belt that held the fur jerkin to his body, and divesting himself of the heavy coat he placed it on the stool to provide comfort against the hard wooden seat.
Wolfstooth sat himself down with his body upright, and for a moment savoured the comfort of the four walls and warmth and the mouth-watering smells emanating from the bubbling pot over the roaring fire. The girl handed him a platter with a chunk of bread and a piece of hard cheese typical of the mountain regions. She sat and watched him as he ate, resting one arm on the table beside her, and hunching her legs up inside her long layered skirt to let her feet perch on the bottom wrung of the hidden stool, so that she appeared even smaller.
Her face was small and cat-like with bright inquisitive eyes that changed from violet to deep blue, depending on how the flickering light of the fire caught them. Her light streaked hair had been pulled back into a short braid that rested between the blades of a child’s narrow shoulders, which were clothed in fine red wool. From a long cord around her neck hung a silver pendant that had been fashioned into the shape of a cross studded with a single droplet of clear amber at its centre. The Goði’s eyes fixed on the shimmering pendant, then returned to his examination of the life within the confines of the small stone house.
You come here from far, I can tell, you speak our tongue. The tongue of the Maraad – The little girl’s voice lulled and lifted musically as she spoke the foreign words of the local people. Although the words were strange in her mouth, she spoke with relative fluency and seemed to assume that he would understand her.
The corners of the Goði’s mouth lifted slightly – You have travelled far yourself Såra.
The old man stretched out a hand and stroked his grandaughter’s head – Forgive me, I am Erku – the old man said in his native tongue. His gravelled voice marked the tenor of his years.
I thank you both for your hospitality. It has been a long time since I shared a meal with others.