All eyes turn to the door of the hall as the winter’s wind ushers in the old man.
There is another name he is known for. Though he is the Merkitä Muistiin, it is a title he wears uncomfortably.
He is Orpo.
The man, despite his age, is still as resilient as he was as a youth. Scars cross his body, and each one is a reminder that at one time this man was a warrior. Though his days of roaming and fighting are long past, no one doubts that if need be Orpo would be the first in battle with the axe in hand.
The old man walks, the hall is not crowded. It is still day, despite the fact it is Long Night. Making his way to the front, those in the hall bow in respect to Orpo. Though he does not think himself as a Merkitä Muistiin, the tribe does, and respect is given.
Sitting at the far end of the hall are two thrones. One is large, imposing, and covered in the pelts of creatures killed. One would think that the throne is not beautiful, but that would be wrong. The throne is carved and resembles a flowering tree. The branches weave and entwine forming the throne from which Børæn has ruled.
Next to this throne is a delicate one, smaller in size, but whose beauty is only out shown by the woman who sits upon.
Queen of the Wolf.
Chuckling to himself, Orpo reflects that it took one whose name means peace, to sooth the moody Børæn.
“I am happy that oaf of a boy put pride aside,” Orpo chuckles to himself.
“Something funny old friend?” Fríđr asks simply.
Her voice is of the spring, soft, gentle, and musical. It is a voice of a woman who seeks to understand and offers comfort. It is the counter to Børæn’s voice of rage. Together these two voices have weaved a song that has brought much to the People of the Wolf.
“Only your husband my dear. I still am not sure how you did not laugh when he fumbledthe words of his love to you,” Orpo laughs.
‘’If I wanted to marry a poet, I would have. Instead I married a man honest with who he is,” the queen looks at the old man and smiles..
“You asked to see me, my Queen. I am here,” Orpo simply states.
“Yes, dear friend. Come sit with me.”
Standing the queen walks to a table and sits, as she does a servant brings two mugs of spiced wine. Orpo, sitting across from his queen, and with an audible sigh, rests.
Without any pretense, Fríđr speaks.
“I know today is an important day in this tribe’s lore. It is the day that Børæn returned and avenged the wrongs. It is the day that he became king, and it is the day that set forth the path that would bring my headstrong, fierce, but loving wolf into my life.”
“You speak truly my Queen. This is the day,” Orpo says simply.
“Børæn has told me that this day marks something else, something that truly changed him, and set him on his path of being a warrior-priest. He told me for that on this day he saw his true path, and accepted his rôle in this life.”
“Yes my Queen, this is that day,” Orpo answers knowing what is to be asked next.
“But what was this event? Børæn tries to tell me, but in his typical way. ‘I met Móðir, I drank from a cup, and I saw a vision.’ What is that? That is not a story, it is a list of chores!”
Composing herself, and laughing Fríđr sighs. “Not even in the room and that man makes me raise my voice.”
Silence fills the room as Orpo looks at his Queen. His thoughts race with memories of that time. He knows that was a time of great darkness. It was a time that no one was left unchanged. It was a time of evil and darkness.
Yet, it was a time when heroes, answering the call of the Old Gods, joined together to save the world.
“My Queen,” whispers Orpo. “The event that truly set the course Børæn now walks was a vision. It was a vision given to him by the Móðir…”
“In your language my Queen she is Mother.”
“Your husband received a vision. It was a terrible vision…”
Slowly, my vision begins to collapse in a haze and narrows to a tunnel. I see Mother walk back to her chair and sit. I feel Orpo guide me next to her, and I am placed in a chair as well. She places her hand on my arm.
It feels as solid as rock and as heavy as a mountain.
“Walk with me…” she says in a commanding voice. The sound echoes in my ears as if I am hearing her speak at the mouth of a cave and you are deep within it. Now, even the small tunnel of vision, the fire, the surrounding vista, it all narrows into blurred vision.
“Walk with me…” I hear and I feel as heavy as stone, yet as light as a feather. A blink feels like a thousand heartbeats and when I open my eyes, I can see clearly… into Hell.
The ground beneath me is mud, blasted earth, a pile of stench and garbage. Pitiful creatures, bound in chains, walk towards a huge, dark pit. It is the size of a village. The sides of this pit resemble an inside-out corkscrew. These thin, hunched over creatures walk to the edge and down the corkscrew trail. Others are climbing out, hold stones or pulling carts with them. Short, stocky figures, dressed in leather and metal, crack whips, swing clubs and truncheons, or use boots to push the creatures onwards.
“Behold… our past.” says Mother and indeed, those pitiful creatures are human! I see in the distance, small huts that resemble the huts and tents of my people, but these huts are not suitable for even the lowest of any of the tribes. Small figures, children, are tied to those huts, much like we would tie a cur. I see women, their ribs sticking out of their skin, tending to the children and small fires before the huts. It looks as if they are preparing the lowest of meals.
I move then, suddenly, over the pit and it spirals down into the darkness. Just barely within sight, I see an edifice built into the side of the pit, seeming to vanish into the ground. As I get closer, I realize that it is built into the ground, that I am an exposed portion of an underground structure. There are obscene creatures and figures standing there, some of which send a chill through my body, almost as if I recognize them… I move past them, into the tunnels of the structure… tunnels whose walls seem to undulate. The humans, and elves that I see, and even many littlelings, all show fear!
I exit the tunnels into a huge chamber, whose center is dominated by a hulking structure that screams of its alien nature. It is an affront to my eyes and yet I cannot look away. There are smaller structures surrounding the center, and within, humans and others are screaming in pain. Their bodies are lashed to what look like altars and their life-blood is spilled out into troughs that lead to a crystal that shines a purple-green light. This crystal reflects a beam into the center structure. I see more beams from many more surrounding altars.
“The blood sacrifices. This is where they draw their power and how they used us.” Mother intones and I fly on… closer to the center.
There are areas of darkness moving around the center and the wrongness of them shakes me, threatening to break the vision. I feel the heavy grip of Mother tighten and you slowly rise away from them and to a vantage where I see into the center of the structure, where an enormous crystal collects the various beams and shapes it into one central shaft of light that casts downwards. Below, beneath the beam. I see THEM! The Dark Ones – a similar sight to what I saw in the strange places beneath the ruined monastery where I found myself as a youth.
“Always in three, they come and they work their power. One alone is strong, two together are immense, but three… it is in three that they find their expression of powerfully realized.” Mother says.
“They are not from here, Børæn. They are invaders, come to plunder our lands. The power you see is how they come and go from the place they are birthed from. They take from this place to their own place. They suck us dry so that they might be powerful in their own place. Their anchors, their links of chain through the power they steal from our lives, that is the manner of their domination. That is how they bring the abominations and strange kind to our lands, and they take our treasure to their land, for their war that they fight there.”
I begin to rise now. I see the leather and metal clad ones scurrying about, working to expand the top of the central structure.
“The Dwarfs, they were the servants of the Dark Ones, created by those creatures to serve. The Dwarfs, they paid a terrible price for their own freedom and ours.” Mother’s voice intones.
I rise faster and faster now.
“The sacrifices we made, with the Elves from places far away, with the small ones, with the Dwarfs, they freed us from the shackles, but they did not defeat the Dark Ones. Always plotting, always planning, always looking to regain their grip on this place, and now the time has come again that we must fight them!”
I rise up out of the ground now, rising faster and faster through the sky and clouds.
I look at Mother and simply say: “Show me more so I can understand.”
“The Dark Ones … where there is one, there will be a second. Where there are two, there will be a third.” Mother replies. “Their names, we do not know.”
I cannot see her, but I feel her hand on my arm. As I pray to Meesha, I get the feeling Mother is looking at me again, appraising.
“The one you pray to, She is not of us or our ways, but I feel Her presence in you. Perhaps you are the one to be the bridge. Perhaps you will be able to make them understand.”
“For their cities and walls, their armies and knowledge, all of that will be as leaves in the wind before the Dark Ones unless we regain the ways of old.”
I am higher now, and the land spreads before you. I see the glint of water to the north and south, to the east and west. It is as if the entirety of the lands lie before you.
“When we overthrew the Dark Ones ages ago, with the elves, the littlelings, the Dwarfs, and others that legends speak of, humankind strode forth and took to the lands. They built, they grew, they… forgot. We, we did not. We knew that time would move on, that the door would reopen, that they would return.”
I am beginning to fly back towards the ground now, slowly, slowly, but speeding up.
“Age moved us much as it moves river and hill, rock and tree. I do not know all of the stories. I do not have all of the answers. I am but one Mother. The clans. The tribes. They have others. They must be called. They must share the knowledge. Their pieces will add to the whole.”
Faster and faster I fall, flying through clouds. The wind does not whip my face, but I know that I have great speed, faster than a diving hunting bird.
“You must seek our brothers and sisters. Go south. Go to the east of the Shining City that is soon to be wreathed in Darkness. Go to the mountains there and find our kin.”
Features on the ground start to resolve themselves. There is snow on the ground, on the hills and trees. A white blanket.
“Go south to the lands of swamp and forest, to the hills there and find our kin.”
I realize that a part of the ground looks like a village, a winter home… your tribe’s winter home!
“You will find more pieces there. We know that the Dark Ones are coming. We know that we once held the power, forged by Elf and Littleling, guided by Dwarf, to destroy the Dark Ones. Many warriors, women, men, shamen, mages – they all died, but the doors were closed. We made mistakes in forging that power, so the legends say, but we found the way and were able to throw off the shackles.”
I see that I am heading towards what looks like a bonfire, with figures standing or sitting around it… I see myself from above… I am falling very quickly towards them!
“This is what you will need to become, as our King… the wanderer who finds the ways of Old. Will you succeed? Only your heart and muscle, sinew and will, can decide that.”
Silence fills the hall. Those who are there stare unblinkingly at the Queen and Orpo. No one dared to move while Orpo shared the lore.
Reaching for her mug with a shaking hand, she quickly takes a deep drink. Calmer now, she places the mug down and grabs Orpo’s hand.
“How did my husband react to this? How did he handle the visions he received?” She questions quickly.
Orpo sighs, and looks at his Queen and smiles.
“My child you know the answers. Børæn picked himself off the ground and looked at me and the Mother not with fright, not with arrogance, but with strength. His first thought was the care of his tribe. His second thought was to gather hunters — which he did — so that he could ride into battle to slay what he saw.”
“Børæn, even though he did not know it then, became our king. Yes, he had a long path to follow, but at that moment, when a lesser man would have fleed from that tent, after seeing what he saw, Børæn stood, grabbed his weapons and smiled! ‘Well, then, if I am too be King, I must war. If I must war, then I need a pack. My faith in Meesha will guide me, the wolf will aid me, and my weapons… My weapons will kill my enemies.’”
“It was that moment my Queen, that I knew the boy had become a man. He left us so that he could be forged into something new, and when he returned he pulled us from the darkness,” Orpo says with pride.
“Børæn is not as complicated as many think he is. He is guided by three things. One, his devotion to Meesha. Two, the well being of his tribe. Three, his love for you.”
Standing up slowly, Orpo bows to Fríđr.
“Now my child, you know the lore. The lore is yours, and the lore lives within you.”
“Thank you,” Fríđr whispers.
“Bah! It is just lore. Important, yes, but just lore. Do not let it weigh on you. If you do, you will be walking hunched over like I do,” laughs Orpo as he turns to leave.
Fríđr drinks from her mug again reflecting on what she has learned.
Seeing the door open once more, she smiles as Børæn walks in.