Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Burning Willow's Tale
The hide curtain moved and a tall figure slipped into the room. The banked embers in the brazier glowed a dull red and cast a bit of light in the room. Burning Willow shook her head at the extravagance of these citadel dwellers. Though she tried to be as stealthy as possible the room's sole inhabitant must have heard her. On the raised sleeping platform the pile of furs stirred and a voice mumbled sleepily..."Willow is that you? Did the Mothers let you go early? I thought they wanted you to rest under their care for two more days?" "Hush, they did not let me go, I let me go. I grew tired of lying around all day, and especially all night all alone, doing nothing. I missed the feel of being in your arms and making love to you." The figure on the bed sat up illuminating his bare torso. He sat watching silently while Burning Willow dropped her cloak and removed her clothing. The dim light cast shadows on her slim figure. He moved aside to make room for her and she crawled under the furs with him. They made love, starting off slowly and gently and then increasingly passionately. After they had both climaxed and lay together still entwined the man asked her how she felt. "Fine replied," Burning Willow, "But I want to tell you what happened to us." "Shouldn't you sleep now and rest some more after what you've been through?" he asked. "I will rest but first I want to tell you what happened." He raised himself up on one elbow and gave her his full attention. She raised herself on one elbow as well letting her long red hair flow over her breasts. "You know of course," she started, "that the time had come for the prophesized one to be born..."
Well all the preparations had been made. Every Mother who could be spared had agreed to assist in whatever fashion they could. Hallelujah Harnsdottir had temporarily severed her ties to her dark goddess so that she could enter the sacred birthing chamber. The chamber and all the participants had been purified and all was ready. As you well know the citadel guard and all the hawk riders where out in force guarding the area around the citadel and the birthing chamber. What you may not know is that Blueface had asked those of us who were friends of Hallelujah's to lend our assistance as well. He told us that he feared interference in the birth from the Moon worshippers and he wanted us to act as a sort of spiritual guard. We all agreed to lend our aid in whatever fashion we could. Blueface taught us some sacred chants that would heighten our perceptions of the secret world. He also provided us with some sacred herbs that enabled us to walk in both worlds at once. We stripped off all of our worldly shackles and Blueface painted us with sacred designs to armour and clothe us. We danced garbed only in our sacred designs around a large bonfire lit to keep us warm and set as close as possible to the mouth of the birthing chamber but not so close that we would risk polluting it. We lost track of the time while the Mothers drummed and sang to scare the evil spirits away. We had been chanting and circling the fire for an unknown time when all the dogs in Elkoi howled out a welcome to the Dog Boy. Suddenly a red beam of light descended to the ground from the direction of the Red Moon. It entered the birthing chamber and we heard a loud scream.
It wasn't until later that I learned what had happened inside the chamber. The birth was taking a long time as the baby was very large and very reluctant to leave its warm nest. Finally, after a long struggle the baby was out and the dogs howled their greeting. But before he could be named and his cord cut a dark, cloaked figure appeared out of thin air and brandishing a black stone blade severed the cord! At the same time the red beam entered the chamber and bathed the room with its crimson glow. The baby's spirit, without the protection of having been named and welcomed to the tribe was torn from his body and whisked away into the sky. Hallelujah let out a mighty roar and grabbed a hold of his tiny ankle. Her spirit was torn out of her body as well and soared after the baby. Blueface attacked the figure with magic but it disappeared as it had arrived.
Outside meanwhile we saw the baby soaring up into the sky towing Hallelujah along behind her up into the sky. Svart grabbed Hallelujah's ankle and soared off into the sky as well. One by one we all grabbed hold of the lowest person on the chain and were pulled up into the sky. All we could manage was to hold on as the baby twisted and soared through the sky. We experienced gut wrenching sensations of disorientation and our senses reeled as we left our mortal world. Suddenly Hallelujah cried out in loss as she lost her grip on the baby's ankle and we fell to the ground.
We lay stunned awhile by the impact and then as we slowly gathered our wits about us first Bjorn and then the rest of us realized that we were now clad in the bodies of hunting dogs. All of us were black except myself who was grey. We lay in a land of gentle rolling hills where all the plants were covered by fruits and berries. Animals both familiar and unknown were everywhere and they were of every colour and hue and many were covered in feathers and furs. I realized that we were in the Green Age before Death came and that somehow we had been transported to the Other World. Hallelujah quickly scented something she knew to be her baby, transformed into a puppy like the rest of us, and we all took off to track it. We had been tracking the baby for quite a when we came across a large Squirrel who greeted us and quickly seemed to realize that we were not as we appeared. He seemed familiar to us and it didn't take us long to realize that he was the Trickster! I should have warned my companions but something kept me from speaking what I knew unless I was asked directly. He traveled alongside us to "Watch the fun", as he put it.
Finally we tracked the scent to a pack of Red Dogs gathered around a bush. Beneath the bush was the puppy and a red bitch trying to get it to suckle. The puppy was doing its best to resist the red bitch but looked to be weakening. Hallelujah charged the dogs and leapt over them. The rest of us rushed in too and although we could not use violence we were able to force the Red Dogs away from the puppy so that it could nurse from his true mother. It was apparent to us that the Red Dogs were Lunar spirit travelers who were trying to get Puppy to divert from the true path of Brother Dog so that once he was back in his body he would favour the Lunars.
Then the sun fell from the sky and the world was cast into darkness. The plants started dying and animals began to shove and struggles to get at the remaining plants. This went on for some time until we heard a great voice roaring "Come!" The puppy headed off in that direction and we all followed along behind. We finally arrived at a great bowl where we saw more animals than we could count. We all saw animals we had seen before as well as ones no one had ever seen. All the animals appeared different as their colours were different (usually brighter or more colourful) than the ones we're familiar with, or they had feathers, scales or fur that they no longer have. At the centre of the bowl was a large rock on top of which was perched an enormous saber-toothed tiger. The animals were all alarmed and scared and wanted to know what they could eat. Tiger explained to the animals that in the Wild Mother's absence he had gathered them there and asks them if anyone had any suggestions as to what they should do about the food problem. Many suggestions were made but no one could agree on what they should do. Finally Weasel spoke, once, twice and three times and was finally heard. He suggested that some animals eat other animals instead of plants. All the animals argued loudly about this but finally Tiger got them to agree to do this and made all the animals vote. They voted to agree with this and then Tiger asked them to stand on one side of the clearing or another depending on what they were going to eat. They all decided to follow one way or the other, except for Bear and Raccoon who couldn't make up their minds and Tiger said they could eat both. Then Votank himself appeared and when asked by Tiger what he would choose to eat he told the assembled animals that, "He would eat what ever he choose to!" The Red Dogs were there and tried to get the puppy to choose to be a plant eater. Eloquent speeches by his mother, Svart and most of the others made him decide to eat meat.
Then we wandered hungry for quite a while until we met up with Wolf and seven Red Wolves. They were all fat and sleek and they offered to show Puppy where they got their food from. They showed us a pile of dead animals in a cave and tried hard to persuade Puppy to eat from them. We had to collect some food from outside the cave and Svart made a plea for eating fresh kills instead of carrion that persuaded Puppy to follow the true path.
Having fed to our satisfaction we traveled on. We were passing through some hills when we spotted two glowing figures coming accompanied by Squirrel. They came closer and asked in one voice whether Puppy (who was now a young dog) would be their friend or their prey. Puppy wanted to join them but we didn't know which was the true Foundchild. Squirrel said that he didn't know either. They both called themselves Hunter but we suspected from the presence of the Red Dogs on a nearby hillside that one of them was a fraud. We decided to test them. Svart moved up to sniff one of them and got his snout burned for his problems. He said the one on the left smelled like "fire and wilderness". Then Durnfal smelled the one on the right and he smelled the same (and he burned himself as well!) We then asked them to hunt and kill something to prove that they were Hunter. They asked what they should hunt and Svart suggested that they hunt the Red Dogs. Well, the Red Dogs ran off but the Hunters killed two of them and skinned the bodies. Both used the Peaceful Cut but the one on the left seemed more adept than the one on the right. Then Bjorn asked them how they decided what animals were proper to hunt. The one on the right said, "The names of the animals that may be hunted have been handed down to us in oral tradition since time began." The one on the left answered, "By the lack of light in their eyes." By this we knew the one on the left to be Foundchild and we told Puppy that he could join him. The one on the right dropped his glow and we saw that he was a foreign Hunter god armed with a bow. He smiled and vanished as did Foundchild after Puppy and he exchanged vows of friendship and loyalty.
Then as we traveled along with Puppy who was an adult by now we came across a dead God. There was a pool of blood under him and the Red Dogs guarded the pool keeping all the animals who wanted to drink from the blood away. After much discussion and some reluctance on Hallelujah's part we attacked the Red Dogs and after a short battle in which only Hallelujah and Durnfal were wounded we drove them off. We drank of the blood and all of our wounds were healed. We all received some sort of physical or spiritual benefit from drinking the blood. We tried to look at the dead God's face but we couldn't look on his visage although he was dead.
By this time we were sick of the Spirit World and we were ready to return to Elkoi. I believe we would have been stuck there, endlessly reliving the life of Brother Dog except that Blueface appeared and showed us the way home. When we returned to our bodies he forced us to eat an antidote to the poison he had given us and we all learned the name Hallelujah had given her son, Belintar Fatesson.
Blueface told us that the mysterious interloper had disappeared as he(?) had appeared. We later learned that the interloper had also snuck into the citadel and stolen the black sweater we had taken from the Scimitar of Yanafal Tarnils' body from Hallelujah's room. One of the guards swore that he saw a giant moth bearing two riders flying off in the direction of Elkoi that night. We asked Fresser who he thought the strange figure was and he told us that it must have been a Blue Moon assassin troll. The sweater the Scimitar had worn was a special gift of the Emperor and had magical properties. The priestess must have been sent to interfere in the birth and steal the sweater. Fresser suggested killing us all had probably been on the assassin's agenda as well but interfering with the birth proved more important.
Burning Willow fell silent and thought about what had transpired. The man shook his head in wonder and said, "I am glad that you are back safe and sound for I would sorely miss you if you had not returned". He embraced her and stroked her back until she fell asleep. Then he fell asleep as well.
Return to the Chronicles of the North Part 4
May 04, 2000
Last updated October 07, 2016
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