Written on February 14, 2014
The proximity of the Grendel and the odd circumstances made her hair stand on end. He was very clearly confused, and would likely come back to his senses in time to make a meal of her. Quick as lightning, she made a mad dash for the boulder. It was immensely heavy, yet gave just enough for her to slip out into the dark forest. The night sounds hit her in a wave of confusion: Crickets chirping, night owls hunting, and other larger predators prowling in the underbrush.
None of it mattered: She ran. Only once did she look back, and there was nothing there but the whispering wind and rattling branches. Her feet were scratched and blistered before long, and every step seemed to wreak havoc. Twice she stumbled, and once a thorn bush tore away at her face. Shortly after, something hit her. Hard.
She awoke to the familiar creaking of the windmill. As her eyes adjusted, she saw Johmas hovering above her in the bright light of midday. She ached, and discovered that her feet were wrapped in bandages.
“Hush,” Johmas soothed her. “We found you in the forest this morning. Veerin told me of your quarrel, but it was foolish of you to go rushing off. You are safe now.”
He brought a cup of tea to her lips, but she pushed it away. “What happened?”
Her grandfather paused for a moment before answering, “Grendels, Ravella. A group of them were in the forest, and they injured you. Some of the hunters heard a commotion, and they managed to fight them off to bring you back here. Best not to dwell on it, though. You need your rest, and your tea.”
She took a sip, letting the warmness heal her parched throat. Was it all just a nightmare, then? Was Hux just part of her strange dream world, never to be seen again? “Grandfather, do you know what ‘Midari’ means?”
“Midari?” he looked out the window for a moment, scratching his chin. “I seem to recall a myth my mother told me many moons ago with a Norn of that name. It was said that our land was once ruled by something else; something foreign. This Norn, named Midari, was the only one of her kind who could summon this strange ruler. The details vary widely, as this is an old myth of our ancestors. Some say there is some truth to it, but I never understood how Norns could be ruled by anything but other Norns. We are intelligent and resourceful, Ravella.”
“But this Midari,” she urged, “Who was she?”
“It is unclear, regrettably. The myth is so old that none know which line this Midari belongs to. Besides, the oddest part of the myth is what the ruler actually materialized as,” Johmas chuckled to himself. “Are you ready for a laugh? A hand, Ravella. Most say it had great power, but only this Midari Norn could summon the ruler. The myth is so ancient, though, that none know of the last time this hand was seen. Or, perhaps the myth is symbolic of the power that rests in our hands. I only remember those few details. The rest has been lost to the ages.”
She set aside her cup, the tea still precariously close to spilling over the edges. There was something vaguely familiar about the myth, as if she had heard it long ago. “A hand?” she tested the idea on her tongue as she thought of it.
“A mere myth,” her grandfather smiled, lifting the tea. “Best drink your tea.”
The one sip was enough. “Not today. I feel tired enough to sleep for days.” Before Johmas could answer, she closed her eyes and tried to see nothing but the darkness. It all reminded her of the pressing darkness of the forest, though, and suddenly she was back there. Back with all of the shadows, and with something else. Out of a dark mist, a Grendel’s face materialized in a hideous show of teeth.
She found herself on the floor, woken from the nightmare. The creaking windmill let her know where she was, but it was difficult to place the time. Perhaps just after sunset, or just before the break of dawn. It was of no matter to her: Her heart thumped in her chest to an erratic rhythm that would never drift her off to sleep.
Johmas was nowhere to be seen, although he often tended to the other Norns at all hours of night and day. She breathed heavily, hoping to calm her heart and the tide of fear that came from the dream. Scolding herself for avoiding the tea, she gingerly rose to her feet. They were sore, but her grandfather’s healing ointments made it bearable to put some weight on them.
A gust of wind flapped the curtains of the window overlooking the pastures. She glanced in the direction, and nearly fell backwards. It was as if a ghastly painting were hanging there instead, with the unmistakable face of a Grendel. Staring. Growling.