Finals are just around the corner and I am just now feeling the pressure
I was hoping to finish my novel before the summer session begins, or at least send out my novelette, Mine.
Here’s a preview:
I remember hair, long and of gold, as if weaved by the gods. She was beautiful, my Toril. And she was mine. We were to live happily on the land I inherited from my father that was passed down from his forefathers. The land, though hard and barely yielding, would have been sufficient for us. It was a small plot on top of the hill, a small ways away from my village. We were to have children, many children, mostly sons. Maybe one daughter. I was going to show our sons how to hunt and work the land. Toril would teach our daughter to cook, sew, and tend the goats. We were to grow old together in that home and in the home that absorbed all our years together, we would die. But the gods have a sense of humor, or a love of tragedy. Sometimes, I wished I had left matters alone. There are things man was never meant to see, doors that were never meant to be opened. Oh, the things I have done cannot be undone.
I was still young the first time we met, not yet old enough to drink ale or go on my first raid. My first beard was but a dream away. She was from a village on the other side of the fjord. It was a lengthy trek, but their market fared better than ours did. Amongst the grey sky and the stench of manure, stood she. Her ragged clothes hung limply on her frame, encasing the twig of a girl. Although covered in mud, she could not hide the soft halo of golden hair and the eyes that were clear as a winter’s morn. She caught me staring at her from between the trading stalls and asked me my name. I gave it to her. I asked for hers.
“When you show me you are a real man, I’ll tell you,” she said before she ran off. I began to practice with shoddy spears made by the blacksmith’s apprentice. They were crooked and unbalanced, but I did not have enough money to buy a true weapon. Not yet. My hands were often covered in blisters, splinters, and rubbed raw enough to bleed. Sometimes I practiced in the dark by the light of the moon and the glow of my candle. I did well. Even my father seemed pleased with me, he gave me a crooked smile and a quick pat on the head. He never got to see me off for my first raid, the harvest had been getting scarcer with each passing year. It was probably for the best.
On my sixteenth summer, I went on my first raid. Our people’s focus was on battle and honor, yet there was no honor in what they did, what we did. I told her as much when I returned. I never wanted to go on one again. Long gone were the tales of victory from childhood, replaced by the gruesome reality. I would not fight, not for treasure or for glory. I could not murder another just to still my own hunger, or to fill my pockets with coin. I cringed from the gore and senseless deaths. That made me a coward, useless to my people and to the gods. For what is a man worth if not his sacrifice? Valhalla had no room for the weak and the spineless. The stench would cling to my family’s name until Ragnarøkkr scourged the Earth. I was not a man. I was a coward. I knew it. Both villages knew it. She knew it.
“Toril,” her breath felt warm against my lips seconds before she kissed me. She tasted of lingonberries and honey. I asked if she would be mine, and she said nodded. We wandered into the woods and consummated our love in sight of the gods.
We lay in the damp grass gazing up at the overcast sky above us. His hand intertwined with mine, and even with the pain, I had never felt so content. The pain would fade. At least that was what Gerjun told me. She told me many things, things my mother felt were not for a child. I was not a child anymore, Trygg helped me with that. I rested my head on his chest, and breathed in his scent: pine, sweat, and man.
“I love you,” he said. I replied with a kiss. The sun was disappearing behind the mountains, and shadows crept upon the land.
“Come before my father finds us.” I tossed him his clothing and wiggled in my dress.
“He would not find us here, would he?”
“I wouldn’t idle by.” He led me to the outskirts of my village where we gave our final goodbyes and quick, feathery kisses. “Do you love me Trygg?”
“Yes.” He whispered into my hair. “I will prove myself to your father. Will you wait for me until then?”
“Yes.” I sealed the promise with another kiss. “I will wait forever.”
The sun had long since set since I left Toril and by the time I reached my village it was nearly full dark. I ignored the not-so-quiet whispers as I walked through the salt and wind beaten homes and trudged up the path to the lonely hut on the hill. The winds were merciless this time of year and made its lean more pronounced. Ahead, the great hall was full of drunken laughter. The men had returned the day before from their last raid and still they celebrated. I meant to sneak by quietly until Viggo jumped into my path. The eight-wheeled aegishjalmur was still dark on his forehead. Its top three tridents disappeared into his blond hair while the bottom-most one extended down the bridge of his nose. How this supposed symbol granted him invincibility was beyond me. It never did me any good. Maybe the gods forsook me.
“And where were you?” His breath stank of ale and even full of warrior’s grace, his movements were sluggish. Here was the boy my father wished he had sired, for Viggo was strong, fearless and above all a fighter. He prodded my chest with a thick finger. “I asked you a question,” he said and shoved me to the ground. “While our brothers and sisters bled, where were you?” Spittle flew from his mouth in an angry burst. His heel slammed on my hand. I cried out. The music and singing had stopped. The men sat unmoving with their tankards spilling over the brim with ale and women on their laps under the soft glow of lantern lights. My hand grasped at the dirt and I flung it into his eyes. He staggered back, and roared with rage.
“You stupid little…” he growled. As I struggled to stand, he charged and we tumbled to the ground. I was pinned beneath him, this “man” who was two years my junior. I brought up my arms to shield my face. “I’m going to kill you!” His fists came down repeatedly, each time harder than before. With each strike, my dignity bled out.
“Boys!” someone yelled and then Viggo was off me. I peeked through my arms to see Raum lumbering over us, hammer in one hand and the other on Viggo’s collar. Burned spots of hair interrupted the white of his beard. Like my hut, he favored one side, leaning heavily on his right leg. “Leave the rage for the battlefield,” Raum said.
“Don’t touch me old man,” Viggo spat as he yanked himself away from Raum.
Raum lifted his hammer, “Would you like to meet the All-Father now?” Viggo backed away into the hall, which was still eerily quiet. “And you,” he turned to me. “Get off your ass.” I did so but slowly.
“Thank you,” I whispered. He slapped the back of my head. “Ow. Good to see you too, Raum.” I could feel weight of the village’s stare. Raum noticed too.
“I can’t always be there to save you.” He shoved a wrapped bundle into my hands. The soot of his hands rubbed off on my grass-smeared tunic.
“I know.” I said.
“Be a man!” He shouted and limped back to his smithy. My shoulders hunched at the stream of guffaws from the rows of houses. I clutched the bundle to my chest and quickened my pace.
Gunther was at the gate of my hut. The icy fist that clenched my heart lifted at the sight of my old friend, my only friend. “Hail, Gunther.” He nodded in response and stepped back as I opened the gate. He walked with me across the yard; flowering cabbage dominated the left side while the right was barren. There were large pieces missing from the last rows of cabbage. “No trouble tending the garden I see.” I ruffled his hair and we entered into the empty hut. I started a fire in the pit in the middle of the sparse room. Gunther sprawled himself on the floor and rested his white head on my lap. His nose bumped the package still in my hand. With shaking fingers, I folded back the piece of cloth and almost cried at the brown block and small loaf in my hand. I brought it up to my nose and inhaled the sweet and salty scent before starting to devour it. Gunther bleated in protest and I tore a chunk of the cheese for him. He nibbled it without question. When we finished the gjetost and bread, my hand dipped into the thick white hair of Gunther’s neck. If it weren’t for Raum, we would have starved long before the harvest. Gunther licked my fingers. “No more my friend.” Gathering the worn fur skins from the corner, I covered us both, and there we slept by the dying fire.
Usually my dreams were of the my father and I doing nothing in particular, maybe ripping up weeds, casting our nets into the ocean, or chasing Gunther and the other goats from the vegetable patches. Boring but normal. After the treacherous trip across the sea, every night my dreams were filled with burning houses and screams. Oh, how awful the screams were. Pale faces screaming in their foreign tongue, as the men were slaughtered where they stood and the women dragged off into the homes to be raped. Children wailed, glued to dead fingers, until they too were struck down. Shields and swords that dripped with blood covered the city in twisting red lines, like a ball of yarn unraveling, strangling the earth. I stood in the midst of the chaos, walking over bodies of the dead and the not quite dead that clung to the earth, to life with trembling fingers caked in blood. Their eyes pleaded, ‘Don’t let me die.’ But, once we’ve arrived it’s always too late. Once our ships cross into your waters, whatever is yours is ours: your land, your food, your life. I stare at each one waiting for the light to leave their eyes. At least with dreams the smells lose their strength, I could not bear that awful reek of burning flesh with the overpowering aroma of loose bowels.
Viggo clomped down the street, brandishing a flaming sword. When he turned towards me, his mouth was smeared with blood and long red lines decorated his face. Coins, gold, silver and bronze, spilled from his pockets. He was grinning.
“The houses are full of treasure.” He waved a spoon, it shone by the light of the fires. “They eat with these!” He laughed liked it was the funniest joke he has ever heard. A toddler was crying over the fallen body of her father. She didn’t look up as Viggo’s shadow engulfed her. He lifted the spoon and plunged it into her skull. Her body jittered and there was a squishy pop. Viggo’s grin grew and showed me his prize. The tiny eyeball jiggled on the head of the spoon as he laughed. I wanted to look away as he plopped the eyeball on his tongue. He slurped up the tail and licked his lips. He offered me the second eye that was suddenly in his hand. It made squeaky sounds when he squeezed it. Since I didn’t answer, he crushed it in his hand. Our eyes met as he licked the juices from his dripping fingers. I could feel the world swimming around me, the light rippling, struggling to still itself.
A crack ran down Viggo’s face, splitting the skin. The skin peeled off, like a tree shedding its bark. Multicolored scales glistened with blood underneath. A forked tongue slithered from his ridged mouth, licking the spoon. His jaw unhinged, his bottom lip dragged across the ground.
(Run!) I shouted towards the girl. (For the love of the gods, run!)
But, she was already dead. Viggo swallowed her whole, throwing his head back and the girl slid down. She got stuck half way in, the tiny body was just a bulge against the tight skin of his throat and her dirty, bare feet poked out of his mouth. When Viggo shook his body, her legs appeared to be kicking. More sheets of skin fell off. The girl was gone. Viggo’s legs disappeared, melding into one form with his body to become a long tail. Like rope, he coiled himself before launching into the sky. Up, up he went, his tail wiggled as if swimming, pushing him further away from the ground. His mouth opened and he bit into the sky. The grey sky pulsed red and purple streaks like angry veins shot out from the wound, as his poison spread through the sky.
(The Sky is bleeding.)
The poison dripped from his teeth and rained upon the Earth. A drop fell on my arm and sunk into my skin. My arm turned blue, and throbbed with each labored breath. I staggered forward. One. Two. Nine steps before I fell. Serpent-Viggo let go of the sky and landed with a ground-shaking thud beside me. Amber eyes reflected my pathetic blue form.
“Where were you?” He hissed and released his last breath.
Tonight, after he fell, Viggo dissolved into a thin mist. The city wavered and melted away into the forest. Toril sat bare on the grass; dew ran down the swell of her breasts. She beckoned me and I went to her. Her hair lay in a fan upon the grass and when the sun danced upon it, she looked like Sif, the goddess with hair made of dwarven gold.
So this is about 1/5 of the story, I hope the sections aren’t too confusing. When I wrote this, I wrote it from the viewpoint of a short film and made scenes. This was the advice was one of my writing professors when I confessed I couldn’t see myself writing full length novels. She suggested I just write scenes and see where it goes from there. I’m so happy that I took her class, because she was an awesome mentor.
I love mythology and try to weave it into my stories, I can’t tell if it worked for this or not. Unfortunately, the people I have sent this out to help me edit this piece haven’t gotten back to me. Makes me wonder if they just didn’t see the point of editing this mess….so yea…
Oh well! On the bright side, I have commissioned my friend to design the cover. I can’t wait until its done.