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Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Hagalaz

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes


    Lightning ripped the void-black sky. Hail thundered. Fate's frozen spears pierced the sea, deafening, shredding the dark, roiling waters while the crashing waves fought amongst themselves like wolves, stirred up by the Serpent.
    The sun already hung dead in the sky.
    On the trembling cliff between endless winter and total ruin, she stood, drenched and paralysed, staring out over the seething ocean and the patiently gathering storm. Her heart was consumed by what she knew was coming. Consumed by the Inevitable. Consumed by the Inescapable. All else, however vital, was lost.
    Thunder pummelled her, the war drum of giants. Her muscles were too frozen to flinch. An eagle screamed in the distance.
    She'd seen the storm coming; it had been forming since the Beginning. She'd hoped it would dissipate, that it might never reach her...but that had been a fool's hope. A blind hope. She understood that now, as she watched it gather its final crackling threads of strength beneath its shackles in the distance. She understood it sorely. And in that understanding's wake, paralysis set only deeper. An immense sense of destruction rooted her raw, bare feet to the shuddering ground, a sense of complete and utter extinction. It was the certainty that everything she knew, and every plan she'd laid, was going to burst into a raging inferno from which she could never rebuild.
    Wind whipped and lashed her skin. Panic closed her throat and seized her lungs. The ice within her muscles and heart grew thicker. An incoherent screaming filled her mind while her tongue lay still and numb.
    And hail continued to fall. Stinging, freezing, cutting hail.
    The screaming moved into her bones before she could make any sense of it, so loud that they trembled inside her skin, shaking themselves to dust. And then, while she stared, inert, useless, desperate despite her leaden feet for any kind of escape, the storm finally broke free.
    Everything within and around her flashed white as a godly crash filled the air; lightning rushed across the sky, waves launched themselves against the cliff, and gales thrashed ice harder and sharper into her face.
    The earth itself sank into the sea.
    And she watched it all happen, mute and motionless, while the voice screamed on in her bones.
    'Stop it, somehow! Push it back!'
    Dread squeezed a whimper from her throat as the water lashed around her ankles.
    'Sabotage it! Somehow! Trick it!'
    The water rushed around her knees.
    'Kill it! End it!'
    It crashed around her waist.
    'Run...'
    But it had already stolen the ground.
    Her wide stare twitched up towards the jet-black heavens as the water flooded through her lips, and she watched the stars vanish from the sky.
    'What...do I do...?'
    The world turned, the water twisted, swirling and raging around her. It took a long, disconnected moment before she discovered her body fighting.
     Futile or not, instinct moved her like a puppet; choking and struggling against the waves, her body battled both to return her head above water and plant her feet back on the ground, in spite of the exhaustion already crushing her. But she fought on anyway, alarm dragging her mind back to herself, thrashing against the indifferent storm, the force of nature, the force of Fate, a thing with neither malice nor intent yet that would steal absolutely everything away from her anyway.
    And it was already beginning.
    The violent churning of the water shredded her dress from her body. The hail and breakers cut her face whenever she surfaced. The thunder ripped her muscles from her bones, disarming and dissolving her struggle. The current drank away her lifeblood. The lightning smothered her breath.
    Her raging mind was clouded and disconnected when adrenaline fully took over, empowering her body and mind, hazy but allied against the threat to her world, screaming back in the face of it with absolute conviction. But it could only last so long, and Fate's movement was stronger. While she wore down, the waves, the wind, the thunder and hail grew only more violent.
    Steam rose from the furious waters around her.
    Questions half-formed in her mind as the water boiled, blinding her with their power, and though their answers didn't exist, the wind howled them anyway. And through the chaos, fragments of images and sensations began flashing by - familiarity; distraction. But though some part of her relished them and another searched them in desperation, there was nothing at all in those pictures of the Past. No solution; no solace. There was no order, no plan, no understanding, not while everything crumbled. And now, she realised, her mind was barely her own. Fragments of Self were being torn away. Everything that had made sense, or seemed sure, was breaking apart inside her.
    The water closed over her head again and again, more often now, higher, and invaded her lungs with increasingly mistimed gasps. Then she didn't surface at all.
    Air was out of reach. Ground was out of reach. And the black sky far above, the heavens now suddenly aflame, covered a world she would never see again.
    And, as she sank into the sudden stillness, silence set in.
    ...There was no more screaming...
    Clarity, or insanity. One or the other. Or both, or neither.
    But everything was falling into some kind of place.
    She watched the surface drift away with wide, stunned eyes.
    'What...if...'
    What if...she let go? What if she stopped fighting and let the water take over? Would she sink? Or would she float?
    Would she be carried into what she dreaded, into the Inevitable, into the Inescapable, with some kind of composure? Some kind of control? Would a clearer head even yield opportunity? Perhaps even advantage?
    What if she gave up stubbornness and gave into the uncontrollable?
    What lay on the other side?

    Her veins ignited.

    Air seared her lungs as she broke the surface, gasping, gulping, hacking and choking, numb to the cold, to the heat, to the pain as she flailed for equilibrium; to anything but the single need to breathe. And then, while her heart lurched and mind spun, she forced her legs to stop kicking, forced her eyes to close, and forced herself to relax. In the brutal grip of the waves, she abandoned her fight, abandoned instinct, and allowed the motion to carry her away.
    It felt wrong to let the waves crash over her head, to avoid flinching against the lightning, to listen to the thunder rather than shrink from it and let the hail pummel her face. But it was her only choice. To give in and let the worst happen would yield a stronger future. A stronger self.
    A storm was beyond control. It couldn't be stopped. It couldn't be harnessed. It could only be survived.
    It could only be survived.


With breath, hail numbs;
With belief, hail dies.
Strength of aurochs, suffuse me.
With guidance of bear,
With guise of doe,
I am born of the bones of ruin.
I am born of the bones of Fate.


 
This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2022 Kim Wedlock



Sunday, 5 June 2022

Algiz

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes


     Thick, high walls protected the little house within from the biting, hilltop wind. The minuscule windows were shuttered and draped against the horrors of the world beyond, and the sturdy door locked tight against danger.
    It was a small bubble of safety in a terrifying world, impenetrable and unshakable by the darkest forces beyond. And the girl inside - beautiful, happy, with only the youngest growth of antlers sprouting through her thick, dark hair - was never bored despite the isolation. She cooked and baked, sewed and repaired, cleaned and painted, and when her chores were done and her master satisfied, she spent her free time left in peace, reading and creating, brightening her safe little world in a way she could control. She slept well; warm, safe and dry, and when she rose the next morning, all began again. Her world was predictable, her life steady. Always familiar, always stable. Forever unchanging.
    For a decade, the world aged gracefully around her, and she, preserved and protected, didn't age a day.
    But then, despite the walls, the curtains, the door, something did change.
    The old clay digger that lived nearby could no longer continue his trade, and with rising living costs, the girl was tasked by her reluctant master to dig the clay herself and deliver it to the potter in town.
    The idea of leaving the walls and stepping out into the wider world filled her with terror, but it excited her too. And so, with much worry, much preparation, and many warnings of safety from her master, she took a deep breath, left the walls, descended the hill, and gathered what she could before rigidly following the road towards town. Her eyes were wide along the way, and every twist and turn made her hesitate, sure she'd managed to get herself lost, would take too long and get home to a telling off for lingering in the dangerous world.
    But she hadn't gotten lost, and arrived in town while the sun was still high. There, she delivered the clay, turned around, and immediately followed the road back home, doing precisely as she'd been instructed. And she was glad to; the sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming, and she all but ran back to the high-walled hill, scared and exhausted. And yet, when she finally managed to get to sleep after her master's worried questions, her dreams were alight with new skies, walls and faces.
    Then, the next day, after hurrying through her chores, she dug and delivered clay again. And this time, the experience rejuvenated her.
    She grew efficient over time, both digging and travelling, and came to look forward to the fresh air and cheerful townspeople. She even began to take detours, leaving the road on the way back and daring to walk instead through the forest, following whim or butterfly. She didn't go far at first, but with every passing day she grew braver, and explored deeper and deeper between the trees. She discovered owl holes in tree trunks, stumps covered in orange toadstools, old carved stones half-eaten by roots, a clearing carpeted in spongy, comfy-looking moss, and a small, clear stream that giggled and gurgled as it cascaded over smooth pebbles. The world, she was learning, was beautiful.
    On one fair weather day, warm and clear, she warily followed a bear cub through the trees and onwards to the stream, where she watched it play on its own further down-water, swiping at the little fish that swam in a panic around it.
    Its grumbling joy was quickly infectious.
    Peering around again for its mother and finding still no sign, the girl nudged aside the elk-sedge that grew along the banks, stepped into the water herself and began playing among the tiny fish, sending them darting around in alarm as if she was a bear herself. When she stilled to better catch one, however, a gasp blustered from her lungs. As the surface settled, she found the rippling image of a huge-horned woman staring back at her from beneath the water, a sad, painful look twisting her face.
    The girl froze, blinked, then slowly bent down closer. An aurochs?
    The sorrowful woman moved as she watched her, and raised her hand towards the surface. And the girl found her own hand moving slowly to meet it.
    The contact was solid, but she didn't notice it. In that instant she was overwhelmed instead by information; images, words and emotions bombarded her mind like a hailstorm - images, words and emotions all playing as if from her own perspective. Even the brief but intense flash of hatred and disgust aimed entirely at her felt as though it had originated from her own heart.
    'It did. All of this...is mine...She...is...'
    She recoiled, deaf to her own shriek, and threw herself backwards, kicking the water, bank and elk-sedge away from her as she scrambled to find sense. But none came.
    So she ran home instead, heedless of the bear cub that stood up and watched her from the water, grunting and whining in concern. She had already descended into a dense fog of wretched, debilitating confusion.

     Thick, high walls hid the little house within from the bright, shining sun. The minuscule windows were shuttered and draped against the fascinations of the world beyond, and the sturdy door locked tight against freedom.
    It was a prison in a colourful world, impenetrable and unshakable by the brightest forces beyond. And the girl inside - scared, weak, with only the youngest growth of antlers sprouting through her knotted, dark hair - was broken. She barely slept, so cold, terrified and confused, and when she rose the next morning to tend to her chores, the cycle began again. Her world was predictable, her life steady. Always familiar, always stable. Forever unchanging.
    But now she saw the truth in it: the bars around her home, the careful watch she was subjected to, the permissions she had to ask and obscene questions she had to answer. She no longer read, no longer created. The world had become a numb haze while she sat obediently, eyes wide and haunted. Her voice silent.
    She saw now. She saw everything. And that shock, that fear, trampled her like a furious herd of horses. How many times had it paralysed her? How many times had she resolved to give up, lock herself in and stay within that simple, predictable world? It would be easier. It took less work, and the hurt that would come from it was familiar. Safer, in a way. And she certainly didn't have the strength to fight it.
    And yet, every day that she trudged, numb-hearted, to deliver the clay to the potter, she couldn't help but be drawn back to the forest. She fled to it now, though she was too scared to look back into the water, and tried to breathe away the shakes with lungfuls of fresh, woodland air. And when the sun betrayed her and twilight moved in, the silent, trembling girl reluctantly returned home.
    The shakes plagued her for weeks. She barely ate, barely slept, and became hyper-aware in her exhaustion, noting every word and movement her master made, flinching at every interaction. She heard and saw all of it for what it truly was: absolute control. Absolute control, over her.
    But even though, in some strange way, she feared the forest almost as much as home - that she might learn something more that would become the final strike her fragile world could take before its rubble was ground to sand - she fled back there again the next day. And the next. And the next. Until one day, sitting absently beside her stream, listening to its comforting gurgles, her gaze wandered and landed upon the prophetic water for the first time in a month.
    Her body moved on its own.
    Pushing aside the elk-sedge, she crawled over and peered down through the glittering surface, coming face-to-face with the aurochs woman again. She was already staring back, as if she'd been waiting for her, and carried no less sad a twist in her brow than she had the first time. But there was something else there this time, the girl realised. Something softer.
    The aurochs reached towards her again, and the girl's fingertips hesitantly met hers through the water.
    There was no information this time. Instead, the reflection shifted, and the girl looked down now at her own face. Only then did she realise the resemblance between herself and the woman. And as she marvelled at that, she watched the stumpy antlers on her head grow into the broad, plated antlers of an elk.
    Then the image of the aurochs was back, standing beside her, resting her hand upon the girl's shoulder. And she felt it.
    The smallest gasp leapt from her throat as she spun to her left and found the woman suddenly standing beside her, as solid and real and dry as herself, her huge horns as light as a feather upon her head. And now, she was smiling.
    "Keep going," the aurochs said, her voice as strong as her horns were threatening. "I'm here. I'll save us both. Just buy me time."
    "B-buy you time?" The girl stuttered, her own voice small and unused. But she knew, somehow, exactly what the woman wanted.
    Her eyes must have betrayed her growing horror, because the aurochs moved and knelt down in front of her, squeezing her shoulder while the girl's shakes grew worse beneath her hand. Her smile was sadder now, but unwavering. "I am so sorry, little elk. But you can do this." Then she wrapped her arms around her and faded away, melting into the girl.
    Or the girl melted into her.
    "And," her voice echoed, "I love you, dearly. And I will thank you for all this one day."
    Then the little elk girl was left alone, blinking into the trees, heart racing beneath her ribs, thundering in her ears. And her blood surged with such strength that tears of fury sprang into her eyes.
    For the first time in her life, she felt whole. The fear was still there - greater now, fighting to overwhelm her all over again - but she could do this. She had to do it. The aurochs was taking care of something, and she would protect the horned woman while she did. And, though the fear was incomprehensible, she knew that only in facing it, walking into the storm as it tore her skin apart, could it be finally conquered. And she wasn't alone. She never had been.
    When her hard, stony eyes eventually sank back to the water, the only image she saw was her own true reflection, crowned now with full, powerful antlers.
    She raised a hand, damp with wild water, and fingered the velvet tines as she turned and wandered thoughtfully back home, where she was duly and quietly expected.


 
This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2022 Kim Wedlock



Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Uruz, ├×ola

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


     A bleak, grey spectre glared over the scrubland valley.
     Cold mountain wind howled low through the crevice, sending the dull, mournful rustle of the frozen brush murmuring through the shadow-gripped recesses, and the pummelling storm of rain and hail rumbling beneath it all like a wardrum. Neither light nor hope reached this spot, trapped in the darkness of the glacier-shorn cliffs, and the old, rusting iron cage stood in its thickest depths. And the woman inside it sat slumped, knees hugged close to her chest, clouds of breath steaming from her nose as the hail struck and bruised her bare skin.
     The aurochs' pale body trembled in the cold. Thick, dark hair tumbled in knots down her back. Huge horns projected out from either side of her head, dull, faded, their points filed down. And dim hazel eyes stared from over the top of her arms, fixed to her captor through the bars, the tall, thin man with even emptier eyes, staring at his inconsequential work only a few paces away. There was no passion in him, either, though he chose to be here. No life, no love. Nothing at all. Until he looked her way.
     Just as he did at that moment.
     She watched the light flicker into life inside his eyes. But it wasn't warmth. It was power. Possession. Supremacy. She knew the look well. She read more in it than he could conceive.
     But the aurochs didn't flinch back from it. She was dead to it by now. She'd seen it too much; experienced what came of it too often. And so she met his stare with her own empty gaze, and held it until he looked away again, distracted once more by his work, his prize forgotten.
     Only then did she breathe the faintest sigh into her knees.
     As the vapour gathered on her eyelashes, her stare wandered away, tracking out through the shade of her trophy prison and on towards the frosted grasslands beyond.
     Out there, the sun shone. Out there, far from her reach, golden light battled the scrubby landscape, even while the frozen rain continued to thunder through her bars in the dark. There was hope out there. Life, and freedom. And others of her kind; she could hear them bellowing beyond the man's range, could smell them on the wind. And the ache in her heart swelled almost to the point of bursting. Because she could not join them. She couldn't walk among them. The whole world was so far out of her reach, she didn't deign even to lift a futile hand towards it.
     But neither did she succumb to the melancholy.
     Instead, she moved. Releasing her knees, she sat straight, exposing herself to the elements, and breathed deep of the cold, clear air. She rode that breath inside of herself, followed it into her lungs, and as it invigorated her blood, she retreated into memory.
     The world around her shifted; the straw floor of her cage became rough ground beneath her hooves, and the shadow scattered and revealed harsh scrub and grazing. A hard life, unforgiving, cold and solitary - but there was no heavy, pinning weight of loneliness woven within it.
     It was freedom.
     As she eased herself into her breath, stamped her hooves against the earth and teased her fingers through the biting breeze, she felt what now seemed like ancient traces of strength and power moving through her muscles.
     It set a fire in her heart, a song into her soul, and she spun and laughed. Then, without thought of destination, she ran.
     Freedom.
     She stayed in that eternal place for some time before she found the strength to return to herself, yet still it felt her eyes had flickered open too soon, and her view was obscured again by the old, iron bars and the haze of frozen rain.
     Once again, the whole world remained out of her reach.
     And yet, she smiled.
     'For now.'
     Scars had formed on her body, lumps left in bone - but she had always healed. And her spirit hadn't been broken. Not yet. Not quite. The smallest flame still sputtered in her chest, she'd discovered, and every day that her captor reached through those bars to strike again at her defences, it only stoked it hotter. Even in the cold, dark shadows and the skin-piercing rain. Now she'd found it, it would not, could not, be extinguished.
     She would not be broken. Her kind was sturdy. It had taken her a decade to remember it, but now that she had, she held that fact, that assurance, closer than her own skin.
     And, as her eyes tracked back to her once-trusted captor, that faint smile flickered further across her lips.
     She was biding her time. Collecting her strength. Recalling freedom and all that had once breathed life into her soul. She was remembering her worth.
     Her hazel eyes closed, but the smile remained as she listened to her master mutter curses to himself as he worked, and she tilted her head from one side to the other, feeling the weight and power of her horns. They didn't need to be sharp to be devastating. If the fool had wanted to disarm her, he should have cut them off.
     He would be gored in the end.


 
This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2022 Kim Wedlock



Monday, 7 February 2022

Wander

Estimated read time: 9 minutes
 

      The binding stone loomed atop the barrow hill. The ghostly breath of fog drifted and curled around it, lit by a moon bleached silent, riding the low, cold hum that had come to infect every night in the ancient glade. So too did shadows stand and flicker in the fog as though time stopped and started, figures of jagged, hulking forms with emaciated waists and huge, circular eyes that glowed and flickered out of time. These shapes rarely strayed from the binding stone. They watched, and guarded. Nothing more.
     Weather had worn down neither carving nor duty. Time hadn't vandalised the stone. And the dead below stirred no longer.

     "I've put this off for long enough."

     The young man approached through the trees, leaving behind the vibrant land where the green lay rich and full beneath the darkness, and on to where it and the night melded together like lovers. The village lay far behind him, but even here he could hear the drums of the festival just beginning, despite the moon's warnings.
     But, as the trees opened up into that foggy, shadow-haunted glade, suddenly nothing but Night could be heard: silence woven with a streak of the Unknown's breath.
     And then, as visibility dropped, the featherlight footsteps of shadows.
     The three hulking shades lurched towards him, slow and menacing, growing larger and larger until they stood taller even than the tangled yew trees, though their steps were eerily quiet.
     But the young man didn't flinch. He walked on despite them, passing between without pause or glance, and continued on towards the barrow hill in silence.
     This, the shades wouldn't allow. They turned and followed with low, creaking groans, and a sharp rush of air chased a swipe across his back. But it didn't touch, and he didn't turn.
     He continued on, muttering an incantation beneath his breath, but it did little to dissuade them. Again they swiped, and again they missed. But the creatures wouldn't stop.
     He heard the strain and felt the buckle in the earth as a tree was uprooted, and the frantic rustle of the leaves as it was thrown towards him. Quickly, his fingers pressed to his forehead.
     The tree bounced backwards. And the shield shattered under the impact.
     He lowered his hand from the spellstone in his brow, stopped in his quest and turned at last towards them. Their eyes, he discovered in that passive look, were different now, tinted with a sickly yellow ire.
     His other hand rose to his forehead as each of the shadows threw flickering black claws towards him, and another incantation breathed through his lips. Upon the final word, the shades dissolved where they hunched, eerie howls juddering from their cores. But for all their absence, their presence remained.
     He turned and walked on anyway.
     Another gust swept by behind him, then another, and another, but their effort was unrewarded. Their claws could never reach him. He wasn't strong enough to banish them away, not without overruling the binding stone first. They were, after all, its guardians - but there was little they could do whilst doused. This, at least, he could manage.
     But he would need much more.
     The young man moved on towards the barrow, dogged by the helpless creatures who howled in silence against their impotence. But the defence did not fall with them. Something else lay in wait, a single, stronger thing, sitting upon the barrow on a throne of pure darkness. This one, the young man knew as he eyed it with a veiled gaze, was powerful.
     But he had known what awaited him, and was prepared.
     Again he touched the spellstone and uttered another invocation, dutifully pacing through the ancient words until they began to muddle and melt on his tongue. Lethargy fell over him far sooner than he'd expected, and he dropped to one knee before that throne, even as fire flared at last to his will. But its glow was weak; it didn't reach far enough.
     The shade rose from its seat while the darkness reshaped into a cloak at his back, and drifted slowly, heavily, towards him. The young man half-watched with bleary eyes, but he was struck before he could activate the shield. It was too fast, much too fast - unless it was an inconceivably ancient one of its order.
     He was no match at all.
     Blood speckled his lip as he hit the sharp, rock-studded ground. The impact rang in his ears and spun behind his eyes, but he steeled his will and rose again. The pain chased the lethargy away, and his spell moved justly.
     Fire erupted between them, more powerfully than the last, and blinded the shade. A shriek ripped free in a backward voice, and it recoiled in its smoke, red skin flickering, the being's indefinite shape breaking where the light was at its brightest. But he had no chance to force the flame into contact for the final strike. Even in shock, it was too fast, and it had nothing corporeal to hit until it itself attacked - at which point, it would be too late. His only hope was a counter-curse.
     The fire sputtered and died all too soon, and the lethargy closed its grasp around his mind once again. His knees sagged to the ground while the being began to circle him, drawing a cold, wretched air around with it. But the young man still had bearings enough. He turned his back to the shade and staggered around with him in the opposite direction, brushing a line over the grass with his fingertip as he went.
     He'd made it barely over half way when a rush of dark, freezing smoke swiped his hand aside. But the shade didn't rasp in victory. In that moment, the man had closed his fist and caught a wisp of that smoke, and with the last of his strength, he snapped the nail from the string about his neck and drove it down through the darkness and into the ground.
     A shriek like the sky itself breaking pierced through his ears and stole his hearing away.
     The ancient shade rushed forwards in the new silence, reaching a gnarled black claw towards him, but the young man didn't recoil. Its claw turned white as it passed over the nail, and that purity spread throughout the darkness until the smoke itself became solid and the shade a jagged figure of pearl.
     The lethargy passed in a heartbeat. The shade had been defeated.
     With a gasp of relief, the man struggled back up from his knees, stumbling on to the top of the barrow while blood trickled from his ears, and the pearl shattered and crumbled to dust behind him.

     Darkness reigned. Clouds moved fast in the distance. Trees waved, and a light wind blew over him, tugging silk and chain. But nothing at all passed his ears. The world was mute, and would, he suspected, remain so forever.
     He didn't wallow. The bloodied young man, his silk robes torn, turned around atop that barrow hill and looked back over the tree tops towards the distant village. The glow of lanterns limned the corners and edges of the rooves, purple lights afloat in celebration.
     His thin lips hardened, and he brushed his loose golden hair back from his face in resolution. The celebration wouldn't be wasted this time.
     A deep breath flooded his lungs, his head tipped back, his eyes closed, and he sank again to the ground. With feeling alone, he opened his satchel and withdrew the knife, the string, the bottle, the flowers, and all else. Then, with a prayer to the moon and a brushing touch to the spellstone, he began.
     "The Second Circle rings anew," the words murmured beneath his breath while he took up the handclamp and relinked and closed the broken chain, bent and beaten, and lay it upon the ground in a circle.
     "Once vices shed," then he poured wine and scattered tobacco, poppyseeds and gold around the circle.
     "And duties bled," he scattered nails and petals beyond.
     "And vessels cast aside." The empty wine bottle smashed on the rocks behind him.
     "Outgrew did we our hate," he cut a length of straw.
     "Our fear," a length of thread.
     "Our fate," a length of chain.
     "And strive no more to bitter' rue," the blade turned to his wrist, "once tethers cut by fate." His blood was warm as it flowed over his skin and stained his misty sleeves. Then he made himself comfortable on the grass, and exhaled deeply. "Wander... Wander... Wander..."
     He saw the glow of the binding stone through closed eyes. He felt the presence of the hulking shadows shatter. And he felt the pressure upon the barrow diminish. Spirits were not meant to be bound like this. Death is the Untethering; the time to fulfill all of life's lost curiosities, to see and learn and discover what they couldn't in life.
     For most.
     The young man breathed his last; his spirit vacated its shell and entered instead the cursed heathen binding stone, disintegrating its wretched, hateful hold on the dead at last.
     With a beautiful, bright hum, the spirits of the barrow rose again from their prison and drifted on through the wind, glowing among the scattered pearl dust.

 
This story is not to be copied or reproduced without my written permission. 
Copyright © 2022 Kim Wedlock