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Young Od

After the Tornado

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 3 years ago 7 min read

He was small of stature but had enormous heart, as aspiring heroes did in days of King Ransom. The redhead, near 3.33 ell, leaned head-to-head with his 14 hand dun outside a towering white, reconstructed barn crowning the mountain valley. Nearby, a meandering stream sang its lazy tune and all might have been well, considering he had driven Granny to the wedding of a King. However, downward from Od and the Norse horse he’d named Sollys, “Bright Sun,” fanned wagon after wagon of nervous, breast-collared draft horses, anxious to be free of harness. On a good day, they might have objected to standing in wait a mere stride from budding snacks, cool waters and shade. This day, what they felt developing down valley, would soon head their direction. Such knowledge would have rattled Od’s harness, had he, too, been shackled.

Before the sun rose that morning, Granny had begged him haul her enormous chocolate cake to the site of King Ransom and sweet Rosalyn’s nuptials. Before the sun’s heat melted the butter icing, she said. Before the road became blocked with indentured guests stirring up dust with fresh polished walking boots, she wheedled. He had obliged, knowing she wished him to attend the event, knowing he would not give King Ransom a whit more time than he must. He had tucked the wrinkled woman beneath a blanket of dalasau wool from the first shearing, its fibers short enough to avoid interfering with the decorated cake wrapped inside Granny’s silken cloud. Some called mormor Loki Volva, due to this floating web she tangled, but none complained of witchery when it came time to eat her opulent confections.

Sollys had done his best to avoid large rocks and ruts, picking his way among crags and cliffs as a scarlet glow rose in the east, distorting mountain tops. Fortunate for the cake, it was wrapped well as honey in a hive, for the quality of this icing inspired Od’s tongue to drool and he hadn’t consumed but a buttered bun. Imaginings of a stolen finger swipe were sinister, at best; no one with a clear mind would risk this with Granny’s teeth a breath away. She mightn’t be a seer, but she wasn’t gentle either. The fellow sighed, turned his back on temptation, and, clicking encouragement, swayed in unison with the subtle zebra stripes running transverse across the dun’s withers and sturdy legs. Winter’s shaggy coat was shed. Praise to Sleipnir for good feet traversing the narrow trail, for chattering wood-peckers, for a quiet trip steady and pleasant.

Upon arrival, King’s thrall hoisted cake from wagon with delicate movement, ushering Granny inside to her seat behind an ornately carved structural post. Od might also have entered the impressive space, its grandeur and stability insured; slaves had done their craftsmen proud. Invitations to karl and jarl encouraged their presence or more accurate, censured non-attendance. Granny tossed him a grimace when he stood, unmoved, flicked her hand as if to dismiss him and entered alone.

The blast of energy released steadied his resolve. Od the Brave preferred the company of horses to social entrapments. Who had set such hierarchies, the Norns or Man?. He turned to welcome incoming wagons and foot soldiers, who shook off the dust of travel and ventured toward the whitewashed barn. The stained door closed promptly as shadows disappeared and all hushed, though a judgmental owl whooshed low.

Od and Sollys stood, cheek freckles to smooth forehead star, eyes focused on the series of thunderstorms clogging the valley from whence all had come. It had formed an odd swirling, a revolution like that of a hawk spying prey. Neither minded the resulting, pelting rain; their coats shook it off with ease. But wind updrafts and downdrafts were whirlpools, sucking trees from their roots. Granny had described whirling dervishes in stories whose outcomes did not end well. Od’s chest expanded with apprehension and even fear. He rubbed his hazel eyes. He had to free the draft horses from their harnesses. He saw in his mind’s eye what might be their fate, should he ignore the terror they shrieked with increasing ferocity as the storm grew in intensity.

This would not be a popular decision among both farmers and nobles. Even the thrall would be angered, for it would become their task to find horses he freed. His chest tightened. He must do what he believed right. His mouth salivated, imagining Granny’s cake, consumed by the masses inside that building.

Beside Sollys, harnessed ponys tore at their plight, wild-eyed. The advancing frenzy bode ill. They did not like it; they did not like it at all. They reared and pawed the ground, begging release. He must heed the call, satisfy their need.

He slipped Solly’s breast collar over her head; he knew its workings well. Moving with external calm to ease their fright, he sang nonsense, patting each trapped creature on the neck and wither before easing off debilitating collars.

Though light dims, I will not shout

Though wind spins trees all about

Cliff to cliff your nature rallies

Run my friends, from fearsome valleys

Frozen shards of lightning hover

Guide the herd cover to cover

Choose escape from death and dying

Run fine ponies, winds a’ flying.

When had the ceremony dissolved into chants calling, “What’s her name?” He slapped a red dun on the thigh and she kicked off, snorting after the others. “What’s her name?” That made little sense. The King must pronounce his bride’s girlhood name as acknowledgement of her transformation from maiden to wife. “What is her name?” Surely he knew her name, though all were aware his interest in her began when she spun straw into gold. Had that been the extent of it? The voices sounded angry, indeed furious, chanting their refrain over and over.

One pony to go and this, the yellow dun owned by Rosalyn’s father, the weaver himself. A blast of anger exploded Od’s brain at thoughts of the argr, offering his fair daughter in exchange for advancement from karl to jarl, farmer to nobleman. He’d half a mind to leave the poor creature stuck and foaming. Such a darlin she was though: rare with color some might call wrong. Her darkish yellow dorsal stripe and white forelock above the star, were sweet upon her and he could not leave her locked in fear. He moved to her side, soothing her as he struggled to release her chains. She wore a heavier collar than the rest, probably the only collar the poor weaver owned. Horror permeated Od’s chest. The whirling winds were near upon them but he had to release this yellow dun called Vafprudnir.

As Vaf raised herself full height to paw the air, two things happened. Shattering a double pane of glass shot the portly figure of Mrs. Whittle, eyes wide as a crow’s nest. Her arms waved black crepe terror into the souls of the lingering herd, who tore up valley ridges escaping the burden of wagon and din. Old Lady Whittle, crazed as a drunk, swayed in their kicked up departing wind and battered by the approaching, curling, wind of wind, collapsed into the rising, rushing river. Od, fingers entwined in a desperate attempt to free Vaf, watched helpless as the stiff dress steamed upriver like a charred hull.

A flash of lightening startled the lad from collapsing banks and now, pelting rain. He turned from Vaf to witness an illuminated Rosalyn, calm as can be, wending her way through the splintered picture window. Uncut, she appeared to stop the rain as she discarded her soggy white gown with its golden threads, tossing it toward the cone-shaped tornado. She studied the sky, stepping toward the green canopy beyond, raising her arms.

Vaf shrieked, her whinny high and pleading.

Rosalyn turned confused and then, as if reality slapped her present, ran toward Od and the bucking pony. “Release her,” she called, oblivious to Od’s sensibility.

His exasperation had little time to express itself. Winds began to swirl and Vaf’s situation became his sole focus. Rosalyn reached the snout and rose her hand to stroke the creature quiet as Od slid the double jointed snaffer from her mouth. “What is this?” He could not help but criticize the choice.

“She goes well.” Rosalyn snapped the words and he had thoughts of curbing her. “How do you twist bridle, lines, hames and tug?”

Od heard but ignored the snap response that popped into his thoughts, feeling frantic over defensive. “Whirling devil’s closing in.” Vaf bucked and the cart ejected a brown wrapped box.

“Papa’s gift!” Rosalyn yelled, pointing as the brown wrapped box caught the edge of cyclonic gusts. “Grab it!”

The half harness fell away. Od leapt onto Vaf’s back and stretched an arm to Rosalyn. White tail hair slapped his eyes. Her hesitation wasted a long second of precious time before she grabbed his hand and pulled up behind. He laced his fingers in thick, heavy mane as Vaf raced the direction the herd had taken up valley, away from tornado and barn. Rosalyn’s head rested against Od’s shoulder, arms tight about his waist. Simultaneously, they rotated their heads to catch a glimpse of the ongoing destruction. Almost languid, brown paper from the box Papa had wrapped slipped open to escape its package, dancing and rotating within the circulation before disappearing around the far side.


About the Creator

Barbara Steinhauser

Thank you for taking time to read my stuff. I love writing almost as much as I love my people. I went back to college and earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults and often run on that storytelling track. Enjoy!

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