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A Bull named Revenge

After the Tornado

By Barbara Steinhauser Published 3 years ago 7 min read

A black bull stood at the edge of a mountain grove, bellowing his duress. Might a sorceress hear and assist him? Hefnd was his name: Revenge in a language other than Norse. Hefnd thought he might kick some witch of a thing into that low grade tornado down valley. How satisfying it must be to fling wagons at a renovated barn, defacing its pristine, white siding. He studied the circling wind, admiring its vengefulness; what had set that whirler off?

Revenge stood tall and elegant; a commanding figure undeserving of the humiliation foisted upon him by a solitary wasp. How had that happened? His ears had detected no buzz, his nose no flutter of wings. He had been engaged in the normal pursuit of a cow, nudged the rump of interest, mouth a gap, and suddenly, that sly insect stung him with abandon, paralyzing his gum as if he were a caterpillar.

The pain! The stinging insult protruded his eyeballs, erected hair along his back and shook his head side to side. None of this had anything to do with him; his body reacted. He watched as his instinctual roar decamped the tantalizing cow and shut down any chance of gratification.

He bellowed again, glaring skyward. Perhaps he might ignite a tornado. How was it done? Stepping out from the shadows, cascading water in the shape of teardrops began to splat across his snout. His eyes crossed as they fell like teardrops, running down and into his nostrils, tickling his septum. Raindrops were meant to be round, yet all these were thin at top and wide at bottom. After they dribbled along his face, these strange driblets fell to the ground, sprouting thick balls of yellow and orange. His anger grew and he stared above the ridge rising from valley floor; where was she? He knew there existed a sorceress who laughed.

A raven rose from the very spot his eyes settled upon: a raven and a falcon. He knew them by their movements; he had seen many as his heart beat from calf to bull. The bovine who birthed him and provided him rivers of milk named them before she departed, leaving him to fend for himself. “Beware of Freya the Deceiver,” she had whispered, rolling her nose in a falcon’s direction before succumbing. Her meaning was lost to him but the memory of it lingered, torturing him in lonely moments.

Why must his world collapse around him, again and again? What was the meaning, Audumbla, mother mine? The emotion of this last question tightened his neck muscles, forcing him to gulp air. To make a bad situation worse, tear droplets of rain fell upon the valley floor, covering it with flowers bright as the sun. This transformation angered him further; a tornado grew inside him, exploding a brazen roar. His tongue struck his swollen gum, protruding his jaw.

He was meant to destroy. From the instant his cow deserted him, he had been despised, rejected as outsider. He understood this now; circumstance dictated his mission. Gathering himself, he strolled upon the blooming void, where cheerful flowers of orange and yellow sprouted, their heads wide as his hooves.

Change? He spat drool. He would change, right here, right now. His singular mission was to destroy and destroy he would. Hefnd set his right hoof upon one of many-petaled marigolds. With a deliberation born of confident truth, he smashed it to dust, grinding the showy plants to a pulp. His inner violence calmed as he pulverized another and another: tedious work, but oh so righteous. He could fill lengthening days of summer with destruction; the field was large and his need, great.

But what was that? A herd of pummeling hooves trampled the lower meadow of flowers like rocks flung from an avalanche. No, no, no, these were HIS blooms to bludgeon! He gathered himself and bellered, commanding these intruders take notice. He had horns; they had none. They had yet to notice. He continued his vociferations, surveying the situation.

These Norse horses ran from the tornado, of this he was certain; some bore sections of harness, bit or rein upon coats of many dun colors. Wagons thrown against the barn wouldn’t be hauled back to town in their destroyed condition. Chances of the herd turning appeared good. Clouds above the slowing rotation were breaking up. The tornado tossed a brown box toward the escaped herd and it seemed to hang in the sky; the falcon and the raven circled round it.

The lead dun, a draft horse of sturdy build and quick brain, finally caught Hefnd’s warning sounds and, without hesitation, turned the herd from where the black bull stood glowering, at field’s edge. Shaking his horns, Revenge returned his gaze to the falcon and the raven, who, letting go the distraction of the brown box, appeared to be headed towards the million colors of yellow and orange laid out before him.

What was their focus? He studied the herd, whose movement now oscillated as if around some central point- a commotion amid the turning ranks. Then he saw it; hrosses wove like choreography around two figures: a golden-haired maid in petticoats and a young man. A couple delighted with the bounty before them, gathering blossom after blossom into bouquets which they handed each other or tossed into the air, cascading upon the backs of the dun.

Child’s play dialed up Hefnd’s sense of disconnect and he pawed at the earth, his field, his marigolds. Hadn’t he discovered this place? Who were they to destroy his summer of retribution? He’d earned rights to this garden, following the amorous nudge, the wasp, the stinging gum. First Audumbla left him and now he’d been rejected by an amorous cow, for Ymir’s sake.

The starry-eyed couple, oblivious to the almighty presence of a powerful bull such as he, were babbling. He stepped closer to listen. He was curious. The maid in petticoats stopped mumbling and spoke with clarity. “Me Mor thought I dinna know she dressed as Rumple and spun me straw to gold. How could I not? I be listenin’ to her voice in me head since the night I be bairn. ‘Marry a king not a dwarf.’ ‘Weave a pink shawl, not a red.’ ‘Ye prefer goat cheese to a chicken’s egg.’ I dinna know what I thought, it war always her thoughts in me head. I hadna a thought of me own. I hadna a life.”

You had a cow, Hefnd grunted, remembering he’d choked on greens upon losing his mother.

“I had me Granny,” Od said. “I wanted me Mor.”

“‘He did this to ya,’ Mor told me. ‘Yer Da bragged ye up to the King and o’course the King wanted gold spun from straw,’” Rosalyn said.

“She said that? In those words?” Od tilted his head. Glanced down the valley to where the battered barn stood. He hoped his Granny had weathered the storm.

“Na! This is what I’m telling ya. She didna use words, she planted ideas in me head! She war a witch, that one.”

A witch, Hefnd heard her say. How satisfying to kick a witch.

“The King ne’r noticed ya haulin’ Da’s grain, sweatin’ and groanin,’ Mor put this into me head. ‘A dowry he lusted, fer that alone.’” Rosalyn threw up her bouquet. “Warn’t I good enough for a King, then, Mor? Warn’t I good enough fer you, Mor?”

Where might he find such a witch, Hefnd wondered. His rear hooves twitched.

Od gazed at the girl like he wished to nudge her. Or slap her. “Why’d ya do it, then? Why’d ya marry the King? He’s a Loki, taking for himself what is na his.”

“Od, do ya think at all? Get out from me Mor, why else?” Rosalyn spun, raised arms to the sun. “She left me alone to sweep Da’s mud!”

“I dinna leave ye!” The raven swooped in, became a tall woman in ragged work clothes. “I wanted ye to say, thanks, is all.”

“Whaa…?” Od was raised skyward in falcon claws.

“Odr!” Freya sang.

“I ain’t Odr, I’m Od. Take me to the barn!”

Hefnd startled as, with a rush of wings, the falcon flew down the valley, Od dangling from her powerful claws. His heart had begun to pound as the raven transformed.

“Od!” Rosalyn’s mouth fell open. She screamed. “Mor! What are ya doin’ again?”

“Rosalyn, that falcon be Freya carrying that boy home. Ya canna fall for him in a field of Mary’s Gold.”

“That boy? That Od? I dinna fall for that child. Ya have me wrong again, Mor.”

They scowled at each other, facing full frontal, experiencing reunion and frustration and a wee wink of gladness to stand this close.

“The calendula’s a field of tears, Rosalyn; Freya’s love potion for the loss of Odr? Near a curse. Ya needs fall in love on yar own terms and not…”

Mor’s final word cut out when, carving a rabid path through waving petals, Hefnd screeched to a halt behind the pair and propelled them high as the floating brown box. Booting one witch wasn’t nearly as satisfying as punting two. Well-pleased, he buried his nose in the healing, tangy calendula, celebrating as only an herbivore can.


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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