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Green Lighting Honor

by Barbara Steinhauser 2 months ago in fantasy

After the Tornado

Frost ogre brains hang like Audhumla’s udders beneath a line of anxious cows at dawn. Below them emanates an intense green light. Suspended inside the green glow reflected from mammatus clouds, a girl named Rosalyn shimmers like surreal pearls, a raven treading air by her side.

Lower down, from the valley, the girl’s dwarfish Da nods with relief, absorbing a 3D vision in which the object at center stage pops from its two-dimensional reality in all her golden haired, freckled glory.

Energy inside the maiden Rosalyn buzzes rapid as a bee collecting nectar. Despite Mor flapping black wings beside her, she feels change. She feels opportunity. She feels lush joy explode from her very being, verdant as new beginnings.

Ymir had not meant to enliven creation; his narrow visions expressed egoism. Surrounding him, water and wind conspired to flow and freeze the emptiness of the valley until finally, hot winds caused its ice to thaw and drip. Contained within one of the droplets was preserved an ancient virus: the organism who became Ymir. This bumbling father of giants suckled the cow Aduhumla who licked the mineral salts from ice and carved a son she named Buri.

The bacterium Ymir inadvertently sweated from his left armpit expelled two creatures similar to himself: a man and a woman. From his leg rose a six-headed son. Had any creatures been born from similar vile beginnings? Buri’s sons Odin, Vili and Ve slayed the monstrous Ymir. And there he lay, a bloody stink of organic matter, oozing maggots.

What to do with his remains? They wreaked havoc across Yggdrassil. Recycle the beast, Odin suggested and the deed was done. His blood became ocean, his body and bones were valley and mountains. Ymir’s skull formed the sky and his brain became the clouds. This was not well considered; his brain had a temper. His breath, the wind, bore anger aloft, expelling evil intent.

Thus, earth was created from a virus which could not be contained. Observing this, three supernatural Norns shook their chins in dismay, quenching thirst with living water from the well, remaining bereft and parched despite empty goblets.

“Historically, social behavior reflected oaths of honor,” said one.

“Buri’s sons were given free will,” observed a second.

“This pattern of behavior will alter their future,” said the third. “The King exhibits greed and trickery against his own clan.”

“He doesn’t conduct himself with integrity,” said one.

“He claims dwarves aren’t of the clan,” observed a second. “Dwarves are of Ymir. They may be maggots, working below ground, but they rose from his flesh and blood.”

“He claims they are not of his kingdom,” said the third.

They watched wagons rattle up valley toward an extravagant wedding venue reconstructed from a smelly livestock barn. The King had spent funds from an anticipated dowry spun from straw to gold by the sweet Rosalyn. Did he know Rosalyn’s Da was a dwarf?

“I will whisper to Ymir the treachery of King Ransom,” said the second.

“We agreed free will to man on the condition it should not alter future patterns,” added the third.

The tornado began with dark, low hanging clouds, tossing wagons, causing the honorable boy Od to release draft horses. It freed Rosalyn from speaking an oath she would be honor bound to keep. Some kept oaths.

The maiden absorbed the barn, expelling its hordes of towns people. Had Odin intervened and pulled Rosalyn from her fate?

Odin does not intervene. The Norns would have it so. Mor, sculling falcon wings to maintain position, read her daughter’s mind and responded in kind.

“STOP.” Rosalyn shouted, though the unnecessary word disappeared within the mildest of winds. Ymir’s breath dismissed redundancy: Mor knew all, heard all, responded with judgment of all. Such fate a daughter would not wish upon the baldest vulture consuming death.

Below, lay the golden field of calendula Freya had sprouted with her tears. In its center, rolling back and forth as if drunk with pleasure, lay the black bull who’d booted them into this fading tornado green sky. What was that about? He had appeared imposing, roaring rage as he ran toward where they stood in the same field. His pointy horns glimmered malice. Viewed from this lofty position, he appeared smaller than the tip of her thumb.

The entire valley was no larger than her palm.

Yet, there beside her fluttered Mor, larger than any earthly raven.

Ye have need of me. Mor’s voice in her head. She could shake and shake and even slap her palm against her skull and that voice would not dissipate. It was permanent as honor.

Why had she allowed herself to become absorbed, even overwhelmed by valley dread? She’d compromised herself. This daymark was ending different than planned, but what did this mean? The man she was meant to marry, the disingenuous King was being carried aloft -kicking and faintly screaming- by accountant guards, who paraded through jeering townsfolk dressed to the Nine Realms. Yet, this action appeared insignificant as antics of an anthill.

The plump speck of old Mrs. Whittle floated upriver in the black crepe dress she’d worn to weddings and funerals with mean-spirited intention. She’d harped on righteousness, reminding neighbors dust to dust was the outcome of all sinners. Yet in the end, she’d fallen into a river traveling the wrong direction.

I was old Mrs. Whittle, Mor’s voice in her head.

“You were what?” Had Rosalyn heard this correctly.

You know I am a shape shifter. Mrs. Whittle was an aspect of me that occasionally escaped. She had her charms. She did smash that barn window, giving you an opening to escape King Ransom, did she not?

“She is floating upstream,” Rosalyn pointed.

I never did like that crepe dress: too itchy.

They shared a laugh.

“What of Od, the boy below, reuniting with his Granny? Was that you as well?”

Od had asked, upon her engagement to King Ransom, “Do you even know what love is?” It was a mean question, coming from a young child stumbling through his first lust, she’d supposed.

Nothing to do with me. Though his question was well composed.

Rosalyn supposed she did not know what love between a man and woman was . She wasn’t sure she cared to know. Freya claimed to love: she spent days searching through time for her lost husband Odr, sobbing tears sprouting marigolds whenever her deep down overcame her luck. Rosalyn had little time for deep downs when Da worked nights in the mines and she milled his flour during the day. She relied on inherited luck to continue the deception.

She squinted to discover Da within the movement below. He would be in shadow. His skin was blacker than the bull. A thought struck her. Had Da been the black bull? Dwarves like Da could shapeshift into animals. Da avoided sunlight; his cousin Alviss had turned to stone when the sun’s rays touched his body. But as a bull?

Da would do anything for you. Best to love a man, despite his shape.

Ugh. She wanted to smack Mor. Or Da. Trickery played too large a part in this love and marriage business. Best to remain here where she vibrated better off for avoiding a match. She had intended to wed power: a King known to be ruthless and self-serving. What was in it for her? She had done it for Da. As Queen she might have changed perceptions; she was half dwarf, wasn’t she? She looked to Mor.

Maybe.

Rosalyn scanned the valley high and low for a shadowed band of dwarves. Destruction from the tornado spread across the glen, torn and scattered. Had the craftsmen arrived through tunnels? Labyrinths below ground were prolific as spider webs in the forest. Goats bred with goats and Norse horses bred with Norse horses. Their colors might change, but they didn’t breed with sheep. Birds of a feather hatched similar eggs. Da said she was fortunate to take after Mor, though how she wound up with no dwarf characteristics confused her.

You get shapeshifting from your parents. Also, did you ne’ r consider why it is you hear me in your head?

Rosalyn began a tremble down deep: flashes of a journey, of wealth, of power familiar yet strange. What am I then, Mor? A dwarf, too?

Mor grabbed Rosalyn’s shell in her beak and dove toward the icy ocean where a brown box bobbed up and down, up and down.

Mor, what are you doing? Is that Da’s wedding gift? Why are you flying me there? What is happening?

The green light dissipated. The valley disappeared. Below them lay the sea. Her chest tightened and yet, she had been raised to accept the twists and turns of fate. Courage was expected her and she asked with quiet virtue, Do I go to Njord, god of wind and sea?

The words in her head were strong and clear. No. I go, beloved guardian angel. You have decided our great luck and happiness, but your Da and me- our time is at an end. Daughter, you are not a dwarf. You are hamingja, passed from my family from generation to generation. Now, our baby boy lies cradled within the floating box and you belong to him. The Norns willed it be done and so it is done. Bring him luck and joy even as you brought it to us.

And, setting a necklace of shimmering, surreal pearls upon a tightly sealed brown box bobbing in the ocean, Mor departed.

fantasy

Barbara Steinhauser

MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults

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