There once was a village and a great vast forest. They lived in harmony side by side. The villagers were farmers, and more too, they were lumberers. Sons were taught from a young age to wield an axe cutting down the trunks of old trees to build their homes, to light their fires and to make stronger axes. When they were done cutting, they planted another young sapling in its place so the forest continued to flourish over the years. The spirit of the forest moved to and fro as the rippling of the current from the Great River which fed its hunger.
There came a time when raids from the east terrorized the villagers. Vikings with silver horned helmets and axes much larger and more threatening than their own plundered and pillaged the small villages along the Great River. Many fought for their home and gave into slavery but many more fled in fear for their life. After countless moons of suffering, the darkness and violence moved on and with it, the Vikings. When the dust settled, the villagers emerged from their hiding place and stood once more on the streets of their village, red with blood and black with ashes. Where once they could see the vast emerald canopies, there the sky shone a clear, unwelcomed blue; where once there were lush grass beddings, there the burnt foxs' dens laid bare.
And the tears came. The lament of the villagers could be heard above the barren lands of the forest. There was no one to help them.
"The mother god has cursed us,
Ridden us of the good men,
Tore from us the babes of our bosoms,
We are nothing but ash again
The moon looked on and ne'r a tear,
The Great River is red with blood
I will sit here to see the sun dry it
Or die from the crimson flood.
The forest was my good friend
The wolves my brothers,
The enemies found their hiding place
Their spirit now smothered.
If I could fight another day
I shall fight for my good friends,
They shall live with me again
If that were how the story ends."
Many more moons passed as the villagers toiled day and night to rebuild what they once had. And many more moons would come as the raids became mere song and dance and folklore to tell around the village fires.
One day, a man named Stian stood up from the crowd and, sick from seeing his people plagued without hope, volunteered himself to seek help from beyond the mountains.
"My good people, I shall go alone and bring back good news of hope. Surely there are kinder folk who will welcome us in with open arms."
"Mother, do not worry. I remember the days of the raids. I was but a wee child. I saw them cut father down. I was there in the fire. I go not alone, father's spirit will guide my wandering feet. And if he cannot travel further, the forest spirits are there, watching and protecting."
"Young man, speak not of the forest spirits! They have become hostile towards us. They believe we did not defend them. They are sick with revenge."
"Nevertheless, I will go. Or I shall die here without hope."
And with that he kissed his mother goodbye and bid his people farewell. To the edge of the barren forest land, he turned to wave one last time at the silhouettes in the distance.
"With hope." He whispered, more to himself. "With hope, dear people."
As Stian traveled along, he kept himself company with the tunes of his mother. She had taught him well and often reminded him his father had blessed him with the voice of an angel. Though he preferred not to be compared to a celestial being, he enjoyed using it to the enjoyment of those around him, mostly himself.
"Wandering feet, take me to the edge of the world
Maybe I shall find some gold or maybe a fine beautiful girl
With hair as soft as air and eyes as deep as the sea
If I ever met such a girl, how happy my spirit would be!
Wandering feet, the world is too wide for only you two,
I wish a friend with me, tell me stories when I'm blue
The birds are nigh and the foxes are running ov'r the hills
But no one here to watch me travel where God wills.
When I reach my destination, what will I find,
I cannot say my good old friend, but I wish it to be kind.
Too much sadness I have seen, too much bitterness
Only sweetness I shall wish, out in this open wilderness."
Many a times he swore he'd seen a glowing figure in the distance. He would call out to it. But no one answered him. In good spirit he told himself it was his father watching over him. But other times he was convinced it was a forest spirit keeping him company, perhaps for protection. He'd heard the legends. The forest spirits loved humans. They existed hand in hand. One cared for the other. He refused to believe they'd become feral spirits, void of any warmth and love. In his youth, he spent much of his time deep in the comfort of the forest. It was never dark, always glowing and light. The woodland creatures scurried to and fro and he would sleep in the dull, quiet noise. He planted many of the trees on the edge of his village and had a name for each one: Kari, Olin, Solvej, Torben, Aart, Abia, Valencia...
He awoke suddenly to the stars above him, brightly shining. Then a glow breaking between his lashes. A fire!
Stian sat up quickly.
"Who's there!" He peered around him, his eyes adjusting to the brightness of the flames before him.
"Please, show yourself. I know you followed me for quite some time. I know you saved me from the raging river. Who are you?"
As he was about to give up coercing his companion from the shadows, it emerged slowly. As the figure became clearer, he could see the slender silhouette of a woman, glowing in the moonlight. Finally he gazed upon her graceful face. She had delicate lips and bright emerald eyes, observing him; a forest spirit.
TO BE CONTINUED/TO BE FINISHED