ext_9063: (13th Warrior Buliwyf)
[identity profile] mlyn.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] 13thwarrior
Huginn og Muninn (Thought and Memory)
Rated: 13+ for adult themes
Notes: It seems obvious that Buliwyf’s past plays a great part in the present of The 13th Warrior. As Buliwyf lies dying, what goes through his mind?

If you have not read my manifesto on the relationship between Buliwyf and Weilow, it may enrich this story for you.

Huginn and Muninn are the names of the ravens that sat on Odin’s shoulders. From the Prose Edda:

The ravens sit on his shoulders and say into his ear all the tidings which they see or hear; they are called thus: Huginn ("Thought") and Muninn ("Memory"). He sends them at day-break to fly about all the world, and they come back at undern-meal; thus he is acquainted with many tidings. Therefore men call him Raven-God, as is said:

Huginn and Muninn hover each day
The wide earth over;
I fear for Huginn lest he fare not back,--
Yet watch I more for Muninn."

When Buliwyf opened his eyes again, the first thing he saw was Weilow’s hands. A washcloth. Wringing the water out. She reached for him, the cloth in her hand.

“…is worse.”

He blinked.

“The fever is worse,” she repeated. Eyes on his. Big, knowing brown eyes. They both knew it meant he didn’t have long. The wendol bitch’s poison was working within him.

He nodded. She covered his eyes with the cloth.

“I cannot see.” Buliwyf walked forward hesitantly, trying not to reach out like a blind fool. They had been going like this for nearly a mile, by his best guess. At some point they were probably going to find his father, off in the mountains with Hrothgar’s boys, their path and purpose secret.

“Five more steps, straight forward.” Weilow’s voice was close to his ear, her breath and hair tickling his neck. He put his hands to her ankles, tight around his waist, and made sure she was secure.

His foot hit wood, and he shifted and stepped forward through a doorway. Warmer air inside, and the smell of cooking food. He stopped, waiting for instructions.

Weilow slid off his back and dropped her hands from his face, revealing her gift. He looked around.

They were in a small hut. A bed was neatly made in the corner, and a pot sat over a fire. There were furs on the dirt floor. When he moved further into the hut, he realized there were no chairs or benches for sitting. Weilow watched him look around.

“It is not much, but my sister helped me. Would you like food?” She moved toward the pot, quick with nervousness.

Buliwyf nodded. He sat by the fire and heaped a fur into a ball to lean against. By the smell, it had been sitting in a cedar chest for some time.

Weilow brought him a bowl of soup and a hunk of bread, then sat as he began to eat. She watched him carefully, looking for his every reaction.

The soup was too hot, but he forced some down before using the bread to eat the rest. It tasted good. His approval seemed to make her happy.

When he awoke again, Weilow could not be seen, but Herger was at his side. The Arab was with him, as always.

Herger looked drawn and sharp, like one of his arrows. His expression changed when he saw Buliwyf awake, but he did not look any more at ease.

“You were talking in your sleep,” he told Buliwyf.

Buliwyf looked at the Arab, who nodded at this.

“Will you start at the beginning?” the Arab asked.

Buliwyf nodded, and drew as deep a breath as he could manage.

His father was pushing him to the limits of his abilities. The heat made everything heavier, slowed his reactions, made him stupid. No time for water, always another combination of attacks to defend. He could barely breathe.

“Good. Good. Drive your enemy backward, off balance. Do not stop moving until he stops.” Hygiliak feigned a stumble and went down on one knee, blocking Buliwyf’s downward swing. The sword reverberated in Buliwyf’s hands and he nearly lost his grip.

“And now you finish him,” Hygiliak added. He had fire in his eyes.

Buliwyf was about to step back, certain that his father did not mean that he should attempt a killing blow. He saw disappointment come over Hygiliak’s face, but then they were both distracted by a voice. A messenger.

His father’s dogs went racing down the dirt lane, barking madly and making the messenger’s horse rear nervously. Hygiliak walked forward, yelling for the scoundrels to shut up; his words had no effect, as was usual.

Buliwyf took the opportunity to sneak a drink of water, gulping down mouthfuls so big his cheeks bulged as he watched his father with one eye. When his father stepped back and turned, the messenger gathering his reins, Buliwyf lowered the dipper and tightened his grip on his sword.

“Enough for today,” Hygiliak said when he was close enough to speak. His head was bowed as he walked, and he did not look at Buliwyf as he entered their hut.

Buliwyf nearly followed him, but remembered his duty and collected their equipment. He cleaned everything off and checked all for damage, then wrapped the swords in soft leather. Only then did he enter the hut, first going to his father’s chest and putting the swords away.

Hygiliak was stoking the fire, holding a mug of mead in one hand. When the flames had begun to lick at the wood, he sat back and drank deeply.

“My sister is dead,” he said when he had swallowed. Buliwyf turned to stone as he took in the words.

His aunt was Maliak, married to the king of neighboring lands, the uniting force of the two peoples. For generations they had fought amongst themselves, until the fruitful marriage. For as long as Buliwyf had been alive, Maliak had brought peace between the kingdoms of Hrothgar and Olak.

How did she die? What would it mean?

Buliwyf could not find his tongue to speak, but Hygiliak anticipated his questions. “Our king has bid me accompany him on a mission to Hrothgar’s kingdom. We must evaluate what has happened, and decide what steps should be taken to maintain the good ties between our peoples.”

Buliwyf hesitated. He wanted to ask if he could come along, and who else would be going, and how long his father would be gone. But he put his teeth together without making a sound, knowing that if he deserved such knowledge, it would come to him.

His father remained silent as Buliwyf began to move around the tiny hut, gathering food to prepare the evening meal. He was accustomed to it, taking up the tasks after his mother had died the same year he had entered manhood.

Only when meat was soaking and Buliwyf was tossing greens into the pot did Hygiliak speak again.

“We have two days to prepare. Take the extra pelts and trade them for all the supplies you can get. I want stores of dry meat and fruits, new blankets, arrows, leather oil…get my cloak patched too, some of the fur is looking thin. Look over everything as you pack it.”

“How many…”

Hygiliak drank again. “Two moons, at least.” And then he said the words Buliwyf had been most hoping for: “Pack for yourself as well.”

After the meal, Buliwyf began his preparations that night. He pulled out all the wet-weather clothing from where it was stored in the rafters, and cleaned and oiled the leathers. He collected their few pieces of gold and the tradeable goods they had been saving. He patched his boots and fixed the fastening on his father’s sword belt. There was so much to be done, a thousand small things. Finally, long after the night animals had begun their noise outside, his father handed him a warm mug of mead and told him to get some sleep.

Two days later, Hygiliak met Buliwyf at the shores of the village. Buliwyf had both his horse and a pack horse loaded with goods, and was watching the activity around the long boats. There were so many people and so much was going on, he could not begin to see what was actually happening. Hygiliak watched with a narrowed gaze.

Then Buliwyf heard his name called, and he searched the crowd before him. A figure came closer, a face became clear. Herger grinned and ran the distance between them.

“Exciting! You have heard the news?”

Buliwyf would not call a queen’s death exciting. He looked at Herger and tried to think of his answer.

Herger laughed. “My news. I am departing with my father’s ship! If war breaks out with Olak, he wants to be in Rome weighing gold, haha!”

“Your father is as mercenary as ever.”

“I take after him, eh?” Herger laughed again.

Buliwyf forced a smile. “At least you will see him more often. Last time he left was how long ago? And he only just returned.”

Herger shrugged. “A few years. It passes quickly. I may not be with him the whole time. I can stop anywhere and make my own time, find my own way. I could see a hundred new cities, meet a thousand new people!”

“A thousand more girls,” Buliwyf corrected. He smiled fully now, catching Herger’s enthusiasm.

“A thousand soft beds to have them on!”

“A thousand,” Buliwyf said. His throat hurt by talking.

“Perhaps it was not that many.” Herger was clasping his hand. Had he taken it, or had Buliwyf reached out to him? Buliwyf could not remember.

“But eight years…”

Herger nodded slowly. “It pained me to stay away so long, brother. I missed you from the first day. I saw Rome and Athens, the holy lands and Cairo, the mighty Nile and its wondrous beasts, and I wanted to show them all to you—”

Buliwyf tried to renew his grip on Herger’s hand. His throat was too tight to speak. Herger called to a girl to fetch water, fresh, from the spring and not the well. Fresh, dammit.

Buliwyf got off the ship feeling stiff and sore, and thankful for land. The horses seemed to feel the same way, jumping awkwardly and splashing through the water without needing to be led. They went up on the rocky beach and then stopped while Buliwyf checked their loads.

When Olak was ready, he and his best warriors set off for Hrothgar’s great hall. Hygiliak was in the forefront of the group, with Buliwyf trailing behind. He was painfully conscious of the older, wiser men around him, men who had proven themselves a hundred times over and even now were better men than he, simply in the way they commanded their horses and themselves. Easy power. Buliwyf kept his head down and just tried to ride without bumping into anyone.

They rode to Hrothgar’s great hall. Murmurs broke out among the company: Hrothgar was surely tempting the gods with his huge hall at the top of a cliff. The size and position of the hall was dangerous, in defense strategy and in a show of vanity. Buliwyf realized his mouth was hanging open as they approached the huge, elaborately carved doors.

Inside the hall it was deathly quiet. Buliwyf could see little from his position at the back of the group. He saw Olak’s head move out of the group and toward the middle of the hall, but couldn’t see what was there or hear what Olak was saying. Frustrated, he leaned against a wall and pulled out his mead horn.

A few of the other people in their party dispersed as well, with not everyone needed for this meeting. Eventually Buliwyf saw his father standing behind Olak, and went to join them.

Hygiliak gave his son a brief glance as he stepped up, but said nothing.

Nothing could be said. His father was gone. No one had an explanation, or they were afraid to tell him what had happened. There was only silence, and guilty looks in Buliwyf’s direction.

Weilow came to him often, her arm brushing his back as she passed with the mead jug, her hair tickling his arm when she laid a platter in front of him. She was not afraid.

Her hand was on his head, delivering cool water to his brow, his throat. Someone helped him drink and adjusted the blanket.

“What happened to your father?”

“Hush.” Herger was swift to reprimand the Arab, although it was a fair question. Buliwyf tried to steer his mind. What was the last thing he had said? Something about Hygiliak?

“Madness,” he said, his voice still hoarse. It may not have been the weapon, but it was the cause.

His mother stroked his hair off his face. He thought he had heard her beside him. “Let him rest,” she said.

Maliak had been a fine wife to Hrothgar, and had given him three healthy sons. Two were a few years younger than Buliwyf, and one was much younger. It was the child that Buliwyf saw frequently around the great hall, for the boy followed him around like a pup missing its mother.

They had been in Hrothgar’s lands for three days, and were finishing the evening meal. Hrothgar’s two older sons were sitting with their father, too far away for Buliwyf to make conversation. The youngest, Wigliff, had left his seat and was at Buliwyf’s side, chattering without stopping even for breath.

Finally Buliwyf had taken enough of him. While the child was halfway through a story about some frog he had found in a pond, Buliwyf threw down his hand, catching the boy in the stomach and pushing him away. “Leave me be, child!”

The boy regained his balance and stared at Buliwyf with a hurt look. Buliwyf turned away, relieved that he finally had silence.

“Do you think he recognized me?” he asked Herger. The Arab’s pen stopped moving.

Herger shook his head. “He would have been too young to remember you as the man he sees today. Or if he did know you, he hid it. He was a trickster.”

Buliwyf bent his head in a nod. “There was evil in him.”

Herger acknowledged this. He had not been here when Buliwyf had come, the first time, but he knew the story. The Arab was watching them closely, hearing the conviction of their words.

Hygiliak called him away, to follow him outside on some errand, but there was none when Buliwyf followed. Instead Hygiliak stopped some distance from the great hall, checking to make sure no one could hear before he spoke.

“You must not repeat this. Only our people here know, and Hrothgar.”

Buliwyf said nothing, nodding once.

“It is believed that my sister was murdered.”

A chill ran up Buliwyf’s neck. He swore and looked away, afraid to see what might be in Hygiliak’s face with those words.

“She was very sick before she died. Hrothgar thinks it was poison.”

“But why?” Buliwyf spoke loudly in his surprise, and belatedly thought to check if anyone had heard.

Hygiliak shook his head, unable to say, or unwilling. He turned back toward the hall, gesturing for his son to follow.

The next day Hygiliak woke his son early, long before dawn. A girl Buliwyf had seen before was awake and at work in the great hall, even though it was far too early for most of her kinsfolk. The girl gave Buliwyf hot tea and porridge with honey, and as she leaned over him she whispered, “I am called Weilow,” and smiled. Buliwyf was too stupid with sleep to give much more than a grunt in return. The porridge was not too hot to eat, and tasted good.

After they quickly ate, Hygiliak led the way out of the village and into the damp, sweet-smelling woods. He said nothing of where they were going, or why so early. They rode in silence until the sky began to lighten, and only then did Hygiliak stop and turn his horse.

“I wanted to be sure that no one would hear us.”

Buliwyf nodded, cautious, still tired.

“Have you heard any stories of…” Hygiliak hesitated, a moment that made Buliwyf stare for the sheer rarity. “Of madness?” he finished.

“No sir.”

Hygiliak nodded to himself. He crossed his hands over the horn of his saddle, getting comfortable.

“Hrothgar’s people have a drink that they have made for generations, unique to these mountains. They gather some ingredient, kept secret, and brew it. Drinking it causes visions and waking dreams. They find it enjoyable.”

Buliwyf nodded, but all he could think was that the girl, Weilow, had given him tea that morning. “But…madness?” he asked.

“Sometimes it kills them. Sometimes the people who get sick become violent before they die.”

“You think the queen was poisoned with this.”

Hygiliak nodded. “She was one of us, our people. Hrothgar told us that she did not like the taste or the effect of the tea, and avoided drinking it. And none was had by anyone here before she sickened. But she was very sick; fever, vomiting, seeing things and people that weren’t there. After a few days, the fever took her.”

Hygiliak took up his reins as he finished speaking. Buliwyf followed, trying to keep his voice low as they began moving again. “How do we find her murderer?”

“If we have luck, we may look for the madness in them.”

Buliwyf opened his eyes. The Arab was watching him. How long had he been sleeping? They had returned from the wendol caves by midday, but he could not see the sun now to gauge how long he had been lost in sleep.

The Arab turned. Herger was approaching. He was red and sweating. He sat next to Buliwyf and the Arab, leaning close. Buliwyf could feel his hot breath, and hear him panting.

“It is done.”

Buliwyf braced himself up on one elbow. He felt cold deep within, his body aching; a fever was setting in. The Arab handed him some water. “How?” he said finally.

“The cliffs. They will believe it was an accident.”

Buliwyf nodded, then froze as he saw Hrothgar approaching. Weilow was not at his side. Where was she?

“Thank you,” he heard Hrothgar say.

Hrothgar was looking at Herger. Herger had become a statue, unable to speak or move.

“It should have been done long ago. If I had the courage…” Hrothgar shook his head and sat heavily in a chair nearby.

“That was a dirty trick you played on me,” Weilow said.

Buliwyf paused at the doorway, pulling off his gloves. His father walked on ahead.

“I did nothing.”

“The frog left on your bed, for me to clean up? Entrails everywhere, legs pulled off. I suppose someone else has done it, then.”

“It is done.”

Tears glimmered in Weilow’s eyes, but that was the only indication of her sadness. Her face was expressionless. She held herself upright, clasping her hands in her lap, and squared her shoulders.

It was almost as if she had not just announced that Hrothgar had chosen her for his new wife. Perhaps she had said that the favorite milk goat had died, or that none of the bread had risen in time for the evening meal. Any insignificant news, not the news that Buliwyf had been denied her hand.

Buliwyf stood, heedless of his chair falling over behind him. He spun and took up his cloak, striding out of the great hall as fast as his legs could carry him.

His mother, Herger, his father, and now Weilow. Why did the gods punish him by taking away everyone he had ever loved?

Buliwyf tossed his cloak onto the bed and knelt, laying Weilow down in a brisk flip off his shoulder. She laughed and released his neck, shifting as he lay down over her, their legs twining. Her hair was fanned over the furs. He left his hand in it as he bent his head and kissed her. Her cheeks were warm from the sun. The rest of her he warmed with his hands, and then his body.

They would not find the bodies. Some said it was better this way; no straw death for Hygiliak.

Buliwyf did not find that a comfort. It was to be such a simple thing, a ride with Hrothgar’s older boys, and yet he had not returned. There was no war being fought. He had gone with them to look for the secret tea ingredient, a secret that Hrothgar commanded be revealed to Hygiliak, but only him. Buliwyf had stayed behind, not minding because he had been entertaining himself with Weilow.

When they had not returned by dusk, a search party went out, and found their horses not an hour’s ride away, standing riderless in the forest above the cliffs. Brush limbs had been snapped and dirt disturbed, showing sliding over a ledge. It was a very long fall to the rocks below, and the sea had long taken away any hint of what had happened.

Would he have been able to prevent the accident, if it had been such a thing? There was no telling.

“Tell me my fortunes,” Buliwyf said.

Weilow’s sister brought the stones, and Buliwyf drew three.

His past: Ansuz. Signals, the Messenger Rune, Loki.

Receiving: messages, signals, gifts. The message may be a warning or a gift, new life unfolding, new connections, surprising linkages that direct to new paths. Care should be taken during meetings, visits, chance encounters, particularly with wiser persons. One is truly blessed with the Messenger Rune bringing sacred knowledge.

Loki, the trickster, a reminder that scoundrels and arch-thieves can be the bearers of wisdom. Expect the unexpected: the message is always a call to new life.

A connection to the divine is at hand. A signal to explore the depths, the foundations of life, and to experience the inexhaustible wellspring of the divine in one’s nature.

Weilow set a platter before him and rested her hand on his shoulder. He turned his head just enough to acknowledge her. She moved away slowly, letting her touch linger.

Something was happening behind them, and they both turned to look.

Wigliff had entered the great hall. He had been missing for most of the day, having run off in a tantrum after his father forbade him from going with Hygiliak. Now he reappeared covered in dirt and holding a cloth sack. After this day, a dirty child was no small matter.

Hrothgar stood before Buliwyf could. He went over to his youngest son, his only surviving son, and took him in his arms.

“I was gathering them for the tea, like I made for mama,” Buliwyf heard him tell Hrothgar, opening his sack to show him what was inside.

“You would risk everything we have done here?” Olak asked him.

Buliwyf tightened his numb fingers on his belt. “No, my king. But everyone knows that my father was murdered. I must have retribution.”

“Not in another man’s kingdom. The man lost his sons and his people are struggling. There’s no honor in challenging him now. I will not have you start a war for something you merely suspect. ”

”The boy killed his mother—”

“Silence!” Olak stood. Buliwyf clapped his jaw together so fast that his teeth clicked.

“The child was too stupid to know better. It was an accident. Certainly we cannot accuse him of being responsible for the deaths of a great warrior, his mother, and his two older brothers!”

Buliwyf bowed his head. He felt his hands shaking with rage, but he kept it inside.

“Hygiliak was the greatest man I have ever known. I long for him, as you do. Yet here, now, we can do nothing. ”

Buliwyf’s throat closed suddenly, emotions overwhelming him. He could barely hear as Olak continued.

“My captain Njörðr leaves for Rus as soon as he has enough men. They will go for trade and learning. I cannot give you a better gift than this, at this time.”

A moment later, Buliwyf could breathe again. He nodded, murmuring his thanks.

His present: Othila. Separation, retreat, inheritance.

Paths separate, old skins must be shed, relationships discarded. A peeling away is called for. Radical severance.

The appropriate action is submission and possibly retreat, knowing how and when to retreat and possessing the firmness of will to carry it out.

Real property is associated with Othila, for it is the Rune of acquisition and benefits. The Inheritance may be derived from something one must give up; particularly demanding if this calls for giving up something of one’s behavior or cultural inheritance. For then, one must closely look at what, until now, was proudly claimed as a birthright.

“He knew all along what he had done was wrong. I was blinded to it.”

“You were grieving, and he was your son.”

“And you lost your father.” Hrothgar moved his chair closer, laying his hand on Buliwyf's shoulder. Beyond him Buliwyf could see Weilow, at last. He relaxed, relieved. She was approaching with a bowl of water and cloths. “I have Wulfgar to replace Wigliff. Nothing can replace a father,” Hrothgar said.

Weilow laid the cloth over his brow.

His future: Laguz. Flow, water, that which conducts.

Unseen powers are active, nourishing, shaping, connecting. Laguz is water, fluidity, the ebb and flow of emotions, lifework, and relationships. Laguz encourages immersion in the experience of living without having to evaluate or understand. It speaks to the satisfaction of emotional needs, to the awakening of the intuitive or inner side. While the sun strives for differentiation, the moon draws us toward union and merging.

Rain outside. Buliwyf could feel the wind cool his fever. He forced himself to stand, feeling a surge of strength in his legs. Weilow stood back and let him gather his blanket. In the next moment, he saw her holding Hrothgar’s sword out for him to take.

“Finish them.” Her voice shook. Pride, he told himself. The wetness on her cheeks was only rain.

He took the sword, saying nothing when its weight proved difficult for his arm. He held the blanket with one hand, and walked out.

He could hear the voices coming together, rising above each other like woven sounds, forming the words he had known for so long. He saw his father, and blinked.

“Lo, there do I see my father,” Weath chanted.

Maliak, and her sons. His mother behind them, beckoning for him.

“Lo, there do I see my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers.”

Laguz signals a time for cleansing: for revaluing, realigning. It is a Rune of deep knowing, calling for a study of spiritual matters in readiness for self-transformation. Success lies in calling upon internal wisdom and attuning to the skein of one’s life. In stories, the hero lives with his bride, at peace.

Apologies for any errors; they were made in innocence, and I would be happy to remedy them.


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December 2011

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