* The 11th Installment of SIBBE'S WAY is now posted. The 11th Installment was discontinued for a while. I have yet to make a final decision about the continued serialization of Sibbe's Way and the copying/taking (called theft of intellectual property which is prosecutable) of my novel from this site. I may publish the entirety of the novel as an Amazon ebook or distribute it here. I will let you know.
* After much consideration, I have decided to publish the entirety of SIBBE'S WAY, both e-book and paperback, on Amazon. Amazon's fees and recommendations determined the prices of the books. Now, you can read, in one sitting, the incredible ending to this historical fiction novel. A second novel about Sibbe and Embla (Emb La') will be published this year. I will keep you updated.
Thank you for continuing to read SIBBE'S WAY.
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Fourth installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way and other installments of the serial novel,
5 thru 10
5 thru 10
You live in a place for thousands of years. You are a reclusive, isolated people who are overwhelmed and invaded without warning. Women and children are carried away from their homeland because another culture likes their appearance and the way they work with metals. You are enslaved. Mass genocide is committed on your people, eventually millions die. Warfare is waged against those who seek freedom or remain free... a narration of this unimaginable circumstance can be found in the novel Sibbe's Way.
SIBBE'S WAY is a tale about a young tribal counselor, Embla, and a northern European, Peur, captured by Imperium troops. The Romans force Peur and his family into slavery. He is eventually returned to his home in the North. Their wills clash just as their regions and cultures collide.
Embla is caught up in the last days of the older culture. She witnesses the final transition. She relates to her descendant, Isabel, the saga about her tribe's life, the story of her life as a young counselor, and fate of the women and men who surrounded her.
Embla was everything early northern Europe was -- young, fiery, exciting.
Embla stood. She positioned her body in the shape of Algiz, a Y. Her body moved back and forth from the waist then she turned eastward. She began to chant in her language, “Wodan, oh, Wodan of wisdom and knowledge, I ask for your guidance when I speak about Sibbe and Seidh. We who are a part of Wurdiz desire your inspiration.”
With both hands, she held her staff over the meadow. “I pronounce a widjen on the clearing.”
When she lowered her arms, her body relaxed and she sat down. Puer turned to look at her. She spoke. He heard the Latin loqui again. Although her words were not accurate at times, he usually understood what she meant.
“I will tell you a little about the northern tribes’ saga, and why we fight the Imperium. You should understand our hatred of the bestia to the south. Your family experienced their cruelty.
Puer thought how does she know this. He could not hold the thought; it drifted away from him.
“I can only begin to tell you about the northern tribes today. The light already wanes.”
A faraway look appeared in Embla’s eyes. A sad smile came to her lips. She paused and looked around the clearing. The silence lasted for several moments.
He thought why is she quiet? Oh, she wants me to look around this open land in front of us. After a few moments, he started to notice the details. He began to take deep breaths. He relaxed a little.
“This is a special place for my people, your people. When they were here, Druid met in this clearing. They made decisions that resolved conflicts in Sibbe lives. Druid arranged and conducted our festivals, Beltane, Samh'in, Ostara, the Solstices. They set the Wild Hunt in motion from this place.
Druid trained the Awena who was present at your arrival. She and one of my mothers trained me in the Druid way. Awena assumed many duties in this area, called a gau. She came from a neighboring wyndham. Wyndham means village.”
Druid, he thought, I have heard of this Druid. Because he could not speak, he could not tell her.
“The Awena and her family will try to determine what happened to your family, if it is possible. So many Sibbe have disappeared. Perhaps, if they find them, you can be reunited with at least a few of your relatives.”
She does not know the remnants of my family will be difficult to find. When I can speak again, I will make comments and ask questions about what she tells me.
He decided to make a list in his head of what he should mention later.
“Druid are consecrated in the Way. Once they were many in number. Druid traveled everywhere through our lands. They administered to Sibbe. They provided justice, medicine, learning, settled questions of belief, spirit, and behavior, and recorded our history.
Our history dwells in the Druidic Bard's memory, including both transactions and births. We write on wood and stone but do not record all events in this manner. Bards are necessary to the survival of our history and traditions. They recall every event during our time, The Time of the Swords, and before our time. Our Bards travel with the Druid. Well, they did; and Druid Ovate, master healers, move with them.
Our healers and prophets were Druid. Yet, they were not a part of us; according to tradition, they could not be. They lived separately. They roamed the north, Sibbe territory, freely without hindrance. They studied the night skies. We called them ‘the learned ones’.”
Embla breathed deeply, and continued, “The bestia, beasts from the south, the Imperium, attacked Druid and killed them wherever they found them in the occupied lands on the border. On their raids into the north, they continue to hunt Druid down like hirsche, deer. The remnants of the Druid have fled to the far, northern islands.
We require counselors to help in our daily life and to help us continue our traditions and Way. We fight the Imperium. We resist their encroachment into our territories because we want our Druid leaders to return to us. We need Sibbe young trained in the Druid way. The runecastings say before their return, many leaders and many seasons will come and go in the Time of the Swords. I will do my part to precipitate the new beginning.”
Embla paused while she fought away tears. She took deep breaths and told herself not to display her emotions. When she contained them, she continued.
“Most Sibbe speak two languages, Celtoi and Gaut. Over the many, many seasons in our past, several of the tribes blended. You will hear words from both when the tribe in this gau speaks.
Sibbe are a restless people. We wandered far. During our earlier history, we lived high in mountains far to the southeast near a black water sea. Before that time, we lived in the middle of eastern lands and along roads that led off far to the East.
We returned to the mountains, our home, when our vast empire broke apart. We thought we were sheltered and protected in the high lands. When our numbers grew, a few tribes left our mountains. Most of them travelled west.
Riverways took us to our new lands. Sibbe sought new meadows for their animals and fresh land for lodges. Sibbe formed hundredships. They worked with metals and traded with other Sibbe, including those who moved farther and farther away. We established routes for our trade.”
Embla drew in a deep breath from the fresh air around her, “In another time, the dwellers of a land that juts out into the great southern sea, the cousins of the Romans called Gr, Grlik…”
Puer interrupted her with a strong thought Greco. Greco or Grailcia.
Jove, he thought, again she answers me in my head.
Greco, these cousins call themselves Greco. The Romans value all that the Greco knew and did. They are the same people. Most Greco stayed on their Eastern peninsula, but many left their homeland to journey to the western Italic peninsula, to conquer the Etrurians, and the Sabine, Sanniti, and other tribes. They determined they would settle there on the hills later called Roma. Greco journeyed to many other places as well.
How do you know these things?
Never mind. I despise that you speak to me in my mind. He tried to close his thoughts to her.
Embla waited for Puer’s reply. Nothing.
His ability to stop mindspeak tells me that he is Aes, perhaps from a Seidh family. I may be able to turn him after all, but how.
She spoke again. “The Roman cousins, you called them Greco, discovered us in the northern mountains. Several stories say someone, some peoples, led them to us. They wanted our metalwork. They tried to force our tribes to trade with them and they attempted to force their ways upon us. We refused to trade with these outsiders. We knew they could not be trusted. They wanted what we possessed, so they tried to take what was not offered them.
Because of our refusal to trade with them and allow them into our territories, the Greco assaults began. They continually attacked our tribes in the mountains. Sibbe children and women were captured and enslaved. Men were murdered. After the rape, those who survived left the mountains. Most Sibbe began to move, to wander, and to attack the invaders, our enslavers, who lived in the south.
Wherever we went, we did not feel comfortable. Where we settled, we trusted no one. After numerous seasons of conflict with the southern beasts, we began to tell the sagas so all would know of the intrusion, the rape, the enslavement. Every time we encountered them, we fought those who spoiled our peace and plundered our home. We lost thousands upon thousands of our people, men and women from generation after generation, in the attacks and battles.
Later, we decided to invade their land. We did, then moved north and westward. We will never stop fighting the enslavers.
I mentioned earlier today, we are called by many names. We are the northern tribes, Nord. We are Aes. We are Sibbe. The word means we are all related, Sibbe, siblings. Some of us fled to the cold, to the extreme north, we called the land Siberia. The tribe here in this gau call themselves the Amelen or Amelungen.
Our gau is the only one with all Amelen population. Because we are Sibbe leaders, the Amelen usually build one wyndham deep within every gau. We have gathered here in this isolated area, in this one group, for our protection and our continuation from the intruders, the enslavers, the Imperium.
For many, many solstices, all the solstices we know, Druid, the Bards, carried our culture, healed us, assisted us with governing the people, and recited the history of Aes, of Sibbe.”
She read my thoughts again. She immediately started to talk about the Druid. Now, she speaks this chronicle to me. Interesting she knows a number of things about the Imperium, but not others.
Embla searched his face with her blue eyes. He returned her look. What does she want?
He followed her downward gaze. He noticed a third, smaller stone lodged between the two standing stones where they sat. Embla lifted the small stone slab that lay on top of the third stone. She revealed to him a carved, bowl-like depression that held turquoise blue water. In the small pool, Puer saw Embla's face floating in the water. Behind her stood people robed in white, one carried a golden sickle.
“These are the Druid. I will become Druid, if I serve Sibbe well as Seidh Counselor.”
He pointed to the image in the water and then he pointed to her.
“Yes.” was all she said.
He found himself in disbelief. How did she form the images in the water? He jumped off the sitting stone and stepped down two smaller stones to the ground. The things I saw and heard here are unacceptable. They do not exist in the world I know. They defy reason. He was ready to run. He did not want to see or hear anymore.
“Do not move, Puer.”
“We are surrounded by wolves.” She pointed to the woods beyond the clearing, and waved her hand.
A large wolf walked out from the forest in front of them.
“If you sit, the wolves will withdraw into the bushes and we can continue the conversation that has only begun.”
She sighed, “If you run, they will run after you, they will overtake you.
You have nowhere to go. The Roman’s villa is gone and those who lived there, free, servants, or slave, are dead or disbursed. Stay here with me. At least, you can learn a little about the people who are your kinsmen and discover what was lost.
Only today, will I caution you. After the sun sets, I will warn you no longer. You will be on your own. The decisions you make will give you life or death. Choose wisely.”
Puer stood motionless, but he wanted to run. He wanted to see his mother and the villa. The strange girl said my home no longer exists. How does she know about the house where I lived? Eventually, I will find out.
He climbed up on the stone and plopped down on its hard surface. The wolf backed away and disappeared into the bush that surrounded the clearing.
Embla paused. She lowered her head. When she raised it, she spoke softly, “Puer, I must continue the telling.”
She breathed in. Embla pointed toward the foothills and the mountains beyond. “This mountainous area is useful. We tell direction and time by the sun’s position over the highest peak at midday. We call that mountain Middagshaugen. This ring of mountains and hills shelters us from the outside world. It is similar to our original home which was, is, mountainous.
Sibbe lived here for hundreds of solstices. Only a few know the passage in or out. We call this area a gau. We call a group of a hundred Sibbe a hundredship or hundaskapiz. A gau consists of many hundredships. We consider our land sacred, and secret. Secrecy is important to us.
I said this earlier, and I repeat it. Northern tribes call each other Sibbe. We consider the tribes related. We also call ourselves Aes. We are not related to the southern peoples or to the people of the Imperium. They are not Sibbe. Their gods possess different names. They come from the eastern end of the southern sea.
Usually, Sibbe live well from the land. We work hard. Each wyndham sustains itself. Each tribe provides and maintains supplies for difficult times. We provide warriors and Battlers during armed conflicts with outsiders. Sibbe fight hard and we fight to the death. Every man, every woman will battle to the end. We do this because we know our spirits will continue, and we will live again, in another life. We fight because, in this current life, we despise the thought of those to the south, the bestia, capturing, enslaving us and taking this land.
Our enemies believe their way is the only way. They pretend to absorb the conquered, different peoples without condemnation. This is not true. We know this. Although we live in an isolated wyndham, we hear Romans' defamation of us. Their insults about us are endless.
When I was younger, a former escaped slave from the Roman lands returned to a wyndham in this gau. He was Sibbe and he was ill. Finally, he died. Before he left us, he told Sibbe about the lies. When he served the Romans, he learned to read their words. He repeated them to us, especially the words about Sibbe. I learned the enemies’ speak quickly. He liked that and he taught me all he knew.
We realized the beasts’ disgusting words hide truths. Their bards lie about Aes, about Sibbe. Romans words are twisted. Their accounts are twisted. They make every people appear backward or depraved but their people. Imperium sagas are false. The, they, oh, Wodan, how I hate this word! They call us Barbari.
WE ARE NNOOOTTT!”
Embla shrieked her last three words. They sailed through the clearing and bounced off the foothills. The sound returned to Puer, hit him full on, and vibrated his eardrums. He heard the words first when they were sent forth out of the girl. He suffered from a second hearing when the words returned. He placed his forefingers in both ears and shook them.
She attempts to destroy all my senses he thought. How did she do that?
Yes, I called you Barbari. Yes, I was a slave. Still, my situation was better than this existence. Do you hear me, Girl? He glanced at her. Tears are in her eyes, beautiful eyes. Oh, I do not know. She does not look right to me. Yet, her appearance resembles my mother.
He yelled at her in his head. Leave me alone! If she heard him, she did not respond.
“Let us eat our bread in silence.” She reached into one of her belt bags for the food they packed. Embla remained silent throughout their meal.
While he ate, Puer listened to the sounds in the clearing. He was not as angry. His mind settled and he began to enjoy the rugged beauty of the foothills and mountains beyond them. The air carried a thousand woodland scents to his nostrils. Birds in the trees became their entertainment. Embla and Puer were absorbed into their surroundings. They did not feel separate from them.
For the second time during that day, Puer responded to the natural, lush setting in which he found himself. He sensed that everything around him lived and breathed, just as he lived and breathed. The spider crawling along the ground in front of him was as important as the sky above him or as significant as he was himself. Puer became part of the whole and no longer felt above it, or separate from it.
He thought I understand a little of what she says. This closeness to nature is Sibbe way. I can feel it. If they live apart from this, it will strip them of their spirit. No other Way will work for them and give them true peace.
Why, I have witnessed this already, have I not, with my own family.
* * *
When they finished their meal, Embla spoke again. “I would end our conversation now if I could, Puer. She slid her nostrils between her thumb and forefinger.
Even so, I must continue with a short narration. This moment is part of the Weave. Wurdiz decides certain events and our presence here in this clearing is one of them.
“Sibbe’s belief teaches us that in our lifetime we undertake a spiritual odyssey. A word for our belief does not exist, in either your language or mine. We sometimes call our creed the Way, the becoming, destiny, the Weban, or Wurdiz.
Allfather leads us on our journey. Everything we do is part of our odyssey so we try to do things well and live well. We like to laugh, celebrate our world, and our everyday life. At the same time, we will give our lives to right a wrong, we are fierce, we fight to win, and we allow nothing to stop us.
When we are not engaged in battle, we are busy with our daily tasks. In our wyndham, we work in metal, wood, leather, and we spin and weave. Most all of our clothing and fabric come from sheep. Amelen also make linen. We raise goats and, at times, oxen and, of course, our sacred horse. Sibbe harvest wild animals, too, especially at certain times of the season when our stores are low. We plant, tend fields, and gather from the wild. We build. I will show you these activities and more so you may learn our ways.
We also gather knowledge as Allfather has taught us.
One more thing, last night, you slept in the Chieftainess’ lodge. She is Kentigearna. She honored you when she allowed you to stay there. I will show you the customs of her home. If you do not , she will ask you to leave.
The fields with the herders and the dogs will become your new home…”
Something interrupted Embla. A wolf howled in the distance. Embla heard a fluttering of wings and looked into the tree branches above them to see the bran, Huginn and Muninn. As usual, they listened to what was said. When they cawed to her, Embla stood and the birds flew away.
“We must go.”
Embla and Puer returned through the woods and meadow to the wyndham path. Although, she was weary of the southern speak, she spoke more words to the hogan, while they walked.
“I live at the Kenti's house when I am in this village. I also live with the wise women in another area of the forest. This wyndham is not so much mine, it belongs to the Sibbe who were born here. Like you, I was once an outsider but they chose to adopt me.
My way is not like other girls. I study runar, medicine, Wurdiz, Sibbe behavior, the sky and other subjects, what you might call scientia. I memorize our sagas. I am required to retain and apply the information Sibbe requires to function.
I ask you to listen to me while I instruct you. Your education in our Way is important. Are you willing to do this without resistance?”
He stopped in the middle of the woodland path. I do not want this girl to instruct me. He bent over and held his head in his hands. Puer looked up at her. She studied him closely.
Why does she look at me? Hhhh, look at her. Yes, look at her. Does she know how insignificant she is? Yet, she possesses such dignity.
He stopped himself. He stood upright and shrugged.
Embla continued, “I will attend a meeting tonight. You must stay near the hearth in the Kentigearna’s lodge. Someone will hand you a spindle, the owney, the older ones, will teach you how to use it. Everyone in the wyndham spins wool into yarn. A number of Sibbe are better weavers, and that is their assigned task, but everyone spins. The spun yarn is collected from the lodges. It is processed and eventually turned over to the weavers. They make cloth from the yarn on frames, called looms. You will see these looms in all the lodges.
Each Sibbe acquires at least one skill they do well. You will find yours.” She paused for a moment. “All of us are given tasks to do in life. Your task will be part of your journey.
“After you practice spinning tonight and you are familiar with the details of the process, you may play board games with the others in the lodge. Do not be rude or mean to them.
I grow weary of the Latin loqui. You should learn a few words in our speak.” Embla stopped talking. She picked up their pace. Soon, they arrived in the bermed and fenced area of the wyndham. During their walk through the village, Embla began to say more words in her language. Puer pointed to various objects they passed along their way. She told him their Sibbe names.
He looked to the sky first and blinked at the sun. She said, “Saiul.” He waved his hand toward a small cloud. “Milhma.” He pointed to one of the large trees that sheltered the path. “Triu.”
His eye brightened and he smiled a crooked little grin. He decided to speed up the game. He pointed to the hay in the field.
She answered, “Hawi.”
He pointed to the path of stones on which they walked.
He reached down and tried to pick up one of the larger stones.
He pointed to the door of the Chief’s lodge.
Puer stood before the lodge door. He turned to Embla and looked at her from underneath his brow to get her attention. He repeated, in his mind, every Sibbe word in the order she said them.
She answered him. “Ah, you learn quickly. Good.”
To let him know she was pleased, she allowed a flicker of a smile to dance across her lips.
* * *
Embla led Puer into Kenti's lodge. When she opened the door, they stepped into a small entry. After she closed the wooden door, she pulled back the cloth that hung from the top of a second opening in front of them. The opening revealed the interior of the dwelling. A faint, pleasing smell of food preparation and smoke wafted toward them.
She saw Puer sniff at the fragrances. “Sweet grasses and herbs are thrown on the hearth fires daily to refresh the air in the lodges. In the evening, the dwelling is prepared for those who return exhausted from the fields or the hunt. These men, women, and children work outside. We make them comfortable and feed our workers hearty stews or soups, cheeses, breads, fruits and nuts, greens, seasonal game and other wild-gathered foods.
In every Sibbe house, the cooking area is located to the left when you enter our dwellings. They consider the left side of the lodge the dwelling's public side. A visitor never walks into the private area on the right.”
Embla showed Puer the guest’s rules with her body language. They walked toward a large iron pot that contained the night's meal. The food simmered on a hearth located in the center of the lodge. Several people sat around two large tables behind the cooking area and to the left of the hearth.
She introduced them to Puer. She started her introductions with the Chieftainess. “This is the Kentigearna, Puer.”
Kentigearna's older aunt and uncle sat beside her. They were owney, elderly. Their names were Neil and Miri. The owney and Kenti’s older children usually watched the younger children. That evening, they gathered around the hearth so the Chieftainess, Embla, and others could attend the meeting.
Embla motioned for Puer to sit next to three of Kentigearna's older children, two boys and a girl. “These Sibbe are named, Beven, Olwen, and Ara.” He nodded to each one.
Miri served the younger children their meals before Embla and Puer arrived. The young ones perched on sitting chests near the hearth. They played a twig game called Wopjan on a table. The laughter of the children told Puer the game was fun. He watched the children focus their attention on what Embla told him was the Sibbe alphabet. She called it the Futhark.
One player quickly arranged long and short twigs into a Futhark letter. The children called out the letter’s name. The child who said the name of the alphabet first called out the meaning of the letter. If the child could not say the meaning quickly, the player to the left responded. This procedure continued until the round stopped at a player who said an acceptable definition to all the other players. Turns to speak always moved to the left.
Embla leaned closer to Puer. “The art in the rune game comes from subtly changing the meanings of the letters without losing the essence of their original definition. Our alphabet not only spells a word, but each symbol can predict certain incidents and actions. The symbols can represent historical events as well. If a child is good at interpreting runes and assigning significance, they can, in time and with training, become a Deviner.
Many permutations of the game exist. These variations keep the children playing for long stretches of time. You can dissolve into laughter, or tears, or an argument or two. Adults play the Futhark game, too.”
After Embla stopped speaking, Miri left the table and motioned for Puer to come with her. She handed a bowl to him. He followed her to the big iron pot suspended over a low fire and held out his bowl. Miri filled it with stew from a large, carved dipper. She stepped to the worktables and cut a piece of thick, dark bread for both Embla and Puer. Embla stayed behind them and served herself the stew.
Miri poured a cup of the golden mead for Embla. Sibbe make the mead from yeast and the sap of the sacred Ash. The drinking of mead was often a religious ceremony in itself. Only in the Chief’s house would the delicious drink be so readily available.
“Embla, should the hogan drink a sip of the mead?”
She considered the mead’s probable effects on Puer. “Yes, Miri.”
“Even without the knowledge of the sacred mead…”
Embla’s eyes twinkled, “even without the knowledge.”
Miri saw amusement in the young counselor’s eyes and smiled.
Puer drank his mead after he took his seat at one of the tables. A large bowl of herbed, freshly churned butter lay on the table next to pieces of dehydrated meat, bread, and cheese. He stared at the food.
Embla walked over to him. “Eat the food or Miri and your other hosts will be offended. Sibbe dry, smoke, or salt food to preserve stores for the winter months. Dried fruit and vegetables are good for you and give those who consume them high levels of energy.”
She moved to the other table. Embla ate silently, away from the others. She gathered her thoughts in preparation for the meeting.
Tonight, I will serve Sibbe. This meeting will be my first as Seidh counselor. The selection of a new name for Puer will not be easy. I must do this well. If I fulfill my role with success, I will eventually become Druid.
The runar tell me tonight, during the moon’s light, destinies will be revealed.
* * *
Embla was born into the Amelen tribe, but not into Kenti’s wyndham. Her age was six springs when she was orphaned. The runes cast after she lost her family not only told of her role as counselor; they also told of a second role, Var, witness to change. With the encouragement of Druid, the entire gau decided the Witte Wieven would raise and educate Embla toward those ends.
Amelen were eager to support Embla in her training and her rise to counselor. A child assisted on her Odyssey benefited Sibbe. They considered the endeavor to be the noblest of actions. Because of their participation in Embla’s life, the wyndham looked forward to Embla’s first appearance as Seidhkona, Seidh Counselor.
Before they left the gau for the far north, Druid presented to Embla the runes that foretold her life’s journey. Their gift was unusual. These days, the Druidic runes and the knowledge about her destiny always traveled with her in a small leather bag on her belt. The rune staves gave her assurance she would continue; and, somehow Sibbe would carry on.
Embla held in her left hand the same staves that declared her destiny. She practiced in her mind the new role the runes declared she was about to assume. She rehearsed her part in the night's ceremony. The meeting was vital to Puer. His life depended on the Amelen’s decisions. Embla composed what she must say about him.
She also reviewed the proceedings’ rituals. The Aesir and Vanir prescribed them. The wise women taught the ceremonies to her. After tonight, I will no longer be a girl. I will be more than an adult female or male, I will be Counsel and leader in the Way. As she thought of the responsibility of her role, Embla's demeanor changed.
Puer watched Embla while she sat deep in thought. He asked himself where does she go when she becomes so still, what is she doing? The members of this household treat her differently, almost with reverence. Their behavior is subtle, but it is there. She is young yet they place demands and responsibilities on her. She is very committed to these, these Sibbe. Yet, Embla always appears removed from her circumstance.
He looked at his food. I will consider Embla's position later. I am hungry, the food actually looks well prepared and smells good, and this drink tastes pleasant.
After Puer ate and attempted to communicate with the others, he sat back. He pretended to stare at the fire but he watched Embla study the staves she held in her hands.
His face turned red and he started to sweat. A discomfort swept through him. He looked at the fire for a moment, then at her. When his gaze met hers, a thought entered his mind your life is in her hands. He felt his stomach drop through his body to his feet.
Neil, the great uncle, sat beside him and placed a spindle in Puer's hand to distract him. With gestures and his body language, the owney began to instruct him in the art of spinning. Puer concentrated on the wool and the spindle. He did not look toward Embla for a while. When he finally looked up to rest his eye, she was gone, and he was relieved.
* * *
The evening air was heavy and cold when Embla began her walk toward the meeting. She wore her hooded cloak. The Witte Wieven wove the garment for her. The warm, protective coat was a greenish brown with gold embroidered interlaces. It gave her the feeling of power. Underneath the cloak, her stride became more purposeful. Her sense of authority increased.
The distance from Kenti's house to the meeting lodge was not far, but Embla arrived at the door refreshed from the cold air, and transformed. When she touched the lodge’s door handle, Embla became Seidhkona, Counselor.
Her right hand gripped a tall staff. A carved, gold leafed eagle perched on top. A large, round crystal rested on the eagle's upper back between the raised wings. The eagle symbolized the leader of the Aesir, Wodan, called Allfather. He was inspiration, wisdom, knowledge, war, and death. The round crystal represented the world, Frigga, as Sibbe knew her.
An amber and crystal necklace hung from Embla’s neck and onto her tunic. A Sibbe artisan carved the powerful rune symbol of Frigga and Seidhr, Perthro, into the gold pendant. Frigga, also known as Erda, Urd, Berchta, or Holda, gave the secret of the runar to Wodan. Erda/Joerd was earth, weather, fertility, childbirth, children, spinning, and death. Unlike other belief systems, Sibbe gods were not the deities of these things; they were those things. Wodan was husband to Frigga. The wisdom and power generated by their symbols accompanied Embla into the meeting lodge.
When she entered the interior of the building with one hand on her pendant and the other on her staff, all eyes turned toward her. The sight of Embla, tall and regal, enveloped in the long, loden green cloak evoked the spirit of the Aesir and their green, fertile earth, Joerd. The assembled Sibbe chanted, Vala, Vala, Vala!
Vala meant Chosen One.
Embla removed her hood, and opened her cloak. Her hair caught the light of the ceremonial fire. She wore a white tunic that also reflected the fire’s glow. Her radiance illuminated the lodge’s interior. When she moved toward her seat on the officials’ benches, Frigga’s son, Balder, light, bore her up.
The Sibbe who gathered in the lodge realized they would never look at Embla in the same way again. No longer the girl in Seidh training, she was Counselor, and potentially Druid . . .
-- e. smith sleigh Sibbe's Way at Amazon http://amzn.to/2mSmuUi
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Fifth installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
After Embla took her seat and the meeting began, the Dewin, reader of the runes, conducted the assembly. Kenti sat near him. The Dewin was the white-haired man Puer first saw at the encampment. He recounted the raid on the villa, the discovery of the boy, and his history.
“…the boy was blinded in one eye. His mother told him that he ran into the pointed end of a stake when he was a small boy. The truth is the owner of the villa put out the child's eye after Romans captured and enslaved his family. The Patron told the boy’s mother he would completely blind the child if she or any of her family tried to escape their enslavement.
The Patron confessed these things with a Raider's knife to his throat. He admitted he was a general in the Imperium army. He killed or enslaved many hundreds of Sibbe. After the destruction of their village, he kept the boy’s family at his villa because he found them particularly attractive.
He also told the Horsemen where he hid the gold, other metals, and valuables that he and his men scavenged from the bodies and wyndhams of Sibbe dead. Before the old general died, he declared the boy loved him and would do anything to return to him.”
Embla's head came up. She thought he will be tested.
The Dewin continued, “I decided the boy's eye was possibly a sign. He was slight of build for his age, under-nourished. He did not resemble our hogans, but he bore the mark of Wodan. I reminded the Raiders that Wodan himself was blind in one eye. The boy possessed knowledge of our enemy. I saw an opportunity. I believed he should be returned to the north, to Sibbe, and that we should hear what he knows.”
When Dewin finished his story, the gathering erupted into discussion. Several Sibbe questioned the hogan’s return to the north. They believed Sibbe’s world was already lost to him and his family, and it should remain that way. The Imperium’s cruelty and debauchery already corrupted the hogan. Sibbe discussed the possible signs sent to the village since the boy arrived. They asked many questions.
“Will the one-eyed boy always be utangardhr?”
“Will the boy’s likeness to Wodan bring auspices to our gau?”
Embla sat quietly, listening. Sibbe did not ask her opinion and she did not offer one. They consumed ale along with more talk about the stranger from the south.
Their discourse moved to intrusion, invasion, and war. They mentioned the position of the Imperium’s northern army and discussed the latest news from the borders. Someone pointed out Toiseach, their chief, just returned from Aesburg, the border town. Another Sibbe asked the Dewin why their chief was not present at the gathering.
A villager named Derryth sat near the Kentigearna. Derryth was one of the Chief's seconds and his neighbor. He was tall with a blocky build and light brownish yellow eyes. His brown hair was medium length. He wore brown plaid tunic and brown leggings. His mouth curved downward at the corners and he never smiled. Most of the time, he was quiet, too quiet. Many Amelen in the wyndham considered him blunt and rude.
Derryth stood and answered the villagers’ question before the Dewin could say anything, “Our chief joined the hunt rather than return immediately to the wyndham. He felt the meat stores were low. We will require extra provisions before Ostara is celebrated.”
The villagers nodded their approval.
Derryth did not take his seat. He turned to Kenti and excused himself. He walked through the crowd and went out of the meeting lodge ostensibly to go to the prive’. After he left, one of the tradesmen revealed to the gathering he recently accompanied Derryth to Aesburg, but he returned to the wyndham without him. The tradesman said he was surprised to see the Chief’s second at the meeting. Kenti sat through this discussion and said nothing. Her mind turned to the border town and the possible reasons why Derryth would face the dangerous return trip by himself.
Aesburg was the only town in the north organized along Roman dictates. It was located on the border of north and south at the intersection of several trade routes. Sibbe called the town Aesburg, Aes's town. The Imperium called the town Asciburgium. Everything about the area was dangerous. Most Sibbe did not travel there. Only authorized intermediaries between the two factions or trade expeditions made the trip to Aesburg. Travelers were fully armed and ready to do battle in the town or fend off bandits on their return trip north. Armed tradesmen and their henchmen, Imperium troops, beggars, thieves, outcasts, and diseased male and female prostitutes walked the dangerous streets.
When he returned from the prive’, Derryth was asked to tell the news from Aesburg. He reluctantly stood again.
“The Imperium gains more and more control of the territories and tribes on the border. They fight us not only with their legions and armament, but also with their mishmash beliefs and corrupted ideas. In the most southern gaus, when Sibbe food stores were low and their new plantings were not successful, they accepted Roman food in exchange for submission to Roman ways. Many of Sibbe’s starving children were enslaved. The Imperium plan was division of the north tribes, set them against one another, and destroy them. We must be vigilant. Aesburg exists in a debauched state and is a prime example of Roman rule, but...”
He stopped in the middle of his narration, frowned, and looked at the Dewin. “That is all I have to say.”
Dewin coughed and quickly began a restatement about Puer’s importance. More discussion followed. Someone asked for the exact runar from the casting about the boy's fate. Dewin recited the runes’ names. Embla heard the names and was not convinced of the reading the Dewin gave them.
Nevertheless, she said nothing.
Someone shouted, “The casting must be re-evaluated.”
Derryth stood once more and turned toward Embla. He was composed, but his eyes were cold. He bowed slightly.
“Vala, you experienced the boy's spirit. Please talk to us about him. I ask that you conduct the rest of the meeting.” He exaggerated his bow that ended his statement to Embla. When Derryth thought no one watched him, he caught her eye and sneered at her. Embla did not react to his look of contempt.
She thought, at one time, we were rivals for Seidhr training. Perhaps resentment is his problem. I will remember his look and determine the reason behind it.
The Dewin and Kentigearna nodded their approval for Embla to conduct the meeting. She stood and closed her eyes. Embla held her forearms and hands high and wide to the roof.
“Aesir and Vanir, Sibbe meets tonight to make wise decisions for our wyndham and gau. We hope to grow in knowledge and benefit from our journey. Allfather inspires us. He climbed Yggdrasil to seek knowledge and he hung himself on the sacred Ash. Wodan is our example, and our inspiration. Frigga is our mother.”
Embla moved to the hearth, reached into her belt bag, and threw a powder on the burning logs. Within a heartbeat, the interior of the lodge glowed blood red.
“Oh, Wodan! We seek a grain of your wisdom.” She threw a handful of grain on the fire. It popped, and burst, then shot into the air.
“Frigga, thank you for our existence. Fertility and bountifulness to all.” Everyone at the meeting chanted and rocked back and forth in their seats, "Frigga, dear mother, Frigga, Frigga, our dear mother, our erd, we protect her and thank her for existence."
She threw another powder into the fire. The inside of the lodge appeared to melt from red into purple.
Everyone at the meeting chanted and rocked back and forth in their seats, “Wodan, Wodan, Wodan, Wodan, Wodan! We seek your inspiration.”
At the tables, Sibbe poured the Golden Minne and toasted Allfather with the sacred brew. Right hands with cups of Minne were raised in salute to Wodan, the Way of Aes, and to the Vanir and the Aesir. Embla made an offering of the Minne to Wodan. She poured the libation on the fire. The blaze sparked and the liquid sizzled. A gray smoke rose from the burn.
According to the Bards who later recited the saga, four strands of smoke twisted around each other and wove in and out until an image of Wodan appeared. The smoke moved in one mass. A hand and extended forefinger formed from the aggregation of smoke. The finger shook and pointed at Derryth, then pointed to Embla. Those assembled heard the hissing of boiling sap, then the smoke flew out the opening in the center of the roof. The assembly gasped in amazement.
Embla bowed her head. She waited until all was silent. The silence was powerful. She moved to the fire once more and threw a third powder into the flames. The smoke that remained in the lodge and the smoke that the powder produced combined, turned gold, eddied, and spiraled upward. It rushed through the center of the roof, and followed the Wodan into the night sky.
A cheer went up. Sibbe reached for their ale cups and drank with the thirst of many unquenched seasons.
* * *
“Sibbe, I do not meet with you tonight to change opinions about the runar. There are several ways to read them. The best reading tells us the one-eyed boy will gain wisdom. He will undertake a journey. I see other meanings, as well. Dire events will occur if the boy fails to prove his chosen name.
Tonight, I will tell you what I observed in him. My observations should provide enough information for you to give him a Sibbe name.
He wants to go home. To him, home is the villa to the south where the Dewin and raiders found him. He tells me his enslaved existence in the Roman villa is better than living free within the wyndham. He is obviously homesick. His feelings are expected. His hate and anger toward his own people runs deep right now.
Enslavement and Roman ways are the entirety of what he knows. He does not understand Sibbe liberated him. At this time, he observes the world with southern eyes. He is not free in his mind. Today, he was rude and unwilling to alter his ways. He is resistant, although he may change.
He shields his one good eye with his eyelid. Behind that eyelid, perhaps, are reasons not to trust him. At present, a rage emanates from him. If his anger diminishes, his turning can be accomplished. If the anger does not ebb…”
Her voice trailed off. She lowered her head and paused, then spoke again.
“He is a boy and not a boy, nor is he a man. What I saw from the hogan today tells me his turn may take longer than we expected. I will try different approaches until I find one that works. I sense unanswerable questions concerning him. My duties as counselor may not allow me to stay here in the wyndham much longer. Who has the time to continue with the boy’s instruction? What do we, what do I, give up while his turn is accomplished?
He is smart; but, right now, his concentration is minimal. In his own way, he is spoiled. The time to train him as a warrior or Horseman has passed. He is too old for instruction. The spirit and endurance of the hunter or the patience and attention to nature of a farmer are not in him.”
She paused. “Yet, he has something within him that encourages me to continue his turn. When time allows, I will work hard to facilitate his transition. I hope my opinion of him changes.”
Embla bowed slightly.
“Tonight, we do not know where his loyalty lies, but I will find out. If he remains with us, do not send him to the border under any circumstance. He should not learn our true location. Right now, he is devoted to his enslavers but the runar say his loyalties may change.
This morning when he awoke, he called Sibbe names and he evoked the southern enslavers’ god, Jove, to strike us. He attempted to strike me. I called him Iseldir.” Embla took her seat.
Loud talking erupted when she stopped speaking.
Kenti rose. Immediately, conversation ceased. Kenti’s eyes twinkled and she smiled, “Now, the boy can no longer speak.”
A cheer went up. Again, shouts of “Vala! Vala!” rang through the lodge.
* * *
The Dewin spoke loudly to gain their attention. “Sibbe, Sibbe. I will add this, if the hogan does not achieve his turn before the beginning of the Summer Solstice, the Chief will surely send him to the bog and Oblivion.”
The talking ceased. Sibbe expected something good but what they heard was a huge challenge walked into their midst. How to make the situation better? Give him a name, continue with the turning, or end his instruction now? A loud discussion flowed around the lodge before the Dewin stood again and asked for opinions.
Several of the gathered Sibbe yelled out Broch. “What about the name Broch? All we know from him is his anger.” Not everyone agreed with the name.
They called for a runecasting to settle the question of the boy’s name and to determine his purpose in the wyndham.
An older woman stood, “Dewin, cast the runar. Help us decide a name for the boy.”
The Dewin laid the sacred white cloth on the table. He pulled the rune staves out of a bag that hung on his belt. He placed a piece of amber in the center of the cloth. The runester looked to the lodge ceiling. He cast the runar onto the cloth. After the runes settled into their places on the cloth, the diviner studied the runes closest to the amber piece in the center of the cloth.
“Of course, the runar speak of journey, anger, and transition.” The last rune, the one he held in his hand, caused the Dewin to step backwards when he turned it over.
“Vala, please join me.”
Embla moved to his side. She studied the runar with great seriousness. Dewin and Embla talked in low voices. Both runesters explored every possible interpretation.
Finally, Embla spoke to the gathering, “What we see here is Perthro, revealed secrets, and umm, Raido, wide ranging travel. The third rune tells us to close the reading. I will comply.”
The Dewin began to chant.
“runes thou wilt find,
and explained characters,
very large characters,
very potent characters,
which the great speaker depicted,
and the high powers formed,
and the powers’ prince graved:
Wodan among the Aesir.”
After a few drinks of minne and a little time passed, the runester pronounced, “I will try another casting.” Again, the sacred white cloth came out. The Dewin threw the runes. He bent down and picked up a stave that tumbled off the table and onto the floor. He knew the auspice was important.
Both Embla and the diviner studied it.
“Dewin, I am too involved personally in these circumstances, please present the results.”
He stepped forward and pointed to the staves that lay on the cloth, “The runar, Ehwaz and Raido, foretell eminent change in the Time of the Swords. The other runar say anger, Broch, will precipitate in the transition.
If we name the boy Broch, he will initiate this change. If we send him back south, Sibbe must move from this area because he will know our location. If the boy stays, he will not initiate the change. If we kill him now, we lose the knowledge he possesses. A conflict could begin and find us uninformed.”
Dewin pointed to another stave. “Ansuz tells us a sign will be given concerning the boy’s future.”
“A rune fell out of my hand and onto the floor when I threw the staves.” He held the stave up. He cupped both hands around it. The Dewin looked to the rafters.
“Isa, death of our own. Vala could be at risk from the boy. He endangers Sibbe with his resistance. Someone seeks the boy’s demise. Hagalaz, Embla will protect us from ourselves, she is our witness.”
The Dewin lowered his head. He paused, then raised his hands toward the ceiling.
After a few moments, he spoke, “I suggest the boy become her apprentice. Her task is to learn how to manage him. Embla and her apprentice will…” his voice trailed off, “assist the wyndham.”
When the Dewin mentioned the word apprentice, Derryth hit his fist on the table. The Dewin saw Derryth snarl at him.
Dewin turned and pointed again to the cloth. After he studied the runar closely, he remarked, “Two more runar pronounce a woman's self-sacrifice, Laguz and Tiwaz.”
Several of the villagers shouted, “No, No, No.”
The Dewin replied, “Urulaga, Sibbe. All is not set and, here are Gebo and Wunjo, partnership and glory.”
Embla began to rock back and forth. All eyes turned toward her. She looked to the rafters of the lodge. Sibbe knew she called upon Frigga, as Holda. She lifted the gold medallion on her chest. She chanted low, “Friiigg.” Her chanting became louder, everyone joined in. “Friigg, Friigg Frrrriiiiigg.” The chanting continued uninterrupted. Suddenly, Embla stopped.
“Part of the solution is upon me.”
“Let us hear, let us hear.”
“We will not name the boy Broch. We will call him Ionnain, adopted son.”
The gathering met the pronouncement of the name with applause.
“We will treat him with as much kindness as possible, but never let anyone say one of us allowed him to insult or harm Sibbe. The boy should not carry a weapon at first or be left alone during his turn. Wurdiz will determine his fate, but his urulaga is not set. I will accept him as apprentice for now. The Witte Wieven will advise. The Nornes construct the Weave of Wyrd and only they know the outcome.”
“Dewin, please perform the sending.”
Embla watched and listened while the old man chanted.
“The sending is made, the sending cannot be changed.”
The master carver of the village engraved Puer’s new name into two pieces of Oak bark. Each person at the meeting passed the bark to the next so they might attest to the name written on the wood.
With one final chant to Wodan, the Dewin threw the one piece of bark into the flames. The smoke from its consumption climbed to the hall’s roof, floated up into the night air, drifted out into the village, and bore the name Ionnain to the world.
The smoke hovered in the wyndham’s square near the sacred Oak. Amelen said the smoke cloud remained there for several fullnesses of the moon. They considered the smoke a reminder of the events that evolved from that night’s meeting. They called it Smolder. It dissipated during their chief ‘s troubles.
With a bow, Dewin presented the remaining carved stave marked with the name Ionnain to Embla. He turned toward the gathering and announced,
“Embla will give the boy his chosen name when the time is favorable.”
He held his hands and arms out from his shoulders and into the air and closed the meeting. He assumed the position of Algiz, the runic sign for protection. With his arms still held high, he turned toward Embla and closed the meeting.
After the end of the ceremony, Kenti stood, bowed, and departed the meeting for her lodge. Some of the older warriors followed her. Exhausted Sibbe stood while she exited the building and left the meeting after her. Embla took her place at the lodge door and bid them good evening.
They welcomed her as Seidhkona and thanked her for her devotion to Sibbe. They were obviously proud of her dedication to her calling. The people remarked how much they enjoyed watching her grow, enter her Seidh training, and rise to Counselor.
Amelen went to their lodges with the knowledge one of their own rose high in their ranks and another, newly adopted, could possibly cause the annihilation of their world.
Embla walked to the chief's lodge alone. She thought about the events of the night. The runes predicted difficulty. She expected her first official meeting to be thorny and it was.
She thought, as usual, the Dewin’s actions were erratic, but he was helpful. When I was a little girl, the Witte Wieven always welcomed him at their lodge. Sometimes he stayed with us for extended periods, especially before the Solstices and always during Ostara. The Dewin instructed me throughout my training. His words always inspired me to do well.
Dewin was brave to admit his runecasting concerning the hogan might be interpreted differently. Resentment among Amelen may develop toward him because he brought the boy to the gau. Unfortunate. I sense something else, not good, knowledge of the Imperium, contact, here, in the wyndham. Could the boy be, no, there is more. The Dewin came to her thoughts again.
She decided he is on his way to the wise women’s heulfryn now. I miss them. Not everyone has three mothers. After all, I am a new Seidhkona and need their guidance. They were with me, and the Dewin, tonight at the assembly. I sensed them.
I am glad the meeting is over.
When she saw the Kentigearna's lodge yard in the distance, the little joy left in her heart disappeared. The dry leaves in the trees shifted. She heard the wind blow through the branches. Their crackle reminded Embla of her mothers’ voice. She heard her name whispered in the rustling leaves, Embla, Embla. The wind picked up. The treetops swirled. When she neared the lodge, she stopped and listened again to the sound of the leaves and grasses. Emmmmblaaa.
The wolf, Beynon, appeared. He rubbed his body across her robe and looked into her eyes. In her mind, she heard, “beware the morning. The uilliamach is your answer.”
The wolf escorted her to the lodge entrance, then disappeared when she touched the door’s latch. She adored Beynon and decided to visit him within the next few days.
-- e. smith sleigh Sibbe's Way at Amazon http://amzn.to/2mSmuUi
All rights reserved
Sixth Installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
Inside the lodge, Kenti and her family waited for Embla. The children were hale, although the mood in the lodge was somber. Embla was certain Kenti was ill at ease about Puer’s presence in the lodge.
Embla thought how do I handle the utangardhr and help to make the chief’s family comfortable with him.
She looked around her. Puer sat alone near the hearth.
Embla wondered if he would cause trouble the next day. What am I to do, feed him to the wolves? She laughed to herself. Yes, and, I will leave for the farlands.
No, I must serve Sibbe to the end. This, this must play out, wherever the saga leads us.
Kenti greeted her with a slight bow. ”We are honored.” Embla knew Kenti's greeting was a high compliment. Kenti acknowledged her as Seidh Counselor.
“Though there were difficulties, Counselor, you conducted yourself well at your first meeting.”
Embla bowed. “How goes it in this lodge, Kenti?”
“The hogan was a little rough with the younger children when he tried to join in the games.”
“Other than his manners, his utangardhr ways won us over.” Neil rolled his eyes upward, and everyone laughed.
Neil added, “Seriously, I will try to help you with him, Vala. He may come around.”
Neil changed the subject. “Miri and I are both proud of you tonight.”
“Thank you, Neil, Miri.” Embla nodded her head in a slight bow to each of them. “
Kenti’s stern look told Embla directions were about to be given. “The Puer’s place to sleep will now be with the older boys. He can sleep in one of the hammocks next to the storage chests. Vala, please explain to the hogan what I said.”
One more time during the long day into night, Embla used the southern speak. “Puer, stand.
“You are to sleep with the boys, Beven and Olwen, this night. They gave you a hammock. Follow them to their sleep area. Always make sure you go to the toilet; and, you are clean before you go to bed. Do not touch them.
You must remain quiet during the night. Our night starts our day. When the sun sets, the day ends, and the next day begins. We rise with the sun and we work hard. We need our rest during the night in order to accomplish our tasks during the day.
Kenti has many duties and holds a high Sibbe rank like the Imperium patron of your villa. I remind you she has assumed the role of Chief while her husband is absent. She and those in her household deserve your respect.”
With a defiant look in his eye, Puer glared at her. Embla lifted her head. She looked down her nose at him and did not avert her eyes until he did. He felt power emanate from her. She possessed strength he never felt from another human, especially a woman. She would not yield. Her aspect penetrated his brain and caused his heart to race and his knees to buckle. He knelt and stayed on his knees until Embla looked away. The memory of that moment always remained with him, emblazoned into his psyche.
Kenti, Neil, and Miri watched Embla. They understood what happened. Neil’s hand slid toward the handle of his longknife. Embla saw his movement. At the last moment, she told Neil “no,” in his mind.
She walked away from Puer and left him standing near the hearth.
The adult members of the household stood together toward the meal preparation area. Embla walked to them and hugged each one. Her actions were unusual because Sibbe seldom touched each other in public, even in the public side of the lodge. With her body language, Embla told the boy how important these people were to her. Her gesture toward Kenti's family was also a warning to him.
Puer, a little weak in his knees, walked away from the hearth toward the lodge storage area. Kenti's sons stood near the hammocks. They showed Puer how to prepare for sleep. They used fresh water to wash their bodies. The boys cleaned their teeth with small, softly splayed, pine branches. They relieved themselves in a carved wooden vessel with water in the bottom and a cover. They showed Puer if a bowel movement was required, they went outside to the prive’ but a nighttime visit was frowned upon.
Later, after the household settled and the children were washed and tucked into their sleep areas, Kentigearna told Miri and Neil the details of the meeting. Their unease grew. They realized why Kenti was so troubled about the hogan when she returned. Opinions about the day’s events were saved until the next sun's rising.
All Embla could think about was how tired she was. She said her goodnights and turned to leave for bed.
Kenti pulled her aside into the semi-darkness outside of the fire's glow. She shook her head. Embla knew what she meant and whispered to her, “The boy will be given the herbs, Frigg’s grass and others, to control the uncontrollable inside him. We must be vigilant.”
“My boys know to be watchful of the utangardhr, although I told them nothing about tonight’s meeting.”
Embla answered, “Neil is aware and alert. Miri will prepare whatever is necessary. I will speak to the Wieven soon. I need a few ideas about his training. I decided not to give Puer his Sibbe name tonight. Perhaps, I will tell him tomorrow and perform the Gebo. We will see what the light brings.”
Embla turned to leave. Kenti spoke again.
“Action will be taken, especially if the boy does not make the turn. What has the Dewin done? What did he place among us? Neil visited the blacksmith’s shop today. A messenger brought word, members of the Thing decided to discuss formally the Dewin’s pronouncements about retaining the boy. What will the Jarl say? What will my Toiseach say? Our Chief will return soon. Discussion about this utangardhr has only begun.”
Embla continued, in her role as Seidh Counselor. “You are right, Kenti, the dialogue will persist until the hogan proves himself, one way or the other.”
“I have a question for you.” Embla paused long enough to give the obviously upset Kenti a few moments to compose herself.
“Should the Thing determine the hogan's future, or will the situation look better for you, and the Chief, if you address the matter here in the wyndham? Say I accomplish the boy’s turn, once the story of our success in this wyndham goes out into the gau and among Sibbe, you and Toiseach will be confirmed as the wise and competent leaders you are.”
The eyebrows of the Chieftainess shot up. She nodded, but said nothing. For Toiseach to become leader of the Thing was her secret desire. They both maneuvered toward that end. She realized Embla was right. She and Toiseach would definitely enjoy the benefits of the boy’s turn within the wyndham, if Embla accomplished it in a positive manner.
Embla added, “Wurdiz may be postponed, but Wurdiz will eventually prevail. I will study the runar again tomorrow.”
Kenti and Embla nodded their heads. They agreed. Embla looked toward the opening in the lodge roof. She thought she saw Forsite, the embodiment of justice and conciliation, looking in. She smiled and bowed. She proffered an entreaty. Stay with me always.
She turned to Kenti. “Good-night, Dear One.”
* * *
Embla washed her entire body. She prepared her face and body with herbs and lavender oil. She pulled her sleepdress over her head then carefully folded her cloak and white tunic. She placed them in one of her storage chests, and slid it under the bed. From her belt bag, she pulled out an old piece of bark, the same one she studied before the meeting.
She lay on the bed and held the carved wood above her. She examined the markings. Embla thought about the runes cast when the wyndham adopted her. No matter how she arranged and rearranged the runar in her mind, she always saw the same reading, the same end on the bark.
After the events of the last two sun risings, she saw one other interpretation. Embla reminded herself that personal choice, urulaga, might also influence fate or slow the inevitable. Yes, Wurdiz is set, but you can change your urulaga. Such is the life of all Sibbe.
Tonight, I filled shoes not worn in the village for hundreds of sun risings. Now, I am Seidh Counselor. Thank you, Allfather, for your inspiration.
She blew out the tiny clay oil lamp by her bed. She snuggled into her fur and cloth coverings. Holding the worn, carved wood, she fell into the dreamworld.
Toward morning, though, her dreams turned troubled and her mind became restless. All the images in her dreams were blurry. She heard murmurings in the Latin loqui.
When she came out of her sleep and into her thoughts, she remembered. Almost two sun risings ago, or was it two, the Dewin brought Puer to us and complicated everything. Hmm, how to turn the situation around and make use of the utangardhr.
Now, I am Counselor. The Amelen patiently awaited the completion of my training. I will now serve them. I hope I am destined to do my task correctly. Always, the Way absorbs my thoughts. Wurdiz is all I have known. My goal is to serve Sibbe as Druid.
One of her mothers was Druid. When the Imperium began to slaughter Druid, her mother escaped. Instead of leaving for the farlands, she went to her two sisters and assumed the role of wise woman. Embla missed her peaceful childhood with her adoptive mothers, and the One who guarded her. She drifted into a restless sleep with thoughts of Arwain, her protector and her brother, in the back of her mind.
Across the lodge, Puer lay in his hammock. His eye was open and the knot in his stomach remained. He, too, missed his parents and the villa that was his home. He considered his current situation.
A clear thought came to him if I am to survive in the north, I must fall in behind the girl. I will follow her until I know to do something else. She is powerful and my best protection. I am not required to like her, but I will learn from her.
I make this decision. I will follow it. He fell into a deep sleep.
He dreamed about Embla. They were running, together, in a field, then down a path. No one was around; there was no one to bother them, no one from the wyndham and no one from the villa. He began to kiss her but stopped. Even in his sleep, he recognized a life with Embla was impossible because of her commitment, her position and his lack of status within the community of Sibbe.
* * *
Huginn and Muninn, the bran, woke Embla with their calls outside the lodge. She smiled when she opened her eyes. The ravens’ presence summoned delight within her. Every sun rising she wondered, will Wodan be pleased when Huginn and Muninn speak to him of the events in his day?
Noises and loud talk on the exterior of the lodge broke through her thoughts. Embla turned toward the wall of the roundhouse. Instinctively, she froze her movement, unsheathed her weapon and listened.
Outside the lodge, a racket ensued. She heard Kenti's voice loud and booming. She heard another voice, lower, a male, trying to talk. Sibbe were yelling. What were they saying? She sensed the situation was not good.
Embla moved swiftly. She sheathed her longknife and pulled on her shoes. She smoothed her hair with her comb and wiped her face with water from a small wooden container. She cleaned her teeth and mouth. While looking into a small polished metal mirror, Embla drew a dark purple line around each eye. The line was wider on top of her eyelids. She softly bit each of her lips and pinched her cheeks starting at her ears across her cheekbones to her nose.
She quickly donned her new daytime tunic that designated her Seidh counselor. She pulled her crystal and amber necklace over her head and loosely belted her vestment at the hips. She locked the storage chest, placed the key on her belt, reached for one of the tall staffs the wise women gave her and left the sleep area.
Embla hurried toward the lodge door. The household members stood near the middle of the lodge. They, too, tried to hear what transpired outside. When Embla approached them, they turned toward her as if to say do something.
Puer stood directly in front of her. She gestured for him to move out of her way. When he did not move, she bumped into him and pushed him to the side. Puer was undeterred. He quickly fell in behind Embla. The two of them walked to the door and were absorbed into the light that streamed from the opening.
Later, Neil related this scene to Sibbe. He said when Embla and Puer merged into the light that radiated through the door; he sensed they bonded into the Weave at that moment. Neil always said their coalescence was an image to behold.
“Their combining was Wurdiz at work.”
Once outside, Embla quickly moved to the group gathered at the side of the lodge and behind the fence. Kenti stood in the middle. She talked loudly to a young man. His was the male voice Embla and the others heard from inside the lodge. Embla recognized him. He was a messenger from a neighboring wyndham.
What is his name, Ol, Og, Odgar? Yes, Odgar. Embla was required to remember all names and faces in the gau. She met them at various gatherings. Her ability to recall their names gave Embla credibility and power as Seidhkona.
When she walked through the group, they fell silent. Puer stood to the side of the crowd. He observed them, but was ready to act. Those who gathered in the lodge yard were aware of his watchfulness. Embla raised her staff with both hands. She stepped between the two people at the group’s center.
When she could feel the crowd settle, Embla lowered her arms and asked both of them, “How may I help today?” Sibbe considered the Counselor’s question sacred. Aesir sent the words through her to the people she counseled. All who heard them were required to acknowledge the question with respect and reverence.
Embla looked at the Kentigearna. The Amelen leader nodded toward the young messenger. He appeared disheveled and he continued to breathe hard from his swift, arduous ride. A grazing horse stood behind him still lathered from his gallop. Embla gestured at one of the older boys. She pointed toward a water bucket. The boy brought water for the rider and the horse.
“I am Embla, you’ve met the Kentigearna, and you are, Odgar?”
He bowed, drank the water in the ladle, and answered, “Yes, yes, I am. I bring a message from Toiseach, Chief, of the wyndham and the leader of the hunting party.” He handed the ladle to the boy.
Odgar began his narrative. He looked out of the wyndham toward the passage and into the valley beyond. Everyone in the village, except Puer, knew why Odgar spoke toward that direction. The course ran far into the south and finally into Imperium territory.
People gasped in anticipation of what the messenger might say when Odgar looked southward.
He stated, “Your chief, Toiseach, sent me to say these words. ‘The Battlers, and then the hunting party, spotted an advance group of Imperium scouts in the forest at the southern end of the gau.’”
The group responded with murmurings and exclamations of, “noooo.”
Embla held her staff high to evoke truth and accuracy in the messenger’s words.
Without hesitation, Odgar relayed the events. ‘Battlers were bivouacked south of the gau marks when Toiseach and the hunting party crossed their path. Battler leader Quinlan told Toiseach they encountered Imperium scouts in the area. The Battlers backtracked for half a day to make certain the scouts did not detect their presence.
A battler messenger was mounted and ready to leave for the first gau wyndham to warn Sibbe when the Hunters arrived at their camp. The Chief Toiseach attached his words to the Battlers’ message in which he addressed the gau leaders.
He then sent the battler messenger to the first smithy after waiting for a group of Hunters and Trackers to return. The Chief directed the messenger to tell the smithies to have warning messages delivered to all the hundredships by pigeon.
He also directed that a mounted messenger must ride for this wyndham. The Kentigearna should be the recipient of the message. First, here are the words the first messenger repeated to the smithies:
‘The Chief organized the most experienced Trackers and fighters, and most of the Battlers, and found the enemy. They discovered the southern beasts below the gau borders. The search party saw nine of the Imperium scouts trot down a path that they carved through the forest as they went. The scouts did not appear concerned about the detection of their presence this far north.
Our Trackers followed them for a distance. The enemy moved rapidly but they did not leave the forest. Instead, they established a camp. The Battlers and Hunters thought the enemy appeared to search for something.
Toiseach said he was not sure if they sought anything, perhaps they were hunting. He did not attack them. After they watched the Imperium scouts set up camp, the search party returned to the Battlers’ camp.’
Odgar continued with his own words. “Toiseach told the messenger to say he decided to combine the Hunters and the Battlers as one force. They rode to the sacred cave. The Hunters stored the fresh kill they carried with them in the lower, colder rooms. Both groups prepared for the night and what awaited them at the sun’s rising. So far, we have heard nothing else. No additional messengers have arrived.”
Embla could not believe her ears. The messenger brought bad news. The Imperium was never so close to their valley. She knew if Toiseach attacked the Imperium scouts, the beasts’ deaths invited more conflict and eventually invasion. Kenti, Embla, and the rest of Sibbe who heard the message were immediately aware the gau was in extreme danger.
Odgar added, “Toiseach’s and the Battlers’ messages were sent to all wyndhams inside the gau, and to the Thing and the Jarl.”
Kenti and every one gathered around Odgar shook their head in agreement with their Chief’s decisions.
Odgar continued, "gau officials added this to the message, Toiseach decided not to kill the Imperium scouts because our positions will be given away. He was also concerned about leaving the wyndham and assuming his gau duties in the coming days.”
Kenti frowned, “His…what duties? His duties are here in the wyndham. He did not determine what the Imperium troops seek?” Of course, well, certainly he realizes the Imperium advance party looks for something, or someone.
Odgar said, “I will resume the message.”
‘If the Imperium follows the hunting party or Battlers into the valley, death, or worse, enslavement awaits us. If there is a victory and travel along the gau paths is possible, Hunters and Battlers will return late tomorrow. My Chieftainess, you are to make the wyndham ready for attack.’
“This is the end of Toiseach’s message. The outer wyndhams make ready their defenses. Wyndham chiefs relayed signals and messengers to tell all Sibbe within the lower gau about the danger. They were told to prepare for anything. Silent alarms have begun.
Lookouts have taken their positions high on the borders in the foothills and in areas that lead to the interior of our valley. All weapons are ready. The Battlers are the only fighting group near the enemy, other than the hunting party. These two groups are our frontline fighters. They are alone.”
Odgar settled his stance and did not move. “I await my instructions and messages.”
Fierceness filled Kenti’s eyes. She became a mother wolf intent on protecting her pack. Frightened Sibbe pushed toward the Chieftainess. Embla moved to Kenti’s side. The crystal on top of her staff captured the sunlight and blazed gold. Beams of light shot over Sibbe's heads. They stepped back a few paces and began to form a line.
An old warrior stepped forward from the crowd. He turned toward the Kentigearna and then toward Embla. “We await your instructions.” He bowed and stepped back into line.
The Chieftainess hopped on a flat rock near a small planting area. Embla followed her to the rock and stood beside it. Kenti reached for her belt. She extracted her longknife from its sheath, raised the weapon into the air, and turned to all corners of the wyndham.
Kenti placed her left hand across her mouth in a diagonal position to her raised right arm. She gave the sign for silent preparation. The signal swept through the wyndham. All activity halted. Immediately, everyone moved quietly to their preparations. Those Sibbe gathered in the Kenti’s lodge yard left to take their positions. Kenti, Embla, and Odgar, along with Puer who stood to the side and behind them, remained in the yard.
In the traditional manner, Kenti placed her arm over the shoulder of the messenger and walked him to his horse. She leaned in close to him and asked several questions whose answers only leaders should hear. Odgar answered her precisely. As gau messenger, he memorized all the information given to him. He retained the message, no matter what befell him, and delivered it accurately. Sibbe messengers only gave their observations when asked.
Embla walked close by. She heard the Kenti and Odgar speak. Her mind saw the wyndham's situation and she formed the choices available to Toiseach, the hunting party, Quinlan, and the Battlers.
She heard Odgar describe to Kenti the possible battle strategies, there were four plans, all dangerous. If the Imperium stayed in Amelen territory, Toiseach and Quinlan would lead the enemy away from the gau and the valley sometime in the afternoon during the next day and engage them.
The second plan entailed an ambush of the Imperium scouts at their encampment.
Their third plan involved all fighting Sibbe. They would meet at the gau entrance, to organize as one fighting force, and attack the Imperium troops in ambush when they entered the gau. This plan would take almost two days to organize. The hunting party would attract the attention of the southern beasts; lead them through the passage, and into their trap.
The final and worse plan was a fight in the forest or in the wyndhams.
The last two plans might work, but the Imperium would discover the villages’ locations. Many Sibbe would lose their lives. The Imperium would enslave others when they launched retribution excursions into the gau.
Kenti told Odgar, “Before the Imperium penetrates the interior of the gau and finds our wyndhams, surviving Amelen will flee their homes, or move to another location. They will have to rebuild the hundredships, again, even if they prevail in the battle. Others Sibbe may choose suicide. Whether Sibbe wins or loses, the Imperium will destroy everything.”
Odgar added, “Other messenger pigeons were sent to warn Sibbe who live outside the gau to the north. All the neighboring tribes will be ready to join the fight. Of course, it will require time for them to arrive.”
Embla did not like the plans she heard. Nothing came to her senses but an overwhelming feeling of defeat.
* * *
Embla touched the amber piece in her necklace. Beynon’s face flashed in front of her. She remembered her nighttime walk from the meeting to Kenti’s lodge. The wise women's voices called to her through the grasses, “beware the morning. The uilliamach is your answer.” Then Beynon accompanied her to the lodge door.
Embla noticed Odgar stopped speaking. She caught Kenti’s attention by pulling the casting cloth from one of her belt pouches. She threw the fabric on the ground. Kenti and Puer watched Embla lift her head toward the sky then bow. She placed a piece of amber in the middle of the cloth and threw the wood chips onto the cloth. Embla studied the staves that fell closest to the piece of amber. She called out the names of the runar while Kenti along with Odgar drew near.
Embla shouted the results. “Wolves.”
Kenti repeated, “wolves?”
They looked at each other.
“The runar spell the word wolf in the old tongue.”
Under most circumstances, she would not read a spelling into the runecasting. For Embla, any other arrangement of the chips made little sense. No other runester was present to confirm the reading or perform a sending, but Embla, and Sibbe, were out of time. Embla called it.
Embla withdrew the cloth and chips as quickly as she cast them. They listened and watched for a confirmation of the rune cast. No one spoke. The squeal of wild boars came to them from a distance and they heard the yelps of Ulliamach, wolves, engaged in a hunt. Embla looked to Kenti who nodded in agreement.
The young Seidh Counsel began the sending. At that moment, a faint wolf's bay came to their ears. The Seidhkona and the Chieftainess looked at each other and whispered, “Affirmation!” Embla raised her arms to the sky and announced, “The sending is made, and the sending cannot be changed.” They committed to use the wolves to save Sibbe.
Kenti saw the possibilities of a wolf attack. Yet, she asked Embla, “Will a plan that includes our wolves work?”
“Yes, Chieftainess. This will work because of the way the Imperium thinks.”
Kenti whispered in Embla's ear. “This plan must be successful.”
With whispers and rapid speech, they formulated the assault.
Embla walked to the messenger, “Odgar, this message must be taken to Toiseach and to Quinlan: Our trained wolves will arrived in a day at the southern entrance to the gau. They will proceed to your location. They will find and encircle the Imperium's advance party’s camp. Their growling and baying will frighten the enemy. Trainers will follow the wolves and use the wolf horns to enhance the effect.
Allow our wolves to kill the Imperium scouts, tear them apart, and leave nothing that would give evidence of Sibbe presence. Two Imperium scouts should escape so they can attest to the wolf attack and not to an attack by Sibbe.
The Imperium will hesitate to slaughter the relatives of the she-wolf they claim succored their miserable founders, the rapers of the Sabines and the other tribes, including those in Etruria. Their diviners will see the attack of the wolves as a sign and pull away from the area. Ulliamach and Sibbe will prevail.
The Imperium will retreat to the south behind their borders. Our Battlers will finish off any survivors at the Imperium encampment and report the outcome. Our hunting party should remain in the background until needed. Allow no one to move toward our valley's entry or journey south until the all clear has sounded.”
Kenti motioned to Odgar, “walk with me to your horse. Repeat the message Embla gave to you from the runar, exactly as she said the words.”
Of course, Odgar did an excellent job of repeating the message.
“This message must quickly reach Toiseach and the other leadership. Ride, walk, or crawl. Get to him in time, before they act. Tell him the message came directly from the runecasting. Tell him the wolves and trainers are on the way. Tell him I accede.”
“Do you have the pigeons with you?”
A second messenger must contact the wolf trainers in the neighboring wyndhams. Tell them to make ready and move with their wolves, as fast as possible, to the border. Do what you will to deliver our plan. Let no one obstruct you or the other messenger. I give you my authorization.”
She handed him a small gold ring with the Amelen mark incised into the metal. It was payment for his efforts and authorization for his actions. “Show this, to those who question.” Afterwards, melt the metal.
“Ride, Odgar, fly.”
He looked to Embla. She raised her staff in consecration of his actions. Odgar bowed, mounted his horse, and was gone.
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Seventh Installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
Embla and Kenti watched Odgar gallop away and disappear into the distance.
Embla’s thoughts turned to the people and things that they must secure and protect within the wyndham. She was concerned about her mothers and the Dewin. She looked toward the other lodges, Amelen prepared for invasion and battle. Most of the members of the hundredship packed supplies. The men who remained in the wyndham arranged to transport the goods, livestock, and children to hiding places in the mountains. The wyndham's inhabitants made little sound while they worked. Activity centered on the blacksmith’s compound.
Kenti whispered, “Come with me, Embla, and help give assurances to the children. The wyndham's preparation can go forward without us for a time.”
Puer fell in behind them as they walked to the front of the lodge. Kenti opened the door and pulled back the cloth. Her boys stood near the hearth. They completed their duties in the wyndham and returned to the lodge for a quick meal and to assist with preparations.
The younger children drew close to their mother and began to whisper at the same time. Kenti held her finger to her lips. They threw their arms around her and each other. Embla and everyone there knew these hugs were possibly their last.
Embla thought soon an end must be made, to these alarms, these attacks. So many thousands, millions, of Sibbe children throughout the generations hugged their parents for the last time before Imperium troops, or someone from the southeastern end of the Great Middle Sea attacked them. The beasts either murdered north tribe children or enslaved them.
Seidh Counselor Embla looked around the lodge. Most of the movable articles were gone. When an attack or emergency occurred in the wyndhams, Sibbe quickly packed every valued item in storage chests. Their belongings and provisions were stored underground, or in hollowed-out hillocks, or deep pits camouflaged with broken branches, rocks, and dung heaps. Any outsider would find it difficult to identify these areas as Sibbe hiding places.
Herders led the animals to hidden shelters located high in the mountains. They fed children and animals alike such herbs as Frigg’s Grass to keep them quiet. Sibbe herders were important. They and their families watched the children during dangerous times. These shepherds tended flocks of sheep, along with cattle and horses during an attack. They never fought unless the enemy breached their hiding places. Yet, many tribes owed their lives to herders.
Kenti's children prepared to go to hiding places high up the mountain. For them and the rest of the gau’s children, there was no time to cry. Embla decided to go with them to the staging area above the wyndham. She was well aware she reassured the children with her presence. Sibbe found comfort in Wurdiz and the young Seidh counsel who embodied the Way.
Sibbe children were taught that humans determine their own journey. Allfather was there to inspire and parents and counselors were there to teach and encourage. What transpired next was in the individuals’ hands. The winning and losing of life was up to them. The essence of a game is at the end. Such was the life of all Sibbe.
Embla stood at the door when Kenti’s children emerged from the lodge with their provision bundles. They joined other children who walked in triple file along the path that led from their house to the staging area.
A taller boy and a dog harnessed to a broad, wood and metal rake walked behind the last of the children. They smoothed the trail, and pulled the grasses upright to hide the children’s tracks.
At the assembly location, Embla and the children waited for the herders to organize the upward hike. Embla placed her hand on each child’s shoulder to say goodbye. She raised her staff, in a widjen, a blessing. They turned and waved to her as they began their assent into the mountains. She raised her staff again to thank mother earth, Frigga, for the children's existence.
Embla waited until the children and herders were far into the distance. When they disappeared from her sight, she turned to look at the valley below. She thought of her wolf, Beynon and the other wolves, the brave ones who would engage the enemy. Embla walked toward the edge of the landing and stood with her toes at the end of the overlook, where air met earth. Once more, she raised her staff. She swung it out, above the valley and held it at an angle to the sky.
“I evoke the spirits of bravery and strength within Sibbe, and their animals, Battlers and Hunters, and in every Amelen in the time to come. May this blessing provide them strength and, Tiwaz, protection, from the enemy.”
Embla circled her staff over the wyndham and beyond. “I call upon Wodan for inspiration and wisdom in battle. May the wolves and their trainers show fearlessness and valor.
With a high piercing voice that no beast of the Imperium could hear, she shouted into the wind, “We are the Amelen! We are Sibbe.”
* * *
Amelen raised and trained the uilliamach, the wolves, in their wyndhams. They released the trained packs into the wild, but the uilliamach remained near the villages. They kept other wolves, predatory animals like the lynx and bear, and an occasional human troublemaker or two away from the hundredships. Trained wolves were valuable allies against any invader.
In the Amelen’s gau, most of the wolves sheltered near a wyndham closer to the valley entrance. The other uilliamach pack denned at the high end of the gau near the Kentigearna’s wyndham.
The wolves and the trainers were in Embla's thoughts on her return walk down the mountain path toward Kenti’s lodge. With their sense of smell, the wolves will quickly find the encampment of the Imperium scouting party. The wolves and trainers are swift and quiet. Their arrival at the enemy’s camp will not take long.
Embla recalled the time she first experienced the howl from a large wolfpack. For a human, the sense of danger from a howling pack of wolves is overwhelming. Their yells, yelps, barks and howls cause a human response of deepest foreboding. It starts in the gut and works itself outward to the skin where it raises the hair on your arms. Your only thought is immediate flight.
The uilliamach trainers will lead the wolves near the advance party's encampment. They will encircle the enemy. On signals from the trainers’ horns, the wolves will begin their howls. They will attack, or withdraw. When they hear the signal to engage, the wolves will fight to the end. Wolf packs are loyal. They do what is necessary for their trainers and the extended pack.
I doubt the Imperium troops will run from the battle, at least not at first. The wolves will be relentless. They will drive the Imperium beasts together into the center of their camp then tear the enemy apart. Some of the Romans will die from fear.
Wolves are fierce yet they can be so kind and gentle in other circumstances. When I worked with the wolves a few seasons ago, a female followed me home. Beynon and the female wolf became mates. Right now, she carries his cubs.
Puer saw my wolf Beynon in the clearing yesterday. She shook her head, or was it yesterday. The hogan thought many wolves stood in the grove. There was only one. Humans see and hear what they want to see and hear. Sibbe know this and use their enemies’ fears against them.
Amelen, a number of Sibbe, and, of course, all of Seidhr were masters of mental phenomenon. They used tricks of the senses in battle and elsewhere. These ruses played a part in their battle tactics. Effective application of these procedures was wisdom at work. Sibbe’s enemies and the Uninformed labeled Sibbe’s use of thought processes as something sinister. Sibbe use their natural abilities for survival.
The Witte Wieven sent Beynon to warn me of the danger that invaded our territory. The runar only confirmed how to defend the gau. The Way, Wurdiz, never fails to amaze me. I am fortunate to have my mothers’ support. If the wolves succeed, I will consecrate the area where our uilliamach engage the enemy as hallowed ground.
Amelen Battlers are also ready to give their lives for Sibbe. They will position themselves near the attack sight, ready to dispose of Imperium survivors. I wish I could be there to fight alongside them.
* * *
The next morning when she neared the lodge, Embla saw someone standing outside. She was so engrossed in thought she did not realize the person waited for her. She listened to the deep silence that enveloped the wyndham. The air became heavy and the moment turned ominous. When she drew near the lodge door, she looked up to see Puer in her face. Instead of stepping back, she stepped forward into his face.
Puer could not talk, but he tried to whisper. He made squeaking sounds. She heard his thoughts. You must tell me, what goes here.
Embla placed her forefinger on his mouth. Their eyes met.
She pronounced one Latin word in a whisper, “inimicus, enemy.”
Puer perceived the threat. He knew danger was near. He decided I will assist the Barbari in order to insure my own survival.
After Odgar the messenger left the day before, Puer walked into the lodge with Neil. The older man showed him how to pack the remaining chests and secure them. Neil operated with standing orders from Kenti to keep his eye on Puer. The boy was aware of the owney's vigilance.
Now into the next day, he stood outside with Embla and felt the thickness of the atmosphere in the wyndham and the smell of danger in the air. He also felt his response to Embla when she placed her finger on his lips.
Embla heard wolves yelp, and another, and then another. Their howling arrived on the wind, resonated up through the gau. Their tone and pitch were terrifying to the uninitiated, but the wolves were simply communicating with one another. Their cries passed from one pack's territory to the next. They told that the wolf packs and trainers neared the southern passage.
She looked at Puer and then the door. She lifted her head and the hogan understood. He pushed the door open, they moved inside the lodge.
Kenti, Miri, and Neil stood near the hearth. They waited for Wurdiz to unfold. There was no hearth fire. Sibbe extinguished all fires in the wyndham.
She walked toward them. Embla held up her hand. She made several letters from the Futhark with her fingers. Everyone present understood. The attack had begun.
Puer saw people in the villa gesture with their hands. What he saw her do was different. Embla actually spoke with the Sibbe alphabet. He thought I wager the Imperium does not know the Barbari can do this.
Kenti looked at Puer and pointed to one of the sitting chests. He took his seat. Embla joined hands with the others. They stood near the hearth, faced east and slightly south, and silently chanted, “Wodan, oh, Wodan, we are the Sibbe, we are strong. We are prepared for the unfolding. Allfather, the Aesir is strong, you are strong. You are our inspiration. Accompany us on our journey today. Tiwaz, be with us.”
Puer watched the people around him chant the words but no sound came from them. He began mouthing the words, too, although he did not understand all of them. Every one made the sign of Tiwaz. Puer was successful at making the sign because he watched the children playing the Wopjan game of runes.
Time stood still for those in the lodge. All thoughts in the wyndham, and the gau, turned toward the task of the wolves, the wolf trainers, Amelen Battlers, and the Hunters. The chant continued for uncounted moments until their collective thoughts followed the wolves and trainers. Those remaining in the chief's lodge sat at the tables, put their heads down on their folded arms and appeared to fall asleep.
A few hours later, Embla roused herself, walked away from the hearth and went to the doorway. She opened the door and stepped out to listen for the sound of battle. She heard a few nightbird calls and a rustling of the grasses. Something hung in the air. The murmur in the trees and her intuition informed her that the wolves' attack on the Imperium troops was over.
She turned and went inside to the hearth. A few of the lodge's residents followed with their eyes as she moved outside. They hoped she brought news with her when she returned. She quietly declared with her hand signals, “The battle has ended.” They nodded their heads, but did not reply. Some turned to wake others ad tell them the news.
Unsettling quiet pervaded the lodge. No signal of relief, no declaration of victory or cessation of battle came to the wyndham. Amelen listened for the thunderous approach of Imperium footsteps that could precipitate a fight, or their end. No one moved outside their lodges
Silence held, but Sibbe did not light the fires for the evening. No food was cooked. They passed dried food and bread and butter around the hearths. The Chieftainess moved in and out of the lodge supervising the watches. Sibbe talked with their hands and silent chanting helped to pass the time. Some moved to the hammocks and beds.
After night drew toward the dawn, a change of guards took place around the wyndham’s perimeter. Kenti's oldest son, Beven, coordinated the watch. Armed Sibbe assumed positions within the village.
* * *
Embla sat alone in the dark. She decided to confirm the wolves attack went well. The silence in the lodge assisted her task. She closed her eyes and attempted trance travel. She traveled in trance during her training but this was her first time alone. She trained for years for this moment. She took deep breaths and cleared her mind.
She held onto her staff with one hand and rolled the amber in her necklace between the thumb and forefinger of her other hand. From deep within her, she summoned her spirit. Embla’s mind settled into her task. She rocked backed and forth, back and forth. Her movement ceased and her head fell forward onto the cloth she placed on the table. The motile aspect of her spirit walked out of her body, out of the door, and into the night.
Embla traversed the path toward the Witte Wieven’s dwelling. The wise women sensed her wandering. They trance travelled together and intercepted her on the road near the heulfryn. They called to her.
She heard her name Emmmblllaaaa sung through the wind.
The wolves’ attack on Imperium troops is over.
I know, I know.
Chief Toiseach survives. He is angry. Dewin is with us at the heulfryn. The Chief directs his anger toward him.
The wolf attack was successful, although there were loses. For now, Amelen cannot make any sound or movement in the gau. The Gau Jarl waits until the two remnants of the Imperium scouting party clear the outerlands, only then will he sound an alarm to end the silence.
The Imperium scouts believe wild animals from within the deep woods attacked them. The enemy will not go farther into our forests for a long while. Your plan succeeded.
A messenger will come to Kenti’s lodge in the early morning. Give him shelter but let no one else inside, beware of others. Do not allow the messenger to leave. Even his own people could mistakenly kill him. While their enemy withdraws, Sibbe will perceive any movement through the gau as a potential threat.
The Wieven’s voice continued you were right to walk the land in trance. We want you to survey the field of battle. The sight is not agreeable. Nevertheless, you should experience what you suggested when you cast the runar and performed the sending. You must see the consequences of what you advised as Seidh counselor. Here is a staff that only exists during your trance. Use it with discretion. Now, confirm for yourself what you knew to be right.
Embla took the staff and held it in her right hand.
Close your eyes. Think of the encampment.
When she opened them again, Embla discovered she stood in a newly cut clearing in the wood. She saw the fallen trees and mourned their loss.
Anger rose in her. The Imperium do not recognize the value of the forest. Everywhere they go they lay waste.
In the bushes behind the felled birches, she saw arrow shafts and traced their lengths to the ground. At the arrows’ end, she found black, dried blood and fur. She looked upon the fallen wolves and dropped to her knees. The wolves were brave allies. They gave their lives so Amelen might continue. Tears came to her eyes. When she touched their fur, the wolves’ thoughts when they died swept through her mind. She lost her breath and fell over.
When she woke and stood, she found herself in front of the two trainers who were lost. She did not see their bodies. Their spirits stood before her along with the spirits of the wolves. She knew them. She nodded in recognition. The young men, Imar and Hicca, worked with Embla early last winter. They helped to train Beynon and his mate. She checked the visage and markings of each wolf. No, Beynon is not one of them.
The four wolves and two trainers were valiant in their sacrifice. Embla quickly bowed her head to honor them. The young men lifted their arms in salute. She, in return, lifted her staff in a widjen and blessed them.
She honored the uilliamach for their courage and their sacrifice with a deep bow. She made the sign for sacrifice, Gebo, over the heads of the wolves. Their valor was their gift to Amelen. Her fingers formed Tiwaz. The sign indicated self-sacrifice. Her heart filled with pride and thankfulness.
Thank you, Walis, your valor will be told in the sagas. She bowed again.
In their dark blue setting, the trainers and wolves’ spirits dissolved into white mists and a gray light enveloped them. Soon, they would be corporeal again. Embla, and all Sibbe, believed, except for a few selected warriors, the fallen would rest, then be reborn into the cycle of life.
We will meet once again upon our return. They spoke to her in unison as their spirits dissipated into the night air.
* * *
After her visit to the battleground, Embla trance traveled to the cave that sheltered the Hunters and Battlers. She arrived on the wind. The guards sensed her presence. Those who watched quickly placed their hands on their weapons. They felt a crackle in the wind that stirred the cave air. Several of the Battlers shifted in their sleep.
Embla sought news of the battle. She read the thoughts of those who were awake and gleaned the information she needed from their minds. After the wolves attacked the Imperium soldiers, the Battlers stood their ground and accomplished what was required of them. They remained outside the enemy camp until the Romans, less the two Imperium troops who were allowed to escape, lay dead. Battlers dispatched the enemy one by one.
The wolves tore the enemy to pieces. They did not consume them, but left the Romans there as disgraced human refuse. The Battlers removed any indication of Sibbe at the site.
The warrior Hunters stood ready to assist the Battlers. They disbursed to the rear of the battleground. The Hunters cleared tracks and any other evidence of Sibbe on the trails. Both Battlers and Hunters, along with the trainers and surviving wolves, assembled to count the dead and access the situation. They discovered all warrior Hunters and Battlers survived. A few of the Battlers were slightly wounded. Two trainers and four wolves died from the arrow attack. All who witnessed their bravery pronounced the trainers and wolves heroes.
Embla looked for Toiseach and found him sitting-up, asleep, in a small alcove of the cave. Three guards stood outside. She moved into the alcove to touch his head. She felt his anger and frustration. The Seidhkona laid her fore and middle fingers on his brow and gave him what peace his spirit would accept.
Strange, his agitation does not come from the presence of the Imperium. Yet, the Imperium occupies his thoughts. A shudder fell through her. She shivered from an unformed warning. Do I block what I cannot accept?
She touched the forehead of the battler leader, Quinlan. Embla sensed the feeling of accomplishment and love of Sibbe in the Battler that was absent in Toiseach. Embla lightly tapped each wounded Battler’s forehead, left the cave, and searched the gau.
She looked for the enemy in every part of the forest and the mountains and the village clearings. She found no Imperium troop, not one scout. She looked all the way to the banks of the river far to the south of the Amelen gau.
While she stood by the river’s lapping water, Embla thought the two remaining scouts made good time on foot. Curious, how did they do this?
She smiled at the possibility that they ran so far and so fast because they were frightened.
She thought of the gau and immediately appeared at the first wyndham. She felt lingering fear and uneasiness all around her. Perhaps Loki came to do his work. Embla had questions. She called to the Wieven. They appeared straight away.
Two of the wise women met her on the dark path, the third stayed with the Dewin. They talked in whispers.
“Mothers, where are the two beasts from the south? I searched to the gaumark and below to the great river. They are gone! I sense no utangardhr.”
“We followed them out of the valley, earlier. They headed southeast. We cast fear in them; we covered them with apprehension and made their hearts beat hard and their feet move rapidly. When they swam the river, we caused the water to wash away their memory of our location.
They will retain their respect, and now, fear for the wolf. Their fear will spread across the land to the south. Every time they tell the saga of what happened in our woods, the Romans’ fear of us will increase. We can do no more.”
Embla stopped, “Was fright what I felt everywhere I looked for them?”
“Yes, Vala. The anxiety will soon dissipate.”
“The enemy will not return?”
“No, not soon. The apprehension casting was powerful. It will pass to others in the south like an illness. Nonetheless, we must always be vigilant.”
“What, what did the Imperium seek?” Embla hesitated because she did not want to hear the answer.
“We decided they searched for raiders, the leader of the villa raiders, and possibly for your Puer. We will attempt to confirm another purpose for the incursion. All of the causes for these events began in Aesburg. This much we know.”
Embla processed in her mind what she heard the two mothers say. Her reaction to their comment was delayed. “What? The leader. What leader?”
Embla’s mouth opened in disbelief. She knew the consequences of what the Wieven suggested. “The Dewin?”
“We will consider this option. Embla, there are other leaders in the gau, Toiseach, for instance.”
They interrupted her. “We must return to make plans for the Dewin. Go back to the wyndham and advise Kenti and the others of our victory and of those we loss. Tell her the victory is temporary. The hundredship must always be prepared to fight or move. Amelen should never believe the threat is over. Remember the Imperium always pushes outward, no matter what form it takes, or will take.
One more thing, Counselor, we must deal with Toiseach. Make sure the Kentigearna is not involved.
Prepare your plans wisely; your transition to Druid priestess will depend on your determination to implement them. Remember to be strong in your decisions. Your actions will be our protection from the horrors of the Imperium. The Nornes will offer you what is meant to be. Wurdiz is set, but your urulaga may change. Keep in mind there will always be something imminent.”
“Mothers, tell Dewin, tell him…”
“We know, he will understand.” Their mouths moved in unison, Embla heard only one voice. “We will tell him he is in your thoughts.” They paused.
“Be aware that something brews in Aesburg. Only trust what you know.”
Embla decided to pause at her favorite spot in the forest before she completed the journey to the lodge and her body. In that peaceful place, her thoughts cleared. A huge Oak stood in the center of the glen. The splendor and strength of the tree made her grateful for her life and all life around her. She touched the bark and wished for a little of the Oak’s strength. She moved to an Ash tree and marveled at the sight of the moon through its branches. The moon’s light descended through the limbs and dressed her in a silvery gown. For only a moment, she sat on the mossy ground. The trickle of the crystal water over the blue grey stones lulled her.
I possess the information the wyndham needs and I must not tarry long. She stood up.
She studied the glen in that silvery radiance. Embla wanted to memorize the forest’s appearance. She saw the evergreens drip with glowing light. Even the moss that covered stones in the stream and the ferns that grew near the water’s edge captured the moon’s glistening rays. The soothing sound of water trickling over the stones serenaded her. Stars twinkled. Human affairs and treacheries disappeared. Embla breathed in the air and the smells. Beauty filled her and prepared her spirit for what was to come.
She turned around, sighed, touched her amber necklace, and was gone.
* * *
In the dark of the lodge, Embla’s body moved up and forward. Slowly, she squared her shoulders. Trance travel drained her mental and physical energy. She was groggy. Gradually, her mind cleared and the lodge interior came into focus.
All was quiet. Except for Puer, the adults in the lodge were asleep. Embla reached for a clay pitcher on the table and poured water from it into her cup. While she drank, she reviewed the night’s events.
Her first thought was about Kenti. She must wake her. When Embla stood, she swayed. She braced herself. Her legs were not steady but she began to walk. Outside Kenti's sleep area, Embla knocked on the bedpost. Half asleep, Kenti responded with, “Did we change the guards yet?”
“It is Embla, Kenti. I have news. I walked the gau.”
“Yes, what is it, Vala?” Always quick, Kenti asked, “Should we whisper?”
“No, there is no need, but let us whisper anyway.”
“I will say this quickly so you will know what to do next. Toiseach is well. The hunting party and Battlers survived, although a few suffered wounds. We lost two of the trainers and four of the wolves. They were valiant in their effort to save us. They accomplished their task.”
“The Imperium, Embla, where are they? Do they threaten us?”
“From trance traveling the gau, the Wieven and I determined two Imperium scouts left in a southeasterly direction. The beasts move farther south even as we speak. They are not far enough away to announce the all clear. We must await the sun’s rise.
The Witte Wieven cast fear upon the two Imperium troops. Amelen must not draw their attention again. Although the Wieven indicated the Imperium would not return soon, Sibbe must be vigilant. Kenti, something brews in Aesburg. Danger may have followed certain travelers here.”
“I understand, Embla, I will await the morning. Aesburg…vigilant, of course...anything else?”
“At some point during the daylight hours, a messenger will arrive with news of the wolves. We should not allow him to leave because Hunters, Horsemen, warriors, and Battlers are attempting to clear the gau. We will keep the messenger here until I cast the runar.
I must ask something of you, Kenti.”
“Toiseach should not be told about our knowledge of the wolves’ victory over the Imperium. We must say nothing about my trance travel. We will allow him to think he and his men bring news of the events below the gaumark.”
Kenti looked at her with a tilt of her head and narrowed eyes. Her mind was working. Embla’s suggestion made sense. Embla understood Toiseach well. He would not approve of her tour of the battleground. He would not like the news of the battle brought to the wyndham before the messenger. He wanted to claim the credit he thought was due him. To his way of thinking, Embla would steal his thunder.
“Good.” Kenti declared, “I agree.”
Embla gave a widjen to Kenti with her staff and whispered good night.
She went to her bed and tried to fall sleep. Embla left her clothes on and lay on top of the bed. She pulled her cloak over her body and waited for the fast approaching dawn.
* * *
When she awoke, she heard the bran calling outside, and voices whispering inside. She straightened her clothing and completed her morning routine in a hurry, emerged from her sleep area, and walked toward the hearth. Puer sat at the large eating table. Kenti, Miri, and Neil sat at the table, too. She nodded a greeting. Embla selected a warm cup of broth and a little bread and cheese for her breakfast and sat down beside them. While she ate, Kenti gave the news of the battle and her instructions to other members of the household in whispers.
A creak of wood caught everyone’s attention. They turned toward the sound. When Embla turned around, the lodge door opened. No one expected it. Without hesitation weapons were drawn. They assumed defensive positions. The dwellers of the lodge prepared to kill or be killed. Quiet pervaded the lodge and death loomed.
Neil jumped from the side of the door. He grabbed the intruder’s hair, pulled him into the lodge, pulled his head back, and put a longknife to his throat. Embla stepped from the darkness of the lodge with her staff raised to strike. She challenged the figure at the door.
“Speak or die.”
“I am, Odgar. My message comes from Toiseach, Chief of the village.” Neil did not release him.
Embla moved closer to the messenger. She checked the face above the blade of the knife. His lips were blue and the eyeballs bulged.
She looked at Neil and whispered, “This person is Odgar.”
She was aware that a messenger would arrive during the day, but had no idea when or where. She did not say anything about her conversation with the Witte Wieven. She preferred to be cautious.
Neil released the messenger. He dropped to his knees and gasped for air. Those in the lodge gathered around him and stared. Why did he not knock on the door or signal his presence in any way.
Neil helped him to his feet. ”You are brave to place yourself in harm's way, young Odgar. We are on edge and you arrived unannounced. Come with me. ”
He led him to the big table. “Sit there.”
After the messenger took his seat, Kenti slipped outside to make certain everything around the lodge was in order. Miri waited until Odgar stopped wringing his hands and shaking. She handed him a cup of herbed tea. He held the cup close to his chest. When the tea cooled, Odgar drank it straight down.
Soon the herbs began to work and he relaxed. Odgar said nothing about what happened to him at the door. He thought I did not knock on the lodge post because I did not want to make such a loud noise. I was too excited about delivering the news. They thought I was enemy, I did not expect it. Their reaction was understandable. Yet I am angry.
Embla made a treatment at the preparation table for him. She then spun a cloth in the air.
“This will make you feel better.” She placed the cloth she steeped in healing herbs on his neck.
The compress was cold rather than hot. Odgar felt instant relief. She placed the thumbs of both lavender-soaked hands on the side of his head. Embla massaged his temples. She rested the four fingers of each hand on top of his head. She massaged his head in circular motions.
“Repeat this, Odgar, by midday your neck will feel better.”
Without hesitation, he repeated, “by midday, my neck will feel better.”
“My neck will feel better by midday.”
During the morning, the bruising began to disappear. Odgar also forgot why he was angry.
Puer watched the messenger with the deepest of empathy. He sat silently and rubbed his own neck. Embla appeared from out of nowhere with a cold cloth. She wrapped it around his neck.
She sat in silence beside Puer. Morning light from the opening in the roof penetrated into the lodge interior and warmed it. Those who sat wrapped in layers of clothing and blankets welcomed the warmth. They talked in whispers about the events of the last few sunrises. At the end of their conversations, they invited Odgar to deliver his message.
Through Odgar, Toiseach described the successful attack. He explained what happened at the Imperium campsite and how the wolves succeeded in protecting the gau. He said Battlers, the hunting party, and all Amelen were grateful for the assistance from the wolves and trainers.
Kenti reacted to the message as if she heard the news for the first time. Toiseach told her the plan worked and their maneuver was successful. He also instructed Kenti not to bring the children from their mountain-hiding place until midmorning. During the early morning, Horsemen would traverse the roads and the paths to look for anything suspicious, anything utangardhr in the gau.
When Odgar ended the main body of the message, he announced, “I was instructed to repeat this statement exactly. The Chief told me to say ‘Chieftainess and Seidh Counselor, well done.’
Embla and Kenti nodded at each other with great seriousness.
Kenti asked, “Odgar, we are the last wyndham you will visit on your ride?”
“You will stay with us until the sounding of all clear. You were right not to knock on the lodge door because of the noise, but you placed your life in danger. The same thing could happen to you while you ride through the forest. When the warriors and Hunters sweep the gau for Imperium adversaries, anyone moving through our woods could be mistaken for enemy, including messengers.”
“How did you approach the watch?”
“Your son heard me ride up. He stepped out from behind the tree with an arrow set in his bow. I stopped and dismounted when I saw him. We recognized each other. I told him I carried a message from his father, the Chief. I said nothing else. He allowed me to pass.”
“Miri prepared bread and cheese to eat, dried meat, and dried fruit for our meal. We offer you a place to eat, and wash, and a hammock in which to sleep. What do you prefer?”
“Odgar smiled and replied, “All of them. I want to eat first, wash, then sleep, in that order. I traveled the gau several times during the last two sunrisings. I am exhausted.
“Neil and this hogan, Puer, will show you how things are done in my lodge. Your animal appears to be exhausted, too. One of the vasso will take care of your horse.”
“I will relay Toiseach’s message to the wyndham when I go to the smithy. The shop is not far and the message must go out to the hundredship. I’ve delayed my walk there this morning long enough.” Kenti hurried toward the door. “Come, Olwen.”
She and her second oldest son hurried to the blacksmith's shop. The men who gathered there offered their assistance to her.
At the appropriate time, when all clear sounded, they carried the message about the victory into the hundredship. They rode into the countryside surrounding the wyndham, traveled to Arwain's compound, and shared the news with other remote lodges outside the village proper, including the herders’ dwellings.
After Kenti left, Neil prepared something to eat for himself, Puer, and the messenger. Miri was busy with the organization of the lodge, its kitchen, and the return to normal.
Odgar quickly ate the food offered to him. Neil showed him where to bathe and led him to the sleep area. Finally, with a difficult morning behind him, Odgar climbed into the sleep hammock lined with new covers and fell asleep.
* * *
Puer sat quietly until Neil returned to the table. When the owney walked toward him, the hogan stood. For the first time, in more than two sunrisings, Embla who sat at another table near Miri remembered the staves she carried in her belt bag. Her eyebrows shot up.
Oh, no, the hogan! I forgot to present his Sibbe name to him. How could I overlook the rite? I did not give Puer ...
No, I must think of him as his Sibbe name, and not Puer. I did not give him his name between the sunrise and sunset! Is this Wurdiz? Is this mistake a sign? I must determine what to do next.
Embla removed the casting cloth from her belt bag and placed it on the table. She chanted to Wodan and then Frigga. The Rune staves flew onto the cloth from her hands. Around the center mark, the answers gathered.
Runar told her Puer would be called Ionnain only while he dwelled in the wyndham. The name signaled his rebirth and his freedom only in Amelen territory. She thought what does this mean. The runar appear to indicate there are two of him.
The runes told her Puer’s turn to Sibbe Way would determine her destiny, not his. They told her to hasten the hogan’s turn. Freya came to her mind when the runes Ingwaz and Perthro appeared to her on the cloth. Embla knew what they meant and what she must do to tame the utangardhr. She glanced at the other runes of substance. One of the runes indicated the events around her resided in a quavering resonance in time, but she chose not to examine these signs thoroughly. She hurried through the rest of the reading and dutifully performed the sending.
Embla went to the hogan and sat beside him. She sat on his right side where his good eye could see her. She whispered to him in the Latin loqui.
“Puer…” the sound of the horns echoing from the hills interrupted her.
The horns’ pitch mimicked the quick yowl of wolves. Their trainers used the same technique to enhance the sounds of the wolf attack on the Imperium troops. To a stranger in the gau, the calls resembled the natural sounds of animals. To Amelen, the sounds meant freedom, and their lives spared.
“Stay here, Puer. The all clear sounded.”
Embla moved to the lodge door and out into the light. The sweet air of freedom and life blew across her face and through her hair. She took the air deeply into her body for herself and the people of the north.
She looked around the wyndham and noticed most of its members stood outside their lodges. A few villagers gathered in the center of the wyndham. Embla walked out of the Kenti's lodge yard and toward a small, old, flat top mound where the Druid once presided over Amelen assemblies. A sacred Ash grew near the mound. She climbed the steps to the top.
Embla stood for a moment with staff in one hand and her amber necklace extended forward with the other. She allowed the medallion to drop and swing between her breasts. She held her staff in front of her then lifted her it high into the air. The Seidhkona presented the staff to all who could see her. She brought it down hard, and planted the staff in the soil of the mound. She raised both hands into the air palms up. Her body became the rune Algiz, protection. She summoned the strength of the sacred tree, Yggdrasil.
Her voice boomed, “We say thank you to the Nornes for making Sibbe’s small victory against the mighty Imperium a part of the Weave.”
Embla shouted, “to the Nornes; the three sisters of destiny! The web may move and bend in the wind, but the Weave cannot break.”
All who saw Embla raise her arms high in celebration, also
raised their arms and yelled, “To the Nornes, to the Nornes.
“To the Amelen, to Amelen leaders !”
They echoed her cry. “To the Amelen, to the Amelen!”
“To Sibbe. To Aes.”
“To Sibbe. To Aes.”
“To the wolves and their trainers!”
“To the wolves and their trainers!”
A ray of sunshine hit the crystal on Embla’s staff. She turned to the east and went down on one knee as the gold light flashed throughout the village. She held her position for a few heartbeats. She stood and, in a gesture of defiance and power, she pulled the staff from the ground with one stroke, held it up, turned on one foot, squared her shoulders, and moved out of sight down the back of the mound.
Embla walked quickly, but solemnly, toward the lodge. She returned to present the Puer with his Sibbe name. He waited for her at the lodge door and bowed. He never acknowledged her with a bow until that moment. She returned his gesture, but did not show her surprise.
“Puer, we are no longer required to whisper. The all clear sounded. Do you understand what happened?”
He nodded his head yes.
“We were attacked, nearly invaded. I went to the mound to give thanks to the sisters who Weave our destiny. We, the Amelen, outwitted our enemy. We won our freedom, Sibbe’s freedom, one more time. Death visited us but our gau suffered little damage.”
“Come, let us go to the eating area.” Embla moved and talked with enthusiasm and a lightness of spirit.
Several of the village men and vasso who pulled Kenti and the Chief’s household goods from their hiding places rested near the entrance. Miri stood near the worktable and benches putting away the kitchenware and supplies. Embla came up behind her and placed her arm around Miri’s shoulders.
Embla nodded toward Puer. “Miri, he needs a tunic that matches my robe. Do we have one?”
“A similar one, but I cannot retrieve the tunic from its storage chest. I am busy. The storage chests are in disarray near the sleeping area. I did not place them in their positions yet. The boys work elsewhere or they could help you.”
“Puer and I will try to find the garment. Which chest?”
“The one with the Oak leaf carved around the lock.”
“We will look. Come on, Puer.”
Embla waved her arm for him to follow. “Let us try to clear this area and place the chests. All we need do is slide them under the beds or beside the beds.”
They searched for the Oak leaf storage chest near the sleep area. Puer lifted each chest and turned it around so she could see the lock.
Embla told him where she thought the chests were stored and Puer placed them there. They started smiling because they continuously bumped into each other. They bent over at the same time and bumped their behinds and Embla started to laugh outloud.
* * *
She stood and grasped Puer’s mouth with one hand and held her own mouth with the other. Embla started to laugh again and Puer put his hand over her mouth. They both knew laughter was not appropriate so soon after such a grave event as the near invasion of the gau.
When they finally found the Oak leaf chest, Embla opened the top and went through the contents. She tried not to disturb anything. She pulled out a small cream-colored garment. The next one, a lighter ivory color, seemed large enough to fit him. She held the tunic up to her own body. Still smiling, he watched her.
She looked him up and down. “I'm not certain if this will fit you exactly.” Maybe I should try it on first. His eyebrows shot up at that suggestion. Puer pretended to look around the lodge for somewhere to go to give her privacy. Then, he turned back around to her, held his hands palms up at his waist, and shrugged. She tossed her head indignantly.
She searched through the oak chest again. Embla found a well-made, light brown leather belt that looked good with the tunic. She held the tunic and belt in the air to see if they matched. She also found dark leggings for him and placed them on the bed near the tunic.
As she repacked the oak leaf chest, she noticed her own trunk and tried to pull it to her bed. Puer stepped between her and the chest as if to say, I will move the trunk. He carried the chest to the edge of her bed where the tunic laid and slid the chest underneath the bed frame for her.
Embla thought he is stronger than I realized.
“Thank you, Puer.” She nodded her approval.
“I want to hold the tunic in front of you, so I can see how you will look.”
She laid the garment on his shoulders briefly and placed her hand on his chest. She smoothed the fabric. Their eyes locked. She looked at his mouth and down the tunic. By the time her eyes returned to his face, she knew beyond a doubt that she needed to feel those full lips against hers.
She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his. The feeling that moved through her was thrilling. He stood very still. Embla brushed her lips against his again. She licked her lips and then pressed them against his one more time.
Puer could not take the tension anymore. He grabbed her behind and pulled her into him. Then he kissed her passionately. The kiss left her weak in the knees. Puer wanted all of her right then.
She knew being with him was right. The runar said as much. Embla wanted Puer for more reasons than one. The Wieven told me any male is much easier to guide if you know them intimately first. Ingwaz and Perthro in my runecasting suggested intimacy with him. Besides, he resembles Wodan and at this moment, he seems as powerful. How to do this.
She felt her mortality with the near attack from the Imperium. Now, with the enemy gone, she wanted an affirmation of life. She looked around and picked up one of the garments.
“Here, see if you can wear this tunic.” Embla stepped back to look at his body.
She slid his old tunic over his head. She touched his arm and one of his nipples. His chest was hard, well defined and made her want to touch every inch of him. He was changing in his northern environs with heartier meals. An urge to run her hands down his body overwhelmed her.
She kissed his neck. He kissed her ears. Embla wanted more.
“Puer, you must try the belt, too.” She was breathless, but tried to hide it.
Embla pulled the drape cloths together at the entrance to her sleep area, and then moved back to the bed.
She looked at him and placed her finger on her mouth. Her gesture told him they must be quiet. She pushed him down onto the edge of the bed and kissed him. He responded to her beauty and her sensual reaction to him. They wanted to abandon control, but their presence within the lodge called for caution and quiet. Sibbe seldom made love inside. Embla and Puer’s behavior would be frowned upon.
“Yes, I see the small tear at the shoulder; I will mend it for you.”
She unlaced the opening in his leggings. She thought about his first night in her bed. This time, the sexual moves would be mutual. She lay down on her bed and lifted her robe. He lay on top of her. He kissed her several more times. Her intense response told him she was ready to make love.
He kneeled low in front of her and pulled her lower body onto his thighs. Slowly, he entered her and started moving. He pulled her body in closer. Her movements matched his. He could not take anymore. Her responses drew him toward climax. He thrust in and out of her, pumping hard. The intensity of their passion surprised both of them.
All the emotions, all the energy and tension that built in him since his journey north, and built between them sought release. He thrust one more time. She covered her mouth with her hand and began to shutter. The pleasure of vaginal orgasm swept through her. With one last thrust, he exploded inside her.
For a few moments, they both remained motionless. She trembled with pleasure while he slowly withdrew from her. He lay beside Embla, pleased, and exhausted. She kissed his face and his lips again. She thought, mmmm, those sensuous lips.
Her mind filled with the knowledge she acquired about the two of them. They fit together, and moved together well. He was a wonderful lover. She thought I want to stay in this bed for the rest of the day, forget my duties, and revel in the pleasure of…oh, what did I do? I do not know, but this was good. It is Wurdiz.
She whispered, “I wish we could lay in each other arms and sleep.”
She smiled at Puer. He touched her cheek with the back of his hand and allowed his fingers to glide down the nape of her neck. She thought, more, I want more of him. She stopped herself. I cannot, later… I will… She relaxed.
A feeling of fulfillment passed through them. They clung to each other for one incredible moment. Their lovemaking happened quickly. The intensity of their sex formed a bond between them that they both understood, and needed.
She shook her head. Embla into his eye. She sighed. “We cannot stay in the sleep area.”
She reminded herself, I am surprised. This was wonderful with him, but the other things in life continue. I will sort out these events later. She kissed him once more, leaned into his ear and whispered, “I want this to happen again.” She paused, “and again.”
She stood. Embla mentioned aloud so others might hear her, “you should wash before you dress in the tunic.”
A wooden washbasin and pitcher of water rested on a low table near the bed, along with a cloth she used to wash herself at night before she slept. Quietly, she placed a fragrant soap into the basin and poured water over the soap. She cleaned herself and Puer.
She helped Puer pull the tunic over his head. She adjusted the garment at his shoulders, “Yes, this will fit nicely.”
He pulled on his new leggings and adjusted the belt to a position a little lower than his waist. He was well dressed and he resembled Sibbe. Puer looked as angwen, handsome, as she imagined. He ran the comb he carried in his belt bag through his hair. The longer length of his hair frustrated him. He handed Embla the comb. When she arranged his hair, chills ran up her arms.
Voices filtered through the lodge from the entry. Different members of the family and members of the wyndham, along with vasso, returned more of the hidden supplies along with other materials. Everyone was busy. They heard Neil’s voice. He assisted with the preparation of the mountainside staging area for the arrival of the children and then returned to the lodge to supervise the arrangement of household goods. Between Neil’s shouts and directions, Embla decided no one noticed that she and Puer lingered in the bed area for a little while longer than necessary.
She took Puer’s hand for a moment. Embla whispered in a husky voice. “I do not want to, but we should return to the table now.”
* * *
In the eating area, they sat beside each other on a bench and looked in opposite directions. Embla and Puer tried not to even glance at each other. They wanted to laugh with joy. If they laughed together, someone might guess what happened between them.
Embla composed herself. She cleared her throat, turned, looked past him, and spoke in a loud voice so all who occupied the lodge could hear.
“Puer, I speak to you as Seidhkona.” She paused and gave him a serious look. “I will use the language of Amelen, and then the language you understand.”
“A few nights ago at the meeting, the members of the wyndham determined your Sibbe name. I am to present your new name to you. Stand and I will say the words.”
They both stood. She touched his arm to gain his attention and pointed toward the hearth. They walked to the center of the lodge. She held her staff in her left hand.
Embla modified the ceremony because there was no fire in the hearth. When the wood or charcoal in the hearths began to burn and the smoke curled above the rooflines, Sibbe’s enemies could easily locate the wyndham. After a stand down from an incursion or an attack into their territory, restarting the hearth fires was the last activity on Amelen’s list of things to do.
She looked around for something to initiate the ceremony and decided to capture the light from the opening in the lodge roof. The crystal on the staff divided the light into a multitude of colors. Golden flashes of light danced through the lodge.
She announced, “Sibbe assemble.”
Except for Odgar who was asleep in the hammock, they stopped what they were doing and drew near Embla and Puer the unnamed.
“You, without Sibbe name, please take one step forward.” Puer stepped toward her. A number of heads looked in through the door. More people joined the ceremony.
“All Sibbe who surround you, those in the wyndham, the hundredships, and the gaus will call you by the name I hold here.” She held the carved stave that she carried in her belt bag since his name selection ceremony.
She leaned forward and whispered, “You must respond or they will be insulted.”
He nodded and bowed his head in an acknowledgment. She held the wooden stave high so all could see the geba. She turned to the four directions and then to Puer.
“This is Sibbe’s first gift to you. Please extend your arm and open your hand.”
Embla placed the stave in his hand. She placed her hand underneath his to steady it. She pointed at each rune and spelled his name to him. Isa, Othala, Naudiz, Naudiz, Ansuz, Isa, Naudiz,
I O N N A I N, Ionnain you are our adopted son. You will walk among us from this moment forward as…”
She nodded toward those gathered.
“Ionnain, Ionnain, Ionnain.” They chanted his name in unison.
“Go down on one knee.” She stepped back and held the end of her staff above his head. She gave a widjen, a blessing, to the newly named young man.
“And, the unnamed will be the named. This sacred and powerful, familial and traditional appellation will exist in the Wurdiz by the authority of the Wodan, and the Aesir and Vanir. Your name again binds you to Sibbe. You have become. Stand, Ionnain.”
Together, the group repeated the words of Wodan:
I now am named, Ygg
I was called before,
before that, Thund,
Vakr and Skilfing,
Vafudr and Hroptatýr,
with the gods, Gaut and Jalk,
Ofnir and Svafnir,
all which I believe to be
names of me alone.
A momentary silence permeated the lodge.
One by one, they walked toward him and bowed. They spoke to him in their language, “Welcome, Ionnain, adopted son of Amelen.”
The moment was solemn for Sibbe. He felt the seriousness of the ceremony.
Ionnain, the former Puer, was polite toward those around him and acknowledged each of them with a courteous bow. They were delighted, especially the owney Neil, who attempted to guide him. He stood behind Ionnain as his second and repeated the names of those who bowed to him. Ionnain, the former Puer, repeated the names. After the ceremony, he appeared transformed.
In normal circumstances, Sibbe would serve a meal and drink of the sacred mead in honor of the former Puer. Unfortunately, the day ahead would be busy. During this day of victory, no time existed for food or drink, or ceremony. After Ionnain’s welcome, Sibbe moved to their assigned tasks. Their priority was restoration of the wyndham’s systems and order.
He turned toward her. In her mind, Embla continued to call him Puer. She thought the old name is a habit and it will take time for me to forget. She was the last person to bow to him.
“Amelen must accomplish many tasks today. Let us go to the table, Pua, uh, Ionnain.”
Embla read his thoughts when she spoke to him.
For the first time since I arrived at the Barbari village, I feel I belong. He smiled. I do feel different now, after the name ceremony. I like the sound of Ionnain. I like that a part of the word means son. She addressed him again. He listened without resentment or frustration.
“Ionnain, the wyndham will return to normal soon. Amelen will work hard today, and perhaps tomorrow. You and I must help. During the lodge meeting that determined your name, a decision was made.”
She looked into his eye with a serious expression. “You will become my apprentice. You will receive a permanent task later. This morning, we will go into the village to counsel and work with the people. They need encouragement now, in the aftermath of the Uilliamach battle.”
I will dress in my white and green robes. Always wear similar colors to what I am wearing when you are with me. While wearing the same colors, we will present a united front. The tunic you are dressed in will do for now. I am the only Seidh counselor in the wyndham and the youngest one in the gau.
You will be the youngest assistant. Sibbe will consider us strong, and capable. Still, we must prove ourselves to them. They will expect us to be diligent, to perform many tasks. You will learn faster if I explain what is required when we begin each task.
Do you understand any of our words now?”
He nodded his head yes and looked into her eyes.
Embla, I understand you cannot speak to me about what happened between us. Too many people move in and out of the dwelling. An exchange of affection is impossible right now. I will wait. I will attempt to perform my task in the manner expected of me.
She watched Ionnain relax a little. Her blue eyes softened while her gaze lingered on his face. The hint of a smile crossed hers.
“Agreed,” she said aloud.
Immediately, he thought I have decided in favor of patience. He was comfortable with his decision.
“Earlier we were interrupted by the messenger before we ate. Let us eat now, before we leave. Food will be sparse until the great meal at the next moon rising. Hungry Sibbe will welcome the celebration feast.”
Miri brought a soft cheese to spread on the moist, dark bread before them. Often the bread was made of emmer, einkorn, and ground almonds, with small-grained wheat or millet mixed in. The addition of millet produced sweeter bread. The bread was round. Miri mixed the dough in large wooden bowls. She baked the loafs under large clay domes positioned on the stones next to the hearth fire. Cold, spiced and stewed apples were also served.
Miri prepared few other foods. She was busy cleaning the iron hearth kettle and the clay baking domes that she would use after the hearthfires burned again. One of Kenti's sons assisted her.
Only those who dwelled within the Chief’s lodge touched the food during any stage of its preparation. Danger from neglect, error, or poison was the reason. Miri served the food, too. Tradition did not allow vasso into the cooking area or permit them to stay in the lodge overnight.
Embla finished eating before Ionnain. She looked around the lodge and noticed one of Kenti's daughters, Ara, who worked at the large loom to the right of the entry. The young woman, only two seasons younger than Embla, looked very much alone, and a little sad.
“Embla leaned in toward Ionnain. “ I must speak to Ara, I will return to you soon.”
She crossed to the other side of the lodge quickly and sat down beside her. “How may I help you today, Ara?”
They talked about the events of the last two days. Ara was naturally concerned about the hunting party, the Battlers, and her father. She needed to discuss her urulaga. Embla understood Kenti's daughter felt her mortality, too. Ara also mourned the death of the wolves and trainers.
Embla reassured Ara, “The messenger Odgar brought us good news. Men and wolves performed their tasks well. We evaded Imperium destruction and death with their help. Soon the Hunters will bring us meat for our stores and for a wonderful feast of celebration tomorrow evening. Your father is alive. He is brave and strong. He is Chief. Do not worry, Mawi. Sometimes, Sibbe must create death so we might live. Be joyful we were not found here in the wyndham. Remember, those who lost their lives will return to the Weave again.”
“Brigh gach cluiche gu dheireadh, the essence of a game is at its end.
Such is the life of all Sibbe.”
Embla whispered to Ara, “You know, Odgar, son of Barris, stays with us. He is asleep in one of the hammocks. When he wakes, introduce yourself to him. He will be surprised that you grew into such a delightful young woman. Perhaps he will tell you what occurs in the gau and enjoy looking into your beautiful eyes.”
“I will speak to him, Seidhkona. A cousin introduced us once. She bowed her head in acknowledgement of Embla’s help. Thank you for talking to me.”
Embla stood to leave the loom area and hesitated. She took two steps away from Ara and turned back. She whispered, “What do I sense in you, child? Toiseach. Is he unkind to you?
“Ya ... No, he ignores me. He always has. I want to learn everything about archery. I told him this. He acts like he cannot hear me.”
Embla sensed in Ara a dislike and distrust of Toiseach deeper than the subject of archery.
“Here is what I advise. Tell Kenti and Neil you desire a greater knowledge of archery. Tell them you would like to train with a Battler. They will help you. Hmm, I believe Odgar is a good archer.
You should also talk to Kenti about your father. If you do not like the man, and it sometimes happens, ignore him until your circumstances change, or you confront him.
Perhaps we should cast the runar sometime. I will try to talk to you about this again.”
Embla returned to Ionnain. He waited for her at the table.
She smiled, “We must go soon. The wyndham requires the presence of a counselor, and her assistant.”
Miri walked to the table and asked if they needed anything else. Embla thought she looked tired. She asked, “Miri, how are you feeling?”
“Never mind about me. I need to speak to you before you leave, Embla”
“Let us go there,” she pointed, “outside the work area.”
They walked to the lodge’s right side far behind the looms where no one could hear. Miri inquired about the hunting party. Embla gave her details. Miri's whispered questions and comments led Embla to see several of the events in the wyndham differently.
With a lowered voice and a stern expression in her eyes, Miri warned her, “You must also prepare, Embla. Toiseach will return with anger for what the Dewin brought from the south. He will say the Dewin's misreading of the runar was costly. Toiseach will make his move toward power soon. He will run over anyone in his way.”
Miri paused. She tried to decide if she should go further. She resumed her remarks, “Toiseach attempts to consolidate his power in not only the wyndham, but the gau. He will try to blame someone for the Imperium’s presence so near the Amelen. You know his targets will be Dewin and Ionnain, yes, and perhaps you. The last Druid predicted this situation before they walked out of the valley. They said Amelen’s own leaders could betray us because of their hunger for rank and power.”
“Thank you, Miri. I will consider these things, I am aware Toiseach is angry. I hoped he would be too tired from the hunt to express such hostility. Right now, he should direct his attention toward Kenti and his family and not be concerned about power, or revenge. What do we do to change this situation?”
With a wry smile on her face, and nodding, Miri remarked, “I understand, he needs to relax. I will see what is possible. This may be difficult. For Sibbe, I will try.”
Miri started to turn away. She turned back to Embla, “Oh, and, Vala, remember Ionnain needs to return to the lodge later for his herbed broth. I cannot brew the herbs now because we cannot light a fire.”
Embla and Ionnain prepared to visit the other lodges in the wyndham. They walked toward the door to leave when the Kentigearna swung the wooden door open. Kenti’s smaller children accompanied her. They greeted their Seidh Counselor. Embla was so pleased the children were all right and remained a part of the Weave. Their presence brought joy to her heart.
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At the heart of this series lies the unearthing of hidden histories, altered time, and the needless loss of millions of lives.
Nineth Installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
Kenti returned to the lodge with the children to await the final all clear. During the day, she readied the wyndham for the Hunters’ return. The wyndham made plans to dress the harvested game immediately after the Hunters arrived.
Salvageable kill would be prepared in the area near the covered waste pit. Areas with tables for dressing the meat were setup. Later, Sibbe would distribute the protein to wyndham families. They would cook a smaller quantity of game to serve at the feast. Other cuts of meat were preserved, usually smoked and dried. Sibbe processed every part of the animal into something useful.
All day, the Chieftainess directed the arrangements for the next evening’s celebration. Except for the burning of the fires, Kenti brought the wyndham back to normal soon after the first all clear. Although a heightened feeling of danger remained with them, Sibbe carried a sense of triumph and survival. Sights, smells, and sounds were more intense. Comfort and confidence in their ability to act came from their belief system, the Wurdiz.
When he arrived in the wyndham, Odgar confirmed to the Watch that the idea for the wolves attack came from Embla. Later in the day, Kenti corroborated Odgar’s announcement. Word swept through the wyndham that Embla and Kenti devised the battle plan. Talk spread about Embla’s reading of the runecasting. She earned the admiration of her people.
A capable Seidh Counselor and potential Druid in the wyndham built confidence in the Amelen. They valued knowledge in all its forms. Tribes with Druid presence and patronage were powerful because an extensive knowledge of the world was always at hand. They solved problems faster. Wyndham life was easier.
Embla was busy with her duties, and Ionnain. She did not realize Sibbe knew about the wolves and that they already respected her as counselor. Stories flew through the wyndham during the late afternoon about the events that led to the victory. Honors for Embla, Kenti, the wolf trainers, the wolves, and the Hunters and Battlers were prepared at the smithy for the coming celebration.
When the final all clear sounded, spotters blew horns throughout the gau. Each wyndham’s lookout picked up the signal, and relayed the all clear to the next lookout or watch. Kenti's village, which was located in the foothills of the mountain range, was the last hundredship to hear the sounds.
As soon as the blasts from the horns ended, Sibbe lighted their hearth fires and life returned to a version of normal. They placed offerings of food or a valued personal item on stullons, a kind of altar, in every lodge and in every outdoor setting.
Those who passed the stullons were welcomed to take an item, if they needed it. The only requirement was they replace it with something else of equal value. In this manner, the Aesir provided for Sibbe, and Sibbe provided for themselves with the gifts and the sharing. They also exchanged gifts every holiday. The Amelen tribe was renowned for their love of gift giving and the quality of their geba, gifts. The Victory of the Wolves brought gratitude and celebration. This best of holidays was a gift of life, of renewal, and always an appropriate time for gift giving.
* * *
When Embla and Ionnain approached the blacksmith shop, they heard the last all clear. Embla touched Ionnain's hand. “There will be a great celebration tomorrow night honoring our victory. Today, you will meet the people who dwell in the wyndham. They will receive you in your official capacity as Seidh apprentice.”
Embla formally introduced the villagers to Ionnain. He, of course, did not talk. He greeted those he met with a bow. Embla’s apprentice, their adopted son, was welcomed wherever they went. Talk in the wyndham was that the first stage of Ionnain’s turn went well.
Embla and Ionnain moved quickly through the hundredship.
They heard talking and even laughter, but no one in the village was loud. They knocked on the door of each dwelling. When the door was opened and greetings made, Embla asked, “How may I help you?” Sibbe answered her with their grief and grievances. With Ionnain standing behind her and usually to her left, she resolved problems. They heard personal, sometimes intimate narrations. Other situations were touching, or funny. The Seidh Counselor listened attentively to each Sibbe’s remarks.
Without judgment, she gave advice in all subjects from mending hearts or roofs to recipes and herbal treatments. Amelen wished to hear details about the hunting party, the Battlers, the wolves, and the Imperium. The question on every one’s lips was, “Would the Imperium return to the gau?”
She tried to give them comfort with her answer but she reminded them, “the enemy may not come close to the gau for many seasons; nevertheless, we must be vigilant and prepared. The hundredship must always be ready to fight or move.”
After they left each lodge, she explained to Ionnain the situations they encountered and the reasons behind the answers and solutions she offered. She described what she expected him to do in the future, and how he should react or not react to the circumstances. They did not stay long in any of the wyndham lodges because of the unpacking and the preparations for the next day’s celebration.
Eventually, evening approached and a cool wind blew down the wyndham path. They both pulled their cloaks around their shoulders. Embla watched the leaves on the trees turn over.
“Soon, the weather will change. Judging from the clouds and the wind, it looks like a cold rain will begin soon.”
She smiled at him. “Thank you, Ionnain. I appreciate your assistance. Your resemblance to Wodan was helpful, too. Did you notice how Sibbe, especially the children, admired your appearance?”
He shook his head no, but he had indeed noticed the open mouths and the stares of the children.
When they turned toward the last lodge in the wyndham, they heard the hunting party’s arrival. The sound of galloping hoofs echoed off the hills in the distance. The riders quickly traversed the paths. They hurried to bring the kill to the wyndham before nightfall. As wind gusts blew through the village, the air carried the roar of the Hunters’ horses.
Embla and Ionnain heard the hoofs hitting the ground first and then the rattle of the carts’ wheels began. Moment by moment the steady beat grew louder. Soon, they felt the pounding of the earth through their shoes.
“Pua, Ionnain, their course takes them through here! Move from the path, now.”
She grabbed his arm and they jumped over a lodge yard fence. Their feet no sooner hit the ground on the other side than the Sealgair, the Hunters, thundered past them without a glance to one side or the other.
The fierceness of the Sealgair and their huge physiques mounted atop large horses made a lasting impression on Ionnain. He could not imagine facing that kind of force in battle. They are much larger than Romans. He thought how do I not fear these giants. He filed the image away in his mind to consider later.
Then he thought of the jump he just made over the fence, the sensation of flying through the air and how Embla and he hit the ground at the same time without rolling or falling. The jump was too perfect. Jupiter, how do things work around here?
Embla noticed his wide eyes when he encountered the Hunters and their steeds. She felt proud that Amelen men could cause such a strong reaction. Ionnain must be taught their ways, at least enough to defend himself and others.
She spoke louder. “Ionnain.”
“The lodge before you will be the last we visit today. Let us step onto the path leading to the door. I want to consecrate the dwelling, to bring a widjen, before we enter.”
“Come along. One more task and we will return to Kenti's lodge. Things will be different when Toiseach returns. His family observes another set of rules when he resides in the lodge. We will speak about protocol later. Right now, I want to tell you about this lodge.”
She nodded toward the building in front of them. “This is Yestin and Nora’s dwelling. Yestin died in Aesburg a few months ago.”
Embla looked at Ionnain again. He was distracted. He stood unmoving while he watched the hunting party disappear down the path.
“Stay out here.” I will go in and make the visit.”
Embla stopped to consecrate the lodge before she went in. She raised her staff. The details of the dwelling came to her sight. She sensed there was something wrong inside. The lodge yard was unkempt. No wolf skull protected the lodge at the entrance. The structure lacked care.
Ionnain’s mind finally returned to the moment. He broke his train of thought, turned around and examined his chaotic surroundings. While Embla watched him stare at the back of the lodge, she remembered Miri's words about his herbed broth. Oh, no, we have been out too long. The broth, he has to drink it or he will revert to his fears.
She decided to complete her visit quickly. Embla sorted through her options. A warning from the Witte Wieven interrupted her.
Their voice warned Derryth approaches.
Derryth strode into the lodge yard from the path where the hunting party just rode into the wyndham. Embla felt nothing but hostility from Derryth.
Did he follow us?
“Greetings, Embla. How are Amelen this eve?” His voice was full of sarcasm.
“Greetings, Derryth, Amelen are well, considering the circumstances. What brings you to Nora's lodge?” Embla kept her voice low and even in tone.
Derryth responded with, “Impressive entry from the hunting party, no?” He nodded toward the path. “I was with, well, a few of them not too long ago. Do you know what Toiseach harvests, Embla?”
He walked past Embla and stood between her and the lodge.
She turned toward him, ignored his question, and repeated hers, “What brings you to Nora's lodge? Derryth?”
He did not answer right away. He paused to give himself enough time to form an answer. Finally, he responded, “I check on her frequently to see if she needs anything. Toiseach ordered me to visit her. I complied.” His face wore the crooked grin everyone in the wyndham distrusted.
Embla lowered her chin, “Look around, she seems to need everything. She obviously requires help. Where are the vasso?”
Her guard went up and anger rose in her. She tried to suppress her emotions. She decided to find out what happened, then act.
Derryth mumbled, “yes, what a shame.”
He moved close to Embla. They stood nose to nose. He became too personal. He did not extend the respect that others in the wyndham displayed to their counselor. Amelen knew to keep their distance when approaching Seidh.
Embla thought why does he not hold his distance. Is he challenging me?
Derryth started to say something. He stopped himself and backed away from Embla when he discovered a potential witness stood near. He had not noticed him before.
Ionnain watched and listened. He slowly moved behind Derryth and Embla to look into the lodge’s backyard. First, he wanted to see if there were anymore uncivil snipes around. He saw none. The strong, pungent odor of death led his eyes to the corpse of a dog and then to a small tree limb resting on the back wall of the lodge. He looked back to Embla. He clapped his hands to gain Embla’s attention and pointed to the back of the lodge with the limb, but Embla did not move. She attempted to read Derryth's thoughts.
Ionnain sensed trouble from the menacing stranger. He readied mind and body. His hand touched his throat. The soreness reminded him Embla could defend herself. He left the two of them and walked toward the dead animal. The dog looked starved to death, but he was not sure.
Ionnain looked around for something he could use to defend himself. He noticed the blackened, branchless limb resting against the lodge wall. The limb resembled an old walking stick. He ran his hand across the metal inlay on the top. He gripped it with both hands and turned the corpse over. He found a knife wound in the dog’s side. Strange, these people respect their animals. Usually, they do not do this to them.
He looked toward the man who intruded into the lodge yard. This stranger has something to do with the problems at this dwelling.
How do I know this? He felt the weight of the walking stick. The stick fit his hands and his height. Ionnain also felt the strength the stick gave him.
Ionnain walked to Embla and stood behind her, and near her left side. He held the walking stick in his hand. He stared at the sneering Derryth from underneath the brim of his hat. Embla noticed the glare Derryth directed at Ionnain but she said nothing.
Ionnain planted his feet far apart and assumed a stance of defiance. His hat slouched over his eye. The clothing he wore transformed him into the Druidic bards' descriptions of Wodan. Only Derryth was malicious enough not to respect him. Other Sibbe who encountered Ionnain would tremble in their boots at the manifestation of Wodan in their presence.
Embla thought, how far has this evil one fallen? He does not honor the positions of Seidh Counsel and her apprentice. He acts as if Wurdiz and the Way do not exist, as if there are no Vanir or Aesir, no Raginaz.
She heard in her mind no, and I never will. Yes, I am changed and yet I exist.
Derryth? She heard laughter and the voice said no more.
"You are not allowed to mindspeak to me without the permission of Seidh. The punishment is death."
Derryth stood in front of Embla. “Come on, move toward me.”
His gaze shifted for an instant, and she was gone. His eyes hunted for her. They searched up and down the path and through the lodge yard. Derryth found her standing near the dog. He did not look at the corpse.
Embla immediately perceived Derryth's hand was in the ruin of Yestin's lodge and the death of the dog. She glared at him.
“You did this, did you not?”
She noticed Ionnain nodding his head yes.
Derryth did not reply.
Embla stepped backward and bent her knees with her head up. Her eyes followed Derryth, but she reached down to touch the dog. The body was cold and decaying. She could do nothing.
“This is your knife, is it not? You will receive swift punishment for this desecration.”
She walked toward him, “I inform you the Thing will officially be notified of your actions. You and anyone else who assisted you will be dealt with accordingly.”
Derryth laughed again. His hand slid to the longknife in his belt.
Embla saw the movement.
Her first thought was to slice him in two, but Embla changed her tactic. She said, “What bothers you, Derryth. How may I help?
According to Sibbe law, Derryth was required to answer the Seidhkona. He stood in silence. He wanted to refuse to answer her. He changed his mind.
“You know exactly what is wrong, and what was wrong for a long time.”
“I could be mistaken. Tell me, Derryth, am I right or wrong in my opinions.”
He screamed at her, “you took my, you took, you took Seidhr from me.”
His hand moved to his knife again. He noticed Ionnain prepared to strike him. “Tell him to forget this pitiful move; I will kill him where he stands.”
Embla ignored Derryth. “What did I take from you, Derryth?”
“I wanted to be wyndham counselor, you know this. I should have become Seidh.”
“Sibbe decided you did not have the temperament to become counsel. Do you prove them right as we stand here?”
“Probably, but I no longer care about the Way. Seidh authority means nothing to me.”
“What means something to you?”
“You ask this question? Seriously, you ask me this. So. I will tell you, nothing means something to me except, except revenge!
Ionnain thought I sense foulness and evil from that one.
Embla spoke to Ionnain with her thoughts I will deal with this fool. Watch him. If he harms me, kill him. Use the walking stick. The weapon will assist you with fighting anything. Its appearance is deceptive. I recognize it from the markings . The stick's name is Storag.
She attempted to go around Derryth to the lodge door. “I will speak with Nora now.”
“I will take you in front of this maggot.”
Derryth lunged at her with his weapon drawn. Embla stepped quickly to the side. She used the trajectory of his body against him. She hit him in midback when he stumbled past her with his longknife in hand. Derryth looked at air as he fell. When his body crashed against the grass and weeds in the lodge yard, his head hit a rock. Blood flowed down his gnarled face. He lay motionless on the ground.
Ionnain thought the rat met its end.
Embla joined her assistant near the area where Derryth’s longknife landed. Ionnain picked it up and threw it into the high grass. They both examined the body from a distance.
Approach him now, Ionnain. We must render another blow to him.
The call of a night bird, or perhaps the laughter of Loki, was the only sound they heard.
Before Ionnain could move forward, one of Derryth's legs twitched, then the other leg moved. He was not dead. He pushed himself to a kneeling position. Derryth slowly stood upright. He shook his head, blood sprayed outward in one direction and pieces of his scalp and hair flew in another direction. His upper body was covered in red.
Embla slid her hand into a small belt bag. She stepped toward him and threw powder into his face. She blew hard at the powder. Immediately and holding her breath, she took several steps backwards.
Derryth was covered in the powder. He attempted to take a breath but his lungs seized. He fell to the ground again, with a hard thud. His crumpled body and more blood spewing onto the ground pleased Ionnain.
Embla said with dead calm in her voice, “I used enough of that powder to kill a bear. He will not move for a long time, but strike both his knees as hard as you possibly can. May Loki take him.”
After Ionnain smashed the villain's legs, Embla called to him.
“We must find Nora. Let us hurry.”
She and Ionnain opened the lodge door. They noticed a dirty cloth hung by a thread to one side of the frame. Disorder was everywhere. Ionnain's mouth fell open. He extended his arm and pointed around the lodge.
“Yes, this disorder is not Sibbe way. Something is very wrong.”
They walked into the cooking area. The neglect and the dirt made them uncomfortable. Most of the furniture was filthy. They lit two small, clay oil lamps and found a seat near the main table.
Embla called, “Nora, where are you?” You have company. Your counselor visits you. My new apprentice accompanies me. Come, speak with us.”
They heard groaning. Embla and Ionnain looked at each other.
From the sleeping area, Nora answered, “Stay there, I will come to you. I, I will dress first.”
“If you do not feel well, do not dress. We understand.”
“I want to prepare myself.”
Embla whispered to Ionnain, “She lost her husband, Yestin, five months ago when he was sent south to a city to, umm, trade goods for Amelen. He made many expeditions to the south. Kenti and Miri told me what Sibbe repeated throughout the wyndham about Yestin.
The story goes that the last time he went there, Romans cornered him. They made fun of his north tribe clothes and hair. Several of the beasts jumped him and beat him to death. The murderers robbed the corpse.
Messengers from around the gau carried the news to the blacksmith’s yard. Toiseach and a number of north tribe tradesmen investigated Yestin’s death. The Thing and the Jarl ordered Tiwaz, justice, to be administered because the Imperium refused to do anything.”
“Dewin filled in some of the gaps in the information about Yestin’s murder at a village meeting.” Ionnain listened closely to what Embla told him.
She felt it was time to tell Ionnain about the Weave of his existence and she continued. “Raiders from the north found the villa where Yestin's murderers lived. Imperium representatives told them the killers lived at your enslaver’s villa. The Horsemen attacked and they found you. Because of your injured eye, you resembled the Wodan, Allfather. It was a propitious sign. Dewin made the decision to spare you and bring you north. He performed the runecastings. The runar said you should be freed, re-educated to the Way, and restored to your own people.”
Ionnain’s eye grew wide at what he heard from Embla. He doubted anyone from the villa was interested in killing a lone tradesman. He wanted to tell her that her statement did not make sense, but waited to hear the rest of the story.
“Wurdiz, Ionnain, what I told you happened, and you were returned to the north.”
Embla looked around the lodge posts to the sleep area and frowned. “Nora takes too long.”
“When Yestin was robbed, Nora was left with little except the lodge. She lost their first child. The child died of an illness that kills so many Sibbe children. The children cough a lot and they do not grow. Their skin tastes salty. Even drawing a breath is difficult for them. Food does not stay in them. They wither away.
Druid tried many treatments, sage and white radishes, and cures from the mistletoe, none worked enough to save our children. The Ovates and Vitkars discovered the disease occurs in certain families through the generations. The ailment is a wasting away disease, sad to witness.
Nora carried another child for a while after Yestin's murder. The news of her husband's death was too much for her to handle. She lost the baby. Her family and friends tried to assist her, but they lived in another wyndham. She refused to return to her relatives’ lodge and did not respond to offers of help.
Kenti visited her once. Because she was acting chief, her time was limited. Toiseach was absent frequently and Kenti was too busy with her lodge, her children, and the running of the wyndham to return to talk with Nora. Our wyndham had no counselor at the time.
Five monaten, months ago, I was not Seidhkona. Now, I will do for her what is possible.”
Embla yelled at the sleeping area, “Nora, you must come out. Do you disobey Sibbe law?”
“Seidh does not wait. You know I will help you, if you but ask.”
“You cannot correct the problem.” Nora's reply came from her bed.
“Yes, I can.”
“Come to me now.” Embla extended her medallion with one hand.
Nora did not dress while Embla and Ionnain talked in the eating area. Instead, she wrapped herself in the bed cover.
“You will not go away will you?”
“I am … I will, it is hard for me to, to walk.”
From the shadows emerged a hideous image. Nora, in her mourning, became a creature possessed and transformed by grief. Embla felt death surrounded her and walked with her. A rope encircled Nora’s neck. The bed cover she wore was filthy. Her hair was uncombed, and she was unwashed.
When he saw her, Ionnain made his second sound since Embla hit him. Fear came from his throat in the form of a grunt. He turned away. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and trickled down his cheek.
Embla did not move. She waited for Nora to come to her.
“Do not sit.”
Embla pointed. “Here, stand in front of me.”
She stood up facing Nora. She removed the rope from Nora's neck.
“Who inflicted this rope on you?” Embla spat the words. Her frustration level was high. She tried to control her seething emotions.
Nora whispered between parched, quivering lips, “the vilest, the hideous one who walks the wyndham and claims to be a man. He placed the rope around my neck and pulled on it when I did not, not do, what he wanted me to do. I detest him. He fouled and betrayed us all.
Der, derryt…she looked around the lodge and shifted her eyes from one location to the other. “Shhhh, we must not mention his name. We will summon him. He will hurt us.”
Embla read Nora’s thoughts about her abuser.
“No, he will not, Nora. We hurt him outside the lodge door. He lays there on the ground. He is, quiet now.”
Nora collapsed into Embla's arms. She immediately noticed Ionnain. She pointed to him. Fear returned to her eyes.
“He is my apprentice, Ionnain. He is a man, yes, but he will not hurt us. He is here to help.
Stand up straight for me.
You do not look to be yourself. You are not well. You are not clean. What do you say to your counselor?”
“I want to die.”
“And what will your death solve?”
“Nothing. I want to be nothing.”
“Hold this stone.”
Embla handed her a smooth, slightly pink, opaque stone about the size of her inner palm. “Roll the stone around in your hand until you place all your worries and cares inside. Do not drop it or lose it. Take the stone with you when you sleep and while you are awake. Hold it until your every worry is inside. You will know when the stone is full. Many lines will run through the inside.”
“Meanwhile, you must clean yourself and the house. How do you propose to do this? You are Amelen. Amelen do not live this way.”
“Where are your vasso?”
“I do not know.”
“Do you want me to send help to you?”
“I do not know.”
“Make up your mind.”
“Yes, I need help. I need help, I need, I need my husband. I need my children. I need my family returned to me. I need, I want the vile, evil Derryth, the corrupted one, to die. I want all Romans to die. I want to be free. I do not want to be told I am bad when I am not. ” She collapsed on the floor crying.
Ionnain heard Nora speak the word Roman with such loathing and sorrow.
Embla let her cry for a few moments. When Nora's sobbing subsided, she ordered her, “Stand up. Sibbe do not act in this manner. Where is your pride?”
“You will wash, and you will wash yourself now.”
How do I examine her for injuries?
“Ionnain, do you see a wooden tub, or a large wooden bucket about this high in or near the cooking area? He began to search the left side of the lodge. He found a wide tub under a worktable.
The tub smelled musty.
“Do you see the flat stone in the floor under the large kitchen work bench?”
“Lift the stone and place it to one side.”
Ionnain looked into the hole. He heard the water. A large bucket with a dipper inside stood near the hole in the floor.
He looked toward Embla. What do we do next?
She answered in his mind. My actions will be difficult to watch. How much can you take?
I will make the Geneth want to live. I will make her angry. Stand fast.
She placed her staff on top of the kitchen table and removed her jewelry, her tunic, and belt. Embla wore a linen slip dress underneath her tunic. She removed it. Embla was bare, and immediately cold.
Ionnain's mouth dropped open again. What are you doing?
“I will wash the girl.”
Embla stood over Nora. “Get up.”
She was much bigger than Nora was. She lifted her off the floor and stood her straight up. Embla ripped the tunic from Nora’s body.
Nora screamed and started to cry again.
“You will not cry. Shut your mouth.” Embla slapped her across the face. She made the blow hurt. With a gasp, Nora immediately stopped crying.
“Try yelling and see what happens.”
She stripped Nora of every piece of clothing. Nora stood before Embla nude and trembling.
“Into that tub, now.”
“I said, into the tub.”
Nora stepped into the tub and sat on the small stool. Embla poured the cold water from the dipper over the girl.
“Do you see a small cloth, Ionnain?”
He was transfixed at the sight before him.
“Find a cloth!”
He rubbed his eye, then hurried to the weaving area. He found several cloths in a chest. Ionnain brought all of them with him to the tub.
He handed a cloth to Embla. She started scrubbing Nora. She used the soap Ionnain found near the water bucket on the worktable.
“Cover your eyes.”
She poured water onto Nora's hair, then applied the soap.
“Place your hands in your hair and scrub.”
Ionnain watched Embla scrubbed the girl's chest, breasts, back, arms, and hips. She told Nora, “Wash your private parts. They stink more than the rest of you. Here is a cloth.”
Nora refused. “No, no, no.” She shook her head.
“If you will not, I will wash you.”
Embla washed Nora's legs and then her feet.
“Spread your legs.”
Nora wanted to cry again, but did not. When she widened her legs, Embla noticed a black discoloration. She looked closer at Nora's private parts. The entire area was bruised. Embla grabbed her shoulders and turned her around. Nora's back was not bruised, but the inner cheeks and under her butt near her opening was black.
Nora’s teeth shattered from the cold water and she shook.
Embla ignored her and ran the cloth between her legs and cleaned her. She washed her back twice and her legs again, then rinsed her hair.
While Embla bathed Nora, Ionnain looked around for a blanket, cloths, and a change of clothes for them. He found both in storage chests near the sleeping area. The items in the chests told of the lodge that used to be. They were surprisingly clean.
Embla first wrapped Nora in a drying cloth. She carefully patted the places where Nora was wounded and sore.
Nora held the stone. She rolled the clear rock from her palm to the tips of her fingers and back again. Cracks began to appear when the troubles in Nora's life manifested themselves.
After Embla dressed Nora, she looked at Ionnain. “Do you see any bread at all, anything to eat?”
He went through all the chests and storage jars around the cooking area. He found three slices of dried meat and a hand full of dried fruit and one turnip.
“Cut the dried meat and fruit into bite size pieces and mix them together. Peel and slice the turnip.”
While Ionnain worked, Embla bathed herself. She discarded her undershirt. Ionnain handed a clean cloth to her, and another undershirt he found in a chest. She dried herself and dressed. She removed her comb from her belt bag and fixed her hair.
Embla turned to her patient. She pulled Nora's hair back from her face and tied a strip of cloth around it.
“Where is your comb? Your keys. Where are your belt and waistbag?”
Nora pointed to a peg located on one of the lodge posts.
“What is your belt doing there? Your belt and keys should always be with you.”
Embla asked emphatically, “Nora? Do not make me mad.”
“Please, please, the disgusting one made me remove my keys.”
Embla began to put the pieces together. “What happened in your lodge, Nora?”
She touched Nora’s face. Embla felt a blow to her own cheek. “You denied me too long.” She smelled the stink of Derryth's breath. He loomed over her. She felt excruciating pain as he hit her private parts, then shoved himself inside her.
She bled, she hurt, and she was frightened. She turned her head and lay still. He disappeared.
Embla starred at Nora. “He beat and raped you.”
“Yes, most every sun rising. He was never gentle. He was brutal. He was full of hate. What happened to him? Why? He, he did not care what he did to me. I begged him not to hurt me. I told him I would do what he wanted, but he would not stop hurting me. He said all women were bad and they must be punished.
Oh, Seidhkona, he would not stop, he would not stop!”
Embla's eyes flashed with a look Ionnain hoped he never saw again.
She found Nora's comb in one of the bags that hung on the pegs. Embla combed Nora's hair while she spoke to her.
“We will take care of the problem together, Nora. You must not give in to these insults to your body. Come with us tonight. I will protect you, but you must desire life. You will never suffer this indignity again. I promise. Remember, everything in good time.”
Embla told her “eat, so you will not starve like your poor dog.”
“I did not hurt him.”
“Were you paying attention to the dog?”
Embla handed her a few seeds from the bag on her belt. “Place these on your tongue and suck them. They will help you feel better.”
Ionnain offered the food he found in the cooking area to Nora. At first, she nibbled at the meat and dried fruit. When the seeds began to work, she ate more.
While Nora felt the benefits of the seeds and ingested the food, Embla talked to Ionnain. “I will send people to clean the lodge and yard.”
“Nora is coming with us, although Kenti's lodge will be full tonight. If Nora is well enough, I will arrange to take her to Miri and Neil's lodge at the edge of the wyndham. Neil built the lodge. They live there when Kenti does not require their assistance.
Someone must guard Nora tonight.”
Embla leaned toward Ionnain and whispered in his ear. “We can go to Miri and Neil’s lodge. If things go well, we will sleep, together, tonight. Neil's lodge is large and private.” She smiled at him.
She added. “The things I do are necessary. They are not easy. Nora is clean and talking. Right now, that is significant.”
“How are you? You experienced a lot in a short amount of time.”
He shrugged his shoulders, but inside he shook,
She nodded her head toward Nora. “I am enraged.”
Ionnain watched Embla's jaw tighten.
“This aspect of the Weave has not ended. We will prepare her and return to Kenti’s lodge.”
When they left, they expected to find Derryth's corpse in the lodge yard. The body was gone. Ionnain stood near the spot where Derryth fell. He jumped up and down in anger at the thought this horrible evil slipped into the night.
“Yes, Ionnain, Derryth has escaped. Be watchful when we walk the path with Nora. He could return from the shadows. Let me know immediately if you see him or anything suspicious, we will finish him.”
Their trek toward Kenti’s lodge was slow. Nora tried her best to keep pace with the Seidhkona and her apprentice. When the band of three came upon the smith’s compound, they stepped onto the bank’s edge by the path. Embla climbed the bank. She waved at the blacksmith and the others gathered there. They returned her wave and she raised her staff.
Embla yelled toward the smithy, “Tell the men to secure Yestin's house and return the lodge and lodge yard to order. Nora is injured. Derryth is ve’co. He must be found and held.”
When Nora heard Yestin's name, tears welled in her eyes, but she did not cry. Embla handed her more seeds. Nora chewed them and grew stronger for a time. They continued up the path toward the Kentigearna’s lodge.
* * *
Embla and Ionnain relaxed a little after Nora improved. Embla held Nora’s hand and tried to comfort her while they walked. Ionnain scanned the path along the edges and up into the lodge yards. Embla watched him. Anger flashed across his face. When Ionnain glanced at Nora, Embla saw sorrow, too. Sorrow was a constant in the life of all Sibbe.
She also felt his pity. In the name of all Sibbe, we do not want the pity.
“I feel better now that we are past the smithy.
This is what happens when a wyndham or gau is without a counselor. During my training, I was busy. I did not recognize Nora needed my help. She and Yestin kept to themselves because they were newlyweds. When he was killed, the villagers were busy with their lives and they left her alone to grieve.”
“I just recently turned Seidh Counselor, but I should have visited her lodge. I blame myself for Nora's problems. I will make this right.”
Ionnain made the mistake of looking at her with doubt and questioning. What can you do about this situation? You cannot stop men from doing what they do. Especially this Derryth, he walked away from deathblows and poison. He is crazy. Yes, and dangerous. How will you stop him?
The moment he formulated his thoughts, Embla read them. She wheeled around to him, “you do not understand.”
She paused, “I am dangerous.”
She looked toward the darkening sky then to the path on which she stood. Embla decided to tell him about her authority as Seidhkona, Seidh Counselor.
When she looked toward Ionnain, a fire glowed in her eyes. Ionnain’s attention was riveted.
“Even now, I possess the power of life and death over Sibbe, all those around me, men, women, and children, all the animal and plant life, and those who enter the gau. I can take away their existence. I will kill any one of them if all other options are exhausted or danger is imminent."
She hesitated, and then spoke again, “I say these things in the language of my enemies so you will know. In the north, there is an unspoken, tacit agreement between the assemblies and chiefs, and Seidhr, and Druid. My authority overrides everything, all decisions, all power.
I tell you about Seidh authority only because you do not know Sibbe ways. Understand and always remember what I speak to you now, Ionnain.”
She started to walk ahead of him, but stopped for a second time. “I will never discuss this with you again.”
Nora watched Ionnain and Embla and wondered why they suddenly stopped in the path. The wyndham rule is you never stop there, ever. You must step to one side or the other. She stood near Embla while she talked to, then yelled at, Ionnain in a different language. Disgusting speak of the enemy.
Nora shifted from one foot to the other and looked for movement on the road.
Nora thought the tone of Embla's voice means the hogan did or said something offensive to Sibbe Way. Did he not respect her power? Where was his fear? Did he know what she could do to him? Yet, there is something about the two of them together, a link.
I am glad I left that horrible lodge. I never want to return. The pain of the loss, and my humiliation, is, is too much. She bowed her head. I do not want to remember. I do not feel well. Did I say that aloud? She groaned in disbelief and pain.
Embla turned around to Nora. “Let us go, Ionnain. Her condition is worse.”
Nora bent over, moaned, and held her stomach. She threw up and staggered backward. Nora's garment lifted to mid-thighs when she grabbed her stomach. Embla saw blood trickle down her inner legs on both sides. Her eyes rolled up into her head. She swayed.
“Nora, do not fall down, do not lie down. Carrying you will be difficult for Ionnain and me. The Kentigearna's lodge is a short distance up this path. I brought some small cloths from your lodge. I will roll them as we walk so you can place them inside you, to hold the blood flow.
Ionnain, help Nora walk while I do this.”
They walked slowly while Embla assisted Nora. Then, they picked up their pace. Ionnain and Embla stood on either side of Nora, grasped her forearms and held her upright. They walked slowly and steadily up the path toward the Chief's dwelling with Nora suspended between them.
When they approached the door, Embla directed Ionnain, “Stay with her. Sit on this bench until I return. I will discuss the situation inside and determine what we should do next.”
Nora sat down hard on the bench. Embla leaned over to her ear and whispered, “Sibbe daughter, you must be strong.”
Embla reached into one of her belt bags and pulled out an herb. “Chew on this leaf. I will return with treatment and a place for you to stay. We will make you safe. We will help you.”
She looked at her apprentice, “A guard will be sent to you. If no guard appears come in and stand near the entry to the right.”
* * *
Embla opened the door then pulled back the cloth at the entrance. She heard laughter. As usual, Miri and Neil were in the cooking area. Kenti and Toiseach, in a rare moment with their children, sat on storage benches near the hearth fire and talked to them. The older boys stood behind their father. The little ones sat in front of him. They looked up at him and smiled.
When she entered, everyone stood and turned toward her. They bowed slightly. Embla returned their bows in acknowledgment of the unity and purpose between them.
She raised her staff, paused, then circled it in the air, “May Amelen within this lodge excel and prosper as leaders of Sibbe. Aesir, embrace these good overseers of the Way. Allfather, please commend the heroes among them to the sagas.”
Her arms remained uplifted a bit longer than usual. Finally, she brought the rod down. The Amelen family recognized that the amount of time Embla took to end the widjen was significant. Something loomed. Without words, she sent a message to Toiseach.
Embla spoke. “Chief, please ask the older boys to guard those outside on the bench.”
“Miri, send a cup of broth to Ionnain with one of the boys. I want you to accompany me outside.”
Toiseach nodded at his older sons, Beven, Olwen, and Uri. They went to the cooking area, then moved to the lodge entrance, paused for a moment looked back, and went outside. Uri carried the cup of broth to Ionnain.
After the boys left, Embla approached the hearthfire. She extended both her hands, warmed them, and remained standing in front of the fire for a few moments to watch the flames dance. Everyone in the lodge noticed her wave her hand above the fire. They witnessed the blaze decrease.
In front of the Chief of the wyndham, she demonstrated her abilities. With this act, Embla assumed her role as Seidh Counselor in the Chief's lodge. The gesture was one of authority and power.
Her moment near the fire also gave Embla time to compose her words and thoughts. The Chief will not like the news I carry with me. He will not like what I say about Derryth.
The Chief wore his lodgedress. He looked comfortable in his leggings and tunic. Toiseach was strong, tall, and commanded attention, although his face was not exceptional. His eyes were wolf gray. His hair was light brown. His broad shoulders displayed authority and the burden of responsibility.
When he stood, he towered over most Amelen. His demeanor declared no one should cross him or lie to him. Power emanated from him. His booming voice captured Amelen’s attention. He won his position, not by birth, but by strength of body and will. When he was young, he made up his mind to do anything to maintain the power he planned to win.
She turned toward Toiseach and bowed slightly. “Welcome home our Brave One, Chief, Warrior and Hunter. Thank you for your success.”
They smiled at each other. They relaxed briefly and laughed together in celebration of their victory over the enemy.
Toiseach placed his hands on her shoulders. “You, the clever one, Seidhkona, thank you.”
Embla examined his face. She thought what have you done.
Toiseach sensed Embla wanted to say something. His hands went to his side. Are you prepared for the morrow's celebration?”
“Yes, and no.”
Her eyes met his. Her look told him that her answer to his question was significant.
“I visited the lodges in the wyndham. Sibbe fare well, considering recent events in the gau. Yes, they will move their lives forward, except for one. The last lodge I visited was the dwelling of Yestin. I found his widow, Nora. She carries her grief for the loss of her family poorly. She and the dwelling were unkempt, filthy. We found her dog dead outside. Someone took advantage of our daughter, she is black and blue and bleeding from the insults to her body. I will say no more about what happened to her. Right now, she needs treatment. Her condition is serious.”
“We should summon the Vitkar from the wyndham below us. Miri will care for Nora until the Vitkar arrives, probably by tomorrow.”
Kenti and Miri heard Embla's words and started toward her. Toiseach held his hand up. His gesture told them to stop.
“Seidhkona, be assured we will act on this insult to Amelen.”
Toiseach’s eyebrows shot up. His nod told her he comprehended the situation.
“Derryth must be found.”
“Derryth? Why, is he…” Toiseach did not finish.
“I, I asked him to watch Yestin's lodge and visit Nora from time to time.”
“He engaged me, and Ionnain, outside Yestin's lodge door. He attacked us, Chieftain. Nora wore a rope around her neck. Derryth was the foul ve’co one who placed it there. Inside, the lodge was filthy, Nora was filthy and bleeding. He destroyed Amelen property and took what was not his. Derryth's actions are insults to you, and me, and all Sibbe.”
Kenti and Miri looked at each other with extreme seriousness.
A sense of dread hit the Chief like a fist driven into his chest. He believed his heart would stop. Toiseach realized from that moment nothing good could come from his association with Derryth. The future he planned for himself may well be lost. Finding Derryth before someone else found him became his only immediate goal.
Ionnain came through the door with Uri. They stood to the right. Ionnain clapped his hands and everyone turned toward him. Embla looked at him around the lodge posts. He beckoned to her. The Chief permitted no quick moves within his presence. She moved toward Ionnain as fast as lodge decorum allowed.
“How is she?”
Ionnain shook his head.
Embla understood. “Miri and Kenti please accompany me to the outside of the lodge.”
Ionnain led them to Nora.
Before Ionnain entered the lodge, Nora slumped on his shoulder as she sat beside him. She lapsed into unconsciousness. He caught her, pushed her body toward the wall and the back of the bench, and laid her on her side to prevent her frail body from falling. Now, the sons of Kenti and Toiseach stood watch. Embla joined them.
“Where are the warm water and cloths?”
Miri stood behind her. “Uri, Olwen, bring hot and cold water, and the long cloths laying on the storage chests in the weaving area. We need smaller cloths as well.” Puer went with them. They hurried to the kitchen where Neil sat. Together they dipped the hot water from one of the hearth kettles into a wooden bucket. They filled another bucket with cold water, then took the buckets outside.
Miri turned to Embla. “The boys will carry Nora into the lodge on this blanket. I do not know whose bed area to use. Kenti's lodge is full tonight. Why not take Nora to our dwelling. I can care for her there. Neil and I planned to leave for our lodge tomorrow after the feast. We will change our plans and go tonight.”
“Yes, your lodge will be more suitable, Miri. Kenti and her family need their privacy tonight.”
“I will send vasso to make the lodge ready. They already moved the sitting and storage chests there. Tomorrow evening, I will remain with Nora and take care of her while everyone attends the feast. I do not mind. You and Puer, I mean Ionnain, can stay with us at our lodge while Toiseach remains in the village.”
“Thank you, Miri."
Embla placed her hand on Miri's shoulder. "Oh, Miri, I feel responsible for what happened to Nora. I did not hear her call for help.”
Embla looked at the ground. “Derryth took advantage of the situation at Yestin's lodge. He destroyed, he did not assist. He has chosen and his urulaga runs in front of him. I tried to stop him. We fought, but later, he escaped.”
Miri exclaimed, “What? Do not blame yourself. We will deal with this villain. He is the one who chose this abomination, this insult to all Sibbe!”
“See what Nora has to say about her days spent at her lodge after Yestin's death. If you learn anything about Derryth and his activities, please tell me.”
Miri nodded her head yes. She whispered, “Did Puer drink his broth?”
“I do not know.” Embla looked around and found the cup underneath a corner of the bench. The cup was empty.
“Did he drink or spill the broth?”
“I don’t know. I am hungry. I will take him into the kitchen for something to eat and serve the broth to him again.”
Miri told Embla, “The broth is in the bowl covered with the round platter. Place a hot stone from the hearth into the cup for a while, so it will be warmed.”
“Who will watch Kenti's children tonight after the feast?”
“They will drink their broth, too. Kenti and Toiseach will enjoy a peaceful night in the lodge.”
They both smiled and nodded.
“What about Nora? Do you want her moved immediately?”
“No, we must stop the bleeding before she is moved. I will wash her, insert the herbed, mineral-soaked cloth and the sacred statue of Freya into her opening. The flow will stop for a while, hopefully, until we place her in a bed at our lodge.”
Miri tended to Nora outside the lodge. The wind subsided and the boys raised a small, three-sided tent. They placed another wooden bench beside the first one. They brought warming rocks that radiated heat. Miri gathered everything she needed to treat Yestin's young widow inside the little temporary room.
Embla went inside the lodge after assisting Miri. Nora's situation worried her. She wanted to talk with the Witte Wieven.
Where are they?
Toiseach and Kenti sent their children to the hearth to play games. The chief and his wife were huddled at a worktable alone. They were deep in conversation. Kenti looked anxious.
Embla's hunger led her into the cooking area. She selected greens with meat from the bone, soup, and herbed bread and butter for herself and Ionnain. She also warmed the broth for him.
He watched her from the big table. Exhaustion showed in her eyes. Ionnain walked over to her, touched her back, picked up the plates of food and carried them to the table. After straightening the cooking area, she sat next to him. For a brief moment, Embla wrapped her arm around his arm and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Nora wishes to abandon her life in Midgard. I do not think she has the will to live, too much happened to her. Miri and I used our combined knowledge of healing. She did not respond. This night will be a long one. Are you tired?”
He shook his head no.
“Miri and Neil's lodge is pleasant. You will find their home comfortable. I hope we…” She stopped speaking. Toiseach approached them.
When the chief reached the table, he did not sit with them. Embla stood. Toiseach stared at Ionnain. Embla knew the look. She thought something foments behind those gray, menacing eyes.
“Chief, this is Ionnain.”
He stood and bowed to the chieftain. Toiseach nodded, then he looked down his nose at Ionnain. Embla noticed her apprentice did not cower under the gaze of the chieftain. Pride and approval swelled in her, although she allowed no emotion to show.
Embla added, “Ionnain is my apprentice. He cannot speak.”
Toiseach smiled, “yes, I know.”
He leaned in close and looked at Ionnain's face. “Tell the hogan I welcome him into the Amelen and our gau. Also, ask him to place his hat on his head.”
Embla spoke to him in the Latin loqui. Ionnain slowly positioned the hat on his head.
Embla, I will make my decisions with all Amelen and their future in mind. I ask for your forbearance. These decisions will not come without due thought. Tell me your opinion of the adopted one and the events in the wyndham?”
“Yes, Chieftain. I thought Ionnain would be a huge problem for the wyndham. He was not. He carried anger with him when he arrived, and he took his anger out on me. I will say now, most of his behavior was a reaction to his situation. He adapts quickly to Sibbe Way. I believe his turn will be successful.”
“Derryth, on the other hand, is an embarrassment to the wyndham.”
When Ionnain heard Derryth’s name, he removed his hat. Both the chieftain and Embla noticed the symbolic gesture.
Embla continued, “My disappointment in Derryth is intense. His actions must be examined. I question all the events in the gau within the last two seasons. Last season, I studied Seidhr but did not practice. I was not aware of everything that took place here. I suspect Derryth's hand controlled many of the negative events, including what happened at Yestin and Nora's lodge. He is bitter because Seidh did not choose to train him. Rather than helping the wyndham, or you, he caused problems and took advantage of our daughter.
Toiseach glared at Embla, “a time for reason or consideration has passed. Tomorrow, I will go to the preparation area, the black smithy, then to the meeting lodge. I want to know if anyone witnessed what happened at Yestin’s lodge.” He turned on his heels and walked away with a look of annoyance on his face.
Embla took her seat. She whispered, “This is not good. I will tell you now. Toiseach is angry at the Dewin for your arrival in the gau when he should be angry with Derryth and the Imperium’s actions. We will prepare. Anything could happen within the next few sun risings.”
One of the children walked by their table and Embla changed the subject of their conversation. “Pack your things. Bring them to my bed area. I will place them in storage chests before the vasso come for them. We will travel in raido to Neil's lodge.”
“I will go outside to assist Miri with Nora.”
-- ess (e. smith sleigh, author)
-- e. smith sleigh Sibbe's Way at Amazon http://amzn.to/2mSmuUi
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Tenth Installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
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Eleventh Installment of e. smith sleigh's Sibbe's Way
Embla was delighted to hear the applause and to see Amelen stand when she walked through the crowd. The Sealgair in front of her, Coel, led them to their seats.
According to her Seidh instruction, she kept her gaze forward with no emotions displayed on her face. She held her head down and to the side to display humility and to honor those who praised her.
After she, and her apprentice, reached their seats, they remained standing.
Over the cheers and talk, Embla heard the voices of the Witte Wieven. We are proud of you, daughter. You performed your duties well and earned the respect of Sibbe.
Thank you for your help, my mothers. Where are you?
We are walking toward the wyndham. The Dewin is with us. We will arrive at the meeting lodge shortly. The night is yours. Dewin’s night may not go as well. We have prepared him. The castings do not tell us good things.
Toiseach is seeking someone to blame for the intrusion into the gau. Dewin will attempt to defend himself to the Chief. He may not be successful. Try to save him, if possible, but do not risk a loss for yourself. You must save your position within Seidh. Toiseach is suspicious of everything right now. Wurdiz will be fulfilled always, but Wurdiz can be postponed. The Dewin's urulaga will lead him where we cannot go.
Embla's gaze went to the rafters of the hall. Her arms extended outward with her hands held palms up, thumbs out indicating her acknowledgment of Wurdiz. Her stance was in the shape of the rune, Perthro. Sibbe applauded again. Her actions were in response to what only she could hear. She did not realize the crowd watched her.
She comprehended how Sibbe regarded her counsel during the last few days. Embla understood she held the wyndham’s attention and appreciation. Her efforts helped them. She felt encouraged, and delighted.
She whispered, “Thank you, Allfather, for your inspiration.”
Embla remembered the instruction she received concerning the habits of all people. She learned that their gratefulness was, unfortunately, only a passing thing. Their feelings could change in the wink of an eye. Again, she heard her mothers’ voice trust nothing, but the Unfolding.
She raised her staff again and spoke, “May Amelen within this lodge excel and increase. May victory visit them in battle, life, and spirit. Wodan, our Allfather, embrace these good followers of the Way. Please accept the heroes among them into your lodge and into the Sagas.”
Before she said anything else, the Dewin walked into the hall. He planned his entrance well. Sibbe knew he participated in the training of their Seidhkona. His appearance reminded them of his value. He walked past Embla and bowed. The applause continued.
The Dewin walked past several of the tables in recognition of those who sat there. He moved to the hearth. With his arms raised in the Algiz, he cast powdered minerals from one hand. They fell into the fire. A golden smoke rose and spread toward the lodge door. The Witte Wieven appeared from the vapor. They seem to float rather than walk. Their garments glittered in the fire’s light and their white-blonde hair gleamed.
The wise women turned toward Kentigearna and Toiseach. They bowed slightly. The three women stood in front of Embla and bowed in unison. She acknowledged her mothers, and mentors, with a deep bow. They moved past her chair and sat in a row of seats behind her.
After those who attended the meeting took their seat, Toiseach conducted the honors ceremony. First, the trainers led the wolves through the lodge. Sibbe extended silence and respect to the wolves. The Chief presented their trainers with one gold coin each. They received three cheers for their bravery. When the accolades for the victors ended, Embla rose from her seat. She raised her staff over them in a widjen. Applause followed the company of heroes through the hall. Outside, Hunters presented bowls of meat to the wolves.
Toiseach called Kenti and Embla in front of him. They stood shoulder to shoulder. The Chief lifted his mead cup, “a toast to the planners of our victory. We give you our gratitude and our thanks.
To the Kentigearna.”
Toiseach took a drink first. A cheer went up and everyone drank to their Chieftainess.
“To Embla, our gifted Seidh Counselor.” Everyone held their mead cups high. They drank and sent up another, louder cheer.
Embla bowed to the east and then bowed to everyone assembled. She moved in a circle. They chanted, “Embla, Embla, Embla, Embla!”
During the ceremony, Ionnain watched the proceedings with awe. The Witte Wieven stood. They told Ionnain to stand with them. They held their mead cups high to the members of the wyndham, to the Kentigearna, and Embla. All assembled drank again.
Toiseach spoke, “Sibbe survived once more, to fight, and live, and to die again. Let us make merry. Our future is ours to determine and alter. Let us seek something new and shape our own good fortune, our Auja.” He lifted his auroch drinking horn filled with mead.
Sibbe could not believe what they heard from the mouth of their leader. The villagers who were not drunk stopped what they were doing. Everyone looked at the Chief. Kenti who stood in front of Toiseach stumbled to her seat. She sat beside her husband and stared at him. She thought, wh, what did he say? The gasps of astonishment and the whispers echoed in her head.
Embla could not believe what she heard. Did ale cause the Chief to make this slip of his tongue? No one who followed the Way would suggest Sibbe find something new. Wurdiz is forever, the Nornes wove destiny. Only an individual’s urulaga could be changed.
Dewin walked to the leaders table. He spoke in a voice that commanded attention, “Greetings, Chief, brave wyndham leader. I say our future lies with the Weave of the web, with Wyrd and the Way. Perhaps, the mead has convinced you that you are somewhere else other than an Amelen lodge meeting.”
Toiseach drank ale during the afternoon and evening. Although he celebrated the victory over Sibbe’s enemy with drink and merriment, he was annoyed. He felt events in the wyndham were out of his control.
After a few moments, he realized the mistake in his speech, but he did not acknowledge his misspoken words. His eyes narrowed.
Dewin asked him, “Do you defy the Aesir and Vanir?”
Toiseach’s voice boomed at the runester, “Why did you come here this evening?”
“I come to talk about my decision to return the hogan to the north.”
The directness of the Dewin's answer took Toiseach by surprise.
All fell silent again. They heard only the crackle of logs burning in the hearth.
Ionnain moved his eye toward the Dewin. His mind raced. He thought am I the problem. I am not the problem. I will not be the problem.
He heard Embla's voice in his head. Do not move, Ionnain. Let them resolve the issues between the two of them.
“I appreciate your forthright answer. What say you then? ”
“In the south, the runar gave me answers, I followed them. My decision to return the boy to the north stands. The aspect of Aesir is upon him. He is Aes. Wurdiz led us to the villa. The death of Yestin precipitated the events. The events are in the Web. Do we change the Weave? I made a casting before I entered the meeting lodge. Someone from this gau brought about the events in Aesburg. Someone is unhappy with Sibbe Way. Someone wants power at any cost.”
More gasps of astonishment came from the people.
Toiseach's fists hit the table. He stood. Vasso and utensils went flying. The crashing sounds were startling to the gathering that had never witnessed this behavior from Toiseach. His voice thundered in reply to the Dewin's veiled suggestion there was a traitor in the village.
“What? Nooooooo!” He pointed at the old runester. “Be careful Dewin!”
The Dewin responded to Toiseach by continuing to speak, “This power hungry Amelen directs his anger toward Sibbe and Seidh. It comes from misplaced envy and a need for undue power.”
Embla noticed the Dewin growing paler. His movements slowed. He slouched.
“Yestin's death was part of a plan.”
Once more Toiseach bellowed. “Noooo!”
“Seek Derryth.” Dewin leaned against his staff. He placed a hand on the leader's table and attempted to steady himself. He turned toward those assembled.
His speech became slurred, “He has the ans, ers.”
Dewin fell to the floor.
The lodge erupted into chaos. Sibbe leapt from their seats to look at the Dewin. The wise women ran to his side. They pled for calm.
Embla stood but did not move from her place. Tears traced down her cheek. What is this, Mothers?
We must carry him out of the lodge, place him in a cart, and begin our journey toward our heulfryn. Tell those in attendance to take their seats.
The crystal on her staff could not capture the low light. Embla hit her staff on the wooden floor of the platform where she sat.
The Sealgair, Coel, stood near them.
“Coel, get the Sibbe's attention. Stop them from crowding around the Dewin.”
With the back of the adze that hung from his belt, Coel hit a large metal piece hanging on one of the lodge’s main posts. The thunderous noise drew the attention of the gathering.
Coel shouted, “Counselor Embla asks you to move away from the Dewin!”
Silence. The crowd backed away from the fallen Diviner.
The Witte Wieven yelled, “We need to treat him. His heart is fighting his body.”
Embla asked Coel, “Where are the raidos, near the meeting lodge or in the stables?”
“Most of them are pulled up around the smithy.”
“Call for two carts and find men to carry the Dewin out of here.”
Coel went outside to solicit the help of the Horsemen. He returned with six men who carried the Dewin out of the lodge. When they lifted the old man to table height, Toiseach commanded the men “Lay him close to the end of the table.”
The Chief stood near the wise women. He bent over the body and glared at the Dewin's face. He laid his head on the Dewin’s chest. Toiseach slurred his words, “I hear a feeble heartbeat.”
He curled his lip and stood up, “Take the Dewin away.”
Unceremoniously, the Horsemen carried the body out of the door. Two wagons waited for the runecaster and the wise women. The horsemen lifted the Dewin into the raido and covered him with blankets. The Witte Wieven stepped into the other cart. Both raidos soon left for the wise women’s dwelling. Much later, the hundredship was told that the Dewin died.
Embla and Ionnain could not believe the disrespect with which Toiseach treated the Dewin and the Witte Wieven. The headstrong Chief had challenged Seidh and the Way itself.
She whispered to Ionnain, “What did we witness? What is this behavior? Something is missing here. I will find out what it is. The moment must play out. We will wait.”
Toiseach whirled around and stared at his people. The nagging feeling of loss of control remained with him. He was uneasy. His drive to obtain power stalled. He decided to move it forward by discrediting the Dewin.
He laughed. “The Dewin is owney and ill, he could not take the celebration of our victory.”
Toiseach lifted his drinking horn. “Let us drink to victory. Uhh, and to Wurdiz.”
Not all of those assembled raised their horns. The Chief mentioned Wurdiz too late. Sibbe’s doubt in Toiseach was cast that night. Embla did not agree with his actions. He bowed slightly at her. She nodded at the Chief, but did not raise her staff.
Embla heard a one-word command from the wise women when they left the lodge, 'Stay.’
She thought about her mothers. She dare not leave the feast. Sibbe returned to their drinking and eating. Although their banter began again and the celebration resumed, the Amelen sensed a problem. Many at the gathering noticed Embla’s gesture toward the chief and remembered.
Embla watched them and approved of the continuance of the gathering. She was familiar with her tribe's individual personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. Embla decided to remain with them that night. Amelen needed assurance from their Seidh Counsel.
Tomorrow, Sibbe will discuss the night's events. They will be slow to react. Later, they will miss Dewin's rune castings and guidance. Unfortunate.
She looked around the lodge. Many weary and questioning eyes rested on her.
Right now, I need my brother.
-- e. smith sleigh, author of SIBBE'S WAY
Sibbe's Way at Amazon: http://amzn.to/2mSmuUi
All rights reserved
ALL intellectual property is copyrighted
including the contents of this book
ALL intellectual property is copyrighted
including the contents of this book