The Spring Troll
The Child Becomes A Wife And Mother
Although the archbishop had assured her parents that Alffina was to be a guest at the Bakke Abbey, she was in reality a prisoner held against her will. What made her incarceration all the more unbearable was the abuse she suffered at the hands of the nuns. The sisters forced Alffina to perform every menial task at the abbey, for which they did not like to do, and if she complained she was either beaten or denied food. To the sisters, and especially Sister Magdalena, Alffina was nothing more than a beast of burden, on whose back they loaded many horrible duties. Magdalena saw her servitude as righteous punishment for the blasphemy she had leveled at their God and church. As a mere child Alffina did not understand any of it.
Hafr and Elina were allowed to see their daughter only once a month. To make her presentable for their visits, the nuns, after Alffina had finished her chores of course, cleaned her up, fixed her hair, and put her in a pretty dress, before parading her out in front of her parents. This illusion might have worked on complete strangers, but Hafr and Elina knew their daughter well. Her sunken eyes, broken fingernails, and her quiet demeanor spoke of her mistreatment, even if their daughter was unwilling, or unable, to tell them the truth herself.
After several visits to the Bakke Abbey Hafr went to see the archbishop to plead for his daughter's release. Bishop Jon Birgisson, however, refused his request on the grounds that Alffina was still possessed by a wicked witch, and he informed Hafr that his daughter would remain with the nuns until she was cleansed of the evil that had invaded her soul. Hafr left despondent and could barely face his wife as they slowly walked home.
Alffina, worn down by her tremendous workload and physical abuse, was about to give up all hope when a new sister came to the abbey. When Alffina was first introduced to Sister Emma she feared that this new nun would simply become another tormentor who would add to her daily misery. Emma, however, despite her stern demeanor, was a fair woman who did not take kindly to the way Alffina was being treated. In a confrontation that was heard throughout the halls of the abbey Sister Emma, unlike the other nuns, stood up to Sister Magdalena. Emma demanded that the the child be treated kindly, and if she wasn't Emma threatened to go to the Mother Superior if the many burdens placed upon Alffina were not lightened.
Sister Magdalena proved to be all talk, and quickly backed down. The workload that had so burdened Alffina for months slowly diminished as the other nuns began to realize that a friendship of sorts was developing between Sister Emma and Alffina. The sisters had been intimidated by Sister Magdalena for years, but the stoic resolve shown by Sister Emma scared them much more, and gave them the strength to stand up to the tyranny of the elder sister. One by one they abandoned Magdalena and supported the opinions and actions of their new sister, Emma. And Alffina, though still held against her will, came to accept her circumstances.
Several years later the Archbishop died, and six months after that Father Lefvini left on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was then that Sister Emma saw a chance to right what she perceived as a great injustice. She first sat down with Alffina and counseled her that even if her childhood fantasy of meeting a Troll seemed real, it was something that she must now deny if she wished to gain her freedom.
" Even if what you feel in your heart is the truth you must deny it to the new priest and archbishop if you wish to be reunited with your parents. A young woman such as yourself should not be punished forever for the indiscretions of a child. " she explained.
When Alffina, now a teenager, met with the new Archbishop Eysteinn Eriendsson, and Father Sigurd, she lied and told them both that it was only her fantasy as a child to meet a Troll, and her parents unwillingness to believe her fantasy, that had made her stubborn and tell Archbishop Birgisson falsehoods. When Father Sigurd asked her how she knew so much about the Old Gods, Alffina responded that the men in the village often talked of them.
Sister Emma had instructed Alffina well ! Both the archbishop and the priest agreed that the child had suffered long enough and was no longer in need of " cleansing ". Archbishop Eriendsson granted her freedom and a happy Sister Emma sent for Alffina's parents immediately.
When Alffina's parents arrived at the abbey Sister Emma made them wait outside for a moment while she spoke to the young woman one last time before releasing her into their custody.
" If you leave your childhood fantasies behind, you can live a long and wonderful life Alffina. Discard the past and look ahead to the future. " she told the nervous young woman.
" Will you promise me that you will never mention the Old Gods, or that Troll again ? " Sister Emma asked with a small grin on her face in anticipation of her answer.
" I promise ! " she told the sister.
As she hugged Sister Emma for all she had done for her, Alffina was certain that she had just made a promise she could not keep. She knew that she had not been crazy, or possessed by a witch or the devil as a child. She had really sat with a Troll all those years ago, and drank root tea, and ate honey biscuits. No lie, no matter how well told, could ever change that !
To say that the relationship between Alffina and her parents was strained after she came home would be a gross understatement. Hafr and Elina blamed their daughter for turning their lives into a living Hell. The other villagers had shunned them, and they were often the butt of jokes and ridicule. Alffina, on the other hand, believed that her parents had abandoned her to her own fate at the hands of the church. In her mind Alffina was convinced that if not for Sister Emma she would have eventually died at the Bakke Abbey.
Alffina, fearing further persecution, never mentioned the Old Gods again while she lived in her parents home. She also never again went into the fields to pick flowers, and stayed as far away from the stone bridge as was possible. For the moment at least she would live the lie that Sister Emma, and her mother and father, demanded that she conform to.
When Alffina needed to find a quiet place, in which to seek solitude, she traveled south past the cathedral to the Nidelva River. Here, near where the river flowed out into the fjord, she loved to ride her horse Gulltop, and watch the boats as they sailed up and down the river. It was scenic, and peaceful, and very few people here knew her past.
Alffina also grew to love watching the shipbuilders work down at the docks. She admired them for their skills in woodworking, and sometimes watched them for hours as they slowly and carefully pieced together their ships, great and small, with great precision. Alffina also came to admire a rather large handsome young man, who was an apprentice ship's carpenter. His name was Hans Hansen, and he returned her admiration with smiles, greetings, and flirting small talk. Eventually the two became practically inseparable, and Alffina would often pack a lunch large enough for the both of them.
When Alffina brought Hans home to meet her parents they were delighted by the young man. He was in many ways more than they could have hoped for considering their daughter's wicked past. He was strong, yet well mannered, held a respectable job as a ship's carpenter, and he was a good Christian who they felt could keep their daughter on the straight and narrow, and away from the blasphemous fantasies that had clouded her childhood.
The arranging of the marriage was a simple matter. Hans' parents had died years before during an outbreak of the plague, and no one else stepped forward to object to the union. Sister Emma was even able to talk Father Sigurd into performing the marriage ceremony in the cathedral.
" Alffina is a perfect example of the good our church can do for those who choose the wrong path and need our help. " she had told him.
Father Sigurd agreed with her logic and incorporated the church's role in, " redeeming her soul from the devil ", into the marriage ceremony.
The guests who came were few in numbers, however. The church may have forgiven Alffina, but many in the community refused to forget that their sons and daughters were corrupted by " That little wicked girl's tales ! "
Alffina's parents held a small wedding feast at their house for their daughter and her new husband. They felt embarrassed and apologized for the small turnout, but Hafr and Elina were happy when Hans told them that Alffina's past did not matter to him at all.
" What child does not dream of such things ? ! " he replied to her parent's concerns.
Not quite a year after the marriage was consummated Alffina became pregnant, and the next spring she had a baby girl which they named Emma after the nun who had saved her life. The very next year she had another girl named Sofie, followed two years later by a son named Johannes. They all lived happily and comfortably a short distance from the shipyard in a large house that her husband had built with his own two hands. Hans was no longer an apprentice but now held the title of master ship's carpenter, and his salary and status in the community reflected his new position.
When each child came of learning age Alffina told them the stories of creation, and the Old Gods that Sirik had imparted to her. She did not, however, tell her children about Sirik. For she feared that what had happened to her all those years ago could also happen to her children. Hans fretted over the stories she repeated over and over again to their children, but Alffina taught Emma, Sofie and Johannes that they should never tell anyone outside of their household of such things for fear of retribution. After hearing the horrors that their mother had to endure at the abbey, the children agreed, and refused to speak of the Old Gods except to their mother or each other. As the children grew up they began to see these tales as simply " bedtime stories" meant to entertain them, and help them sleep. They did, however, cherish the stories as a wonderful part of their childhood.
The years went by and Alffina's children grew up without incident, each keeping these secret stories locked away deep in their hearts, but fresh in their memories. And then, as all children must do, one by one they married and moved out on their own. The sorrow that Hans and Alffina felt at their departure was more than compensated for by the joy of their children's happiness and the expectation of grandchildren !
- End Chapter 9
- Next : Chapter 10 : " She Is Old And Feeble Minded "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.