The Yule Promise
Starting For Home
" You lied to me, and broke your promise. " was all Eydis said.
Her words had struck him to the very core of his soul, and despite his battered body telling him to remain there to die, he gathered all of his strength, and managed to slowly rise up off of the cold bank of the stream. On unsteady legs he walked to where the stream was lowest and crossed by stepping on rocks that jutted up above the level of the flowing water. When he reached the bank on the other side Valdarr turned and looked back to the hill where all his comrades had died. With a nod, and a slight grin, he acknowledged their sacrifice before moving on.
" Well,.... Eydis, I survived the battle, and the call of death, now I can start for home to fulfill my promise to you. " he whispered as if his wife could somehow hear his words.
Valdarr was glad that the throbbing in his head had dulled, for it allowed him to see, and think more clearly. Unfortunately, the pain in his head had been replaced by a much sharper stabbing pain in his upper right arm. He knew that he should clean and examine the wound as soon as possible, but he feared that if he went back to the stream he might pass out again. And this time he might not be able to get up and continue his journey home. Valdarr felt, in his confused mind, that even if he only made it a hundred yards south of the hill battlefield before dying, it would prove to his wife, and the Gods, that he had tried his best to keep to his oath.
After walking for some time in a direction that seemed to be heading south of the stream Valdarr became aware that the sky on his left was becoming brighter, and when the rim of Sunna's beautiful shining face made its appearance on the distant horizon, he was able to determine that he was heading south-east. This gave Valdarr an idea. They had passed by a low mountain range to the east on their way north to catch up with the main army. If he could make it that far he could climb up into the snow covered mountains and avoid returning home through Sogn the way he had come. Atop the long ridge that headed south he would be safe from his enemies, and he could use the snow to both clean his wounds, and dull the pain that was swiftly rising in his useless arm with each step.
Time and distance are often different depending on the perspective of the individual at that point in time. On the way north Valdarr was strong, and the army was moving at a fast pace. To pass the time, and distract themselves from the boredom of a long march, Berlingr and Valdarr had engaged in continuous conversation, which allowed time to go by unnoticed, and landmarks to pass by at what seemed to be a different time scale. Now, with his gait slowed to a stutter by a limp, and no one to speak to, these same landmarks, that had streaked by on the way north, now seemed to take an agonizingly long time to reach. In Valdarr's mind everything seemed to be going by in slow motion, and it took much longer for him to catch his first glimpse of the snow covered ridges in the distance than he expected.
It was dusk by the time he reached the base of the mountain range. As the first stars rose up in the night sky Valdarr began to follow a path that led gently upwards, via a series of switchbacks, to reach the first rocky ledge. With weary eyes Valdarr looked up at the climb that lay ahead of him, and he realized that it would be a difficult task to climb to the top of the ridge to reach the plateau that ran south to Hordaland.
Valdarr gazed down at his limp right arm, which was causing him constant pain, with disgust. Not only would it be of no use in climbing up the rocks, to reach the snow line, but it might very well get in the way and cause him to fall. Valdarr knew that he could not allow it to dangle around while he made his way slowly up the side of the mountain, but what could he do ?
As he studied his dead arm he saw that it hung approximately where his seax knife was attached to his belt. Valdarr's first thought was that his knife was sharp, and that he could use it to cut off the offending appendage. Common sense, however, led him to believe that this idea was a preposterous one if he hoped to make it back to his home in Saeheim. Then Valdarr smiled. If his belt could hold his knife, then it could also hold his hand tightly against his body. Turning and laying his back against the mountain he undid his belt and wrapped it over the wrist of his injured arm. It took several tries to reattach the buckle with only one hand, but once it was tight again he was satisfied with how well it held the arm in place.
Valdarr reached up with his left hand and grabbed hold of a rock just above his head. He then found a good footing in between two rocks for his right foot. With a little grunt he pulled himself up. Holding on tightly with his left hand he found a higher place to set his foot, while at the same time reaching up for the next hand-hold. Despite it being colder at these heights Valdarr soon began to sweat as he slowly made his way up the side of the small mountain. As he looked up he shook his head and whispered to the mountain.
" I am very happy that you are not a steep mountain ! For I would surely not make it if that were the case ! "
Night turned into day, and day turned back into night before Valdarr was able to crawl over the last boulder, and onto the snow covered plateau. The final hundred feet had been pure agony for him, for every muscle in his body had been worked to its limit. He had planned to clean the wound on his arm, and use the snow to numb the ever present pain, once he reached the top, but exhaustion prevented him from doing much of anything. With his hand he cleared out for himself a spot in the snow, and piled it up around him to block the wind, which whipped around the mountaintop unhindered by trees, or other obstacles. He then made a pillow out of his food sack, and quickly fell asleep.
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : The Wound Revealed
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.