The Yule Promise
Black Skin And Blisters
How many times he awoke, and then quickly succumbed to the dark power of sleep, Valdarr did not know. When he finally became lucid in thought for long enough to examine his situation he realized that his life was slowly ebbing away. He had been cold before, but never quite as frigid as this ! Valdarr's body ached to the bone, and his teeth began to clatter together uncontrollably from the chill that had invaded every inch of his being. And everything was dark,... oh, so very dark !
Valdarr tried to move his left arm, but it would not budge and inch. He next tried to move his left hand. He was quickly gratified that he was able to rotate it from side to side up against his body. Slowly he moved his only usable hand across his stomach, and up towards his shoulder. Valdarr became alarmed, however, when it stopped at an immovable object. He slowly felt around with the gloved hand until he could see in his mind the rounded object that was holding him down.
" A branch ! " the thought shot through his mind like a bolt of lightning.
Valdarr, though trying very hard to retain his reason, and not panic, began to rotate his upper body from side to side to determine if he could remove himself from under the branch that held him firmly in place. He gyrated slowly at first, but as time went by, and there was little or no movement, fear overcame his reason and he began to shake his body violently as though he were in the throes of convulsions.
Hope and hopelessness can flicker like a precarious flame in the wind. At first Valdarr could feel no movement at all, but slowly, with each gyration, he sensed that he was working his way out from under the branch that had him pinned beneath the snow. Despite the increasing irritation the constant rubbing effect of the hard branch caused on his shoulder, Valdarr continued to writhe under its weight like an animal caught in a trap. Then, with one especially hard tug he felt the pointy tip of his shoulder blade slip out from under the limb. He was free ! But as he looked around him he quickly remembered that he was still entombed in snow !
Valdarr once again began to feel sorry for himself.
" Why me ! ? How much more can, I or any man, endure !? " these and many other thoughts of self pity overcame his warrior pride and nearly brought him to tears.
As Valdarr balled his fist and punched at the snow at his side, he looked up as though he expected an answer from the Gods. What he saw, however, was better than mere words, for the snow above him had suddenly grown much lighter in color than it had been when he first began to struggle to free himself from under the branch.
" Sunna ! If I can see her shining rays through the snow I cannot be buried too deeply ! " he cried out.
Valdarr began wildly clawing at the icy snow above him in a frantic attempt to reach the surface. The cold crystals that fell down upon him only served to make him colder, and in turn more desperate to extricate himself from his frigid tomb. With every handful of hard snow he removed the dim light became a shade brighter, and despite the pain and blood that began to ooze from his fingernails, he continued until he felt nothing to scrape his hand against, With tears of joy running down his face Valdarr moved his hand to the edge of the hole and began to make it wider.
How long it took him to enlarge the hole, to make it passable, Valdarr did not know for sure. But as he gazed up at Sunna's beautiful face he realized by her place in the sky that it was nearly midday. Using his hand first to assist him into a sitting position, Valdarr then tried to leverage himself up onto his feet. His legs, however, would not obey the command from his mind, and he fell hard back down into the hole. "
" If I can't stand, then maybe I can crawl out of here ! " Valdarr convinced himself.
Valdarr slowly rolled himself over onto his side, and scrunched his upper body against his lower extremities until his knees were bent. He then reached up, and slowly began to pull himself up out of the hole that had imprisoned him for days, or possibly even weeks. When his body was out of the snow tomb he lay on its edge and peered down into the hole. It was then that he realized that he had been lying with his back up against the tree's trunk, which had held him in place, and not allowed him to be buried deeper in the avalanche. Valdarr found irony even in this as he asked himself :
" Has this tree saved my life, or did it merely postpone my inevitable death ? "
After resting for some time Valdarr began to crawl across the snow field to its southern end where the path once again could be seen. Valdarr was almost glad that his legs were unresponsive, because if he had been able to walk he would surely have sunk up to his chest into the drifts with every step. With his body sprawled out on the snow it acted much like a large snow shoe to spread his weight out and keep him safely above the surface.
It was almost dark when Valdarr reached the path. Because he could not yet stand, and due to a strong cold wind that had suddenly blown up, Valdarr decided to build himself a crude snow house for the night that he had seen the Lapp people of Finnmark make to shelter themselves from the elements. Slowly he made roughly rectangular blocks of ice, and built them up around him until he was surrounded on all four sides. Then he made a small exit hole in the side opposite the direction of the wind. The roof was the hardest to make, and it collapsed several times before he finally had a complete covering over his head. When he had finished the structure, which was not much bigger than himself, he could no longer feel the cold wind, and it was obvious to him that the temperature inside his little ice hut was much warmer than outside.
As the temperature rose Valdarr became acutely aware of a growing pain in both of his feet. Slowly and carefully he removed his boots, and then one by one his socks. In the almost complete darkness he could barely make out that several of his toes were discolored, but he was unable to tell how far the frost bite had damaged them. He would have to wait until morning to find the answer to that question. In the meantime, Valdarr opened up his pack, felt around for some smoked deer meat, and ate as much as he could force himself to consume before curling up in his coat to rest.
Despite the growing intensity of the pain in his feet, and the deep ache in his shoulder, Valdarr slept well into the morning. When his exhaustion was cast off, however, and a measure of alertness returned to his mind, he became acutely aware once again of the terrible throbbing in his feet. Realizing that further sleep was impossible, Valdarr pushed himself up into a sitting position, and gave one last yawn before shaking off the last remnants of weariness.
One half of Valdarr's mind did not want to know how badly his feet had been damaged by the extreme cold for which he had been exposed to for what must have been many days. His sensible half, however, needed to know in order for him to move forward in his quest to return home. After taking a deep breath Valdarr reached up and punched a hole in the roof of his little dwelling. As the sunlight streamed in he slowly removed the bear skin coat that covered his feet.
Valdarr closed his eyes for a moment before glancing down at his toes. When he found the courage to open them again he was horrified by what he saw ! On his right foot the big toe and the two smaller toes next in line had gone black, including the nails. The left one looked awful as well, but although the toes were swollen, and appeared to have some sort of blisters on them, they appeared to be in much better shape than the ones on his right foot.
With his left hand Valdarr covered his feet again with his coat. He then decided that it was time to examine his arm wound. As carefully as he could possibly manage Valdarr removed the bandage, he had made from his shirt, from around the wound. As he unwound the long cloth he began to notice an ominous odor that he had smelled many times before emanating from warriors being treated with deep wounds. Some called it the, " smell of death " , because death usually followed quickly after this pungent odor was detected.
As Valdarr removed the last length of bandage, exposing the wound to the air, he was mortified to see that the wound had not scabbed over, and that a yellow pus oozed down his upper arm, which had turned almost black around the puncture area, and a lighter shade of purple from the shoulder to the elbow. With his left hand Valdarr reached down and grabbed up a handful of snow. Slowly, and delicately, he set it upon the open wound hoping that the melting snow would cleanse the tear in his flesh without having to rub it.
Valdarr gritted his teeth and screamed in agony at the intense pain that emanated from his wound and then traveled through every inch of his body. Immediately his head began to spin, and he felt the nausea rising up within him. Valdarr barely had time to turn his head before he vomited. After spilling the contents of his stomach, he dry heaved several times before the world went dark once again.
- End Chapter 11
- Next : Chapter 12 : Fever And Delusions
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2018.