The Yule Gift
A Pain Too Great Too Bear
Hildi was glad that she could not see her mother as she listened in the doorway of their small hut. She had lost her sight two year before when she fell down a small slope and hit her head on a small boulder, and at moments like this she was almost happy that she could not see. It was hard enough to listen to her mother as she fell apart in front of her day after day, but to have to watch her mother's anguish would have been to much for her to bear.
Her mother, Katla, had been drinking again. In her fog of intoxication she had gone down to her husband's grave mound, which was not far from the broken down hut they lived in, and in her sorrow, and anger, began to wail like a wounded animal. Katla took one last drink from her drinking horn and threw the empty vessel at the grave mound. She then fell to her knees and began to pound on the top of the mound with her fists.
" How could you leave me Leiknir ! " she screamed.
" How could you leave me all alone with a little blind girl to take care of !! " she yelled angrily at the corpse under the mound.
In her drunken stupor all Katla could think of was the pain that men had caused her throughout her life. Her father had abandoned her when she was only ten, and when her mother re-married, her new husband, Thorstein, physically abused her. And now her husband, the only man who had ever treated her with kindness, had abandoned her as well. Leiknir was a wonderful man, who had been a good provider and a fine father to Hildi, which made his passing all the harder for Katla to accept. Now all she felt was scared and alone. As she lay crying on her husband's grave she wished it were possible to join him in his eternal sleep, and leave all her responsibilities and burdens behind. .
Hildi's lips began to tremble as she closed the door to the hut behind her. Slowly she felt her way back to the bench by the fire. As she carefully sat down she heard her mother's words ringing in her ears. " How could you leave me all alone with a little blind girl to take care of ! " Hildi tried, but she could not hold back the tears that slowly trickled down her cheeks.
" At least my eyes are still useful for something ! " she whispered bitterly to herself.
Hildi could feel the heat from the fire upon her face as she felt a cold tingling of fear rise up her spine. Hildi was terrified that her mother, who considered her nothing more than a burden, would abandon her. And despite her young age of seven years she knew that if her mother left she would die.
As Hildi sat in front of the crackling fire, she looked into her mind's eye for more pleasant images. She remembered back to the same time three years before . It was the Winter Solstice, and Yule had just begun. Although they as a family had not much to speak of in the form of wealth, they had each other, and that in itself was enough to make them happy and content.
Then she saw her father's image flash in her mind. She recalled following her father down to the creek where small evergreen trees grew. Hildi remembered the wonderful smile on his face when he found a tree that was to his liking. She could once again hear him yelling as if it were yesterday. " There it goes ! " he cried out when the tree toppled over from a final axe blow.
Hildi's nostrils flared involuntarily as her mind allowed her to smell the oatmeal cookies that her mother baked over the open fire. Then her tears dried and she smiled when she remembered the delicious taste of the wild boar her father had killed with his bow and arrow. Yes ! Oh yes ! That was a very happy time ! Now, however, there was nothing to celebrate. Now there was only sorrow and misery.
It was then that Hildi smelled something more pungent than oatmeal cookies, or a boar roasting over an open fire. Hildi smelled smoke ! As the room began to fill with the suffocating fumes Hildi shot up from the bench, and began to scream.
" Mother ! Help Me !! " She yelled in a high pitched terrified voice.
Katla was shaken out of her drunken fog by the sound of her daughter's frightened voice. She stumbled to her feet as quickly as she could , and began to run back to the shack. When she reached the hut she saw smoke rising up from beneath the door frame, and quickly threw open the door. Inside the smoke was too thick for her to make out where her daughter was ! She was about to panic when she heard her daughter's desperate voice again.
" Mother ! Mother !! " Hildi shouted in between coughs.
Katla ran over to where she heard her daughter's voice, and grabbed hold of her. With a strength multiplied by desperation she lifted her daughter, and carried her back outside.
" Stay here ! " she ordered her daughter as she sat her down away from the front door.
Katla ran back inside, and felt her way over to where the wash basin should be on the side table. For a moment she wondered if this was what her daughter experienced every day of her life. The thought vanished when she reached the table and grabbed hold of the basin. She lifted the large bowl carefully as to not spill any of the precious water that it held. Slowly she turned and walked over to the fire, and poured half of the water over where the burning logs should be. The hissing sound of the water evaporating told her that she had hit her target, and she then poured the rest over the fire extinguishing it.
Now that the emergency was over Katla allowed herself a moment to become calm. She trembled inside as she set the basin down on the bench by the fireplace. After collecting herself she went back outside, and sat down next to her daughter who was gently sobbing. Katla took a long deep breath before placing her arm around Hildi and comforting her.
" Don't cry child ! It was just the chimney again. I will have to see if I can clean it out a bit before we try to light another fire. " she told her daughter with little or no emotion.
- End Chapter 1
- Next : Chapter 2 : The Wanderer
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.