We slid down the last few feet of the outcrop – lose rocks and sharp shale. My body, already bruised, felt every rock, every slide-step. My knees and fingers were bloody. As was my last shirt now stained with blood and sweat. I was Sword’s companion on this nameless quest.
We came down into the vast waste land. I could smell the burning forests, fields, and farms. Hear faint battle cries, and the crying of children. Scents and sounds that would forever haunt this place.
But I needed water to slacken my thirst. I picked up my friend and said, “Is there a clear, clean river to be found? Sword vibrated and slowly moved to our right. I walked across the graveyard, bone yard of hundreds, of thousands. I passed blasted stumps, once tall trees dancing with the wind. Rocks, perhaps once foundations of buildings,to me still splashed in red. My feet awoke choking grey ash.
Unbelievably in the middle of this, was a river sparkling even though clouds hung low as mist. Below a small rise, a gravel beach pushed out into the current. I plunged my face into the water so cold it almost froze my nose and lips. I splashed it over my cramped neck and sore head, washed the blood off my stinging hands and knees. I pulled off my boots and hose, dipping my feet until numbness set in.
I leaned against the river’s bank, talking to Sword about what came next. Towards the southern green line on the horizon, of course, but how? Having never travelled in that direction, I had no mind-maps. And, with the landscape so altered, the guideposts of village, forest or road would be skewed, if even evident. I asked Sword if he knew the best way forward.
I would not have recognized sleep had the pale daylight not shifted. I struggled to keep my head from nodding. Was it tiredness or the river enchanted, cursed, or poisoned? With all my waning energy, I pulled myself up, returned Sword to my sword belt.
A few steps up the rise, I saw two Runish stones. How could I have walked right past them? It was unlike Sword not to react to their presence. Medium sized Runish stones cut in the olden shape. Standing as straight as the day of carving, unmarred by the war.
I approached them cautiously. I had never seen such stones. Stories, around fires at night, told about the olden ones and the Runish days. A long ago time when our world was very different. No one could read, write, or speak Runish, except, it was whispered, for a very few who cleaved totally to the olden ways.
Fearing to draw too near, I reached to touch the first stone. It felt cold like sharpest of mid-winter winds. Stepping closer, I traced a runelet that felt warm like the late spring breeze. The runelets were worn; they were more visible to the touch than to the eye.
I traced the figure again. There was something of the familiar in how it felt. I pulled Sword from the scabbard. He was uncharacteristically silent. There were nine runelets on each side of the scabbard, and half finished ones on the blade.
There should have been some reaction, I thought. Some sign of recognition. Perhaps this was not an enchanted sword lost by my Great-grandfather on his last Quest. Had I just imagined that Sword had enchanted powers and family lineage? Only an old sword dropped in a battled, and buried by following wars?
There was something, though, about the similarity between the half-finished runelets, and the eroded stone. One completed the other. I felt what I guessed was the first runelet on the blade, then the same guess on the stone. Nothing. The second. Nothing. When I completed the circle for the third, the sword and stone . . .
“I, like you, have been following the Narrator’s journey from death to a quest chosen by a sword. Now that the 3rd runelet seems to have completed more than just a matching circle, we must wait to see what magical event ensues.”
The fairy tale friday “assignment” #35 for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie was to write a tale inspired by one of the Brothers Grimm collection of stories. I chose “The Golden Key” which has a suspenseful ending and offers no resolution. A quick synopsis: A young boy finds a tiny golden key, then after searching, a box/chest. He assumes that any box/chest that opens with a golden key must contain treasure. In the story, he finally finds the almost invisible keyhole: “Then he turned it [the key] once around, and now we must wait until he has quite unlocked it and opened the lid, and then we shall learn what wonderful things were lying in that box [chest].”