Who Repairs What Is Broken

I am not going to write anything about the story here, simply because I don't want to spoil anything. I hope you still want to read it tho c: Would mean the world if you would take a look at it. And please feel free to leave feedback!

3Likes
2Comments
1180Views
AA

4. Chapter 3

Chapter 3
 
Circle understood. She’d been adventuring the ruins of the information age with him, after all. She remembered Grandma and her stories, though only faintly, as she’d only been seven summers old before her mother decided that her daughter had better things to do than listen to stories. Hugin, who’d been around twelve when she died, could remember every wrinkle in her face. His family didn’t need his help to survive, also the reason he was a single child, and he’d been sitting at her death-bed. She told Circle about her once more before leaving. She hugged him. He felt a little awkward, but she was only , and had never cared about what the other girls giggled about. He eventually hugged her back and kissed her on her cheek before he left.
It took a while to explain it all to his mother, and he had to lie here and there to avoid her forcing him to stay. It hurt to leave her, and even more to do it in cover of lies, but he knew her well enough to know that if he spoke the truth, she’d tell his father immediately. His shoulders were wet with her tears when he left. He looked back with a feeling that he’d forgot something. Then he turned around the cliff and walked towards the trees.
 
Grandma’s name was cut into the trunk. Hugin laid the phone before the tree. He stood for a while without knowing what to do. Then he left.
He kept his eyes on the stars, trying to navigate after them, putting one foot in front of the other, until he felt like he was far enough away from the clan. Tired, he laid down under the reindeer-pelt, pulled up the cloth to cover his eyes, and tried to sleep.
It was different to lay down outside alone. Every sound felt like coming from just beside his ears. He sat up with a jerk many times, looking into the darkness, expecting a hairless, revengeful beast to charge at him. He didn’t dare to light a torch in case the clan was looking for him. After a few hours of interrupted sleep, he finally gave up and continued walking, using the stars as a guide. At least, he thought to himself, it was a good time to leave when you considered that he had to find his way all on his own. The stars never disappeared. It could get pretty cold up north though, he knew. At least the older people of the clan could tell about things like that.

Hugin’s stomach came with a displeased sound. He made a grimace and ignored it, and it shut up. He walked from shadow to shadow between the crooked trees, touching their bark with his fingers as we went along. He did not remember the names of the trees, but by feeling the bark, he recalled all their uses. This one with the rough, cracked bark was good for tanning skins. The next one had a smoother surface that got broken of a knot here and there, and it was even more curly than the last one. It had some small, red fruits in the autumn that tasted all right and could be both dried and made to a yellow jam. He stopped and looked up though the branches, but there were none visible in the darkness. The crows had probably eaten them all, he mused. Then he smiled at the thought of Nectaria’s rants about the birds. She called people a crow when she didn’t like them. Close to every time Hugin met her, she’d tell him about what they’ve done this time. Sometimes the crows had eaten all the berries. Other times, they’d stolen her food. Sometimes they’d taken something they couldn’t even use, and she had to run after them and wait for them to drop it. But right now, he was not taking the bird’s party. He was hungry.
He tried to shake a branch and got a leaf in the head in return. Then he sighed and kept walking, while he tried not to think too much about the meat in his bag. He kicked a rock at the thought of how his father had destroyed Hugin’s only possibility for doing well in the clan. And how Jazz had acted like he was cursed or something. He was a coward. Didn’t dare to go with him and circle out and adventure. His parents didn’t even allow him to go with Grandma on the trips to the houses of the information age. Hugin’s steps were filled with rage, sending up ash and dead leaves. They’d even called her a witch once. Not while she’d heard it, but a day when Circle had been busy weaving and Hugin didn’t have anyone else to play with than Jazz. The boys had hid behind their bed, ready to leap and shout boo, and while Jazz had been blabbering and giggling and telling Hugin all sorts of silly things, Hugin had noticed every word. He could still remember clearly.
It felt like his stomach was shrinking, curling up like a hedgehog poked with a stick, making itself noticed with quills of hunger. He reached for his bag, but then stopped in the middle of the action. He looked at the stars again. Then at where his right arm was once.
With a sigh, he let his hand fall.
He walked for hours. It felt like it, at least. He stopped when he was too tired to think nor care, lit a torch and fell asleep without even covering himself with the pelt. A few hours after, he woke up because he was freezing. His stomach felt like it was alive, and it growled loud enough for the clan to hear it. Hugin’s brain was filled with cotton, and he mumbled something before he took the reindeer pelt around him and continued sleeping.
 
Hugin’s feet were filled with blisters and sores. There were holes in his shoes, and some places, blood had stained them. He’d lost weight. He were peeling off bark from a tree and catching insects with his hand, and he smiled as he realized that he’d become better at it. Some of them were bitter. Other were poisonous. Some of them were inedible without lots of bark and lichen to take the ugly taste. Most of the caterpillars were juicy and tasted quite well. You had to be careful with the spiders. Some of them even bit, but Hugin knew which one were venomous and didn’t approach those.
The hunger was a constant factor now, and Hugin didn’t even notice it anymore. He almost didn’t come anywhere from day to day. He was too busy searching for the next edible object. When there was nothing, he chewed bark. It tasted awful, and sometimes it left splinters and fibres between his teeth that could stay for days, but it made the hunger less apparent. Still, the bit of his head that wasn’t focused on the next meal kept telling him that this couldn’t keep going. That he should turn back. That he’d die.
But then, he answered it, I would just die even slower. Possibly taking my clan with me in the fall.
He decided that he’d never judge the crazy people who wandered around on their own again. No wonder they grew nuts and did insane things.
Leaning against a tree, he rested his head on the trunk and sat down in a gliding movement. He felt dizzy. The last stream he’d found had been running slowly and were filled with a weird, black algae. He hadn’t even thought about it, but now he regretted. Still, he regretted a lot of things.
Birds cawed in the distance. It sounded like they warned about a possible nest-rubber. Hugin didn’t care. A bear could eat him now, no problem. It didn’t matter anyway.
“Hey!”
He opened an eye and turned his head. There were nobody there. He threw back his head and sighed. Now he also heard voices.
“Hello!”
A person was sitting in the tree, branches and leaves braided into his hair, and his clothing covered with bark. He looked, Hugin thought, absolutely ridiculous. But he also held a basket with black feather poking from it, so Hugin didn’t care.
“Hi,” he said.
“Are you one of those crazy people who wander around on their own because the voices in their heads tell them to? Those that go all,” he gently knocked on the top of his own head with a fist to show what he meant. “And cannot take care of themselves and eventually die and the crows eat them?”
Hugin looked at the person, and a stupid smile spread all over his face. The person’s voice was fast and pointy like aggressive rain falling on a stretched reindeer hide, but to Hugin, it was a relief to hear someone else talk. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the presence of someone, even though that someone looked like he tried to be a tree. “Nah, not yet. Maybe later, though,” Hugin replied.
“Are you sure?” the boy asked and crawled closer to Hugin, sitting at the edge of a branch.
Hugin stood up. “I’m pretty sure I will go nuts if I don’t get anything to eat very soon.” To stress this claim, his stomach made a sound like one you’d imagine coming from a bottomless canyon in a shadow-filled underworld. “What about you?”
“What? Me? No!” Then the boy looked at himself, and his face split in a smile, showing yellow teeth with brown rims. “Ah, this? ‘tis used for hiding, fool! Camouflage, eh? The birds think I’m a branch, and then,” he reached down in the basket on his arm and pulled up a large, black bird by the wing. “Snap!”
“You must be pretty well-fed to be able to wait for that long,” Hugin said, his eyes constantly drifting from the boy’s face to his kill.
The branch-boy moved backwards,  the bird still dangling from his grip, its head hanging loosely down. “No, you, it’s mine! I caught it.”
Hugin smiled at the boy’s attempt to flee. Then he walked a bit closer and playfully reached for the bird. The boy leaped, stood up on the branch, and to Hugin’s horror, walked along the branch, backwards, away from Hugin. Then he leaned down, holding on the branch with his hand as well. “Don’t take it!”
“Ah, you seem to have enough,” Hugin said. The boy was fairly well-fed, not muscular nor fat, but not skinny either. He was smaller than Hugin. He backed further away, crawling backwards along the branch.
“It’s mine, you,” the branch-boy repeated. “I caught them. Go catch some yourself.”
Hugin shrugged. “All right. But it’s your fault if I go insane, then.” There were a playful spark in his eye.
His stomach growled again, as if it was telling Hugin to stop all this talking and steal the bird already. He’d got used to it hurting the last week or so, but the sight of a potential proper meal was too much for it, and it unfolded like an angry bear, clawing at Hugin’s inside, twisting and roaring like a nightmare. He restrained himself for making a grimace.
The boy looked like he’d like to flee, his branch-covered head moving from side to side. His hair looked like a bird-nest, a yellow-brown, like straw. He obviously didn’t want to get down to Hugin. Hugin began to walk closer, and the branch-boy made a gracious leap to another sturdy branch, moved along it and were at the other end of the tree. He turned immediately while putting the bird back in the basket, not wanting to take the eyes off Hugin. Then he jerked backwards, his face twisting in surprise.
“Where’s your arm?” He asked with both horror and fascination shaping his voice.
Hugin rubbed the shoulder-stump. “Most of it is in the stomach of a polar bear.”
The boy looked sceptical, scrutinizing the place where Hugin’s missing limb had once been. Then he eventually said. “You’re lying. You probably just fell off a cliff or something. And it’d shit it out long time ago anyway,” he added.
Hugin could not help by laugh at this conclusion, and when he’d first started, his body lost control. He laughed like a maniac before he went on knees, holding his stomach while giggling helplessly.
“Hey, ‘t wasn’t funny,” the boy said. Then he concluded “you definitely are nuts.”
Hugin were still giggling, now without sound, sitting on the ground with his arm around his knees, shoulders shaking like we sat in the middle of an earthquake.
“Hey,” the branch-boy said, concern suddenly filling his voice. “You all right, one-arm? You … I can give you a bird if you’re really that hungry.”
The kindness was too much for Hugin. His helpless laughing had made his body realize what his brain had denied for too long: That he was over-exhausted, starving, lonely, probably sick and hopelessly lost. He began to cry.
“Mom’ll hate me for this,” the branch-boy mumbled. “Wait here.”
He leaped from the tree and began to run. Then he stopped and thought for a moment. Then he threw a fruit to Hugin before running away. It hit Hugin’s knee.
When Hugin had caught his breath, he ate the fruit too fast, even the small seeds in the inside, not even bothering weeping the salt tears from his cheeks.
 
“Yeah, he’s over there,” Hugin heard the already familiar voice say. “And, oh, just so you, you know, I think he might be a little bit … ”
Hugin could easily imagine what gesture the branch-boy’d made to describe what he might be. He was beyond caring. He rolled around and looked at the branch-boy and his new company, a lady and a man. They were both small and sturdy, light-haired and dressed in hides from various animals, just like Hugin. The branch-boy were hiding behind his father.
“So,” his father said. “And who are you, young man?” He reached a hand forwards when he saw Hugin’s struggles with getting up. Hugin thankfully grabbed it and got to his legs.
“My name is Hugin,” he said and brushed the dust off his trousers. “I’m from … down south.”
“What are you doing here, Hugin?” the woman asked. Her voice was light, almost fluttering, and gentle like a feather stroking over a cheek. “I’m Summer. This is my husband Viking. And this is Sock.” He pointed to the branch-boy.
Hugin nodded to the man and lifted an eyebrow at the branch-boy, who poked out his tongue. Then Hugin turned his face to Summer again. “I were a hunter where I lived before, but it kind of stopped being a possibility because … ” he lifted his arm-stump to show what he meant.
Summer gasped. “Poor boy, what happened?”
“Eh,” said Hugin. “Well, I … got attacked by a bear.”
“A bear?” Viking said, while Summer gasped again. “How did that happen?”
“Eh,” said Hugin and blushed, suddenly realizing how stupid he’d sound. “I were out hunting and … yeah, it came close to my fire, so I … got scared and tried to defend myself, but that just made it angry.” It wasn’t exactly lying, he thought.
“Holy gerfalcon!” Summer said and threw both her hands over her mouth. “Poor, poor boy. Come on, let’s get some food in you.”
She grabbed his arm and dragged him after her. She had a surprisingly firm grip, and Hugin couldn’t do anything but follow her. Sock seemed like he couldn’t decide on what he thought about that, and Hugin tried to complain while Viking said to his wife that she might wanted to think about it for a moment before she just dragged a stranger into the clan without even knowing who he was or anything. But her reply to everything was “Fiddlesticks!” and then nobody really had a choice but to follow her. Her small, sturdy legs carried her with surprising speed over the wasteland. Hugin would wish that she’d slow down a bit, but after pondering for a moment, he decided that if she was going to give him something to eat, he could survive a few metres in a fresh gait. And if it turned out that he could not, he could just lay down and hope that she’d drag him the rest of the way.
Sock’s clan appeared to be smaller than Hugin’s at first, but then he noticed that the tents were bigger – especially one that was longer then in was tall and decorated with tufts of fur and beads. It probably belonged to the three heads, Hugin mused, while being dragged to a smaller tent, sat down on the ground and getting a bowl pushed into his hands. He ate the soup without even tasting it, burning his tongue in the process, while Summer walked around him, chattering about everything and nothing. Sock was showing his catch to his father, getting pats on the shoulder for the help. Hugin carefully sat the empty, almost clean-looking bowl on the ground, hoping that summer would give him some more. He didn’t get disappointed. She had a spare piece of bread.
“Where do you get the cereal from?” he asked when he’d finished chewing the dark, golden bakery.
“Oh, we have a little place below some hill nearby,” Summer made a vague gesture over her shoulder. “It have been growing wild as long as I can remember.”
“Summer!” Viking hissed.
“What’s up, my love?” Summer said, then came with a surprised complain as Viking took her by the arm and pulled her into the private section of the tent.
Sock sat down beside Hugin. They listened to their hissing whispers in silence for a while. Then Summer raised her voice. “… that that poor boy would starve himself to get to here and … ” She got interrupted by his husband who tried to calm her down. “Oh you’re not saying honey to me like that, my friend, not when I know that that ugly vulture of a parasite’s going to …”
“Now they’re arguing again,” Said Sock.
“I noticed,” Hugin replied, trying to make out what Viking replied. Then he looked at Sock, who shifted his weight back and forth and said: “Should we go out?”
Sock thankfully nodded, and they left the arguing adults.
“’T’s because mom don’t want to keep all food secret and dad says we gotta listen to the clanhead-persons,“ he explained while they walked away from the tent. Hugin just nodded, busy looking at the tents and wondering how they secured them when they didn’t have cliffs to shield them from the changing weather.
“You gonna stay?” Sock said.
“Huh?” said Hugin. “Ah. I … don’t think so. I don’t want to be a … ” he hesitated, wondering if ‘burden’ would sound too much like he was self-pitying. “of annoyance,” he settled on.
“Ah.”
They walked without a goal, side by side. Sock still had twigs poking from his hair. The longest one kept poking Hugin in the eye. Then Sock tried to break the silence again. “What was you doing out there all alone anyway?” he asked.
“Just trying to … ” Hugin stopped again. What had he been doing? He decided to change the subject. “Do you know if there’s any buildings nearby?” Sock looked confused. “You know, from the information age.”
Sock’s eyes grew wide, the blue colour almost looking accusing. “Y’mean the coursed ages? Whatcha asking that for?”
“Just … ” curious sounded too suspicious. “I think they might be … ” he laughed. “After me or something. I just don’t want to be too close. To too many of them. For a longer time, you know, just in case. It might be a bit silly, but … ” He stopped and bit his lip. He felt awful when he saw Suck nod.
“Ah, I understand that.” He giggled. “I think they’re a bit scary myself. Actually, there … ” he lowered his voice and stepped closer to Hugin. Hugin, who could recognise a good story when it approached, leaned down to hear. “There once was a boy named Michael here. I was still a lil’ boy back then, I mean even smaller, and he were older, and he was all bald all the time, not just, you know, short-haired, but all shiny, and then we was really weird and never talked with the other boys n’ stuff, and one day he said he’d go see if he could bring something home, but then he’d been in the cursed buildings, and the head-persons got angry at him.” Sock’s voice got even lower. “And then he said that he was going to go into that huge building that is over the hills and you can see from where we get our crops. And we never got to see him ever again.”
“Oh,” said Hugin. “That is kind of scary.” He probably got eaten by a bear, he thought, but didn’t want to spoil the great story for Sock. Then, because he didn’t know what else to say, “You’re really good at telling stories.”
Sock looked annoyed. “’T’s not a story, it’s true! I saw him go myself!”
“Not that way,” Hugin said. “I just meant that you’re good at making it sound exciting. You’re good at telling it. A story doesn’t have to be made up. If I told you the story about how I lost my arm for example, that’d still be a story even though it happened.”
“It did not,” Sock said, crossing his arms. “You just fell off a cliff.”
Hugin couldn’t help but laugh a bit. Sock looked warily looked at him. He let go of a relieved sigh when Hugin proved himself capable of stopping again.
“No, it really is true,” Hugin said. “It was really stupid. I was sitting outside by my fire and was about to fall asleep when the bear came out of nowhere. It was huge,” he spread out his arms. “and it was dark and wrinkled like an old man’s face.”
“And it attacked you?” Sock asked and sat down in the ash without taking his blue eyes from Hugin’s face.
“No. I thought it would if it noticed me, so I got scared and attacked it.”
“That was dumb,” Sock told him.
“I kind of noticed,” Hugin said and lifted an arm, but this time, there was a happy spark in his eyes. “And the rest of my clan have told me, by the way. A lot of times.”
Sock laughed. “Yeah, but it was really dumb!” Then he got serious again. “Why was y’ out hunting all on ya’ own?” he said.
Hugin lifted his eyebrows, just as confused as Sock looked. “Don’t you have to go out hunting when you’re old enough?”
“What? No!” Sock almost seemed startled. “We always hunt together. Or, you know, the adults do. I’m too young to go with them, so I go and get birds n’ eggs n’ bugs and stuff, because otherwise I’d have to help my mom preparing the animals that they’d got home, and that’s just so boring.” He threw himself back in the ash to illustrate just how much a waste of time it was. A Sock-shaped cloud of dust raised around him. “I hate it!”
Hugin giggled. His cheeks felt weird from smiling so much. His laugher faded, and he looked into the distance. His eyes suddenly felt wet. He rubbed them. “Would you please stop sending all that dirt into my eyes?” Hugin said and coughed.
“Oh,” Sock laughed and sat up. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
They sat in silence for a moment before Sock broke it. “Hugin?” he said, his voice suddenly sounding lonely and scared.
“Yes?” he replied, turning his head to look at the boy with the branches in his hair. Sock didn’t look back. He stared into the horizon.
“Do you also think I’m making bad luck by using cover the same was that they did in the information age? With the branches ‘n stuff?”
“I once tried to breed rats,” Hugin admitted.
Sock moved over to sit beside him. “Clairvoyant guy says I’m destroying everything.”
“Yeah,” replied Hugin. “That was why I left.”
“So you not gonna stay here?”
“I’m afraid not, if your Clairvoyant thinks that I spread bad luck.”
“I think you should stay,” Sock said. Hugin turned his head to look at him. “It’d be a shame if you starved to death now that we just spend that good soup on you,” he explained, and Hugin laughed again. Muscles in his stomach cramped from being used again after so long.
“Sock, you little stupid bird-nest,” he said and ruffed the boy’s hair. A branch poked his palm.
“You can be stupid yourself,” he laughed back and pushed Hugin’s hand away.
“Oh, hi, young boy. And who is … ” a voice asked. Hugin made a jerking movement to look at the stranger. Sock climbed to his feet in an unsecure manner.
“Uh, hi,” Sock said, the happy note to his voice still lying on the ground. Hugin looked up.
The man was dressed in fur-rimmed clothing, decorated with bones, beads and tufts of fur. His long hair fell down his shoulders. When Hugin stood up, he realized that he was taller than the man. The stranger was holding a staff, leaning his massive body over it, and small, dark eyes with a nasty shine looked at Hugin over round cheeks. Hugin couldn’t help wondering how anyone could get that much body-mass in a world like this. Then his thoughts were led to how troublesome it must be to move around unhindered.
“Who are you, young man?” asked the stranger, looking at Hugin with a forced smile.
“Hugin,” said Hugin, a short, aggressive answer. Sock was shifting from foot to foot. “Come on, Sock, we better get back before your parents wonder where we are.”
“Ah, eh, wait a moment, young … Hugin? I haven’t seen you here before. Where’d you suddenly come from?” The man walked closer. He smelled of dead animals and some heavy, flower-like smell that made Hugin feel slightly nauseous.
“I came today,” Hugin said.
“He’s ma’ new friend,” Sock said. “Really nice guy, really. And yeah, Hugin, you’re right, we’ve been away for a while now, we better get back before mom ‘n dad gets nervous or something.” He flashed the man a grin and grabbed for Hugin’s sleeve. Unfortunately, he got a grip of the one that there were no arm in, and the man noticed.
“What’s up with your arm, young man?” he asked, reaching out for the sleeve and finding nothing inside.
“A bear ate it,” Hugin said and walked backwards.
The sleeve stretched, but the man didn’t let go immediately. Hugin grabbed it with a hand and jerked it free of the stranger’s grab. Sock came with a surprised gasp and walked backwards.
The man’s jaw tensed, and a frown emerged. “My dear Sock. Where did you meet your new friend?” The last word sounded like an offence.
“Just met him a moment ago, c’mon Hugin, we better … ”
“While you were out hunting?” there was a sarcastic tone to the last word, as if what Sock did was merely playing around. The man raised his massive body and walked over to Sock, grabbed a stick and violently pulled it out of Sock’s hair. Sock flinched and closed his eyes, but stayed quiet. “Using the methods they developed during the cursed ages? The ways of gathering that they … ”
Hugin interrupted, grabbing Sock’s arm and staring the smelly man into the eyes. “It is called the information ages,” he said, his voice as welcoming as a viper’s bite. Then he dragged Sock away from the stranger. Sock kept looking over his shoulder as if the man would warp into a bear and eat them both, but he just stood there, his huge body looking like an angry beast from a child’s nightmare, before he turned around and walked into the large tent.
“Your Clairvoyant, I assume?” said Hugin when he felt that they were far enough away. Sock nodded.
“Really nasty guy,” he entrusted. “Keep away from him.”
“I did not intend to approach him, thank you,” Hugin said, looking out from behind a tent. “What’s up with him? Someone peed on his breakfast?”
Sock laughed. “More like he didn’t get to pee on everyone else’s breakfast this morning.” Then his voice changed, and he kicked in the air, a small cloud of dust getting carried up by his shoe, colouring the rim of his trousers grey. “He hates me. Always after me. ‘T’s unfair. I at least help one bit with gathering ‘n such. And I’ve never done him anything.”
“And he smells,” Hugin added.
“Yeah, that too!”
They looked at each other for a bit. Then Hugin said: “They’re probably done arguing now. We might want to get back before they go searching for us. Or that smelly lump of fat comes back.” His voice got a grim edge. “Unless of course your father wants to kick me out.”
“Ha!” Sock said, lifting his face and looking proud. “Not gonna happen ‘cus dad’s arguing with mom, and she’s always winning arguments.”
“Also when she argues with your father?”
“’Specially when she’s arguing with ma’ father.”
 
Hugin ate a proper meal that evening, feeling full for the first time in what felt like months. He fell to sleep early, on the floor of the tent, the soft pelts on top of the waterproof hide the perfect bed after sleeping on ashes for so many days. After a full night’s sleep, he woke up early. Summer and Viking were still sleeping, but Sock was awake, and they chatted for hours about anything and everything, but mostly looking like a tree to trick birds, breeding rats, and the Clairvoyant of Sock’s clan.
A loud voice interrupted their talking.
“Viking! Viking! Viking, we are going to talk immediately! Get out here!”
The boys heard something fall in the adult’s part of the tent, as well as a faint swear. Then Viking tumbled past the boys and out of the tent. A moment after, he appeared again.
“Summer!” he shouted.
Sock and Hugin looked at each other with wonder in their eyes. Sock shrugged. Hugin made a throw with his head towards the opening of the tent. Sock shook his head and pointed towards a sewing in the tent that had gone loose. Sock had an easy time squeezing under. Hugin would have given up had he still been in his old clan, but the loss of weight made it easier, though not exactly graceful. His mouth got filled with ash.
“… is that correct?” a familiar voice said. Hugin’s jaw tensed. Sock stuck out his tongue in the direction the voice came from.
“Yeah. The poor boy looked like a stick, and you know how it is with Sock, so we …”
“You know what this means?” the Clairvoyant interrupted. His voice was a hiss. Viking didn’t get a chance to answer. “It means that your child’s foolishness has finally got consequences! This boy came because he uses the same ways of hunting birds as they did in the cursed ages. This Hugin will be the end of our clan.”
Hugin and Sock exchanged looks. Then they both nodded and crawled back into the tent.
“He’s gonna send ya’ away!” Sock said, lifting his arms dramatically.
“Sch!” hissed Hugin, warily looking at the opening. Nobody noticed anything. “If your mother really is as good as arguing as you say, we might still have a chance.”
“Don’t leave,” whispered Sock. “The other kids thinks I’m a freak ‘n cursed ‘n stuff.”
“You’re not,” said Hugin and thought of Grandma and her encouragements. Then, because he liked Sock and wasn’t good with words, he parroted: “It’s just because you’re smart.”
He’d never understood what Grandma had meant with that.
A loud voice joined the conversation outside. “… and you’re not going to throw him out just because you’re an old glutton who never does anything for the clan and don’t know anything about compassion or … ”
“Summer, calm down!” Viking pleaded.
“So,” said the Clairvoyant. “What about we let the spirits decide that.”
“Oh no, not more of your stupid spirit-sacrifices!” Summer burst out. “You need energy, you need honey, you need fat and meat and bones and you never use it.”
A voice tried to interrupt her, ending up in some loud fighting that Hugin and Sock could not make anything out of.
“Oh no,” mumbled Sock. “Now he’s going to summon again.”
“Summon?” asked Hugin.
“Yeah, you know, where they dance around and shout and stick burning branches into fires ‘n stuff. You Clairvoyant didn’t do so?” he asked when he saw Hugin’s confused expression.
Hugin shook his head. “He sometimes smoked weird things or ate mushrooms that made him really creepy,” he explained. “But most of the time he just looked at the stars or told us what our dreams meant, as well as giving us random pieces of advice.”
“Weird,” Sock said. Then, after a moment of thought. “Sounds pretty nice.”
Hugin didn’t answer. He was too busy thinking about what ‘summoning’ meant. It sounded eerie. He hoped that dancing and stick-poking was the worst of it, but looking at Sock’s uneasy expression, he was afraid it wasn’t. He wondered if he should ask. Then Summer poked her head into the tent.
“Sweet boys, would you please come out here for a moment.” The smile was forced. There were lightning in her eyes. The boys looked at each other, then stood up and walked out of the tent.
The Clairvoyant had brought two men with him. Hugin assumes that it was the Old and the Strong, but none of them looked very old nor very powerful. Just one middle-aged and one that was a bit heavy build, and they seemed just as uneasy as Hugin felt.
“Ah, there’s the boys,” the Clairvoyant said. “Well, but Viking, as I said, I think it’s more than fair that … ”
“I am not a boy,” Hugin said, stepping in between the Clairvoyant and Sock’s father. Then he pulled in his sleeve so that it became clear that it was empty. “I lost this in order to become a man, so you do not dare to call me a boy anymore.”
The men looked at each other, faintly mumbling and throwing gazes at the Clairvoyant now and then. The Clairvoyant reluctantly turned his head, as was Hugin some unpleasant-looking corpse that he’d rather not look at. His smile could not have been less fake if his two companions had grabbed each their cheek and pulled them aside.
“As I was about to say, Viking, then I think that it is more than fair that since you brought this young man to our clan, you will be the one to contribute to the sacrifices today. Don’t you think?”
“Eh … ”
Summer decided to take the word.
“No he don’t, and I think that since it is you who wants to make the sacrifices, then you might as well go find the offerings yourself, you lazy, old … ”
“Shut up, crazy woman!” the Clairvoyant shouted at Summer. In a moment, they stared at each other, anger tensing between them. Then the Clairvoyant declared: “Five rooks and a basket of wheat should do the job,” turned away and left.
“Bastard!” Summer shouted at his back before turning around and stomping into the tent. Her husband looked after her, not sure which leg to stand on. Then he turned to Sock and Hugin and said: “Eh, boys … me and … eh, I will go and find the wheat. Sock, if you possibly could, you know, just make an attempt at catching a rook or two, then it would be an enormous help.”
“All right!” Sock almost shouted, grabbed Hugin at the sleeve and dragged him away. Viking looked like he wanted to say something, but then decided against it.
 
“You think you could do that breeding-thing with birds as well?”
“The crows? They’d probably fly away.”
“don’t ya’ think we could cut their wings off or something?”
Hugin wrinkled his nose. “That would be wrong. The bird would be in constant pain.”
“What ‘bout just the feathers then?”
“It didn’t do any good, Sock.”
“You think the bear was a punishment for breeding the rats?” Sock said a little cautiously while fastening a branch to Hugin’s shoulder with a piece of yarn.
“I don’t believe in that kind of punishment.” Hugin shifted a bit when Sock poked him with one of the sticks. “Also, I bred the rats because the bear took my arm. Not the opposite.”
“Ah. So maybe it was some sign that you should breed rats?”
“I still don’t believe in omens,” Hugin sighed.
“Ah. right. Oh, look, there’s one!” Sock lifted his arm enthusiastically, still holding a branch, and accidentally hitting Hugin on the side of his head.
“Sock!”
“Sorry!”
They ducked and hid between the close network of branches. The birds flew overhead. Hugin looked after them, but Sock pulled his head down.
The birds landed in a tree further away, small, black dots between the withered leaves, hopping around between each other. Hugin’s leg cramped. He moved about. Sock tugged in his empty sleeve and laid his fingers over his lips.
Hugin tried his best to ignore the cramp in his leg. Sock was concentrated, still as a tree, tensed like the string of a bow that someone’s about to release. His eyes burned with anticipation, and he was just as unable to take his eyes away from the birds as Hugin was to take his eyes off Sock. Hugin felt something that he could not quite set his finger on, until he recognized it. It was jealousy, the same feeling that he got when watching his father go out and hunt. He felt like he was about to fall from the tree and into the ashes below, that something tried to drag him down, but he looked at Sock’s shining eyes, grabbed a branch and sat still.
The birds moved about. Hugin almost couldn’t see them in the faint torch-light, even when they were moving their large, black wings, but Sock was following their every move. They cawed around. Hugin choose this moment to lean over to Sock.
“How long are we going to wait?” he whispered.
“Sch!” was Sock’s only answer. Them, after a moment, “Down.”
Hugin rustled a bit about and sat down on a branch, then went quiet again. Sock also moved slightly, slowly as a branch bending in the wind. Hugin had a hard time telling where the branch-filled boy ended and the branch-filled top of the tree begun. He wondered if he were that invisible himself, and suddenly felt like a giant, flaming monster shouting “We’re over here!” at the top of his lungs. He wondered if he could get further down into the tree’s net of leaves without making himself even more apparent, and then decided to stay where he way.
The birds took off. Sock snarled something, quiet enough for Hugin to wonder if it had just been a breeze. Sock’s head turned. He reminded Hugin of a snowy owl he’d seen last year, a beautiful creature gazing over the tundra with resin-golden, clear eyes. And Sock was just as silent. Hugin held his breath while he saw the birds fly overhead, and as he lost sight of them, and as they returned, all while Sock was nothing but a branch in the dark. And then, just as silent as he’d been while waiting, he moved with surprising grace as the flock passed, and pluck a bird out of the sky.
It cawed angrily and pecked at his hands before Sock grabbed it’s neck and pulled. His face warped into a mess of strain, then the black bird grew quiet and its head let go. Sock put beak and body into the basket and flashed a wide grin at Hugin.
“See? T’wasn’t very hard.”
“Well, but we sat there for years,” Hugin said and rubbed his sore bum.
Sock’s grin grew even wider. “We didn’t at all.” He laughed. “You’re just used to run around after your food. This way’s much easier.”
Hugin looked at the ground and wished that he was down there. He looked at Sock and felt lonely to the bottom of his heart. This was what he’d never had with his father. He choked a sigh and considered climbing down, but Sock had already transformed into a quiet creature of the winter’s month-long night, and Hugin sat down again as quiet as he could, feeling like a polar bear in a jungle.
 
The kill did not get any impressed looks from the Clairvoyant. It was Sock’s father that delivered them, and the Clairvoyant just took them with an aggressive movement and disappeared into his tent. His two companions ran after him, like ants following their queen. Sock was looking at his shoes, shifting weight from one foot to another. Viking tried his best to seem untroubled and failed miserably. He looked at his son and opened his mouth to say something, but at the same moment, the Clairvoyant and his drones returned.
“We’re ready,” he said and strode past Viking and the boys without even looking at them.
“Already?” asked Viking with surprise in his voice.
The Clairvoyant turned. “While you fooled around and pretended to look for rooks, we decided not to waste our time. Now, if you could please make your way to the rock, I’ll do the necessary preparations.”
Then he returned to what he was doing, acting like the three of them had just disappeared the moment he turned his head. Sock waited until he was long enough away, then stuck out his tongue.
“Butthead,” he said.
“What rock?” asked Hugin.
“Just a big pile o’ cliffs that he likes to do his funky stuff on,” said Sock, looking slightly uneasy. “Calls it the rock n’ says it’s something special.”
“Everyone!” the voice that Hugin had come to dislike very much the last two days called. A sound as if a strong wind had grabbed a stick that it was continuously banging into a wall was heard. People came out of their tents, looking wary, mumbling to each other and throwing gazes to the side. Small children were either clinging to their parent’s hands or running towards the sound like they were going to get the biggest present of their life. Hugin and Sock were less excited, walking slowly in the direction of the noise, looking at each other in an unsecure manner.
The Clairvoyant was standing on the rock, leaning over his staff and looking very important, head held high, his body falling over the staff that he was leaning to. In front of him was a large, neatly organized pile of dirt. Around it lied feathers, stains of blood and strange rocks. The Clairvoyant waited until everyone was present. He let the mumblings fade before slowly raising his body from the leaning position.
He walked into the crowd and ungraciously dragged Hugin out by the sleeve. Hugin tried to protest, but people immediately helped the Clairvoyant pushing Hugin in the right direction. He stumbled out of the crowd and got a push and an angry remark from the Clairvoyant when he was about to step into the pile of dirt and pebbles.
“This boy,” the Clairvoyant said, looking Hugin directly into the eyes an shaping the last word as obvious as he could. “Came here yesterday. Sock of Viking and Summer brought him here, while he was hiding, making himself invisible in the same manner that they did in the cursed ages.” When Hugin opened his mouth to defend his friend, that Clairvoyant hit him over the leg with his staff. Hugin gasped and curled up. The Clairvoyant continued as nothing had happened. “He says that he lost an arm in a fight with a bear. I say that he was messing with the cursed ages, and is now cursed himself. I say that he is coming here because the spirits will warn us about interfering with the cursed ages and anything that belongs to them.” Confused mumblings rose from the crowd before the Clairvoyant continued. “So I decided to ask the spirits. Because they know!”
He raised both his hand, his staff a spear that pierced the night, but there were an awkward silence where you’d expect an excited roar. People just looked uneasy, except for a few kids that were trying to get closer to Hugin and the Clairvoyant’s pile of dirt. Hugin was about to become annoyed with this.
The Clairvoyant nonchalantly pushed Hugin in the chest with his staff, causing him to stumble a few steps backwards. Then he made a gesture with his hands towards his drones while looking into the air, in a manner that Hugin suspected that he honestly thought looked mysterious. His minions came running to him like trained monkeys, holding each their torch. The Clairvoyant turned to them, and they put the flaming heads together. Sparks leapt as the fires mixed, creating a waterfall of stars. Then the Clairvoyant’s staff joined the torches.
They stood for a while in a triangle. The moment Hugin began to wonder if they’d passed into some kind of coma and he could just leave, the Clairvoyant turned around on his heel, holding the now steadily burning staff into the air. Then he began the dancing and saying words that Sock had talked about. He moved in jerking steps, saying sounds that sounded like gibberish to Hugin. He felt like the only sane person in this crowd where everyone was looking at this insane man that danced around with a burning stick. They looked scared, almost in awe. Even Sock’s round, stick-framed face seemed nervous in the faint light that illuminated it every time the Clairvoyant swung his staff in his direction.
The Clairvoyant stopped his leaping around and stabbed a depression in the dirt before his feet. The he  took a small purse and emptied it into the hole. It was filled with a clear, white powder that sparkled in the orange light, a bowl of stars in a dirty pile of sand.
The Clairvoyant walked backwards, trying to look as dramatic as possible. Then he leaped forwards all of sudden and thrust his staff into the powder.
It immediately began to burn. The Clairvoyant stepped away, keeping his eyes on the mound. Hugin opened his mouth to declare how much of a fool he was making of himself, when the flames in the hole began to increase in size and intensify in colour. Soon, it looked like a tiny volcano, bright red spears piercing the air from the hole, growing bigger and bigger.
Hugin leaped backwards and came with a shriek. A long, grey tentacle had emerged from the pile, fumbling around the ground, twisting as was it alive. People yelled and stumbled backwards. Kids began to cry. The red-rimmed strings twisted around themselves and the centre of the mound, glowing, red pearls emerged in every tip. Then they began to push up from the mound, creating a gigantic web of long, ashen threads on the ground. Hugin gasped, his legs trembled, sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes. His heart thundered, as if it tried to flee from his ribcage and run into the flames.
Then the tentacles stood still. They had emerged in less than a second, and now they stood there, grey and harmless, like a gorgon’s head turned into stone. Hugin was still hyperventilating.
“The spirits has spoken!” the Clairvoyant shouted, and this time, he seemed bigger, stronger, somehow.  “You, cursed one,” he pointed at Hugin with his staff. “Leave.”
Hugin stood as struck by lightning, looking at the tentacles that had emerged from the ground, afraid they’d start moving again if he made the smallest movement.
“Leave!” the Clairvoyant repeated, shouting it this time, and Hugin stumbled from the cliff, almost falling down, his eyes shifting between the Clairvoyant and the tentacles that he’d created. He saw Sock’s sad, regretting face as the last thing before turning around and fleeing into the endless night of north.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...