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!

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5. Chapter 4

Chapter 4
 
The soft ash brushed over Hugin’s hand, sliding between his fingers, piling up in small mountains under his palm as he pushed it away, revealing what was underneath. A hard surface met his fingers, rough texture pushing at his fingertips, and he grabbed his torch and held it over the hole. It was a rock. He put the torch down in the ash and grabbed it again when it was about to tip over. He tried to push his torch further down into the cover of the ground, and succeed after a few moments of struggling. Then he leaned down over the rock, grabbed it with his hands, and pulled it away.
It was smaller than he’d thought, and it send up a little cloud of ash and dust when he lifted it, almost flying up from the hole and skipping over the ashen ground. Hugin let go of it and threw himself over the depression it the dirt that he’d removed it from. A few woodlice escaped, but he managed to snatch up some of them, as well as a confused earthworm. He quickly crunched their heads and put them in a small purse. The earthworm got crushed between two small stones.
His stomach yelled, and he continued his work. He was a lonely figure in a shady world, orange light illuminating his face and clothing, throwing a long, shifting shadow behind him. He was able to see what was close, everything else fading into darkness, a cloth pulled over the world, hiding everything that did not want to be seen.
A faint cawing made Hugin lift his head. He sat still, frozen, looking after the source of the sound. For a while, all movement was the dancing flames that playfully reached down the cloth around the branch, trying to get a grip of the wood, playing with the shadows around them. The Hugin slowly returned to his work, but not really looking. While he aimlessly pushed the ash under his hands aside, his ears were focusing on his surroundings. The flickering of the flames were a constant, rustling like an animal hiding in a bush. The wind send small, cold breezes towards his face that sounded like a whisper. Another caw. Hugin froze again, then slowly turned his head towards the everlasting nightsky of north.
A few black birds flew overhead, the heavy beating of their shiny wings looking like a bad omen. The firelight caressed their shiny feathers. They looked like treasures made of the sunless day, and Hugin watched them with both hope and a gnawing nervousness.
The birds entered the shadows. Then they returned once, twice, before landing, in the ground, just on the edge of Hugin’s circle of light. Their dark eyes sparkled while they folded their wings a few times to make them lay right on their long, slanted backs. One of them crooked it’s head, it’s long, naked beak opening and closing, like it would ask Hugin something, but didn’t know how to talk.
Hugin watched them with fascination. He’d been close enough to grab birds by the neck and break it, but never when the animals knew he were there. These birds seemed curious, almost scarily so. One of them hopped closer, and another carefully turned its side to Hugin and began walking around the edge of the light.
Hugin let the ash slip out between his fingers and slowly reached down towards his knife. The birds looked at him. One of them began walking the other direction. The largest one joined the one that’d jumped close to Hugin, flapping its wings and gliding a few metres before graciously landing again. Hugin bit his lip and kept his eyes on the bird. It walked closer, swinging its black body back and forwards. It eyes were on Hugin, who drew his knife. The sound of whistling metal caused one of the birds to take off and make a safer distance. Hugin held his breath.
The largest bird came even closer. Hugin tensed the grip on his knife. The bird approached the torch. It poked the bottom of it with its beak. Then it stared at Hugin and cawed, a sharp, demanding sound that rang in the dark. Hugin narrowed his eyes. Just a little closer now …
Something tugged at the purse that he kept the bugs in. He turned with a startled sound that didn’t make him proud. The surprised bird took off with an annoyed scream, causing the one that had stolen Hugin’s earthworm to jump away from him.
“Hey, stupid crow! That’s mine!” Hugin shouted and stood up, causing every single bird to leave in a black flurry of feathers.
“Rook.”
Fear gripped Hugin from behind. His heart immediately began to race, yet the rest of his body was as still as a statue. Except for Hugin’s fast, startled breath, another sound had joined the rustling of wings and whispering of the fire. A sound of calm, heavy breathing, the kind that created clouds of smoke in cold spring mornings. Hugin turned his head, slow as a turtle, to look at the source of the voice.
The flame reflected in a pair of clear eyes, embedded in a square face. They were narrowed and unwelcoming. The mouth under the flat nose was tensed in irritation, and everything was framed by the longest hair Hugin had ever seen. A red waterfall of curls, flowing down over her shoulders like a cape, brushing over the saddle of her reindeer, locks falling down before her ears, curling over her clothing, gently moving in the breeze. Her right hand was holding her reindeer’s reins, the other lifted to the height of her shoulder. One of the black birds sat on it, casually cleaning it’s feathers.
“They’re rooks.” Her voice was as smooth as the rook’s feathers, but with a cawing sound sneaking in here and there.
“Who repairs what is broken,” whispered Hugin, unable to take his eyes away from the face of the legend. “When time is for that.”
“No,” the girl said, making a pushing movement with her hand. The rook reluctantly took off and landed on the reindeer’s antlers instead. “That’s just some ridiculous title. And you,” she brushed a flame-coloured curl away from her face before pointing at Hugin. “Are where you are not supposed to be. At all.”
She gently pushed her reindeer’s flanks. It moved towards Hugin, knees clicking, and stood before him. It reached its head forwards and smelled Hugin, then came with a disapproving blow of warm reindeer-breath and lifted its head again. The rook loudly declared what it thought about all this movement and flew off for good.
“What are you doing here anyway, one-arm?” she asked. “I haven’t seen anyone here since that bastard of a man stole baking powder from the houses he considers so cursed.” The voice dripped with venom. “You should know better.”
“I need your help,” Hugin burst out.
Who repairs what is broken lifted her eyebrows, then came with a gentle laugher, light, and at the same time sharp as broken glass.
“And why should I even consider helping you?” she asked. Hugin opened his mouth to answer, but she cut him off. “It was a rhetorical question. You don’t have anything I need.” In one movement, she threw her legs over the reindeer’s back and glided down to the ground, where she turned to look at Hugin. “Now leave.”
Her eyes turned cold as flint. For a moment, they stared at each other. Then the pain in Hugin’s stomach made a violent movement, tearing in him from inside, and his eyes grew just as hard as hers. “You do not own the ground.”
She looked startled for a moment and stared at him with disbelief, but it soon disappeared. She took a step towards him and hissed: “And if you stay here, I’m going to wait for you to die from hunger and feed my rats with your skinny, meatless corpse and let the rooks have the rest.”
“What difference is there between dying here and there,” Hugin snarled back, and concluded with surprise that she was almost as tall as he was.
“That you won’t have me running around in your heels and encouraging you to kick the bucket,” she answered. Then her voice got less angry, but in turn edged with arrogance. “I do not want you to scavenge around and take my food. Go leech on someone else.”
“I’ve heard you have more than enough.”
“From who?” her bitterness made Hugin take a step backwards. “By those idiots who’ve given me a stupid, long title because I can patch a hole in a roof, who thinks that I just pull up fat rats from my pockets, that there’s a wild animal who brings me a freshly killed polar bear every day, and that I have a hundred reindeer that all take care of themselves? Because then I’m going to tell you a thing. I have one reindeer, one cheetah, breeding rats and then myself, and I have to feed all those off, and it takes a shitload of work, just so you know.”
“I could help with that,” Hugin said. “In exchange for not dying from hunger.”
Who repairs what is broken snorted. “You’d make a better feeder than assistant with that arm. I neither need nor want your help, so kindly get the hell out of here this instant or I’m going to drag you away personally.”
“I imagined you being nicer.”
“Most people did. Why did you imagine me anyway?” She put her hands on her hips. “Imagining only brings disappointment.”
“Well, because you were my childhood hero. No wonder my life is screwed,” Hugin snarled at her and turned to walk away.
After a few steps, he stopped and turned his head to see if Who repairs what is broken was still there, but all he got to see was a reindeer’s hooves trotting over the desert. He hesitated for a moment, then took off and ran after her.
 
It was hard work keeping up with the reindeer, especially because he could not go too close to it if he wanted to avoid getting dust in his eyes. Who repairs what is broken hadn’t noticed him yet, and he tried his best to keep quiet and invisible. It was hard when you were gasping for breath, but the last bit of thought that he’d left insisted that he kept going. It was as his whole life depended on his ability to keep up with the red-haired, snappy, young woman. He also knew that it could very well do, but he tried not to think too much about it. Just keep going, one leg in front of the other, keep up, faster, keep up with the reindeer, keep up, keep up.
“What the holy cheetah-shit, you’re still here?”
She violently pulled in her reindeer’s reins, and it made a sudden stop and looked at Hugin as if it was his fault that it’s master was so peppery. Hugin fell to his knees, gasping for breath. He felt like his lungs attempted to escape his body.
“Bullshit,” Who repairs what is broken said. Hugin heard the reindeer approach. She kicked him gently in the side. He was too tired to care. “Are you sure it was a marvellous idea to use all your energy on following me?”
Hugin didn’t have breath to answer. He looked up at her. “Help,” was all he could get over his lips. His lungs hurt. His legs hurt, and an intense pain was stabbing him in the side of the chest.
The woman sighed and made a movement with her foot that Hugin already knew a bit too well. In a desperate attempt to get her to stay, he reached for it and violently tugged in her shoe. She came with a surprised outburst and reached for the edge of the saddle, which definitely wasn’t something the reindeer was used to. It didn’t like it either. It neighed and raised to its hind legs for a moment, the large front hooves hovered in the air, causing Who repairs what is broken to land on her hindquarters in the ash.
It looked slightly comical, and Hugin couldn’t help by coming with a snigger in between his gasping for breath. Who repairs what is broken’s hands flew to her head, then she looked at Hugin and became red with rage.
“See?” he said before she could get to bite his head off. “I’m not as … ” he had to pause to catch his breath. “Helpless as I might look.”
She looked at him for a moment, then came with a frustrated growl and stood up. “Fine, you stubborn asshole. But I warn you, if you are in any way a burden, you’ll get kicked out in a flash.”
She took her reindeer’s reins and tugged gently. “Come on,” she said and made a throw with her head. Hugin dragged another mouthful or air into his lungs, before he got to his feet and went after her.
She had a light hanging from her reindeer’s antler, a little flame enclosed in a metal-frame. A clear surface kept it safe from the wind. The saddle was made from pieces of leather, carefully stitched together with other leather-straps. Under it was a carpet in red and yellow, and the reins were padded with fur and decorated with small beads and simple embroidery.
She broke the silence. “Childhood hero, huh?”
“Eh … ” Hugin hesitated, grateful for that the dark hid his cheeks that’d suddenly turned red. “Well, I … ” He fixed his gate at the little lantern. t swung back and forwards for every step the reindeer took. “When I was a boy, you know, a smaller boy, I … Used to go and explore the local buildings. You know, those from the cursed … the information ages. Found objects and the like and, you know, took them home.”
“What’d your clan say to that.”
“They threw them away … how do you know that I come from a clan?”
She snorted. “Everyone does.”
“You don’t.”
“I did.”
“So … why did you leave?”
“Why did you leave?”
Hugin sighed and looked at his shoes. “Because of the arm. I … don’t know how to survive without hunting.”
“Why did you assume that I could help with that?” her voice implied that he was clearly dumb.
“Well, because … You breed rats, right?”
She laughed, loudly, and it made Hugin flinch and look away.  After a moment, she got her breath back.
“If you assume that I’m just going to feed you with them, you’re stupid.” Her tone of voice changed. “Yes, I breed rats. It’s not easy, but I suppose it’s easier than running around and sticking spears into reindeer.” She brushed her hand over the deer by her side’s coat, and her face changed. An almost tender expression appeared on her face. “But I enjoy it. The breeding rats part, not poking spears into reindeer,” she added, looking at Hugin though the corner of her eye.
Hugin shrugged, not sure what to say. They walked in silence for a bit. Her red curls moved over her back, back and forth between the shoulder blades every time she took a step. Hugin usually didn’t look at girls the way the boys in his clan seemed to do, but he decided that Who repairs what is broken was beautiful.
“So … ” Hugin said, a little hesitantly. “What were you doing out there anyway?” She didn’t answer. “When you found me,” he kept on.
“So now we’re suddenly best friends forever and I have to tell you about everything I do?” she asked, still not looking at him. She’d let go of the reins. Hugin watched how the reindeer gladly followed her, half a metre behind, keeping the same pace as her, slowing down when she did.
“No,” he said and pulled up his shoulders while he looked at her back. “I just … I was just curious.”
She turned around and stopped. The reindeer immediately did the same, not needing any push nor command. Then she looked Hugin in the eyes and said: “One-arm? Shut it.”
She put a finger to the corner of her mouth and drew it over her lips. Then she turned her back to him again and continued walking. Hugin lowered his head and trotted after her, feeling like a dog following in its master’s heels.
Now that Hugin had left his torch with the aggressive flame behind, and the lantern’s gentle light was all that illuminated the night, Hugin could suddenly see the silhouettes of the landscape. Black birds still flew overhead, and small, withered trees stretched their limbs in the horizon. When Hugin looked past Who repairs what is broken, a tall, black figure covered a part of the sky, broken floors and jagged walls making it look like a luring animal. After looking at it for a few minutes of silence, he carefully asked:
“Is that where you live?”
“Yup.”
Silence again. “So … you use all of it?”
“Didn’t I ask you to shut up?”
Hugin gave her an irritated look, but didn’t complain further. Instead, he looked at the huge building and thought about what Who repairs what is broken used all that space for.

 

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