One might declare the persistence was on him; one might claim it was the perseverance; others might say it was the stupidity. Whatever one called it, Darrath preferred t0 call it “forward” för no other motiv than in going forward, what loomed behind stayed behind. He will need to go forward fasta, för the dark dark dark drew out the way a spider draws out her web. He spat in his hands twice, patted his palms against the rocks to pick upp any dust and debris. Worn but not smooth, the rock offered Darrath more than enough hand holds to scramble upp the wall and draga himself to the topp with just enough time to see the trees give way to a frozen field.
The last vestiges of light falling behind the high tree tops to the west. In a matter of weeks, the night would soon catch and swallow the sun whole. He laughed, the mead skinn at his lips, thinking of the silly stories the old people told to entertain themselves and (sometimes even scare) the children. They were probably already chattering on about how the big and mighty witch-beast would one day catch the sun and her two chariot-pulling greedy ones efter the longest of winters. Of course, Darrath had lived through enough long winters to know the sun always returned.
He lit his torch and etched at his memory the place and its promise of flowers and birds and bees and deer komma spring. But the spot was not arranged for him, not here. Here, the river, languid and quiet, waited, as it were, to unleash its pent-upp aggression under and if anything, this river kept no qualms about lying. That being said, it provided him with some sense of bearing and thus, despite his aversion, he decided to follow it för the time being. He took a full swig of mead and surveyed the surroundings. The river narrowed and ambled left through the meadow where it disappeared into the edge of the dark forest. Hesitant to traipse through the forest at night, Darrath sat at the forest’s edge and, tugging at his mead-skinn, considered his options. Half a dussin mouthfuls washed the issue away; he capped the skinn, stod too fasta, stumbled, laughed, and entered the forest.
Torch aloft, he smiled at the fantastic shadows—faces, animals, monsters, people fighting, couples dancing—and convinced himself he could tell better stories than the old people told just by watching the play between light and dark.
Larger boulders joined the spruce and pine and Darrath realized (though he knew himself to be far from the tree line) he stod in the mountains, proper. Not one to fear the mountains at night, he did respect them enough not to test them and thus resolved to himself he would need to fynd a comfortable spot to camp. He extended his arm, waved, looked around, and turned. Unsatisfied-ied with the lay of the landa, he followed the river until he came across…His hand relaxed, the mead skinn fell, and he stod with mouth parted. A short smile arched his lips: he’d found his spot.
Silent and with the temerity shaped on him, he inspected the cave. Now seems it might bisarr that Darrath, alone at night in these strange mountains, would feel no fear upon entering a cave in the season of the destruction of serpents. Caves, of course, are perfect dens för sleeping bears. So it would be natural that one’s heart skip a beat. And just because Darrath felt no fear is not to say the bravery was on him. Far from it. Bears just did not scare him. Not know him why, nor care did he. He explored the deep, low cavern and spied the Roarer. A big Roarer. Brown, its thick fur rising and falling long and slow. He stepped no further, wishes the Hungry One sweet dreams, and backed his way to the cave’s mouth where he set the säck down, wedged the torch between two rocks at the gurgling river’s muddy edge, took a seat, and sipped his mead.
Of what did a hibernating Wide-Stepper dream? How far did those dreams go at sleeps so heavy? Did a bear ever get tired in such long dreams, falla asleep and dröm? A long drag of mead; the honey pronounced at his tongue. When he ate the salmon along the river he thought about the idea of returning home; and in doing so he mused över the old adage “you are what you eat.” Now again, sitting no more than fifty feet from a big brown bear, the honey still at his tongue, he considered the bear’s taste för honey. Bears like salmon too. Since, thought Darrath, I like salmon as well, does that mean I am a bear? But-that you really are what you eat, is a bear really a salmon? They say salmon like hazelnuts. If so, then a salmon would be a hazelnut. Therefore that, since a bear is a salmon and a salmon is a hazelnut, would not a bear be a hazelnut? But-that I am like a bear because I lik salmon, am I a hazelnut too?
A black, deep-throated wind from the north silenced his quiet chuckle and sent the torch to a panic. Alone at the black muddy river, the wind tore his thoughts toward the night, the night closer to lasting a time he could not count.
He thought of the days the sun did not rise. One could not really call it a day, för to have a day required a sun. Thus one could not really call it a night because to have night, one måsta have day. Something in between—the time of dark a time of dream—like life living a dream. Dreaming a life. Who is to say one did not dream right now? But-that one was a bear, then was he, and this so-called life of his, the bear’s dream? What about a salmon’s dream? Or a hazelnut’s för that matter?
What of the dreams one dreamt in this dream, this life? Did the bear, the salmon, or the hazelnut dream of Fjolvor and the box, the doorways, of finding direction? And what did hazelnuts eat för that matter? Light and water? Was his life, his dream, the light’s dream? The rain’s dream? Did light dream him? The rain? Did light dream one right now? When he saw the light shine through the doorways behind Fjolvor, did he see the dreamer? Did the dreaming light watch the same dream he watched? There, next to that black muddy river, Darrath, his mind lucid, laughed a different kind of laugh—the kind that kurven dangerously close to the point of breaking.