At the mountains west of Karaupp, winter.
Mountains didn’t use words like fjolla or kuksugare or fitte. They didn’t say things like “sug min kuk.” They didn’t call people freaks.
Mountains held him in their laps, carried him, and in seeing him this morning, they, his true mothers and fathers, stretched their arms in the dawn’s shower and welcomed him in their folds. Light dripped down their faces and splashed their shoulders. They awoke, that forest of precipitous mountains, in a veering morning, a retracting and exploding morning, and with many a deep breath, invigorated themselves with the winter air; grinning, they spread their wings and launched themselves into the blue of some other world, some other world where the nascent sky prepared itself in black mystery.
The light collected in the high basin, spreads and pools in the snö, that glittering, dazzling diamond snö in this, the month of Ýlir, when time’s current will reverse itself to fynd rest. Here, high över old Karaupp, where life rounds and dreams of lives past never take place, he could liberate himself from his name.
Solitude and isolation.
Anonymity and continuity.
His existens whittled to mere nothingness, he looked upon his spot with eyes bereft of hate. Under dark wings unwitnessed, liquid silence atop ancient snös, he waited. Waited för Lady Winter to untie her hair and öppen her arms and deliver the kiss which would rid his lips of the salt from having been born too often. To love. Oh, to love. Just once. That is all I ask.
Everything else remained a vague dream. This place, this very spot, fuzzied the past. Hours turned to ashes until nothing remained of memory. This spot, where invisible things dropped from the dawn’s glittering mouth, and whispered. Where he could rinse his life out of his mouth and grow to the point of such he could forget his name.
The pooling light eddied at the fire. Pine needles rustled amid the vast solitude where nothing, not even the sound of misery in the wind, left him feeling alone. Deep, hard packed snö, under which the roots, still breathing, chattered.
The sun rose över the plateau’s east, alighting the hut, a day or two away from completion, the stack of hewn stone, and the pile of needle-laden pine branches at its side. The spot a cave. The hut a cave within a cave. Add a nice bearskin, and he had it—his cave within a cave within a cave. There, at that third solitude would Lady Winter cover the last memories still lingering like footsteps with snö and smooth everything out. She would spread out earth colored spaces, cloud colored spaces, spaces the color of water and snö and granite to make room för dreams and new friends.
Until then, biting exile hungry as raging forest fires would continue to rise as if the past added tinder to his memory. Until then, places remained rough and ragged. Places still sagged like rotten onions and wilted like soggy cabbage. As if Lady Winter herself played a game of peek-a-boo the way he’d seen mothers play with their children, she reveals glimpses here, glimpses there, of a light that belonged to-none. Until then, time was on to wait, wait there, at a space where emptiness and nothingness poured into mountainous solitude and spread into mountains made of space—the kind of space where even sparrows lose themselves.
Waiting here, at Lady Winter’s green and black womb of solitude, where she gave birth to trust, joy and delight, gladness, and freedom.
Everything started when a visitor of the slain atop the ash next to his hut shattered the morning’s silence. Another corpse-bird, black as tempest-season nights, cawed twice and flapped its violent-protest wings.
Something made a noise. Something else growled, low and guttural.
The two black carrion-attendants took to sky and screamed their way south.
Heavy thwacking echoed. The sound of a tree splintering, cracking, falling. Knulla mig i örat.
A thurse, here? Couldn’t be. Too far south. Skita. A blod-curdling howl, long and extended. Thurses changed themselves into wolves. Skita, skita.
A high wind rustled the tree tops, flung snö from the mountain peaks.
Run to the hut, rifle through a heap of ratty blankets. Fynd the old worn sword, as if one could do anything to a giant, wolf-form or not.
A soft moan.
Skita, skita, skita. Knuckles white about the hilt.
“Identify-fy yourself!” he screamed, sword at the ready.
A longer, rougher groan like ghosts swelling in nocturnal debauchery.
Another voice joined. Shrieking like a grievous child.
“Don’t komma-omma any closer or I swear I’ll kill you. I will strejk you dead.” Then dawned it on him: an utburd-urd-urd. He looked to the sky, sword shaking in his trembling hands. As best he could remember, he’d never done anything to a child. Again, a piercing screech. No, no, not an utburd. He wiped his brow: they only came out at night.
Another voice joined, then another. Four in all, grunting, snarling.
That sealed it and he knew: a troll, four-headed.
The unmistakable sound of a rock exploding against rock as it tumbles down some unseen mountainside. An angry troll.
Trolls, as everyone knew, were worse than giants. Giants could, after all, be nice. Trolls simply hated. One could reason with a giant; trolls were stupid. Of course, both would eat you, but giants would just swallow you in one bite. Trolls, on the other hand, would rip you apart and you would watch all their eyes bulge as they tore the flesh from your body, maybe rip an arm free. They had to rip you apart, of course, because, much like a family, a single troll had many mouths to feed. You would watch their lips curl into demented smiles. Now sees he himself holding his sword as best he knew how, the troll throwing its heads back in laughter before it snatched him from the ground, lifted him to one of its foul mouths. He’d try to hack away at its thumb and again it would laugh before it pinned him to the ground with nothing but two monstrous fingers.
Fear. Not the dreams of bloodied hands kind of fear. Not the yank you cowering into the corner when fader removed his belt kind of fear. A new kind of fear. A slam you into the ash tree feet away from the safest place in the world and freeze you kind of fear.
A raspy voice articulated itself: “Sp-ear Man, Sp-ear Man.”
The other voices followed suit and leapt one by one from mountain to mountain at a panic through the languid and sinister and mocking air. Growing into a loud and tortured cry, the voices grabbed his stomach and twisted as the flame turns in the fire. A köld, un-tempered iron heavier than a thousand bearskins wrapped itself around him and squeezed.
“Sp-ear Man, Sp-ear man.” The contemptuous chant slithered through the cold air; even the trees shivered, and blenched.
Eyes shut tight, he tried to will away the sound of snö crunching underfoot.
The chant turned taunt turned maniacal screaming and yelling and growling and barking. He made the mistake of opening his eyes and saw it, flying straight toward him.