Part 1 - Southbound
by and © Ruwen Rouhs
Aegir woke with a start! In his dream he was standing front of his mother. In the morning sun she had been on the beach scaling fishes caught the night before. He just was about to tell her something important, when he woke. Sitting upright, he couldn't remember what was so important he had to tell her? What was it? His memory of the dream was gone!
Listening into the darkness Aegir became aware of the regular breathing at his side. Suddenly the memory was back again. "Mother, I finally found him! Curlyhead! My Curlyhead, my curly cub!" he called into the dark. At the same moment he knew his mother wasn't there, the beach wasn't there, but Curlyhead was there beside him. Aegir could make out just the vague outline of Curlyhead, curled up like a sleeping pup on the mat of small twigs beside him. He slipped back under his coat that they had used as cover. With one arm around the strange teen and snuffling his curly hair, Aegir recalled yesterday's events.
Yesterday in the early afternoon, kneeling on the altar stone besides the unconscious boy, Aegir had had the first opportunity to study the strange boy closely. The clan had left him wearing a torn shirt of thin furs, a breech-cloth and leggings. The knife sheath fastened to his belt was empty and everything else was missing also. His black hair was curly and framed a roundish face with a short nose and red lips. Thick eyebrows arched over big round eyes shadowed by long eyelashes. The iris of the eyes was of a dark warm colour but not as black as the pupil.
Aegir was nearly throwing up again, but this time not because of the foul smell of the puck, but of excitement. "Curlyhead, my Curlyhead! Really it's you, the vision of my dream!" Looking into the eyes of Curlyhead, Aegir was irritated by the blank look. "It's me, it's me! Really it's me, my dear!" After a moment of agony the truth struck Aegir like a lightning. "He doesn't know about my dream! It's my dream, my dream only, not his!" he cried out. There was no time neither to contemplate the situation nor wail over it, because the dark-skinned youngsters went unconscious again and collapsed.
Aegir decided to get Curlyhead down from the altar stone and take him to a more comfortable place. As the gate in the wall of the homestead was barred it was not possible to move him to the forest therefore he decided to get him to the kitchen shelter. This was hard because he had to carry the unconscious body on his back. Putting Curlyhead down in the shelter and propping him against a post supporting the roof, Aegir began to search the settlement for water. There was a trickle running down the rock-face next to the cave. He fetched some wet moss to cool Curlyhead's hot forehead. This helped, because the wounded boy opened his eyes again. This time he seemed more in control of himself than before. He stared at Aegir. Suddenly his searching look turned frightened and shrinking back, his expression became hostile. "Go away! Go away Loki, you fire-headed trickster!" Aegir was alarmed. He bent down to the dark-skinned boy who was shaking with fear and tried his best smile, "No! I am not Loki, the trickster, nor Ymir, the demonic giant! I am Aegir, your friend! I am your friend! I am.......!" He didn't go on; he had to wait to tell Curlyhead about his dream.
Curlyhead responded by jumping to his feet. He pushed Aegir out of the way and began to walk in a wobbly gait towards the passage through the earth mound surrounding the settlement. After a moments hesitation Aegir took up the pursuit. The chase was only short because halfway to the passage Curlyhead lost his balance, tripped over a root and collapsed on the ground. When Aegir tried to lift him up, Curlyhead screamed again, "Go away! Away you go vicious Loki, you fire-headed trickster!" With his fists he began to fend off Aegir trying to knock him over. However Aegir didn't fight back, instead he did bend forward offering Curlyhead his head as a target, "No, I am not an evil spirit, I am not from the outer-world! My head's not on fire! It's my hair that's red! Look!" he caught Curlyhead's hands, "Please touch my hair! Convince yourself! Come on, my bro!"
The dark-skinned boy on the ground took the opportunity. He attacked Aegir with both hands and pulled his hair. Now the Aegir moaned in pain. "Stop it! Please stop it! You are hurting me! Stop it." But he did not fight back or hit him. Instead he began tickling his adversary. Baffled Curlyhead let go of Aegir's hair and fell to the ground laughing. This ended in a scuffle like one between small boys. When both stopped as if command they looked in his others eyes and Aegir did something he had dreamed of for a long time. He just kissed Curlyhead on the forehead. Taken by surprise Curlyhead smiled and began to rub the tip of Aegir's nose tip with his own. The childish scuffle the two turned into cuddling and hugging. When both got out of breath they relaxed. Aegir looked up to the eagle sitting in its eyrie on the ledge high in the rock-face and winked at the mighty bird. The bird seemed to wink back and his cheeping proved that he liked what he saw.
"My head! My head!" Curlyhead suddenly groaned, massaging his temples. Then he began to feel the big bump on the back of his head. Spotting the blood oh his fingers, he turned pale and started to accuse Aegir, "I Wuitan's name, what did you do to my head? It's all over of blood!"
With fear showingin his dark eyes he began to look around "Where are my people? Where are my friends? Where are the people of the Eagle-clan?" Suspiciously he studied Aegir, "And who are you, Redhead? What did you do to me? Who the hell are you? You are not of my kind!"
Aegir had waited for this question, "They call me Aegir, like the sea-giant guarding the dark sea in the north. My hair is red like the halo of the fire-breathing mountain on our island. But I am a man like you! I am your brother, your bro!"
Studying the dark-skinned teen from head to toe, Aegir asked "But who are you? Your skin is dark and your curly hair still darker? You smell different from my people, but sweeter than anything I have ever smelled before!" and by impulse Aegir leaned forward to inhale the body scent of Curlyhead.
The other smiled surprised "When my father brought me back to his clan as a present from one of his voyages his people called me Lillebur, the boy with a skin as dark as soil. His spouses reared me and I grew and grew and now everyone calls me Buri, the Earthman, the forebear of all living things.
"Buri and Aegir, earth and sea, south and north, dark and light, let us be friends not foes, brothers not strangers! Let's be lovers!" Aegir stated with trembling voice. Buri didn't answer with words. He just pressed his forehead against Aegir's. Then, looking with his dark eyes into Aegir's blue ones he said softly, "Yes friends, friends and brothers for ever!"
The silence of the early evening was suddenly broken by the alarm-cry of harriers. The swift birds of prey crossed the sky to warn the eagle resting on its eyrie in the rock-face. The mighty bird took wings to realize the danger. Only a wing beat later he darted down for the young men screeching alarm.
"Something is ahead, something very dangerous!" Aegir whisperedto Buri, "We have to leave this place and look for a hide-out."
"Oh no! These are sure the Eagle-clan people, my folks. They miss me and now are searching for me!"
Aegir looked in surprise to his excited friend, "Can't you remember what happened? Don't you remember what your people did to you? What the shaman did to you? "
"The shaman?" Closing his eyes Curlyhead tried to recall what happened. Then he began to list the events he was able to recall. "The women and the children left for the summer-camp. We young men and the adults were doing the sacred dance around the altar calling on the almighty Gods, Wuitan, Thunar, Freya and the others. We all together waited excitedly for the shaman to conjure up a small animal and offer it as a sacrifice to the mighty eagle, our totem animal, to grant us a safe journey to our summer residence and a safe return! The Eagle-clan people always do this!"
"The shaman? He didn't conjure up a small animal. He didn't want to sacrifice an animal! He wanted something more valuable! He selected you to be the sacrifice! He tried to slay you with his club! All the men of the clan applauded and then helped to transform you into a sacrifice for the man-eater, for the mighty Hraesvelgr!"
Buri was in shock. He turned grey and then shook his head in disbelief. Wide-eyed he yelled, "No! No!" That's not true! You are a liar! The clan loves me!"
Instead of arguing further Aegir took him by the hand and pulled him to the altar. "Look here my dear friend! Look the cords, they tied up your arms and legs. Look the feathers of the woodcock they decorated you with! And here! Look at that puddle, that's your blood!" Supporting the nearly fainting Curlyhead, Aegir swore, "Hraesvelgr however didn't want you! The mighty eagle is your guardian; he is guarding you and me. He, the big bird, helped me to set you free!"
Just at that instant the valley resounded by alarm calls. "The harriers, the harriers are warning!" Aegir pointed to the birds circling the sky. "Look Buri, the man-eater leaves his look-out. He is sailing the sky also!" A moment later the mighty eagle came darting down warning the two youngsters with his high-pitched cries.
"Danger! Aegir, danger is at hand! Wuitan save us!" Buri pushed Aegir nearly over to shield his new friend from the mighty bird's attack. But the eagle stopped overhead without attacking and with his wings spread wide he shooed the two towards the rock-face.
"Don't be afraid, Buri, he is our friend! He is warning us! Something dangerous is close!"
Out of the kitchen shelter they carefully studied the edge of the fortification surrounding the homestead as well as the treetops overlooking the fortification. Their attention surged when the valley felt suddenly silent. The small birds ceased singing, the wood pigeon stopped curring and even the crows stopped quarrelling. Suddenly a wolf snarled and the sound was answered by a stifled howling of another wolf.
"These aren't wolves, not at this time of the day!" Buri hissed, "These are scouts exchanging information! Strangers are spying out the homestead. Come on, quick!" and he pulled Aegir away. "Let's hide behind the shelter!"
The silence prevailed for only a short time. Then the birds continued with their songs. From behind the kitchen the two kept the edge of the wall and the surrounding forest carefully under review. After a while a wolf's head became visible looking over the edge of the logs barring the entrance to the homestead. However it was not a wolf's head. It was a man his head covered with the mask of a wolf. The masked stranger was obviously spying on the settlement. Painstakingly he searched the whole place for signs of occupation. Then he waved to someone at the foot of the fortification and a moment later a second head with a wolf's mask appeared.
Buri studied the wolf-heads for some time, "Strangers!" he whispered to Aegir, "they are not from around here! They are scouts of an unknown clan."
"Hush!" Aegir warned, because both scouts looked in direction of the kitchen shelter and informed each other with signs. Luckily a flock of doves flew up to the left and the scouts turned their attention to the rising birds.
There was hardly any room in the corner behind the kitchen shed the two were using as a hideout. Aegir was leaning on Buri pressing him against the wall of braided branches. Both were sweating out of tension and exhaustion. Breathing deeply Aegir began to inhale Buri's scent. Unintentionally he got excited by the strange scent and unwittingly he took the other in a tight embrace. When Buri didn't resist and turned his head with a big smile, Aegir got bolder. He looked deep into the eyes of the dark-skinned youngster and then pressed his forehead to the forehead of the other. He was tempted to kiss Buri, but didn't dare and just began to rub the others nose with the tip of his nose tip and Buri rubbed back.
Despite the dangerous situation Aegir was about to cry out for joy, when the cries of the harriers brought him back into reality. Scanning the fence he became aware that one of the scouts had left, while the other was trying to climb over the enclosure. But this wasn't a plan the mighty eagle liked. Diving down from high in the sky he attacked the intruder, who retreated hastily.
"Let's rush!" Buri pushed Aegir, "We should be gone before the whole clan arrives at the settlement." noticing Aegir's hesitation, he pointed to the left, "We can take the secret path over there, close to the rock-face." On all fours they arrived at the hidden passage just when the scout's head appeared at the barricaded entrance again.
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