Pure Fiction: “Dawning of the Gods” Chapter 1

Pure Fiction

Over the next few months, I am going to post some fictional writings that I have been working on over the years. Many of these, I began prior to becoming a Freemason, but interestingly there are elements within them that may seem Masonic in some sense. I have many of these unfinished projects that I am seeking to finish. Help me decide which one I should finish first.

I will post a portion of the beginning of my works and I hope you will leave COMMENTS as to whether you would like to read more. The work that has the most COMMENTS will be the work I will finish first. Also, I will randomly draw the names of FIVE of the commenters to receive prizes, like signed copies of the novel when it is finished.

The current posting is an early draft from the first chapter of a novel I am writing called Dawning of the Gods, which follows a proto-Nordic prince at the end of the last Ice Age who seeks to claim a kingdom of his own. Although it is a work of pure fiction, one may recognize some obvious influences. I began writing this in July 2012 and for some reason neglected to continue it. Leave COMMENTS, if you think I should keep working on it.

Remember this is an early draft, so if editing is needed, please email me at freshfromthequarry@gmail.com, so that I may make the necessary changes. Thank you!

Chapter 1: Northlands

Glints of light spring forth across the vastness of the blackened sky, but none so bright as she who shines this night just before the sunrise. She greeted Ulgarath upon his birth, blessing the third son of Rig Hulmsvaal, king of the Northlands, some twenty-four years prior. He had only seen her shine this bright a few times in his life, usually in the evening. Tonight, he strained to stay awake to watch her rise in the morning minutes before the dawning of her god-husband; an event which occurred only every eight years. This was his test. As the son of a god-king, divine blood flowed throughout his muscular body. From his strong and sleek fingers and toes to the ruddy pelt on his head and face, he was the true reflection of his giant father.

Although fatigued from the long night spent waiting for her guiding light, Ulgarath’s alertness did not wane. He steadied his gaze on the mother goddess as she entered the night sky. Her light sparked life into the area surrounding him. All manners of creature, big and small, scurried about. From behind her, morning rays illumined her path, crowning her in a cosmic coronation. Suddenly, in front of Ulgarath appeared a shadow wielding a giant axe. Ulgarath dropped to his knees.

. . .

Rig Hulmsvaal had been king of the Northlands for twice Ulgarath’s life and the end of his reign loomed. As a king, he was a god. Not an immortal god, but the human child of the divine god-parents above. The goddess, Laiula Lamanata, illuminated the sky, adorning her god-husband, Rigvaal Amsrath, with his magical horns. Rig Hulmsvaal’s father was the bright, shining bull and keeper of the day. His mother was the celestial bride and watcher of the world. In her capacity as world-watcher, she conquered darkness through the birth of her son, Vaalgrim, the oft-hidden.

Rig Hulmsvaal’s half-brother was born mischievous. Vaalgrim tried to steal the light of Rigvaal Amsrath to court his mother in the god’s absence. Successful for only a short time, Rigvaal Amsrath returned with a vengeance, killing Vaalgrim. However, Laiula Lamanata had given Vaalgrim immortality upon his birth, so he did not remain dead for long. Rather than a permanent death, Vaalgrim’s punishment had been a continuous death. Sometimes he would be a bright beacon in the night; at other times, he would hide from the world altogether. Humans feared his waning as a return to the endless darkness, but those fears were allayed when he was reborn once more.

Because Rigvaal Amsrath could not fully punish Vaalgrim, he punished Laiula Lamanata in his stead. Because his wife created a child without his seed, he decided to create a child without her womb. He commanded the men to present him a sacrifice during the time of the seeding and birthing. So, it came to pass that each man drew lots to determine who would give up his eldest virgin daughter to the god.

A holy young virgin named Myengar was chosen, impregnated, and gave birth to her miraculous child on Bride’s Day, Laiula Lamanata’s day; the day she shines brightest in the sky, rising just before her husband. So, he punished her on her special day by forcing her to witness the birth of HIS child, the first-born god-king, Rig Amsvaal.

The light of the god shown upon the child, entering him, and crowning him the earthly vessel of Rigvaal Amsrath. However, unbeknownst to him, the goddess had already shown her light upon Myengar at her birth, entering the child, and making her the earthly vessel of Laiula Lamanata. In her cunning, she had become the mother of Rig Amsvaal. Truly, the descendants of the first Rig were gods among men.

. . .

Rig Hulmsvaal’s days were numbered. Although he was a giant among his people, taller even than each of his sons and just as massive in structure, his pelt gleamed whiter everyday as if a marker for each faded memory. He was the second son of Rig Yooeren, born under the evening star, and never expected to be king of the Northlands. No, the heir to his father’s kingdom belonged to his elder brother, Vaasyal. But, Vaasyal born weak under the second morning star when the goddess shines yet only dimly, died suddenly before ever reaching two horns. Hulmsvaal, only a year younger, but already much larger than his older brother, lamented in secret relief when the snow fell hard the winter of his sixth year, taking Vaasyal to his cold death. Now, none stood in his way to coronation as the first Rig born under the evening star.

However, Rig Yooeren’s second wife, Yalma, gave birth to Mahtaalk under the morning star when Laiula Lamanata shines brightest, on her wedding day. On this day, the goddess shines before the god as he crowns her in all his glory. A Rig born on such a day would be a great ruler. Knowing this, Yalma conspired with Rig Yooeren’s sister, Mahtalaya, to kill the now twelve-year-old heir, so her son would become Rig. As the king’s server, Mahtalaya prepared and served the meat for her brother and his family, placing her in perfect position to poison Hulmsvaal.

However, on the proposed day of the poisoning, Hulmsvaal hunted in the forests with his father and two of the chief hunters. Before a young Northlander reached three horns, he was expected to kill his first beast, yet Hulmsvaal had not yet made his ritual kill, and his year-end fast approached. Earlier that day, his father told him, “As heir to the Rig, you should be first to find prey upon the third horn… not the last.”

Driven by a desire to no longer disappoint his father, Hulmsvaal sought the Fredja, a fearsome beast, much taller than a man and heavier than five, with sharp claws and teeth, and a thirst for human blood. No thirdhorn, let alone a grown man, had ever brought down such a mighty monster.

By day’s end, Hulmsvaal had found no trace of the Fredja. His father sounded the horn for his return, but Hulmsvaal searched onward. Proud that his son chose to hunt rather than return home to eat, Rig Yooeren and the senior of the chief hunters began their homeward trek. The king ordered the junior chief hunter to wait for his son’s return. He did not have to wait long.

Within an hour of the darkness, a horn blew from a distance. The chief resting against a tree stood quickly, drawing his axe into a broad stance. Keeping his body square to the ground, he could easily move and strike in any direction.

A horn blew once more, as the forest echoed with thrashing from the trees. The ground pounded. The trees shook. Something big headed toward the hunter.

Moments earlier, Hulmsvaal crept into a craggy cliff-side cave just outside of the forest wall near the foothills of the mountain range. The cave was dank, smelling of putrescence and death. Each step he made into the cave sunk his leather-bound feet deeper into the muddy earth. He hoped it was mud and not the blood and bits of eaten carcasses that he imagined were strewn about below him. He wanted to vomit, but steadied himself. He knew this cave belonged to the Fredja. He could faintly hear the heavy, labored breathing of the sleeping giant coming from somewhere deep inside.

The darkness of the cavern overpowered Hulmsvaal. He could neither see where he was going nor from whence he came. He deliberated momentarily, ultimately deciding to turn back. “How can I attack what I cannot see?”

Hulmsvaal’s exit of the cave, however, was not so easily acquired. Somewhere midway he had miss-stepped where the cave forked toward an entrance or a subsequent cavern. Tree branches snapped under his feet. He had followed the wrong path. Terror shuddered over him as he realized that there were no trees inside the cave. He stepped lightly, recognizing the sounds of the snapping branches as animal bones. He had found the Fredja’s boneyard. Hulmsvaal turned back toward the tunnel entrance, keeping his hand against the right side of the wall. When it seemingly made its fork toward the entrance, he followed it.

“The entrance must be near,” Hulmsvaal thought, blindly following his hand. He ran forward along the path, realizing too late that he had not been listening to his surroundings. His running echoed in the cave, crushing bone below his feet. What he thought was the sound of the wind at the entrance of the cave, was just as likely the Fredja, woken abruptly from its sleep. Hulmsvaal could not stop running now or he might face the beast in the darkness.

He ran to the fork, finding it with his fingers, and finally made his way toward the entrance. From behind, he could hear the sounds of the monster moving toward him. Hulmsvaal ran faster. A tiny sliver of light from the cave’s entrance shone a short distance before him. But, as quickly as the entrance came, so did the pounding of the cave behind him, closer and closer. Hulmsvaal pulled his horn from its leather strap across his chest and blew it as loud as possible, echoing the cave interior. He hoped his father or one of the chiefs were near and could help him.

Clinging to the side of the craggy cliff, Hulmsvaal found no grip to climb. He could hear the beast inside the cave entrance, snarling and sniffing. At this moment, Hulmsvaal did not fear death or the Fredja. He decided he wanted to look death in the face and be worthy of his princely title. Hulmsvaal could hear the Fredja moving slowly around the cave entrance, likely inspecting for a hunting party ambush. He crept closer to the cave’s entrance, closed his eyes for a few seconds, and then he turned into the darkness and opened them.

Less than the length of two grown men away from him, lumbered the snarling beast. He could see its shadowy mass hidden in the cave darkness. It sniffed suddenly toward the entrance; Hulmsvaal pulled his head away quickly. He had no high ground to attack from, so he ran. He ran toward the forest, hoping to make it to a tree to climb before the beast could reach him. He also hoped his father had heard that first bellow and was fast-approaching. He ran and blasted his horn once more, hoping his was correct. The Fredja leaptfrom the cave in frantic pursuit.

As Hulmsvaal ran the length of the forest, staying as close as he could to the trees, tight between their rough trunks, he recalled all the things he regretted from his childhood. He remembered the day his brother died. He regretted never telling his father what he saw. It haunted him to this day, knowing that he could have done something to save his brother’s life, but he kept silent. Even at his young age, he knew his brother stood in his way of one day being king. But at six-years-old, Hulmsvaal did not understand why being king was so important. He made the wrong choice that day. If saved from his current situation, he would right that wrong. Somehow.

The chief stood still, poised for an attack. He focused steadily ahead of him. The forest pounded, echoing the ensuing pulverization, and just ahead smaller, quicker steps. Hulmsvaal flew out of the darkness, horn in his right hand, axe in his left. Eyeing the chief, he quickly spun around, dropping the horn and raising his axe midway, readying himself in a prone position to attack. The chief looked surprised at the young prince’s agility.

Suddenly, the beast entered Vaalgrim’s light at the forest opening, halting its frightening pace. The Fredja was as fierce looking in the light as it sounded in the dark. Its eyes glowing silver, teeth flaring with each snarl, blackened fur matted with the blood of its last dinner, and claws reaching out from its massive arms. The chief blasted his horn, causing the Fredja to forsake Hulmsvaal momentarily and lumber toward the horn. Hulmsvaal stood still, watching the beast slowly circle the hunter.

The chief blasted his horn once more. The Fredja rose up and roared at him, taking one step backward, and drawing its claws ready to strike. The hunter raised his axe high and ready.

Realizing that the chief would not retreat, the Fredja roared once more, stopping abruptly. Its face contorting in confused pain, the great beast swung one monstrous arm backward, claws raised in retaliation. Hitting nothing. The hunter watched in confusion, approaching cautiously, ready to attack when the Fredja turned its back.

The monster stumbled, finally turning away. The hunter launched forward to strike, but stopped suddenly, skidding upon the cold, wet earth below him. His eyes widened with the realization that Hulmsvaal’s axe protruded from the back of the beast.

The Fredja swung wildly around with its other arm, trying to remove the axe buried into its back. Hulmsvaal had rolled away from the Fredja’s path and yelled to the chief, “Don’t attack him! He is mine!”

Surprised by the audacity of the young boy, the hunter dropped his axe and stepped away. Hulmsvaal ran to the chief, picked up his axe, and ran toward the Fredja ready to strike. The axe sunk deeply into the Fredja’s right arm, revealing bone. The fearsome foeroared in pain, then swung his left arm at Hulmsvaal, catching his shoulder with a single claw. Hulmsvaal screamed in agony, as blood drained from the tear in his flesh.

The angered and injured Fredja hunched forward and lunged toward Hulmsvaal, but the chief already rushed to Hulmsvaal’s aid, pulling him away from the attack just in time. The hunter rolled over, grabbed a spike from a leather pouch at his side, and thrusted it into the back of the monstrous paw. The Fredja crawled back, writhing in pain.

Instantly, Hulmsvaal recovered from the shock of the attack. He lunged toward the Fredja, pulling the axe from its arm. The chief blew his horn distracting the beast just long enough for Hulmsvaal to bring the axe down upon the beast’s massive head. The skull cracked open, blood spraying from the wound, covering one eye, and dripping from the beast’s jowls. A final painful snarl left the Fredja’s snout with one last foggy breath.

Upon his arrival home, Rig Yooeren summoned his sister, Mahtalaya. He informed the server that she could give the meal she had made to the people in the village, “Tonight we dine on Hulmsvaal’s trophy or not at all!” But, Mahtalaya had already prepared the meal, infusing her poisoned berry sauce into a special cut of meat for the prince. She pleaded with her brother to keep the meal just in case Hulmsvaal was unsuccessful. “You doubt the abilities of the future Rig?”

Rig Yooeren did not expect an answer. Dutifully, his sister removed herself from his presence and prepared the meal to be moved to the village. Rig Yooeren remained in the dining chamber, awaiting his son’s arrival.

The junior chief hunter helped Hulmsvaal chop down branches to create a sled to drag the beast home. He wove a leather strap over and under each branch several times around, and then tied it off in the middle. They placed the sled next to the Fredja and pushed until the beast was squarely on the sled. From a length of leather strapped at the front of the sled, the man and boy gripped and pulled.

Three hours passed as Rig Yooeren waited for his son. Finally, fearing that he may not return, he left the dinner chamber. He walked into the village and looked for any sign of his son and junior chief. As he looked around, he heard a woman scream. He followed the scream to one of the homes near the village center. Inside the home, he found a woman hunched over a young child’s body. Rig Yooeren approached slowly, put his hand on the woman’s shoulder, and asked her what was wrong. The woman looked up startled and panic-stricken. “He’s dead! My son is dead!”

“How is he dead?” Rig Yooeren queried.

“He was in good health. He was fine, until he ate the meat from your house tonight.” She did not mean to accuse the king and quickly dropped to her knees, prostrating herself before him, “I’m sorry, Rig Yooeren…. I did not mean…”

He nodded and dropped to his knee beside her, placing his hand on her shoulder. “I will help you find the reason for your loss. You will have vengeance if it is right.”

She thanked the king through forced-back tears, and she continued thanking him as he left her home.

Finally, Hulmsvaal and the chief hunter returned to the village. Rig Yooeren’s face flushed with joy, seeing his son and the hunter pulling a kill-sled. “What have you slain my son?”

“The Fredja is my trophy tonight!”

“Tell me son how you caught such a fearsome beast?”

Hulmsvaal recalled the luring of the Fredja, by way of getting lost in the cave and then deciding to face death in the face. He told his father how he ran through the forest. How he recalled all his regrets. Rig Yooeren laughed. Hulmsvaal solemnly spoke, “There is one regret I wish I could take back.”

“And what is that?” Rig Yooeren smiled widely.

“I wish I told you why Vaasyal was so weak. Why he died so young.” Hulmsvaal dropped his head, as tears filled his eyes. His father lifted his head up, looking him in the eyes as if to say go on.

“Mahtalaya gave him the red berries that grow near the river. The small ones.” Rig Yooeren realized what that meant. The red berries were poisonous. His face wore that realization, so Hulmsvaal continued. “She gave them to me too, but I never ate them. I never stopped Vaasyal from eating them either. I knew they would kill him, but I did nothing to stop him from dying.” Rig Yooeren held his son, comforting him.

The next day, Mahtalaya was taken to the center of the town and made to confess as to why she poisoned the princes, and accidentally killed the boy in the village. She told Rig Yoeren of Yalma’s plan. Yalma knowing her life was in danger had already fled the village, taking Mahtaalk with her. They were never recovered.

Ulgarath knew his father’s story well. It was legend among the people of the Northlands. His mother would recite it to him when he was a child. Something about the story, however, always concerned him. Why did Mahtalaya poison Vaasyal in the first place? When Vaasyal died, Mahtaalk was not born yet. The conspiracy between Yalma and Mahtalaya was nonexistent. Further, whatever happened to Mahtalaya after the confession? And, what of Mahtaalk, was he a conspirator or a victim? Where did he and his mother flee?

He expressed his concerns to his father once, but Rig Hulmsvaal answered in veiled secrecy, “The truth is in the layers.” He continued, “That is not what the story is about, my son. It is how the Rig can be born under the evening star.”

Ulgarath had never been satisfied by that answer. Unlike the other legends he had heard as a child, his father’s was not forthright. There seemed to be something missing. Often Ulgarath pondered his father’s story, trying to figure out what the missing piece was. As he sat in the darkness of the long morning, he again wondered how a younger brother, like Mahtaalk, could conspire to kill an older brother, like his father, to take the throne. He recalled his own situation, knowing how his eldest brother, Vromstaal, was much stronger than himself.

Vromstaal was born to be Rig, welcoming Laiula Lamanata’s light as he broke free from his mother’s womb, crying out in the darkness of the early morning. Ulgarath arrived eight years later in nearly the same way. Because of this, Vromstaal felt a special bond with his youngest brother. Vromstaal was a mighty oak of a man, thick and tall like his father, with a flaxen pelt upon his head and face. Upon the death of Rig Hulmsvaal, Vromstaal would become Rig and ruler. Because Ulgarath was two horns younger than his eldest brother, he had not been a threat to the throne. Kalasath, on the other hand, was only one horn younger than Vromstaal and had already left the Northlands, westward to find his own way.

Born under the third morning star, when Laiula Lamanata had regained some of her glory following the ritual birth, loss, and rebirth of her son, Kalasath was born. He never grew as tall as his brothers or as thick, but he was quick with an axe. He was the first of his brothers to make the ritual kill as a thirdhorn. His prowess was legend, revealed by his hair, which was always matted and dark from the hunt. When Rig Mooulgaar of the Southern Sealand broke the border of the Northlands with twenty hunters, Kalasath led a hunting party against the advancing marauders. He alone left a quarter of the men slain and Rig Mooulgaar wounded. The surviving invaders retreated south. A few years later an envoy of Rig Mooulgaar arrived in the village with ten fishing reed-bindings. The envoy returned with seven axe blades. Apology accepted.

At six horns, Kalasath was a contender to Vromstaal, a threat to his throne. Tempers between the two brothers flared, as they challenged one another daily. Hand-to-hand, Vromstaal would win, but axe-to-axe, Kalasath was superior. Rig Hulmsvaal knowing full well the torment a brother’s death could bring, advised his younger son to take ten of his best hunters and make for himself a new kingdom. Kalasath asked, “Where should I go?”

“To the west, the ice breaks as Rigvaal Amsrath grows stronger every day, regaining the light Vaalgrim stole. The frost bridge will not last long. Take your men through our ally, Rig Ingvaal’s Western Woods. Bring him a dozen axes, so he will allow you passage.” Rig Hulmsvaal placed his hand tenderly on his son’s shoulder. A good head shorter than his father, Kalasath stretched his neck to look into his father’s eyes. “We do not know much of what lies beyond the frost bridge. There is land, and there are people. Be cautious and tread lightly, my son.”

At days light, Kalasath and his men began their long trek toward the west. Passage was made easy through the land of Rig Ingvaal. Kalasath had dined with the Rig who informed him that the great frost bridge was weakening. “Do you travel beyond the frost bridge?” Kalasath asked his host.

“We have men who track the large grazing animals across the bridge. It splinters and breaks far more now than it ever has. If you make it across, you may not be able to return in the time that it takes to establish yourself a new kingdom,” warned Rig Ingvaal. “But I have heard that the people there are less than savage, but lawless and leaderless. They huddle by stones and look toward the sky, and not just for reverence to the gods.”

With his new knowledge of the Westlands beyond the Western Woods, Kalasath and his men set their path. They followed Rigvaal Amsrath each day, and slept under Vaalgrim’s light, hunting as necessary. As Vaalgrim came, Vaalgrim went, only to return once more, as they found themselves upon the great bridge of ice. Kalasath had found his way to the Westlands. That was four years ago.

This early morning, in the cover of the forest and the snow, gazing at the goddess above, Ulgarath knew it was now HIS time to find his own way.

Earlier, in the evening, Rig Hulmsvaal held a grand feast for the glorification of the goddess. Beasts of monstrous size were butchered in preparation for the meal. The meats of horned animals and clawed beasts rarely shared the same table, but tonight was a two-fold celebration. All the people of the wide-ranging Northlands came to the forest village of Amsrattaan to dine together, celebrating the goddess bride and the births of the king’s eldest and youngest sons.

The long headtable seated eight, including Rig Hulmsvaal at the head, Vromstaal to his right, and Ulgarath to his left. Three senior hunting chiefs sat across from the royals, and a chief hunter sat at either end. Behind the men, a lavishly adorned table was occupied by four women, Hyencea, Rig Hulmsvaal’s first wife and mother of Vromstaal and Ulgarath, Lasvrata, his second wife and mother of Kalasath, Kreitel, Vromstaal’s wife, and Greitzk, Hulmsvaal’s only daughter. Greitzk was daughter of Lasvrata and nearly a fourth-horn. She was promised to Tomsgraat, son of Rig Ingvaal and heir to the Western Woods in return for Kreitel, his older sister. In a horn, Tomsgraat would be of age to marry, Greitzk was nearly four years his elder.

Over one hundred people dined in the open air dining chamber erected for such events. They ate from the charred beasts, collected fruits, and foliage, and drank from a concoction of water, mushrooms, and honey. Ulgarath watched unimpressed as the drunken masses ate their grand meal. “Most of them would eat far less if having to provide for their own consumption,” he thought.

Many of the guests tonight traveled very far to join the eight-year celebration. The Northlands border ran from the western shoreline to the northern mountain pass to the eastern lakes and the southern forest ridge. Beyond the western shoreline, an ice bridge crossed to the Western Woods of Rig Ingvaal; beyond the northern mountain pass, nothing survived but the ice; beyond the eastern lakes were the savage races; and beyond the southern forest ridge was the Southern Sealand of Rig Mooulgaar. In addition to the many Northlanders, two Westerners were in attendance, along with an envoy from the Southern Sea.

The foreigners sat at a special table to the east of the women known by the Northlanders as “the Savageland.” Sitting at either end of the table were the two Westerners, hunters provided as personal bodyguards for Rig Ingvaal’s eldest daughter. The larger, elder bodyguard, Hulgriim bore the mark of the Western Woods upon his face (a branding of two left-facing, downward slashes from forehead to cheekbone with one across the left eye). He had seen battle in his day, facing the savages crossing the northern ice mountains to find purchase in the Western Woods, as well as Rig Mooulgaar’s marauders a time or two. Hulgriim’s underling was Gruunk, a fourth-horn who had yet to earn the right to wear the mark. Although Gruunk looked to possess the mass and skill of a warrior, he had not yet fought against men. Regardless, Gruunk carried himself as a formidable opponent ready to accept any challenge sent his way.

Between the bodyguards sat a fisher and his son who lived along the eastern lakes. The two men were regarded highly as the summoners of savage attacks. Living so closely to the Savageland, they were ideally placed to blow the alarm horn. Northlanders generally lived within a horn’s blow from one another. The horns were cut from the great horned mountain beast along the northern border. Three holes were carved into the side along the finger line, so that they were capable of making multiple sounds, depending on the amount of breath drawn and the number of holes covered or uncovered. All Northlanders were taught the sounds of the horn, so that they could identify an alarm horn from a location blast. If a Northlander heard the alarm horn, they would sound it from their horn, passing it along from one blower to another. In this way, attacks or other dangers were made known to the people. They could be prepared.

On the opposite side of the table sat Rig Mooulgaar’s envoy, Anklaatyr. Hulgriim eyed him cautiously. Dressed in clean leathers, smeared with bright colors, and adorned with a necklace of shells, Anklaatyr looked a spectacle. He did not waiver from Hulgriim’s piercing gaze. He ate his food without hesitation and laughed at the dancing crowd. Gruunk also laughed at the people, drunkenly stumbling and stammering in an arrhythmic lurch. He turned to Anklaatyr, catching his gaze and smiling awkwardly, and then turning further to see Hulgriim grimacing at him. Uncertain, Gruunk continued turning around making a full circle upon his chair, again facing the crowd.

Anklaatyr stood suddenly, catching Hulgriim off-guard. Hulgriim pushed back in his seat, pulling a spike from a leather pouch at his side. Anklaatyr advanced toward Gruunk, who was captivated and unaware. He laughed once more, as Anklaatyr reached toward him. Hulgriim stumbled to stand up. The fishers watched Hulgriim’s calamity with humor. Anklaatyr’s hand reached out to Gruunk’s shoulder, as he stepped forward to the crowd, keeping his eyes on Gruunk, and motioning for Gruunk to follow him. Then, he began to convulse with the crowd. Gruunk stood without thinking, ready to join, then realized that his excitement had given him away. He looked back at Hulgriim. Hulgriim had already regained his seat, realizing that Anklaatyr was not a threat; he was an inter-being. He dismissed his young underling to enjoy the dance.

As the people danced, they raised their hands to the sky and then back to the ground, praising Laiula Lamanata. A crowd of women surrounded a large tree near the front of the dance area. The women decorated the enormous tree trunk with a thin leather strap wrapped around it, which crossed at the top and returned downward in the opposite direction. The strap was fastened to itself tightly, creating the bride’s dress. Upon the dress, the women began to hang various decorative ornaments. In the morning, Laiula Lamanata would shine her light upon the tree and bless the people of the Northlands for their reverence to her.

At the center of the crowd, now stood Vromstaal. Moments earlier, he had left his seat at the head table and walked back to the women’s table. He smiled at his mother and sister, and then reached his hand out, palm upward toward his wife. Kreitel took his hand and he led her to the center of the crowd. The people shook around her, chanting and praising the goddess. Vromstaal raised his wife’s hand into the air, clasped in the grip of his own. “Tonight, we celebrate the bride’s day!” He shouted. “This is my bride! She is the vessel of Laiula Lamanata on earth!”

The people cheered seeing Kreitel’s very pregnant body. The women who had just finished adorning the tree, rushed over to help Kreitel. Kreitel was struggling to walk, suffering excruciating birth pangs.

Upon seeing his lady rise to the center of the crowd, Hulgriim took his place outside the birthing chamber. He lost sight of Gruunk, who was previously seen gyrating upon Anklaatyr in rhythmic timing to the celestial dance. Although Gruunk should be standing with him, he knew that within Amsrattaan, no harm would come to his lady or the new prince. His confidence exuded forth, as his chest expanded toward the sky, head raised high, eyes focused on the bridal tree. The women pushed him aside as they ushered his lady to her birthing room. It was time.

Rig Hulmsvaal leaned over to his youngest son. “Tonight your nephew seals the fate of Amsrattaan. He is born in the light of the morning goddess, just like you. Just like your brother. He will be a great Rig.”

“And what of me? I was born under her light, should I be a great Rig?” Ulgarath despaired. “I would not dare threaten my brother for such a claim. So, what becomes of me?”

Seeing his son in such a low mood, Rig Hulmsvaal placed a caring arm around him and spoke in his gentle, fatherly voice, “You are great, my son, and forever you shall be. Your brother Kalasath was a great hunter; your brother Vromstaal, a great leader; and you are a great thinker! When the goddess rises, you will be a sixth-horn. It is your time to challenge your brother or make your own way.”

Rig Hulmsvaal cautioned, “Challenging your brother is complicated, now with the birth of the new heir. I recommend as I did so with Kalasath, killing one’s brother is not a task to be taken easy and not one so easily lived with. Go into the world and find your kingdom. Take it. Make it your own. Then, you will be an ally to your brother as a Rig unto your own.”

He paused momentarily seeking a response, but none came. He turned to face his son directly, placing both hands on his shoulders and looking him square in the eyes. “I will give you the best of our hunters, if you can find your place, my son. They will help you to conquer and control it.”

“Where should I go?” Ulgarath’s uncertainty consumed him. “How many men can I take?”

“Your brother went west beyond the frost bridge before it became nearly uncrossable. Since then, he has sent men back along the great sea in floating vessels of wood that come from his new land. They have shown to be excellent for catching fish in deeper waters, using the reed-bindings we trade for through Rig Mooulgaar.” The king turned toward the Savageland and pointed at the father and son remaining at the table. “The fishers along the lakes have some of these vessels in their village outpost, Finistraag. As my son, you may have access to them. However, I warn you, one can carry only two to three men, depending on how many days’ rations you carry.”

“So, I must leave with the fishers? I can take one or two men? How can I conquer my own kingdom by a sea-faring vessel that I know not even how to use?” Ulgarath’s despondence showed.

“You will learn, son. You have time.” Rig Hulmsvaal then promised, “If you find such a place, return or send your man back, and I will have an army waiting for you.”

Ulgarath stood up quickly. His father followed. Ulgarath embraced his father, feeling it would be the last time such an embrace would occur. “I will send for an army. I will be the greatest Rig. You will see.”

“I hope so, my son.” Rig Hulmsvaal smiled.

The crowd had withered away, following the women to the birthing chamber. They hoped to hear the first cries of the new prince. Hulgriim grimaced, wondering when Gruunk would join to help him maintain the masses. Not far from the bridal tree, Gruunk was lying on a sheet of leather staring at the stars above. Covered in sweat from the convulsive dancing, he breathed heavily, trying to force a smile from his face. Anklaatyr stood near him, gazing upon him.

A young lady laughed in an ecstatic whimper, as Ulgarath circled an empty and dark section of the dining chamber. He stopped and called out, “Inskagaar?!?”

The noises from just beyond the dining chamber ceased. The darkness echoed the silence. Ulgarath heard a faint whisper. He stepped forward into the darkness and shouted once more, “Inskagaar! I know it’s you. Anyone else would not have hesitated to jump out when the prince called upon them!”

A young woman, no more than a fifth-horn jumped out from the darkness. Her long blond hair flowing free from the leather entanglements that kept her hair imprisoned close to her head. Her leathers were disheveled, allowing one small pert breast to fall free. A perfect pink nipple prominently erect against the white flesh bounced coyly, as she giggled, running past the young prince. Moments later, Inskagaar appeared from the shadows, readjusting his leathers and fur. “Oh, so you found me then.”

“I’ll always find you, Inskagaar. You are predictable.” Ulgarath approached his friend, put his arm around his shoulder, and led him to the empty center of the dining hall. “I need your help, brother.”

     In their childhood, Inskagaar and Ulgarath were inseparable. Inskagaar’s father was Rig Hulmsvaal’s chief hunter. When the boys were only one horn, a band of savages crossed the borders of the northern ice mountains attacking southward against the Northlands. Rig Hulmsvaal led twenty men, including Inskagaar’s father, against the invaders. Only five men returned from the narrow victory. Inskagaar’s father was not among them. On that day, Rig Hulmsvaal adopted Inskagaar and took his mother as his third wife. The boys were raised as brothers.

Now five horns later, Inskagaar was a near perfect reflection of his father. Built like a massive rock and slightly taller than Ulgarath, many young women in the village adored him. His golden hair was brighter than Vromstaal’s, but his face grew less hair, making him appear to be a much younger version of the would-be Rig. Many women believed him to be Vromstaal’s true brother over the ginger-haired Ulgarath. Sometimes Inskagaar would let them believe that divine blood flowed within his veins. At least he would not deny it, as guilt by omission truly bore nothing upon his conscience. Like his father, Inskagaar was a formidable hunter. As a thirdhorn, he was the first to make his ritual kill, and his trophy was a milkbeast no less. Milkbeasts are agile, clawed beasts that prey upon the horned milk-givers. They are fast and very hard to hunt, as they would likely be hunter more than hunted.

Ulgarath always wished his ritual kill had been something so great. He lived in the shadow of his father the Fredja-slayer, his older brother who made his kill as a thirdhorn before either him or Vromstaal, and now his childhood friend.

     The light seared his eyes, funneled in as it were through the crevice before him. Captured momentarily, the goddess shined in all her glory upon Ulgarath. She was the bride this morning. Eight years ago, Vromstaal stood in Ulgarath’s place, and Kalasath, only one horn earlier, did not have to wait for dawn before being blessed by the goddess. This was the test Ulgarath had been waiting for. From divine blood to divinity, he was now to become a god.

Blinded by the light, Ulgarath did not see his father rise before him, wielding the axe. He only dropped to his knees when he heard the crackling of branches echoing in front of him. The shadows had overwhelmed his vision, sharpening his other senses. Rig Vromstaal stood in front of his blinded son, “You have been blessed by Laiula Lamanata. If it pleases her, your body will become the vessel for her god-husband, Rigvaal Amsrath.” Rig Vromstaal placed his hand on Ulgarath’s shoulder, indicating for him to rise. He led Ulgarath to a chamber as dark as Vaalgrim’s death day.

Ulgarath’s eyes acclimated to the new room, as glimmers of light shone through another crevice. “The god rises. If the goddess has blessed you, then he will enter you now. If you are worthy, you will survive. Close your eyes, my son.”

Rig Vromstaal leaned toward his son and whispered into his ear the secret of becoming a god. After making the revelation known, he lumbered out of the dark hollow just before the sharp rays illuminated the chamber’s floor. Ulgarath looked upon the rays a few feet before him, approaching him quickly. As they reached his feet, he could feel their heat. They grew tall upon his body, growing from his feet toward his head. He reached his right arm toward the light, palm raised. Feeling the heat on his fingertips, he sensed the god entering his body. As the light reached his face, he closed his eyes tightly, and whispered his father’s incantation. The light suddenly dimmed. Ulgarath survived.

Please leave COMMENTS as to whether you enjoyed or disliked the story so far. What did you like or dislike? Would you want to read more?

Thank you for reading!

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Jared K. Chapman

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