Illuminations VIII - Thórsholr, Scandinavia, 742 AD
Thorolff and his two sons, Xamn and Modeos, sat crouched behind a large rock overlooking a river embankment. Xamn held the grip of a bow with his left hand. The thumb and forefinger of his right hand held the nock of an arrow, the shaft resting on the top of his left thumb. For the moment, he had it pointed at the ground in front of them as they eyed a deer that had stopped for some water at a nearby creek.
“Hurry up,” Modeos whispered, “or you’re going to let this one go just like the last one.”
“Be quiet,” Thorolff said, sternly but quietly, looking at Modeos, “or this one will be your fault.”
Xamn brought the bow up and aimed the arrow at the deer’s chest. “Don’t forget to breathe,” his father reminded him.
Xamn took a deep breath and pulled the bow string back. His forearm shook with the strain. He let go of the bow string and at the same time, something crashed through the trees behind them. The arrow sailed straight and true, landing somewhere in the water several feet beyond where the deer was.
At their feet was a man, his clothes torn to shreds, facedown in the dirt. Thorolff grabbed the man’s shoulder and turned him over. A cloud of dust burst from the stranger’s mouth with the expulsion of air. “Help me!” the man exclaimed, his eyes wide with panic and terror. “Don’t let them find me!”
“Who’s looking for you?” Thorolff asked.
“Thieves. They took my horse… cart… my wares… money.”
“Come. We’ll take you back to our village. You’ll be protected there. Modeos… give him your cloak.” As Modeos took the wolf furs off his shoulders and draped it across the stranger’s, Thorolff began removing the leather around his foot coverings.”
“Father, what are you doing?” Xamn asked.
“I’m giving this man something to put on his feet. He’ll likely get frostbite if I don’t.”
“You’re very kind, Sir, but I can’t ask you to--”
“I insist. Our village is not far away. But your feet are already cold and wet. Mine are warm.” Thorolff handed his boots to the man.
“My name is Myrddin,” he said as he slid the shoes on his feet.
“I am Thorolff Sigurdson. These are my sons, Modeos and Xamn.”
“Well met, Sigurd’s son and sons of Thorolff.”
“Where do you hale from, Myrddin?” Thorolff asked.
“What is the name of your village?” the stranger asked.
“Then, I hale from Thórsholr.”
“No,” Thorolff chuckled, shaking his head. “Where do you come from? Where is your home? Where were you raised?”
“Nowhere, really. So, the place I’m going to might as well be where I’m from.”
“These thieves… did they hit you on the head?” Modeos inquired.
“You think me demented. I understand. I’ve wondered the same thing myself. The truth is, I have no home. Now, I am indebted to you for saving my life. If it takes my entire lifetime, I will repay it. So, I now make Thórsholr my home.”
“You are not indebted to us. You don’t owe us anything.”
“Please… I would be dishonored if you didn’t let me repay you somehow. It is because of me that you bring back nothing from the hunt.”
“Xamn probably would have missed anyway,” Modeos quipped.
“Quiet, Modeos!” shouted Xamn. “That deer was as good as dead and you know it.”
“If it’s alright with your father, I will take you hunting tomorrow and we will bring back the biggest stag you have ever seen.”
“Is it alright, Father?”
“We’ll see in the morning,” Thorolff consoled him. “Why don’t you run home and ask Níðbjǫrg if she has some meat for a stew. Tell her we have a guest. Modeos, gather some more wood for the hearth and grab a jug of mead”
“Nid-borg… Is that your wife?” Myrddin asked as he pulled a boot onto his foot.
“No. She is a neighbor who helps out once in awhile. My wife died last year.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Myrddin stopped putting the boot on and put his hand on Thorolff’s shoulder. “It must be tough raising the boys on your own.”
“It can be at times but they are capable young men. They give me strength. They are… my strength. Finish getting those boots on and let’s get you inside by the fire.”