Northborne: Chapter 2
I donâ€™t remember how long I sat there, under the gate to our burned village, but day and night blended together into a continuous stream of misery. Where would I go? Granted, I knew how to survive in the wild, and live off the land for months, even years, but the village had always been there for me to come back to. It was my safe place, where I could rest, and enjoy my fatherâ€™s company.
The thought brought fresh pangs of grief back into my gut. How I wished I could go back in time, to the day before I had left on my hunting trip. My father and I had fought that night, he had told me that I was too eager for the praise of men, especially the handsome ones, and that instead I should seek praise from myself. Of course I scoffed at the idea. What better glory was there than the praise of the tribe? I wondered if my father had regretted what he had said the next day. I had left early, before the sun rose, and had not spoken to him.
It was morning. A raven landed on the wall above me, and tilted its head to the side.
â€œWhat do you want.â€ I glumly inquired at the ground.
The bird did not answer, only flapped its wings slightly and tilted its head to the other side.
I looked up at the raven, and saw something glinting underneath its talons. The strange symbol my father had been holding! At that moment I remembered dropping it that night as I had run towards the village gate.
â€œWhere did you get that?â€ I asked as I stood up.
â€œOh, of course. The village square.â€ I shuddered to think of it, and was glad that I did not have to go back there.
The raven tilted its head and watched me. As I reached up to the take the symbol from its talons, it hopped away from my arm.
â€œCâ€™mon, stupid bird, that belongs to me after all!â€ I said, becoming annoyed.
Noâ€¦ it doesnâ€™t belong to me. It belongs to my father.
With a horrible feeling of guilt I suddenly realized that my fatherâ€™s body was still lying in the square. How could I have left him there? Hurriedly I rushed past the gate and to the square, slowing to a walk as I moved toward my fatherâ€™s body. It was still there, undisturbed, surrounded by burned corpses and ash. Silently, and with as much dignity as I could, I lifted his body and drew him outside of the village. With some effort I carried him up one of the hills overlooking our village, choosing to stop at the flattest patch of ground I could find. I surveyed the vista, and was satisfied to find that I had chosen the tallest hill in the area.
I could see for miles in every direction. To the north there were tall mountaintops covered in eternal snow, to the east a dark horizon of hills that spoke of the pine forests where great hunts took place, to the west rolling plains as far as the eye could see. Finally, to the south lay the blackened village where my tribe had lived, and where I had grown up.
The ground was frozen, and covered in snow in many places, but I labored throughout the day with my axe until I had dug a grave large enough for my fatherâ€™s body to rest in. Finally when the sun was beginning to set towards the west, I sat down with a sigh. I was sweating and my arms were in agony from the work, but I was content that the job was finished.
Or nearly finished.
Reluctantly I looked over at my father. His face was serene and content. I smiled grimly and got up.
â€œFather-,â€ My voice broke. â€œIâ€¦ Iâ€™m sorry.â€
Gently I lowered his body and covered the grave. It was now dusk, and the sun was setting below the horizon. I spent the rest of the evening gathering rocks from the hillside and building a cairn over my fatherâ€™s grave. It was nearly midnight by the time I finally collapsed, exhausted from all I had suffered.
The next morning I woke up to a day as bright and lovely as any that part of the world had known. I heard a scratching noise behind me and groggily got up the see the raven perched on the top of the cairn. It tilted its head and blinked at me, ruffling its wings.
â€œGood to see you too,â€ I smiled at the bird, genuinely happy to see it.
It flapped its wings and alighted next to me, staring up with deep black eyes.
The raven lifted its talon and revealed the strange symbol it had been carrying. It bowed its head slightly and nudged the symbol in my direction before flying off to the east. I touched the piece with care before reverently placing it next to my chest.
â€œThank you, friend.â€ I spoke softly as the bird disappeared in the distance.