The Fires At Midnight
The old man sat by his fire, wrapped up in his bear skin. So far, he had seen eighty-six winters but the current one was by far the worst. Scars from past wounds and poorly healed bones, earned in battles long gone, racked his body with pain. His hair was scraggly and chalk white; the scar over his right eye that extended past his cheek bone made him look hideous to the common stranger. He could not relieve his body from the grip of cold, regardless how close he sat to the fire or how much ale he consumed. He was tired, very tired.
Segil carefully watched her Tarr; he first noticed her two days ago. She was as tall as most people, but more shapely, with raven hair and emerald eyes. Tarr knew exactly, who and what Segil was, but he was not ready to follow her. Soon, he knew, he would pass from his current life to the next. But it would not be tonight; Tarr had one more job to finish. Segil too, knew that. She had infinite patience with her Tarr, something that she always gave to him for all of his life.
The old man was teaching a group of young folk the lore of their people and tonight was their last lesson. Tomorrow, before the Sun was directly overhead, Tarr’s group of nine charges would be initiated into the tribe and takes their place as adults. His students would arrive when the Moon shimmered between the now barren twin oaks. Tarr cursed the cold and damned to hell the infirmities of old age. Segil could feel his pain but knew that her Tarr could not go on much longer. She quietly, so as not to disturb Tarr, asked Woden and Frigga to give him just a little more strength so he could finish his assignment and follow her home. As Tarr began to nod off, he heard the familiar knock on his door from the self-appointed leader of the group.
Tarr gruffly told them to enter. As they quietly filed in, six boys and three girls, Tarr thought that they were an odd lot. From the scrawniest to the fittest, they arranged themselves on the dirt floor around the old man. The smallest of his charges saw that his drinking cup was empty and dutifully refilled it from the bucket of ale that was by Tarr’s side. But before he drank, he ordered the two strongest boys to help him go outside so that he could relieve himself. When they returned, Tarr resumed his seat, drained his cup, and began.
Cop Copyright 2013 Terry Unger