The Wild Hunt

Then

Woden appeared before me as I slept. The haggard form of the All-father stood near eight feet. The glimmering wings of his helmet almost touched the ceiling of my longhouse. In one hand, he held a spear. In the other, he held a shield. Woden looked upon me with his one remaining eye. I began to realise that I was floating above my bed. Woden lay his shield and spear along the wall of my longhouse and removed his glimmering helmet from his head and held it outward.

The Hunt needs a leader.

I extended my hands to take the helmet and noticed the specularity of my form. It was if my body were not altogether there as particles of dust passed through me. I extended my hands and took the helmet before me. It shone like polished silver but felt sturdier than steel. I placed the helmet upon my head. Woden nodded solemnly. Two crows fluttered in on a breeze and planted themselves on Woden’s mighty pauldrons. One let out a brave caw that broke the silence of the night. Woden walked the length of the room and collected his shield and spear. He returned to where he had been standing and brought the butt of his spear to the cold stone of the earth. The action was met with a mighty thundering; the sound unnatural in its booming quality. A bolt of lightning cracked into the room and to the place where Woden stood. As if the bolt of lightning had called him away, he was suddenly gone from the place where he had stood.

I begin to rise on the wind, slowly, moving through the roof of my longhouse. As I rose, my pace grew quicker. I watched my village come into view and get smaller and smaller as the current dragged me ever upwards to the storm clouds above. Storm clouds enclosed the night sky. Patches of star light fought the clouds for their place in the sky and settled for the fringes of the all-encompassing clouds. I rose further and travelled through the dark clouds to the sky above. Perched atop the clouds, as if they were made of solid stone, I beheld Woden. Woden stood clutching the reins of his steed Sleipnir, who stood on the clouds firmly with its eight hooves. Behind Woden, a legion of horsemen sat atop their steeds. Above the troop of horsemen, the winged warrior women, the Valkyries soared in the moonlight.

I floated above the scene for some minutes before being lowered to the cloud and placed upon the top of the cloud. I approached Woden who indicated to a horse with no rider. The horse was pure white. I took Woden’s meaning and mounted the horse. Upon mounting the horse, I noticed that my spectral form wore my chainmail. The chainmail shimmered in the moonlight. Also, sheathed upon my belt was my war axe. I unsheathed my war axe and held it aloft. Woden noted this and held his spear aloft. He shouted a war cry that boomed so loud that it did not register as a word, but rather a guttural sound of the fury of war. I cracked the reins of my horse and it thundered forward. The legion of the Hunt behind me as we charged across the midnight sky. The air around us was cold with the frost of the sky. We rode our horses at full speed for hours, never tiring, never slowing. Woden looked to me and the voice that had produced the war cry earlier spoke inside my very skull.

Enjoy the night, Haakon, for you died while you were abed.

Indeed, I lead the hunt for one night. Oft I would ride amongst the legion of the dead and roar across the skies whenever I was called upon by wizened Woden.

 

Now

Eric looked through his window of his hotel room to the city below. He looked past the drops of rain streaking across the window’s surface. He took a swig from his glass and he looked skyward. Lightning crackled from the dark storm clouds above. He half-remembered stories from his grandparents, that they had heard from their grandparents, about the storms.

The Hunt is on the move. Old mighty Odin leads the dead across the skies on his horse Sleipnir. On the night of the hunt, Odin chooses a mortal to help him lead the hunt. The Hunt is always led by a true Norseman.

In the reflection of the window, Eric spotted a figure. He turned to face the figure. The figure stood at about half a head shorter than himself. The helmet he wore, shining like silver, made up the difference. He looked to be a Viking of some sort. His beard was well-groomed and braided finely. He wore chain mail and a large woollen cloak. He looked to be in his mid-fifties. The Viking looked at Eric intensely and then he heard the gruff voice in his head.

Eric Liefson, the Hunt needs a leader.

Eric gasped as he realised. He had not risen to go to the window. He had died in the armchair, looking over his diary for the upcoming week. He walked to the chair where his body lay, slain. Blood stained the diary pages; the blood pouring from somewhere near his head.

In my day, it was a great honour to die in battle, the Viking told him, I died while I was abed.

Shut up, Eric responded in his mind, this was no battle. It was a murder.

The Viking turned his head at Eric as if he had not encountered the word murder before. Surely the ancient Norse had a name for being killed untowardly by your kinsman. The Viking seemed flustered; as if some ancient ritual had been subsumed. The Viking held out the helmet for Eric to take, after placing his axe and shield by a nearby wall. Eric took the helmet in his hands and placed it on his head. The Viking retrieved his weapons of war and banged the wood of his axe and shield together. A thundering seemed to shake the city as Eric saw through the window that a bolt of lightning snaked its way across the night sky, through the window and to the place where the Viking was standing. Then he was gone.

Eric began to float upwards. He floated above the city into the atmosphere where he broke through the clouds. He looked down to see the clouds occupied by an army. He was placed gently on the cloud where the Viking and Odin greeted him. They revealed a horse for him to ride. Odin cantered the many hooves of Sleipnir to be beside Eric. Odin held up his spear and ushered a deep bellowing war cry. Eric looked to his form below him as he mounted the horse. He was wearing his finest suit with a sword attached to his belt. He reached for the sword and held it aloft. The Viking had done the same with his axe. The Viking roared like Odin. He decided to follow suit and shouted with the combined voices of all those who died before him.

The Hunt had begun anew.

 

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