We didn’t sleep that night – we never did. If you closed your eyes even for a moment it meant you were lazy throughout the next year. Though I would gladly closed my eyes for some time and rested a bit before the morning.
But it was beautiful. I had never recalled anything to be as beautiful as it was that night – the cows with their chaplets and cowbells. The cowbells were special in our area – they gave boys the opportunity to invest their time in something more useful than making only the whistles, which they also made in numbers. Boys made them as special gifts for the cows before end of the April, when they were released on the fields. The bells varied in size and shape, mostly resembling hazelnut’s shells with some fancy carvings. They were still rare and hadn’t we feared that the spirits of the forests might steal our cattle, we wouldn’t have needed them. The spirits feared the sound of bells.
I observed the animals from far, standing under the oak in the middle of the fences. The sheep were making the best of being quiet and listening the voices near the forest and I joined them, cocking my ears. The lower panels were still covered with fog, though it was near midnight.
I released myself from preparing the evening feast with changing my choirs with Viika to watch over the herd till I saw the great fire glooming from the village field.
“You’re not by the fire?” Alva appeared out of the blue next to me.
I shrieked and pulled aside, before reaching out and fingering her scarf to make sure it was her.
“You know, I really didn’t like what he had to say to me.” I said frostily to get rid of the cold feeling she ingested in me.
She shrugged. “I wasn’t talking about that time.” Her voice was again calm and husky. “I spoke of the future.”
My future – what a splendid choice of words. My future held just as many secrets as did my past and so far my life was too short to have both of them reveled to me.
She sighed, taking in as much of the good air she could and then taught me. “Walk a path down the village and collect nine different flowers on the way. Gather them in one with the red wool and send them in the solstice fire. Fire will tell you.”
“Tell me what?”
“Go on,” she encouraged, “I’ll watch the sheep.” She gave me a little push and took the shepherd’s staff. “Go on.”
I left her with strange feeling in my gut. She was a sweet girl, wiser than I’d ever be. I never really looked at her as someone younger than me. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure she WAS younger than me. I had presumed she was, but now… Perhaps she only looked young and was really at my age or older?
Before I got to the village borders I stopped and glanced back. She was still standing there, serene proud smile on her lips and dawn kissing her beautiful straight features. She didn’t look small when she stood there, holding the staff, glad in dark blue scarf with white edges. If any man would see her, she’d be mistaken for the mother of the field!
I turned and continued my journey back. I did as she told me, gathering nine flowers from the road: a daisy, a cornflower, a red clover, yarrow, an oregano branch, a poppy, a branch of white forget-me-not, some sweet clover and finally pink cranesbills. They smelled sweet together, slightly nauseating, but good.
I walked straight next to the fire, ignoring everybody, who reached out to pull me in their circle and launched the flowers in the flames, where they sizzled for some time. Not once did I blink and was rewarded with dancing figures in the fire, a gyre of two flames so close to each other they almost seemed one.
My chest grew tight. That was frightening to see and yet so amazing! I couldn’t believe I had managed it. Every year since I came to age I had tried one of those foretelling ways out and this was the first one to work.
I kept staring at the flames, feeling two steady hands lock me in a long hug.
“You still mad at me?” Dalek asked quietly, caressing my cheek with his.
“No,” I replied, still fascinated by the red light, “I’m not.”
“Here,” I heard Zahrah voice near me and a mug crossed me and my obsession.
“Zahrah – you’re not suppose to have that with your baby on the way,” I scolded, while she used the time to wrap my fingers around the drink.
“I’m not having it,” she laughed openly and closed in, “you are!”
“Oh!” she pushed the mug closer to my face till I let her place it on my lips. I drank like a horse! I hadn’t even realized I was so thirsty.
“You do know this goes straight to your head!” she sounded like mom. “I didn’t see you at the table.”
“I’m quite sure of it.” I nodded, sweeping my lips. “I was herding the sheep.”
She believed me and promised to bring me something to eat soon, first making Dalek vow hell take good care of me.
It didn’t take long for the drink to have its toll on my alertness. But instead of making me jolly as I had see on so many men, it made me drowsier and drowsier till Dalek had to perform miracles to keep me up. Only for a while as later he made me sit down and offered me another drink that was supposed to make me feel better. It tasted like water, but I couldn’t be sure.
I never saw the piece of meat promised to me. To be true, I don’t think I saw much anything after consuming the second drink and perhaps it was for the better as later I hated the thought of doing something I might start to regret. Like proving my adulthood through dancing in the… yup, that would be too much information.
oOOo Lõpp peatükk
That night my dreams were yet again filled with swinging trees. I felt quite sick when I finally opened my eyes and stared at the beautiful blue sky with only few strings of white clouds to penetrate the wondrous site.
Then a gull flew through my view and first I grinned, thinking this had to be one truly weird dream – first the forest and now the sea! Then I yelped, realizing it smelled like fish, too. And the scratching sound the mast was doing was too real to confuse it some misleading ghost story.
I tried to move myself, but only managed to free my hand from the cocoon I was wrapped in. I rubbed my right temple, trying to fight with the oozing feeling that seemed to be the after effect of the drug mom gave me.
Oh, I liked that tea – I felt quite rested and less willing to cry ’til this day become past, too. Gotta ask her what she used in it, I noted myself and tried to free my other body from the carpet too, but was immediately rolled out of it in such speed I only saw a whirling passing of browns and blues.
I jumped up and paid dearly for it, spending the next five minutes head over the deck loosing the little supper I had yesterday.
“There-there, my dear,” I heard a familiar voice and a horn full of fresh water was given to me accompanied with clapping on my back, “feeling much better now, lass?”
I recognized this as Tollak’s voice, one of the men from Dalek’s crew, but was too busy loosing even the last of my meal to give him a proper greeting, ’til he just pulled me up straight, turned me to face him and observed me closely.
“Thought you were much tougher, lass.” He shook his head. “You look like seen a ghost, you are.”
My eyes had no rest on his face and traveled way over his head, far beyond the silvery water that lasted as far as the eyes could see. I didn’t even dare to ask, where I was, only took a good zip of the water in the cup.
He patted my dress clean and then snapped his fingers before my eyes to draw my attention.
“My eyes are deceiving me,” I whispered, still not believing what I saw. It took a good while before I stopped wobbling from one side to another and landed before his feet having no interest to look behind me, where I expected to find the rest of the crew as what I saw behind Tollak was the tale of the dragon. That only meant the head was on the other end.
“Magnus?” I asked him shortly, finally giving him back his drink and grasping my sides to keep myself as steady as possible.
“Second man on the right.” He nodded, perceiving I wasn’t fully at it yet.
“Dalek?” Where my brother went, there had to be that man too.
“First man next to the head.” He nodded again, hair playing in the soft wind. “His lass’ must spend most of her time there too, if that’s what you’re asking.”
I wasn’t. I was just trying to clear up in my head, to figure out, where I was to start with. Then I could start grasping on how big, wide or what ever else the measurements of this longship were. And who accompanied me on this ship as this seemed the least important right now. Making my mind understand that I WAS on a ship was the first priority problem. I still wished I was dreaming and I wake up in the middle of warm hays or next to that cattle we held in the forest.
“Has she woken already?” Dalek sounded way more fretful that he admitted to show, but Tollak held his posture.
“Yes, she has and what a saint,” he mocked warmly, “already fed the fish.” He patted my cheek as my father did when I was doing something he liked to watch and rose, lashing up the rope he had been cleaning. I thanked him with a crooked smile for this remark, stomach easing up a little.
I didn’t see, but I swore I knew Dalek was openly grinning at my back at that moment.
“You took your time to wake up.” He whispered gladly and squat down next to me. I heard him remove his coat. “Your mother knows good sleeping potions.” He continued fast, like fearing of what I might say if I intervened. “But Magnus said it should only last a day, not two…”
I had enough of my own confusion to deal with – his ramping helped very little clearing it out. The moment he mentioned two days I raised my finger to make him stop, then opened my lips to ask him about it, but only a surprised sigh passed through before I closed them again, having no idea what to ask.
He helped me up to my feet.
“B-but I’m to be your wife not before the harvest!” That was all that registered in my mind at the moment.
“Yes.” He patted my clothing clean again, though Tollak had already done it, then observed me long with content look.
“But I’m in the middle of the sea. Why am I in the middle of the sea? I was thinking shearing our sheep today…”
He placed a red coat over my shoulders and pinned it to its place with the brooch. It was still warm from his body and before that I didn’t even know how much I graved for such heat. Just as he finished, a drop of the seawater landed on my forehead.
“Because you spoke and I listened.” He saved the moment, before running his finger over my nose, washing off the drop from it and said calmly. “I heard what your heart said, birdie, not what your mind told me through your wicked mouth and also, I wanted you away from all of their darned mouths that put those weird thoughts in your head and…”
He pulled back and locked his thumbs between his leather belt. “Don’t tell me now I made the wrong decision!” he blasted, earning all his men’s stares and making me blush to the roots.
I stared at him in amazement, between two thoughts – to scowl him for dragging me in his ship rolled in a rug or two kiss him for not listening me or the others, who determined the date for us as I had no intentions or wish to wait for another four months. I couldn’t decide and burst laughing – he looked sincerely worried and his light hair shined against the midday’s sun.
“You stole me from my home!” I barreled back a moment later, grasping that one hint of anger left in me, thought it came out quite an empty threat as I was too busy laughing over the captain figure before me.
“I did it on your brother’s consent.” He apologized with a little bow and took a step closer. With that the fun part was over and he grew serious.
He didn’t rush to hug me, only stood there, grinning like a boy who just found something really funny to ogle at. Only when his men started their cheers next to us he woke from his frozen state and lifted me up, laughing all his might, twirling me around so hard it made my stomach flip again.
“Don’t you dare!” he warned and laughed, letting me back on my feet. “You’re my wife now and belong to the sea as the rest of us.”
I wanted to protest that my upset stomach was hardly what I could control, but he cut in first.
“You’ll get used to it. After few days.”
Now that was relief. I glom to his shirt to concentrate on something much nicer than what was happening inside me and noticed a familiar pattern near the neck.
I caressed it and loved him for it. Then I wrapped my hands around his waist and rested my head against his chest, closing my eyes and pretending I was standing in the middle of that foggy field near the fences and we had nothing left to fight over.
Riight. Naah, for few days anyway.