Old Man Winter sat heavy on Evendalson’s shoulders as he stared into the dark cave. If he stayed outside, he would surely die a quiet death. Already his limbs felt as cold and heavy as the grave. But the cave was sacred to the local fae, may they sleep well into spring. He knew little of its holiness; parents only taught children to stay away from certain sites within a day’s walk of the village.
With four moons until his name day, Evendalson’s was adult enough to bite back the curse rising from his gut as he debated what form of death to embrace. His mother had little choice in accepting Greger’s proposal since Evendal’s brothers had not extended arms to their brother’s widow. A proud warrior, Greger was willing to take on the cost of a woman and her two daughters, but shunned accepting a boy with someone else’s name.
For a full moon Evendalson had survived being outcast, but winter gusts promised further ice and blind snow. His bed of leaves and sticks stopped holding heat days ago.
The wind ripped his fur-lined hood from his head, driving crystals hard into his face. Determination to survive goaded the young man into the cave. He grabbed the unbraided blond hair the Dod-vind had tried to steal, tucked it under the cloak, and pulled the hood back up. Outside the wind spirits howled at the loss of heated prey.
But the Dod-vind stayed the other side of the threshold. The still air of the cave held no warmth, but took none either.
“Blessing upon the fae and faekyn,” beseeched Evendalson as he continued away from the entrance. He smelled moisture and needed some badly. The creek had frozen over days ago. Melting snow with his hands traded thirst for cold; a trade he made for two mornings but dared not make at night.
A breeze bearing water instead of spirits guided him further in, aiding him in choosing splits and turns once darkness had swallowed all. The dark pressed on his eyes. Strangely the rocks Evendalson expected to trip him never reached out. No injury sought him; though maneuvering through the black wrought its own exhaustive wound.
After untold time, water clung to his face and hood. Earthen soil below the hoarfrost allotted the air warm. Evendalson pushed the hood back and removed the two-finger mittens from his hands. He tucked them into his belt for safe keeping. His youngest sister, Hanne-grandottir, had knitted them in a red so bright the color hurt the eye even after several washings. Agnete-dottir’s socks were equally treasured through the cold days of his outcast, though their green often dyed his feet.
With the hood removed, trickling water could be heard. The walls were still dry under his fingers, but Evendalson knew he would find true water soon. He wiped the sweat from his face.
The dark grew even more complete, to the point Evendalson swore he saw light. Deeper he went until he discovered the light was not false. Eventually he made out a turn where the glow seemed as if firelight dancing in a doorway.
He firmly pushed back the urge to run. He was in a fae place. Despite his thirst and a desperate need for light after blackness had tried to steal his eyes’ memories of the sun, he approached the turn carefully.
(words 563 – originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 1/6/2013 – I do not know the copyright of the photo which inspired the story, so I did not copy it.; published on the old blog on 1/6/2013; republished new blog format 5/14/2017)