Hello! Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
When I grew up, I never thought I would be a yarn spinner, but here I am, knitting and crocheting appalling afghans of literature. Without further ado,
Ashton stumbled outside, bewildered at the behavior of Jeptha the Woodcutter. He thought of his name with a mix of emotions from gratefulness to murderous.
The man had given him work and saved him from Hallr Agnar and his boys, however, the fall chill was in the air and a brisk breeze cut through the thin clothing the woodcutter had given him and right into the pained parts of his body.
His left knee and elbow was swollen, his neck felt like it was detached from his torso on one side and everything chafed. His head and teeth hurt and his nerves were shot.
Ashton considered his options with bitterness and resentment.
The gratefulness had completely diminished as he wandered back and forth. He did not ask for any of this.
Sure, he had known Yara for a good while and they had several outings together, but he knew in his heart of hearts the relationship would not fully develop. He had no prospects for a girl and he knew it. He would have forfeit Yara out of practicality until Zahra told him about Hallr Agnar’s treatment of folks. The beat down sealed the deal for Ashton, but he was no warrior.
He wanted to go home and gather with his mother and let this all blow over, but the woodcutter seemed adamant that he could not return to the Alderman’s lands until he had challenged Hallr to einvigi.
Ashton raged, and shivered. How is it that even his mother was against him in this? He kept reliving the words she said. “Your father would have done it.”
The thought made him more angry. Father? He had never met his father. He could eat a rotten otter for all Ashton cared.
“I would slap some sense in that old man if I saw him,” he declared aloud.
He was shocked at his own lack of self control and looked around to see if anyone heard.
No one heard. In fact, it felt like no one cared. Not his mother, the woodcutter, Zahra, Jasmine, and especially Yara.
Where was she in all this?
To challenge Hallr was to die, and to challenge the woodcutter was to die. One had easily killed two men without breaking a sweat and the other beat him savagely.
Well, if he was going to die, it might as well be now. A slow death without potatoes in the cellar was not a great prospect either.
Ashton had been walking for a while, thoughts welling every which way when he walked right into a watering trough.
The water was freezing and pain shot through every inch of his body.
Pulling himself out, he heard laughter all around.
He was soaked from head to toe and had walked right into the longboat village without realizing.
Enraged and embarrassed beyond all reason he shouted, “Hallr Agnar! You are but a dead man.”
Hallr, come out and fight you sorry filthy animal!”
No one was laughing. All was still. A call had been made in the village for einvigi.
Egil Halvard, Yara’s father, emerged from his hut to see what the commotion was to see a skinny bruised and battered young man soaked from head to toe screaming at the top of his lungs. “berserkur” he muttered.
The village men gathered Ashton giving him a wide berth. No one was particularly afraid, but there was no sense putting your hand in a muskrat hole.
Egil Halvard stepped in. “Ashton” he shouted, “hann er á ferð!” This meant nothing to Ashton as he was unfamiliar with the tongue of the longboatmen.
Yara emerged from the crowd and walked up to Ashton.
“That is to say, he is on a journey,” she whispered.
Ashton was startled. He was so focused in his anger that he did not see her approach.
“Come Ashton, and let’s get you by a fire. You are cold.”
Meekly, Ashton followed. The longboatmen laughed and whistled.
Beside a cooking fire, Ashton warmed himself which is not as easy as it seems. Cooking fires are long rows of coals with racks suspended above for smoking meat. You have to get uncommon close to feel the heat.
Yara’s eyes darted back and forth and she covered her mouth. ” Ashton, you are in a bad way and you shouldn’t be outside like this. Even a longboatman knows to get rest when he is hurt.”
A little humor came to Ashton. “So, how was the squirrel?” Yara looked like she swallowed her lips and turned her head. “It was delicious, Ashton. Look, you are tired and wet, and the air is cold. Perhaps you should head home and get a fresh start tomorrow.”
She glanced around as if looking for something.
Ashton felt pretty good. He had been beaten, starved, overworked, frozen and laughed at, but here he was with the girl that wanted him.
Ashton smiled. ” With you near me, I would make true my proposal of a castle, wheat fields and potatoes. I would carve your face upon the bows of fleets of longboats and…”
Just then, a tall, chiseled man with a basket came to the fire.
Without so much as glancing at Ashton he said, “Yara, my love, I have brought you a gift, then we will walk along the beach together.” He opened a pouch on his belt. “The squirrel we ate, I scraped the hide and fastened it to this scarf. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Yara glared at Ashton then smiled at the well built warrior. “Yes, my brother, it is wonderful.” She wrapped the scarf around her neck.
“Ashton, have you met…”
The suitor was assertive. “Brother? I am not your brother, Yara. Why are you…”
Ashton had been bested. He had enough manners to know it was time to leave. He extended his hand.
“Sir, it is a pleasure to have met you. Do take care of Yara and say hello to Hallr for me.
The man was puzzled. “Hallr?” Who is that?
Yara yelled, “Ashton, wait!.. It’s not what you think.”
Ashton, wet, cold, tired, and miserable trudged off to his inland home. The longboatmen could eat a rotten otter.