Raven’s Breath by Ellen Mae Franklin

“Do you hear the Gods my love? Thor and Hod are riding the sky tonight driving the long winter days before them, pushing the frost and chill across the lands.” Toothless old Agritha stopped her knitting. Needles poised in mid clack, her pale eyes took on a faraway look and Tarmen knew she would stay that way, transfixed by days long gone, lost in memories until she was pressed to continue the story.

ravenTarmen listened to the tale, although half an ear had lent itself to the torrential downpour and the intermittent claps of thunder. He sat at the crone’s feet and leant against blue veined legs, wrapped in the pelts of wolf skins on the edge of the fire pit. Flames spun shapes of the gods who walked the earth before men were born and the shadows they threw out rose into monsters. But he wasn’t a child anymore, he had bragged as much to his father, so the grasping fingers of shadowed things didn’t scare him. Agritha’s eyes, cloudy as they were, watched the yellow dancing gods.

The young boy wondered if it was raining where his father was. ‘Wait another season. Wait a little longer, then you can raid with us.’ He had heard the words before and yet, despite his anger at being stuck with old Agritha and the slave his father had stolen from across the sea, Tarmen’s envy matched the weather outside.

“Agritha?” Tarmen’s voice drew her away from the dreaming.

“It will snow, mark my words.” The clacking began again, a familiar sound to the raging tempest screaming its fury around Skarken.

“Will the gods protect my father?” A small voice beside Agritha asked.

Agritha worked her tongue into the space where two teeth used to be. It was a habit of hers when she took to thinking. Tarmen looked up, straining his neck backwards. Old skin, wrinkled and loose, wobbled as she spoke. Continue reading

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