in times of weal and woe
January 24, 2014 10 Comments
Now that we’re well into this series, I’ll make an admission that I’ve been hoping to hide to this point. I don’t know nearly as much about Norse mythology or culture as I should to be dipping into it so liberally.
For example, this episode contains two Norse sayings. They were the result of a spur-of-the-moment Google search. I was really only looking for one phrase, something about courage, but found two. They fit perfectly, so I used them both.
The same thing has happened many times while working on this series. Names of places, people, deities and more have been gleaned from quick internet searches and (God help me) Wikipedia articles. I’ve sprinkled these stories with Old Norse words, having looked them up in online dictionaries. I have no idea if I’m even using them correctly. I’m just rolling along, trying to keep up with Vye and the story. The time will come, eventually, for that kind of research, and you can be sure I’ll iron some of these details out then.
But I make this admission now because I think it’s worth noting that it really doesn’t matter. I’ve never pretended that my depiction of the Norse pantheon is true to original legends. In fact, I know enough Norse mythology to know that it strays pretty far. And yet, that’s okay. It’s okay because (1) I can always change words and names later, during the editing process. If it turns out I’ve butchered something, I’ll deal with it then. But it’s also okay because (2), this is my story. (Well, mine and Vye’s.) It doesn’t have to line up completely with the stories that have come before it. In fact, there have been times, like today, looking up those two sayings, when my ignorance has enhanced this tale. I stumbled onto two phrases that create a well-rounded scene. If I knew more about Norse wisdom, I might not have even gone looking.
All that to say, write about what you know, and write about what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to venture out a bit, beyond your areas of knowledge, and make shit up from time to time if you have to. That’s how good stories get written.
If you’re new to my website, you should know this story is just one part of a longer series. You’ll want to read the other parts before jumping into this one. Just click here. The posts will display starting with the first, so you can kick back and read them in order.
in times of weal and woe
Kenna and Ormar spend the better part of the day gearing up to head west. After just a few hours’ sleep, they compiled a shopping list over breakfast. By 10:00 AM, they were headed to the nearest REI.
While the new information from the Völur was certainly helpful in that it narrowed their search parameter considerably, there were still a lot of unknown variables. Arawn could be hiding in one of several small towns in or near the Roaring Fork Valley, or he could be camping on the slopes of one of the neighboring mountains. Their search could easily take them into the wild. Of course, there were specialty sporting goods stores in the search area, but none as big or well-stocked as those in Denver.
At least, that was what Kenna told Ormar when he asked why they didn’t take to the road immediately.
There was, however, another reason. Kenna understood on an instinctual level that this was the beginning of the end of their search. She suspected the battle to come would play out in the mountains. That was enough information for her to prep herself inwardly. As a seasoned warrior, she’d been to this head-space many times before. It was the dead time immediate preceding the battle. Not the calm before the storm, but a time even before that.
People don’t often talk about that time. It’s a time of waiting, and there is little poetry in it. But Kenna understood that it was the best time to ready her mind for the turmoil ahead. She also understood that Ormar had no concept of such preparation, so it fell to her to help him gear-up internally. They would soon face the King of the Otherworld, and she needed him ready.
They made their way through the store, checking items off their list. So far, they had all their clothes: hiking boots, ski jackets, dry-weave long underwear, gloves, hats and more. They were on their way to grab a couple of day packs when Kenna noticed Ormar staring off into the distance.
She stopped walking and asked, “What?”
Ormar continued for a few steps before sensing Kenna was no longer by his side. Then he stopped, as well. Turning to her, he said, “Huh?”
“What are you thinking about?” Kenna clarified.
Ormar shrugged and shook his head. “I guess I zoned out,” he said.
Kenna took a couple of steps forward, bringing her even with Ormar. She patted him on the shoulder. “Better now than later,” she said. “When we get to Glenwood, we need both be focused.”
Ormar nodded agreement. “I know,” he said. “I will be. I mean, in a way, I am. I was just thinking that this shirt,” he said holding up a thick flannel button-down, “this could be the shirt I’m wearing when we find him. When we try to stop him. All these weeks looking and planning, and we’re finally getting close. I knew this day would come, but I didn’t know it would feel like this.”
Kenna started walking again, and Ormar fell into step behind her. He was pushing their trolley. She kept one hand on the side of the cart, steering both the trolley and Ormar.
She smiled as she said, “It’s an interesting time, isn’t it? Close enough to know that battle is at hand, but far enough off that it feels like a distant impossibility.”
Ormar nodded again. “Yes,” he said. “Like a dream I haven’t had yet. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like. And…” he hesitated before continuing. “I hate to admit it, but I’m scared. Kenna, I don’t think I’m ready for this.”
Kenna smiled in spite of herself. She stopped, holding both the trolley and Ormar in place. “Then you are more prepared than I thought,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked. His eyes were wide, and he made no move to avert his focus from the cold blue of hers.
“You know the sayings of my ancestors as well as I do,” she whispered, as though telling him a sacred secret. “It is said, Many are the words of bravery in times of weal, but few are they whose actions match brave words in times of woe. I would rather that you admit and wrestle with your fear now than foolishly hide it behind false bravado. There is courage in the admission of fear. True warriors have always known this, for it is not the absence of fear that makes one brave, but the mastery of it.”
Ormar had the look of a man-child, his face marked with unashamed wonder and awe. “Are you telling me that you are also afraid?” he asked.
Kenna smiled again, this time more gently, more sincerely than she had since she saw her father in her vision at Vaalserberg. “Of course I am,” she said. “I would be a fool were I not. Ormar, the foe we face is ancient. Far older and, frankly, more seasoned than I. If we defeat him, it will not be by skill but by our conviction and by our dedication. If we beat him.”
The fascination in Ormar’s expression turned to bewilderment. “But, you seem so confident,” he said.
“Because I must be,” she said. “The outcome of any battle is decided long before swords are met. If either of us give up now, if we resign ourselves to defeat, we can be sure that Arawn will win.”
“Then why even admit your doubt?” he asked.
“Because that, too, is a part of preparation, and this is the time for such thoughts. Now. Before we arrive in the mountains. Before we begin the last stretch of our search.”
Ormar considered this. Kenna could see the fear in his face, but something else as well. A subtle but growing courage. There, in the middle of REI, standing next to a display of energy bars and bottled water, he was engaged in a personal battle of the mind. And he was winning.
“That makes sense,” he said at last. With those three words, fear took a back seat to courage. Kenna could see that, too. When the time came, he would not turn and run. In spite of his lack of training, in spite of his soft hands and his misgivings about Big Georgie and Tommy, Ormar would go into the mountains a warrior man, ready to engage a god. If, by his hand, he could stop an immortal from taking this realm, he would.
Kenna felt like she was watching a birth. “There is another saying,” she said. “One I’m also sure you’ve heard. Often a man becomes brave in dire straights, who is not brave most other times. I’ve taken your measure, Ormar Syn-Valdari. You are no coward. You will prove brave in dire straights, no matter what fear you may have indulged in the past.”
Then Kenna did something that surprised them both. She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek. It was a chaste kiss, but it smoldered under the surface, her lips hot against his skin. She felt him blush before she saw it.
Odd times, these, she thought.
Without a word about the kiss, they finished their shopping trip.