von: The Colourful Wilbur
It was on the night of the first snow when Hamund first visited the ancient cavern on the east of the island. Having hardly slept at all, he rose from his bed shaking. The hay was made hard and brittle by the frost. Breathing the crystal-clear air, Hamund filled his meager hut with mist. The fire had died hours ago and only the pale moon lit the interior of his shelter. For a second he watched the shifting body of the mist, longing to see something – a foreshadowing, a vision of the event he was about to attend. Nothing whatsoever was to be seen here. Hamund put his shabby robe on, tightened his leather boots and pulled over the chain mail. Finally he donned his old sword Jotungaugar and his helmet and stepped outside.
In the biting cold his eyes kept wandering across this land, his home. The great mother had created a vast and raw landscape, non-compliant and fractious. Only a few birch trees managed to resist the ever-blowing wind and the hard and stony ground. Here and there moss covered the rocks, and in the distance, Hamund could hear the sea singing its majestic and eternal song. “Desolate” is how the ignorant man would describe this land, but Hamund knew it was the heart of life itself. The light-blue, purple and silver-green lights that appeared in the sky on some nights could be read and understood by those who inhabited this place. And Hamund did not only live here – he was part of this land.
Slowly he began his pace to the east. The sun-man would not rise there until noon, for it was the dark season. His kinder sister, the moon-maid, would follow Hamund’s hike. After a while, he came across the stream Silfurhlaupa, and changed his direction to share his way with the old friend for a couple of miles. Silfurhlaupa had always been fretful and talkative, thus being a stranger in this wilderness. Hamund listened thoughtfully. Silfurhlaupa had an unusually calm voice. He stood higher than usual. The wind blew towards the shore and hindered him to deliver the snowy water into the ocean. It would only take two more days and Silfurhlaupa would step out of his rocky path and make his way into the surrounding fields. Hamund muttered a blessing for his friend and promised to vouch for him. Then swiftly he crossed the stream using a floating ice sheet as a stepping stone.
Another hour crept past until Hamund reached the fir forest Náiðfara. Those who walk this earth without feeling its vivid breath might not have found the hidden path. They would have stood in front of an inpenetrable undergrowth of thorns and deadwood. Hamund did not have to think where to find this path. He was the only man who walked the hidden path nowadays. He had visited Náiðfara with his mother when he was a child. At the mouth of the trail the wise-woman had told him to keep watch and wait for her to return. Now it was his turn to step into the wary old forest.
Hamund walked slowly through the darkness. The moon-maid had no power to watch through the dense roof of Náiðfara. He had to feel the ground with his boots in order to follow the path. It was hard and uneven, while the ground alongside the path was a soft mulch. He walked in complete silence, but he was not alone here. Hamund knew that nobody enters Náiðfara without being seen by his many eyes. The soundless flight of the keen-eyed owl escorted his every step until he finally saw his destination.
A golden glimmer shone though the deep-hanging firbranches. It came from the cavern of the forefathers. Not a living soul knew when and how this pit was built. The big hole under the ground must have been here before Náiðfara was born from the first fir cone. Its rocky access however was doubtlessly man-made. The wise-people of many generations had inscribed the rocks around it with magic runes and animal drawings. Dark brown spots on the rock’s surface told stories of sacrificial offerings. Hamund had not brought a bloodgift. He hated the thought of taking the life of his brother rabbit or sister snake only for his own sake. And he was not here to beg.
Hamund ducked down and entered the cavern. His eyes hurt when he looked into the bright place. In the front he saw the big wolf by the name of Viskamunni. He lay on a pile of fur and stared at Harmund with calm and wise eyes. Hamund went to the western wall of the cavern and took a small piece of brown chalk from a bowl. Then he drew Silfurhlaupa on his way into the ocean and himself in front of his hut gazing at the stars. He put the chalk back into its bowl and turned to Viskamunni. Hamund sat down in front of the old wolf and they looked into each other’s eyes. Hamund could not endure this for very long and finally looked down on his feet.
“Hamund, my child, you look weary. What is your desire?”
“Oh Viskamunni, wise father and teacher, I have come to learn more about the nature of life and death. For many years I have studied the ways of the great mother and I do not think I understand…”
The old wolf stared at Hamund with sorrow. “My child, you seem to long for more than is meant for you. Do you not see that the ways of the mother are complete? Do you not feel that there is no bigger mystery to be solved, for this life itself is the gift?”
“Viskamunni, truth-speaker and guide, I beg forgiveness. It is justice that I fail to see. In the spring I watched the mother fox die. She had broken her leg at the shore. Soon after she returned to her old hunting grounds the others of her clan saw her weakness. A young girl of her own litter hunted her down and slit her throat. She then feasted upon her flesh and took the lead in this region. Is this not unjust, oh great Viskamunni?“
With loving eyes old Viskamunni looked upon his scholar and answered: “Soft is your heart, Hamund, son of Hormund. The great mother is not unjust – she is justice. Moreso justice has to be measured by her. If this strong and youthful fox had not killed her mother, she would have brought great harm upon her tribe. A weak leader would have endangered more than one being. Old mother fox will await her daughter with pride. The great wind is keeping your friend Silfurhlaupa in the island. It will kill brother mole, but it will give life to the folk of toads and frogs. It is equality –whether you love it or not.”
“But why is it always the strong killing the weak?”
“My child, there is no strong and there is no weak. Everything is one, don’t you see?”
“I begin to see Viskamunni, master.”
“Then, Hamund, wise child of men, lay down to rest here. I sense your spirit is longing to return to its ancestors. I will wait until you passed the heavenly bridge and then I shall eat your body. And by this, my child, you will eat my body, for we are one.”