I walked over to where Culsit still lay on the ground and looked down on him with a big grin, offering him my hand.
“Get up you big fur bag, we have work to do.” I said as he looked at my hand and took it. The funny part was, I couldn’t have pulled him up if my life depended on it. It was symbolic more than anything I suppose.
Everyone came and gathered around Vali and I and we started to go over what I thought we should do. Just at that moment Munnin and Huginn swooped out of what seemed like nowhere and landed on my shoulders. I started to turn to look at them but stopped myself, heck I imagined how cool it would look to the others if I acted like I knew that was supposed to happen. It was all I could do not to laugh at the picture that painted in my mind.
Just when I started to speak, Munnin leaned over to my ear and spoke. I glanced at Vali and for the first time I saw fear in her eyes. I was getting real tired of all these twist and turns in my life. It was more like I was a puppet on a string at times and frankly it was getting real old.
“John, the Allfather wants a word with you.” Munnin whispered.
I was speechless. I thought when you had a word with him, it was you last word. I know it sounds bad but my first thought in my head wasn’t how it would happen, it wasn’t what would I hear or see, nope! My first thought was ‘Ah shit!’. As I stood there looking at Vali I heard Culsit laughing. It was then I realized my thought was out loud!
“A word with me? How does that work?” I asked with a worried tone.
“Yessssss.” Was all he hissed back at me, looking with those eyes whose lids looked like silver when he blinked.
“How do…..” I started to asked but before I could finish the word does, their winds flapped while grabbing their talons into my shoulder and instantly I was flying through a tunnel of light that swirled and ebbed with color and light. This must be the tunnel people talk about! This is how it ends for me? I’ve gone from minding my own business fly fishing to jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, crashing some not so good ones, getting shot at, damn near drowned and it all ends on the top of a ridge in a place I didn’t even know the name of.
As I was thinking all these thoughts at the same time, I realized I couldn’t be dead, I could feel the pain of their talons gripping me as we flew up the tunnel. I should have been afraid but as strange as it sounds, the more we flew the more at peace I became. Yup, I though, this must be it but it felt so peaceful I didn’t care. This wasn’t like the thing Philo did zapping us from one place to the next, this was way more different and if I had to guess, we had left Earth way behind.
I could see the point of light we had been headed for and it was growing but just as fast as I noticed that, we popped out into a new place. I would call it a world but that doesn’t do it justice. Imagine somewhere that fits the idea you have of a perfect landscape, this was better than that. It was getting twilight as we kept flying west. I noticed at this point we seemed to be heading to a large clearing with what looked like a large fire burning at its center.
They gently sat me down near what did turn out to be a large bonfire near the center and then flew off as fast as they had come for me on earth. I stood there all alone, neither hot or cold but just perfect. I glanced at the sky and was amazed at the array of colors as light faded the farther I looked towards what I assume was east. I glanced north at snow capped mountains larger and more pretty than anything I had ever seen as they captured the light as it faded. I was enthralled looking around, it was beyond breathtaking.
Thats when I heard his voice. Now this will sound stranger than anything I’ve told you about before but it wasn’t a voice like you or I talk with. Image a sound that you can not only hear but also feel with every cell in your body.
I turned towards the fire and where the voice came from and immediately fell to my knees. I was looking at a man I would guess was in his 60’s but at the same time was built strong and solid. A grin was spread across his bearded face as his hand reached for me to stand me up, I just stammered as he stood me up, looking me up and down and grinning.
“John!” He exclaimed as he grabbed me in a hug that felt like a warm blanket on a cold winters night. A perfect hug? I guess that would be how I would describe it. He released me from the hug and held me at arms length as he looked me up and down.
“How you have changed since the last time you where here! I am more proud of you now than I have ever been!” He said.
I just stood there staring, unable to form a thought much less speak one.
“Its ok John, you know who I am! Be yourself!” He said as he grinned bigger.
“I….I don’t know what to say!” I stammered.
“Jetzt ist die Zeit! (Now is the time)” He said as he held up his hands and gestured all around me.
“Ich weiß und bin froh. (I know and I am glad)” I replied.
“Sie mussten hierher kommen, um zu verstehen. (You had to come here to understand)”
“Ich kenne. (I know)” I replied.
Just then I realized I was speaking German like I was born to it.
“Warum so überrascht! (Why so surprised!)”
“Deutsch war schon immer deine rede! (German has always been your language)” He laughed as he already knew what my shock was about. It was then that I realized He and I had been speaking German the whole time!
“I don’t know German!” I exclaimed about the same time I realized that too was in German. He just laughed.
“Well, for someone who doesn’t know it, you sure speak it really well.” This reply came with more laughter from him.
“Come, sit, let’s talk.” He said as he motioned to stumps arranged around the fire.
I hadn’t noticed them before but that wasn’t the shock I had as I glanced around. The shock was the clearing was full of stumps and sitting on those stumps was people, thousand of them. But, it only got weirder from there because as I looked around, I knew each and every one of them. As I looked from one to the other, smiles spread everywhere I glanced.
“What John! You don’t recognize you own kin!” He said.
“I do, but how?” I asked while staring around.
“Here John, the blinders are off, don’t be rude, say hello!” At this, they all laughed.
I said hello and sat beside him to the empty stump across from him.
“John, I rarely do this and when I do most think it was just a dream or hallucination and refuse to listen to the lesson I tried to teach them but I know you will remember and I know you will do what is asked of you.”
“Anything, I will do it but can I asked one thing?”
“Your not going to ask me to leave here are you?” I said as I looked around to the forest and mountains surrounding us.
“Yes, John, for a time but unlike the last time you left here, you will be able to remember who you really are, where you really come from and what you are meant to do.” He replied still smiling.
“Oh I think I would remember being here, and I sure wouldn’t have left!”
“You wouldn’t if I asked you to forget and you would leave if I asked. You did before and you will this time.”
“I know.” This was my turn to grin. I knew it all now, all the thoughts and memories flooded in at once. I knew this was my true home, where I had always existed and where I always would. I looked to the mountain highlighted in the waning light. I knew just below that snow line was my home, my real home. Nestled in a meadow next to a stream that worked its way down that mountain among giant spruce that dwarfed anything known on earth. I could picture my porch there, with my cedar chair I had made myself. A warm fire on a snowy night, snuggled under a blanket with Vali, listening to the wind in the trees. The sound of the water over the rocks and the sight of golden colored trout running up and down my favorite pool, almost like pets. My bow, axes, all my favorite toys. This is when my mind jumped back to Vali. She was always there with me! I lived with the Goddess of Vengeance in this world! What did that make me?
“You remember now don’t you John?” He said still grinning.
“Yes, I do, but at the same time, it shocks me in the sense of I don’t believe I ever would agree to forget it!” I said.
“Honestly why should I care about the enemy back there after remembering all this?” I asked.
“I know John, it must be confusing but look at the flames and let me show you something.”
I stared at the fire, and instantly it was like watching the best definition movie ever. I saw the world as it was in the beginning. Just like this. No pain, no death, no problems just a green and blue paradise. Then a darkness began to spread, this was the enemy. I watched as mankind was subjected to every possible injustice there was. I watched as that paradise was transformed into a hell in all but name. War, robbery, violence, disease and misery, that’s what they brought. I saw how at one time the enemy had been different but they grew jealous of man and vowed to destroy them. I got to see why the Allfather just didn’t destroy them. He couldn’t without destroying mankind in the process. I saw the beginning of Culsit and his people, all creatures really and to top it all off, it just took seconds.
“I understand now, you can’t kill the wolves outright without killing the sheep also. My biggest question is how can I be here now? Im not dead or am I?” I asked.
He just laughed.
“Hold you hand up to the sky John.” And when I did I realized it was my true hand. Not some ghost image, me just more real than before.
“Now down to business. Just as we are speaking in a language you thought you didn’t know, there are many things that you know now that I will not erase from your memory when you go back.” He spoke solemnly.
I could see it in my mind, I knew when I would be back here to stay and that was the greatest weapon of all. I knew know how to do things I had never thought possible before. I knew my skills, I knew my strengths, I knew I was about to unleash a storm on the enemy the likes of which they had never seen before. I was going to enjoy it, I thought as a grin spread on my face.
“You see know, have no fear, you are the destroyer, you always have been and you know when and how I will call you home and that makes you the most dangerous weapon on earth. Thats the reason I don’t let people know their fates. Imagine the chaos that would ensue if people didn’t go there to learn a thing.”
“I get it now. I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore and I thank you for that. I would ask, however, if I could bring my two friends back with me.” As I motioned towards my home.
“No worries John, you go back now and do what you are supposed to. Just do me one favor.” He spoke.
“Well, two things really.” I nodded. “ One, don’t bow or kneel to me, you’re a warrior not a slave! Got it! And finally, tell Culsit that if he asked me one more time in his prayers for a beer that doesn’t give you a headache when you drink to much that I am going to come down there personally and shave him bare like a newborn!”
At that I fell off my stump laughing. I’d love to defeat the enemy but I think the sweetest thing was the message for Culsit. He knew I liked it because he winked at me.
With that wink, just like before, Munnin and Huginn showed up out of nowhere carrying my two friends in their mouth and snatched me up to take me back. I’d like to say it was sad, but really I laughed even harder. One, I knew this was only a temporary trip and sweetest of all I couldn’t wait to nail Culsit.
The trip back looked the same as it had coming except I literally laughed all the way.
The sensation I felt next would be more akin to jumping off your roof and slamming into the ground. At least that’s what it felt like to me when I slammed back into myself. I looked up from the ground I was laying on with everyone standing around me. I glanced from Vali to Culsit and Jager and just busted out laughing until my ribs hurt and tears ran down my face.
“Oh no, The Allfather has made him insane!” Culsit screeched.
I laughed even harder.
As I gathered myself I sat up again and leaning my two friends again the log I had been sitting on before I left, I turned to Vali.
“Es ist in Ordnung, ich verstehe es alle wissen. Ich wünschte nur, ich wüsste vorher, dass du meine Frau zu Hause bist und deshalb hier, wenn du möchtest?” (It is fine, I understand it all know. I just wished I knew before that your was my woman back home and therefore here if you’d like?)
Her eyes lit with the firelight shown moist back at me.
“Ja, du Idiot!” (Yes, you idiot!) She replied.
As I leaned over to kiss her, Culsit screeched again like a rat.
“Culsit, I have a message for you.” I said trying my best not to start laughing again.
“For me? Anything, what does he need me to do?” Oh, he was making it hard not to laugh.
“This is very important, are you paying attention?” I asked and he nodded.
“Ok, he asked for you to stop praying for beer that doesn’t give you a hangover or he said and I quote he will personally come down here and shave you bare like a newborn babe!” As I said this he squeaked again and we all laughed so hard that I swear I thought I was going to mess my pants up.
As the laughter settled, I motioned for everyone to gather around.
“Its time to get down to business. So far we have only reacted to what the enemy has been doing. Not anymore, we are going hunting.” I yelled as I raised a fist.
They all erupted with yells of joy.
“No more running and hiding, I know them, I know where they are, I know what they want and I know how to hunt them. Time is on their side but my two friends are on ours!” I roared as I raised the two axes in the air I had brought from home.
“Any maybe when this is all over, either in this world or the next we can all live once again in peace and hopefully give Culsit time to develop his miracle beer!”
That just brought laughter from everyone even Culsit, all except Vali, she stared at my two friends and smiled from ear to ear. She knew as I did, with them, it was best to steer clear of me.
“Culsit, Jager about 40 miles west of us are a series of abandoned mines. Either of you know anything about them?” I asked.
Both nodded that they did but Jager spoke first.
“We never go near that place, the waters are poisoned from the mines and nothing that does go near lives to tell about it.” He said.
“Thats true, nothing there will live because I am going! We are leaving tonight and I want you and you’re scouts to take the lead. Stay in knocking distance and warn any of your people you might find to flee north. If you cross humans signal, and I will do the same. Culsit, you’re with me if you don’t mind.” I said.
“No problem John, we will go right away.” Jager answered and raced off to prepare.
I stood there with Culsit and reached up to put my hand on his shoulder.
“You ready big brother?” I asked with a big grin.
“No, not really but I will. I just have a few questions.” He said.
“Ask them then.”
“How do you know Vali, I know of her but have never seen her thank goodness. My father told me when I was little if you see Vali, its the last you would ever see! Yet you kissed her like it was no big deal!” He said looking toward her as she grinned back at him.
“We are each others Culsit, always have been, always will be.” I said.
“Culsit, the stories your father told you are true. In times past when you seen me, it was the last. Do you know why?” She asked him as she walked closer. He just shook his head.
“Because if you saw me, John was already behind you and the flash of his two friends there ended it all.” She said as she nodded to the two axes tucked in my belt.
Culsit just looked at me. I worried at first that this was too much for him. But slowly he started to grin.
“Good thing you’re my little brother then huh!” He said with a roaring laugh and the typical slap on my back.
I laughed back and reached up again to squeeze his shoulder. I knew he got it then.
“Besides, I’d like to see him try to shave me, that would be harder than he thinks.” Culsit said pointing up toward the sky.
Just then a flash of lightening split the sky from east to west with a deafening thunder. I knew Culsit was joking because I saw him wink at the sky just before the lightening ripped past.
As we headed off to follow Jager, Culsit still roared with laughter. All was right in his world again and the time had come to stop hiding and running and start setting things right again.
If you liked this chapter, you might want to head over to Amazon and buy yourself a copy of “The Enemy”. The exciting first book in this series so you can see how our friends got to this table looking to their futures.