The Water of Awaking, Chapter 1-2 “The Farmwife and the Volva

My latest book, The Water of Awakening is set to be released on July 7 on Amazon. In in, Helga, a young newly-married woman, is put on a quest for a strange artifact in return for a cure to her husband’s mysterious illness. This artifact, the Water of Awakening, is held by a clan of strange creatures on the edge of Fay, where reality and dreams are one and the same, and road is long and dangerous. Helga quickly quickly realizes that she is out of her depth, but persists and finds friends in unexpected places.

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One day, while Helga was tending to her husband, she inclined her ear to the window and listened to two of the townswomen outside, Runa and Astrid, who had brought their children by to feed and tend to Helga’s sheep.

“She fancies herself a volva, then?” Runa said.

“I think so, yes.”

“Any god she follows?”

“I don’t know. Probably Nostera. She has a marvelous assortment of trinkets,” Astrid said.

“All of them enchanted to bring vitality, I suppose.”

“Some. Some are just pretty to hold.”

“I’m not buying that sort of rubbish.”

“They’re pretty. Who cares if they don’t bring health? I was thinking of hinting to Gunnar to get me something. I have a third on the way, and he’ll want to buy me a present. Oh! Don’t tell yet.”

Helga stood up above Erling’s bed and poked her head out of the window.

“Hey there! What did you say?” She said.

“Don’t be eaves dropping!” Astrid said. “You forgot what you heard. I haven’t even told Gunnar yet.”

“They’re my eaves,” Helga said. “And when am I going to tell Gunnar anything? I want to know about the volva.”

“She’s just some old woman,” Runa said. “She’s down at Bjorn’s if you want to talk to her.”

Helga was worried about leaving Erling, but he had fallen asleep and was breathing calmly and Helga had not seen him turn worse in a long time. She laced up her shoes and closed the door, leaving her husband sleeping on his bed. She rushed past the townswomen and up the lane to where Bjorn’s big house was. It was the largest building in the main town of Greenfeld, making up a full side of the town’s central square. It had a large, open-roofed area attached to the main building where the trader kept most of his goods and did most of his business, like a sort of open-air market. Bjorn stood leaning against a pillar as Helga approached, scratching his thick black beard and watching a few village women look at dishes at cups on a table. He noticed Helga approaching and waved a big, sun-tanned hand at her.

“Helga the lion,” he said. “Out for a prowl?

“Where is the volva?” Helga said as she approached, ignoring the tease.

Bjorn smiled and pointed to a grove near the central well. “Nice enough woman, even if she is a bit harsh on the ears. Met her in Skjallanding a few weeks past. Beware.”

“I’m always ‘ware.”

“She’s clever and greedy. Not a good combo.”

“You would know.

Bjorn laughed his familiar laugh to her back as she turned her back to him. “You’ll live up to old Brick yet!”

Helga ignored him. As she passed the town well, she threw in a copper coin and said a small prayer to Denarius and to Nostera, the gods of wealth and health. She paused and went back, then threw in another copper coin, saying one more prayer to Verbus (which most of the townspeople properly called Grim), the god of luck.

“Looking for good health?” a dry voice croaked. Helga saw an old woman with dingy grey hair like ropes about her shoulders, reclining on a rock beneath an oak tree that, though it probably had her beat in terms of age, met the old woman well for gnarled features. She wore a fur over her shoulders, though the new spring weather did not demand quite so warm a garment. Beside her she had spread out a small array of copper and silver trinkets, along with a few tattered prayer books

“Are you a volva?”

The old woman smiled, wrinkling her face even more. “I’m an old woman with lots of experience in some things. What do you need to know?”

“My husband is sick. Will he live?”

“I’d have to see him.”

“It’s not far,” Helga said, and motioned for the old woman to follow.

“What is your name?” the old woman said, not moving.


The old woman cracked her face in what Helga thought was a smile, though it was very strange and disconcerting, as though a corpse were smiling at her for all its wrinkles. Helga’s spine tickled at it. “I am Rafnhild. Now, if I am to follow you, I will lose out on some of my livelihood.”

Helga reached into her purse and produced a silver coin, which the old woman picked up and gazed at. “Too much,” she said, then put the coin in her own purse. Quickly she swept her trinkets into a tattered black bag and followed Helga down the road to her house. She asked no questions as they went, and answered none of Helga’s, saying to each question that the answer was not important. She walked slowly, which was as frustrating to Helga as the bad conversation, and she insisted on stopping to greet each woman and child on the way, plying her wares (and even selling a few). And so it felt ages before they finally reached the house and went inside.

“Oh my,” the old woman rasped as she stepped through the bedroom door and saw Erling on the bed, pale as a ghost. She tottered around the bed clicking her tongue and staring at him, sometimes cracking that strange smile. She laid a wrinkled hand on the man’s forehead for a long moment. Her eyes narrowed and flicked about.

“What is it?” Helga asked.

Rafnhild turned her eyes back to Helga. “I will need to wait to see more, but I think I know this sickness.” The old woman then padded around the house, mumbling to herself. She then walked outside and proceeded to circle the house several times. Helga watched from the doorway, keeping an eye on her sleeping husband.

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