The Water of Awakening, Chapter 1-5 “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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“Why must I be the one to fetch this thing for you?” Helga said. “And moreover, what do you intend to do with it?”

“One question at a time.”

“Why me?”

“Don’t be so foolish as to walk away from a deal by suggesting I find a competitor to do this task for me,” Rafnhild said.

“That didn’t answer my question. Why me?”

The crone laughed her dry laugh again. “Clever. It must be you because you have something you want from me much more than you would want the Water of Awakening for yourself. If I were to hire some warrior, he would seek to sell this thing at a profit after I told him where to get it. Not that I need a warrior. It is not a particularly perilous journey, though a bit long under the feet. Certainly less dangerous than what I shall do here.”

“If it’s so safe, then why don’t you go get it yourself?”

“I am old.”

“That didn’t stop you from climbing onto my roof.”

“Not the same as climbing mountains, child. Besides, the spirits told me it would be a woman to fetch me this prize. And here you are, a woman, at least in form.”

Helga sat back down. “But I still want to know what you intend to do with this talisman. If I am go fetching magic artifacts I would be responsible for how they are used.”

“We all get old,” Rafnhild said. “Some foolish men seek to live forever of this earth, but wise women, such as myself, know that the true path to immortality lies in traveling between the worlds. I have, in my long travels, pieced together a mighty ritual that will allow me to depart and return, and to hold the knowledge in my head of both this realm and the timeless before. Know that I speak the truth, child. You cannot easily make evil with the Water of Awakening, but with great effort you can bring a good life, such as my own, into a more timeless state. Only a volva would understand this path, so do not feel too stupid that you do not understand.”

Helga did not catch the insult in this, and though she was hesitant, she felt a strong desire born of concern for her husband to do as the crone bid. She told herself that she would inquire of Bjorn and her mother, or perhaps even the Jarl, when time allowed, as to whether Rafnhild was a true volva and could be trusted, but she could not allow a chance to save Erling walk out her front door.

“Do we have a deal?” Rafnhild said.

Helga gave herself one last thought. In her heart she had begun to despair in recent days, and she was desperate to save Erling. “Yes. I will have to make preparations and ensure Erling is cared for while I am away, but I will do this deed for you.”

“Good, child,” Rafnhild said.

“I will require a bond,” Helga said.

“Of course,” Rafnhild said. “I will cut the runes in my blood and yours.”

“If I fail?”

“You get no cure. I will not bind any other curse. I understand your plight, and I am very merciful, of course, if the task proves too much for a fickle girl’s heart.”

Still slightly reluctant, Helga shook the old woman’s gnarled hand. Later that day the oath was written on a piece of yew and each woman signed with a bloody thumbprint with a few of the townswomen as witness, a gesture all present knew to bind the volva to her word. After this, Rafnhild slowly and carefully drew a map on a piece of parchment she pulled from her bag. She sketched out a rough path, noting some mountains and rivers, and drew a road, then slid it across the table to Helga.

“The spirits are not mapmakers, alas,” she said. “But I’m sure you will reach what you seek.”

The next day Helga went to town to see who might be willing to help her on her journey, for though the Volva said that the road was easy, Helga knew that there were still some dangers in the world.

First, she went to Bjorn, who had two strong sons near Helga’s age, though a bit younger. She found him at his post, moving barrels of seed wheat with one of his sons.

“My sons are their own men,” Bjorn said. He flashed a hard eye to Snorre, his younger son as he sniggered.

“You don’t usually call us men,” Snorre said.

Bjorn narrowed his eyes, but did not chastise him. He turned back to Helga and said, “But I will caution them not to follow you, and I will tell you to stay right here. There’s no reason for that old woman to send you off on some wild goose chase, looking for some magic water.”

“He’s just mad that you didn’t marry Stein,” Snorre said. “Always thought you’d be good for him, since he doesn’t listen to mother.”

“Quiet, boy,” Bjorn said.

“That’s more like it.”

“Will you come with me, Snorre?” Helga said.

“Sorry, Helga, but I spring is here and there is lots of work to do. Maybe I can walk you part of the way down to Thruddel, but that’s it.”

“Good boy,” Bjorn said.

“I’m not a dog, dad.”

“Well you smell like one.” Bjorn frowned at Helga. “The place to be is right here. Brick didn’t stay here for no reason.”

“Always my grandfather.”

“He was a brave man. Foolhardy, but he still didn’t take on anything truly pointless.”

Svanhild, Bjorn’s wife, appeared from the house, her face all smiles in a way that told Helga she had been eavesdropping. “Dear, why don’t we send for a priestess of Nostera, a real healer, to help? I hear they travel willingly in the summer.”

“Expensive,” Bjorn said.

“More expensive than feeding a lame man?”

Bjorn grumbled. “You stay here, Helga, I’ll pay the way for a real healer from the divine strand come summer. Alright?”

Helga shook her head. “I have to do this. Healing didn’t work.”

“Mathias is a doctor, not a healer,” Svanhild said. “He has no access to magic.”

Helga shook her head again. “Summer is too far away. I’ll ask someone else.”

As she walked away Bjorn shouted, “Stay here, Helga!”

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If you like Historical Fantasy or are interested in Feudal Japan, consider checking out Muramasa: Blood Drinker. 

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