Fantasy · Fiction · Novel · Serial

Chapter 9: Bragi’s Beliefs

I stayed away from the farm for a day, but went back because I was concerned about Bragi’s arm. In this realm, infection carried a real risk of death. The cure for a septic wound was amputation, which Bragi and Tanuvia simply could not endure. If Tanuvia’s father had ever seen me before, he hadn’t reacted.

I flew to his windowsill, cawed, and he eyed me thoughtfully. “Tanuvia’s raven?”

She calls me Muninn.

“Bragi,” he said. He pointed at his chest with a half-carved pig.

How is your arm, Bragi? Any pain?

“Right as rain. My daughter wrapped it fresh last night, and it’s healing well. Thank you for asking. And thank you for–.”

Well, I’ll be off. I just wanted to be sure your arm was healing.

“Wait!”

His squawk reminded me of Tanuvia’s. I stretched my wings, a leg, and composed my sleek feathers to wait.

“Thank you for talking to Tanuvia when she was lonely. For being her friend. You helped her understand she didn’t have to trade her body for companionship.”

She has you.

“There’s still a lot about Tanuvia that is a little girl, and she doesn’t think yet of her father as a friend. When her mother died and I was paralyzed, she had to grow up too fast and work too hard. I’m glad you came, Muninn.”

I’m glad I could help her. I’m sure she’ll be alright now.

“You’re not going, are you?”

I thought I might. I’m a wanderer, a collector of tales. There is no story here any longer.

“Don’t leave her. She’ll go back to what she was doing before. With those men.”

I don’t think so. She’ll find a nice man and settle down like you hoped. That’s how most stories of this kind end, happily ever after.

“Bah. Not in real life. If you won’t stay for her story, stay as her friend. Just a while longer. Make sure she really does find that nice man. Besides, there might still be a story. Did you know she plans to go back to Ruski already? And not enough potatoes for a load because it’s only been a day since she went.”

I asked with apprehension. To do what?

“To see Gem, of course. She washed shirt and trousers for the trip, and she picked flowers. See?” He pointed out his door. A clay jug on the table held a bouquet of wildflowers. “They’re for Gem. She’s taking a basket of food, too.”

When is she going?

“After supper. She said she’d be back before bedtime—and I believe her.”

I paced on the man’s windowsill while he divided his attention between me and his carving of the pig. I stopped and focused my eye on the pig.

That’s not the same one you were carving before.

“I finished that one. This is a sow, the boar’s mate.”

When I returned to the Atheneum, I would upgrade my decision-making software. Instead of haunting Ruski for scraps of conversation, I should have asked Bragi in the first place.

Bragi, what or who is your god and goddess?

The man pointed to a shelf in his room. “Hand me that. The one on the end.”

I fluttered to the shelf he indicated and picked up the wooden figure in my beak. It was the first, little pig he had carved, the boar. He compared it to the sow emerging from the wood in his hand.

“God and goddess live in our forms, our bodies. We believe in generations. To deny that is to deny divinity, god and goddess.”

Lineage is immortality?

“What is a single man? A corpus. He lives, but then he is dead. But I could live forever. You see? I’ll never die as long as generations follow me. A thousand years from now, a child will be born with my gray eyes. That gives a man godhood.”

And what of people who can’t have children for one reason or another?

“Well, through kin. They go on in nieces and nephews. A man or woman without any kin at all, that’s rare among Goodfolk. I suppose there may be other ways but the most sacred is to honor seed and womb.”

This was your despair, Bragi? That Tanuvia denied herself as a goddess?

“Tanuvia treated her body as mortal, mundane, as nothing more than flesh made of clay—or wood.” He held up the pigs, one in each hand. “What I know her to be is far more, the daughter of generations, the potential progenitor of nations, divine and immortal. Goddess and Matriarch.”

I flew to the windowsill. Thank you, Bragi. I would not have deduced these beliefs from the few glimpses I’ve had of Goodfolk religion.

“We teach it to our children in the womb and before they learn to talk. We don’t talk about it once they’re grown. It’s already in their hearts.”

How do you do that? Teach something so abstract to babes?

“We whisper. Das sing the fathersong, and Mams sing the mothersong. It takes both songs to teach properly, and parts of the song are sung together.”

Must the singers be the child’s sire and dam?

“That’s best, but any man or woman who loves a child can teach it, too.”

Hm. You’ve given me a lot to think about, Bragi.

“Enough for a story? You’ll stay with Tanuvia?”

Had Bragi just bribed me with information? I had not suspected the man’s cunning. In his honor, I played the recording of a full-throated laugh and flapped my ebony-feathered, artificial wings in a mad frenzy for effect.

Alright, Bragi. Payment received. I’ll stay a while longer and find out if Tanuvia becomes a goddess or not.

“She already is. She only needs to honor this, and that will be your story.”

Continue Reading, Chapter 10: The Invitation

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