Those two going to the woods are mother and daughter.
The mother goes singing, while the daughter sighs.
“Why dost thou sigh so, my fair daughter?”
“I have much ire in me, I sense my demise.
I am woman by day, and by night a white doe,
The hunt is after me, dark brings only sorrow,
My brother at the lead, he cannot see the charm.
Go now, Mother, I beg of you, go and stay his arm.”
It was an old, dark song that Fiel was absentmindedly singing to himself as he sat outside of his parents’ new hut, but that was the only one he could remember at that moment. Anything to distract him from the noises of her mother giving birth, and of the anxiety that was gripping him.
The story did not end well for the woman in the tale. The hunt catches up with her, they killed her as the doe, a feast is prepared for her brother and his friends. He wonders about his sister’s absence, but her disembodied voice tells him about how she is there with them all, sitting at the place of honor: the dinner plate.
A horrible, bloody tale, to distract him from what he knew was another horrible, bloody sight.
Just thinking that inevitably brought those images to his mind, and Fiel winced.
He was a necromancer. A dealer in morbid affairs and blood magic. Yet this was just too much for him.
He jumped to his feet and paced back and forth until a small height-shaped trench was formed in the snow, cuddling the shivering griffon closer to him. He wanted to walk away, far from the stifled grunts of her mother and the encouraging words of the elder women inside. But he couldn’t leave. He wanted to be near. He needed to be close by… in case–
He didn’t want to think about that possibility. He racked his brain in search of another song, another poem to focus on, his head turning to the hut expectantly every time there seemed to be commotion inside.
Home from the war, King Reynard stands;
His bloody guts are in his hands.
His mother waits by the door
To welcome home Reynard her son.
“Reynard, Reynard, rejoice and sing!
Your wife has borne the future king!”
“Not for my wife nor for my son
Can I rejoice – my day is done.
Go, mother dear, go on ahead,
Prepare for me my fatal bed;
Hasten for time is pressing on,
When midnight strikes I shall be gone.
But, mother dear, pray take good care
That no sound reaches my wife’s ear.”
Then on the last stroke of midnight
King Reynard’s spirit takes its flight.
Spirits… This one was even worse!
Thankfully he didn’t have to groan for too long. The cry of a newborn suddenly rose from the hut, along with the praising voices of the other few norn inside. But Fiel did not dare enter, not until some time had passed and the elders left, not until Inkeri, his mother’s sister and shaman of Wolf, came out and gave him a tired slap on the shoulder.
“What are you still doing here, boy? Go inside already,” she said with a smile. “Rejoin your family, I’m going back to mine.”
Fiel smiled back, but for some reason, he couldn’t move. He couldn’t bring himself to cross the threshold of the hut.
He had been gone for so long… Decades. He felt so alien here, among the snow and the familiar smells of Hoelbrak. Among the songs and voices of his people. He felt so… distant. Was he going to disappear after that? What if he left to some other faraway land, and never came back? His parents had another child now. Wouldn’t it be best if he just–
Farrin suddenly emerged from the entrance, nearly bumping into him. He looked a bit tired, yet positively elated. Fiel could see it in his glistening old eyes.
Old. It struck him. His father was getting old. Fiel knew he was, but why was it so obvious now?
He took his son by the shoulder and gently pushed him inside.
Ylva was on a bed, laying on a blanket of her long, curly black hair. She looked exhausted, still gleaming from sweat, and holding a baby, carefully wrapped in a soft rabbit pelt. A baby. His sibling. He had never saw his mother embracing anything with such care and gentleness, never saw her look upon something with such soft, loving eyes.
“Come meet your sister, Fiel,” Farrin said as he sat down next to his wife.
He let go of Mer, and the little griffon went to curl up next to the brazzier burning nearby. Fiel slowly stepped forward.
He was intimidated. He, a necromancer, one who had battled Risen and Branded and Forged, was now anxious about coming near a newborn.
Ylva noticed. She opened one arm and sluggishly beckoned. Fiel took her hand and knelt down beside her bed. His sister seemed so small in her thick, strong arms. So fragile.
“What’s her name?” he asked.
“Solvej,” his mother replied.
He was lost for words. There was nothing to say. They all silently basked in the wonder that was the new little sparkle of life in their midst.
“Oh, Fiel…” The necromancer looked up as his father addressed him. He was smiling mischievously. “Happy birthday.”
For a moment both Fiel and Ylva stared at him, confused. Then, it struck him: it was his birthday.
Solvej and he were both born on the same day.
“Wow…” he chuckled. “Would you look at that, sister. You and I could have been twins. Except you took…”–a quick calculation–“thirty years to come.”
They all gently laughed. Even silent, stone-cold Ylva.
Solvej knew how to make an entrance.