Topic: Jutta's Tales: The Story Teller. (A URW Horror Story.)  (Read 1112 times)


« on: June 11, 2020, 09:06:18 AM »
The men and women were busy getting ready for the seal hunts. Every year, the young men of village all go away for a month to hunt the beasts. From the window I could see each of the teams of four men standing by their large canoe, full of supplies. Hopefully by the end of the season, they would all come home with the canoes, stuffed full of meat, bones, fat and skins for the women to process.

I could hear the Sage solemnly chanting, a handful of herbs smouldering away as he used it to draw runes on each of the boats, protecting the men from angry spirits while they hunted. I was too old to hunt now; seal hunting was a game for young men. The month was a true test of manhood and I could see several of the older children I was watching, sulking; their mother's deeming them too young to go.

I was left in charge of the children, to keep these young men from sneaking off to join the hunt and to keep the children busy as the adults prepared so I turned to what I did best; I started a story, one told to me by Jutta, of her brother actually and his run in with a spirit while hunting.

In the Owl Tribes, they didn't hunt seals but instead the reindeer. Just like us, the men would go off in groups to hunt the herds as they moved from the northern lands they bred and calved in, to the south, to fatten on the ripe berries and grasses, peeking up from the snow during the summer.

The Tribe Sage has announced the season had started and the forest was ready to release some reindeer to them. Jutta's brother, Veli was often chosen to go on these hunts, not because he was a good shot with spear or bow, or even that strong but because he was a storyteller. A good storyteller could sit by a fire and his words could distract them from the aching of their bodies from walking for miles, from the tough dried meat that was dinner and the cold dark forest that surrounded them. When night fell there was nothing but to do, except eat, talk and sleep. The men carried as little as possible with them to ensure they could carry as much meat and fur back with them. To carry whittling tools or instruments to amuse themselves were considered selfish. The meat and furs would be shared between them all and if someone didn't carry a fair load, it was stealing warmth from their beds, and food from their children's mouths.

Veli knew he was the weakest one and became the camp tender, ensuring the fire was lit and there was clean freshly boiled snow in the pot for the men to drink. He made up the stew from dried meats in a pot over the fire for them all. He didn't begrudge his work as this time his group was made up of two friends, Onni and Topi. All three had been friends for many years and if it wasn't for the last of the group, Olavi, it would have been a great time.

Olavi was only son of a village leader and deemed his father's position was his position. His father's earned respect and wisdom was his too. He had joined the group solely on the fact that the Sage had 'seen' a great Reindeer Stag in his dreams, an unusual coloured one, splotches of white and black on it. The Sage was uncertain what it meant; a white stag meant good fortune, pleased spirits but a black one, meant ruin, unlucky. Olavi believed it meant the Stag was out there to hunt. Such a skin would turn many a head, the hunter would be part of many a story and poem for bringing back such a fine thing. In fact it might be good enough to impress a maiden he had his eye on.

So after much begging of his father, Olavi went on his first hunt with Veli and friends. To someone who had never travelled far, the days of walking was hard for Olavi, and the complaints of walking for days was hard on the others. By evening of day three, the group were stressed and settled down to make camp in a grove. Veli made started the fire as the others cleared scrub away and built the shelters.

Night fell soon and the men gathered silent for once around the fire, waiting for Veli to finish the food. The men almost jumped out their skins as they heard footsteps approach in the dark. The men's hands shifted to their weapons only to see a woodsman of sorts approach the fire. “Well met.” Veli greeted him.

The man lifted a hand in greeting. “May I join you?” He asked.

Olavi opened his mouth to speak but Onni beat him to it. “Of course.” He shifted on the log. “In nights like these, it would be rude to dismiss company.”

Now closer to the fire, Veli could see the man properly. He looked old, in the flickering fire light. Dressed in deer skin clothing, his long silver beard and hair, scraggly. His hands were filthy as he took the bowl of food Veli offered. Manners dictated the guest ate first. The old man did so greedily slurping at the stew.

Before Veli handed the rest of the food out, the old man had finished and held his bowl out for more. Veli refilled it, leaving himself only a little. He ate his own slowly watching the old man who pretty much licked the bowl clean. The old man broke the silence first, placing his bowl down. “After that fine food, let us tell stories. I think you might have a good one.” He pointed to Topi who startled.

“... Okay? I am not much of a storyteller!” He told him sagely. “But... I do have one.” Topi began a tale of his brother and his first fishing trip. “And that's how I ended up with two fishing hooks in thumb...” He told the group the misadventure, causing the others to laugh.

“Two?” Onni gasped between laughter.

“I tried to get the first fishing hook one out with a second!” He retorted, breaking into laughter himself.

The old man was snorting his amusement, tossing his head in laughter. Veli turned to see Olavi staring at the men, stony face. “Not that funny.” Olavi shrugged, determined to sour the evening.

The air picked up for a second and Veli glanced at the old man and felt that off feeling. The old man turned and winked at Veli, seemingly knowing his thoughts. Veli looked away quickly as the old man pointed at Onni. “Your turn.”

Veli knew Onni never told stories. He said he lived too simple life, but he saw him almost bewitched, compelled to tell a story and he did. One from his father. “Drunk on mead the night before his wedding ceremony, he saw a squirrel walk up to him. He thought it was a Spirit trying to bless him. So, he held out his hand and the squirrel instead scampered up him and stole the dowry of a bronze comb, running off with it!” He snorted. “He turns to my mother and told her what happened and she... she said, 'I'll be a squirrel's daughter then!'”

The air was full of laughter again except for Olavi who sniffed and spat into the fire, breaking the mood. “Your father was a buffoon.” He sneered. “We should go to bed soon.” He glared at the old man who looked back baleful.

Veli felt the forest fall silent with his words. Something running through him. The story jarred something in his brain, and he lifted his hand to cover his right eye, as he looked with his left, he saw the old man turn. No longer an old man but instead a black and white reindeer staring at him smiling. Again, a wink. “Who’s left.” The reindeer said. Veli blinked and removed his hand, the image of the reindeer gone, the old man was back.

Topi looked at Veli. “Our best storyteller, that is who!” He preened on his behalf. “Veli is the best storyteller in our village.”

Veli looked away, not ashamed but shy. “No guys, come on.” He tried.

The old man tutted. “False modesty is far uglier than truthful pride.”

Veli paused and nodded, not wanting to upset the forest spirit and sat up. He racked his brains looking for the best of his stories and picked one. The most requested an epic about a strong fighter.

He finished to applause from most of the group apart from Olavi who stood up obviously annoyed. “I am tired of this. You may spend all night entertaining a smelly old man, but I want to be up in the morning to finish this stupid hunt. I am sick of made up stories and tales.” His anger apparent but not as apparent as the old man.

No longer wearing the costume of the old man, the reindeer walked on two legs, like man but stood far taller. The being stalked towards Olavi who didn't notice until the shadow of the spirit fell on him and he fell silent. The old man's voice was quiet but carried. “Made up stories and tales?” The being asked. “It is my turn to tell you a story.” He grabbed the scared human. The others were frozen in their seats, almost bewitched as the Spirit bent low, murmuring too quiet in Olavi's ear. Finally, he released the quivering human who fled as quick as he could.

The being turned around and gave them a bow. “I enjoyed your tales, men. May your next hunt be well.” The being blessed them and walked off into the darkness too.

They couldn't find Olavi until sunrise, the man had climbed on top of a hill and clung there like a squirrel. His dark hair now white. It took longer to return home, Olavi silent and refusing to tell them what the spirit had said. The others fell silent too, not speaking to the others about what happened, only that Olavi had a terrible fright.

Olavi was never the same again, refusing to leave the village even to court the pretty maiden he had desired before. He had seemingly been broken by the Spirit's words. Worse still he developed a fear of water, even having to be forced to wash by his own mother.

Veli came across Olavi one night, deep into his mead which he lapped from shallow dishes like a dog. He was drunk enough to swing for Veli, the mead made him slow and Veli easily dodged. Olavi turned to sway as he cried. “It is your fault! If you didn't tell stories!” He shouted. “He wouldn't have told me!” He sat back now, too drunk to stand.

Veli couldn't stop himself. “Told you what?” The words he didn't hear was plaguing him, he thought often of the spirit. It was hard not too with Olavi drifting through the village just like a spirit himself with his wide haunted eyes and white hair.

Olavi sobbed. “He told me, a true story, my story.” He looked at the dish in his hand and threw it. “He told me my life, everything. Even stuff no one else knew!” He covered his face with his hands. “Like I broke the fence that let the reindeer out as a kid.” He admitted. “I didn't mean to!” He begged Veli. “You believe me, right?”

Veli just nodded. They had lost their best does that night, costing the village a fortune to replace and they still struggled in winter to this day because of it.

Olavi continued. “It wasn't just my past, but my future.  He told me all of this. Everything he said came true. But he also told me my death. That I would die... drowning.” He shuddered.

Veli sat back shocked. “How?” They lived in a land locked land, the only well was tiny. “Surely it cannot be true.”

Olavi opened his mouth to respond but his father had walked in, to drag his drunken son to bed.

Veli watched him leave, feeling guilty for not warning the others, what he had seen. He made offerings for the spirits. Maybe Olavi would find peace soon. He went to bed only to wake to a wailing from outside.

He ran out in just his under-things as he watched the leaders carry Olavi out, dead. He caught whispers of the crowd. Dead, drown in the family's rainwater barrel. Must have gotten up for a drink during the night and fell in.

Veli turned around to get dressed and see if he could help the family when he saw in the tree line a large black and white reindeer. The being saw him and gave him a wink before it walked off back into the forest on its’ hind legs.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2020, 09:10:23 AM by Owlant »