Originally, I had planned to write a Sparkle Anwyl case for the 2019 WEP + IWSG Challenge starting in April and ending in December. I wrote the first episode in April, but then posted the next episode of Kindled Casket, last month. There is a ‘caged bird’ in the episode but not as planned – that follows in the next episode. That case will unfold over the next few months.
Hence, the attached standalone short – Fettered Air. A departure from my Welsh police procedural, so your responses will interest me.
I slide ski-swift across the winter’s blanket under the Blood Wolf’s Moon. Beside me the chicken-legged hut creak-crashes through the forest.
We’re alone in the taiga.
No sign of Baba Yaga. She’s vanished as have the denizens. No howling wolves. Nor snow leopard scents. No eagle-owl hoots. Nor honking swans. No ice-crawlers corpse feeding.
For nothing breathes in the wailing wind.
Yet, Nature writhes in pain, dragon’s bile dripping on her from mortal fangs.
I am Skaði. Goddess, giantess, huntress and snow-stealth specialist. Size is not the issue. Speed is.
The house is noisier, but we make a team. This hut can track her mistress better than even I, its feet scratching up clues, windows watching for signs.
Our mission came from Svetovid, seer and guardian god – and we had no choice.
“Find Baba Yaga before this world rebels.”
Why me, a giantess from Jötunheimr? Because neither Odin nor Thor will ask me ever since the marital strife with my spouse, Njörðr.
“Nobody else volunteered,” added Svetovid. “Besides those deities I posted on separate operations.”
He’s as secretive as my Vanir and Aesir brethren. Not just Loki plays with intelligence. Our trickster-thief and clown has too many imitators.
“Others are missing?” I asked, expecting evasion.
“Find Baba Yaga. That’s all.”
So, a need-to-know answer means Skaði is disposable. Nothing has changed.
Am I that terrible?
I had my reasons for smashing my husband’s sand sculptures. The whale-way was a prison with seabirds flaunting freedom.
But he called my majestic mountain retreat a dreary cell. “I’m trapped here. I can’t ski or snowboard like you.” He ranted and ripped down my hunting trophies.
Thus, I get the menial tasks. Unless Odin sends his ravens or wolves with heart-baits.
Not this occasion. A telepathic eagle with four heads.
“Find Baba Yaga.” Svetovid’s orders resound in my brain.
The wilderness wrestles promethium chains. That is enough reason to pursue the quarry.
So we scour Siberia.
The creak-crashing hut spins above the earth-coat. We have the crone’s spoor.
Calls and cries clamour on the snow-breath.
Ahead a green clearing by a lake glows bright. Invisible to vicious human eyes, but I see the torches, tents and throng bridging the veils.
Baba has parked her mortar by a host of other vehicles, one that is familiar – my stepdaughter’s pantherine-drawn chariot.
With groans and creaks, the chicken-legs spin the hut to a halt by the pestle-guarded mortar. Shutters slam shut. A fence of human bones topped with skulls encircles them.
My gaze shoots arrows at the polytheistic conclave nobody invited me to.
Goddesses gathered from the Nine Realms. They have abandoned their posts to feast. Brews flow, dice roll and deities chatter. Everyone distracted as Midgard clamours for release.
Baba knocks back vodka, cackling to another crone – Hecate, clutching a goatskin of wine. Their dice are corpse-stones, and Hel’s are soul-vessels.
Are they oblivious to the desolation? Among the feasting, denizen envoys are airing their anxiety.
My pounding heart settles. Mind muses past irritable white-out.
Not all the deities are wizen and wild in their attire and behaviour. Some goddesses appear serious.
Freyja, stepdaughter and party animal rises – statuesque and sober, despite her goblet of mead.
Her eyes seize mine as she silences the symposium.
“Sisters, the snow-dancer is here. The world cries, and we have battle-sweat to spill. But when shall we three score meet again?”
“When the chaos is banished, when the spear-din is won,” Hel replies.
I add my voice, realising their design. “Ere midnight. After the sleep of the blade claims those flouting our laws.” Faces flash in my head. I smile. “Nature’s justice must wield the icicle of blood against false leaders poisoning life.”
My sisters nod. Creatures yowl.
Freyja smiles and summons her champions. “I come, Durga and Adrastea.
We have fangs to extract.”
Her pantherines roar in response.
We will shatter the fetters on Nature. No more will humans build cages entrapping our laughter and song.
Yes, this is my #WEP/IWSG post for June so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG Challenge. This a standalone short, although Skaði appears in my novel Eagle Passage, which I wrote the first draft of for NaNoWriMo 2016.
Word Count 660: FCA
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