I heard something good today, and I wanted to write it down.
It’s been hard of late to keep my original plan for this journal, my regular listing of three good things. I’ve failed in that regard – but this is one good thing, and I want to keep it in this parchment to read on days when I have naught else. It’s just a story, or even a fragment of a story, but one I haven’t heard since my chest was bare.
We’ve been waiting on Molay to come back from the Gautama clubhouse or whatever it is. I can’t possibly think of what they do there. Probably lots of synchronized nodding and meditation and general platitudes of thankfulness, with no cursing or drinking or temple prostitutes or anything vaguely interesting.
I’m saltful, of course, because Gautama is always immensely more helpful than Daur, but let me have my salt. It’s duly earned.
Anyway, Molay is a-way, still, so Drust has been entertaining us all by going around doing his bard bits, singing and dancing and telling stories. It would be exceptionally saltful of me to act like he’s not good at his job, but I’m not that solid of a liar. Drust is a pretty entertaining one-man show, despite how usually difficult he is to endure, and he’s been keeping us from drowning ourselves in bathtubs from boredom – which at the inn I often find myself tempted to do. Come to think of it, that’s a weird way to want to kill myself and I am guessing Ludd or Whoeverthefuckelse is responsible for that.
side note in margin:
Anyway, Drust came to sit beside me earlier today while I was sharpening my shortsword, chipper as fuck because everyone had been paying him so much attention recently – puffed up like a guinea pig that’s busted open the sugar bag. That’s all he really wants, Drust, just attention paid – for good or ill.
Since he was on such a roll and all he turned to me, where he doesn’t usually have luck getting adulation, all performative-like (not like anyone else was even around at that precise moment, but every minute is a stage for him), and asked me if there was any particular song or story I’d like to hear.
Now, normally, I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of feeling useful to me.
Today, for whatever reason, I decided to humor him; I put down my sword and signed back to him, asking if he knew any stories from Blasric. I figured this would be a polite way of engaging him without getting into too long of an interaction because as far as I understood it we were about to traipse into some serious fucking war zones and I had war shit to do.
However, he surprised me by actually knowing one. It was a poem, he said, something he always just knew as the Blasric Fragment.
“I don’t actually know what the words mean, Knut,” he said, standing up with a flair and preparing for what I could tell was going to be some epic fucking oratory. “I learned it in the original ice-talk from a Northern bard passing through, and I never got a full translation. The few times I’ve had a chance to perform it for a crew from Blasric, though, it’s gone over insanely well, so I have to assume that it’s a victorious story of valor and honor. I’d be honored if you’d give me a better idea of its meaning, though.”
He cleared his throat, more loudly than necessary – perhaps trying to summon any latent audience members that might crawl out from unexplored corners and laud him with adoration – and began:
Né húru Hildeburh herian þorfte
eotena tréowe· unsynnum wearð
beloren léofum æt þám hildplegan
bearnum ond bróðrum· híe on gebyrd hruron
gáre wunde· þæt wæs geómuru ides –
And I was no longer there. I was seven years old, huddled in unending layers of fur pelts, with a faint fire glowing in the corner of our hut and my brothers crowded in on all sides, as far as I could see around me – I was drowning in brothers, I had brothers for days. I thought this would be my life. And my mother’s voice, speaking this poem to me, quietly, so quietly, because if Lothar heard he would frown; the night-stories, they made boys soft, he said. But my mother loved him, embraced him, sent him on his way, and told the stories regardless. And this was one of them. This was hers. Ours.
And as quickly as the memory had come, it was gone. In its place was Drust, looking down at me, utterly horrified.
“Knut-bro, my friend, if I offended you somehow – "
I blinked, then signed that I was not offended.
“It’s just…you’re crying.”
I reached up and touched my face.
This was unacceptable. I was a disgrace to my family and to Daur. I stood up, resolved to go find a bathtub right that second and end myself.
Drust, genuinely worried, went to block my way. “Knut, my main man – give me a chance to make the story better. Where did I go wrong?”
I shook my head, my hands waving about in the air, clarifying. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” I indicated, and I even reached out a hand to put on his slight shoulder, just to prove I wasn’t pissed off or about to go set all of his shit on fire. “You gave me a memory back. Thank you.”
“Oh,” he uttered, terror seemingly replaced by confusion.
I took my hand back then and signed with both. “After the stitchers, or during, I’m not sure which – anyway, I forgot a lot of shit. From home. It was survival at the time, but now I…there’s a hole there, in my head, with what I can’t remember anymore. You put some of it back. That was a story my mother used to tell us before we slept. A night-story.”
Drust, visibly relieved, said, “Oh!”, with more confidence this time. He straightened up and said, “You mean a bedtime story.”
“Same thing, whatever.”
“Sure.” He cocked his head to the side. “It must be a REALLY happy story, for it to have made you feel that way, and for your mother to have told it.”
“Oh, absolutely. It starts with Hildeburh burning the bodies of her son and her brother on the same pyre. Her family’s tribe, you see, came to visit the clan she’d married into, but then, after her husband Finn had a big feast for them and everything, he broke the bread-and-salt laws and slaughtered her entire family during the night. She and whoever the fuck else had survived – these guys Hengest and Hunlafing – were stuck there for the winter, so they had to stay in the house of the clan chief who had murdered all of their kin.”
Drust had this look of utter disgust on his face, but I assumed it was because I wasn’t as good at telling stories as he was.
“Anyway, the winter passes and the ice starts to melt, and then Hunlafing takes this sword, named Battle-light, and goes – POW –” I accentuate this with my hands slapping on my knee. “…and slams it down on Hengest’s lap, letting him know it’s time for revenge and shit. So then Hengest kills Finn and all his guys, rescues poor Hildeburh, and takes them all back home over the ocean. I’m not, you know, good with telling this shit, but that’s what it means.”
If Drust’s jaw were dropped any lower it would be down to his boots.
“THAT…is what your MOTHER…told you at BEDTIME?”
“Fuck yeah, man. She was the best.”
Drust still looks kind of disgusted as I saunter out into the sunlight, but whatever, I never said I was a storyteller – that’s his job. My job is to kill motherfuckers. And something about getting that story back makes me happier to do it.
I’m from Blasric. This is what we do.
Time to slice up some shit.