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The Safety of the Full Moon
The wind howled outside, a snowy winter storm beginning to rage. On a night like this, when the cold settled into every bone and was determined to stay, the entire household would sit in the Great Hall, around the blazing fire pit. Food and drink was still plentiful, as it was only the beginning of winter. Despite the awful weather, the atmosphere inside was one of celebration.
All the men and woman, dressed warmly, were sitting at the long table, drinking ale and eating meat and cooked vegetables. Children sat on the ground, some eating, and some playing with small, wooden toys. A few dogs wandered about the feet of the feasters, hoping for scraps or fallen crumbs.
At the head of the long table sat the chief of the village. He was eating heartily, for both his village and household were prosperous and now was the time for feasting and relaxation.
Near the end of the meal, a knock was heard at the door of the Great Hall. Everyone grew silent, for a knock was usually from a messenger, one that had bad news. A guard shuffled over to the door. Opening it just a crack, he spoke to the newcomer. Then he turned to the chief and said, “My Lord, it is a traveling bard.”
The chief stood, smiling. “Well, bring him in, man! It’s cold out!”
The guard opened the door wider and a snow covered figure shuffled in. He relied on a thick staff as he slowly made his way to the fire. “Come warm yourself and eat some food.” Said the chief. Servants scurried to help the man sit down and then gave him a plate heaped with warm food. The old man ate it like a starving dog, gobbling it down and enjoying it greatly.
Once he was warmed up and his stomach satisfied, he spoke for the first time. “My many thanks to you, my Lord. I think Odin himself rides with his huntsman tonight, for the wind is sharp and biting, and it howls like the hunting dogs.”
A child near him giggled and he smiled at her. “You know the stories of Odin, do you not?”
She nodded solemnly. “Every single one.” She announced. The man laughed. “Well then, you’ll be wanting to hear a new story.”
All the children were interested now and gathered around his feet, chattering excitedly. The adults were curious as well. The old man waited for everyone to get settled before he began.
“My name is Bodvic. And while it is hard to believe, I was once a young man.” The children giggled at this, looking at his wrinkled face and claw-like hands.
“Even as a young man, I traveled for a living, though I wasn’t a story telling bard back then. Instead, I sang at taverns, in return for money or a place to stay. Now there was this one village that I had never visited before, but that year, the winter came so suddenly that I was caught out on the road. I had to change my destination and ended up in a village. I lived there in the tavern for one very interesting week.”
A little boy interrupted him. “Did you fall in love with the tavern owner’s daughter?”
Bodvic laughed. “Now how did you know that he had a daughter?”
The boy looked around, tugging at his shirt. “Well, they always have a daughter.”
Everyone laughed at this and the little boy grinned impishly.
Sitting back in his chair, the bard said, “It’s true, I did fall in love with her. But our love was not meant to be.”
“Why not?” Asked an older girl. Bodvic stared off into a corner. “That is what my tale is about.”
I blew on my hands, trying to warm them up, even if only a little bit. But the air was growing colder with every step I took and I knew that I couldn’t last outside much longer. Uller must be angry, to make winter so miserable. I thought to myself. He’ll claim me as his first victim for sure, if I don’t get to a village soon. To my relief, I saw a faint light up ahead. With new determination, I trudged through thick, heavy snow and made it to a tavern.
Leaning on the door frame, I knocked wearily. Though it had been snowing earlier, the sky was now clear and the nearly full moon shone across the iced over land.
After what seemed like years, the door opened. “Ah, come in, stranger.” Said the man who opened it. “It doesn’t matter who are, no one should be out on such a night. It’s not safe.”
Silently, I limped into his tavern and sat down in an empty chair near a struggling fire. Holding my hands as close to the flames as possible, I watched him as walked about and ordered people to do things. Wearily, I finally leaned back, closed my eyes and dozed off.
Sometime later, after I had rested a bit, I introduced myself to him and his family. He only had one daughter. She was of marriageable age, nearly sixteen summers or so, and was very beautiful. She didn’t speak, though she served me food and drink. I thanked her warmly but she didn’t respond
Later, before going to bed, I sang for the other guests. My songs spoke of the gods and their battles, their loves, their sorrows. As I sang, I saw the daughter watching me from the kitchen.
When I was finished, she came over to me shyly. “My father has asked me to show you to your room, sir.”
I smiled. “Please, call me Bodvic.”
“Alright, Bodvic.” She said, this time smiling back. “My name is Finna.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Finna.” I said as she led me down a hallway and up some stairs. She showed me my room, which already had a warm fire going in it.
“Well, this is your room.” She said, twisting some of her hair around her finger. “You know…your songs were beautiful.”
I laughed a little. “Why, thank you kindly.”
“It was nice, listening to them. We haven’t had anyone sing here for weeks now. People have been too sad to sing.”
Now I was puzzled. “Too sad? Why?”
She frowned slightly. “Since the winter began, there has been a giant wolf that prowls around at night. People and animals have gone missing. The men have organized hunts, but they can never find any tracks, just frozen patches of blood. Some of the old women have said that it is Fenrir himself, come to devour us one by one.”
I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Fenrir? The wolf god?”
She nodded, still frowning. “Oh, I just wish that it…” she trailed off, suddenly lost in thought. I watched her for a moment, and then said, “Well, I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Still thinking, she nodded and said, “Yes, see you then.” She started to walk down the hallway but then stopped and looked back at me. “Do you know how many nights till full moon?”
I was startled at the question but answered, “I think four days or so. Why?”
But she didn’t answer me, and muttered to herself instead. “Too long…have to wait…” Then she continued down the hallway, leaving me rather curious.
I continued to sing for the other guests every night, as pay for my room and meals. Afterwards, I would sit and talk with the tavern owner, or his daughter. On the fourth night that I was there, he sat down next me, sighing heavily.
“It is a good thing that you do, Bodvic. The people of this village need songs like yours to lift their spirits.” He said, taking a big gulp of ale.
“Tell me about the wolf that’s been around here.” I asked him, nibbling at some dry bread.
He put his feet up on a footstool. “It’s a damned giant of a creature. His eyes, when he looks at you, seem to bore right into your soul. It’s like he’s trying to read your thoughts or something. His fur is black as a stormy sky and he’s got huge teeth.”
I looked at him, somewhat sceptically. “Is this what you’ve heard, or have you actually seen him?”
“Oh, I’ve seen him, alright.” He growled at me. “Watched him haul away one of my calves. I was too far away to do anything, but I was close enough to see what he looked like. If only someone could kill him…then the women wouldn’t fear for their babes at night.”
Later that evening, I saw Finna wrapping herself in shawls, ready to go outside. I walked over to her before she could open the door. “Let me go with you.” I said, opening it for her.
She huffed impatiently. “I’m feeding the chickens, not fighting a bear.”
I looked at her. “It’s not bears I’m worried about.” She sighed. “Alright, come with me. You may as well carry the feed sack.”
A bitter wind blew outside but the night was clear. The moon is full tonight. I thought to myself, remembering Finna’s question. Following close behind her, we trudged through the frozen snow to a small shed. She unbarred it and we went inside.
“Hold the sack open.” She instructed. I did so, watching her with a smile. She’s beautiful. She’s not like other girls. She’s strong willed, and I like that.
“Do you come out here every night?” I asked her. She nodded, grabbing some chicken food and tossing it to the sleepy birds.
“I’m not afraid of the wolf.” She said determinedly. “There are already enough afraid people.” She seemed angry now as she stuck her hand into the sack once more and continued feeding the chickens.
“Finna, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I said, not sure why she was seemed upset.
She looked up at me. “I’m not ashamed. It’s just time that wolf was killed. The village has lost too many people already. I won’t let anyone else die.”
I put down the feed sack and gripped her shoulders. “Finna, you’re not making any sense. There’s nothing you can do! And even if there was, I wouldn’t want you to be in danger. Finna, I…I love you.”
Her eyes went wide and she stared at me. “Bodvic…no. I…even if you do love me, I can’t love you.”
I didn’t understand. “Why not? Is there someone else?”
She shook her head and took a step back so that I let go of her. “No. I can’t love anyone. Ever.”
“Finna…I don’t understand.” I said, frowning slightly. I tried to collect my thoughts.
“Bodvic.” She said suddenly, scaring me. “Yes?” I asked, worried. She was gazing past me, out the door. I turned and felt my heart stop.
Crouched down on the snow, not more than twenty feet away from us, was the wolf.
I could understand why they called him Fenrir. He certainly didn’t look like any mortal wolf that I had ever seen. He watched us, unmoving.
“Get behind me, Bodvic.” Finna said in a low voice. “What?” I asked her, sure she had gone mad. “You’re not getting closer to that…that demon. I won’t let you.”
“Bodvic! You have to trust me, please. Get behind me. Everything’s going to be fine.” I could see the serious look in her eyes and realized that arguing with her would be useless. I got behind her, though I remained ready to protect her, should the wolf attack.
The wolf stood and took a couple of steps towards us. He sniffed the air, watching Finna.
Suddenly, before I could stop her, she began to run towards the wolf. Though I tried to follow her, I seemed rooted to the spot. I could only watch as the wolf began to run at her as well. Any second, he was going to leap and tear out her throat.
However, he never had a chance to. With a wild, animal-like cry, Finna leapt into the air, moonlight shining over her. To my utter shock, she wasn’t a human when she landed on the wolf.
A large wildcat screeched and tore at Fenrir. He had been taken by surprise and quickly tried to recover, but the wildcat was everywhere, all at once. Blood began to run into the snow, staining the surrounding area. The wolf, as powerful as he was, never stood a chance.
Within minutes, it was over. The remains of the wolf were scattered all around. I feared that the wildcat would come attack me, but it was gone. Instead, there stood Finna, looking at the pieces of the once feared hunter. “Everyone is safe again.” She said softly. Then she looked at me, almost sadly.
“Finna…” I whispered, staggering towards her.
“I suppose I should explain this to you.” She said, sighing. I nodded, feeling unable to speak anymore.
She looked down at the bloodied ground. “I once had a younger brother. He was my best friend in the entire world. One day, a rabid bear came out of the woods and killed several children, my brother being one of them. I was so angry about how helpless I had been to stop it. For months, I sat and mourned, unable to feel joy, or love. Then, Freya visited me.” She stopped, to see my reaction.
“Freya, the goddess?” I managed to ask. She nodded.
“She asked me why I wept so much and I told her. I said that I wished I could protect those that I cared for. So she gave me a choice. She would give me a gift, the chance to protect, but in return, I would give up love.”
I was beginning to understand. “So you took the gift, and now you…you turn into a wildcat?”
She nodded. “But only once, every full moon. So you see, I had to wait for tonight before killing Fenrir.”
“Yes, I see.” I said, still dazed by the whole thing. “And now I see why you can’t love me back.”
Finna shook her head. “I am sorry, Bodvic.”
I smiled wryly. “Oh, don’t worry about me. Besides, one day this will make a great story.”
“And it did make a great story!” Said a little girl, smiling. Bodvic nodded, and then yawned. “That is all I have to tell tonight.”