The Cold Has a Voice
Summers in Eventyr were mild, not overly warm but very sunny, with the golden light pouring into the valley from high overhead, making the waters of the lake and numerous streams sparkle like gems. Spring was even quite nice, with all the trees and flowers bursting with new growth and new life. Autumn was very like Spring, though instead of everything turning green and flourishing, the world quickly turned brown and grey as all the plants withered and prepared for the long sleep of Winter, when snow would deeply blanket the high peaks of the mountains that enclosed it, but usually never fell to any significant amount in the valley itself.
At least, that’s how it used to be. Many years ago, before Runa was born, something changed. Winters started being harsher and longer, getting worse each year. Spring and Summer were becoming shorter and less pleasant. Autumn started early and led into the long, snowy Winter that lasted for over a third of the year now. Runa, not knowing the gentleness and splendor of Summers of old, never found anything unusual about the weather. Nothing, that is, except that she alone seemed to be able to hear its voice.
She once tried to ask her father and Nana if they, too, could hear the voice that cried and moaned on the cold winds of Winter. They looked at her so strangely, like she had suddenly sprouted antlers or something, that she pretended that she was making it all up like an imaginary friend. But Runa knew she wasn’t imagining it. She heard the sadness that came to the valley every Winter. The same sad voice that had moaned on the wind the very morning she set out to rescue her father.
This was the earliest she had ever heard the voice. It was still technically late Summer, or very early Autumn, if you like. And yet, that morning, she had heard it. She was starting to believe that there might be something significant about that, but didn’t really know what. As she made her way back to the beach, she listened for the voice again. She hoped that somehow, the voice would guide her to her parents. She knew where the Fall of Tears was, but had no idea where to start searching for her mother after that. The Misting Wood was very large and full of dangers…
About that time, her father’s crew were getting their ship ready to go out for a day’s fishing. Anders, the oldest member of the crew, and her father’s second in command, had assumed temporary captaincy of the ship and always made sure that Runa and Nana Dagmar received Finn’s portion from the sales. Anders saw Runa on the beach and greeted her warmly.
“Good morning, Little Runa! We will look for him again today, as we do every year,” Anders told her, seeing her eyes scanning the waves.
“That won’t be necessary, Anders,” Runa told him. “I am going in search of him myself. And I will find my mother to help me.”
“Yes, she was a beautiful Huldra, as I now know, who retreated to the Fall of Tears to live with the Fossegrimen and beasts of the wood when she became human and ugly. I am going to find her and have her help me find Father.”
“And you are not afraid to go searching on your own?”
“Not at all,” she replied, though a slight shiver ran through her body. “I will have mother with me very soon, so nothing will harm us.”
“And how do you expect to find your father after all these years?”
She considered telling him about the Voice of the cold winter wind, but decided to keep it to herself. “Surely, two of the ones who love him best will be able to find him, if anyone can. And I believe that Mother will have ways we do not know about, or she will be able to lead me to someone who can help.”
Anders rubbed a hand across the back of his neck and looked at the strangely confident young woman before him. “I see you are determined, so I will not try to stop you. However, if you require anything I can give you, just name it. I would give anything to have your father back at the helm of his ship. I have never known a fisherman as good as Finn. I hate to say it, Little Runa, but your father may have been taken home by the Havsrå. “
“The Havsrå? Could I have not known that my father was the son of mer-folk? But even if that is what happened, I have to know for myself.”
Anders nodded. “Yes, I would like to know as well. Listen, I know something I can give you that will help.” He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a small compass, which he then handed to her. “This belongs to your father. He said it was a gift from your mother. If you whisper what or who you are looking for, it will guide you to it. But,” he held up a finger, “you must already be close to your destination for it to work. Anything more than a few miles it will not be able to locate. But once you are within the reach of its power, it will guide you true. Every time.”
Runa hugged the compass to her heart. “Oh, thank you!” She then hugged the old sailor as tight as she could and kissed him on his rough cheek. “Thank you, Anders! You have given me the best gift ever! But,” she suddenly said, “won’t you be needing this to find the fish?”
“What is more important, eh? Finding your father or catching some fish, when the lake and sea are full of them? No, my dear, you need that more than I do.” He smiled down at her, his merry blue eyes shining bright.
Runa hugged him once more. “Oh, Anders, watch over Nana while I’m gone, will you? I hate to think of her waiting and fretting until we return.”
He patted her head. “Of course I will. She is a fine woman, your Nana.”
“Thank you. I feel I can get on with it now,” she told him. Then she tucked the compass into her pocket and hitched up her pack a little higher on her shoulders. “Goodbye! I will return with Father and Mother soon.”
She waved at Anders as he wished her farewell. Then, feeling much more confident than she had before, she set her feet on the path leading out of the village and toward the great unknown before her.
copyright 2015 J.I. O’Neal