Each month we share excerpts from the illustrated novel Dreams of Ýdalir with our followers. Each excerpt is accompanied by an exclusive “sneak peek”/”work in progress” of the concept art work, created by Roberto especially for the main theme and mood of the chapter it comes from.
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Now for the excerpt and art:
20 September, 1794
I have settled into a nightly routine, in which I leave a cup of broth or milk out on the table near the hearth, one for the wild woman and one for the man with the raven hair. The old stories tell that if you want something from a creature of the Otherworld, you must give a gift in return, so I give gifts preemptively in hopes of speeding up the process of finding out what they want from me.
Last night as I was going through some of Peter’s old boxes, I found one of his journals. His drawings of the plants and trees in the forest were familiar to me, and so was his drawing of a man, hooded with raven colored hair. I would have never recognized him if I had seen this only a few weeks ago. How things can change so greatly, so quickly. Peter knew him, and now the mystery of why he was at the funeral has been solved. Yet so many mysteries about him remain. Who is he? And more importantly, what is my role in all of this? The fact that Peter knew him makes me wonder how long he has been watching me. Did he make himself known to Peter to get closer to me? To what end?
So this morning I went to talk to Nanny Morag. During festivals and feast days, she would always come to the main fire in the evenings after the meal had been served to tell stories. I hadn’t heard her stories in years. But I knew if anyone could, she could help me uncover more of this mystery. Her memory was long and the stories she told were passed down from her family line.
I sought her out at her home while she was making the daily bannocks. Her visitors were still here but they were out for the moment. It was likely the only chance I’d get her alone. She asked how I was getting on. So I confided in her about the dreams I was having and asked her to tell me what the dreams meant. I asked her if she knew who the wild woman and the dark-haired man with the soothing voice were. She could tell I was agitated, and so she took my hand and sat me by the fire with a cup of chamomile tea.
She told me a story about a time long before our remembered ancestors, when a wanderer had come to the village, such as it was in those days. This wanderer brought with him many gifts and powers. He could see into the future and he had a great understanding of our past.
This was at the time of the great ice when reindeer and other more northern animals still lived in these parts and he taught the people of the village to grow in partnership with the reindeer. Many suspected he was of the Otherworld because he would leave for extended periods of time and come back with incredible gifts, like seeds which would grow the hardiest of plants or the golden brew which began a line of children born with golden hair, something that had never been seen before in these lands. And his wife, who was originally a woman of the village, seemed to never age. She had bright flowing red hair and one day, he left to go on one of his many journeys, and he stayed away for a long time, too long. She often took to the woods in his absence and became quite mad eating of the brightly colored mushrooms there.
She had always been a mysterious woman in her own right, born with the gift to call the deer, to move them and have them do her will without ever using her voice. The wanderer had taught her many of his gifts and she was able to help the sick, bring babies into the world and journey in trance to the place where the best feeding grounds for the deer were. But when it seemed she had lost her man, she had sought refuge in the forest. Some say she never came back, that she became one of the Fae and that as the years passed when people went into the darkest and deepest parts of the wood, they might catch a glimpse of her, but she had been quite changed. From her head sprouted antlers that looked like tree branches, and although she walked upon two legs, those legs were the legs of a deer, but no one could mistake her because of her shining red hair.
Nanny Morag told me that my mother had come to her long ago because had dreams and visions of these very two characters that I was talking to her about today. Nanny believes it is the spirits of the wanderer whose name is Wuldor and of his lady wife, Elen, mother of her tribe and of our little village that still stands to this day. She told me that these spirits still walk upon the land here from time to time and that it had been noted that my female line had many encounters with them over the centuries and that knowledge of them tended to bring on a sort of madness. She told me that their knowledge and intervention was my birthright, however. The same birthright my mother had, that compelled her to the woods and to take one of the Fae to wed. I don’t have to go that way if I can learn how to use the knowledge and power in the right way. I asked her how but she could not tell me more although had no doubt that I had been marked by these two figures and that I had some kind of role to play for them.
Nanny Morag believes that these otherworldly beings hold great power and knowledge. A knowledge that could help our people today, she also believes they hold a truth about my family, that there is a reason they continue to appear to those of my line generation after generation. Perhaps it is a great message we need to learn to share with others. I am so confused. I wish I could have some sort of sign to assure me that I am on the right path, that this is somewhere I should go. I fear the family madness, yet I seek answers.