Upon Returning (Six Word Story 890)

They scattered Grandpa’s ashes outside Bastogne.


Sample Chapter from “The Trolls”


Kecia Sparlin of Muninn’s Memory ( https://muninnsmemory.com/ ) recently gave some feedback on my draft book, “The Trolls”. Basically, “What the heck is Chapter 12 about?!?!? Gimme more ogres!” So here is Chapter 3 of the book, though you oughtta take a few minutes to read chapters 1 and 2 first:


Feedback welcome, though I’m well aware the dialogue is a bit stilted. Trying to capture the essence of a bygone era without the benefit of a classical education. But you get the picture. Once this thing goes huge, an agent will be able to hire someone with a Masters’ in Philology to clean up the language, and some kind of archeologist to make sure the clothes and weapons are authentic.

And now, Chapter 3, “An Initiation”, with more chapters to follow:

Asrael grabbed Asram’s arm, “Wait. Listen!”

Asram pulled away impatiently, “Quiet! You’ll scare all the game!”

“But Asram, the smoke has been blowing for an hour. Father said that means we have been attacked!  Who would sound the alarm if it wasn’t true?”

“Asrael, you fool!  That smoke comes from the cottage of Barhaden.  His wife’s father is an old man!  He always talks of the ogre wars and the attacks of trolls, and other ancient battles.  Why, he once told me and Asar that people came up from the WATER on great trees and pillaged as far as Askalant!  Remember how he called the alarm the time a rockslide came down the far mountain? No doubt he has seen groundhogs eating his korns and wants help chasing them away.” Asram turned and spat.

“Well, who is to say it is not true?  Grandfather used to tell of the people from across the sea.  And anyhow, we’re not talking about something from years ago, we’re talking about today.  See how the smokes continues?  And did I not tell you that I dreamed all night of a horrible beating heart in the woods?  DA-da-da-da, DA-da-da-da.  My heart is sick with it!”

“Brother, the men will never shave your head and join you to the tribe if you talk like a child. You will have to live with Mother and Sister until you are old, milking the goats and…”

Asram was interrupted by a deep booming noise, like a bass drum heard far away.  The brothers froze in place, exchanging glances. Asrael put up his hand, “Wait!………..Do you hear it?”

“Is that thunder?” They strained their ears, and heard the booming noise repeat again and again, several seconds between, sounding like heavy steps.

“That’s not thunder!  It’s something huge!”

“Coming this way!”

The brothers pushed and shoved one another, desperately barking out orders to each other,  “Hide!”  “Here!”  “No, here!”, finally hiding behind a   fallen tree.  As they looked over it, motionless, Barhaden ran into the glade.  He paused and looked behind himself.

Asram called over, “Barhaden!  Behind here!”

He started, then ran over and jumped over the log, getting low quickly and looking at the boys.

“Asrahad’s sons!  Asram and Asrael!  You have weapons?”

Asrael held up his club and sling, “We’re hunting rabbits.”

“What’s happening, Barhaden?”

“Wohaden and I are playing a game of ogres!”, a mischievous grin crossing his face.

Asram jumped up, “A game? A game of ogres?  There is work in the fields, and you send up smoke signals…..”

Barhaden pulled him down and hissed, “Down, you fool!  This is a serious game, and it has four rules.”

He looked the boys in the eyes, to make sure he had their attention, “First, you tell everyone you meet the ogres are attacking.  Second, you keep the ogres between you.  That means when they chase you, you all run, in different directions.  When they chase another fellow, you turn to the chase and hit them with sling stones so they come after you.  When the ogre chases you, the other chases him and slings stones. And so on.”

The boys nodded, “Third, if an ogre is winded and separated from the war party, you set upon him with your sling stones and spear.  And last, the game is up when the sun reaches there,” pointing to the time of the afternoon prayers, “You get far from the ogres and make your way to Askalant.  Get there before the ogres!  If you can’t make it, climb a tree to hide, and wait for your chance to get inside the palisades.”

“Then there is really war, Barhaden?  There are really ogres?”

“A whole war party. Something we haven’t seen since the time of your grandfather’s grandfather!”

The boys gaped, and Barhaden asked, “Asram, do you and your brother know the war signals?”

“Yes, sir!  I am enrolled in the tribe and Asrael will be tested after the harvest!  One blast, chase in the direction of the mountains.  Two blasts, left of the mountains.  Three blasts, right of the mountains.  Four blasts, the unmarried men circle left and those with children circle right.”

“Good!  There is now one more.  Five blasts, it is time to run to Askalant!  Now listen.  We alone can not stand against them.   One ogre is stronger than ten men, though five men can bring an ogre down.  But while a man is smarter than ten ogres, ten ogres together are not as smart as one man!  Ten ogres are even stupider than one ogre alone.  What we must do is make them chase us and slow them down.  Wohaden has been able to raise about 20 men from the valleys to help.  If you can keep these ogres chasing you for another hour, I will have time to organize a party of farmers from the plains.  We can pitch a battle, so the others can make it to the palisades of Askalant.”

“Understood, Father Barhaden!  Anything else?”

“Yes!  Asrael, come here.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Put out your arm.”

As he did, Barhaden drew his knife. Asram asked, “Father Barhaden?”

Barhaden gestured with his knife, “Come closer and put out your arm, too.  I’m sure you know the ceremony.  Today Asrael joins the men.”

Asram was indignant at the impiety, and the unfairness of an early enrollment, “But there has been no fast!  No prayers!  No sacrifice!  His hair has grown uncut since birth!”

“Asram, this is a tough business, and none of us may survive the day. It’s not right for a boy to die a man’s death. Better to make him a man and put it in the hands of the gods.”

Asram grunted agreement, and Barhaden continued, “It’s the mixing of the blood that seals the ceremony.  If we live out the day and make it to the palisades, Asrael will have his fill of fasting and prayers within the week.  And we can shave his head tonight in the temple courtyard of Askalant.  And have there not been sacrifices enough today?  The blood that has been spilled since dawn cries out for vengeance!  Give me your arms!”

The three stuck out their arms, and Barhaden drew the stone knife across the flesh of the three forearms one by one as Barhaden and Asram intoned, “My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our father, Garicon,” as Barhaden cut his own arm.

Barhaden and Asram continued, “My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our mother, Telesan,” came the reply, as Barhaden sliced Asram’s forearm.

“My son Asrael, what have we in common?”

“Our blood,” replied Asrael, as Barhaden cut his arm.

The three put their arms together, and held them there for several heartbeats of silence as the blood mixed.  After they pulled apart, Barhaden smeared the mixed blood from his arm with his thumb.

Barhaden continued, “Asrael, may you always see a brother in trouble,” and dabbed blood on Asrael’s eyelids.

He got more from his arm, “Asrael, may you always hear a sister in need,” and rubbed it on Asrael’s ears,” then again, “Asrael, may you always speak the truth,” now on his mouth, “Asrael, may your arms always bear up the tribe,” anointing his biceps, “And Asrael, may your feet always bring you to us and never take you away,” rubbing the blood on his feet, “And may your wife bear you many children and your house be full of plenty,” as he gathered blood on his fingertips and flicked it on Asrael, who stood with his head bowed.

Barhaden smiled at Asrael, “Brother Asrael, today you are a man.”

Asram and Barhaden pounded Asrael on the back in congratulations as he smeared the splashed drops across his face.

Barhaden could see that Asram was still a little jealous, so he explained, “Asram, it is good to enlarge the tribe, since I fear today the very flower of the men were cut down in their fields or in bed.  The bravest men, such as your father, live near the edge of the wood, while the more timid ones live in the villages and city.  We are in need of men.”

Barhaden suddenly shook his head, the passing of time coming to him, “But enough, we’ve stayed too long.  We no longer hear the tread of the ogres, or the shouting of the men.  Asram, stay with your brother.  I go to give my horn and the command to Wohaden.  Listen for the signals, and be brave.  You can not save yourselves by running at first sight of the ogres, but only by splitting up and keeping them between you.  Run after me, but not too close.  The battle will last all day, so do not exhaust yourselves unless you would like to see the inside of an ogre’s belly.  And make your family proud.”

“Yes, Father Barhaden,” they replied, Asrael the more enthusiastic, as Barhaden jumped up and left, blowing his horn.

Once he was out of sight, Asram said, “There are many sling stones at the river.  Let us pick them up on the way to the battle.”  He then cuffed Asrael on the arm, finally smiling, “I left home with a boy, and I’ll bring back a man.  Father will be proud!”