~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~
Skadhi: The Heart Of The Huntress
Though asleep Skadhi could sense the presence of something hovering over her. As she opened her eyes she saw a massive brown shape blocking out the dawn sunlight. When it saw her eyes opening it growled and waved its long front legs manacingly above her, its large curled claws outlined against the clear blue sky. Skadhi shook her head, and took a long breath before she said, " It is too early for this my furry little friend. " The young bear growled even louder as it backed away, lowering itself onto all four paws. " Yes, yes, " Skadhi said wincing. " I know I promised to give you fishing lessons today, but can' t I just rest a little longer ?" Hearing that, the bear shook his head from side to side, and stomped his front paws up and down. " Oh, Alright ! ", Skadhi shouted . " A promise is a promise. " When the little brown bear, that Skadhi had named Little Growler, saw her getting up, he rolled over on his back and made a howling sound that echoed through the mountains and into the valleys. Skadhi just laughed and said, " Oh, now you are very happy my furry little friend. "
Skadhi made herself a breakfast of dried meat and berries before gathering up her gear and breaking camp. Though Little Growler paced back and forth impatiently, Skadhi took her time cleaning up the area that she used for her campsite, and always left her camp exactly the way it looked before she had used it. She never left even a trace that she had been there. The mountains and forests were her home as well as her hunting grounds, and she took pride in their appearance. Finally, to the delight of Little Growler, she strapped on her snowshoes, and joined by her furry companion, headed off to the stream to do some fishing.
It was a cold crisp morning that lesser beings would have found uncomfortable, but to Skadhi it was wonderfully invigorating. As they came to the slope, that led down to the partially frozen stream, they hit a snow drift and Little Growler sunk into the snow up to its neck. It stared over at Skadhi with the look of a helpless child who was seeking assistance from its mother, and Skadhi, who never sunk into the snow on her magical snow shoes, walked over to her helpless friend and gently lifted him up, and placed him further down the slope out of the deep snow. Little Growler roared his approval, and shook himself to remove the snow from his fur. Skadhi smiled as she remembered the time when she first met the little bear cub. It was digging in deep snow trying to get to its mother who had been buried and killed in an avalanche. As she approached the tiny cub, it turned and growled at her as menacingly as it could. Skadhi, a giant, towered over this little creature, and she laughed at him for his bold defense. She decided right then and there to adopt this tiny bear cub, and to raise and teach him as best she could. They had been together ever since.
When they reached the stream Skadhi took off her snow shoes, and her boots made of reindeer hide, and waded into the flowing water. Little Growler went over to the frozen edge of the bank of the stream, and dipped one paw into the frigid water, and then withdrew it just as quickly. Skadhi looked at him and with a scowl upon her face said, " You are a bear my furry friend, so in you go. " With that she picked him up and deposited him into the middle of the stream. When Skadhi saw the startled look on Little Growler's face, she laughed hysterically, and fell over onto the rocky bank. After the moment had passed she went back into the stream, and showed Little Growler how to look through the clear mountain water to see the fish swimming below. After a few minutes she saw a large fish swimming just in front of her, and with reflexes that were as fast as any animals, plunged her face into the frigid water, and caught a large salmon in her mouth. Little Growler looked first at the fish and then at Skadhi, before letting out an approving roar. He snapped at the fish, but Skadhi pulled her face away and let the fish go. " You won't learn if you do not do it yourself !" she explained. " Now do as I showed you and get one yourself. " Skadhi then turned and walked out of the stream and dried her feet on the bank. As she was doing so she watched her student splashing around in the water, failing time after time. All she could do at this point was smile and encourage his efforts. She knew Little Growler would eventually catch one, it was just a matter of practice.
As she sat there watching her student intently she heard in the distance a familiar howl. She howled back in response, and within minutes was joined by a pack of large grey wolves. She looked over and asked, " Where have you been all morning ? " The leader of the pack, a large male that she called Swift - Runner, lifted his head skywards and let out a howl in response to her question. " Hunting " ? Skadhi asked. " Well where is your prize ? " Swift - Runner laid down on his belly, crawled over to Skadhi, and let out a small whimpering howl. " You lost it in deep snow ? " She said shaking her head. " You know you have to circle your prey so you can lead it to where you want it to go before attacking ! " Hearing her tone, all the wolves put their heads down and crawled over to where Skadhi was sitting. She just laughed and said, " Well, next time you will just have to better ! " Hearing that, one by one, the wolves jumped up onto her lap, and received Skadhi' s affection.
By noon Little Growler had started to get the hang of it, and had caught two small salmon and a trout. He proudly brought the two salmon over to the bank and laid them at Skadhi' s feet. Skadhi gave her pupil a big hug while the wolves howled their approval. He ate the trout out in the stream thinking that Skadhi would not notice, but very little is missed by the eyes of a marksman. Skadhi allowed him to keep that prize for his lunch. Little Growler then sat down beside Skadhi wanting a rest. Skadhi just pointed a finger back in the direction of the stream, and slowly, reluctantly, Little Growler waded back into the freezing water to try his luck again.
As Skadhi sat petting her wolves she noticed out of the corner of her eye that Sift - Runners' ears had perked up. " Yes, I see it too my friend. " she said in a low voice. On the other side of he stream, and about 50 yards away, was a large reindeer that had come down to the water' s edge to drink. Skadhi slowly stood up, and with a fast and fluid motion, pulled an arrow from her quiver, set it on the string, sighted the prey, and let loose the bolt. The reindeer did not even have time to blink its eyes before the arrow hit just below the shoulder, and pierced its heart. A second later it hit the ground with a dull thud. The wolves began howling and jumping up and down with joy. Even Little Growler, cold and wet in mid - stream roared his approval. Skadhi just frowned and with a sigh said, " Well, I guess I will have to go over and get it. "
That night, a short distance from the stream, Skadhi roasted her reindeer meat over a blazing fire, while her wolves, and Little Growler, made a meal of the twenty two salmon that the young, but now skilled, bear had caught. As she spun the meat over the fire she yelled over to Swift - Runner to save one of the salmon for her. The wolf - pack leader immediately grabbed one and placed it behind him. To make the point he growled menacingly at the other wolves, who quickly understood that this salmon was not to be touched. After a hearty dinner, Skadhi sat looking up at the twinkling stars that shone in the clear night sky, and thought of her husband Njord back in Noatun. She loved him dearly, and wished that she could be with him, but knew that only here in this cold and desolate world of Thrymheim could she truly happy. Skadhi actually winced a little when she thought of those horrible little shore birds, and that awful noise they made that kept her awake. Here in the mountains there was a calming quiet that made one feel at home. She smiled as the last thing she sensed before falling asleep that night was Little Growler nudging her as he lay down beside her .
© Glenn Bergen, 2011
A Follower Of The Old Ways