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Sun Quest

Part 1 - Southbound

by and © Ruwen Rouhs

Chapter 5

The hidden passage was a narrow trail, a former deer crossing, and ran close to the valley side and then turned towards the ford to the opposite side of the valley, crossing the well trodden path to the south along the small river. About halfway between the settlement and the ford Buri began to fall behind. Finally he sat down his head between the knees. When Aegir turned back to get him, Buri just groaned in pain, "My head! My head! I am dizzy! Everything is revolving around my me." He bent sideward and began to throw up again and again, "I am so sick. Aegir, please leave me alone! I can't go on! Get into safety! Please!"

Aegir kneeled down, "Do you really think I would leave you behind, after leaving my mother, my father, my whole clan to search for you all over the world? No my Curlyhead, my Buri! Now I have found you nothing can separate us!" Giving Buri a piggyback ride, Aegir left the trail and took a fork up the valley side looking for a dry hiding spot easy to defend.

The oncoming nightfall intensified the noise the foreign clan made as they moved along the path by the creek towards the Eagle-clan's settlement. But neither the scouts nor the roaming dogs detected their hideout in a small cavity below the root ball of a fallen fir tree.


Next morning in the grey dawn Aegir had to make a decision. Should he try to contact the people of the clan passing by and ask them for help or should he trust his own skills and try to help Buri himself. Up to now he didn't know anything about the passing people, who he had named "wolf-clan", because of the masks the scouts. From the distance he had heard the scouts talking, but he hadn't been able to understand their language, neither had Buri. Friend or foe was the question. But there was no time to find out the truth, because Buri's condition had worsened during the night. His body was hot and his forehead covered with beads of sweat.

Shaking Buri awake, Aegir begged, "Buri, my bro, how are you? Are you feeling better?" When his friend didn't answer, he urged, "Can you stand up? We have to leave our hide-out before the scouts of the Wolf-clan find us." Buri didn't seem to be all right at all, but sat up groaning with pain. "Come on, come on my Buri, we have to cross the creek at the ford and then move up to my shelter on the opposite side of the valley."

Aegir couldn't remember how they finally made their way to his shelter on the high plateau opposite the settlement. They arrived there in the late afternoon. He was thirsty, he was hungry and he was worn out, because he had to drag Buri along nearly the whole time. Buri's face was grey from exhaustion and his eyes dull. The whole day long he hadn't protested once, but he hadn't spoken either; only groaned in pain.

Once inside the small shelter Buri collapsed on the rug of furs, closed his eyes, begging "Water, water!" and went lifeless. After Aegir was sure Buri was sleeping only and was still alive, he climbed to his vantage point chewing dried meat to appease his hunger. The Wolf-clan had set up a camp between the fortified settlement and the bank of the small river. Aegir counted more tents than he had fingers on both hands. Fish traps had been arranged in the creek and women were cooking at a campfire. Some men seemed to be overhauling their hunting gear, while others searched the valley for kill. The camp life looked peaceable from up here and stayed that way for the next three days.

During the night Buri's body temperature rose and rose. Aegir decided to climb down the steep slope to the spring halfway down to fetch some wet water-moss to quench the fever. He applied the moss to Buri's head and breast and awaited the next morning. The application however was not very effective, because in the morning Buri's forehead was still burning hot. The only other remedy known to Aegir was a brew of willow bark. The only spot willows grew abundantly was on the riverbank opposite the settlement, a dangerous place go in daytime. But Aegir had to go down to the willows, danger or not. As he didn't want to reveal the location of their shelter, Aegir decided to take long a way around and not the direct route. Arriving at the valley floor he used a red fox fur for camouflage and crawled on all fours to the willows.

At first everything was going well, but then some kids playing on the river bank spotted the fox. "Rev! Rev! Fox! Fox!" " They called out pointing at Aegir and alarming the adults. Taking the cut off twigs in his arm Aegir dodged behind a tree trunk a washed up on the bank to hide. The yelling of the kids had alarmed the adults and some men set out over the river to catch the fox. Suddenly out of the sky a mighty eagle dived like a thunderbolt for Aegir. The men of the wolf-clan screamed out in terror. They turned on the spot and gathered at the tents. But the eagle did not dig his sharp clutches in Aegir's back he just picked up the foxy red fur and carried it like a fox up into the sky, accompanied by screams of disappointment of the clan members. Aegir stayed in the hide-out till the excitement across the river died and the people returned to their regular activities.

Quick as a flash and using as much ground cover as was available Aegir returned to his shelter on the edge of the plateau. Buri hadn't recovered at all. The fever hadn't dropped but at least he responded to Aegir's questions by blinking with his eyes. "I am glad you are alive!" Aegir kissed Buri's forehead, "I was so worried leaving you alone, but I had to get some willow-bark down at the river!" fondling the back of Buri's head, "Does this hurt?" When Buri groaned in pain, Aegir took some of the wet water moss and applied it to the big bruise, "This will help to soothe the pain a little." And after a while he asked "Is it better now?" Buri nodded his head and grunted something that sounded like "I am better now."

In the meantime Aegir was stripping off the bark from the willow branches. He mashed the strips to a pulp with a smooth stone and stirred the pulp into a water-filled cup made of birch bark. "I have to leave you now for a moment to heat the mixture to set free the healing power of the willow. Please don't get impatient Buri! I will come back as soon as possible." he added patting Buri's cheek. "Please try to sleep!"

In a furrow sheltered by some trees Aegir started a small fire, heated pebbles in the open flame and dropped the hot stones into the cup with the slurry. Stirring the potion with a stick he returned to Buri. "Drink the potion, dear bro! Please drink while it is still hot. It helps! The fever will drop and your head will stop aching!"

After the first sip Buri protested at the top of his voice, "I burned my tongue, that stuff is hot! It tastes bitterer than anything I ever tasted before!" spitting out the brew he turned his head away.

"Go ahead! Don't be a sissy bro, you have to drink the potion, the whole portion! And appealing on Buri's bravery again "Down with that stuff or are you a sissy?" Buri downed it all the whole potion, turned away sulkily and curled up like a puppy. A short time later he was snoring like an old man.


The chilly morning air aroused Buri. However it was not only the cold air but his growling stomach. All pain had vanished. He felt for the back of his head. The big bruise was still there, but the pain was nearly gone. He set up to look for Aegir. His new friend was curled up in the other corner if the small shelter covered with a light coat of marten fur only, while he himself was wrapped up in a thick blanket of sheep skin. He rose and with wobbling legs he walked over to Aegir.

The slight noise startled Aegir out of the sleep. Rubbing his eyes he needed just a moment to become aware of the great progress in Buri's health. Jumping up, he put an arm around Buri's shoulder "Buri! Buri! Thanks to Wuitan! Thanks to Freya! Thanks to Mimir, the demon of fountains of health! Thanks to the eagle!" He brought him back to his bed of soft branches "Don't fall over! Lie down, you are still too weak! I will care for you!" Buri looked up to Aegir and smiled to him for the first time since they had arrived at the shelter. He took Aegir's hand and pulled him down, "Please come under the covers, Aegir. I feel so cold alone despite the thick sheep skin cover! Please cuddle with me!"


Buri squinted against the bright sun shining into the shelter. He needed some time to get back from the dreamland to reality. Just a moment before, he had been standing on a wide sunny beach with his feet in the golden sand and before him the blue sea and behind him far in the distance a sharp ridge. He had tried to catch sight of the other beach on the other side of the sea, but in vain. Sea and skyline were melting somewhere in the far distance.

Close by a tummy was rumbling, very loud, very demanding. Buri turned his head and took a moment to realize that the red mob of hairs was not a fox. "Aegir, bro!" he pulled off the cover, "Aegir, wake up!" Birds were singing, from down in the valley voices resounded and white clouds floated across the sky. "Hi bro wake up, your stomach is rumbling, mine too! I haven't had anything to chew for weeks."

"Hi!" Aegir glanced at Buri. He couldn't believe his eyes. The dark-skinned boy looked livelier to him than ever. His first intention was to burst out, "I love you! I finally found you the vision of my dream, my bro!" On a second thought he decided for a lame "Good morning, Buri! I am so glad you are smiling! You look well again!"

"And hungry as a mountain lion!" and Buri's growling stomach accentuated his words.

"That piece of dried meat is all that's left!" Aegir pointed to a strip of dried meat hanging from the roof, "We have to share and share it alike." In front of the shelter enjoying the spring sun they took turns biting off piece after piece from the meat. The peaceful breakfast was suddenly interrupted by loud voices and a variety of sounds coming from the settlement down in the valley. Spying down from the lookout at the edge of the plateau they immediately figured out the reason. The Wolf-clan was setting off for wherever they were going again. The tents were taken down. These and the heavy goods were bundled up and loaded onto travois. Rubbish was collected and the fire pits filled up with sand. The first group left the camp ground at midmorning, the last when the sun had just passed the highest position on the sky. The last traces were obliterated by the wolf-headed scouts.

"We can climb down now and explore the place. Should we?" Aegir touched Buri, who seemed to be deep in thoughts. "Are you dreaming? Look the wolves are gone!"

Buri turned his head to Aegir, "Why did the Shaman try to kill me? Why didn't the headman prevent it? Why......?"

"He didn't just knock you down, he shackled you, he transformed you into a sacrifice and all the others assisted him and asked the mighty eagle to get you! They called him Hraesvelgr, soul-eater, man-eater!"

Buri shuddered, closed his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. "Don't be afraid, Buri, my bro! I am with you!" Aegir put an arm around Buri. For the first time he actually became aware of the difference the colour of their skins. His forearm was nearly white and strewn with red freckles. Buri's was of a dark brown colour without any blemishes. He couldn't imagine something more different. He studied Buri's face with its soft red lips carefully. There was not a single hair visible on the upper lip and the soft cheeks. His own upper lip was covered with reddish downy hairs as were his cheeks. He just couldn't help, but touch Buri's cheeks with his lips.

Buri opened his eyes in surprise. In the dark eyes Aegir was reading a big question. Overcoming his shyness he asked, "Have you ever been kissed by another boy? Buri have you?" When the dark-skinned didn't answer, "I have dreamed of this moment since I was a small boy!"

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