Friday, August 04, 2017

The Sitter (short story)

Winter. The flames of the fire in the large hearth worked magical shadows on the furs in front of it and on the rich Goblin's that covered the old walls of my room in the castle. Their vibrant colours came to life but I did not notice it that evening. I looked at the portrait of the man in front of me, my paint brush in my hand. The only thing I had to do was signing but I felt reluctant to do so, as if I felt the sitter with the mysterious eyes, not wearing his cuirass today, would disappear to never return.

All of a sudden the man spoke.....
   "My ancestors were Vikings. No farmers or warriors but of high birth. They owned land, forests and large houses, ship yards and boats. Their harbours lay in the shelter of the large Fjords.
Like many generations before them, they sailed to Éire but not before the 12th century. They arrived here in1145 which is almost at the end of the Viking period as you will know."

Here he paused, he did not look at me. His mind was elsewhere, the sound of his deep voice, brown like his hair and  warm peat on a Summer's day, slowly faded in silence. Just as I thought he was not going to speak further, he said:
   "Unnulf, son of Gilss and Unnulf's son Grimolf, were amongst the Vikings that sailed the river Camlin to Longphort in the county Anghaile where they joined an existing settlement. But the hostility they met, even amongst their own people, was not what they expected. They tried to build their own settlement but were not successful; after 10 years they sailed home again. Grimolf how ever had fallen in love with the beautiful Aodhamair who did honour to the meaning of her name: 'fire'. As well her character as her red hair: she stood up against her parents to follow Grimolf to the North where they settled at the estate of Grimolf's ancestors near Oseberg.
It could not have been easy for Aodhamair, she missed the green rolling hills of Éire but learned to love the dark Northern forests and their inhabitants like Giants, Troll's, the Small People that lived underground, the laughing Witches, the screaming Human Birds that all of a sudden appear to scare you with their loud unpleasant raw voices. She loved to tell fairy tales to her children and later in life, her grand children. The Éire's are wonderful storytellers and her blood passed this skill on to further generations.
My mother Freydis, a descendant of Aodhamair, told me in good tradition all the old stories and fairy tales. But not only the Norwegian, also the Celtic. About Unicorns and Elves.
I remember the evenings during long and cold Winters where I rested my head in her lap in front of a roaring fire. Her beautiful voice almost sang the tales; I hardly dared to breath. Her hand laid on top of my head. I was wanted and loved."

The man paused again, his eyes  with the colour of melting glaciers, softened and shone like he had to hold back his tears. This touched my heart which had already opened to him during the long sittings that lay behind us. Then he suddenly looked me straight in my eyes:
   "I felt torn between both fantasy worlds. Or were they real? I could not tell but I longed to return to the roots of Aodhamair. Ten years ago I left my mother and father and sailed to an Éire that was still fighting Cromwell. An Éire that fought to keep it's own identity. As they did during the occupation of my Viking ancestors.

My high birth opened doors and it did not take long before I settled. I listened to and read about the fierce history of Éire, about fairy tales but soon found out, although my Irish blood from centuries ago, I am still a Viking. I miss the Fjords, the forests, the long dark winters."

He rose from his chair, his eyes fixed on me: "Your eyes as green as the rolling hills, your hair like flames."
I only noticed I was still holding my paint brush when he took it from my hand. He pulled the strings of my linen hat to free my hair. He unbuttoned my apron, lifted me in his arms and walked to the hearth.
"Will you follow me? As my Aodhamair?"
My fingers like the wings of the elves, touched his face. And when he finally kissed me I could hear the sound of the waterfall of the glacier, it made my body tremble. His hair mingled with mine, our bodies melted together, reuniting Viking with Celtic......

Autumn. The wind hauls  through the broken windows of the ruined castle covered in bushes and tall trees with flaming red leaves. The crows took over long ago and their harsh voices echo against the crumbling walls. What is left of the tower fights bravely against time, contrasting with the sky that colours like melting ice.

Word of thanks: the portrait of the man is from the collection of Roy and Nadine Precious and inspired me to write this story. Thank you Nadine and Roy for allowing me to use the photo!

Links: the Instagram accounts of Roy and Nadine.
Please visit their website where you will find many other portraits and beautiful antiques.

Note: the story is pure fiction! A figment of my imagination!


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