~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~
The Weary Traveler
Inside, Thora and Eyvind were huddled around the fire with their child, Eirik, who was watching the flickering flames dance among the glowing logs with a child's innocence and curiosity. They all jumped when the dull thud of knocking was heard upon their door. Thora and Eyvind looked at each other, and then back at the latched door. Who would come to our humble house at this time of the night they both thought at the same time. Would it be friend or foe ! With immense trepidation, Eyvind slowly rose from his place by the fire, grabbed his seax from off of the table, and went to the door. Eyvind held the weapon hidden behind his back as he slowly opened the creaking door. In the doorway, and partially hidden in shadows, stood a large bearded man in a drenched hooded cloak. The stranger pulled back his hood, and his care - worn face smiled, a tired smile, as he politely asked the owner for hospitality to be given to a weary traveler. Eyvind studied the man's face for a moment. The long grey beard, the patched eye, and the wrinkled skin, were somehow offset by his look of dignity and wisdom. Eyvind motioned for the stranger to come in, and both parents introduced themselves, as Eirik hid behind his father's legs.
Thora took his wet cloak and hung it by the fire to dry, while Eyvind offered him a seat on his bench closest to the fire. Thora placed a small pot over the fire and re - heated the food that was left over from their dinner that evening. They would have a sparse breakfast tommorrow morning ! Eyvind placed a cup on the table and filled it with water. With a downward glance, Eyvind said, " I am sorry sir, I have nothing better to give you. " The stranger waited for Eyvind's eyes to rise to meet his, and then replied, " This will be fine. " The wanderer looked at the mans face, and saw fearful eyes. Then the stranger asked Eyvind why his conditions were so poor. With eyes filled with dismay, he replied, " I have let down my family. Most of our crops have failed this year, and we barely have enough to eat. Worse yet, the king's men will soon be here to collect the taxes, and I have nothing to pay them with !" He continued : " I owe the king as much as a silver coin, and I fear that the king' s soldiers will take me away. " The old man looked at these humble people and said in a comforting voice, " As long as you have each other you are as rich as any king. " Thora looked down at the visitor, placed a dish in front of him, and said, : Unfortunately that is not enough to pay the king with ! " As Thora spooned the thin stew onto his dish, the wanderer looked at the little boy, patted him on the head, and said in a bold voice, " Someday you will be a strong warrior little one ! " Little Eirik only replied with a small uncomfortable smile.
After the wanderer had eaten, he was shown a corner, near the fire, where he could bed down for the night. Thora gave him a thread worn blanket, and apologized for its condition. She had nothing better to offer him. The stranger simply smiled at her and nodded. Then the whole family bedded down for the night.
Eyvind and Thora were awakened the next morning by a loud pounding at their door. Orders were shouted to open the door at once ! The King's men had arrived for their tax money ! Eyvind rose slowly and looked at the seax, but he knew it would not protect him from these unmerciful soldiers, and would put his family at risk as well. With his head slung low he slowly walked to the door to face his destiny. Thora, hoping for help, looked over to where the stranger had been sleeping, but he was gone. The tattered blanket she had given him was neatly folded in the corner. As she looked closer something on top of the blanket caught her eye. She walked over, and glanced down to see what the objects were. There, gleaming in the rays of the early morning sun were a silver coin, and a gold coin. Her hand began to tremble as she reached out and picked up the silver coin.
Eyvind could not even look the soldiers in the eyes as they demanded the king' s tax money. When he was asked if he had the money he just shook his head slowly. Just as the soldier was about to grab Eyvind, Thora placed the silver coin in his hand. The startled soldier looked at the coin, then at Thora and Eyvind, scratched his head, and turned around without uttering a word. Shocked, Eyvind just stood there, and watched as he disappeared down the road. After regaining his composure Eyvind asked Thora where she had gotten the coin. She simply pointed to the blanket, and the remaining gold coin.
Eirik grew up and became a strong man, and a leader of armies. He fought in many battles, and finally defeated, and deposed, the evil king who had ruled for so long. Eirik became king himself, and ruled for many years with a gentle hand, and a kind heart. He never forgot the lesson of kindness that the weary traveler had taught him all those years before. He never asked his people for more than they could give, and always helped those who were less fortunate.
© Glenn Bergen, 2011
A Follower Of The Old Ways