Morning broke cool and still. Fog clung to the village. Igdryll was awake, had been awake for most of the night. He sat down on the edge of his bed and looked outside through a grimy window. A few were out going about their business but most were still asleep. There are younger folks in the village who would have been better suited for this type of business.
‘Why those bones choose me?’ he thought.
He stood and walked to a nearby table. Moving clear some papers and a broken hammer, he picked up a jug of cider and poured himself a drink into a tin cup. A knock at the door.
“Who be it?” Igdryll asked.
“It’s time,” the Elder replied. “Let’s go.”
Igdryll opened the door and let the Elder in. An assortment of woodworking tools, a plate of half-eaten bread and cider bottles emerged in the gloomy morning light let in through the open door. An ancient looking clock sat on the fireplace mantle. The Elder glanced at it.
“I think your clock stopped,” the Elder said.
“Didn’t stop. Never started.” Igdryll rummaged through a pile of clothes on the floor. “Just a sec’, oldish.” He paused. “So what does I bring to war anyhow?”
“Well, a stout heart, fortitude, spirit…”
“I’ve got a hammer,” Igdryll said lifting it up from underneath a shirt. “I bringin’ a hammer.” He slipped the mallet into his belt, grabbed a walking staff from beside the door and they left.
They walked in silence together through the village. A few pockets of activity stirred here and there but the main road was vacant. As they walked past the Old Tower which marked the village boundary, an old toad stared at them a moment before hopping off into the undergrowth.
The Elder quietly hummed. Igdryll recognized the tune. It was sung during the Great War in the ancient days, or at least that is what his Gram told him.
“So why you need me, anyways?” Igdryll asked.
“The bones advised it.”
“Farking bones. I mean yesterdays you went alones and did finely. What difference will I make?”
“I am an old man, Igdryll, and this type of magic, war magic I mean, doesn’t come easily to me anymore. The council knows this and advised that I find help. You see, many moons before you came to us, our folk lived in a far off land…”
“Yeah, I know this, the Eldervale. So what?”
“So,” the Elder continued, “the Tall Men came. One or two at first, then families, then villages. At first we lived side by side in relative peace. Some even became our friends, in a manner of speaking. But, you see, Tall Men live short lives and have short memories. Friends became foes and it was decided that we should cut off any contact with them. The council was created and through great and ancient magic created the Eldervale to shield us from the Tall Men. It protected us for many moons thereafter and they forgot about us. We became myth and that was our greatest protection. But their great machines found us again and we left.”
“They find us again?”
“Aye. Some in the council wanted to reach out to them and see if their ways had changed. Others disagreed. A vote was taken and war won.”
“Wouldn’t friends be easier?”
“We are almost to the Stream.”
The clouds had cleared and dappled sunlight danced across the mossy forest floor. A cool breeze vacated the heavy morning air. They continued for a few more minutes in silence. The Old Gray Stream emerged ahead. The Elder crossed over the water in a shallow spot and waited as Igdryll crossed. They continued on until the sound of the Great River could be heard ahead. The Elder stopped and motioned for Igdryll to be quiet. The two of them crept forward and peered through a copse of sycamores. Through the undergrowth they could see the yellow colored moving house.
“No,” the Elder said.
“There are two tall men. I sent that chubby one to the spirit yesterday. I was sure of it.”
“To the spirit? You never said that yesterday.”
“He fell. I saw him. They are such fragile things.”
“Well, now what, oldish?”
The Elder watched the two men as they went about their business of clearing dirt. He motioned Igdryll forward and the two of them approached the bank of the Great River.
“I’m going to do something, Igdryll,” the Elder said. “Stay very calm.”
“Uh, what…” Igdryll slowly rose into the air. “Holy fark, oldish!”
“Stay calm or the magic will break.”
Igdryll managed to regain his composure. He slowly floated out over the river. Below him, whitecaps swirled and tore at the rocks reaching up from the water. Looking behind him, he could see the Elder also floating about a stone’s throw away. Igdryll closed his eyes.
‘One, two, three, four…”he counted.
At twenty-three, Igdryll’s feet felt firm ground beneath them. He opened his eyes and saw that he was safely on the other side of the river. The Elder shortly joined him.
“Okay, oldish,” Igdryll said. “Why didn’t we just floatish our happy feet here all the way from the village?”
“As I said, Iggs.” The Elder paused, short of breath. “I’m old and my magic is old.”
The Elder climbed the embankment and motioned for Igdryll to follow. At the top, they could hear machinery running and the Tall Men shouting things in a strange language. They walked closer to the noise until they reached a clearing. Using an elderberry bush as cover, the two of them watched the moving house take dirt from one spot and move it to another spot.
“What they doing?” Igdryll asked.
“I think they are building a house.”
“A dirt house?”
“Aye. Not good.”
“So what’s the plan?”
Igdryll felt more adventurous now. As he watched the Tall Men work in the field, he now felt like he was part of something much larger than himself. Like he was a warrior in one of the ancient battle stories.
“We need to break their yellow house,” the Elder said. “I think I know how but I will need your help.”