Stopping By the Woods

Part IIII of Flash Fiction Challenge flash-fiction-challenge-the-four-part-story-final-part/

Peter MacDonald -Part 1  

Poor Dick - Part 2, plus part 1  A thorough link chain of this and other 4 part stories. Check out his site!

Casondra Brewster Part 3, plus part 1 and 2

Part 4

"Cease!" said a third woman while she pounded her fist on the wall. The pendent on her necklace shone brighter than the other two pendants. "We shall not leave this place without retrieving the chimera. Verdandi, bring the chalice, your sister and this man are in need of its strength."

The spinning stopped and the chair returned to its original form.

"Yes, Urdir, but Skuld was injured and this man spoke of the woods through poetry, and-"

"Go, my sister, haste is needed." said Urdir and she went to the women I rescued. She cradled her in her arms and a tear ran down her face. "My dear, Skuld, you should not have ridden the chimera. It would destroythe dyr without your aid. You cannot be near when the beast's thirst for blood is enraged."  

Verdandi returned with a gold and gem encrusted stemmed chalice and knelt beside Skuld. 

"Drink and your strength will be returned," she said. 

"Take but a sip; the man will need the rest to capture the chimera for us," said Urdir. 

"But," started Verdandi. 

"We cannot leave it on this land. If this man did speak with poetry, he is the keeper of this woods and must stay. You know it is not our place to change the destiny of man, but to help man achieve it. Give the rest of Thor's mead to him." 

"And it is my place to give it to him," said Skuld and she stood, taking the chalice, and walked to me. 

"Drink," she said and took one of my hands in hers and placed it on the cup. I peered into her eyes and the depth of the blue, I sawwas never ending. Her touch was soft, and as I drank, the warmth spread through my body and a surge of strength touched every cell.  

When I had drank every drop of the sweet liquid, this bit of poetry came to my mind and I recited it to the women: 

One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them, 
And not one but hung limp, not one was left 
For him to conquer. He learned all there was 

"He will subdue the chimera," said Urdir when I stopped.  

The rest of poem came to mind and had my means as to capture the beast. A howl outside announcing the beast was near and calling me out to my destiny. 

"Veroandi and I will assist you, but Skuld must stay in the sanctuary," said Urdir. 

"The beast is mine to command," said Skuld. 

"It was yours to command, but now it's hungry for you and is seeking you. The chimera will not recognize your command until its blood thirst is subdued. Give this man your pendent and the beast will hunt him. He will tame it and we will remove its form from this forest." 

Skuld removed her necklace. I stood to receive the gift, bending my head, so she could reach for now, I stood a foot taller than her. My height wasn't so great when I first entered the sanctuary. The breadth of my shoulders now seemed to fill it.

"I am grateful you rescued me and now my sorrowful duty is to send you out to complete my task."  

After she had placed the necklace and glowing pendant around my neck, she cupped my face with her hands and brought my forehead to hers. "May your strength and knowledge of the forest guide you." 

My head swam with her touch. I said in return keeping my forehead on hers; 

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over. 
May no fate willfully misunderstand me 
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love: 
I don't know where it's likely to go better. 
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree, 
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk 
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more, 
But dipped its top and set me down again. 
That would be good both going and coming back. 
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.  

When the words, "swinger of birches," left my mouth I knew it was time to tame the chimera. I pulled away from the lovely Skuld and went to the door that now appeared in front of me. 

"You will need this," said Verdandi and handed me an ax. 

"And you will need this," said Urdir as she handed me a skein of rope. 

Heading directly to a stand of birches, I went to work chopping down twenty trees with ease. The young birches formed through bending with my hands and lashing with the rope into a cage the size of boulder that was taller and broader than me. 

With my back to a tangle of dense wall of pines trees and Verdandi and Urdir to the right of me, I waited at one end of the cage. 

A roar echoed through the forest. The ground shook. My feet planted firmly, I held an length of rope in one hand and the ax in other. 

The chimera was at the cage opening. I hoped my design would work and would look like a tunnel leading straight to its target, me. 

"I'm here, beastie," I said and the pedant's glow intensified. 

The chimera leapt into the cage. I dropped the lid that covered the entrance. He pushed his lion head through the opening in front of me and snorted as I took the end of the rope that was connected to lid and looped it around his muzzle. It snorted spraying me with snot. 

Verdandi whooped. 

Urdir said a bit too calmly as if she knew what the outcome would be all along, "Well done and thank you." 

"Please give this back to Skuld," I started to take the necklace off. 

Urdir stopped my motion with a smile full of knowledge and said, "Skuld will be back to retrieve it."

The Poetry is from Robert Frost's Birches - use link to read complete poem.

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