Imagine if your body had a switch.
If you had a separate control for movement, air, sensation and pain…and inevitably emotion itself. What if you could turn off your heart's beating, freeze into an unmoving sculpture of deadly stillness, with not even a blink to betray you? What if your mind wasn't confined in the tiny space of your skull and you could send it out laughing and running, or chasing and killing, as far as there was earth for it to discover? That would make the body merely a tool for storing memories, for speech, for touching and feeling touch. The consciousness of your body would be a living thing without the need of skin to characterize it or scour its world. But the farther it went the longer it took to find its way back, all the while taking in everything the eye alone cannot interpret fast enough.
What if that were possible, and you could remember all of it, down to the leaf of every tree? Imagine what is conceivable with such an idea.
There is only one small catch to this otherwise convenient ability, and that is while your mind may not require a shell to exist, you do actually need it, quite a lot. The secret of course, to not losing your body, is to release your mind in a circle at which centre is you, so when you come racing back, you always end up at yourself by default. Trust me, I've spent days running up and down for miles, missing my poor, half frozen and starved body by a few paces. Oh for the days when that was the truth of most of the world, large open spaces of green life and rain, where another living thing couldn't find you no matter how it tried. It was so much safer then, to run off and leave your vital bits behind, not like today where even a toilet isn't safe. Imagine letting go of your mind in the middle of London now! You'd not last more than a few minutes before someone noticed you or you got run over by some mad ginger in a car.
On that day I wasn't in London, I wasn't even aware that something called a "car" would ever exist, let alone afraid of being killed by one. I was sitting on the branch of a non descript tree somewhere in the forests of Germany...just running. It may sound peaceful, and to some extent it can be if all your thoughts are more or less universal—trees for example. If that's all you are seeing, but if south is ocean, north is mountains and ice and west is a camp of savages intent on sailing into the dark sea...well that takes a bit more out of you to process. However, the downside of this very useful trick is that you can't decide to focus on one thing more than the others, as you can with your eyes. If I want to listen in on a conversation at one location, I have to concentrate on everything else I happen to be watching at the same time. While listening to them I am suddenly concentrating equally hard on the fish that are swimming or jumping out of the ocean, or a single snow flake that is falling.
Or at that time it was a deer giving birth in a very natural, graphic way in the middle of her dinner. Ew. That's the downside of my circular theory, but it's better than getting lost and not being able to find yourself.
The time was early 9th century, the exact year is impossible to tell you. I could count the years from The Beginning till then but it would doubtfully match with the way history has been laid out now. However, the time itself makes little difference; time is just a number, a ticking clock, the turn of the earth.
Time matters only to things which are changed by it.
In Germany, the Norse tribes were in their full glory, warring and raiding each other every second day, killing off the competition whenever possible. Accidentally tripping over them was one of the most important things I've ever done.
The ships were coming back in, and all the locals were rushing towards the docks to welcome the men home. Their sails were blackened, and faces bloodied and filthy, but the shouting was enough to deafen me without the help of my ears. Barely dressed Viking women with long blond hair danced around and bellowed, catching the anchor line and helping to drag to ships to dock. Their filthy husbands and sons leapt off the sides, catching their close ones up in their arms in one swift motion, their women mobbing forward to get to the one they loved. The clan chieftain stood on the bow of his ship, and raised his arms calling for silence.
The din quieted, white faces all turned to look up at their powerful, thickly bearded leader. He called out to them in Gaelic, motioning towards the end of the ship.
"Today our mighty tribe has finally defeated our most sworn enemies, the Bolverk dogs! Their bodies now feed the fish, their blood stains the waves! Their ships are no more, and never again will they raid our waters, none will be left to taint this land with their green, bird eyed spawn! I drove my knife into the heart of their chief, his head and those of his six sons now line the girth of my ship!"
A roar went up from the crowd, fists punching the air and eyes glowing with pride. The above mentioned heads hung from the wood with glassy eyes. I didn't concentrate too hard on them; I didn't need to remember too much detail. Their chieftain continued.
"I have brought you back the last of them, the first son, the so called finest of them all! Here is the first born of the pagan bastard who called himself better than we! Look at him now, the last of his race of witches here for your entertainment, what shall we do with him?"
An unintelligible mumble of a hundred ways of either torturing or killing the said son came to an ear splitting level, and from somewhere beneath the deck two brutes dragged up something resembling a human being. It was hard to tell from beneath the dirt and fresh blood if the creature resembled the heads of his family, except from the long hair coloured like pale gold.
Only those eyes, the eyes of a bird of prey, were clearly visible. They darted from side to side, with awareness that did not belong with such a bedraggled, weakened body. I could not read the expression, for I could see no thought for escape—a look that was very familiar to me—nothing at all seemed to be feeding the senseless flames in his gaze...they just burned. It was so strangely beautiful that I could not look away. It seemed a shame that such a creature would be destroyed by others that were clearly not his equals on any level.
Out of the crowd a giant, hairy man built like a tree took up his axe, levelling it towards the last of the Bolverk clan. The chieftain seemed pleased, and raised his hand once more for silence.
"Father, I, Omriak, will take this axe and cut this dog to pieces before you all. I call for a duel!"
A 'duel' was basically a takeoff of a gladiator fight, and they say they taken nothing from the Romans. Ha.
Apparently this was a very popular ritual for this particular clan, and the rest of the populace seemed to be in agreement with it. The two Vikings holding up their prisoner picked him up by his arms and threw him onto the dock, where he lay unmoving until two others took his chains and began dragging him towards Omriak. The rest moved to make a path for them, spitting and kicking the body as he passed them. I was surprised they didn't go to more lengths to humiliate and torture him, but considering the state he was in, but I don't suppose he would have survived much longer if they had.
Someone took a spear of an axe and tossed it into the crowd, where it was handed over to one of the brutes dragging the last Bolverk into the 'arena'. Omriak bellowed some kind of war cry, running the outside of the ring as it was taken up by the rest of the crowd. The Bolverk pulled himself upright, and they pushed the heavy battle axe into his crooked, broken hands, his fingers pointed in different directions where they didn't meet, but the few that could wrapped around the long handle. There was no more to be done but end it here, on the shore of his enemies, all that was left of his people pumping in his veins, and would soon soak into the sand and be forgotten. His eyes focused on his opponent with the same uncanny awareness and concentration as before, but the fire had a purpose this time. He would not go down alone, he would take them all with him.
Omriak let out a cry and charged, weapon catching the light of the torches around him and glowing with a rage of its own. His attack struck metal, and he pushed his weight advantage against the weaker, lighter Bolverk, but when it seemed he was going to bend the tall man in half, Bolverk twisted his shoulder to the left, his torso turned and it offset the balance of Omriak so he landed on his back in the sand, with the blade of the Bolverk inside his throat. Silence so thick you could hear the blood hit the sand echoed through everyone present. It had all happened so fast, and with so little ceremony no one knew quite what to think...or how to process it.
I was probably the only one who was impressed.
An absolutely ear shattering roar of rage echoed off the waves, and everyone looked over to where the chieftain stood. His face was a mask of pure hatred, with an echo of shock. This crumpled, broken thing had defeated his own son, the son he was no doubt sure had been invincible. It didn't take my genius to figure out that this mountain of a man was about to chop the other into little tiny pieces.
He lunged off the deck, and the rest of the clan hurried out of his way, all the while a new chant had been taken up. The Bolverk steadied himself with the hilt of his axe and shifted into a fighting stance, which must have been excruciating in his condition, but his face showed absolutely nothing. He deftly side stepped the first blow, and ducked to avoid the second, while jabbing the point of his axe towards his attacker's legs. The chieftain was thrown off balance in his attempt to avoid the attack, and the Bolverk (whose name I did not know) used this to deliver a blow straight across the chest, cutting deep. He raised his weapon to finish the chieftain off when all the men surrounding the fight jumped to their leader's rescue. There was no space to breathe or move; arms were everywhere, restraining and beating the prisoner until he could no longer stand.
Something strange happened just then. I watched as they began dragging him away, yelling something about nailing him to a tree and letting him be eaten by ravens. His eyes remained fixed on the ground, no look of fear or remorse or even anger, just emptiness. If I had been physically there, I would have sighed, looking on at such a waste. His eyes snapped up, searching around him wildly, flames once again licked out from his gaze as he twisted his neck to see behind him.
His eyes rested right on me.
It was impossible for him to have known I was there. I was not trying to make my presence known. Years had passed since anyone had the essence of spirit and mind to sense my invisible eyes. Yet here he was, looking straight at me.
I could no longer watch as a casual observer. Something stirred in me, something that had not moved in years without count. Connection, the last of his breed, someone who like me had never been just a human with a strong arm, but an otherness that made us both stand apart. I had stood alone after my own people had been wiped out before my eyes, and that strangeness had saved me. He did not have my gifts, he did not have the same blood that had run through my body, making it glow in the darkness with a power beyond this world...but he had a soul that was trapped in a body not great enough to contain it. It was that directionless flame that I had seen burning behind his eyes, that sense of...being more.
I knew in that exact moment I had to save him.