“If confronted by a Huldra, do not comment on their tail in an impolite way or you and yours will be plagued by bad fortune.”
“Well that’s uplifting. It’s probably what drove Quinn crazy when she inherited the place. She never did know how to be polite to anyone.” Sven rolled his eyes while his brother closed the book. What he wasn’t expecting was to be smacked in the back of the head with it. “Dammit, Haver, what was that for?!”
“That is no way to speak about a deceased family member. Besides, now the house is ours, we may as well become familiar with the folklore of our new home.” Haver leaned back in the carriage seat and reopened his book. There were many different creatures in Norwegian legends and he was determined to become familiar with each. It was what he was paid to do at the college but beyond that it was his passion.
“You are such a bookworm. We just inherited a farmhouse, more than we’ve ever owned before, but also many acres of land. Can we not enjoy our good fortune?”
“Until you are fluent in a Scandinavian language, you should be glad that I am a bookworm. You could not even order your lunch.”
Sven opened his mouth to argue only for it to click shut again when the words fully processed. His brother did have a point there. He did not like it but it was true enough to make him sink in his seat and sulk for the rest of the ride to their new home.
When they had taken the horses out for an afternoon ride through the forest that covered part of the property, neither one expected to find a living legend lying on the ground and half hidden by moss. Had their horses not spooked, they would have run right over the creature.
Sven’s eyes were drawn not only to what looked like a cow tail at the base of the young woman’s spine but also to the hollowed out portion of her back where the moss and wild flowers seemed to grow from. He stared for a few moments before turning disbelieving eyes to his brother.
“Is this even possible?” The look of his brother’s face was not comforting like he had hoped. Haver had been spouting out bits of the mythical creatures of their new homeland and much of it had been very unforgiving.
“I don’t know how to explain it.” Haver had always believed the legends to be just that, legends. Nothing of truth, just stories meant to explain what humans could not at the time. But looking down at the beautiful young woman, a huldra by all descriptions in the myths, he had to rethink everything he knew. “If it is one, do not go close to her.”
As if he was born to go against orders, Sven was already dismounting his horse and moving towards the girl. His eyes were lit with curiosity. Here was a living myth, a creature that was not supposed to exist. She was just as beautiful as the tales described, and gentle looking, and…she was bleeding. “Haver, she’s hurt!”
It was enough to get his brother off of his own horse and move closer but not enough to get the bookworm to help him gently turn the girl for a better look at the wound. Other than a small moan of pain, the Huldra did not stir and it was beginning to worry him. If not being polite was enough to get misfortune for an entire family, what would happen if they allowed her to die?
“Sven, don’t. She’s a forest maiden, the forest should heal her.”
“The forest isn’t doing its damn job then. This wound looks nearly fresh but from the growth on her arms and legs, I’d say she’s been here for days.” If it was one thing he knew better than the bookworm, it was injuries. Serving as a medic in the Queen’s guard helped. “It looks like she was shot. Maybe the neighbors saw her…extra bits and assumed she was a predator?”
“Which she is, Sven. Huldra are known for luring men into the woods to their deaths.”
“And if I remember, your lore says they also help people. I’m not leaving her to die, forest-succubus or not.” Turning her more to get a better look at the hole in her leg, he tried to find an exit wound. Not finding one, he cursed and turned to look up at his panicking brother. “I need both of the canteens and the flask from my saddle bag.”
Making a mound out of leaves and a smooth rock, he pulled his hunting knife from his boot. He didn’t have medical supplies but if the forest was supposed to heal her, then getting the bullet out should be enough. Pouring water over the area and clearing away the dirt and debris, he wasn’t quite ready for the extreme reaction he got when pouring the whiskey over the wound.
Nothing had stirred the girl up until this point and he had figured she was too far gone to feel the alcohol. Sven had never been so wrong in his life. In the seconds that the alcohol touched the area, she was screaming. It was the most heart wrenching keening noise that he had ever heard. It was piercing enough that both he and Haver had to cover their ears but it was him who was suddenly pinned beneath a very angry huldra.
Her eyes were the greenest that he ever did see. Big and innocent like a doe until you deciphered the emotions within them. Her fingers were crushing his windpipe slowly so he had to speak quickly before he was killed. Haver was utterly useless other than for yelling.
“I’m only trying to help. The bullet has to come out.” He wheezed, clawing at her hand in an attempt to get her to let up and allow him to breathe. It took nearly a minute before whatever she was searching for in his eyes pleased her enough to let him go. Glaring warily between them, she stretched out her wounded leg again while he rubbed his sore neck. “You have a much stronger grip that I would have given you credit for.”
The girl didn’t answer but Sven honestly didn’t think that she could understand what he was saying. Keeping his movements slow, he kept up his murmurings to both calm the huldra and to keep Haver from going nuts.
“Are you sure you can do this, Sven?”
“If you shut up and let me concentrate, I can. Where is your usual nosy self? One of your myths has come to life before your eyes and you haven’t even asked her a question.” Never mind that the girl wasn’t doing more than whimpering and digging her fingers into the ground as he dug out the bullet as carefully as he could. His brother still wasn’t being the scholar that he was used to.
Apparently, saying that had been enough to shut Haver up and send him to sulk by the horses. Sven snorted at his childish behavior and knew he was going to regret not taking the chance to study the girl later. Ignoring it, he smiled triumphantly as he popped the bullet from the girl’s leg as gently as he could.
“There we go. Now just one more rinse with that awful burning stuff again and a quick wrap before you can be on your way.” Using the second canteen to clear away her blood, which had the strangest silver-green shine to it, he held up the flask in a warning. She tensed but nodded slowly in a silent response. The creatures of myth were much stronger than he had thought. Though she screamed the second time around too, she had kept it together better than any of the men he had stitched up in the guard.
Using the cloth of his shirt to wrap tightly around the wound, he patted her calf once before standing up and moving away in a clear sign he was done. “There you go. Try and stay away from wherever this happened, okay?”
She used the tree next to her as support as she stood, she gave Sven a nice few of her moss and flower covered back and tail flicking over her bottom. It had been easier to ignore her nudity while she was bleeding or crushing his throat but now, it was hard not to notice.
The smile that blossomed across her face after she tested out the leg was enough to make his heart skip. A quick glance to his brother let him know that it did the same. He could definitely tell how these creatures could lure men into the woods if they all smiled like that.
As he returned the smile, she launched herself at him and slanted her lips across his. He was so shocked that he didn’t even have time to react before she was pulling back and pressing another one to his forehead.
“Thank you.” Her voice couldn’t have been described as anything but earthy and warm, befitting of a forest maiden. “May your family know fortune and keep the blessing of the forest.” He could only nod dumbly as she disappeared with a flick of her tail.
Turning to Haver, he just stared at him blankly. “Do you know what the hell just happened? I thought she couldn’t understand me the entire time.”
“I think you may have just given our family good luck for the rest of eternity.” Haver murmured, staring off in the direction that the Huldra had disappeared. From the way she moved, the bullet coming out must have been all she needed to heal properly. “And it’s possible you may have just become the bitch of the Huldra’s.”
“….You’re just jealous that she kissed me.”
Guys…I think I went overboard with this one. Oh well, I didn’t know much about Huldras before I looked it up on Wiki. I did my own rendition but if I got anything wrong, feel free to comment and tell me so.
Tomorrows Creature: Nack