The request was not unreasonable, especially considering how braven Two-Packs had been not a few days ago. Huck, proud warrior and defender of the J’Otha, affected by the suffering of his enemies? Preposterous, ignorant, downright dishonorable. But it was all he could do to be angry at the woman. She had saved him not only now, but many a year ago when she was not scared and crippled. Not only that, she’d killed with such skill and beauty that Huck didn’t think refusing a simple request as this would do him any good. Two-Packs, who now asked to be called Ashe, asked him when she has finally allowed Huck out of the simple cot.
“Of course,” Huck said without hesitation. “But why me?”
“I’ve seen you fight Bear Soldier,” Ashe said, helping huck to a simple chair outside of the hut. She sat him down and began inspecting his leg. “He Who Smiles at Death, was that the name those other men gave you?”
“Not so many smiling days anymore,” Huck reached for the charm around his neck and turned it in his fingers. “I Pray to Bear for a swift death, so that my people remember me as that man.”
“Not until you teach Odin to Fight,” Ashe said. “It’s what I ask, and trust me, it won’t be hard.”
“The boy is...strange for sure,” Huck said looking out at the boy Odd, who sat by a small fire fletching arrows. He did it with a look in his eye, this boy, a single minded thought. Something about the boy struck a chord with Huck. “I have seen him with these...well things...looking at them with such intensity.”
“He’s learning,” Ashe said, wrapping up Hucks leg with new bandages. “Those things contain knowledge, knowledge best not forgotten.”
Huck didn’t really understand. He’d known of people who could read. Simple words, phrases, or symbols that could be used to communicate. But from what Huck had seen, these things the Boy carried were filled with strange shapes, squiggles, pictures, and things he didn’t think boys were interested in. For him, boys would play at swords, only soon to take them up and die stupid and horrible deaths.
“Ashe,” Huck said after a moment of silence. “Why? Why keep a child like this?”
Ashe shrugged. “If I’m honest,” she said with a smile. “I don’t think I really had a choice.”
The boy didn’t seem interested in violence. On the contrary, he seemed much more interested in preventing it. Huck told him, a swift punch to the face of one man is a sure way to keep others from making a similar mistake. Huck had the boy doing things he did when he as his age. He had him running, jumping, and climbing for long hours of the day. Huck could do little to keep track of the boy, as he was now on crutches and confined to a small area around the Hut, the Store Shed, and the Hovel that Ashe and the boy Odd slept in. Something about the child made Huck certain that Odd listened and did what he was told. When Huck said go run until sunset, and the boy returned at sunset, he was certain the child had done it. After a while, Huck began to notice his dreams become calmer as he trained the boy. No more did visions of violence come to him, but deep dreamless sleep replaced them. Ashe had made a potion for him to drink before bed, but only after he had trained Odd, he had polished his Robins Blade, and he had walked a bit to “stretch his legs”. But soon, he found she had stopped giving him tea, and the actions were not required, he noticed this about a month after he arrived. He found that if he didn’t polish his blade, he was upset, unsettled. He found that if he did not work with Odd on proper stances, he was equally if not more unsettled. This would lead his mind to drift to the visions he’d seen. Of a river of blood caked in ice and limbs, and that terrible Raven’s Mask. So, not wanting to seem weak, he would tend to his spear and train Odd because it gave him relief, some use to people who needed it.
Huck asked Ashe about it as she brewed them tea while Odd was practicing with a dummy Huck had fashioned together. It had been about two months, or so Ashe said, and that Huck would probably need one more before he was ready to return to J’Otha. She said he’d be able to leave when spring came. But for now, the air was cold, and the snow fell harder than it had in a long time. The flakes danced as they fell, making the very air alive with motion.
“Why ask me to clean my spear?” Huck asked looking out at Odd as he struck the Dummy with the carved stick he used as a sword.
“It was dirty,” Ashe said simply, placing the leaves and flowers in the pot of boiling water. “A warrior shouldn’t have a dirty weapon.”
“A mixture of herbs meant to calm,”
“The boy needs to be able to defend himself,” Ashe said simply, stirring the water in the pot. “You’re a warrior, and a champion of his people at that. Who better to teach the boy?”
“But...why me?” Huck asked, trying to find some logic, some reason.
Ashe blinking, her one green eye fixed on the pot. Then up at Huck. “You were here,” she said simply. “Simple as that.”
“I was here,” Huck said suspiciously. He felt the words in his mouth. “But why am I here?”
“You got hurt, I’m a healer,” Ashe said. “Don’t start thinking about greater plans Huck, it's not becoming of you!” She laughed, a beautiful melodious laugh.
Huck chuckled along with her. He knew she was right. It was a coincidence of course. But it was a beautiful kind of happening, the kind that the Shamans told around campfires in his village. Bear would tread a path through the dark world, consuming it all and leaving behind a trail for us to follow. Bear who swallows the world so we can live in it. He fumbled with the charm around his neck.
“Maybe it is best you don’t come with me,” Huck said with a smile. “You do a lot of good here.”
“Hmph,” Ashe smirked. “Not my thinking on it, but fair.” She twisted her mouth slightly as if in thought. “If I came with you back to J’Otha, what would be expected?”
“Sharing of wisdom perhaps,” Huck said simply looking into the teapot. “Treat the sick, but in no way would I force you to stay, nor would my people.” He looked up at her. “Just a chance for you to see the good you do aside from some old cretin like me.” He felt something grow inside him. He’d known love before, knew what it felt like, knew it wasn’t for him. This wasn’t love, nor a soldier’s lust. It felt more like a campfire on a dark night, or the feeling he got from polishing his spear.
Ashe stirred the pot for a bit. There was silence for a time, the only sound were the thuds coming from Odd striking the dummy. Ashe produced two mugs from a shelf, handing one to Huck and poured him some tea from the pot.
‘Fine,” Ashe said, pouring herself a cup. “I’ll join you.”ns220.127.116.11da2