Vilkan. (Fiction)

Cyo Karalis had an abnormally long life as a man, and never once observed over a losing battle… but he was growing older and the forces from the south were growing more bold with their influence, their murders, and their intent on invasion.

Hunting with his eagle, he and his cousin Vilkan Prinz would spend their time in the wild fields at dawn, feeling that those who truly served their people- should serve them in all ways- feeding them included.  Karalis’ birds were as large as men, but more loyal- and could bring back enough game in a single hunt to feast nightly on venison and boar.  Karalis lived in the great hall as did Vilkan, called “Vilks” for short- and at times of war, it was them both who always succeeded in organizing the free folk against invasion of humans or predators.

It was a time when no one went hungry, Vilks was a master hunter- while Karalis was engaged in the more diplomatic aspects of life- forging alliances, diplomacy, and trade; Vilks created glorious tools and weaponry and seeked to tame the wildest predatory animals to not only come to his hand, but to serve him willingly in his hunts, favoring the great wolves- for they were the only ones who were loyal as Karalis’ birds.  His abilities at the hunt and at war frightened most men, but they said nothing.  His father was a master magician, brilliant  but absent in frequent travelling and his mother was a warrior  Queen whose name still trembled on the lips of old men who had lost their kindred, limbs, and sanity to her and her campaigns.

However, his mother was not permitted to live within the country under curse of death,  For there were no rulers in their land.  It was Karalis who raised him in the absence of his distant father, and in fact, taught him most things that made other people part as he passed down the trails and valleys, afraid to speak to him or of him.  Vilks looked at people the same way he viewed prey.  Sharp green eyes, hair, long, dark and unkempt and a beard that was haphazardly trimmed with nothing more than a few brisk slashes of blades sharpened to such fine degree they were said to be able to cut sunbeams twain.

For as little as the people loved Vilkan, Vilks loved his people fiercely; he knew of the fear he had inherited from his mighty mother- but, the intelligence he inherited from his father reassured him that it did not matter what people thought of him, instead, what mattered was what he did for them, appreciated or not.  His smile frightened children, but he smiled knowing that the steel he created allowed for those children to have a chance to grow old- both in nourishment and in their protection.

Karalis was facing war with the South, a place even further South of which his own mother had been born, but he had no Diplomacy to give and the People he cared for were growing few in number as the North became colder and the winters took lives as their sacrifice for the promise of Spring, said the religions.  The Colder the winter, the more people died in those frigid nights as they offered themselves up and walked without clothing into the woods in madness of dreaming of warmth again.

Spring always returned.  The population, however, did not…. and for each new child born did not replace the number of those who died on those bitter, black nights.

War reddened the distant mountains, the smoke from the fires  of offering to a new god of burnt towns and the smell of charred flesh distressed those who lived downwind in the valleys.

Karalis, ancient Karalis- in all his years of rule had finally faced a physical battle he knew could not be won.   In knowing this- he contacted the people of his mother’s lands and requested a parlay of their choosing.  He too, loved his people- but he feared he could no longer protect them himself, not even with the strength of Vilkan, the finest weapons, or the wisest of words.

In fact, it was Vilkan’s father who had returned with distant kin who offered protection of the people, but at a price.

“To have our protection, you must give us your weapons and we will protect you.”

But, at that time- to be unarmed in the North was also a sort of death- it removed the freedom to hunt as well as the freedom to protect oneself from harm, and it was a time where there were more things than simply other humans that could harm a family.

Bears prowled the woods, untamed wolves still stole children from their mother’s and devoured the elderly in the fields if one was not always mindful.  Although each man and woman carried weapons forged, sharpened, and kissed by the one known as Vilkan Prinz:  They did not know it.

He didn’t tell them.  He knew they feared him as they feared his mother- so he simply created his art in the hidden rooms of the hall of Cyo Karalis- appearing to be either an army of blacksmiths by his work seen alone- or incredible negotiation skills with traders that allowed for no one born to have an empty hand.

Every evening, the townspeople would meet in the great hall and share supper- back then there were no “kings”-  each woman and man ruled only themselves and chose to remain, or chose to leave as they saw fit without reprisal from any greater authority.  Those that stayed, despite the growing cold, could not bear to leave the only home they knew- or the last of the free places.

They united for centuries to fight to protect that home- and then at peace, they shared what they had with one another in food and resources, and in loves and friendships.

Karalis stood:

“My people, we are dying.  As I am aging and the world grows cold the village has been drained both by death and migration.  However, Raudonas Lapsayda has returned with a leader from the kinder Southlands than the one’s who burn our skies with their funeral pyres of our distant neighbors.  If we are unmindful, those fires will consume us as well.”

Raudonas shared nothing of appearance with his son Vilks except in the same predatory green eyes.  Where Vilkan was grand with muscle, his father was slender by comparison from miles of walking, his grace in eloquence was effortless where Vilks only grace was on the hunting fields, not among man nor woman.  Vilks hair was long, matted, and coarse against tanned skin- and Raudonas, like his name had the smooth, scarlet hair of a fox against the white snow that lent color to his complexion.

Raudonas spoke:

“Brothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Sons-  I have missed you.  I have missed decades of friends, years of births, and was absent for tears of mourning I did not know to shed for our beloved dead.  However, I left for greater purpose-  I left to allow us to continue to live and for our way of life to continue.  I have found a mighty empire- and I have made their King my brother in blood, sworn in fealty to protect you, my family- but I do not know if you will be willing to accept the price.”

“What price is that, father?” Vilks growled,   “An EMPIRE said you… ‘Empires’ ask for servitude, Empires require bent knees in subservience, and taxes of our food to feed their mouths as children starve.   What would they require of us, that we would be willing to pay?”

“All weapons.” his father restated, ” ..but in exchange- we live, under the protection of thousands of armed men and women who would protect us- we have an empire in the South in which we may live and not have our babes freeze to the breasts of their mothers frozen milk.  It is this, or we die, unremembered, buried by snows and by time- my son.”

Vilkan roared his displeasure and upturned the table at which he sat- and exclaimed:

“You condemn us to death by conversion to servitude. Without our weapons- we cannot hunt, we cannot fend off the bears or bandits that roam hungry in the days and nights in the woods.  You.  Left. Us.  To live a life in palaces as a tamed dog and now you wish that same collar to be worn by the free folk in this hall?  Are you insane?”

Raudonas lips were thin with displeasure, but did not speak,  Vilks continued:

“You may have my weapons only if you can chain me.  I am a weapon, I am a weapon of my people.   I have filled the stomachs of everyone in this room, and I have the blood of so many creatures on my hands that would have brought harm to us in your absence while you reek of honey and roses, your hands are soft  and haven’t forged a single weapon  where every person here holds a sword crafted by my hands.  You have done nothing, but offer us chains…and if they must be worn, *I* alone will wear them, not our family.

You have forgotten the value of our way of life- and what good is “magic” if it still means we have to leave.  If you are so brilliant, then burn away the snows, father.  Call back the sun in midwinter and make her shine upon our fields, and if you cannot, shove your so called ‘magic’ up your arse and prance back to your Lords and Ladies as their lapdog and continue your life apart from your kinsfolk.

We live and die as nature wills us, but I will not allow my people to die as slaves to your gaudy “royalty” in exchange for our right to keep our own lives as our own.”

The people, though few and fearful of Vilkan found themselves at awe.  They had not known that he was the one who crafted their weapons, nor that it was not Cyo Karalis with his eagle alone who was feeding them each night.

From the shadows, came a man in dark blue cloak,  travel worn and old- but not so old as Karalis.  His beard was long and his hat brim so long it obscured his eyes.

“For palaces of lords and ladies of leisure, I admit I am in short supply… and doubtful I smell of anything better than the long road I traveled to get here.  We are your kin.  Look at me, and look at yourselves and see that we are the same.  My hair is your hair, my skin is your skin, and yes- I may be a king, but I am a man; I walked until my shoes wore thin, and my bones ached to reach you.

I am not a king who requires one to bow or one to die.  We do not ask for your tools of the hunt, simply your tools of war- for I have armies of men and women who beg for the honor to die in battles so it would be needless for you to do so.  In our villages in the South, the cold brings us closer instead of thinning our herds and our families.  I am offering you a home in the South, with us, your cousins- your number is less than that than grains in a child’s hand, and among you, are children- would you have them die up here instead?”

Vilkan replied:

“I counteroffer.  My people may be few, but we do not fear for war.  All things die, it is by mindfulness we live.   Let me be the weapon you take away, and allow Karalis to serve as our voice still among the elders of all other tribes with all honors he is entitled- and I will break every chain and fetter your people can devise,  I am the son of Raudonas Lapsayda, they call me Vilkans Prinz, The prince of the wolves in a land with no princes- and if you listen, you can hear them howling to taste the blood of your throat.”

“I doubt that,” the old man replied calmly as two sets of yellow eyes came from the darkness behind him, padding softly on furred feet,  “It seems that the wolves themselves  in both lands are finding it better to forge alliances with mankind than to brave the cold alone.”

And so, the people moved South outpacing the winter cold to a land that was kinder- however, the “distant Kin” did not understand their ways.  Where diplomacy was based on honesty in the old village- it was now games of what Vilkan saw as meaningless words.   He intentionally frightened those of his new home, to keep them at a safe distance and to preserve the culture of his people as Karalis spent his days in lively discussion with elder men and women who called themselves “kings” and “queens”.   The new place feared him, and again, he feared them not.

They were said to be family, but he did not know them- and instead of hating him for the reputation of his mother, they hated him for his strength out of their own fear.

He began to take the children of his village out hunting, and they began to adore him- they became fierce and fearless- clever and quick.   What respect was had for the food that he adorned this foreign table, was overshadowed by the scent of mistrust.

They took him up on the offer to bind him, and laughingly, he agreed.   His father was a magician, and he, a smith- there was no lock or chain he could not find weakness, and every fetter fell to the ground in minutes and was kicked away in disgust.   His people cheered, but those native to the home in which they lived grew more fearful of the unrest of the new people among them.

Karalis was tasked with neutralizing his adopted son, as was Raudonas who spent hours in thought.  If Vilkan was not contained, the people would riot and attempt to return back North to their death, but if he were killed, war would occur in this new land.

Together, with the wolf-leader of the Southern tribes- they decided to bind him by an Oath that could not be broken, a chain of metaphors that would cost his honor and reputation to destroy.

And so, they created a grand ceremony- and Vilkan stood bravely before thousands of people of South and North and stood before Karalis and the elders of the new land.

“I see no chains, and I do not trust this.  Before, there were not thousands to witness your attempts to bind me for your amusement… among our people, a man is not considered a warrior if he loses his sword hand.   If there is deception, and it was lead by you, Karalis, the sharp-eyed children I have trained would like the oath that you will give your hand, and with it, your honor.”

Karalis hesistated, but replied: “That is fair.”

Then, Karalis asked him to swear an Oath, and to trust him… and repeated line by line an Oath unknown to him, that  by the sound of a cat’s footsteps, the beard of a woman, the roots of stones, the breath of a fish, and the spittle of a bird – that he would no longer fight nor hunt, forge no steel, and teach no youths further in order to preserve the peace until their world was consumed with the fires of war.

In other words, things which don’t exist, and against which it’s therefore futile to break…for one cannot break an Oath sworn on things that cannot fail since they cannot exist.

The people of the North, seeing this deception of words instead of honorable, solid metal- fell upon Karalis and took his hand for breaking his Oath against deceptions, and with it, he lost his Honor among his own people, but gained favor among the new.

The Old People returned North, and then they sought their own alliances with their Northern kin, the Barbarian Queen who never used words to deceive, and gladly swore fealty to her and lived free as wolves in new forests…and Cyo Karalis remained loyal to his people- North and South, by watching over them always despite his loss of his Honor to his home and his refusal to hide his shame in Oathbreaking to the new, remaining with Vilkan, his only friend, in a foreign land.

Vilkan waits until the fires still to teach the young how to fight, to hunt, and to forge…and his father Raudonas ended up imprisoned for the ways of the North and the South were not the same.

Honesty means different things in different places, as does Honor.    Only Cyo Karalis remained of the North to care for his people- forever, as all were made Gods immortal by the telling  and retellings of their story into antiquity.

History is forged by the winners.

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Key:

Cyo Karalis:
“Cyo”- Tyr in Old Saxon, “Karalis”- King in Latvian

Vilkan “Vilks” Prinz:
“Vilkan”/”Vilks” – Wolf in Lithuanian/Latvian.   Prinz- “Prince”, Modern German.

Raudonas Lapsayda:
“Raudonas”- Crimson in Lithuanian, “Lapsayda”- lapsāda- Latvian for “Fox”.

(I created these names from various languages- this tale takes place at the beginning of an iceage)

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4 Responses to “Vilkan. (Fiction)”

  1. You had me, right up until the last few lines. Then it just felt impious and insulting.

    • Tyrienne Says:

      I removed the line you mentioned on the forum. I do believe the Gods were once human and walked among us (some, repeatedly)… and I also believe we can become Gods by creating a legacy.

      I indicated that Karalis still watches, our memory of them is what keeps them Alive as Gods, when forgotten they die until rediscovered. Even Baldrs’ death was temporary….

  2. Great story! Even without knowing the key to names, it is well written to recognize who is who. ❤

  3. I was able to recognize who was who pretty early- and the story lost none of its appeal for that. Very well crafted. I enjoyed it. 🙂

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