The Wooden Snowman
By Martin Calderwood
He stood silently in the middle of the meadow, gazing toward the mountains rising sharply two or three kilometers away. He had lost track of how long he had been there. His surface, once white and glossy, showed patches of brown and tan where the elements had worn away the whitewash that allowed him to blend into the winter scenes for which he had been created. His once bright copper metal hat, once pointing straight, was now bent at a rakish angle to the right about a hand span from the top. It had been no match for the branch that it banged against as it traveled hurriedly from the town. The hat's luster was gone and there were several other indications of the wear and tear of nature upon its riveted surface, but it still remained as secure as always to the top of his wooden head. His cone-shaped body showed cracking in a few places but, considering everything, he was in remarkably good shape.
He must have come from a single, thick trunk, for his base was almost two-thirds a meter in diameter. The top of the cone, upon which rested a smooth ball of wood larger than a human head but smaller than a cow’s, had been leveled off so the circular top was just over a large man's hand-width across, providing a slight neck-like appearance for the head.
He faced east toward the greatest mountains and the rising sun. His left arm pointed directly at the horizon line. Upon the tip of this smooth appendage sat a small, flat, copper, sparrow-like bird toward which the woodman's face turned to gaze. His right arm, bent at the elbow, rested against the body. Though weather beaten, it remained securely attached by sturdy wooden pegs placed there by the craftsman who had created him all those years ago. This 'hand' held a slightly bent and deformed cage that appeared too small to hold the bird. One wondered if the figure was planning on capturing the bird or was freeing it from the confines of the cage. The closed door apparently answered the question, but still it could be asked by the curious.
The snowman's face was also etched, but it had been faded by the sun which now filled the meadow with warmth and light until giving way to the spectacular cavalcade of the Northern lights. The facial features were detailed by almost perfectly formed circles of coal. They gave his eyes a slightly piercing stare as they seemed to gaze past the little bird toward the mountains. The nose, also cone shaped, showed evidence of having had real birds perched on its finger-long surface. The mouth was made of coal chunks that had been closely embedded into the wood in the shape of a gentle smile, meant to reassure the bird he was supporting. One feature, not generally seen because of the growth and dirt surrounding him, a circle of connected hearts lovingly carved around the base of his body. These may have been red or pink, but now they were simply worn and faded wood tones, blending with the ground upon which he sat. Right now, they were completely hidden by the several layers of snow that blanketed the meadow.
He had been deposited in almost the exact middle of the stadium-sized meadow by a mischievous Troll, pilfering one winter's night from a storefront where the figure had been placed as part of the Yule festivities. How long ago was not known, but fawns that had crossed the paths of the meadows and forest's edge were now grandparents and the length of the tree shadows that surrounded the clearing had grown much longer.
Behind him a stream bubbled and giggled as it always had. Of course, he had never seen the stream except for a brief glance when the Troll set him down, picked him up, turned him slightly and set him in the position he was now in. This arrangement must have suited him fine, as none of the animals and other creatures who crossed the meadow ever heard him complain.
Occasionally a Troll would pass by. Other strange and magical beings also would pass, but most ignored him, which also suited him just fine. Now, all the larger animals had gone down to find forage because the first snows had arrived early this year. In a few weeks, only his head might show above the snow; if the weather was severe enough perhaps only the tip of his bent hat. His only company now was the smaller burrowing animals who, from time to time, would come over to sniff him, making certain that he had not suddenly come to life. Naturally, the predators that lived on such creatures also prowled the area and over the years many a bloody struggle had played out before his bright coal eyes. Never once did he turn away or raise a fuss, for such was his nature.
The fairy's name was Bright Wing. She had lived all her life in the upper meadows and deep gullies of the Northlands, ever since a great wind had blown her here years ago during a great storm. Only recently, however, had she come this far, and discovered the wooden snow man in the middle of this isolated meadow. She had learned to love the cold, crisp air, and if she got too cold she always had her magic to keep her warm. The briskness, however, was invigorating, making her feel alive and tingly as she flitted above the forest's southern edge. Over the years she had become friends with the warm and tricky gnomes known as Nissan. She had even conversed with a Troll or two, as well as the occasional Elf or Dwarf that passed this way. For her, the solitary life was fine: she could fly anywhere she wanted on a whim and come back when she was ready to the peace and harmony of this area she loved so much.
Tonight, she had been out basking in one of the few clear nights the last few weeks had produced. Above her the stars twinkled and the faint flicker of Northern Lights danced just over the mountains, sending twinkles of color above the peaks. It was the kind of night that she looked forward to whenever one came. Usually, she was alone with the animals and trees, but rustles and soft footfalls caused her to duck behind the figure in the meadow. She watched curiously as two Trolls, a father with his son on his shoulder, walked out of the forest on the far side of the glade. They were obviously in high spirits, laughing and roaring in obvious good humor.
Suddenly the boy squawked and pointed toward the small figure in the shadows of the open area. His father guffawed as set the boy down, growling something as he did. The boy took off at a waddling run toward the wooden snowman, a gleeful blat and bleat letting loose as he raced toward the still form. He slipped and slid along in the knee-deep snow, coming to an abrupt halt in front of the figure.
Bright Wing grinned mischievously as the troll took another step, this time almost slipping and falling into the figure. With careful precision, she rapidly touched several places on the figure, sprinkling tiny bits of sparkling dust as she did. She peaked out from behind the figure to see the father looking down at his son, laughing and pointing. Before the boy and his father could look up the Fairy shot skyward to hide in the dark and twinkles of the night. Stifling a playful giggle, she remained very still, hovering and watching as the father arrived to help the boy up. The moment he was on his feet, the younger Troll reached out and grabbed at the side of the body.
“That tickles!” said the wooden figure, sounding very startled. Both father and son leapt back in surprise as the ‘snowman’ spoke his first words.
High above, the fairy held her sides as she fought to keep from bursting out into gleeful laughter.
“What?” asked the wide eyed boy Troll as his father rushed up protectively.
“Ummm, that tickles?” repeated the woodman. “That tickles! Do it again!”
Knowing his father was near, the boy tentatively reached out and rubbed his rough hand up and down the stranger’s weathered side. The figure instantly broke into fits of giggling laughter.
“Again! Again!” he cried.
This time the boy rubbed the belly area with a rapid circular motion. The figure tried to control the sounds that squeaked out of his mouth, but was only successful for a moment. This time, he tried to twist away, bringing his arm down to brush away the young trolls arm. The dad guffawed and stepped closer to examine what he thought, until moments before, was just a carving. After several moments he stepped back and made a slight bow toward the creature who had been studying him with equal curiosity.
“Me Greeg,” said the Troll gently, then pointing to the lad, “this Var, son.”
“Hello,” stammered the figure, not knowing what to think and yet somehow surprised that he could think at all. “I don’t have a name.”
“How you alive no-have-name?”
“I do not know. One moment I was gazing at the mountains, and the next the little troll was tickling me and I told him that it tickled. I am very surprised. How did this happen?”
The big Troll shook his head and shrugged. “Magic? Maybe.”
The woodman seemed to ponder this for several moments as the boy bounced around, shouting something about Jule gift and Yule friend. His father hushed him with a cuff over the top of one ear then turned back toward the new being.
“How long have I been here?” asked the figure before Greeg could speak again.
“Not know,” said Greeg softly. “I last here three winters ago. You here then. Before, not know.”
Greeg thought back to the time he had first seen the figure standing bright and white in the midst of the meadow. The troll had been en route home from a nearby human village, ten kilometers away. He had chosen to take a new path and had ended up entering the open space from the west. He had seen the figure and investigated, picking it up and examining it before setting it back down facing eastward.
Greeg had decided to visit the village and watch it years ago, because he was curious about the strange people who were slowly invading the territory of the trolls. Other trolls had actually moved deeper into the mountains to avoid the loud and boisterous creatures who seemed to be as wasteful as they were inventive. Greeg, on the other hand, had decided to study man and learn as much as he could. Over the next few years he had done just that and had even begun to copy some of their traditions, including the celebration of the Jule (or Yule as they called it), because it celebrated love and sharing and caring for things - including the land. He watched as they put out food for the animals and hung sheaves for the birds. He watched how the children were cared for and how they laughed as they exchanged token gifts of food and other small items. They also worshiped their god of nature and life who had done great things for them. From his hiding place Greeg had learned much and heard much and never once was discovered. The Troll had even met and conversed with one of the mysterious and almost mystical gnome-like creatures called Nissan. From him, he had learned even more about the customs of the human Jule days. The Nissan had promised to visit the troll’s family with some gifts if they were good, and thus a new tradition had been born that eventually many other trolls had copied
Finally, when he grew a little bored with these efforts, Greeg did not return to the village for several years. Then three years ago he had returned and found them more numerous and organized. Many small, sharp-roofed homes now surrounded a common field, and paths were deep as they cut into the surrounding woods. Rock walls had been built, and several animals now were protected therein, animals that were quite nervous as he approached and slid into his former hiding place one night. When he had finished his day-long study, he departed and chose the new way home that had taken him to where he had first seen the figure who now stood impatiently before him. After he had checked everything out he departed, planning to come back another day in the future. That day was put off much longer than planned because he had to care for his young family. Greeg did not venture far from home until now, when his son was old enough to accompany him on the journey.
This year he had decided to take his son. Before, Greeg had not felt comfortable taking his son too close to the village, which was now bigger than ever, with more homes in it than he had fingers and toes. The boy had been ecstatic when he was invited to come along, and he had pestered his father with questions, making the older Troll talk more than he had in years as he attempted to answer. It was everything Greeg could do to get his son to calm down enough to insure they would not be discovered as they sought a vantage point from which Greeg could introduce his son to the dangerous and complicated humans. The two had watched as long as the lad could be still, and when the boy got fidgety the father took him out along the path, hoping they would find a fine log to burn as the humans did during the day of Yule.
“What kind of magic?” No-name asked finally.
“Fairy,” said the troll finally, trying to find out where the perpetrator was.
Above them Bright Wing shot up another dozen or more meters to avoid the Troll’s searching eyes. She was already getting a little bored, but found she could not draw herself away from it easily. She watched as the boy troll bounded around the figure with unrestrained delight, occasionally running up and touching or bumping the figure, which caused it to look exasperated and wishful at the same time. The Fairy thought for several seconds as, below her, the troll tried to figure out what to do and what had happened. Bright Wing imagined what the Troll would think if he knew that she was right above them. Then she thought of another bit of mischief she could do.
From her pouch Bright Wing removed a bit of dust, then, casting it in front of her, she pointed her finger at the small cloud and it instantly formed a straight arrow line which shot downward, striking the woodman in the lower back area. The man seemed to shudder slightly as the magic hit home, engulfing his body. Greeg instantly sensed the change and followed the line upward, spotting the small fairy as she lowered her arm. The frolicsome fairy knew she was discovered and, with a flippant wave of her hand she darted from sight before Greeg could point out the troublemaker to his son, who still danced and stomped around the ‘snowman,’ leaving wet muddy prints in the snow.
No-name did not see the fairy at all, but as the magic struck him he could sense a weird tingling flooding his body. With a small grunt the newly created being rose up on a set of short stubby legs similar to what a dwarf might have, and turned and faced the approaching young troll.
“I will get you,” teased the wooden man as he stepped forward.
Shrieking with mock fear and delight, the lad turned and ran in a spiral-like path away from the figure who pursued him excitedly, pumping his arms like a running child, still clutching the little metal bird that had not been acknowledged by anyone.
Greeg searched the sky one more time. When he could not spot the fairy easily he turned his attention toward the running pair of figures. Now he noticed a boot like-form at the bottom of each of those stubby legs, apparently made of the same copper substance as the hat. The pointed toes, it appeared, were bent at a similar angle to the hat. The Troll did not even pretend to understand how things had happened. Magic was involved and that was enough for him. His only concern was how long the magic would last and what would become of the figure when it wore off. After several minutes of watching and pondering he made a decision. Satisfied, he shouted at his son to come, just as the boy slid to a stop near the icy stream. Var, knowing what was best for his ears, turned and sprinted toward his father who stood some twenty meters away.
The wooden snowman who was rushing up along the bank also turned and followed his new friend. The strange being watched as his friend reached out, just as he started past his father, and grabbed onto an outstretched arm. With seeming ease Var swung up onto Greeg’s shoulder. He come down a-straddle around the large Troll’s head. As No-name raced forward, he put on a slight burst of speed, then dropped his legs back into his body and slid along the icy slush, coming to a stop within a meter of the two trolls. All three laughed as the woodman stood and waited for the troll to lead the way, without a word being spoken.
As they walked toward the edge of the open area No-name wondered how he knew all that he did, having been made only a few minutes ago. When he asked Greeg, who began to worry about having another ‘son’ pestering him with questions, the Troll suggested that what the Fairy knew was likely a factor in what No-name knew. Greeg also believed that No-name might have memories from what the wood forming him knew, along with memories of what he had seen while in his current form. The wooden man seemed to take this as a matter of fact. To the Troll’s relief No-name fell silent for the next half hour or so, no matter what Var did to encourage his new friend to play and run around. Greeg finally had to scold his son, who then ran ahead rather than get into further trouble.
Greeg had chosen to travel a few kilometers further west, away from the meadow and the human village, to where a fire damaged area some fifty acres across contained several damaged trees that still held good portions of burnable wood. He hoped that they would find a suitable Yule Log to take home with them. He trudged on, keeping one eye on his son and enjoying the blessed silence. Every so often No-name would look at his boots or try to move different things, but he said nothing as he continued his process of self discovery.
They walked for almost an hour, taking their time so Var could keep up and the Woodman would have time to think. They talked briefly from time to time but for the most part the distance slipped quietly by. Finally, the three entered the burn area and stopped to drink out of a clear stream. No-name did not drink, but placed his hand into the water. He still clutched the little bird. He seemed totally unaware of it until Var asked him about it. It turned out that he could let it go, and his balled fist became a small hand that could grasp. No-name asked Greeg to place the bird in one of the pouches he wore on his belt, which the troll did. The Troll got the feeling, as he accepted the flat cut-out, that the man of wood was finally coming to terms with who, and perhaps what, he was.
It was Var who first spotted what he thought would be the ideal Jule log. The night was three-quarters through when they arrived in the burn area. The young troll had scampered ahead while his father and new friend talked briefly at the edge. The two had just entered when Greeg’s sensitive nose caught the most dreaded of scents. Humans, perhaps hunters, were coming down the hillside a few hundred meters away. The soft breeze that would soon greet the dawn carried the distinct smell mingled with blood and infection. Someone was injured. There was also the distinct odor of dead bear, which masked some of the unpleasant human smells.
Quickly, Greeg motioned for his two charges to follow him into the craggy rocks that bordered one side of the fire area. In moments, all three had deftly faded into the shadows, looking for a suitable place to conceal themselves.
No-name, though he did not understand, lowered himself down, his legs disappearing into his ‘cut off’ body, which settled gently down to the soft, snow-covered ground, He positioned himself so he could have the best view of the coming humans. His mind raced as he tried to put into perspective what the Fairy thought of humans and his own memories of how careful his creator had been as he was carved from a single log. He had not seen a human since he had been ‘abducted,’ but he recalled the children and adults admiring him as they prepared for the coming holidays.
He also watched the trolls. From a very young age, Trolls learn to freeze and blend in with the rocks and trees of their surroundings. He watched the breathing movement come to an almost complete halt and every sound they made simply ceased. The woodman was astonished. While he watched, the trolls simply became a common rock formation and a battered old tree stump.
For his part, Greeg watched the woodman hoping that nothing would happen to cause the inexperienced creature to give them away. He had faith in the self-preservation of fairy magic, but still he prepared himself to act as needed to protect everyone -- including the humans.
The smells grew stronger. Soon they were able to make out the sounds of conversation which filtered through the cool night air. The smells told Greeg that at least one of those coming was injured. The fact that they were traveling at night told him that it was probably very serious.
His keen ears picked up the conversation before he could actually make out the forms on the edge of the burn. They must have realized that the path through this area was a shortcut, because the men were urging each other to keep moving and worrying that ‘Hans’ would not make it.
The first pair of humans to come into view were carrying a large bear, strapped to a post that they carried on their shoulders. Greeg was fairly certain, even in this dim light, that he did not know the bear. Involuntarily, his stomach growled as he realized he should have eaten. He was grateful that the men did not hear the unusual noise.
The corpse bearers passed without incident, followed by two men pulling a two-wheeled cart piled high with wood. They were not talking at all and seemed exhausted. Greeg figured the need for wood meant they did not dare abandon their collection even if it meant a greater difficulty for all of them. He also noted a dozen or so fine logs on the top that would be very good for Yule. Greeg observed the bloody, torn sleeve on one of the men, attesting to his efforts to help his friend.
Last to pass were the two men carrying their friend, Hans, on a makeshift sling. The two were conversing softly as they approached. Greeg strained to hear what had happened so he could learn more about these rapidly encroaching creatures known as humans.
“His wife is going to need help regardless of how he heals. That cursed bear got him good and it will take a long time for him to recover,” muttered the nearest man.
“You have been saying that since we started!” said the other man. “The village will help him, we know that and unless we run into trouble we will get him to safety in plenty of time.”
“Unless he starts to bleed again.”
“He would have been dead if you hadn’t killed the beast.”
“Bullet in the ear at point blank range will kill anything. He was so intent on Hans that he did not even sense my approach. If my first shot had hit squarely we would not be in this trouble now. Damned thick skulls!”
“Stop blaming yourself. Your second shot killed the beast. God was watching and we will be fine.”
“If God was watching this never would have happened!” spat the first man angrily.
The men with the litter stopped to switch places, to avoid greater fatigue. As they set down their burden, the sky flashed briefly and the auroras seemed to explode overhead. For a brief moment, a single beam of brightly colored light shot from the sky and fell upon the exposed face of the injured man, illuminating all his features. Nearby, No-name stifled a gasp by slapping his wooden hands against his mouth. The resulting click sounded like dried sticks being broken in the distance. A few meters away Greeg’s eyes opened wide in alarm. Var did not know what to do, and shifted slightly on the rock, causing an inadvertent second click of stone as the light vanished into the sky as miraculously as it had appeared.
“Who’s out there?” demanded the angry man, unslinging his rifle.
“What do you mean. I didn’t hear anything.”
“Just shut up and listen. May be a Troll, may be only a deer but I heard something, and if it’s another bear after a meal, I am not going to let it near!”
No-name had no clue what to do. He had recognized the injured human as the one who had created him all those years ago. Instinctively, he wanted to remain hidden. Fairy magic and troll warnings fought his desire to help the critically injured man. But the desire to help overpowered him and he trundled forward into the light before Var could put a restraining hand on him.
“Troll!” screamed the rifleman.
The gun belched fire and lead, splintering a small chunk off the side of the woodman. Unaffected by the wound, No-name moved forward toward the litter.
“Creator?” he said almost in a harsh whisper. “Creator!”
The angry man struggled to reload his gun. His hands trembled in fear and rage. Nearby, the other men were running toward them, weapons in hand. Suddenly a loud roar bellowed into the woods, followed by a second higher and shorter howl, like a wild animal. The men froze in confusion as a second rumbling voice yowled threateningly nearby. Brush and rock shook and quaked as Greeg created a scene set to terrify everyone in the area. Var threw several large pieces of wood at the men, careful to miss them, before ducking as a shot bounced harmlessly off a nearby stone.
Greeg stormed out of cover, towering four or more meters over the terrified men. The riflemen tossed his weapon aside and fled toward the others, who turned and ran as the Great Troll emerged in all his rage. No-name rushed forward past the remaining man who stood frozen in fear.
“No hurt! No hurt!” cried Var as he ran after his father.
Greeg stopped and grinned, listening to the diminishing noise of the humans as they fled.
Moments later Greeg knelt beside the injured man as No-name fretted and paced nervously close by. The only remaining human hung back in fear but did not flee or call for his companions.
“Fix him!” insisted No-name as he stood, rocking back and forth in the snow. It was obvious even to him that the human wood carver was in a very poor condition, especially compared with how he was remembered.
“Fix! Fix!” Insisted Var as he looked back and forth from the Woodman to the first human he had ever seen up close.
Greeg nodded absently, noting that the man was very weak. With learned patience he removed the clothing, exposing deep wounds which extended almost to the neck. With a word he sent his son to gather burnable wood so he could build a small fire. The man groaned and tried to move. Greeg restrained him with a single finger. He did not flinch when he heard the click and felt the cold piece of steal against his neck.
“Leave him alone.”
The human voice was terrified, yet pressing.
Greeg did not move, nor did the Wood figure who stared at the human in horror. Behind them, Var turned and watched, knowing his father was in no real danger at the moment.
“Will end,” said Greeg softly. “I help.”
The man trembled but held the gun firmly, even tightening his finger slightly upon the trigger. Greeg did not even flinch as he brought his arm forward, holding the drawstring bag he had looped to his rope belt. The hammer fell, the gun belched fire and smoke, the ball slammed into the ground two or three meters beyond the Troll and the wounded man. Greeg’s arm had moved in a blur, knocking the gun sideways. The man now stood frozen in amazed fear as his mind slowly absorbed the fact that this troll had moved as fast as he had.
“You help,” said Greeg, turning back to the victim. “Bring water.”
Forgetting the hale human, Greeg turned back to his patient. In the darkness his eyes were much better than in the light. They noted bits of muscle and flesh barely clinging to the open wound. His sensitive nose told him that the wound was beginning to smell of death, so he carefully sprinkled a pale grey powder into the wound. Patiently, he glanced at his son, who was building a small fire. In moments it crackled brightly. Seconds later, Var handed his father a burning stick which he touched to the powder. The powder flashed for a moment. The smell of warmed but unburned flesh filled the air. The other human raced forward and poured the small flagon of cool water over the exposed chest. Greeg smiled
The man shook his head in amazement. “You wanted me to do that?”
Greeg nodded his head as he began to administer another powder, which seemed to sparkle and dance in the soft light of the fire. The man trembled and drew a rasping breath. Greeg knew that there was nothing he could do. He looked helplessly at the Wooden Snowman, his eyes full of sadness and resolve, knowing that nothing short of a miracle could save the human. Behind him the other human let the bucket drop as he somehow sensed the end was near. The wounded man rasped and shook and began to slowly exhale.
The healthy human’s face whitened. He looked at the Troll, who now worked frantically on the human. Never before had he seen anyone work harder to save a life. Years of fear, bias, and ignorance fell away in seconds and he found himself kneeling next to the Troll who somehow seemed smaller then he remembered. Without a word he began to look for ways to help.
“Please save him,” whispered the man, not sure if he were praying or asking the Troll.
The Troll said nothing and silently continued to work.
The man inhaled rapidly as his eyes flew open briefly before slowly closing, as his muscles and body began to relax for a final time.
Greeg would never know if it were fairy memory or something else that caused the Wooden man to speak. He knew he had not suggested it, nor did he want to consider this kind of act for a human.
“Save him. Use my life. Save him!” said the wooden figure softly but firmly.
Var and the human turned and gaped. The woodman smiled.
“I have had a life that I should never have had. These memories will rest with me until I am returned to Mother Earth.”
“Certain?” asked Greeg, knowing that the fairy mischief had really disturbed the natural order of things. As he looked at the dying man and then at the battered wooden snowman he was surprised at how well this magical creation understood the world after such a short time in it.
The wooden being nodded resolutely.
“Not do alone,” said the Troll finally.
Suddenly Var realized what was happening. “Noooo!” he wailed. “Not use No-name!”
His father was stunned into silence as his son’s emotions registered deep inside him. His eyes blurred slightly as he continued to work, hoping to avoid the proposed solution. It soon became apparent, however, that though the wounds were be slowly healing, the man did not have enough strength to complete the process.
“I will talk with him,” said No-name standing up. “Make ready.”
“How you know?” asked Greeg as he watched No-name take his struggling son by the arm.
“I am a being of nature and magic. I do not know how I know, I just do. The human created me from dead wood. The fairy gave me life. I am certain she meant no harm. This is my destiny. It is right and it will return nature to its balance.”
“Wise,” was all the troll could say.
Greeg listened to the angry wails and sobbing pleas as his son fought that which he did not understand yet. It was a hard lesson that every Troll child has to learn, for even though Trolls are blessed with a great unity with the powers of nature, their first obligation is to see that it remained balanced Var had heard the words, now it was time to feel their meaning. Greeg and No-name knew that nothing ever happened without a purpose. Even though the Woodman was only a few moments in this world he had realized a great deal. Such was the way of life.
As he hoped, Var’s anger began to fade and a calm returned to the area. Greeg strained to hear the words being spoken but could not, despite his sensitive ears. The Snowman had chosen his distance well, just out of a normal troll’s range for a soft conversation. He worked on now, only to keep the body alive for what must be tried. When the pair finally returned Var stoically blinked back tears of anger, frustration and sadness.
Beside him, the human stirred, as if he too had finally caught the vision of what was about to be attempted. He began to pull back but Greeg touched him gently on the shoulder.
“Must all touch No-name and man,” said the elder Troll as he sprinkled one last bit of powder on the human.
“Hans, his name is Hans,” said his friend.
“One hand on Hans. One on No-name,” said Greeg, placing his right hand on the human’s chest. In it was a small carved stone figure.
Var followed his father’s example. The human placed his left hand on his friend and gazed into the pallid face.
No-name moved closer and settled his legs into his body. Carefully, he positioned his arms as he had held them for so many years.
“My bird,” he said softly.
Greeg nodded and removed the thin metal cut-out from the belt where he had tucked it. With a soft sigh he handed it to the Wood man and then placed his hand on the being’s round chest. Var and the human placed their hands on top of Greeg’s.
No-name smiled and glanced silently up at the sky as the Northern lights danced through a slowly opening hole in the clouds. “I am ready. Thank you all.”
“Now Gods decide,” said Greeg closing his eyes.
Var and the human followed suite, leaving only No-name to witness the beam of brightly colored light that emerged from the sky and touched him on the shoulder. For a moment all was silent. No-name’s wooden fibers tingled as the energy of life passed into the hands and down to the human. The Wooden Snowman blinked once and was still.
Greeg felt the energy of life flow through him. He willed a bit of his own great strength to follow. He could sense the human next to him fighting the urge to flee as strange impulses took hold of him, drained him, and released him. He felt his son’s loss and felt life from his son join his. Var would not let this process fail. Greeg added more strength.
In heart-beats it was over. Hans took a deep cleansing breath. He would be forever unaware of exactly what had been done for him and what had been sacrificed.
The other human, whose name was Steiner, sat down, totally exhausted as he glanced at the wooden statue standing so close. What he had witnessed was impossible, yet he knew what he had seen was true. He looked at the Troll and then at his friend and noted that color was returning to the haggard face. Already Steiner could see that the wounds were closing slowly and Hans’ breathing was now softer and more even.
Steiner wanted to talk but the large Troll shook his head. “Friends come. Powder dry.”
Steiner nodded. “Go. And thank you!”
The Troll nodded and after only a few footsteps, he had vanished into the surrounding wood and rocks. Steiner looked around but saw nothing, just as he heard the clatter of the returning humans.
Above them a few dozen meters Greeg listened as the human, Steiner, teased his friends about shooting a wooden figure they had spotted on the hill. Steiner said that he recognized the figure as one that had been stolen years ago and told them that he had dragged it down just to show them. The hot headed gunman swore the thing was moving and demanded to know what the roars had been and what they had seen. Steiner claimed that it was a large elk that had been frightened by the fleeing humans.
As if timed to stave of further discussion, Hans coughed softly. It was then that the other humans noticed his improved condition.
“I removed the clothing and found out he was not as badly hurt as we first thought. I treated what I could and have cleaned him up and I think he is going to make it...”
Greeg took his son by the hand and flung him up onto his shoulder. The boy stifled a cry of delight and clung to his father’s bushy hair as the pair disappeared into the night seeking a place that would be safe from the coming sun.
Behind them, a little wooden figure smiled and looked slightly skyward as if he were watching the Trolls vanish. Moments later he was picked up and put on the litter next to his creator at Steiner’s insistence and the long journey home began.