Different

Here's a short story I wrote last term. I loved the names I found for this story. Baby name sites are just addicting. If you like the story please comment!

Frigg leaned against the pine tree, hands over her face as she counted. “Here I come, so be prepared!” She yelled. Whipping around she opened her eyes and scanned the area for any concealed forms. She spotted a green hat poking up from behind a log. “Found you Sorren!” She whooped as she ran over to his hiding place. A disgruntled lad’s face appeared as Sorren lifted his head and rose to his feet.

“I don’t know why we let you seek when we play, you always win too speedily.” He said sulking. “You get gone and find the others hastily so we can play something else now, yah?” Frigg grinned at him and ran off to spy out the others. She didn’t care what Sorren thought, hide-and-seek was her favorite game. It wasn’t long before Frigg had pried most of the village children from inside sheds, up trees and in barrels. Soon the only person left to find was Ask. Frigg knew he would be hard to find; he liked hide-and-seek just as much as she did, and though he may be slow in the mind, Ask was the best of the children at hiding.

So Frigg began her search with a walk around the perimeter of the village, working her way past thatched roofs and chickens as she circled slowly inward. Her thoroughness paid off. While passing a neighbor’s cow pen she heard a calf lowing. She stopped, cocking her head to listen. It was defiantly a calf; the only problem was that birthing season had been over a few moons ago.  Frigg ran grinning into the pen and over to the water trough. “I see you Ask, and I have a mind to pitch a water bucket over you for hiding there.” She said as she leaned over and peered into the trough. Ask lay along the bottom grinning, his eyes blinking up slowly from beneath his large forehead, his hands cupped across his mouth to enhance his play calf sounds.

“Was I a good hider Frigg?” He asked as she tried to pull him out of the trough. He was older then her but built stocky and short compared to the other boys she knew. He also wasn’t very coordinated, she thought as she pulled at his arm, trying to hoist him back up as he began to roll back into the trough. “Wasn’t it a good place Frigg?” He continued as they both almost fell in a heap in front of the trough.

“Yes, it was a very clever hiding place Ask, if only you could keep quiet I might never have found you.” She said soothingly as she brushed grass off his shirt.

“I like cows.” Ask said as they made their way back to the gate. “They smell interesting and they let me pet their noses.” Frigg nodded knowingly. Ask always seemed to feel more at home with animals then he did with people. She could guess why; animals wouldn’t shout at him or strike him if he wasn’t fast enough to understand what they wanted. Animals couldn’t care less if he looked different from other people.

“I know Ask, I like cows too. Why-” Frigg stopped and gasped. Before them the gate to the field hung open, cows poring through it at a trot. “No, oh no!” Frigg ran with a gasp to shut the gate before the whole herd got loose. Ask stood by, laughing merrily at her efforts to push back one of the steers who was determined to reach freedom.

Shouts were already coming from the village. Frigg managed to close the gate, much to the annoyance of the last of the herd. Several women were racing toward the pasture, and even from a distance Frigg could see that Ask’s mother was not far behind. Seeing that it was too late to hide Frigg and Ask climbed over the fence as the women advanced on them menacingly. Frigg could feel Ask tremble slightly as the group approached the pair.

“What negligence is this?” Cried Gerda. “You children are trying to ruin me, now away from that gate boy if you cannot remember to shut it!” She aimed a hard smack at Ask’s head that left him yelping as he twisted away.

“No please Gerda, it wasn’t his fault. It was me who neglected the gate and lock.” Frigg said, staying the woman’s arm. “I will round up your cows and no harm done to you if they are gathered hastily.” She begged.

“This trouble is your fault you say?” Replied Gerda, frowning at Ask. “Well no doubt both of you had a hand in this mess.”

Ask’s mother Smilla stepped forward now. “If she claims fault then let her deal with this mess.” She said grabbing Ask’s arm and jerking him towards her. “She admits it as her doing, so I’ll not be having any words with you about retribution if the cows wander.” She nodded to Frigg. “On her head be it; though be assured there will be trouble for my boy when his father hears of this.” And with that she marched off towards home, dragging Ask in her wake.

Frigg spent the rest of the afternoon rounding up cows and generally being yelled at by anyone who disliked cows in their gardens. She was sent home in disgrace after Gerda had confirmed that all her herd was home. As bad as she had it Frigg couldn’t help but worry about how mad Ask’s father might have been with him. For days she was only able to catch a glimpse of Ask here and there about his life. She saw no worse than a couple of bruises and so was not overly worried about the incident. This faith that all was forgotten persisted in Friggs mind until Gerda was struck by a sudden illness.

Word was that Gerda had come down with some sort of pox, news that put fear in the hearts of the villagers as a pox was likely to be a catching illness.  As she went about her daily business Frigg began to hear increasingly disturbing rumors. That Gerda had seen a shadow without a body before falling suddenly ill. That one of her cows suddenly went mad one morning and had attacked the child milking it. It had to be butchered before it maimed someone. That Ask had been seen talking to the animal just that morning in unintelligible noises, as if he spoke the very language of animals. That he might have cast a spell on Gerda’s household in revenge for her striking him.

Each new rumor brought chills to Frigg’s heart. How could people say spread such nonsensical rumors about a boy they had known his whole life? And the rumors grew, taking on a life of their own. Suddenly people were recalling past encounters with Ask, all of a fey nature. Tales of misfortunes and illness that came after meeting him on the road or in the fields flew around the tavern after dark.

Soon there was one focus of talk in the village. With all of the proof the people of the village had dreamed up about the damages caused by Ask there began to be a consensus about his fey nature. Ask could be none other than a changeling. With his awkward speech, disfigured looks and strange compulsive habits what else could he be? While talk like this disturbed Frigg she had no idea how dangerous public sentiment had become until the evening it was known that Gerda had passed away.

The whole village had been distraught at the news. While Gerda had not been a well liked woman every man and woman in the village was an integral part of society. While passing by a group of men deep in conversation about the tragedy Frigg heard a snatch of words that chilled her to the bone.

 “Fire.” A man said. “Throw them into the fire, or beat them till they have no blood left to spill. There be the best and surest ways to rid yourself of a changeling.” Frigg slowed, listening in growing horror to their conversation. “And make no mistake I told her, be thorough and come upon him whilst he is asleep so he cannot escape.” The other men nodded in consent. Frigg didn’t even try to conceal that she had been eavesdropping. She left at a run.

She heard the screaming before she even entered the house. Without hesitation she threw open the door to a scene off horror. Ask was kneeling on the floor as his mother beat at him with a cane. She was shouting almost incoherently. As Frigg ran to stop her she turned to the fireplace and grabbed the poker from out of the flame. “You will not bring further disgrace on our family, you monster!” The woman spat at him as she waved the red hot poker through the air.

“Smilla he’s your son!” Frigg shouted, trying to see a way to grab the poker without getting burned.

“He is no son of mine.” She shrieked, eyes wild. “He’s unnatural; the whole village knows that he brought down the sickness on Gerda. He is a monster, a changeling like they claim!” She took a step towards them. “If he is a changeling then my duty is clear. By fire or blood he must be sent back to whence he came.” And with that she struck Frigg across the face with the poker. Frigg didn’t even have time to raise her hand to block the blow.  Pain seared through her head and the smell of cooking flesh filled her nose. As she hit the floor she heard Ask give a wail of anger. As her vision began to fade out she thought she saw Ask toss a chair at his mother. She felt someone pick her off the ground, then darkness overcame her and she knew no more.

She awoke to the soft sound of water and faint crying. She pushed herself up from the ground, the pain in her face bringing tears to her eyes. Ask started up from where he had been leaning against a tree; it was him she had heard weeping. “Frigg.” He said as he came and hugged her around the shoulders. “Oh Frigg, I was angry and broke the chair and now we will be in trouble when they find us.” He sniffed and held her tighter. “Mother hurt you so bad and it made me so angry.”

Frigg patted his head and looked around. He had brought them to a stream in the forest. “You did well Ask, I will be fine now that your mother isn’t here to hit us” She kissed his head and winced as the motion pulled at her wound.”Where are we Ask?”

He stared up at her, fear for what he had happened still shown in his eyes. “Your face was all red and you wouldn’t wake so I didn’t know what to do. I thought we should find water for it so I carried you to the stream behind the large oak tree behind your house. Your face is still hurt.”  He sat up and pointed to the stream. She allowed him to help her walk over to it, and leaned over the water to look at her reflection. She was not surprised at what she saw. Even in the week light of the moon her face shown rend and swollen, a long burn wrapped around her right cheek and across her nose. There would have a hideous scar she realized. Sighing she began ripping the fabric of her apron into strips for bandage. Ask helped dip them in water and pat her face lightly to remove the soot and dirt from the wound. He patiently said nothing about what they would do next, trusting her to decide their fate.

“We are not going back.” She told Ask, who nodded acceptance. “They want to kill you, and your mother almost did kill me.” She gave him a hug to lessen the sting of her words. “We need a new place to call home.”

He struggled out of her embrace, his face dark with worry. “What if people in this new place hurt you again Frigg? I don’t wish you to be hurting become of me; because I’m different.”

Frigg looked down at the smooth water, its surface showing her own disfigured face. “It would hurt to be apart from you Ask.” She replied quietly. “Would not you be sad to be parted?” He nodded. “Well then, I don’t think it matters if you are different or not.” She touched her face gently. “Besides, we are both different now. So let’s find a home where we can be different together.”

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