Odum The Brave
Odum the Brave heard of an evil beast lurking near Landmannalaugar, its body the size of Hekla, its skin cold and slippery like a glacier, its mood as volatile as volcanoes that peppered the land. There was no telling when the beast would pass near a village, kidnap a sheep or a child, and torched the torfbæir with its fiery breath into a pile of ash.
Odum the Brave was known as the last descendant of the Huldufólk, elves who lived in palaces carved out of glacier and bathed in blue lagoons. He was pale with a mane of hair the colour of drying moss and lithe, light as a feather, agile like a monkey and wielded a golden spear.
Men distrusted Odum and trembled at the sight of his pointed ears, but they lacked the courage and the skill needed to kill a beast. The chieftain promised Odum a lamb and call a holiday by his name if he brought back the beast’s head.
Odum followed the prints on black sands, sniffed his way through cliffs and lowlands until he smelled the beast's ashy scent, and found it slumped at the base of basalt columns, asleep, breath wheezing from cavernous nostrils. Odum approached the prey from its rear and was appraising the mass of flesh the size of a small mount, the leathery skin glinting copper when he heard children giggling.
He jumped and landed on the beast's back without a noise. To his surprise, a pair of twin boys were drinking from a puddle of tears from the corner of the beast’s eye. The boys yelped in fear at his sight. Sliding off the hide, they squeezed under the belly fur. The beast lifted her head and emitted a soft whistling sound.
Odum heard her voice booming inside his head, telling him the boys were the village chieftain's sons who killed their mother in birth in the morning and the same night a fire broke out in the farmhouse killing their sister, blinded another; the chieftain believed the twins cursed and left them for dead in the wilderness where she found them. The beast choked and sobbed as she told the story. The boys used her tears for water and ate sheep she killed.
Odum wiped a tear and promised to let them live. He returned to the hidden world of his Huldufólk, cursing the world of men.
Christine H. Chen
This story was inspired by the painting Twins, by Odd Nerdrum (Norway) contemporary. See it here.
Christine H. Chen was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Madagascar before settling in Boston where she worked as a research chemist. Her fiction work has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, trampset, and other journals. She is a grateful recipient of the 2022 Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship and the co-translator from French of My Lemon Tree forthcoming in 2023 by Spuyten Duyvil. Her publications can be found atwww.christinehchen.com
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