Among those gathered, were a group of men, armed and ready. Commoners were still discussing if the girl was to be blamed for what she did – was it because she had born the child; a child out of wedlock, a blasphemy according to the Church.
She had barely crossed seventeen. Her red hair fell on her pretty shoulders in tresses. Her eyes spoke of fear and pain. Her fingers were trembling from exhaustion as she clutched her belly as the pain of imminent birth was striking her.. She wanted to protect the life in her, struggling to free itself as much as she wanted to go to her lover’s arms and request him to accept her and her baby.
As the crowd closed in with the leader among them with a butcher’s knife to slit her open, her blue eyes darted from one side to the other. She did not expect any leniency from these barbarians, but as they closed in on her, the helplessness in her eyes was replaced by wrath.
Her womb contracted and she let out a final cry…And then the butchering started without delay…
As the crowd departed, what remained was an eerie stillness and ravens circling the sky, shrieking ominous cries. The slain had been thrown in the marshes, the baby put in a dug hole in the earth. As the people left, the wolves replaced them…..
“Mark! The aurora borealis skies, shall reveal the culprit and ashes will rise…”
“ Come on ! Just once! Silly as it may seem, Jogen Petterson stared at the Nametests that his friend and colleague was playing. He tried it too, “Who is it who is always beside you?” The reply put him to a hearty laugh! Look! This is just gimmick! All of them! “My love indeed! “
The message that beeped on his mobile, made Jogen leave the discussion with his colleague and turn towards the Chief Editor’s office.
When he came back, he seemed thrilled. He had been granted a three days work away from office, to cover a news; rather a mythological study of Sweden’s past, and prepare a report. Joe, his friend and colleague was to add inputs of relevant images, drawings, sketches of supernatural beings that haunted Sweden’s forests. Jogen would first stop at Stockholm, to cover the palaces like the charming Stockholm Royal Palace-the lady with white gown who dwelled there and made her presence felt.
The November to June was the time to see the Aurora Borealis, and Jogen had decided to visit the coniferous forests of Veszprem county, and was thrilled to be a part of it all.He wanted to visit the outskirts of Tornetrask, also called the “Swamp Lake’. Once his job at hand was finished he wanted to return to enjoy the summer by partaking the swimming, fishing and boating activities.
As Jogen sat in his car enjoying the scenery, he took out a handbook of mythology and fables based on Sweden. Quite a list-1) Tree of Evil, 2)Vitra, 3) Nattmaras, 4) Hulder, 5 ) Dirty Dolls, 6) The Christmas Goat, 7) Ikea Meatballs, 8) Skogsra, 9)Mylingar, 10) Nyk, 11)Drauger, 12)Skogs, 13) Mara, 13) Swedish Elves, 14)Oak trees, 15) Vitra, and lastly, 16) Fairies.
Reading about them would take time. Jogen would like to see the landscape as the car raced the sides of the densely populated conifers. It was nearly evening when he reached his destination. Taking a cue from his seemingly well informed driver, Jogen made his way along the narrow path into the forest.. It was almost twilight when a cottage came in view amid a clearing. A lady was making her evening batter sitting on a stool in her cottage front. A man could be seen playing a violin.
The appearance of a stranger near their cottage seemed a little out of ordinary. But they were jovial in their approach. The man of forty and his wife of about twenty –nine asked the visitor what he was looking for. Jogen requested a room to stay in and a nice hot supper. As it was getting darker, Jogen was earnestly looking for a shelter. The Dorsets, as they called themselves, agreed to provide shelter to Jogen, but he had to leave in a couple of days as the couple was going to renovate and make some changes in their cottage. Jogen was too happy to agree.
Writing the diary
Before retiring for the day, Jogen decided to put in a few notes in his diary.
It is dark and chilly in here with some subdued embers to keep the room warm. I write in haste for there is much to do. Among the notable mentions, I write about the mysterious elf-like creatures the Vitras who are small and indiscernible as the Dorsets informed me; my hosts. It is at the request of the Vitras who had visited the Dorsets last Tuesday that the Dorsets have decided to move their residence to a different area as this cottage with its sounds and activities like chopping of wood, washing and cleaning have irked the Vitras. The Dorsets had reportedly fallen ill until they agreed to the Vitras and their cattle, specially the cows fell sick and would not give milk.
This is my first encounter which I intend to include in my journal…
Late in the night…
Though tired and sleepy and after a hearty meal, sleep eluded Jogen. There was a crack on the wall at which he stared to fall asleep. In his sleep, he was half awake as he saw or rather felt the presence of a hedious looking female with pale , almost translucent skin and sunken eyes emerging from the crack in the wall. She strided his chest and though he tried to rise or protest, he found himself glued to his bed. His mouth was dry and he felt his breath getting stifled.
The spectre spoke in a hoarse voice and addressed him; “When it is time, none can escape the wrath. You have come to pay for what you left undone. With a hollow laugh she seemed to rise, her eyes invading his soul. He felt cold, weak and exhausted. With a start he awoke and found a stream of sunlight peeping through the curtain of the lone window of the room.
Before he left the room, he did not fail to include his notes in his diary.
“That must have been the Mara. She is the spirit who creeps in through cracks to haunt those who have done some wrong in their past or their present life;” said the elder Dorset.
Had Jorgen Petterson been in city, he would have easily laughed it off like the ghosts of the Royal Palace of Stockholm, but now, he seemed to have a gut feeling that what he was slowly discovering was actually imbibing his spirit.
Deeper into the wilderness
Jogen took a horse ride to Sara’s, the niece of the Dorsets who lived with her husband near the marshy lake. While approaching the house, the chilly wind seemed to whisper strange sounds. At times, it was like a strange music. At other times, he thought he heard a child’s chuckle that made him ill at ease. He hastened towards the house and in trying to do so he fell off the horse and rolled along a slope.
He had hit his head on a rock and before he knew it he had lost consciousness. When he woke, he saw a maiden. She was ared head and with a cheerful smile. Her deep blue eyes seemed to touch his heart, and he felt sheltered. Hs head rested near her bosom and she hummed a sweet tune that seemed to be borne by the wind. As he felt comforted, his eyes closed in relaxation. But the nightmare returned.
It was the damsel who had him on her lap. She seemed to call out to him. But it was not he in this life. It was Jogen, now a man of about twenty-three, with a beard and moustache, like long ago. His name-Jarden! He was a merchant flirting with the girl. She was telling him to help her and her child in her womb-his child that she had conceived. But Jarden already had a wife! He could not allow her as a second wife. They had an altercation. She wept bitterly. Her lips quivering and eyes pleading. He poured out some money from a velvet pouch and gave it to her, never to disturb him again.
Then he saw himself staring at the same girl being discarded by the county. She was running through the lanes that led to the marshy lake, hounded by the very people who had seen her grow and now hated her. She could not divulge her lover’s name. They would never believe her. She could not carry on much longer. She cried out in pain as the child within her was born in disgrace. None pitied her save her parents who could only curse the day she was born from a distance.
Their bodies lay; mutilated by the ravenous wolves….
Startling from the nightmare Jogen was back in the woods. He found himself near the lake. The horse was nowhere to be seen. His belongings lay strewn around him. The lady was gone. It must have been a dream of an overheated, exhausted mind.
Then, he marked the time of day. It was twilight and the aurora borealis was slowly appearing in the sky. Turning back, he saw the house of Sara. He had to reach there. He gathered his belongings and approached the house. The windows were fastened. At a distance a horse neighed.
He knocked on the door,but it was not locked. Inside sat Sara with her back turned.
“You are late darling1 After a long time! She turned around to face him. It was the same woman from his nightmare. There was a man sitting on a stool beside her. He was naked and playing a violin. She sang with him. On closer look Jogen saw, she had a gap on her back. She also had a tail.
The music stopped. So did the song. They both looked at him. One was a Nyk-the mysterious creature who drove pregnant women and children to drown in marshy lakes if he willed. Enchanting all with his music. He could be helpful if he wished. Sara was now a Skogs, a forest nymph. Their illegitimate child was a Myling, and it hung on his back.
“Give me a proper burial, or you shall not live Pa!”
Now, it was the turn of the Skogs. “You left me to die a miserable death. You can marry me in the nearby church, so that we can live a wedded life and I can get rid of my ugly tail!”
The Nyk spoke-“You decide! Either you do as told or I guide you to a cold depth of the marshy lake!”
The church bells rang for the wedding. The bride and groom was led away by the forest elves and nymphs. The violin now played a different tune. The sun poured a rosy hue over the horizon.
Back at Stockholm, Joe arrived at the hotel, Jogen had put up in. A week had passed but there was no news of Jogen. Visiting the route as mentioned by Jogen during their last conversation by e-mail, Joe reached the Vezszprem County and the Tornetrask lake, also called the marshy lake. There was no sign of habitat. After travelling a certain distance the old man at a watch tower gave Joe a diary left by Jogen Petterson. The last entry marked 7th November, 2020…
“Whoever finds this diary let it be known that Sweden’s folklore have truth to be known. Let the unknown have peace in their dwelling. Those who mock them, will surely have fallen!”