“I know that I hung on that windswept tree,
Swung there for nine long nights,
Wounded by my own blade,
Bloodied for Odin,
Myself an offering to myself:
Bound to the tree
That no man knows
Whither the roots of it run.”
-from “Odin’s Rune-Song”, The Poetic Edda
Apocalypse came to the Northlands with The Man In The Red Cloak.
He carried upon his back an elk-skin satchel. It was laden with two tightly wrapped bundles. He loped slowly across the earth’s frozen crust, hunched from the weight of his burden.
His cloak dragged along the ground. It was caked with blood and filth. He cinched his satchel tight. Hanging from his neck was a hand-hewn leather rope, strung with runes carved from ash.
In his right hand, he carried a staff. A patch covered his right eye. The eye seeped blood and viscera. It was a fresh wound.
He tread a narrow path as the rain pelted his face. Soon it would turn to snow and the world would begin to close in. The winters here were brutal, blustery affairs. They had been known to bring even the stoutest men to their knees. The Man In The Red Cloak chuckled at the coming storm. He welcomed it.
He whistled a dark melody, the sound buffered by intense, frigid wind. The song was mournful. The song was angry.
He licked his lips frequently, feverishly. They tasted of blood. His breath smelled of it, thick and coppery.
He heard a far-off cry. He paused, listening to the wind. It was a loon, circling somewhere above him in the thick, low clouds.
His brow furrowed. Such wanton, reckless noisemaking. If it crossed his path, he would silence its insolence with a wrung neck.
He resumed his journey, walking into yet another sunset, another freezing cold night. The nights were especially hellish. A man could die alone at night here, if he had a mind to. The Man In The Red Cloak had no such mind about him.
The world had teeth, and the Northlands bit hard. The creatures that dwelled there were cunning and wild. It was best he avoided them in the absence of daylight.
He spotted a place to camp for the night amidst a copse of white birch. The stout trees would provide him a canopy under which to light a fire.
The snow came in a heavy flurry. He could no longer whistle. His lips were slick with blood. He wiped them on his sleeve.
From his pack he gathered loose, dry tinder and struck steel to flint. As he breathed the spark into flame, he gazed across the valley into the distance.
He spied the mountain he sought, the place he would deposit his two bundles. The mountain towered above the clouds, disappearing in a misty haze. By the light of his fire, it was menacing.
As he’d hoped it would be.
He was wracked by a fit of violent coughs. Blood spattered the snow under his feet. He giggled and smiled devilishly to himself, proud of deeds done. Savoring deeds yet to do.
On the wind came the clanging sounds of The Tinker’s cart. It jostled loudly, bouncing its unpleasant noises across the crusty snow. The Man In The Red Cloak would settle his business with The Tinker in the morning.
He licked his bloody lips once more as he drifted to sleep.
How he loved the taste.
SOUNDTRACK 01: “Christiansands”, Tricky