Before you start on this episode, you may want to get your drinks and your munchies… it is a quite lengthy post! Also, there are limited illustrations in this episode. The far ancient past was a bit too difficult to attempt with any good quality so I chose to leave it as is with just the text to carry it. You may also want to refresh yourself with the details of some previous posts to aid in some understanding of Eric’s deepest past!
Now on to the story!
Eric shook the thoughts of Judith out of his head for the moment. In his mind, she was his future and he would have no need to sit in the dark and relive his moments with her. He was determined that he would find her safe, and that things would work out with her. What he needed to do for now was clear his head of the other memories that made up his past. If he were to have a future worth living with Judith, he must sort through the mess of his long and turbulent life, put it all into perspective, truly learn from the mistakes and not be guided by the emotions that always had a way of attaching to memories. Eric reminded himself that those events of his past were neither good nor bad, they were all merely lessons that everyone must learn. Some such as mortal humans learned them over a series of lives and deaths, while others such him now, learned them all in one long life time.
Eric had spent an evening with Brennie and Svein, honoring their most ancient traditions and beliefs. Even though he had never been such a profound or firm believer in those things, he still held on to the traditions and the rituals for the peace it gave him. The Summer Solstice was one of those most sacred and spiritual times for many beliefs. It was one of those time when many believed that magic and miracles were at their strongest. When the veils between time and worlds were at their thinnest, and when those on other sides- whether it be Gods or simply those in other dimensions could hear and feel each other more intensely. It was often said that if one offered prayers, blessings or beseechings at these times, they would be heard and answered from beyond. He wasn’t sure of that but was well willing to take the chance if someone could hear their requests and help them on their mission to find Judith.
Later after it was over, he had went to his own place of private prayer and offered his thoughts and his blessings to the one whom he missed so much. He had built this small memorial to her on the place where she had died so many centuries ago, and added one here at Dunvegan as well. While he had built with the outward appearance of honoring the Dunvegan legend of the Fairies, in his heart, he knew that it was in tribute to that one he had called a true friend. He often spent time alone with her in these places. Many times he could feel her presence with him, reaching out to him from that other place where she dwelled now. For a long time after her death, he had felt nothing but raw and grating pain, he had heard moans of terror and grief, keenings of hurt and wandering through darkness. At some point it had settled to a fog of uncertainty and not caring… But, lately it had become more intense again in it’s searching. It felt as if she were re-awakening on some level and trying to find her bearings. This night, he felt her reaching out desperately, and he heard in some faint tunnel of whirling sounds and waves, her voice calling. He thought he heard his own name, as well as others. He could not trust that it wasn’t just his wishful thinking and his own desperation that played tricks on his mind though because he thought he felt Judith and someone else in that mist as well?
Usually after some time spent here, he was more at peace with the world. Tonight, though he left with his heart and his soul in even more turmoil than it was when he began the evening. He wandered back up to the Castle and locked himself in the upstairs private library and museum that held so many of their most valued artifacts from the ancient past. Surrounded by these material remains of history, he poured himself a highly prized, very rare Whiskey and settled in front of the fire to recall his life in detail. He kept the bottle close at hand, knew well that it would take some long time and much of this strong fortifier to get through it.
The deepest depths of Eric’s memories
He took his thoughts back to the very beginnings… he intended to work his way straight through and come out on this end with a firmer grasp on his emotions. His intent was to work through it, honor it, grieve it, forgive himself and others for the wrongdoings, and then say Good Bye to much of it. His own private wake for his life was how he looked at this, and a celebration of a new journey upon which he would then embark.
His earliest memories were few. He remembered little of the time spent in that other North land of his earliest ancestors, other than the leaving of it on that earliest voyage across the sea. His Father, a large and loud hulk of a man with wild blonde hair and the palest, faded blue eyes-possibly from staring out at the skies and the sun from his ships much of the time. His Mother, almost as tall as his Father, yet slimmer and a bit more refined in her looks but no less imposing. She was quieter, more thoughtful than his Father equally as strong and determined. She had a regal and royal bearing to her which never left. It had been his Mother’s line from whence their status came and she quite often took pains to remind her husband of it. While his Father was the brute force and strength that people looked at and feared immediately, his Mother was the one who held the calm, and if need be cold reserve that would hold one’s fear and respect even longer after a punishment meated out by her husband.
She was a queen in her own right and never should any forget that, she vowed to her husband as they embarked on this journey to a new settlement in a far away place. His Father, Eirkr, whom he was named after, being the eldest son, was a great warrior and Chieftan in that North land but was choosing instead to follow his brother, Svein to this new place of peace and plenty. His Mother, Asdis, an honored and well revered Queen of one of those North places had made choice to align her tribe with that of Eirkr’s in a treaty of peace. She had gifted herself to Eirkr as wife and thereby stopped much of the warring, at least between their two lands. The rest of the wars continued however and there were constant battles for land and power among the various tribes of those lands. As their populations increased, the land became less able to sustain them all equally. The wars for limited resources became more violent and deadly.
Eric remembered little of that, save what others told him in stories, and in their move this new land, those stories became of less importance or value. Eirkr’s brother Svein was a younger brother who must seek out his own destiny and he had chosen to seek it on the seas, traveling to far distant realms and returning with stories of vast oceans full of fish, of lands plentiful for those who would dare to claim it, and of places filled with magic and mysteries. He told of other peoples there who held secrets of the world and of life. On those visits, he would sit with them in the fire lit lodge and fill them with stories, some meant to scare and others meant to provide a smile and a dream or two of those far off places. Eric’s Mother, Asdis, was a healer and mystical woman herself and she would badger Svein for more details of these places until he would wave his arms in defeat, “Ach, I’ve no more to tell ya, unless ya want to be makin it up, or ya want to get on a boat and join me there!”
Asdis and Eirkr were adventurers and sea goers. They were also practical ones who knew that they could not hold off invasions of their lands indefinitely. They had discussed it long and hard for months, swaying back and forth on their options. Finally, they had come to a decision. They would leave their lands of that North place in search of a new destiny with Svein. The choice had been left to their people whether to go or stay put. Asdis had turned her power and her crown over to her younger brother. She would step down as leader of that group and then swore her fielty and allegiance to her husband and his people. Previous to this, they had managed to rule together but separately their two groups. In accordance with their traditions, she had retained her role as ruler and Queen of her people while her marriage was looked at in a separate fashion. Now, she gave the role of Queen and stepped into the role of wife to a King. In their culture this was a very different thing… there was no such role at that time as Queen consort. One was either a Queen in her own right and ruler of her people, or one was a mate of a King, with much less standing, influence or power. Twas a difficult choice she made, and oft ground her teeth over in later times. She did however, adapt to the role in as much as she was able… and while no longer a Queen in that sense, she did wield power as the Mother of future rulers… which Eric was destined to be.
Eirkr and Svein agreed to be co-rulers of their group in the new land. Months of preparations had finally found them all setting forth on that voyage across the North Sea to the place which Svein called Hjaltland. Eventually, they had migrated farther south to the place they referred to as the Isle of Skuy and made their settlement there.
Those earliest years had been a struggle for survival as they learned to carve out a new life in this much different place. It was indeed a place of strangeness and mystery but one thing it was not in that beginning time, was a place of such violent battles for land. There were already peoples living there, but like the Norse settlers, they were struggling to survive. It was not a land for the weak willed in any way. Here the battles were not so much with each other over limited territories, but with the sheer forces of an untamed wilderness and the rages of the natural environment. They learned together, the Norse settlers and those earliest of inhabitant of the area, the Picts. There were others there too, ones who had been there fighting just as long, or longer… the small groups of Fairie peoples deep within the forests and those other wanderers, Vampyres. Those two groups mostly kept to themselves in their own small communities but it was more due to a matter of comfort in residing with those of one’s own kind than anything else back then. There was no resentment or fear of others, unless they should bring it upon themselves by some action or behavior on their own part.
No, back in that earliest time, they had all eeked out an existance together in that land. Eric’s family Clan had settled this piece of land near the sea and had been there ever since. He had grown to his young manhood there, working along side his Father, his uncle, his younger brothers and cousins to build a life for themselves. They had done well in that respect, traveling the seas, trading with the Picts, the Fairies and the few Vampyres there to forge a well knit community. Their peoples had mated to each other, new ties and new bloodlines. Eric remembered fondly his uncle Svein’s uniting with the young Vampyre, Gisella. It had been an arranged mating, as so many often were back in those ages, but they had been happy with it. Svein had come to love her most dearly and eventually turned to the Vampyre bloodline himself. He had done it willingly out of his love for that woman. Svein’s mating and turning had more sealed their bonds with that small Vampyre Clan and eventually they had easily blended into one larger clan rather than two separate ones. Other matings had blended them with the Fairies of that land, of the Picts as well. Their life had been hard but well satisfying and over all peaceful other than small skirmishes between clan members. Those small battles and disagreements were to be expected among any groups living in close proximity to each other. The disagreements were usually solved quickly and with limited violence, despite what history might attribute to those times. Eric laughed to himself… what did historians truly know of that time before such detailed and supposedly accurate documented accounts from questionable sources?
No, life had been good then… until the arrival of the others upon their borders and their soil. The Romans had discovered the lands and the valuable resources of the British isles and set about claiming that land and those resources for their ever expanding empire. What the Romans had not counted on was such resistance from ones that they deemed primitive Barbarians. In those lower regions of the isle, they were more successful in their conquering of the local peoples already there. Despite their best efforts however, they never succeeded in conquering the upper regions of the land. What they did manage for some time though, was to form a tight circle around that area, controlling much of the land and the sea around it. They also brought something else with them on their arrival to those lands, which although unintended and not purposeful, did much to decimate the numbers remaining in the upper lands. Their secret, unknown- even to themselves- weapon was disease. As in the case for many conquerors, diseases and illness, which those conquerors may have built up some resistance to, often did a more thorough job of controlling an opposing force or army than the men themselves could accomplish.
The inhabitants of that northern region were generally much isolated to themselves and not exposed to the deadly plagues of other populations. As the Romans ventured farther and farther north into their settlements and territories, they brought with them those plagues that swept through their new victims with alarming speed. Many of the Northern clans were wiped out in entirity by an illness or ailment which the Romans may have easily fought off with their increased immunities due to having been exposed to such an illness previously. Along with the threats of illness, there were also climate and weather changes that none could control. In addition, if that were not all bad enough, the increasing population brought by the Romans upon the land caused the lands themselves to be over used and ravaged. So, as the Romans advanced, the land became unusable, people became hungry and desperate.
It was during those darkest times that history does seldom speak of… for much of the history was documented by the Romans who would not want for themselves to looked on as the blame for any of it, nor did they want to admit that they were often defeated by such small ragged bands of Barbarians who would fight to their death and their extinction before they gave in so willing to the Roman forces. So, the Romans made excuses for their retreating to back behind the walls they created for their defense against such savages that they could not manage to control. In truth, the Roman empire was at that time, beginning to fail as a whole and would soon be defeated by many such numbers of so called savages.
During some of those bleakest of times before the next dark ages approached, Eric’s family and Clan had faced much of the demise as others. They had joined together with the Picts to fight the legions of Roman Warriors and lost many of their members to those wars. Ones not lost to the horrors of battle were lost to other horrors of plague and starvation.
Towards the end, there had been little Clan left to lead or to rule. Eric along with most of the other men, and many of the women too had went into battle for their lands, their freedom and their very lives. Most of them lost the battle. He had watched his Father and his younger brothers die in one such battle, still on occasion, would wake to their battle cries and then screams of agony. Eric himself had been gravely wounded in the battle and prayed for death to come to him. Unfortunately, it had not been death to come, but a Roman Warrior wandering the field in search of survivors to take away as prisoners, captives and eventual slaves to the Empire. It was then that Eric had opened his eyes and saw a blurry vague vision of that Warrior kneeling over him. He had prayed even harder for death to come quickly. His Norse and Celtic Gods had not been listening at the time, or so he thought anyway… but perhaps some other God was. That Roman Warrior had been a man by the name of Artorius. Lucius Artorius Castus had been his name back then. He wore on his shield the emblem of a red dragon and he carried such a sword as Eric had never seen before.
In his delirium, Eric thought hopefully that the man meant to slay him right then and there. There was no such luck to be with him. The man had though, gently and carefully reached down to touch his face, then his neck and chest, to check for signs of any fading life. Eric had felt the man’s touch, just barely… but it brought to his foggy mind, the touch of his uncle and other Vampyres, who felt so much colder than humans at first touch. Eric had fought to open his eyes once more and look into the man’s eyes. He saw it there, the faintest glimmer of that other blood flowing through him. Eric then fought to leave his life as quickly as possible. He did not want this man claiming his life in any way. If he were going to die, it would be on his own terms, a warrior’s death. He silently battled within his mind to die as that warrior, and not owe his life to any other, especially on such terms as a Vampyre would demand. He knew enough of their ways that they would not touch or revive one already dead and he willed his heart to stop.
The man sensed his inner battle, his fears and his silent pleadings for death. He had knelt closer and held a steady hand upon Eric’s chest while whispering to him in some voice that reached in to touch his mind. “Do not fear, my warrior. You shall have an honorable death, or not… that is not up to any of us. If your death comes here upon the field then I will give you honor in burial. You have fought with courage and if you should die now, you will go on to your peace and your joy as a warrior to that place you call Valhalla. If death does not take you, I shall determine to save you and give you honor in life.”
The man, Artorius, had stayed there with him for some time, waited for his death to come. After a few hours, that death had not arrived and the agonies of continued life began to invade Eric’s mind and body. He shook with tremors of pain, and his faintest moans of a life leaving turned to screams of a live remaining. Artorius had leaned over him and shared his thoughts once more. “Enough, now… You have not won your battle with life and death as you desired. If I do not intervene now, you will most likely survive, but not in any manner of which would give you further peace or comfort. If I do not step in, you will surely lose a leg, and a part of your being which I do suspect you are even more fond of than the legs you walk on. You are seriously and greviuosly injured in a most sensitive part… Our physicians could most likely put you back together, but you should not appreciate the results.” He did not wait for Eric’s answer of approval or agreement, but instead immediately took the necessary steps to turn Eric.
Even with the turning of him, it still took many weeks for his body and his mind to come close to recovering from all of that which had taken place. He remembered little of it other than being carried back to one of the forts on Hadrian’s wall upon the back of the man’s enormous black war horse. He had been cared for by the man’s personal servants and physicians. Lingering for much of that time in a state of half sleep induced by many potions forced down him by those physicians , he had still wished for death to over take him. Artorius had visited often and calmy entered his troubled mind to still those thoughts. “It was not your destiny to die then, or now. You are a fine and honorable warrior and man. The Gods have some other destiny in store for you and you must accept it and go on with your life such as it is now.”
Artorius had addressed his other thoughts as well. “You are not a slave, You will never be one to anyone, to the Roman Empire nor to me either. For one thing, you would be worthless any sort of slave…It would take more energy, effort and will power than I or anyone else for that matter has to make it worth while to even attempt such a feat! On a second note, I did not save your life for the reason of binding you to me or my kind.” He continued to delve into Eric’s most private thoughts. “I know that you are well familiar with the Vampyre blood and of their rules and traditions. I will settle some this fear for you now.”
The man had left for a time and returned with a few others. They were dressed richly in Roman wear with fine robes trimmed in fur covering them. Two of them stepped forward, close to him and stood silent with their hands clasped together. They were older, a man and a woman, obviously of some very high status in Roman, or any other terms. They wered adorned with jeweled neckplates, arm bracelets and rings. They stood there regally and their bearing reminded Eric of his Mother when she took on her Queen stance. He also noticed dimly that they were both of Vampyre blood.
Artorius spoke softly to them, they nodded and motioned to a younger man, some sort of scribe, he must be… to step forward with them. He held a scroll and some sort of quill, and knelt to make himself comfortable as he prepared to write upon the scroll. Artorius returned his attentions to Eric and spoke in formal tone. “Eric of the Northland, I hereby to release you from any blood bound ties that may connect you now to my line. Your life and your blood are yours to do with on your own as you see fit in this the remainder of your now eternal life. You owe me nothing in return for the lifeblood I gave you, save respect and honor for that doing. I make it known to all that I gave you life in honor as I would have given you burial in honor. What I expect in return from you is only honor in all things you continue on with in your life. I will provide you with sustinance and guidance in this new life and expect nothing other than honor in return for that. You fought with honor and bravery in battle and met your demise with the same honor.” He went for some time longer outlining the details of his vow and his agreements for Eric’s future but Eric by then, lost some conciousness again and could not well follow the remainder of it. What he did realize was that this man was officially releasing him from any Vampyre blood ties along with any servitude ties to the Roman Empire.
This man, Artorius was releasing him from any servitude to the Roman empire and giving him his freedom to return to his people and his home with one final condition, though. Should he caught in any future battle with the Romans, there was no gaurantee on what should happen to him. He would not receive help or assistance from Artorius and his Vampyre bloodline, where by if he had been bound to them by blood, they might have been able to make some sort of agreement. Should he return to his home and then decide to make some other choice, he was free to return to Artorius as a free man and pledge his alliances and alliegance to the man personally, if not the entire Roman Empire. He thought this rather odd that the man should make this offer to him but in his weakened state, he had not dwelled on it.
His weeks of recovery had turned to some long months of training and guidance from Artorius, who took his vows quite seriously. He had vowed to train Eric in the Vampyre ways in order for him to survive on his own if that would be the need or the choice in his future. The training was long, involved and ensured that he would be a honorable warrior not just as in the human sense, but in the Vampyre way as well. During this time, Artorius had sent out his scouts into those highlands and outer isles in search of Eric’s family and clan, or what ever was left of them. The news was grim. Few of his clan remained, save Svein and a few others. Svein and a few of the other Vampyre bloods had most likely survived due to their Vampyre blood, but even that had not been a certainty. There were plagues that affected even the Vampyres and the Fairies.
On one evening after the return of his scouts, Artorius felt compelled to sit down with Eric and share the gruesome details with him. There was nothing much to return there for it seemed but he was quite sure that the young man would feel honor bound to return to what ever was left up there. He needed to know ahead of time what he would face upon that return.
Eric’s Father and brothers had died in the battle, he was well aware of that much. What he did not know of was what Svein had found on his return to their home in the north, nor of course, the current condition that Svein was in up there. Svein had lead the few survivors of the battle who managed to escape back to their home. He had found it ravaged and burnt to the ground with everything in a near vicinity to it destroyed and turned to a wasteland… They had lived near the sea on a well placed, or so they thought, piece of land that gave them easy access to that sea. The Roman legions that swept over those seas surrounding the northern places had come down so far as their safe place and decimated everything within their reach. There had been few left in that place they assumed safe do any real battle with the Romans. The ones who attempted it were quickly taken down. Others, such as young children and women had been taken as captives bound for a life of Roman slavery or death. Yet others, who they deemed unfit for servitude were not killed outright, they were simply left to die there on their own, or live as testimony to what the Romans were capable of. Eric held his head in his hand so as not to show such grief and tears in front of Artorius.
Svein was there now, and had been so consumed by his rage and grief that he seemed to live in some violent world of his own creation. His beloved wife, Gisella had not followed them into battle because at the time she was great with child. Eric’s Mother, Asdis and a few other women had remained behind with her to assist her, along with the younger children, and some of the elders too weak for battle. The sickness had come to them and taken many, among them his Mother, who had been caring for those who were ill. Gisella had taken ill as well, but with her Vampyre blood, she had survived longer. In the end, she most likely wished that she had died earlier with others. As the Romans arrived, she was close to her time and could do little to defend others or herself. She was gravely ill as well as being so near to delivering her child and she was one whom the Romans had determined was little use to them, other than as a form depraved entertainment to some of the warriors. Uncaring of her illness, her advanced state of pregnancy, or for that matter her more sensitive to daylight Vampyre blood, they had used her viciously, repeatedly, and laughed at her dying screams in the brightest of daylight. The last man to use her dropped her casually in the dirt when the life finally left her body, and that of the unborn son within her.
On returning to the wreckage of their home, Svein had found her skin burnt body, with what was left of her features still seeming to be wracked in some stone like eternal cry of such pain that it could still be felt by any who might come near. His ears were filled with those screams, along with the echoes and traces of so many others. The few others who survived had only managed to do so by fleeing to the wilds of the forested areas and they were too frightened to return to the place they had once called home. Svein had held on to his sanity long enough to bury his wife’s body and those of others who had been slain. He had carried on long enough to put the place to some sort of livable rights for a time and search for the remaining survivors in order to determine what had happened. He could not convince any of them to remain there, he did not expect them to… but he remained, refused to leave the place and then went much mad with his grief and his rage at all Romans.
Eric’s younger sisters and some of his female cousins had been taken away with the Romans to parts unknown. The only thing that held Svein in any sane mind at times was the thought of his own daughter and his nieces out there somewhere in the hands of the Romans. On hearing of his sisters’ plight, Eric’s grief too, turned to rage and to a determination to find them all, to bring them home.