A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

We meet a priest who's also lost in the forest


Brumble was a priest who had made one enormous decision after his woman told him that he was no good in the cot when he thought he was Woden’s gift to womankind. The fact that she was irritable for a quite different reason, one to do with what future generations would call the menopause, rather than because he’d actually displeased her, didn’t cross Brumble’s mind.

“Then I will go, take my god with me, and find sanctuary in the arms of a woman who appreciates me whilst you explain to our babies why I’ve gone,” he’d said in not so very priestly tones.

“They’re not babies any more, they’re men in the fields,” she’d snapped, “and they’ll say the same as me, and that’s good riddance!”

At that he’d dressed himself in his best priestly robe, the one that was also his worst priestly robe on account of it being his only priestly robe, and set out. At first the way was clear, the tracks broad and well trodden and even the company he chanced upon cheery and welcoming, seeing his robe and respecting it. But he had wandered, on a whim, from the broad track and when he tried to regain it, found it wasn’t where his mind thought that it should be.

So here he was, in a wild forest many days from his home, and he was already missing the comforts of a cuddly wife in bed. He was also missing some of her more delicious stews, and nobody could make dumplings quite as soft and flavoursome as hers. In fact, he was so regretting his decision to go forth into the world where he might preach if he felt the need to, telling the ignorant of a profusion of gods that needed a good word put in on their behalf, that he would have turned round and traced his steps back to his home if he could remember the way.

But he couldn’t. He had no idea which direction home lay in, and as the year was late and autumn was well upon the world, he could barely tell direction by close examination of the heavens, a skill he’d never properly mastered anyway.

He prayed to Woden, of course he did, who wouldn’t have? But quite obviously Woden thought him a very silly priest and ignored his entreaties for guidance back to the luxurious bosom of his irritable woman.

He even tried weeping, believing that Woden would develop quite uncharacteristic sympathy for his plight, but to no avail. He was, in fact, actually in the midst of a prayer accompanied by copious weeping when the strangers came upon him.

To his mind it was an odd trio. There was a military-looking man with just the one arm in evidence, a woman who looked as if she was used to much finer things than the open wilderness of a forest with its ways hitherto untrodden by humanity, and a weird little fellow wearing a hat with a bell dangling from it.

The one-armed man paused and looked down his nose at him.

“They’re odd words for a man in the woods to be using,” he said conversationally, “and all the weeping and wailing strikes me as being most unmanly.”

“I suppose it is,” he confessed, “but I’m entreating Woden...”

“Woden? Woden? I see no Woden, and anyway, where is this Woden when he’s at home?” asked the stranger, scowling as if his heart was ruled by anger.

“He’s the king of the gods,” put in the odd little man who was wearing a bell-hat. “They say that he’s all-powerful and does all sorts of lovely things for mankind.”

“I am a Priest of Woden,” announced Brumble, “and I have cast myself out of my home in sorrow for my woman’s ill state of mind, and now I wish to return to her bosom, but I fear I am lost.”

“I am called Jackiss,” said the one-armed man, “and me and my companions are making our way to a land gifted to me by the King. And when we get there we are going to live in peace one with the others and with all who also dwell there.”

“That’s the first I heard of that,” said the woman, “I thought you were intent on slaughtering everyone who dared set foot anywhere near the land you look on as your own.”

“A man can change his mind!” snapped Jackiss. Then he turned to Brumble. “Tell me, priest, do you love your god?” he asked.

“I did and I suppose that I still do,” replied Brumble, “but since I got lost he’s been ignoring me! I pray every day for guidance out of this endless forest, and then look for a sign from Woden to help me, but there never is one. Though I did witness a blackbird flying off after one of my more special and ardent prayers, and decided that at last I was being given a sign and must follow the creature, only to witness it flying into the heavy branch of an oak tree and falling dead to the ground!”

“Some sign,” muttered Jackiss, “and unless you know your way in this wooded wasteland it is easy to get lost and remain that way. Why, if it were not for this wizard here,” he indicated the fellow with the bell-hat, “if it were not for him we would be lost, but he is guiding us.”

“Me?” stuttered the wizard, “me guiding you? But I’m following you, darling. You’re the one who knows the way because you’ve been there before.”

“I was with some militia that time, and guided by them,” Jackiss muttered, “and I took little note of what route they were taking me. So I decided that you would be my guide.”

“I wish you’d mentioned it to me, beloved,” grunted the wizard, “then I would have created a few spells to set us on the right road.”

“From this conversation can I understand that we’re lost?” asked the queenly woman.

“Not exactly,” grunted Jackiss, “but probably nearly.”

“Oh, fellow travellers,” smiled Brumble, delight shining in his eyes, “I will pray to Woden again, this very hour, and we will be guided! The good god can’t be angry with you like he’s angry with me, and he’ll take pity on your plight and set us on the right path! Oh, how fortunate it is that I have met you! Maybe you, the three of you, were sent by Woden for this very reason!”

“Crikey,” muttered Mirelin, for the wizard was he, and he’d discovered the hat with its attached bell in the undergrowth where some unfortunate had dropped it, and decided it suited him and marked him as somehow different.

“You can say that again,” murmured Queen Amyheart, shaking her head and wondering what on earth she was doing in such company.

© Peter Rogerson 30.11.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on November 30, 2018
Last Updated on November 30, 2018
Tags: forest, priest, Woden, one-armed man, wizard


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..