Wild orchids

I didn’t realise walking would take so long. Ravens don’t normally walk for long stretches. We fly. But since Linnea and her father don’t fly, walking is our only option.

For a long time, I’ve had no choice but to accept my circumstances. This is just the same. I just have to accept what is and deal with it. I may be frustrated, and my feet may hurt a bit. It doesn’t matter.

I accept what is.

It works, most of the time. But not when it comes to Hräsvelg. I ponder this. Perhaps it’s because I can’t quite grasp him. I don’t know what he is, who he is – or what to accept.

Said eagle shifter scouts ahead. I’m some distance behind him trying not to lose sight of Linnea and her father. Simultaneously, I try to not lose track of Hräsvelg either. Favouring different shades of brown, he’s well camouflaged between sturdy tree trunks.

I’m certain that if Linnea made an effort, she could easily keep up with us. But her father is slow. The old man doesn’t complain, but I’ve seen the grimace on his face.

Looking up, I realise that Hräsvelg has stopped and is waiting for me to catch up. I’m reluctant to reach his side. He’s not doing anything to provoke me, and yet, he does.

A couple of thoughts later, I reach him.

He’s quiet. He’s always quiet.

I’m annoyed. Why would he wait for me if he doesn’t have anything to say?

A shrill scream cuts through the forest coming from somewhere behind us. Before I know it, both Härsvelg and I are running. My hurting feet temporarily forgotten. As we reach Linnea, she’s squatting to admire a tiny flower.

“It’s an orchid,” she exclaims with a revered expression.

“An orchid?” I echo stupidly.

“It’s a ghost orchid. These are so rare. They don’t even bloom every year… It smells like vanilla… Some tropical orchids do too…,” Linnea says in a waterfall of appreciation.

“Don’t scream like that. We thought you were in danger,” Hräsvelg says reproachfully.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to,” Linnea replies, but without taking her eyes off the tiny brownish stem with white flowers. “I just can’t believe I finally get to see one for real….”

Not sure what to say, I kneel to take a whiff of this little flower. Its scent is a unique and pleasant one.

“Why is it called ghost orchid?” I ask, thinking this is a rather unpleasant name.

“Oh, it’s a parasite. Not sure how it got its name. In Swedish we call it ‘skogsfrun’, the lady of the forest after one of our elfins…”

“Right,” I reply.

Some of the troll ladies like to run around naked in the forest. In folklore humans call this naked lady the mistress of the forest and from what I gather there are quite a few tales.

“What’s wrong?” Hräsvelg asks, and as I turn to look at him I find him studying Linnea’s father.

Gunnar is sweating and he looks pale.

For being Hräsvelg, he’s actually chatty.

“My legs…,” Gunnar grunts.

“Pain?” Hräsvelg continues.

“Yeah,” Linnea’s father admits, probably because it’s difficult to lie when someone like Hräsvelg stares at him.

“Why didn’t you say something? I’ve got painkillers,” Linnea says immediately and starts rummaging through her backpack.

She produces a couple of small, white pills and practically shoves them down Gunnar’s throat.

We take a short break, then continue until nightfall.

And I realise this will be a very, very long journey.

Feathers and lore,
There’s much, much more,