Of Mushrooms and Journeys




A warm fire crackled in the hearth, smells of food cooking filled the room.  Egfor toddled around the small house, cooking a meal for himself, the lads out at town for the afternoon. The man stirred the pot of stew he was cooking. He eyed the chopped up veggies, some of the last things to go in yet. He licks his lips,  his hunger driving him. He picks up a mushroom and pops it into his mouth. He hums softly, munching a few more before he adds them to the stew. He lets his lunch simmer for a bit before scooping some up into a bowl. He sits down with a bottle of brandy, starting to eat quickly.
He pushes the empty bottle and bowl away, folding his hands over his stomach and leaning back, closing his eyes, a content sigh escapes him.
Suddenly, he felt like he was falling off his chair. He grabbed onto the table, eyes flying open. He sat there for a good few minutes before realizing he was sitting perfectly still but still felt like he was falling. He slumps back in his chair, chest heaving as he stares blankly with wide eyes, trying to focus on the world spinning and contracting around him. He grips the table, his knuckles turning white. He pulls himself to his feet, all his focus on staying upright. He heard that sound again, that wretched, yet soothing sound. A rhythmic drum beat echoing from unseen hands. He swayed to the beat before remembering himself. He staggered in an attempt to get to bed to lay down and ride this, whatever this was, out.
He fell and collapsed on a bearskin rug he head near the hearth. He closed his eyes and listened to the beat, face pressed into the fur. He inhaled deeply, the musky smell of bear and the smoke of the fire filled his nostrils. He ran his hands over the fur, entranced by how it felt between his fingers. The smell and feel reminded him of his beloved Wolf. Oh how he missed that man. He swore it was his voice he heard, singing strange guttural chants along with that drum. He pushed himself up onto his knees, looking behind him.
His vision swam, and lo and behold, there he was. The image of Wolf, the visage of a bear over his face, clad in primitive looking furs and regalia was dancing in circles in the center of the room, beating a drum with his hands and chanting words that Egfor did not know.
The Eorling remained on his knees for quite some time before pushing himself up to his feet, eyes closed and swaying to the drums and chanting he heard, a small smile on his face. He felt invisible hands grab his hair and clothes, gently shoving him from behind. Next thing he knew, he was dancing wildly around the room with the vision of his late spouse.
He no longer saw his house, now they were in some forest glen. It was dark, the area illuminated by a full moon shining overheard and a bright bonfire they were moving around. A creek bubbled nearby, the wind pushing the leaves around in the trees. It was a warm, gentle summer breeze. He could feel other presences around him, but they too were garbed in  guises of bears and other animals, their humanness indistinct and non-existent. Egfor stooped to grab a hold of that bear skin that was on the floor. He wrapped it around himself, pulling the head over his own face as he continued his berserk and frantic dance.
Egfor noticed something stark, white and glowing from the corner of his eyes. He stopped his erratic movements abruptly, staring down that familiar by now white stag. He swallows the lump in his throat as the stag approaches him. Egfor whispers, “Who… Who are you?”
The stag stays silent till it’s face is a few inches from the man’s. It then speaks with a voice, one that sounded like a thousand tiny whimsical silver bells, like a bubbling spring brook, “I am you. You are me. Hunter and prey. I am the Wild, untamed, as are you. It is time you heed my call.” 
The stag stepped back before thrusting his head forward, piercing Egfor with his antlers. Egfor’s eyes widened, mouth falling open into a silent scream. He felt like dozens of ice cold points stabbed through him as if he were made of butter. He glances down, impaled yet not bleeding. All the points seemed to radiate an icy cold feeling. He took a few breaths, utterly calm now. The stag withdrew, Egfor crumpled to the ground, unconscious.


Egfor woke up with a start, nearly falling out of bed. How did he get in bed? He determined one of the lads moved him or he dragged himself to bed and didn’t recall. He glances down, hands running over his chest for damage. Not seeing any, he sighs and flops back down on the bed, eyes closed. He opens his eyes again and glances to the side, taking pause as he sees what looks like a small bone carved statue of a stag on his nightstand. He rolls onto his side, one hand grasping for the small figure. He turns it over in his hand, having no recollection of ever owning such an object.