At the foot of an ancient, sleeping mountain, a great thick forest grew for miles in all directions. And on the outskirts, to the East, lay a small and humble village.
With humble wooden cottages, surrounded by simple wooden walls, and ruled by a jarl living in an equally modest wooden hall, one might say, this place was all but forsaken by the world and all the gods for all its’ humbleness.
But nonetheless, in this simply unremarkable place, a child was born. The only son of a humble blacksmith and his wife. His name was Floki.
From an early age, Floki proved to be very different from all the other children in the village. One would often find him standing in a field, as still as a rock, looking at the sky above, or pressing his cheek against a tree, listening for who knows what.
He seemed to form bonds with animals much easier than he did with people. It was as if he could talk to them and they could understand. People found him strange and out of place, even in a village such as this one, but still he was one of their own and they accepted him as he was.
One day, while playing with the other children, something unexpected happened. Due to his innate ability to see and hear beyond the ordinary senses, he was drawn to the echoes of the forest.
His boundless curiosity made him wander off in search of that thing he could neither see nor touch, a thing which called to him from some place else. He wandered off too far, and before he knew it, he was lost.
Eventually, when he realized he was alone and scared, Floki tried to scream for help, but soon gave up, since he was too far for anyone to hear him.
He tried finding his way back to the village several times, but all the trees looked the same, and he had no way of knowing whether he was getting any closer or just walking around in circles.
To make things worse, in his panic, Floki did not notice the hours passing by, and it was starting to get dark.
Afraid of his life by wolves or other wild beasts, he took shelter in the sturdy branches of an old oak tree. And as he was climbing, he thought it a good idea to try and reach the very top. That way he could be above the tree line and see where his village is. But as he reached the top and looked around, all he saw around him was an endless cover of treetops with no sign of his village anywhere in sight.
He sat there for a while as the sun was setting, hoping he’d see the smoke from a chimney or the light from a window, but the only lights shining were the stars emerging in the night sky above his head.
He felt cold, hungry and tired, so he climbed down to the lower branches where he decided to try to fall asleep and figure out a way to get back home in the morning.
He found a thick and sturdy enough branch to hold the weight of his otherwise skinny body and curled up against the trunk of the tree. He looked up at the sky, through the branches, one more time, then closed his eyes.
At that moment, something deep inside like a distant memory or a familiar voice told him to listen. A gut instinct took over him, and as he silenced his thoughts, he began to hear the forest around him waking up in the calm of night.
The wind was blowing softly through the leaves, a bird flapping its wings in quick short bursts, a cricket chirping somewhere in the grass below.
Becoming increasingly aware of the living forest around him, Floki felt his fear slowly disappearing and soon began to trust this inner voice that seemed to be telling him, that he was exactly where he needed to be.
Suddenly, through his closed eyelids, he could make out a shimmer of light moving nearby. He opened his eyes with curiosity and saw before him a little ball of light glowing in beautiful nuances of blue.
Floki had heard the elders from the village tell stories about the wisps, floating orbs of light that bewitched unsuspecting wanderers and lured them into swamps and pits where they would meet their end.
He sensed this luminous creature in front of him was not ill intended. If anything, it seemed to be just as curious about Floki, as he was about it. A few moments passed with them looking at each other, waiting to see what each would do.
Floki, pure of heart as he was, extended his arm towards it with his hand open. The wisp slowly approached him, until it was floating right above his open palm and hovered there for a moment, waiting to see if Floki would close his fist trying to catch it. He did not.
A unique bond had formed between the child and the orb that night. That relationship had given them the ability to understand each other and communicate in the most unexpected way.
To anyone else the floating orb of light would have looked like nothing beyond its apparent appearance. To Floki, each flicker in its glow, each shift in nuance made him understand what the wisp was trying to tell him, and in turn, the wisp could read the intentions of the frightened, hungry child in front of it.
The following morning, Floki climbed down from the oak tree and followed the wisp to a place where berries grew in abundance. Enchanted by the sight of all the fruit and encouraged by the increasingly louder growls his stomach made, Floki indulged himself in a lovely feast.
It didn’t take long for this skinny boy’s belly to get full, so once his hunger was tamed, he asked the wisp to help him find his way back home.
On their way back to the village, the wisp showed Floki many wondrous things that completely fascinated him, and he began to see the forest with different eyes.
After some hours, they reached the edge of the forest and there they had to part ways. It was a bittersweet moment in light of their new and unlikely friendship, and so, not wanting to say goodbye forever, the wisp bestowed upon Floki a gift of magic. A small harmless ability for Floki to channel his instincts in such a way that he could always call to the wisp so they may find each other whenever they wanted.
After saying their farewells, the orb swiftly vanished among the trees, and Floki headed straight to his house where his parents were anxiously waiting for him to return.
Upon his arrival he told his parents what had happened and, at first, they didn’t believe him, but looking carefully into his eyes, they could see something changed about him. They took it as a sign from the gods, a blessing finally bestowed in the midst of all their humbleness.
Thus, they agreed to let Floki visit his luminous little friend in the magical forest as often as he wanted.
And sure enough, each day, after finishing his chores, Floki would go to the edge of the forest and call out to the little orb, and they would spend hours and hours wandering among the trees.
The wisp taught Floki all the secrets of the forest. It showed him the unseen aspects of the woods, the spirits within each living creature and how to understand it all.
He learned how to commune with the animals in the forest, how to calm and heal them when they were in need. He learned to read the landscape, and soon he knew every rock, every twig, every flower and every tree by name, not how one commonly knows the names of things but rather how one understands their nature and purpose.
Everything around him tied to the spirit world; Floki soon realized. His purpose there was to keep the balance between this world and the next.
Once Floki had grown up, he decided it was time to leave the village, and moved deep into the forest where he built for himself a small wooden cottage.
With each year that passed, Floki became wiser and more powerful. His reputation as a healer and spirit guide soon reached neighboring villages and people sometimes sought his aid for he was kind and always offered it freely.
One night when everything seemed calm as usual, a star fell from the sky. The ground shook hard and the sound of the impact frightened all the animals in the vicinity. The forest suddenly became restless with all manner of winged and legged creatures fleeing from the blast.
The commotion did not last long. With all the wildlife gone from the area, the forest soon became very silent, but Floki felt that something was amiss. He could hear it in the creaking bark of the trees around him. He knew something was upsetting the balance of things, so he asked his old faithful friend, the wisp, to fly ahead and find the source of the disturbance.
Floki followed the little orb to the place where the meteor had fallen. He was quite shocked to see so many trees razed to the ground around a crater so vast that it could swallow his entire village two times over.
The strange thing was that at the moment of impact everything inside and around the crater seemed to have freeze instantly.
But what disturbed Floki was not the hole in the ground or the frost in the earth, but rather a trail of large footprints, burnt to the ground, still glowing from the intense fire of whatever creature had walked out of the crater.
Sensing an impending danger, Floki set upon the blazing trail to find the beast, but soon he noticed the footprints were losing their incandescence. Either the creature was finally cooling down, or it sensed it was followed and tried to escape.
It mattered little. Floki soon realized the trail was heading in the direction of his village. There was no time to waste.
He ran as fast as he could and soon reached the village where everything seemed strangely quiet. The women and children along with a few men took refuge in the jarl’s hall while the other men set out into the forest to investigate the meteor crash.
Floki saw the trail of scorched footprints leading to the hall, so he followed them until he reached the doors. There he told the villagers to let him in and warned them of the great danger that had befallen their home.
Once inside he asked if they had noticed anything strange happening after the impact. They stood frightened and silently pointed towards the jarl’s young daughter who had mysteriously fallen ill, struck by high fever.
They cleared a path for him as he approached the little girl and once at her side, he asked his little orb friend to increase its brightness.
As soon as the orb became brighter, the little girl opened her mouth and out came a growl so horrific that everyone present, struck by fear, rushed through the door almost stepping on each other on their way out.
To Floki, everything was clear. Whatever landed in that crater, made its way into the village and crawled into this little girl’s very soul, tormenting and burning her from the inside out.
Her father, the jarl, who did not dare leave his daughter’s side, begged Floki to save her, for she was the only thing he had left in this world worth living.
Deeply moved by the jarl’s love for his only child, he agreed to help and asked him to show strength and courage, for his daughter’s soul was possessed by a vicious demon and the battle that would soon begin would not be fought with conventional weapons.
“Prepare yourself, jarl. We are about to cross into the realm of shadows”, Floki said.
To be continued…
Join Floki in his adventures in Asgard Run.
“Floki the Selfless pt.I” – Part V of The Asgard Run Chronicles