‘Can you hear it, girl? Or are your senses dulled by that shiny trinket?’
The whispered words of the spirit weren’t hissing with venomous threat as they had been before. There was a pitiful, keening note to their song. Hilda strained her ears and listened closer. It was a mournful howl. Spinning around her on the wind. Where was it coming from?
Whatever the sound was, it died in a series of sorrowful yelps. She notched an arrow to the string of her bow and carried on through the morass. Ears and eyes straining through the screen of long grass.
‘Are you deaf, child?’
There it was again. A bark of fright and a rustle in the thick shrubs to her right. Hilda turned and dashed towards the noise. Drew the string back to her ear and loosed an arrow into the shadows. A wet thud and a heavy splash. One last howling moan.
The seal was only a pup. It still hadn’t lost some of its soft white down. Hilda straddled the plump grey mound and sawed through its belly with her knife. Blood stained her hands crimson as she worked them into the wound. Feeling through layers of hot flesh. Fingers probing for the prize within.
Hilda almost shrieked in surprise as her hands grasped the seal pup’s heart. It was still beating. A faint tremor. Her shock subsided to joy and a smug pout played on her lips. One hand retrieved the knife and worked it through the cut, feeling for and slicing away the tubes which fed blood into the trembling muscle.
It came free in her hands. Hot, wet, blood dripping from its bulbous sides. She bit into it and savoured the thick, iron taste. Felt juices wash down her chin. Savoured the smell of it and the contented feeling in her gut.
Thank you, spirits. Praise you, Allfather.