6
Finding my Flint

Lunch consisted of a soup full of vegetables and herbs, followed by a leg of roast venison. There was beer to wash it down, and great hunks of the malty brown bread that Grom had brought from the village.
After we had Ūnished eating, Mr. Snorradin left the room. In a few minutes he returned carrying a bundle wrapped in a brightly coloured cloth.
“Right,” he said. “Now, Alex, we’ll go and Ūnd your ßint.”
We followed a different path into the forest, and walked uphill for half an hour. When we arrived at a hilltop that was bare of trees, Mr. Snorradin sat down on a rock and unwrapped his bundle. It contained a deer antler and several small leather bags. He handed me the antler.
“You may need to dig for your ßint,” he told me. “Use this. And when you Ūnd it, you must thank the ground, and give it some tobacco in exchange.”
He handed me one of the small bags, and showed me the dark Loglandian tobacco that was in it.
“Then bring it back here, and we’ll ask the Ūre spirit to help you.”
I was perplexed. “But how will I know ...”
Mr. Snorradin interrupted me. “You’ll know. Just listen, and the ßint will call you to it. Just listen, and don’t talk to yourself so much.” He lay back on the ground, folded his hands on his stomach and closed his eyes.
I stood there for a moment, but he clearly wasn’t going to say any more. So I wandered off across the hilltop, looking about me and trying to listen. I wished he had told me what to listen for. Then I realised I was still talking to myself. I listened. There was a bird singing somewhere at the edge of the clearing, so I walked that way.
The ground was quite rough; it was covered with mounds and hollows, and here and there shallow straight ditches overgrown with grass. I wondered if people had been digging up ßints on this hilltop for centuries. Then, realising that I wasn’t listening, I sat down on a hummock. A shadow passed across my face and I looked up. A hawk was circling in the air above me. It whistled plaintively, and glided away towards my left. I got up and started to walk in that direction. The hawk began to hover, and suddenly it dived to the ground. When it ßew up again I could see it had some small rodent grasped in its talons. I decided to go and look where it had been.
The hawk had dived on a hollow between two mounds, and when I got there I noticed a small pile of earth, and a hole in the ground beside it. There were small chips of ßint mixed with the earth, so I poked at the edge of the hole with the point of the antler. A few inches down I felt something hard so I dug towards it, using the antler as a pick. I put my hand in and felt a round stone the size of a walnut. Pulling it out I looked at it. One end was rounded, and the other was roughly conical. It was certainly a ßint, and the pieces that had ßaked off it had left a pleasingly regular shape. It felt good in my hand.
I took out the bag of tobacco and sprinkled some on the hole. Feeling a little foolish, I said aloud: “Thank you, earth, for my ßint.” Then I added, “And thank you, dormouse, or whoever you were. And thank you, hawk.” Again I heard the plaintive whistle from somewhere in the distance. The hair stood up on the back of my neck.
With the ßint in one hand and the antler in the other I walked back to where I had left Mr. Snorradin. He was still stretched out on his back on the grass. He was snoring gently. Not wanting to disturb him I sat down near him. I turned my ßint over in my hand, enjoying the cool smoothness of it, and the crisp sharp edges where the large ßake had come away.
“Hm, very good,” I heard Mr. Snorradin say sleepily. “Very good. The earth was kind to you, and the hawk spirit helped you. That’s a very good sign.”
I looked at him, but his eyes were still shut. He yawned hugely and opened his eyes. Raising himself on one elbow, he said, “Let me see.”
I handed him my ßint and he inspected it closely. “Yes,” he said, “The earth was very kind to you. This is your ßint.” He sat up and held the ßint out to me. “Now this is important. You must never, never, show your ßint to anybody else. Never, not anyone. I have seen it, and that’s Ūne, because I took you to Ūnd it. But if you ever let anyone else see it, or even if you show it to me again, the Ūre spirit will not come to it. You must always remember that.”
He took another small leather bag from his bundle and loosened the string that closed its neck. From it he took a small steel bar. “This is my present to you,” he said. “Keep your ßint in this bag, with the steel, and I’ve put some tinder in there. So now I’ll show you how to use it.”
Taking the deer antler, Mr. Snorradin got to his knees. He used the antler to clear the grass from a small patch of ground. He took a handful of dry grass and tiny twigs from his bundle, and made a kind of nest on the bare earth. In the middle he made a small pile of tinder.
“Now, take your ßint and your steel, and see if you can strike a spark right onto the tinder,” he said.
It took me several tries, and the Ūrst few times I only managed to disarrange the nest and scatter the tinder. Mr. Snorradin patiently rebuilt it. Finally I was successful in dropping a fat spark right into the tinder. Mr. Snorradin immediately bent down and blew on it.
“Now you blow, until you get a ßame. Then feed it.” He handed me some more dry grass.
I bent down and started to blow.
“Not too hard,” he said. I blew gently and steadily, and sure enough, a wisp of ßame appeared. I added a little grass and blew some more. Mr. Snorradin muttered something.
“I talk to the Ūre spirit in the old language,” he said, “But you can use whatever language you like. Just thank him for coming, and ask him to help you. You can call him Grandfather, because the Ūre spirit is the grandfather of us all.”
“O Grandfather Fire,” I said. “Thank you for coming. And please come and help me when I need you.”
“Very nice,” said Mr. Snorradin, and he added something in the old language. “Now just let it burn until the ßames go out.”
We sat there in silence for a little while until the tiny ßames subsided.
“Now cover it over with earth,” said Mr. Snorradin. “And make sure it’s really out. Grandfather Fire would love to eat our whole forest, but it would give him indigestion.” He chuckled.
I scraped earth over our tiny Ūre with the antler, and patted it down Ūrmly.
“That’s Ūne,” Mr. Snorradin said, patting the earth himself. “Now we can go home. Put your ßint in its bag, and remember, never show it to anyone again.”
On the way down from the hilltop Mr. Snorradin showed me how to collect dry moss, and crumbly rotten wood for tinder. I put it in the little bag with the ßint and steel.
“Of course, sometimes,” Mr. Snorradin told me, “You can make a bigger Ūre, and you can share it with friends. You can roast chestnuts in it, or even a rabbit. But when you light it, make sure you are by yourself. And always thank the earth for anything you cook on it, because the Ūres you light with your ßint are special Ūres. Grandfather Fire is there in them, and he likes us to be polite and mindful when he’s about. Other Ūres, that you light with a match, that’s different. It’s still good to be mindful, otherwise you might burn your Ūngers.” He roared with laughter. “Ordinary Ūres belong to the Ūre spirit, of course, but he’s not too concerned about them. Matches and lighters don’t interest him.”