NOTE: This is a continuation of the "Web Of Deception" round-robin story. If you're late to the party, please start with Chapter 1 on Ben's site and go from there. You can also follow the RSS feed hosted at http://www.andthentheboilerburst.com/WebOfDeception.rss.
4.5 Billion years BCE - Space
Raw elemental matter boils in the void, joined together and then pulled apart by the gravitational tides of a hot proto-sun. A shape forms, wriggles and breaks free of the chaos. Spreading mighty wings it absorbs both the darkness of the void and the fires that gave it birth. The dragon launches itself into the roaring maelstrom and circles the center on owl-silent wings of darkness.
965 CE - Vinland (modern Newfoundland)
Freydis Eiríkdóttir watched the thick Atlantic fog roll towards the cliff she was currently trapped on. She held a dark rock tightly in her left hand and a bloodied sword in the right. Bright red iron-sharp blood dripped from her nose to the sparse grass at her feet. A stag watched her warily from the thicket behind her.
A year ago all she had wanted was a share in the prestige and the wealth that the expeditions to Vinland had brought her father and uncle. It would be easy, a year or so, and she could return to Iceland a heroine and be able to wear the name she shared with the Vanir goddess with pride. She was learning to her cost that where gods are concerned, life is never that simple.
The night before her long ships left the safety of the Icelandic Hvalfjordur harbour she was visited by a vision and given a quest. Freydis must locate the egg of the dragon Nithhogr, the bringer of death, created by chaos to balance all that is alive. Freyja warned Freydis that if she did not succeed and the egg fell into the hands of any god from the house of Aesgard, or the giant demi-god Loki, the egg could be used to skew the balance between life and death thus bring about Ragnarök, the final battle were all would be destroyed.
The egg had not been hard to locate. The indigenous people of Vinland, the savage Skrælingjar, had found it centuries before under the ice of the Helmsfjord glacier. Such was the malevolent reputation of the egg amongst the Skrælingjar it needed no guard nor lock to protect it. It was the work of seconds for Freydis to enter the sacred long house in the depths of night and take the stone like egg from the ancient wooden case and it's blanket of coarse jet black material.
From the moment her fingers touched the night-dark surface things had gone wrong. Betrayal, bad luck and death plagued her every step. Now 8 days after that simple act of larceny she was on a cliff edge, all her warriors dead, all her ships burnt and cornered by 200 silently furious Skrælingjar warriors. She knelt, resting her head on the hilt of her sword, and prayed to Freyja for forgiveness at failing in her task and asking for whatever protection the goddess could offer in this distant barbarian land. Religious observance complete she wrapped the egg in deerskin and slipped it deep into a rabbit hole.
Standing, she drew a deep breath then ripped her shirt open and with a small skinning knife carved the first rune of Freyja's name into the soft white skin of her right breast. With a resolution she did not feel, she raised her sword and marched slowly through the trees towards the Skrælingjar warriors that were searching the valley that led up to the cliff. She looked deep inside herself and found her wolf, asking for and permitting the animal spirit to fill her. The last remnants of the human Freydis disappeared as the berserker she had become emerged from the tree line into the hail of Skrælingjar arrows.
Freydis's eyes opened, the berserker rage had passed leaving only a stillness with no pain. Looking to the east she saw the silhouette of the stag standing at the edge of the trees.The outline shimmered and slowly morphed into a tall human figure in whose right hand was a deerskin parcel. As the last of her life slipped away, Freydis Eiríkdóttir thought "Odin's Bollocks! ... Loki has the egg!"
The Present Day
Tom Dufay was nearly finished his stock take. He was counting the prophylactics on display beside the cash register, his stock report in one hand and a pen in the other. He spoke quietly to himself as he counted the bright colored foil packets.
"only 5 Extra large Trojans, I will need to order more of those ... ", a box on the stock report was ticked.
"10 Extra ribbed Papaya flavored", the report was ticked again.
" .. 8,9,10,11,12 .... oh " Tom stopped, unable to continue. His was a rare sub-variant of triskaidekaphobia that only ever caused him problems when counting contraceptives*
He scurried to the store. Stepped over the corpse of Rudolph Hodges who had slid down the wall and was lying stiffly on the floor. Tom muttered dryly to himself "all I need is Gill Grissom and
some white chalk and my shop could be on CSI" He located the correct shelf and opened a box of Budweiser Flavored Hooter's Specials, took 4 and returned to the shop front.
"...8,18.104.22.168,12a,14,15,16,17".. smiling, he ticked the required box.
Satisfied that his shop was just as he wanted it, Tom emptied the till and placed the day's takings in his safe. Pausing for a moment he glanced at the immobile corpse of Rudolph, pursed his lips deep in thought and reached into the safe and slipped a weighty old wooden box in into a sports bag.. As he put on his coat he spoke to Rudolph.
"I am going to leave the back door open. Leave by that in ", he checked his watch " 30 minutes. It will be dark by then"
The corpse rustled it's understanding like dry cemetery leaves, but said nothing.
Tom left the shop and walked slowly down Main Street a smile played across his face "Soon ..." he said to himself "...soon it will all come together ..."
Back at the farmhouse , Mike came to with a start. His brain polled various bits of his anatomy, everything was there. Slowly he opened his eyes........
* Footnotes *
Tom's phobia arose after an unfortunate accident with a sheep, a squad of 13 cheerleaders, on Friday
the 13th, in Dorm room 13 on the 13th floor of the 13th Earl of Aberdeen's hall of residence,
Glasgow University, Scotland and it had left an indelible scar on Tom's psyche. The sheep
however fully recovered and went on to have a successful career as the Conservative
Party Secretary in Troon.
** Update **
Chapter 8 Fell i sno available here on the blog of "Wild" Bill Buchan who has managed to get the word hegemony into his creative musings.