Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hafvilla


(For Chuck Wendig’s writing challenge week of Feb. 8, 2016—my roll got me a combo of time travel and mythology, so here we go!)

Hafvilla. (n.) Norse. The state of feeling bewildered while lost at sea.

Lex faced the camera and smiled. “Next, on Arcane Fortunes with Lex Colson, I’ll set forth on my own journey to test the accuracy of the long-rumored sunstone. Did the Vikings succeed in navigating on cloudy days because of them?” He held the chunk of calcite up to the sky. “It’s a perfect day to test out our theory, so let’s find out!”

Lex gestured to cut the film. “I feel ridiculous in this outfit. This is like a Renn fest for fur fetishists.”

The cameraman burst into laughter. “Dude, you look amazing! The Vikings would think you’re one of them. Hoist that drinking horn high and make a toast to Odin!”

“Ha. Funny guy. I’m hardly worthy of a journey to Valhalla.”

“Don’t I know it, bro. That five-star hotel back in the city already has your champagne cooled. Hardly a warrior’s abode.”

“Hey, ease up. I’m planning on proposing to Jenny under the northern lights after we film this; give me a break!”

“Whatever. Just look good for the shot.”

With the obligatory b-roll shots taken, Lex made sure the cameras on his replica ship were secured. “Okay, so I’ll take a spin out there for a bit and be right back for the next scene.”
Steve waved and set his video equipment down. “Don’t go too far out, son. You know you can’t swim.”

“Ha ha, very funny. I’ll catch a walrus for you.”

Lex dipped the oar into the water and pushed. The serenity of the drifting boat made him pause and enjoy the scene. The rough Norwegian landscape made for one of the most beautiful episodes he’d ever filmed, and he was looking forward to the results.

A low mist crept across the water. The wind was light; no storm approached. Lex let the boat drift further into the fogbank. “This is perfect. Just the shot I need!”

He held the sunstone up to the clouds and faced the camera. “As you can see, the sun is completely blocked out now. Yet, if I hold the calcite up just so, a line of light catches on this mark here, showing I’m moving northwest. While this makes navigating across the Atlantic much more plausible when we consider the Vikings, it doesn’t mean it was easy, even in their seaworthy dragon ships. They were always one storm away from Valhalla!”

Amused, Lex ended the shot. He rowed out further to capture additional footage. He wasn’t aware of time passing until a flash of silver light rippled over the water. His gaze shot to the sky, but it was still foggy.

“Steve! Steve!”

No voice came from the shore.

“Steve?”

The lapping water remained his sole companion. “Damn, how far out did I go?”


Lex rowed in earnest, eager to make his way back. “Oh man, we still have several more scenes to do, and all those people in costume in the mead hall waiting on our dime. Damn it!”

Just when his heart began to pound in panic, the shore came into view. The crew was nowhere to be found. He jumped ship and pulled it up the shore alone. “All swilling mead by now, I bet,” Lex said. “Here I come, guys, fill my flagon!” He hoisted the drinking horn to the air.

He passed a wooden rack with fish dangling from it. He pulled the small camera out of his pocket for an impromptu shot. “Did you know the Vikings cured their fish by the sea? 

Nothing better than fresh salt air to season the fish!”

A group of men stood nearby in full costume. Lex whistled. “Wow, you guys look so authentic—great job! Look at those beards!” He clapped a man on the shoulder as he walked by. “Very cool, bros. Love the axes, too. You borrow them from that show about Ragnar Lothbrook?”

Lex walked to the grand long house and whistled again. “Place looks more amazing every time I see it. I’ll be damned if this episode doesn’t earn us an award.”

He entered the building and stood, stunned. “Fuck me—if this isn’t a scene right out of Beowulf. Did I land on a movie set? Hey, who’s the director around here? I think I’m lost.”
Men stared. Dogs stared. Lex made his way through the crowd, apologizing if any film was rolling. At last, he saw the man on a gigantic throne. Dragons were carved on either side of it, like the figureheads on the ships. A one-eyed man watched him from it, nodding and tapping his finger along his own drinking horn. The main door to the long house opened, and two ravens flew to the man, cawing loudly as they landed on either side of his shoulders.

“Now, what did you see today?”

They conferred with their heads bowed for a few moments before the one-eyed king regarded Lex. “A stranger comes. And what news do you bring? Did someone raid your farm? You look like you barely escaped with your life—were you having a roll with your woman and need to rush out with just the blankets on?”

The men around him roared in laughter. Lex shrugged and smiled. “I suppose I deserved that. I do look ridiculous compared to you guys. What movie’s being filmed here? Beowulf?”
The king took a swig from the horn. “Beowulf. A worthy name in Valhalla, but no. This is but a mere tavern at the edge of Asgard. I come here to collect my thoughts when I need to get away from the wife. Right, men?”

Men with whorls of tattoos and rings in their beards laughed and joined him in drink. The great fire in the rectangular pit burned bright, flanked with spits of roasting meat. The power bar Lex had for breakfast now seemed woefully inadequate. His stomach agreed with a low growl.

Two growls accompanied him. He looked down to see two—wolves. He raised his hands quickly in a gesture of helplessness, much to the amusement of the watching crowd.
The king beckoned. “Freki, Greri—don’t judge a man by his hunger. Come here.”
The wolves trotted to the dais and came to rest.

Lex gaped. “This is one hell of a setting! This is probably one of the most authentic sets I’ve ever seen. Odin, the ravens, the wolves—the warriors—you have it all!”

Odin nodded and stood. He made his way down to the area by the fire. “Young man, what is your name?”

“Lex; I’m the host of Arcane Fortunes. Maybe you’ve seen it on the History Channel?”

Odin chuckled. “Arcane Fortunes, eh? Let me tell you of arcane fortunes…the wisdom of Yggdrasil, the coming of Ragnarok—when that good-for-nothing Loki steers Naglfar, a ship carrying an army of frost giants to destroy the world, and the wolf Fenrir devours me. A wolf devouring a god, you wonder—how can it be so? Well, I may have made my peace with that knowledge long ago, but it doesn’t mean I won’t fight. Come, let me show you something.”
Odin escorted Lex out the door of the hall. The night sky shimmered above. A colorful bridge covered the sky over the hall.

“That is Bifrost—the bridge between your plane and Asgard. I don’t know if Loki was involved in this prank, but you don’t belong here, my friend. Not that I don’t want to be a hospitable host. You’re certainly welcome to feast with us and enjoy. You’ll have a long journey home, though. It’s a long walk across that bridge.”

Lex stayed. He feasted and drank mead, and scratched the ears of the wolves. He recorded it all, or so he thought. After falling asleep by the fire, he was astonished to find himself back in his paltry boat in his pathetic fur outfit. He was still surrounded by dense fog.

He ran the camera. The video was blank.

“And I still have no fucking idea where I am.”



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