In last week’s blog, I promised (or threatened, depending on how the message was received) to give you an excerpt of the latest draft of my fantasy book ‘The Odin Incident’ (One prophecy, Two destinies – Nine worlds in peril). This latest draft was inspired by Les Edgerton’s book on how to write entitled ‘Hooked’.
You may recall his thesis about starting your novel at what he calls the ‘inciting incident’ – the place where something happens that propels everything else towards the climax. I tried – really… it’s just that this fantasy has two characters that live inside one of the main character’s head. In order to make them work, I opted to use a play format for the dialogue they have between themselves and Adam, their ‘host’. I chose to do this by way of a prologue… ah ha – not actually the ‘inciting incident’, which starts after the prologue.
So, if time weighs heavily on you in these COVID times, and you have it in sufficient amounts to read the prologue and first two chapters, you might be able to tell me if I got Edgerton’s advice right. Was the opening sentence interesting enough to read the first paragraph? When it finished did you want to read more? Did the prologue prepare you for how Huginn and Muninn’s voices were done? Like any would be author, I’ll happily leave it in your hands and welcome your input.
TL;DR – it’s a novel excerpt – of course it’s too long…
Prologue – Huginn and Muninn
H: You’re driving me crazy, Muninn. We’ve been waiting on this forsaken world for thousands of years. We both thought we’d never find anyone to meld with. Now we’ve located not one, but two possible candidates. And are you leaping for joy? No! You mope around with your depressed aura and threaten to hide out in a glacier for the next ten thousand years. What is the matter with you?
M: They both show up, all of a sudden and out of nowhere – don’t you find that suspicious?
A: Suspicious? Muninn, they’re both meld material! What more do we need?
M: Don’t tell me you didn’t feel the energy pulsing from the girl’s home.
A: Yes, we both felt it. So what? And there was nothing unusual in the boy’s home. It’s still two that can meld.
H: And their auras – they both have the same aura and they’re not like anything we’ve ever seen before. Where did they come from? There’s something not quite right about the whole set up.
A: Does this have something to do with our last disaster?
M: Oh yes, here we go again! I wondered how long it would take before I heard that from you. Five thousand years of throwing that in my face! Yes, poke me in the eye one more time! Yes! I insisted, AND I didn’t listen, AND you let me choose. My fault! How many times do I have to apologize? For The Tree’s sake, Huginn, let it go!
H: Well, I’m glad someone is finally taking some responsibility for the results.
M: Who could possibly know that he’d get thrown out of Asgard, or that we’d all end up stuck in this ridiculous world with no way back? I can’t accept the blame for everything, you know.
H: All right, there’s no sense in fighting with each other – especially now, when there’s a chance to meld. I’m sorry Muninn; it’s me that should apologize. I did go along with your choice, despite my reservations and… I suppose I might have hinted that I wouldn’t bring it up again.
M: Hint? Hint! All right, all right, yes – I can be calm. Thank you Huginn, I appreciate your saying that. I admit the whole thing was a disaster, all around. Here we are, supposed to help our host bring progress and peace and we choose someone…
M: You’re never going to let it go, are you? Fine! I admit it. It was me. I chose someone that inflicted ruinous ideas into a primitive culture. That’s why I’m so worried about another meld, especially when I can’t make heads or tails about how or why those two suddenly appeared.
H: But you know melds only last a lifetime. It’s not like we’d get stuck forever. Even ‘you know who’ finally died.
M: And then we discover that none of the natives have sufficiently developed psyches to accept a meld. I’ve always done the choosing and I was completely taken in – fooled like some silly hatchling. I’ve been spending the last five thousand years worrying that I must have lost my touch.
H: Oh poor Muninn. No wonder you’re depressed. But anyone can make a mistake.
M: Some mistake!
H: Well yes, it was big mistake – but you know we’ll be stuck here for eternity if something doesn’t change. Finding a meld gives us a chance. It’s the only hope we have of getting out of here.
M: It’s certainly no guarantee.
H: Of course not – but it’s better than no chance. Come on Muninn, let’s be excited that we finally found two that can hear us. Now, which one do we offer a meld?
M: Hold your horned helmet, Huginn. I still think there’s something odd going on. Obviously they can’t be natives. So where did they come from? How did they get to Midgard when the paths on The Tree are long gone?
H: I don’t know, but we might find out if we meld with one.
M: That might prove risky and, after the damage we’ve done already, I’m not sure I’m ready to make another wrong choice. In fact, maybe we should forget about melding and bury ourselves in ice for the next ten millennia.
H: The ice again? Really Muninn! We’ve been in existence since the beginning of the nine worlds. We helped bring Asgard to a high point of development. Let’s not forget that we have had some wonderful hosts over the eons. Ones who helped raise the level of civilization in substantial ways. Asgard could have easily remained a savage world without us. And you want to hide out in a glacier. What kind of Raving are you?
M: Choosing a host was a lot easier when we started. If we misjudged somebody’s character, at least you could count on them dying in half a century and we’d be free to choose again. By the time I convinced you to take on Odin, the average Aesir life span was over five hundred flaming years.
H: So what? A few hundred years is nothing to us. We made a mistake last time. We’re not perfect. I said it before – we make mistakes… but we still have a purpose under The Tree – we are nothing without a host. Entwined together – a transitory wisp of pure but useless energy. So enough talk about your ice packs. We’ve finally got a choice of candidates right here on Midgard. Do you like the boy or the girl?
M: I don’t know if I could live with myself if I made another mistake like the last time. How about YOU make the choice this time – I will not interfere.
H: Really? You know I’m not a match for your fabulous memory and great emotional discrimination. It’s why I’ve always left the choice to you.
M: But look at my last choice. No, no, no! You have an equally wonderful memory and peerless logic as well. I must insist, absolutely, that you choose this time. Whoever you choose, I will NOT say A WORD! I will be silent! I will leave it to you – I will remain a wallflower!
H: Very well… hmm. How about we approach the boy when he’s old enough?
M: Yes, the boy – interesting choice. Not so good if we were in Asgard…
H: Oh yes! And there you go again! Why not the boy? In fact, it sounds like you really want to choose, like you always do.
M: No! No! I’m Sorry! It wasn’t meant as a criticism. I was just remembering that Asgard is an equalized matriarchal society unlike… here. But you are quite right – your logic is undeniable.
H: So, are you going to keep sniping – find more problems until I choose the girl?
M: No, absolutely not! I’m a Raving of my word. The boy it is! I’m going to trust you. I did apologize. It’s up to you – really.
H: You know, I would be inclined to choose the girl, except for her living in that place with the strange energy. There is something not right about that building. There’s great power there and it’s worrisome. I think it makes the girl too risky.
M: You could be right but, as you’ve told me many times over the millennia, there’s insufficient data for any certainty. On the other hand, I support your caution. So, the boy it is. He’s awfully young right now – when we should ask him?
If he really did it, I’m going to get back at him, even if I have hurt him. I don’t care if he is an artistic genius, the smartest guy on the planet or that, over the years, I even managed to work my way past his plain face. That first one at the show I let go, but this would be far worse and, if he really did it, I’m going to make him realize he just can’t do something like that to me.
The plan is going well and I’ll soon know for sure. Getting him horny and myself invited into his house wasn’t exactly difficult. The harder part is now before me – how to get into his bedroom and check on the painting. It would be better if I don’t have to suggest going in there on the pretense of having a roll in the sack. I mean yes, he’s been mooning over me for years and I can well imagine how much he’d like to check out what’s behind my panties, but really – he’s just not my type. All I really need is enough time for a quick look at the wall.
“Evie, can I get you anything to drink?” I’ve never seen him drink anything but water.
“What have you got?
“Water, boiled or plain.”
I laugh at the absurdity of his question. “That’s what I thought. Okay, I’ll have some of your famous boiled water.” I am calculating the distance to the bedroom door and the seconds required to get there.
“I do have some chips and dip if you’re hungry.”
“Chips with dip sounds lovely.” I stand on the old beige carpet in the middle of the living room and wait. When Adam is safely digging into the fridge and cupboards, I make my move. I only just turn towards the bedroom door when a black thing comes streaking across the floor in front of me. I can’t help the high-pitched yelp of surprise.
He looks away from the fridge and laughs. “Don’t mind Herman, it’s just my vacuum cleaner.”
I wait a moment for my heart to stop racing. “For a second, I thought it was a rat. Of course I’ve heard about them. Self propelled vacuums I mean, not rats. I mean I’ve heard about rats as well… of course.” I sigh. I am a MENSA member for heaven’s sake – how can I sound so stupid?
“Yes, it’s one of those electronic things you program to run around on set routes to clean floors and they deflect if they bump into anything. My dad ordered some in for his hardware store but discovered they weren’t reliable. When he sent them back I asked if I could keep the demonstrator model and he gave it to me. I took it apart and fixed a few design flaws. I find it very handy now – keeps the dust bunnies at bay.”
I hear his cell phone ring and think the distraction of a call might give me a good shot at getting a look into his bedroom. “Are you going to answer that?”
“It’s tied to the computer and will get picked up there.”
“Don’t you want to check to see who’s calling?”
“It’s 11:00 and it’s my mother. She always calls at 11:00 because she knows I’ll likely be in. She’s a chronic worrier and I am the beneficiary. She’d call multiple times a day if my dad didn’t discourage her. I don’t want to ignore her – it just makes her anxious. But I didn’t want to answer every call so I designed a program that makes everybody happy.”
“Really? How does it work?”
“She calls using the program I installed on her phone that sends voice and video. My computer monitors my calls and recognizes her number. My computer picks up the call and I show up on her video screen saying ‘Hi mom’. In reality, she’s talking to an image that has been programmed with voice and cognitive recognition. It’s kind of like those holograph concerts featuring long dead musicians.”
“I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never been to one.”
“The Jewish Holocaust Museum does something similar. They were increasingly worried about the age of survivors who had first hand experience in the Nazi death camps. They didn’t want to lose their testimony when they were all gone, so they found some who were willing to be interviewed intensively while being videoed. The images and verbal reminiscences were compiled in a special computer program to produce holograms. It was set up so anyone going to the museum can meet the survivor via the hologram. You can ask it questions, like it was alive and real. The computer has been programmed to recognize a large number of questions. It analyzes a question in relation to the survivor’s testimonies in its data bank and the hologram provides an answer.”
“Very clever. And you did this on your computer just for your mother’s calls?”
He looks very pleased at my question. “Kind of – I had to tweak several existing programs and design something to add a level of artificial intelligence into my computer, but at the end of the day, my mother calls and she believes it’s me answering. She can ask any number of questions and my program will simulate a logical answer based on my preferences. At some point it will remind her that I need to work and she needs her sleep. It will tell her I love her and she will be happy when she hangs up. My dad will be happier because she’s not worrying about me, and I can go about doing what I like without all the interruptions. I’ve done the same thing to the doorbell if anyone comes here in person. I could be gone for years and, as long as my parents didn’t decide to come for a visit, nobody would be the wiser.”
I marvel at his incredible ingenuity. When it comes to smarts, I don’t know anybody that even comes close to him. There’s a reason he got the highest scores in the history of the SAT exams. “Maybe you could set one up for me next year when I go to New York so I can keep my aunt happy.” Then it strikes me. I might not see him in New York next year. In fact, I might not ever want to see him again, depending on what I find in his bedroom. He is back in the fridge and I practically bolt into his room.
“Shit!” Evie Arbor, you think you’re so damned clever. So much for my great plan – the damned thing is gone and he’s hung the flower garden in its place. Now what? I took him to a concert, spent most of the evening trying to get him excited and here I am, in his bedroom and, my yes, I’ve seen the bulge – he’s excited. I only have myself to blame. How do I squirm out of this?
“Are you checking out the bed?” He is at the door, chips in hand and a smirk on his face.
I have no success in keeping the blush from my face. Damn! “Actually, I saw the door was open and thought I’d take a look at the nude you mentioned the last time I was over. I was really impressed with your show…” I wind down, not wishing to sound increasingly lame the more I say. He tilts his head and I shrug. “I see you finished the garden painting. It’s really beautiful.” Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! How can I be such a total idiot?
I take a chip as I brush past him and head back to the living room. He follows behind, puts the chips and dip on a coffee table and goes to the kitchen for the water. He’s back in an instant, giving me the same yellow bird mug I had on my last visit. He sits on the couch; looking at me with an expectation I’ll sit down and join him. I decide to try a new tactic. “So what happened to the nude painting in your bedroom you told me about?”
He looks uncomfortable. “What do you mean?”
“Well, the last time I was here you said you had a nude painting in your bedroom. The garden painting was still on your easel unfinished, so I was wondering what happened to the nude.”
His face goes beet red. “Evie… I want to tell you something and I hope you won’t hate me.”
“Have you ever been playing something on your violin and… just got into it so much that… you know, everything happened on its own… like you weren’t controlling it and it happened without you – kind of like… magic?”
I’m not expecting a question like that. “Well… I sometimes get so immersed in the music I forget about the technique – it’s just there, like my fingers have a life of their own and they just find the right places on the strings all by themselves.”
“Yes, that’s it exactly.” He still looks red and embarrassed. “When I first started taking a class a year at the university… it was a life class for art.”
“Yes, I seem to recall you mentioning that. It’s been a few years.”
“Yes, well… the first semester was the female form and there was a live model. She was… well… I… uh… painted her whole body but her face was always so bored and looked totally lifeless. Her eyes looked blank all the time. It was like she was the poster girl for an empty headed blonde. The whole painting would have had the life sucked out of it using her face. I brought it home and tried to finish it here. I started one night and then it was like something took over my brain and my hands and when I awoke from the trance it was your face on the canvas. But I hadn’t asked you. I shouldn’t have done it. I’m still not sure why it came out that way. Using your face on top of the model’s body was really rather… terrible. I’m so sorry. I feel really bad and now you’re going to hate me. It’s just that your face is so full of life and energy and… I love every minute I spend with you and painting you makes me feel closer and… I had to tell you… I never want to keep secrets between us and… I really am sorry.”
I’m trying to process what he’s just said. “What happened to the painting?”
“I took it to university, got a mark for it and then, when I moved here, I hung it on the wall. When you started asking about it on your last visit, I hid it in the closet in my backpack.”
“Who else has seen it?”
“Nobody except me and the professor… I swear.”
“Let me see it.”
He reluctantly goes to the closet. I’m fuming and wander away from the couch while he’s getting the backpack out. I’m near his desk and glance at the copy of ‘The Hobbit’ resting on top. I would never have figured him for a fantasy reader. My musings stop when he returns with the backpack in hand. He takes out a roll of canvass and drops the backpack on the desk. He unrolls the portrait and holds it up.
The minute I see it I’m tempted to take the pepper spray out of my pocket and give him a dose right in his stupid big blue eyes. There it is, everything I feared – me in a nude I knew nothing about. Worse, it’s my head on some stupid model’s body – my face with her smaller hands, larger breasts and the nipple ring… I feel violated. I feel even worse knowing that he’s had it hanging in his bedroom for years. Did he use it to satisfy his male fantasies?
Now I’m also beginning to realize just how stupid my little scheme has been. Of course I had to know if I was the subject of his nude painting, but I hadn’t even considered he might have removed it from his bedroom. Now I know – not because I’m clever but because he’s too honest for his own good. He probably would have admitted it if I’d just asked him in the first place.
So now he’s standing there looking like somebody just ran over his puppy and I’m not feeling quite as angry as I imagined. I’m looking right into those large pathetic looking blue eyes staring so sadly out of that homely face and I’m not saying a word. His head droops and his right hand takes the painting away from my view. He puts it on the desk amidst ‘The Hobbit’ and his backpack. When he finally turns back he looks like he’s about to cry. Then another part of me takes over – the part that’s just angry and his sad look just damn well isn’t going to cut it. I realize his hands are behind him on the desk and his face is an open target – I slap him as hard as I can. The second my hand contacts his cheek I hear a bang and feel a jolt run up my arm. Then there’s an intense flash of blinding light followed by darkness and total silence.
The Well of Urd
My eyes open and I’m on my back looking up at a brilliant clear blue sky with pink overtones on the horizon. This certainly isn’t my house. My mind is muddled, my muscles are aching and my first thought is that Evie has given me yet another kicking in Taekwondo and knocked me out. No, that isn’t it. What was I doing? I raise my head from the ground and feel the sting still lingering on my cheek. I’m in a meadow and it’s deathly quiet.
A: What happened?
H: A most interesting experience!
A: Where am I?
H: Time to think, Einstein. Let’s see if you can jump-start your memory.
A: Evie and I went to a concert. She came into my place. I thought it was going really well until I told her about the painting. Then she got pretty angry and slapped me… my cheek – that’s why it stings.
M: Yes, she does pack quite a punch for such a small package.
A: After she hit me everything went black. Did she knock me out?
H: You lost consciousness, but not from her. There must be a connection with something else. Did you touch anything on the desk just before she slapped you?
A: I don’t think… wait, yes. While I was putting the painting on my desk, I felt that book I bought. Then everything went black.
H: See Muninn, I told you it was the book. It’s some kind of transporter device.
M: But we’ve never heard of anyone having invented such a thing, especially on Midgard.
H: It might be something developed since we got stuck here – to get around the pathways disappearing. Don’t forget we’re about five thousand years out of touch with a real civilization.
M: Yes. Good thought. Oh for the good old days when you could just walk down The Tree’s trunk to travel between worlds.
H: Yes, much less hard on the body than a crash landing like this.
A: If I could interrupt you two in your journey down memory lane…
H: No need for sarcasm.
A: Muninn, perhaps you could do a reconnaissance and figure out where we are.
M: Of course – back in a flash.
I pick myself up and look around. My backpack, the painting and the book are lying on the ground close by. I put the painting and book into the backpack and sling it over my shoulders.
A: What’s all this about a book? Am I missing something?
H: Aside from your hopes for an exciting, romantic evening?
A: Ha, ha. Very unhelpful, Huginn.
That’s when I see her stretched on the ground looking lifeless. “Evie!” I’m beside her in an instant, worried that she’s dead. I kneel beside her and see she’s breathing. “Evie, wake up. Are you all right? Evie!” Her eyes flicker, open and she scowls when she sees me looking down. She blinks, lifts her head and I see the confusion on her face. Then the angry look returns.
“What the hell did you put in that water?”
“Me? Nothing. Why would you think that?”
“Where have you brought me?”
“I don’t know where we are, and I didn’t bring you here. I’m as confused as you are.” I stand and offer her my hand to get up. She snorts, ignores the offer and rises to her feet on her own.
M: Huginn, we’re at the Well of Urd.
H: Yes! And it’s incredible – we’re finally off Midgard. You see – that book has got to be an activator for a passage.
M: But if it was the book, why didn’t he transport here when he picked it up at the bookshop?
H: Yes, good point! I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a timed device or maybe it’s got something to do with the girl.
M: The girl and that bookshop. We were right about that place – it’s suspicious that she lives there. Think about it Huginn – he’s drawn to the place and gets a book and then he transports when she’s with him. There’s something very odd going on.
A: Can you two be quiet! There are more important things to worry about.
“This has to be your fault, Adam. I was at your place…”
I get a glare. “Slapping you for your bloody cheek with that painting and all of a sudden we’re here. I’ve been drugged and dragged here so you can take advantage of me.” I start to laugh. “And just what’s so funny?”
“You. I did give you some water at my place but you didn’t drink any. You were already at my house and we were alone. Why would I need to drag you anywhere to take advantage of you? Besides, if you remember why we ended up in my house in the first place, you might conclude that it was you trying to take advantage of me.”
Now she looks confused. “Well… no.” She scrunches up her face in a rather unflattering but amusing way. “Don’t forget you’d already taken advantage of me by doing that painting. What an awful thing to do to somebody.” Her voice sounds less angry.
“Yes, it was. Stupid, thoughtless – but I never meant to hurt you. I did tell you at my art show that you’ve been my inspiration for as long as I’ve known you. Now I’m just hoping that you can forgive me.” She glares at me and then looks off the other way.
“Where are we?” We look about at an open grassy area, a meadow with low-lying bushes making a kind of perimeter. The place is completely in shade despite every indication that the sun overhead is bright and the sky without clouds. The shade must be from the brown wall some distance away on my right. It’s only when I tilt my head back to see how high it goes that I realize it’s not a wall. Somewhere at the height flown by small planes I can make out some branches.
“It’s… a tree.”
“Here, right in front of us. It’s enormous.”
She leans her head back and looks up. “I thought it was a mountain cliff.”
“It’s so big you don’t even realize it’s a tree at first and the trunk… it’s so wide it doesn’t even look like it’s rounded.”
“Yes… it’s rather unbelievable.”
“I saw a picture of people standing below a sequoia tree and they looked like ants by comparison. The sequoia would be less than an ant in comparison to this tree.”
“Mmm. Adam, there’s something not right about this place. It’s… creepy. Listen.”
I pause and begin to hear my own breathing. It’s so quiet I can even hear my blood pumping inside me. “I can’t hear a thing.”
“Exactly. There’s no sound at all – no birds, insects, wind… nothing.”
“You’re right – how odd.”
“And look over there near the trunk.”
She points and I see a wall just across the meadow from where we’re standing. It looks to be made of interlocking stones that rise about chest height and the whole structure is nestled at the bottom of the tree.
“I get the oddest feeling that I’ve been here before.”
“You too!” she exclaims. “I can’t imagine why, but there’s something familiar about the place. I’m going to check out the wall.”
I grab my backpack and follow her. “There’s water behind the wall.” I can see the top of the wall is flat, smooth and about six feet wide. I jumped up and stare across a body of water the size of a small lake.
“It’s circular, like a giant well.”
A: A well… a huge tree with a well at the bottom…
H: Ahh, Muninn, he does remember his favorite childhood book.
A: That’s ridiculous. The Well of Urd is just one of the Norse myths.
M: Welcome to the mythical Well of Urd.
“The water looks wonderful. Look Evie, it’s so clear you can see down to an impossible depth.” I kneel over the wall, cup my hands and splash some on my face. Then I drink some. The slight hunger pangs I’ve been feeling disappear instantly. “Evie, try some of this water. It makes you feel great.”
She kneels beside me and takes a sip. “It’s even better than the restorative my Aunt makes!”
“It would be easier if you came down from there.” I flinch at the unexpected voice and Evie turns around so quickly that she almost falls off the wall.
M: It’s her again! Adam, be careful!
“Evelyn, what are you doing with Milford?”
Evie looks at me. “You know my aunt?”
“I was in her bookshop called the Yggdrasil and bought a book.”
“That’s where I live.”
“Yes, I know. When I was there I asked after you and your aunt suggested I could leave a message.” Evie’s aunt… and Evie said I was responsible for dragging her here. What is she playing at? “So Evie, now it seems that our arrival here has nothing to do with me. If this is your aunt, perhaps you should tell me what’s going on – or did you have a brick in your hand when you whacked me?”
I get a confused look and angry tone. “I don’t know any more than you.” She turns on her Aunt with a glare. The questions come in a tidal wave. “Auntie, why are you here? What is this place? What happened? Why are we here?”
“All in good time, Evelyn my dear. At this point I’m still pondering the fact that you are both here.”
“But I was with Adam and all of a sudden everything went blank.” Evie gives me an angry look. “My first thought was that he put something in my drink.”
Astrid sighs, “Yes, Midgard can foster those kinds of thoughts. And who is Adam?”
“You’re looking at him.” Now Astrid looks confused.
“But that’s Milford – the one with the same aura as you. He’s the young man that took the channel.”
“Well, he answers to Goofy or Milford Adam Daniel Ross – MAD Ross for short.” I see the look of surprise on Astrid’s face while Evie gives me a smirk. She knows I hate my first name even more than she hates being called Evelyn. She sounds like she’s enjoying herself. “Yes, I haven’t forgotten your little secret…Milford.” She says the name with exaggerated emphasis, looking pleased when I can’t hide my annoyance, and then finishes. “But he goes by Adam – can you blame him?”
Then Evie’s expression hardens. “So, now you’ve been introduced, what’s going on? Is this another one of your stupid elaborate pranks, like when you spent years teaching me the Aesirian language when Asgard is nothing but a myth?”
Astrid looks like she is about to answer when a squirrel, almost as tall as me, appears beside her. I can see Evie is just as stupefied. The squirrel, at the same time, begins staring at us with an equally surprised look. “What are Adam and Evie doing here? I thought you said Milford had been channeled.”
“It sounds like Uncle Tosk!”
“Adam’s first name is Milford. He goes by his middle name.” Astrid is giving the squirrel a most unforgiving look.
“Oh.” Then the squirrel sounds defensive. “How was I to know? I’d never met the kid and even if I had, he’s not exactly a baby any more.” Then for good measure he adds, “And I can’t read auras like you and Ari.”
All the while the squirrel is talking, Evie is looking more and more confused. “He sounds just like Uncle Tosk… and he sounds like he knows Uncle Ari.”
“Ratatosk,” Astrid says in a more kindly tone, “I’m well aware this is not your fault.”
Evie looks at her Aunt completely dumbfounded. “Ratatosk? What kind of nonsense is this? What’s a giant squirrel got to do with Uncle Tosk? You’re both beginning to get me really angry!” She turns on Astrid. “Don’t tell me you’ve cooked up something to justify all that silly new age mystic stuff you do? Did my horoscope tell you that we should all find a meadow and dance around howling at the moon? Really Auntie! This is the stupidest thing I’ve…”
“You have the most entertaining thoughts, my dear.” Then she looks at the large squirrel beside her and says, “Ratatosk, it appears the time has come for some explanations.”
I can no longer hold back. “Perhaps for a start you could tell us where we are.”
“We’re beside the Well of Urd.”
H: I already told you that, Adam.
M: Excellent tone Huginn – you sound justifiable superior.
H: Thank you Muninn – he does need reminding sometimes that we are…
A: Would you two shut up?
M: Too rude!
“The Well of Urd?” I feel stupid for ignoring my Ravings and look at Evie. “It was in my book…a birthday gift…about Norse mythology. It’s the legendary well that supplied water to the Yggdrasil tree and the nine worlds. It’s like – mythology – not real.”
“You do have a good memory. You read that book when you were six.”
“How do you know I read a book of Norse mythology when I was six?”
H: Adam, stop ignoring us! We told you before she is not as she appears. There are connections that I have not yet been able to determine. Let her talk. Perhaps she will reveal something useful to us.
Astrid points around her, “I hope the Well and The Tree in front of you look real enough.” Before she can continue a gigantic bald eagle, the size of an elephant, appears beside Astrid.
My head swims, my eyes go blurry and Evie’s voice sounds distant in my ears. “Adam, what’s the matter with you? You’re trembling and you’ve gone white.”
“It’s… it! The monster! The claws!” I’m about to faint. The horror of my childhood – the beast that has haunted my every nightmare is now standing before me. My mind goes back to the only blank spot in my memory – the time after the yellow eyes caught me in their glare, the talons reached out to snatch me, and then… nothing – a complete blank until I am with Dr. Aquila being adopted. I sink to my knees and my forehead hits the ground. “…ahh…”
“Adam.” It’s Evie’s voice from across the world and then I feel her hand on my shoulder and it’s like I’ve been hit by lightning. The most incredible surge of energy flows through me and I am suddenly in communion with some vast unknowable power. My fear disappears in an instant, I raise my head and I see the strange look in Evie’s eyes. Is she feeling this as well? She looks shocked and takes her hand away and the feeling disappears.
M: Huginn! Have you ever experienced anything like that?
H: Never. It was overwhelming.
I am stunned. Evie looks shocked and confused. I offer my hand and she takes it. The instant we touch my whole body is again jolted. It is like the power of the universe is flowing into me. I am restored – I am invincible – I am… calm, even in the face of my worst nightmare. Evie looks serene and she glows. I don’t ever want to let go of her hand.
The eagle’s savage hooked beak turns to Astrid. “I came as soon as I detected her arrival.” Then he turns to Evie. “Your presence here is rather astonishing.”
“No! You sound like Uncle Ari!” Her confused look returns. “The squirrel sounds like Tosk and now…I’m going crazy.”
“Tosk can only transform when he’s in a world, but I have the ability in any place, even on The Tree.” I hear the reverence in the Eagle’s voice when he says ‘The Tree’. “Perhaps it would make you feel more comfortable if I use the shape you’re familiar with.” At that point I see his figure shimmer and then…
H: Yes! I was right – they are all connected.
M: But to what purpose, Huginn?
“Your early memories do you credit, Milford.”
“I go by Adam now.”
“Ah,” he says and pauses. “And Tosk has been accompanying Evie to martial arts for some years now, where she fights Adam.” He looks at Astrid, shakes his head and starts to laugh.
“It’s not my fault!” The tone from the squirrel is unmistakably defensive. “How could I know?”
“Astrid, you did tell us at the start that if these two were the ones of destiny, they’d find a way to get together.”
M: Destiny! That’s a word to fear.
Astrid nods. “We were just too blind to see it.” She sighs. “Obviously the channel wouldn’t work without both of them.”
H: The channel, Muninn! That’s what they call the book. Adam – Evie and the book were all touching when they were transported here. You all had to be physically connected for it to work.
Now Evie sounds impatient. “Stop this! I’ve got a wacky Aunt that can pop out of nowhere into some secret hideaway called the Well of Urd, an Uncle who’s a squirrel and another that can turn into a bald eagle. This is insane!”
Ari stops laughing and turns to Astrid. “It is your story to tell, Astrid.”
“I hardly know how to begin.”
“It is clear that they are indeed the ones of the prophecy. The dangers ahead cannot be met without knowledge.”