Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Legend of Hjarnes Island - Chapter 4

Chapter 4: The Vacation begins

There was a buzz outside Jenny´s house the morning of departure. Everyone was excited. Jim and Mike had been up as early as 5 in the morning to get ready and when they arrived, Jenny and her parents had already set up the family´s luggage in the gigantic courtyard prepared for packing. The entire setup had Jenny´s dad, Robert, written all over it. Suitcases and bags had been sorted in size and type and placed in well defined rows and columns. He was a Captain in the army reserves and loved the systematic approach to any problem, that being people, animals or objects. He was just coming out with a cooler box in his hands as Jim and Mike came strolling down the driveway with one bag each for the week. He set the cooler down and welcomed them heartily.
“Gentlemen!” he greeted them his arms wide apart. He shook their hands after turn while commending them for their foresight to not bring more luggage than they did. Then he leaned forward and said in such a low voice he might as well have whispered:
“Those women in there don´t know when to stop.” He glanced over his shoulder to ensure they hadn´t come out yet and then continued:
“You should think they were going to a deserted island for several years with all that rubbish they want to bring.”
He paused for a bit and then leaned forward again.
“Don´t tell them I said so,” he pleaded, “or I´ll be in big trouble.” They both nodded in agreement and Mike even saluted Mr. Mason.
“Yes, sir!” he snapped, “you can count on us, sir! We won´t say a word!”
“About what?” Jenny said. She had just come out of the house and was setting down the biggest trunk, any of the two boys had ever seen. ‘Flump!’ it sounded as the one side hit the rubble.
“What aren´t you going to say a word about?” she repeated as she approached them.
“If we were to tell you, we would need to use words, wouldn´t we?” Jim said, “and that´s exactly what we promised not to do, isn´t it?” Jenny looked to Mike, but no winnings there either. She set her arms in her side and straightened up.
“I might just begin to regret I even invited you on this trip,” she said, but with a smile on her face to let them know she was just kidding.
“Oh, no, daughter dearest,” Mr. Mason broke in, “first of all, though it was your idea to begin with, you did not invite these fine gentlemen. Your mother and I did. Secondly, this will be my first vacation since I married your mother, where there will be other male participants and I´d be an idiot if I let that chance pass me by. So, my dear: they´re staying! You mark my words, young lady.”
Jenny looked at them one by one trying to keep up appearances, but it didn´t last long. She burst into laughter and started tripping her feet and waving her arms wildly above her head.
“We are going to Denmark!” she sang and took their hands and soon the three of them were dancing together, although the boys seemed to enjoy the dance less than Jenny. But what won´t you do for a friend?
All that dancing and singing brought Jenny´s mum outside. She held a plate in one hand and a drying towel in the other.
“What´s going on out here?” she asked. Jenny passed her by with a secretive look on her face.
“The boys have secrets,” she said, “and they are not willing to share them with us.”
Mrs. Mason lit up in a big smile.
“Everyone is entitled to have secrets,” she said, “In fact, I´ve got a few of my own, waiting in the kitchen for you besides toast, bacon and eggs. Come get your breakfast before it gets cold.”
The last bit she yelled out to the three gentlemen still standing by the car, but as soon as Mike heard the word ‘breakfast’ he practically flew over the bags and boxes and rushed inside with Jim and Mr. Mason on his tail.
It was a breakfast for royals and they all dug in deep, except for Jim who barely touched his food.
“You´re awfully quiet this morning,” Mrs. Mason remarked, “Isn´t there anything here that appeals to you?”
He looked up.
“I´m sorry, Mrs. Mason, “ he answered, “It really looks great. I´m just not in the mood for anything.”
“I´m sorry to hear that,” Mrs. Mason said, “You do look a bit sad. I thought you would be thrilled about the trip.”
“I was,” he replied, “till last night, that is...” She gave him the ‘and now?’ look and he continued: “Well, I might as well tell you now.” He looked round the table hoping for comfort. Both Jenny and her parents looked at him. Mike was still busy eating. Then he dropped the bomb.
“I´m adopted,” he shrugged looking lost. Jenny put down her fork and knife and they all had their eyes fixed on him. Even Mike who had his mouth full of delicious pan cake stopped chewing.
“You´re what?” Mike spat pieces of pan cake as he spoke.
“My parents told me last night,” Jim explained, “right after the twins were tugged in. I´m adopted.”
Mrs. Mason felt his dispair and put her arm around his shoulder.
“They wanted to wait till after summer,” he continued, “but I found the papers and they had to come clean.” A drop of salty water crawled down his left cheek, but he didn´t want them to see, so he pretended to not notice. Then maybe, they wouldn´t notice either.
“Look at me, Jim!” the authoritive, but kind voice of Mr. Mason commanded. Jim did and met the comforting eyes of Mr. Mason.
“It doesn´t matter, Jim,” Mr. Mason said, “I know this must be a chocker right before leaving for vacation. But it doesn´t matter, Jim. They love you! Your parents? They love you! I know they do, because I know your parents... and they love you!” There was a short silence and then Mrs. Mason pulled him closer.
“And so do we, Jim,” she said wholeheartedly.
“I know,” Jim said, “That they love me, I mean. It´s just that... I don´t know... I just feel...”
Mr. Mason helped him out.
“Lost?” he said.
“Well, yeah... I suppose I do...”
Mr. Mason leaned forward.
“Jim,” he said, “it´s only natural to feel lost, but you´re safe and sound with us and we are going to have a splendid holiday these 3 weeks. Let it sink in and we´ll talk some more later, okay?“
Jim nodded with a smile and they ate the rest of the meal in silence.
Thor´s quiet staring made Loki uneasy. He really hated that look and found it hard to decide if it was meant as caring or demeaning.
“I´m sorry?” Thor said.
Most of the crew probably hadn´t noticed, but Loki heard the anger behind his soft voice.
“That´s what I said,” Loki explained, “somehow the console was moved and they are researching it as we speak. That´s why I chose to speed up the gathering on the Island. Both Tjalfe and Roeskva are on their way, but I´m afraid they brought some friends with them...”
He shrugged as he continued: “...and I can´t see how we can contain it, unless we bring them up to date.”
Thor looked at his friend trying to hide his disappointment, though he wasn´t very succesful.
“And how long have the scientists known about the console?” he asked.
Loki breathed in and leaned back in his chair.
“Well, I suppose that´s the good news. They´ve had the console for almost a century, but they still haven´t figured it out...”
“Come on girls. We´re leaving,” Mr. Mason called from the car, “We´ve got a boat to catch and it´s not waiting for us. We´re not the royal family, you know!” Mike and Jim were already sitting in the car, but as usual Jenny and her mum had very important facial refurbishing to do before they could leave. Mike had his mouth full of a candy bar he had brought with him, but when Jenny appeared in the door his jaw dropped to his chest and the suliva smerged chokolate fell into his lap. His eyes were wide open as he looked upon the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. It was as if the light of the sun tenderly caressed her red hair and she was most definitely glowing.
“Wauw!” he let out, “She is HOT!”
Mr. Mason turned around in his seat.
“Ahem!” he said, ”That´s my daughter you´re talking about, Mr. Baker.”
Mike was startled and confused.
“Oh, I´m sorry... I... I.. I didn´t mean to...” he tried explaining himself.
“Take it easy, Mike,” Mr. Mason smiled to ease Mike´s terrified look, “I´m just fooling around.”
Then he leaned a bit toward the back of the car his eyes narrowed and fixed on Mike.
“Unless of course your intensions are less than honorable, Mr. Baker!”
“No, Mr. Mason!” Mike replied, again bewildered, “I don´t like Jenny... I mean, not like that... I mean... She... ehm... I...”
Mr. Mason burst into laughter.
“Ha!” he said, “Gotcha!”
Jenny and Mrs. Mason entered the car and of course they noticed the sudden silence.
“What´s going on?” Jenny asked.
Mr. Mason started the engine and they moved up the driveway.
“Men´s stuff,” he said, “Honorable men´s stuff!”
It was a long trip from the Mason residence down to Harwich, where the boat departed. Almost two hours of heavy traffic. The first half hour Jenny, Mike and Jim had a marvellous time chit chatting in the back of the car, where they sat on a row playing cards.
But after a while, Jim found himself drifting away and looking out the window.
The typical English rain had set in, making the scenery outside looking like something from an old silent movie, only with a hint of color in the else gray picture.
Coming out on the motorway Mr. Mason sped up to the allowed 70 mph, no more, no less. With this speed it was more difficult to make out the scenery out there, but nevertheless, Jim still enjoyed watching the trees. As they went under a bridge near Springfield there was a sound of thunder and the sky seemed to split into smaller pieces and then moving together again. Jim smiled as he realized it looked very much like a Power Point show going from one screen to another.
A bang and a flash broke the sky into pieces again and slowly it faded back in its right place. The zig-zaggy lines of the flash sort of disappeared into the dark gray. Except for one place where it seemed to stay for a while. Bang! Flash! Again the lines faded away and once again he noticed that little spot in ske skies where the light didn´t disappear. After a while that one light even seemed to glow. Stronger and stronger it glowed. What is that? He thought to himself, but before he could give it anymore thought, the light started moving. Swoosj! Right across the sky it swooped like something from one of those old fashioned Science Fiction movies from the 50´s. The light went over a hill top and was gone.
“What?” Jenny said. She was sitting next to Jim and had just pushed her elbow in his side.
“What did you just say, Jim?”
He turned his head toward her. “I didn´t say anything,” he answered.
“Yes, you did,” Mike supported her, “What was it?”
Jim looked at them. What are they getting at? Is this a joke? If it is, it´s not a very good one.
“Look, guys, it´s not funny,” he said clearly annoyed, “I didn´t say anything, okay?”
“Alright,” Mike said leaning back in a defensive position, “if you say so.”
Jim was really getting irritated now gazing at them with a fierce look in his eyes.
“Okay, then,” he said, “what do you think I said?”
They both shrugged.
“Don´t know,” Mike said, “didn´t make any sense. You just made some weird noises, really.”
“Yeah,” Jenny contributed, “or some kind of strange language.”
Jim looked puzzled and angry at the same time.
“Weird sounds? Strange language?” he said, “Could you make up your minds, please?”
“Kind of the same to me,” Mike said, “But it sounded like...”
Mike paused and looked to Mr. and Mrs. Mason to be sure they weren´t listening in. Then he leaned over Jenny and whispered:
“like ‘Ass and Ham’ or something...”
“Mike!” the ever behavior focused Jenny scolded him, “language!”
Her eyes squewed at her parents, but they didn´t seem to notice anything.
“Well, it did!” Mike defended himself, “You heard it too!”
They were silent and looked at each other for a while, but then Mr. Mason startled them.
“There we are!” he proclaimed loudly, “The port to The Viking Nation awaits our presence!”
Outside the rain had stopped and the sun lurked through the white edged clouds casting beams of cheerful light on both port and boat. The windows of the boat reflected the sunlight as it swayed calmly on the water as if it knew they were coming and wanted to let them know how welcome they were.
Mr. Mason drove through the paying booth and parked the car as directed by the staff placed strategically throughout the parking zone. They had to wait for half an hour before they could drive aboard, so Jenny´s parents allowed them to stretch their legs.
“Don´t go too far, mind you,” Jenny´s mum said, “you should always be able to see the car.”
The three of them began walking toward the water.
“Keep your phones on, so you can hear them if I call you,” Mrs. Mason yelled, “And don´t go too near the water, you hear!”
“Sure, mum, no, mum” Jenny waved and turned her back to her mother.
“She´s such a drag sometimes,” she mumbled.
“At least she worries,” Mike replied, “My mum´ll let me play with knifes, if I want to.”
“Yeah, I know,” Jenny replied, “but it still can be quite annoying.”
They turned about 20 feet before the water front and walked along the edge talking about how they were all looking forward to three weeks of absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted.
“My dad says the Island is haunted,” Jenny said, “did I tell you that?”
“Yes, you did,” Jim answered, “several times, in fact. I think we got it about now, though we are so unbelievable slow in the uptake.”
She pretended to not have heard that last bit.
“Well, it is,” she continued, “at least that´s what the legend says. My dad says it´s just what happens in a backward civilization when you don´t have science to explain natural events.”
“What does the legend say?” Jim wanted to know and then Jenny got all excited and told them everything she knew about the stories of the Island. Hjarnes Island was small. Only about 8500 feet wide and 7500 feet broad. It was placed in the fjord of Horsens, a city with a population of about 40.000 people.
The legend said that the Island had it´s name from Hjarne, who was given ownership of the Island as an appreciation for writing a hero´s song for King Fredegod. He and his men were Vikings and lived on the Island as farmers in the summer and as raiders during the winter. On Hjarne´s last raiding expedition round 800 AD he and most of his men got badly wounded and barely made it home. Just a few days after they returned to Hjarne´s Island they all died and were buried in a ship setting.
“Ship setting?” Mike asked, “what´s that?”
Jenny explained: “it´s a sort of marking made with big stones to form the shape of a ship. The Vikings used to place their dead on a ship and then they set the ship on fire and pushed it out to the sea. I guess the ship setting works as a kind of substitute for the real thing.”
“So, why weren´t Hjarne burnt at sea?” Jim said.
Jenny shrugged.
“No one really knows, but legend has it that the Yetten were close and prevented them from leaving the Island.”
“The what?” Mike was baffled with all that information and he was sure his head was about to explode.
Jenny sent him a tiresome look.
“Don´t you ever listen? As I told you before, the Viking Mythology speaks of several godly races. The Aseir are the good guys and the Yetten are the bad guys. Pay attention, please!”
“Sorry!” Mike said defensively and Jenny continued explaining the legend. For a long time, the generations on Hjarne´s Island had respected these ship settings and left them alone, but around the mid 1700´s people started removing some of the stones to use them as building materials leaving only a few settings intact, because they were hidden by plants and trees.
“One stone was left out in the open,” Jenny explained, “because no one dared moving it. They were convinced the stone was bewitched and that if anyone was to ever move it, the ground beneath would open its mouth wide and swallow the whole Island.”
“So that one is still there?” Jim said, “They left it there out of fear of being sucked to Hell?”
“For many generations, yeah,” Jenny said. She was really getting excited now and her eyes were sparkling.
“But then...”
Jenny paused for drama.
“Then in the 1920´s a local farmer, Thomas Jensen, took that stone to build a barn for his cows. The elders warned him that the stone was cursed and that if he even touched it, bad things would happen to him. He didn´t believe them and claimed to have touched that stone many times and he hadn´t felt a thing. So, he took the stone, cut it in smaller pieces and used them to build his new barn.”
Mike and Jim stopped walking and looked at Jenny for the continuation.
“So?” Mike was eager to know more.
“Nothing happened!” Jenny said, “At least for a while...”
Again being the drama queen she paused to let them fry in expectation. Then she moved on in the story:
“But then one day...”
Jenny was interrupted as her phone rang. She spoke shortly with her mother and put the phone back in her pocket.
“Sorry, guys, but mum says we have to go back to the car. We are about to board. I´ll tell you the rest on the boat.”