Anxious to read my forthcoming novel, The Dragon in the Whites? Did you enjoy the first chapter that I shared before? See below for a sneak peak of the second chapter. Enjoy!
Chapter Two - The Discovery
With a confused look on his face, Tryggvi curiously watched his father walk away from the shelter towards the other men. While he firmly believed that his dad had just given him indirect permission to leave the camp and explore during the night, he was still skeptical. He very rarely broke his position of prim and proper authority when the other men were around, so it wasn’t a far-fetched idea to believe that this was a trick of some nature. However, that small wink at the end really made him question what was going on.
As the minutes slowly passed by, Tryggvi began to believe that he was in fact free to start exploring this island on his last night here. The fire was dying down while the men drank their ale, laughing as they exchanged stories of past deeds and heroics. They ranged from battles, meadhall fights, hunting trips, and even included one man claiming sightings of sea monsters while sailing. In between obviously exaggerated tall tales, occasional discussions revolving around the planning of their return trip back to the mainland in the morning did popped up. The men had had their fill of this island and were anxious to get back to sleeping in their own beds back home.
While listening in on their conversations and trying to remain quiet, he could barely contain his excitement over his recent gift. His very own horn! He now had a ram’s horn to signal with and a short sword to wield in combat. Slowly but surely, he was becoming more of a man and would someday join the ranks of his village’s warriors and explorers. With the words from his father, and the gift of the signaling horn in case he should find himself in trouble, it was obvious that Brynjar intended for him to go exploring that night before they sailed for home. A chance like this was something that Tryggvi was not going to pass up.
It was the night of the summer Solstice and the Sun would just barely dip below the horizon in the western sky at midnight. All of his life, he had watched the Sun set at night and rise in the morning. To see the Sun not fully set and just rise back up was an event that he could not afford to pass up! He could explore the volcano crater all night long without the need for a torch and see his way as clearly as if he were walking in the afternoon sunshine. The risk of getting into trouble, at least from his father, which he highly doubted at this point in time, was well worth this once-in-a-lifetime chance. Quietly and carefully gathering his cloak, sword, and horn, he crouched low in the doorway of the shelter and looked out at the area around him. Seeing none of the adults glancing his way, he stealthily snuck out of the shelter and rapidly crept away from the encampment. Remaining as low to the ground as he comfortably could, he made sure to keep their shelter in between him and the campfire as he slinked off into the darker distance.
Looking around to get his bearings straight, he began to head towards the base of the volcano crater where his adventure for this evening would commence. The diameter within the walls of the crater was massive. While he had seen the crater from afar, it was entirely different to stand in the center and look up and around. He could have fit his entire village back home within the groundwork of this geological monstrosity, as well as providing wind and weather protection as it circled around more than half way. The unimaginably destructive volcanic explosion that tore the mountain apart must have been tremendous to remove that much of the earth and rock. Not wanting to waste much more time simply scanning the area around the base, he decided that he’d rather do his sightseeing from up on top.
Moving soundlessly towards the genesis of the incline up the crater, and away from any curious, prying eyes of the men back at the camp, Tryggvi made his way to the origination of the goat trails within a handful of minutes. Creeping up the trails and staying low in the rocks and grasses, so as not to be seen, he began his ascent towards the peak of the crater.
As he soon found out, it was much higher than it appeared from far away. Perspective is a funny thing and can trick a young, curious mind into believing that hard tasks are seemingly easy. Although he was in pretty good shape for a boy of his age, his small legs still had a hard time navigating the rocky terrain. Large rocks, deep berms, and tall grasses littered his path and forced him to constantly switch back and forth, take detours, and circumnavigate the unpredictable geological features. It took a solid hour to complete his journey to the summit ridge and he was feeling very out of shape by end of his climb.
Upon reaching the pinnacle, Tryggvi was amazed to see the view that the top of the crater had to offer. He could see vast, endless miles of ocean stretched out before him heading into the unknown western expanse. Turning to the South, he was amazed to see more of the same thing. Nothing but water, waves, birds, and the horizon stood before his eyes. From everything that he knew, nobody had ever been out that far. Seeing these things for the first time stirred up feelings of fear, excitement, and anticipation within the junior explorer. There were talks within the village of someday traveling out past the horizon to see if more land existed beyond Iceland, but there were no concrete plans in place, just yet.
The tenderfoot dreamed that once the new village was settled more permanently, and his people got the itch for further adventuring and exploring, that he would be old enough to join them and do his part. Lost in his day-dreaming of the future, he was shaken from his visions by a ferocious wind blowing in off of the water. From where he stood, there was nothing blocking him from the open water and the fierce wind that whipped up off of it. Despite being a hardy lad and conditioned by years of exposure to the cold, even this caused him to shiver a little bit, albeit briefly. He grinned at the thought and speculated how cold it must be to have elicited that feeling.
Looking down to the bottom of the slope and the rocky beach where the water lapped at the rocks and sand, he could see icebergs floating out in the water below him. Having spent most of his life so far in southern Norway, he hadn’t seen many icebergs, but was not surprised at all by how much colder it was at this higher latitude. While the icebergs would often melt as they drifted further south, they roamed freely up here in the northern waters. They followed the currents as they continued their slow journey throughout the ocean. Hearing some noise and rustling nearby, he crouched down behind the nearby tall grasses and peered around. A few feet away, in the grass and rocks around him, several families of wild goats were walking the paths from one grazing area to another, or in search of a cave or outcropping to hide from the cold wind. He watched them for several minutes until they spotted him, got started, and ran away quickly in the opposite direction.
Gazing down near the shore and scanning the crashing waves and rocky terrain, Tryggvi soon spotted the hidden beach cove that the older warrior had described earlier at the fire. Down below him to the left, a wall of rock jutted up from the dark blue water to create a natural shelter which blocked off a small area of sandy beach and a calm pool of water from the ocean outside. Within this tiny cove, the water was still and relaxed, with the water’s surface creating a mirror-like image of the hillside surrounding it. Providing nature protection, it attracted an interesting assortment of birds, fish, and seals playing in the water, occasionally disturbing the glass-like appearance. There was a good chance that none of these animals had ever encountered a human being before, and he wondered if they would even fear his approach.
This mini-exploration was exactly what his blossoming and inquisitive mind was looking for on this trip. He was suddenly filled with anticipation of what he would see down at the water and would make for some fun times before heading back home. Realizing that he had lost track of time, and the fact that part of this trip was to witness the rise and fall of the non-setting Sun later in the evening, he looked back to the west to see the position of the celestial entity. Given the position of the Sun on the horizon now, it looked like it was already back on the rise. “I missed it!” Tryggvi muttered to himself. While he may have blundered this portion of the expedition, it was still pretty impressive to watch it coming right back up before his eyes at such a late hour in the night. Based on its angle in the sky and what he understood of astronomy from his lessons back in the village, he estimated that it was around 2 am. If that were true, then the adults back in the camp would be awaking in a matter of hours. It was time to get back to the mission and get to the cove.
Looking for a clear path to venture down to the bottom of the slope, he was surprised to find that there did not appear to be an easy, direct way down. A colony of puffin holes extended down to his right for several hundred feet. He could tell by the small holes pocketing the hillside and the swarms of small black flies hovering a few feet above the grass. He had investigated a few of the peculiar bird’s nest tunnels the other day near the camp and was familiar with their tell-tale signs. Off to his left, however, was a naturally formed rock slide of gray-white gravel and stone cascading almost the entire length of the hill to the far end of the cove. Realizing that this was a substantially quicker way down to his goal, Tryggvi set off through the grass to the top of the rock slide.
Upon reaching the top of the rock slide, he quickly came to terms that it was much higher than it had looked from the top of the crater’s ridge. The rock slide appeared to go down all the way to the beach cove, meaning that he would be doing a combination of walking and sliding down an almost 1,000 foot declination. The rocky terrain to either side of the slide meant that he either carefully and slowly made his way to the bottom, or he risked his neck on a dangerous but faster option. The former sounded safer and more sane, but he was sure that he would not have enough time to complete his journey prior to his father rising from his slumber. If he wanted to pull this off without getting in trouble, he would have to choose the latter methodology.
Taking a deep breath and building up his courage, Tryggvi stepped forward onto the gravel and began his journey down the slope. Things were going well for the first few minutes of his experimental run. He took careful, measured steps and tried to limit how much he let each foot slip in the flowing stream of rocks. He smiled as he continued, happy to see that his risk would most likely pay off in a successful and speedy journey. This was, of course, until he started to hear and feel the gravel sliding around him more rapidly. More importantly, he noticed that the rocks and sand were sliding down behind him and a larger volume of the slippery rock surface was pouring down around his feet while he tried to walk. Trying to walk soon turned into trying to not fall down, slide down on his backside, nor become buried in dirt and rock. As the gravel gave way and slid faster and faster down the hill, Tryggvi soon found himself out of control and unable to maintain his balance. He began tumbling down through the sand and rocks; feet-first in the beginning, rolling sideways after a few seconds, and soon he was flying head-over-heels as his tumble turned into a full-blown cartwheel down the hill.
Throughout all of this, he valiantly tried to maintain control over his body, especially his head, and his array of new equipment. Despite the scrapes, cuts, and bruises that he was conscious of acquiring as he rapidly descended down the slide, he was cognizant of the fact that this could destroy his new horn. Additionally, he was not used to having a weapon strapped to his hip, and feared that he might kill himself on his sword alone. He wasn’t about to break his newly acquired horn in this unfortunately graceless debacle, nor was he interested in impaling himself upon his own blade. If he kept this up for any longer, though, he might not have a choice in the matter as either or both options became more relevant.
Realizing that doom may very well be a tumble or two away, Tryggvi decided that he needed to put an end to this immediately before his end came sooner than desired. Seeing a whirling blur of green and brown color getting closer and closer to him with each passing revolution, he recognized that he was rapidly approaching a small bush off to his right. Reaching out desperately for the bush, he just managed to grasp the base of the plant and held on with all of his might. The sudden stop was not without trouble, however, as the instantaneous stop jerked his arm upward and put immediate and violent strain on the bush, its roots, and the ligaments in his shoulder and elbow. As the hillside was covered in an extremely thin layer of soil and moss, he instantly ripped the bush’s roots from the earth and thin covering of organic matter. The jerky motion caused him to whip up into the air, spin around, and crash into the sand below him. His vision blurry, he found himself to be very tired all of a sudden, and darkness overtook the world around him.
After what felt like hours, but was perhaps only a few moments, Tryggvi awoke from his nap and realized that he was staring up at the hill that he had just fallen down. From his new vantage point, the hill seemed to be much taller than he previously believed. The sky was also much brighter than before, and he was lazily staring up at the bright blue sky. He counted a handful of puffy clouds drifting by overhead, and he suddenly remembered where he was and what he was supposed to be doing. Glancing around, he found himself still holding the small bush in his hand and looked up to see the divot ripped out of the ground where it had originally grown. The bush had saved him from falling straight down to the bottom and slowed him down just enough to only get bruised and a little banged-up on the landing.
Thankfully, it appeared that only his pride was seriously injured during this debacle. Additionally, he was very glad to have had no witnesses to this exploit of his. If any of his friends back home had seen this plunge of his, he’d be the brunt of the jokes for a while. He would be sore for a few days, but he had at least made it down in one piece.
After a few more minutes of laying on the ground to rest his body and stretch out his muscles, Tryggvi built up the strength, and dignity, to try to stand up again and get back on his feet. With a little struggle, he was vertical again and feeling good enough to be walking on the flat, solid ground. The sand here was packed firmly from the lapping waves that came up to this level during high tide. Furthermore, the lack of people and their associated disruptive footsteps kept the ground smooth and pristine. Well, until he showed up.
Looking around, he took in the beauty and surprising calm of his newly discovered hidden sanctuary. The rocks rose up and above him, at least three times his height, and the sun shone brightly down inside. Despite there being a vast ocean on the other side of the rocks, he could barely hear the waves or howling wind. Grasses grew in the sunny spots and birds flocked to feast on fish and bugs in the placid water. This was probably the most calming and relaxing place he had ever been to since leaving his native land. It was a shame that he could not stay here longer and explore in more detail over several days. But, he had to head back up sooner or later before the men found him missing during the morning meal.
Not wanting to waste another minute, he began to walk around the cove and explored the plant and animal life that he could easily find. There were various small flowers and bushes growing, several species of grasses, a collection of small sea birds and puffin, as well as a mixture of fish schooling in the shallow water gently lapping the shore. Looking into the water, he could see an assemblage of igneous rocks formed from the spewing molten lava during the volcanic creation of this island. It never ceased to amaze him how strangely beautiful some of these volcanic rocks could be formed. Each one was different, unique, and a wonder to inspect. All in all, this was a neat area and he was glad to have stumbled upon it, even if it had hurt a little in the process.
Glancing up to the sky above, he noticed that the sun had risen even higher over the horizon, meaning that the morning hours were approaching quickly and his exploration time was rapidly coming to an end. The men may soon be rising to restart the fires and make breakfast. He should start heading back soon if he wanted to see anything else on this part of the island and still make it back in time to not be noticed.
As he turned to walk back towards the hill, he noticed an indentation in the rock face off to the side that looked curiously out of place. Walking a little closer, it appeared to be not just an indentation, but possibly the entrance to a small cave. Inquiring as to what might be living in there, he quietly approached and almost stuck his head into the area. Brave as he might be, he still had a small amount of fear of the unknown, especially in a new land such as this where he wasn’t entirely familiar with what sorts of animals crept around in caves. Not wanting to take too many risks with this investigation, he decided to draw his blade for the first time. Firmly gripping his fingers around the leather-wrapped handle of the sword, he started to smoothly extracting the weapon from its sheath. He cringed as it made a light scraping sound on the way out, as part of the steel had contacted one of the small rivets holding the leather together.
Gathering his courage and trying to mentally boost his self confidence, he extended it beyond the edge of the mouth of the cave and began to slowly round the corner to peer inside. As his eyes passed the edge of the mouth of the cave, his eyes quickly gathered in all of the information and relayed it to his brain to process. It was about five feet deep, four feet tall, and just wide enough for him to walk through without bumping his elbows. It was barely big enough to fit several boys his size inside. From what he could tell, it was empty aside from rocks and pebbles in the bottom of the cave floor. Laughing to himself, he slid the sword back into the sheath and allowed himself to relax.
Looking more closely around the bottom of the cave, one of the stones immediately captured his attention. He noticed that this stone appeared to be very different from the others nearby; it was larger and more oval in shape than its peers. The stone was as long as he was wide, and thick enough that he couldn’t fully wrap both hands around its girth. The surface of the stone was speckled and had an alluring blue-green tint to its color. Intrigued, he picked this stone up and found it surprisingly lightweight given its size. Holding it in his hands, he walked it back to the water’s edge to wash off the sand, algae, and debris that had accumulated on it over time. Once clean, the stoney surface shone with a brilliant reflection and glowed in the early morning sun. He wasn’t sure what this was, but he really liked it and wanted a souvenir from the trip to remember his fun and adventure.
Turning back towards the hill, Tryggvi looked up and around and planned out how he’d get back up to the top of the ridge. It was clear that he couldn’t go back up the way that he had come down. The steep rockslide was unforgiving and would not be an easy, nor productive, ascent. To the right of the slide was a nearly sheer rise of rock and would have to be climbed by hand and feet together. As he was still tired from the beginning of this adventure and now had the rock to carry, he ruled this option out immediately. However, to the left of the rockslide was a steep, but feasible looking, hill that rose steadily up to the top. This was the same hill that he had spotted before with the puffin holes in the side. While he had concerns about potentially damaging some of these burrows or hurting any of the funny little birds, it appeared to be his best way back up. Taking a deep breath, he headed in that direction and began his long climb upward.
Several minutes into this hike, he began to regret bringing the stone with him. It was light enough to carry for a boy his size, but heavy enough that it started to drain on his energy reserves as the trip progressed. The journey was made more difficult by the constant bombardment of the tiny flies that buzzed angrily around the colony. Attracted to the carbon dioxide in his breath, the innumerous pests attacked him from all angles as he struggled to climb the steep incline of grass and moss. They got in his eyes, his nose, and some even found their way into his mouth. He swatted at the ones that he could with his free hand, but still many others advanced and dove towards his face. Several times, he had to spit to clear his mouth of the aerial vermin. He cursed them under his breath as he tried to increase his speed and get out of this mess sooner than later. Dodging the flies and trying not to step on the mouths of the puffin holes, he found himself back to the top of the ridge within an hour since leaving the cove below.
Looking down at his clothes, he found himself to be covered in squashed flies and spots of their blood. The flies must have been busy this morning, as he was now covered in their stolen meals from the animals on the hillside. He’ll need to clean up later before anyone sees his clothes and asks too many questions. The sun was climbing its way back up into the sky, meaning that the men would be starting to stir down below. Taking another chance to scan the horizon, he took in the awesome views of the land and boundless miles of ocean stretching out before him. With one last glance around, he headed back down the ridge towards the camp below.
His descent was fairly simple and uneventful. The goats from before had scurried off and were out of sight. He passed some startled looking puffins and ran down his previously chosen path as quickly as possible. Once at the base of the hill, he swiftly snuck back towards the shelters with the sleeping men. He heard some random grumblings and sounds of movement from some of them, but he had managed to get back in time before anyone was outside to spot him. Heading towards the shelter that he shared with his father, he found a pocket in one of their packs with enough room to hide the stone. Stowing it away quickly and securing the flap so that it wouldn’t be seen, he stealthily crept back inside the shelter, changed his shirt, and laid down to sleep. His fathered stirred briefly as he ruffled the animal hides upon entering, but for the most part, his secret adventure appeared to have gone unnoticed and was a success. Exhausted from his long trek and midnight hike, he quickly slipped into a deep, albeit short, sleep.
In what felt like no time at all, his father was already waking him up for breakfast. It seemed as if he had just fallen asleep, but the sun was a little higher in the sky than he had remembered from before, so he must have gotten at least a few hours of sleep. The other men were finishing their meals and preparing their packs for the journey back to the boats. While chewing on the grains and reheated puffin meat from last night, he glanced over to see his father looking into the top of the pack where he had stashed the stone. Brynjar peeked inside, saw the fruit of his son’s adventure, and smiled. He looked back over at Tryggvi with a curious, but knowing, look on his face and gave him a nod. He didn’t know what exactly his son had been up to since speaking with him last, but he knew that he had at least gotten a chance to stretch his legs and explore on his own. As a natural explorer himself, few things could give him more pride than sharing experiences like this with Tryggvi. Not having more time to spend with his son one-on-one, as he was the leader of his men and had many responsibilities, was his only regret in life.
After breakfast was done, everyone joined in to clean up the camp and disassemble the shelters. The gear was securely packed onto their carts and the men made their way back to the boats on the far side of the small island. The journey only took about an hour, given the light weight of the loads that they carried and the small diameter of the islet, and they were on their way in short time afterwards.
As they began their trek across the width of the sea separating the island from the mainland, Tryggvi’s heart swelled with happiness from the fun and good experiences that he had had on this exploration with his father. He would soon become a man and take his place amongst the rest of the villagers. He longed to partake in bigger and more dangerous trips with the rest of his people. As the ships plowed through the waves and the wind pushed their sails, the young boy’s thoughts drifted back to the stone. Staring over the side of the ship into the deep blue water below, he pondered what type of rock it was and where it had come from. It would be something to look into later during his studies when he had a chance someday.