New Rourke Unmasked
The Walkabout: Vision
Business of the Gods | The Furthest Away Is Home | Beyond the Borders
They flew first class via private jet. Gabriel busied himself studying the pronunciation guide for the incantation that Basinah had given him, while Summer fussed about the enclosed space, recirculated air, and her inability to sleep due to the nagging thought that a metal tube hanging in the air, only by virtue of it going really, really, fast, was an utterly insane method of travel. After long hours of airport hopping, ear popping, and encroaching cabin fever, she was thankful to be on the ground at the Alta airport. Customs was pleasantly quick and painless, a definite bonus for working with a well-connected benefactor.
They were met by a tall man with strawberry blonde hair and a round, friendly, face.
"I'm sorry." Summer said barely containing her laughter. "Did you say snorey hog?"
"Snorri Haug." Snorri corrected diplomatically. "My papa named me after the historian and poet, and my family name would translate as ‘hill'."
"Excuse us." Gabriel said, himself attempting to suppress a smile. "It's been a really long day, and we're jet lagged."
"I understand. There are warm clothes in the car, and much driving to do before Tilbud."
They spent a few hours by car traveling meandering paths, some with better-maintained roads than others. Snorri, who turned out to be an anthropologist, acted as impromptu tour guide spouting off anecdotes of cultural and historical importance. He and Gabriel did their best to describe the scenery to Summer, but even with varying their superlatives it came down to a pattern of mountain, valley, glacier, river repeated over and over again. Eventually, she said they needn't bother anymore for her sake, so she drifted off for a nap.
When she woke to the sound of them unpacking the car, she opened the car door, and cold air slapped her in the face. She shivered instinctively, despite being bundled up. It was well above freezing, though still cold enough to see one's breathe, but for someone unaccustomed to sub arctic climates it might as well have been the ice planet of Hoth.
"You take me to the nicest places, Gabriel."
"Move around a bit more, you'll get used to it."
She shuffled he feet and rubbed her nose till she could breathe through it again. "What's that funky smell?"
"What is funky?" Snorri asked.
"That's the reindeer." Gabriel answered. "There's about ten of them over there in a corral."
"Reindeer?" Summer asked startled. "I thought we were going to a town, not Santa's workshop."
"This is Sámi land." Snorri filled in.
"What's a Sámi?"
"They are aboriginal people. Like your Apache or Inuit."
Summer frowned. "Those really aren't the same thing."
"Yes. I apologize. I only meant to…draw cultural parallel."
Gabriel lifted the last bag out of the car. "Well, it looks normal enough. Just regular houses and people apart from the reindeer. And you two can stop looking at me like that. I came here to do a job not sing We Are the World."
Summer stretched. "Where is this valley we're going to?"
Snori answered, "It is Thule."
"That can't be right."
"Why not?" asked Gabirel.
"Isn't Thule a Latin word?"
"Greek." Snorri corrected. "But you are asking the origin of a word two and a half millennia old, used by an explorer to describe a place far to the north beyond the borders of the known world. Who's to say where Pytheas heard it? Many places have been called Thule. The valley is west from here. The Sámi call it Thule."
Gabriel shrugged. "Whatever it is, let's get a move on."
"Too late to travel today. You need rest. We'll take snowmobiles tomorrow after breakfast."
* * *
They rented one of the small lodges used by tourists during the annual fishing season. Gabriel and Snorri went out for the night, while Summer made herself some soup for dinner. Then she curled up with a blanket on the couch that felt more like it was covered in burlap than Berber.
She still hadn't sorted out what the vision she'd had in the hotel bathroom was trying to tell her, and the more she thought about it the more it filled her with unease. The messages she received came in three flavors. Sometimes it was an urging to go somewhere or talk to someone. The most straightforward ones were when a voice whispered into her ear or when words flashed across her mind, clearly stating what needed to be done. However, the worst were the messages wrapped up in metaphor and symbolism. Sometimes she could suss out their meaning and act accordingly, but more often than not, they only made sense right before she had to act or as the event was unfolding. The elements of this vision were disturbing enough without her now getting caught up in whatever it was Basinah was after. Nevertheless, this was the path which was laid out for her, and she was going to see it through.
"Hey, there she is!" Gabriel slurred, coming in the door, near midnight. He plopped down heavily on the couch beside her and let out a long sigh. "You know, they have the best wine up here. It's like sweet and, and spicy, and fucking good. That's what it is."
"Geez, Gabriel, I'm in no mood to take care of you when you're drunk."
"Hey, you." Gabriel said with an indignantly wobbling head. "I managed to get back here all on my lonesome. Only got lost…tw-thrice."
She hadn't heard anyone else come in. "Where's Snorri?"
"Eh? Oh, he's got a place he's got that was the other way. He'll come gets us in the morning. You should have come out. Was fun."
Summer pulled the blanket more snuggly around herself. "No thanks."
"Hey, what's wrong with you? You always telling me to cheer. Here you fuckin' sittin' in the dark being all you. Come on."
He tugged on the blanket, and she recoiled sharply.
"Back off, Gabriel. Don't even try to make a move on me."
"Whatever you think is going on between us, it's not."
"Hey now!" Gabriel jumped to his feet, then paused until the room stopped spinning. "I am in a fully committed…whatever. And you? Pffft!"
"Are you kidding me‽" Summer shouted. "You bargained for me to come on this trip with you, halfway around the world! What does that look like to you?"
Gabriel threw his arms up in the air in a flapping motion. "Because you keep following me!"
"But you hate me doing it!"
"I don't hate you!" Gabriel shouted louder, then had to take a deep breath as he had become winded. "You're fuckin' useful. I don't understand this magic shit. You do. And traveling alone fuckin' sucks."
Summer scrunched up her face in what she thought was a skeptical expression. "And that's the only reason I'm here?"
"Yeah. That's fuckin' it. You ain't ugly, but you get on my fuckin' nerves too much to get in your pants even if I'm shit-faced."
"I—whatever. Forget it."
"Wait, do you?"
"No." Summer scowled.
"Well good!" Gabriel replied waving a finger at nothing in particular. "This is a business trip. We are profefferfulls."
"But seriously, what's up with you? You've been in a fuckin' fuck since we got here."
Summer moaned slightly, wanting to retreat under the blanket and hide from the world. "Snorri was telling me earlier about the Sámi. How things used to be with all the racism and government manipulations. It just reminded me of living back on the reservation, that's all."
"You don't live on a reservation."
"No, I don't. I'm not going back"
Gabriel made his way back to the couch with a concerted effort to sit as far away from Summer as he could. "The Sámi seem to be doing alright. They've got their own parliament and everything."
"Let's just say, you don't understand, and leave it at that."
Gabriel nodded. "That's cool."
She could hear his heavy breathing and smell the alcohol on his breath even over the scent of fish that seemed to be rubbed into the very walls of the lodge.
"You are going to be a mess in the morning."
Gabriel waved a hand. "Nah. When in viking land, live like a viking. Besides, it's a cake walk. Go out, throw some meat, say some gibberish, write my name in the snow, BOOM! Fifty G's."
"You do realize that Basinah is using you?"
Gabriel nodded again but slower. "Yeah, probably."
"And you're fine with that? Didn't you always complain about people taking advantage of you?"
"Yeah, but the difference is I'm using her too."
"So much money." he said with a giddy laugh.
"This is old magic your dealing with." Summer chided. "You have no idea how dangerous this can be."
"That's what you're here for." Gabriel yawned. "Besides, the pattern weaver said I can't die till I've finished his tasks."
Summer sat up and swung her arm in an arc that connected with Gabriel's ribs.
"God damn it!" Gabriel shouted clutching his side. "What was that for?"
"If you can be hit, you can be hurt." Summer said now with both arms up, clearly unused to holding a fighting stance.
"You hit like a girl." Gabriel mocked and covered his head as Summer rained down haphazard slaps on him.
* * *
The morning was a trial. The difficulties of finding her things in the unfamiliar place and getting ready were compounded by having to yell at Gabriel several times to get himself up. Together they had managed coffee before Snorri showed up and helped with breakfast. Then they packed and Snorri took them to get a pair of snowmobiles. Summer rode with Gabriel on one as they followed Snorri along the trail. She had her face buried in his back the whole way. She knew that some women enjoyed riding motorcycles, but after five minutes on the snowmobile she decided they had to be out of their minds. Everything vibrated and not in a good way. The wind whipped around her. She couldn't hear anything over the sound of the engine. It smelled of diesel and wet animal. The trail twisted going up and down so much that she felt sick to her stomach. Finally, they came to a stop near a rock wall and cut the engines.
Summer immediately fell off and laid in the snow covering her face.
"What are you doing?" Gabriel asked, taking his pack out of the snowmobile's saddlebags.
"Old Cheyenne nausea remedy." Summer said into her glove. "It's called, 'laying on the ground feeling sorry for yourself'. It looses something in the translation."
"Well, up you get. We've got a climb head of us."
Summer pointed an accusatory finger in the direction of his voice. "You are an evil man, Gabriel Docket."
"Do you like soggy clothes?"
"Do you want to be left out in the cold for the wolves?"
"Then on your feet."
Gabriel helped her up and carefully guided her along the path, while Snorri stayed behind with the vehicles. It was a narrow switchback trail, roughly cut into the stone, that ascended the wall. There was evidence of ancient steps and carvings but they had mostly been worn smooth by the passage of time. Summer sidled along the wall directed by Gabriel, all too keenly aware that she had no idea how high they were.
They stopped in a shallow cave, shielded from snow by an outcropping overhead. Summer could see it very faintly. There was power here, but it was very old and mostly dissipated. The cave was big enough for five or so people to stand in without bumping elbows. At the mouth was the stela. It was a solid piece of granite with veins of milky quartz shooting through, about six feet tall and a little more than a foot to a side. Summer took off a glove and ran a hand over it. There was a bas-relief on the inward-facing side depicting a long branch or gnarled staff and two birds, one in flight the other at rest.
"I'm getting several kinds of willies here, Gabriel."
"That's an easy line, if I ever heard one." he said, taking the wood slats from his pack to build a small altar in front of the stela.
"No really. This is…something."
Gabriel looked up at Summer. "Did you have a vision about this?"
"Well, no, not this."
"Is there any indication that it'll blow up?"
Summer winced. "Blow up is such a subjective phrase."
Gabriel unwrapped the package of butcher paper and laid a bloody steak of reindeer meat on the wood. "I'm going to do this, because I need to get paid. Do you want me to take back down the mountain first?"
Summer groaned then shook her head.
"Okay, then stand back so I can light this puppy."
Gabriel took a small knife and cut into his pinky finger then dribbled the blood onto the steak. He then stood up and began to recite the incantation. As he spoke the quartz in the stela started to glow, and Summer saw the magic in the cave increasing. A green flame blossomed over the steak. Arcane symbols, long since hidden, appeared on the walls. She could see the quartz in the stela writhe and form into an approximation of a tree with roots reaching deep into the earth. Underneath Gabriel's words, she could hear a low hum.
The tree's trunk twisted ninety degrees.
Gabriel and Summer fell through snow and ice.