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CIRCUS

Father, so I was told was still in town. Celebrating the sale of the Tyrannos at the Xchange. Greifen caught me right by the gate after the school flyer had dropped me and he still looked sober and miserable but he grinned as he closed the gate. “Looks like even your Father could not find a bad world about you today. Word is they got a very good price for your Tyrannos and from what I heard they are celebrating at Hogun's Inn. Many Clan Chief and Elders are there. They will drink many barrels empty and sing to the wee hours.”

I frowned. “That means the Burg is under the hand of my Stepmother.”

He kept grinning. “Nay, heir of my liege. She gotten a share of thy spoils and has taken the Space bus to travel off planet, to visit her sister on Holstein Planet. No doubt she will have no trouble spending the purse Lord Isegrim had given her.”

I felt lighter and better already. “If that is the result of my hunt. I need to do that again.”

“Many have not returned doing what you did. Aye you slain not one but two but hunters skills and hunters fortune might not be with you the next time. Besides finding Tyrannos so far north at this time is not that common.”

I shrugged. “I rather die hunting than die under the steel whip of my father.” He put his hand on my shoulder. “Come then, Midril has prepared you a special treat today.”

He was right, Midril served me Tyranno Fin Stew, my favorite, with lots of Snapper bacon filled bread. Instead of water she gave me milk. I could not finish half a bowl before she added another ladle. She appeared proud and angry at the same time. “Going against two Tyrannos all by yourself! You could have been killed.” She complained, but with the next helping she poured into my bowl she smiled. “Everyone talks about you today, everyone!”

“I thought they forgotten about that with all the War news.”

She looked puzzled and then shook her wooden spoon against the old audio only GalNet reciever she had on a shelf besides the spice rack. “Oh right, there was something about a war, but it was the usual Off World garbage. I turned to Nilfeheim Radio and they had an Elder speak about your deed and aye it was a tale that made my blood curl!” Now she became angry again. “Oh Eric, you must not tempt the Norns. Your lot is a heavy one but it , but you will grow and become strong.”

From behind the new working table in the middle of the kitchen I saw a pair of big eyes watching me, of course it was little Elena. I was sure, but she did not show herself and when she noticed that I saw her , she retreated completely behind that table.

The Kitchen was a big place , while there was a second kitchen somewhere under the Northside buildings, serving the workers of our Tannery. It was here where all the food for for the Clan ws prepared. Midril lorded over seven helpers and they were busy pretty much all day and around the clock.

A woman in a blue dress, white arpon and pasty white arms and feet, came in the kitchen. She was one of the Freemen who worked in the Tanneries. While she was a young woman,I found she appeared to be particular bland. “She carried a big basket and I heard her say to Midril, as she put it down.”This is the fur cape of the Lady. She ordered it mended and newly lined.”

Midril had her put it on the table, handed her a fresh roll with bacon and said. “I see that it goes to her chambers.”

The pale, red haired woman noticed me sitting at the kitchen table, urtsied in a rushed fashion and said with a breathless voice. “Your Lordship.” then she turned and left.

I pushed the bowl away and said more to myself than anyone. “Lordship! She must be new and doesn't know who I am.”

Midril pulled the string that was connected to the Chamber maids quarters and said. “No matter how thy Sire treats you, no matter what Lothar thinks. By all our laws and customs, you are the Lords first born. Her name is Loki, she and the others that work and live under the Nord House, the do not come up here that often.

Sometimes I wondered what the other kitchen looked like and what was actually done in our Tannery. The Ragnarsson Clan was famous for its fine leather products made of the hides of Nubhir Wolfs and Fangsnappers. It was the domain of Gorgard the Tanner and Ishild, often called the finest leather seamstress and furrier. Both where members of an old Bondi family that had been with the Ragnarsson clan for almost as long as the Clan existed. They had a special status and some said that not even father was able to tell them much.

According to Greifen, they had a contract and agreement with the Ragnarsson Clan that raised them in status above all other Clan Bondi. Their domain was reached over a flight of stairs that was next to the Nord House, the huge building where the Bondi and Clan membes lived. I was not allowed to go there, not by a decree of my father of all things, but by my mother. She told me while she was alive, never to set foot into the North House or the Tanneries until the day I was the Clan Lord myself.”

While she was alive I tried to go there anyway, just to find out what it was that made her prohibit me to go. I was caught and scolded by her; now that she was dead I treasured and abided by every thing she had ever said.

Midril insisted that I find room for a Sweet roll and hot honey milk and promised the rolls to be oven fresh and ready in a few more minutes,

While she returned to her chores, I pulled my PDD and brushed over the Brochure, Mr. Flensburger had given me. Ididn't open it as a Holo but kept it on the screen. The same stirring music I had heard earlier played and words flashed over the read out. “United Stars Navy, Academy recruitment . Your first steps into an exciting and meaningful career.”

I tabbed pause as Midril placed a plate of steaming sweet rolls, a pitcher of Hot milk before me. “You can do your homework later, now enjoy. No one here to object.”

While I reached for a roll , another woman came in. She wore a black dress and a white apron. Her flaxen hair was braided and wound up into sweet roll shaped buns to each side of her head. Unlike the other woman I knew her and had seen her before, her name was Raghild and she was one of the Chambermaids of my stepmother. She was maybe sixteen or eighteen and she always had a good word for me ,of course only when no one was around and she never said much when the other hands and servants sat in the Kitchen and gossiped about everything and everyone. I wasn't supposed to know such things, but because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and caught some of the gossip, I knew she had eyes for Greifen's son. He was a deckhand on one of our surface fishing boats.

She gave me a smile and then talked to Midril. They did not talk loud enough for me to understand most of it, just fragments and phrases. I never was much of a ear dropper and was about to resume checking out that Union Fleet Info brochure when Midril came over and said. “I got the soap sud going and can't leave the kitchen. Could you help Raghild carry some things up to the Mistresses chambers? I would not ask if she would be here, Tyr and Lothar are with her.”

I got up and said. “If the dragon isn't in its den. I am not afraid to enter the dungeon.”

With that I grabbed the big covered basket and Raghild took a stack of red garments and followed her across the cobble stone bailey of our burg to the Great House. The Isle was called Ragnarsson's Rock and while we simply called this compound of rock and Duro crete, the Burg. It was officially knows as Eyrie Ragnarsson and the Clan called it the Falcon's Nest.

While there were no native birds on Nilfeheim, it was important to know all the heraldic symbols and animals. Only the Old Clans were allowed to use Earth based heraldic symbols. The younger clans had to chose local symbols. One of the newest an youngest clans was the one of my friend Yngve. They carried four colors in their shields and of all things chose the Thick leave seaweed plant as their symbol. While it made perfectly sense as they harvested and sold all sorts of sea weed, kelp and water plants, it was another source of ridicule

Eyrie Ragnarsson was one of the oldest and biggest burgs on Nilfeheim. The Old Olafson Burg, and traditional home of my father's clan could have easily found room in our court yard.

In the winter food and supplies form the Kitchen and Work rooms were delivered to the High Halls by a Tunnel that led from the Still room below the Kitchen to the old furnace room underneath the High Halls. It was where our Hydrogen Power plant was that supplied the Burg with electricity and heat for the Great House. In the old days, so I was told there were many lights and every room was heated during long night. All this had changed with Father's reign. “He only allowed the Solar and the High Ladies rooms to be heated. The Main Hall was kept warm by a large fire place, the rest was no longer heated, not even during Longnight.

We reached the Main doors, ten inches thick. Made of Ultronit and wood. These doors were over a thousand years old, according to Greifen, big enough for allow the biggest Pertharian to enter with room to spare. A skilled artisan had carved scenes from the Book of Legends in its wings. It was a dark and foreboding scene, and depicted Ragnarök, the final battle of the Aseir.

The doors were opened for us by the Steward of the High Halls. His name was Audgisil and he was a Ragnarsson servant. He had been second highest ranking and most important of all servants right behind the office of the kammarherrar.. But Harkun the man servant of my father had taken over all the important functions Audgisil was sweeping floors and opening doors. I doubt I had ever really spoke to him. I remembered him from when I was little. The times I was allowed or summoned to the High Halls since then could counted on the fingers of one hand. He eyed me up and down and then said. “Welcome to thy future Halls , Heir of my beloved Chieftain and Lord. Word has come to my attention that the current steward of what is Ragnarsson won't be returning for a fortnight.”

I stopped in my tracks. “He is drinking in town. He be back tomorrow.”

An almost invisible smile parted the lips of the Steward and he held up a truly ancient PDD. “A wager was made and thy Sire and the lot that is his companion ship have taken the Fenrir boat to the Grå Havet Grounds.”

“Even in a fast boat that will take at least 6 days, and our Fenrir isn't fast.”

Raghild had already crossed half across the spaceous High Hall and the basket was not getting lighter so I thanked him and tried to catch up with her.

The Ceiling was at least 20 meter above us. Steel beams painted to look like artful wooden rafters criss crossed underneath the barrel vault to the arcades and rows of columns on each side of the Great Hall. The legendary wealth of the Ragnarsson Clan became apparent in the four meter high wainscoting wood panneling, made of real Oaks from Earth and Sherwood Planet. I remembered this again from Greifen who knew every such detail of the Burg.

The walls were decorated with stuffed Fangsnapper heads, swords, harpoons and shields. 12 gigantic chandeliers made of Tyranno Fin Fish bone ribs, hung from the rafters. Each Chandeliers had 36 lights set into the skull of a slain enemy form the days of the Clan wars. There were 312 of these macabre lamps. An old game for Ragnarsson Clan warriors was to point up and recite the 312 names. A full horn of ale had to be emptied with one draught after every 26th name. A wrong name or a falter would result in beginning from the start. Those counting contests could last for days and never reach the last name, but empty many barrels.

Bellow the Chandeliers were the long tables for the Clan families.to the left the red table and to the right the black table. Each lined with sixty chairs. The floor was made of the darkest granite, polished to a high shine after a thousand years of scouring and cleaning it.

Two hall wide steps led up to the dais where the table of the High Lord and Clan Chief stood. It had room for 24 chairs but currently there were only five. Father , my stepmother, the bastard sons Lothar and Tyr and Harkun. Aye Father dined with a Servant, with a man without a last name and he was raised to such honors.. I wondered how he would explain that to Grandfather, not that it appeared that he cared much about the affairs of his own clan.

Behind the Dias ended the official part of the Great Hall and culminated in the most famous part of our burg, called the apse . It was a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault and had four enormous frescoes depicting the landing of the Ragnarssons on the Rock; the Building of the Burg the slaying of a Tyranno Fin and the Victory of the Ragnarssons over the Grettisson Clan during the last Clan Wars.

At the Center and hidden behind a curtain was our Odin Altar where the Clan Eldest would make the annual sacrifice to the Aseir.

Raghild had already reached the stairs and she had chosen the left one, leading to the Ladies chambers. The right one of course led to the Clan Lords chambers, the Solaris and the Clans Weapon Chamber.

I increased my pace and caught up with her. “That's a small quest instead of an errand.”

She turned looking down. “Aye, Lord Eric and we servants must do it many times every day.”

“Quit that Lord Eric nonsense. In this house I am lower than anyone.”

We reached the top of the stairs as she said. “These mighty walls have heard many cries and many unanswered prayers, these floors have been drenched not just with blood of enemies, but with the blood of innocent and with oceans of tears.”

She didn't speak like the usual servants and there was an edge of accusation and anger in her voice.

“My father is a cruel master I am sure.”

“Not just your father, Eric,many Generations of Clan Chiefs, but aye he and that Wench of the lowest pits are indeed like demons of Hel's darkest pits.”

I followed her down the ornate decorated corridor, with soft carpets, upholstered chairs, curtains and paintings. It was cozy warm up here and the air was pregnant with a heavy sweet perfume.

I remembered the corridor, but there was no such smell while mother occupied it.

She opened the Door to the Ladies Drawing room, my throat constricted with emotion as I had been here the last time when she was alive, but it looked all different now. The furniture was different ,and there was a modern SII Serv Matic, a contraption in the corner I knew was an Auto Dresser. Not that I had ever seen one for real.

She noticed my stare and said, “Your Stepmother insisted on buying one. You could buy two Hunting Subs for the price of one and it isn't working, as the machine needs much more energy as the simple Hydrogen Converter can provide.” “Serves her right, but I am sure she will convince Father to get that sorted.” She put the bundle down on a table and took the basket out of my hands.”You should have seen the terror and pain she caused among us servants the day it was delivered. Poor Geirhild killed herself the same day.” I was shocked. “She killed herself over that?” Her eyes sparkled in anger for a heartbeat, then her face became soft. “Midril said you should not know these things, you have a terrible lot as it is.”

She moved to a curtain covered door that puzzled me and said. “It is a long time since I was here , but I don't recall a door to be there.”

She smiled. “Your memories do not decieve you, Eric. This door is new . Your Stepmother did not want to sleep where your mother died. The Fair Ladies Chamber is right behind that wall. The door has been bricked shut and covered with paneling and paint.”

I walked over to that wall and put my hand against it. I could barely speak. “Is she still in there?”

She came over and knelt before me, took a kerchief from a pocket of her apron and wiped the tears of my cheek. I felt embarrased and turned away. She was a Female and a servant and now she had seen me cry.

Her voice was gentle and she said. “I was not a servant to your house when it happened, but she is not in there and you do not have to be ashamed of your tears.” “How can you say that, being a daughter of this world? My father would strip my skin of my back for seeing a tear on my face. No doubt my Grandfather would do the same. I am a Viking, we do not cry. I am not a girl who can.

“I am a Viking too, Eric. I cry every night but no tear will see the light of day. It is improper for hight daughters to shed tears openly.”

“But servants and Freeman's daughters can, right?” “On this world of ours, women have little rights. Yet the High Daughters of rich and old clans care little for the most part as they live in luxury and have servants to their beck and call, but what about the Freemen or the slave like Low-men. What rights to their daughters have, who even cares if they cry?”

I wasn't prepared for her questions , I shrugged. “I have not spend much time on thinking about that.”

She pushed a strain of hair out of my face, “What am I saying to a 13 year old? The only woman you ever talk to is Midril, but in all your pain and sorrow. Remember you are not the only one between those walls who longs for justice.”

Only great clans and very old clans had a Kammarherrar , which was something like a Chamberlain Old Gæirmund Ragnarsson, a nephew to my Grandfather held that office. He died only a few days after my mother married Isegrim falling from the Minstrel's Gallery above the Dais.

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