Erik Gustav had arrived once more on the planet of his birth. This time he had not taken the Space bus bus, but arrived with his own luxury yacht, the Silver Falcon.
A terrible snow storm obscured everything behind a whirling flurry of white. The two massive snow removers fought a loosing battle.
The Clarion 7 his seventy meter yacht had just landed and already wore a thick cover of snow and so did the Volvo Flyer that waited not far from the landing ramp.
He girded Mjördaren and then stomped through the snow and the bitter cold wind. A figure thickly wrapped in furs stood by the Flyer and greeted him with a muffled voice. “Hail Lord of the Ragnarsson Clan and welcome home.”
Erik Gustav knew of course who the man was and recognized the muffled voice. “Hail Orkning it is good to be home indeed.”
Erik Gustav climed into the Skimmer and so did his trusted warrior. Reinhold another one of his trusted retainers sat behind the controls. He greeted the as usually very silent man and realized how fast he had gotten used to the always mild weather of Pluribus, as he was glad to be inside the flyer. He settled into the leathers and then he noticed the flyers bar had been forcefully opened. “Orkning what has caused this damage?” “The brutish Isegrim, thinking he owns all that is Ragnarsson my Liege. He used and commands and yet not even the Elders have confirmed him as the new chief of the Olafsons.” Erik Gustav sighed. “Volund was a honest and true Viking and I saw so much promisse in this Union, but not much happens between the walls of my old burg that does not reach my ears. While I am bound by oaths and while he becoming Clan Chie is a foregone conclusion, I have and will take steps that make his rule over Ragnarsson treasures limited and short. Now tell me how is my daughter?” “She is as pregnant as a bloater fish, my liege, still as radiant as the Short Suummer Sun itself. The midwife thinks it is any time now.”
He leaned forward. “Reinhold make haste.” He then pulled back the cuff of his gauntlet style gloves and revealed a GalNet enabled PDD and said. “System connect me with my friend Aaron Silverzweig.”
To Okrning he said. “This is a good friend of mine, A lawyer and law professor. He specializes in analyzing the law structures of alien societies and he studied the Book of Traditions.” The Viking Warrior was true to his liege and Clan Chief, but he resented the fact that Erik Gustav was off planet more often than home and he did not even want to understand or hear anything about Off World things.” Your place is here, my leige and not at a faraway place beyond the skies. What business do you , what business do we Neo Vikings have there anyway. We need them not!”
“Okrning, you are a good man and one I trust with my life, but as much as we want to we can not remain completlely isolated. For all our strength we are nothing compared to what is out there and I am the one standing guard much like Heimdahl, to keep the Nubhirs at bay.”
Reinhold listened to the conversation and said nothing. “He too was a trusted warrior but he resented the Olafson business, Erik Gustav's decission even more and he blamed his clan chief for the death of his wife. A wife that died before she could give him a son.
It was less than a decade ago in old Terran years when Erik Gustav was elected as the Representative of Nilfeheim and had left for Pluribus the first time. When Erik Gustv returned for the first time he also carried a curse to this world. A microbe, a bacteria or something of that kind and while Erik Gustav was immune due to the trreatments he had received Off World, the men and women of Ragnarsson rock were not. The fever spread fast and it made many sick, and before the decission was made to move on from home remedies to call the doctor from the Union Clinic it was too late. Hilda Hellstrom the wife of Erik Gustavson and his Gunhilde had died, killed by an off world disease. The Off Wolrd doctor even laughed it off and made fun how easy it would have been to save them all if he had been called right away.
Reinhold knew this haunted the Old Man and he very much grieved over the loss of his wife. Erik Gustav had loved his wife very much, no one doubted that. Reinhold found this however a fitting punishment from the Gods for the man who brought the disease in the first place.
He would serve his master but he was no longer the staunch defender of all Ragnarsson and so he decided not to tell the Old Man what everyone knew, Volund did not really die of an accident and that the upstart Isegrim was bedding a Nubhir herders wife instead of having eyes only for his pregnant wife.
No one could really remember a winter storm of such ferocity. Temperatures have dropped to minus ninety nine on the C – scale, but the rumbling thunder and the lighting was quite rare.
Erik Gustav could almost feel the atmosphere of mistrust and anticipation wafting like fog through the walls of Ragnarsson Rock. This was not how he envisioned the the last days of his Clan and if he was true to himself, he was not a good clan chief. A good chief was reachable and took care of his clans needs and concerns. A clan chief was more than a ruler, he was also a protector and care taker; he had not taken very good care of his.
As much as he was a man of Nilfeheim rules and traditions, he also was a Union Citizen now and no matter how many times he told himself how necessary his task was to be the Nilfeheim Representative,, he knew the true reason was that he was intoxicated by Pluribus, by being a member of the Finance and trade council. Men like Rex Schwartz knew him and respected him. He had the private access code to the President of the Union Bank.
There were other Reps that used tele-presence Avatars, they could even have hired a professional representative from one of the Representative Agencies, but that weren't options he considered.
He sat in his old chair before the massive fire place in the Lords Hall and stared into to the orange flames licking around the Tyranno Oil drenched soak stones.
Next to him sat five Elders and together they waited for Isegrim Olafson. They had summoned Isegrim and expected his summon to be answered in time, yet they waited now for over an hour before they saw the massive Olafson come up from the High Halls.
The son of Volund so it appeared had grown even bigger than the last time he remembered. Instead of a sword , he wore a coiled whip and his beard was not braided but an open mess of black curls. He wore the Clan Chief necklace of the Olafsons and the Red fur brimmed cloak, Erik Gustav had given Volund as a gift not so long ago.
Isegrim planted himself with crossed arms before the three Elder. “The Elders summoned me and here I am.”
Erik Gustav said. “We expected you to heed my call over an hour ago, but you being tardy had been a problem even when your father was alive.”
“I have chores and work. I am not an idle man.” “That is a good sentiment indeed. Maybe it will suit you well if you hire out to another clan to cast nets or help them scrub Nubhir hides. You are the husband of my beloved daughter but don't test me again.”
Isegrim glared at the older man. “Are you retracting from thy contract and word?” “No Isegrim, never has a Ragnarsson retracted a word given, as a matter of fact I wanted to make sure you know the full extend of that contract, once the Elders have completed their business with you.” The Ragnarsson chief motioned to the other Elders. “Now pay your respects to the Elders as it is tradition and just, or do you reject our laws and traditions?”
“I live by it.”
Isegrim bowed and greeted the Elders as it was required. “I have a wife that is close to give birth , the joys of fatherhood awaiting me and I tent not to be miss a moment of it.”
One of the elders said. “According to our laws and traditions I ask you here and now, are you intend to become the clan chief of the Olafson. Are you going to ask the Circle present to confirm ye in this?” “Of course, I am the first born and there is no one who challenges me.”
“You are aware of all the implications? You are then not only speaking for thyself but for all Olafson. You are to sit in the company of Chiefs at the great council and all contracts, bonds and pledges made in the name of the Olafson Clan before you are binding to you.” “Of course I know it all. I was born to this! I shall abide by the laws and traditions and accept the bonds, contracts and pledges made by those who came before me, so I swear upon the spear of Odin.”
“Then it shall be so.” All the old men rose from their chairs and the same Elder declared.” You are hereby declared Chief of the Olafson Clan and all thy peer shall recognize you as such. Your word is that of Olafson, your will is that of the Clan.”
One of the Elders handed him the Clan leader seal ring, that had been collected by them from Volund's hand. “This is your last chance to step back, you put this ring upon your hand it is done and your oath is sealed.”
Isegrim grunted and put the ring on his finger and his victorious grin was showing despite his beard.
Erik Gustav however also smiled. “Of course one of the contracts and pledges you just confirmed is this one. “ The Ragnarsson Chief produced a leather bound folder with the seals of the two clans upon it. “This is the very contract I have made with Volund and the Olafson Clan, it was sealed with that ring and by you wearing it you accepted that.”
Isegrim waved his hand. “Of course, and I know it makes the Clan chief of the Olafsons the lord over this burg and all that it represents, is that not the case Old Man?” “Almost, Isegrim, almost but not quite. It makes your first born son that comes forth between your Union to Ilva Ragnarsson the sole inheritor of it all, both Olafson and Ragnarsson and he will be Lord over it all. You are, like Volund steward.”
Isegrim was neither concerned nor surprised. “I know that too, but he will be my son and this is Nilfeheim. He is born and whatever I decide will be his.”
Isegrim cracked both seals and opened the folder and then scanned over the document. He found what he was looking for and read: the first born shall inherit the day he is declared a man before the Elders. Until then the Care taker and Steward of the Ragnarsson holdings on Nilfeheim remain under the control of the last living Ragnarsson, a retainer of twelve percent of the earnings of the Nilfeheim bound estates shall be paid annually to the Steward.”
One of the Elders said. “You remain the Steward until your son turns 16 and is declared a man before the Elders.”
Isegrim lost his grin. “I have to wait sixteen years? What happens if he dies, this is a dangerous world and I don;t intend to cuddle my son but raise him as a warrior born.”
Erik Gustavson said. “Then it is mine to decide what to do with it. The Contract dies with my future grandson.”
Neither the Elders nor Isegrim saw the midwife rushing up the stairs in great hurry, summoned by a chambermaid.
Isegrim finally sat down, and whatever he said was drowned in a mighty thunder clap. The electric lights flickered and went out. The deafening thunder was followed by loud shouting. “Fire!”
Isegrim and Erik Gustav dressed as quickly as they could and with cold masks before their faces rushed with other men of the burg to follow the shouts of alarm. Going out without a cold mask in that weather was close to suicide, a deep breath could freeze the water in the lungs. Lightning has struck into the roof of the Free man's quarters. Debris and rock pieces littered the ground before the three story house, and bright flames licked out of the hole.
Fire was rare but not completely uncommon on a world where most cooking and heating was done with open flame, but the lack of wood in building houses made house fires not as destructive and dangerous as they once had been so long ago on planet Earth.
It took them little time to reach the attic
Greifen, the yard master of the Ragnarsson burgwith a sod blackened face reported. “The lighting ignited these bales of Sea grass that we had stored here, but I don't think it will spread, Sire.”
Erik Gustav raising his own falcon shaped cold mask said. “What is done to make sure?” “We are pulling what has not caught fire yet away and we throwing snow on the flames.”
Isegrim snorted. “No sense to stand out here then. Things are well in hand.”
Lighting brightened the sky and thunder rolled over whatever he said.
Greifen looked through the hole in the roof and said. “I wonder what it is that made Thor so angry tonight?” Erik Gustav turned to the stairs. “Greifen, the generator?” “It has stopped working, no one we have knows such things. It has always worked.”
Erik Gustav did not say out loud what he was thinking but he realized just how backwards Nilfeheim really was. They really thought the gods were real and could not even service a simple generator, and yet they were part of a space faring community that harnessed the energies of stars.
“Call for service then, it is not good to be without electricity in weather like this.”
Greifen said.”I fly to Halstaad Fjord at once, my liege. Our only terminal is in the still room and it too needs power.”
Erik Gustav only nodded and turned himself to leave the Freeman house. Halfway down the stairs he was stopped by a woman in fur cloak and the blue dress of a maid, her face bright red. “Sire, the Lady she is giving birth and the midwife says we need the Union doctor fast!”
Three hours had passed since the maid had delivered the urgent plea. Even with power, the Galnet terminal was not Avatar enabled. He then learned that not even the clinic was Avatar enabled and one of the doctors of the Union Clinic at Halstaad Fjord had to come out to the burg in a flyer. The Union Clinic was technically way to small and understaffed, but it was seen as an admission of weakness to go the Union Clinic. Nilfeheim vikings first tried to doctor themselves and use old fashioned home remedies before consulting the clinic. Children were born at home and if the mother to be was lucky, important enough and of a clan she could rely on a midwife.
It had taken almost an hour to find a free doctor and while the clinic maintained a small fleet of modern very fast all weather flyers. One was not working, the two others were in use when Erik Gustav used his own PDD to call. A young Union doctor had finally arrived and was rushed into the bed room by the midwife.
The men were standing in the drawing room, each of them nervously brooding. Isegrim feared that he would have to go back to the crumbling burg when his wife died before she could deliver the twins. It was his nature to care more about that than about the young woman who was his wife, fighting for her life.
Erik Gustav was very worried about his daughter and he noticed that he had done not enough as Planet Representative. The Clinic not having an Avatar enabled GalNet terminal was something it should have had. That he had not learned from the last time, when a disease killed his own wife and did not purchased one for the burg. He was so rich he could buy one for every burg on Nilfeheim and he prayed to Odin to keep Hel away, he would then do just that.
The burg was eerie dark, the generator still not working. The only service company in town for these things was closed for the night. There was another one at Isen Lansby and he promised to come as soon as he had serviced three others first.
Without electric heat, the old fire places had a hard time keeping the big burg warm. Not that there was even enough soaked stones or Sea Weed bricks to keep them all going.
He had called the office of his company and they diverted one of his freighters, picking up a new Zero Point Power Provider and a few thousand tons of fire wood. All his money however could not make them fly faster or arrive here before the eight weeks the trip would take.
Isegrim paced back and forth and grunted. “What is it that takes so long? He is a Union doctor in Odin's name, he should be able to fix whatever is wrong in no time.”
Erik Gustav glanced at the priceless mantle clock above the fire place, an antique his family had brought from Earth a little over 2800 years ago. He had it restored by an expert only ten years ago and it kept time in a very peculiar way by pointing two arm like pointers at the circular arranged numbers around the clock's face. It was Gothorm Ragnarsson, his grandfather who had shown him how to read the time. The two mechanical hands had almost joined at the top. It was only a minute before midnight. Of course the clock kept Earth time, but since days on Nilfeheim lasted month and nights years, the colonists had kept to the 24 hour division of the day.
While he stared at the clock he remembered that one of his Assembly colleagues told him that many of the old Terran Human colonies still kept OTT, Old Terran Time. It simply seemed natural to humans and fit their natural biological rhythm. He tried to keep himself calm remembering these trivial facts at a time like that.
The larger one of the clocks hands moved with a fine almost inaudible click. Almost at the same time the bright cold white bluish light of a flash illuminated everything for briefest moment and the follwing thunder felt as if it actually shook the massive stone walls.
The door to Ilva's bed room opened and Freydis, the wife of Hogun Olafson and Ilva's midwife appeared, holding something swaddled in a blanket. “Lord Isegrim, behold thy son!”
Isegrim forgot everything, all his selfish thoughts all his plans to kill the woman and the child to gain the riches as he saw the tiny pinkish human baby. The very first thing he saw was that his son had his eyes wide open, blue eyes with a shade of gray. The baby rised his incredibly small arms towards his face. With shaking hands, with a flood of unexplainable pride and a feeling that even he recognized as love he took the infant and held it up. “Odin and Thor behold all ye aseir. This is my son!”
Erik Gustav was moved with feelings very similar. A son was born, the Ragnarsson legacy would continue. Yet the wave of pride was swept aside as he saw the doctor coming out the room. “My daughter, how is she? And where is the other baby?” The doctor said. “You should have called me much earlier. The midwife is good but your daughter had an acute and life-threatening complication in the last sate of her pregnancy, characterized by the appearance of tonic–clonic seizures. It is called Eclampsia and I had to call Med Central to diagnose and treat it right. It is virtually...” Erik Gustav yelled, interrupting the medic. “Dr. Dwyer how is she?” “I have her in a deep sleep, she will recover fully and I managed to keep the boy alive. The girl however is still born and beyond any medical help.” Isegrim still holding the baby. “My son is healthy?”
“Your baby boy is the picture of health and the first baby I ever delivered that was born with open eyes, rare but not completely unknown.”
The Midwife said. “He is a warrior born like no other, mighty Isegrim. When the doctor slapped his behind he did not cry, but clenched his tiny fist and raised his arm as if wanted to strike back at whoever slapped him.”
The baby had gotten a hold of Isegrims beard and the tiny creature smiled. Isegrim cooed . “He knows his father and his grip is strong, oh aye he is an Olafson!” Then he held the baby out to Erik Gustavson.
The patriarch of the Ragnarssons also raised the baby to his face. He had seen many wondrous sights on Pluribus and yet that rosy little boy that reached with his arms outshined all the wonders of the Universe. He reminded him of his own children as he held them for the first time, one of them being his daughter, the mother of this baby. “Hail to you my grandson, hail Eric Thor Olafson, may your life be long and your way be true!”
Isegrim said to the doctor. “My wife?”
The doctor told him the same thing he said to Erik Gustav and they all went in to see her. She looked peaceful, her golden hair like a precious veil around her. Yet even Isegrim could not fight his emotions as he saw the tiny shape covered underneath a piece of cloth on the bed beside her. He told himself that she was just a girl and he did not care for the woman or the babies, and that his true love was waiting in Halstaad Fjord. They had decided it was wisest for Gretel not to be at the Burg, especially since Erik Gustav was here. Yet as he thought of Gretel and saw his wife and the dead born girl, he decided to let her wait till the very last Longnight occurred on Nilfeheim and be a better husband and the best father Nilfeheim ever saw. Whatever hold that blonde devil had over him felt suddenly broken. His son would be the heir to all Olafson and Ragnarsson. His son, never had words more meaning to him. “The girl shall find eternal rest with the warriors and first ladies of Olafson and she will receive a send of like no other woman has ever received, she shall not die without a name. Her name will be Freya and such will it say on the Mehir raised in her memory!”
Not just Erik Gustav noticed the change in Isegrim as he came down the stairs the very next day with Ilva on his arm, carefully walking. Both decked out in their finest. Isegrim wearing full clan chief regalia, the clan necklace however covered with a black cloth signifying the death of an important clan warriors. He also wore Hevnen the sword.
Ilva in a long flowing gown of deep red velvet, with golden seams. Her hair reaching past her waist brushed into a luster, that was made gold look dull and cheap. A black veil signified her mourning.
There in the High Hall everyone living at the Burg and the Elders of Nilfeheim had been gathered. Even the low men had been called and had a chance to clean themselves. Erik Gustav waking behind them holding the baby, this time in the traditional Nubhir fur lined blanket that was the same deep red as the mothers dress and it was embroidered with the wolf heads and the silver falcon. Ilva making and embroidering this blanket in the many month of her pregnancy.
Isegrim stopped at the three step stairs that led from the so called Lord's retreat into the High Hall of the Ragnarsson Burg. Then he took the bundle from Erik Gustav and held the child high so all could see and with a booming voice he proclaimed. “This is my first born son, brought to this world by my wife the First Lady of this Clan. We also mourn the loss of my daugther Freya Olafson, who was taken by Hel.” He lowered the baby and said. “This day and tomorrow will be in her honor and I command you to strip all flags and cover all shields. To the stone cutters I say cut me a mehir and emboss her name upon it, but in ten days from today, we will gather to celebrate the naming day of my son.”
Erik Gustav said. “To send my granddaughter off to the plane of the dead in fashion befitting, I command the cellars to be opened and the kitchens to provide the finest for a feast in her honor for all of you, tonight you are all guests and no difference shall be made as what your stand might be. Tonight we are united in grief and membrance and to this the way we send of the most honored among us.”
Isegrim handed the newborn back to Erik Gustav. The Ragnarsson scion stood stood two steps higher and the tiny baby reached out and his tiny hand reached for Mjördaren.
It was of course a completely random event, but there was hardly a society in all the Universe who put more credit into signs and omen than the Neo Vikings of Nilfeheim. A collective sigh went through the assembled crowd and one of the Elders said. “Not rattles or toys are what a new born Olafson reaches for, nay but a sword. A warrior born indeed!”
A new egg shaped stone, cut from a boulder that had been dug out from meters of snow and carried to the field behind the round house. There also under a thick layer of snow were the rock mounds and rock markers of the graves of the most revered. On a planet with so little land, the dead usually received a burial at sea. The greatest warriors and heroes were burned aboard a wooden ship, the wood brought all the way from Earth. The old clans, however maintained a burial field behind the Round house and all the way to Mount Asgard. It was there where they had placed the little body of the dead born girl.