Read Giants of the Frost Online
Authors: Kim Wilkins
Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Fiction, #Science Fiction - General, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Fantasy fiction, #Fiction - Fantasy, #Fantasy - Contemporary, #Romance, #Horror, #English Science Fiction And Fantasy, #Romance - Gothic, #Gothic, #Fantasy Fiction; Australian, #Mythology; Norse, #Women scientists
GIANTS OF THE FROST
Copyright © 2006 by Kim Wilkins
The Autumn Castle
copyright © 2006 by Kim Wilkins All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover design by Don Puckey
Cover illustration by Shasti O'Leary Soudant
Book design by Giorgetta Bell McRee
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Printed in the United States of America
First Paperback Printing: January 2006
Bróthir minn gerthi mér eyju.
Ek fyldi hana'sögum.
This book provided some of the toughest research challenges I've yet had to face. I claim all errors, intentional and unintentional, as my own. However, I'd like to offer my sincerest thanks to the following people for their patience and expertise.
For assistance regarding climatology and meteorology, boreal forest flora and fauna, and general scientific information and logic, thanks to Hamish McGowan and Gerd Dowidheit from the University of Queensland, John Voider of Jan Mayen Station, Fiona Gray and Rob Thompson of the Bureau of Meteorology, Katherine Howell, Lynne Green and David Wilson.
For assistance with Old Norse language and literature and modern Norway and Norwegian language, thanks to Martin Duwell, Kári Gíslason, Stefanie Würth, Vidar Skrindo and Hanne Grønsund. For island design, office space, and all assistance with boats and nautical knowledge, thanks to my brother Ian Wilkins.
For virtual horse-wrangling, thanks to Janine Haig.
For writerly support, thanks to Kate Morton, Louise Cusack, Traci Harding, Kate Forsyth, Paul Brandon, Drew Whitehead, Selwa Anthony, Faye Booth, Stephanie Smith and Jo Fletcher. Thanks, too, to my family for the practical stuff, and for the not-so-quantifiable stuff: Mirko, Mum, Luka.
Almighty love takes the sons of men, and makes of wise men fools.
She had returned, and Vidar knew this before he opened his eyes. Sleep swam away and the morning cold sucked at his nose and cheeks. His senses prickled. Halldisa was nearby.
. Most mortals came upon the earth, spent their lives, and ceased to exist forever after. But Vidar had been made a promise: Halla would be twice-born. All he had to do was wait.
Centuries of waiting.
And then this morning.
He rose and pulled on his cloak, cracked open the door and peered out. The deep slope of Gammaldal to the northeast hid the expanse of Sjáfjord. Mist hung low in the valley and the grass was jewelled with frost. Nobody in sight. No watching eyes to report back to his father, no waiting tongues to say, "I saw Vidar drawing runes in the seeing-water." The fjord would be cold, but the thought of Halla warmed his blood.
He stripped to the waist, waded into the shallows and waited—the water icy around his ribs—for the surface to still. He crossed his hands over his chest. Not a movement now, not a breath. He feared that the excited beat of his heart would make the water pulse and jump in harmony. But soon the surface became motionless.
Vidar lifted his hand. With a graceful movement, he traced a circle in the water. Steam rose where he drew. He waited, glancing all around him for watchful eyes, then focused and drew four runes in the circle. His breath crystallized on the morning air as he said her name: "Halldisa." At first he could only see his own reflection, dark hair and dark eyes and the pale morning sky behind him. But then another face formed in the water and he recognized her instantly. Storm-eyed, snow-haired. Seeing her face robbed him of his breath. He drew another rune, and whispered, "Where are you?"
Danger, extreme danger. His heart chilled colder than the fjord.
. He glanced to the east, toward the silver roof of his father's hall, which was hidden behind the miles of misty hills and wooded valleys Vidar had put between him and his family. Memories streamed through him: blood and fire and the helpless shrieks of mortal suffering. "There is no love, Vidar," his father had said. "There is only fate."
A woman's voice. His young bondmaid, Aud, had woken and found him missing. With a skilled hand he banished his seeing magic and turned to her, deliberately relaxed. "Good morning, Aud."
"What are you doing?" she asked, coming to the edge of the water.
Her smile said she didn't believe him.
He waded from the fjord, dripping and cold. "Come, Aud. You may draw me a hot bath and forget you saw me catching fish in Sjáfjord."
"I won't forget," she said, "but neither will I tell." She clearly relished being part of his secret. He spoke no further and she walked beside him in her usual besotted silence. His mind turned the image of Halla over and over; desire warmed his veins, filled his fingers and swelled his heart. This time he would make her his.
This time he would protect her from the brutal rage of his father.
This is my story and it's a love story. Mad, really, as I'm a woman who at the slightest provocation has always cursed lovers for fools. I remember one evening, drunk out of my skull after splitting up with Adam, declaring loudly to all assembled at Embankment station that "Victoria Scott does not believe in love." And yet, not long after this declaration, not long after the messiest broken engagement in the history of messy broken engagements, this story commences.
This is my story. It's a love story and it goes like this.
I found myself on the supply boat
out of Ålesund, heading for Othinsey, an island at zero degrees forty minutes east, sixty-three degrees ten minutes north, or about two hundred nautical miles off the Norwegian coast. I was sick, sick, sick. The crew kept telling me to get up on deck for fresh air, but the fresh air was awash with rain and salt spray. Instead, I lay down, feeling nauseous, on a threadbare sofa in the aft cabin, listening to the hissing of a radio that baffled my every attempt to turn it off. The ten-hour journey was made worse by the deep pit of misgivings that I mined while I should have been sleeping. Had I done the right thing breaking up with Adam? Should I have accepted so readily this traineeship at an isolated meteorological research station? Was it good sense to continue with my doctorate when academia had long since become dreary and stale for me? My mother had squawked a horrified "No!" on each count. But my mother, bless her heart, was still waiting on the big lottery win she insisted would solve all our problems. In the meantime, I had to try out some solutions of my own. Eventually the waves gentled, the boat slowed and I knew we must be entering coastal waters. I ventured up the narrow metal stairs to the cold deck for my first glimpse of Othinsey. We cruised through a passage between two enormous cliff faces into the still waters of Hvítahofud Fjord. I saw grey water and grey rock, dark green grass and trees, and painted red buildings with white windowsills. Those buildings made up Kirkja Station. Here, at the age of twenty-seven, I was about to commence my first job that didn't involve burning my fingers on a temperamental coffee machine. I was excited and terrified all at once, and felt a strong sense of… "destiny" is probably too loaded a word. Perhaps what I felt was a strong sense of being in the right place at the right time. A tall, neat man with a close grey beard greeted me off the boat. "Good afternoon," he said, hand extended to help me onto the jetty. "I'm Magnus Olsen, the station commander. We spoke on the phone."
"Victoria Scott," I said. "Nice to meet you." I picked up my suitcase and turned, nearly running into a young man hurrying down the jetty. Magnus steadied me with his arm around my waist.
"Sorry," the young man said, indicating the
. "I'm eager to have something from the boat." He was about my age, rangy and sandy-haired, and attractive in a boyish way, and he spoke in the same faintly accented English as Magnus.
Magnus presented me for inspection. "Gunnar Holm, meet Victoria Scott. Gunnar's our IT man, and he's also in charge of your induction. He'll show you around the station tomorrow."
"Remind me to tell you about the ghosts," Gunnar said with a mischievous grin, hurrying onto the boat. I smiled politely, supposing this was some kind of frighten-the-new-girl joke and wondering why Magnus still had his hand resting in the small of my back. We approached the assembled buildings of Kirkja Station, which all sat on a concrete slab abutting a dense pine forest on two sides. The fjord curved around the other two. The impression was one of civilization vainly making a stand against the deep waters and the ancient trees.
"Come on, Victoria. I'll introduce you to the others," Magnus said. "They're all at the mess hall having Wednesday afternoon drinks. It's one of our traditions."
I met all eight people at Kirkja that afternoon, and—sleep-deprived, bewildered—forgot their names as soon as they were spoken. I know them all now, of course, and it was Frida Blegen who made the biggest impression on me. Like me and Gunnar, she was in her twenties (everyone else was well past forty), and she had spiky hair, a swarthy complexion and eel-like lips. As Magnus stood there pointing out faces and assigning them names, I determined to try out some of my beginner's Norwegian. I said, "
Hyggelig å treffe deg
," which means something like "Nice to meet you." Frida snorted with laughter and I never spoke another word of Norwegian in my whole time on the island.
Finally, Magnus showed me to my cabin, one of nine laid out three-by-three behind the station. Mine was in the farthest corner to the northeast, crowded on two sides by the dark forest. I put down my suitcase at the front door.
"I assigned you this cabin as it's quieter here," Magnus explained, extracting the key from his pocket and unlocking the door. "In light of the sleeping problem you mentioned on your employee information form."
"Oh. Thanks for that." I'd had to fill out a four-page document about myself and had listed my chronic insomnia in the box headed "psychological disorders for which you have received treatment."
"The rec hall can get very rowdy at night." He opened the door and stood back to let me through, giving me six inches of distance from him for the first time since I'd arrived. "I'll leave you to it. You probably want to unpack and settle in."
I peered into the cabin. The words "chilly" and "dingy" sprang to mind. "Um… yes."
"I'll see you in the office at 8:00 a.m. sharp. It's downstairs in the admin building." He gave me a charming smile along with the key to the cabin. "I hope you'll like it here at Kirkja. Sleep well." With a wave of his hand, he left me alone.
The cabin had clearly been designed with scientists, not artists, in mind. Four perfectly square rooms, all of precisely equal size, stood left and right off a narrow hallway. Left, kitchen; right, lounge; left, bathroom; right, bedroom. There was a pleasing regularity about it. At least I wouldn't be awake at night shaving off imaginary percentages to make it even in my head. I dropped my suitcase on the dusty gingham bedspread.