I hear the Romans' ancient god Saturn, thrown down by Jupiter maybe five thousand years ago, has somehow managed to rise up from the underworld and is set on returning the favor meaning the fall of Western Civilization at the least and the End of the World at the most.
We Northmen aren't much on civilization of any kind and it's always End of the World time for us. The High Gods, the Earth Gods and the heroes they've sired have been holding off Ragnarok – ie: the End of the World – for thousands of years. Someday we're going to fail. Someday the final battle will be fought and the ultimate fate of Middle Earth and Mankind decided - but not today.
Not on my watch.
I am Dane, son of Woden Lord of Asgard and King of the High Gods. I'm Chief of the Asalingas and Captain of the Ulfednar; Binder of Fenris Ulf; Jotun Bane; Ring Giver – and so on and so forth for like a quarter of an hour.
More mundanely I'm Dane Calthorp (a good Northern name that) and I spend about half my life in the Middle Earth of ordinary mankind playing at being a normal teenager and keeping an eye peeled for recruits. We always need more heroes.
It's a dangerous job and a scary one. You will encounter giants, dwarves, elves and monsters of all kinds most of whom will try to kill you. And I almost guarantee you will die young and messily. Believe it or not that's the good part.
The bad part is living with knowledge that the world we know, where our mortal friends and family live, is poised on a sword's edge between ice and fire and that Ragnarok will come, inevitable as winter, and Middle Earth will fall. And in the end all you can do, all any of us can do, is to die bravely in the cause of the gods.
You cool with that? Then you were born to be one of us. You're either the child of a god, like me, or descended from one of the ancient god born lineages or maybe you're Half-Elf or Dwarf or Giant (they're not all unfriendly). You could even be a mortal chosen and blessed by one of the gods for purposes of their own. Whoever or whatever you are your help will be more than welcome.
Don't worry, we'll find you – or something else will.
Like I said Calthorp is a good northern name which has been borne by my ancestors ever since an army of Vikings decided to give up raiding (which is a lot of fun by the way) and settle down with some nice Saxon girls in what is now Norfolk. Yeah, I'm English. My mum and I live on a farm outside a village called Sustead not far from Cromer where I go to the High School though I've missed a few terms lately.
The story in the village is that I spend my summers with my American dad at his place in Minnesota, which is actually true – from a certain point of view. Dad isn't American of course but I usually do see him at least once or twice at camp which is in Minnesota.
Anyway that's how I came to be on an airplane winging my way across the Pond pretending to read my magazine and carefully ignoring the vindvaetter (air spirits) making faces at me through the window. They do this every year and usually I'm the only one aboard who can see them. Not this time.
Somebody started kicking up a fuss several rows forward. Air hostesses converged but it wasn't until I heard a kid literally howl; "Can't you see them? You've got to see them!" that I realized I'd better get involved.
A skinny, kind of undersized kid, maybe fourteen or so, with a mop of dark hair and two red spots burning on his sharp cheekbones proved to be the cause of the disturbance and pretty close to hysterical by the time I got there. Not that I blamed him. Having vindvaetter making faces through an airplane window at thirty thousand feet would rattle anybody. The hostesses of course couldn't see a thing and neither could his seatmate, an elderly lady who was starting to look more scared than angry. I tapped a hostess on the shoulder.
"Uh, miss? I'd like to offer my seat to this lady here. I'm sure I can keep the kid calm until we land." I was about six inches taller than she was and probably weighted a hundred pounds more. She thought it was a grand idea and so did the old lady and the other hostesses.
The kid quieted down but he wasn't too intimidated to mutter. "There are things out there, I see them!"
"So do I," I said quietly, "but only people like us can. Don't scare the mortals."
He gulped but whispered back. "What do you mean people like us?"
"That's kind of hard to explain," I answered. I really hate having to go in cold. Kids are usually steered to camp by a parent, a patron god or an elder hero. Most arrive clued up on the big picture at least and a few have even have had some basic weapon or magic training. This kid had the look of a half-Elf, Dokkalfar with that coloring, and somehow he'd fallen through the cracks. I tried one of the usual scenarios on him.
"I'm guessing your dad disappeared when you were a kid and your mum doesn't like you to ask questions about him, right?"
The red spots were fading and he was starting to look more bewildered than angry, "Wrong. Both my parents died when I was little. My grandparents raised me."
Oh. Ouch. That explained everything. "Then I'm guessing something happened. Something weird and scary that made your grandparents remember what your mum or maybe dad told them about a place in America, a special school or camp they should send you to."
"Yeah," he said slowly, "Yeah, you've got it. My Da was very set on me going to this place in the States when I was old enough. He gave Mum money for it and everything. But then they died and Gran and Gramps didn't want to send me so far away. They thought we should save the money for college."
"But something happened. Something really bad or really weird," I guessed.
"Mostly weird," he answered. "But kind of scary. I started having these dreams. There was this girl and she looked just like me, like she was my identical twin sister or something-"
"Your Fetch," I said. And it is never a good sign when your Fetch shows up.
"A sort of guardian spirit," I explained. "For some reason they're always of the opposite sex. What did she say?"
The kid shrugged, "She kept telling me not to be afraid and that everything would be all right – but there was nothing to be afraid of and as far as I knew everything was fine!" He swallowed hard again. "Then one morning we got up and there was this huge puddle of blood at the foot of the steps to my room. Well it disappeared while we were looking at it and we decided it'd been a trick of the light striking a dip in the floor or something."
I tried not to roll my eyes. Denial is not just a river in Egypt!
"But then it was back the next morning and the next. And my dream girl was getting kind of frantic. Finally I told my grandparents about her and that she'd said I had to go to America and that's when they told me about Da's camp and the money…and we decided I'd better do like he'd wanted."
"Smart move," I said. "Shame they didn't have any way to contact camp, I could have met you at Heathrow and saved us a scene. What's your name anyway?"
Ah, of course; "From Skye, right?"
"So you must know all about the Fairy flag of the MacLeods?"
Skander looked over his shoulder at the vindvaetter mowing at him on the wing. "Right. I suppose you're about to tell me that it really is a gift from the fairies?"
"From the Dokkalfar – Dark Elves - actually," I said, "your clan's been mixed up with them for centuries. Your dad was a Dark Elf -" and with that I went into the standard orientation spiel - See above.
The air hostess looked kind of shifty eyed when she asked us to please wait until the other passengers debarked before getting off ourselves. I gave her a bright, cheerful smile and when she'd moved on turned to Skander. "Okay, we got to get out of here."
"But – she asked us to wait -"
"Right, for terminal security, we haven't got the time. We've got a bus to catch."
"Bus? What are you doing?"
What I was doing should have been pretty obvious; I was climbing over the back my seat to kick open the emergency door. The slide inflated I grabbed Skander and pulled him after me. He made a bad landing knocking most of the breath out of his body.
"Luggage," he wheezed.
"Forget about it," I answered looking around the tarmac for pursuit. "We can kit you out at camp." I saw a tram coming right for us. "Run!"
I guess the tram wasn't about us after all as it didn't give chase. "Well," I said after a lot of dashing and dodging and a few near misses with landing aircraft, "I've got to admit that's one of the easiest escapes I've ever made."
Skander dropped breathless onto the bench inside the bus kiosk. "You…you do this kind of thing often?" he panted.
"All the time," I answered kind of absently trying to watch all directions at once. Skander started as a siren sounded in the distance then it was drowned out by the roar of a deep diesel engine and a grinding of gears as a big silver bus with a longship logo painted on the side slammed to a stop right in front of us.
The doors clashed open. I pushed Skander up the steps ahead of me. The doors closed cutting off the sound of the siren. "Go!" I shouted at the driver.
"Gone!" he answered and hit the accelerator.