The Gothi of Maljen sat across the small round table, still wearing a happy grin. Andreas Hahn, known on Adar as Ivar Godfrid, formerly of the University of Uppsala, was undeniably delighted to see Tyler. Kobu, wearing his black samurai armor, sat on a chair positioned behind the wooden door, his weapon now in daisho form in his belt. The mage was also glad to see the young man, one of the few visitors from the First World, or Earth, he had met. There was Liam, of course, but that one was already back home.
“Man, you don’t know how happy I am to see you,” said the Gothi.
“You keep on repeating that, Ivar,” Tyler replied with a wry smile.
“I know. But knowing what I do now, the few scraps of information obtained from various sources, reluctant deities included, I am sure glad to see you’re alive. Though Kobu here was the least talkative of the lot. All he would say was he’s not at liberty to divulge anything without your permission. I love that get-up though. A samurai! A real live one! In full armor, no less! Without the helmet, of course.”
Tyler just grinned.
I wonder what his reaction would be when Tyndur arrives? An einherjar would send him right through the roof. The warrior and ranger had not yet arrived, and Kobu offered no information about Tyler or the party. From what Tyler gathered, the exile was instead generous about sharing knowledge about his homeland though not about himself.
“And I heard you can do magic! And a High Mage at that! I don’t know how you did it, but believe me – I. Don’t. Want. To. Know. Normally I would be envious, but from what I heard, that’s a job which definitely isn’t me. But I wouldn’t say no to an exhibition later,” continued Ivar with a flippant bow.
“Of course, Ivar,” he laughed. Ivar was one of the few persons or beings he considered as close friends, even if the man was a priest of Odin. It could be their connection as both being from Earth, but he appreciated Ivar’s attempt to tell him what he could, within the constraints laid down by the head of the Nordic pantheon. Though Tyler had to admit his distrust of old eye-patch had considerably lessened.
“And you got married!”
“Yep,” the mage confirmed with a shy smile.
“I could say that I am not happy with not being invited to the wedding, but I was informed it was an informal affair. Extremely informal and exclusive. Nobody was invited,” Ivar chortled loudly.
“Please keep the information to yourself as much as possible. I don’t want to risk Eira’s safety.”
“Eira. At least now I know her name. Nobody wanted to tell me any other details actually, except that it’s the Lady of Fossegrim Forest. Maljen is lucky to have a High Mage in its environs. Don’t worry about the information. I’ll keep it to myself. If I hear something bad approaching Fossegrim, I’ll go there myself with what forces I could raise,” said the Gothi.
“Thanks, Ivar. I really appreciate that. You’ll meet her one of these days. I’ll work out an arrangement for her to send you a message if the forest needs assistance.”
“So, I guess you’re going to settle here? That your mind is already made up?”
“Yes. Strangely, that gave me a more stable frame of mind. Accepting Adar for what it, I guess,” replied Tyler.
“I understand that, Havard. I went through the same confusion and denial period. Trying to work with a First World perspective in a magical and relatively primitive world. I couldn’t accept Adar and its… unique norms for some time. Especially the brutality and questionable moral issues. I guess, like you, I thought there was a change of going back to Earth, and deep down, I didn’t want to lose my First World sense of reality,” remarked Ivar. “It was only when I accepted that I’d be here for the rest of my life that my wrestling with moral and judgmental issues stopped. Of course, the realization of the time dilation effect also helped. Your arrival and the information you gave me only reinforced my conclusion that my decision was correct.”
Tyler nodded and glanced at Ivar.
“I did find a portal back to Earth. One of those one-way things. But I gave the chance to go back home to another visitor, Liam. An Australian.”
The look on Ivar’s face was beyond description. The mage wryly smiled as he took in Ivar’s slack-jawed and stupefied expression.
“Don’t get your hopes up, Ivar. It was a portal of another race. An ancient one, very powerful, and extremely deadly to ordinary humans. They look upon us as mere resources or tools. A source of flesh, bones, and souls. Way beyond most of the pantheons expected or practiced. Oh, they were humans once but now of a different level. More like deities. Very dark and more formidable ones. But they are abominably focused on bringing over their revolting gods to this plane of reality. I was just lucky.”
“Sire.” Tyler heard X’s warning voice and realized he just told Ivar something the mage wanted to keep secret. And Kobu was also in the room.
“Though I would suggest keeping that bit of information to yourself. I don’t know how the pantheons would react if they knew they have a bigger problem on their hands,” quickly added Tyler. He turned to Kobu.
“You too, Kobu.” The exile merely bowed in reply.
Ivar gaped at him.
“Lovecraft?” was all the Gothi said, though in a low voice.
The mage didn’t understand the expression but sympathized with the tone of the priest. The Gothi gave a shudder.
Oh, he reads Lovecraft too.
“And you faced off against their kind? As I said, having real, extremely powerful magic is a nice ability, but I don’t think I could handle the kind of responsibility that comes with it. The stress must be intense. Like in your case.”
“I did learn to live from day-to-day, and I have companions to help me. But you’re right. The job description was outrageously brutal and unforgiving.”
The Gothi could only shake his head.
“Anyway, enough bad memories. How’s your plan for a center for magical arts coming along?” Tyler asked, remembering the Gothi’s grand plan.
“It’s already being implemented. Though the site had been moved to the coast because of one significant consideration,” answered the priest.
“And that is?”
“I’ll tell you later. After I show you your surprise,” said Ivar with a secretive, funny grin.
“It’s not my birthday, Ivar. But I believe your boss mentioned something about a surprise,” countered Tyler.
“I know. You want to see it?”
“Of course! What did you think?”
An hour later, the trio found themselves on a beach some distance from the town. The area was inaccessible by road, and virgin forest greeted Tyler when they waded to the shore from the karve. The water was shallow, and the ship was able to navigate close to the beach.
“This is the site for the new center,” said Ivar when they stood on the beach, the cold water lapping at their feet.
“No road?” asked Tyler.
“No. I am still thinking about that part – whether to make it relatively out-of-the-way or have a road leading directly to town. Maljen is not far, about five to six miles that way.”
“A road would be necessary, considering the reality on this world. You might need to help the town,” volunteered Tyler.
“True. Though the distraction of a town might affect what the center is for – a center for magical studies and regulation.”
“Worried about mages sneaking off to go whoring or getting plastered?” laughed Tyler.
“You got it in one shot. I’ve seen a lot of mages in Skaney, and they’re human, despite the magical abilities,” commented the priest. “Considering that battle magic is going to be one of the areas of specialization of the institution, warriors of both sexes would also be around. It’s bound to be a disciplinary nightmare unless we prepare for potential problems.”
“The potential issues won’t go away, you know. Remoteness will just turn the focus of temptations inward, and you’ll have to contend with the smuggling of liquor and women into the center. Not to mention watching out for nightly trysts,” added Tyler with a chuckle.
“You’re right. A road then,” replied Ivar, looking in the direction of the town. Then he turned to the mage.
“Now then, for your surprise,” the priest grinned broadly. “Care to guess what it is?”
“Nope. I absolutely have no idea. Though I’d be happy with a revolving-door portal to Earth.”
“Me, too. But from what lore I’ve read, they’re one-way gates. Now, turn around,” said the priest.
Tyler did as the Gothi asked. Kobu followed suit after a last examining glance at the surrounding area.
“What do you see?” asked Ivar, excitement palpable in his voice.
Tyler observed the seascape before him. Only the dark blue of the restless waves and a large flat island about three miles offshore greeted him.
“What am I supposed to see? The sea?” he eventually asked after a few minutes.
“The island, idiot. It’s for the High Mage. Leading deities of the Norse and Greek pantheons raised it for you.”
Karve – A type of Norse ship, primarily used for coastal or shallow waters.
(Please refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karve_(ship))
Skit – A Swedish profanity, meaning shit or damn.