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Greyscale Landscape

Tales of the Forgotten Founders

It began long before Olav was a Waymaster. He wasn’t even a Wayapprentice. Then, he was just regular Olav Orvaldsen.

Olav was not strong or handsome. He wasn’t athletic, or artistic, or even particularly clever. He always flubbed the punchlines of jokes and he never remembered anyone’s birthday until three days after the fact. If you really must know, his cooking was nearly as dreadful as his fashion sense, his gurgling laugh made dogs howl and babies cry, and his singing voice was often compared to a bunch of rusty nails swirling around in a bucket of dirty mop water. Thankfully, Olav did have one advantage in life: he was short.

This might not seem like an advantage, but Olav thanked the stars every night for the blessing of his reduced stature. For although this meant he was even more distant from those stars than everyone else in the village of Björnvald, it also meant that he was not fit to be a viking, which suited Olav just fine. He had no interest in raiding, pillaging, or looting. In fact, he’d come dead last in Plundery at school, and when the children gathered on the village green for a game of Monks and Robbers, he was always the last one chosen for a team. Olav wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life, but as long as he was doing it on dry land, anything at all seemed fine to him.

The Falinnheim Chronicles book 3


Excerpt 1:
The Tale of Olav the Waymaster

As Olav grew up, he was relieved to notice his classmates kept growing right on past him. Every Friday he made a special trip down to the shipbuilder’s yard to ensure he could still walk clear under the sign that read YOU MUST BE THIS TALL TO RAID. He made sure to comb his hair as flat as possible before measuring, just in case an unruly orange tuft might add enough height to put him over the edge. (This also meant he was the only lad in Björnvald who combed his hair with any regularity, which made his mother happy.) By the time his twenty-second birthday arrived, he was satisfied no proper viking would ever want him on their crew.

Unfortunately for Olav, there were no proper vikings in Björnvald. These scoundrels were as improper as they come. And though they knew Olav was as useless with a sword as he was with a stewpot, every viking crew needs someone to mend socks and scrub out latrine buckets. So that night they kidnapped Olav from his own birthday party, stuffed him in their ship’s hold, and sailed off.

The vikings let him out of the dark, cramped hold the next morning, but being up on deck wasn’t any better. For one thing, the deck was where the vikings spent all their time, and Olav wasn’t eager to get any closer to them than absolutely necessary. Between their constant bickering and pungent body odor, it was enough to turn anyone’s stomach. (Or perhaps it was the rocking motion of the ship? Whatever the reason, his stomach definitely wasn’t on board with this voyage, which is why his lunch refused to stay on board either.)

After three days of battling seasickness and smelly socks, Olav was relieved to notice the return of the birds—first the seagulls, who mobbed the vikings’ meals in hopes of snatching a discarded fish head or crumbling wayfarer’s biscuit, and then the ravens, who bullied these spoils away from the seagulls—because this meant they were nearing land. And besides, ravens were known to be good luck. Legend said that the mighty god Odin kept a pair of raven messengers as pets, and Olav liked the idea that the ravens’ next stop might be in Asgard to keep the All-Father updated on the ship’s progress. At least then someone would be looking out for him. Olav didn’t care if that seemed silly, to hope that these particular ravens might be telling Odin of his troubles. He needed all the help he could get.

Sure enough, as the sun slipped below the horizon that evening, the last rays of daylight fell on the jagged cliffs of a distant island. The vikings rowed through the night, and in the fourth watch their ship reached the island’s rocky shore. The vikings had never pillaged this particular island before, but they were excited about its prospects because the large building at the top of the cliff looked a lot like a monastery. They loved pillaging monasteries. 

Captain Sigrid explained to Olav that monasteries were full of monks. This was helpful for two reasons: first, in addition to praying and doodling silly illustrations in the margins of ancient manuscripts and whatever else monks did with their time, they typically took up some type of industry to support the monastery. Each monastery had a different specialty, but it didn’t really matter what it was—whether they brewed ale or tended honeybees or baked cakes, the results were always delightfully stealable. The second advantage to raiding monasteries was that all monks took religious vows, typically including vows of nonviolence, which conveniently prevented the monks from fighting back when the vikings made off with all their ale or honey or cakes. Even better, sometimes the monks hadn’t yet spent the gold they’d earned from selling last month’s goods, which meant it was hanging around the monastery waiting for the vikings to steal that, too.

“But I don’t want to steal from monks!” Olav protested. He didn’t really want to steal from anyone, but stealing from monks who couldn’t even fight back seemed especially underhanded.

The captain laughed. “Who said you’d be coming along?” she sneered. “You’d bungle the attack anyway. You’re going to stay here and protect the ship.”

“Protect it from what?” Olav asked. But all the vikings ignored him and slunk off into the darkness to find a path up the cliff.

So, Olav waited with the ship. He had to wait a long time, and he got very bored. He wondered what was going on at the top of the cliff. Were the vikings taking a break to sample the monks’ cakes before hauling the rest back to the ship? Or perhaps the search for stashed gold coins was taking longer than expected…

What Olav did not know (and unfortunately for them, the vikings did not know either) was that this particular monastery did not brew ale, or gather honey, or bake cakes. The monks living here were blacksmiths. They spent every afternoon striking heavy hammers against their anvils, fashioning useful things like horseshoes and garden gates and even more hammers. These goods were still stealable, but they were a lot heavier to carry to the ship than cakes, so the plundering was not going as smoothly as the vikings had expected.

The second thing the vikings did not know was that because the monks spent every afternoon swinging heavy hammers (and building up some impressive muscles in the process) they had to get up very early in the morning to squeeze in all their praying and manuscript illustrating. So early the sun had not yet risen. So early, in fact, that the monks had been on their way down to breakfast when the vikings’ ship landed, and they had seen the pillagers coming.

The third thing the vikings did not know was that these particular monks had not taken a vow of nonviolence. They had taken a vow of silence instead. And with all that practice keeping quiet they were very, very good at sneaking up on people.

What does any of this have to do with Zed and Tuesday? That's what they'd like to know.

Olav's story is just one chapter in the ancient Book of the Founders.

And if the book wasn't important, the royal librarian wouldn't be going to such extraordinary lengths to keep it a secret.

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