March 8, 2012 § 3 Comments
As soon as I arrived at the mouth of that awful underbelly tunnel of the cathedral and got out Regina started pushing the massive tomb back into place, giving me inquisitive and rallying looks to help her out, which I didn’t, again. Didn’t matter anyway, trust me, I’m a gentleman, but she needed to be reminded at times that I can refuse things also, although she reminded me pretty often that I can’t – so it was kind of a cat and mouse struggle all the time, which we both enjoyed, if only a little.
We left quickly and quietly, the same way we came in, and Regina as a master of deceit that she was, easily remembered to lock the door back as it was, no suspicions left behind. What kind of “thief” locks the door back? That’s just wrong.
In any case, as we started getting more distance between us and the cathedral, and no I don’t mean running, we just casually continued walking as peaceful as we approached it in the first place, as we started doing that, I made a mental note that I really needed to come back here sometime, alone, and go back in that room. One would need months to go over everything that was inside it.
So I did, years later, without Regina. Don’t ask me how I got in or how I moved the tomb because that took months to accomplish. In any case, I snapped a photo for old times sake, here.
We continued walking until we arrived at a hotel where we stayed for the night, and I remember the awesome place where we actually went to eat, yes, we BOTH ate, which was rather amusing to see. For one, she’s not used to it, anymore, and two, I think she acquired so many “manners” from so many different cultures over the years that it was just a mess really. You would expect her to have more control over these things, but not really, no. She mixed them all just hoping to get something right. In any case, the restaurant was kind of special, above and near a river, I think it was an old river mill transformed into a restaurant. But that holds no relevance. What is relevant though, is the talk we had afterwards.
Regina was sitting quietly in a corner of the hotel room, on the floor, no chairs needed apparently, and just going through the book she (we) took from the crypt or chamber, because there were no skeletons buried there, so a crypt wouldn’t exactly be the term. Also, calling it a book is stretching it really. In any case, I said nothing of it and minded my own business, which was writing in the diary and making phone calls back home. I needed to do that almost every two or three days, because I was gone for a pretty long time and it’s not really a usual thing, not even for my very dear and liberal parents, to let me leave with someone who they didn’t know, someplace where even I didn’t know, for “some time”.
“I know how to find him.” She suddenly said.
I had stopped writing and was looking at her bewildered. Confused. It didn’t make any sense. First, how could she know if he’s even alive? Second, how would she know where he actually is and third – WHY IN THE WORLD WAS THERE A VAULT WITH THE SHAPE OF MY NECKLACE AS A LOCK IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I asked all of those questions, in that order.
She read that book, which apparently was written entirely for her. And she showed me. Awful handwriting if you ask me, but it was clearly written there. Everything, but somehow encoded because every single line needed interpretation. You see, you couldn’t make heads or tails about what actually everything means, unless you personally knew him, and knew him good. And there was one person in the world, one and only, that knew him good enough. Regina. It was meant for her to read.
She didn’t knew if he was alive, but she had a hunch on how to find him. And the necklace part proved out to be easy. Remember how I told you repeatedly that the necklace was hers? Well, it was, until he left with it. Not as a gift. That offered some comfort, although raised more questions. Why? Isn’t that always the question really, why?
In any case, among the last entries that we could decipher from his notes, there was one that stood out.
“I’m now done with what I was meant to do, and there’s nothing more to do for me in this world, except saying goodbye from the lands which gave me life. And if you shall need me, I will be there, like I said, offering my help. Search for me at the end of the world, and you will find me. I will not have rest until I will know that my effort was not in vain and my life was not taken away for nothing.”
This book was not written in ANY language that I had seen until that point. Trust me, it was not Latin or not even a Latin based alphabet. It was not Cyrillic, not Sanscrit. No. It looked even more rudimentary and obsolete than the Egyptian hieroglyphs for me, and yet Regina had absolutely no, and I mean NO problems in reading it like a poem, fluently and without hiccups.
I didn’t bother to ask at the time what language it was, and later on it slipped my mind to research on it. You have to understand, that was the least of my concerns and questions. It was a language so obscure that I didn’t knew, and that offered me enough comfort to be sure that I’ll rarely meet it again, if ever. I wanted nothing more to do with it.
But sure enough, fate, trust in it or not (I don’t) offered to shed some light on the matter, and take away my smugness. I wasn’t that smart after all. Because any casual walk through the same town (Uppsala) will offer the answer. Here’s the answer below.
That right there, above, is a rune stone. They are scattered around Uppsala and other parts of Sweden. On it, you see a language. That my friends is a runic language. Yes, like in those “magic” stories that you hear with rune stones and everything, these things are actually real and touchable in Uppsala.
Of course, runic languages could be, basically, studied by anyone. But to be as fluent as Regina or write a whole book in it, now for that you really need a lot of free time.
So let’s get back to the last entry in the said book.
“The lands that gave me life…” Regina whispered under her breath and before I knew it she was set to go.
“We’re leaving.” She ordered (not said) me.
“Good, I was getting bored robbing tombs anyway.” Yes, I’m that sarcastic. Once I get used to the situation.
We left Uppsala and drove for almost a whole day. Just the two of us, we kept driving and driving up north. It got colder and colder even if it was summer, and surprisingly, it got brighter.
By the time we pulled over for the final time, it was almost 1 in the morning and the sun was still shining, although mildly. Go figure.
We were almost at the border with Norway, in northern Sweden, and I don’t want to tell you that in Uppsala, it was hot and sunny, but here, we just went back to early spring, in less than a day.
Apparently in the middle of nowhere, but not really.
We walked for about two miles through… well, almost mud. The car was useless there, it looked like a path but it was really moist, so instead of taking the car we just walked until we came up to a big wooden house, painted red and with a lot of windows. It looked weird to me, but then again, I guess that’s the style they built things around there.
Regina knocked on the door just as we were visiting some friends, and when her knocking was answered, I could see that there are few places on Earth where she doesn’t know someone. You see, a really big fellow opened the door.
He was twice as me, I shit you not, and his biceps was the size of my head. IF this was how a Viking looked in the tales, then this guy was their leader. Seriously, you could not paint a better picture of a Viking.
Barreled chest, no shirt on. 10 degrees outside. Long hair, blonde but not really. It had dark stripes in it, and some stripes in-between. Those hands could crack me in half in under a second.
As soon as the guy opened the door and saw Regina, he stepped back and frowned. He looked angry. I did not want to make him angry. I did not want to even see him angry. He looked best sleeping I imagine, nobody could be comfortable around him.
“Gunnar, still alone I see. You never did listen to me, did you?” Regina said and walked inside without asking for permission.
“You’re not welcomed here, why have you come? Did you decide you finally want to die?” He replied.
Ohhh snap, I thought. This won’t end well. If this guy has the guts to speak like that to her, well then he has the means to back it up too I imagine, and he did, almost.
“Don’t make me angry Gunnar.” Regina said.
“Make you angry?! YOU?! How about me? You demon! You took my family away and then left me to be forever aware of that!” He quickly shouted back at her. I could feel his breath from two meters away. This was truly the elephant in the room, literally.
“Listen. I need your help.” Regina said. Oh?
“You? My help? I won’t even if I can!” Gunnar replied.
I said nothing, backed up and just stood there watching the whole thing. But even so, I got my share of adrenaline.
“And you? Do you know who she is? Do you know what she did to me? Are you just another of her toys? You have no idea what you’re getting into boy!” He said to me.
“I’m afraid I am…” I replied.
He said nothing more to me, looked a bit amazed that I took this willingly, but instead turned towards Regina.
“Still, you enjoy torturing children, QUEEN?” He said the last word in a mocking way, as in making a fool of her title.
“I don’t have to explain myself to you. Will you help me or not?” Regina hissed towards him.
“No, I won’t. Now leave my house.” He added quickly.
“Then I’ll help myself.” She said in a rather quiet and calm tone, and with that Gunnar was well… flying? You don’t really… I mean… You can’t imagine such a big man actually being as much as smudged, or… you would think he wouldn’t even feel it. But he did.
Regina was half his size, in all the possible meanings of the world half. Half tall, half (maybe half of half) thin, half everything. And yet she made him fly. There was no magic involved, trust me. In a quick move she was behind him and pushed him, from behind, towards the door. He literally flew the four or five meters to the door, and that didn’t stop him. He took the whole door and a chunck of the wooden wall with him, and rolled outside in the mud.
“Still using violence to make your point…” he said and this time prepared, launched towards Regina. I had absolutely no doubt that if he could punch her, it would crush her skull in an instant. But that was always her advantage, not only strength, but quickness. Agility. Those two combined are deadly, you rarely see them combined for that very reason.
He looked at me and saw me not reacting, realized I wasn’t going to, ever. And I really wasn’t. There’s no way I would as much as poke him with a stick to check if he’s dead, not even mentioning standing up to him. Call me a coward, I don’t mind. I’d like to see you in that situation.
The fact is, I was wrong with him punching. As much strength as he had, as many muscles as he had, it made little to no difference to Regina. You need to understand, most vampires obey the rules of physics, gravity, strength and all that. But Regina was so strong and so old and so fast, that she was borderline supernatural at times. She made full stops without apparently submitting to inertia. She went almost full speed in a second, again defying that very same law. She jumped higher than any animal can, apparently defying gravity. But this was all strength. It was all pure, pure strength, which came from someplace other than muscles, because fact is, when he did try to punch her, with all his might, she casually stopped his fist two centimeters from her face and pushed him back as a grown man would push a child. He stumbled and fell to his ass in the mud and, like me, was amazed. I had a feeling this was the first time he actually tried punching her.
I also had a feeling he had a death wish, because he tried again, with no result other than a broken arm. And again, I must remind you, most of them seem very strong, but inside the knowledge belt, where you can actually, although stretching it, explain the way they work. But Regina, Viktoria and a few other old ones, were really borderline supernatural. At times it seemed they can read minds, it seemed they can really hypnotize humans, it seemed that they can fly, or have infinite strength.
And trust me, seeing it in front of your eyes is like heaven revealing to you, because you instantly understand that all those myths, all those stories, come from someplace, come from true facts, but they are passed on, re-told and re-written, and the facts are distorted, exaggerated. You see, that flying thing is no more than jumping, hopping really high. But they don’t stay there, up in the air. They obey the same rules we all do.
The supernatural speed is not that much of a speed, and certainly not a total blur, although fast. But it’s pure strength. You could do it too, if you had the strength to do it. And the reading minds part, that’s non-sense. Any person who lived more than two hundred years can tell what you’re thinking or what’s your opinion on something. Go talk with your grand-parents, and dare to challenge that.
Hypnotizing? Charisma, the art of negotiation, the art of manipulating, the knowing how to choose the words, the eternal bet on making the other he has something to gain. If you have the time to gain that knowledge, the human mind can be bent really easily, add charisma and mystery to that, and you have yourself a mind-reader/mind-bender. Nothing more than knowledge.
Back to the story.
Gunnar really had a death wish, but Regina just refused to satisfy it.
“Gunnar, I’m not going to push this further. I just need two damned horses and you’ll never see me again. I hope.” She said.
“Two horses?! That’s why you came all this way?! For two horses?!” He seemed not to be that bright if you ask me, and that stereotype with the strong muscular guy but not that bright started to sound more truthful by each word he said. Of course we didn’t come all that way just for two horses.
“Go take your pick, and when you’re done with them just let them free. They will find their way.” He said sulking a bit.
“And don’t come back here again you ugly, ugly woman.” He added.
I must say, this man was one of the few that defied Regina, and hated her in the same time. I wonder what she did to piss him off that much, for that long, whatever long meant.
With no time to waste, as this was the middle of the night, apparently, we went in the barn, got two horses, with no saddle, no nothing on it. Just two horses and that’s it.
“Do you know how to drive this model?” She asked me, mocking me in return for my mockery when I made fun of her for… well… handling a stick (manual transmission that is). No sexual connotation here, really.
And I actually did. And I actually like it more than with a saddle, really. I had a horse back home, which I visited rarely, but we knew each other, and he agreed on letting me ride him whenever I came to see him.
But that was the thing, it’s rather hard to control a horse which you don’t know. You don’t understand each other, and that just makes it awkward. We jumped on the horses and with a slap on the side of the neck and a gentle push from Regina, we were off.
I must tell you, that thing with horses being afraid of vampires, that was actually a bit true. Her horse stood back, jumped and turned before actually letting her approach. She had to be as gentle as a flower, she approached really slowly, smiling, talking with the horse, standing back and trying again. Letting the horse know she meant no harm. They needed a five-minute bond really, just standing still one next to another and doing nothing.
My horse was rather more understanding. I just approached him and with a gentle pat on his head and a “Hey dude” we were friends. Really, some people talk with horses as like they are babies. “Hello buddy… how you doing…?” That’s just retarded. If you want the horse to trust you and treat you as a friend, then be comfortable with the horse and treat him as your friend also. The horse FEELS you, doesn’t understand your words. And if you have an attitude much like that which you have with a baby, that doesn’t help.
Let the horse feel comfortable, and he’ll respond the same. If he’s not a douche. Mine wasn’t, and Regina’s accepted her eventually. That, and the fact that mine was a male and Regina’s was a female. I think that helped.
But enough with the horses.
We started riding (still north, which sucked) and continued to do so for a long, long time. And when I say long, I mean we only stopped to let the horses rest, for half an hour, and then started again. I think we rode for more than half a day, and when we finally stopped I was hungry, thirsty, tired, sleepy and all that.
Regina provided. This girl could take care of herself, and me, no matter where we were.
She disappeared for twenty minutes and came back with – wait for it – believe me or not, a moose.
Drained moose, dead moose, but still warm moose.
She had her lunch, and I already had a fire going. No rubbing sticks survivor style, I had the technology! A lighter! (Yes, I was a smoker, so what?).
I had no clue on how to actually eat a moose. I had no clue how to prepare it, and she didn’t either, at least that’s what she said, because I had the hunch that she just wanted to see me make a fool of myself, she took great pleasure in that, but it was nothing ugly really, it was just a girl making fun of a silly boy. We fumbled around deciding which part I should eat and eventually I roasted the upper part of a leg, which was pretty big, and just left the whole thing there to rot away. A waste if you ask me, but it was more than I needed, and took some for the road also. At least Regina provided her big bad golden knife. I felt more grateful than ever for her carrying that thing around all the time, no matter where we went.
As for the water, there was plenty of water all around us. I drank without fearing I’ll get sick, I was too thirsty for that.
We slept for about four or five hours until the sun went mild again, not down, just tuned down.
I wasn’t cold, not a bit. Regina was radiating heat, really. She was almost burning, and with the fire next to us, it felt good enough. Nothing to cover ourselves with and still made no difference. It felt good enough to sleep and so I did.
When I woke up Regina was gone, the fire was out. As soon as I started turning around and trying to get the fire back on, Regina was back smiling.
“I thought you left me here.” I was joking, in a way…
“No, just my morning run.” Yeah really, like she jogged to keep in shape. Somewhere another moose was having his last breath I imagined. Good thing we were almost at the north pole, otherwise a human could be doing that instead of the moose.
We went back to the horses which stayed in exactly the same spot, all night, not tied down to anything. They just stayed there. I had my doubts about the “they will find their way back home” part that Gunnar said.
Still, we jumped back on them and feeling like we know each other even better (us and the horses), we started riding again.
This time, we stopped after less than 5 or 6 hours. We stopped in front of two walls really. It looked like a house, but all that there was left were two stone walls still standing, everything else was nearly leveled, with vegetation growing in the middle.
“We’re here.” Regina said.
“Here where actually?” I replied almost instantly.
“This is where Sigismund was born, and I think this is what he meant by the lands which gave him life.” She explained.
“And you think he’s here…?” I replied.
“No, but I think he might have been here before leaving, wherever he left, if he ever did.”
“So what exactly are we doing here?” I asked.
“We’re making sure he’s not dead and we’re chasing ghosts in the first place. If he died, I’m pretty sure he died on his own terms. I’m sure he would have wanted to lay with his family, which by my approximation, should be buried right here.” And with that, she was standing in the middle of the “house”.
“Who would bury his family under the house?” I asked.
“He would…” She replied.
“Start digging.” She said with a commanding voice. Excuse me?
“Me? You dig!” I replied offended actually.
“No, no. I don’t think you understand. Vampires don’t dig graves, ever.” She said.
“None of them, or just you and your superstitions?” I replied.
“It’s not a superstition. I just don’t like digging up the past, no matter if I need it or not. So, start digging.” She added.
I was pretty certain she meant it, and I was pretty certain that one way or another, she will find a way to make me dig that damn house. Also, I wasn’t in the mood of fighting with her, again, which would yield, in the end, the same result.
“With what? You didn’t bother telling me we were going to do this, so we can actually get a shovel.” I added, hoping that would get me off the hook.
“Oh but you don’t need one, it’s merely half a meter thick, maybe less. I’m fairly certain they are laid in a crypt and not the ground itself.”
That didn’t sound like a Viking burial to me, but I trusted and hoped that was the case, and started “shoveling” with a sharp rock that I found. I felt awful. I felt like digging my own grave, and by my calculations, if Regina ever wanted to make sure nobody could find me, this was pretty much the spot.
So I dug and dug, for what seemed like hours. She seemed tired and bothered that I’m not faster and made absolutely no effort in helping me. She paid no attention to the fact that my hands were almost bleeding, and just told me to hurry up. I felt like a slave really, but all that went away when I saw the look on her face when my rock hit another rock, making a noise which you can’t miss.
She was actually proud, that I managed to do this without complaining and saying anything more. This felt like punishment and training for me, in the same time. Although training, I didn’t know what for. Punishment, maybe…
As soon as we heard that sound, I stopped and stood up. She got down in the mud on her knees and started continuing what I had been doing for the past two hours, hurried to uncover everything else there was to uncover.
And she did, although she took ten minutes herself, not so fast as she thought it would be, but I welcomed the break.
By the time she was finished, underneath all that, was one big crypt, square, as to fit two or maybe three people. Nothing written on it, not even a cross, nothing. Just one big stone lid.
She started pulling on it without hesitation, disregarding the earth that was still on top. I knew she wanted to know once and for all, if her maker still walks the Earth or has been gone for ages…
And with a crack of that stone and more pulling, with me helping this time from the other side, we managed to pry the thing open. Something that was sealed for so many hundreds of years, two people with absolutely no clue what they were doing, opened the forbidden tomb. Disturbed the peace that the dead deserved…