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I never thought that the Ancients would bestow such an honour upon me. The time came for me to set out on a quest that would test me both physically and mentally. I was determined to make my idols proud as I set off on the long voyage, feeling like great adventurers such as Marco Polo or Leif Ericson must have felt. I learned things you never could learn within the limits of your own culture. There are some things you simply can not begin to understand without exploring it from a completely new eye. This is an account of my travels, starting from an aboriginal reserve in Ottawa.
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All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
Copyright © 2017 by Freya Abbas
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
Chapter 1: Dancing with the Dead
Chapter 2: The Dehydrated Diaries
Chapter 3: These people will be the end of me
Chapter 4: Cultures of the past, unite!
Chapter 5: Clio is a muse too
Chapter 6: A man with a sword need never lack the means of life or death
Chapter 7: The Land of the Lotus Flower and Other Adventures
Chapter 8: All Aboard the Vinland, so that we can go to Vinland
Chapter 9: Your roads and your days have just begun
Sunday, 26th October, 2014
Odawa (Ottawa), Kanata (Canada)
‘TWAS A FEW DAYS before all Hallows’ eve. All over the world, cultures would be celebrating and honouring their dead. The Satanists and devil worshippers would be carrying out their special black mass. The neo-pagan Celtics would be observing the fire ceremony called Samhain. In Mexico, people would be remembering the lives of their ancestors during dia de los muertos (day of the dead).
But alas, nothing special was going on in the city of Odawa, capital of Kanata. In a few nights, children in grotesque and horrifying costumes would be prowling the sidewalks from house to house and asking for free diabetes-causing pills in wrappers. For now though, most were asleep in their homes after a long day of costume shopping.
I was home alone in the dreary colonial city. I had been resting upon my couch, drinking melted chocolate with added chilli peppers in the indigenous Mexican way.
My parents wouldn’t be back anytime soon. They were away on one of their numerous business trips. This time, they had gone all the way to India to excavate at Mohenjodaro, the famous ruins of an ancient city dating back to the Indus valley civilization. My father was a historian and my mother was an archaeologist. Their careers required them to make many trips like that one which is why I was often home alone.
A few months ago, they had gone to Turkey to study Çatal Höyük, a neolithic age town. Another time they had gone to Iraq to help out in the shipping of ancient Mesopotamian artifacts to a museum here in Odawa, which is known by most people as ‘Ottawa’.
They were very happy about their careers and I was happy about it too, for it meant I could collect souvenirs that my parents brought back from all over the world.
I wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps and have a career relating to ancient history too. The idea of immersing myself in the study of artifacts, events, and people from centuries past appealed to me. I would get paid to do what I usually do everyday for fun, surround myself in a room full of my parents’ textbooks and a small laptop computer for looking things up on the internet. As a historian, I would rarely leave my house unless if it were for the occasional visit to the museum for the purpose of swooning over Greco-Roman statues, which I do almost every weekend anyway. My source of income would be writing books and giving lectures.
Such a career path would be made easier for me because of my magic power.
That’s right, I have a magic power. It is one that bends the laws of nature.
I can revive people from the dead.
Before you get all excited about that, let me tell you that it has some serious restrictions. I can only revive people if they have been dead for at least a hundred years, so I can’t bring back anyone who I knew personally. I also can’t bring back any people who’s legacy has survived. This means that no individual mentioned in your history textbook can come back because they were famous people. I can only revive commoners like you and I, people who weren’t ancient rulers, celebrities, revolutionists, etc. I also needed access to an object the person had touched. All this made the power incredibly useless and difficult in most cases.
Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door. Who could that have been? I checked the time. It was 11 o’clock. I remember wondering what anyone would want at that late hour. My parents had warned me never to answer the door when I was home alone, but I got up and glanced through the peep hole to find out who it was anyway.
Outside, I saw a towering, heavily built, broad-chested man. He looked like he was on steroids and was incredibly hairy. You would think he was a giant if you’d ever saw him. He had blond hair that reached a little past his shoulders. This ‘too-long-for-a-man’ hair did not diminish his masculinity in any way. He had an 8-pack, a very impressive abdomen indeed. He was probably strong enough to lift me with one hand. He had a grand, blond beard. The most startling thing of all was that the only body-covering he had was a scant loincloth despite the bone-chilling temperature. His bare chest puffed up proudly.
I was glad I knew this man and that he was my ally, because if he wasn’t he could have killed me with his bare hands quite easily. He was none other than Ragnar Sigurdsson, a professional Viking warrior and marauder. My parents trusted this man and even allowed him to babysit me when I was younger.
I opened the door slowly, still perplexed by his late-night presence.
Despite his intimidating looks, he was quite friendly.
“Greetings, Freya,” he bowed deeply.
“Hello, Ragnar. I really wasn’t expecting you at this hour.”
My words came out in an intonation tone like a question. I was expecting for him to explain why he was standing almost naked in my house at 11 o’clock in the night.
“I have brought you an ale jar to celebrate this special time of the year,” he explained.
Ragnar was one of the men who I had revived from the dead with my magic power. I had been on a trip with my parents a few summers ago in Norway, a country that was proud of its Viking age. We were at the Viking ship museum at Oslo. It was where I had first discovered my powers. My parents had been observing the Gokstad ship, a rather handsome sailing vessel, one of the the best preserved Viking ships of all time. The ship was made with beautiful oak wood and numerous shields adorned either side of the ship. Back in 850 A.D, the ship would have had a crew of 34 including raiders, traders, navigators, etc. I touched the ship, even though we weren’t allowed to, and absent mindedly had said “I wish a raider from that crew came back to life. I’ve always wanted to meet a Norse raider.”
Suddenly, much to the astonishment of my parents and the distaste of the Norwegian scholars around me, I let out a scream. It felt like a dead person had come back to life and the effort of the involuntary magic had caused me a very painful headache. I stumbled backwards, bumping into some wooden artifacts and angering the Norwegians, who had kindly received us, even more. Hoping to take their eyesight somewhere else for a few seconds, I pointed at the ship and yelled “look!! look!!”
What happened then was absolutely crazy. It was the first time I saw Ragnar Sigurdson. We all heard him singing an ancient Norse battle song before we saw him. Slowly, he had flickered into place on the deck of the ship as if he were a holographic projection. Ragnar started rowing an oar of the ship as soon as he had appeared. Some people in the museum let out a bit of a scream at the sight too.
Gradually, Ragnar began to become more aware of his surroundings. It occurred to me that I might’ve revived someone who was dead simply by wishing for it and touching an object that he had touched. Ragnar might have been killed by an arrow, shot by someone on a different ship while Ragnar was rowing the Gokstad. He stopped singing, let go of the oar and turned to face the crowd that had gathered around him.
“Greetings. I am Ragnar Sigurdsson. Who here brought me back from the dead?” Ragnar introduced himself in a heavy Scandinavian accent.
Despite that, everyone was shocked that he spoke English. The major advantage of the power I had which I still don’t understand today is that the dead person who was brought back could speak any language as long as one of their descendants had spoken it. I have no clue why or how this works, but it is very useful for finding out about historical events because you could just ask the person you revived.
Everyone shifted away from me slowly and became stoic.
“H-hi” I managed.
Ever since then, Ragnar has been my bodyguard, friend, and ale maker and he has a grudging respect and loyalty for me. He moved into a treehouse near a secret camp close to the Odawa river and frequently visited me. My parents asked him to check on me every now and then while they were away, like a babysitter.
“You know I’m not allowed to drink ale,” I finally said after a long pause on that lonely night in Odawa.
Ale was Ragnar’s favorite kind of beer. He made big batches of it every once in a while and saved it up to drink throughout the year.
“Still? I thought you turned 13!!” he said.
“Well, um…. in modern Kanata we can’t drink ‘til we’re 19,” I said.
“Nevermind, I have important matters to discuss with you and we must celebrate all hallows’ eve together!!” Ragnar replied.
It was times like that when I wondered why my parents had ever entrusted him to be my guardian.
“Important matters like what?” I asked.
“The men and women at Pikwakanagan camp are becoming restless,” he explained, settling himself upon my couch. I quickly got a ram’s horn for him from the kitchen so that he could pour his ale into it and drink.
“What do they want?” I asked. Pikwakanagan was a First Nations reserve near the Odawa river. I wanted to establish a secret camp or hideout in the woods near Pikwakanagan where the dead who I had revived could live. The native Algonquin people who lived on the reservation respected us all and kept the existence of the living dead well. They shared their limited resources with the dead who I had revived despite the fact that their community was so impoverished and neglected by the rest of Kanatian society.
“Well, they have recently been organizing a grand all hallows’ eve feast. The Celtics you revived are organizing the fire ceremony of Samhain. The Algonquins- both the ancient and local modern ones- are generously donating corn, beans, and squash for the food. The Ottoman Turks are in charge of the music. The Vikings are preparing the ale. The ancient Chinese are-”
“Yes, yes. I get the idea. True diversity. Much multiculturalism. Such beauty. Geton with it,” I demanded.
Ragnar wiped the ale out of his beard with his hand and sighed sadly.
“The ancient Greek oracle, Andromeda Karpusi, has seen a vision,” he said, “and it bothers everyone at Pikwakanagan.”
I rolled my eyes. I had respect for these people, really, I did. But their superstitions could be rather annoying sometimes.
“I don’t believe in prophecies, omens, curses, visions, or anything else that’s of a superstitious nature,” I reminded the Norseman.
“At least let me tell you what the oracle said!!” he pleaded.
“Andromeda said she saw YOU as a hero, an explorer, a warrior. You were back home in the Viking age, raiding coastal cities. You were in ancient Egypt, helping the farmers irrigate their fields when the Nile flooded. You were in Odawa again, but a thousand years ago learning the customs and traditions of real Algonquins and Odawa Sinago aboriginal people. Most magnificent of all, you were in the Aztec empire, climbing up the steps of a magnificent temple!! Andromeda also said she heard a toilet flushing!!”
Ragnar’s beard parted to reveal a toothless, wide-open smile. His eyes were excited and questioning, waiting for my reply.
I raised my eyebrows.
“A modern toilet?” I inquired.
“Indeed,” Ragnar said.
“Whatever,” I dismissively walked over to the kitchen again, this time to get more of that Aztec-inspired spicy chocolate beverage. Knowing the living dead, I had heard much more nonsensical things than what Ragnar had just said.
“Want some to mix with your ale?” I asked, pouring the chocolate into my mug.
We sat in silence for some time, enjoying the concoctions.
Finally, Ragnar spoke, “The vision deeply bothers me. I don’t expect you to understand why.”
I didn’t mention it, but I did understand. Ragnar had an excess of pride. He claimed that the people who he protected had never been hurt. If I was suddenly whisked away to another time period under his watch, well then, he would be ashamed. I put my hand on his shoulder.
“Forget it,” I smiled.
The old warrior smiled right back, revealing crooked, yellow teeth.
“Can we celebrate All Hallows’ week with a feast and some entertainment?” he asked eagerly.
These Vikings, one day of celebration wasn’t enough for them. They had to celebrate for the whole week with a feast and some type of entertainment. Long ago, the entertaining would come from bards, musicians, dancers, storytellers and poets. Now, we would just search up a good documentary on youtube and sit back.
As Ragnar cooked up an eel and filled it with goose eggs for our ‘feast’, I began to watch the documentary as I continued sipping my chocolate beverage.
It was called ‘Blue gold’ and it was about water conservation. In it, they described how a man named Pablo Valencia almost died in the Mexican-American desert.
Mexico was a place that I’ve always wanted to visit because of the Aztecs and the simple mention of the word ‘Mexico’ got me interested. I savored the Aztec chocolate.
Suddenly, my smiled faded and the warm sensation that thinking about Aztecs made me feel was gone. They described the mandying of something that I didn’t realize was so awful- dehydration.
His skin became leathery and thick, hideously discolored to an unnatural purplish-blue because he wasn’t able to breathe normally. His eyes were bloodshot and soulless. Red, waterless tears streamed from his pinkened pupils. The man seemed to have no lips. Had they shriveled up inside his mouth or simply fallen off? Worst of all, his swollen, purple skin was covered in gaping wounds. Blood poured out from everywhere on him. Who knew that dehydration could make you look like you suffocated, got acid poured onto you, and got beaten down to a bloody pulp by a guy larger than Ragnar?
“By the Gods!! That’s worse than what we used to do to the Englishmen,” exclaimed Ragnar, who had dragged his egged eel into the living room and was now watching over my shoulder.
Ragnar turned off the computer.
“That’s enough internet for one day, child,” he said and handed me the eel.
Normally, the Vikings ate pork. But I wasn’t allowed to eat pork because my parents were Muslim, so I settled for whatever else the Norse diet could offer.
When my parents were away, Ragnar was the one who had to cook for me.
I took a huge bite out of the eel and chewed. The goose egg got all over my face but I didn’t care. It was delicious.
After eating dinner, Ragnar Sigurdsson left. I stood by the door for some time, watching his tipsy footsteps in the snow. Gods, that man drunk a lot of ale! When he was out of sight, I shut the door and went to lie down on the couch.
I couldn’t sleep for some time because the video about the dehydrated man had really shaken me up. The documentary had really tried to scare its viewers into conserving water. I got up and thought about the coming all Hallows’ eve festival and how it meant a lot to the ancient Celtics and traditional Satanists back at camp Pikwakanagan. My eyes widened when I realized I still didn’t have an all Hallows’ eve costume.
I sprang up off the couch and tried to decide on a frightening costume.
“Quick, what’s the scariest thing I ever saw?” I said out loud.
“That would be the documentary about Pablo Valencia’s close brush with dead,” a voice behind me answered.
I whirled around, half expecting to see a dehydrated silhouette outlined in blood. It was only my shabti - an ancient Egyptian clay doll that could talk to me and take orders from me. My parents had given it to me when they returned from a visit to Abu Simbel in Egypt.
“That’s a great idea and it’s so scary,” I agreed, “only, how will I make a costume that looks like a dehydrated person?”
The little clay figure laughed, “that’s easy! Just don’t drink any water until all hallows’ eve. Your skin will become the costume and is sure to carry the Celtic holiday’s spirit long after the celebrations are over.”
I fearfully backed away.
“Silence, Aqenenra Imhotep!!” I commanded the shabti using his secret ancient Egyptian name. Immediately, he became quiet.
The ancient Egyptians had a belief that every person had two names, their real name, which they told to the world, and their secret name, which they kept hidden and told no one. If you found out someone’s secret name, you could order them to do anything and they would.
I sighed. When I turned around I noticed that Ragnar had left his ale jar on the kitchen counter.
“That’s weird,” I thought, “he never forgets his precious ale.”
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