Well, all sorts of things have been going 0n. Some good, some not so good. I should get some write ups done soon, but in the meantime here’s another piece of Stand Still, Stay Silent fanfic that I whipped up for a challenge on the fan forum. It will not make a huge amount of sense if you’re unfamiliar with the source material, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right? 😉
Prompt: An expedition and/or refugees from a safe zone somewhere beyond the ocean land in Iceland, where Reynir is tending his sheep.
Hallo Good This Him
Even the most optimistic of individuals would be hard pressed to describe watching sheep in a safe zone as an exciting way to spend a week.
There had never been any wolves in Iceland. Even before the Illness. The winters were too harsh for wild dogs to get established and the foxes and ravens were only a threat to sick or newborn lambs. A beast of some kind might occasionally lumber out of the ocean or sneak in in the hold of a cargo ship, but the Coast Patrols and the Customs Cats reliably took care of those. Iceland was safe, safe as could be, and the only threat to its sheep was their own stupidity. And – taken as a whole – they weren’t terribly stupid.
Which made Reynir Árnison wonder why his parents were so insistent on sending him out to watch them for a week.
“It’s time you got some fresh air young man!” they’d said, pushing him out the door while shoving a sheepskin bag full of food into his arms. “How long has it been since you’ve spent any time with the flocks?” He’d protested that he’d been getting plenty of fresh air doing the farm chores and he’d spent several days minding the flocks just that week, but they’d refused to listen and ordered him to take the animals on a week long walk around the moors, firmly shutting the door behind him. He’d spent the first two days wondering why they were so insistent, and eventually decided they just must have wanted some time alone.
Which was well and good in principle he supposed, but after days of watching his woolly charges munch on grass and low shrubs, and throwing sticks for Bjössi the sheepdog, he was rapidly approaching his boredom limit. The most exciting thing to happen all week was a ewe tumbling down a slope and being either too stunned or too woolly headed to find its way back up. He’d briefly considered herding the entire flock to the top of same hill in the hopes of a few repeat performances, but decided it would be unnecessarily cruel.
Today, on the leg of his trip that took him closest to the ocean, he’d herded the flock into a small valley, set Bjössi to watch them and sat down in some hillside rocks to concentrate on his carving.
He’d taken up carving the previous winter and was finally reaching the point where the results resembled what he’d envisaged, rather than a potato confounded by witchcraft. Currently he was finishing up a kitten. It was posed in a crouch with its nose to the ground and its rear end and tail up in the air. Overall it was looking quite good he thought.
He was just cleaning up some details on the paws when Bjössi let out the quiet “voff” that meant “strangers”. Reynir looked up, expecting to see an errant naturalist or a wandering shepherd from one of the neighbouring farms, but instead beheld three strangely dressed figures walking down the opposite side of the vale.
They were garbed more or less identically in what looked like some kind of military fatigues made of a heavy, dark fabric. Each was adorned with a series of pouches and bore a large pack – with a rifle strapped across it Reynir noticed slightly nervously. Their heads were encased in hoods with large glass portholes that glinted in the sun. One of them was waving a metal rod – attached to their backpack by a wire – around in the air, staring closely at it, then waving it around again.
Reynir didn’t think they’d seen him. After thinking about it for a minute he stood up, and waved.
The trio halted. They seemed to confer and after a few seconds one of them waved back. All three resumed walking, straight towards him.
Reynir waited, swallowing hard as he wondered if he’d made the right decision.
As the trio drew closer Reynir could make out more details. They were definitely dressed in uniforms, with badges glinting on their collars and chests. They wore heavy boots and gloves, and some kind of breathing apparatus was attached to the front of their hoods. A blue and white insignia was stitched onto their shoulders although he couldn’t quite make out the details.
Coming up the hillside, the lead figure – whose collar Reynir noticed was decorated with a pair of golden leaves and a crown – raised his hand in what was clearly a greeting. Reaching Reynir’s position he pressed a button on the side of his breathing mask and an amplified voice rang out.
“Hello!” responded Reynir.
“Parleh vuh fronseh?”
The figure sighed. He (it was a he Reynir thought) turned towards the other two and gave a surprisingly expressive shrug. He turned back to Reynir and spoke again, seemingly with some reluctance,
“Duhyuh spick hingleesh?”
Reynir wasn’t entirely sure, but he though the man seemed somewhat relieved. He turned to the taller of his companions and muttered something that sounded like “Fotreh door shone poll”.
The tall figure nodded and stepped forward, pulling a small, but nonetheless fat notebook out of one of his pouches. It looked well used, with a fraying cover and various loose sheets and cloth markers poking out from between the pages. As the man flipped rapidly back and forth through it, Reynir noted that among the badges pinned to his chest was one shaped like a book – although a much neater one.
Apparently having found what he was looking for, the man pressed the button on his mask and cleared his throat, and commenced speaking in a loud and slow voice.
“This us some ocean having crossed between elected soil of holy river lor-rence bring this him hallo good this him those enslave this we discussion about desire big do”
He peered at Reynir hopefully.
Reynir considered this stream of heavily accented gibberish and came up with the best response he could.
The book man’s shoulders slumped. The other two exchanged what seemed like meaningful looks and the one with the metal rod stepped forward and ran it up and down Reynir’s braid. It beeped.
“I’m sorry, I only speak Icelandic” Reynir explained, doing his best to ignore the person with the rod who was now waving it around a politely intrigued Bjössi. “Ice-land-ic“.
The book man held up the notebook,
“Best Icelandic having” he explained grimly.
“Do you speak Norwegian, or Swedish, or Danish? We could go back to the farm and I could find someone, there’s a Dane at the Gunnarsson farm I think, or there was last summer and…”
“Best Norwegian, best Sweden, best Dane” the book man interrupted holding up the notebook again. “Stitching is this him words through books and elderly broken”.
Before Reynir could decipher this, the leader – he’d decided that the man with the crowns had to be the group’s leader – stepped forward and grabbed the notebook from the book man’s hand. They proceeded to have an animated discussion involving a lot of arm waving and shouting, at the end of which the leader violently shoved the notebook back at the book man – who was some kind of Skald Reynir now reasoned – and strode off several metres, staring at a distant mountain and muttering darkly. The Skald turned back to Reynir with an apologetic expression.
“That him” he nodded towards the leader “need think, is this the place monsters and want vomit?”
Reynir considered this.
“Well…” he started “There’s no monsters around here. Usually I mean. And if he needs to… vomit… I guess there’s the bushes?” he pointed to a low clump of vegetation being gnawed on by a ewe. The wand bearer – who Reynir was mildly surprised to realise was female – rushed over and waved the wand around the branches. It made a series of beeping sounds which she seemed to find dissappointing. She started waving it around the ewe instead.
“Want vomit” the Skald elaborated “Uh…” he coughed theatrically and mimed frantically scratching his arms and neck before raising his hands into claws and growling.
“You mean the Illness?” realised Reynir “No! There’s no Illness in Iceland. Ever!” The Skald looked blank. Reynir tried again “Iceland no want vomit. No no want vomit!”
“This Iceland no want vomit?” asked the Skald, obviously catching on. “This Iceland no never no want vomit?”
“No never no want vomit!” confirmed Reynir “Iceland no monster, no want vomit. And it’s not want vomit, it’s the Illness“.
“Thee-eel-ness” repeated the Skald, pulling out a pencil and making a note in his book. He walked over to the leader and they had a brief conversation, during which the Skald pointed at his hood.
The leader exchanged a few words with the wand-woman and then shook his head. The Skald sighed.
“That him not specificity this speed” he explained.
“Ah” Reynir sympathised.
The leader spoke up again. The Skald consulted his notebook and translated.
“Where place the head?”
“Uhhh…” Reynir commented while trying to process the sudden change of subject “On a pillow?” he finally suggested.
“Onapillo this the head?”
“I don’t have a pillow with me, but you could roll up my cloak and use that if it would help? That’s what I usually do.” Reynir suggested.
The Skald considered this and apparently decided to try again.
“Ray-kee-a-veek the head?”
“Rey-kee-a-veek…” Reynir had a sudden burst of understanding “Reykjavík? Do you mean Reykjavík?”
The Skald’s eyes lit up with excitement
“Rey-kee-a-veek! Hwee! Rey-kee-a-veek! Where place this Rey-kee-a-veek?”
“It’s…” Reynir paused, his excitement fading. “I.. I don’t actually know. The coach road goes there but I don’t even know how many days it takes.” He muttered miserably “I’m sorry! I’m terrible…”
The Skald looked sympathetic. He pulled a compass out of a pouch.
“This Rey-kee-a-veek northing, south, east and easting?” he pointed to the markings on the compass.
Reynir pulled himself together. He knew the right direction even if he wasn’t sure of the distance.
“West” he said firmly, pointing at the appropriate marking, which for some reason was labelled with an ‘O’.
“Easting?” asked the Skald.
“That’s west” Reynir corrected. “West“.
“Bee-en sewer!” muttered the Skald, slapping his forehead theatrically and making another pencil note “Hwest!”. He walked back to the leader and they had another short conversation during which Reynir could make out the repeated words “Reykjavík” and “kapitaleh”. The wand woman, apparently running out of things to wand at, walked over and joined in. After a minute or two the leader nodded. The Skald walked back to Reynir.
“This us turning again across vessel, sheets to Rey-kee-a-veek.” He pointed towards the coast. “This us thanking this him”. He nodded politely and started striding away towards his companions, who had already set off and were halfway down the hillside.
Watching the strangest – but at the same time most interesting – people he’d ever met walking away, Reynir was struck with a sudden notion. “Wait!” he shouted. The group paused as he ran up to them.
He reached into his bag and pulled out the wooden kitten. “Take this. For luck!”
The Skald took the kitten and looked it over closely. He showed it to the others, then placed it gently in one of his pouches. He then pointed to his chest. “Shone Poll” he pronounced carefully
“Reynir” replied Reynir, pointing at his own chest.
“Mersee Renee-a” said Shone Poll. He reached up and unclipped a pin from his collar and held it out. Reynir took it.
“Thanking this Renee-a. This banner for bringing good happen this you.” He saluted.
Reynir – much to his own surprise – saluted back. The leader and the wand woman both nodded to him, and the group moved off, heading down the hill back towards the other side of the valley.
Reynir watched them go. Once they’d passed over the ridge of the far hill he looked down to examine the pin. It was a deep blue flag decorated with a white cross – centred, unlike the ones was used to – with a small white flower in each of the quarters. A large leaf, looking not unlike one of Bjössi’s paw-prints, was overlayed in the middle, picked out with silver.
He clipped it to his cloak and ruffled Bjössi’s head.
“Well.” He reflected. “That was… interesting”
A pathetic bleat rang out. Reynir looked down to see the same sheep that had rolled down the hill, now with its leg inexorably stuck in a rabbit hole.
Strange visitors or not, sheep were still sheep. He sighed and started down the hill.