The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Lindorn of Storsjon
From : K S Pyke
To: Operatives: Robert Montague Flint, Mal Harris, 'Loki', Daniel Masterson,
Harriet Shen, Michael Stockton.
Subject: The Lindorn of Storsjon
Rendezvous: Heathrow airport, 0730 hours, 11 September 1998.
Destination: Froson, a small island situated in Lake Storsjon, in central Sweden. The island has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Traces of a 4th century settlement called Mjalleborgen have been discovered by archaeologists on the hill of Oneberget. The island takes its name from the later Viking settlement. 'Froson' is derived from the 'Fro,' a pagan god of fertility. The island boasts a fine 11th century church with detached bell tower. The settlement around the harbour is little more than a large village, although there are also some isolated habitations along the cliffs. In more recent years, a large hotel, the Hotell Lindorn, has been built in order to capitalise upon the local tourist trade.
Travel arrangements: From Heathrow, you will take the 0745 SAS flight to Stockholm. From Stockholm airport you will catch the 1010 Transwede flight to the airport of Sandviken, the largest island in Lake Storsjon. Arrangements have been made for a guide to meet you at the airport and lead you to the harbour, where you will be taken to Froson island by the local ferry. Your tickets are enclosed with this communication.
Cover: You are researchers for a series of guide books due to be published under the series title, Scandinavia Welcomes. You are collecting facts for Sweden Welcomes, including details of local culture and folklore as well as lists of commendable hotels and tourist resorts. The proprietors of Hotell Lindorn have been given to understand that a special mention for their hotel may well result from your visit. Since they are granting the 'researchers' the benefits of their hospitality free of charge, you are asked to refrain from abusing their generosity.
The lindorn is a recurring motif in Norwegian and Swedish folklore. According to myth, this creature is a large freshwater serpent, often described as possessing pointed ears, a ring about its neck, protuberant eyes and a horse-like mane. Traditionally, its head is like that of a horse or a dog, but with a crown or ridge along the top. They are said to be capable of travelling across both land and water, although inland lakes are their home. Reports of its size vary greatly. Superstitions concerning such creatures have developed around numerous Scandinavian lakes, including Lakes Klovertan, Varejell, Mjosen in Norway, Lake Kildevaeld in Denmark, Lake Loukusa in Finland, Lake Kleifarvatn in Iceland and Lake Storsjon in Sweden.
The lindorn reputed to reside in Storsjon, however, has accrued so many reported sightings over the centuries that it has been styled the 'Swedish Loch Ness.' The lindorn, or the Storsjoodjuret (Great Lake Monster) as it is called by the locals, is now a tourist attraction. Even the runestone, found in the 4th century settlement of Mjalleborgen, is linked in popular folklore with the monster of the lake.
The History of Froson
4th century: The Bronze Age settlement of Mjalleborgen is established upon the island. Archaeological study appears to indicate that the settlement was destroyed and burnt at some point in the late 4th/early 5th century, perhaps by an invading military force.
6th century: The Viking settlement of Froson is established.
11th century: The first Christian missionary, Ostmandur, son of Gudfast, arrives on the island, and succeeds in converting its inhabitants. The 'Froso kyrka' or local church dates from this period.
1030: King Olaf of Norway collected mercenaries whom he met by the side of Lake Storsjon, before proceeding to the Battle of Stiklestad, at which he met his death.
1349-50: The Black Death ravages the countryside. The region is rendered all but uninhabited. Settlements only gradually re-establish themselves over the next century or two.
1795: In an unexpected and violent storm, two fishing boats are lost. There are no survivors. One girl returning from a late night walk a few days later reports having seen the moonlight reflected in the water stained with a reddish tint.
1800-1890: There are numerous reported sightings of a lindorn in Lake Storsjon.
1894: Dr Peter Olsen, a zoologist, collected 22 reports of lindorn sightings since 1800 at Lake Storsjon. That same year, in response to the publicity created by this research, King Oscar II founds a company to catch the animal. A trap is set for the lindorn, using a number of live piglets as bait. A Norwegian harpoonist was hired to lie in wait. This trap met with no success.
1928: Archaeological research uncovers traces of Mjalleborgen.
1939: A group of children, visiting from a school on the mainland, go missing from one of the Froson beaches. The only survivor, a young boy whose crippled legs prevented him making the descent of the cliff path to the beach with the others, is clearly suffering from shock, and refuses to discuss what had happened to his friends.
1946-65: The region becomes something of a tourist resort as the local skiing industry develops. Much of the surrounding land is developed.
1965: A hotel is built on Froson island.
1984: Archaeologists digging behind the altar of the Froso kyrka find bones of pigs, deer, bears and squirrels. It is judged that these are evidence of the ancient cult of the 'aesir,' the pagan water gods.
1989: The old hotel succumbs to subsidence, and is replaced with a new. The founder of the new hotel moves to the island with his family.
1991: Ingvar Njalsonn, the hotel owner goes out for a swim in the lake, and does not return. No body is ever found.
1992: A branch of the 'White Aryan Resistance' (otherwise known as the VAM) is forms on Froson. This group style themselves Swedish patriots, and oppose the presence of immigrants and tourists in Sweden. Despite their connection to the larger nationalist movement, the Froson group adopt a more mystical pose, and claim to be protecting the lindorn which is one of the sacred guardians of the secrets of Sweden. Many are arrested for vandalising tourist posters, removing footpath markers and threatening visitors to the island.
After a fuzzy photograph, allegedly of a lindorn, achieves a certain degree of local celebrity, another cult, 'The Children of the Lindorn,' is set up on Froson island.
1994: A small ferry, the S/S Stiklestad, is beset by a sudden storm while travelling from Froson to the mainland town of Ostersund. Of the six crew and twenty-three passengers, only a French tourist named Gerard Dubois survives the disaster. No adequate explanation is found for the severity of the shipwreck.
There is an increase in sightings of the lindorn in this year. The 'Children of the Lindorn' claim to have summoned it by swimming naked in the waters of the lake.
1996: Gudmund Njalsonn, son of the previous owner, sells the hotel to Gunnlaug Gunnlaugson, the owner of a chain of Swedish hotels. The hotel is renamed The Hotell Lindorn. During the re-opening ceremony, Gerard Dubois bursts in bearing a harpoon gun, and shoots Haarkon Cormac, the leader of the 'Children of the Lindorn.' Cormac is struck in the shoulder by the harpoon but survives the attack. Dubois is placed in a psychiatric institution.
Your mission: In the interest of further investigation into the Unexplained, SITU would like to gain establish whether some species of water serpent unknown to science inhabits the waters of Storsjon. If you should acquire confirmation of the existence of such animals, SITU would like to receive concrete evidence for analysis, e.g. samples of tissue, photographs of unambiguous quality. 'The Children of the Lindorn' and the 'VAM' group should also be investigated, in order to establish whether either cult is possessed of any paranormal abilities, or has any genuine link to the Storsjon lindorns.
Contacts: Gunnlaug Gunnlaugson, owner of the Hotell Lindorn, has been notified of your time of arrival. You will be met at the airport by one of his staff, Thorveig Hylten. De luxe rooms have been reserved for the period between the 11th and the 28th September inclusive.
Expenses: SITU will reimburse Operatives for all reasonable expenses incurred during the investigation. Receipts will be required.
General advice: All operatives should be aware that, while they may choose to operate outside the law, they are not above it. SITU does not condone unlawful activity of any nature. Note that SITU will not act on the behalf of an Operative who is cautioned, arrested, charged, etc in the course of an investigation. Indeed, if an Operative were to attempt to contact SITU in such a situation, he/she would find all telephone numbers unobtainable and all addresses unoccupied.
The Lindorn of Storsjon
Leaving behind the smoke of Stockholm, the plane enters a new world of shining blue air. There are no clouds, and those in the window seats are treated to a giddying but glorious uninterrupted view of the landscape below. As the plane flies over the Gavleborgs, the southern lowlands yield to rutted, uneven ground in which hundreds of tiny lakes gleam like mirror shards. As the Jamtlands approach, the land crests and cracks, throwing up mountains between which the occasional river meanders in its glacial basin, silver as a slug-trail. Settlements become sparse, and only the occasional road slices the glossy, green-black pine forests that plush the flanks of the mountains.
Now Lake Storsjon is visible, a welcoming expanse of sheer, clear, vivid blue, like a window to a second sky beneath the earth. The four islands of Sandviken, Anderson, Verkon and Froson seem to hang suspended in this blueness, above their own inverted images, reflected in the skin of water. The roofs of Ostersund glitter like wet gravel. The clustered sails in the little harbours are bright and white as teeth.
Even to those accustomed to flying, the descent towards the little airport on Sandviken feels somewhat abrupt. Nonetheless, the landing is competently executed, and soon all passengers are slipping on shoes, tucking away magazines and filing out of the plane. Outside after claiming their luggage, six figures await their guide.
There has been little time for proper introductions. At Heathrow names were exchanged, but little more, before the hurry to catch the plane to Stockholm. The open plan of aeroplane seating is less than conducive to private conversation, and the new SITU operatives have been forced to confine themselves to banal pleasantries.
Loki is gradually recovering from the bitter mood that has haunted him for the last hour. At Stockholm, a customs official had cast an eye over the young man, noting his somewhat insolent stare, faded jeans, black leather jacket and the silver scar running through his upper lip, and had then taken particular pains to search his luggage. To judge by the increasing redness of the official's face, his grasp on English had been good enough for him to comprehend the sarcastic thrust of Loki's consequent remarks.
As he leans against a mock-marble pillar in the airport lobby, Loki casts his penetrating, unyielding, blue gaze upon his companions, making no effort to conceal his interest. A short, slight pallid figure, his confidence seems disproportionate to his size. His brown hair is cut short, and he appears to be in his late twenties.
Robert Montague Flint is still talking to the young Frenchwoman with whom he has struck up a conversation on the plane. Flushed and smiling at his last compliment, she is writing out the number of her mobile phone on the back of a timetable.
"You phone me, yes? When you are in Brittany again? We meet and talk about history again, yes?"
Although he is little short of his fortieth year, as may be deduced from the grey hairs amid the brown, Flint is an unusually handsome man. At the moment his brown eyes are warm, animated, humorous. He is tall and slim, and despite his smart dress carries himself without stiffness.
Between two ornamental plants sits Harriet Shen, positioned so that the shadow from the monkey puzzle tree will fall upon the screen of her electronic personal organiser. With her free hand, she holds open the plane timetable. Yes, as she thought, the pilot had over-compensated for the lateness of his start, and arrived at his destination eleven minutes early...
Harriet is a young woman of striking appearance, clearly at least partially of oriental extraction. Her eyes are bright with a breed of contained intensity, which seems to belie the coolness of her manner. Her black hair falls into a neat, glossy bob, and her blue suit is immaculate, despite the long journey. At this moment, her straight, blue skirt just covers her knees. Her feet, clad in brown, flat-soled shoes, are placed demurely side by side. Since introducing herself, Harriet has been flawlessly courteous, and curiously aloof.
Loitering by the souvenir stall, Mal Harris runs a rapid eye over the display, taking in details at a glance. Lindorns stare back at him, lindorns grinning from postcards, lindorns growling from stylised oil paintings that depict tiny boats buffeted by their flanks, lindorns twisting through the ornamental borders of maps of the region, stuffed lindorns with green fur and pink felt lids to their black button-eyes, lindorns arching china backs to form the handles to the cups they adorn, silver lindorns spiralling to form armlets, lindorn transfers, lindorn temporary tattoos...
The reflection that the glass of the display case gives back to Mal Harris is that of a man in his late forties, his black hair showing the faintest trace of grey about the temples. Although nearly six foot tall, Mal is a somewhat shadowy, unassuming presence. He seems rather withdrawn and disinclined to maintain prolonged eye contact, but the gaze of his deep brown eyes is quick and astute. At this moment, with nimble, perfectly manicured hands, he is leafing through the 20 and 50 krona notes he has just received for his sterling at the exchange office.
Michael Stockton is still engaged in apologising to the elderly woman whose shopping he has spilt, and endeavouring to rescue her tomatoes from under the feet of hurrying travellers. Although clearly well-intentioned, Michael seems to have an absent-minded and imperfect control over his own gangly limbs. His accidental victim clearly has no knowledge of English, and Michael's angular, rather hawkish face is set in an apologetic smile and a furious blush as he tries to convey his meaning.
Michael is easily the tallest of the group, standing some six feet four inches tall, but manages to achieve a weakly appearance through his slender build. His lifeless, brown hair, currently rather dishevelled by his discomposure, is already starting to recede, despite the fact that he is apparently in his mid-twenties.
As the seconds tick on towards eleven, Daniel Masterson is beginning to betray every sign of impatience. He has now removed the headphones from which the faint, tinny sound of different 'indie' tracks have been proceeding for the last half hour, and his annoyance at the apparent lateness of the group's guide is being rendered increasingly vocal. He is a discomforting conversationalist. Many of his remarks, although amusing, have a tendency to cut close to the bone.
Daniel's tall figure is clad in black jeans and T-shirt, suitably light for the weather, which seems surprisingly warm considering the latitude. He is in his late twenties, and possesses a portion of saturnine good looks. His hair is black, and his eyes, which at this moment light up as they glimpse the slogan 'Sweden invites,' are dark blue. Standing, he waves to the young woman holding aloft the placard.
Seeing him, the woman lowers her placard and clips across the polished floor towards the group, treating each to a mirthless, professional, ice-pink smile.
"I'm so sorry if you've been kept waiting," she says, with all the emotion of a speaking clock. A pale, gold plait falls like a silk rope down her back. Her lapels, her lips and her nails are all the same candy-pink. "I'm Thorveig Hylten, from the Lindorn. Please allow me to make arrangements for your bags." She addresses a few words in Swedish to the nearest receptionist, and in a few moments a trolley is brought, and the party's luggage loaded into it.
Five minutes journey in a couple of taxis takes the SITU agents to the harbour of Sandviken. At ground level it is possible to see that the lake does not really possess the mirror-like smoothness it had assumed when regarded from the air. Long, parallel ripples roll slowly westwards towards the mainland, where a medium-sized town seems to tumble down the incline towards the water's edge.
"That is Ostersund, famed for its museums and its fine restaurants." Thorveig's words seem reflexive, like her meaningless smile.
In the little harbour, the luggage is carried up the gangplank to the S/S Aesir, a trim little ferry with a grinning lindorn figurehead. The boat is clearly designed to allow passengers space to stroll, and there is a white-painted balustrade adorned with little flags, upon which to lean while admiring the view. The deck throbs under the feet of the SITU agents as the small engine starts to churn water white at the stern, and the boat eases into motion.
Very soon, the bottom of the lake is lost in obscurity. Sunlight glances off the gloss of the rollers, confusing the eye. The clarity of the water appears to be illusory, as if a sky-blue skin were dancing over an abyss of dark water.
"That island is Anderson, famed for its virgin forests and its nature reserves, in which you may see many fine pines and many rare breeds in their native habitat..." The Aesir continues its slow progress around the darkly wooded shores of the second island.
"That island is Verkon, famed for its fine nineteenth century castle. All this and more you may see on a round trip on the S/S Thornee, the luxury steamship. The S/S Thornee stops at the Froson harbour twice a day on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Special cruises can be arranged for an additional fee..." A tiny corner of grey stone, perhaps the topmost tower of the castle, juts above the trees.
"And now, as you see, we are approaching the island of Froson, famed for its historic sites, its excellent early church and for," she smiles, "the Hotell Lindorn. The hotel can offer you many fine types of food, both traditional and cosmopolitan. The hotel can also arrange for you many leisure activities that may help you spend your time more pleasantly, such as swimming, water-skiing, rowing, and many others. The hotel staff are here to serve the convenience of visitors at every hour of the day or night."
The Hotell Lindorn is a broad building some three stories high, dapper in its new, white paint. Its name reads across its front wall in crimson letters, and it is capped by a roof of terracotta red. Occasionally, when the water is still enough to offer a steady reflection, the hotel and its image look uncomfortably as if two great sets of white teeth had clamped about the shore line between narrow, dusky-red lips.
A tall, tanned man in his twenties starts from his deckchair as the boat nears the quay, and catches the ropes thrown to him by the crew. He is naked to the waist, blandly handsome and well built.
"This is Sverre Krippner, our rowing instructor." Krippner is quick to offer his hand to Harriet Shen to help her onto the quay, and rather slower to release it when she is safely out of the boat.
"Your luggage will be taken up to your rooms. Here are your keys. Please take your time to settle and refresh. Mr Gunnlaugson would be very pleased if you would agree to share lunch with him at one-thirty. At three there will be a guided tour to show you many of the fine features of this island. Will you be requiring anything else?" Thorveig pauses, clearly poised to depart.
The little harbour is full of activity. Near a sign marked 'Gatukok,' teenagers are queuing, and being served with plastic cups of soup and sausages wrapped in napkins. Further down the quay, a slender girl is working with energy, her sleeves rolled up above the elbow, her brows contracted with effort as she moves along the waterfront, fastening or loosening moorings, catching or casting heavy coils of rope in her thin, pale arms.
Against one wall leans a rack of newspapers, in a range of languages. One group are clearly local papers, since they are all in Swedish. The text itself is mostly incomprehensible to the visitors, but in the headlines of two or three they notice a name they recognise from their briefing sheet, that of Gerald Dubois.