The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

The Lindorn of Storsjon
Episode 4

9.30 pm, Thursday 12th September 1998

"I told you they didn't look very friendly," remarks Leda.

Eight or nine youths are ranged along the base of the steps that lead up to the main entrance of the hotel. In the centre of the group, a young woman, shaven-headed but for a tuft of greenish dreadlocks issuing from the back of her skull, is standing, hands on hips. She is conducting a violent argument with one of the hotel footmen, and occasionally points up at the doors through which Daniel, Robert and their new acquaintances have recently entered. The footman speaks in a muted, calming tone, his arms extended outwards, partly in a soothing gesture, partly to block the progress of the new arrivals. Occasionally he glances over his shoulder, as if hoping for reinforcements.

Robert looks relieved as he sees Daniel and Mal approaching from the dining area. In response to Daniel's interrogative glance, Robert grimaces, and quickly gives an account of recent events.

"I don't like the way this is looking," he adds. "It might get violent. I think this may be one of the cults getting touchy about the archaeologists 'desecrating' the site - perhaps these are the VAM."

Daniel walks to the reception desk and rings the bell. Thorveig strides in crisply, adjusting the pale pink ribbon in her long, blond plait.

"Looked outside recently? Any idea what all that fuss is about?" He jerks his head in the direction of the doors. The receptionist's smile slides off her face as she hears the shrill tirade of the woman in the courtyard. She strides to the entrance, peers out into the darkness, then gives some calm, curt orders to the footmen loitering indecisively at the head of the steps.

"Dr Massey, I think we'd better leave the lobby in case there's trouble. Perhaps your assistant and yourself would care to come to my room until this blows over?" Robert quickly but firmly leads the doctor towards the lift, aided by Leda, who seems to have retained her composure rather better than the flustered archaeologist.

Out in the courtyard numerous hotel staff have now assembled. The pause has been too long, and the energy of the interlopers' invasion has clearly dissipated a little. The shaven-headed youths have given ground, and their leader's voice has become high-pitched and defensive. They writhe a little beneath Thorveig's bland, icy smile, while she nods graciously at their threats as if receiving a compliment. At last, with a common growl of discontent, they move away through the car park, kicking at boots and bonnets, and setting off dozens of car alarms. Just as they are vanishing from sight, a half-brick shocks against the front edifice of the hotel, then clatters in fragments about the doorway.

Thorveig returns, pausing in the doorway to brush the brick dust from her shoes with a pale, pink handkerchief.

"Yes, it is the VAM," she explains in response to Daniel's question. "Thank you for letting me know that they were making trouble. They make trouble because of the archaeological site. They say Dr Massey has touched a stone that is sacred to the lindorn, and now it will be angry..." She shrugs and gives a little laugh.

To the north of the island, the wind has freshened, and those trapped on the rock face can hear a faint lap of waves, like the noise of a giant cat cleaning its fur. The long breaths of the wind have a throaty, fluting undertone, perhaps caused by the passage of air through the hollows of the caves.

Loki peers up through the dimness at the skewed hook.

"Looks like the VAM have been at work." He aims a vicious little kick at the rock, and watches it bounce away to watery oblivion with little satisfaction. Turning on his torch, he examines the rock face by its light, looking for another means of ascending the incline. Shadows snap angrily back and forth as he flicks his torch hither and thither. "Well, you two might try shining your torches up there as well, instead of just sitting there waiting for the next millennium."

The combined flashlights provide an unpromising perspective. The route that Michael had selected down the face is clearly the safest and most convenient. The group deduce that it might be possible to climb down the incline, in the hope of finding another rock shelf that might extend to one of the beaches, but no-one can remember seeing such a ledge from the boat.

Suddenly, Michael and Loki become aware that they are alone on the ledge by the cave. Having disengaged herself from the rope, Harriet Shen is carefully attempting to climb the rock face. Shielding their faces from the sand stirred by the wind, and from the tiny pieces of gravel dislodged by Harriet's progress, they shine their torches to aid her progress, calling out advice and instructions.

Despite the hampering effect of her skirt, Harriet levers her way up the incline like a spider. She seems to have a second sight concerning which outcrops may be trusted with her weight. Even when the terrain betrays her and crumbles beneath her, she recovers quickly. At last, with some relief, the pair below see her pull herself over the crest of the precipice.

A moment later, they glimpse her again, standing at the cliff top, her figure foreshortened by their vantage point. She is holding the hook to which their rope had been tethered, and is shouting something that is half-drowned by the wind.


As they watch, she turns suddenly, gazing intently over her shoulder for a few moments while her short, black hair flails her face. She crouches suddenly in one slick, feline motion, as if attempting to evade someone's notice. After a few more moments, she turns back to the pair waiting and calls down to them. Loki catches a few phrases.

"...over there ... at least I think it is ... going to have a look ... back when I ..."

An instant later the figure of Harriet Shen vanishes from the sight of her colleagues.

"Oh dear." Dr Massey directs a gaze of pained bewilderment into the bottom of his tea mug. "You're sure no-one was hurt?" Robert reassures his fellow academic for the eleventh time. "Oh dear. I really don't understand any of this at all."

"Well, we'll worry about this tomorrow." Leda Piers picks up her employer's coat and drapes it around his shoulders. "Now, you need to go and get an early night, or you'll be bilious tomorrow, what with all this stress." After offering thanks to the SITU operatives for their help, she guides the doctor out of the door, like a little, black tug-boat directing the vague motions of a great, sandy-coloured tanker.

At last the operatives are able to speak freely. Mal has been glancing nervously at his watch for the last half an hour.

"Shouldn't our friends be back from their expedition by now?" he asks.

"Yes, I was wondering about that," comments Daniel. "I suggest that we leave things for a couple more hours at the outside, then go out there and find out what's happened." After consideration, the others decide to accord with this suggestion.

After less than an hour, however, a knock is heard at Robert's door. One of the hotel chambermaids hesitates at the threshold.

"Excuse me, man from the docks, he bringed us a letter from your woman friend. She say it is important..."

The letter is little more than a folded leaf from a notepad, covered in cramped, immaculate handwriting, which reads as follows:-

"Dear Mr Masterson, Mr Harris and Mr Montague Flint,

Mr Smith and Mr Stockton are in need of assistance, since as I suspected our climbing equipment has been found deficient. No one is hurt, but they are trapped half way down a slope of approximate gradient 5:6. Please send assistance, with climbing equipment that is covered by a respectable guarantee, or which conforms to a recognised safety standard.

I am following a path of enquiry. Details will not be included in this letter for reasons of security. Please cover for my absence, which may be of some duration.

You will receive a complete briefing upon my return.

Harriet Shen."

Upon learning that they stand to lose three valued guests to a rocky drop, the hotel staff busy themselves in finding equipment for a rescue attempt. Thorveig sends runners for torches, ropes and a first aid kit, while finding a dozen courteous and indirect ways of saying 'I told you so.'

It emerges that Sverre Krippner has some climbing equipment for his own leisure time use. These are commandeered, and Krippner himself joins the party. One of the waiters, a doorman and two of the kitchen staff volunteer their assistance. Louis Lakersson also joins the group as it is about to leave, muffled almost to the cheekbones in what appears to be a college scarf. His manner combines genuine concern with a helpless excitement, as if he were taking part in a "Boy's Own" adventure. Behind the steamed glass of his spectacles, his eyes are bright with an almost childish enthusiasm.

Mal leads the posse to the place where he had parted company from the potholers. On his suggestion, the group proceed carefully, taking care not to lose sight of one another, and calling out to attract the attention of the missing men.

With the last fading of the western light, the wind has turned chill. Michael has retreated into the caves, but Loki remains upon the ledge, loath to wander into the pitch-black mouth behind him. Teeth chattering, he glares into the blackness, watching the gleam and fade of little streaks of foam on the water below. Each time the wind rises, each cavern answers with a musical, resonant boom, each at a different pitch.

At one instant, as the wind drops, one of the long notes seems to outlive the gust in a curious fashion. Narrowing his eyes, Loki focuses upon the sound. It fades, then starts again, a protracted vibrato that is quickly lost amid the orchestra of the cavern echo. It is impossibly distant, too deep for birdcall, too faint for the listener to be sure of its nature.

It is gone.

"...Michael... Mr Smith... Mr Stockton..."

Hearing human voices, the two men on the ledge call out in answer, and are soon rewarded by the gleam of flashlights at the top of the cliff face.

After a short pause, they make out the dark shape of a man descending the cliff face with the aid of a rope. Shining their torches upwards to light his route, Loki and Michael call out instructions and warnings. With some agility the figure above lets out his rope, descending at a measured pace until he stands beside him. By the light of the torches, the potholers recognise Mal Harris.

Ropes and harnesses are passed to Loki and Michael, whose hands are now so cold that they can grip the rope with difficulty. With the aid of Mal, the two rescuees ascend the face, half climbing, half hauled by the group at the top. At last, cold and a little bruised, they reach the rescue posse, and recover their breath on the cliff top. Louis offers them a welcome sip of brandy from a little silver hip flask.

Back at the hotel, Loki and Michael are the recipients of much attention. They are wrapped in blankets near the hearth in the great dining area, and plied with liqueurs. Within half an hour, hot chicken soup arrives from the kitchen, closely followed by a piping chocolate fondue.

If nothing else, the episode seems to have nurtured a sense of camaraderie between the SITU operatives and those hotel staff engaged in the rescue. The atmosphere is warm and convivial, and Krippner makes a point of praising Mal's cliff descent, and slapping him vigorously on the back. There is a strong sense of having partaken in the same adventure.

Robert even succeeds in manoeuvring the conversation onto the subject of the lindorn, and learns that his new friends appear to regard it with an affectionate, humorous half-belief, more as a local mascot-myth than as a harsh reality. The presence of Louis dissipates the language barrier to an extent, and by the time conversation breaks up at two o'clock, the operatives are on first-name terms with each of the other members of the rescue posse.

Back in Robert's room, the two groups compare their experience of the evening's events.

"Must have been traumatic for you two," remarks Daniel. "Trapped down there in a cave for hours with Harriet Shen. Tell me, Loki, being in a confined space with her like that, do you want to throttle her any more than you do when you're just in the same room with her?" He becomes more serious when he is reminded that Harriet has not yet returned to the hotel. Her note is passed round the group, but the rescuees can cast no light upon her new 'path of enquiry.'

"So what did happen to the climbing expedition?"

"My guess is we've had some interference from the VAM," says Loki. "Did anyone notice whether the climbing equipment had been tampered with?"

"I looked it over to check." Mal shrugs. "The hook's broken alright, but it's hard to tell how. It's a rough splintered break, not the sort you'd see if it had been sawn through. It might have been broken by a really heavy blow. Or it might have just given way on its own. It's hard to tell. But from now on, I think we have to be a little careful. I don't think we can afford to have members of our group running around on their own."

In response to questions from the potholing party, Robert describes the drama outside the hotel that evening.

"Things are hotting up, folks. We need to try and find a way to continue our investigation without raising local ire like poor Dr Massey." He expresses approval of Loki's previous attempts to arrange a meeting with the VAM, and suggests that the party renew their efforts to achieve this, by promising the cult a fair account of their views in the 'Sweden Welcomes' guidebook. "Oh, and talking of the locals, Daniel, did you get the chance to find out who young Belle-Marie's partner was? I know she says he died, but is it possible she could have been speaking of Gerard Dubois?" After a little contemplation, the operatives decide this is unlikely. The Irish girl had described her fiancee as 'about thirty years older' than her, whereas according to official records, Dubois is only twenty-seven.

Loki agrees to use his hacking ability to try and acquire further information on Belle-Marie's history. He also expresses an interest in finding out more about Dubois's boat, the Elise. Mal suggests that Loki should also use his skills to investigate Dr Massey and Leda Piers.

It is decided that Robert, Mal and Daniel will visit the village the next morning to seek out Haarkon Cormac, the head of the Children of the Lindorn. Mal is also interested in speaking with the kite-flyer he had glimpsed, since he suspects that this may be the 'crippled boy' who survived the disappearance of his school friends in 1939. Michael agrees to stay at the hotel, so as to receive any messages sent there by Harriet.

After settling their plans for the ensuing day, the party separates, and indulges in some welcome sleep.

"Flint! No, no, you must come over and sit with us. Oh, yes, please bring your friends with you. Oh, Leda, more chairs." Massey is too warm to be denied. Although his sandy hair is peppered with grey, his broad face has something youthful in its openness. There is a butter-bland simplicity in his smile. "Thanks for all the tea and sympathy last night. I suppose it was rather exciting, wasn't it? First time I've ever been harassed by enraged natives. Makes me feel quite, well, Indiana Jones." He appears unable to account for the VAM's anger.

"A stone sacred to the lindorn? I can't imagine where they got that idea, unless it's from the local tradition about the runes on the stone. According to that rumour, the Storsjoodjuret will be bound into the lake until someone succeeds in deciphering the runes on the stone. Which reminds me." Excitedly, he clears a space on the table by simply sweeping the occupying crockery to one side with his arm. Without apparently looking up from her book, Leda reaches out, catching the jug of filmjolk just before it can spill its contents onto the table cloth. "Take a look at this, Flint, you'll love it."

He spreads one of the rubbings out on the table. "You can see what I mean most clearly on this one. I had a hunch about those runes, but I had to get a relief of the stone, it's no good sometimes with the naked eye, what with irregularities in colour, you know. It's the serpent, here, you see, the shape of the serpent. What do you make of it, Flint?"

"Well, if it were a couple of centuries younger, I'd think it was a Gripping Beast." Robert notices the blank expressions on the faces of his companions, and proceeds to explain. "It's an ornamental device used by many of the Scandinavian races during the Viking era. It's a narrow band of carving in the form of a long serpentine animal, often a cross between a lion, a bear, a dog, a cat and a few others for good measure. You often see them carved into furniture, ships, rafters, door posts, axe blades, swords, you name it. You often see runes carved down the back of the animal, the way they are here." He taps the rubbing with his forefinger.

"Yes, remarkable similarity to the Gripping Beast, isn't it? It's even gripping its own body with its claws the way the later carvings do. That's why there was so much debate about the age of the site at first. But look, look here. You see the way that crack runs out of the belly there? Yes, that shallow crack. Well, follow it down here, you see the shape it forms? I don't think that's a natural flaw in the stone, I think that's carving. I think that's the outline of the original claw."

"Do you mean the carving's been altered?"

"Well, why not? Maybe the stone hadn't sunk beneath the earth in the sixth and seventh centuries. Maybe when the Viking settlement was established here, one of the craftsmen came across the old carving with its funny, dumpy, amateurish little beast and the queer runes he couldn't quite understand, and decided to improve it as best he could. Which is maybe why the runes look so odd. See here, I think he made the beast thinner. There may have been two levels of runes running down it, not one."

Massey's enthusiasm is contagious, and Robert is quickly drawn into study of the rubbing. The others, lacking his trained eye, stare uncomprehendingly at the smudged rendering of the stones, unable to feel any excitement or conviction concerning the details that are indicated with such fervour.

Towards the end of breakfast, only the swift reflexes of Leda prevent Helga's Dalmatian from placing two grubby front paws upon it as it makes a bid to leap onto the table.

After breakfast, Robert, Mal and Daniel stroll down towards the docks. The weather is already pleasantly warm, and vapour can be seen rising from the lake here and there, golden with sunlight. On the quay, Daniel pauses, recognising Belle-Marie, busily helping to fasten the moorings of a fishing boat.

"Make yourself useful." She flashes him a grin, and tosses him a coil of rope, which he manages to catch. Jumping onto the quay, she takes the rope from him, and fastens it.

"Not that I'm interested, but are you doing anything tomorrow evening besides having dinner with me?"

Belle-Marie pretends to reflect.

"No," she says after a small pause. "I think that's all I'm doing."

"That's what I thought. See you then."

In the centre of the village, Mal leads his colleagues to the headquarters of the Children of the Lindorn. The poster of the smiling lindorn with its naked female riders does not improve upon closer inspection. There is a brass plaque on the front door inscribed with some words in Swedish, and below these, in English, "The Children of the Lindorn welcome you. Please enter and share in the Mystery of the Lindorn."

The door opens into a spacious well-lit hall that seems to be the result of cross-breeding a souvenir shop with a museum. This room has apparently not escaped the plague of stuffed lindorns, etc, that have afflicted almost every shop on Froson. To judge by number of lindorn T-shirts, framed photographs of fuzzy shadows shaped like umbrella handles protruding from the lake, lindorn badges and lindorn mugs visible in the display cases, 'sharing the mystery of the lindorn' seems to involve fairly heavy merchandising. Thin, choral music issues from unseen speakers.

A phrase in Swedish calls the operatives' attention to a man who has now entered the room. He appears to be in his late forties, and has hair so fair that it is almost white. He is wearing well-polished spats, and a rather expensive-looking silver-grey suit. He is quick to make eye contact and holds it steadily, as if to stress how little he has to hide, only blinking occasionally with a slow, leisurely motion. His broad smile reveals perfect white teeth, flawed only by a small gap between the front incisors. As he strides forwards, holding out his hand, the SITU operatives notice that he moves his right arm with some difficulty.

Upon discovering that his guests are English, he slides effortlessly into that language.

"Good, good, I always get on best with the English. And the Americans. The English and the Americans are my favourite people. Be welcome. My name is Haarkon Cormac, and I greet you on behalf of the Children of the Lindorn." He gives a studied, little bow.

If their racial origin is enough to prepossess Cormac in the operatives' favour, this is nothing in comparison to the effect of the magic word 'guidebook.' After mentioning that he is an employee of 'Sweden Welcomes,' Robert runs a risk of having his hand all but wrung from his wrist by his enthusiastic host. When Daniel expresses a profound faith in the existence of the lindorn, and an eagerness to know more about it, he soon finds that he has opened floodgates of no insignificant size.

For the next few hours, Daniel and Robert are shown unconvincing photograph after unconvincing photograph, bits of bone which are labelled as discarded lindorn claw casings, plaster casts of 'lindorn footprints' and a number of 'artists' impressions.' Cormac seems inclined to describe the lindorn as a noble, gentle, beautiful animal, an embodiment of harmonious natural forces which the Children of the Lindorn have learned to tap. He describes it rather as a guardian than a threat.

There are also numerous photos of the cult's ceremonies. Most of these show a gaggle of adolescent girls, artistically depicted in black and white, singing or posing along the waterside. One or two show a middle-aged woman with a broad, seamed face, and deep black eyes.

"That is our spae-wife, our miraculous Steingerd. She has the gift, the old gift of my people. Ancient wisdom was handed down from the Dark Ages, mother to daughter, mother to daughter. The modern world has forgotten, but Steingerd remembers. Come and see our ritual by the waterside tomorrow. Share the magic. Bring your friends, they will be spell bound." Cormac willingly agrees to let Mal take photographs of the proceedings.

Back at the hotel, Michael is taking a stroll up and down the courtyard to stretch his legs. After the excitement of the night he is eager to relax, and allows himself to soak up the sounds around him, the crackle of car tyres on gravel, the cold, thin calls of birds, and a faint, homely, crockery clatter from a window which he surmises to be that of the kitchen.

He is filled with a sense of warmth and well-being, and only gradually realises that this is because, from some distant point he can hear a dog barking in play, a comforting, merry sound that brings back many pleasant memories of hours spent in the park with his own dog.

As he consciously draws the comparison, however, he is filled with a chill sense of déjà vu. With a clammy intuition, he remembers another dog barking in the distance, barking with excitement and animation. He has started to run towards the sound even before the bark becomes a protracted, dismal howl.

When he arrives at the waterside to the south of the hotel, there is no motion to be seen, but for a couple of geese trailing feet in the water as they beat their wings and strive for flight. Michael notes a dark object bobbing in the water some twenty yards from the shore, but after peering at it for a few minutes, he satisfies himself that it is nothing but a stick afloat.

He strains his ears as he returns to the courtyard, but the barking does not recommence.

After lunch, Mal asks for an interpreter to accompany him to the northern reaches of the island, and again is referred to Louis Lakersson. Lakersson is happy to accompany, but seems a little daunted when Mal mentions a return to the north.

"Good Golly Miss Molly. We're not going rock-climbing again, are we?" He brightens when Mal reassures him. "Jolly d. Not that I wouldn't love to, but it's being exposed to wind like that, it tends to blow my boater off. It's bad enough with rain and so forth. Just between ourselves, I often have to varnish my hats to keep the weather out."

Louis recognises Mal's description of the elderly man with the stunted legs.

"That sounds like old Leif Bjarnison. He's something of a local feature, I don't think anyone remembers a time when he wasn't here. Not exactly a rampant social animal, though. Oh, we're visiting him, are we? Well, you won't need more than one page of your notebook to jot down all the response you'll get out of him."

The path to the north is once again illuminated by brilliant sunshine. Louis makes an implausible companion, tripping along the rocky route with the delicacy of a school girl, all the time swinging a walking cane in one hand and clamping his boater onto the back of his head with the other.

Today an angel in gold and white is fluttering at the end of its string above the Bjarnison house. As Mal watches, it turns its back, tangling its strings, then falls twitching from the sky as if it had been shot.

As Mal and his companion approach the little cottage, they see the old man taking slow, painful steps across the clearing to recover his fallen creation. Mal hurries to retrieve it for him, and the old man barks out a single word.

"He says, be careful!" calls Louis. Mal lifts the kite as gently as if it were a sleeping child, and carries it in his arms back to its creator. The elderly man casts a speculative eye over its injuries, then starts to walk towards the house, calling a sentence or two over his shoulder. "He says, please bring it in the house and put it on the great oak table. He says we may stay for coffee. But only for a bit."

Inside, the little man's house is all but papered with kites. Golden goblins, glimmering fish, boats in full sail, diving men, dragons, cats, mice, queens, bowls of fruit, great kites in bold primary colour patterns, tiny kites translucent skins of paper between their frames. Each room is an Aladdin's cave alive with jewelled and exotic colour. The great oak table in the centre of the kitchen is a mess of paper, string, lengths of wood, and sewing equipment. The angel is laid out upon the table like a patient on an operating table, and for a while Bjarnison surveys it in silence through a tiny pair of spectacles.

At last he makes a dismissive gesture, glances at his companions, mutters a few words and points to the nearest door.

"Oh. I think we sit in the lounge and wait for coffee now." Louis seems rather intimidated by the little man, and offers all his translations in a hushed tone.

A quarter of an hour passes, during which Mal hears the rattle of crockery occasionally issuing from the kitchen. At last Bjarnison reappears, carrying three large mugs on a wooden tray, with evident difficulty. The little man lays the tray on a central table, then seats himself in a little rocking chair that seems to have been designed for a child.

Gingerly, Mal attempts to make conversation. This proves a somewhat frustrating endeavour. It swiftly becomes clear that the old man understands some English. However, either this understanding is very incomplete, or he feels no need to accommodate his guests by abandoning his native tongue. Only one remark in three is offered in English. In any case, many of his comments seem to bear little relation to the questions that precede them.

When the lindorn is mentioned, he wrinkles his face in an expression of contempt.

"Dogs. Little dogs." This is all he seems willing to say on the matter. Tactfully, Mal attempt to confirm his suspicion that Bjarnison is the same as the crippled boy that witnessed the 1939 disaster, but he is met by an expression of mulishness on the face of the old man, who resolutely refuses to comprehend his questions.

"She always made better coffee than this," mutters Bjarnison. He stands, slowly, and moves out of the room. The interview is clearly over.

Back in his hotel room, Robert leafs through the pamphlets describing the church. Although fascinating from a historical perspective, they contain little which relates to the lindorn. Many of the pamphlets are devoted to detailing the life of the early missionary Ostmandur, whose deeds are apparently commemorated in the carvings that decorate the inside of the church.

The missionary apparently achieved a most impressive string of miracles. Once, he caused the arm of a man who had raised a sword against him to palsy before a blow could be struck. When the man converted, the arm was cured. Another legend apparently tells that Odin, who had been angered by the defection of his followers to the Christian faith, attempted to bewilder Ostmandur's religious zeal by visiting him in the guise of a one-eyed beggar and posing knotty theological problems. Each one Ostmandur solved, causing the pagan god to vanish in vexation, gnashing his teeth. Apparently, the night of the missionary's death, a sound of sweet singing was heard all over the island. Those who were with him at the end reported smelling a 'scent of roses' as he passed away.

Pausing only for lunch, Loki spends the better part of the day closeted with his portable PC. First, in response to Daniel's request, he attempts to trace the history of Belle-Marie Prior.

This proves fairly easy. Her own account has offered more than enough clues. Loki begins his search by looking for clinics of the sort she had described lying in the vicinity of Froson. After an hour, he finds documentation at one institution regarding the admission of one Belle-Marie Prior, to be treated during her recovery from an addiction to heroin.

Belle-Marie had mentioned that her place in the clinic had been paid for by her admirer. Somewhat to his surprise, Loki discovers that the bills for Belle-Marie's treatment had been paid by one Ingvar Njalsonn.

Dr Marcus Massey is also easy to trace. It emerges that he is a respected academic, based at the University of Oxford. Several of his papers have actually been placed, whole or piecemeal, upon the Internet. Most of his works seem to refer to Germanic or Scandinavian mythology, and are in a relatively opaque and tortuous prose style. Published reviews tend to refer to his views as 'controversial.'

Attempting to discover more about the Elise, Loki makes one interesting discovery. The staff running the harbour where Dubois's boat was kept have their own internal network, and recent emails between the senior staff make interesting reading. It emerges that the Elise has vanished during the night. A figure sighted on the quay shortly before the disappearance matches the description of Gerard Dubois.

There is still no sign of Harriet when the party meet up once more to face the now familiar delights of the Smorgasbord. The curtains have been drawn back from the great windows to show a great fan-shaped swathe of cloud, strawberry pink in the sunset light.

As they finish their meal, the party see Helga Njalsonn running up and down the courtyard, searching about with an anxious air. Occasionally she puts two fingers in her mouth to give a whistle, the sort of whistle one might use to summon a dog.

There is no response.

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