The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness

The Lindorn of Storsjon
Chapter 9

Monday 16th September, 10.30 pm

Mal stoops, and delicately lifts the wreckage of the kite.

"It's Bjarnison's angel, alright. Maybe the goblin Birgitta mentioned was just the old man trying to recover this." He carefully winds in the string, until the handle comes dancing along the path towards him, clearing a yard or so with each tug.

"Listen." Loki's face is rapt, intent. There is a brief interval in which the agents strain their ears through the blast of the wind, and the angel beats its wings against Mal's arms.

"The sound's coming from the north, isn't it?" asks Robert.

"Let's take a look further up the path," suggests Mal.

The four SITU operatives proceed gingerly through the fog. Upon instinct, each man finds that he is taking pains to muffle his steps. They reach the apex of the north eastern cliff, and gaze out across the seething darkness of Storsjon. Occasionally a fleck of foam will startle against the black water, like a white hand raised for a moment above the surface in a gesture of mockery or appeal. In this darkness, Penny Tyler's imaginary visitation no longer seems comical. It is all too easy to imagine life in the lake's oily motions.

Loki's eyes are closed, as he listens out for the unearthly sound that had startled the group a moment before. Concentrating, he is frustrated by the difficulty of hearing anything over the rush of wind, the roar of water, and over that soft, distant, thudding, like the muffled beating of bird's wings... He opens his eyes. That sound is not the beating of wings.

Footsteps. Rapid footsteps. Someone, out in the fog, is running with reckless haste along the cliff top path.

No figure can be seen from the party's vantage point. After a few moments, the sound dwindles, and succumbs to the bellow of the wind.

Daniel succeeds in rousing himself enough to enter conversation with his colleagues when they return and report their discoveries.

The general mood stimulated by the recent adventure is one of unease. All agents find themselves newly aware of the proximity of the hotel to the water, and as the group discuss their plans and theories in muted voices, first one, then another, catches himself pausing to listen for the eerie, alien note that all had heard on the cliff top walk.

Loki has recovered his new purchases from his room, and while the conversation proceeds, he quietly hands a weapon to each man.

"I get the feeling that our time's running out." Daniel appears weary and tense, but seems now to have largely recovered from his ordeal. "And we still don't know who drugged me. If we can find out where the pills used came from, that might give us a clue. I wonder if it was the same person as the one Dubois was shooting at. From Birgitta's account, it sounds like it might have been Frodi. Frodi was taking pains to hide, after all. I suggest we try a direct approach, and see what we can find out that way."

"I'm not so sure." Mal is seated in a corner of the room, gently wiping the grime from the angel kite with his handkerchief. "Cormac was standing next to Gunnlaugson, shaking hands with him. Maybe Dubois was aiming at Gunnlaugson. Perhaps we should ask Cormac and Birgitta what they think."

This debate continues for some while, each member of party having his own theory of the identity of Dubois' intended target. Coming to no satisfactory conclusion, the group at last abandon the topic. Daniel, in particular, is showing considerable difficulty in keeping his eyes open, and the SITU agents decide to retire, and conserve their strength.

Deciding to trust to the safety of numbers, the agents divide into two groups. Robert and Mal share one room, while Loki and Micheal sleep in Daniel's room. Before retiring, on Mal's advice, each group props a chair under the door handle in order to deter nocturnal intruders.

The night passes restlessly, the sleepers frequently jarred out of sleep by the rattle of the window panes in their frames.

"Dr Gotlind?" The doctor peers around his door and flicks his quick eyes up and down Mal a couple of times before betraying any sign of recognition.

"Ah, yes. How is he, now? Better? Worse?"

"Much better. I just came to thank you for all your trouble."

"Hmph. Well, tell him not to do it again. Silly business." The little doctor gives his long, rodent-like yawn, closes his mouth with a snap, surveys Mal shrewdly and then holds the door open. "You'd better come in. Don't pretend you just came to thank me. You have questions or favours to ask. I can tell."

Mal walks in and takes the proffered seat. The doctor walks to sit opposite him and interweaves his fingers. The ankles that protrude from under his worn, coffee-coloured dressing gown are delicate and discoloured, like wheat stalks.

"My friend Daniel isn't the suicidal type. I think someone else may have drugged him. Daniel has become... involved... with a local girl. I think somebody, maybe a jealous boyfriend, may have tried to scare him off, or do him some harm."

"That is quite a serious accusation. Have you talked to the police? No?" Mal explains that there is little proof, and no firm suspects.

"My friend ordered whiskey through room service, and I think it was doctored. If someone tampered with it, could they have underestimated or overestimated the dosage they added?"

"You are playing games with me, Mr Harris, you are not telling me everything. There was a bottle of pills lying next to your friend. Did that just fly in through the window, hmm? But I see you are really concerned. Young Daniel has good friends, even if they do not tell all to the doctor, who knows best.

"I cannot tell you how many pills your friend swallowed. I see an empty bottle of pills, I assume the worst, I assume he has taken the whole of them. Usually best to assume the worst, and prepare for it. And he was sick, very sick. He is young, but his constitution..." The doctor purses his lips and shakes his head. "He has not lived well, that one. Without our help, he would have died, I think. Yes, I think the whole bottle of pills were inside him." The doctor clasps his hands together, and regards Mal over the double fist.

"Do you know why I say that? I have already been bothered once this morning. There is a man who works in this hotel (your pardon, but I must not say his name). Day and night he bothers me with his imaginary aches and diseases, and wants pink pills and blue pills and I do not know what. At dawn today, he wakes me to tell me that he cannot sleep, because of the sound of the wind. He complains that his sleeping pills have gone missing, and he asks me for some more. And the pills that he asks for are the same as those in the bottle we find in your friend's room. At the time I think maybe Daniel has stolen these pills from this man, but of course I say nothing.

"Do you want my advice? If you have told me the truth, you should call the police. Do it soon. If somebody put a whole bottle of pills in Daniel's drink, I do not think it was for scaring him. On the bottle it say, do not take more than four in one day. Mr Harris, one of those little bottles holds forty pills..."

Upon the advice of Mal, Robert sets out after breakfast in order to attempt another interview with the 'nymph' Birgitta.

Outside the Children of the Lindorn headquarters, Robert is pleased to notice Birgitta leaning next to the door in her long, white nymph dress. She appears to be in conversation with the young man that had been taking pains to make her laugh during the ceremony. As Robert approaches, she observes him, and manages to flash him a smile while the young man's head is turned. She contrives to continue her animated conversation with her current companion, while sneaking occasional conspiratorial smiles towards the older man across the street. Appreciating the complicated game that Birgitta is playing, Robert suppresses a smile, and halts his approach. As a social juggler, the young nymph shows considerable promise.

At last, Birgitta succeeds in ending the conversation with her youthful admirer, and he departs, calling out one last joke as he turns the corner of the street. Immediately, Birgitta crosses the street to where Robert is standing. She gestures in the direction that the young man had departed.

"A friend of my brother. He is after me, you know, but he is so young..." She rolls her eyes.

When Robert asks Birgitta for an introduction to her mother, she seems initially a little surprised that Robert should have any aim in seeking her out beyond an intention to buy her another milkshake. However, she quickly seems to come to the conclusion that this request is really a ruse to allow Robert more of her company, and the chance to find out where she lives. In order to remain in the girl's good graces, Robert allows himself to be paraded along the docks once more, and buys her another chocolate milkshake, before following her back to her house.

Birgitta's house proves to be at a distance from the main settlement. In the north west of the island, near the cliff top above the beach, there are a few small buildings, all apparently residential. They all bear the marks of dilapidation due to their exposed position.

The nymph's descriptions had led Robert to picture her mother as some middle-aged neurotic with an occult fixation, perhaps a timorous version of Penny Tyler. Monika Ullsen proves, on the contrary, to be a quiet, self-controlled woman in her early thirties, with pale brown hair and delicately freckled skin. As Robert approaches the house he sees her straightening a camera tripod on the turf before her front door, and scrutinizing the changeable sky.

When Robert is introduced, and the reasons for the visit explained, Mrs Ullsen shows some sign of discomfort, but invites him in nonetheless. Her English is decidedly imperfect, and Birgitta is forced to translate. He is shown into a tidy, if less than opulent lounge, and handed a mug of a hot drink that seems to contain the juice of numerous berries, and at least one strong spirit. On one side, Robert is flanked by Birgitta, giggling and translating with numerous comments of her own. On his other side sits Monika Ullsen, giving an account of the Scandinavian other-world in calm, dispassionate Swedish. Far from seeming hysterically superstitious, Mrs Ullsen appears to be rather well-educated.

Robert learns of the fossergrimen, the kindly creatures that live behind waterfalls and will teach fiddlers how to play in exchange for offerings of food. He is told of the trolls that are living stone, and live among stones. He is told of the haugfolket, which are pixie-like creatures, and de underjordiske, or 'subterranean people.' Scandinavian folklore apparently features a large number of supernatural creatures known as the velter, which are said to be descended from the children that Eve hid from God.

Birgitta's mother also describes gnome-like creatures called nisse, which appear to be entirely benevolent. These creatures will protect a particular homestead or farm, guarding the occupants against attacking spirits and even plaiting the manes of the horses.

When Robert mentions the rhyme that Birgitta had repeated to him, and asks whether the Nykk is in any way connected to the lindorn, Monika Ullsen shakes her head. A 'Nykk' is apparently a water spirit that haunts a particular inland lake or river. The term is apparently the origin of the English word, 'nixie,' often used to describe a similar form of spirit. Descriptions of the 'Nykk' tend to differ from place to place. Some stories depict the creature as riding waves in the form of a white horse. Others describe it as roughly human in appearance. Many Nykks are described as being male. Mrs Ullsen insists, however, that when her own mother had taught her the rhyme of protection against the Nykk, the Nykk of the lake had always been described as 'she.' In one respect however, all accounts of the Nykk agree. The Nykk is in every case a being of irredeemable evil and malignity, seeking to draw humans into its deadly clutches through force or treachery.

Towards the end of the interview, Mrs Ullsen speaks a few words to her daughter, who reluctantly leaves the room. Monika Ullsen turns to Robert.

"Birgitta... she is very young and very silly... Do not have wrong ideas... from things she speaks."

Assuming that Mrs Ullsen is showing an understandable concern at the fact that her daughter is apparently keeping company with a considerably older man, Robert hastens to reassure her. Monika flushes, smiles, and shakes her head.

"No... no... I mean... she laugh at things. Should not laugh. Should not laugh at things I say."

Loki strolls along the docks, noting the tarpaulin carefully bound over each of the boats moored along the waterfront. Following a suggestion of Mal's, Loki sets about enquiring after boats available for hire. His ostensible reason for his queries is a desire to take photographs of the island from the water for the guide. His actual reason is a desire to discover the owners of the various boats along the harbour, and in particular the owner of the Gabrielle.

He quickly establishes that no boat-owners are willing to trust their crafts to the elements on this day. Looking out across the lake it is not hard to imagine why. Visibility is minimal, and the wind is changeable and treacherous. The sun makes scarce appearances, occasionally baring an unhealthy, sallow face and wandering queasily through clouds before vanishing once more.

Loki's enquiries fulfil their objective, however. By the end of the morning, he has acquired a list of the boats commonly moored in the Froson harbour, and a list of their owners. The owner of the Gabrielle, he learns, is Johann Dressler, who by report often hires his boat out to interested tourists.

Dressler himself is not in evidence on the docks.

Dr Gotlind makes a point of checking up on Daniel, and seems pleased with the young man's progress.

"You should be grateful for your friends, do you know that? Well, well, stay in bed today, and you will not be much the worse for all of this. Look after yourself, young man."

Micheal agrees to stay with Daniel and watch over him.

At lunch time, Robert, Mal and Loki meet up in the dining hall, where they are accosted by a rather harassed-looking Louis Lakersson.

"I'm so terribly sorry to hear that your friend was... erm... taken ill. Is he better now? Oh, I'm so glad. I really can't account for it, we never have people falling ill or going missing here usually, please do believe me. I know it's all been like a nightmare since you arrived here, but most of the time Froson's quite a sweet, little place. Mr Gunnlaugson's practically distracted about it all.

"I've been doing my best to try and find your friend Miss Shen, but I'm afraid that so far I've been drawing rather a blank. It seems hard to believe that if she were still on the island that no-one would have seen her. I've been phoning around the other islands, and the mainland ports, but they don't seem to have any reports of anyone with her appearance turning up. They've got search parties out looking for her on Anderson, Sandviken and Verkon, just in case. Of course, usually we'd have the police launch out looking for her, but... oh dear. What a mess." Louis droops a little. Behind his great lenses, his eyes are anxious and shadowed, as if he has been losing sleep. "I had some of the lads search around the caves a day or two ago, but now there are rumours that Gerard Dubois is running around loose on the island, and people are nervous about going out at night." He nibbles the fingertip of one of his calfskin gloves, and then shakes himself like a terrier and manages his usual morning-bright smile. "Don't worry, in a day or two the weather will clear, and we'll get some boats out to look for her. I'm sure we'll find her."

After lunch, Mal strolls down to the docks, and purchases some more strong string, and searches the shops for materials that might be used to repair the angel kite. After some careful searching, he succeeds in finding paper of the correct strength and colouring. Mal also invests in some strong glue, and some more foil to cover the blemishes caused by the angel's battering.

Remembering the tender care with which Bjarnison had treated his favourite kite, Mal decides to return it to its owner with all haste. As he walks along the northern footpath, carrying the kite like a fragile infant, Mal thinks of the tiny, elderly man, alone with the photo of his wife, and the labours of his solitary passion, his airborne children, his kites. Naturally taciturn himself, the SITU operative feels a certain affinity for the little man, and feels a curiosity to understand the other's obsession with kite-making.

By the time Bjarnison's house comes into view, Mal has resolved to ask Bjarnison to make a kite for his own nephews and nieces. An eagle, perhaps, or some kind of mythical beast. Perhaps even a lindorn.

Mal knocks at the door. There is no answer. Turning around, Mal examines the heavens, but sees no trace of a kite arcing through the sky. Bjarnison is clearly not about his usual hobby. Evidently he is absent for some other reason, perhaps shopping in the village. Reluctant to leave the angel on the doorstep where it would suffer the spite of the weather, Mal carries it carefully back to the hotel.

A little after three, a call is put through to Robert from reception. The caller is Sophie Painter, his friend with expertise on Scandinavian iconography.

"Hello, Robert? I think your friend's enthusiasm has infected me. I've been looking into the possibility of the double line of runes your Dr Massey was talking about, and I think maybe he's onto something. I'm going to fax a copy of your own rubbing back to you, with one or two things circled. Me and some chums have been putting our heads together, and we've got some ideas about one or two of the words. Robert, darling, if you do end up writing an article on this stone with Massey, I shall expect to receive a mention, or, failing that, to be taken out to dinner."

"Mr Smith?" Thorveig calls out to Loki as he passes reception. He pauses, and she gives him her crisp, passionless smile.

"I'm glad to hear that your friend is better. It was very fortunate that he managed to stagger to the door despite his condition and let your friends in, was it not?" There is no meaningful emphasis is her words, nothing but the slightest hint of a query in her gaze to indicate that there are any ulterior levels to her speech.

"Very fortunate indeed," replies Loki, just as levelly.

"I'm so sorry that we were not able to find the key. It was missing from the hook, do you remember? Well, I am glad to say that it seems to be back now."

"Oh, good."

"I was thinking someone must have put it on the wrong hook. I thought that we would have to look for it. But this morning it was back on its own hook. So I suppose it was not lost after all."

"No. I suppose someone must have been using it."

"That is a reasonable conclusion." Thorveig studies Loki from over her bland, android smile, and one of her immaculate brows lifts ever so slightly as her gaze is met steadily. The impeccable receptionist is clearly unaccustomed to finding her sang-froid matched by her interlocutor.

As the afternoon creeps towards five o'clock, Daniel becomes increasingly restless, pacing his room and rehearsing conversations with Belle-Marie in his head. A disturbing number of the phantom dialogues he plays through in his mind seem to result in her glaring at him as she had the day before, and turning away. By five, anxiety and his state of forced inactivity have contributed to place him in a state of nervous tension.

At five, he leaves the hotel and sets off for the docks. Micheal willingly agrees to accompany him.

Besides an occasional dizziness, Daniel now feels almost entirely recovered, and manages a relatively rapid pace. At the docks, he spends about ten minutes scanning the shrouded shapes of the boats. The Irish girl's agile figure is nowhere in sight.

"You looking for Belle-Marie?" The woman serving at the counter of the Gatukok leans out and calls to him. "I've seen you talking to her before. She's gone home. You see this weather? There's little work for her to do. No boats coming in and out."

Accompanied by Micheal, Daniel walks to Belle-Marie's shabby dwelling. Tactfully, Micheal waits at the gate while Daniel approaches the front door and knocks tentatively. The door half-opens and Belle-Marie peers through the gap, her lips pale and compressed.

"I'm sorry, Belle-Marie, I'm sorry." Even after all the mental rehearsals, this is all that seems possible. She bites her lip hard, and for a moment Daniel thinks that she is going to hit him. Then she steps forward, and throws her arms around him.

Embarrassed, Micheal turns away, and suddenly takes an intense interest in the rolling of the mist across the lake. When he looks back, the front door has closed behind Belle-Marie and Daniel.

"I was going to be so heroic, I was going to chase you away so that you'd be safe. I guess I'm just not very good at being noble. I was going to send you back to Britain, safely away from me. It is me, isn't it? Horrible things really do happen to the men in my life, don't they?" The Irish girl sits in her little lounge, the toy kangaroo on her lap as if it could repel attackers with its satin boxing gloves.

"I'm sorry about what I said yesterday. I was distraught - someone had just tried to kill me. Please try and think, do you have any idea who might have wanted to get rid of me?"

"Well, I'm sure you're wrong in what you said yesterday about Ingvar being alive. He wasn't the sort to fake his own death, and he had nothing to gain from it. And," she gives a little laugh, "if he was faced with a rival, he wouldn't try to murder them. He'd ask them to step outside and put up their fists."

"Could it be a... a spurned lover, or someone like that?"

"Daniel, I don't even have that many friends, let alone queues of lovers I can indulge myself by spurning."

"Try and think. Is there anyone that seems to have taken a particular interest in you?"

"Well, Frodi Gunnlaugson, as they say 'had a go.' But that little creep has hung around after pretty much every woman between nine and ninety years old. Once he did turn up a bit tipsy, and pretended he wanted to help me with my work. Kept 'accidentally' rubbing up against me, and wouldn't take a hint when I asked him to buzz off. When I pushed him off the quay into the water, then he got the general idea. I thought I'd get into some trouble about that one, but I guess Frodi didn't want to report that one to Daddy.

"And I suppose... well, there's Sihtric. I mean, I've talked to him all of a dozen times since I got here, but he's always been quite kind, in a cold sort of way. I always get the feeling he's terrified of me. I expect he's been told that I'm a scheming mantrap, and that given any encouragement I'll probably pounce on him and marry him for his money. But it always seems like he's trying to be fair to me. The first conversation I had with him, he didn't look at me once, he just stared out of the window while he was talking. But what he was saying was that he'd heard good things about my work, and that I would be very welcome as long as I wanted to stay. That was good news. This house belongs to the hotel, you see. I know that after the hotel changed hands there was a strong faction in favour of turfing me out. I get the impression that it was Sihtric who put his foot down and said that I should be allowed to stay.

"Oscar and Frans from the hotel pop by to talk to me from time to time, but they're really just friends, nothing more complicated than that, and the same goes for Louis Lakersson. He's always been friendly to me, but that's because friendly seems to be his default setting. Louis is really just a big, friendly puppy with an Eton accent, who wants to fetch everyone's slippers. I envy him in a way - it must be so nice living in a fantasy world where everyone's really a jolly good chap and everything works out for the best. I can see him getting married one day, but only after he meets a woman who comes from the same Merchant-Ivory universe as he does. They'll drink tea, and go punting, and have children called Millicent and Marmaduke, I shouldn't wonder.

"Jan Fjard's son spent a few months trying to get me to go out with him. I didn't as much spurn him as talk him out of it. I think he's got a girlfriend now, but I'm not sure.

"But there is also Sverre." Belle-Marie gives Daniel a slightly furtive, apologetic look. "This was quite a long time ago. I was a bit... vulnerable at the time, and he seemed to be sympathetic. It was stupid, and I should never have got involved with him. I regretted it almost straight away, and broke it off. Do you know what he did? He tried to blackmail me about it, to get me to stay with him. Well, I told him to go straight to hell. It all got a bit ugly.

"I've never forgiven him. I've hardly spoken to him since." She looks up at Daniel, with a small, frightened smile. "He's got a nasty temper, yes, and I guess he can be pretty damn underhanded. But surely he wouldn't try to actually kill someone?" She gnaws at her knuckle. "Would he?"

Outside, Micheal shifts his position so that he is faced away from the wind, and settles himself down for a long vigil. Resting against the gatepost, he opens Dr Massey's book on rune magic, and starts to read.

The book is an academic study of existing folklore and surviving documents concerning Norse rune magic, but is written in an accessible and interesting style. Much of it is devoted to depictions of the figure of the wizard in early Scandinavian texts.

"Belle-Marie, I don't like any of this, I think you're in danger."

"I know." Suddenly there are tears running unattended down her face. "Daniel, I am scared. It's stupid, but I think I've been scared for years. And I was afraid to leave Froson, because, what if I did, and the nightmare didn't end? What if I found out in the end that it wasn't this place that was causing all this bad stuff to happen? What if I found out it was just following me around?

"For years I've been getting this recurring nightmare. I'm just walking around Froson, and meeting all the people I know, and it's just like normal. Then I look down, and the ground's made of glass. And underneath the glass there's just black water, dead black water. And there's something moving in it, something blacker than black, watching us and moving up towards us. And in the dream, no-one but me can see it.

"And this last few days, it's just been insane. I mean, what's with the weather, for Christ's sake? On television, they showed some live footage of some skiing in Mattmar. It's sunny there. North of Storsjon, it's sunny, with no wind. And we've got this howling great wind, and most of the time it's coming from the north. Where's the wind coming from? All the weather forecasts keep saying that we're going to have continued sun, with gentle breezes. And I think everyone knows there's something weird about the weather, so they keep saying it'll be better tomorrow, like a stuck record. But it's not getting better, it's getting worse.

"Don't go just yet..."

"...often a wizard is consulted for his skill in weather magic..."

Micheal stops reading, takes off his glasses, and rubs his eyes. The light is fading, and his eyesight is too weak to allow him to read further. As he turns to look in the direction of Belle-Marie's house, he sees the one remaining light in an upstairs room finally extinguished.

He shrugs and stirs himself, before beginning the walk back to the hotel. It seems that another has taken over the task of spending the night as Daniel's companion.

Back at the hotel, Micheal meets up with Mal, Loki and Robert, who are preparing to go out once again.

"Robert and Loki are going back to the western beach to find out what was taken from the cave by Cormac's friend," explains Mal. "I was planning to drop in on Bjarnison, and return his kite. He's bound to be back at his house by now."

The four SITU operatives walk together through the village, and then along the path that flanks the eastern coast. When they reach the cliff above the beach where the rubber lindorn head was found, Robert and Loki descend the steep face, while Micheal accompanies Mal towards Bjarnison's house.

A little to his surprise, Mal notes that no lights are on in Bjarnison's house. Although it is nearly nine, it seems a little strange that the old man should have chosen to retire to bed so early.

Mal hesitates, then knocks on the door. There is no response. He knocks again, loudly. Again, there is no answer. Gripped with a sudden misgiving, Mal peers through the nearest window. He is offered a view of the little kitchen. A space amid the kite materials has been cleared, just large enough for a plate and cutlery to be laid out. There is a jug of milk nearby. A large casserole dish stands on the stove. Mal knocks on the window, but again there is no response.

Silently picking the lock, Mal enters. The pan is cold, and a stew sits within it, untouched. The milk in the jug has acquired a skin - it has apparently been neglected for the better part of a day. Mal rejoins Micheal, letting the door self-lock behind him.

He studies the angel again, and a detail suddenly strikes him. The handle is still attached to the end of the string. The only time Mal has seen Bjarnison lose a kite, it had been after a titanic struggle with the elements, at the climax of which the string had snapped. Mal remembers the twine wrapped around the old man's fingers. He remembers Bjarnison letting the string cut off the circulation to his hands, rather than willingly lose one of his treasured kites.

What could make the old man let go of the handle of his most precious kite?

"This cave's empty. The rubber head is gone."

"So is this cave. I suppose they wanted to hide the evidence, so that we couldn't prove anything. It's just as well we know where they hid it all." Robert turns to smile at Loki, only to find that the latter is staring at the crest of the cliff top.

"What the bloody hell's that?"

A dark figure, half-crouched, is suddenly silhouetted at the top of the cliff. It takes a few lop-sided steps, then ducks down, as if to avoid detection.

"It looks like Birgitta's goblin."

So. Yesterday evening Bjarnison had made himself dinner. A casserole dish of that size would be difficult for such a small man to manoeuvre while it was hot. Perhaps he had left the house to let the pan cool, and had spent the time about his usual hobby....

As he considers this, Mal is walking to the place where he has seen Bjarnison flying his kite.

...and while he was flying his kite, Bjarnison saw...

Mal suddenly throws himself flat, pulling Micheal to the ground with him.

Barely visible through the mist, a figure is visible, clad in some lightish clothing. It is stooped, and after a moment's study, Mal realises that it is moving backwards, as if dragging something.

"He's on the move again!"

The dark figure hunched at the cliff top suddenly leaps into action, and lurches forward at an alarming rate.

As it does so, Loki and Mal become aware of another, paler figure a little further along the cliff, moving somewhat more slowly, seemingly with its back to the advancing 'goblin.'

Just as Mal is considering getting to his feet and attempting a silent sprint closer to the doubled figure, his sharp eyes catch a glimpse of movement further along the cliff face. He makes out a black shape, a pale, animated face, a glint of metal, a swift, distorted shamble. He sees so much only, before the figure in pale clothing starts, and straightens, too late to flee from the advance.

The next instant there seem to be not two figures but one, a mass of limbs, light and dark, embroiled in a frantic dance. They appear to be struggling for possession of something that gleams like steel. There is an echoing metallic snap, accompanied by a sound like a steel string being plucked, and an instant later a small splash, as if something has hit the distant water at high speed. Almost at the same time, something that has lain at the feet of the pair lazily upends and slides over the edge of the precipice. One of the figures emits a loud cry of rage and anguish.

Loki and Robert shield their heads as a dark oblong suddenly plummets from the cliff top above them, striking the rocks below and shattering into a mass of rocky shrapnel.

A stone slab some two feet in length has tumbled to destruction barely a dozen yards from the two operatives. The pair hide in the nearest cave, lest one of the fighting figures on the cliff top should look down and notice them.

With a sudden exertion, the figure in pale clothes pushes the dark figure to the ground, and sprints away into the fog.

The individual in black stands, rather awkwardly, apparently breathing with some difficulty, and leans for a moment against a rock to recover. The next instant he, too, is running away into the mist.

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