Gustaf Senior and Olga lived in the town of Elgo and ran a toy company specializing in building little doll houses. They had no children, but loved little kids which was why they really enjoyed being in the business of building doll houses. This way, they were able to bring great happiness to lots of little children all over Scandinavia. Since they had no children, Gustaf Senior and Olga owned two big beautiful dogs, Hamlet (the gloomy one) and Victor (the happy one)[note].
[note] were one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Elgo, and a few years ago had had quintuplets. Five identical little girls! For their fifth birthday, their parents had gifted them five identical doll houses which they had commissioned Gustaf Senior to build, and he had just dropped them off.
Fortunately, Olga had just come out onto the front porch to sweep the stoop (the Danes are very house proud) and saw Gustaf Senior go down. She hurried over, and dragged him back home where she put him to bed, wrapped a cold compress around his head, and waited anxiously for him to recover consciousness.
A few hours later Gustaf Senior came to. He sat up dizzily in his bed and looked around slowly. Gradually his eyes began to focus, and he groaned. Hearing this, Olga came back to the room and smiled with relief. All was well.
"Greenland?" exclaimed Olga. "Why should we? It's beautiful here, all our friends are here, and Greenland's just a big iceberg."
"Nonsense!" roared Gustaf Senior. "I've been attending several rallies organized by Erik the Red's henchmen, and he wants people to relocate to Greenland and start a colony. It's beautiful and warm with lots of vegetation ... why do you think it's called Greenland?"
"That's just marketing nonsense[note]," replied Olga. "It's well past the Arctic circle and there's no way it's warm and lush. They're trying to sucker people into moving. We're happy here. What's gotten into you?"
"There's more to life than building doll houses from little blocks, fairy tales, and big dogs," yelled Gustaf Senior. "We need to expand the fatherland, and we're moving to Greenland."
Gustaf Senior and Olga soon settled down in Nanortalik and in a short while had built up their business again. Fortunately Gustaf Senior's brain seemed to be on the mend, and he was able to build beautiful doll houses again. The southern part of Greenland was, indeed, very lush and beautiful during the summer months. It was cold and gorgeous, and Olga realized why Erik the Red had decided to name the island Greenland. Also, since all the friends she had made on the trip had moved into her neighborhood, and they had a close-knit community of Danes that she fit well into. Olga felt happy and settled.
But there was more joy to come ... about a year after they moved to Greenland, Gustaf Senior and Olga had a little boy and decided to call him Gustaf. To distinguish him from his father, he was called Gustaf Junior, Gustaf II, or Gustaf Gustafsson.
Gustaf II took after his mother - he was an adventurous fellow, and joined the fleet of Leif Erikson. He visited America and brought back lots of souvenirs and sketches of how the new world looked. After a few trips, Gustaf II settled down and took over his father's business. He then married, and had 16 children. The oldest was named Gustaf III, and the dynasty flourished.
For the first few years, Olaf worked hard at his family's toy business (his specialty was making puppets without wires[note]), and travelling on exotic vacations with Helga. Their favorite spots were warm locales like Hawaii and California, but he also enjoyed sailing on the Norwegian Sea and visiting Scandinavian countries. Helga came from a large family and had thousands of cousins who had settled all over the world, and Olaf and Helga frequently ran into them during their journeys. After a few years of being footloose and fancy-free, Helga announced that she was with child. A few months later, Gudrun was born.
When Gudrun was nine years old, she started developing an interest in Norse mythology. As a result, many of the adventures that the Stiwaires went on were related to ancient tales. They took turns playing the parts of the Norse gods, such as Odin, Freyr, Freyja, Baldr, Loki, and others. The bad guy was always Ymir.
Gudrun was fascinated by how Norse mythology closely paralleled the ancient stories of many other ancient civilizations. The three main gods, Odin, Ve, and Vili, seemed to be very similar to Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva of Hindu mythology or Mithra, Varuna, and Indra of Iranian and Hittite legends. Then there was also the holy Trinity in Christianity. The Fates, known as the Norns in Norse mythology, were Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld. They seemed to be very similar to their Greek counterparts, the Moirae - Clothos, Lachesis, and Atropos. And the nine planets in Hindu mythology - the Navagraha - seemed to have a reflection in the nine worlds of Asgard, Midgard, etc. Did all these mythologies and ancient stories have a common source?
Gudrun also loved reading stories about the Valkyries. The Valkyries were warrior goddesses who carried the spirits of slain warriors (the Einherjar) off to Valhalla, their home in Asgard. Her only wish was that they had been more indepdent, and had better stories about themselves, rather than just following Odin around and carting off dead souls.
Gudrun's home had a large attic which served as the family library and storage room. Olaf was an avid collector of books, and had inherited hundreds of volumes from his father and grandfather. Gudrun loved spending time in the attic, leafing through old books.
Gudrun wanted to scream, but either fright or some other unknown power made her freeze. Unable to move, she stared, riveted to the smoky figure's face. "You must be Gudrun," said the figure. "Do not be afraid, I am Gustaf Senior, your ancestor."
Gudrun knew all about Gustaf Senior, the story of his life, his injury, and his journey to Greenland were all part of the family lore. But she had never quite known which parts to believe, and certainly did not expect him to pop out of a book. Suddenly she calmed down. She must be dreaming, she convinced herself. No need to panic, she'd wake up and it would all be over.
"You're not dreaming," said the figure as if reading her mind. "I have been waiting in that book for a thousand years, until she who was deliver me would arrive at the age of reason."
"This is getting needlessly messianic," said Gudrun. She was starting to get nervous again. "Could you tell me what's going on. This is scaring me."
"Sorry," said the figure. "Pull up a chair, and I will tell you the whole story."
Over a thousand years ago (said the figure) I was a simple toymaker in Elgo. You may have heard the story of how I banged my head one day, became temporarily insane, and decided to move to Greenland. Well, that isn't quite the whole story, although it's what has been passed down through the generations. In fact, after I lost consciousness I was taken home and put in bed. A few minutes later, I got up but when I looked at the bed my body was still lying there. It was my spirit that had risen out of my body. I walked out of the room, and to the kitchen where Olga was sitting. I started talking with her, but realized that she couldn't see or hear me. As I was still talking, I heard a sound behind me and turned around. There was an old, grizzled man standing there, and he came towards me.
"What's happening?" I asked. "Am I dead?"
"No," he replied. "Just come along, I'll explain on the way."
He took a step, and walked right through the wall onto the street outside. I followed him, still in a daze, and we walked towards the sea.
The old man cleared his throat and started talking. "Gustaf," he said, "I belong to an ancient priestly class of people known as Druids. Many people just think that we're simple magicians and know lots of spells. Well, we're much more than that. Let me start at the beginning - Druids have taken on responsibility for maintaining and passing along the culture, lore, and learning of the societies that we're part of. Our schools, universities, and temples are all over the world - the most famous one that you may have heard of is Stonehenge. Our basic belief is in metempsychosis, or the transmigration of the soul. We believe that the body is just a container, and the true being of a person goes from one body to another. You see how your spirit popped right out of your body? That proves my point."
"The idea of the transmigration of the soul comes from Ancient India, but it has been passed on to the Greeks (in the Orphic religion), played a part in Plato's Republic, and was even part of the teachings of Pythogoras. We druids were in Rome around the time of Julius Caesar, and spread into Britain along with the Roman conquests. We even spread to the rest of Europe, especially the Netherlands and surrounding areas. However, there were lots of prejudices against us and our ranks started thinning. Because of our magic, and our learning, we've managed to survive. But there is a lot of anxiety that we won't be able to survive and thrive. This is important, because we know that a thousand years from now, the Earth is going to be under attack. People are going to have to know our magic in order to fight the enemy. But it's not going to happen unless we can keep our teachings and spells intact until them."
"As a result, we've decided to pick a few people around the world and entrust them with all our knowledge and secrets. You won't have to use any of it, but you will have to preserve it carefully. A thousand years from now, your descendants, and the descendants of the others that we choose, will be shown how to learn and use that power. And the Earth can survive."
"What do I have to do?" I asked. I was beginning to wonder if the whole story was a complete hoax. But then I remembered the way that I'd walked through the wall and realized that I had better listen.
"Very little," replied the old druid. "I will give you a wooden chest filled with parchments that contain all the information. You have to store it carefully in your basement. Oh, and you have to move to Greenland."
"It's this island up North that's starting to be colonized. It's safer, and this way we'll be sure to have survivors in a thousand years."
"But Olga will never go for this. She likes it here."
"Are you the man of the house or is that a fancy title?" sneered the old druid. "Your first challenge is to convince her. Charm her. You can do it."
I was having difficulty absorbing all this new information, so I stayed quiet.
"Another thing," said the druid. "Your spirit will have to stick around for a thousand years so that you can let your chosen descendant know all about this, and teach her how to become a druid."
It's a tribute to how compelling the druid was, that I didn't even try arguing with him. I floated back to the house, re-entered my body, and pondered how I was going to get this past Olga. The best approach, I decided, was to start acting a bit crazy. Give myself a few days to come up with a plan, and then convince her to move to Greenland.
Gudrun sat in silence, absorbing all that she'd just heard. Was it all true? Well, unless she was dreaming, the spirit standing in front of her was obviously real, so clearly there was something out of the ordinary happening. But Gudrun fancied herself a rationalist. She didn't believe in spirits and the afterlife. Mythology was stories written by ancient peoples to explain forces of nature that they didn't understand, and to form a common bond and culture, but these weren't supposed to be taken literally. Did druids really exist?
"I don't believe in myths and spirits," she said. "How do we prove that what you're saying is true."
Gustaf Senior looked pleased. He was glad that she had said "we", and also that she had a questioning mind. "I'm glad you're a sceptic," he said. "Don't believe anything unless you can convince yourself that it's reasonable. This has nothing to do with myths. Norse mythology, and the stories of other ancient civilizations are just that - stories. That goes for religions, too, although that's a little more controversial. I've learned a lot about druids, their knowledge, thinking, and view of the world. You can learn a lot in a thousand years! Mankind hasn't even scratched the surface of understanding how the mind works and nature behaves. The manifestations of physical and chemical behavior are beginning to be understood. But not the underlying way in which things work. People haven't even posed the right questions to ask about the nature of being. But that's what the druids did. And the answers that they came up with are so deep that very few people can understand them without losing their minds. Those who can, become druids. The rest of us are their agents, and we help them keep the world on an even keel. Druids have been misunderstood through the centuries, often persecuted, and that's why they are secretive and keep their ranks small. And so, those of us whom they trust enough to help play an important role. Their agents are so few and far between that I was asked to have my spirit stay on Earth for a thousand years until the right agent came along to help save humanity from a disaster. And that's where you come in."
Gudrun wasn't persuaded, but she was curious. "Can I be a druid?" she asked. "Do I have what it takes?"
"We don't know at this point," replied Gustaf Senior. "The most important thing is to carry out the tasks that are going to be assigned to you. You'll start out being an agent. The rest of the druids will be evaluating you, and if you pass muster then you may be asked to become a druid."
"So what is needed? And how do I convince myself that all this is true."
In response, Gustaf Senior put his hands together, then drew them apart. As he did so, an image appeared in front of him. As Gudrun stared, the entire scene of Gustaf talking with the druid appeared. After that, the druid rose up, Gudrun saw him flying all the way to England, approaching Stonehenge, and disappearing inside one of the stones.
"That's not really proof," said Gustaf Senior, as if reading her mind. "But it's a good start. To continue, I suggest you go through your assigned reading tonight, and we'll follow up tomorrow."
He walked to the other end of the attic, where a large number of boxes and cartons were stored. "Push these two boxes aside," he told Gudrun. "The wooden chest that the druid gave me is behind them."
Gudrun dragged the chest out and opened it. It was filled with musty parchments, each with beautiful calligraphy. "Start at the top, and work your way down," said Gustaf. "Don't rush it, and we'll discuss more tomorrow." There was a small poof of smoke, and he was gone.
Gudrun pulled out the first parchment, sat on the floor, and began reading.
In the beginning (read the parchment scroll) there was no time, space, energy or matter. Just nothingness, and from this void came an infinite number of universes. Each one is different: for example, ours has three dimensions, time, and life. Mankind does not know the real origin of the universe - our scientists will think that it all started with the Big Bang about 15 Billion years ago.
The origin of the universe, the world, and life are all secrets that will be known to you if you become a druid. But for now it is important that you understand that we druids can see into the future. We use this only to ward off the greatest threats to Earth. We don't even use it to protect ourselves, which is why our ranks are constantly being threatened with extinction. We know when not to act (in Taoism, it's called wu wei.)
Between ten and fifteen thousand years ago, mankind started farming and began the change from being hunter-gatherers to farmers. At first, humans were consumed with finding food for live for another day. Gradually, as they began to settle, they started to create civilizations where stable societies formed. The earliest settlements were around five to seven thousand years ago, and gradually villages, then cities, and nations started to form. As these societies formed, life became more sophisticated. People started doing more than just hunt, farm, or fight. There was division of labor, and people started to perform functions which may not have been needed for survival, but vastly improved the quality of life. Merchants who traded goods and services came into being, standing armies and a warrior class were created, and many professions developed.
As mankind progressed, the questions of why we exist and how nature functions increasingly began to occupy people. Those who enjoyed thinking about such questions were recognized as performing a useful function even if it didn't have immediate benefits, and their ranks grew. Also, as societies and cultures grew, they developed their own rituals, stories and legends, history, and other social constructs. A whole group of people was needed to be teachers and priests. Almost every culture created it's own groups of people to serve these needs. Priests and gymnosophists in Greece, Shamans in Mongolia, Brahmins in India, and Druids in Western and Northern Europe are just some of the examples.
Druids evolved somewhat differently than the priestly groups in other cultures. Early on, we made contact with extra-terrestrial beings which provided us with secrets that we could not reveal to other humans. As a result, we always stayed aloof from the rest of civilization, and were frequently under attack. In spite of this, we have always had the best interests of all mankind at heart, and as a result use our powers to ward off any catastrophic events.
We are only concerned with events which might end in all of mankind becoming extinct (continued the scroll, as if reading her mind). Even large-scale disasters which threaten millions of people are not sufficient to warrant our intervention. We are bound not to change history by interfering too much in human society. Our interaction with mankind has been to enlighten and our brothers and sisters in different cultures, such as priests and shamans, have been responsible for guiding mankind to greater awareness in science, mathematics, and philosophy. Many of the great discoveries in these areas have actually been as a result of our help.
About a thousand years before you will read this, we came to learn that in the year 2007 the world would face a terrible threat. The threat will come from aliens who live in a parallel universe, living on a planet and star system virtually identical to our Earth and Solar System. However, they are (and will be) considerably more advanced than we, and are also more aggressive. Not finding other habitable planets in their own universe to be easily accessible, they will decide to exploit a worm hole connecting our two universes to travel to Earth and colonize it.
When we learned of this, we realized that to defend ourselves would require the collective wisdom of the entire world. As a result, we picked several people from different parts of the planet to defend us against the alien attack. Their descendants would be the ones who would form the group to protect Earth. The descendants are Gudrun Olafdottir from Greenland, Fatima al-Jabbar from Saudi Arabia, Joey McPherson from Australia, Ramotse Mbeki from Botswana, Katya Borges from Brazil, and Mira Kirchner from USA (North America). You will soon be contacted by one of them, and will get further instructions on what to do.
Gudrun sat for a few minutes, digesting this information. She had a million questions running through her mind, but realized that she would have to wait to be enlightened further. Gustaf Senior wasn't being very helpful either, he hadn't shown up in a while. She pulled out the second parchment and read further. Most of the rest of the scrolls elaborated in more detail upon what the first one had outlined. A few hours passed, and Gudrun had just finished going most of the content, when she heard Helga calling. She stood up, put all the scrolls back in the box, and went downstairs.
Helga was an (unpublished) mystery writer, and she had been trying to get her book published. This was important for her, and since this was during the holidays and Gudrun had no school, she was quite excited. She loved the quiet vastness of parts of Alaska, the beauty of Prince William Sound, and the majesty of the glaciers. She had once been hiking on Mendenhall glacier and had loved it. She was hoping that they would be able to spend a good deal of time outdoors.
Good Friday Earthquake which devastated much of the area. It had several exhibits dedicated to significant events, including the births of notables around when the center was built. Gudrun made a mental note to check out the exhibits later.
After they had checked in and rested, all three went to the lounge for drinks. They relaxed for a while, and just as they were getting up to leave, a lady approached them. "Hello, Elizabeth," said Helga.
Gudrun sat back in her chair and coolly regarded the newcomer. So this was Elizabeth Maria Theresa Schumacher Shannon Rothschild, the erstwhile nun-turned-model-turned-wife of the fast, the brilliant and the rich, and now the tour de force in the publishing world. Gudrun could not hear the words flowing between her mother and Elizabeth, but she saw the movements, the moods, and the gestures. Almost like watching an impressionist video. Gudrun was captivated ... Elizabeth was graceful, witty, and very sure of herself. Gudrun wanted to be just like her.
After Elizabeth left, Helga walked over to Gudrun. She looked ecstatic. "We're invited to a special breakfast tomorrow," she said. "Elizabeth liked my manuscript, and she wants to introduce me to some publishers. I can't believe my luck!" Gudrun was thrilled for her mother, and together they walked back to their room.
The next morning Gudrun and Helga woke up bright and early and were at the breakfast meeting promptly at 8. The room was filled with the excited chatter of editors, publishers, and authors. Elizabeth walked over to Helga's table and brought a couple of people over. Introductions were made, and Helga started talking with them. After a while, Gudrun started to get bored. She slipped out of the front door and wandered around the lobby for a while. After about fifteen minutes, she decided to return to the breakfast room. As she approached, she heard a strange sound and peeked through a crack in the drapes. The room was dark, and she could barely make out the silhouette of Elizabeth standing in the front of the room. She was undulating gently, and as Gudrun's eyes focused in the dark, she saw everyone swaying rhythmically.
Elizabeth's voice could be heard in a monotone chant. "Repeat after me", she said. "I pledge allegiance and undying fealty to Elizabeth. Unquestioning obedience and to further the cause of the Enigmas." The entire room repeated her words. Even through the darkness Gudrun could see the glazed eyes. "When you awake you will remember nothing."
There was silence for a minute. Then from each table one person rose, and sprinkled a white powder on each of the others at the table. Elizabeth then snapped her fingers, the lights were turned back on, and suddenly everything returned to normal.
Gudrun slipped back in, unnoticed, and quietly sat in her chair again. No one had seemed to notice her absence or return.
Helga regarded Gudrun with a puzzled look. "She was charming," she agreed. "But that's not what you mean, is it?"
"No, " said Gudrun. "You were in a trance, but here's what happened." And she told her mother the events. Helga wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Gudrun was generally a bright and straightforward child, but she did have an active imagination. This, on the other hand, sounded like a full-blown hallucination.
"Look," she told Gudrun. "I'm not quite sure what to make of all this, but I have a few meetings that I need to go to. I should be done by mid-afternoon, and then we're going home. Can you hold on until then? I'm not really sure what we can do, even if you really did see Elizabeth hypnotize all of us and make us help the Enigmas."
Gudrun started to respond, and then she thought the better of it. She had not yet had a chance to tell her parents about Gustaf I and the rest of that story, and it was all just too complicated. She was now sure that Elizabeth was an evil alien, but it wasn't clear what she could do about it. She figured that she would either find out in the next several hours, or would go back home and then take it from there.
"All right," said Gudrun to Helga. "Good luck, and I'll see you in a few hours."
Gudrun pensively watched Helga go off. She sat on the bed and turned on the television, not quite sure what to do. On the one hand she felt passive, since the message from the druids and the scrolls was that "You will be told what to do." On the other hand, she felt as though she was right in the middle of the action, what with Elizabeth turning out to be the main alien suspect. After watching a few minutes of a show, Gudrun turned off the television and went out for a walk.
As she exited the hotel, Gudrun noticed a man with a tall hat walking in front of her. The hat was so high that it was almost knocked off his head when he went through the doorway, and Gudrun thought she saw a red flash of light coming from within his hat. Curious, she started following him as he quickend his pace, making sure to keep a safe distance between them. He walked around the perimeter of the convention center, frequently looking behind him almost as though he were checking to see if anyone was following him. He turned a corner, and Gudrun hurried up so as not to lose him and she barely caught sight of him walking into a bush. Suddenly he vanished. Gudrun ran towards the bush, and noticed an open manhole. She peeked in, and there was a strong stench. It was probably part of the sewage system.
Gudrun stood there for a few seconds, debating whether or not to go in. Just as she was planning to walk away, another girl came running towards her. After a quick glance at Gudrun, the girl crouched next to the manhole and extended a foot, preparing to climb down. "Hey," shouted Gudrun almost in spite of herself. "What are you doing?"
The girl hesitated, then clambered out. She and Gudrun regarded each other thoughtfully for a while and then the girl said, "I'm Fatima. I have a feeling that we're supposed to meet."
Gudrun instantly recognized the name. "You're one of those mentioned in the first parchment," she said. "I'm Gudrun. Are there more of us here?"
"I have no idea," said Fatima. "I had a vision a few minutes ago, and it told me to run out and follow the man with the tall hat."
The two of them clambered into the hole, grabbed the post of the ladder, and climbed down. As they went down, then stench decreased, but it got darker. After a while, they could not see where they were going, and it seemed that they had climbed down a considerable distance. "I'm getting scared," admitted Fatima. "Me too," said Gudrun. "Shall we go back up?"
Just as she said those words, a tremendous blast of air knocked both of them off the ladder. They screamed, but their voices were muffled by the roar, and they were carried upwards by the draft into the dark void. Several minutes elapsed, and they seemed to be flying at a tremendous speed. It was tough to tell, because the deafening sounds and the utter darkness seemed to have numbed all their senses. Suddenly they felt themselves thrown violently into the rapids. They landed with a splash and felt themselves being rushed headlong into a waterfall. Except that this didn't feel like water, it felt like oil. The current seemed to be carrying them at blindingly fast speeds, and the girls helplessly waited for a catastrophic end.
"Looks like it," said Gudrun. They looked up and saw an old, abandoned building and a few cars parked near it. "Let's go and see if there's anyone who can help us."