A Further Sampling from "THE BONES OF SUMMER"

 The chilling collection has twenty short stories....

"1962, Forn Lars and Bjørn Oddvar of the University of Oslo’s archaeology department discovered what they believed was a lost Norse saga.  The text seemed to recount an expedition that traveled inland from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers into present day Oklahoma before tragedy struck and a sole survivor returned home.  Critics quickly jumped on the two men, claiming the find was apocryphal and their research flawed. The manuscript was soon forgotten, and disappeared into the University’s vast archives. In 1987, Olaf Leifsson a researcher from Iceland learned of the lost tale and obtained it for a paltry sum.  The original can be viewed at the Museum of Nordic Studies in Reykjavík. The following story is derived from his translation…

The warm, still morning belied the death and carnage to come. 
Throughout the long voyage across the great inland seas and down the fat, muddy river, the men encountered just a handful of natives and fewer villages. Glome was bored. A large man with a constant scowl, he hungered for action and looked upon these long explorations as a waste of a good warrior.  Young Erik, by contrast, was excited by every new hill they passed, eagerly searching the horizons to see what was ahead.  Swein was simply ready to find a place to settle. Exploring was fine but he was no longer a young warrior.  He now longed to marry, farm, and grow old beside his own fire, his children gathered near.
            “There is a good place!” Glome pointed to an open stretch of river. Green meadows unfurled into dense, forested hills. It reminded Swein of home and the brief season without the chill of death.  It was why they had set off in search of a more prosperous land.  Some had stayed by the ocean, some had gone north at the vast lakes, and some, like these three had ridden the river south. 
A terrible storm diverted the men into a smaller tributary, which led them here.  They were grateful for the accident, which they saw as providence.  It seemed Odin had delivered them into a fecund, promising land.
 The men pulled the small boat onto the riverbank and secured it to a large tree.  Everyone was in good spirits, even Glome who bragged to Erik of the great farm he would create here.  As the other men unloaded the longboat, Swein scanned the trees.  He sensed eyes watching them but could not tell from where.  He let the other two men take a noisy lead as he followed soft-footed and alert, one hand on his knife.
Over the next few days, Swein felt the eyes several more times. At first, he believed curious, but shy, natives shadowed them. However, after trading with several tribes, Swein realized the tribesmen were neither shy nor frightened. Still the feeling endured, surfacing periodically as the men marched for the next week.
 The trees had just begun to turn gold when Erik broke his leg. The men were forced to retreat to the shelter of a cave. In Erik’s state, they would need medicine and magic so Swein left the next morning to retrieve their supplies. Glome was left to care for the fevered Erik. Swein turned to see his comrades wave from the mouth of the rocky crevice. He had the strangest feeling he would never see them again. 
A bitter, cold wind lashed the countryside a week later as Swein pulled the supplies toward the cave. He cupped his mouth and called but no one came.  There would be snow before the week was out; the sky seemed ready to birth a storm. He could not understand what had driven them from the cave. 
 Struggling up the hillside, he saw the opening was black and cold. He halted. No smoke lingered in the air, no fire flickered within. Setting his load down, he pulled his broadsword free. Swein circled the area, halting at the sight of prints in the damp earth.  Dropping to one knee, he traced the outline, and felt his heart stop in his chest.  Something huge and heavy had been to the cave.  It walked on two legs, leaving prints different and larger than anything they had yet encountered.
 In the bushes nearby, Swein found Erik’s blanket. It was ragged and bloody. “Glome!” he called.  “Erik!” The chilling wind was the only response. "

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