Ebben and co make there way to the mystical mountain of shimmering surreal-ness. No, that's not its name. But it is its game.
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The previous chapters are below:
Until Wicked and Wacky Wednesday,
P.S. And by that I don't mean I will be "Daniel" only until Wicked and Wacky Wednesday, and after that I will be "Nina" or something. I just meant to say I'll see you then.
The Glass Mountain and the King of the Snow Monkeys
Snow Monkey Base Camp, the Glass Mountain. Svartalfeim, the land of the dark elves. Present day.
Lodbrok, Ebben and Ariella-Maria approached the Glass Mountain on foot. Ariella-Maria guided the horse by the reins.
They stopped a few paces away from the camp. The closer they got to the Glass Mountain, the more solid and visible it became. Now it was very real.
The camp was made up of tarpaulin tents – many with weaponry leaning up against them – and wooden chairs and tables. Above the camp however, on the mountainside, were the remnants of what was probably – albeit a long time ago – a great civilisation.
On the mountainside was a large marble monkey statue, surrounded by half-destroyed temples made of gold and precious stones, a crumbling hall made of boulders the size of cars, and an ivory tower so tall it disappeared into the clouds above. Judging by the amount of rubble on the mountainside, there must’ve been many more temples, towers and halls in the past.
Slowly, monkeys dressed like simple villagers came out of the tents and surrounded Ebben, Ariella-Maria and Lodbrok. They clutched at each of the travellers to examine them with their round, silvery eyes.
Lodbrok whispered to the other two that these must be the snow monkeys who protect the mountain.
Ebben gazed back at the monkeys.
Their wiry bodies were covered in bright white fur as white as the snowcaps on the mountain above. Their faces were a dark peach colour, and they each had a katana sword tucked into a rope belt around their waist.
The monkeys began chirping, ululating, banging the ground, jumping up and down, and throwing their arms into the air.
“They want us to see their king,” said Ebben to Ariella-Maria and Lodbrok. “It is apparently a matter of urgency that we see King Mizaru of the Vanara.”
Ariella-Maria nodded. Lodbrok raised his arms.
“Fair hairy folk of the invisible rock,” proclaimed Lodbrok, “lend me your ears.” Lodbrok turned to Ebben and said, “you’ll need to translate my words for these simple monkeys.”
Lodbrok turned back to the monkeys and repeated, “furry folk of the Glass Mountain, lend me your ears.
“Do not feel uneasy about my presence here, I mean you no harm. Yes, it is true, I am the famous warrior and bandit Eirik Lodbrok, but I come in peace.” Lodbrok waited for Ebben to finish translating, before adding: “my friends and I, Ebben and Ariella-Maria, would like to see your leader. But let him know I shall spare him his life.”
Ebben stopped. “Do you really want me to say that last bit?”
Lodbrok nodded, but as he did, the thunder of drums and trumpets leapt into the air. The snow monkeys drew their katana swords and raised them to the sky.
The monkeys parted. Coming through, being carried by four snow monkeys, was a monkey dressed in regal splendour, lounging back on a sedan chair adourned with silk curtains. In front of the chair was another snow monkey, this one in golden robes, beating his chest. Trailing the chair was a long parade of monkeys with veils over their faces, and monkeys in silver robes playing drums and trumpets.
The music stopped when the monkey in the sedan chair flicked his wrist.
“This is King Mizaru Silverback, King of the Vanara, also known as Emperor of the Oracle Snow Monkeys,” said Ebben, translating the announcement of the golden robed monkey leading the parade. “Foreigners, respectfully kowtow to his royal highness.”
At this request, the three travellers hesitantly lowered themselves and touched their heads to the ground three times. After they had finished, they rose to their feet and dusted themselves off.
King Mizaru gave the travellers a quick up and down, before diverting his eyes and covering his face with his fan.
Ariella-Maria arched her eyebrows at the group of giggling, veiled monkeys behind the sedan chair.
“The king would like to know our names,” whispered Ebben to his three companions. Ebben bowed to the king, “Ebben Alexandrov.”
The king’s head turned around to the front. He began chirping and cawing.
“What is he saying?” Ariella-Maria asked.
“He says they have been waiting for me for nine thousands years. And that they are excited finally to see me.” Ebben paused. “He is calling me the ‘prophecised one’. He’s clearly been talking to your Mani friend.”
“Ariella-Maria,” Ebben introduced, awkwardly gesturing at her.
The king clapped his hands and chirped once more.
“He says he is pleased to see you again. He said he could never forget your shining beauty and playful spirit,” said Ebben to Ariella-Maria, “except that you went by another name when he knew you, and were much younger.”
“I do not remember him visiting the wood or ever being known by a different name,” she said. “His chair looks familiar though.”
“Did he really say shining beauty?” Lodbrok asked.
“More or less,” replied Ebben, before leaning into Ariella-Maria and whispering: “I think he has you mixed up with somebody else. He says he was friends with your father, and that he hasn’t seen you since you were a little girl. Your father’s little princess. He is calling you a little princess.”
“I know no life before Mani,” she replied softly.
Her eyes drifted to Ebben’s and she stepped back. “A little too close, Ariella-Maria,” she whispered to herself.
“And now, a man who needs no introductions, trumpets or drums – hold the applause – Eirik Lodbrok,” announced Lodbrok, resting a hand on his chest and stepping forward. “And I must say; what a pleasant, serene, quaint and humble abode you have your majesty.”
“He says he does not know you,” translated Ebben, as the king spoke slowly.
“Lodbrok,” Lodbrok pronounced for the king in a loud voice. “Eirik Lodbrok, the beserker.”
“He’s asking whether you are our manservant,” Ebben said.
Ariella-Maria put her hand over her mouth to suppress a string of giggles.
“Manservant? Surely he recognises this face. It’s on all the wanted posters strewn across the land. A face burnt into the back of every bounty hunters’ eyelids, not to mention every loyal subject of the Red Knight, so that they never forget the prize. A head worth more than the trouble and danger of getting it.
“And what about my name? Surely he recognises my name? Surely it strikes fear into his heart and soul? Surely he wakes in a sweat from nightmares quivering, mumbling my name and the words ‘don’t kill me’? Do not tell me he wakes each morning with clean sheets after a restful slumber.
“Has he not heard the stories of my swashbuckling adventures from passing travellers? Has he not turned white in the face on hearing them, forced to steady himself on his throne?
“Are you sure this king is not a madman? No, the king must be lying or teasing or taunting, but either way he is making a grave mistake to not honour a guest as fine, famous and fabulous as me,” Lodbrok yelled, waving his hands about.
Ebben spoke with King Mizaru. The king was shaking his head slowly, and after some discourse burst out in laughter. And so did his subjects. Laughter and chirping rippled through the crowd.
Ebben chuckled too.
“He says he does recognise you now,” said Ebben to Lodbrok, putting a hand on the big warrior’s arm. “He recognises you as the great swordsman and bandit, Eirik Lodbrok. He says your reputation has spread far and wide, and he asks you for your mercy at his grave mistake. He is nervous in your presence.”
The monkey king lounged back in his sedan chair and scratched his chin.
Lodbrok straightened his back. “Yes, you can put him out of his misery and tell him I forgive him for his foolish mistake. I’m not one to let such slipups bother me.”
King Mizaru pointed a finger at Lodbrok and said something between bouts of giggles.
“What did he say just then?” growled Lodbrok.
“He suggested that before we leave, you and he have a swordfight. With blunt blades of course, so not to injure anything except one’s ego. He says he’d have a lot to learn from such a great swordsman.” Ebben looked at the king. “But first he wants me to go into his royal mead hall to drink and to talk. It seems Mani is not the only one mistaking me for someone important.”
“The king mistook me for your manservant, Ariella-Maria for a princess, and you for the prophecised saviour… perhaps his judgement isn’t the best,” Lodbrok whispered in Ebben’s ear with a growing smile, “or perhaps to Snow Monkeys, we all look the same.”
“Would you like a drink?” asked Ariella-Maria, gesturing to a jug of ale and a glass.
“No, thanks. I’m not thirsty.”
“You’re a hard man to read.” Ariella-Maria paused. “If you want to go home, you know you don’t need Tsinto,” she said putting the glass she had got for him down. “But Lodbrok and I have just been talking to Iwazaru, the king’s translator, and I think you will be surprised with what the king has to say to you. I wasn’t surprised, but I was expecting it. You are special - that much I know.
“Well, not special. But, well, for a lot of people you are the last hope of preventing Ragnarok. Mani thinks you’re the one, we’ve spoken at length about you and your destiny.”
“Home is the last place I want to go.” Hunched over, Ebben looked down at his left hand, unconsciously squeezing it with his right hand. “If you truly knew me, you’d know I am not the saviour everyone is looking for. I’m definitely no angel from above, or Master Sage, or whatever.
“I haven’t done one nice thing for anyone since my mum left me. I’ve given my aunt and teachers more trouble than they deserve, and been cold to everyone I meet at school.”
Ariella’s gaze drifted to Ebben’s hands and she grabbed one, twisting it around to reveal a tattoo on his wrist. “Have you ever wondered what this symbol means?”
The tattoo was of a skull with a key in its mouth.
“On my eighteenth birthday I went to the tattoo parlour and chose a tattoo at random,” Ebben muttered with a shrug. “It means jack. Nothing to me. And only annoyance to my aunt.”
Ebben tried to pull away from Ariella’s grip, but she held strong.
“This is no random symbol, Ebben. This is the Master Sages’ symbol. It symbolises the Master Sage’s creed: ‘Keeper of the key until death’. And that is your duty, or burden, or whatever you want to call it.” She let go of his arm. “It was no random act that you got this ink symbol on your forearm.”
She cocked her head to the side and straightened his collar hesitantly. “First Mani said it, then there were all those crows, then you saved Lodbrok and myself from the Red Knight’s magic, then you find the Glass Mountain and the Monkey King wants to talk to you, and now I see you have this tattoo… does this string of events not sound a little strange to you? Perhaps, you’re not the nobody you think you are? Maybe this is your chance to do something good.”
“I can’t believe you’re buying into all of this. Surely, you’re more sensible than that. Do you seriously think I’m this prophecised saviour? Then again, I guess you must have a few screws loose to pull off the whole channelling performance.”
“I have been in an empty wood for many years living as a hermit, Ebben. I didn’t even realise the world needed saving until I heard the stories from Iwazaru about the outside world and the Snow Monkey kingdom. I have had my head deeper in the sand, and for more years, than you.
“But you know what? If I thought it might all end tomorrow, and I thought there was a chance I was the only one who could save it, I’d be a bit more open-minded. That seems sensible to me. And I know that in your heart, you want to do something. You have a good heart.” She sat down next to Ebben and leaned towards him so she could whisper. “I know it all seems very strange and confronting. Just wait for Tsinto and listen to him. And listen to the king. Perhaps there’s good reason to hear their words, and good reason for you to stay here a while longer.”
“I’ll stay because I’ve got nowhere else to go. But at the end of the day, the way I see it, life is futile. It is full of pain and suffering. Perhaps ending it – ending the pain for everyone – isn’t so bad after all,” Ebben groaned, rubbing his reddened eyes. “You know what, I will have that drink. Let’s drink to the end of life.”
“What’s gotten into you?” hissed Ariella-Maria. “You sound like Mimir with the way you talk?”
“Who did you just say?” Ebben asked.
“The scarecrow. The evil one.”
“You’re too young to drink, aren’t you son?” Lodbrok roared from across the room. “I’m sure the monkey maids have milk or some-fing for you.”
“Thanks for your concern, Lodbrok, Ariella-Maria.” Ebben nodded at each of them. “I am nineteen in four months. I’m old enough to drink, and old enough to make my own decisions. Including whether or not to take on this Ragnarok thing.”
“You cannot ‘take on’ this Ragnarok thing. That is a responsibility that has been thrust on you, not a choice you can make. The choices you do have will decide the universe’s fate.” Ariella-Maria poured him a glass, put it in front of him, and stood up. “I just don’t want you to make a choice we’ll all regret.”
“There’s no ‘we’ in any decision of mine,” snapped Ebben.
Ariella-Maria shook her head in silence, before letting her eyes drift to where Lodbrok was sitting.
“I don’t take responsibility. It doesn’t become me,” Ebben added.
“You know what, Ebben Alexandrov? You’re a stubborn, selfish pig to not want to at least try to do something,” Ariella-Maria snapped, avoiding eye contact. “Perhaps I was completely and utterly wrong about you.”
She returned to the table across the hall to where Lodbrok was sitting. Despite Ebben’s lingering stare, she did not look back.
Ebben’s eyes darted to the seat opposite him. The scarecrow was now sitting there.
It tapped the round wooden table with bony black fingers.
“So you’re Mimir.”
“I am you, Ebben. I am who you truly are inside. All you need do is release me and we will be the most powerful force in the universe.”
“What do you want from me, straw man?” said Ebben. “I might have a brain for you, but if your lion friend needs a heart, I’m sorry. Apparently I don’t have one.”
“You’re losing control,” the scarecrow hummed. “Each moment you stay with these fools you lose more of your control – your power.”
“I’ve never had control – or power – in the first place.”
“Haven’t you? Was it just coincidence you found this world when trouble was brewing at home and you wanted to escape it all?”
“So this is all my fantasy, is it? I’m escaping into my imagination?”
“It is not your fantasy. It is your destiny. And it is very real. But you are losing control. Soon you will meet the warlock Tsinto. He will try to steal your power away completely, to have it and your life force for himself. He will try to kill you for his own gain.”
“And why would you tell me this?” hissed Ebben.
“Because I also have plans for you,” said the apparition. “You said it yourself, life is horrid. Full of pain and suffering, not to mention injustice. I know you have felt each of these emotions, so do not turn away from your destiny now.
“Together we can end all pain, end all suffering. We can ensure Mother Nature completes the natural Ragnarok of this universe, and save every soul from the torment it endures.”
Ebben shifted about in his seat.
“You need to get away from these things before they destroy us,” spoke the scarecrow in a low voice. “You are not strong enough to destroy Tsinto now because you are yet to understand your true power. You must wait until your power grows before hunting him down.”
“You want me to go back to Earth?” asked Ebben.
“No. I want you to find a powerful witch by the name of Sváfa. She is the sister of Tsinto, and she was your wife in a previous incarnation. She will amplify your powers without any second agenda, and she will keep you hidden from Tsinto.”
“If I were to look for this Sváfa , where would I find her?” said Ebben looking down at his ale.“Follow your instincts. She is not of this world, and only you know how you can move from one world to the next.” The apparition lowered its voice. “But remember, you must not tell anyone where you are going. They won’t let you go. Trust no one,” said the scarecrow. When Ebben looked up from his ale, it was gone.
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Do we trust the scarecrow? No? Why? Because of the whole killing Odin thing and evil presence? But what if he is trying to help Ebben like he claims? And everybody else is evil?
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