Meløy, Nordland, Norway, April 1634

Nikulas Anderson woke with the sun streaming through the open window. The air was still and he could hear the roar of the waterfalls at the head of Glomfjord—the noisy fjord. He hated those waterfalls. Three years ago they had claimed his parents, his younger brother, and his baby sister. Birgitte, his baby sister, was the person he missed the most.

For as long as he could remember the waterfalls had held his father in their thrall. His brother Peter had shown an interest in the waterfalls in an attempt to be noticed by their father, but Birgitte had been happy to stay at home with Mama and Nikulas. Until that day three years ago. Then Father had dragged all of his family except Nikulas, who couldn't be spared from the estate, out on that last fatal expedition. How Nikulas hated those waterfalls, and how he hated his father for being seduced by their siren song and taking his family with him.

Nikulas got dressed and collected the rucksack he'd prepared the previous day, then left the house. He didn't need to tell anybody where he was going. The household would know. Today was the third anniversary of that fateful day.

He set off in his small sailing boat for the waterfalls of Glomfjord.

****

Nikulas sailed deep into the fjord, heading for the top, where water from Fykanvatn cascaded.

He beached his boat, then pulled it up onto the stony beach. The steps the rescue party had cut into the rock when they recovered the bodies of his family weren't far away.

After a steep climb of nearly six hundred steps Nikulas was able to look across the body of water that was Fykanvatn. Somewhere in the lake's depths lay the remains of his father, may he rot. He followed the track his father had formed over the years, keeping the lake on his right, until he came to the Fykanaaga, the river that flowed into Fykanvatn, and followed it further up the mountain. A few minutes later he came across the cairn of rocks he was looking for. This was where they'd found his sister's bloody and broken body. Other cairns marked where Nikulas' mother and brother had been found.

Just beyond was a meeting of two streams. To the left was the waterfall Father had been most interested in. The other stream was barely a trickle in comparison, and of no interest to his father. Nikulas started climbing, following the path his family would have followed. Eventually he made his way to the top of the waterfall and looked down. Was this where his family had fallen to be swept down the river to their final resting places? Behind him the river continued up mountain. He turned and followed the river upward.

The waterfall was fed by another lake, called Nedre Navervatn by his father, but this wasn't Nikulas' objective. He turned to the north and followed the ridge line to the top of the mountain known locally as Reben. From this vantage point he looked around. In every direction except to the west, where the fjord lay, there were lakes large and small feeding the waterfalls that flowed into the fjord. The noise was oppressive. You couldn't hear a man scream.

Nikulas sank to his knees and buried his head in his hands. They'd found signs that his sister had been a long time dying. How long had she lain on the bank of the river screaming for help that never came? He would often wake in the night, sure that he could hear his sister pleading for him to come and rescue her.

Nikulas spat on the ground, rose to his feet and looked down at the waterfalls his father had thought so beautiful. Their siren song had killed all that he held dear. He prayed to the Old Norse gods to care for his mother, his brother, and most especially, his baby sister. And he cursed his father, and the waterfalls whose song had seduced him.

Arendal, Aust-Agder, Norway, July 1634

Magnus Kristjanson waited impatiently for his sister-in-law to call him and the others into her office. In a properly run family he should have been in charge, the one giving the orders. But Inger was a law unto herself. Magnus' brother had spoiled her, pandering to her belief that a woman had the right to speak out. Everybody knew women had no head for business, except for Eilif. And now Inger occupied the place he should have had when Eilif died.

"What's keeping the old witch?" Magnus muttered.

"Her nephew from Meløy is here," Mikkel Agmundson answered.

"Her favorite sister's only surviving child." Agmund Torgeirson placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "Mikkel here thinks she might be planning on sending him with us to Grantville."

"What can a farm boy want from the up-timers?" Magnus demanded.

"Who cares? Just as long as she can get permission from the king for us to go to Grantville and buy the up-timer technology we need," Olav Ravaldson, the fourth man, said.

Magnus gritted his teeth. Inger might not have the ear of the king, but she did have the ears of the wives of many of Christian's top advisors. "I'm sure the witch has everything in hand. She wouldn't have called all of us to meet her unless the trip was approved."

The door opened and Nikulas Anderson appeared. "Gentlemen, if you'd please follow me. Tante Inger will see you now."

USE Steel, just outside the Ring of Fire, Late July, 1634

Nikulas waited patiently while the other men in his party questioned their guide. Personally he had no interest in making steel. Unlike Arendal, where the others were based, there was no iron near Meløy. All they had was cattle and sheep. Even the fishing was little more than subsistence, at least compared with the fishing around Lofoten to the north.

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- The Grantville Gazette Staff