Mage: The Gun Quarter
Thrunn slid into the driver’s seat and inserted his keys into the ignition. He pumped the gas pedal two times and pushed it down halfway a third time and held it. He turned the key and the engine sputtered to life, threatening to choke and stop until Thrunn goosed the pedal and gave the truck a little more fuel.
A cloud of black and purple fumes shot out the exhaust pipe. The engine roared in high-idle, threatening to spin at unsustainable speeds and tear itself apart in uncontrollable vibrations. Amund could feel his teeth rattling and the windows vibrating between the door panels. Thrunn pumped the pedal again and the engine settled into a low-idle. Instead of a heart-attack, the truck’s engine was resigned to insistent palpitations.
Amund was unphased by Thrunn’s engine-starting ritual. The truck was old a decade ago. It wasn’t going to get any better. Thrunn insisted on keeping it despite the expense of such frequent repairs because ‘It would cost me more to buy a new truck than to simply keep this one running.’
He pulled out onto the snowy road and began navigating his way to Brynhildr’s home. Her temporary residence was not far from the reenactment village. Like Amund and Thrunn, she lived two separate lives, one part was public, and the other was utterly Viking. She referred to herself as the “Shield Maiden” of their group and fancied herself as the finest warrior of the bunch. The only one with combat skill that came close to her was Thrunn – she always said his movements were slow and deliberate compared to her speed and grace.
“D’you think it was a giant?” Thrunn said.
“If it is a giant, he’s being pretty quiet. I haven’t heard any reports of violence or destruction. No one’s gone missing. When I asked the animals, they reported nothing unusual was afoot,” Amund explained.
Amund Ellestad had a way with words. People, animals, plants; all seemed willing to listen to him when he spoke and all seemed eager to offer answers to the questions he asked. His intuitive understanding of the grand tapestry of life made him a powerful and respected man. Coupled with his tendency toward safeguarding his honour and his reluctance to lead anywhere but from behind engendered a sense of brotherhood with Thrunn, Brynhildr and the others. They wanted to protect him as much as he felt he needed to protect them.
“So not a giant … elves? You think an elf would come through the Bifrost?” Thrunn pondered.
“Perhaps … but it would need a very strong source of glamour to protect itself from paradokset. Bygone creatures don’t last very long without a patron feeding them,” Amund said. The air puffed from his mouth in misty whorls. The engine hadn’t warmed up enough to heat the cab.
Paradokset, or paradox, was the consequence for pushing the boundaries of reality too far. Belief and the will to power, shaping the world as one sees fit is well within the rights of all sentient creatures who are awakened. Being a will-worker, or more crudely, a mage, was a blessing and a curse.
In the world, all belief reinforced a set of rules and principles about how reality should work. Even those who were “asleep” pushed their will out onto the whole of reality, however faint. This was known as the consensus – the general, shared experience of reality.
Thrunn, Amund, Brynhildr – all three were will-workers, mages who were able to press the boundaries of reality and reshape it to their whims. They were able break the rules of the consensus and make the world their own, each in their own way, with different aptitudes.
There was a fourth member of their cabal, Ingvald. Writer, poet, song-maker, leader of a death metal band. He was currently on tour and out of contact with the rest. Cabals are collections of mages who’ve come together in common cause.
They called themselves The Circle. A band of Viking mages, rooted in the history and legend of Norse mythology. Thrunn was their armourer, Amund, the reluctant leader and Brynhyldr, a powerful warrior. Ingvald was a wild man, a storyteller, a will-worker dedicated to the Norwegian death metal scene. They bridged the gap between the consensus and the true history of magicka.
The Bifrost wasn’t just the stuff of legend; it was a real thing that existed in Midgard and the other eight Norse realms. It was a gateway between different parts of reality. That made it immensely valuable and a source of great power.
All of these ideas and truths sat at the edge of Thrunn’s mind.
“No one has contacted us yet? Aesir?” Thrunn asked.
Amund shook his head. “It wasn’t the Aesir. We’d know.”
Thrunn nodded his head in agreement. They would know. Nothing so powerful as a Norse god could exist in the world without causing a few ripples. They’d feel it the moment it happened.
Down the road they rumbled and rattled in deep, snowy ruts until they came upon a small row of houses. A tall, blonde woman stood expectantly out front. She was dressed in traditional clothing, including a long wolf pelt draped around her shoulders. It was Brynhyldr. She lifted her bag and set it in the back of the truck, including a long, bastard sword in a scabbard. She opened the passenger side door to the truck and a gust of cold air swept inside the cab.
Brynhyldr unceremoniously shoved Amund into the middle of the bench seat with a hip check. She slammed the door and adjusted her wolf pelt to hang just so. Amund took a moment to be mildly annoyed by her shoving him, but he set aside any offense in favour of practical matters.
“I am glad you could make it,” Amund’s tone was diplomatic.
“How could I resist the opportunity to kick some ass? Coming to Midgaard without warning us is against the treaty. Someone’s got to learn a lesson,” Brynhyldr smashed her right fist into the palm of her left hand and grinned.
Amund shuffled in his seat uncomfortably. “I would prefer we not start a war … let’s just see what happened at the Bifrost before we draw our swords.”
“You’re no fool Amund, I saw your sword in the back,” Brynhyldr pointed her thumb to the bed of the truck.
Thrunn glanced into the back of the truck. Beside Brynhyldr’s weapons was Amund’s sword.
“With tears in his eyes, Amund promises them, he comes in peace, but if they fuck with him, he’ll kill every last one of them,” Thrunn grinned.
Amund rolled his eyes and cracked half a smile.
“The philosophy of Amund is elegant in its simplicity; Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” Brynhyldr teased in a sing-song voice.
Amund and Thrunn glanced at her and broke out into laughter. Thrunn shifted the truck into drive and they began to make their way toward the Bifrost.