Chapter 18 – The Valknut

The Valknut

Tuesday

The mid-morning light glittered into the Sunroom between the leaves and branches of the tall elm tree just outside the window. Twinkled like sprites, flitting magically in the warm air. Mrs. Branbury rested, slunk sideways in the big soft queen’s chair, snoozing off her morning porridge. A very small woman made smaller looking in the giant chair. Jon sat beside her; his book opened in his lap. He waited. Not that he needed any reminder of any word in any chapter of his book, he knew it all by rote, had spoken from it more times than he could remember, in lectures and talks and arguments with others who thought they knew more than he on this subject. He brandished ‘The Life and Times of Snorri Sturluson’ as if it were a bible.

“We know it to be true,” he said. “You weren’t there.”

He had already become more a source of interest and entertainment than the TV. His stories were not only about the Norse, Vikings, traders, the harsh life of early settlers on the distant shores and rocky islands, they were about real people that once lived upon the earth and were long passed. Jon pointed at Mr. Z.

“There is no doubt that we are related, perhaps very distantly, maybe through a person that lived a thousand years ago, but ultimately we are spawn of their progeny. Somewhere deep within our genes there is a common link. All people are related to each other. I have learned this through my vast studies. There is no escaping it. Related even to people we find contemptable.” Jon’s eyes shifted to Karl Homesman who had made his way upstairs and propped himself against the wall near the doorway. “Close your eyes and imagine the time before you were born, a time before the first memory you have. Go ahead, close your eyes.”

His audience closed their eyes though most could not imagine anything, just empty blackness, devoid of light and sound. Oddar Gunnerson said he thought he might have been a dog or a rat in a past life.

“What makes you think you had a past life?” Jon asked.

Odd shrugged.

“You were probably a rock or a slug in your past life,” Karl laughed from the corner of the room.

Jon closed his book and patted the cover.

“None of us know that for sure,” Jon said. “This past life thing. Though many of us conjecture about it and many, perhaps most, believe that when we die in this life that we will go on to some greater glory, an eternal reward like heaven or in Snorri’s case, possibly Valhalla. A recompense for having tolerated a benign or miserable existence. But life is just life and we know this in our inner self.” Jon held up his right hand and touched the heavy metal ring on his middle finger. The ring bore a signet embossed with three interlocked triangles. “The Valknut. The symbol of slain warriors who have earned Valhalla. We are all slain warriors, slain by life, or we soon will be. Snorri had this ring. Not this one on my finger but one that was given him by his father Sturla at the time he sent his youngest son into fosterage with Jon Loftsson. Sent him away to Oddi. He was too small to wear the ring on his finger, at first, so he kept it strung on a leather thong looped over his neck, like a pendant, hidden inside his tunic so the priests couldn’t see. When he grew to a man he was able to put it on his own finger, though he did this only in private, because he of course was a Christian. When he looked at it or stroked it he was reminded that he would see his father Sturla in Valhalla, someday, and they would both be grown men. What would he say to the man that gave him into fosterage?”

With his hand in the air, exhibiting the ring, Jon imagined Snorri with his hand in the air, his Valknut on display.

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