The Carinval

Fate is cruel and kind and I have another day that fate changed my life. I arrived at the carnival in the middle of Kansas with Haskuldr at my side. There is no noise in this place, no birds, and no animals. There was a slight breeze blowing through the place and not even the corn made a rustling noise. The heat from the sun was oppressive, more so than it should of been. The carnival is fenced off with an entrance gate in the front. To my right stands a massive tree outside the fence, I can’t recognise what tree it is as it seems to have died. A giant Ferris wheel looms over the fence with several bodies pinned to it but there is no stench of blood in the air.

I turn to Haskuldr and shrug and start making my way towards the gate. I get to the gate and am greeted by a strange mechanical man which is slumped over the desk. It gets up and looks at me with its cold mechanical eyes. It looks like it is run by clockwork and several parts can be seen, but it has a human looking face. It speaks to me “Ticket please,” in its dead voice with that hint of metal behind it. I show it the postcard that I have on me; it cocks it head and looks at me. “That is nice sir. Ticket please,” it says revealing a mouth full of circular saw blades.

“How much is a ticket then?” I ask.

“A quart of your blood,” it says as a small funnel pops out the side of its head.

I put out my left hand knowing that if this is the right place this will be the smallest sacrifice I will have to make. I pour the blood into the funnel and the gears start to pick up speed. After a few seconds a ticket appears out the side of its head, and it tears off the ticket and hands it to me, and I’m free to enter. Haskuldr was not stopped at the gates and we were standing in the middle of the carnival. I turn to Haskuldr “What should we do now? We can investigate this place but I don’t know what we are looking for.”

“I am unaware Commander, and do not know what we should do, it is your choice,” Haskuldr says.

It then dawns on me the surroundings of this place; it is deserted and run down. Everything looks like it is from the 50’s/60’s. The waltzers are the ones that have to be spun round manually. They have a strange symbol on them but I can’t place where I have seen it before. Everything has been unused for years as dust has built up on everything, even with the strong wind blowing. Off to the left lie the stalls and side attractions, while the rides lie to the right along with the Ferris wheel.

We head left in search on some kind of hint as to what will lead us to the Well. We find a map and I notice that the dummies in the attractions eyes are following me as I walk. Then I am startled by one of the dummies in the barber shop quartet reaches out towards me as I pass by. I go back and this time it reaches out for me with both arms. Curiosity gets the better of me and I place a quarter in the slot. The machine starts with a jerky, grinding noise and the dummies start to sing a song from Sweeney Todd. It is sung in a rusty sounding unison, and once they finish the dummies start to talk to me. “How can we help you? What do you want? How can we be of service?” they asks each once speaking a different word in the sentence.

“I wish to find the Well. Can you point be in the direction?” I enquired. Why the hell I was talking to dummies I will never know. I could see a floor plan behind their heads but I couldn’t make it out as it had fades over time.

The dummies turn to each other and spoke in one voice “You can try the staff area they have access there, they always have access. You could try and find the curators they might help you there, they like it if you go on the rides, but beware the gate keepers.”

“Who are the gatekeepers?” I asked. I can just imagine the puzzled look on my face.

The dummies looked and pointed towards the entrance “they are the gatekeepers, beware them they have sharp teeth.”

I turned round to Haskuldr “well which way do you think we should go? I think the staff area might be best.”

Haskuldr shrugged “it is your choice commander which way we go. I don’t think we should trust what these machines say though or this place.”

We decided to north towards the staff area of the carnival. The map we found was difficult to read as every place seemed to overlap on it. We arrived to find 3 caravans with padlocked doors and grammar phone coming from inside the caravans. On the front of each caravan was stylish letters which were an S on the right, a V on the middle and a U on the left. Haskuldr stay outside while I knocked on the door of the caravan and got no answer, so I broke into the caravan. It looked like it had been abandoned by the look of it with a curtain drawn over the bed area. I noticed underneath the couch a glint of something golden. I investigate underneath and a pair of eyes and a warm gust of air meted my face. I beckoned the creature out and discovered it was a golden clockwork dragon. It tried to crawl up my leg but couldn’t so I cradled it in my left arm and left the caravan.

I went to the caravan marked with a U. There was no answer from the door again, so I broke in to this one as well. I was greeted with the heavy smell of meat frying. An old, small framed woman with long greying hair stood at the stove cooking. I tried to attract her attention by talking to her but got no response. I advanced towards her and tried to tap her on the shoulder, and got an awful feeling of vertigo, and saw that the frying pan was full of eyeballs. The woman turned round and gave me a toothless grin as she placed 2 eyes from the pan into her empty sockets. “Hello how can I help you?” she said “You are wrapped by fate you should beware.” The dragon tried to crawl away from the woman, but I stood my ground.

“Yes, I know I am. I have been told many times. I am looking for a way to the Well and I though I might find it here,” I uttered.

“I will have to wake my sister then. Are you willing to make the sacrifice?” she cackled.

“I am willing to make any sacrifice I have to make.” I said.

“Well come on then, we will go wake my sisters,” she spoke “give me your arm then, I am a frail old woman and need some assistance.”

I handed her my right arm and we left towards the middle caravan. We entered and the old woman pulled back the curtain, revealing a bed with fat woman in her 40’s sleeping. The old one woke her up and explained what was happening. The old one took my right arm while the fat one took my left and I was dragged. Haskuldr stood there watching as I was dragged.

We went to the last caravan. The old on unlocked the door and a young woman, no older than 25, was lying on the couch. She had small devil horns growing out the side of her head. The fat one grabbed her by the ankle and dragged her onto the floor. She awoke with a start and asked what was happening, and was told everything by the fat one and that they were taking me to the Well. “Idiot!” she snapped at me, and got up. I was pushed and dragged towards the Ferris wheel. I offered no resistance as I realised they were the Norns. Haskuldr followed, I can only imagine the look his face, the one he normally has whenever I do something foolish.

As we get closer to the Ferris wheel it loomed even higher. The spokes in the wheel become more distinct and defined, resolving into interlinked swords. The smell of blood is heavy in the air, but no smell of rotting. The Ferris wheel was the largest I have ever seen. We stand at the base of the Ferris wheel and it is the largest I have ever seen. The Norns turn to me “are you willing to make the sacrifice?”

“Yes I am” I respond.

“Then enter” they say and they unlock a carriage and beckon me to enter.

I turn to Haskuldr and I can see the look in his eyes, and he says “I believe you have to make this part of the journey yourself Commander.” The Norns cut in “Yes you have to do this part by yourself.”

I stepped into the carriage and was locked inside as the Norns went into other carriages. The wheel started moving and I was slowly taken into the air and the landscape started to change below me. Blood started to cover the land and a piece of white land was slowly rising out of the blood. At the halfway point in my ascent the white land had become a skull with several Norse looking warriors standing on top of it. The blood had pooled round the skull and there was nothing else below me but the blood. Then the chanting hit my ears shouted in a strange dialect that but I will remember the chant. “Honour the warrior’s sacrifice and honour the sacrifice you are about to make.” The ride stops at an impossible height.

An old style longhouse is in front of me. The Norns get out and asks me “are you willing to make the sacrifice and enter?” I nod and the carriage is unlocked and I am ushered into the hall. I stand at the end and look down the hall, where the Thane would sit on the dais there is no chair but a small stone well. I walked down the hall with the torch light flickering and failing at times.

I stand before the well and look in and can’t see the bottom. On the walls round the well are several animal skulls, a cat, a bear, a wolf and a ram. They have been heavily modified; brass plates have been placed on them and well as clockwork parts. The shadows round the well start to take shape. A paw appears either side of the well and a large wolf head appears over the well. The wolf is a large clockwork creature but is black. It jaws are covered with several layers of blood made up of several hand prints, layered over and over again. The wolf had an oppressive feel to it as if it much larger than it appeared.

The Norns came up behind me “Are you willing to make the sacrifice?” I nodded and I trust my right hand towards the jaws before the Norns could respond. The youngest places a vial in my left hand and takes hold of the dragon. Once she backed away a gleam came into the wolf’s eyes and the gears started to whine and then built into the most unworldly howl ever and the jaws started to close. I held my ground as I knew that this is what my father had done. I dipped my left hand into the well filling the vial to the brim. I still had time to remove my right hand before the jaws closed, but I said I would make the sacrifice and I always keep my word.

The jaws closed and I experienced the most intense pain ever, even worse than when the scarabs ate my flesh, but I had made my sacrifice, I had saved my men, just like my father saved the Aesir from Fenrir by sacrificing his own hand. When the jaws opened there was a new bloody hand print, and I turned round to the Norns. They looked impressed with what I had done and spoke “We knew you would do that, now choose one of the fabulous prizes, because we like you and you have been very cooperative.”

“What are the prizes?” I enquired I’m sure I had that confused look on my face again.

“The skulls on the wall are the prizes. Don’t be greedy just pick one and only one.” They replied.

I looked over the skulls seeing which one would suit me. I was drawn to the bear because of its association with strength, and the wolf because of mine and my father’s relationship with the creature. I finally chose the bear because of its symbol of strength. As I picked it up I could feel the weight of it like it was a full metal helm. I could see the mechanisms that worked it.

The fat Norn turned to me “I though you would of taken the ram but I was wrong. We can’t always be right.”

“Do you think I’m stubborn?” I asked. We all laughed a bit with that comment.

The fat one asked “Will you take care of my pet?” and pointed at the dragon, “His name is Fafnir, take good care of him; he will need wound up every so often.” She pointed at a spine in the middle of the back, and I could see how it would turn.

I nodded “I will take good care of him,” if fate had already caught up with me once it was now trying to force the other one to catch up. I can’t imagine the look of horror or shock on my face.

The youngest one spoke up “Well I believe that is you finished here and it should be time you left.”

“I thank you very much” I said and bowed.

The youngest one said “Thank you and we will be seeing you again Eric Chambers.”

I opened my eyes and was under the tree that had been outside the carnival. I was in the middle of a golden field of corn, with the vial of water, the bear helm and the golden dragon. Haskuldr was standing over me “Did you get what you want commander?” he asked.

“Yes I did. We can now revive the others. I also got these as well. The dragon’s name is Fafnir,” I said.

Haskuldr backed off “well at least we can keep an eye on him. We should figure out how best to use these gifts from the Norns,” he said with a slight tremble in his voice.

We flew back to Washington were I used the water to restore my men. The metal that had replaced their bones became jointed and the runes disappeared and they were revived.

Fate has caught up with me, and I am now one handed just like my father. I have sacrificed to save people just like my father did. Fate can be cruel and kind.