Jay looked across the lake at the distant mountain. Nothing was moving over the glassy water.
He slipped the kayak into the water, stepped in placing his little backpack on the floor between his legs, and pushed off. After a couple of hard paddles to get the boat’s momentum up, he relaxed into a routine of gentle, quiet, yet efficient strokes.
Silent. That was the key word. Didn’t need anyone to hear, and there were a lot of ears, not to mention the Guardian.
After several minutes, Jay glanced back. The kayak created a small wake as it sliced through the smooth water. Eddies swirled where his paddle had pushed the water back, propelling his tiny craft. The shore was receding, but still near, too close. There was no movement, his theft had yet to be discovered.
Jay put his attention back to the distant mountain and continued to make his way towards it, picking up the pace a little as he left the encampment farther behind. It didn’t take long for the paddling to become totally automatic, a reflex, not even felt.
A whisper of a breeze broke the glassy surface of the water, shattering the perfect mirror of the reflection.
How long would the ideal conditions hold out?
He pushed a little harder, but still careful not to disturb the water too much.
They would have returned to camp by now and seen what Jay had done.
He risked a glance over his shoulders. Nobody on the shore yet.
Out in the deep water there was no longer the need for silence, though he did have to be careful. It wouldn’t do to wake the Guardian.
Jay put a little more strength into his strokes.
The wind began to pick up causing small waves. The kayak sliced through them with ease, but there was now the constant splashing of the boat and the rush of water with his more powerful strokes.
Without slowing, Jay took his bearings. A little over halfway across. Good. The quick glance back showed movement on the shore. They would soon be after him. Their boats were much quicker, but if he reached the far shore, he would be safe.
The wind began to howl. The waves grew bigger. As much effort was needed to keep the boat pointed in the right direction and upright as was used to propel it forward and Jay was beginning to tire.
Another backward glance risked revealed that a longboat was now on the water. It wasn’t moving yet, but soon would. Another long boat was also being prepared and he guessed a third would follow.
Jay gritted his teeth, put more weight into each burning stroke.
The shore was approaching.
He would make it!
Wind whipped rain stung has face as he made the last dash towards the beach. When had the white puffy clouds been replaced with these dark towers? Almost there. The waves washed over the kayak as the storm intensified.
A giant head emerged beside him. The Guardian! The tooth mouth lunged at him, just missing as he twisted around. A few more mad paddles and he hit land just as the back of the kayak disintegrated under the blow from the monster.
Jay grabbed the backpack out of the kayak before the Guardian could make another attck and ran. He could feel rather than see the three long ships land, disgorging their warriors. Damn!
He emerged into a flat field at a flat out sprint, 20 large men just behind and catching up.
A loud crack filled the sky.
The closest warrior fell.
Another shot rang out and another warrior down.
The rest came to a halt, letting Jay escape to his waiting friends.
Back at the camp Jay reached into the pack and triumphantly pulled out a cantaloupe sized transparent ball.
“What’s that?” Bev, the team lead, asked.
“The Globe of Thor! That’s what I was sent after, wasn’t it?”
Bev put her head into her hands.
“Idiot! The Globe of Thor is a quartz globe about twice the size of that. This is just a glob of raw glass waiting to melted down and used.”
Jay looked at the glass ball in his hands and then through the trees to the lake. At least a dozen long ships cruised just off shore and the giant Guardian dragon could be seen. There was no way he could cross.
“So, what now?” he asked.
Bev stared at him.
Beverly Johansson smiled at the journalist after the official opening of the “Days of Norse Mythology” exhibit at the museum.
“Most of it was simple,” she said. “There was a bit of bartering, a bit of luck with serendipitous finds and, I have to admit, a little bit of looting. But, hey, they were Vikings, they understood looting.”
The journalist laughed. He then pointed to the giant stuffed dragon.
“Yes, I’m sorry to say that we lost one of the team members, Jay Ahlberg, capturing this monster, but it is a beaut, no?”
Poor Jay. He knew they had to have a big draw to exhibit to pay for the expedition. Without the Globe of Thor, they were lost. Unless… Sitting in his kayak Jay was perfect dragon bait. It wasn’t really that hard to bring in the monster after it swallowed him whole.