Dust and Misogyny
- The Grave of Valkyries – Part 1
- The Grave of Valkyries – Part 2
- The Evidence
- A Stopping Place
- The Storm
- Ragnar’s Hall
- Not Like Indiana Jones
- A Homecoming, A Gift
- Dragon Heads
- Dust and Misogyny
- Stone Walls
- The Vikings
- Circumstantial Truths
- Dance With Me
- Find a Question
- A New Home
- The King
- Three Springs
- Goodbye, Hello
- Unexpected Arrivals
- Bishop vs Rook
- Cause of Death
- Midnight Visitor
- Dark Nights
- Good Morning (pending)
“How old is this piece?”
Kally poked at a sealed bag containing a chipped axe head carved with twining figures that ended in curls or ran to the edges of the metal.
“That,” Mr. Kingsly said while shooing her hand away. “Is a Mammen-style axe head, a little past the period you’re looking for, I’d say.” He adjusted his copper-wire glasses and hustled them down the aisle of the small museum’s storage room. Derrick could hear Taylor sucking his teeth at the state of the storage.
The museum was a renovated abbey outside of town. It carried a hodge-podge of items ranging from medieval manuscripts to modern election pins. Only a tenth of what they had was on display but, based on the sign-in sheet at the front desk, there weren’t enough visitors to care.
Its collection was… Unorganized. Derrick had worked in local museums in the US and the woefully understaffed university museum back in his home state, and none of them had the same jumble of boxes this one did. He had to hand it to their guide, who seemed to be the only full-time employee in the place. It took effort to maintain such a collection and the man either didn’t have the space or the volunteers to do it justice.
“I believe this would be correct,” Kingsly said. He shoved his pudgy form between overstocked shelves stacked high with white boxes to grab one covered in marker. Kally sneezed as the movement resulted in a cloud of dust that descended upon the four of them. Taylor offered her a tissue, but she sneezed again and again, unable to stop. When the attack finally settled, she accepted it with watery eyes.
“Allergies,” she mumbled. Taylor and Derrick both nodded.
“Yes,” Kingsly nodded sagely. “Quite a few of you young people have those. Not enough exposure to nature as children, if you ask my opinion.” He was too busy opening the box to acknowledge Kally’s glare. “This is what Miss Kiernan sent you for.”
“Dr. Kiernan,” Taylor corrected with a stubborn jut to his chin. “And we appreciate your help with this, Mr. Kingsly. The Doctor said you would be the best person to ask about Gunnar.” Derrick might have imagined the extra emphasis his friend put on the ‘doctor’. This wasn’t the first time he’d ignored Dr. Kiernan’s title since they’d arrived.
“Yes,” Kingsly sniffed. “Maggie has helped the museum with a few minor projects. It’s only fair turnabout.” He handed them the bagged contents and the piles of paper that went with them. “Please take your time and do not tear any pages. I’ll be in my office when you have questions.”
As he shuffled down the hall, the three students descended upon the notes. Kingsly’s contribution to the field of history was a book about Gunnar the Witch-Killer. Despite the effort put into it, Dr. Kiernan had informed them that the project had only been published because of a social connection with the press owner. It was rare, and not because it was a hot seller. Kingsly had kept all of his manuscripts and research tucked in the museum for the entire decade since it had been published, which was quite convenient for them.
“Between you and me,” Dr. Keirnan had warned them. “I think he still hopes it’ll be a best seller. Told me over a drink once that he keeps annotating it in case he wants to do a second edition.” It took all of fifteen minutes to figure out why no one wanted to read it.
“I’m getting mega-church vibes,” Kally groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. “And where are all the women? Every name in here is Sir No-One-Knows, son of Sir No-One-Cares.” She flipped a printed page filled with typed notes and scribbles and sighed. Her expression turned infuriated and resigned all at once. “Never mind, I found them.”
The other two glanced over. On the page, Kingsly had typed ‘Women Accused of Witchcraft.’ Under that header was a list with annotations that described the age and occupation of the women, the year they died, and the method of execution. The chart wouldn’t have been so bad if the occupations weren’t listed as; wife, whore, spinster, child, and nun. Each title was more reductive than the last and the list was long, with some added in pencil under the typed sentences. Some didn’t even have proper names, just a marker as ‘Wife of…’.
“Fuck me!” Taylor snatched the sheet. “Is that an eleven-year-old?”
“To truly repent and not get unalived, the accused had to pay a fine.” Kally supplied. “Little Jessamine’s parents couldn’t. It’s all in the margins.”
Derrick felt sick to his stomach and could tell the others did, too. Kally picked at her nails as she curled in on herself in the chair. Red crawled up the back of Taylor’s neck as he hovered behind her and parsed through the cursive. Derrick read the section that detailed Gunnar’s takeover of the town and had to stop.
“He fucking worships this guy,” he grunted. “Listen to this. ‘The greatest contribution Gunnar Son of Ragnar made to these islands was in reinvigorating the spiritual community. His efforts and ongoing campaigning left the priests without the need to beg for attendees. Rather, locals were swarming to their doors to curry favor with such an obviously devout man.'” He paused and let the others absorb the words. Once their faces were properly suffused with disgust, he slammed the cover shut. “Ignorance, I can forgive. Dry-ass writing? Never.”
“You can forgive ignorance?” Kally asked with a snort. At least that brought a smile to her face. If he’d learned anything, it was that memes would cheer her up when nothing else could.
“He’s a hard-core misogynist for sure,” Taylor agreed. “I think he might be helpful though. Look at these last two names.” He shoved the paper under the light so they didn’t have to squint to see it. Scribbled out hastily in the bottom-most sliver of space was ‘Ingrid, Occupation: Viking,’ beside it was ‘Thrall, Occupation: carver’.
“It could be our ladies,” he declared. “Reference folder twenty-four, Kal.”
Kally flipped through the manila folders until number twenty-four was unearthed. She sneezed again, and even Derrick’s nose twitched at the smell of aged paper and dust.
“It’s a local legend.” Kally sniffed before she continued to read. “There was a township a mile away from this one, filled with displaced settlers. Ingrid had settled there with a thrall.”
Derrick squinted at the tiny print and scanned for anything interesting.
“Gunnar wanted to court her?”
“Apparently,” Taylor agreed. “If he wanted to wed her, why declare her a witch?”