- 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)
Derrick, Kally, and Taylor waited for the interviewer in lab two with Dr. Fraiser. The second, much smaller lab was freezing, and no amount of squirming in their seats helped fight it off. Derrick peeked at Kally and waited for her to nod before they both snuggled up to either side of Taylor. He grunted at the sudden assault, and his chair wobbled.
“What the fuck?” he hissed at them.
Dr. Fraiser lifted her gaze from the article she was reading. Faced with the loose pile her students had merged into, Derrick figured she’d call them out for disrupting. She didn’t. Instead, she just rolled her eyes and went back to reading.
Kally and Derrick shamelessly clung to their human heater until three taps on the door announced the interviewer. They sprang apart as a slender, 30-something woman with platinum blonde hair walked into the room, escorted by the department head. Derrick wrinkled his nose as the man chatted with their guest.
He could see why Dr. Fraiser called him Dr. Toad. The professor was a rotund man who wore a lot of brown and green. His face was fixed in a permanent scowl, and the desperate attempt at hiding his bald spot with a comb-over wouldn’t fool a child. Not even one who was blind in one eye. Not to mention, he was always sour and curt to everyone who wasn’t his doctoral students, who, according to Taylor and Kally, he hand-picked based on their family backgrounds. All in all, he wasn’t a likable human being.
They all stood as Dr. Todd led the journalist to the table with an unnatural smile on his face. He looked like he was struggling between a grin and a wince.
“Ms. Sorensen,” he said. “Please take a seat. These are the graduate students I mentioned earlier. Quite an intelligent bunch, they are, to have learned so much in a short amount of time.” Derrick wondered if it hurt him to compliment two American students. Ms. Sorensen smiled warmly at them and sat down.
“Thank you, Professor,” she said. Her accent wasn’t British. Derrick couldn’t place it. Once comfortable, she directed her next statement at Dr. Fraiser. “I’m a representative from the National Museum of Denmark.” Derrick frowned.
“So, you’re not the journalist?” Kally asked, voicing his thoughts.
“No, she’s not,” Dr. Todd said with a hasty wave. “The photographer is late, so the interviewer is waiting for him.” He looked at Ms. Sorensen sympathetically. “Such poor manners; I apologize.”
She shrugged. “I do not mind in the least,” she responded bluntly. “I have the time, and I’m looking forward to sitting in on this interview.” She gestured at all three of them. “I’m sure you all have quite the story to tell.”
Just as Dr. Todd opened his mouth to respond, the door flew open, and a harried-looking black man, his glasses askew and several books in his arms, rushed in. Another man bearing a camera and a box with a duct tape label followed him at a more sedate pace.
“Sorry about that, everyone,” the first man rushed to say. “Tiny bit of traffic on the roads.” He plopped his load down on the table and grinned at them all. “My name is Nigel Ibekwe. I’ll be interviewing you all today.” He reached out and shook their hands one by one. He paused at Ms. Sorensen.
“I’m sorry,” he said with a squint before he glanced down at his papers. “I wasn’t aware there was a fifth person. Not sure I have your name.” Ms. Sorensen chuckled and shook his hand.
“It’s no trouble,” she said. “I’m not here to participate in the interview, just sitting in. Is that alright with you?”
“Ah,” he nodded. “I understand. What is your relation to the discovery, might I ask?”
Just as she opened her mouth, Dr. Todd cleared his throat and started talking over her.
“She’s a representative from the National Museum of Denmark,” he blurted. “And she’s quite busy, so could we speed things along?” Derrick barely held back an eye roll. Ms. Sorensen also looked a little annoyed. She nodded deferentially at Mr. Ibekwe and settled into her seat. The reporter’s open expression shuttered, and he nodded at Dr. Todd.
“Well,” he said. “We will start on a few preliminary questions while Miguel sets up.” He coughed into his fist awkwardly and gestured to Miguel, who started pulling out sound equipment and setting up a small video camera. “We will record some video footage and post it on our website. We want to give the public a front-row seat into the university learned from this discovery.”
“Of course,” Dr. Fraiser said. “And I’ll escort you to the lab later to get footage of some artifacts.”
“Wonderful!” Mr. Ibekwe wrote something on his papers and turned to Darrick and the other two. “Is everyone alright with appearing on camera? You won’t be recorded against your will.”
“I’m good,” Derrick said. He saw Kally and Taylor nod out of the corner of his eye.
“Perfect!” He glanced at Miguel. “How are we looking?”
“Everything is ready,” Miguel said. “Make sure the mic stays in the middle of the table.” The mic turned on with a loud buzz that made Derrick flinch in his seat. Miguel gave the reporter a thumbs up. Mr. Ibekwe nodded and grinned broadly. There was an edge of falsity to his smile. It was too big to be a true one, but it was a damn good imitation. Derrick almost smiled back.
“Well, let’s begin,” Mr. Ibekwe started. “What prefaced this discovery?”
They let Dr. Fraiser lead most of the interview, as she was the lead for the discovery dig and was a tenured professor representing the university. She explained the GPR exercise they performed and the data analysis that indicated the potential for discovery.
“How did you three feel working on such an unexpected site?” Mr. Ibekwe asked them.
“It was definitely interesting,” Kally began. “We’ve all got different levels of experience with the time period the remains come from, but I think we can all agree that the discovery was life-changing.” Taylor nodded.
“Our DNA analysis and the artifacts found in the grave indicate two women of different cultural lineage,” he explained. “We determined one was from Scandinavia and the other most likely came from Ireland.”
“What’s the significance of the two women being buried in the same grave?” Mr. Ibekwe looked at Derrick expectantly.
“Uh,” he didn’t know how to answer. Dr. Toad told them not to make any statements confirming the skeletons as a queer couple. “The two had different job markers and were relatively close in age,” he finally said. “Our best assumption was that the Irish-born woman was a thrall at one point.” He glanced at Dr. Fraiser. Her reassuring nod and barely there smile made him feel much more settled. Mr. Ibekwe hummed and jotted something else into his notes.
“Now,” he started. His eyes took on a sharp look that made Derrick brace for impact. “The information Dr. Fraiser provided showed that the two were buried with their own sets of burial goods and that one body was laid out in the other’s lap.”
It wasn’t a question, but Dr. Fraiser answered anyway.
“Yes,” Derrick swore he saw Dr. Todd’s left eye twitch.
Mr. Ibekwe continued. “It also seemed that both women’s burial goods were equitable in value.”
“Yes,” Dr. Fraiser answered again. There was definitely a vein popping up in Dr. Todd’s forehead.
“Naturally, the LGBTQ+ community is curious to see if this represents a pair of women in a romantic relationship. Is this a safe assumption?” He directed his last question at Kally. She squirmed and picked at a rip in her jeans. Derrick knew she wanted to answer, but she didn’t. Instead, she glanced at Dr. Fraiser, who sighed.
“As much as we’d like to confirm the relationship status of these two,” she began. “There are no written records that show a relationship beyond that of a master to their thrall or possibly two close friends.” Dr. Todd nodded at her statement, but she squinted at him. Blatantly staring him down, she continued. “It is the running theory of my graduate students and myself that the burial circumstances indicate a loving couple. However, there is no written evidence to confirm this.” Derrick snorted when she crossed her arms and raised her brows at Dr. Todd as if to ask, “What are you gonna do about it?”
Dr. Todd’s face turned red, and Ms. Sorensen smirked down at her lap. Kally covered her smile with her hand, and Taylor bit his lip and trembled with laughter. Dr. Fraiser smiled smugly. Derrick was glad she had tenure and could escape the worst punishment.
“Beautiful.” Mr. Ibekwe finished writing in his notes with a flourish. “I understand these students have been researching potentially identifying these two women?”
“Yes,” Taylor said quickly, still a little breathless from holding in his laughter. “We looked into records of Viking occupation in Scotland and consulted with Dr. Keirnan, an expert.”
“And what did you discover?” he probed.
“Evidence leads us to believe the Scandinavian woman is named Ingrid,” Kally broke in. “There were a few references to a Viking woman and a thrall in Orkney,” she explained. “These records concerned another Viking named Gunnar, who arrived at the island and began a religious revival with the church. A local expert on Gunnar, Albert Kingsly, lent us his research that had the church records listing them as victims of a kind of witch cleansing.”
“That sounds fascinating,” Mr. Ibekwe mumbled. “How did you confirm the likelihood of her identity?”
“We discovered a Viking game board in the grave. The pieces are bone, likely a whale or another large animal.” She pulled the piece found at Callum and Ida’s place out of the box of odds and ends Dr. Fraiser had brought for the interview. “This piece is stone, a different material from the ones we discovered. The design and the signature mark at the bottom confirm the same person made them.” She held it out for him to look at.
“I see,” he whispered as he stared at the piece. “Miguel, get a good photo of this,” he said before returning the artifact to them. “Where was this found?”
“We unintentionally ran across a man whose family had a generational grudge against Gunnar relating to a woman he claimed was a Viking his ancestor worked for and her thrall.” Kally sped up, talking faster the more excited she got. “His name is Callum McLeod. His wife Ida has been researching their property for years and cataloging artifacts that would turn up. She was gracious enough to let us keep the piece for our research.”
“How does it feel to know so much and so little about a person whose remains you work with?”
They were quiet until Derrick cleared his throat and answered slowly.
“It feels like we’re looking at them through cloudy glass,” he said. “We know some things, we guessed others. I wish I knew more, but I can’t.” He looked over at Dr. Fraiser. “This isn’t my area of study,” he admitted. “But Dr. Fraiser has taught me a lot. I agree with her and my classmates that they buried these women like a couple. It would be great if they were. But, based on our research, they deserve to be remembered as more than queer speculation. If the oral histories we found are accurate, they were also brave.” Derrick glanced at Kally and Taylor. They stared at him with soft expressions, like parents watching their child perform in a talent show. He ignored them.
“They were real people,” he finished. “Just as complex as you and me.”