The Grave of Valkyries – Part 1
- 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 (pending)
“I have visual,” Derrick shouted. The GPR reader beeped as if to prove that it was indeed working, for once.
“Take it around.” The professor waved him on. Derrick began pushing the machine around their marked grid.
It was a freezing day, which is to be expected in Scotland in the early days of spring. The reader bumped along half-frozen lumps of grass and whirred as it recorded the information. Derrick sighed, breath pluming up in a cloud. He was already regretting this study abroad. If he’d been smart, he could have focused on the Caribbean and would be in Jamaica with his girlfriend piecing together boat remains between beach visits. Instead, he was in Scotland because he was an idiot and wanted to be original. At least it wasn’t raining.
The thought didn’t stop Derrick’s fingers from turning blue as he maneuvered around a stone. Too busy dreaming about hot tea or, even better, coffee, he didn’t notice when the radar picked up something. The lines on the radargram bounced twice and then a few more times. He stopped, wondering if it was just wishful thinking or if he’d actually get some use out of this trip.
His call summoned the wiry woman from where she’d been marking a cluster of plants. Dr. Fraser was quick to look over the screen and even quicker to shove Derrick out of her way. The lines didn’t mean much to him, but this was the first time Derrick had ever used one of these.
“What is it?” he asked. Dr. Fraser pursed her lips.
“I hope you’re ready to dig, Lad,” she said, running a hand over her steel grey ponytail. “You’ve found something.”
She didn’t spend any time on his confusion and left the GPR machine behind. Derrick followed her to the truck that had carted them and their equipment up miles of rocky slopes and twining roads. With a quick gesture, she waved him back to the machine.
“I didn’t say stop looking; we need to know how big the area is. I’ll report it to the university.” Derrick sighed and trudged back. His curiosity was tempered by his frozen fingers, but he still rolled over the grassy hill as carefully as possible.
An hour later, they had a rough outline of the area to excavate, and the university was notified. Dr. Fraser was leaning against the truck, offering Derrick a thermos filled with strong black tea.
“What do you think it is?”
Dr. Fraser sighed and lit a cigarette. “Fag?” She offered him the pack.
“I don’t smoke.”
“Good for you,” she cheered. “Keep it up.” With a quick inhale and exhale, the air was filled with the smell of ash. “I hadn’t expected this when I brought you out here,” she said.
“It may be a grave,” she said. “It may be artifacts. It could also be nothing.”
“So we just have to wait and see?”
“Welcome to the glamorous life of an Archaeologist.”
A week later, they were very carefully excavating the remains of two skeletons surrounded by weapons and craft tools. The landowner, Arron O’Donnel, was more than happy to let them see what was buried in his recently inherited property. “You’ll put my name on anything you find, right?” he kept asking. Dr. Fraser assured him that, yes, he would be mentioned in the findings, if there were any, and they wouldn’t find anything if he kept hovering.
Thoroughly brushed off, O’Donnel had left Derrick and Dr. Fraser’s other two grad students alone while they worked on the site. The area was small enough that they didn’t need more than that. As they broke through the tough sod, more and more objects began showing themselves. A lump of metal here, a piece of bone there. But the true discovery didn’t make itself known until six feet down when they broke through the crumbled remains of a wooden roof. From their positions laying across the pit on flat boards to reach down with brushes and trowels, the three students unearthed the first skeleton. A full-body, seated against what probably started as the wall of the grave, a long piece of metal laid flat across their legs.
The second skeleton was more difficult. Unlike the first, they were lying on their side, half entangled with the first body. A carefully placed knife was tucked between their hands, only identifiable by the pale handle. The rest of the grave contained a pile of jewelry, including a crucifix, bone needles, and other textile tools, a few weapons and tools, and the body of three small animals. The pet skeletons were too carefully placed to have been random. In the farthest corner was a clump of seashells trapped together by the remains of a metal box.
Derrick wiped off his sweat as they lifted the final few grave goods before starting on the bones, beginning with the animals.
“I bet it’s a cat,” Kally, one of the older grad students, chuckled.
“That’s morbid,” her compatriot, Taylor, groaned.
“Stop chatting and focus,” Dr. Fraser snapped before carting the items back to the truck to be sealed in protective layers until they could make it back to the university’s lab. Derrick coughed.
“Who do you think they were,” he asked, nodding at the bodies. Kally frowned.
“I think they were married. It’s definitely similar to Viking graves we’ve seen before, and it wasn’t unusual for them to be buried with slaves, but that’s not the feeling I get from these two.” She pointed at the second skeleton. “Look at the way that one is cuddled against the other’s leg. The first one’s hand was definitely placed on the second one’s head too.”
“Her,” Taylor corrected. “The first one is a ‘her,’ biologically at least. Look at the pelvis.”
“What about the second one?” Derrick asked.
“Not enough pelvis.” Taylor shrugged. “I can tell from here that the bone’s half gone; I’d have to actually examine it to say anything for sure. I’d put money that it’s another woman, though.”
“I concur,” Kally agreed. “I’d stake my student debt on it.” Like Derrick, Kally was American and already drowning in student loans while working on her doctorate.
“What can we learn from that?” Dr. Fraser’s sudden appearance had them all flinching. She cocked one brow at them and waited. “What do two female skeletons in a single, Viking-era grave tell us?”
“They were family?” Derrick guessed.
“They were lesbians?” Kally said at the same time.
“Both are a possibility,” Dr. Fraser agreed. “But does anything else stand out?”
“They were of equal status and died very close together.” Taylor offered. Their teacher nodded and indicated that he should keep going. “Both are in similar states. There aren’t any glaring Cause of Death blows. With the way they were placed, they were close. A slave and master wouldn’t have been placed the same way.”
“What do you think, Dr. Fraser?” Kally sat back on her heels and grinned up at the professor. “Family or Lesbians?”
The doctor glanced into the hole. “I think only one was a Christian. The other adhered to Pagan faith.” They gaped.
“How can you tell?”
She held up two baggies with amulets in them. “Only one of these is a crucifix; the other was a hammer of Thor.”
“That’s a big assumption,” Taylor cautioned. Dr. Fraser shrugged.
“If I’m wrong, I’m wrong.” She crouched down beside them. “I think these bones will be able to tell us quite an interesting story.”