REPORTS OF WMD ACTIVITY FROM THE BRITISH ISLES
NORAD announced an unprecedented multispectral pulse of energy detected on their monitoring system, its epicentre confirmed to be within the Isle of Man, a crown protectorate of the United Kingdom. It is suspected that a weapon of mass destruction has been tested there, which the UK government strongly denies. No footage or eye-witness reports have come in yet, although we can safely assume US defence satellites would have captured the blast. President Koil tweeted ‘If they’ve got big guns, we’ve got bigga!’
Chapter 11: Woke
Eddy opened his eyes slowly, wincing at the light, though the sky was dark, the day as grey as steel. Thunder rumbled over head, threatening to rip the world apart – this he felt more than he heard. It made his whole body vibrate. A wind howled around him, going by the accoutrements of the dig being blown across the hill fort – tents; tables; plastic sheeting; signs. Everything was muffled, nearly drowned out by a persistent whine. He tried to sit up and groaned. He appeared to be twenty feet from where he last recalled standing. There had been a blinding flash. Then … How much time had elapsed? Where was everybody?
Painfully, he got to his feet – it was hard in the strong, urgent wind to stand upright. He pulled his jacket tight around. It had suddenly got biting on Chapel Hill, exposed as it was the southwest. The seascape looked decidedly apocalyptic – lightning cracked the darkness open, X-raying the clouds. Far below, the sea surged like a wild beast.
The marquee was still standing, just – guy ropes thrumming like double-bass strings. Eddy struggled towards it, as though wading through deep water. He ducked as a transparent plastic tool-box shot passed his head, snatched up by the wind like a Lego-brick.
Inside, he saw the archaeologist and his team cowering. They visibly flinched when they saw him.
‘I’m sorry!’ he shouted, probably louder than he realised.
Of One-Eye, the others, and the horn, there was no sign. What the Hell had happened? This was no time to ponder. ‘Get off the hillside!’ he bellowed. ‘It’s not safe!’
They looked terrified. He pointed down the hill side and mimed ‘shelter’.
He could do no more and turned to leave.
When he finally made it back to the lane he discovered only his bike remained. A car had been blown over and had narrowly missed crushing it. He got on, and started her up. It wasn’t going to be any fun riding back in this gale, but he had no choice. Holding on with all of his strength, Eddy made his way onto the lane back to Peel as lightning pole-axed the hillside.
It was a hairy ride back, to say the least, as Eddy dodged fallen trees, flying wheelie bins, and crashed cars in his way. Fortunately there was no other traffic on the road. Nobody in their right mind would be out in this … but then Eddy knew he had forsaken that status since missing his flight from Aberdeen.
All for the love of a frost giant’s daughter…
By the time he reached the town he was dripping sweat from the effort, but relieved to be amongst the shelter of the stone buildings temporarily. The town had weathered many a hoolie, and was taking it all in its stride, so far. The squat, dark buildings seemed to hunker down. The castle could hardly been seen in the squall. Only the eruption of waves against its seawalls delineated it now and then. He half expected the camp to be blown away, but it was still there, and as soon as Eddy rode down the ramp the wind and rain dropped away. Sunlight burst through in a corona of rainbow and it seemed like he had ridden into another country.
The atmosphere in the camp had changed dramatically – from one of Bacchanalia to reverence. The main marquee had now become a kind of temple, with bikers lining up to pay tribute to the inhabitants, who sat upon their chairs as though they were thrones.
After the intense gloom, the bright colours made him squint. He passed one of the Elders – the tall, regal woman in her white leathers and fur. She seemed even more dazzling than usual – indeed the sunlight seemed to emanate from her directly. By her side stood her pale-faced shadow-cloaked companion, who basked in her glow, radiating his own silver effulgence.
A beautiful bald-headed man walked amongst the dark-clad bikers in a pristine white shirt and waist-coat, laughing with a man in shades, wielding a walking stick of pale wood – whom he guided with a light hand upon his shoulder.
Something weird had happened, that was for sure.
Eddy pulled up on the hard-standing and killed the engine – laying a hand on the tank, he thanked the stolen bike. It had got him back in one piece. His hearing had started to clear. There was drumming – slow and deep – and a Georgian choir-like effect, accompanied by pulsing guitars and synths from the club band. The air was thick with incense, smoke and blood. Eddy looked on, astonished, at big, tattooed bikers, fallen to their knees, weeping, heads back, arms raised in worship. He even spotted Cruz there, crossing herself again and again.
What on Earth had blowing that horn done?
With dread fascination, he approached the marquee. Strange lights danced around it, like a mini Aurora Borealis.
He stepped through this veil and beheld the committee. They looked exactly as they did before, and yet there was a different demeanour about them. They carried themselves more nobly and a light seemed to emanate from them.
‘Ah, you made it back, Red. Good! We thought you had been blown away!’ Rig smiled, standing proudly to one side of the ‘thrones’. He bore the horn on his back, attached by a leather-braided strap.
‘I nearly was! That blew away the cobwebs, for sure! But what’s going on here?’
‘You’re not in Kansas anymore, Eddy Redcrow!’ boomed One Eye, and they all laughed.
Eddy looked at the President – still the pot-bellied, grey-bearded larger-than-life biker, but something about him looked … kingly. ‘Does that make you the Wizard of Oz now?’
One Eye looked at him with his glittering eye, as keen as an eagle’s: ‘Perhaps,’ he smiled, raising his tankard. ‘But then you must be Dorothy!’
Everybody roared at this.
They were all there: The Hammer; Rig; Tear; Honer; Niggard … all now with a new energy about them. Not scrubbed up – but a power still shone through the grime.
‘Come sit with us, drink. You have earned a place here, Hornfinder.’
Uneasily, Eddy sat at one end of the bench, which lined the sides of the marquee, framing the central ‘high table’.
He was greeted warmly by fellow patches – a horn of mead thrust into his hand. He diplomatically raised it first to the committee. ‘Hail to our … President … Not sure what to call you anymore?’ he called out.
‘Oh, One Eye will do. I have been known by many names through the ages. What need do we have of formality at the end of the world? Our names will no longer matter, only our deeds.’
Fists thumped upon the benches in agreement.
‘We have been slumbering for too long,’ spoke One Eye. ‘We have let our true power smoulder. But we shall smoor the hearth no longer! The final battle is coming and we must make ready! The signs in the sky, in the sea, in the land, are clear. Ragnarok is upon us! The crone’s prophecy has come to pass. Brother fights brother. It is a gun age, a bomb age. Our enemies circle near – but the Devil’s Hogs are mere cockroaches. We will shirk from the lesser skirmishes, but we must be prepared to fight the greater. The President of the West is our nemesis – he does everything in his power to bring about the destruction of the nine worlds.’
Eddy’s mind reeled. Koil? Was One-Eye talking about the president of the USA? He was a gold-plated ass-hole, for sure; and had some questionable friends, but surely…
‘Koil is the one god who didn’t go to sleep,’ One Eye continued. ‘But finally, we have awoken from our centuries of slumber … Hugin! Munin!’ He shook his head, and the tattoos on either side of his skull came alive.
Eddy blinked as two ravens suddenly hopped onto the president’s shoulders, cronking and stretching their wings of folded night before settling down.
One Eye made a twisting gesture with his ringed fingers and from the eyes of one of the ravens beams shot, splitting the smoky shadows. He whistled and from the other raven came sounds to match those images.
Eddy watched in wonder at the flickering kaleidoscope of newspapers, newsreels, websites, social media, CCTV footage, and satellite images, flashing onto the walls of the marquee. Images stretching throughout history of conflict, warfare, pollution, hate crimes, corruption. One Eye snapped his fingers and all at once the swirling montage froze on the face of a man, at times a captain of industry, a politician, a media mogul … appearing in paintings, engravings, grainy photographs and footage from over the centuries to slick corporate portraits of the present day – different at first glance, but as the images enlarged, zooming in on the eyes, Eddy noticed the similarity.
The eyes, they all shared the same pair of eyes, gleaming with malevolent amusement.
One Eye laughed bitterly. ‘I can see it so clearly now my true sight has been restored. He has blinded us all, but no more! Koil is none other than our beloved Loki. What better job for the old trickster god himself than the President of the most powerful nation on Earth? And if half of them had known his true nature they would have voted for him twice over. He marshals all the forces of chaos and destruction at this end of times, and we must be ready to meet him in the field of battle.’
His head spinning, Eddy staggered from the tent. Falling to his knees, he gulped down the icy air. A familiar pair of killer boots stepped before him. He looked up and beheld Fenja, who stood there before him, her skin glistening with frost.
‘Is it … is it true?’ he gasped.
She gazed down at him with her fox-fire eyes. ‘Yes, all of it.’
Extract of Thunder Road by Kevan Manwaring
Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2020