SNEAK PEEK: Child of the Jotun by Juliana Loomer

Child of the Jotun by Juliana Loomer

 

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SYNOPSIS

 

They say giants carved this land . . . In a cloistered Dominican convent in California, Sister Jennifer is informed by police that a terror from her past has been released from prison. Police assure her that she will be protected, but she knows the danger coming for her. Her prioress seeks a convent somewhere in the world to send the fearful nun for her safety. A convent in Norway answers the call.

In Norway, the Sister meets an eccentric man that sets off an internal conflict, but when the man, Torvør, begins to draw her emotions and ignite her independence, everything she has believed in is challenged. The ancient gods of the north have also observed her arrival, and their power pulls Jennifer from her safe life, closer to Torvør.

Can their friendship stop the tragic completion of an apocalyptic saga written by an Icelandic monk 1000 years ago? Or will the end come in a bargain to save her Sisters and friends from the wrath of the ancient gods?

Torvør knows the truth and has only a short time to convince the Sister that she is not a servant of God, but a god herself.

 

 

EXCERPT

 

Chapter 1 • Home For Now

June 2010

Håna, Norway
In a small fishing village in northern Norway, I was packing
my few belongings and getting ready to say “Ha det!” or
‘goodbye’ to my hosts, the Ellefsen family. I had traveled to
this small village that no longer had a Christian priest to
conduct services for the community, as it was midsummer,
and there were marriages to bless, harvests of fish, and
livelihoods from tourism to give thanks for.
I am, in the ancient Norse language, a vølve, and in
these out-of-the-way places where the Old Ways were
gaining a foothold again, I served the communities as a
priest of the Christian Church would have done if things
hadn’t changed, or should I say, hadn’t stayed the same for
so long.
Though officially, Norway is a Christian nation, not
many people are regular church-goers and even more still
hold a kind of race memory of the conversion times when
priests came to “steal the souls” of the pagans that once
lived here. The people in these isolated, often lonely, places
didn’t soon forget what had happened; remembrance
seemed to span a thousand years.
The past didn’t matter so much anymore, and it certainly
didn’t matter to me. What mattered was today, and I took
the responsibility of being a vølve in these modern times
very seriously.
In the mists of ancient days, the vølve were the healers,
prophetesses and wise women of the old Norse shamanism.
They administered their healings with what they had
available to them; herbs, songs, incantations, and sometimes
with the outright intervention of the supernatural forces that
inhabited these lands.
These various natural practices of the vølve were called
by two names, galdr and seiðr. Though I had been trained in
the Old Ways thoroughly, I found modern life to be
spiritually simpler than it was in ancient times, as if the gods
had retreated from the world we live in now. Real magic,
seiðr, was rarely required anymore.
In these days, my services as a vølve comprised mostly
of listening to people’s concerns, being of comfort, and
performing the ceremonies that communities desired to keep
the wheel of the year spinning, and spin it did.
Coming to the village of Håna was such a comfort. It lay
on a remote fjord only accessed by two car-ferries a day. It
was quiet. No cruise ships, no oil rigs, and no industry that
made up the modern day commercial Norwegian fjord life.
Only private fishing boats sailed here, and occasionally on a
nice day, a kayaker would float by enjoying the ease of their
oars on the glassy, still waters. It is almost impossible to
believe in our modern world that places like this still exist,
but they do.
Though Norway isn’t densely populated, it is still such a
surprise to find these small pockets of peace where one can
hear their own voice clearly, and sometimes, even the
voices of the spirits. The spirits were easier to hear in a place
like this where they were still honored and remembered.
Their voices can be heard in the crash of the waves
along the shore, in the rustling of the wind in the trees of the
forest, or once, when I was brushing my teeth in a hotel
bathroom and they wanted me to turn out the light.
The spirits are the same as the people of the villages;
beings that need someone to pay attention to them,
celebrate with them, or help them find their way home.
Sometimes, when I listen closely, I can hear the voices from
the other worlds directing my own growth, reminding me, in
case I ever forgot, that we are all connected.
Standing on the rocky shoreline in Håna, enjoying the
early morning light that hadn’t changed significantly for 24
hours, I noted that the Land of the Midnight Sun was
definitely earning its title. Looking out across the fjord at the
impossibly high stone cliffs that flanked the bay, I imagined
that they were like grand walls that kept those who lived
within them in safety. In fact, over the thousands of years
humans had lived here, they had done just that; kept people
safe.
Many of the fjords in Norway are so large and vast that
they are hard to feel when standing at the edge of them for
the first time. This fjord was just my size. The whole country,
in general, was just my size; epic yet intimate. That was how
I felt inside now, too, since I had lived here; epic, yet
intimate.
Sometimes we are lucky enough that a place chooses us,
and this place had chosen me at random from 6000 miles
away. Never in a million possible futures could I have
foreseen what my life would become and I was happy for
that. If one knows how the movie ends, then what is the fun
in watching?
The summer display in Norway is a sight to behold. The
flowers of the low-lands and the lush greenery of the trees of
the forests that flourished in all those hours of summer
sunlight remind me of a tropical paradise situated high in the
arctic.
The law of nature is to grow, I reminded myself. The
words repeated in his voice and echoed in my mind, not
unlike the rare howl of wolves I had first heard across these
granite aqueous canyons those many years ago. Though,
then, I struggled against my feelings and foolishly wasted the
precious time I had with him.
How self-consumed I had been. Regret followed me
around like a hungry wolf waiting for the exhaustion of its
prey. I had to always be on guard or regret would consume
me and, if it succeeded, I didn’t know what would happen
to me, though now, I know there are fates worse than death.
Sometimes I balanced my longing for him with a few
little indulgent memories, like a little treat for being a good
girl. As I waited at the shore for the ferry, memories of him
softly entered my mind while mists began to form on the
surface of the still water. Like an enchanted air that
appeared when I remembered love, the taake, or fog, was a
constant companion of my thoughts of him.
Taking in the view of the calm, quiet water, I felt deeply
grateful for my life, and one of the reasons was walking up
behind me. I knew who it was by the sound of her soft
footsteps on the gravel road. Fru Ellefsen had come to thank
me and wish me well on my travels. Her daughter had been
married at the fires this year in Håna, and Fru Ellefsen was
still beaming with joy.
She handed me a brown wax-paper-wrapped package of
reindeer jerky, one of my favorite snacks since I had begun
to visit the villages. There weren’t many reindeer on the
coast anymore, so she had traded with the Sami herders in
the far north for her dried fish from her fjord.
This simple exchange got me thinking; modern trade and
business had become so large and so impersonal. We can
no longer feel the energy with which our products are made
and, consequently, nothing retains any real value but the
monetary value it is assigned. The energy laden in these
simple exchanges, like that of reindeer meat for fish, felt like
a precious relic of how things used to be and should be
again. The small package of jerky was infused with the lives
and energy of the people who made them, and
consequently, the little package was worth more to me than
gold.
Placing the jerky into the glove box of the VW sedan
that would take me on my travels the rest of the summer, I
reached out for a final hug from Fru Ellefsen before I left. We
laughed together at our combined sweetness.
Norwegians have a reputation for being cold, but this is
too easy of a label to apply. It’s more than too easy; it’s lazy.
The Norwegians are much more complicated than they let
on. They are conservative socially if they don’t know
someone. They can be shy at first and don’t open to
strangers without the currency of a mutual friend to give
introductions. It had taken me some time in the country to
even have my first real conversation with someone. Slowly,
the connections came.
I was amused in the knowledge that I had actually found
my own people, but they were as shy of me as I was of
them. Over time, I began to be let into the inner circle, and
we both became secure in the idea of one another.
Sometimes patience pays off.
Belting myself into the front seat of the car, I relished the
luxury of having a vehicle for the summer. I had borrowed
the VW from my friend Ivar, who was a bass player in a rock
band traveling in South America for the summer. He offered
me the car to make the rounds of the villages I’d be visiting
and I was very happy for it. He was a good friend and I felt
connected to him driving his car around to the various
coastal villages.
The smell of the ash tray full of cigarette butts and the
scent of marijuana reminded me of him and the short time
we had spent together, but that was done now. He was still
one of the pillars that kept me propped up during emotional
storms; good friends do that I found.
The Church used to be that for me. Christ used to be that
for me too; but no more. Everything comes and goes with
the tide. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust . . . I repeated the
familiar words. Everything we think could never fall
succumbs to nature and eventually crumbles to dust. At least
it did in my life. But the good news is that ashes make an
excellent fertilizer for new growth. Creation from
destruction; that was the law of nature.
Watching the car-ferry approach, through the fog, from
the opposite side of the fjord, I could feel a little tingle of
excitement sparkle through my body. I was looking forward
to the beautiful three-hour trip into the mountains I had
ahead of me today. I had a feeling my next stop was going to
be special as I was going to officiate at my good friends’
wedding. I had met them a few years back and all agreed
that this was a good union.
Love was a beautiful thing indeed! Thoughts of others in
love always inevitably drew me to thoughts of him: I missed
him so much. I wanted to use the Sight to see where he was
now, but besides being unethical, I knew I might not like
what I saw. For the hundredth time this year, I put my
longing for him away in a special place no one could see.
Problem was, I always knew where it was and I could
always go back to it like a junkie moving through the
shadows searching for the next hit. Pitiful, I thought.
Securing my bag on the passenger seat of the VW, I took
one last look around the dock at Håna before starting the car
to drive onto the ferry. Some places felt like home, and this
village did for sure. I had never had a true physical home,
but for now, this village would do. The Ellefsens had an
open door policy with me and I had taken them up on their
kindness many times over the past few years. I knew I’d be
back again. Ha det! I thought as I drove onto the steel deck
of the boat, ready for what the future would bring.
My past home had been in Northern California on the
rugged shores of Sonoma County spending my youth
exploring the beaches and climbing the rocks and cliffs of
the aptly named Lost Coast. The Sea and its children were
no strangers to me. In California, it was also the same kind
of small town coastal life; small communities isolated and
insulated, just like it was here in Norway. There was no
mystery then why I felt so comfortable in Håna.
The vast coasts of California easily compared to the
expanse and scale of my new home here. Norway was a
land of extremes; long waters, intense light and dark, cold
and warm, low and tall land masses, barren and lush terrain,
but it was all tempered by protective walls and comforting
blankets of atmosphere. The fog of the mythical Dragon’s
Breath lay across the fjord in front of the ferry and held me
in comfort like a winter blanket against the cold. As the boat
backed away from the dock, heading on its twice daily trip
to the other side, seiðr was at work on me, and it was the
only proper word for the view and the feelings I held about
this place. I was surrounded by magic.
California was so far away now it was almost like it had
never existed. It was a place that held many painful
memories; bad memories that I still worked on purifying
myself of. There was a soullessness of the country I left, that
I now recognize being on the outside.
America was a confused, hungry orphan child, crying
and fighting for acceptance or dominance, didn’t matter
which. Yet America could be a passionate lover when it got
its needs met. In contrast, Norway was a calm parent that
recognized its strength and could operate with patience and
sympathetic love, even when it was hurt. The older I grew,
the more I appreciated this position of patience and love. I
hoped I brought this later perspective to my works rather
than the former.
I found I was always a little embarrassed when people
asked where I was from because it was so obvious I didn’t
come from here. Yet, I really wanted to blend in, but the
days of my blending had never been born. I was different,
and I should have been proud.
He would ask me, why are you hiding your true self? I
guess I still didn’t know why. Maybe it was because I
wanted to belong somewhere or to someone like other
people did. I realized in that moment, driving onto the ferry
to begin yet another journey, that I was just a wandering
orphan searching for a people and a home to call my own.
Maybe that is why I could perform the vølve duties with
such openness and enthusiasm; because I knew how
precious things like love, family and home were. I secretly
hoped one day I would find the same for myself though the
creed of those who have given themselves to a spiritual life
says: live in the world and be not of the world. Thus is the
nature of the suffering of human duality; not being able to
choose a side. As you can see, the wisdom and perspective I
had acquired did nothing to ease my pain.
The trip across the fjord to the main highway only took
fifteen minutes, but I got out of the car and climbed the stairs
to the upper deck of the ferry to see what I could observe.
Though the day was beginning to warm, my hands were
cold from the seawater that had condensed on the rail that I
ran my hand over as I ascended the stairs. Damn the cold! I
would let nothing disrupt my day.
Up on the deck, I felt the calm warm wind blowing
across my face, and I opened my heart to the life around me.
Summer had a way of making the hardest heart melt in
Norway. With an average of six months of the year in snow
and ice, nothing could crack the shell on a grumpy
Norwegian like the sun. I smiled because I had also adopted
this weather character after a few winters wrapped in wool
and darkness. On this summer day, I felt as free and happy
as the seagulls that flew along with us on our crossing.
Approaching our destination, I got a quick smile and a
wink from the ferryman before he let down the gate for us to
drive off. I thought that a wink from a ferryman was a good
omen. Ferrymen from ancient tales were not so friendly.
Still, I had to pay him 80-kroner to get off on the other side.
Some things never changed.
Driving the car onto the E6 that would take me north, I
freed my long hair from its bondage and let it flow out into
the wind coming from the open window. I took in the smell
of the lush trees and flowering wild plants that lined the
road, enjoying the freshest air in the world.
Glancing at the speedometer through the steering wheel,
I caught a glimpse of the tattoo on my wrist he had given
me. In the flickering summer light, filtered through the lush
tree canopy overhead, I saw that the tattoo on my arm
seemed to float and dance on a field of blue-green tinted
skin. This tattoo meant more to me than any possession I
had ever owned. It made me feel strong and safe.
I said the words, strong and safe, out loud to myself to
feel their energy. You have always been that. You just
couldn’t feel it until now, was something he would say in
response to me. He was always saying wise things that kept
me connected to myself, connected to Nature and the gods
that watched over us. I smiled in the truth of the words. I
hoped I was beginning to live it.
Reaching into my bag for my mp3 player, I plugged it
into the car stereo auxiliary jack to hear some music and
hopefully keep myself from thinking about him. My new
favorite band was an electronic group that I had seen on my
last trip to Bergen where I had gone to initiate my permanent
residency paperwork. My final application papers would go
through in a few months. I felt so proud knowing I would
soon be able to stay here as long as I wanted. I would
finally, officially, have a home.
If only I had found someone to marry, the process would
have taken much less time, I though, half-joking with myself.
As it was, the whole process to citizenship took seven years.
And marriage, well that was a fantasy; a strange dream like
the abstract idea of Santa Claus to a gullible child. I could
not imagine myself marrying. I didn’t know why, but trying
to see myself married was like looking for ghosts in the fog;
they might be there but they were hard to see.
A haunting Nordic voice came pulsing out of the car
speakers singing in English, “You can’t see me but I’m on the
road again. So many lights passing me by. I could feel you
but I knew you were nowhere near . . . ” As I drove, my
thoughts drifted to the man who couldn’t see me and who I
was nowhere near to. I hoped he would be proud of me and
who I had become.
Worse, I hoped he still loved me and I had to admit, I
still loved him. He’d been my first lover in Norway. It was a
strange feeling to be under the influence of; this feeling that
words were insufficient to describe what he was to me. I
could feel him almost in the flesh with me right here in the
car, yet I was totally alone.
Even stranger, I felt as I drove that we were getting closer
to each other. I didn’t know why. It was probably wishful
thinking. Though I regularly felt him, we weren’t together in
any sense of the word and hadn’t been in years. In fact, I
wasn’t sure I would ever see him again. Somehow, I tried to
make that okay, which was odd for a girl who was brought
up with the fantasy of being with one person your whole life
and never being parted.
“Screw Santa Claus!” I said to myself, then laughed at
my own bitterness as I dared to fantasize about a future filled
with love.
It was a strange attitude for someone who had performed
four weddings this summer and was driving on the way to
perform number five. One day, I was sure, I would get the
emotions about him balanced and healed, but for right now,
they were a mess.
Driving, however, was excellent therapy for me. Thank
the gods for Ivar and his car. Alone in the car I could work
out all my feelings, paired with movement to give me the
illusion they were progressing. Never mind. My mind was
alive and my heart was free to feel whatever came without
hindrance in the safety and confinement of the car. That was
a small blessing. The feelings were like a swirling storm
cloud of longing; the exquisite pain of desire unfulfilled had
a delicious sting.
I indulged my addiction and quickly shuffled through a
few more memories of him; the feeling of his long hair
swirling around me as we embraced on the wind-swept
mountain in Bergen; the warmth and strength of his arms
encircling me and how safe I felt with him; his constant
moving aside of my own long hair from my face so he could
see me when I tried to hide.
I was taught that these experiences were the things one
was supposed to wish permanence for, but the memories of
them were enough. I didn’t require the actuality of the
experience repeated day after day; at least that’s what I
continued to believe. The memories would have lost their
beauty if we had been together all the time, right? I asked
cautiously, afraid of the answer. The beauty of the memories
was overwhelming, and I took a deep breath to ground
myself back to reality and the road ahead.
“I am a storm, I am a flashing sun, I am a dreadful
nightmare, and a violent explosion,” the song lyrics
proclaimed, as they floated in mist-like forms through the
speakers into my body, infusing me with a beautiful chaos.
This is what it felt like to be me right now; alive and
surprising, painful and beautiful, violent and calm all at the
same time.
“What do you call that?” I asked out loud to anyone who
might be listening.
His voice answered in my mind, reassuring me; I call
that truly living.

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Juliana Loomer was born and raised in the creative hotbed of Northern California, just outside San Francisco. By 2007, she was an overworked and exhausted visual effects artist working in the film industry. After taking an opportunity for a well deserved rest, she found herself unable to sleep for weeks.

“Though it is hard to believe, the nights of sleeplessness were due to a man made of “shadow” that would stand next to my bed each night, telling me to write down a story about a girl that moves from California to Norway.”

She agreed to write the story so she could get some sleep and in four weeks time, having never written anything before but emails, she had Child of the Jotun typed out for the “shadow man” that stood next to the bed.

With the encouragement of friends, she decided to travel to Norway to see if the people and places she had written about were at all accurate. To her excitement and fear, they were. Following the story has changed her life.

Juliana currently lives outside Seljord, Norway with her husband and is dedicated to writing down the stories that continue to be told to her.

 

Publishing Website URLs:

http://darkmatternorwaypublishing.com/index.html

https://www.facebook.com/darkmatternorway

Book Trailer link:  http://youtu.be/nsLuDzzoU3c

 

 

Sneak Peeks are our way of helping readers find new books and authors and get previews. Please share and/or comment! Thank you!

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