The Last Rune

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Chapter 1

“Odin!” exclaimed Marge with too much excitement. At least for Swen, who was trying very hard to concentrate on his thesis despite a horrible headache. Every sound felt like a bang. This morning he promised himself to never ever drink homemade wine again. He glanced up to see Marge reciting a new version of the same Norse myth for the… He couldn’t remember for how many times he heard it already. This was just one more time. And, at least one of them wasn’t dying from a hangover.

“…you see, he was hanging on a tree for nine days to have the wisdom of the whole world. That’s a sacrifice I could do!”

“You would hang on a tree?”

“Don’t be an idiot. What was I talking about for the last five minutes?” Marge sighed, slightly shaking his head.

“Sorry, dude. Can you repeat again?”

“I said I could go to a retreat. A week with no phones, no internet, no talking. A silent retreat-“

He couldn’t finish his thought, because Swen burst out laughing.

“You? To a silent retreat?”

“This thing could help me see clearer where to go with my research.”

“And how exactly going away from all the sources of data for your research and just not talking for a week can help your research?” Swen smiled, seeing the sour face his friend made.

“If you listened for the first time, you would know. This is not JUST a retreat. It’s Odin’s silent retreat. It is based around Norse mythology and Nordic belief system. It could be… Something like field work!” he paused for a moment and then nodded, as if some council in his head has just approved his thought.

“Why do you want me there? I have my thesis to work on…”

“You should go!” Swen flickered his eyebrows. With a sigh, Marge said “You write on religious rituals and their perception, right? It could be a case study.”

“It’s a silent retreat. I won’t be able to take in-depth interviews or any kind of interviews at all.”

“Then do observation. If it’s not applicable for your thesis, write an article about it.” Marge sat in front of Swen and looked in his eyes. “I need some support here. You cannot betray our friendship.”

Swen rolled his eyes, which Marge automatically took as a “yes” answer. A wide smile lightened his face as he proceeded to tell miscellaneous details about the trip. Swen wasn’t listening. He was looking for a book he needed to take outside of the library – and it wasn’t on the table beside him. Did he put it back on the shelf on accident? Had he even taken that book from the shelf at all?

“I’m gonna go grab that book on kabbala,” he said, interrupting Marge’s monologue. It was a usual thing in their friendship. Marge was always talking for he felt uncomfortable with silence. Swen was cautious to stop this mental flow at first. It was his core belief that cutting in on someone’s thought is beyond rude. But then he saw that there was no other way to talk to Marge. Either barge in or listen. Moreover, this guy was usually grateful that someone else was filling the silence.

Leaving Marge quietly talking to himself, Swen went to the strangest section in this library. It had only two rows of shelves. They mostly consisted of occult literature and occasional theoretical and exploratory books of eerie religions and religious practices. Also, the lamps above those two rows never worked properly. It either irritatingly blinked or was off. Today it chose the complete darkness. Good thing Swen knew exactly where the book was. He grabbed it by the spine from the top shelf and took it out. Another book hit him on the head.

“Ouch. Will they ever make the light work here?” he picked up the book and put it back. His hand felt weird. Tingly.

When he came back to the table he and Marge occupied and laid the book beside his laptop, Marge made a puzzled face.

“Are you also studying runes? I didn’t know it was a part of your research…”

“No, I don’t. Why?” Swen followed Marge’s gaze to his books. Near the history of Kabbala there was a slim black notebook with golden letters on its cover. They said ‘The Last Rune’. “Must’ve taken this on accident.”

When the wrist watch showed 2 p.m., friends got up and headed towards the exit.

“I would like to borrow this for a month. Is it possible?” he asked a librarian, putting his Kabbala book on the counter.

“Yes, it is. Wait a second,” she typed something on her computer and scanned the code on the cover. “This too?”

“What?” Swen looked up and saw the girl holding that black book. “No, only the first one.”

On the way to the bus stop Marge was surprisingly quiet. Only when they had to part, he said:

“I was sure you left that rune book on the table when we left.”

“I did.”

“It couldn’t just appear in librarian’s hands! How did it get there?”

Swen only shrugged his shoulders. He had no idea, how it got there. And he was too tired to think of a possible answer. So, he said goodbye to Marge and took the bus home.

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