20/09/2009

Bjorn en anglais

For English speakers, here is the first chapter of my novel "Bjorn le Morphir" (Bjorn the Morphiz), translated into English by Catherine Landergan from Boston. It's a first pass, not yet edited for publication.

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Thomas Lavachery

Bjorn The Morphiz

 

1

IT IS MEAN

The big door slammed behind Hari the Fisherman; the old man seemed worried. It wasn’t his habit to worry. As my father’s other servants arrived : Drunn the Shepard, more sullen than ever, and the half troll Dizir, who closing the door quickly, blocked the entrance for a whole army of snow flakes, the size of fists.

His voice lisping, as was typical of trolls and half-trolls, Dizir announced :

“Ith’ts a deluge!” (He meant to say : it’s a deluge)

Walking like a bear he came and sat next to me, his best friend. I liked Dizir a lot, having learned to ignore how ugly he was and his facial gestures. I had stopped worrying about the stench of trolls.

My name is Bjorn, and I will never forget this day. Mother was standing in front of the chimney. My little sister Ingë huddled against her, waiting for father to return. My poor young cousins, mute, taken in by my mother by charity, seemed terrorized.

Snow fell endlessly. Hari the fisherman and the half troll stood up to close the shutters : we were starting the fire. The silence was heavy in the common room.

My brother Gunnar, his back to the door, was quietly painting a wooden soldier by the fire. He winked at my little sister Ingë, and gave a reassuring smile in the direction of the two mutes. I admired Gunnar’s calm.

One hour passed silently, then another… My mother’s and sister’s eyes never leaving the front door.

Suddenly, the servants began talking all together. The old Maga, our cook, spoke of the blizzard of 1015. In the nearby valley the snow had covered the villages up to the roofs : even the church of Yel had been completely submerged.

“People were entombed for three months”, stated Hari the fisherman

“I would become insane”, declared Dizir the half Troll. “Thertainly !”

“Me too !” said Maga

Our cook made the sign of the cross, immediately followed by my sister and the mutes. I looked at my mother but her hand didn’t move. Her mind was elsewhere.

“And when food became scarce, the masters let the servants die”, said Drunn the Shepard in a lugubrious voice.

Silence descended over the common room. After a time that appeared infinite, the door finally opened, revealing my father covered in snow. I remembered the wave of scintillating flakes that accompanied him.

Despite his strength, my father was unable to close the door behind him. The half troll and Drunn the Shepard came to his help.

The flakes knew that if they wanted to overtake us, this was the moment. Once the door was closed their only resource would be to crush us under their weight.

The three of them, my father, Dizir and Drunn the Shepard were almost successful in chasing away the intruders. But the snow still had its hold on the house. My brother dropped his wooden soldier and paintbrush to help too, followed by myself, the women and the old fisherman. The snow finally relented.

“Ze animals !” worried Dizir all of a sudden. “Zey will freeze standing on zeir hooves !”

The half troll loved horses and animals in general; he seemed ready to confront the tempest and rescue them, but it was too late. My father, in a bad mood, (he had to count on the women and children’s help) ordered that the door be barricaded.

“And don’t forget the shutters”, he said as he sat down.

The tall chair complained under the weight of his massive body. Except for Dizir and Drunn the Shepard who were busy reinforcing doors and shutters, everyone took their place at the table. The silence was palpable, interrupted only by the sounds of the hammers and the wind blowing outside. At that moment, all glances were fastened on the master of the house.

For those who don’t know it, Erik son of Sigur, my father, was a fearless colossus and the richest lord of the province. He had participated in a number of lootings during expeditions beyond the seas, which is where he got his fortunee. But what is gold, in regards to glory ? My father had acquired his during the war against the Vorages. Those dirty beings came from the bowels of the world, gnat-headed, cadaver eating beasts, invaded our dear Fizzland twenty years before my birth. Their King Big-Belly (that was is name) dethroned Harald the 1st and took his place. The barbaric customs of the Vorages, their animal sounding language where threatening to take over the country. Harald and a few intrepid men including my father finally chased them away.

The king by his own hand killed Big-Belly by slicing him in half with a single blow of his axe. As for the Prime Minister of Vorages, the cruel Long-Neck was taken care of by my father. He cut his head, is what they said, a glorious episode that he would never talk about in from of us.

King Harald thanked my father by covering him in gold and offering him a sword named Xar the Sumptuous, made of a secret metal. Nevertheless, one day Harald and Erik stopped seeing and liking each other. This was because my father was resentful toward the king having adopted the new religion that came from the south, that of the Christians.

“What is this God without a face ?” he kept repeating with attitude. And his son Jesus, poor boy with no muscles or sword. Is he a guide worthy of respect and affection? No! A thousand times no !”

In those moments my mother, fervent Christian, was quiet. Her proud attitude showed that she couldn’t be swayed.  As for me, I loved Jesus et and respected his passive courage. I feared and admired our big God too, Godinn the Insatiable, killer of ogres and tamer of dragons… Godinn the flute player, the unequal poet, and sorcerer of girls….

Of all our Gods from the north (we have one thousand three hundred and two of them) Godinn was my father’s favorite. Mine too. My brother Gunnar preferred Thor because of his flying golden chariot.

Dizir and Drunn the Shepard, having finished their work, joined us. The half troll sat across from my father, a position which had nothing to do with his rank (Dizir didn’t have a title, he was a found child) but it had more to do with his odor. Alone at the end of the table, looking plague infested, he at least didn’t bother the other diners. This didn’t prevent Drunn, the big comedian, to plug his nostrils ten times during the course of the meal.

My father rose suddenly, ordering complete silence. He was listening to the sounds coming from outdoors ; he was listening to the snow. I could only hear muffled cries, far away, that I thought might be coming from the stables.

“It’s continuing”, declared Erik. “In three hours everything will be covered.”

“Including the chimney ?” asked Mother.

Our chimney, 20 feet tall, was built exactly to withstand such situations.

“For it to be completely covered, snow would have to fall all night and then all of tomorrow too”, said my father.

“Impossible !” said Drunn the Shepard happily.

“Impossible NOT !” barked Maga the Cook. “Remember Yel !”

My father sat back down, took a large pint of beer with honey. He told us that earlier, on his way home, that a snow flake the size of a big rock had fallen on him. Despite his colossal size, he had had a lot of trouble freeing himself. The snow was mean this year : it held a grudge against mankind.

“It will kill all that she can”, announced Erik.

He took a new swig of beer and became quiet, looking somber. I could see that our people were gripped by anxiety, hanging on their master’s lips. We’ll have to be locked in for several weeks, months maybe. Hari, Drunn, Maga, the mute sisters, and the half Troll were waiting for Erik to reassure them, which he did quickly, solemnly, in a way I found admirable. Years later I still get chills remembering my father’s talk.

“My friends”, he started, “death is at the door. It’s an immaculate death, the color of a dove, but it is still death! We will have to hold a siege and support each other. During the time we’ll spend between these walls, food will be divided up equally. At Erik’s table, the master eats like the servant, the man like the woman, and the half troll like everyone else.”

Dizir gave a grateful smile and a tear rolled down his cheek, covered in pustules.

“And that current situation won’t change anything”, concluded my father.

The relief was felt by all ; I saw my mother look at her spouse with admiration. My sister Ingë was also proud; her purple eyes (ma sister really had eyes that color) sparkled with love for our father.

That night, it stopped snowing. I was playing chess with my little sister.  The fire was dancing in the hearth, echoing Ingë’s care free way. With the first fright passed, the situation was becoming exciting for her. Our prison seemed golden to her : we were going to play riddles, we would sing together and the old Hari would tell stories….. But I wasn’t like her, no, I was terrified !

I noticed that Drunn and Maga sitting on the side; not concerned about us children. I distinctly heard the nasal voice of the Shepard.

“Today we get nice words but tomorrow ?” he said. “When the reserves are exhausted, you’ll see, they’ll let us die.”

“You’re right, for sure”, mumbled the old lady.

“Hopefully the snow will abandon this game.”

“Don’t count on it !”

I had never liked Drunn. Maga, on the other hand, I really liked. From this point on though, my friendship towards her disappeared and the food she cooked didn’t taste quite as good.
____________________
2

THE ATTACK IS ON

We ate two meals a day instead of four, and the portions were small. It was hard in the beginning, but we got used to it quickly. My father figured out that at this pace we could survive for five months. No snow, no matter how mean or tenacious, lasts that long in our valleys.

The snow could strengthen though, tightening its grip ; it would probably break our walls and crunch us alive with its frozen jaw. My mother feared this death more than any other.  

“I would rather die of hunger rather than freeze to death”, she mumbled with a sigh.

My father would reassure her. Our house, built by my grandfather Sigur, and an excellent carpenter, was reinforced many times on all its sides. Last summer my father and the half troll Dizir had added pillars and support beams everywhere, and lucky for us, had doubled the thickness of the exterior walls.

“It’s as if I had felt things coming”, concluded Erik proudly.

Every time that, night or day, our house crackled like a boat stuck in ice, I repeated my father’s words.  It made me feel immediately more confident.

Life was sorting itself out. Hari the Fisherman carved his wooden soldiers to complete the model Norman ship, destined to be a gift for my father. Dizir split his time between the careful inspection of our walls and paintings Hari’s soldier, a task that Gunnar and I also gave a hand to.

Mother had pulled out a hundred fox pelts that had been bought over the years with the goal of making a coat for my father.  She had never had the time to start this enormous task, but the opportunity was now hers. With the help of the two mute sisters and Ingë, she started sowing frenetically, without stopping.

My father was writing his memoirs. He wanted to get ahead a bit, about fifteen chapters, before he started reading it to us. We would finally know the all about the glorious life of Erik, son of Sigur !

I the meantime, Hari’s stories animated our evenings. They were stories of beautiful ladies and valient warriors, magicians, dragons, of elves and gnomes, singing bears and terrestrial whales… Love had a huge part in these stories by the old fisherman and war just a small one. That didn’t bother me, unlike Gunnar.

“Hari bothers me with those stories of old ladies”, he complained. I could understand that he was waiting for my father’s stories impatiently.

We could hear all sorts of noises coming from outside: grunts, creaks, and lugubrious screeches… Our people were getting scared, especially Maga. She was talking to herself, jumping at the slightest noise.

To distract everyone my father decided to move up the date of his first reading.

“I only have five chapters, but it’s enough”, he announced. “I’m moving fast however, my children, my quill is prancing on its way !”

My father read to us for three hours straight, surrounded by a respectful silence. When he finished at midnight, Mother and the half-troll applauded and we followed. My heart wasn’t in it though; frankly speaking I was terribly disappointed.

Gunner was contemplating the ground silently ; seemingly holding back tears. I was stunned ; I couldn’t understand how my father’s life seemed so boring all of a sudden. I shamefully wished I could have apologized on my knees in front of the great Erik.

Later, while in bed, I had an idea. Maybe father was just a bad story teller ? I could imagine the war against the Vorages told by Hari the Fisherman to persuade me that the problem was simply that.

My brother waited dejectedly. More than any of us, he loved life outdoors, racing on horseback, fishing with a harpoon; he lived to swim, dance, and fight. Painting wooden figurines, he could do for an hour maybe two, but the he had to go outside to spend his overload of energy, just as a young dog would.

Understanding this, my mother cleared a space in the back of our common room, so that Gunnar could stretch his arms and legs.

We admiringly watched him do flips and walk on his hands... But these exercises couldn’t contain him. He wanted something else, and I knew what : to fight.

I often caught him looking lovingly at his sword, hanging on the wall under our father’s, Xar the Sumptuous. Unfortunately for my bubbling older brother, our laws prevent battling inside a dwelling. I say that for foreigners who one day might read these pages and are ignorant of our Viking customs.

I felt bad for Gunnar. One morning though, while the snow had kept us prisoner for a month, my father started a magical ritual With the Index of his left hand and while pronouncing words in an ancient tongue he drew an invisible border between Gunnar’s space and the rest of the room. Thus my brother’s sports area was declared foreign to the rest of the house. He was no longer inside, but outside of our home from now on. Oh wonderful magic !

Gunnar was gloating. I, myself, received a beautiful sword who’s whale bone handle, was sculpted into an armed warrior, by Hari the fisherman. This gift didn’t make me happy though, because I would soon have to face my big brother in front of everyone.

The day following the one I received my sword (I had baptized it Gnarler), something happened. Dizir had just finished his rounds. After inspecting the wall in great detail, the half-troll lied down on the bench before the day began. We were all sleeping in our rooms except for Drunn the Shepard, who was suffering from insomnia. He was walking to and fro in the common room, probably swearing at the snow, when there was a crack.

As told by Dizir, a white cannon ball, leaving the wall, hit Drunn, catapulting him to the ground. My father woke up then, and ran over; with the help of the half-troll, he placed the big table in front of the breach to block the snow. How it managed to go through the double thickness of our wall was a complete mystery.

“It’s attacking”, said simply my father.

From that day on, our table stood upright, attached to the wall, looking like a fortress wall. We had to eat on our knees or on the floor like vagabonds.

Drunn the Shepard screamed for hours : the snow had burned his face horribly. A fever took, and with my mother’s care, I think he would have died. When his health was finally back, he became resentful towards Dizir, accusing him of negligence and worse.

“You did it on purpose”, he said

“False ! Absolutely false !” protested the half-troll, a tear of indignation beading on his eye lid.

Turning towards my father, Drunn added:

“I bet he even made a hole in the wall so that the snow, its accomplice, would come in! With trolls, everything is possible !”

Erik put on a serious look and the Shepard immediately shut up. Luckily, because I thought that Dizir was going to jump on him to sever his head off.
______________
To be continued...

10:28 Écrit par Thomas Lavachery dans Le morphir en anglais | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |

17/09/2009

Bjorn in english, chapter 3

Cathy Landergan, qui traduit Bjorn le Morphir en anglais, m'a envoyé le chapitre 3 il y a déjà un moment. Le voici for those who are interested :

 

3

 IT’S UNLEACHED

December 23rd, after the meal, everyone gathered in the back of the common room, to assist in the long awaited duel. I would confront my brother in front of everyone, and I was ill at ease. Gunnar, bigger and stronger than I, had practiced with weapons for a long time. I had little experience, and only had one title or glory with the bow and arrow.

I won’t describe the battle against my brother, which became one of the worst moments in my life. Gunnar pulverized me without pity. My sword Gnarler jumped from my hands three times, and twice I found myself with all fours up in the air. My brother’s weapon, like my own, covered in a thick cloth, couldn’t cut or stab. I got out of it with my body as black and blue, as was my soul!

My unraveling had been public. My father, who I admired so much and hoped I would be like some day, had seen what a weak warrior I was. My cheeks were burning with shame. For the first time in my life I hated Gunnar.

I did find some comfort in the eyes of certain spectators : my mother, my sister and also the half troll Dizir. I also saw a tear on the cheek of Sigrid, the oldest mute.

So this poor girl had sympathy for me and I ignored it.

“Tomorrow I will give my sons instruction”, announced my father, standing up to go to his chamber. “Dizir and I will show you how to hold a sword !”

Gunnar paled at those words because my father seamed to make no distinction between the two of us: the winner and the loser. I felt some sense of vengeance.

The next day was Christmas. Mother told us the story of the Baby Jesus, while my father, ostensibly with his back to the gathering, continued writing his memoirs. Every so often he stopped to laugh at what his spouse was reciting, as she ignored him. Maga, the mute sisters, Inge and I, were fascinated by the story of the Christian God’s son. As for the half troll Dizir, he cried with emotions several times.

”I zo love thiz woman, thiz Marie” he said. “I would have loved to know her more than the Baby Zesus even! I would have been her confident….”

“There is no room for stinkers of your sort in the life of the Gods”, screeched Drunn the Shepard.

He and others were reserved during my mother’s tale, but I could tell that they were listening carefully.

When my mother was finished, Erik stood up loudly.

“Now lets get to important things”, he said. “Instruction!”

Surely, to take arms on a day like today seemed sacrilegious. My father worried little about Christian holidays ; he probably liked to shock my mother.

She was, as usual, like stone.

The men of the house followed my father to the back of the room. You could see the excitement. Oh yes, to see Erik handle the sword, was worth it!  My father was amongst the best warriors in the country. No sane man would have confronted him without apprehension, and even Harald our king, feared him.

The half troll Dizir seemed calm though, approaching his master, sword in hand.

“He’s probably paralyzed inside”, I thought.

The fight began, with bared swords. But there was the deception ! No duel, no authentic confrontation: we were witnessing as calm and depressing as a math lesson.

With the movement of puppets, my father and Dizir showed us several moves, and the way one stands firmly on ones legs. We learned the name of each part of the sword, how they were forged, and where the best ones come from. To the amusement of Hari the fisherman, I remember that Gunnar was as disconcerted as myself. 

It’s at this point that my father looked at us, his son, with a grave look, and I think, a certain emotion.

“But all this is worth nothing”, he declared. “Lessons aren’t worth anything. One thing means more than anything, to keep your cool…. You, Gunnar,” continued father while turning towards my brother “you’re too hot blooded. You absolutely have to calm down !”

The look he then sent my way was severe.

“As for you Bjorn, it’s more serious. You don’t have enough blood...” It was a polite way to say I didn’t have enough strength, that I was a softy. I felt a tightness in my chest.

The battle against Gunnar had only served to increase my natural repugnance towards weapons and violence. How was I to gain my father’s respect, a man who excelled by his actions, in these conditions ? I was better off giving up right away; learning to live with the idea that I would never equal Gunnar in Erik’s heart.

Christmas night was terrible. For hours the snow was relentless ; our poor house creaking with pain, fighting back under the grip. We were shaken up like sailors in the hold during a stormy night. My little sister and I hung on to each other, terrorized, while Maga recited strange prayers, half pagan, half Christian.

We all stayed together in the common room, reassured a little by my parents’ presence, who appeared calm. Only Gunnar stayed alone in his room that night.

“Let me sleep, I’m tired”, he growled to Dizir who, asked by my mother, had come to get him.

“If it’s even possible to sleep on a night like this !” The truth was that Gunnar was proud. He had second thoughts however, because we found him the next morning under a beam, his bed almost completely covered with mud and dust.

The ceiling in his room had caved in, in two places, without the snow being able to find a way in. A true miracle.

“My little one !” screamed Mother.

But Gunnar was alive, in bad shape, but alive.

The other rooms also had suffered. Several wall showed signs of fatigue. In my parents’ room, the wind was coming in through a hundred new and worrisome cracks. Our food store had moved a good yard towards the west, and the walls were tilting dangerously.

While we were looking at the extent of the damages, Drunn the Shepard was following Dizir with nasty looks, as if the Troll was responsible for the situation we were in.

We decided to move the beds and food in the common room, and condemned the rest of the house. Before we closed the doors for good, we recouped all the material that we could use to reinforce the four remaining walls.

We would have to stand each other night and day, 24 hours a day for months maybe.

To be continued...

16:53 Écrit par Thomas Lavachery dans Le morphir en anglais | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) |  Facebook |