Hrímland – English excerpt

She had walked past the building countless times, the windows broken and nailed shut here like everywhere else. When she looked inside there was nothing to see except scraps of wood and rusted iron, remains of large industrial machines. It was a dead place, abandoned, although Garún was sure that nobody had ever worked there. The only door was rusted shut. It turned out to be quite easy for her to break in through one of the windows. Silently she made her way between the machinery. The floor was covered with broken glass and scrap: Screws, bolts, faded electrical wires with worn-out ends. No-one had ever used these things. No-one had made them or left them behind. Still they were here. Why? She pushed these thoughts away.

At the end of the factory floor was a dusty break room. Dirty mugs were in the sink and yellowed notebooks lay open as if someone had just stepped away decades ago. Nothing was written in them. Rows of pale green steel lockers were at the end of the room. The paint was mostly peeled off and had fallen off in flakes on the floor around them. Garún crammed herself into the third locker from the left and closed it.

The musty air was heavier in there. The faint light trickling through the vents on the door faded. She heard nothing except her own breathing. Then she was there. She could smell it before she could see it.

One moment she was inside a locker, trapped with the stale darkness, the next she stumbled across a corner and found herself in the middle of a market.

Oil lamps cast a yellow light on booths that lined up to make crooked, twisting paths. It was crowded, making her feel as if she was actually in Reykjavík proper. The market was in a large building, probably a warehouse, but the windows had been bricked over. Nobody paid her any mind, despite her being the only half-breed in sight. It smelled of old books, stockfish and dusty heirlooms, lost trinkets and family baubles that nobody wanted anymore. People that might have seemed quite normal in Reykjavík became undesirables in Kolaportið, odd and fetid, here new clothes were as worn-out rags. Gaunt paupers tried to pawn off an odd mismatch of junk and knick-knacks, stern marbendlar offered lumpfish, shark or other peculiar creatures from the deep. Occult tamperers sold illegal, homemade magical solutions and sorcerous artifacts, eccentric collectors displayed stamps, books and collectibles. Hunched náskárar patrolled from booth to booth in their odd, three-legged walk. They carried no decorations, but were fully armed with leaden skrumnisiron. They stood a head taller than others, who made sure not to be in their way. Garún realized that they were korpar, warriors without clan or honor. Two walked past her, their ironed claws hit the floor like swords dragged over stone. Everything was for sale but nothing was priced, and a shiver crawled down Garún‘s spine as she considered that perhaps some wanted something besides krónur for their wares. Just like Feigur.

She wandered aimlessly around the market. Besides the occult items and a few illegal books she did not find much that aroused her interest. She bought a used oil painting set for cheap and a few ragged brushes with it. At another booth she bought old and torn sheets. She knew that she was being fleeced for these common items because she was a half-breed. Haggling was no use, the prices were as set in stone as in the finest colonial store. But at least she got to shop. Here, amongst the dregs of society, she belonged. More or less. Garún had very little money left, only a few krónur. She thought it more important to paint than to eat, however. Before she headed out she bought herself a long, sharp knife in a sheath for two krónur. It was a soldier‘s knife and she got it cheap. The risk involving being in possession of stolen loot from the royal army was not desirable.

Kolaportið had only one door. A golem made from white-washed driftwood stood guard and let people out, sometimes in groups, sometimes one at a time. The eyes of the golem were conches, inside was a drooping growth similar to sea anemones. Garún stood in line until it gestured towards her to approach. As soon as the door shut behind her she found herself outside of the factory, the steel door rusted shut behind her. She waited for quite a while before going home, but she saw no-one else come out or go in.