Operation Alfur Chapter 1

Operation Alfur Chapter 1 Operation Alfur Chapter 1

Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

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Status: Finished

Genre: Fantasy

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Summary

A scientist disappears while exploring a cavern system in Iceland, and re-appears four years later. She claims to have spent the whole time with the legendary 'Alfur', the original name for the Elves

Tags

Summary

A scientist disappears while exploring a cavern system in Iceland, and re-appears four years later. She claims to have spent the whole time with the legendary 'Alfur', the original name for the Elves

Content

Submitted: January 15, 2016

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Content

Submitted: January 15, 2016

A A A

A A A


OPERATION ALFUR:

Chapter 1.

 

Caroline was extremely excited, although also more than a little reticent, about this journey to Iceland. This was the only country in the world where the so-called 'Elf Homes' were considered as protected by the state. Perhaps this was because a large number of people there still believed that the 'Alfur' existed, and that was despite countless scientific papers that stated that their existence was impossible.

 

The Icelandic government still took these age-old tales concerning the elves so seriously, that roads had to be constructed in such a way, so as not to disturb any rock formations that are believed to have either been built, or altered by these beings. Not only that, but mining and the building of factories was regulated in order that such activity did not disrupt any underground elf-dwellings at the site.

 

Many of the scientists that were the authors of those derogatory publications had been forced to rethink, since the discovery of the so-called 'Hobbits', the remains of which were found in the Liang Bua caves on the island of Flores. This find was the first proof that these diminutive folk, mentioned under various titles in folklore around the world, indeed may have existed until as recently as 12,000 years ago.

 

One of Caroline's associates, Doctor Harold Sorenson, once said in his statement just before Caroline left on her fateful expedition: “Until recently, most experts agreed that the accounts of the so-called elves of Iceland were mere fairytales. But the discovery of the 'Hobbit' in Indonesia has raised speculation amongst many scientists that the Icelandic Elves might also exist. It is thought that the Hobbit community on Flores was destroyed by a volcanic event. If this had not occurred, this close relative of Homo sapiens might even have existed even to this day.

 

Since there was no such catastrophe in Iceland, it is a reasonable hypothesis that this species of humanoids might have existed even up until the age of the Vikings. Certainly these indigenous people would have had good reason to seek refuge underground to hide from their fierce invaders.

 

Caroline is very excited about the opportunity of proving that Elves actually exist. That's why she is going to Iceland: To ascertain the truth. Her technical advisor is Nyle Olafson, a well-known professor from Oslo.”

 

When Caroline first met Olafson, she felt more than a little ill-at-ease about taking him with her. While it was true that he was a lecturer at one of Oslo's most reputable universities' department of technology, and it was also a fact that he specialised in spelunking and excavation technology, he had been most disparaging about the whole expedition and its objectives. Although he had not said so in public, Caroline overheard Olafson tell someone over the phone that he thought she was '… chasing a fairytale ...' Nonetheless, she had to admit that his expertise would be invaluable to the exercise, and thus - despite her misgivings - she agreed to include him in the group.

 

Caroline had written her thesis on Elf Folk-Lore. She had also learnt two archaic languages to prepare herself for this journey. She had become fluent in Gaelic and ancient Norse. The former had always been considered closest to the dialects that the elves were purported to have spoken. Her reasoning was that, if she should come into contact with the 'Hidden Folk' or 'Huldufolk' - as they are known in Icelandic - she would stand a better chance of connecting with them if she could speak a language with which they were at least familiar.

 

 

Almost from the word go, things began to go awry for the team. Most of the problems Caroline put down to human error. They were more of a delay than any real danger to the mission. Upon arrival in Reykjavik, for example, it was discovered that the specialised equipment that had been arranged for the expedition had been delayed, because the Aleutian Carrier had experienced mechanical problems. The team members had to wait a further three days before they finally arrived.

 

The team that were going to be embarking on the mission itself were as follows: Trent and Freda McGraw. Trent was from Scotland, and was an avid spelunker with a passion for ancient burial sites and underground dwellings. His wife was Danish, and shared Caroline's belief in the Huldufolk's existence. Their guide was a local woman by the name of Inga Kolnassen. She had grown up in the area, and was familiar with the terrain. Olafson's group were supposed to be on stand-by in case something went wrong with their equipment, or to send rescue teams if they ran into trouble. Otherwise they were instructed to remain at the base camp, and man the radios.

 

There were no roads to the Alfarkirkjan, roughly translating to 'Elf-Chapel'. It was situated in the Saedesdalur Valley in a small but rugged range of mountains in central Iceland. Luckily the land around Elf-Hill was open, so it was relatively easy for the helicopters to touch down close to the site.

 

The remote monitors were set up within range of the small cave, where some years before, brothers Sven and Arnold Moreson claimed to have encountered a group of small slender humanoids. Sven, the oldest, used to disappear for days without telling anyone where he was going. He claimed to have learnt the elven language. One evening, when his brother had not returned from one of these excursions, Arnold went looking for him. He climbed up to the ledge where the cave was situated, and - going down on all-fours - crawled inside. He scaled down the vertical rock face that led into another small cavern some one hundred and twenty metres below the entrance. This cave was big enough so that he could at least stand. To his amazement, an opening that had not been there when he entered appeared. He saw his brother accompanied by slender 'men' with pointy ears. Arnold called to Sven, and he bade farewell to his elven companions. As he drew close to where Arnold was standing, the opening disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

 

The brothers went to the local village, and gave an account of what had happened to the newspaper. When they read the report, Sven and Arnold were shocked to find that their story had been changed.

The paper claimed that, when Arnold found his brother, the elves were performing some form of ritual around him, and that they became violent when the brothers tried to 'escape'. In their fury, the inhabitants of the cave 'pursued, and almost killed them.' Sven approached the editor, and insisted that he retract the report. The only response he received was: “What has been written remains written.”

 

Neither of the brothers ever spoke of the incident to anyone after that. Alas, instead of quelling the suspicions about the elves' intentions, their silence only fuelled rumours that the folk that Sven had encountered were hostile towards anyone who went to the cave in search of them. These became more and more ridiculous as time passed, and soon the two brothers found themselves being branded as 'mentally unstable.'

 

One self-proclaimed expert was reported to have said: “Folklore states that Elves use magic for good or for ill. They can establish a psychic link with humans, although those who engage in such contact often run the risk of going insane. It is therefore possible that the Moreson brothers have been brainwashed so that they do not recall the incident as it actually occurred.”

 

 

 

Things deteriorated so much, that Sven and his brother were forced to leave the country. They emigrated to Denmark. That was where they met Caroline. Only when she swore not to divulge their version of what happened on that night, did they agree to give her the information she sought from them. She had been suspicious of the paper's rendition because it was widely known that, generally, Elves rarely attacked humans. In the few accounts to the contrary, it usually was revealed that they only reacted violently because they were provoked in some way. And besides, there had never been any evidence that the inhabitants of Alfarkirkjan were anything worse than neutral towards any human visitors. Not only that, but it had been a site where encounters occurred for the last 1000 years.

 

The four climbed up the rocky hillside until they reached the ledge where the opening of the cave was situated. There was only enough room for one person to climb down to the second small chamber, where Arnold claimed the mysterious opening appeared. Caroline elected to go first.

 

“Once I'm at the second chamber, I will radio for the next person to follow me.” she instructed.

 

Going down on all-fours, she entered the small cave. Fastening a rope to the harness around her waist, she proceeded to drive a piton into the wall of the cave in order to tie the other end, so that she could abseil down to the lower chamber. Having made sure that the rope was secure, she tossed the rest of it over the edge of the narrow crevice. It was more like chimney climbing than abseiling as her back was pressed against the opposing wall most of the time.

 

The vertical shaft had an L-shaped kink in it at about ninety metres. The shelf that made the horizontal arm was about twelve metres in length, and just wide enough to allow one person to crawl along it. This meant that a new line had to be set up to repel down the last section of the climb. This did not pose as too much of a problem, as the expedition members did not plan to be in the lower cave for very long, and they could use the ropes to climb up again. But then disaster struck!

 

Just before she reached the ledge, Caroline's headlamp flickered, and then went off completely. She tried to contact the other three members waiting above her, only to find that the radio had also mysteriously died. As there was no natural light coming down the crevice, she was forced to continue climbing blindly. Because she was abseiling, this would not have posed too much of a threat. She had not gone very much further, however, when her line snapped, and she went hurtling down until she landed on the ledge below. Luckily for her, she was only just over five metres from the platform.

 

As she landed on the shelf, she set off one of the remote distress beacons from the unit strapped to her belt. She could not tell whether she was trapped or not in the inky blackness that surrounded her, so she decided that it would be best to stay where she was, until her companions could rescue her. Caroline sat in total darkness, and almost complete silence, hoping that the signal had reached those waiting for her on the surface.

 

At the mouth of the cave, Trent heard the racket inside. When the beacon began to flash, he knew that there was trouble below. He radioed through to base camp, informing them of the situation and ordering them to contact the local search and rescue services. He tried to follow where Caroline had climbed, only to discover that the way was blocked. At about fifty metres down the shaft, there was a huge rock that had lodged itself tight into the small mouth of the crevice. The young climber feared the worst.

 

 

 

Olafson arrived with a rescue team from a station near the Alfarkirkjan. It was then that Trent and the rest of the team realised that his fears were not without reason. The shaft from the cave was almost vertical, with very little to prevent debris from falling down as far as the ledge. That meant that there was a very good chance that, if Caroline had fallen onto the shelf, she would either be trapped down there, or even crushed. Without radio contact, the rescue team had no way of knowing which. The other problem was that, if they tried to remove the rock, it might become dislodged and fall even further down the shaft, and even onto the ledge itself. Olafson suggested that he and his team be put in charge of the efforts to remove the obstacle.

 

After what seemed to be an age, Caroline began to realise that she needed to find an exit from her dark prison. It was stiflingly hot and close in that tiny hole, and she was beginning to suffer from a mild dose of claustrophobia. Putting her hands above her head, she tried to stand up, but the roof was so close that she could not straighten up before her hands touched it. She sat down again, and felt in her backpack. Fortunately the walking-stick that she always brought with her was still there. Using it as a cane, she crouched down and slowly felt her way in the direction of the cooler air, her one hand above her head to feel if there was any change in the height of what appeared to be a small passage.

 

She knew that the second part of the climb, down to the larger cave was just ahead of her. So she sat on the floor of the passage, and crept forward with her feet out in front of her. The going was tedious, but at least this meant that her feet would give her a warning when the shelf came to an end. Sure enough, she came to the second climb. This time, she used her stick to ascertain the width of the shaft. Luckily it appeared that it was narrow enough to chimney climb down. Knowing that the cave at the bottom faced East, she turned until she was ninety degrees to the ledge, and began climbing down. Again progress was slow as she was climbing in total darkness.

 

After some time, Caroline reached the second cave. Again she tested its height, and found that she could at last stand up straight. She removed her top so that her body could sense any difference in the temperature that might indicate an opening. She then stood in one place and slowly turned around until she felt a coolish breeze coming from what she surmised would be the East, but the direction did not matter. The only light that she still had was the flash-light of her instamatic camera. Using it would serve two purposes: Firstly she could leave a clue for anyone who might come to look for her, and secondly it would give her a brief glimpse at her surroundings. The flash revealed precious little, except that she was in a cave more than three metres in diameter.

 

Placing her one hand above her head, she cautiously made her way towards the source of the cool air. She prodded in front with her stick to make sure that the way ahead was clear.

 

Her cane hit solid rock in front of her. Feeling her way down the obstruction, she discovered that the passage narrowed until she was forced to drag herself along on her belly. As she tried to pull herself along, she cried out in agony. Only then did she realise that she had sustained a fractured rib as a result of her fall. She could only hope that this narrow part of the passage was not very long, as each time she tried to pull herself along, the pain became even more severe. Her progress was slow enough without her having to stop every few minutes to catch her breath.

 

Just when she thought that she could continue no further, Caroline noticed what looked like a dim light ahead of her. With renewed vigour, she pulled herself along, ignoring the pain in her side. She also noticed the feint sound of running water. She thought to herself: “If there is a river, it must come out somewhere. I could follow it, and maybe get out that way.”

 

 

 

Sure enough, after half an hour, she came upon a stream. The frigid water was freezing, but the relief as she began following its flow made the temperature more bearable. She lay on her stomach and rested as the current gradually took her. She was exhausted after her ordeal, and her body ached from the fall as well as the exertion of trying to find her way in the dark. And then there was the ever-present glow ahead of her that possibly meant that she would soon be free.

 

As she came to where the light was at its brightest, the river flowed under a small wooden structure that resembled a mooring place for a boat. There was a shallow place just next to the jetty with a dry patch of ground. Caroline clambered out of the water, now cold and stiff from navigating her way through the icy stream. Every item in her pack was soaked, and in any case, she had not thought it necessary to pack a second set of clothing. Looking above her head, she could see that the sunlight was shining through a hole in the roof of what appeared to be a huge cavern, through which the river flowed and continued into more bleak darkness.

 

Miserably, Caroline nibbled on a piece of soggy biscuit, and contemplated just how she was going to get out of this predicament. Just then, she noticed a movement just as the light dimmed again. As she stood up to see what it was, she saw a small figure, she estimated to be her shoulder height, running for cover. She called out in her mother tongue: “Hey there! I'm not going to harm you. I need your help!”

 

In reaction, the figure peered out from behind the rock where she had taken refuge, and quickly ducked out of sight again. In a moment of inspiration, Caroline repeated herself, but this time in Gaelic. Again the figure peeped above the rock. But this time it did not hide itself again. “I need your help.” Caroline repeated.

 

At last the figure stood up. Caroline now saw that it was a female dressed in a leather coat. She estimated that she might be in her late teens, or even early twenties. She cautiously approached the stranger, trying not to make any sudden movement that might startle her, or cause her to run away.

 

The other figure answered her in what at first appeared to be a Gaelic dialect: “Where do you come from? And what is your business here?” Her tone was not confrontational or even suspicious, just curious.

 

Caroline explained to her what had happened. After some consideration, the stranger responded: “That is a sad tale. There is no way out of this cavern system this side of The Door. I must take you to my kin. They may be able to assist you. But first, I see you are injured. Here, let me help you.”

 

“What do you mean 'The Door'?” enquired Caroline as the other expertly bound her wounds. She took a length of Caroline's inner sheet and used it to treat her fractured rib, wrapping the cloth firmly around her chest so that it would offer support without impeding her breathing.

 

“It is better that you see it for yourself. It is not easy to explain to those who have not been here before. The other one took a long time to fathom the truth as well.” came the reply. Sensing Caroline's confusion, the other person raised her hand, and said: “No more questions now. All will be revealed soon enough. I am called Shael. By what name are you called?”

 

Caroline introduced herself, and they embraced almost as sisters. Shael was careful not to squeeze too tightly. Just before they departed, she asked Shael if she could take a picture of both of them. Shael at first objected, but Caroline explained that she needed to leave a clue for anyone who might be looking for her. Reluctantly she agreed. She took the picture, and then wrote a letter on a piece of paper. She placed both the picture and the letter in a small plastic bag, and pinned it down under a large rock. Then, following her new guide, she left the cavern.

They walked along the side of the river, at times having to wade through the water. Just before it became too dark, Shael gave Caroline a small lantern, and continued into the darkness. When Caroline offered to walk closer in order to share the light with her, Shael insisted that she did not need it. And, by the ease with which she was navigating the convoluted passage, it was obvious that she was telling the truth.

 

As they walked, Caroline asked: “Earlier, you referred to the 'other one'. What does that mean?”

 

The other stopped and replied: “Many cycles ago, one of your kinsman used to visit here. He even learned our speech - as you have done - so that he could understand us better. But alas, his own people turned him against us, and we saw him no more.”

 

Caroline stood aghast as she realised what this meant. Aloud she exclaimed: “You speak of the one who is called Sven. Then you are one of the Huldufolk!”

 

“Yes, that is what your kin call us now, but in the beginning you called us by another name. Then we were called 'Alfur'. Come now, it is already late, and the Keeper does not take well to having to open the Door at any hour after it is meant to be closed.” Came the reply.

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Tristan Biggs. All rights reserved.

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