From Chapter One
.... A little breeze, hot and heavy, came into the clearing. It flowed past Sven across the field to the conifers. Like a chorus of dancers greeting the first note, as one, the conifers lifted their arms. They lofted their branches once, twice, three times. The air in the clearing turned to gold. Crystal specks of pollen caught sunlight. The atmosphere in the whole field was a rippling curtain, a cloud of gold.
Thunder rumbled again and now the breeze intensified with cold. The poplar leaves began to rattle. Every round leaf turned a silvery grey underside to the sky.
The forest began to roar. Sven had only heard such a roar once before, a roaring surging when he'd watched an iceberg calf from a glacier in a thundering cascade of ice and water in Greenland’s far northern polar bear country. This roar came from these trees. The pines tossed and twisted. The golden pollen swirled and fell on everything. Sven sat back against the trunk of his tree and watched with astonishment.
The wind intensified to a gale force in a single persistent gush of air. The conifers across the field bent away from the wind. They bent and bent more. Some of the young trees bent almost 90 degrees, bowing away from the gale. Sven held his breath. They had to break. He waited for the sickening crack of breaking wood. The wind howled. The conifers roared. Then the wind relented. Like dancers, the trees gracefully lifted their bodies aloft again, straightening their spines to perfect posture. The great arms came back to rest, each one reaching out and arching up.
Hot drops of water splattered onto the earth. A flash of lightening shot across the sky and thunder clapped the air. Ozone filled Sven’s lungs. The storm was right over him. Sven pulled his tarp up over his head. Now pellets of hail rained down on him and the field. There were two or three more claps of lightning. The storm raced off to the east. A shower of warm rain cascaded over him. And then it was over.
Sven sat unmoving. He felt numb, breathless. Whatever these trees were, he had seen them stand up to the greatest test. He thought of the mast of his boat, the taller stouter masts of long Viking narrs and war ships. He thought of Norwegian hills, denuded of their forests. “I’m looking at the future of Europe,” he thought.
“A good storm,”
Sven tore the tarp off his head and leapt to his feet. A large older man smiled at him calmly and repeated the words that sounded like gibberish to Sven. But the man had a friendly tone. He was sitting against the trunk of the next tree. He was a smooth brown color. He was completely naked except for a short loin cloth. His hair was jet black and pulled back into a braid at the nape of his neck. On the crest of his head, some hair had been chopped short. It stood up like a war horse’s mane.
One feather, bedraggled from the rain, stuck up sideways from the mane. The man has a big hawklike nose and flat oval cheeks. His eye
“Not many get to see that," the man said. Again his words were a gibberish of grunts and mumbles to Sven. But the man gestured to the pines across the field. He wiped a thick forefinger along his thigh picking up the yellow pollen and popped it into his mouth.
“Pollen comes only once a year. Try some. It will increase your manliness,”