Did you ever hear that Vikings actually discovered America before Columbus? It is said that in a journal, a traveler reported finding a land with natives on it, the description matching America. They were smart, though, and decided to leave the land alone.
However, what is not stated is that one particular “Viking” stayed behind. This person obviously could not have been Adam, because if he was even born yet, he would have been in London at the time. But the people who hire Adam do not know that, so we’re just going to shut up and let him have his fun.
“Unega.” Adam woke up to the feel of something prodding his side. He opened his eyes to see one of the natives crouched beside him, a look of concern on his face. The man was talking, but Adam couldn’t understand anything. He must have seen the confusion on Adam’s face, because he began repeating, this time making exaggerated gestures. He pointed to the ocean, and it suddenly clicked. Adam scrambled to his feet, searching the horizon. Nothing. The ship was gone.
“They left me…” Adam murmured, shock settling in. “Damn Jaco left me!! That arse! What’s he think father’s gonna say? No way he’ll believe I died. Damn boy ain’t got no head between his ears, I say!”
The native stared at him, looking bewildered as Adam began throwing rocks into the ocean and shouting profanity at Jaco. Eventually, Adam, his energy spent, plopped down in the sand and stared blankly at the horizon. “… I’m stuck here…” he barely whispered, true realization setting in. He wasn’t going to see his home again for a long time, if ever.
He felt the native place a red-brown hand on his shoulder, and turned to see that the man had sat down next to him, also staring out into the ocean. He said something that Adam didn’t understand, but he somehow felt comforted by it.
“Unega.” Adam gasped and stood up, turning to face Chief Minco, his newest and best friend. He’d been on this land for a few years now, and had been expecting the most perfect gift to commemorate it. Now, it seemed, it was finally here. Minco smiled faintly and gently handed him the small bundle. Adam swallowed the lump in his throat as he took it and cradled in his arms… his godson.
“He is called Hinto,” Minco told him, watching over Adam’s shoulder.
“… Addie?” Adam questioned softly. Minco sighed and shook his head slowly. Adsila, the chief’s wife, had been sick for the past few months. It had been clear to everyone that she wouldn’t make it. Adam sighed back and rocked Hinto gently.
“I have things I must tend to. Will you take care of him?”
“Of course,” Adam nodded, sitting back down. “Do what you need.”
As Adam sat there, singing a Norse lullaby to this small bundle, he remembered how this time years ago, he thought he’d never see his home again. He realized now that he had been wrong. This was his home
“Unega!” Adam woke with a start, sitting up. He could smell smoke, and he heard screams outside. “Minco?!” Adam called back, scrambling to his feet and rushing outside. Minco was in front of the tent, gesturing the women and children to safety. Adam scanned the site, noting that the fire wasn’t here yet. However, he could see it licking in the distance, and the smoke was already thick enough to choke. “Minco, what’s happening?” he asked, coming up next to his friend and helping him escort.
“I do not know. People are saying it is more white men.” Adam was fluent in the native tongue now, but he still swore in Norse. “I have not seen Hinto,” Minco continued. “Please, find him for me.” Adam nodded and rushed off, blinking the stinging smoke from his eyes as he searched for the boy.
“Hinto!” he called. “Where are you, little bear?
“Uncle Unega?” Adam stopped short and looked around, trying to find where the small voice had come from. “Uncle, I’m here,” it came again, and Adam’s eyes fell to a small, hollowed out log. Of course. It was the boy’s favorite hiding spot. Adam crouched down and peered inside, Hinto’s bright eyes looking back at him in fear. He clutched to his chest Tobi, the small, battered bear from Adam’s childhood.
“Come here, little bear,” Adam spoke softly, holding his arms out. Hinto almost launched himself into them, clinging to Adam tightly. “I’m scared, Uncle.”
“Shh, it’s okay. Let’s get you back to your dad. He’s very worried.”
“Unega!” As Adam entered the camp with Hinto in his arms, the chief’s advisor, Makko, stopped him. “Let me take Hinto. You must go see Chief Minco.”
“Where do you think I’m taking Hin-” The look on the man’s face stopped him. He nodded weakly and handed the boy over.
“Uncle, what’s wrong?” Hinto’s small face looked up at Adam, his eyes full of all the innocence in the world. “Nothing,” Adam told him, gently kissing his forehead. “I’ll be back soon. Don’t worry, little bear.”
The fire was gone, the only sign of it being the smoke and small piles of smoulder around the camp. The camp itself seemed relatively untouched, but there was an air about that made Adam shudder. Something was wrong.
When Adam came to Minco’s tent, the two men beside gave small nods and waved him inside. As he stepped in and peered around, Adam found himself holding his breath, his heart thumping. “Minco?” His voice was barely above a whisper.
“Unega.” It didn’t sound like the Minco Adam had come to know in his years here. Minco was strong, his voice always loud and hearty. Everything he said was inspiring. This voice was small and weak, with a sound of grinding rocks.
Adam went to him, tentative as though Minco was a stranger again. He looked down at the man in the soft candlelight. He seemed so much older than he had been that morning. Adam noticed the wrap around his friend’s shoulder, stained a dark color that he didn’t want to look at too long. Instead, he looked at Minco’s eyes, the deep brown shining even in the dim light.
“Friend,” Minco began, reaching out and grabbing Adam’s hand. “Brother… I will not make it.” Adam closed his eyes and squeezed Minco’s hand, forcing back the tears. He didn’t trust himself to speak, so he simply nodded sadly.
“I want you to be chief.” At that, Adam’s eyes flew back open. “Until Hinto comes of age.”
“What?! Me? I can’t lead the tribe!”
“You can. I believe. There is no one else fit.” Minco squeezed Adam’s hand gently.”This is my decision. I trust you, Unega”
Those were the last words Chief Minco said.
“Unega.” Adam repressed the urge to wince at the name and turned to face Makko, who bowed his head curtly and corrected, “Chief Unega.”
“I’ve told you, just call me… Chief. Hinto is the only one I want using that name.” He closed his eyes and sighed. He didn’t want to be called “Chief” either, but the tribe valued propriety. He would have to deal with it for now.
“Chief,” Makko continued. “The white men are here. They wish to discuss our… ree-low-cay-shun?” The native struggled through the English. Adam, having grown up speaking Norse, had been having trouble as well. However, he had heard enough about the white men to know what that word meant.
“Where’s Hinto? He’s old enough now to sit in on these things.” Makko shook his head, indicating that he didn’t know. “Nevermind. I know where he is,” Adam said, getting up and heading into the woods.
He found Hinto sitting on the hollow log. The boy was too big to fit inside it anymore, but it was still his favorite place. Adam sat down next to him, causing Hinto to jump. “Uncle!” he exclaimed. “Sorry. I was… lost in thought.”
“So I assume you heard the news?” Adam spoke in a low voice, watching the light filtering through the trees.
“I don’t want to leave, Uncle. This is where father is.”
“I know, bear. I’ll talk to them. We’re not going anywhere.”
“Yes, perhaps you can reason with them. After all, you were white once too,” Hinto laughed, and Adam joined in. He looked down at his hands, now deeply tanned, almost as dark as the other tribe members. He wasn’t sure these men were smart enough to notice the difference.
“Exactly,” he told Hinto, hiding his fears. “Will you join me? I think it’s time you start learning these things.”
“But by the time I’m chief, they’ll be gone… Right?”
“… I hope so… but talking to people as a chief is very important. There will always be someone you have to talk to. I think once you take my place, I won’t speak again for at least a year.”
“You’ll still talk to me though, right?”
“Of course, bear,” Adam laughed, standing up. “Come now.”
“Chief… Chief,” Makko said, announcing Adam to the group of white men. He said the first chief in English and the second in the native tongue, and Adam had to choke back a laugh. Hinto openly giggled until Adam nudged him.
A man stepped forward out of the group, with a poorly concealed look of amusement. “Hello Chief,” he spoke in halting native. “My name is James. These are my friends.” He gestured to the rest of the group behind him.
“Your friends do not sound very friendly,” Adam replied sternly, a small smile on his lips. He could tell already this man was not quite like the rest.
The man smiled faintly back, amusement in his blue eyes. “So you’ve heard the rumors? Well, I’m afraid to tell you that they’re all true. My job is to make sure they don’t do something too stupid.”
Adam found it hard to hide his smile, and stepped sideways to hide Hinto’s broad grin. “What do your men want?”
“I’m sure you know the answer to that.”
Adam nodded. “Come. Just you. I have a plan.”
James glanced behind him at his group. “I don’t know if…”
“I’m sure you can come up with an excuse.” With that, Adam turned to leave. He heard the men question James, who replied urgently. Hinto and Makko jumped to follow Adam, and James joined them after some argument with his group. “Makko, take care of Hinto. I’d like to speak with James privately.”
“I thought you said I need to learn how to talk to people,” Hinto protested.
“You’ll know what was discussed soon enough, bear,” Adam smiled at him, mischief in his eyes. Hinto grinned back and nodded. “Alright, Uncle. But I expect to hear everything.” Hinto winked and nodded towards James before running off. Adam stared after him in shock. The boy could not have been suggesting what it sounded like, could he? There was no way he could have known… right?
James seemed equally flustered as they approached the chief’s tent. “Don’t worry too much about him,” Adam said, attempting to be reassuring. “Children always say strange things.” James laughed a little at that, still seeming nervous. Adam sighed and entered the tent, holding the flap open for James, who nodded his thanks. They sat and James immediately asked, “Alright, so what is this plan of yours.”
“You are very eager,” Adam laughed. “Perhaps we should know each other a bit better. After all, this plan will not work without you, and I need to know I can trust you.”
“Of course,” James nodded. “I understand. I do want to help…”
Adam tilted his head slightly. “But?” he asked with a playful smirk.
James watched him for a moment before shaking his head and speaking. “But… I don’t want to betray my men.”
Adam leaned forward, closer to James. “They do not seem like men you want to be on the side of.”
“They’re stupid, yes, but… they’re good men, with families. They’re just trying to find a place to call home.”
“Have they not thought to simply live among us in peace?”
“… The first ones did… but once one person gets greedy, others follow suit. It’s just their nature.”
“Theirs… But not yours.” Adam hadn’t noticed himself continuing to lean closer until now. He was close enough to see the fractals and rings in James’s eyes. They weren’t just blue, Adam noticed. There were small flecks of gold among the blue, and a ring of violet around the edge.
“You’re not like the others here either,” James’s voice was low, tentative. “You’re not really native, are you.”
“How do you figure that?” Adam asked, intrigued.
“You’re eyes aren’t brown. They’re dark, but they’re actually grey, almost blue.” So Adam wasn’t the only one taking advantage of the closeness, then. “Where are you from?”
Adam hesitated before answering, “Scotland. But I’ve lived here for a long time. I hardly remember it anymore.”
James smiled brightly. “I had an ancestor from Scotland. His name was Jaco.”
Adam’s face fell into shock and he leaned back, confusing James. “What is it? Do you know the name?”
“… It’s familiar, but I can’t place from where.” Adam lied.
“He was a Viking. I never liked him. There’s a legend he killed his older brother so he could be chief.”
“Is that so? Interesting…” Adam smiled faintly. He hadn’t thought about Jaco in a long time. He wondered how he would feel knowing Adam had become a chief anyway, completely by accident.
“… There was another rumor that the brother had sold his soul to Loki for immortality.”
“I-is that so? How silly, why would someone do that? Anyway, about the plan…”
“And from that day on, his left eye was gold. But you could only see it of you were really… looking for it.” James tilted his head and leaned closer, a small gasp escaping his lips. “Adam…”
“Don’t you dare call me Uncle. I haven’t hit anyone since I got here, and I have been itching.”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” James laughed, leaning back. “It’s so far back that the blood hardly matters anymore. That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway.” He gave Adam a shy smirk.
“Alright, tell me about this plan now.”
“Adam.” Adam nearly jumped out of his skin at James’s sudden whisper. He had appeared behind the log seemingly out of nowhere. “Don’t call me that!.. What are you wearing?” James looked down at his dark clothes. “I’m blending in?”
“Who’s Adam?” Hinto asked from his other side, tilting his head curiously.
“Nevermind that. James, your men are asleep?” He nodded firmly. “Good. We’ll wait a little more, then the plan begins.”
“Did you see that man walking around the camp?” Hinto wrinkled his nose. “Like he was planning out the perfect way to destroy it.”
“That would be Sir Damian,” James sighed. “And that’s exactly what he was doing.”
“How did you end up with them?” Hinto asked. “You’re not like them.”
James sighed and looked up at the trees. “It’s a long story. But the short of it is Damian is my brother.”
“Humph,” Adam scoffed. “I guess power hungry brothers run in the family.”
James nearly choked on laughter. “I thought we weren’t supposed to mention that again.”
“I couldn’t help it,” Adam chuckled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, bear. Come, it’s time.”
They all stood and made their way back to camp. “Stop walking like that, James.” Adam hissed, pulling him up from his crouched position. “Haven’t you ever done something like this before?”
“No, of course not. You have?”
“My patron god was Loki, of course I have.”
“Hinto… Stop asking questions.”
“I just have one more.”
“Should I change now?”
“Oh… Yes, go ahead.”
“Change?” James scrunched his eyebrows.
Adam looked at him sideways and grinned. “Watch.”
“Wow.” James stared with wide eyes.
“There’s a reason I call him bear.”
“I thought it was just a cute Indian nickname.”
“Indian? Is that what they’re calling us?”
“It was a bit of a misunderstanding. I’d prefer to talk about the fact that THE BOY JUST TURNED INTO A BEAR!”
“Shhh!!!” Adam put a hand over James’s mouth. “Are you trying to get us caught?!”
“Sorry,” James whispered hoarsely. “I just… don’t do well with shock… I need a moment.”
“Sorry, but we don’t exactly have a moment.”
“Right… Right yes. I’m… I’m fine.” He took a deep breath and scrubbed his eyes. “Okay, what’s next?”
“Now, Hinto’s going to go get his friends.”
James’s voice came out high and squeaky. “Right.”
Adam held his breath as he watched Hinto and his bears pretend to ravage the camp. He saw James scrambling around with the rest of the white men, acting like he had no idea what was happening. He hoped with every fiber of his being that this worked. He hoped they didn’t catch James’s bad acting. He hoped he would be able to give him a congratulatory hug, and maybe a little kiss. As he’d said, so many generations ago, blood wouldn’t matter.
The snapping of twigs behind him broke Adam out of his thoughts. Slowly, he turned to find himself staring down the barrel of a musket. He looked up, expecting to see Sir Damian. He gasped as his eyes met a familiar cold brown. “Makko,” he whispered. “What are you doing?”
“You were never meant to be chief. I had thought Minco would be smarter than that. I was meant that honor. It was my birthright! Then you! You took it from me! All you white men ever do is take! You are no different than the men out there!”
“Makko… let’s think rationally here… You don’t want to do this.” Adam was slowly standing up, his hands ready to grab the gun as soon as Minco loosened his grip.
“You do not know what I want!” Adam watched Makko’s finger wrap around the trigger. Disbelief slowed his movements as he tried to lunge away. But it was too late.
The bang rang out across the land. James stopped cold in his tracks, his eyes flicking straight to where it had come from. Adam. He dropped the supplies he was carrying and started running. No, he thought. No no no no! He found himself being scooped onto a furry back. James wasn’t even startled. All that mattered right now was Adam.
Hinto ran faster than James could, carrying him in seconds to the place Adam was supposed to be. James slid off and immediately started searching, soon joined by a far less bear-like Hinto. It wasn’t long before they found him, lying in the leafs and illuminated by a small patch of moonlight. James fell to his knees, gently cradling Adam’s head in his lap.
Hinto knelt beside him, his face stoic despite the tears. “I know who did this. I could smell them. I can…”
“No,” James shook his head. “Revenge is never as nice as it sounds. Leave it be.”
Hinto nodded slowly. “Our tribe believes all men will get what they deserve. The earth will see that Makko pays for this… But what did Uncle Unega do to deserve this?”
“Well, he did live a long time.”
“Yes,” Hinto laughed sadly. “His face never changed. He never told my why, but I knew.”
“Axle Niteshayd, you are an idiot.”
“Good to see you too, Death. Been a while.”
“You always do find a way to cheat me. I haven’t the faintest idea why. You know you’ll always get thrown back into The Loop.”
“Well, I don’t know that at the time of the deal, now do I? If you’d just let me keep a few memories…”
“Nice try, but you know the rules. Now, where would you like to go this time?”
“Hmm… there’s so many new cities… What would you recommend?”
“Well, I hear London is beautiful this time of year.”
“Alright, perfect. London it is! See you in a few centuries~”
“Just get out of here.”
“Love ya too, man.”
And thus, Micha D’Alistair was born. Until their last breaths, the word Unega no longer meant “white” to Hinto and James. To the Native boy, it meant friend and family, and to James, who eventually heard Hinto use it, it meant love, hope, and beauty.
The ashes of Unega were scattered in the same place as Chief Minco’s, but James kept a small vial for himself. One day, as Adam explored London with Tobi, he came across a man selling things at a small table. “Please, sir,” the young man pleaded with Adam. “I’m selling some of my grandfather’s old things. I need money to feed my family. Please, consider buying something.”
Curious, Adam stopped and looked at the table. It was piled with a fair share of interesting things, but his eyes kept falling on only one. It was a small vial on a leather cord, filled with grey powder. “What is that, exactly?”
“That?” The man furrowed his brow in confusion and surprise. “Oh, um, ashes, sir. Genuine Native American.”
“Really?… I’ll take it.”
“Oh? Why, thank you very much, sir! Two shillings, please.”
Adam payed and ran off, the item buzzing strangely in his hand. “Hey, Tobi,” he called. “I got you something!”