Dean Bottomley was just putting the finishing touches on Mrs. Avez's chrysanthemum arrangement when he heard the crash of broken glass. He swore to himself. Probably some junior-high kid showing what a big man he is by breaking windows again. You'd think they'd at least wait till dark.

He sighed and decided to investigate anyway. He walked out of the back room, grabbing the baseball bat from the rack on the wall on his way. He heard footsteps crunching in the broken glass, behind one of the tall display shelves. He rounded the shelf and said, "All right, kid, what's the--"

It wasn't a junior high school kid. It was a man, over six feet tall, with long blond hair hanging in braids down his back, a battered metal helmet with some kind of horns on it, and a big battleaxe. And he smelled. How could he have missed the smell? He turned to face Dean and raised the battleaxe threateningly.

Dean dropped the bat and cowered back. The man scrutinized him for a moment, then laughed heartily. He asked Dean something good-naturedly in something that sounded like Swedish. Dean shook his head. "I don't understand."

The man looked puzzled for a moment. "Du kan nik tal norska? Den, kan du tal engelsk?" At Dean's look of incomprehension, he said, "Canst thou speak English?" His English had a very strange accent, but it was understandable.

Dean nodded. "Yes, I can." Then he remembered why he'd come out here in the first pace. "You broke my window!"

The man shrugged. "I could not see it. I saw nothing there. I thought I could come in freely. I am sorry if I ailed thee." He looked genuinely contrite, which was quite a feat for a six foot tall man with a battleaxe. "I merely wanted to look at thy blooms."

Dean softened a little, but he was still puzzled. "Don't they have glass where you come from?"

The man brightened. "Ah, it is glass? I had wondered. That is sound." He extended his hand suddenly to Dean. "I hight Gunnar. How hightest thee?"

"Dean. My name is Dean." Gunnar's grip was crushing, which Dean fully expected it would be, but at least it wasn't crippling.

"Well met, Dean! And now I must take leave of thee. I have things to do yet in this town." With that, he left the shop through the broken window.

Dean stood there bemused for several minutes before it occurred to him to call the police.

Based on the words: Chrysanthemum Viking Language Contact

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com