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The Savant and the Manservant


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Chapter One

"Elsku Hans, ég...ég get ekki beðið þig um að vera með mér"

Hans, the manservant of the Icelandic savant Arne Saknussemm, looked at his master with concern. His master has disappeared for several months without explaination and now, here he was seemingly breaking their agreement never to leave each other. As Hans, standing nearly 18 inches taller than the savant, held his master's hand he whispered the only words he knew in English, a language that his master has promised him to teach him.

"Master, I follow!"

Arne looked at Hans and as he did so his eyes filled with tears. They had known each other as manservant and master for two decades, Hans when he was apprenticed to the alleged "wizard" who could make all sorts of strange things happen and Arne, as the forgetful young man, now approaching his fifties. Nodding his understanding, Arne filled the gourd with the bubbling liquid and gave it to Hans, then held up his hands before filling another.

"You are no longer my manservant" said Arne, "but you have always been my friend. Therefore, you have a final chance. My life is at an end, for King Christian has made it impossible for me to live on this island again, and that is why I must flee. This potion will make me immortal, I have understood the risks that will involve, but my friend, I beg you, please, live a full live in the knowledge that one day you will die"

"Hans miss master when master dies"

"Aye, and I will miss Hans as well" sighed Arne, "but please, your life is here, in the fields of your native Iceland. My life has another destiny, in the caves that nearly claimed my life last time. This is why I have brewed this potion. One day, I shall be able to return, I pray, my friend, don't follow me!"

As both men looked at each other, Arne held the gourd high and with a declaration of "Skál" he downed the contents and instantly grabbed hold of a nearly column as he gritted his teeth.

"Master!" declared Hans and downed the contents of his gourd before Arne could shout "No!" but it was too late and as both men gritted their teeth against the sensations flowing through their bodies, Hans whimpered a single word

"Elskendur" and with that both men collapsed on top of each other seemingly dead to the world.

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Chapter Two

Hans groaned as he opened his eyes and as he did he looked around for a sign of his master, but he could not be seen anywhere. Getting to his feet, he wobbled a little unsteadily on his feet but managed to support himself on a column and saw that it was now daylight outside. Looking at a nearby clock his eyes opened wide as he realised that he had been unconcious for the best part of fourteen hours and so, deciding to find his master and explain his reasons for drinking the potion, he walked, albeit a little unsteady, and opened the doors of the barn that he and his master called home.

"Við hefðum kannski ekki fundið húsbóndann, en þjónninn mun segja okkur hvar hann er, gríptu hann!"

Hans immediately slammed the door shut and leant against it with all his weight. It was the guards of King Christian, come to arrest Arne and him, and as they didn't know where Arne was, he would make a good subtitute. As the guards banged on the door, Hans turned around and with a look of determination on his face pushed back. As he pushed exerting all of his strength, his eyes opened as he realised that something was wrong. Although not as strong as the other members of his family, when he did exert his strength he always felt a thumping in his chest which Arne explained was his heart enabling him to be as strong as he could, however now, he couldn't feel anything.

"Komdu með hrútinn, þessi þjónn ætlar ekki að stoppa mig!"

Hans gasped with concern, there was no way that he could resist a battering ram and so confident that the guards had moved away, Hans opened a small door in the wall and took out a bottle. Inside was a liquid with a rag on top and as he looked at it, he read the message on the rag and nodded his understanding.

"This barn cannot be allowed to fall"

Taking a notebook from the shelf and a small stick of material that his master had called "graphite", he lit the rag with a candle and as the barn doors burst open, Hans raised the bottle and with a mighty declaration of "Húsbóndi minn lifir, og það mun ég líka!" threw the bottle against the barn walls where it exploded into a fireball, blowing the guards out of the way and as Hans ran faster than he had ever done before, the barn erupted into flames.

Hans didn't stop running for a good twenty minutes and as he eventually slowed down, he realised that he wasn't puffing or panting at all. Coming to a halt, he did as his master had taught him and placing his thumb and index finger on his wrist, slowly counted from one to fifteen. When he finished, he gasped in amazement as he felt a solitary thump. Closing his eyes and this time counting to sixty, he only counted four thumps and as he opened his eyes he realised what had happened. His master's potion had worked. He was now immortal, therefore his master was also immortal and had fled to safety presumably where he had disappeared to all those months ago, but where? As Hans looked around the island that was his home, he knew that he had all the time in the world to find his master, and that his master would be there when he found him.

Thumping his chest and declaring "Húsbóndi minn er maður vísinda, ég skal vera maður af krafti!" he set out on his new life knowing that to the rest of Iceland, Hans Bjerke and Arne Saknussemm were dead to the world.

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Chapter Three

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, March 25th 1575

It has been twenty five years since my master and I drank a potion that made us both immortal and in that time I have managed to ensure that no one knows who I am. To my native islanders, I am Jon, a poor man who, having suffered a terrible accident has no memory save waking up at the bottom of the Snaefelljokull and not knowing where he came from. In that time, I have discovered that being immortal has had an interesting effect on me, most notably I am able to carry on doing things long after other people have given up. I first discovered this the year after I fled when I was working on a sheep farm near the volcano that I claim to have been found near.

The owners were an elderly couple who took me on as they were able to carry on and seeing how frail they were, I decided to everything I could for them, thus when one of their stables blew down in a storm, I set to repair it and swore that I wouldn't rest until it had been repaired. I worked for three days and three nights without sleeping once and when the stable was completed, measured my pulse. I recorded twenty thumps whilst counting to sixty. I remember my master telling me that if it were possible for a man to work as hard as they could, they would record two hundred and twenty thumps whilst counting to sixty, indicating that even when working at my hardest, my heart has been slowed down by at least eleven times and based on my master's skills in mathematics that he taught me, that has led me to believe that if I were to do that sort of hard work every day, I would live until I was 297 years old (1822) and that when I am not working as hard as that I could live until 3010. It was then that I decided to make myself more fitting of the legends of this land and so every day, as today, the first day of the year, I undress myself, find the largest rock I can handle and lift it over my head as often as I can until I feel my heart thump a minimum of sixty times when counting to sixty.

Today, I have just completed that task lifting a rock, as tall as I am, some three ell, and weighing nearly ten times what I weigh, some six tunna smjörs and can now declare myself to be the strongest man in this island and shall name myself for the next twenty five year in honour of the man that I am stronger than, for today Jon dies and is replaced by Orm Stórolfsson

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Chapter Four

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, March 25th 1600

I am bigger, stronger, more powerful than I have ever been in my life. My master, I thank you for this glorious gift you gave me, and when we meet again (for I am sure that we will) I shall demonstrate my powers for you. I am, as I always have been, three ell tall, but thanks to your potion I weigh no less than a skippund. Because I am so big I wear only wool during the winter, but on this first day not only of a new year, but a new century, I stand like the famed frost giants of this island's mythology, completely bare and examine myself in the pools of fresh snow melted water and admit that "I am Thor!". My chest is almost a fathom around, My arms are just over an ell around and my strength. There is a ball of pure solid rock in front of me, clearly a lava bomb ejected centuries ago. It is as tall and as wide as I am, this is my challenge, lift it over my head and then if I can do that bend my legs as many times until I feel the primal need to scream the god's names.


I did it. I lifted that rock, at least a hundred batt in weight over my head, and bent my legs ten times. Each bend caused my immortal heart to thump faster and faster until when I could no longer hold that rock I roared invoking Thor, Odin and all the other gods threw it as far as I could where it landed a good míla á landi away. And now, as I place one hand on my heaving chest and my other hand around my wrist, I can feel myself starting to become a god. My getnaðarlimur is getting longer, thicker, harder,  I shall have to put my writing down for a moment.


Æ! The pain, it's incredible, the incredible pain of my essence shooting out of my getnaðarlimur is impossible to describe, but it is not a hurting pain it is a glorious pain. For the last twenty five years I was Orm Stórolfsson, from today I am now Thor, Thor the Powerful.

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Chapter Five

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, March 25th 1700

Today marks my 175th birthday. It was today, back in 1525 that I was born and today, for the first time since that occasion I returned to the home of my birth. I presented myself as a traveller lost in the hills and my descendants treated me as one of their own. I know that my master would not approve of contacting my family but, I have had to, for I feared that I was losing my humanity. Do you have any idea what it is like to be the strongest man on the island, nay, the world and yet be alone at the same time? I have, and I never want to experience it again, therefore I have decided to settle down with my family and became their manservant. Every twenty five years from now I shall go out to do whatever it is they want me to do and then return a week later, my beard a little thicker than it was and describe that a tragic accident came over me and in my last words I begged the new me to return to them and serve them in my memory. I know that my master won't approve of this plan but I have to, lest I fear the consequences.


The Journal of Hans Bjerke, January 1st 1752

This is the start of my third debt of service to my descendants and although it pains me for them to hear of my death, this is the only way I can continue to live with myself. However, it is my master that I am worried about the most, he has been hidden for the best part of two hundred years, alone, somewhere on this island. If I am having to do this to save my humanity, what must he be doing? Oh, my master, where are you?


The Journal of Hans Bjerke, January 1st 1783

I cannot stand the sight of my descendants mourning my loss again, therefore last night I told them the truth, that I am immortal and have been since the day I drank my master's potion. I should have told them at the beginning for their reaction was complete understanding and with their blessing they waved me off. I am now staying in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur where I have decided to address my fears for my humanity by serving the local cleric, Jón Steingrímsson, who I have admitted my secret to and he intends to help me seek peace with God over my position.

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Chapter Six

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, June 8th 1783

Over the last few months I believe that my friend, for that is what he is, Jon, has saved my immortal soul. For the last two hundred and fifty years or so, I have allowed myself to become this powerhouse of a man, demonstrating strength that would make the Viking gods themselves kneel before me in awe and beg to drain me of my essence. Now, however, I am taught in the words of the Lord and know, like his prophet Samson to only use my strength when people are in danger. This I always try to do and...


By the Lord, what was that? Oh...oh no...the volcano, it's erupted...I must go and warn Jon.

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Chapter Seven

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, January 1st 1784

Please, o, Lord God, why are you punishing us in this way? The volcano, that erupted in June, is still erupting. Jon, who has been watching the eruption, like me, with increasing alarm believes that there could be as much as eighteen billion cubic yards (a unit of measurement used by the people of England) of lava flowing all around the volcano. And why is it doing so? Jon believes that God is punishing this nation for some reason, and I have come to believe that I am that reason. I am now almost 260 years old, almost four times older than the Bible says that man should live, therefore I am the reason for this disaster that has befallen this land. Oh, mighty Lord, I beg you, pray stop this eruption and save our people. If you do, then, then I shall promise upon the Bible in this church, never to use my strength ever again. I shall disappear from sight, vanish into the wildnerness and never emerge again. Oh, Lord, I bessech you, hear my prayer.

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Chapter Eight

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, January 1st 1863

In the almost century since I last wrote in this journal, I have followed the oath that I made with the Lord and my oath was answered, a few weeks later the volcano stopped erupting and when I told Jon that I was the reason for the eruption, he understood me entirely and despite all the feelings he had for me accepted my decision. Thus, I have been living in the wilds and have never used my strength at all, and yet, despite all this I believe my strength is increasing. During my time with Jon, I learned about the imperial system, a measurement device used in vast parts of the continent and using that system believe that the following is true:

I stand seven and a half feet tall and weigh four hundred and sixty one pounds, making me taller and heavier than any man alive on this island, and as for my physical size, I dominate. My chest is ninety three inches around, my arms are thirty six inches around, my waist is forty seven inches around, my upper legs are forty eight inches around and my lower legs are thirty seven inches around. If I were to break my oath, which I would never do, I would surely be the strongest man on the island, nay the world. Mmmmm, all this talk of strength and power is making my getnaðarlimur stand to attention. Yes, I have missed this sensation, my hand rubbing up and down it, each of its ribs akin to the ribs of my own chest, mmmm, the sensations surging through me, my imagination running wild, aye, I stopped that volcano, I stopped it through sheer force of will, aye, I will test myself, can I prevent this volcano from erupting. I shall need both hands for this.

By the Lord God almighty, It has been two hundred or so years since I did that and I can feel the after effects now, and yet, my master's potion is still working. A mere forty thumps in the minute leading up to that expolsion. And yet...no volcanic eruption...can it be? Has the Lord God forgiven me, just as he forgave his servant, Samson? Am I now free to live amongst my own people again? But who would want me? Who would want such a giant of a man?

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Chapter Nine

The Journal of Hans Bjerke, June 15th 1863

Today I was introduced, by a mutual friend, to Professor Otto von Lidenbrock, a professor of geology from the University of Hamburg, the Holy Roman Empire, who sought my help. However the way he spoke to me in German, a language I already knew, made me think that he thought of me as nothing but a common idiot and thus to show my disdain at his way of thinking, I replied in either Icelandic or broken English (languages I have been fluent in for centuries). It turned out that the Professor wishes to hire myself as a guide, in order to reach the summit of one of the many volcanoes here by the calends of July. In seeking a guide, I am the best type to have, but when I asked why he wanted to go to such a summit in such a short time case he dismissed me saying in German "You would not believe me even if I told you".

Professor von Lidenbrock strikes me as a little agrumentative from time to time, especially when he is sure that no one else is cleverer than him, and on that subject I shall let him continue to think that suggestion, but at the same time is a large, thin man of good health with a blond and youthlike look. As part of his party he has brought his nephew, Axel, who appears to be very pessimistic and would rather stay at home in Germany, however when he first saw me his jaw literally dropped and he whispered "Übermensch". It is a term I have not heard before, but from the long lecture that his uncle gave him stating that I was not one, I can only assume it is a term given to those who are bigger and stronger than normal men and if his nephew believes I am one then I am very tempted to demonstrate it from time to time.

It was then that the Professor announced his intentions and as he explained where he wanted to go, inside my heart started to thump just a little faster than normal, around six times every minute. He intends to summit Snaefelljokull, the volcano that my master explored all those years ago and intends to summit it in less than fifteen days. This is a journey that although I am sure I can manage is going to test even me to the limits of my powers, but why that volcano? What can be so special about it?

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