ONE minute Linnea Berger is pitching in to help her father Haakon’s boss at an archaeological dig near their family home in central Sweden, the next she’s waking up on the ground with a stranger standing over her.
Regaining consciousness after an apparent blackout, Linnea is accused of having stolen the local jarl’s silver brooch – the same brooch she had just located with the help of a metal detector and dug out of the soil.
Now she’s surrounded by a group of Swedes dressed as some sort of throwback to the Viking era. It’s clear to Linnea that these people take their role-playing seriously – very seriously.
Not only are they wearing the clothing of ninth-century Svía villagers but they’re actually speaking Old Norse too. History student Linnea is capable of holding her own linguistically but the characters of this make-believe setting are absolutely fluent.
This can’t be happening. Nobody has spoken Old Norse like this since… well, not since it evolved into the group of modern-day Scandinavian languages roughly a millennium ago.
Her captors are taking this fantasy way too far, even referring to her as their “thrall” and discussing plans to sell her in a slave market in Miklagarðr – known in Linnea’s world of 2017 as Istanbul.
Surely they don’t actually believe they’re living in Viking-Age Svíaríki, do they?
If this is real, then she’s somehow been catapulted 1200 years into the past: a past in which expeditioners from this part of Sweden routinely navigate their way across the Baltic, along the rivers of western Russia and Ukraine and across the Black Sea to the heart of the Ottoman Empire and in some cases even to Iran.
Being immersed in a Norse community such as this is every historian’s dream but for Linnea the experience she’s now having feels much more like the worst possible nightmare.