Friday, July 3, 2015

Under the Midnight Sun

My name is Ty Hulse. I'm a folklorist who grew up along the Kuskokwim River in Alaska. As a child I daydreamed about meeting the creatures from the stories the village Elder's told. I heard strange sounds coming out of the ground while hunting on the tundra. So my thinking on the other world was shaped by the fairy tales of  of Western Alaska.

I've been writing an urban fantasy / cozy mystery that takes place along the Kuskokwim River.

The story follows Tracy. A woman who the little people are teaching magic to so that she can help them deal with the quickly changing world, and protect humans from the things they can't see. So when some of the normally passive ghosts begin to attack people, she has to team up with an old flame to find out why.

Although most of the creatures in it come from Yupik lore, there are tales from all over the world of fairies and trolls fleeing their home. So part of what's happening in this story is that these fairy refugees are finding their way to Alaska.

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I’d never seen a troll before, but I was pretty sure that’s what the forty foot tall beast wading towards my little skiff in the Kuskokwim River was. He looked exactly like I’d always imagined a troll should. From his dirty beard, to the massive nose which bloomed out of his face like a wrinkly Yukon gold potato. My brain began checking off everything I knew about them; Trolls come from Scandinavia, are afraid of the sound of drums which remind them of thunder, and oddly enough the Yukon gold potato is from Ontario, Canada. Stay focused I scolded myself. My mind tends to flutter like a moth trapped in a house when I’m nervous, such as when I’m being approached by a King Kong sized monster. I tried to focus on what I’d read about trolls, but since this was the first troll I’d heard of in Western Alaska, I wasn’t certain how many of the myths were accurate.
I hefted a large dip net out of the dark water and dumped half a dozen five inch long smelt into a bucket. I’d been catching the tiny fish for eight hours now. So long it was hard to open my aching hands. “There’s probably nothing to worry about,” I whispered to myself. My brain knew that but my heart, was still tying itself up in knots. Odds were the troll, like so many of the other beings from distant lands was a refugee looking for a new home. Which meant he would try to be as nice as a lost puppy. The image of him trying to act cute brought a brief smile to my face. Even as the large ripples he was making started sloshing against my little boat.
“If he says fee-fi-fo-fum, I’m out of here,” Emma said a twinkle of laughter in her voice. Of course she thought this was funny. She was a Ircenrraat, one of the magical little people that dwelt in the underworld beneath the tundra. So named because they were about the same height as a toddler. She was perched on one of the boat’s seats so that she could reach her own dip net over the side. Her little skirt like kuspuk had been made from the best parts of a dozen t-shirt’s she’d found funny.  Her foxy ears and wet black tipped nose twitched with eager interest as she watched the approaching troll. I was curious too, but the image of the troll popping me into his mouth like a piece of popcorn shrimp kept intruding into my thoughts.
“I’m pretty sure that’s a troll, not a giant,” I said. “In the fairy tales, only giants and elves say fee-fi-fo-fum.”
“I thought trolls were cute little things, like the dolls, or in “Frozen?” Emma asked.
Talking was good, talking helped me pretend I was calm. My hands were still shaking though, as I swished my long dip net through the river, only sort of paying attention to what I was doing.
“Troll dolls are based off Denmark’s trold, not trolls. And ‘Frozen,’ is a cartoon. I think trolls are supposed to be big, like he is.”
I gave the troll another quick glance. The water was up to his chest now, making his eight foot head, and the mouth that came with it look so much larger. The troll’s clothes were made up of dozens of pieces of discarded human clothes. There were t-shirts, dresses, pants, and bits of underwear all roughly sewn together. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ripped those clothes from his victims. I found myself whispering the words to the song calling for my tuunrat, magical beings that had agreed to help me. Although they were far away, they could give my spells a little boost, in case I needed it.
“Are you doing okay Tracy?” Emma asked.
“Sure, of course,” I said. “Why?”
“Your typical Velma geek girl look has been replaced by the way Daphne looks when she realizes she’s about to be kidnapped.”
“It doesn’t seem matter how many times I’ve faced monsters and giants, having one walk towards me makes me nervous.”
“I can fly us out of here,” Emma offered.
I was seriously considering it when I noticed that he was cradling a baby troll. I didn’t know much about troll babies. But I did know that the sun was bad for trolls. His child probably needed to get underground soon, and he needed Emma’s help to do that. Besides, if the troll turned out to be hostel, I’d have to deal with it sooner or later. As one of the awakened humans, that was my job. To protect the humans from the things they didn’t know existed, such as trolls that threatened the villages, and help the little people with the ever changing Otherworld. I was pretty much the little people’s five foot nothing magical bouncer for the region.
“I don’t think he’d be walking out here with a baby if he was planning to fight,” I said, cursing the stupid quiver in my voice. Gandhi had stage fright so bad his vision got blurry, but he became one of the greatest leaders in the world. I had anxiety too, but I was at least okay at dealing with it.
Emma waved at the troll with a tiny hand and a bright smile. She at least didn’t seemed at all worried. Though she was more use to things like him than a newb like me.
I deposited a few more fish into the bucket, while trying to keep my eyes off our visitor, and failing for the most part, but at least I wasn’t staring slack jawed the way I had when I’d first learned that the magical world was real.
“Hello, esteemed one,” the troll rumbled its voice was deep but gentle, almost a whisper. “I was hoping to find refuge in one of your villages.”
The formal way the troll spoke threw me off. Like he was addressing a queen. Relief that washed over me, and all at once, I felt the urge to laugh. Instead I settled for flashing Emma quick grin and mouthing the word ‘esteemed?’ at her.

She winked back at me, but remained focused on the troll.