Gift fic for [ profile] vampirebitch

Dec. 25th, 2016 01:24 pm
[identity profile] posting in [community profile] viggorli_xmas
Title: Early Theory
Gift fic for: [ profile] vampirebitch
Author: [ profile] chaosmanor
Fandom: Lotrips
Pairing: Viggorli
Rating: Gen
Summary: "We've left shore somehow/ Become the friends/ Of early theory"
Mortensen, Viggo. 2002. "Communion." Coincidence of Memory. California. Perceval Press. 48 – 52.
Disclaimer: This is a non-profit, non-commercial work of fiction using the names and likenesses of real individuals. This fictional story is not intended to imply that the events herein actually occurred, or that the attitudes or behaviors described are engaged in or condoned by the real persons whose names are used without permission.

The path climbed between two hedges, slippery under Viggo's boots after the overnight rain. At the top of the hill, the hedges gave way to open, rolling farmland, and he stopped to catch his breath, drink a swig of water from his canteen, and take in the English downs and pale spring sky.

This was what he wanted. The spit of rain on his face and the curl of hunger in his belly, and to put one foot in front of the other again and go somewhere.

The Ridgeway path he was walking was old. Maybe the oldest path he had ever travelled. People had been walking this path for at least five thousand years, trudging over the chalky hills against the wind, heading from the standing stones and long barrows to the river. Human feet had worn a deep groove in the land, passing back and forth over the hills.

When his feet began to ache, or his knees complain climbing a slope, he thought of everyone who had ever walked the path before, and their feet and knees, and the time passed.

It did his soul good to walk the same path.

He stopped in at Wayland's Smithy, crouching down inside the chambers, listening for the whispers of the long gone. He didn't hear any inside the transept chambers, but when he stepped blinking out into the morning light, the skylarks' songs carried messages from the living world.

On the path from Wayland's Smithy, up a long rise, to the double row of grass covered banks, with the ditch between them, crowning the hill. Uffington Castle, now only a windy hilltop with sheep grazing the earthworks, had once been a place of battle and trade.

Viggo turned off the Ridgeway and followed the smaller path around the edge of the fort embankment. The far side overlooked the valley below with the glorious stretch of the enormous white chalk horse carved into the turf.

The trig point, a concrete pillar used to mark elevation and navigation, was on the edge of the embankment. And figure sat at the base of the pillar, leaning back and looking out over the valley.

A photo, focus pulled right out to capture some of the uncertainty of the moment, and then Viggo walked over.

"Hey," he said, and the person turned, looking up at him. "Sorry I'm late."

"Hi," Orlando said, shading his face with his hand to look up at Viggo. "I realized your timing would be approximate."

Viggo shrugged off his backpack and sat down beside Orlando with a deep sigh of relief to be off his feet.

Orlando's smile was warm and open, and Viggo could feel he was grinning back. "Thank you," Viggo said. "For indulging me. For turning up."

"You email me a set of GPS coordinates, and a time and date, but the coordinates are not at the top of a mountain, and I don't even need to use my passport to get to them? This is almost as good as meeting you in the City."

"This is the highest point in Oxfordshire," Viggo said. "But yes, definitely not a mountain."

"Not a mountain," Orlando said. "Are you walking the Ridgeway?"

Viggo nodded. "This is my second day on the path. I think I'll finish at the Thames though, and not go on through to the Cheviot Hills."

"Would you like company? I could walk with you for a while, but I understand if this is a solo pilgrimage thing you're doing."

Viggo looked out across the valley, to the distant shape carved into the sod thousands of years ago.

"Walk with me," Viggo said.

Orlando's smile was wide. "Excellent! I brought a few things with me, just in case, and wore good shoes."

Orlando's boots were sturdy and scuffed, with laces that wound around his ankles. Viggo looked at his own boots, split and shredded by time and miles, and bound with duck tape. Orlando was better prepared than he was, for sure.

The backpack beside Orlando was small, but the water bottle strapped to the outside had a purification unit built into the drinking tube. Water was good.

They walked down from Uffington Castle, and back onto the Ridgeway. Orlando pulled the cap he was wearing more securely around his ears and hitched his pack higher.

"How far today?" Orlando asked.

"Until the light fails," Viggo said, and Orlando nodded.

He'd been the right person to ask, Viggo knew.

They walked, away from the castle site, heading north, and Viggo tried to explain.

"I want to tread where people have before me for thousands of years. I want to feel the weather, know the soil, and hear the birds," he said. "I feel…"

"Disconnected?" Orlando suggested, and Viggo nodded.

"Not from individual people, but from the seasons of life."

Orlando nodded. "Time washes at our feet every day."

"But I want the ocean," Viggo said.

"We all want the ocean."

* * *

The sun slipped down toward the horizon, and they stopped passing other walkers on the Ridgeway path. In the gathering dusk, Viggo pushed aside small trees, and lead them away from the path and into a wooded area.

"It's not technically legal to camp along much of the path," Viggo said, shrugging his pack off. "But I think we're enough out of sight here."

"In a hazel copse," Orlando said. "And a ditch. Sure. I'm tired enough that I don't care."

"I'll get shelter set up, before it's dark, then we can eat."

Viggo pulled a lightweight tarp out of his pack, with short guy lines already attached, and tied it between two of the saplings to form a shelter. Hazel, that was what Orlando had called them, yes. Another tarp spread out underneath for a ground sheet.

"Minimalist," Orlando said, but the groan of pleasure he gave when he sat down was anything but minimal.

"What did you bring?" Viggo asked, taking his cooking kit out of his pack and beginning to set it up on the groundsheet.

"Sleeping bag, food, water, rain gear," Orlando said. "Stay warm, stay fed, and stay hydrated. Check in to a pub if there's a gale, go home if it snows."

Viggo chuckled. "Good life choices there. No underwear or socks?"

"Socks, yes, because I have to walk on my feet. Underwear, no, because I've seen how you camp, and it does not include clean underwear."

Viggo boiled water to add to his instant meal, and Orlando ate something chewy and sweet beside him in the darkness.

Rehydrated curry and mashed potatoes filled Viggo's belly, and he leaned back on the groundsheet in the gloom of the copse.

"Drink?" Orlando asked, waving a bottle of something in front of Viggo.

"Please," Viggo said, taking the bottle and unscrewing the cap.

"What? No demands that it be single malt?"

"Too tired," Viggo said, blinking at the astonishing aftertaste of what was possibly pumpkin spiced rum.

Beside him, Orlando rustled in his sleeping bag, and took the rum bottle back.

"Want to tell me about it?" Orlando asked.

"About what?"

"Everything." Orlando said. "Why you're walking the Ridgeway? Why you emailed me? Either of those would do."

"I used to think I wanted to make my mark on the world," Viggo said. "But I am beginning to think that what I really need is for the world to leave its mark on me."

Orlando was quiet, the kind of contemplative, considered quiet that Viggo remembered and had missed.

Viggo pulled his wool blanket more securely around his shoulders and settled his head on his pack. Around them, small creatures moved in the darkness, perhaps mice? Sheep murmured on the downs, and the wind whispered through the hazel trees.

A deer barked in the night, across the hillside, sharp and loud. Viggo remembered, as though it was new, the night he and Orlando had been lost in the forest with only the flash of his camera as a light to find their way out.

Overhead, rain spattered through the leaves and against the tarp. The cold of the ground tugged at Viggo's bones through his blanket. But he felt weary, with the good kind of tiredness that came from walking a long way. Beside him, Orlando's breathing was already sliding into slow, deep sleep.

* * *

The chirping, shrieking, shrilling dawn chorus woke Viggo, and he opened bleary eyes to a grey and misty morning in the copse, and Orlando walking back into the clearing through the hazel trees.

"I packed tea bags," Orlando said. "But no way to boil water. May I?"

Viggo yawned and nodded, waving his hand at his cooking kit. "Sure."

When he came back from relieving himself among the trees, Orlando was humming over a pan of water on Viggo's camping stove.

"How far are we walking today?" Orlando asked.

"To the river," Viggo said. "Or until the light goes."

"To the river!" Orlando said, lifting his mug of black tea.

When they reached the river, they stood on the footbridge in the darkness looking down at the glimmering water below.

"Is it possible to float to London from here?" Orlando wondered.

"I like the way you think."

* * *

When Viggo went through his backpack from the trip later, in his hotel room in London, he found a message in his notebook in Orlando's handwriting.

It was a new GPS location, a date and a time. "Meet me?" Orlando had written.

Viggo was certain it would be a mountain, before he'd even opened his laptop to check the location.


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