This story is by Marijn Lunsing and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I hate you.” Birgit told Emil, having walked a couple miles from their home village now.
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” He replied.
“From swords, to books, to gardens, it doesn’t seem to be hard for you to destroy them, huh?”
“I get it by now, Birgit. You’ve been complaining for ages now.”
“Guess why? Because every time you ruin something, I’m the one they deem responsible!”
“Well, that’s not my fault, is it?” Emil argued.
“No, but what is your fault, is that now we need to walk and sail all the way to Malmö to get a book replaced! And within 24 hours, too! How did you even manage to burn that thing, anyway?”
“Well, just mess up real good, I suppose.” Emil nervously chuckled.
Like Birgit already said, it wasn’t the first time this had happened. Emil already had a tendency to screw things up, but this time, he accidentally dropped a burning candle on a rare book, making it unusable. There were only two copies of the book, and it was rented from the Swedish National Library, SNL for short, as part of a trade deal between Denmark and Sweden.
“For sure you did. They’re not going to be happy when we say you accidentally burned their property. Good job.” Birgit scolded him.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it, Birgit. Let’s hope we can arrange things.
The two of them walked on for several hours, and eventually found their way to a harbor. It was very crowded, since a large ship was getting ready to set sail. A cold wind blew in the faces of the two unlucky teenagers, bringing to them the strong scent of recently captured fish.
“Ugh, this place smells terrible! Let’s quickly find someone to sail with, or I might faint.” Birgit started complaining.
“Wow, you’re in a bad mood today, aren’t you?”
“Guess why that is? You should know better than anyone!”
“Are you seriously bringing this up? Again? There’s nothing we can do about it now, except do as we’re told, and hope the Swedish aren’t mad!”
“If this leads to war, I’m blaming you.”
“Birgit, it’s just a book. Okay, a rare book, but still. It’s a collection of pieces of paper with text on them. The burning of which leading to war seems farfetched, don’t you think?”
Birgit stared at Emil in disbelief and frustration. Emil immediately started thinking about what it was that he said that could have been stupid, but he couldn’t think of anything.
“Emil. Do you, by chance, have any idea whatsoever what was written in that book?” Birgit asked him, trying to remain cool.
“Uh, no?” Emil answered, after a brief moment of hesitation.
“Emil, that wasn’t a work of fiction or anything. That was a journal of the monthly negotiations of our king and Sweden’s emperor, regarding the trade deals that our two countries have. It was in the library of our village because there was no room left in Copenhagen’s library. Do you now, perhaps, understand the situation we are in?” Birgit asked Emil again.
“…Oops. Uh, does the king know that the book is burned?”
Birgit sighed. “No, he doesn’t. That’s why we have to be really careful about how we’re going to approach the Swedish about this. Since you are the one who burned it, and I am somehow partially responsible because I am the mayor’s daughter, we are also going to be responsible for telling the Swedish Empire we burnt one of the only two copies of an important journal that wasn’t even our own.”
“Hey, and don’t forget we have to be back in our village in twenty-four hours!” Emil added in a humorous manner, trying to lighten the mood, but Birgit wasn’t very happy.
“Oh, yeah, thanks for the reminder, idiot! If we’re not back before then, we are screwed, because if a replacement for the book is not at our library before then, the Swedish delegation is going to be pretty damn pissed to hear that their property is burned.”
“Shit. So that’s why we had a deadline of twenty-four hours…” Emil finally understood how much of a mess he made.
Birgit took a deep breath, then, she started talking again.
“Listen. First off, we need to find our ship. My father has arranged a sailor who would take us to Malmö, we just need to find him.” Birgit told Emil.
“Okay, so, what do we do? Do we just, like, ask around?”
“No. We are going to look for the most puny ship on the harbor, because that’s probably ours.”
“Yay indeed.” Birgit replied, sarcastic, and the two started searching for small ships and ships that were in bad shape.
After a couple minutes of searching, the two of them found an old man on a small ship, waving at them. Birgit thought he looked like an idiot, and she told Emil to ignore him, but then he called for them.
“You two must be the mayor’s daughter and her companion, correct? Hop on board!” The man told them, and Emil and Birgit did as he said, even though Birgit was hesitant. Before they could even greet the captain, the ship set sail, as if in a hurry.
“Well, he certainly isn’t slacking off! To Malmö we go!” Emil said, excited.
“We should be arriving in a few hours like this, at around eight o’clock in the evening.”
“Good enough, right?”
While Emil was chilling on the deck in the back, Birgit decided to have a look at the captain’s room. She knocked on the front door, but nobody replied.
“Hello? Can I come in? I would like to take a look, if you don’t mind.” Birgit asked after knocking a second time.
Birgit once again did not receive an answer, so she decided to try to open the door herself, in which she succeeded. What she found there, however, was not what she expected. The captain was nowhere to be seen, and the ship was clearly headed straight towards a big rock. Birgit’s heart skipped a beat, and immediately tried to steer away with what little knowledge of sailing she had, but it was too late. Before she knew it, the ship had crashed right into the rock. Within seconds, Emil quickly dashed to the steering room.
“Hey, Birgit! What happened?! Where is the captain?” Emil quickly asked her.
“We crashed into a rock! And I have no idea where the captain is! When I entered the room, he wasn’t there!”
Birgit became restless, and tried to think of a solution. At this rate, the ship would sink, and they would never reach Sweden in time. It was at that point, however, that another ship arrived, and called them over. Emil and Birgit quickly went to take a look, and they saw that the ship was Swedish.
“Are you the people that that Danish mayor would send to us?” A blonde-haired man in armor asked them.
“Yeah! That’s us! Can we please board your ship? Our captain deserted us, and we crashed!” Emil replied to the man.
“It was already our intention to get you. We received word of suspicious plans going on at the Danish harbor, so we decided to take the matter in our own hands. I am General Ivan, your names are?”
“My name is Emil, and this is…”
“Birgit.” Birgit interrupted Emil before he could finish his sentence. “We want to discuss a problem, can we head to Malmö?”
“Of course. You’re welcome on board.” Ivan told her, and the two teenagers boarded the Swedish ship.
The Swedish ship sailed much faster than the small one the duo previously boarded, and in three hours, Emil and Birgit were in a conversation with General Ivan in an audience room in Malmö.
“So, what is the matter that needed to be discussed?” Ivan asked the duo.
“We have a bit of a problem, sir.” Birgit started. “As you probably know, we had a copy of the journal concerning the trade deals between King Jonas of Denmark and Emperor Alexander of Sweden in our library in Arandic, a Danish village. Unfortunately, in an incident, it caught fire, and is now unreadable. I hope you believe us when we say it was an accident, and that it won’t be taken as a sign of disrespect.” Birgit explained the situation.
“Oh, do not worry about that, my friends. We recently made a good chunk of extra copies, for educational purposes, so there is no shame in losing one of them.”
“Uh, Birgit? Why do you look so pissed? This is a good thing, right?” Emil asked her, on a ship back to Denmark, a couple hours later.
“To recap. We went through all this stress and pressure, and almost died in the open sea, just to hear that there was no need for making a big deal out of it, at all.”
“I hate my life.”