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  from The Demon At The Gates Of Winter by Trudi Hauxwell   

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Bergen, Norway. 2149
The Party From Tromso

The air smelled of mold and dead things, of old fur and dessicated bones. It was a smell familiar to anyone who worked in a museum. It was the perfume of history and usually Professor Sandvik breathed it in with relish. But not today. Today, the esteemed career which he had imagined for himself would come to an end, not with the publication of a best selling book, or the accolades of envious colleagues. He would no longer be remembered as the man who had discovered the Fyrdal hoard, who had rescued one of Norway’s greatest archaeological finds from the icy grip of a retreating glacier. No, he was going to go down in history as the man who had given it all away. The impossibility of the situation wouldn’t matter to his peers. His own place in the story of Fyrdal would be defined by his signature, at the bottom of a single sheet of paper. A deal with the devil they would say. To save the greatest find of his career he was about to surrender it, to the blood thirsty men from the north.

His mood could hardly get any darker, but as if to add insult to injury his footwear seemed determined to embarrass him in front of his expensively tailored visitors. The persistent rain of the last few days had seeped in to the cheap rubber soles of his shoes during the morning commute to work and now they squeaked with every step. The plain, tiled walls of the basement corridor only served to amplify the noise, bouncing it around like a brand new football. The air conditioning units, which normally added a constant, irritating rattle to the Professor’s working day, had conveniently chosen that day to break down, leaving the Museum’s warren of subterranean corridors in damp silence. He couldn’t even hope that one of his colleagues would pass by and provide a welcome distraction. Thanks to the foul weather the Museum had been closed for days now. The most important exhibits had been boxed up and moved to the upper floors, away from the threat of flood damage, and the majority of the staff had been instructed to stay at home. Sandvik winced, as his left shoe let out a soggy squelch. It was unmissable, like a fart in a library.

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