It Began With A Kind Gesture

Rebekah Pouw

I leant against the serving podium, my face resting in my palm. With heavy eyes, I stared at the glowing streetlights outside. Their soft light mixed with the background piano music increased my tiredness even more, and I felt my eyelids begin to close.

Something gave me a sharp jab in the ribs.

‘Ow! What the hell?’

I glared up at whoever interrupted my attempt at a nap, only to see the glowering face of Osmond Gudbrandr, my father and the owner of The Treasure of the Seas restaurant. He’s also the chief fisherman in our town. He stood over me with his arms folded and a disappointed look on his face.

‘Thyra, I thought I told you to man the serving podium.’

I pouted, and despite our differences in height, moved to perfectly match his stance.

‘I am. See? I’m standing at the door waiting to greet the non-existent customers and lead them to their tables.’

‘Don’t give me that attitude girl.’

He snarled softly.

His eyes bored down into me, as if reading my soul. I reluctantly lowered my gaze, unable to match his stare. ‘Anyone else would’ve married you off by now. Yet, here you are, having the freedom to choose what you want to do in life. Be smart with it. Now stand up straight.’

‘But Faðir, I—’

‘Now, Thyra.’

With his tone leaving no argument, he headed back to the kitchen, and I watched, a pout still on my lips. I turned around, my back to the stand to look at the empty restaurant, feeling the pout fade into a smile. The place was full of memories. I walked over to the main wall, brushing my fingers against the golden painting of Yggdrasill, the World tree, and its dragon, Nidhogg. Móðir has always been especially proud of that painting, she calls it my statement piece. My gaze wandered past the tree and across other images, depicting various legends told by fishermen in our town. The siren, vile creatures of the seas, who would tempt men from their boats. The Hafgufas, the feared, yet peaceful giants of our oceans and my favourite of all the legends. And the selkie, a beautiful being shrouded in mystery. Many say they live among us, forced into a life of humanity after having something precious stolen from them.

‘Excuse me?’

I jumped at the sudden interruption and spun around. At the podium stood a handsome foreigner with a grey fur coat draped over his shoulders and a nervous expression on his face.

‘Odin’s beard, you gave me a fright! Sorry, one sec.’

I quickly walked back to the podium and pulled out a menu, before gesturing for him to enter the restaurant. ‘Table for one?’

The man removed his cloak and nodded, avoiding my eyes.

‘Please, follow me.’ I led the man to a table in front of the Yggdrasill painting and pulled out the chair. He stared at the chair for a moment and then slowly took it from my hands, pulling it to face the wall. He placed his coat on the back of the chair and sat down, watching me with lowered eyes. I frowned at his actions, but kept my mouth shut. I did not want Faðir to lecture me about offending the only customer the restaurant has had in over a week. After handing the man the menu, I pulled a small notebook from my pocket and gave him a smile.

‘Can I get you a drink? Water? Beer?’

‘Do you sell spiced mead?’

Mead was something people rarely drank, especially spiced mead. Faðir said it was an acquired taste, and for a customer to ask for it was unusual to say the least.

‘Yes, we do. The owner, Osmond, brews it himself.  I’ll be back in a moment.’

Dropping the notebook into my pocket, I slipped out the back where I found my mother kneading dough.

‘Móðir, where are Faðir’s keys for his stash of mead?’

The dark-haired woman dropped the ball of dough onto the floured table and stared at me as she wiped her hands on her apron.

‘Mead? Thyra, you don’t mean you offered a customer your father’s special mead. You know he won’t like that. It’s taken him almost three years for it to be aged perfectly.’

I rolled my eyes and just held out my hand.

‘Faðir won’t mind. Especially since this is our first customer in a week.’

Móðir sighed and pulled out the cellar keys from her skirt’s pocket.

‘Fine. But only because the customer’s satisfaction will make your father happy. Now go before I change my mind.’

I plucked the keys from her hand and pressed a quick kiss on her cheek before I rushed over to the cellar. Unlocking it, I grabbed the closest bottle of mead and a clean drinking horn.

Upon placing them on a tray, I carried them back to the waiting man.

‘Sorry for the delay, I had to get the keys to the cellar.’

The man smiled at me as I handed him the drinking horn, his nervousness still present.

‘Thank you, miss?’

‘I’m Thyra, Thyra Gudbrandr.’

I held out my hand but instead of shaking it, the man just nodded at me, still not meeting my eyes.

‘You can call me Narvi. Your name, Thyra, as in the daughter of thunder?’

I blushed at the mention of my name’s meaning.

‘Yeah, that’s right. Móðir wished to endear me to Thor when I was born. Hoped he might bless me or something.’

Narvi sipped from the horn.

‘Received any blessings then?’

‘Nothing that I’m aware of. Móðir believes that Thor has blessed me with an artist’s touch. but I doubt that will help me…’

I gestured to the paintings on the wall.

At my words, Narvi, with the drinking horn at his lips, froze. I watched as he stood up to walk around the empty room, drink still in hand. Like I did earlier, he brushed his fingers across my art, his face deep in thought, before he finally met my gaze, with awe filled eyes.

‘You painted these?’

I nodded, the blush still clear on my face. No one had ever asked about my art before, and I was flattered at the wonder in Narvi’s voice as he examined the painted legends.

‘These are beautiful Thyra. You are extremely talented.’

‘That’s very kind of you, Narvi.’

I stepped back as Narvi returned to his seat. He held out the menu to me, a smile on his face.

‘I’ll have the Viking catch of the day. Grilled, not battered please. And no sauce.’

I wrote down the order on my pocket notebook.

‘Sure, won’t be long.’

Taking the menu, I walked over to the kitchen and slid the order to Faðir, who was staring at me, arms crossed.

‘What’s he ordered, besides my prized mead.’

I squirmed at his tone, knowing that Móðir had most likely told him about me raiding his drink reserve.

‘A grilled catch of the day, with no sauce. Faðir, about the mead…’

‘Did he like it?’

I blinked.


‘Did he like the mead?’

I looked back to Narvi, who was pouring himself another horn of mead.

‘Looks like it. He’s had two horns already.’

I watched Faðir’s moustache twitch a bit, hinting at the smile behind it. Seeing my look at his reaction, Faðir grunted, and pushed a bowl of flat bread towards me before he turned around to prepare Narvi’s meal.

I walked back over to Narvi, placing the bread in front of him.

‘Faðir has started on your meal, is there anything else I can get you?’

Narvi smiled.

‘I do have a question for you. If you don’t mind? It’s about your paintings.’

‘Sure. Go right ahead.’

‘Why don’t you have any depictions of the gods? I find it hard to believe that a namesake of Thor wouldn’t have a homage to him.’

A laugh escaped my lips, surprising both me and Narvi. I shook my head.

‘I, unlike my parents, am not a fan of the gods.’ A loud tsk was heard, and I knew my Móðir was scolding me from the backroom. Rolling my eyes, I brushed my fingers across one of the painted selkies.

‘Nature has always been its own master. No gods or humans can change that. So why waste precious paint on things that try and do so?’

‘I take it that’s the reason why the story of the selkie is painted on the wall?’

I shook my head again.

‘That’s not the only reason. I despise how in all the tales of the selkie, humans steal the one thing they value most, then force them into marriage or slavery. There is never a story I’ve heard where a human finds a selkie and allows them to keep their coat.’

From the corner of my eye, I saw Narvi smile in sad agreement, his hands unconsciously straying to the coat on his chair, his fingers creating lines in the dappled fur.

‘I know, it’s unheard of.’

The counter bell ding interrupted us, as Faðir placed Narvi’s order on the bench. The smell of fried cod and chips wafted through the restaurant.

‘This looks and smells delicious. Thank you.’

I smiled for what felt like the hundredth time, hugging the serving tray, my cheeks blushing at his gratitude.

‘You’re welcome.’

Narvi took a mouthful and smiled at me.  After a moment, I returned to the podium. I watched the clock hands slowly move, my earlier boredom threatening to return.

The clatter of plates and utensils caused me to turn around, and I saw Narvi tidying up the table. I walked on over to collect the stacked dishes.

‘You didn’t need to do that.’

‘It’s no trouble. Makes it easier for you.’

As Narvi got up from his chair, his coat fell down, landing partially on my feet. We both stared at the coat before I bent down, picked it up, and handed it back to him.

‘I think you’ll be wanting this. It gets quite cold at night.’

Narvi gazed at me as I pushed the pelt into his hands, his eyes wide with disbelief. I dropped off the plates to the kitchen counter and grabbed the eftpos machine. After Narvi paid his bill, I walked with him to the door. As he stepped outside, he turned to look at me, his coat in his hands.

‘It was lovely to meet you, Narvi. I hope you’ll come again.’

‘Likewise, Thyra. And you know, I think I will.’

Author: Rebekah J Pouw is a third-year creative writing student at QUT. She loves reading and writing pieces based on mythology, especially from Greek myths. She mainly creates stories and fantasy worlds where she hopes that people will always love to return to. 

Artist: Lilian Martin is a writer, poet, and now artist based in Meanjin/Brisbane, who wants to publish their own zines one day! They used to be keen on the art thing in high-school and have slowly been trying to ignite their visual spark once again. They have begun incorporating visual elements into their writing career by designing magazines, doing illustrations, and making graphics for the QUT Literary Salon. You can find both their writing and visual work at

Accessibility Reader: Maddelyn Connors

Editors: Isa Velasquez & Tracy Channell