972 AD, Jorvik, England –Olaf mutters some curses as he realizes his old leather boots are doing a terrible job of keeping his feet dry. He pauses at a corner and looks around. He’s lived in Jorvik for many years, but the heavy misty rain is disorienting. Narrow lanes of wattle houses, walls woven of sticks, meander about in a labyrinthine manner. He runs his hand through his thick tangled red beard.
Woodsmoke curls from rough holes in many of the damp thatched roofs and swirls around the grey soupy sky, but the dark silhouette of a large stone tower looms over the rooftops, and Olaf takes his bearing on it. The soggy roadway squelches under Olaf’s feet as he walks down one of the narrow lanes. He passes the crumbling ruins of what was once the wall of a building, it must have been three stories tall in its day, but no one builds things like that anymore. The stone is green with lichen and moss. The locals say a people called the “Romans” built these things. Surely some kind of giants, muses Olaf, as he pulls his wool cloak closer and hurries through the rain.
Olaf stops in front of a rather broad building, its shaggy thatch coming almost down to the ground on the sides. A sign hangs in front, a slab of wood with a crescent moon excised out of it. As good a sign as any in a place where few can read. Olaf pulls back the ox-hide covering the door and ducks into the dark interior of the Crescent Moon Ale House.
"Ah there you are you old rogue!" Knut stands up behind a table and waves his friend over. He can’t stand entirely though due to the low roof. He's not merely tall, and he's not fat, but he's big. Proportionately big. Seen by himself one might mistake him for a normal-sized person, but then one sees how he dwarfs the people beside him. His curly blonde beard does nothing to diminish his eternally good natured countenance however.
Olaf smiles sheepishly and then lets out a grumble as he seats himself. He waves over the serving girl and orders some mutton, bread, and ale.
"So how's that chair coming along you were working on?" asks Knut.
"Oh, I've almost got it I think." He's not a carpenter, but the goal-oriented fellow is determined not let a simple stool get the better of him.
"I'm going to make a stool that will last a thousand years!" he proclaims loudly it startles a nearby grey bearded, one eyed old man in a broad brimmed hat. Olaf quickly occupies himself with taking a large swig of his juniper ale, studiously avoiding eye contact with the old man.
The mutton and bread arrives, and the conversation turns, as it so often does, to the good old days. When Knut and Olaf were young Jorvik was an independent kingdom ruled by northmen. Now they had an earl in a tower and a disputed throne in faraway London.
“Next thing you know we’ll all be speaking that English!” muses Olaf. Knut rumbles with chuckles at this idea.
“Never, it’s far too ugly a language compared to Norwegian” he assures Olaf, who had to agree.
Knut notices Olaf grimacing and shifting uncomfortably in his chair. "You know, Olaf, you might feel better if you ate a vegetable now and then." Comments Knut, with stew dripping down his beard, and a wooden spoon in one hand.
"Bah!" scoffs Olaf "rabbit food never did a man any good! ... besides I have a better solution."
"Whatsh that?" asks Knut, a leek hanging from his mouth.
Olaf produces a small round smooth stone. "This stone I bought at the market today. These things are supposed to cure any poison." He plunks it proudly into his ale tankard and toasts with it.
"It was found in the guts of a cow," explains Olaf, while Knut curiously peers into Olaf's wooden tankard. "…but how does it get there?" asks Olaf, tapping his forehead knowingly, "cows don't eat stones!” It's the very embodiment of the magic of digestion... or something!" he finishes a bit lamely, reluctant to put forward any advanced theological theories on the subject.
"So.. you're going to swallow that??" asks Knut incredulously.
"No, no, no, you just put it in your drink and its powers are absorbed by the ale," says Olaf, absently examining the joints on a nearby chair.
A few hours and several tankards of ale later Olaf is stumbling home, when he feels the call of nature. He quickly ducks down a narrow alley between two houses that leads to the riverbank. The overhanging thatch from the two roofs nearly touches. He hurriedly drops his trousers and squats over a muddy pool by the bank as his bowels begin to rumble. Maybe the magic stone is starting to work, he wonders, for --I don't mean to alarm you dear reader-- but it's been a few days since he was last able to make a bowel movement. A noise erupts from his posterior that is so rude even Olaf feels a little embarrassed. Somewhere nearby a small child begins to cry. His excretion quickly disappears into the anaerobic depths of the muddy water. Olaf hurriedly pulls a handful of straw off the nearby roof thatch, wipes his rump with it, tosses it into the river, and then hurries into the night.
2014 AD, York, England – “And this, boys and girls, is one of our most valuable artifacts,” the docent gestures to a display case containing what appears to be a knobby seven-inch-long rock. Thirty schoolchildren crane their necks to get a better look at the inexplicable object. “I want you all to hold out your hands, pretend you’re holding it. It weighs as much as a brick, it’s rough and knobby. It’s called the ‘Lloyd’s Bank Coprolite.’” Any guesses what you’re holding.
Thirty children cradle invisible coprolites obediently. They have pigtails and school uniforms. They gaze at the docent earnestly.
“A coprolite is a fossilized poop. This is the world’s largest Viking poop.” Thirty children shriek and drop their imaginary coprolites.