Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Normandia - 3

We reached the mouth of the river just as the last fragments of daylight disappeared in the night sky.  It would be a long journey down the river yet, and we were now rowing against the current.  Fortunately for us, the storm was coming in from the north and a great southerly wind beginning to blow.  We loosed the sail and rowed gently as we fought our way through the current.  Even though the river was calmer than the sea, it was still fraught with challenges.  Jagged rocks and stronger currents could catch us at unawares at any moment.  At night this was no journey for anyone other than a Viking.
Sturdy Aslak crouched at the helm watching the dark flow of the river’s belly flow like a snake beneath him.  He yelled here and there, but for the most part he was silent.  We were all silent.  The night was a pit, holding our souls captive like the most dangerous of prisons.  Threatening to shut us out.  Threatening to drown us.
My eyes snapped back open as I surveyed the scene.  Somehow I had drifted off for a moment, but only for a moment.  The storm had picked up; the wind was blowing hard enough to lift us off the water.  The rain had begun as well, it was hard and stinging, and we were close enough to winter that I felt that soon it would turn into snow.  Far away in the distance I could make out a light hue of light glowing in the blanket of night.  We were approaching the Franks’ town.  I got up and walked up the alley waking up the few who had also fallen asleep.  When I reached the front I crouched down next to Aslak.  He glanced wearily at me.  Nothing needed to be said.  I knew what he was thinking, and it was the same reason I had opposed the council’s decision in going.
The festival was an important date for my clan.  We had spent a lot of time trying to gain information as to when the Franks held these things, and now was the first time we could act on that information.  But we had also lost many ships during stormy nights, and many Vikings never returned.  It was the trade-off of our trade.  It was the price we paid.  But was the price too high?  Who would return tonight?  The sky had me worried.  The wind was far too strong for our sails; we would be at the mercy of the current on our return.  And what about when we reach the ocean?  Would we manage to carry our precious cargo through the gargantuan waves?  Or would we, like Beowulf of old, have to swim back to shore?

I took comfort in the strong warriors beside me.  We were Vikings, and this was our way of life.  Harsh, brutal, and unforgiving, that was the world that had made us, and that was what we were.  The Franks knew that.
Chapter II      Chapter IV

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