Mark Maker #6

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Viking novel
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c) Amundr 2013
With freshly killed and cooked rabbit inside him Valdr begins to speak lucidly,” Where is Isla?”
I look at him in a way that needs no answer.
“No!”
“What can I do?” I point to my broken leg and then to him.
“How can you just sit … here!”
I draw away from him and his accusations and pull furs over myself on the platform. At times like this emotions stop me answering. I will not tell him how much pain both in my body and in my head I am suffering.
“I thought you were dead,” he goes on. “I screamed and screamed and you didn’t come. Those f—king beserkers had killed you too, I thought. You don’t know…you don’t know.. how I felt when…”
“You have no idea how long it took to get back in here.”
“In the village, the Thing must decide. They will meet and we will have blood revenge. As soon as we are able…”
“Shut up Valdr! Look at us! Your leg is swollen too much. It might have to…”
Valdr squints his eyes at me, “I’d rather have one leg and go out in the boat to find her than stay here doing nothing!”
I’d seen amputations before. I’d even assisted when they needed the hot iron to sear the flesh. But I am not going to cut off my brother’s leg. There was another way. However I am weak. It’s hard to get food in your mouth when your jaw is broken. I can only eat food I mash into a broth. Valdr’s anger has begun to work on me. When I think back on that time now, I think I must been a little mad with grief after Isla was taken. Sick, weak and mad. But Valdr deserved to live. Ten years younger than me, he’d never even had a woman.
I begin to sharpen sticks to splint my leg really firmly. When this was done and wrapped three times for warmth I wind a tablet-woven strip of wool, Isla had been working on around my jaw. I jam on a fur cap and fasten a cape of fur around my shoulders. I eat what food I can while Valdr watches. He still has half the rabbit.
“I am going on the skis.”
My brother grunts as if to say, why has it taken so long to think of them?
“I’ll be back,” I say as I crawl out the door to the store hut to find skis.

I choose midday to leave when the light is best. The village is further up on craggy platforms of rock than our farm which is closer to the bay. A rough track wends its way up the slopes which thankfully are covered now in snow. Its defensive position is reinforced by high sod walls garlanded also in a wreath of whiteness. Too often raiders have come into the bay, beached their longships and run amok. So the village is crowded, the longhouses inconveniently close, the roads cramped and mud strewn. Winter until those few weeks ago was safe for us. It was in the Summer when the seas are favourable and Winter’s stock of goods are stored in the holds of vessels to trade that we would expect raiders. We’d fought them before, Valdr and I, with men of the village to help us; men who stayed to watch over their flocks of sheep and cattle on the summer pastures. I’d buried the corpses of our enemies myself in places to ensure better pasture and keep the gods appeased. I’d buried them without a thought of their families or women and now I was paying a price. We might have taken them as slaves but the Village Thing had decided. There were too many here already to feed anyone else even if they worked dawn to dusk for their share.
Pushing the thought of slavery and what it means from my head, I continue my struggle uphill. Every movement is a searing pain, sliding on the snow being no better than hopping on rocks. It feels like at every step that I will fall and smash my leg all over again. It is only the thought of Valdr’s pale face in agony and my wife’s unknown terrors that keep me onward.

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