Mark Maker 9

Posted: January 20, 2013 in Viking novel
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She is coming across the water. As she leans out over the gunwale her hair splays out like drifting fine cobwebs dusted with the dew in a morning that is all bright. The boat is crowded with passengers, their few barrels of food and poor cloth-wrapped possessions show a desperate haste and a neediness which touches me to the heart. More even than the grey -streaked faces set in lines like seals. Her face is grimy too but the blonde hair is like embroidered gold on the back of the blue sky. The passengers on the longship all look to the crude wharf, their faces show them pondering how their feet might move after so long on the heavy seas. The sailors begin to help the passengers gather their few items and lift them over the boat’s edge. I am surprised when the boat is dock-fastened and when their delicate feet begin to plant themselves on the earth again that they are all women. No youths too as we expected to help with the farms’ labours. They huddle near the boat in their loom-cast kirtles, not a silver saucer-brooch among them, only crude lacing holds the shifts on their shoulders. She looks at me and I feel a fire flash up from my loins and I try to stop the flame flushing my face by looking down at the pebbles on the shore. Every one looks like the blue of her eyes and the solid want of her gaze.
The women have taken up their things now and are moving along the beach towards us. We, all we men stand stock still. It is the woman’s right to choose and it’s the only way that works. They will be more than employed by us. They are here to replace the women we have lost or never had. The skills they bring us are much needed- cloth-making, food preserving, stock tending when we are away and all the multitude of gifts a woman can bring, not the least of which is to spirit-meld. Men who boast of blood-hunger and war, who hack limbs from enemies as soon as slaughter a sheep ache for the other half of themselves in the cold space of a night when everything big becomes small and when all the woes of the day are heightened. Then the comfort of a warm curved back is immeasurable and the horrors of the night fade as when the sun lifts its eyelids open at the horizon. She, the first one to move, walks straight up to me and places her bundle at my feet. My friends are merciless in their teasing of me and I want to take their ears and knock their noses together. I stand looking at her from her toes to the fair crown of her head. Wordlessly, I take up the bundle and turn and she follows silently behind me. I will never forget the feeling of warmth that floods through me again and I want to feel it forever.
But I wake from my dream and feel the horror of her absence anew.


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