Archive for March, 2013

Mark Maker #14

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Viking novel
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(c) 2013
I dream and their faces are black, black as a fog on the high seas at night under a heavy sky. Their breath is stinking like the most putrid rotting fish. Their huge grey hands are slippery with grease, red grease and yellow fat. They scream like a pig in its death throes, like a seal bashed on the rocks in the mouth of a whale. The sound carries across the clearing near my house like a wave crashing against cliffs and their weapons hack at me and my brother, thwack, thwack as a sharpened scythe razes wheat to an even tuft of dry stalked roots and the sheaves fall like tresses of hair onto the soil. And I see among the golden sheaves more golden tresses, a woman’s hair beautiful, silken sheared off like the wheat, flat like the wheat…
Ragi is shaking me awake. “Asmundr, I have found something as you should see.”
Ragi’s reddish face begins to focus in front of my eyes. “I have something,” he repeats.
“What? Show me.”
He drops a piece of cloth into my lap. It is brown like lichen. It’s a brown we don’t see in cloth here. Our sheep are white. This cloth has been made from a sheep that is a throw back to a breed we no longer see. I recognise the cloth well. It is Isla’s cape, fine and warm, the cape she was wearing when I first spied her as she left the ship.
“It is my wife’s” I choke out the words. “Show me now! Show me where you found it!”
“Stay, you are tired and it is no use.”
I jump up and hurt my leg. He hurries to placate me. “It were on the shore, near the rocks. Drenched in seawater. I searched… everywhere… along the shore and back up to the cliffs. I found nothing else. No shoes, no shift, nothing. You hear me?”
“Nothing else? You sure?”
“Yes, I am sure. You must show me where.”
He shakes his head. “It’s dark now. I will show you tomorrow.”
I demand to know more. He tells me all he can. I nod dumbly. It’s her cloak. She’d need it to stop from freezing and now she has it not. Is she floating into some bay over the seas? Has another island become her last home? Are her beautiful tresses cloyed now with stinking seaweed? Have I my brother back to find my wife is now truly gone? Ragi thrusts a potent drink in my hand warmed by the fire with herbs and honey to cover the bitterness of the brew.
“Drink, drink,” he says and I cannot refuse.

Mark Maker #13

Posted: March 1, 2013 in Viking novel
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Soon the first grisly corpse is evident, a twisted and shrunken hand is stretching out from its snowy blanket beseeching me to take more care. I see by its ring that the owner is a man. I bend down to discover more of his death. Scraping away the snow with one of my gloved hands, I can see his neck has been severed making the whole head hang at a strange angle right down on his chest. I decide to lift the head to check the wound. The bile rushes into my mouth and I dry reach on the side of the body. Instead of a clean blade wound across his neck or the line of knife, his whole neck is missing, torn down to the very spine so that all the sinews are hanging loose and the whole flesh of the neck is gone. It’s an horrific wound savagely inflicted. I look for evidence of wolves, for it is them that deal such massive damage to a corpse. But there are no parts of the man dragged away into the snow, nothing to indicate that an animal has in fact torn his throat out.
I enter the hut and strip off the furs and the heavy bandaging on my leg. I hop to the bed platform and lever my aching leg up to relieve the awful pressure on it from walking. Ragi is away. Valdr is sound asleep and his breathing is even and quiet. His chest no longer has the rattle of illness and his face has some of its colour back. Even the heat is dissipating from his brow. Could he really be recovering?
As I topple back to rest, the questions I need to ask Ragi swirl in my brain: Where was he when the raiders came? Why did he hear and see nothing, even the smoke which was coming from the burned huts? No vessels in the bay either? And why, all those months back, did he not take a woman as we all did who were alone, from the bought captives of the slave traders? And generally, I need to ask myself: Was it something to do with the women all this? But how when they too and their babes were slain? Rescuers of their own people would have freed them.