Archive for April, 2013

MarkMaker #16

Posted: April 12, 2013 in Viking novel
Tags: ,

(C) 2013.
I tell him. He shakes his head, “Asmundr…”
“I know, it looks bad but I need to know.”
Ragi enters the hut and is surprised to see Valdr sitting up.
He smiles and offers the young man a drink of fresh sheep milk which he readily drains. I hold out my hand and breakfast on the sweet cup too. I look at Ragi and he nods. I begin to strap on the splint and reach for my crutch again. Together we set out to the beach.
There is fresh green seaweed washed up in lumps all over the small grey beach. Driftwood litters the ground and I resist the impulse to collect it as I have so many times before on our own section of the beach. Gulls coarse cries add an eerie backdrop to the grey crashing waves. A storm is brewing out to sea, the sharp tang of rain is on the air. Ragi moves nimbly over the rocks unlike me. I am as awkward as a crab. My eyes hurt from concentrating on each and every shape around me, searching for anything that might give me a clue to what happened to her. Ragi waits patiently while I catch up. “Here, he says,” This is where I found the cloak.” I drop to the sand and rub my hand over its surface, willing the essence of her to spring up out of the sand or her sense to tell me what I need to look for. The cloak had dropped, fortunately out of the reach of the waves. Ragi has enough sense to let me watch and feel for a while. He wanders off up the shore, gathering the driftwood that keeps us all warm without effort.
The sand draws me back. The only hope she is alive is if she is slave again as she came to me, captured in her native land, the islands above the Pictish Isle, the Norseman’s new realm. But how, after all these weeks to know if the cloak is ripped then dropped as men flee here, more like monsters not men, dropped by them or by her? After I look well for many moments, the dragging shape of their keel as it was heaved back into the surf appears to my tired eyes. I touch the edges of the furrow the keel drew in the sand, the edges softened now by weeks of wind over the beach. Its definition is too sandblasted for me to tell if the keel is one we use or not. I drag my bad leg alongside the shape and touch the sand as I go at intervals hoping, with my heart bursting that I can make something tell me here messages I must know. Ragi comes back weighed down by sticks, concerned, I can tell at my anguish. “Stay till the storm”, he advises.
I continue my searches. A dried fish, a seal skull and the curved half of a leather shoe are all I find after some time. The sky blackens and the surf begins to roar with increasing violence. I look along the empty beach and try to visualise her last moments here. Would she think I had survived? I had left her in the hut and this is the last I can remember until I woke up with my face in my own vomit. How long were we together? One winter to one winter, a year. Was this time enough to forge a bond unbreakable or was the pull of her own islands still strong in her heart and the chance to escape stronger still as a way back. But what of the monsters? Did she witness their carnage of her fellow countrywomen? And why she, of them all, was saved to be taken away? If she was at all.
She was a woman of skill. In the time I knew her, she was adept at the arts of healing and taught me some of her ways: the use of herbs and plants to stem blood flow or take away pain; the grinding of poultices to draw out the poison in a wound; the setting of a broken limb. She birthed babies I saw discarded on the hillside and I wish, I hope, her eyes did not take in those awful sights, her handiwork all wasted, their mothers never to birth again. She surprised me by how willingly she gave of her sweet loving and how expert she was at bringing me pleasure and prolonging the ecstasy. For many a moon’s progress from fingernail to coin, she spoke her own language and laughed at me trying to copy until I made her speak mine which she did one or two words a day, repeated often. Soon the daily round of food, weaving and helping me with the forge was spoken in our native tongue with her strange and weird accent. She and Valdr began to speak of our island and our life and after a long time, she spoke of hers. She described her island and their customs similar to our own. Her speech had sounds like ours too and I detected some common heritage for us both. She would never say her real name or her family name so I called her Isla because she made the island new for me.

I walk back to the hut in my crab way. I am bursting with questions.

Mark Maker #15

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Viking novel
Tags: ,

(c) 2013
I feel nothing until the first light and then I sit up and remember the dream: There is smoke swirling up from the heath to the ceiling of our hut. Isla bends down and places food in my lap. I don’t look at the food because it’s not food I want. I pull gently on the shoulder of her cloak and pull her towards me .I taste her wet lips in mine and brush her teeth with my tongue. She responds with a low grunt and maneuvers the bowl out of my lap and drops her warm rump there instead. She can feel me and she grinds her loins over mine until I am gasping for breath. I have her cloak off and am taking her shift over her bare white shoulders. Her breasts flop into my face and I kiss them all over and tongue the nipples softly. She tugs at my trousers…
“Asmundr!”
I groan now, feeling the effect of the dream as I force myself to turn and look at Valdr. He has raised his upper body with his arms and is trying to sit up. “Asmundr, please…” I get up off the platform and pull him up into a sitting position.
“Well, little brother, back from Valhalla?”
He looks at me with gritty, blurry eyes and tries to grin, “I stink!”
“You do, did you expect me to wash you every day?”
Valdr begins to sway and I steady him with an arm. “More ale?”
“NO! I want to know…”
“So do I..ah.. first, you are in Ragi’s hut. We have been here some days now. He’s helped a lot, in fact…”
Valdr looks at me from under heavy lids. His young face has dark shadows and his beard growth is very black against his white skin. He attempts to speak again through lips dry and cracked. He forces the words out: “Will I walk?”
I shake my head and then realize how that looks, “You have two legs. How they will act I do not know.”
He wants to put them to the ground. I shake my head. He swivels around anyway and drops the broken leg down. I wish I am not so near him as his scream sets off my jaw aching badly again. I roll my eyes.
“Take the moment slow. Just sit up for now.”
“I want…” The conversation goes on and on the same. I fetch this and that for him. Finally I say. “No more, I want to look for my wife.”
He grimaces, “News?”