The Marriage Proposal
" Let The Contest Begin ! "
Sigmundur's confidence slipped slightly when Eyvindr Einnarsson arrived from Norway a week later with a fifty man ship that had a black raven sail that was almost as large as the one on the Frisian's vessel. He was further dismayed when Heinrekr the Saxon, and Laf Ossursson arrived days later with ships that were not as well constructed, but were respectable looking vessels none the less. Both had thirty two rowers, and a narrow bow to cut easily through the waters of the great ocean.
To keep tensions to a minimum Sigmundur had Dirk IV make his camp in Skúvoy near his homestead, while he made Laf Ossursson go to the north of the island. Einar Einarsson and Heinrekr the Saxon were sent to the Southern end. The chieftain also became worried that his plans might be compromised when he noticed that all four ships were manned by fully armed warriors. The Chieftain of Skúvoy had told Valbrandr to attack and sink any ship that might threaten Dirk IV's victory, but after seeing the fifty very large warriors who had sailed to his island home with Eyvindr, he doubted very much that Valbrandr, in an inferior ship, and with ten less warriors, could stop the Norwegian.
The last two weeks of March saw three more contestants arrive. Kofri Reistrsson arrived in a fine looking ship with thirty rowers, while Orri Mundisson, and Sigvatr Bergulfrsson sailed into the Skúvoyafjørður in small ocean going vessels of twenty and eighteen rowers respectively. These ships were manned by armed men, but to Sigmundur's eye none of them seemed to be skilled warriors, and judging by the look of the ships they posed little or no threat to man he had picked to win.
The night before the contest was to begin Sigmundur held a great feast up on the hill above the shore where all the ships were docked and ready for the great race to Iceland and back to begin. To make sure that there would be no violence Sigmundur asked everyone who attended to leave their weapons back on their ships. All agreed, but each commander left a few warriors on the dock to guard their ship in case one of their opponents decided to take advantage of the situation and damage their ship.
Sigmundur need not have worried. There was no violence at the feast, and it turned out to be a wonderful sendoff for the captains and their crews. Speeches were given, tales told, and songs sung about fair weather and favorable winds. Drinking was held to a minimum by the commanders, and they all had retired by midnight to make sure that their crews were in good shape for the early start of the race which would begin at first light.
Sigmundur and Turið woke and dressed long before the sun rose in the east above the ocean's rim. Tóra also awakened to the new day with a sense of enthusiasm, for she very much wanted to see the warrior she secretly wished to marry begin his quest for her hand. Sigmundur's sons, Thoralfr, Steingrimur, and little Brandur, however, were annoyed at being roused at such an early hour, and also a little jealous that their older sister was receiving so much attention. The only member of Sigmundur's family who did not care one way or another about the start of the race was Heri their youngest son. He slept in his mother's arms the whole time.
After the crews had boarded their ships Sigmundur had all the captains line up on the dock to give them a speech. As he began, the Chieftain of Skúvoy nodded ever so slightly to Dirk IV of Frisia.
" I want to thank you all for your fine efforts to be here today to compete for my daughter's hand in marriage. I know that you have sacrificed much to gain my favor, and win my daughter's heart, so I say to all of you,.... may the best man suited for my daughter win ! " he told the contestants with a huge smile.
Turið then stepped forward with her daughter, and addressed the captains.
" Because it is my daughter's future that is at stake here my husband and I have decided to allow Tóra the honor of starting the race. " she announced as she pushed her daughter forward with a nudge from her hip.
Tóra drew her sword from the scabbard that hung from her waist, and held it up to the red morning sun. The hue of the dawn sky made the sword seem to be ominously covered in blood. A fact not lost on Tóra and many of the sailors. In spite of this sinister ' sign ' she tried to make her speech as pleasant as possible.
" Despite the age of old warning of a red sky in the morning, I wish you all fair skies, favorable winds, and a safe journey ! " she told them all happily.
Then with a huge grin she dropped her sword to the ground as she shouted :
" Let the contest begin ! "
The captains all ran to their ships, and called out for the mooring lines to be cast off as they jumped on board. With little or no wind to fill their sails each of the ships relied on oar power to speed them on their way. It immediately became apparent that Eyvindr and Dirk IV had a great advantage. With fifty and sixty oarsmen respectively they quickly pulled out in front of the smaller ships, and they reached the open ocean to raise their sails long before the others.
Turið and Tóra remained on the shore until the last sail disappeared on the horizon. As they slowly walked back to their home Tóra took one long last look out at the water. What she saw made her giggle.
" Chieftain Brestisson ! Another ship is coming ! " she yelled in a sarcastic tone to her father who was up ahead of them.
Sigmundur ran back to the shoreline to see who it was. When the ship came close enough to hail he yelled out to it :
" Almsteinn Ulfarsson, .... is that you ? " Sigmundur asked in disbelief.
Almsteinn jumped up onto the bow of his ship and yelled back :
" I know I have come a little later than the others, but you only said that we needed to be here by the first day of April ! And though I am last to arrive I think I deserve to be included in the race ! " he said in a slightly demanding tone.
Sigmundur could barely hold back his laughter as he looked over Almsteinn's ship. The farmer from Svinoy had built a tiny Knarr with a large sail and seats for only sixteen rowers. Realizing that Almsteinn was correct about it still being the first of April, and that he had absolutely no chance of winning the race in such a sturdy but slow vessel, the Chieftain of Skúvoy waved him on.
" Yes ! You are hereby entered in the contest for my daughter's hand ! Now hurry and catch up with the others !! " he shouted to Almsteinn with a huge grin on his face.
Almsteinn smiled as he told the rudder man to change course for the open ocean. Like all the others, at this early stage of the race, he felt that he had a good chance of winning. That optimistic outlook would soon change for many of those who were sailing for Iceland that day !
- End of Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : " Favorable Winds and Calm Seas ! ? "
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.