The Marriage Proposal
" Favorable Winds And Calm Seas ! ? "
As the night turned into early morning the moon and stars were replaced by a much more ominous sight. Clouds, wispy and far between at first, slowly began to fill in the night sky after midnight, and block out the good friends of the sea mariner. And with the presence of the storm clouds came their constant companions damaging wind, and pounding waves.
If it was of any consolation at all to these intrepid sailors the rain did not begin until the skies lightened on a new day. But when it did come it was torrential, and the winds, which seemed to grow in intensity with every passing moment, made the droplets of water sting as though they were tiny arrows slung at them by an angry sea spirit. What had just the day before started out as an adventure for these sailors quickly devolved into a desperate fight for their lives.
The moment their sails came down the bale buckets were put to immediate use. The sheets of falling rain alone made it difficult to keep the ships dry, but the waves, now enraged by a fierce western wind that seemed to know no bounds, lapped over the sides of the smaller vessels, threatening to fill them further, and possibly sink the hapless little ships. Once again the larger ships had an advantage. With higher sides, and in some cases two or three times the amount of warriors to bale out the water, they were more easily able to keep their ships from being inundated by the mixture of salt and fresh water that conspired to sink them.
Most of the commanders kept their heads and remained calm as they pointed their ships' bows into the menacing waves that were trying their best to capsize them. One captain, Kofri Reistrsson, however, lost his nerve. With a small ship, and only twenty oarsmen, he never really believed that he had a chance to win, and when his ship began to fill with water he decided to turn his ship around and head back to the safety of the Faroe Islands. With a quick shout to his men to inform them of his intentions, Kofri pulled the rudder over hard to turn the ship away from the blinding rain. As he did his vessel was hit by a huge wave on the starboard side which capsized his ship, spilling his men into the cold unforgiving ocean. As the other ships trudged on fighting their own battles, no one saw Kofri's ship go down, nor did they hear the screams of his men as they begged for help. One by one the heartless cold northern ocean swallowed up these brave sailors leaving those they left behind back home to wonder what had happened to them.
What Kofri did not know, nor could he have known, was that the storm was not a large one, and by that evening the faster ships had already come out of the other side of the fierce squall, and emerged into a much calmer sea, with milder winds. But hindsight lies only in the domain of the Gods, and men can only rely on their reasoning and impulses. Seven commanders chose wisely, while one allowed fear to cloud his judgement, and it cost him and his crew dearly.
If Almsteinn Ulfarrsson had had a glimpse into the future he surely would not have asked Sigmundur Brestisson to be allowed to enter the contest despite his tardiness in starting. His very small Knarr barely weathered the fierce storm. The high winds shredded his sail, and the force of the waves nearly flooded his vessel, but his choice of using a sturdy Knarr design had turned out to be the right decision, as he and his crew were still alive.
As Almsteinn helped to bale out his craft, he was debating whether it was worth the trouble to continue, or if it would be better to give up and turn back. Despite being deep in thought as he scooped up another bucket of water, Almsteinn could not help but notice that the ocean was beginning to bubble and foam all around him. Curious by this strange development Almsteinn splashed his way to the bow of the ship through ankle deep water and looked out into the sea that almost seemed to be boiling like a pot of stew.
Near the bow, and within the bubbles, Almsteinn saw something he could not quite make out. It was round, and it had a familiar look about it, and yet he could not quite place it. Then suddenly the orb blinked !
" Kraken !! " he screamed.
Almsteinn's men stopped their baling. They looked up just in time to see a giant tentacle rise up out of the water and pluck their commander off of the ship ! Before they could fully process what they had just witnessed seven more tentacles slid out of the ocean and grabbed hold of the vessel. Some of the warriors drew their swords and hacked at the strong suckered arms that held on firmly to the ship, while others beat at them with their oars. Neither was effective in stopping their craft from being pulled under. Their vessel died with a final crack as it split in half, and left the crew splashing around in the freezing ocean. Once they were in the water the Kraken pulled the bobbing food from the surface much the way humans pick apples off of a tree. Again there was no one around to hear their desperate cries for help, for the other contestants were miles ahead of poor Almsteinn Ulfarrsson, and his unlucky crew.
On the ninth day Eyvindr Einarrson and Laf Ossursson, who were the only two ships still in contact with each other, spotted land off to their north. It could only be Iceland, but where they were exactly could only be guessed until the coast finally began to head northeast instead of southeast. The next landmark for both was Snaefellsness, and just beyond that they came into the relative safety of the BreidaFjørður.
Dirk IV's ship had been badly damaged in the storm, and the Frisian was as happy as any of the commanders to see the land that loomed up on his northern horizon. Though still ahead of the smaller ships, he had lost sight of Laf and Eyvindr when the top of his cracked mast finally broke off and fell to the deck of his ship killing one of his sailors. After burying the unfortunate man at sea Dirk was able to rig his sail to the bottom half of the mast, but it only caught a small portion of the wind that it would have received had it been on top of the mast, which slowed him down to a crawl. Once he reached Eirik the Red's homestead it was his intention to fix the mast as best he could before making the return trip to the Faroe Islands. If he did not win the contest, so be it ! He had already lost one man and wished to lose no more !
Heinrekr the Saxon, and Sigvatr Bergulfsson had fared well in the storm, but they now found themselves in calm air, and both men wondered if they had been blown so far off course that they might have completely missed the island. Despite low clouds that blocked the sun Heinrekr, and Sigvatr were able to determine, using a sun stone that they were on course and should hit land very soon. The next day, to their great relief, they caught glimpses of land for the first time in over a week through the light mist that covered the ocean.
Orri Mundisson's ship was listing dangerously to port. The violence of the storm had forced apart several of the planks on his ship before the sea water could make them swell and seal them shut. When one of his men spotted a rocky coast in the distance off of their starboard side he headed for it hoping to find a fjord to safely beach his stricken craft. As day turned to night, however, his hope turned to desperation as he could no longer bale his ship out faster than the water was coming in.
Then, as if it were a gift from the Gods, a light appeared on the distant shore. With his tattered sail utilizing what little breeze there was, and his twenty oarsmen pulling with all their might, the ship lumbered slowly toward the shore. Without the benefit of stars, or a moon to guide their way, they followed the lights that were surely on the beach. By the time they realized that the lights were not from a fisherman's boat, or a home near the beach, it was far too late. The sharp rocks, and the nine crashing waves, splintered their vessel in a matter of moments. For what had lured them onto the rocks along the coast were the glowing eyes of Ran's daughters. Aegir's little girls later feasted on the bloated bodies as they floated just outside of the surf.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : Man - Made Hazards !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.