The Sea - Draugr : A Tale Of The Undead
Aegir smiled from ear to ear. He had thought himself not a very good story - teller, and yet here, sitting across from him, was one of the very best poet - skalds in all the nine worlds,.... and he ..... Aegir.... had captured the interest and imagination of the great Bragi !
Aegir moved closer and whispered to Bragi as if it were a closely guarded secret : " Surprisingly, no ! " he told the great poet. " Their journey began......
" From the relative safety of the Vest Agder fjord the ship sailed west into seas that were relatively calm. When Thorir spotted the Shetland islands he turned his ship to the north. Once he had cleared the last island in the Shetland chain he steered his ship northwest in the hopes of hitting his next landmark along the way, the Faroe Islands.
The men praised Aegir, and placated Ran and her daughters with an offering, when the winds picked up and the seas became rougher. Some of the warriors believed that the Gods would help them, while others felt that their "luck " was tied to fate, and that this had already been woven, and could not be changed.
The Faroe Islands loomed up on the horizon almost exactly where Thorir had predicted they would. The crew of Hoof - Flourisher felt themselves fortunate to have a captain whose navigating skills were as accurate as Thorir's . They laughed and joked about how fine a captain they had. " Leif Eiriksson might be lucky, but our captain relies on his wisdom and experience, which are much more important than luck ! " Was what many were saying as Thorir turned the ship west, and headed for Iceland.
Although they were sailing well below the Arctic Circle the winds picked up again, and the temperature dropped quickly as they neared the land of ice. The ship creaked and groaned in the high seas, but the bow cut through the deep swells like a knife through butter. Thorir was never prouder in his whole life than he was standing at the rudder stoically steering his great ship.
Thorir and his crew felt themselves doubly blessed by the Gods when they reached Breidafjord on the southwest coast of Iceland. Land was always a Godsend to a sailor, but as they rowed up the inlet they could see that a huge storm was forming off to the southwest. And it seemed headed straight for them. Their timing was perfect once again. Just as the crew disembarked from their ship, the winds that were already quite strong, blew even harder, and soon became gale force in intensity.
The crew stayed in Helgafell as the guests of its chieftain, a man named Oddleif Holluson. Although the accommodations were cramped Oddleif' s longhouse was dry and warm. The food and drink were plentiful as well ! Oddleif felt honored to show his hospitality to Thorir and his crew, especially when he learned that the Jarl of Vest Agder would reimburse him for his kindness.
Although Oddleif wanted the Norwegians to stay longer, Thorir felt that a week was more than enough time to be away from the sea. After resupplying themselves with fresh water, ale, dried herring, and smoked goats meat, Thorir and his shipmates rowed out of Breidafjord, and back into the open ocean. Using valuable information gathered from the local inhabitants Thorir set their course a little more south than he had originally planned. The Icelanders had told him it was safer to be further south to avoid any icebergs that might have floated down from the arctic during the early spring. If his calculations were correct, and the winds were favorable, the next land they saw off to their right should be the southern tip of the land called Greenland.
As Hoof - Flourisher reached what Thorir deemed to be the midpoint between Iceland and Greenland, dark clouds began to gather on the horizon, and the seas began to swell to dangerous heights. As the rain began to fall, and the waves crashed over the bow of their ship, the vessel slowly began to take on water. At first only a few of the crew were given the task of baling out the water, but as darkness fell over the tiny ship, that bobbed up and down in the vast ocean, the entire crew took to baling. And even then they could barely keep up with the flow of water.
The crew could see the sheets of rain pouring down on them, and they could not miss the numerous waves as they crashed over the bow of their ship, but what the captain and crew were blind to was the fact that the ship had begun to leak profusely!
Thorir knew it was useless, but he turned his ship around anyway hoping that the strong winds would push them back to Iceland before his vessel sank. Then suddenly, a fearful cracking sound could be heard above the raging storm. As the struggling crew turned in the direction of the noise they witnessed the mast crack in half and fall. When the top half of the mast struck the starboard side of the ship it broke through several of the top planks. It was then, as Thorir inspected the damage, that he realized that the ship had been poorly constructed. Thorir stood up and cursed the ship's carpenter, who he remembered to be Asmund, and swore that if he somehow made it back to Vest Agder he would have his revenge !
Each destructive wave that struck the ship pried the boards further and further apart as the short nails and thin tar were not strong enough to hold the ship together. The crew tried to stop this from happening by using the rope from their now broken mast, but it was now too late. The ship was fatally damaged !
As Hoof - Flourisher sank lower and lower into the ocean the crew tried gallantly to save her, and themselves. It was painfully obvious to those aboard the stricken vessel that all was lost, but there was nothing else the men could do. It would not have been honorable to die without giving it their best effort, and each man strained every muscle to keep their once beautiful ship afloat.
Thorir was still trying to secure the boards on the starboard side when he looked up and saw a huge wave looming above their ship . As they sank deeper into the swell the wave grew in height until it hovered over the ship like a huge dark cloud. Thorir turned to his crew, and above the raging storm, shouted : " Brace yourselves !! " But it was too late ! As the wave crashed over the ship it washed most of the crew overboard. What was left of the shattered ship sank a few moments later.
The brutal cold of the near freezing ocean water felt like swords being thrust into Thorir's exposed skin. It did not take long for his teeth to start chattering, and his body to begin to go numb. As Thorir began to lose his grip on life, he screamed to the Gods : " I curse Asmund, and his brother Vilgeir ! And I demand the right of revenge ! " It was shortly thereafter that Thorir, the last of his crew to still be alive, began to feel the unrelenting pull of the deep ! "
- End Chapter 5
- Next : Chapter 6 : The Will To Live !
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2015.