The Lost Viking
The Journey To Britain
Signy walked down to the water where the great dragon ships were tied up. The cargo had already been placed on board, and once the sun broke over the horizon tomorrow morning her husband, and most of the able bodied men in the village would launch these ships, sail up the fjord into the great ocean beyond, and head for Britain. As the moon reflected off of the calm water Signy was both happy and horrified at the same time. She felt very lucky to have been chosen by the village chieftain as his wife. She was now considered to be a woman of considerable status, and Bjorgolf was a good man, who was well respected by the elders, and supported by the region's Jarl. Signy smiled as she thought to herself. " And he is a very rugged and handsome man as well ! " Then that thought left her another more powerful one entered her mind. She was afraid, as were many of the women in the village, that her husband would not return.
Signy had met Bjorgolf years ago when he was an apprentice in his father Kjartan' s blacksmith shop. They had talked of marriage then, but Bjorgolf decided to go raiding with Sverting, the village chieftain, instead. Bjorgolf proved himself a mighty warrior, gained the respect of the other men, and also caught the eye of the chieftain. When Sverting was killed in a vicious battle with the Franks, Bjorgolf was chosen by his fellow warriors to lead the army into battle. Bjorgolf and his warriors returned to Holtavord with great wealth, and at the annual All - Thing he was officially chosen as the new village chieftain by the local elders.
For a while Signy and Bjorgolf drifted apart. Signy did not come from a family of wealth and power. Her father, Thord, was a simple farmer, who over the years had cultivated his land quite well and produced an abundance of crops. Thord gave to his daughter the excess produce to sell in the village market. Her father was wise to have Signy run their stand at the market square. Generally it was only women who went shopping for produce at the market, but Signy attracted men as well to her stand, and always made more money than the others.
Signy was a beautiful young woman . She inherited her sense of humor from her father, but her radiant beauty she took from her mother Ingunn. Although she stood only slightly taller than five feet in height, she had the finely sculpted body of a shield maiden. Her hair was golden blonde, much like the Goddess Sif, her eyes as blue as the sky, and her face was as beautiful as most considered Freyja's to be. And as the sailors in the village liked to say : " She keeps her ballast stored top side ! "
Signy was well aware of her appearance, but she did not allow it to change her demeanor. She was never aloof, and was pleasant to everyone, and anyone she met. The women of the village considered her to be quite the flirt, but in reality she was simply friendly, and enjoyed very much to converse with anyone who would listen. And almost everyone listened. Especially the men !
It was here at the local market where she once again met up with Bjorgolf. The chieftain had been bitterly disappointed with the food that was being served in his great hall. The head maiden and cook blamed it on the produce that was being purchased by the serving maidens, while the serving maidens blamed the cook for not knowing how to properly prepare the food that she was given. Finally, Bjorgolf had had enough and went to the market with all of the serving maidens. As they looked around they found that one stand had the best vegetables and grains. As Bjorgolf pulled out a few gold coins to give to the owner as payment for whatever the serving maidens felt they needed, Signy rose up from behind the table looking as beautiful as ever. Bjorgolf was once again bewitched by her beauty, and after spending most of the morning talking with her, he invited her to his great hall for dinner. The dinner was as disappointing as ever, and Bjorgolf had the cook bodily thrown out of his hall . For Bjorgolf and Signy, however, this was the beginning of a new relationship .
As Signy looked out across the fjord, and off into the distant mountains, she wondered what lay ahead for her. A whole multitude of possibilities danced around in her head. Would Bjorgolf return with great wealth and even more power ? Could he possibly conquer some great land over in Britain, and be made Jarl, or maybe even a king !? Signy smiled as she fancied herself as a queen sitting on a high seat next to her husband King Bjorgolf. But there were darker possibilities as well to consider. What if he came back injured ?! And what if he did not come back at all ?! " What will become of me ? " she said out loud. Signy took a deep cleansing breath as she turned and walked back to the great hall.
Bjorgolf was still sitting with his warriors as Signy entered the hall. When Bjorgolf saw his bride standing in the doorway, however, he stood up and told his men it was time for him to leave. His men all lifted their horns to Bjorgolf, and many nodded knowingly to him as he passed. Bjorgolf played the part of the groom, hitched up his pants, and winked to his men, as they cheered him on. Signy gave her husband a little bow, and held her hand out to Bjorgolf. The chieftain, however, still wanted to put on a little show for his men so he grabbed Signy in his arms and gave her a long hard kiss. Bjorgolf then grabbed her hand and ran out of the hall with his bride. Signy, not to be outdone, turned and winked at the warriors as she left the hall.
It being their wedding night neither of the loving couple got much sleep before the Goddess Sunna woke them with her brilliant light. As Bjorgolf left their long house he emerged into the daylight with a broad smile that reached from ear to ear. While Signy dressed, Bjorgolf walked down to the Fjord to check on the readiness of his ships. Most of his men were already on board when he arrived, and many of the village women stood on the shore to see them off. When his warriors saw his blood shot eyes, and the dark circles beneath them they could not help but give their commander a rousing cheer. Bjorgolf enjoyed the moment, but it was much more important that he make sure that his ships were in perfect sailing condition.
When Hoskuld spotted his old friend Bjorgolf he called him over. " Would our valiant leader like to take a nap before we set sail this morning ? " Hoskuld asked him with a wicked smile. Bjorgolf gave his second in command a small chuckle before asking in a tired voice : " Are the ships ready my old friend ? " Hoskuld laughed. " Of course ! But I am having them fix the rudder handle on the Munin. I found a small crack, and do not want to leave until it is repaired ! " he told his commander. Bjorgolf grimaced : " And how long will that hold us up ? " he asked. Hoskuld gave Bjorgolf a sly smile. " They are just finishing the repair as we speak. " he told him. " There will be no delay ! " he added as he walked over to inspect the repaired rudder. Bjorgolf proudly looked out over his ten fine dragon ships, each of which had been given a name of the God's pets. Gently rocking in the calm waters sat in order : the Hugin, Munin, Gullinborsti, Geri, Freki, Hofvarpnir, Gulltopp, Skinfaxi, Lettfeti, and at the head of the group was the largest ship, his ship, the Sleipnir.
As the warriors did their last inspections of the ships before casting off Signy ran up to the shore where Bjorgolf was supervising the final preparations. Signy suddenly felt the great weight of the moment . Although she knew for weeks that this day was coming, now that it had arrived she was overcome with emotion and began to cry. Hoskuld' s wife Helga quickly walked over to Signy and placed her hands on Signy' s shoulders. " This is not the way for a warriors wife to act ! Go to your husband, and show him that you are the proud wife of a brave warrior ! " Helga told her. Signy walked over to Bjorgolf, but she could not hold back the tears. Bjorgolf, who smiled as he shook his head, held his trembling wife in his arms. As the warriors looked on Hoskuld overheard one of his warriors, named Hrafn, make a disparaging remark about Signy' s behavior. Hoskuld quickly grabbed the man harshly by the arm. " Remember, that is the wife of our chieftain my friend ! You will show her respect ! " he demanded. Isleif, the large warrior standing beside Hrafn, clamped his hand down hard on Hrafn' s shoulder. " Be tolerant my friend ! They have not even been married for one whole day yet ! " Isleif reminded him.
Hoskuld waited for as long as he could, but finally he had to remind Bjorgolf, who was still consoling Signy, that it was time to leave. " All the men have boarded, and the wind is with us Bjorgolf. It is time to sail ! " he shouted to his old friend. Bjorgolf gave Signy one last kiss before walking up the plank that led onto his ship, the Sleipnir. As the lines were untied and the ships rowed out into the fjord, there arose a great cheer from the women, children and elders on the shore. Everyone watched intently as they reached deeper water and set sail. A few, including Signy, stayed to watch as the ships disappeared out of sight. Hoskuld's wife Helga who had also stayed behind, now put her arm around Signy. It is time for us to go about our daily duties while our husbands go a - viking my dear. " she reminded Signy. As they walked back to the village Signy could not help but look back several times. But there was nothing for her to see. The ships were gone.
Once the dragon ships left the shelter of the fjord, and entered the open waters of the North Sea, the winds picked up and the ships cut through the waves making fair speed. The ocean was rough, with an occasional wave breaking over the sides of the smaller ships, but the weather was manageable as their voyage began. With the sails pushing them ever faster, the men were able to play games, and tell tales of other raids they had been on. Of course their stories were embellished with fantastic battles, and heroic actions, but this was to be expected from the warrior type. Bjorgolf was glad for the easy sailing at the beginning of their journey because it gave the men time to get to know each other better, and form bonds. " The better you know the man rowing next to you, the harder you will fight for him in battle ! " Hoskuld would always say. Unfortunately this was literally the calm before the storm.
On the night of the third day out, no stars were to be seen in the night sky. Bjorgolf passed the word to the other ships to make sure that everything was tied down, and to prepare themselves for a storm. Just as dawn was breaking the winds picked up, and the rains poured out of the heavens. When the winds became too much for the sails, they were taken down to make sure they were not ripped to shreds. The warriors for the first time on their voyage were forced to row. As the waves grew ever greater in height, the men had to pull on their heavy oars with all their might as the rudder man tried desperately to keep the bow of their ship pointed directly into the oncoming waves. The task was a difficult one, but also a very necessary one . If a ship was struck by a large enough wave from the side it could overturn the ship, and spill the warriors out into the freezing churning ocean. No man, no matter how strong, could last very long in these freezing waters of the North Sea.
From time to time during the day some of the men had to drop their oars and pick up a bucket and bail out some of the water that had had come over the sides of the ship. This vital duty, much like rowing in rough seas, was a tiring exercise in futility. For no matter how much water they bailed out of their ship, the next wave that broke over the side would deposit more. Bjorgolf and Hoskuld, however, had been on enough voyages to know that this storm, as bad as it was, would not destroy their fleet. As long as every man did his duty to the fullest the fleet would come out of the other side of this storm a little worse for wear, but with no major damage.
The storm lasted for not even a full day, but to the less experienced sailors it seemed to go on for an eternity. Some of the warriors begged Aegir and Ran to be merciful, while others looked to Njord and Thor for assistance. But storms, much like the fates woven by the Norns, must slowly unravel themselves until they have reached their end. As darkness began to fall again the sailors began to see Mani' s welcome face shining through the thinning clouds. More importantly to Bjorgolf the stars had reappeared. Now they could navigate again !
The winds were light as Mani crossed the midnight sky, but they were strong enough to once again raise the sails, which was a great relief to the exhausted rowers. Most of the men, except the boat leaders, and the rudder men, quickly fell asleep to the gentle rocking of their ships. Bjorgolf, after checking the stars for their position, also lay down to rest. The chieftain of Holtavord had only one thought in his mind as he fell asleep. " How far off course were they blown by the storm ? " Their destination was the English town known as Durham in Northumberland, but Bjorgolf knew there was little chance that they would be able to make landfall where they had planned.
Bjorgolf awoke to a blaring sun, and shouts of : " Land ahead ! Land Ahead ! " As the men in his ship slowly roused themselves, they picked up their oars and began to row towards the distant shore. As he looked around Bjorgolf could see only seven of his original compliment of ten ships. Bjorgolf was a little concerned, but he knew that if their captains had maintained their ships properly they were merely off course, and not lost to the seas. The chieftain did not like landing, however, with one hundred and eighty less men. Bjorgolf was not sure exactly where they were on the English coast, and had no idea what to expect once they came ashore. As the ships beached themselves, one by one the men scrambled over the sides ready for battle. For some of the less experienced sailors this took longer than others because they had to walk off their unsteady" sea legs ". Once they were all assembled Bjorgolf and Hoskuld took a contingent of warriors with them to find out their exact location. Bjorn, a trusted warrior, remained behind with the rest of the warriors to guard the ships. As Bjorgolf walked with his warriors into the great unknown, his thoughts were not of his missing men, or of what lay ahead of him. His thoughts were of the wife he had left behind.
- Glenn Bergen, (Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2014.
Next : Chapter 2 : The Vikings Attack