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Mon, Jun. 23rd, 2008, 10:23 pm

Title: The Farer
Author: Serpentis </a></b></a></div>black_minorca
Summary:
Sigurd fishes, scraping a living on the chilly wastes of the Orcadian coast, while all around him the world changes. He has to battle with a wife who is rebellious and a young son who seems drawn to the Christian faith, while being aware of his failure as a man, a husband, and a father.
Disclaimer:
All mine.
Author's Notes:
First thing I have written for two years, and it's quite short, just a scene setting for a longer chaptered story I have in mind. The idea came from a book I was reading, The History of Scotland, by the late and great Magnus Magnusson, regarding the Viking crusaders known as Jerusalem Farers. They've left one of the largest collections of runic graffiti in a cairne called Maes Howe (and one day I am going to go and see it for myself), which is in Orkney. It's the idea of the Viking Crusader that fascinates me - this bloody and warlike culture of myth, and the reality of the Vikings in the world in the 11th and 12th centuries. They were far more cosmopolitan, recruited as mercenaries by the Byzantine Empire (the Varingian Guards), had excellent trading links with the growing population of Rus and through the Volga and the Dneiper to the Black Sea and therefore the Mediterranean. They were far more sophisticated than considered, though their sagas and myths raise the spectre of Beowulf and blood feuds.

I like history *smiles* Warnings that this is rough.

Chapter 1

The wind that whipped across the half-frozen sea was raw; the massive man's face burned with the sting of ice spattering against his pained flesh.

There was nothing here, apart from the sarcastic, mocking cry of skua and the ever wistful mourn of the tern, the sail whipping damply, the graunch of salt-soaked wood. Just the sea, the sky the glint of blacksmithed swords that swept into the water without leaving so much as a trace at the horizon. To his shoulder lay the faintest smudge that suggested some sort of landfall, but even on that bitter earth there was little comfort. That acid soil, saline and thin, grew the meagrest of crops - hardly enough for the woman he called his wife and the child he called his son.

The island was nothing much, though the Earls were so proud of their possessions. This Orkney, these isles that sprayed across the top of the lands of the men of Caithness. Before, in the vast before - even before the Gods that still persuaded Sigurd's flinty heart were known - it was said these isles were sweet-watered, kindly. The natives who still clung to their subsistance while surrounded by the Norsemen recalled the ancient memories of their forefathers. Like the interlopers, they had their tales. Sigurd, his mother one of the Celts, had heard these from birth.

Before the sand, and the chill, his mother told him, there were those who worshipped at the Ring, who buried their dead in vast chambers of stone. Before everything, before the brochs and the ice, the barren nothingness, children played on warmer sand, their fathers kept live bait in tanks. Before all of this, there was prosperity.

He could not conceive it; he had laughed, that small child with the shock of flaxen hair. To think that once this place was comfortable and no one had to struggle against the vicious elements that stripped flesh from carcasses in a matter of days, or froze bodies so heavily and quickly that it seemed as if the dead were just sleeping! Such a foolish notion when he considered. Yet, in his mother's eyes, had shone something deeper than he had ever seen. If Sigurd had been older, he would have recognised the longing that turned his mother's spare, tired face into one that seemed to glow.

Sigurd knew longing; he felt the desperation every morning as he awoke, he dreamed of it in the endless night. He was not content - who could be? A rough-built shack in a barren wasteland was not a home. His wife tried, but Kigva was not a natural home maker. She was a wild one, with her ruddy hair and lean frame, who could wield his hatchet as fiercely as any man. Of course Sigurd loved her, and his desire for his woman had never waned, but as the years ground on he found himself thinking of those who had married capable huswifes. They tended to be buxom, capable women, strong because they needed to be. Kigva often told him, her dark eyes amused, that she felt like a gangling colt next to plump and contented brood mares.

They only had one child.

A man should have more bairns! One child, though thankfully it was male, but what he would give for more! Kigva, however, had not provided. The small row of graves behind their hovel attested to that, four little ones that never felt the cold of the air, never drew breath...

Haki was as strange as his mother, for all his sturdy Norse blood. His good-natured expression, florid cheeked and healthy, demonstrated his father's northen lineage, but that auburn hair and the wildness to him? His mother's blood burned more than the diluted liquid of any half-Viking's ever could. Sometimes Sigurd resented the boy, with his quick wit and cheerful disposition, and there were several of the local wenches who considered his son with thoughtful eyes. Haki was a fool, though. Anyone could see that! He spoke Norse and the local Celtic dialect, his woodcarving skills were very fine, and he was a clever one, but that boy was still an idiot. He would starve to death on one of his whims if his mother did not feed him, he would run naked if he were not clothed.

Sometimes, Sigurd would look at his son and consider the future for him. Once Haki had quietly professed a preference for the Church, but that had been thrashed out of him. Idiot boy. What good was learning in this environment? What good was considering even thinking about bettering himself. Haki needed to learn that he was not special, he was not a hero of the sagas that they all loved to hear. He was a simple boy, a twelve year old nuisance who needed the chilly water of reality to bring him back to his senses. In this place, boys did not become rich. They did not adventure. They lived, they died, possibly they bred. That was that, and nothing would ever change that. Sigurd had struck Kigva for encouraging their son's dreams. He knew she had her own that were never met, and that left a bitter taste in his mouth.

The Norse matrons wouldn't have been bold enough to show their displeasure at their lot in life, would they?

Damned wench and her liveliness. He had thought it so very arousing, that Kigva was so very different. He had never met with a woman like her before and since; Sigurd had pursued her, had captured her like a hunter stalking a rare beast. That wild nature, the decisiveness, the impetuosity...what he'd longed for, however, had driven them apart even if he did still take his pleasure from her narrow, freckled body. Hunters who stalked the white stag or the noble wolf always ended up killing what they most desired, what they wanted the most - what they loved. Even if they wished to tame their captive, that never worked, did it? Perhaps it was better to mate with something home bred than chasing that dream? Again, a foolish idea. As much as he hated the woman, he also knew that she was the best that he could ever obtain.

He shook the moisture from his thinning hair, salt encrusted lips parched. There had to be something in these bloody nets, by the love of Freya, did there not?

Sigurd hauled them into his lap, two small fish gaping at him with glazed eyes, and he called the power of Thor upon his accursed luck.

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