The red haired man stared back as a sour looking man passed near where he
and tthe big Norseman worked alongside the fishing boat.
"Ranigg," Drivvid asked in his improving Norse, "who is that man wounding me
with his glare?"
Ranigg, who was coiling the rope that hauled the fishing net to the hull of
the boat, looked up to where Drivvid was pointing with the hand that still
had all its fingers. "Oh him. That's Thordi Olafsson. You haven't met
Drivvid, the man Ranigg and his sister had fished out of the North Sea,
shook his head. "I think I would have noticed him with that unpleasant
face he has. My memory may be warped, but that's for things before I came
here, not after."
Ranigg just smiled and went on coiling while the man who supported himself
with a staff struggled to keep his balance while sorting out the tangles in
the rope as he was feeding them to him.
"Does he glare like that at everyone?" Drivvid asked the question really in
Ranigg nodded. "Yes, but at the family of Jarl Ragnarsson most. That
obviously includes you, Drivvid."
The man had come to accept the name, which meant "driftwood", given to him
by Ranigg's sister Falni when she learned he could not recall his real name.
"Why does he hate your family?" The last of the rope slid through his hands
and was added to Ranigg's coil. The Norseman hefted the full coil onto his
shoulder and went to put it on the deck of the boat. The other man hobbled
along after him.
"He hates Falni, and we are her family," Ranigg explained.
Drivvid stopped dead in his tracks. "Hates Falni?! Why would anyone hate
Ranigg tossed the rope onto the deck and turned to look at Drivvid. "I am
afraid only Falni can answer that question. She will not allow anyone else
to speak of it."
Drivvid asked, "Then I shall ask her.." but Ranigg cut him off.
"I would not do that were I you."
The man with the unruly mop of red hair which was now tied behind his head
with a leather thong in the Norse fashion, just stared at the taller man.
Then he nodded slowly. "All right."
It had been some weeks since Drivvid had come around at last after being
unconscious since he was pulled nearly chilled to death from the sea onto
the deck of Sif's Pride. His visible hurts were healing, those being where
Ranigg had had to cut off two fingers of his left hand and three toes of his
right foot. The skillful cauterization hastened the healing. The wounds
would be frightful to look at for a long time if not forever, but Drivvid
was becoming adjusted to the disabilities as he kept active and learned to
deal with them.
That these amputations due to gangrene were on opposite sides made
compensating for them a bit harder, since he had to use his whole hand to
hold the staff to let him walk with the partial right foot. But that meant
his left hand was the one free to haul buckets of water and such, and that
was the hand with only two fingers and a thumb. Still he was not one to sit
and complain idly and working was helping him cope.
The invisible wounds were harder to gauge. His memory was still gone. He
seemed to be able to remember some melodies but nothing about his own life,
where he was from, who his people were, and how he came to be in the sea.
There were other injuries too. He still had a raspy voice and often coughed
from not being able to bring in a whole lungful of air. He knew that other
organs might have been hurt by the intense cold of the water, but he would
simply have to wait to see if it was so and what it would mean.
Drivvid had been accepted as a new member of the community of Jarlsfjord
readily, with the one exception of Thordi Olafsson. That man would watch
the newcomer hobble back and forth from Falni's and Ranigg's long house to
the waterfront and scowl. He could not have told you why he scowled.. not
why he scowled at Drivvid in any case. He knew all too well why anything
associated with the woman who had saved Drivvid infuriated him. Everyone in
Jarlsfjord knew too.. except Drivvid.
Falni watched the man she had rescued whenever she could do so
surreptitiously. He seemed to be an easy-going and cheerful fellow, all the
more surprising given what he had gone through both in the cold water of the
North Sea and since then. There had been something more about the
amputations than simply losing digits for this man.. she assumed, since he
seemed like a musician or bard, that it was something to do with that.
Probably he knew he could not play an instrument he no longer remembered he
had. She secretly hoped he never remembered who he was or where he came
from. She knew that hope was wrong, but she held it in her heart anyway.
Falni watched him now, as he helped Ranigg by the boat. She saw the tense
exchange of looks with Thordi and sighed. She was not afraid of Thordi
but she feared what Drivvid might think of her if he ever learned from the
bitter man what had happened to her so many years ago. For the first time
in her life she was worrying about what a man would think of her.. as a
woman. If she could have found a way to keep Drivvid ignorant and happy
with her, she would have done all in her power to make it so.
Falni felt the old yearning, even compulsion, hit her again. It made her
tense, even panicky. It was seeing how Thordi looked at Drivvid that had
done it. She shook herself, then went into her house to gather her things.
Ranigg and Drivvid were almost to the door themselves when she shot out of
it. "Let's go!" she called to Ranigg. "Get the crew. We are going out
now." She did not even look at them as she hurried by.
Ranigg and Drivvid looked at each other. The Norseman said, "Well that's an
order. I guess you will have to spend some time on your own while we go out
Drivvid had turned to watch Falni's retreating back. "Out to sea? Just
like that?" At Ranigg's resigned nod he went on, "I am going with you." He
went in with Ranigg so they each could gather those things they would need,
in Drivvid's case just some warmer clothing.
"I don't think Falni will let you aboard," Ranigg cautioned.
"Why not?" Drivvid demanded.
"How are you going to manage on a boat with that foot and that hand?" Ranigg
asked, turning to head out the door.
Following him, Drivvid protested, "I can manage."
At the boat Falni was barking orders at the crew as they arrived hastily
pulling on heavy jackets and hauling their gear aboard. When Drivvid
started to climb aboard, she spun and spat at him. "Where do you think YOU
Drivvid stared at her hard. "With you. What does it look like?"
"I can't have you on board gobbling about and falling overboard," she
Drivvid kept his eyes steady on her. "I fell overboard once before and
Falni laughed, "You call that surviving. Well I suppose we could lash you
to the mast. Come aboard." She would not tell anyone this, but she was
pleased both that he was coming and that he had been so sure he wanted to.
Much to his and everyone else's surprise, Drivvid managed to develop a way
to move on the boat even while it was bucking and rocking without falling..
very often. At first Ranigg had watched him nervously. Falni had shouted
at him many times to go sit down and hold still. But he kept at it, and in
fact the workout his right leg was getting would prove to make him less
unsteady when he got back on land.
There was not much chance for a private conversation on the small boat, so
he was not able to ask Ranigg why they had set out so suddenly. He did
notice that Falni, who had seemed like she was escaping rather than
willingly setting out to sea, relaxed once they were out of the fjord and
into open water.
"Whatever happened to you, Falni?" he thought to himself. He watched her
stride about the deck, calm, confident, strong. "What could you possibly be
so afraid of?"
Next: Drivvid and Falmi, Part II
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com