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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shannon in Norway: Drivvid and Falni, Part II

Drivvid sat at the rudder of Sif's Pride watching Falni as she stood in the
prow of her fishing boat gazing out over the horizon. She stood quite still
except for correcting her posture for the pitch of the boat. Every so often
he could see the breeze pick up the end of a pale braid and tease it, while
it played more boisterously with the skirt of her tunic and cloak. In spite
of the heavy clothes she wore while at sea, Drivvid saw how strongly yet
womanly she was built. A wave of regret broke over his thoughts.

Drivvid was keeping those thoughts to himself. How could someone like
Falni, so beautiful, so strong, so full of spirit and life, ever want
someone like him? He did not even know who he was... or where he came from.
He was a cripple. He did not have any way to gauge his appearance but he
could guess he was a pretty grim looking fellow with his broken nose and
scars. And he was not even sure he was still a man, not in every way a man
should be. He had looked at her many times as she dressed, felt desire rise
in his heart.. but nowhere else. His ordeal in the icy waters of the North
Sea may have taken all but his most basic humanity from him. He did not
even know whom to blame for it. For all he knew, he could have jumped into
the sea willingly.

So Drivvid watched the boat's captain with longing that had no hope of ever
finding its succor.

"You seem to have the hang of the rudder now," the woman's brother, the big
Norseman named Ranigg, said as he came up to Drivvid.

The red haired man smiled his odd crooked smile. "I watch her and see how
her body moves, and I know where she wants to go." He nodded in Falni's
direction, not knowing where this knowledge of women came from in his life.

Ranigg looked surprised. "That is a talent I have never been able to
master, though I have known the woman all my life. You have a special
connection, you two."

Drivvid winced inwardly at his words. "I think Njord made me to be her

Ranigg considered him. "Falni was right, I think."

Drivvid looked up at the man, his head cocked to the side. "About what?"

Ranigg smiled. "You are a bard.. were a bard. You talk like one."

Drivvid shook his head. "I do not know about what I was, but I can hardly
be one now.. with this voice.." His voice had never lost the raspiness the
time in the saltwater had caused, nor given him back his wind.

Ranigg replied, "Your soul has other plans for you, I think." He turned and
went back to helping the crew with the set of the sail.

Drivvid saw Falni relax her posture and turn. She made her way down the
deck, skirting piles of rope and sail, nets and crates, and around the busy
crew. She stopped for a word with Ranigg, then came on back to the man at
the rudder.

"We may as well go home," she told him. "I think the runs are too deep
here. The surface is too warm perhaps. We can wait until it cools or we
can go west on our next trip." She came up and sat by him on the other side
of the rudder. She put her hands on the small of her back and stretched out
the muscles there, making a small grunting sound.

Drivvid's sharp intake of breath at the sight sent him into a bout of
coughing. He got control quickly, but Falni had caught the cause.
"Drivvid, what's wrong?"

He cleared his throat and thumped his chest with his fist. "Nothing. It's
just that.. you are so beautiful." He looked away quickly, instantly
regretting his remark.

Falni blushed, although on her weather-pink skin it was hard to see. "Oh,
Drivvid, no, not me. Not beautiful." Her voice betrayed her pleasure at
his words though she tried to suppress it.

He glanced quickly at her. "I do not know how you can say that.. I have
never seen a more beautiful woman.." He blushed.

"But you don't remember if you have.." she retorted, but felt miserable at
the thoughtless ness of the remark as soon as she had made it. The hurt
look he gave her stung. "I am sorry, Drivvid.. I did not mean to hurt you."

But he averted his face again, looking out on the water.

Why did she do that to him? She could not tell. It was an impulse that
raced to her lips every time someone said anything about her as a woman.
She would blurt out something calculated to deflect the comment, even to
discourage it in the future. But Drivvid had never been anything but
modest, quiet, thoughtful. He did not deserve the sharpness of her tongue.
A sudden feeling of fear swept over her that someday she would say something
that would make this beautiful man leave her side.

As she sadly stood and walked back to where her brother was working, she
thought, "What right have I to keep him by me? I have nothing to offer him.
I am only half a woman, if that. He should go, he should find out who he is
and where he belongs."

To Ranigg she said in a low voice, "We should think about taking Drivvid
back to where we found him before the summer is over."

Ranigg studied her. "I don't think he wants to go, Falni."

She looked up at him sharply, "He doesn't know what he wants, how can he?"

Ranigg let the reply go. There was something between his sister and the bit
of flotsam they called Drivvid. He could not decide whether they were
growing to hate each other or perhaps instead to love.

The rest of the short voyage the three spent hardly speaking to one another.
Falni did once breathe the suggestion that Drivvid should go back to find
his life, but he had put down his food and stood and walked away. She had
exchanged glances with her brother, but both stayed silent.

Back in Jarlsfjord Falni and Drivvid kept too busy to have much time to
talk. When he had no work to do Drivvid found himself going to the other
end of the little village from Falni's and Ranigg's long house to sit on a
big rock and look out onto the fjord below.

One of these times when the sea was turbulent and the waves even in the
fjord were high and splashing dramatically on the shore, he was startled by
an interruption. "You are about what I would expect," an unpleasant voice
said from the ground below the rock.

Drivvid looked down at the crooked and sour figure of Thordi. "What is that
supposed to mean?" he asked irritably.

"For HER," the man replied, saying "her" with a bitter edge to his voice.

Drivvid felt his blood rise. "I don't know what you have against Falni
Jarlsdottir, but you had better not start speaking of it to me. I owe her

The grizzled man just smiled his unpleasant smile. "A life for a life... I
suppose she thinks she has redeemed herself in the gods' eyes."

"What are you saying?" Drivvid demanded.

Thordi smiled mockingly. "I thought you did not want to hear it."

The red haired man slid off the rock as carefully as he could, landing with
his weight on this left foot while using the staff he carried to take most
of the impact off his mangled right foot. Thordi sniffed humorously. "You
are about as much man as she deserves," he remarked cruelly.

Drivvid felt the impulse to strike the man, but he knew he would probably
just manage to pitch over himself and land on his face. That would no doubt
just elicit more snide insults. He tried to brush past Thordi and hobble
away back towards the houses. Thordi grabbed his arm as he tried to go by
him. "I have seen how she looks at you, and it gives me satisfaction beyond
all I could have prayed for. To fall in love with someone who is only half
there.. that is all she deserves, the bitch woman."

Drivvid spun and struck Thordi with his staff. The man let ho of him and
stepped back, shocked. Blood was starting to flow out of his lip, which had
taken the blow from the heavy stick. Drivvid struggled to keep his balance
and found that he could. Weeks of learning to stay upright on a rolling
deck had paid off. "I never want to hear you say anything about Falni
again, do you understand?" he rasped. The emotion made him start to cough.

"Or what? You will cough all over me?" Thordi snapped, but as he did he
took another step back to avoid any further blows. Drivvid scowled and
limped away.

One of the young women who lived on that end of the village had seen the
exchange as she scattered food for her ducks. She slowly put the pail down
and turned and made her way as quickly as she could to Falni's house. She
knew she would have no trouble getting there long before Drivvid did.
Finding Falni walking down to the waterside she rushed up to her.

"Falni, your man, Drivvid, just attacked Thordi with his staff! He bashed
him in the face and Thordi is bleeding!" She told Falni hastily.

Falni just looked at her, unbelieving. The strong young boat captain stood
straight and tall next to the cringing woman. "What are you talking about?
Drivvid would never do that. He is as gentle as a lamb." She looked up in
the direction the woman seemed to have come from.

"Well he did, I saw it with my own eyes. Go look at Thordi if you don't
believe me." The woman, put out by Falni's disbelief, hurried away, but
stopped when she thought she could watch to see what happened when either
Thordi or Drivvid came up.

Falni waited and, sure enough, Drivvid came hobbling by at a speed that
looked precarious. She started to speak to him , but he just lowered his
head and hurried by and into the longhouse. Shortly after Thordi came from
roughly the same direction. His lip was bleeding. Falni put her hands on
her hips and smiled. Thordi shot her an angry look. "You should put a
leash on that mangy cur of yours, Falni," he snapped.

She smirked, "I don't know what you said or did to get such a nice cleanly
cut lip, but I am sure it must have been impressive to rile Drivvid to
actually strike you!" She made a derisive snort.

Thordi stood and examined her. "I was right, you deserve each other. A
half woman and a less than half man.. you almost make a whole person..." He
scowled at her satisfied grin and went into his house.

Falni stayed where she was for a few moments enjoying the thought of Drivvid
clobbering Thordi, but then a thought flashed in her mind and she started.
What if Thordi had said something about her being a half a woman? What
would Drivvid think? Would she want him to hear it from any one but
herself? He would despise her either way, but she knew that at least if she
was the one to explain it all to him, she would know for certain.

Next: Drivvid and Falni, Part III

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .