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

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shannon in Norway: Drivvid

Jarlsfjord, Norway

The shore was crowded with villagers as Sif's Pride pulled in to Jarlsfjord
that late April day. It was cool but brilliant in the sea level community,
and the tops of the flanking mountains were covered with snow. The sight of
the fishing boat with its shallow hull full of fish for the people to
preserve and to sell further brightened what was already a clear, cheerful
day. Everyone knew and liked Falni and Ranigg.. well almost everyone.. so
the shouts and waves of greeting were as much for them and their crew as for
the bounty of Njord the sea god.

One face did scowl, but no one took notice of it. Thordi was a bitter man
and scowled much. That he hated Falni was well known, but his reason being
poor, no one cared to consider it. He took one glance at the sail of the
ship coming in and turned and went back into his longhouse.

The people on the shore were surprised when, instead of piling off the ship
into the waiting embrace of family members, the crew held back. They
awaited Falni and Ranigg and two of their number who were bearing, it
seemed, a body off the ship. They watched as the four jumped down from the
deck into the water, taking care not to let their burden fall.

As they came up with the man onto the rocky beach, people crowded around
with their hearts in their throats to see which crew member was wounded or
dead. There was a collective sigh of relief as the word got around quickly
that it was not one of their own but a stranger with flame red hair. The
villagers crowded around the crew members as they disembarked to get the
whole story of the man Falni had fished out of the sea.

In the meantime Falni and Ranigg with the help of the two crew members
carried the man Falni was calling "Drivvid" to their longhouse. They
carried him over to the central hearth fire. Falni called for servants to
bring bedding and furs to place near the fire.

Ranigg asked, "Would it not be best to put him in a bed closet?" Except for
the lower servants, everyone in the longhouse slept in beds built into the
walls and which had doors that closed on them. It was an efficient and warm
strategy, especially if one had a bed partner of any kind.

"No," Falni said, "I want to be able to watch him."

An old woman who was a servant told Falni, "We must get some snow to rub on
his limbs for the frostbite..."Gods, no!" Falni snapped back. "First of
all, that is nonsense. Second, he does not have frostbite.. he was in the
water. He is chilled badly but nothing was frozen.. except for some of his

The old woman sniffed with resentment and walked away.

Falni said to her brother as she sat on a stool near Drivvid, who showed no
sign of regaining consciousness soon, "I want to try to get some more ale or
mead into him.. can you get me some? And heat it a little?

Ranigg cheerfully went off to get the drink and warm it while his sister sat
and examined Drivvid for signs he might be recovering from his time in the
sea. He did look better. It was hard to say what damage had been done to
him by the chill water and what was already there, like his broken nose.
She was worried about his extremities. No doubt his body temperature had
gone low enough to do hurt to them and possibly organs, but she did not
know. Only time would tell. If he awoke they would learn soon enough how
badly he had been affected. If not, they would know it was too badly.

When Ranigg brought the warm mead she tried again to get some down his
throat. It stayed down a little longer this time, but It came back up with
him retching horribly. Falni decided to try something else. "Get me some
warm broth." When Ranigg brought it, she tried that. It stayed down. She
gave him as much as she thought she dared. It all stayed down.

Falni exchanged looks with her brother. He shrugged but said nothing.

"Ranigg, you had better go out and see to the offloading of the catch."

The man looked at his sister. "You are not coming?"

Falni shook her head. He saw her face was full of concern for the man
bundled by the hearth fire. . "No, I want to stay by Drivvid and see if he
starts to come out of this." She called for bedding to be placed by the man
so she could sleep there on the floor beside him.

Ranigg nodded and went out.

The next morning the man's face was hot and he was sweating badly. Ranigg
took one look and said, "He has rot in his toes and fingers. If we do not
cut them off the rotted parts it will spread and kill him.

Falni nodded sadly. She hoped that at least that he should not feel the
pain. Ranigg got and cleaned one of the best fish knives and then set it to
heat in the hearth fire. Falni got clean rags to use as bandages. She held
first his hands and then his feet so Ranigg with the help of an old man with
long experience examined them for signs of decay. "These two fingers is
all he needs removed and these three toes.. better take off the toes up a
joint too."

When Ranigg deftly put the red hot knife against the skin of the man's left
hand and cut of the littlest and next finger, he struggled and moaned
horribly. Falni and several servants had to hold him down. She wondered
that he could react at all, but realized the pain must have brought him out
of his stupor somewhat. But that was nothing compared to how he reacted
when a large corner of his right foot was laboriously cut, toe by toe and
then the next joints of the toes were removed. He screamed, almost seemed
to waken, then passed out from the pain.

"Praise the Gods he is deeply unconscious, "The old man said.

Falni carefully bandaged the hand and foot after Ranigg finished the
cauterization of the wounds with his knife heated again to red hot. She
found she had tears on her cheeks.

For many days Falni stayed by the man's side, slept next to him rolled in
furs. She left only to use a chamber pot and get some food. She carefully
cleaned his hand and foot. She was relieved to see the wounds, though
hideous to look at, were healing over as they should and there was no more
sign of infection.

At his side as she was day and night Falni was able to study everything
about him. Dry his hair was indeed a flame red mass of curls. His face was
handsome in a boyish way. Ranigg had responded to this observation, "If the
boy went through hell." That was true.. his face may once have been boyish,
but it was ravaged with care and abuse, seemingly from before as well as
during his North Sea ordeal. He seemed strong enough, given that ordeal,
and Falni thought they could thank that fact for his surviving at all.

He lay naked in the furs, but Falni had had the clothes they found him in
dried, repaired and cleaned. He had worn some sort of jacket made of long
strips of different colored wool sewn vertically to make stripes. His shirt
was plainly made of white wool cloth. He wore leg wrappings and boots just
as her own people did. His belt was leather and tooled with beautiful
designs that reminded her somewhat of runes. His belt knife was of
excellent quality and its hilt was inlaid with some sort of milky green
marbled stone.

She looked at his body, lifting the furs to examine him. He was beautiful.
His skin was pale but healthy in color. His limbs were well formed. She
had to clean him of his waste so she saw and touched his bush of red pubic
hair and the penis and testicles that were still drawn somewhat tight from
the cold water. She found herself feeling something she had not before, a
stirring that alarmed her. She put it out of her mind as swiftly as she
could. She had never had a man willingly, and she never wanted to. Not
after what had happened when she was a girl.

One thing she found particularly fascinating was his arms and hands. They
were strong and sinewy even relaxed. His finger pads were thick and
calloused on both hands, but not in the way someone who worked with tools
would be. His hands otherwise were long fingered and delicate. Musician's
hands, she realized. Of course, the musical instrument they had cut away
from his neck when they pulled him out of the water. She wondered if he
could still play such an instrument with the missing fingers. She had the
idea to bring him music while he slept, singing songs she knew and bringing
the village bard to play and tell tales near him.

Drivvid stayed still for a long time, but then began to move around a bit as
if he was struggling to escape some bonds. Several days after that he began
to mumble words. She could not make them out, either because he was saying
nonsense or was mumbling in a language she did not know. She asked several
people to listen and see if they could understand the man's mumblings. None
could. It was not Norse, nor was it Swedish or Danish. It was not
Germanic, including Saxon. One woman who had been taken from Scotland when
she was a tiny child and lived among the people of Jarlsfjord as a freed
slave said it sounded a little like the bits and pieces of her own language
that she recalled from childhood, but she could not be sure.

They discussed whether a soothsayer or other magical person should be
summoned in case it was the language of the gods or spirits or pure runic
language. Falni showed others the belt with its rune-like tooling. But they
decided that the old former slave was probably right.. the man was probably
a Pict or a Scot or from one of the nearby islands.

The people in her longhouse were baffled by Falni's dedication to the man.
Ranigg explained that she saw her responsibility to care for Drivvid as come
from the Gods. That explanation was readily accepted.

One early morning after Falni had gotten up and washed, she stood with her
back to the man and combed out her long pale hair in preparation for
plaiting it. The man's eyes fluttered. He rested his blurred gaze on her,
troubled by not being able to form a coherent thought readily. As she ran
her comb through her hair the firelight touched it, gilding it.

"Josephine?" he said almost inaudibly, then winced at the pain in his throat
from the effort. He began to cough and choke.

Falni spun and quickly demanded water. A servant brought it. She knelt by
the man and held up his head so she could give him the water. He drank,
grateful for the soothing feeling of the cool water. He looked into her
face and smiled and odd little crooked smile. He said something that
sounded like "gramagot" and reached to touch her cheek. He glanced at his
hand which was still heavily bandaged. He looked questioningly at her, but
then his eyes closed and he was asleep again.

Falni sat back on the floor. "Shose feen? Gramagot?" Were either his

"Drivvid, dear, I do not know what we are going to do with you," she

Next: Drivvid and Falni, Part I

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About the author

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