And now we get back to Shannon...
Falni Jarlsdottir stood in the prow of her long, low ship gazing west into
the setting sun. Her look was distant. Her brother Ranigg, leaving a small
group of crew at their gambling, looked at Falni as he approached her. She
was young but strong, with pale hair in plaits. She wore men's clothes for
the deck of a ship was no place for skirts. He stance was steady, long
accustomed to the pitch and roll of the waves. He smiled at her, his brave
sister, the captain of her own ship.
"It looks as if the very edge of a the world was afire," he said at her
She nodded, "It does, brother. I wonder if in fact there is a fire on the
land.. that is Britain there, is it not?" She knew full well what land was
there just out of sight, so skilled a navigator was she.
"Why do you say that, sister?" Ranigg asked.
"Because when the sky is so colorful it means there is smoke in the air,"
she replied simply.
They stood together staring out at the horizon for a while, then Ranigg said
in a softer voice, "Falni, come and sit and have a horn of ale with me."
She took some time to tear her focus away from the distance, but then did,
smiling and nodding. They sat on some bales set near them on the dock.
Ranigg filled and handed her drinking horn. They sat comfortably together,
long friends as well as siblings. Ranigg was the younger, though you would
not know to look at him. Next to her stolid slender form he was broader,
taller, and even had a little white in his beard. He was so like their
father, Jarl Ragnarson, dead these three long years. But being her junior
was not why Falni had inherited her father's ship and drinking horn instead
of him. It was hers because she wanted.. and needed.. the escape to the sea
more than Ranigg ever could.
The subject of her fear of staying too long on land was never spoken of
between sister and brother, and Ranigg was content to be the mate to his
sister's captaincy. He admired her strength and courage as much as their
father had. She was a remarkable mariner, an unerring navigator, and had
almost a magical sense of where to find the fish they would catch in their
nets and bring home to the Jarlsfjord in Norway to sell and to feed their
own people. Ranigg sailed with his sister and loved the life he led as her
He noticed now that her pale blue eyes had gone to the horizon again. "What
calls you, Falni? Is it the trumpet of Njord*?"
Falni slowly shook her head. "No. I don't know. I just feel that
something is about to change. It is too early for the spring runs to start.
Even this far south. But it's out there, whatever it is. It needs me."
She turned and looked into Ranigg 's face. "What can it be?"
Ranigg just shrugged and took a long draught of the ale. "Who can know?"
When Ranigg was stretching and yawning as the dark enveloped them, he called
to Falni to come and sleep. The two had a small structure of oiled skins on
deck where they could wrap up in furs and be warmed by a small brazier in
the chill damp of a North Sea night.
"Falni called back, "I will be along. I need to stay.. stay and listen."
Ranigg nodded, though she could not see it in the dark, and bid her a
goodnight. He was inside the oiled skin tent wrapped in furs and snoring
before his sister finally herself stood and yawned. She joined him, lay
waking for a while and then dozed off.
Falni dreamed that she was standing in the prow of her ship watching as the
horizon really burned, real flames. Out of the billowing smoke that spread
toward her on the water she saw a single piece of driftwood floating towards
her. In her dream she knelt, stretched and reach for the piece of wood.
Her hand touched it. Then nothing. The dream ebbed and she just slept.
* Norse god of the sea.
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