Bohemia Village Voice  Bohemia Village Voice

For bohemians everywhere

Chris Gidlow

Landfall

The grey of the whale road darkened to woad blue, as Sun outpaced the wolf slinking beneath the rim of sky.
Their birthland lay far behind them now, north and east, and only the wind that filled their leather sail as harvest fills the bulging store-sack, tinged with scents of silt and marsh, lingered as recall of what they left and why.
That was no longer home. When they tore down long timbers of halls for keels, thresholds for beams, gables for spars, as hogs and ewes and oxen they could not carry were led protesting to the slaughter, they had known the ties they broke.
The wave-serpent writhed beneath his thin-soled boots as he picked his way to the prow. Through the days and nights of their salt-trail, his place had been at the steering oar, guiding the ship, leading the two small cutters trailing it. Now his brother gripped the blackened oak.
The witch, the chooser of the slain, crouched at the curved prow, feather-hung spear pointing over the foam. There were some women among their company, the strong plying the oars beside the men, the older and the young huddled to guard the precious pots of home fire, the skins of water. He had brought none, his wife and child of four summers danced with the Lady in Her pastures, their bodies beneath the silt at the old river’s mouth. There would be more wives for the winning, when they made the new land theirs.
He raised the heavy lid of his belt pouch, wrought with gold and garnet. His fingers traced the smooth surface of the discs of apple wood. He did not need to see their faces, feeling the grooves of their chiselled power. Nine days, nine nights the Hooded One had hung upon the World Tree to bring them the wisdom which unlocked the past and the yet to come. Before the waiting keels, the slain-chooser had cast the runes for him upon the outspread cloth of linen.
He recalled drawing the three which showed the web of Wyrd which bound them, knowing or not. The rune of Riding, wandering, that spell was clear. The slashing rays of Sun, follow Him, east to west, southwards to winning. And last, Home, the rune of wandering’s end.
Hills of honey yellow rose to the right, a prow of white rock jutting ahead. The witch met his eyes with hers, red-rimmed in her salt-whitened face, “Here. Wyrd and Her sisters draw us. The thread tightens.”
He frowned. He had thought further, beyond the distant headland. There were dangers here, woodland thick with wildmen and wyrms. He could smell the rocks and sand bars so close to the surface, read the ripple patterns which betrayed them.
There was one thing more. From the sheath at his belt he drew the single-bladed knife, the name-god of his folk. Sun made silver of its iron blade, rune etched and wire bound. He balanced it across the edge of his right hand, careful to quench its thirst with blood. The knife sniffed left and right, as a hound scents prey. Then, though ship and sea and wind worked to shake it, they saw it suddenly still, pointing.
So that was it. No gap now for man or woman to choose or set aside. There lay their way. He signalled to his brother in the stern, over the thirty oarsmen, over the seven women huddled. There, the shingle strand and the stream’s outfall, between the two hills. There lay the new home. For his kin, for Hasta’s kin.

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