"Laannndd!!!...I see land Sir!" I awoke one dawn to the sounds of the night watch yelling aloud. Our leader, Paedhar rose quickly to his feet and shuffled his way forward to the Ravens eye, the prow of our ship. We had been at sea eight days, lost a few ships, and had not seen land for three days aboard the Vejle Raven. The men were growing restless. Paedhar grabbed hold of the ravens neck and stood as high as he could stretch is tired legs. He turned his head starboard and said to the night watch "Now...where do you think you see laa...WIND THE HORN!! EVERYONE INTO POSITION! Good eyes Tuni, now go occupy your post."
I raised my tired body and climbed onto my thwart, groans and an echo-of-command made its way back to me. At the back of the starboard side I sat and wondered if this could be the end of our long voyage to Danelag. "HURRY...IN POSITION MEN!" commanded Paedhar. I waited for the slap on my back to signal every rower on the starboard was ready. "Five ready!..four ready!..three ready!.." I could hear the count come up from behind. "TWO READY!" And with all of my side in position I stood and barked to Peadhar "STARBOARD OARS READY SIR!" Paedhar had put me in charge of twenty four men when we set sail from Daneland, "I served with your uncle Regnwald some years back, crazy bastard...but a hell of a leader!"
The sea spat her salty spray at me, like those thousands of times she'd done before as I pulled the oar with pain. We quickly streamed our way ahead, passing three ships until even with the Sea Giant, the lead ship. "HAIL CHEIFTIAN KARUNGR!!" Paedhar called out. We waited a few seconds, then a gleaming silver helm popped up on board the lead ship. " We heard your horn Paedhar of Horsens, what have you got?" Paedhar cupped his hands around his mouth and cried out, "Anglelaannndd!" With this, shouts of relief erupted from both ships. "There there men, we still have a trip up the 'ol Humber fjord...PORT SIDE ROW!"
The Vejle Raven resumed her position amongst a motivated Dane fleet. Hoots and hollers could be heard here and their through the misty air. One thousand Danes along with eight hundred and fifty Norwegians, Geats, and Swedes, nearly 50 ships in all, sailed down the east coast of the newly conquered Danelag. Spirits were high. The fresh meat, the ale houses of Jorvik, the girls, the gold, and everything my father always told me about I was about to discover for myself! I look starboard, land is still to far to see any detail. The pain of several blisters, some broken, stings my hands, I look down at them "who's got the cow piss, I need some." What if I have to use Skinnende soon, oh well , I won't have much of a choice.
Paedhar made his way astern next to Bjorn, our steerman, and stamped his foot twice "ALRIGHT MEN HEAR THIS! Every second man stand up. You mates will tidy up the Raven for awhile and prepare your gear until I say switch...understand?" A few of the mates began muttering but were cut off, "GOOD! Now hop to it!" We cleaned, bailed, mended the sail damaged by a sea storm, bailed more, repaired clothes, checked combat gear, made blades sharp, and checked combat gear again in preparation for a landing. After awhile Paedhar stood up at the Ravens eye, "EVERYONE IN POSITION! Breaks over ladies!" I put Skinnende away with my bad hand, to test the pain.
"LISTEN UP! Soon we will form the Odin's Spear, a line of ships one in front of the other, at that time mount shields-to-gunwale, than we will turn west into the Humber fjord, and probably to Port Dania." One shouted from the stem,"how much longer Sir?"
"Before dusk if the wind agrees...but you can try and swim it now"
"Paedhar" shouted Bjorn gripping the steer oar "I see a boat off the starboard side." He pointed straight toward the Angleish shore. Paedhar, a man of thirty one years, turned and grunted grabbing the Ravens neck and stood upon the starboard gunwale. He was an experienced sailor and had been to Danelag several times before. "Looks like fishermen, Bjorn" said Paedhar. Just then everyone erected up when we heard horn signals from the Sea Giant, Paedhar cleared his throat, spat over the side and announced "ODIN'S SPEEAAR!...PORT SIDE GIVE WAY!"
The fleet scooted south on the whale's road all the morn, and we turned into the Humber fjord just before the sun was highest behind the clouds. We spotted many more fishing boats. This fjord was much bigger than our Vejle fjord. Most of the warriors on board were familiar with it being from towns and steads all around the Vejle fjord. My closest mates, Bjorn, and Thorrvard were amongst several other soldiers on this ship sent from Vejle, brothers in battle. "How long is this damned fjord?" me and Thorrvard chattered between ourselves. He's Jarl of his fathers stead back in Daneland, but with no experience in this land, Thorrvard is no Jarl here. Like me he was put in charge of the other 24 port side oars.
Eventually the fjord narrowed and we lowered the sail for the last leg of the journey. Not long after nightfall a horn sounded from the front, a signal. Paedhar took position at the Ravens eye. "HARK!..Looks like Dania!" and men began to stand up to get a glimpse of the harbor in the misty waters. "SIT DOWN IN YOUR POSITIONS! Your warriors of our fatherland men, act like it. ROW WITH PRIDE! Soon we will dock and start unloading the Raven."
"Almost as big as the Hedeby's docks" I commented to Thorrvard as the port town unveiled itself in the dark. "I will be going to see the Chieftain as soon as we dock," Paedhar pointed to Thorrvard and I "you two will be in charge of downloading all the cargo onto the docks and fresh water for the men...Bjorn, Tuni...both of you come with me." We pulled the oars in as Tuni flung a rope to a silhouette on the port side dock.
Forty of us had the Vejle Raven empty in what seemed like no time at all while several others went for fresh water, then we waited...well into the wee hours. A night watch was started and we laid our bedrolls on the dock plank to get some much needed rest. Danes were everywhere, from every ship, some still unloading, some drinking, most sleeping. Ships from the back of our Odin's Spear, the Norwegians, and the others were just now beaching there boats as I laid down. I adjusted my body on the wet plank and thought awhile, "what might the norns hold for me in this Angle land..."
As told by Kusi Sighfrith. ....click to continue on to part two of Kusi's story.
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