BY SUSAN HALL
Illustrated by Natasa Ilincic
text © 2019 by Susan Hall, art © 2019 by Natasa Ilincic
“You can’t fight,” he growled, as he combed back his hair into a single
long braid, ready for battle.
“I can!” I protested, standing up and swinging my knife.
“You’d fall over in the longboat,” Ulf pointed out patiently. “It’s rough
crossing the Big Water.”
“I could sit on my sea chest and tell you which way to go,” I suggested.
“I can steer by the stars! Bjorn the Elder has been teaching me. And then I
could stay and guard the boat while you’re ashore.”
Ulf laughed and swung the butt of his sword against my shriveled leg.
I fell over into the mud, tasting the horse muck in my mouth.
“Eugh!” I spluttered. “I wasn’t ready for you!”
“You’re plucky,” Ulf said, “but you’d hold us back. You’re not coming,
Erik. Stay here and learn. Remember that the war god Odin sacrificed one
of his own eyes for wisdom. Wisdom gives you strength of a different kind.”
“I don’t want wisdom. I want to fight!” I sulked and limped across the
village. Tears fell freely as I watched the weapons being sharpened. All the
men and boys my age and older were going raiding. If Ulf refused to let me
join him, then I’d be left behind with the children!
“Have fun staying here with Bjorn and the other babies,” Magnus called
out to me scornfully, laughing loudly. He was the same age as I was,
and this was his first raid.
“You’re just scared!” I replied rudely and then felt guilty as
I saw fear cross his face.
Later that night in the village long house,
as the dark sky glimmered with star
clusters, a special bowl of water
was passed around
I REALLY WANTED to go with Uncle Ulf on the raid, but no
matter how hard I tried he would not agree. I asked him again down by
the harbor, where the longboats were lined up like horses ready to spring
into a race.