for the warriors, who washed in silence in
preparation for the raid. Their beards were
reddened to scare our enemies, and cups of
ale were drunk as the room got hotter and
hotter from the crackling firepit in the center
of the room. Ulf called for the poet Geirr,
who strode in proudly. As smoke from the fire
curled around him, he sang to us of warriors
I must have gone to sleep, because when
I woke up I was with my mother in our hut
as usual. Pulling open the door, in the blurry
light of dawn I saw the harbor—empty. All
the longboats had gone. Without me!
“Erik, don’t fret,” my mother said, looking
at my downcast face. “Bjorn will teach you
more about the stars and navigation while the
men are away, and in a few years you will be
old enough to be Navigator on a raid.”
“But I wanted to go with them now,” I
“The three Fates have spun a life thread
for you, as for everyone,” my mother sighed.
“And your threads of fate do not include
being a warrior.”
“I hate the stupid Fates,” I shouted. But
when Bjorn came to collect me after we’d
eaten our porridge, I went with him as usual.
I did enjoy learning about the stars, how they
changed position throughout the seasons, and
how we could set our boat’s course by the sun.
“Today we will walk down by the fjord,”
We had trudged down the fjord path so
many times, I felt sure there could be nothing
more to learn. I opened my mouth to complain
and then closed it quickly. Although Bjorn was
very old—his tattoos had wrinkled and faded
so much that his skin looked like tree bark—
he was not a person to be argued with.
The water in the fjord was gray, and
fog hovered over the surface in a low, damp
cloud. We both shivered and pulled our
cloaks tighter. My leg always ached on cold
days, and I stumbled as I followed Bjorn to
the water’s edge.
A FJORD IS A LONG, NARROW
ARM OF THE SEA.