(Lars) #1

NIGHT CAME, AND with it a freezing chill
and a hard, bitter rain. We had been drifting
all day, but I could do nothing to stop it. We
dared not risk the sound of using our oars.
“Son,” my mother said softly, “I think
we may head back home. The raiders will
have gone now, they have stolen what they
came for.”
Everyone looked at me.
“Take us into the harbor using your
skills,” my mother added, encouraging me.
I felt sick. There was nothing to see but
fog and spears of rain; no stars and no land-
marks. Which way home? My mind went
blank. Then I shut my eyes and heard Ulf ’s
words, as if he were beside me. “Remember
that the war god Odin sacrificed one of his
own eyes for wisdom.”
I shut my eyes. What can you hear? What
can you smell?
At first I could smell nothing but sea-
weed and hear nothing but waves. I kept
my eyes shut and let my senses roam.
Gradually I noticed an unfamiliar smell,
faint at first then becoming stronger as I
concentrated my mind. Smoke. Coming
from the east. The smoke of our burning
buildings and crops. And then I could
hear crowing and cawing in the distance:
the sound of hawks and vultures eating the
remains of our chickens. I opened my eyes.
Tiny flecks of black speckled the eastern
“This way!” I pointed to where the birds
were swooping over our fog-hidden land.
“This is the way home! I know it is!”

OLD BJORN WAS waving to us from the
beach as our boats emerged from the fog.
Since that time, two years ago, I have listened
patiently to all he has to teach. Now I am sit-
ting on my sea chest at last as we sail across
the Big Water to a place called Riga. I am
not afraid because I know I can find my way,
despite the huge green waves washing my face
with spray.
At my side my sword dangles, my reward
for saving the people of our village. Ulf
designed it himself, and it has star and sun
patterns on its hilt. The fighting days are
over; we are trading furs and skins for spices.
But I am still proud to be Chief