by Abigail Oshell
A cool breeze brushed Kari’s cheek, the water of the ocean jolting the side of her boat, salt spraying. She did not want to venture out of the eastern colony, but as farming land became scarce, her family demanded they travel farther down the coast in hopes of discovering new land to settle. Kari feared many things, but as a woman, that was common. The men of her village showed no fault as they hunted furiously and acted as kings. Kari once again looked from where she sat on the heavy wooden vessel to see her father and brother arguing about the tide, the waters clear ahead to where the rest of their clan sailed. Though her clan feared nothing in their home land up north, the ocean was new, unexplored territory, and new things always brought new fears.
Kari was born to the leader of the clan, Halvor. Her mother, Iona, fell ill weeks ago and passed just five days earlier. She suspected this was the motive for her father’s sudden decision to migrate. Kari’s older brother, Frey, was of the age 17, a warrior and clan leader once her father stepped down. Now, at the age of 14, Kari knew this new land would only mean more pressure for her to marry. Her father had brought up the idea many times; her mother always put a stop to it. But now, with her gone, Kari’s fate was twisted and uncertain.
She drifted back to reality and the waters, though still calm, where covered in a thick haze. Kari wanted to reach out and grab it as it floated above the surface of the frigid ocean. She shivered at the thought of falling into the freezing waters no one could survive.
Looking deep into the haze, her eyes stopped, she looked out as far as she could, straining her eyes. A light, a flicker caught her attention. Deep in the fog a torch glowed. Dusk was still hours away, but she saw a light nevertheless. Kari knew not of the men who sailed these waters, but the stories of men going south and never returning filled her mind. Her own mother had advised against travel in these waters, but she was gone. Kari suddenly ripped off the thick wool blanket she donned and slowly made her way to the front of the boat to where her father Halvor stood, commanding the small ship. The ocean breeze was sharper in the front and she shuddered as she spoke. “Father, another vessel lies far behind us. It sails on our course.” His face yielded no emotion, and certainly no concern.
Kari’s mother’s words rang in her pink tipped ears. Go too far, and the pirates will make sure you don’t come back. Her father waved a hand in dismissal, not inclined to worry or fear. He only replied, “Frey! Check what little Kari speaks of.” His words were a boom in the calm, hazed over ocean.
Kari saw her brother come to her side. He spoke softly to her. “Show me what now, Ka?” She led him to the back where her sheepskin lay on the seat. Looking out no light flickered, but she knew her eyes did not lie.
Kari felt helpless and stupid for the call to her father now and sat back down whispering to Frey, “It was nothing, or it has gone now.” Frey said nothing as he huffed a laugh and returned to his post by her father. The light in the haze became a dream as Kari drifted off with the boats easy swaying.
A scream echoed past her and she jolted. Another cry, not of her boat. Then an order barked from the clan leader, her father. “We’re under attack!” His raspy voice yelled.
Kari sat up and the chaos of what was happening sank deep in her bones. Balls of fire flew from the ships set what seemed like worlds above their own. People with thick cloaks and of ragged appearance swung over to their clan’s much lower set canoes. Swords clashed with axes and the sudden sway of Kari’s own boat set her off balance. To the front she saw her father and Frey push off one of the strange men. Her mind spun in the utter clash, and then the bloodshed began.
The waters of the ocean changed, a sudden shift in colour as the bodies collapsed to the water. The fleet of ships before hers separated, some flipped, some emptied as the higher ships plowed through, taking all of the cargo and people with them. Then a hand grabbed her hair; she was pulled back. A hoarse scream left her and Frey turned from the front to see an aged, coarse man holding her. Frey ran in the space of the small boat and his axe connected with the old man. He hit the side of the ship with a thud and splashed into the ocean.
Kari’s hands trembled, her knees felt like caving. But Frey grabbed her arm and pushed Kari into a seat. The screams and yells did not stop as she watched each one of the Viking clan ships was overtaken. The four large ships conquered them with little effort. Frey hit the men off as he panted. Kari felt useless with no purpose she could serve in a battle.
From above she heard the screech of a man as he swung to their ship. “We run these waters!” The man fell onto the boat and Kari’s father lunged for him. The boat was suddenly uneven as one of the towering ships collided with it.
Icy waves hit Kari’s face and she choked as the water settled in her mouth. Kari’s hands did not feel like they were a part of her as their feeling of stinging warmth turned to utter numbness. Kari struggled to keep above the ocean as the colossal waves crash into her, the once hazed, calm sea now a raging storm. She yelled, but her call went unanswered. The sea seemed to calm with her body’s pain being replaced with the feeling of emptiness, her limbs gone.
Kari looked into the sunset as dusk fell on the ocean, tall dark wooden boats remained in the wreckage of the Vikings fleet. A shudder was the last feeling Kari had as she closed her heavy eyes, letting the frigid sea pull her under, where she belonged, with her clan and family.
Abigail Oshell is a grade ten student at Lockerby Composite. She recently competed in the Ontario Secondary School Skills Competition in the Prepared Speech category.
by Mr. R. Lafreniere
Explorers, Traders, and Fighters: One and the Same
Norse pirates crusade,
always cloaked under Viking guise?
Shiver me timbers.