Note from Author: Only a portion of this book is presented here per my publisher. Thank you for your understanding.
The longships snaked through the water as lithe as serpents, but the sea was rough. The men were wondering if the sea god Aegir would bless this voyage or curse it. Whenever the sun came out, a joyous cheer would erupt.
Both ships, Drakkars, were at least seventy five feet long with a fearsome looking dragon head at the bow, guiding their journey. Both Drakkars had sixteen pairs of oars with weapons stored near the crew’s rowing positions. The crewman’s sea chest doubled as their rowing bench and wrangling the huge ship was a demanding job. The men’s lean muscles tensed with each passage of the great oars as they dipped into the sea and reached high into the sky before the process began again. They didn’t seem to mind this grueling toil, even rejoiced in the pleasure of the sun, the ships, and the sea. It was, after all, a Norse tradition and each and every man was proud of their prowess and deep connection with Aegir.
The Viking shields decorating the side of the ship gave it even a more fearsome appearance. At times the wind would gust and they would be able to pull the oars into the ship through the slits by the oar holes and let the wind push the ship to the journey’s end. The trip had been five days of rough seas and miserable rain, a truly arduous voyage, but nothing these battle-hardened, seasoned sailors were not used to. One day the crew heard the words they were waiting for, “Let the ravens fly,” but the birds never returned to the ship, the significance of that being land. The expected first cry of “sea gulls” brought about a raucous cheer and everyone knew that the time was afoot. They were near land and their reason for coming here was at hand, Saxon riches. This was not the first time they had set foot on English soil. Most of Eriik Thorennson, Jarl of Jaedon’s encounters with the Saxons had left him unimpressed and he considered one battle and only one battle with the English interesting. The participants of that battle had been English knights. He considered these knights worthy combatants, but the country in general was fair game to enrich the Norse coffers. Their Norse land was rocky and cold most of the year. They needed these raids to supplement the treasury and besides, they were Vikings and it was in their nature to go raiding. It had been passed down since Eriik was a small boy and even before. They had always raided to the east in the past, but in the last several years, since Eriik had been in charge, they had found the way to travel west, to the Saxon lands. Eriik was always thirsty for knowledge of this land. Familiarity was key in order for their raids to be successful. It was an advantage he had acquired from a slave he claimed from one of the first raids carried out on a monastery in England from an island called Lindisfarne. The priest he had taken home from that raid had not only taught him the English language but gave him understanding of the Saxon land he thirsted for. Everyone in the Norse village thought him a complete dolt for picking a priest over silver and gold, but it turned out to be an ingenious choice. The priest knew not only of English lands and riches, but facts and wisdom that turned out to be precious to the Viking raiders. By the time two raids had been completed, Eriik’s expertise had yielded the Norsemen five times more gold and silver than any of the previous raids together. He was famous and heralded among them as being exceptionally wise, and so he was. They were a superstitious race and felt as if a sea journey would surely fail without Eriik, that the gods were benevolent toward him. This was the third journey but the most perilous by far. They were sailing with two longships, doubling the risk. A monastery was not the easy target this time. Their destination was a castle further inland. This held danger twofold, they would have to cross over land, and castles were usually defended by the knights Eriik respected. But the Norsemen had the god Thor on their side. He had brought them here safely and that was a good sign. They had no doubt they were the better warriors than even the English knights. They were ready, and the riches were there for the taking.
The longships anchored just outside the reefs and the landing boats were launched. Although the longships could actually beach, it was not safe to do so. Sentries were left on board to protect the precious ships. The landing party gathered on the beach with their weapons and shields, and if they had been spotted, it would have brought terror to the bravest of souls. They indeed looked like demons from hell. These men were tall and muscular and aching for a fight. Some had swords and bows and arrows. Others had swords and axes, but all were heavily armed and knew exactly how to wield their weapon. No Norseman was afraid to die, instead welcoming it as each warrior would travel swift and straight as an arrow to be welcomed into the Halls of Valhalla with open arms if they found death in battle. Freya, the Goddess of Love and Beauty would show them the way.
They were looking for a suitable camp site between the beach and the castle, so at the cock’s crow they could walk the distance while Sol, the god who drives the sun chariot, would make only one rotation across the sky, before they reached their destination.