There was a Norseman known as Olaf Two Swords, who was the father of Kalf the Silent. Olaf was a good man and loyal to those who followed him. It came to pass that some of the settlements that were under his protection and care were raided by Danes who lived on the Isle of Man. Olaf, seeking to end their raiding once and for all and to ensure the prosperity of his people for the future, resolved to set out for the Isle of Man. He and Kalf would bring the fight to the raiders and reclaim what they had taken from his people. Joining them were Ebbn Bloodraven - Olaf’s truest friend, Harald the Black – Ebbn’s brother, Bjorn the Giant, and a crew of 25 other able-bodied warriors. Olaf’s ship, The Sea Prowler, was small and sleek. He had always preferred a smaller crew of trust worthy men as they were more manageable and more effective when on the offensive.
Olaf’s farm and lands produced plentiful wealth for his family and all who worked the farms he leased to those less able to hold their own. Tales of his affluence had reached the British Isles, spread by traders who had no motive but to share the tales of their commerce. These stories pricked the ears of the Manx Danes, who made the journey specifically to pillage some of the abundance described by the merchants. Their raid had been swift and merciless, causing Olaf to feel a sense of responsibility to those who had lost lives and possessions. The problem with Olaf, his wife Freda would proclaim to anyone who asked, was that he had too much honor for one man. His was a soul that could only be satisfied by venturing out in his ship to right some wrong. His oldest son, Kalf, named the Silent having been born mute, inherited his father’s sense of honor. There was never a voyage he hadn’t accompanied his father upon since he was the age of thirteen. Though mute, he was an able warrior and an excellent seaman. Highly intelligent, he impressed Olaf with his skilled and innovative mind.
Olaf Two Swords had also been an extraordinary youth. His ability and dexterity with weapons were instrumental in earning him the name Two Swords. From the moment he began training with his father’s warriors, he was never seen without a sword in each hand. His explanation for this practice was that in the event he dropped one sword he would still be armed. No man could remember having ever seen this happen. Olaf went into battle with two swords and left the field with two swords. His blacksmith had crafted him two magnificent, identical swords that Olaf had simply named, The Twins.
It was a time of great change in Norway. The old gods were being forgotten and a new, but ancient faith was taking its place. Olaf himself had sworn allegiance to the Christ of the Christian faith, having been convinced of the futility of the old faith in gods who were not present or active except in the imagination. It had been one of the Christian churches that had suffered the most from the raiders, their building burned to the ground and their priest slain brutally. Many of Olaf’s trusted men had converted to follow the Christ, but there were still a handful that still clung superstitiously to the old ways. Olaf still trusted these men to follow his lead as they had proven themselves to him over many battles and through many struggles.
Father and son put to sea in the early morning in the middle of spring roughly four days after the raiders had struck. If all went as planned they would return home in the middle of the growing season. Olaf had made the crossing a dozen times and was used to the fastidious nature of the sea. He sensed that Christ smiled upon this voyage. The weather was fair and the sea smooth, with the exception of a small squall in the English Channel. They were within sight of the Isle of Man within thirty-eight days. Within an hour of sighting their destination though, the weather had turned. A heavy bank of fog formed suddenly just of the coast, enveloping the Sea Prowler in minutes.
“It is Manannan’s Mist,” muttered Harald the Black solemnly. “We have come to attack these and now Manannan himself moves to protect the Manx men from our swords.”
Harald the Black was a superstitious man who believed in the old gods, as well as any account of the local deities they encountered. Manannan was an Irish/Manx sea god whose mist was said to protect the shores from invaders.
“He is ill impressive if that be true,” answered Ebbn Bloodraven. “Perhaps he is merely smoking his pipe and you mistake it for a foggy cloak of protection.”
“Take care not to mock, Ebbn,” warned Harald. “The ways of the gods are not our ways.”
“That is for certain, Harald,” teased Ebbn. “If I had the assumed power of the old gods I would pull our ship to the sea floor rather than waste effort and time surrounding it in a cloud.”
Harald grunted and moved moodily to the prow of the ship to look through the sunstone in an effort to determine the direction of the sun. It was there that Olaf found him sitting sullenly, the sunstone lying unused in his palm.
“Shouldn’t you be holding that to the sky, my friend? I understand we could navigate much easier that way,” Olaf said calmly.
“It is no good, Olaf. The Manx deity is too strong. The sunstone can find no trace of the sun’s light in Manannan’s Mist.”
“The fog is too thick even for the sunstone?”
Harald stood, grasping Olaf by the arm. “This is no fog, man. It is the protecting hand of Manannan. We have embarked on an attack against his shores. Who knows that we may never find our way out?”
Olaf slowly, yet firmly, removed Harald’s hand from his arm.
“I prefer to think we shall, Harald. Your old gods have shown themselves for what they are; powerless and the things of myth. Putting these things aside for now, can I trust you to keep a watch out for rocks or must I entrust that responsibility to another, less superstitious crewman?”
Sliding the useless sunstone into a leather pouch on his belt, Harald nodded his head. His voice sounded defeated but Harald’s greatest quality was his loyalty.
“I will keep watch. You can rely upon me, Olaf.”
“That is settled then. Fear not, my friend. Our Norse steel will prevail over these Celtic spirits.”
Olaf, being strong in faith, and rational of mind, remained steadfast even as the fog grew thicker throughout the day and into the night. The Sea Prowler fell under the mercy of the ocean currents. Men huddled deep into their cloaks, their thoughts darkening as they took counsel with their own fears. In honorable fashion, Harald remained at the prow without sleep, keeping his misgivings and superstitions to himself. Only twice did he cry out for the steersman to avoid an obstruction in the inky blackness of the sea. The hours dragged by, causing the eerie veil of mist to stir their minds to fantastic imaginings. Murmurs and faint oaths were heard the length of the ship as the crew wrestled with monsters and demons in their troubled sleep.