Splash, creak, splash, creak. The many oars aboard the huge ship moved rhythmically. Somewhere, some weak slave missed a beat and a whip cracked in response. Drakkar-the Dragon Ship. The memory of the brutal slaughter that followed its wake rose unbidden to haunt young Mithrin. His mother and father, the village, even the cattle, all killed. So senseless. He had been fishing with his friend Gunther, when he heard the screams. The Norsemen had rounded him up along with other young men his age; what could they do against armed men?
"You!" growled a voice over head. Mithrin looked up quickly at the Norseman and lowered his gaze once more. The guard unlocked his manacles from the chain. The chain connected all the slaves together and to the oars. His hands chaffed with the metal shackles that were never removed. His replacement waited to be locked into place. They each had a two-hour break, a small mercy in the belly of this abysmal place. Mithrin was roughly hauled from his bench and tossed into the center aisle. In backing up to see where Mithrin had landed, the Norseman tripped over the boy and fell backward.
"You cursed mongrel!" shouted the Norseman as he began to whip the boy mercilessly. Mithrin screamed in agony. Abruptly, the pain stopped and the weight of another person lay on his back. His replacement had thrown himself on top of Mithrin. Mithrin wept in relief and pain. The enraged Norseman kept whipping.
At that moment, a cry came from above, "Land!" The Norseman hauled them both onto an empty bench, hurridly chained them, spat at them, and clambered up the stairs to view land himself. After many more exhausting hours, all rowing was halted and Mithrin realized they must have come to shore. The longing to be free rose up in his chest, nearly choking him, at the thought of land being so close.
"My name is Colt," offered his rowing partner by way of introduction.
"Mithrin-Mith to my friends. Anyone that would take a beating for me qualifies," said Mithrin with gratitude.
"Nothing more than my Master would have done," said Colt. Mithrin looked at him oddly. Colt smiled, the crinkles beside his eyes deepening as he did so.
"The Master of my soul, lad-not the masters of my flesh," said Colt. "Ahh," said Mithrin in realization. Colt was talking about El, the Creator of all.
"I see he owns yours as well," observed Colt.A guard walked by. "That is the reason these Norsemen attack our coasts," said Colt, gesturing with his head at the departed guard, "They are trying to eliminate His name from their consciences-or at least from their ears."
"That they will, at this rate," said Mithrin sullenly.
"No! That they will never accomplish-it's been attempted many times in ages past but to no avail," Colt said, rather fervently. Mithrin eyed him.
"How do you know they won't succeed this time?" asked Mithrin, depressed.
"The Master has given me a sign," said Colt as he spread his hands apart to reveal one unclasped shackle, "Tonight we will leave this place."
"Two less for them to kill!" said Mithrin, his longing having been lent the wings of hope.
Colt worked the manacle while Mithrin slept. Hunger had made him leaner, and with a little effort, his hand slipped out . He shook Mithrin awake. They could see that it was fully dark through the habora, the oar-hole. The guard was asleep with a jug clasped like a babe in his arms. Colt crept silently up and relieved him of his keys and then loosed Mithrin of his bonds. The pair crept past the other prisoners who were passed out on their benches. Colt paused to place the keys back on the person of the guard. 'That way the guard will be blamed, clever,' thought Mithrin.
Their escape went unnoticed, but Mithrin and Colt put as much distance from the Drakkar as possible.
"Were will you go now?'" asked Colt, when they finally stopped.
"Don't know," replied the boy. He had no family or home to return to now.
"Why don't you join me, " offered Colt, "I have a friend on this island who can help us get back on our feet. After that, I plan to continue what I was doing before I got captured."
"What's that?" asked Mithrin.
"Fishing men out of the grips of the Norsemen, " replied Colt with a grin.
Copyright February 2007 Eve Nielsen - All Rights Reserved