Predawn gloom had settled over the world. A hazy veil slowly being lifted as the first golden fingers of the sun crept across the sky to the lament of rolling waves crashing upon the hulls of two ships. Dubbed The Crow
by its crew, the longship cut across the rough waters with speed and agility, its keel spine parting the frigid waters with ease as its oars dipped and splashed in hypnotic rhythm.
Most of the fifty raiders aboard the vessel slept, save its captain, Edric Godseye. Sitting at the steering oar, the large man brushed his ash grey hair from his brow, lazily adjusting the oar to keep it parallel to Odin's Whisper
. His attention was more concerned with the small stump of wood held in his lap. Taking his hand from the oar handle, Edric lifts up a knife and continues his work, whittling a figurine from the wood. The sharp edge of the knife made short work of the soft birch, cutting away timber to forge the shape of a head and shoulders.
A cry from Odin's Whisper broke Edric's concentration."Land! Praise the Gods, we have found land!"
Edric slapped the shoulder of his sleeping helmsmen, motioning him to take the oar. He grunted sheepishly, rubbing the sleep from his eyes before taking the oar. Edric rose from his seat, and began making his way toward the prow where a crow, black as night, perched in eternal watch before the ship.
Before the prow stood Edric's trusted lieutenants; young Skuli Guthornson and Hafr, Edric's oldest and most trusted friend. They seemed to be arguing as they looked out upon the land on the horizon.
"I don't see it," Hafr was saying, squinting into the horizon.
"It's right there," insisted Skuli, pointing at a dark shape in the distance.
"What do you see," asked Edric, joining them.
"A building, Jarl Edric," answered young Skuli. "You see the spire? I'd guess its a church."
"I see nothing," grumbled Hafr. "The boy is still dreaming, I say."
"I'm telling you its there!" Laughed Skuli, amused his comrade couldn't see it. "You need only open your eyes!" Hafr furrowed his brow in concentration, his eyes straining to see what was ahead of him. Skuli began talking very slowly, as if to a child. "You see, Skuli, there's land ahead."
"I can see the land!" Snapped Hafr.
Edric squeezed Hafr's shoulder. "Your eyes are not what they used to be. Skuli, you and your men with me. Hafr, secure the Crow
then follow us up the beach." Skuli nodded and left to gather his men while Hafr continued his strained gaze into the horizon.
Edric walked back across the length of the ship. The raiders had all awoken, lured from slumber by the call of land. They busied themselves, strapping boiled leathers across their torsos, flinging shields over their backs, and draping chainmail over their shoulders. The men stopped their preparation, and exchange of taunts and japes with Odin's Whisper
, as a seagull squawked overhead. All looked up to watch the bird as it circled and screeched. It dove down before the ship before flapping its great wings and careening high up in the air to disappear into cloud and gloom.
Edric watched the bird carefully. The Gods often use animals to herald their presence, and this sighting appeared beyond happenstance. Whether this be a good or bad sign, Edric couldn't say for sure without deeper thought. His men, however, expected a quick answer. The grisled old raider lifted his axe above his head. "Víkingr
, the Gods are with us!"
The men cheered and crashed their axes and shields together in a bloodthirsty cataphonic song. The landmass loomed overhead, their landfall imminent. Skuli slapped Edric's back, signalling his readiness. Hafr strode back from the prow.
"There's a building on the horizon," Hafr stated. "I'd guess a church."
Skuli smirked wryly. "Thank the Gods you are with us, Hafr."
The Crow lurched to a stop as it grinded up onto the beach. Edric led the charge, Skuli and his men just behind him. Edric flung himself over the rails of the ship, his axe tight in his hand and the blade calling for blood. Edric shouted into the crisp morning air."The Gods are with us!"