Soon he would say goodbye, doubtful his first taste of love would wait; boarding on the longship would begin at sunrise after two more nightfalls. He was not at ease nor feeling dutiful to set sail, his rough, calloused hands had been assigned to row, his grey eyes already set on defeat. In the chilly night he and his lover kept warm under a sheath of tanned hide; a warm fire encircled with stones lit up their faces. His lover was cold, she had been sweating earlier and she shared with him that perhaps she was carrying his baby. It had been two moons since her last cleansing. He held her close and rubbed her hands in his own. All night he stayed up, keeping the fire crackling and he called for a wise woman to look at his betrothed. He was given garlic for his neck and a tonic that tasted bitter as nettles to sip. He must prepare to board the longship and not fall ill. The woman wiped carefully with cool cloths the forehead and the nape of his lady’s neck and said she should be moved to the women’s tent so he too might rest. He was reluctant yet never questioned this miracle of her gifts from the God’s and believed in the sunrise of his departure his love would encircle him with the other strong women and sing a prayer to the heavens. At last he fell asleep and the fire dwindled. He was a large man, of long height with a wooly red beard; for years he had been called to help others lift heavy logs, roll stones and fell trees for boat building. His stomach grumbled and his dreams brought him no peace. His eyes closed, his mouth agape, a gurgling snore erupted. Deep within his dream state he saw his own mother, her pale white face, her eyes weary yet loving; she spoke. “Son of Gudrun, son of Ove, lift your spirit up to see. It’s been eighteen moons since we saw you. Your sister Ulla is here, too. Their faces were like a portrait in beautiful pastel inks. The heavens were soft as the first spring day when the sight of white and purple forest flowers burst through the edges of the footpath, gay as the laughter of friends when the sun was long in the sky, days were easier, their heart’s lightened by the dark winter’s end. Time for merriment and the smell of baking bread, the homecoming of the longship, strong fermented ales and hearty stews and loaves of bread with berries he could taste so sweet; stirred he woke with a gasp. One sunrise had come. He stood and walked to the women’s healing tent and the flaps were sewn shut with thick leather. “Naaaaay”, he screamed and he ran to the morning fire keepers boiling coffee and sharing porridge. Breathless, he asked if his lady was in the tent still. Blue eyes looked at one another and down. He knew the answer. He kicked the first iron pot and it swung from it’s iron chains molted flawlessly by the black smith and his apprentice. Hot scalding water splashed and the men jumped back. An old man who laid on sheep skin by the fire called for him to sit by him. His heart rapid, his cheeks red with rage, he succumbed to his elder. ” What can you say to comfort me?” The man, thin and weak voiced motioned for the giant, frightened man to sit beside him. “Are you the son of Gudrun and the sister of Ulla?” The old man already knew but asked even so. “Ya, I am.” Do you think, son of Ove that your father created such acts of arrogance when the God’s called his wife and daughter up?” Silence. “What name did they leave you?” “I am Per Ove’s son.”Well Per Ovesson do you dare to guess the will of the heavens? Are you in fear of the sea and hunger? Are you a messenger or do you serve?” ” I serve.” The so very big man, Per, son of Gudrun and Ove, brother of Ulla wept. The elderly man handed Per a smooth stone to rub and called for porridge. The big man, the thin elder and the fire keepers stood close. One by one they placed a hand on his shoulder and walked on. Night fell again and he laid by his fire alone sipping the bitter nettle tea. He did not want to dream and the silence soothed him. It had been nine cut logs when a woman he’d never seen came to stand before him. “You may see your lady now”. His lips felt numb, his eyes ashamed and he said, “Why do you want me to feel more pain?” The woman outstretched her hand and he stood. When they came closer to the tent the woman lifted the flap and there lay a clump of deep red flesh upon his lover’s abdomen. He moved closer and felt confused. Take the flesh and all of it’s blood and bury it deep in the forest. His lady did not breathe and small stones were on each eye. He did as told by the healer. Without sleep and it being soon the second sunrise he fought to keep focused on his task. Big tears from a big man with the heart of a child fell steadily down his face. When he returned he went to his fire to sleep and there sat the woman again with a white bundle of heavy fur. She stood and handed him a baby. “How can this be? My lady only missed two moons.” The woman smiled and said, “the God’s were good” and asked him to bestow a name before he sat sail. In a state of both sorrow and beauty he said, ” this is the son of Per, the son of Lea. He shall be blessed with the name of Liam.” The woman promised him the babe would be well fed and when he returned the baby would be his comfort. Per kissed his son’s forehead and slept with him in his arms until sunrise. The healers had prepared Lea’s body to be sent to sea where she would be taken up to the God’s quickly. He held one side of his love’s canvas and birch sewn raft. He did not weep for she had left him reason to believe that more would come to be good. The women sang as the longship prepared to launch. The sky was yellow and afire with sunrise. The horns blew and he pulled in unison with his mates. By sunset they placed Lea on her raft and she floated away from the boat, away from the father of Liam, the son of Ove, the son of Gudrun and the brother of Ulla. In the night the high waves plunged over the stern and wailed upon the starboard, the longship albeit strong rocked with brutal fervour. Per was the lead, each pull he thought of Liam, each horn he heard his mother calling. The God’s were trying his strength in a way he never had experienced, he was not only strong in his body now but also in his soul. The storm settled and he was sent to rest. A cool wind soothed his sweaty bruised hands and his lips cracked from the salty winds from the North Sea leaked sweet bits of blood. His thirst was mighty and he was given water with herbs to keep him quiet. His cough came on fast, deep and he heard other’s coughing, too. He spat green, thick phlegm into the sea. He hung his head over, the winds cooling his dizzying state. The head of the ship was also spewing a sickness from his body over board. Few men could guide the longship, and one by one they fell, coughing, wailing in pain, and now hope had no place for them. Another night would come, a morning with many deaths and each one was set free to float amongst the creatures that both fed on them and nourished their loved ones. Per Ovesson would be the last man to go. He ensured all were met by the God’s who knew better than he the true meaning. He would fall into a deep, long sleep, he would dream of Lea, mother of Liam and he would die proud as his father had bravely done before him. He drifted off further to sea and the sky above would open it’s arms and his soul would rise up, up, up into the arms of Ulla.