— EXCERPT —
The boat slewed suddenly. “Fiskur! Tiller to port!” Olaf roared, but it was too late; they had missed the breeze and were becalmed again. One of the Northmen laughed, but was quelled by his captain’s blue-eyed stare. Olaf came aft and stood looking down at Kristan. “You’re asleep at the helm, my friend.”
A blush of shame crept up Kristan’s face. “I’m sorry, Olaf. Maybe one of the others would do a better job –”
Olaf waved the words away as if they were gnats. “Fiskur, even a man born to the sea makes a poor job of sailing when he’s tired. But I’ve been thinking, and the more I think, the more futile this seems.”
Kristan’s heart sank, but he tried to smile. “I understand. We’re grateful for the time you’ve given us –”
“Will you let me finish?” Olaf said. The impatience of his tone was tempered by his gentleness as he patted Kristan’s shoulder. “It makes no sense to keep trying for the harbor. The Daaznans, lubberly as they are, are still smart enough to recognize this ship now. Why not follow me and my ship south? From there we can bear east along Norwinn’s seacoast. A day’s sailing will take us to a shallow bay. You can offload there and travel overland to Norwinn’s castle. It’ll be a longer trip by several days, but what you lose in time you’ll make up in safety. What do you say?”
Kristan nodded. “That makes sense. Olaf, I don’t know how we can ever repay your kindness.”
“With respect, Fiskur, you’re talking nonsense. You pulled me out of the Mor when you had every right to let me drown. Now shove over and let me take the tiller; we’ll get back to camp quicker that way. Take over,” he added to his men, and in the Northmen’s capable hands the wine ship was quickly under way. The four Hogians sank to the deck, talking quietly, but Kristan was too dispirited for conversation. He leaned against the rail, looking back the way they had come.
“You’ll get there soon enough, Fiskur,” Olaf said. “Your kinsman on the throne in Norwinn will help you. You’ll march on this Wichelord Daazna, defeat him and be home again in Fandrall before you know it.”
“Home in Fandrall,” Kristan repeated. “A fortnight ago I would have told you I’d given up hope of ever seeing my home again.”
“Well, it’s the hope that keeps you going, isn’t it?” Olaf replied. His tone was gruff and wistful at the same time, and Kristan turned to look at him. The Northman’s eyes were fixed on the water ahead, but his face, usually so good-natured, had sunk into lines of sadness.
“Where’s your home, Olaf?”
The Northman sighed. “I wish I knew, Fiskur.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we can’t find it. It’s as simple as that. My brother Sigurd and I set out on an expedition, just the two of us with our ships and crews. We thought we’d be back with our spoils in three or four days. But we ran into a storm and lost our way.”
“How long ago was that?”
“How long?” Olaf cocked an eye at him. “It’d be about five years, now.”
Donna Migliaccio is a professional stage actress with credits that include Broadway, National Tours and prominent regional theatres. She is based in the Washington, DC Metro area, where she co-founded Tony award-winning Signature Theatre and is in demand as an entertainer, teacher and public speaker. Her award-winning short story, “Yaa & The Coffins,” was featured in Thinkerbeat’s 2015 anthology The Art of Losing.