The Viking (Chapter IV, page 1 of 6)


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When they arrived at the small plot of land with one cow, two chickens and a garden that needed tending, Stefan had shoulder length hair, no braids and no belt around the outside of his tunic. Scots, particularly Scots who worked the land, could not afford leather belts and Kannak's mother was sure to be suspicious. He helped her down, dismounted and then watched her go into the small cottage and close the door.

Finally, Stefan had a moment to himself and he stroked the side of the horse's neck as if to draw comfort from the animal. His mind was spinning and when he leaned his forehead against the horse and closed his eyes, he could still see the image of his father's lifeless face. It was all he could do to keep from crying, but he held back his tears just as he knew his father would expect him to.

He should go back, he thought, for who was there to bury the Viking commander? Would the Scots give him a Christian burial, would they defile him somehow in their rage or would they leave his body to rot where it lay? Not knowing was more than he could abide and he had to go back. With one swift movement, Stefan swung back up on the horse and rode away. He only slightly heard Kannak screaming his name behind him.

*

It was almost dark when he slid down off the horse, crept back down the hill toward the village and looked for his father's body. Blood yet stained the ground, but his body was gone. There were marks in the dirt, a sure sign that the body had been dragged and cautiously Stefan followed the marks, mindful to stay out of sight of the village.

But then he felt a foreboding and went back. He didn't expect it, but the horse was right where he left him and when he mounted not knowing where to go, he let the stallion take him back to the same spot where he watched his Vikings row away. On the shore were men holding torches and the bodies of several Vikings lay side by side in his father's abandoned ship. The remains had been carefully laid out on the deck, each surrounded by dry straw. Their arms were crossed over their chests, and a measure of cloth lay over their faces just as their own families would have done.

A priest appeared to be giving last rites as the Scots shoved the ship away from the shore. Then three Scotsmen tossed in their torches and set it on fire.

It was a fitting burial for his father and because of it, the anger he felt for the Scots who had taken his father's life began to subside. He wondered, if only for a moment, if the Norsemen would have been so considerate of men who came to murder and plunder in their land. He wondered too if the Vikings would carve a stone in his father's memory when they got home. Surely they would and someday he hoped to see it.

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