This is my first attempt at a blog. I am not technologically adept by any stretch of the imagination so please bear with me.
During the past few years I began writing recaps of episodes of Dancing with the Stars. My reviews were definitely tongue in cheek. I focused on the catty and absurd. I also talked some about the dancing. As a ballroom dancer for the past 30 some years I do know a thing or two. A number of people picked up what I was doing and I had a small group that I would send my musings to. Friends started talking about a blog. I don’t know beans about blogging and I presume there are a few thousand DWTS blogs out there. So I stuck with email.
I think this may have helped hone any writing talent I have. Anyway, last May I was thinking about my father who had been dead about a year and a half. During his last year we spent a lot of time together and I learned quite a bit about his youth and courtship of Mom. I had picked up bunches over the years growing up but he filled in some of the gaps. I had just finished going through some of the last stuff I pulled from his house. Included was a package of letters that Mom and his sisters wrote to him when he was in basic training back in the 50s. At first I was hesitant to read them because, well, they’re private. But since all the principles are dead, I figured, what the heck. My parents were just a few months married when the letters were written and were obviously very much in love. It was a nice thing to read about. I’m glad he kept the letters and that I was able to read them. I began thinking, I need to preserve the story of their courtship as they told it. I wrote it all out, pulled some pictures to go with it, and posted it on Facebook. I meant originally to just post it on the Bass website, but I frequently go awry with technology and it ended up in the general public.
No problem. It was a nice true story. Family liked it. Strangers liked it. Well, at least strangers who are somehow attached to me so that they see what I post on Facebook. I’m still a little vague on that. One particular friend who kept complimenting me on my DTWS reports really liked the story. She kept telling me I’m a talented writer and should publish. But she got me thinking. I’ve had ideas for stories all my life and who hasn’t felt “I should write a book.”? But that takes time and talent that most of us don’t have. But that little two page story about my parents just flowed out. I had never considered maybe writing little short stories. Not flash stories. Those are about a paragraph long. I mean the 2 to 15 page variety. So I wrote a short story about a young lady confronting fear and dealing with it. Several people liked it so I wrote another. And another. I’ve now got a collection of stories and feel certain there will be more. People keep saying to publish them somewhere. I’m not really inclined to through all the trouble of getting published. Just not interested. I do, however enjoy the writing process and maybe some people will enjoy reading them. So, the reason for this blog. If I can figure out how this damn thing works, I’d like to publish more stories as I go, maybe one a week. No cliff hangers or anything, just one complete story for the enjoyment of anyone who stops by. Of course, nice comments, helpful suggestions, future story suggestions, all that are appreciated. If you don’t like the story, I don’t mind hearing that also, but I’d like to know why. If you are just a random hater, fuck off. I don’t respond to that. And if the comment button doesn’t work, tell me what you think on my Facebook page or email me.
Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough. I plan to introduce each story so the reader has some idea about its genesis or why I thought of it or just a few random facts.
“Manitou” is basically a horror story. Not a supernatural horror story, but more a story about human monsters. It is set in 1009 AD when the Vikings were intent on settling the New World. Some may not realize the Vikings were here. The famous Erik the Red and his family settled in Greenland by the turn of the millennium. The Viking presence there lasted over 400 years. During that time, they discovered there was a continent west of Greenland. They even attempted colonization, with usually disastrous results. This is a true story. The facts have been preserved in two old Norse sagas. The two tales are contradictory so I have chosen freely what I want for my creative purposes. But if the sagas have any truth, most of this story happened as I have presented it. I think what I like most about it is that there are no heroes. Everyone is at least a little crazy.
Vinland, 1009 AD
They are out there, plotting against us. In every creak, every snap of twig, every bird call, I can hear them. The red devils mean to murder us all. How did it go so wrong? We are Vikings. We rule the North and all fear us. These skraelings are nothing but savages.
It began with such promise. I never should have trusted those Icelanders, though. Father hated Icelanders after they banished him. Erik the Red, they called him. Not only for the red of his beard but also the red blood that was spilled wherever he went. I have shown myself as his true daughter, spilling my share of blood, both skraeling and Viking. He vowed to set up his own kingdom even greater than Norway in the land he called Greenland. Such a name. There was very little green to be found there, and only for brief moments. Life is hard there but we are tough. We are Vikings. We survive.
We had two working settlements in Greenland by what the Christ followers called the Year of Our Lord 980. The land was mostly uninhabited. We ran across small bands of skraelings early on. We would relieve them of what goods they carried, our men would sport with their women and then dispatch them all. It taught them to respect us. After a few encounters we hardly ever saw them again.
Bjarni Herjolfsson was the first to discover there was land farther to the west. He had been blown off course coming to Greenland and landed on an unknown coast. Father was furious Bjarni had not explored it and claimed it for Greenland and began making preparations to sail west. He sent my brother Leif who brought back tales of a barren northern land he called Helluland, a forest covered land they had named Markland and a temperate southern land of meadows and grapes, calling it Vinland. He built a sturdy stone house and byre in Vinland and wintered there. He said there was hardly any snow at all.
Next my brother Thorvald sailed for the western lands to seek his fortune. His men returned the next season with tales of large bands of savage skraelings who had attacked and killed Thorvald. My remaining brother, Thorstein, immediately began plans to return to collect Thorvald’s body and armor for a proper Viking burial. Poor Thorstein was always sickly and the preparations taxed him beyond his abilities. He fell ill and died before he could be underway.
Thorfinn Thordarson, a stout captain from Norway wintered with us in Greenland about this time. He took an interest in Thorvald’s widow, Gudrid, and in due time married her. Over the next few years Father sent out small fleets to the western lands for supplies. They brought back much needed timber from Markland, seal and walrus meat and great white bear pelts from the barren Helluland and wild fruits from Vinland. They were under orders not to engage with the skraelings. They were too numerous for us to deal with as we had the ones in Greenland. This benefitted our home in Greenland, but I knew Father wanted colonies in the new land.
I’m not sure how the idea got started but in the winter of 1008 my husband Thorvard fell in with two Icelandic captains who were wintering with us in Eiriksfjord. They were Bjarni Grimolfson and Thorhall Gomlason, two knaves if ever there were any. We eventually agreed to send three ships to colonize Vinland. The two Icelanders would take twenty men and a few women each and my husband, I and Thorfinn would do the same. We would take large ships and carry cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, seed, metal and all other items needed to begin living in a new land. My complement would include Thorfinn’s wife Gudrid and her niece, Brunhilde. Our ship would sail a few days before the others, pick up the supplies Thorvald’s men had left when they fled and then head to Vinland. Leif loaned his home and byre already built in Vinland to Thorfinn and us to use.
Things quickly went wrong. Most of the food stores my brother had left in the new land had spoiled or were missing. The lumber had rotted and the skins were molded. Only some of the clothes and large implements were salvageable. Sailing south along the coast we came to a large sheltered harbor to find Grimolfson and Gomlason already landed. They had set themselves up in Leif’s byre. They would not be moved. Swords were drawn but we realized we were outnumbered and had to back down. I vowed I would not forgive this indignity. I am Freydis Eriksdottir and will not go unavenged.
Although it was still winter, we were amazed there was no snow on the ground. It was as temperate as the north of England or the land of the Danes. We quickly found open ground and planted winter rye. All the livestock was unloaded into the established byre while our men set to work constructing a second one.
Through all of this we suspected the skraelings were watching. A rustle in the bushes, a flash of movement in the forest would give them away. If we gave no offense would they leave us alone or would we suffer attack as had Thorvald?
The winter dragged on into a late spring. Our home and byre was completed with a small courtyard enclosed by a low fence. The men were restive and tempers flared. Food was in short supply. I soon found out this was because instead of meal and meat, much of Gomlason’s cargo had been beer. When this was revealed my husband had to physically restrain me from attacking him. I called him a villain, a cur and a miserable knave. I vowed to feed his heart to the dogs.
Grimolfson and Gomlason ended up killing most of their livestock so they could continue to feast like Vikings. Our men closely guarded our stock. We went hungry but had an eye to our future. I led the other women on forest forays for nuts, roots, herbs and anything else edible. All the women followed except Gudrid, who was great with child. She was due in the summer and as her time grew near I confided to her that I had missed my time of bleeding and hoped I might also bear a child in this new land. There was game in the forest but our men were ill prepared to capture it. Spears and swords were of little use, and our archers were unused to swiftly moving game. Some traps caught a stag and a boar, but most of our traps were destroyed by the skraelings. Skraelings we had not yet seen. That was soon to change.
Warm weather finally came and with it fruits and berries. We harvested our first winter crop of rye. I supervised it so that most went into food, some into seed for the future, and none into production of beer. Most of the grains had a black rust on them, but it did not seem to cause any real damage. I remember Granny Helga once told a story about black rust on grain in Norway causing an entire town to go mad, but Granny Helga was full of tall tales. We needed the food so I discounted her old wives tales.
And then one day, the skraelings appeared.
We were planting vegetables where our rye had been when our lookout cried, “Skraelings!” We scurried back to our byres, fearing the worst. A small band walked calmly out of the forest toward our settlement. They seemed to be all male, wearing animal skin loincloths, feathers and shells braided into their hair, and tattoos on their faces and arms. They carried the body of a deer on a pole between two of them and a couple of turkeys. They came to within a few yards of our men, laid down the animals and spoke. I couldn’t understand any of the gibberish of their language. Fortunately, one of our people, Thordahl Freiligson, had been on Thorvald’s voyage and understood a few words. He told my husband that the skraelings were proposing a trade. Thordahl made the sign for agreement and everyone smiled and relaxed. The skraelings were most interested in some red cloth our women had brought. We traded this and some ceramic bowls for the food they had.
Over the next few weeks they showed us how to grow beans and squash. They expressed a liking for our roasted sheep and small beer. When offered our rye bread they spit it out with decidedly unpleasant expressions.
It appeared our colony was a success. Throughout the summer we stockpiled lumber and animal skins. In the fall Gomlason would take the smallest of the three ships back to Greenland with a report of our success and perhaps bring more settlers. I would be glad to see him go. Over the summer the men had become more and more quarrelsome. Many quarrels had come to blows and actual sword fights. It seemed that nearly any comment would be interpreted as impugning someone’s honor. The settlement was growing more tense by the day.
Thorhall Gomlason loaded his ship with the lumber, skins and ten men to head for Greenland. Eleven quarrelsome, useless men to no longer deal with or feed, I thought. Then I smiled grimly as the ship moved out. A short while later while we were harvesting beans a runner came shouting that the ship appeared to be in trouble. We all raced down to the shore to see what was happening. Far out, nearly out of sight, the ship was moving erratically. It was caught in a current and no one seemed to be steering. It was headed at full speed toward rocky outcrops, mostly just breaking the surface. We watched in silent horror as the ship crashed into the rocks, broke up and went out of sight. Gomlason was such a careless captain. He probably never even thought to check to see if someone might have removed the rudder pegs. I smiled grimly once again.
By the time it turned cold I was heavily pregnant and Gudrid had long since given birth to little Snorri. The skraelings weren’t as frequently at our settlement since they were moving to their winter quarters farther inland. I was glad to see them go also. I have never trusted them and their gibberish noises and sly looks. Shouting matches had broken out when our men had accused the skraelings of trying to steal trade goods or artificially inflating prices. This came to a head in October when we caught a skraeling slinking out of our settlement trying to conceal an iron hatchet. One of our greatest cautions is to never trade metal goods that can be turned into weapons.
Our men captured him and tied him to a post in the courtyard. Thorvard said he should be tried for theft. Since the loss of Gomlason, the ranking officers were Captains Bjarni Grimolfson and Thorfinn Thordarson and my husband Thorvard. Grimolfson was unavailable according to one of his men. This meant he was passed out drunk on raw elderberry wine again. A runner was sent to the skraelings to bring a head man.
Presently a small band of skraelings arrived, surprised to find one of their men a prisoner in our courtyard. Thorvard, heavily sweating, paced back and forth in front of the prisoner railing at all the skraelings for their thievery, insolence, trickery and plots against us. He brandished the hatchet as evidence. He had Thorfinn bring the prisoner forward.
“Among civilized men, theft is a sin. The penalty for theft is loss of a good hand,” he yelled. Thorfinn and another man named Helgi stretched the frightened skraeling out over a tree stump. Thorvard brought the hatchet down and sheared off the skraeling’s right hand. The prisoner and the other skraelings all began screeching. Thorvard raised the hatchet to cut off the other hand but stopped when Helgi rose up groaning and clutching an arrow in his chest. Then a hail of arrows came from the small group of skraelings.
“Vikings, grab your axes! Vikings, to arms!” Thorvard cried. Several men fell under arrows but the rest grabbed their wooden shields in one hand and battle axe or sword in the other and charged the band of skraelings. The skraelings melted into the forest but our men were in battlelust. They charged through the forest to the skraeling summer camp. A few old men and women were there still breaking down the camp. With a war cry our men set upon them, killing everyone.
As winter closed in on us things were looking grim. We had set out with fifty men and ten women. We now had thirty men, eight women and one infant, little Snorri. Thorfinn, Grimolfson and Thorvard quarreled constantly about what we should do. In our opinion Grimolfson had shown that he was no leader. He was constantly drunk. His men didn’t respect him and lounged around playing knucklebones and growing lazy. No work was done. They had already eaten through most of their winter provisions and had little livestock left. Our byre was in little better shape. Discipline was almost impossible and fighting was rampant. Grimolfson feared another season among the skraelings. He said we should sail for Greenland. Cut and run, such a coward. Thorvard and I wanted to march on the skraelings. Make them pay for Helgi and the other men they had killed. The problem is we didn’t know where they were camped. Five men volunteered to scout them out. They went out heavily armed and with shields, mail and helmets. Two days later we found them at dawn, lying before the stockade gate without their clothes or heads. After that it was a war of attrition. Anyone leaving his byre was liable to get an arrow in his back.
Then one cold, clear winter evening we heard a low thrumming. As it moved closer we could distinguish the sound as drumbeats, perhaps hundreds of them. It sounded as if the drums were just outside but we checked our peep holes and saw no one. The skraelings remained hidden in the forest. The drums kept up the maddening slow beat for what seemed hours.
“Grimolfson’s byre is on fire!” shouted our lookout. “Some skraelings just ran up and threw torches on the roof. We need to go help.”
“Let ‘em burn,” growled Thorvard. “I never trusted that Icelandic son of a bitch. I hope the skraelings butcher him.”
“Thorvard!” I called to my husband. “I mistrust Grimolfson, also, but we must help our people and it is Leif’s property.”
“Vikings, to arms!” he shouted. As our men emerged from the byre they were met by a barrage of arrows. Most were ready with their shields. Thorvard went down. For a moment it seemed the life went out of the men. As more arrows drilled into their shields the men gave ground and backed into the byre. I was appalled. Vikings don’t retreat. I grabbed Thorvard’s great battle axe and shrilled my Valkyrie’s battle cry. I ripped open my bodice and bared my breasts. I yelled, “Are you cowards or Vikings? Kill the savages! Kill them all!” And eight months pregnant, teats in the wind, I swung the axe over my head and charged the skraelings. The shocked skraelings stopped firing arrows. They had never seen a Valkyrie in full battle lust before. Their momentary lapse was all it took. I crashed into the first group dispatching three skraelings by separating them from their arms and heads. The Viking men came around and soon they were streaming past me, shouting their battle cries and mowing down skraelings. My battle lust waned quickly so I turned back to tend to Thorvard. He was struggling to sit up, with an arrow in his leg. He smiled when he saw me coming.
“That’s my Valkyrie,” he said. I pressed his head to my breast and said, “Thank all the gods in Valhalla you’re alive.” I quickly pulled him into the byre to tend to his leg. Soon our men began returning. They had quenched the fire at Grimolfson’s byre but had lost five more men and another five were injured. We were down to twenty able bodied men and seven frightened women. And me.
Thorfinn and my husband met the next day. They decided that our situation was untenable. We would have to flee or die in this forsaken land. We would kill our livestock for the journey home and once the wounded were able to get about we would leave on the larger ship. There weren’t enough able-bodied men to man both ships. That was when my water broke. Little Gunnar entered the world in the early hours of the next day. My exertions with the skraelings had brought him early but he seemed hale as he screamed his birthing cries.
Grimolfson and his surviving men, including Finnbogi, brother of the ill-fated Helgi, argued against leaving a ship behind. Grimolfson did not want to lose his ship. It was his only asset and without it he would be destitute when we returned to Greenland. He first said he and his seven men would not assist in the evacuation. He called our men cowards. It was with great difficulty that Thorfinn prohibited our men from retaliating. He said he would have to leave them to the mercies of the skraelings. Some of Grimolfson’s men looked a bit green at the prospect. They retreated to their byre muttering curses at Thorfinn and my husband.
Thorfinn came up with the compromise. He had Icelandic holdings and my husband was one of the largest landowners in Greenland. Together they would buy Grimolfson’s ship and leave it behind for a future venture in Vinland. I reasoned with the men that I should be the one to take the offer to Grimolfson. Any time he parlayed with Thorfinn or Thorvard it devolved into cursing and brawling.
It was some hours after dark when I came to my brother’s home which Grimolfson and his men occupied. He was already half drunk and gave me a leer as I entered. He commented that I was a comely wench now I no longer had that brat inside me. I tamped down my building rage and presented our offer. The greedy bastard jumped on it but wanted more than his ship was worth. When I told him he could take our offer or try his chances with the skraelings he grew surly. He shoved me so I fell to the floor. He said Thorvard was too lenient with me and he would show me how a real man deals with a brazen woman. Finnbogi grabbed his arm and warned him that they would have to pay, possibly with their lives, for any harm that came to me. He backed off, called us thieves but in the end agreed to the deal. His men began celebrating by opening more kegs of wine.
I was a bit shaken but not cowed. I stood, straightened my cloak and strode out. Grimolfson did not realize he had played directly into my hands. Now the score would be settled. I ran back to our byre and stopped outside. I grabbed up some dirt and rubbed it on my cheek and rent open my bodice. I stumbled into the room calling for Thorvard. As he hobbled forward I collapsed into his arms and told the story of how I had been accosted and nearly raped. I told how Grimolfson laughed at our offer and threatened to kill us all and sail away in the middle of the night. I played my part and soon the men were nearly frothing at the mouth with outrage. This could not go unanswered. Thorfinn was against attacking them but was overruled by my infuriated husband and ten men itching to settle scores of their own.
We crept quietly over to my brother’s byre, leaving Gudrid and Brunhilde behind with the children. Of course, Grimolfson’s men couldn’t be bothered to post a lookout. Thorvard unlatched the door and our men burst in. It was more of a butchering than a battle. Most of Grimolfson’s men never even managed to find their weapons. I was pleased that Grimolfson went down last so he could see his undoing. Our youngest warrior, Bjorn, with a great swing of his battle axe, neatly removed Grimolfson’s head. Their four women had fled to the back corner of the byre like frightened chickens, screaming for their lives.
“Have at them,” I yelled, indicating the women.
“Vikings do not kill defenseless women,” said Thorfinn.
“By all the gods in Valhalla, this one does,” I growled. Grabbing Bjorn’s gory axe I rushed to the back of the room and finished the bloody work. In a few moments the screaming was over.
I had thought I would feel better once my score with Grimolfson and Gamlason was settled but I still feel restless. My fingers tingle and it’s almost as if some creatures are crawling under my skin. The red scratches on some of the men say they feel the same itchiness. In a few days we will quit this place. If we can survive that long. They are out there, plotting against us. In every creak, every snap of twig, I can hear them. The red devils mean to murder us all.
Thorvard crawls into our cot beside me and puts his arms around me. He says nothing and I wonder if he is haunted by the horror of what we have done, killing our own. I snuggle closer to him, comforted by his familiar scent. It’s quiet. The quiet of a winter night, no bird or insect sound, just the distant rumble of the waves. That’s when I hear the drums begin.
They have been drumming now for a few hours. It is distant but slowly seems to be growing closer. There must be hundreds of them. Now we can make out human noises. Singing? No, not musical in any way. It is chanting. We can hear them chanting one phrase over and over.
“Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou.”
Just those three syllables over and over and over. Many of our people are becoming frantic. Gudrid screams which causes little Snorri to start crying. My husband asks Thordahl if he recognizes the words.
“I believe it’s one of their religious rites. It’s the name of their devil god. They are calling him to come destroy us.”
“Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou.”
It continues into the night.
“Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou, Man-i-tou.”
Most of the women are in hysterics and some of our men look pale.
“Why don’t they do something,” screams Brunhilde. “The waiting is killing us.”
I slap her and tell her to act like a Viking woman; that the skraelings are trying to frighten us with their pagan gods. She should trust in our gods to help us.
Suddenly the sounds stop. The silence is so ominous I think I would rather hear the drums and chanting.
Our lookout atop the byre calls down, “I see a group of skraelings heading for the ships!”
We must protect the ships. If not we are trapped here with no hope of escape. All of our men, able bodied and wounded are bound up in their armor and spoiling for the fight. They rush out, their war cries ringing in the frigid air. I remain behind to guard Gudrid, Brunhilde and the children. I climb to the top of the byre to see what I can of the fighting on the beach. Although the night is clear, there is only a half moon so visibility is poor. I really can’t tell what is happening. Turning to climb down I notice movement near our byre. After staring for a moment I can pick out a small group of skraelings creeping up to the front of our home. I quickly climb down and gird up for war. With a cry that would put the Valkyries to shame I burst forth from our door and surprise the skraelings. Sword in my right hand and battle axe in my left I weave a path of destruction through the little band of savages. Soon, not a one is standing. I hear noise off to my right and turn to continue the battle but see it is our men, returning from the beach.
“They melted back into the forest,” Thorvard says. “We don’t dare follow them in the dark.”
Then the drums and chanting start up again. But this time it is not in the distance. It is nearby, no more than a few hundred yards away, at the forest edge. A volley of arrows flit by, most landing harmlessly, a few sticking in shields, a few eliciting curses as they nick a warrior. I duck behind Thorvard since I am without a shield. He shoves me toward the doorway.
“Guard the byre!” Then he and the men charge the forest edge. Something has energized the skraelings and they leap forth to meet our men. I barricade the door and then Brunhilde, Gudrid and I open upper windows and use our good Norse bows to give what cover we can to our men. Our men are outnumbered but the skraelings seem to have no knowledge of warfare, how to flank, how to maneuver and use superior numbers. The scene before us is one of chaos. The pounding drums, chants of “Man-i-tou”, skraeling shrieks, Viking war cries deliver an added sense of horror to the bloodletting going on. The cries of Man-i-tou are getting louder as if the chanters in the forest are trying to use volume to urge their men forward. It does not seem to be working as our men are steadfastly holding their ground. Then with a huge shriek from the forest the chanting stops, but the drums continue. Suddenly, a glow comes from the forest. I cannot credit what I see next. A creature, possibly the skraeling Manitou, arises in the midst of the forest. It is fearsome, taller than four men. A huge head with antlers of a stag, eyes of fire and an evil leering mouth of boar tusks. It raises its thin arms, ending in fingers like Viking swords. Arranged along its arms like macabre decorations are the heads of our lost men, dangling by their hair. Their eyes are open and their mouths move. With a roar it moves toward the battlefield. Our men lose heart at the sight of this demon and flee to the byre. Gudrid lets them in as Brunhilde and I continue to fire arrows at skraelings who come near enough.
“We cannot fight them and their demon god also,” Thorfinn shouts. “Grab what you can carry and flee out the back to the ships.” I grab a bag filled with dried meat and rye bread in my left arm and Gunnar in my right and run. Gudrid is similarly laden and Brunhilde is heroically carrying a huge load of dried foods and has stuffed some chickens in a sack. Some of the men also carry supplies, but most are using their bows and shields to give us cover to reach the ships. We quickly clamber onto the one ship we had refloated a few days ago. The skraelings are held at bay by the greater range of our Norse bows as the men shove the ship out into the bay. With a few strokes of the oars our ship moves out to relative safety.
I find myself amazed that we have made it back to Greenland intact. We stopped in Markland long enough to take on water for the voyage. Brunhilde and I spent many hours tending to the injured. Some of the injuries festered and we lost some of our men on the way, including young Bjorn. Brunhilde mourned him more than seemed reasonable until Gudrid told me they had been betrothed.
Trouble stalked our ship all along the way. The oarsmen could not keep cadence, quarrels and fights broke out. Thorfinn accused us of plotting mutiny. By the time we reached Eiriksfjord the ship was literally two armed camps ready to slaughter each other.
My father died in our absence and my brother Leif is now the King of Greenland. He stands before me now, considering my penalty. We told everyone that the rest of our party had been killed by the skraelings but the truth finally came out. After a few days in Eiriksfjord it was as if scales dropped from our eyes. We realized we had been under some mystic power, forced to turn against each other. Perhaps the work of the Manitou. One of our mystics looked at our rye bread and said it may be to blame. Perhaps Granny Helga wasn’t talking nonsense after all. No one will ever know for sure. We agree we all saw the demon, but we describe it differently, as if it manifested to each of us in a way that would inspire the most dread. As if the demon knew our innermost fear. I cannot credit any other reasons that Vikings, we who are known for settling down peaceably in our byres to wait out the long winters, would turn on each other so viciously. Magic and madness.
Leif says my crimes are enormous, yet mitigated by the madness of the skraeling demon magic. He also says he cannot condemn his sister. Thorvard and I are banished from Greenland for ten years. His family has holdings in Iceland so we are preparing to leave. Thorfinn is also banished. Some others of our crew are sentenced to varying years of indenture.
Of all our attempts to colonize the western lands, Leif “the Lucky” was the only one to have any success. And his was only temporary. He has decided the western lands are unlucky and will not attempt any more to colonize them. Greenland will be enough. Perhaps someday Thorvard and I can return home to help him.