Our journey begins in Aaberaa (Pronounced http://www.forvo.com/word/aabenraa/) a large port village on the isle of Anholt. The winds blow lightly acrossed the harbor, churning the surface into 2 foot risers untouched by froth. Even the ever present mists seem to hang back and allow our would be heroes a glimpse of their first ship. The Bølge Hertog is a massive vessel, fully 100 feet in length and 25 ft at its widest. She has a full compliment of 90, and can seat 60 rowers at any given time. Her single square sail, alternating white and red strips of wool, hangs our on either side of the bulwarks. Large shields line her bulwarks painted white with the great world snake eating his tail around the center boss. The symbol of her captain. Ragnvold Greybeard. A legendary Captain of the old school. He walks with a slight limp to his stride, an old man, his muscles starting to go slack, his wind is not what it was either. But in his eyes you still see determination of youth. And his skin bears testament to the skills taught by time. He is riven high to low with scars. They crisscross his body to make a map of a life spent in combat. Even his namesake hangs in strips, cut and discolored by scars and edged weapons. This man will hold you and the rest of the crew’s life in his hands as you set sail in search of loot and glory.
They set sail in the morning, saying goodbye to the family’s left behind. They will not see them for many months, if ever. They journey south towards the lands of the Cartan’s and the many rich trade routs that feed them. A month they sailed south, learning the ways of the oar and vagaries of the sea. Youthful muscles tighten and grow under the unrelenting work of the oars. Then, the skies begin to growl and the mists close in as Donnar begins to rage. The waves rise and the winds howl yet greybeard remains confident. Skillfully he guides the Bolge Hertog through the rising waves around sharp rocks and high reefs to a safe harbor. Let the storm rage at sea, he will wait it out safely. What island is this a month from your home waters? How does he know a safe harbor well enough to guide you when the mists close in and you cannot sea the ends of the longship? He, Ragnvold Greybeard, he has sailed over 50 summers and seen many things.
It is wet and the winds blow but on land again the new recruits are young and full of energy. “Go”, says Greybeard, “stretch your legs, see what there is to see. You are young enjoy it while you can”. So off they go, oiled cloaks protect them from some of the rain, and youthful indifference from the rest. They made there way up cliffs and over hills pursuing the tracks of fresh meat. They pursued it right into a clearing where the fading light showed the statue of a troll, Olaf the feral gnashed his teeth and argued fiercely that they should smash the statue, but would not risk his beloved axe in the doing. Ragnvold the young, no relation to the captain, had a hammer on him and Olaf would use it in place of his axe. Ragnvold would have non of that. Tamper with something and it might tamper back he said, and walked away in pursuit of meat. Olaf grumbled, and Burgthor the druid considered, but without a hammer they did not have a choice. They followed the game trail a short way farther and found their quarry, fine juicy meat on the hoof. A harpoon cast by Ragnvold insured that they would not be eating smoked fish and sea biscuits, again, this night. Being generous of spirit they quickly gutted the beast and tied its feet around a branch for carrying back to there crew mates. They came back by the clearing right as the light faded at last from the sky and witnessed the waking of the troll. Sunlight had turned him to stone, but the night restored him to flesh and that flesh was hungry. Burgthor made a gift of some of there hard won beast. Honored is the giver of gifts. Even a troll would not willingly let a human gain honor at his expense. He gifted them in return the knowledge of a great ball of fire that fell from the heavens. The honor of giving now balanced the eloquent speach of Burgthor began to stretch the trolls non to abundant wits. A most painful procedure that the troll did not put up with for long. At last in pain and fury he picked up a great rock and smote Olaf. So great was the blow that Olaf flew backwards, so great that the troll to flew right onto his face. Bruised and bloodied Olaf would not remain out of the fight. He jumped to his feat and with his new companions fell upon the troll cutting and smashing until it moved no more. Feral Olaf made his first name that day. He cut into the troll reveling in its shed blood to see if it ate its valuables. But only rocks blood and bile did he find for his trouble. Still valuables they did find. A chest full of coins and a few gems was now in there possession and they made their victorious way back to there shipmates. Their shipmates praised them for the meat and gave them glory for a troll killed. But as for there treasure, that brought laughter and ribbing. Coins they had in the thousands, but copper all! Still the gems were of value and to be blooded a greater value still. The following day brought them away from camp and to the site of a creator. Iron fell from the sky and lay there waiting to be used. So they took it up and use it they will.
Donnar at last worked off his temper and they put to sea once more. Some weeks of sailing at last brought them a prize. A small flitter, carrying wool, blankets, wine, and food surrendered as they aproached. The cargo was not worth taking beyond refilling their supplies and the men grumbled. Greybeards wisdom was up to the challenge however. He purposed a series of duals to entertain the men. Let the new recruits show their metal and should that metal prove week they would take nothing from the flitter. Four of the flitters guards jumped to their feet to take up this challenge. Odd skinny men from far to the south. Their skins were black as volcanic rock their weapons bronze and curved half like a sword half like an axe. They stood bravely and fought. Olaf spitted his opponent on a long spear and laughed as blood ran down the shaft. Harder still did he laugh and grin when the southerner with his last breath pulled himself down the shaft and sliced Olafs chest. A brave man died well! Give him glory for it. Ragnivold pulled forth his hammer and with his first blow smashed the southern shield. He took blows upon his great shield but with skill and patience he at last slew his foe. Burgthor had a different tactic. Canny he was and as his opponent rushed him he slipped low and hooked his feet our from beneath him. With small careful slashes and hooking trips he at last overcame his enemy. The last to fight was Halgrim the Proud, with a great blow from his axe he smote the bronze weapon in twain. Then paused to laugh at his helpless opponent. More fool he for a weapon does not make a man dangerous. The southerner rushed in taking another blow throuhg his shield and into his arm to do it. Then belly to belly he gutted Halgrim with the shards of his broken weapon. A brave man he was. And a brave man he remains. For skill and courage must be rewarded. The navigator healed his wounds and for his valor Grebeard took no more then what was needed to re-provision the Bølge Hertog. Of Halgrim we shall say little, his pride cost him his life. We gave his body to the sea. Let the gods decide.
So we sailed farther south. Into dangerous waters oft patrolled by Cartan war ships and in time we sighted another prize. A full Cartan Round ship. Huge but still sleak upon the waves. The wind was light and our rowers eager. She could not get away from us. So Greybeard ordered the pace doubled. We rowed, not for our lives, but for loot and glory witch is faster still. The great engines of the Cartans fired and men died, but men always die, we pressed on hard and at last came along side her. Old as he was Grebeard led the charge. Up over the side sword and sheild in his hands he looked, and more he saw, it was a trap. 40 men on deck he had seen but more rushed from the hold every second. For but a moment he glanced back at his crew but his decisions was already made. With a great smile he charged ahead. So fast that they could not react in time. And with a cry of glee that echoed from the very sky he dove into the hold and in the entrance to it he held them trapped. For a full minute he held the hold while his men washed the deck with blood. His bosun led the charge to kill the captain and the younglings, Rognvold the young, Bulgthor the druid and Olaf the feral, charged the forecastle. The great engine there threw a sheet of missiles into the Vieslings as they came over the side. Injuring and killing many. It could not be allowed to fire again. With skill and raw strength they overcame the officers stationed there. Smashing there shields, tripping them with a thrown bolo and rending there bodies with a great axe. Something shameful happed that day. As his companions fell one young officers courage broke. He dropped his weapons and fell to his knees crying for mercy. Mercy he received. To die right then rather then live on a coward. The engine silenced the remaining Cartans on deck stood no chance. The ship was taken though not without cost. Fully 20 men died beneath the hail of missiles or the thrusting swords and spears of the Cartans. First among these men was Rognvold Greybeard. He held them in the hold to let his crew triumph and in glory at last did he fall. A horde he sent before him and another we sent with him. To herald his coming to Valhalla. In the old way we prepared his body. Piled upon the corpses of his enemies. With is broken shield and much used long sword at hand. We burned the ship to send him on his way. Many swear that that day they saw the wings against the smoke. That the Valkyries raced for the privilege. I cannot say if this is true. But it SHOULD
be so. He died at last as he lived. Gloriously.
As fall changed to winter they at last sailed back into Aaberaa. No longer raw younglings on there first raid. But now seasoned warriors with a great share of loot to spend. The winter would be hard. But in the long time at sea they had made plans. The Bølge Hertog would not sail the following spring. It was a royal ship and the captain would be decided only after much discusion and no few duels. It was time to strike out on there own. The loot they had was enough to purchase a ship. Almost that is, It was not quite finished yet and they would have to provide labor but by spring it would be their’s. A crew to find, supplies to lay in, then just keep sailing. To see what the winds of tomorrow will bring.