Friday, July 1, 2011

Of Wyrms and Women pt. 10

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No one thought to warn Wealhtheow about seasickness. The water rose in waves, the boat bucked like a beast. She was not sure whether it was the ship or the sea that roared. She curled up and closed her eyes. She did not want her new husband to see her vomit-crusted dress.

Wealhtheow expected Hrothgar to mock her weakness. But he was gracious. She was grateful. He mentioned that he, too, was sick his first time at sea. Yet none of the men were ailing now. Unfair, she thought, that I will likely never take a second voyage. If I do, it will mean I have failed, that I’m being brought back to my parents. I will never become used to the sea.

Part of her hoped a serpent would swim up beneath the boat, so that she could watch the warriors at work. She wanted to see the action she heard about in song, to brandish a blade and be sung about herself. Instead, she was sick. She could never swing a sword in this state. Wealhtheow tasted bitter bile. Her face felt gaunt, and stung from the salty spray. Ever since her parents had mentioned her marriage, she had looked forward to the journey more than her new home. She had admired the ship before they launched; it’s proud prow carved into a large, looming wyrm, the dark wood marred by many voyages. Its mouth was a gaping grin that displayed long sharp teeth, meant to make monsters wary of the wyrm’s bite. A craftsman had spent an entire winter carving the head of the dragon, the most ornate in her father’s navy. She had been eager to climb aboard, to begin her adventure.

Now, she sat on a pile of soaping goatskins in the middle of the boat, craving the shore. Njord help me, she prayed, invoking the same god the men had called at the outset of the journey. Njord, god of the sea, protector of ships. Njord, see us safely home.

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