As Long as We Remember...

The Stone Ship

She sat on an aged log by the fire as the sun slowly slinked behind the tall cliffs. The warmth of the flame relaxed her after spending the day tending to injured that had just came into the small port. The Vendel had attacked a merchant trader yet were unable to pursue them in the channels around Grimstadd. They all would mend and recover in time, save one. A father had taken his son on his first sea voyage to make him a sailor, like his father had before him. Barely twelve, the young boy was forced to see his father be taken by cannon fire and slowly slip away before his eyes. Tears began to form in her eyes at the mere thought of the pain and sorrow the boy must be carrying.

She heard heavy footsteps come from behind her. “Thori,” the aged and throaty voice called, “it is time.” She took in a deep, steady breath, wiped her eyes, and rose to her feet. Olyn stepped up and handed her a crude torch made of loose tree limbs, straw, and pitch. She lit the end as it hissed and popped with a bright glow. Thoridyss nodded and proceed down from the rise to the tumulus, near the channel shoreline.

Encompassed by a set of stones, laid out like a ship, the crew of the dead man’s ship, other Vesten camped at the make-shift port, and even some foreigners had come to gather around the funeral pyre. The men stood resolute and stoic as possible as the women forced back tears and sobs. Thoridyss looked over the body as the man lay with his sword across his chest; his hands fixed at the hilt. His body had been cleaned and groomed, surrounded by a decoration of wildflowers and other offered up “grave goods”.

Thoridyss turned and scanned the congregation, “We gather here to commit the body and spirit of our fallen brother to our ancestors. We pray the he finds peace in the next world as he goes to join the honored fallen in the great hall of Valhalla. May his name and sacrifice be honored and remembered, always.” She held out her hands as the young boy was ushered forwards. He shakily held his composure through saddened red eyes and tear strewn cheeks. She handed the boy the torch as he gave his father one last look and imbedded the flame to the pyre.

Thoridyss guided the young boy back a few steps and stood by him with her hands on his shoulder. The crowd joined in a low departing dirge as the fire began to consume the body. Minutes passed as the crowd ended their ode to the fallen and parted ways. Thoridyss faced the burning pyre with her head down, whispering a prayer to the Grumfather. She felt the boy tense and sob beside her. “I hate them…” the boy muttered angrily under his breath. Thoridyss faced the boy as he clutched his arms around her waist as he buried his face in her abdomen, bawling fiercely. “I hate them so much!” he hollered in a muffled state. She softly stroked his head, trying to hush him softly as she felt his fists lightly beat against her back.

A few moments passed as his sobbing subsided. She drew him back slightly, knelt down, and began to wipe away his tears. “You must be strong.” She said comfortingly, “Do not let your anger blind you.” The boy hung his head, “But… but my father is dead.” He sniffled, “they killed him. I want to hurt them. Hurt them, like they hurt my father.”

“I know, little one, I know. My heart weeps for your loss and the pain your feel. Your father was a good man and I know he would want you to be strong, correct?” The boy nodded. “Your father took you on the ship to make you a man of the sea. Honor him and do just that. Be strong for your father, for your family, and make him proud by being the best mariner of our people. Swear to me and to the Grumfather you will.”

The boy nodded, “I swear. I swear to the Grumfather I will make my father proud.”

“Good, lad.” She smiled as she kissed his forehead and ushered him off. The boy roamed off as his father’s shipmates collected the boy and nodded reassuringly to her. Thoridyss turned back to the pyre and sighed heavily as Olyn came alongside her, placing his thick, calloused hand on her shoulder. “You did well, little one. The ancestors would be proud of you.”

“It does not make this any easier. I feel as if I have done this far too often.” Thoridyss looked over her shoulder, “I fear for him, Olyn. I worry his hatred will consume him in the years to come.”

“The boy? (Hmpf)… he’ll be fine. He’s in good hands. Besides, we all must make our own way in this life.” Thoridyss nodded and looked back to the pyre.



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