By Morrigan Jonsdottir
Solveig Morgansdottir had been born in the forest and she spoke Powhatans as well as she spoke Norse. She had fifteen winters and her long red hair was congealing into dread locks, for she owned no brush or comb. She wore an open cape of red dog skin, that hung to the back of her knees, and an apron of the same. On a leather thong a small Hammer of Thor hung between her growing breasts.
She was trying to clear weeds from one of her father's main fields, a corn, bean and squash patch, but she was besieged by a group of young children. She had taken two kids on board her father's ship a few days prior and now every child in the village wished for the same visit.
“OK, I give up”, she yelled in Powhatans at the group. “I will take you all, but I can't go until there are no weeds here in the corn. So you kids start pulling weeds. The sooner we finish, the sooner we go.”
They screamed a collective, “Ya ta ho!” and feel to their knees and began yanking weeds from the moist earth. The corn field was three hundred yards long and about ten feet wide, so there were few weeds the kids couldn't get working both sides of the field. But they couldn't really enter the field. The ground was covered with the squash plants to keep it shaded and moist. The bean plants snaked among the squash vines and climbed the corn plants. Human and dog dung was constantly tossed into the garden, making it a place where you really didn't want to crawl around.
When the field was clear, she approached the Yi-Hakan of her father. It was house made by ramming two rows of saplings into the earth, forming each pair into an arch and then covering the whole arrangement with birch bark. Her father, Morgan Friggson, sat before the door, on a log, sharpening one of the large, heavy knives he used in boat building.
It was summer and he was dressed only in a loin cloth, and the colorful tattoos that completely covered his torso and extended down his arms to his fingertips, were visible. Mostly ships with full square sails, elephants and sea creatures, but also the Hammer of Thor and signs of Loki. Colorful tattoos that had provided a valuable trade item to her people when they first arrived. Tattoos much better than the traditional charcoal and suit tattoos of the Powhatans. Now, almost all but the most destitute Powhatans sported colorful tattoos.
His hair was still reddish blond and long, albeit with a touch of grey, but his beard was now cut short. The long beard got in the way of his boat building work. And he explained that the long beards were mostly for the women, and he had no desire for another wife.
Solveig did not use the formal greeting of “Nun we na havo” when approaching her father. He spoke little Powhatans and, for the most part, followed Norse ways. She simply said, “Hello Father”, in Norse.
“And what is with this army of naked children”, her father asked.
“They want to see the ship”, Solveig replied. “They can see it on the beach, but they are not allowed to get near it. And they are dying of curiosity.”
“What fun is there in walking around on a boat pulled up on the beach?” Asked her father.
“They have never seen a trading ship. It's magic to them.”
“Then they should sail on it. There is a good wind this morning and I'm bored. I could use a little sea air. Perhaps they could too.”
Solveig turned to the children and translated what her father had said to Powhatans. They gasped and starred wide eyed. This was more than they would have dreamed of.
“Let's go!”, cried Solveig's father in Powhatans, motioning for the children to follow.
On his way, he collected four friends from their Yi-Hakans. This, along with the two men guarding the ship would form a skeleton crew for the 60 foot craft. Six men could slowly row the craft if necessary, and the children and his daughter could also be put to work. And if there was serious weather, the could simply run under sail to the other side of the small, freshwater bay and beach.
Arriving, a sapling with its many limbs cut off to stubs was placed against the gunwale and Morgan showed the children how to climb it to get aboard. Once all were aboard, the six men began to haul at the anchor rope. The anchor was sunk out in deep water and pulling the rope moved the ship off the beach and into the bay. They had the children run up and down the length of the boat to rock it out of the sand. The men waited until the wind turned the ship parallel to the beach and then five of the men hoisted the sail while Solveig's father manned the Starboard, the ships rudder. The sail popped, the ship leaped and the children squealed with delight.
This was no warship. It had no fearsome dragon on the prow. A dragon figure would be high and heavy and probably dangerous on the Atlantic crossings this ship made. Instead, the prow curved up into a graceful and light spiral figure. A spiral carved by Solveig's father many years ago back in Iceland.
They had a good North wind so the ship could be taken out of the small bay and back in on a beam reach each way. Morgan didn't plan to be out more than an hour, so he didn't expect the weather to change. It didn't. The children were thrilled to be out on the big part of the freshwater bay, where they couldn't see the other shore. The ship was turned and the sail was hauled tight to make the ship leap over the three foot waves all the way back to the small bay. You could hear the small waves booming on the hull as the ship cut its diagonal way through them.
They kept the sail and the speed up almost to the beaching point. As they came in, two men dropped the anchor and played out the rope. The sail was dropped and they hit the beach hard, and several children that had not braced for the impact fell over and skidded on the deck.
Morgan figured there were ten or twelve children on the boat. They kept moving and it was hard to count. To compound matters, they were naked, and most looked alike with Powhatans hair and skin color, but one was a light skinned blonde and two that had the darker Powhatan skin, but Norse hair and features.
The children remembered their manners, and as Solveig's father descended from the ship on the many branched sapling, they formed a line and touched their curled left hand to their foreheads and solemnly intoned, “Ya hatash ya nolo ta deigo”. We thank you very much. They then broke into a loud chorus of squeals and personal thanks. Most of which Morgan couldn't understand.
That evening, right after sunset, Solveig climbed the tree to where she normally slept in the summer. A place where a big branch joined with the trunk provided a flat and stable sleeping platform. The oak had been growing for over a thousand years and the branch was ten feet thick and flat on top. Few animals could reach her here and a raid from an enemy village would probably not notice her.
She rotated her dog skin cape to use as a blanket, lay on her branch and stared out into the Western forest. The Powhatans said it went on forever, that you could walk to the West for years and never exit the forest. Fantastic and dangerous things lived there. Creatures that were half man and half animal, and animals that could see your future. Flying dogs and witchery.
Her father had tried to explore the forest by taking his ship up the river that fed the big freshwater bay, the Paw-tow-meck. But a little more than a few days walk from the mouth of the river they had encountered a series of rapids and waterfalls like none had ever seen before. These waterfalls and rapids on all the major rivers in the area defined the western edge of the Powhatans territory. Another expedition was contemplated using the Powhatans light quintans instead of the ship. These light river vessels could be carried around the rapids, unlike the ship.
At dawn she left the tree and went to cook breakfast for her father. Nonanto, a young man of 19 winters that the village Weroance had assigned to help her father, and to learn the ship building trade arrived. He joined the father and daughter by the fire. Solveig suddenly became shy and demure.
“Nonanto, greetings”, said her father in Powhatans, raising his right hand palm forward.
“Hallo”, Nonanto replied in rough Norse, raising his right hand in a similar manner.
“Now, I will answer your question”, Morgan said to Nonnanto. “My daughter can translate my words.”
“Yesterday, Nonanto asked me who my parents were”, Morgan explained to Solveig. “I tried to explain, but my Powhatans is as bad as his Norse. Translate for me.”
Solveig knew that was an important matter. Ancestry was very important to the Powhatans and this request showed a respect for her father and a desire for a more formal friendship. At the age of twelve Nonanto had been selected to undergo the nine month Huskanaw ordeal. He had survived, and because of this, he was now a man of status among the people. He would not have given a whit about the ancestry of a foreigner of no consequence. In fact, he would have found the question beneath his dignity. So this was an important moment.
Solveig seated herself on a log facing Nonanto and lit up like the sun, happy for the chance to speak to Nonanto without fear of making a fool of herself.
“Hello, Nonanto”, she said. “It's very nice to see you this morning.”
Nonanto simply smiled and nodded, to show more interest than this in the daughter of his friend would have been improper.
Her father started to begin:
“We speak Norse, and we live with the Norsemen, be we are actually from another people known as the Irish. That is why we have red hair, that is an Irish characteristic. The Norse are mostly yellow haired like my men.”
Solveig translated in a loud and almost chanting story telling voice, as was proper for this sort of address. A group of young children that were running nearby stopped and then vectored towards the group.
“A story?” One of the older ones breathlessly asked, as he neared the fire circle. “May we hear it too?”
“Yes, if you sit and be quiet”, said Nonanto. “It is the story of the Norsemen.”
Hearing this, the children became rapt in their attention as this was going to be good. Morgan attempted to begin again.
“As I said, Solveig and I are of Irish blood even though we speak Norse and live with the Norse.
We come from Iceland. And Ireland, the home of our ancestors, is an island South East of Iceland. I was born in Iceland, but born into an Irish family in Iceland.
My grandfather was named Frigg the Quarrelsome. And he was born in Ireland, in a town called Dublin, a trading town inhabited by both the Irish people and the Norse. And because of this, he could speak Norse as well as his own Irish language.”
“What does the Irish language sound like?” Another child rudely interrupted. “Can you or your father speak it?”
“A little”, Morgan lied, and he delivered an Irish curse that was about his total knowledge of the Irish language.
“What does it mean”, asked the child.
“May the cat eat you and may all the devils then take the cat.”
“What's a cat?” Asked a third child.
“It's monster”, said Nonanto. “Now you kids be quiet or you're going to have to leave.”
Morgan began again:
“Now …. by hard work and cleverness, he acquired two two ships, each crewed by thirty men. They would trade with the Southern lands. Places where it is as warm as it is here. They would also raid a people called the Saxons on a nearby Island. And because of this, all sixty of his men were good fighters.
A man named Brian Boru threatened Dublin and the people nearby, and the Weroance of the town offered my grandfather and his men a handsome fee for helping to defeat this Brian Boru. And there was a great battle where many men died, but my grandfather and most of his men survived.
They took their earnings to Iceland, where land was cheaper than near Dublin, and all bought large farms to settle on.
And Frigg the Quarrelsome took two wives and had seven surviving sons and four surviving daughters. And my father, Frigg Friggson, was the second son. And he supervised the farm for all of his life. It was a time of peace and ships were only sent to Dublin. And only sent there to obtain goods that could not be made locally.
And my father had five sons and two daughters. And I was the fifth son. But by now, there were almost thirty people dependent on the farm for their living. And over half of these were young men who could be expected to bring home wives to feed, and then children. This was too many, and the younger sons such as myself were hired out to learn trades. I was sent to a shipyard to learn how to build ships.
And with what I learned, and with the tools I had purchased for my trade, my brother and I built our first ship, and with this ship we became traders. We earned enough that we could buy a larger ship, such as the one on the beach now. And we could now carry enough men for a raiding party. So we collected a group of poor and landless men in Dublin and began raiding the land of the Saxons. And we soon earned enough for each of us to have our own ship. And I purchased the one you now see on the beach.”
“Why did everyone raid the Saxons”, a child asked and was immediately shushed up.
“But raiding is a dangerous and dirty business, and when I had enough to outfit the ship for a long voyage I came here with two other ships. The trip took a full year. We had heard about the rich land extending forever to the West and we sought to establish new farms. In a place where our children could then clear and settle land for themselves. Two of the ships stayed farther North, but we came here seeking the warmer lands. We did not know the land was so densely populated and there was little free land near the coasts. And I am grateful for the Weroance to allow my men and I to settle here.”
Nonanto nodded at this family history. It was a proud past, and he would expect no less from his friend Morgan.
“To work”, said Morgan.
Solveig almost translated this, but saw there was no need. Both Nonanto and her father rose and headed for the boatyard. And she was immediately surrounded by the gang of naked children.
“What's a cat?”
“Do they live in the forest here?”
“What do they look like?”
And Solveig told a blood curdling tale of large, fanged creatures that stole from their caves at night and ate sleeping children who had not done the days work well. Basically, the tale of the Icelandic Solstice Cat slightly modified for this audience. The children were both horrified and delighted by the tale.
Nonanto and Morgan arrived in the yard and began preparing their tools.
“Your daughter is a very capable young woman”, Nonanto noted. “She did a good job with the morning meal and she did an excellent job with the translation. Few can translate that way.”
“Yes, she has always been a bright one, and much more useful to me than many dullard sons I see.”
They didn't build full sized ships in the yard, but smaller, ocean going fishing vessels that could safely reach the outer banks where millions of fish lurked. Thirty foot long open boats for five or six fisherman. The metal for fastening the planks had been exhausted so now the boats were stitched together with twine made from milkweed fibers. Strategically placed pieces of rawhide would pull these stitches tight and the planks were then caulked with a fiber/pitch mixture for water tightness. The primary tools were two man ripping saws for the planks, adzes and large knives that were used like draw knives. Drills and chisels were also important tools. Morgan had long since realized that these precious steel tools were irreplaceable and he kept a close watch on them.
The keel for a new boat had been laid and Nonanto and Morgan spent the day cutting a couple of planks, carving them to fit, boring them for the twine and then stitching them in place. A good days work.
When Nonanto and Morgan returned to the Yi-Hakan of Morgan, Solveig was preparing a dinner of pigeons and some early squash she had found in the field. The pigeons would sometimes come over and darken the sky for an entire day while the flock moved to their destination. Net traps had been set in the bogs where their food was plentiful and thousands had been caught earlier that day. The entire village was eating pigeon that evening.
Solveig smiled at Nonanto as he and her father approached. Two pigeons had been cooked with special care, golden brown and perfect. These were to go to Nonante and the challenge now was to keep her father from simply grabbing pigeons off the fire. Something he was wont to do.
“Sit down, I'll bring you your food”, said Solveig as she handed a skewered pigeon to her father, who took a bite out of the breast before sitting.
“Good!”, he said as he chewed.
She unskewered the two perfect pigeons onto a cleanly scrapped piece of Alder and added some of he squash. This she presented to Nonanto. She then turned and did the same for her father.
A runner approached the fire and was invited to eat. All meals were communal affairs as most hunting and fishing were cooperative, so the cooking of food was an open invitation for anyone in the area to come and eat. And there was plenty of food tonight. But runner declined, he had eaten already. He sat by the fire to give his news.
“The Great Weroance of all the towns has sent a message to the local Weroance of this village. The message speaks of war to the North, war for the control of a disputed area between the River Paw-tow-meck and the River Paw-tux-unt. An area claimed by both the Powhatans and the Powhatans of the East bank.”
The Powhatans occupied an area from the Paw-tux-unt South to the River Paw-cho-wan and then west to the impassible rapids on the rivers and the mountains. The Powhatans of the East Bank were not really confined to the East Bank, and they occupied the lands North of the Paw-tux-unt on the West bank, the Eastern peninsula that defined the bay, and the land to the West to the waterfalls and mountains.
Solveig raised a hand for a pause and translated for her father. He gravely nodded and indicated that the messenger should continue.
“All able bodied men, and interested women, were to assemble in the center of the main town tomorrow morning shortly after sunup to hear the words of the Weroance.”
“Is there danger of an attack?” asked Solveig's father in Powhatans.
“I don't think so”, the messenger replied. “The Weroance of the East bank is calling for a civilized war to settle this matter once and for all. He says he has no interest in raiding villages like an inland savage. He wants men of good character and reputation to hold a fair fight and the winner will take the land. And none will argue after that.”
Solveig translated the complex statement for her father and all nodded, this was an honorable course by a worthy foe.
The next morning Solveig, her father and Nonanto entered the log stockade that surrounded the town proper. They made their way through the streets lined with the Yi-Hakan of nobles, clerks, holy men, advisers and all others who made a town run. The center of the stockade was marked with a carved and painted pole, which also marked the center of the dancing circle. The three stood at the edge of this circle and waited for the Weroance to appear.
He arrived with two aids and body guards, who carried the trappings of his authority. His staff and the soft deer skin painted with the image of the sacred hare. He moved to the carved and painted pole in the center of the dancing circle and stood in silence for a moment. The banners and feathers on the pole fluttered in the wind. He wore the skin of an elk and a bright red blanket to denote his status.
He finally spoke.
“Yesterday, Wye-tan-tanak, the principle Weroance of the East Bank Powhatans sent a runner to inform me that he intends to make war over the disputed territory between the rivers Paw-tow-meck and Paw-tux-unt. I replied that if it had come to this, then there would indeed be war. We are not a people who lives in fear.”
With this there was a roar of approval from the crowd and the banging of spears and walking sticks on the ground.
“And this is not a frivolous war. One for vanity or for proving oneself. Our people need this land. Already sons live on the land of their fathers and in another generation this situation will grow worse and food will become scarce. Fields will no longer lay fallow as they need to do to be fully productive. And in a short time the crowded land will be exhausted.”
Again, there were shouts of assent from the crowd.
“Wye-tan-tanak has proposed good and civilized rules for the war. There will be no raiding of villages and no attacks on the women, children or elderly. No theft. On the morning after the next full moon, a group of one thousand of our men of good character and reputation will meet one thousand of Wye-tan-tanak's best men at the shore on the South bank of the Paw-tow-meck. And there a battle will decide who is to own the land. And this result will never be questioned. And after this battle, there shall again be peace between the two peoples.”
Everyone in the circle looked to their neighbors and nodded in agreement. Obviously a fair, wise and sensible solution to the disagreement. The Weroance and his two assistants then left the circle. Just as they crossed the line marking the circle's perimeter, Solveig and many of the others jumped into the circle and began their dance. It was a dance for luck and for the preservation of their fighters. Rattles were passed out and the drums began. They moved in a counter clockwise direction around the center pole. They sang:
We are the Powhatans, people of the forest and western shore.
Be with us in our trials.
Be with us in our trials.
Preserve our fighters and give them luck.
For our cause is just and necessary.
Sharp shells were passed through the crowd of dancers and they used these to lacerate their arms and legs, smearing the blood over the rest of their faces and bodies. Solveig danced and sang until her legs gave out. She left the circle and another young maid immediately leaped in to take her place. She arrived home covered with blood and dirt to find her father inspecting his sword and short ax, an ax that was now used primarily for ship building. His shield, decorated with the image of a raven, lay propped against a nearby tree.
“Will you be fighting with the Powhatans or with the Norse” Solveig asked.
“With the Norse always”, replied her father. “We have always fought together and know how to work together. Eight of us will step forward and issue a challenge when the time comes.”
“Will Nonanto be with you?”
“No, it's best if he stays with the Powhatans. He has trained with them and like us, he knows how to coordinate with his people. He would be as lost with us as we would be with the Powhatans. A dangerous situation.”
But Nonanto and several of his friends were put to good use in the upcoming days. Morgan had them attack the shield wall with their traditional weapons to get a feel for defense and counter attacks. Arrows and hurled javelins were not used in this fair combat and all fighting would be at close quarters with war clubs, spears, shields, axes and swords.
The Powhatans were a powerful people, one that could field an army of five thousand men and keep the army in the field indefinitely. And from these five thousand warriors at large, one thousand of the best had been selected for the upcoming battle. The Norsemen, of course, numbered among the chosen. These large, strange men had shown themselves to be capable and all wished to see them fight. They would be stars in the battle, watched with delight by both sides.
But much to the horror and shock of Nonanto, he was not chosen. The village Weroance explained that this was not due to his lack of abilities, but rather his age. At nineteen he was still deemed too young for a battle with the best grown warriors. When he objected that other nineteen year olds were fighting, the Weroance broke down and explained that he and Morgan's boat building skills were too valuable to the village to risk in one fight. A fight where they both might be killed or injured. And that he would be welcome to participate the next time if Morgan sat that one out. But both could not fight at the same time lest the skills be lost.
Nonanto grudgingly accepted this practical necessity and returned to the fire of Morgan to explain this humiliation. Hearing of this, Solveig had to keep her back to Nonanto to hide her smile of joy at the news. Nonanto would not be fighting. Somehow, she didn't worry about her father. He had been in many battles and he always came out little worse for it.
The selected men danced in the circle at sun-up on the morning before the battle. A special stew, rich with fish, was prepared for the noon meal to give them strength. After a rest, the men, dressed only in loin cloths, assembled into ranks and began jogging the twenty miles North from the North bank of the river Rappahannock (or river Toppehannock) to the South shore of the river Paw-tow-meck, singing the Powhatans song for victory as they moved. Solveig's father and his seven fellow fighters had not danced, but took part in the noon meal and now moved with the group, but they did not even try to sing the victory song, as all spoke little Powhatans.
A couple of thousand villagers followed. Some carrying or pulling loads of provisions, some to cook and care for the warriors and some to simply watch the battle. It was a holiday as was seldom seen and all wore their best finery.
Solveig had her hair tied up with a red cloth from Iceland, which attracted much attention. Three hawk feathers hung from the knot in back and she had two red and one blue stripe on each cheek. Her body had been decorated with blue dots. She and Nonanto pulled a travois with her father's sword, shield, ax, mail shirt and helmet. As well as the padded undershirt for the mail and a white over shirt with the same image of the raven as the shield. Solveig had tied raven feathers around the lower half of the shield in light twine, that would break rather than hinder the shield if grabbed by an enemy.
The village Weroance had spread the word about why Nonanto was not fighting. Two of the wise healers of the village approached to express their condolences.
“It is humiliating for a young man to be held back from the fight as you have been”, said the first. “And we understand that this is not your choice.”
The second continued: “But you must understand that only a valuable man of high standing would be protected this way. A man who cannot easily be replaced. So this is actually an honor for you. Notice that the Weroance and high holy men do not participate either. Like you, they cannot. They are too valuable to lose.”
And with this Nonanto felt a little better with his place helping Solveig pull the travois that carried her father's weapons. And for some reason, he was very glad that Solveig had heard the words of the wise healers - although her opinion of him should not have mattered.
In late afternoon they arrived at the Southern edge of the great field where the battle would take place. People dispersed to claim sleeping areas and fires were built for the evening meals. Men from the Eastern bank were dropping white ash and pinning down ropes to mark the lines for the battle. A center line where the fighters would meet and then two lines, each about fifty yards North and South of the center that marked the limits to which fighters could be pushed back. Any fighter from the South pushed back over the Southern line was deemed out of the battle. If all fighters were pushed over the line, the battle was lost. The same for the North. Powhatans men joined the group to make sure the lines were fairly set out.
That evening at sunset, the thousand Powhatans warriors formed a line near the Southern battle line. The East Bank People did the same along the Northern line. The Powhatans began first:
We are the Powhatans,
We will give you combat tomorrow at dawn,
We urge all to fight with fairness and honor,
And may the most skillful fighters win by virtue of their skill.
This time the Norse joined in. Such battle chants were important to them and they had received several coaching sessions from Solveig in preparation.
The East Bank People replied:
We are the Powhatans of the East Bank,
We accept your offer of combat at dawn,
We will fight fairly and with honor,
And we urge you to do the same,
May the most skillful warriors win.
And with this, everyone from both sides retired to their sleeping areas for the night.
Morgan and the seven other Norsemen woke about three the next morning, at least a couple of hours before dawn. Under the light of oil lamps, with the help of their sons, or in Morgan's case, his only daughter, they began to dress for battle.
Solveig had washed Morgan's outer shirt until it was white as a cloud and she had touched up the raven with a paint made from pitch. Morgan had allowed his beard to grow, as a long beard made a man look good in battle, but there had been little change over the twenty five days since the announcement.
“Father, would you want me to tie raven feathers in your hair. I have brought them.”
“No, they might make noise and distract me. But tie my hair back securely with a piece of leather. I don't want it in my face during the battle.”
Solveig complied as her father tightly laced his deer skin boots. He then stood in his white shirt, his helmet, with the bar that covered his nose, his raven shield and his sword and ax belted to his waist with a belt of bear skin from Germany.
Old Bjorne, the nearest thing the group had to a Skald, then stopped before each of the eight men and daubed three dots of color on each of their cheeks. Red, blue and yellow. The exact reason for this was only known to adult men. But it was always done before a fight. The group then formed a circle, bowed their heads, presented their swords, and asked Thor to be with them in the upcoming battle. They then faced out, extended their swords to the sky and begged the Morrigon to favor them. And they were ready.
The Norse were given a place in the center of the line as it was known that all, from both sides, wished to see them fight. Were they were at one end of the line, they might cause chaos by drawing people from the other end of the line onto the field to see them better. The warriors stepped into the position where they had stood the night before. They began to beat their war clubs, swords, and spears on their shields.
We are the Powhatans,
We are a mighty people,
We do not fear you,
And we shall triumph.
This was the final chant before battle, and almost sacred to the Norsemen. And they were able to join in lustily after their coaching from Solveig. The East Bank warriors opened up with a similar chant and the drums from both sides joined in. For the next twenty minutes it became a contest to see which side could out shout the other.
Suddenly, An-yan-ho-teh, A Powhatans and the son of the Weroance of a nearby village, stepped forward and approached the center line. The chanting instantly stopped and it was dead quiet.
“I am An-yan-ho-teh, son of Ta-tank-ko, Weroance of the Big Creek Village. Is there a worthy opponent who will meet me here with war club and shield?”
After a moment, a young man jogged out from the East Bank line with war club and shield and stood ten feet in front of An-yan-ho-teh and shouted, “I am Yo-tappi, son of the Weroance of the Ocean Fishing Village. I am equal and worthy and I accept the challenge.”
And with this, both fighters ducked into a crouch and began to circle, war clubs raised and shields in place. The chanting, drums and beating of shields began anew.
Both men attempted several expert, classic attacks that were blocked by equally adept defensive moves. Clubs blocked with other clubs or shields. Both fighters were well trained. An-yan-ho-teh of the Powhatans lost a portion of his shield, but this didn't matter in a club fight, as long as his forearm was protected for blocking.
But then the East Bank fighter tried something new, a crosswise blow that looked to be aimed at the Powhatans hip. The young Powhatans dropped his shield to block and the club suddenly changed course and took the Powhatans in the side of his head. There was a explosion of liquid and the young warrior went over on his back. He didn't move after he landed.
The East Bank Warrior raised and lowered his war club to the ground three times, indicating that he could kill the Powhatans if he be still alive, and he then declared himself the victor. There was cheering from the East Bank side and silence from the Powhatans. This was a blow to them. Something that might demoralize their young men.
To rally the Powhatans another group of ten steeped forward to the line with short lances and shields. The lances were copper tipped as flaked points, which shattered on penetration and caused massive hemorrhaging, were banned. And while the copper points made clean wounds, a lance that was blocked by a shield too many times was blunted and became a light and ineffective war club.
“We are the men of the Rappahannock Oyster Fishing Village, and we issue a challenge to ten good men with short lances and shields.”
The opposition from the East Bank people had already formed up and almost instantly leaped onto the field. The formed a line about ten feet from the Powhatan men.
“We are the men of the Bird Clan of the East Bank Powhatans and we accept this challenge.”
The drums and shout began, this time a long continuous scream, and the two groups couched and eyed each other. Suddenly, the Powhatans screamed and lunged as a group at the East Bank people. Both sides kept tight ranks and pushed back against the other side's shields. Trying to reach over and under the shields with the short lances. It was a rugby scrum with each side giving and taking a few feet at a time.
An East Bank Powhatans fell, a large gash in in his upper right arm. And then another fell with a similar wound in his leg. The loss of two fighters by the East Back allowed the Powhatans, still with ten men, to slowly push the East Bankers back across the Northern line. The Powatans erupted with their victory song.
Several more such contests took place when Solveig's father and his seven men took up their weapons and shields and entered the field. Four carried swords and four carried long lances. All carried their large round shields and all had small axes at their belts.
At the center line, Solveig's father said, in rehearsed Powhatans, “We are the Norsemen who have joined with the Powhatans, we are from the Forrest Village. Our weapons are different, so we specify no weapons in our challenge. All fair weapons are allowed.”
This brought an appreciative murmur from both sides. The team that was to meet the Norsemen armed themselves in a similar manner, four short lances, four long lances and shields.
As they formed up across from the Norsemen, Morgan pulled a standard Norse trick.
Loudly, in rehearsed Powhatans, he asked the man on his left, “Sven, how many men have you killed in battle?”
“Lord, I am sorry, but I have lost track and I don't know.”
And to the man on his right, “And Harald, how many for you.”
“Lord, I too am sorry, but it is the same for me. I have lost track.”
Morgan was glad to see this give visible pause to the young East Bank men they were to fight in a moment.
“You are ready?” Asked Morgan.
“We are”, their spokesman replied.
“Begin!” Morgan shouted.
The screaming and drums began and the Norsemen formed up into a shield wall and stepped forward. Harald was the first to discover that a hearty thrust with the steel tipped long lance would pierce the Powatans shield. And a Powhatans left the field nursing a nasty gash in his arm while Harald shook the pierced shield from the end of his lance. This instantly changed the tactics.
The East Bank Powhatans broke ranks and two groups tried to run the ends of the Norsemen's shield wall to get behind them. But the Norsemen were ready for this and formed a circle of shields, swords and long lances facing outward. But this was a defensive formation and they couldn't really push back against the East Bank warriors this way. And for a short while, the battle degenerated into a ridiculous spectacle of the Norsemen standing ineffectively in a ring while the North Bank warriors ran in circles around them, unable to approach due to the deadly steel tipped lances and swords.
Eventually, the four East Bank long lance men abandoned their shields and gained greater lance range than the Norsemen by gripping their lance at the end with their right hand and cupping the shaft with their left. This allowed them to stand just out of Norse lance range and thrust the lances at the legs of the Norsemen. A short lance man parried any Norse lance that stepped forward out of the Norse ranks to stop the East Bank long lance while the East Bank long lance man danced way. The Norsemen cursed, danced and parried the lances with swords.
Morgan took a deep stab in his left calf just above his knee and went down. His left leg no longer functioning, he crawled to the Southern lines leaving a trail of blood on the grass. Solveig screamed and tried to go to him but was held back by Nonanto, it was forbidden for non-combatants to enter the fighting area during a battle. Nonanto continued to hold her as her father crawled to their line and this seemed to calm her.
This was the final straw for the Norsemen and they broke ranks and attacked on the East Bank warriors one on one. Two of the East Bank long lance warrior, now without shields, went down immediately and crawled from the field. The other two resorted to a jab and run tactic which proved dangerous as they were more agile than the mail- and shield-burdened Norsemen. But there were only five East bank warriors against the seven Norsemen now. And while two Norsemen kept the two long lance warriors busy, the remaining five Norsemen drove the three East Bank short lance warriors back over their line.
Now confronted with seven Norsemen, and growing tired of the jab and run tactic, which they felt made them look ridiculous in front of their entire world, the two remaining East Bank warriors dropped their lances and took to a single knee on the field. A surrender.
Both sides exploded into cheers, for in spite of some of the ridiculous aspects, this would be a battle that would be discussed for a long time. The Norsemen's disciplined ranks plus the tactic of pairing long lances and close in swords to hold an enemy at bay was something to behold. And the East Bank's brilliant and impromptu change in tactics when confronted with the superior weapons was greatly admired. In the minds of all, both sides had lived up to expectations.
Solveig, Nonanto and another villager ran out to collect her father, who was surprisingly heavy in his mail shirt. Solveig carried his shield and sword. Off the field, a Powhatans healer immediately applied pressure to stop the bleeding. He explained that this was a bad wound and that Morgan might never recover full use of the leg. He began his cleaning and stitching operations. The village women wove a stretcher that could be used by the Norsemen to carry Morgan home.
The Powhatans won the vast majority of the contests and there was no doubt that they had won. At the end of the day, the East Bank Powhatans lined up at the edge of the field and saluted the Forrest Powhatans as the victors.
Morgan was placed his Yi-Hakan and was cared for by Nonanto and Solveig. The prompt cleaning of the wound and the careful continued aftercare by the two had prevented a serious infection. Solveig found herself becoming more at ease with Nonanto and would now engage him in long conversations. She took great pains to show off her cooking and housekeeping skills.
After three months, the healer pronounced that probably no further improvements could be expected from the leg and that Morgan should begin to adjust to life as it was.
The East Bank warrior who had inflicted Morgan's wound heard of this and sent a slave to assist Morgan in his new life. The slave, named Hie-to-don, who had been an unwanted orphaned child in the family of his uncle, was thrilled. He was an inland person who had worked for his adoptive parents as a bean farmer. And his life improved after being spirited away into slavery, where he still worked as a bean farmer, but now ate the much better and more varied food of the coastal people. But now he was to learn the wonderful craft of building the magic ships and to assist the master builder.
One day the village Weroance paid a visit to Morgan.
“You are well cared for by your daughter and Nonanto”, the Weroance began. “And Nonato and Hie-to-don are doing good work in the shipyard under your guidance. But these arrangements are temporary and you will need something more permanent. I suggest that your family be joined with Nonanto's by giving your daughter to him. You will then have his full family to care, and provide for you, in addition to your daughter.”
“But shouldn't we ask Nonanto and Solveig?”
“It's normally not the children's place to have opinions in these marriage arrangements”, the Weroance replied. He then smiled, stifled a small laugh, and continued, “But let me say that this, this was not my idea. I was approached by two others, on two separate occasions, who both suggested it. So I think you can rest easy here.”
One month later Solveig and Nonanto stood in the center of a ring of stones in the middle of a fast-flowing, clear stream. Everything that the current carried into the ring was examined for omens and all seemed good. And after a decent interval of observation, the healer pronounced them man and wife and wished them luck. The on lookers threw lucky flowers into the water so that they could be carried into the stone ring. Solveig's hammer of Thor was replaced with a gold medallion showing a face ringed with archaic symbols that was said to represent the sun, and which had been traded from the far South West.
Morgan found he didn't mind his crippled state that much. Nonanto and Hie-to-don and carved him a fine crutch and Solveig had padded it with soft deer skin. And the other Norse were becoming old codgers with knee and hip problems as well, so he wasn't alone. The women of the village had come after the wedding a built a much larger Yi-Hakan, maybe twenty paces long and five wide. He, along with Nonanto's parents and Nonanto's two sisters lived there along with Solveig and Nonanto.
Tow-ha-don, the warrior who had wounded Morgan would also come to visit. He brought plentiful honey from the East Bank which Solveig would brew into mead. Morgan, Tow-ha-don, Nonanto's father and the other old Norse would then sit in the shady yard and drink it on sunny afternoons.
His grandchild had features similar to Solveig, but the jet black hair and brown skin of the Powhatans, but with a trace of freckles.
That spring, over his mead, one of the Norse in the yard had spoken of a return to Iceland.
“None of us are ever returning to Iceland”, Morgan had observed. “We are now Powhatans. Our ship will make a fine fishing vessel for our children.”
The rest of the group had nodded in agreement.
He had said this as he watched his grandchild climb the oak to his daughters old sleeping perch. When he was older, his grandson and the wife he chose were guaranteed a fine farm in the formerly disputed territory. It was the same for all the Norse who had fought the East Bank Powhatans.
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Written well with valuable lessons for life, I like it!