23 March 2008

Free Land: Olaf's Tale

From those who remember, Free Land, the Saga of Olaf the Navigator transcribed:

From that first winter to first spring had seen hard work for all, of felling trees and hunting game and using winter fodder.  Such that was brought of kept animals, of pig and sheep and goat, proved capable of pulling provender from snow covered fields.  With that spring Eric who came to be known of Three Lands, made right and sure that beyond the landing a second place was found to espy the seas of north and south beyond great spit of land.  Thus it was in spring when Eric, chosen Lawgiver for the year, gave Olaf two ships and scant crew to send back to leave the word.

That winter had seen much work by all, and the hunting of prizes brought much pride, but it was those of the bear of black, found in winter den that made Eric alight and begin simple tanning work.  The smell of forge and tanning and other needful things brought them fair reminder of homelands and showed them what was needed.  So Eric would come to Olaf and his chosen crew and speak of needful things.

'Olaf you are most trustworthy to find fair way back, and I know you thought as you espied the coast during our travels here.  For those not as good as you for finding seaward ways, coastal markers are needed for those lesser ones who may become disguided.  Choose carefully and quickly for we both know the seas will turn and in the shift of early spring, the currents are not easy to discern.  If one is storm-tossed and finds bleak days of travel, ensure that they can find a marker and get their wits about them.  Make it quick and fast, my friend as you have a long year's worth of trips ahead.'

Olaf smiled from face that had been from ice to  balmy clime, and eyes twinkled of a man who would make best time of any and knew the fair weeks of time between the lands of old. 'Not as slow as that, my Eric, not not that slow at all.  For coastal navigators see the fall of tree and cast of rock and know if it is nature or man that made it.  You, yourself, from North clime had seen that in fjords and then again to Iceland and yourself made them in Greenland.  The obvious are easy and the subtle faster, too, so bare two weeks to get it done with landing for single days to mark.  Those that follow with any wit of the sea and land will know whereof they find, and follow markings to know their way north to south inclined.'

Eric nodded to Olaf and looked to his fair crews, for two ships were taken one for trading and long ship for the work. 'And you that go with him, know that you will return with trading ship.  From Greenland old home do trade with what you're given for those things you need.  Olaf has further mission beyond that land of green and ice, and will be most of year doing so, and your return will be self-guided.  Learn well from Olaf Navigator, he has plied many of the seas and no truer Viking is there in one who knows its ways.'

With that Eric and others helped load the ships that were to go, and gave special bundles to Olaf for his further needs.  From there Olaf guided well and each three days alighted with his crews.  Asqe of his people, now Viking in the full, helped Olaf to mark those places that his people would likewise know.  Even with such help a few places went beyond a day, but beyond the rocky cairns Olaf inscribed the way.  Upon sheer cliff and boulders strewn, the markers subtle made, have kept the way clear-marked for generations later until better could be had.  And still, all this time after, a storm tossed crew can find, those subtle waypath markers that lead them to fair clime.

To the second land Olaf gave it scant attention, although Asqe ensured that his people with simple yet sturdy craft could find a proper way.  Olaf who had seen such markings asked Asqe of their lore, and Asqe gave look and then nodded to explain the craft. 'This marking of curving and the three lines up, is the great beasts of the deep making for air and upwelling.  So when seen a man knows that such danger does lie near, and will shift away from it to make safer passage.  This of curving line down with rays down upon it, show the opposite for warning, where ocean plunges deep like the sounding beast.  Then the three up under three down shows the hunter rocks, the place that will suck you in to fair and ugly death upon them.  We have many others and no man or clan has set store, but these I make and use and are easy to know their marking way if you know the man and clan.'

Olaf laughed heartily, on shore as they were, and clearly enjoyed such knowledge from such man and his clan.  'Mark well, all of you, the simple nature of the Navigator!  All you need is eye and knowledge, clear Thought and Memory and such things will guide you well.  From those things I can see how hunting grounds are marked for sea, and know the dangers of these people and to you and me.  If ever storm tossed beyond our normal trade, seek the waypath guides and puzzle them until their meaning is in the clear.  For they are to be read by those with dim light and rain upon them, they are to save your life when all else has turned against you.'

They did meet at the near tip of second land to Greenland, peoples who spend the spring and summer and the fare elsewhere for the winter.  Aqse knew of them and talked with them, and Olaf made such gifts as meager store provided, and then the Viking markers put down, five great boulders upon the shore.  While many of the smaller ones are gone or since moved, those five to show the waypath remain to show the way.  From there scant markings on the first land as it was well known, and only simple guide to show the new lands path were needed there.

In fair Greenland winter had just given up its breath, but Spring had not renewed the land as the melt water still did flow.  Olaf sought out young Lief, the son of Eric to the Three Lands, and bade him and his mother well to let them know their fate. 'Eric bids you no ill-will, but to know his decision he abides.  To both of you his caring and hopes for gentle guides.  He says new home will welcome you, so long as peace is kept, and ask him not to change to ways he did not seek.  Young Lief you are to know that half his inheritance is yours for you and the clan to live.  That other half as he has given, now you are to read the bundle that is mine to give.'

With that to Lief he handed small pouch secured with Eric's hair, and simple knife to open it brought out few but needful things.  Lief looked at it and gasped at the simple clan ensign made upon hide necklace. 'Eric entrusts family's well being to me, then, and I am to ensure the right.  With half his wealth more than enough is done to ensure that this be carried out.'

Olaf nodded, 'That is for the true, you are now to hold fast and best for your family entire.'

Next Lief looked at simple grooved planks, tiny and bound together. Nodding Lief, who had shown ability as a stripling mad the simple match. 'His few ships are to be divided one set old and one to new with Greenland between them both.'

Smiling deeply, Olaf said, 'You have spent fair time in repairing with Eric and Me on voyages back along the way, and by fair mark you would trade my boots from me for snail shells if given half a chance.'

The final piece was keen metal shard and simple smoothed wooden peg, bound at the center with hair that Lief looked closely at.  Then back to pouch and to Olaf, then to the entwined pieces.  'He has bound you as messenger and entrusted you with Nornish path.  And in that binding I am to help as you speak for him before me.'

Olaf's face went calm, and closed eyes for a bit, then opened them and steady, as if gazing to calm horizon. 'Lief the time has come for Vikings to announce their chosen path, and as you see I'm messenger for those that have already left.  To each of those sigils mark a way to go so that rulers know what it is they face.  From Greenland to Iceland goes the way of trade.  I will tell you now that fair sea journey direct will cut off Greenland in some time as I can see how the oceans shift and direct way though longer can be navigated.  As clan head you must know this in the first of my stops from here.'

Lief laid down the bound pieces, 'Such binding is needful to know.  As head of family and of clan spread to here, this is not easy news to take.'

'Yes, and too much so, Lief, and yet that is the way of it.  Next is the grooved wood which represents the Isles and second destination.'

'You go to Eire and then to Angles then... ah, and after that to Danemark.'

With a snort and short laugh, Olaf did reply, 'Oh, yes I do and like in Iceland of the Norse I will let the Danes come to know the message Eric has given to me for them.  But not before delivering word port to port until I get there of this new and fine fair land.'

'To let it be known?'

'Aye, Lief you are seeing know what Eric does intend.  Tick off in your mind the clans aggrieved in each of these lands, disinherited by poorly given Law and outcast for simple clan disputes.  Eric was but one of many, as we both well full know.  This message will get to them by those that travel near and far, and hear of Viking making fair land and Law for those willing to settle grievances.'

Lief sat back, and let out a long whistle. 'I had not thought... but yes it is the score that we go aviking on the trade and even now there is final bounds.  Many are the dispossessed and they will hear the whisper of the Blood Red made good to new and open realm.  That will take time, Olaf.'

'Oh time enough, for sure.  But the immediate need as you can see is to find those who are skilled in making.  We have those things in abundance and we lack skilled hands to go around, and so when family and clan do shift will come those who know of iron, wood, grain and creatures.  Yet not for faint-hearted roustabouts who think first with sword and then with head, for that will get you killed in crossing and in making a new home.  While the people of this new land are not so skilled in those things, they are skilled enough to draw high and dear cost when confronted.  By numbers and sudden appearance did we shock them enough to listen, else we would all be dead, throats slit in deep night.  But Eric was not the Red for nothing, as you well know, and vigil was our answer until peace could be talked.'

Thus Lief nodded and looked at two and then realized the co-joining, before the third. 'Not only Dane but Norse, joined Kings they are for sure so to both you must go.'

'Well and fairly said, that, and from Iron south to Wooden north one message will both get.'

'That leaves... oh, to Swedes!'

Olaf grimaced as he saw the look of Lief in realizing. 'Yes, a final tangle to unskein needs be done to set great things aright.  Yet, as strange as it may seem the message will be exactly the same to there as to the other Kings as told.  Yet past Jutes to Swedes and even Finns and Lapp and deep beyond, a message will be whispered by the presences in far Kingdom where Thing also rules the people.  None will be forgotten in the north and from there it will trickle to the south, although in places it will be more than just a trickle in return.'

Leaning forward Lief gazed at Olaf and soon it was calm sea to calm sea in their gazes. 'Eric is doing the hard thing, Olaf.  What is the message he bids you to bring?'

A frown and sigh from Olaf, 'That is for those leaders to know and clan leaders to hear after it is fairly given.  I can say, though, Lief that for at least a generation Greenland will prosper before the shorter route is fully plied.  I have not done it myself as of yet, but there is knowledge in deep, unknown seas and those who know them.'

Nodding softly, Lief came to understand. 'My way is set even though I am free, for no other can be done.  I think I understand now, for first time its true, just how my father felt being free and yet so confined by fates as to rail once and forever to break them.  While its a harsh task I cannot shirk the justice in it and the opportunities for me and clan.  I can stay in town that will prosper for short time and then slowly feel lack of trade, or build something new by exploring.  By Viking way.'

'That is the way of it, Lief: stay at home like those south of the Alps these days or take up satchel and sword and net and make new ways to go.  I am Navigator and that is the life for me, but for you it must be decided how you handle what the Norns have given,' holding up hand, 'I know that is not your line of thought or belief but that is what spurred Eric onwards.  And surely in your way of looking there is room for understanding that while things may be out of your control, yourself you never are.'

Lief nodded, 'That is ever the way of it, Olaf, and I will pray for guidance to dear Christ, but I will not let these events move me from doing what needs be done.  Eric has damned us to live in exciting times to prosper and that will keep us busy for the rest of our lives, is true.'

'Very busy Lief, now let us go over the listing of those bare things that are needed for new land, so that you can find a way to prosper and ensure your position by scant foreknowledge so as to make new knowledge with each and every trip. For me the bare morn tide awaits and messages to spread and give.'


Thus the Saga fragment ends picked up in other tales and lands, and better known in them for what it is they are.

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