Captain Bjerlson’s blue eyes squinted against the glare of the late morning sun. He absent-mindedly rubbed the runes engraved on the pendant that hung from his neck. The granite stone was almost worn smooth. He scanned the desert coastline looking for any sign of civilization.
Cnut watched the captain out of the corner of his eye. In a slow deliberate action he shook his head and spat over the side of the ship. “Another barrel got emptied this morning.”
Bjerlson nodded. He had noticed.
“We will hit the half way point probably tomorrow night. Even with the men already on half rations.”
Bjerlson looked him in the eye. “I know.”
Cnut scratched his scruffy red beard and continued. “Last night the herd-knarr was close enough to hear and they said they were past the halfway mark for feed.”
“Not a good way to start off your first voyage as captain. At this rate, you might not get another.”
Bjerlson’s hand shot up to the man’s throat. A quick step inside and a twist of his hips found him on top of the prone form of his second in command. His iron knife pressed against his neck. “Not a good way to start a conversation with your captain. At this rate, you might not get another one.”
The soldiers next to them looked without stopping their rowing. It was not the first conflict they had seen this voyage, and it would probably not be the last. Captain Bjerlson stood and walked away sheathing his knife. Cnut sat up and scowled at the men sitting on their sea chests as they rowed. He went to the opposite end of the ship and stared off at the far horizon.
Hours later the longship ahead of it raised a signal flag over the large square sail. Something had been spotted. Cheers went up across the ship, and he breathed a sigh of relief. “Not too loud. We don’t want to scare them yet. Raise the banner so the knarrs can know we spotted something.” Exhilaration surged across the ship. He looked back at the two knarrs that followed the three longships. The closest of the cargo ships that carried the mounts rode low in the water, but the one for slaves bobbed in the water since it was not weighted down enough.
He opened his chest and donned his chain armor and helm. The air here was too hot to leave it on for very long. The coastline had been sand for the last few days and most of the Nords didn’t think it was possible for anyone to live in this area. Bjerlson had seen the great winged dinosaurs in the air, and if the beasts were here, then man could survive as well. He gazed across the water and said a prayer to Aegir and the nine children that it was not a false alarm.
Slowly the distant horizon drew close enough to see the form of the mud and stick huts. He cursed his eyes for not being as strong as they once were. The soldiers on the ship alternated rowing and donning their armor. He brushed the sweat from his hands onto the mammoth fur tunic he wore. It was hot in the blazing sun of the south, but it would keep him safe from most attacks.
He looked back at the knarr that carried the war-beasts. He could see the wooly rhino slinging his horn about in protest. He saw his eldest daughter in full armor mount the beast. His heart swelled with pride as he knew that she would save the expedition and they would return to their new Hjemland with enough slaves and plunder to keep them from failing, at least for now.