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A SONG OF AGES ægir
This is a newly written sketch for a scene in part 2 of The Twist Inside (vol II of A Song of Ages). I found it difficult to write but the response at my writing group seemed positive so I may keep it like this.
Most readers here will know nothing about this story. What you need to know in order to make sense of what follows is that:
Angren and Sigrid are key characters in A Song of Ages. Half way through volume two they have finally fallen in love. Angren has a price on his head and has been taken captive by bounty hunters, and Sigrid in trying to rescue him has been captured too. They are on a ship heading towards Terremark and the customer, whoever that might be. The ship had been a Corayan slaver, but recently it was boarded by piratical Kelling Islanders and the Corayan slavers themselves enslaved. In the course of the voyage Angren reaches an accommodation with the Kelling bounty hunters, and so when, in the teeth of a storm, the Corayans contrive an escape from the oars, Angren and Sigrid are forced to side with their captors. It goes badly and soon Angren and Sigrid and the Kelling chief are in an impossible situation.
Angren, Sigrid and Ståle stood on the poop deck, circled now by twenty of the Corayans, some with their chains dangling still from their wrists, many of them carrying swords or knives, held back only by the crossbows Angren and Ståle had trained on them.
For Sigrid, the scene was all wrong. Rolling and slewing through the offings of the Dovey harbour, in the teeth of the storm, this stand-off between attackers and defenders was more like some dramatic painting than anything real.
Yes, the wind whipped through the rigging, streaming the Corayan’s long hair in front of their faces, like crowns of snakes, and yes the cold horizontal rain was skinning her face and the rolling waves crashed on all sides. The air was full of whining and deep percussions, and the squealing of the tortured timbers, and the crack and slap of the sails. All of this noise merged into one mighty trauma and convulsion, engulfing every breath and every thought she strove to make. And yet, to Sigrid, it was as though everything had stopped.
They were about to die. There was no hope.
She could hear Angren talking but his words were just a dull buzzing in her ear, like a fly in a jar.
“This can’t happen,” she heard herself say. This wasn’t meant to be. Now that she’d found him, life was to be different. When the job was done they’d find somewhere, somewhere to settle, somewhere to… “It’s not fair! Not fair,” she cried. “Please? Please, someone must help us.”
The Sigrid that could still move, and had lips that could speak and tears that could fall, took a step forward to face the Corayans. The Sigrid inside, in the stillness, watched as their leader moved towards her. She wondered if he could speak with that scar across his mouth and chin.
“Please. You don’t need us. Put us in a boat. Take the ship. Let us go.”
The Corayan laughed.
“You don’t understand,” she said, and the Sigrid inside thought that perhaps he didn’t. “I can’t die now, here. I want babies. We need to have babies. Angren and me. Let us go. Please?”
The scar mouth smiled. “We can be kind,” he said, adding his voice to the storm in her head, “we are not monsters. Come here. Come to me now, you’ll not be killed. I will give you babies.”
She spat at him, the Sigrid who moved.
“Not so friendly, not so wise,” said the Corayan. “What shall I do then? Give you to my men?” His crew jeered, and whooped. “If not, then - you - must - d -
His threat came to nothing. His face froze in the middle of the word. He looked ridiculous: his lips twisted, unable to speak. The Sigrid inside laughed. He was speaking with the wind but the wind had stopped.
Over their heads the clouds ceased all movement, became as solid as a painting in oil, and the ship too was drawn at a fixed angle to the waves, the sails caught by the artist half-full, mid-billow, and the waves static like grey hills, never to roll again under moon or sun.
And all the noise had gone. But the silence was vast and filled her till she could hardly take more. It filled them all.
The Corayan leader’s face was raised to look at the motionless sky. He was all in fear, but now he found his voice again. “Ægir is here!” he screamed in his own tongue, “Ægir! He is here! He is here!” Sigrid understood. She smiled as the Corayans all dropped to the deck, prostrate and moaning in terror. She looked back at Angren and Ståle, but they too dropped to their knees, their crossbows clattering on the planks.
Sigrid remained standing.
The voice shook through her…
WOULD HAVE YOU MAKE
… and the ship quivered with each thunderous word.
YOU WILL NOT DIE HERE
And as that sentence resonated through the deck boards something monstrous broke through the surface of those grey hills at the ships stern. It was the face of a man as wide as the mainsail. Water washed down the bald head and neck, streamed down from the shaggy beard, and the eyes opened upon them all, eyes as grey and deep as the sea.
The Corayans cowered and would not look at him; Angren and Ståle bowed their heads.
YOU PRAYED TO PÎDRA, MY SISTER
“I… I don’t remember,” said Sigrid, brave enough now, outside and in, to talk to a God.
But then she did remember. Months past. Kneeling by her brother’s dying body, in the pass above Aristeth. Close by the source of the Tirpinaga. She’d looked over at the spring, and thought of Pîdra, Goddess of Falling Waters, scarce believing but desperate and wishing for help. She asked for help. And then reinforcements came, and with them a healer, and the healer stayed the progress of death, and her brother survived the day.
And today she had cried out for help once more, desperate for a life that had not happened yet, for the chance of a different life, and desperate to bring life. And now she understood that the memory of Aristeth, and the prayer she made then, were caught up in the cry she made now. And the memory and the hope and the silence and the presence of the god all flowed together and made her want to scream with joy.
BE STILL DAUGHTER
The face of Aegir plunged beneath the surface, and the water plumed and boomed.
Then the motion of the sea resumed its sway and the ship began to roll once more, and the wind howled as though it had never stopped, and the clouds flowed overhead and the sky wept. But Sigrid could not move, for all her strength had fled, and she sank through mists of confusion, and knew no more.
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