posted on Mar, 13 2005 @ 08:12 AM
-- Glory --
I rode on the prow of the charter boat "Glory", as it made its way back to port. A piercing wind had roiled the surface of the water all that day.
The ocean's breath was choked with slush and sleet, driven like a lash - so hard against the boat I thought the steel might crack, and the wind,
because it displayed such fury, took on the auspice of something very old and frightening. It made me feel small and weak, but for some reason, also
very much at home.
I couldn't explain it to save my life; my feet planted, my eyes as they watched the horizon, my bearded, frozen face and the hot blood coursing
everywhere belonged to me, but they also belonged to another time and place, a history recorded in muscles and blood that I have only just begun to
The whole ocean seemed to heave up and slap me with every wave. I was frozen to the marrow, but I stood there, still as a rock, squinting my eyes
against the whips of the wind. I stiffened my jaw to accomodate the ice that formed in my beard, and watched the horizon. Though there was nothing
there, in the wax and wane of grey between the ocean and the sky, I stood still because it felt right to be vigilant, to be steadfast and to watch, so
I did. The two planes of water and sky surged into and around each other, trading blows back and forth. The bite of the wind would tear an ascending
wave to bits, then another wave would rise, fat and foaming, and shake it's rapidly disintegrating fist at the sky.
My legs braced me against the ship's rail, the in-board engine droned, sputtered impotently in the chop, and my eyes shifted their focus, so I looked
through the horizon, into a gray, nebulous place that I imagined having seen once before.
I waited for something without knowing what it was, which made me feel foolish. I smelled smoke and, briefly, wondered if the "Glory's" engine
might be on fire, but then I remembered I wasn't there, and the real world vanished again.
The cairn fires behind me sputtered and went out, leaking thick black smoke up into the clouds. The torches were out, and a ship was headed for the
breakers. I could hear them then, very faintly. Ropes creaked, planks shifted and bent, waves lapped against her hull, and slapped each other around
in her wake. I heard it because the wind blew their ship toward us.
With the fires out, the only light came from the moon, feeble and small behind the clouds and the driven snow. It was impossible to tell where the
ice began and the ocean ended. The blizzard, the ice, the wind that cut their sails to ribbons -- they were our cousins in that place. We were born
of ice, the very mountains crumbled and wept stone at our feet when we passed, but the interlopers did not understand the cold, they understood only
gold and steel. We had no gold.
I stood with my back to the shale cliff, my ice covered face to the wind; my beard felt like a frozen waterfall, dusted in snow. I was home. We were
the giants of war in that solemn kingdom of endless night, and when the little fat ones trespassed we usually quartered them and fed them to the white
bears. They came to barter, to trade us beads and silks and soft, useless gold. In return, they asked for our land, our fealty, even our women!
They insulted us with every tribute and sought to deceive with every breath. My people would not be deceived.
There were others with me, six of them, all around me, to the sides and behind. They stood as I did, silent and still. We were the statues of a
people nearly destroyed, monuments to a culture long forgotten. We clung to the edge of the world even as the pink ones wriggled their fat sausage
fingers nearer and nearer to our throats. They brought guns and dogs with them on ships that were painted like whores. Their dogs never liked the
smell of us, and their ships did naught but founder in our ice. They still did not feel unwelcome, so we would carve our demands into their backs and
float them back to their homeland.
The moon found a gap in the clouds, and I saw the silhouette of their ship, the mast was broken. The ship lurched and rolled, helpless in the
ocean's crushing grip, closer and closer to the ice. My breath quickened in my chest, beneath furs and flesh.
We kept the steel beneath our cloaks until the last moment, lest it pick up the shine of the moon and betray us. A warrior needs the feel of his
blade against his chest before battle. The steel slept there, warm beside our hearts, until the fury. My blade, like my heart, was my life. I kept
it close in the dark, when the ice on my brow shadowed my eyes. The air at the top of the world was cold enough to snap steel. We on the other hand,
were older and stronger than steel. We were of that place, it could not break us. Before each battle we gave a little of our strength to our swords,
by holding the blades to our warmth, that they might sing and kill without shattering.
The interlopers saw the ice, but it was too late, their cries of panic were magnified by the cliff at our backs. The moon dove behind a fast moving
cloud, and they continued to wail as the darkness washed over them, cold as our ocean. I grinned, the ice that encrusted my beard cracked in
submission. I could see them. They ran frantically back and forth along the railing of their gaudy ship, all of them wearing great, thick,
bubble-like outfits. A new design they came up with to keep them warm I supposed, but it made them look ridiculous, like obese dwarfs all waddling in
a panic, smacking into things and bouncing off one another. I planned to enjoy myself that time, I thought, I would howl with laughter at every cut.
Their hull caught a spine of the iceberg and began to collapse on the starboard side. A resounding crunch, then a series of pops and cracks issued by
the ice drowned out their screams. Aroused and angry, the ice shifted and pinned the port side. They were trapped.
I was there, and I knew what happened next, but the captain of the "Glory" pulled into dock and I realized the horizon I had been staring at was
long gone. We were back in the marina.
You don't have to see it to know it, I reassured myself once the real world returned to focus, it was inside somewhere. Our past doesn't own us,
but it does advise us. I was still and silent underneath the ice, my heart kept me warm through the longest nights, I had faith then. I felt rather
than knew things, and my blood understood more about my soul than my brain could hope to calculate. I lived once, glorious and free, would I ever be
able to forget?
The smell of fish from the hold below, and shrill cries from the sea gulls that circled overhead, reminded me I had a job to do. Real life meant
tossing fish, so I got to it.