Read The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay Online

Authors: Aoife Lennon-Ritchie

Tags: #Vikings, #fantasy, #Denmark, #siblings, #action-adventure, #holidays, #Christmas, #grandparents, #fairy tale, #winter

The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay (3 page)

BOOK: The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
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“Cheer up, guys,” Mum said from her position in front of them in the line. “You’ll see him in a day or two.”

Ruairi glanced back past airport security one last time to see if he could still see Dad waving, but he couldn’t. He collected his shoes and belt and backpack and caught up with Dani, Mum, and Granny at the gate.

“You heard Dad,” Mum said as Ruairi reached her. “He’s going to call in a favor at the department and get parachute-dropped with his inflatable dinghy backpack from one of their stealth recon drones on their routine sweep of the North Atlantic. Shouldn’t take him long to paddle to Yondersaay from the drop point.”

“And if they’re not going near Yondersaay?” Dani asked.

“Then he’ll find another way; you know Dad.” Mum led them to their seats. “Granny?”

“Yes, dear?”

“We have such a long journey ahead of us—lots of flying and sailing and waiting in waiting rooms. And then more flying and sailing and waiting and driving.”

“Yes, dear, we do.”

“Will you tell us one of your stories to keep us going?” Mum said.

“Well, now,” Granny said, “I suppose that would be one way to pass the time. But what if nobody wants to hear my stories?”

“We do, Granny,” Ruairi said. “Only not the one about the one-eyed tortoise who took a hundred years to lay an egg.”

“Or the one about how handbags were invented,” Dani said.

“You don’t like those stories?” Granny asked, and Dani and Ruairi shook their heads.

The Millers found their row and took their seats.

“Hmm, let me see.” Granny closed her eyes and thought for a moment. “It wasn’t today or yesterday …” Granny began. This was the way she always began her stories.

“Granny, you’re supposed to say ‘Once upon a time,’” Dani said.

“No, Dani. ‘Once upon a time,’ is the ordinary way to begin an ordinary story. There are no ordinary stories about Yondersaay. Besides, when you hear a story that begins ‘Once upon a time,’ you start out with a set of expectations. You are not surprised when the beans turn out to be magic beans or when the frog turns into a prince. You expect everything to end ‘happily ever after’ with the baddies getting their comeuppance and the goodies getting married. This is not one of those stories.
This
is a
true
story; it actually happened. There are no poison apples or handsome frogs, and I’m sorry to tell you, Yondersaay stories don’t all end up ‘happily ever after.’”

“Okay, Granny,” Dani said as Granny wedged herself into her seat. “As you were …”

The King of the Danes

 

 

“It wasn’t today or yesterday,” Granny began again. “It was a long, long time ago when the world was warmer, and some believed the sun moved around the earth. There was a Viking of old called King Dudo the Mightily Impressive, lord over all Denmark. King Dudo was a big man, broad and tall, with tanned skin tight across bulging muscles and long reddish-blond hair that fell in thick waves to his elbows—a mighty warrior. All who fought with him worshipped him, and those who fought against him trembled in fear at the very sight of him. An adventurer, he pillaged and plundered as far north as the turn in the world and as far south as the oceans of sand.

“One bright autumn, King Dudo and his warriors set sail from their homeland to the northern-most seas of the world. They wore thick layers of skins and furs against the cold of the northern air.

“Among their number on this westward voyage was a famous monk from the lower lands called Brother Brian the Devout and Handy with Numbers. Brother Brian had the gift of navigation and was an expert star-reader. His job was to guide King Dudo and his Viking warriors to the northern lands.

“After roiling upon the waves for many weeks, their supplies diminishing, and cramp and fatigue setting in, the Vikings were anxious for the sight of land. Surprised they had not found land yet, some began to doubt Brother Brian’s ability. A whispering campaign started at the backs of the longships: “Brother Brian has gotten us lost!”

“Now, while it is true that Brother Brian was tasked with getting the Vikings safely to and from the lands of the north, only King Dudo knew that Brian had another task—another
secret
task.

“It had long been suspected that in the middle of the northern-most seas, between the homelands of the Danes and the far-off lands, below the turn in the world but beyond the craggy cliffs of Land of the Scots, lay an island. This island was often the subject of the songs and tales of the kingdom’s official storytellers, the court skalders. The stories described it as an enchanted island, cloaked in secrecy. The island was called Yondersaay.

“Viking legend tells that after death, the most worthy Viking warriors would meet in Valhalla, the Hall of the Dead, for a final battle. Anything a Viking had buried in his earthly life would be his once more. His true armor, weaponry, or wealth stayed buried in the earth while its ghostly copy awaited him in the afterlife. So it was, every Viking, before he died, buried his prized weapons and his most coveted jewels in preparation for this final battle.

“Now, the stories go, this lost island in the middle of the sea happened to be the place where all the Viking warriors of old went to bury their treasures. The riches buried on the island were said to include the most intricate and exquisite objects ever invented, mined, or styled. Some of the weaponry dated back to the first-ever pieces of forged iron, and other pieces displayed the most modern sophistication. Since these riches were sung about the world over by the skalders and other storytellers, the stories eventually made it all the way to the southern lands of Brother Brian’s home.

“Yondersaay was widely believed to be the burial place not just of the treasures of generations of Vikings but also of the Gifts of Odin.”

“Tell us about the Gifts of Odin again, Granny,” Dani said.

“The Gifts of Odin are weapons, jewels, and treasures that were given to the Viking god Odin, the father of all Vikings, throughout his many lifetimes. Some of the gifts were specifically crafted for Odin, and some were imbued with enchantments and powers. Not all the gifts were of this world; some were presents from other gods. Of course, you’ve heard of a few—the Black Heart of the Dragon’s Eye, for instance, and the Violaceous Amethyst. Then there’s the Tome of Tiuz and the Fjorgyn Thunderbolt. And there are other, more obscure ones, like the Sword of Lapis Lazuli and its mate, the Asiatic Shield, and the Cup of Memory, to name the most famous of the least famous.

“Rumors of this magnificent cache of treasure traveled far and wide. To ensure the island would not be sacked and plundered, Odin cast an enchantment upon it. The island disappeared from sight and became unreachable. Or, to be more specific,
almost
unreachable,” Granny continued as she unfastened her seat belt and pulled down her tray table. The Millers were all together in the middle of the plane in a row of four seats. Granny had taken off her hat and coat upon entering the plane, and Ruairi could see she was wearing her stretchy trousers.

“Granny,” Mum said, “you’re not supposed to pull down your tray table until they serve the food. It’s not
safe
in the event of an emergency landing.”

Just at that precise moment, Ruairi saw a very smiley, very tanned flight attendant turn out of the galley pushing a trolley piled high with trays of food.

“You were saying, Mum?” Granny grinned at Mum.

“Never mind,” Mum mumbled.

The flight attendant pushed her trolley down the aisle, handing out trays of food. “Chicken or beef?” she said to Granny with a big smile when she got to their row.

“Yes, please.” Granny smiled back at her. The flight attendant held the chicken tray in one hand and the beef tray in the other. She seemed confused.

“You can just put them both down here, thank you.” The flight attendant looked at Granny. Granny did not break eye contact. The flight attendant hesitated for just a second, then put both trays in front of Granny.

“Oh, and the vegetarian option too, please.” Granny manoeuvered the chicken tray halfway on top of the beef tray to make room for the vegetarian. She turned back to Dani and Ruairi and continued with her story before the flight attendant had a chance to object.

“Dudo’s favorite skalder’s tale tells of a great king who would one day breach the island’s enchanted fortifications. A lone warrior with neither weaponry nor army with no council to advise him and no magic to aid him would conquer the jewel-filled island and become its king and master. It is not known how he was to achieve it, what power or ruse he would employ, what deal he would strike, or indeed, whom he would fight. The only thing known for sure was that one lone someone, one great warrior, would do the business, make it to the island, and scoop the loot.

“King Dudo was an intelligent man. He didn’t believe there was such a thing as an enchanted island in the middle of the sea stuffed full of gold and jewels. All the same, he did think there was a teeny possibility there was an island off the beaten track that had remained undiscovered for a ton of years, which just might, be a nice place to go and have a look around. Who knew, there might be some pleasant-looking trinkets buried there.

“It was with this in mind that King Dudo the Mightily Impressive enlisted the renowned star-gazing monk, Brother Brian the Devout and Handy with Numbers.

“Brother Brian spent a long time researching the island for King Dudo. He scrupulously documented all known Viking tales and songs about the island. He cross-referenced them with stories from other places, drawing up charts, plotting graphs, and double-checking his maps of the skies with the leading astronomers. When he felt he knew the exact location of the enchanted island, he dispatched a messenger pigeon to King Dudo and went to the upper lands to lead King Dudo the Mightily Impressive to the treasure.

“King Dudo had asked Brother Brian to keep all this hush-hush. He didn’t want his men to think he believed in fairy stories. They were just going to go out of their way a little to look for the island, maybe pretend they were lost for a day or two. If they didn’t find it, no harm done; they’d be back on course and in the northern lands before they knew it. Although Brother Brian was a monk who wore a habit that looked a lot like a dress, he was no less concerned about his reputation among the Viking men. He was super psyched to be on first-name terms with the most powerful man in the land, so he gave King Dudo a wink and assured him that yes, of course, this would be their little secret.”

The Little Secret

 

 

Granny had to shout now because of the noise of the wind on the gangplank of the ferry she, Dani, Ruairi, and Mum were boarding. Granny was eating the steaming hot pie Mum had gotten for her in a sailor bar in the port. They huddled close together and shuffled up the gangplank in their winter clothes.

“About three weeks into the voyage,” Granny bellowed, “a few days after the warriors started wondering why they hadn’t found land yet, dusk fell on a clear, calm ocean. The night was full of light from the crystalline moon, and Brother Brian turned a little in his position in the prow of the lead longship and made a long slow nod of the head toward King Dudo, closing his eyes as his head reached its lowest position. It was a very cool move. Brother Brian had been practicing it in his head for
weeks
. He waited for King Dudo to take his seat beside him.

“‘We are close,” Brian said to Dudo and looked to the stars, then back down at the books and scrolls and charts laid all about him and back up to the stars again. “‘All my information, all my years of training, and all my expertise tell me we are very close.’

“The boat glided quietly through the water. Most of the Vikings were sleeping. Not so much as a seabird disturbed the stillness of the night. The monk and the king looked hopefully all around; it felt to them that they could see for miles. If the island was there, they would see it.

“They looked and looked. An hour passed, two hours passed, then three. But no land came into view. All of a sudden, King Dudo swung his head around to the left. ‘Shh!’ he hissed. Brother Brian swivelled his gaze around and looked hard, but he couldn’t see anything. ‘It sounded like—’ King Dudo said, stopping short.

BOOK: The Extremely Epic Viking Tale of Yondersaay
6.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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