Jay Faulkner
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Rainbow

It was dark, that was all I knew for sure.

What time it was, where we were, even who was left of the crew I was proud to call friends - family - none of those questions had answers; not anymore. All I knew was that the storm, perfect and deadly in its fury, had swallowed us, holding us in its relentless grasp as it had done with the blessed light of day.

My mind told me that I had only put the morning Sun behind me, setting our course running southeast true towards the straits, a matter of hours ago; my heart, though, screamed otherwise. It was convinced that we had been running against the storm for longer. Forever. Time no longer had any meaning. I knew that each and every second could bring us closer to breaking through the storm front and reaching calmer seas - reaching safety; I also knew that each and every second could bring us closer to the doom that waited for all who made their life from tempting Aegir's fury. And the God of the Sea's temper knew no bounds.

My father's father's father had fished these straits, three hundred miles off the coast of our village, and every generation since we had gone out to where no other men - at least none who still claimed sanity as a friend - dared to go. The waves were more treacherous, the waters colder and the storms darker, stronger, and more unpredictable here than anywhere. The rewards, though, were just as mighty as the risks. The cod, the mackerel and the herring were bigger and more plentiful and, if you were lucky, good or blessed - all three, my father had boasted of himself the last night he spoke to me - you could make such a catch in one trip that would make your fortune and see you through the worst of winters. As my father's father's father before me had done I had taken my ship, and crew of one and twenty, out early on Winter's coldest and longest day. I, Orik, son of Wulfgar, would cry out to Aegir, God of the Oceans' depths, and let him know that I was coming. I would challenge him and take his riches. I would return to the Hall of my fathers having proved my worth. I would make my name and carve my legend.

As the rain fell in horizontal fury, shards of ice hitting my skin with the sting of a thousand knives, as the clouds that gathered overhead became as dark and impenetrable as the gates of Nifelheim - only worse for they were real - as the waves that I had grown to love rose and fell as if the were trying to shake me free and as the relentless winds raged against us, threatening to take the sails from the mast and the mast from the ship itself, I forgot my boasts and claims. What mattered, now, the warmth of my father's hearth? What mattered now the embrace of a willing woman? What mattered now my fame, my legend, my worth?

Salt stung my eyes and, as frost limned my lashes so that I could hardly open them, I had only one thought in that ever-cursed darkness.

Survival.

Please, Odin - All-Father - let me simply survive.

The ship - my father's ship that was now mine by bequeathed right - lurched precariously in the roiling and rolling of the furious waves.

I had laughed, as a child, as I found the name 'Rainbow' to be so funny but my father had proved - with hands calloused and deft in equal measure - that she could live up it. Under his hands she had danced across the waves. So light, her prow cutting the waves, that the spray left in her wake danced out with all the colours of her name. I had thought, in my younger days, that perhaps Odin had gifted him so that, at his hand, the ship could actually fly across the waves, never touching them at all. I had believed that this was how he, more than any of the hunters of our people, could go so far, so deep, into Aegir's cold realm and always return with the finest of catches.

I stopped believing that the day that the 'Rainbow' limped back into the bay and he was not at her helm. I didn't need Jogur, his oldest and dearest friend, to tell me where my father was. If he had been alive he would have been laughing his joy upon their return, steering his ship to safety and catching me in a rough embrace. I didn't need him to tell me that Aegir had finally won. Finally beaten my father. I didn't need him to tell me anything.

I knew.

My father was dead.

Sideswiped the ship sluggishly responded to my silent efforts as I was brought back to reality. Muscles protested as tried to hold the wheel steady, to follow the course that I had set. It was dark, that was all I knew for sure. I was my father's son, however, and he had stared Aegir in the face and laughed. He sailed the waves better than any man and he had taught me everything he knew. I had set my course and, while I couldn't see the Sun nor stars - while I didn't know if they even still existed or if this storm was THE storm ... Ragnarok come among us - I trusted in his ship - my ship - and his training. I trusted in myself. I would prove to be more than my father's father's father had been. I would face Aegir. I would win.

I glanced around and saw that the deck was empty. I was alone. Silence deafened, sound retreated until, finally, all that was left was the darkness. The wave. Bigger than any I had seen before. All consuming. My fingers clenched frozen to the wheel as I set a new course.

Into the wave.

Into the darkness.

"Father!"

Originally published in August 2009's edition of 'Offshoot Magazine'