Arick looked out across the water and sighed. The cold, salty air of the North Atlantic blowing over his face was a familiar sent and on a clear day like today it was a welcome relief from the aroma of the men he sailed with.
Arick’s vessel was bound for Reykjavik and the supplies they carried with them would help form the foundation of a new life. Yes, it was a glorious day and the added motivation to find the new settlement and build a home only improved his mood. Within a few weeks he should be on firm ground, his ground. The thought made him smile as the morning air continued to wash over him.
The rest of the men aboard the longboat went about their tasks, making sure the sail was taught, the oars were in good condition for when they would need them, the checking of the food rations, and the enjoyable checking of fish lines that had been cast over the side. It was a busy place, but still spacious. At 75 paces in length and 12 paces across at its widest point, the ship had enough room to almost make the voyage comfortable.
Arick turned around and looked out to what lay before them and noticed his friend Bothe coming up to speak with him. “Ægir must appreciate our visit, for he will have something to speak of at the gods festivities.” Arick smiled. His friend was a patron of every god, giant and great beast that he knew of, but it wasn’t surprising given that he was from a family of farmers. Those who tended the land needed as much, if not more help than those who chose to make the sea their home. “Perhaps the weather is just agreeable by its own accord?” Now Bothe smiled, the merriment his old friend got from prodding his beliefs was a trait it seemed he would never grow out of.
“So how long do you think we are from shore?” Bothe asked the more experienced seaman.
“We released three ravens. So far they all are still ahead of us, if they thought the land was far, they would have returned to the ship before now. Not long, not long.”
Suddenly, a commotion from behind made both the men turn, surprised by the sudden noise and laughter. Esbjorn, one of the rowing crew had caught a fish, albeit a small – and very ugly one. The amount of revelry over the second trait was what had stirred things up. Arick and Bothe listened to the jokes…
“Still attracting the ugly ones I see!”
“The dowry on that one must really be something!”
“I’ll trade you a bone hook if you eat that thing!”
Disgusted, but laughing himself Esbjorn threw the foul, wriggling creature back into the waves. “Not a chance!” The men around the scene kept chuckling at the big man’s good sense of humour. The merriment however, was short lived.
Within moments of the fish being thrown back, the whole vessel began to vibrate with a low hum. A most disagreeable and strange sensation for all aboard. Also, all around them the sea looked as if it were pouring rain, however none fell from the sky. Everywhere droplets danced were once there were low waves.
“What the thunder is this mischief?!” exclaimed Bothe, clearly having not a rational clue of what was going on. Arick scowled and threw his friend a glace “I have never encountered this before…”
The boat kept sailing forward, the queer circumstances not affecting the wind. However, for as far as the men on the boat could see, the strange happening was everywhere.
Arick had seen enough and shouted his command “BREAK THE OARS!!!”
The men, hearing the tone of Arick’s voice, sprung out of their stupor and started to work on the oars, fearful of whatever was going on around them was meline in nature. Hurriedly, they worked at getting the big oars to their stations, kicking aside items in their way.
And then, everything….stopped.
The boat felt as it normally did, and whatever had been causing the water to dance at the surface subsided peacefully.
The crew of the vessel looked around, watchful for anything and now nervous about the eerie silence that surrounded them. Moments passed, then minutes….the longboat gliding across the water with its sail outstretched.
Finally one of the crewmen spoke: “Esbjorn! What in Hel kind of fish did you throw back?!” With that the crew erupted in laughter and the boat resumed a normal, if a little more watchful state.
” This mischief must be Loki’s work Arick, ‘ere can be no other explanation.” Bothe said quietly, eyes looking back to the waters that they had just crossed.
Arick followed his friend’s gaze and looked back. The day was still calm, beautiful and other than the strangeness they had just been through, everything was perfectly fine.
“Aye. Bothe, you’re probably right. The god’s surely bore as men do, that must have been one of their jests.” Arick let out a sigh and looked forward. The sun’s rays were dancing off the low waves as the vessel moved forward. All was well again.
At midday the crew sat down for the dispersal of rations. Some dried meat, and fresh water were passed around, each man knowing how much he was allowed. The talk of the ship was been that morning’s strange excitement, and now that it was behind them the crew joked about the looks on their shipmate’s faces whilest it had been happening.
Amidst the chucking and chewing, most eyes watched the water. On long trips such as this it was easy to become bored, and as the ship hardly changed, the sea was one of the few sources of entertainment. As they stared, and listened to the waves, the sound of a blow came from their rear. Interest drew most of their eyes, many of them quite familiar with whales.
“It’s just a hval!” cried one of the crewmen. This type was one of the more familiar, not even as big as their vessel, and one that skilled sailors would occasionally hunt. The great beasts were benign if not molested and had no teeth to menace boats with. The company it provided was a welcome relief from boredom.
There was another blow behind it, and then another and another. After a while the whales started overtaking the vessel, staying at the surface and breathing often.
The crew for their part were smiling, enjoying a sight rarely seen. To see a single whale was a lucky occurrence, to witness the number that were now swimming on all sides of them would be something that they would be telling their descendants about until they day they passed.
Arick watched, but his seaman’s mind sensed something wrong. The queerness of the morning and the sudden appearance of this many hval were two rare occurrences since dawn. This meant they were having either very good luck or very bad luck, and there is no good luck at sea.
“Break oars!” Arick shouted for the second time in a day. However, in the moment, it barely registered to the crew. “BREAK OARS!” he shouted, and this time more heard him.
Bothe looked up at him as he held up and oar and with the help of his bench-mates slid the big thing into place.
A man named Kort came up to the bow. Kort was a tracker and herbalist, but his parents had named him well, as he was a clever man. Arick looked forward and pointed to focus Kort’s attention on the entire pod of whales starting out outpace them.
“They are not feeding, mating or fighting.” Arick said, almost to himself. He looked to Kort. “They are fleeing.”
“I agree. A creature of that size does not move quickly if it doesn’t have to. But what from? They do not mind us as they pass.”
“The water from this morning. I think they fear it.” Arick offered. ”
“There was nothing on the surface that we saw causing the water to do what it did. Something in the depths caused it.”
“Bothe believes the gods were behind it, but I now think as you do. The gods seldom act so randomly or directly. What could it be?”
“Look at that Arick!” Kort shouted suddenly.
The rest of the crew started to stand, shout and point all in one direction….Up ahead, amidst the whales the ocean itself hard started to bulge upwards even as whales were swimming through it. The up welling expanded for a second more and erupted in foam and spray. A massive object arose from a geyser of water where a second before a pod of whales had been.
…and it just kept growing upwards.
There was nothing to do or think as hundreds of tons of primeval hunger and surged out of the ocean, jaws flung wide to catch multiple fleeing whales in its distended maw. Time slowed as the creature’s muscular tail, still propelling started to break the surface….and then, again, as if in slow motion, the massive mountain of living flesh before them was once again a slave of gravity. Falling back to the depths which were its home.
The sudden, enormous displacement of water sent spray and waves in all directions as the breaching leviathan hit the water . “BRACE YOURSELVES!” Arick tried to yell over the deafening impact.
The waves struck the longboat, which thankfully had its bow pointed towards the commotion, otherwise the vessel and all of its crew would have been emptied into the ocean. As it was though it felt like the ocean had been emptied into their boat. Cold salty seawater rushed over the crew as they clung to the rigging and seats. As this happened many of them yelled, straining to keep themselves planted in the boat.
Arick clung to the wooden prow with all of his might, watching the creature as he clung there sputtering.
The mammoth creature spun briefly in the water to right itself, revealing a large fish like sail on its back. After righting itself it started to swim, its powerful tail moving rhythmically to propel it forward in the water.
The immediate danger of being swamped now over, the rest of the crew did as their leader Arick did. They stood, locked in position, shivering in their soaked clothes. None of them could scarce believe what they were watching in front of them, nor move on account of fear.
The creature slowly made its way through the water, a half a dozen whale bodies floating near it. It would glide towards one, open its cavernous maw and the crew of the viking longboat would be treated to the sickening crunch of bone and sinew as the great creature bit down on a carcass, lifting its head out of the water to swallow the body more or less whole.
When it had finished its grisly purpose it sat in the sun for a moment, and let out a huge sigh of air. Its head dove beneath the waves as the rest of it followed, ended by a great thrash of its fish-like fluke. The rippling waves caused by the displacement rocking the longboat as the last of the creature disappeared beneath the surface.
The crew sat there silent for what seemed like ages. Then slowly, shivering, they started to bale out water that had collected in the vessel and some of the hardier taking off their upper garments to dry.
None spoke for a long time, but one of the crows returned from the Northeast. They had their heading as soon as they were ready. Arick for his part silently vowed once he was on dry land he would never leave it again.
From the research notes of Dr. Cole:
Accounts of fabulous creatures inhabiting the North Eastern Atlantic are as old as the profession as sailing. However, if one goes through the accounts painstakingly, among some of them one will find certain similarities. A great fluked tail, large webbed “ears”, and dancing water.
I believe these to be early records of l. georgius as it was encountered by sailors in Europe’s early and middle ages.
It is interesting to note that many longboat figureheads from a certain time period carry a consistent design, and then that design dilutes, only to be repeated later.
Sailors’ accounts from other time periods also have levels of uniformity, and then degrade to dreck later on, from what I can tell keeping this uniformity for a few decades only for it to be lost for a century or two.
What we could be seeing is a hibernation and/or feeding cycle? I will need to tap a mythology expert or department to help me sift through what are surely many lifetimes worth of records on the subject of sea monsters in the North Atlantic. Until then, I am left wondering how accurate these previous testimonies are, and what information can be gleaned from them.