The Ballad Of Sigurd Jorsalfare

Chapter 37

Norway; summer 1008

“For three weeks following the cataclysm, no one saw the Ostfold. It was as though it had never been there. The locals were unscathed, somehow, reappearing in Sweden, Finland, even as far south as Provence, where their cautious dancing and conservative views failed to impress the independently minded Provencals.

The rip in the southern sky revealed nothing more mysterious than a blank page, white, medium weight, slightly textured and free of dye or any other toxins. The vanished region was simply that: vanished — nothing more to say.

Curious Norwegians came hiking from all regions of the country to stare at nothing, a custom still prevalent in present day Finland.

Eystein found himself, much to his chagrin, in the outskirts of Pest, with no means of getting to Buda, let alone back to Norway, away from the murderous Magyars and their insanely beautiful women who distracted him from his Tehila obsession.

The Magyars, who were suspicious of foreigners to begin with, were especially wary of Norsemen, who reminded them, erroneously, of belligerent Teutons, whom the Magyars loved to impale whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Eystein’s constant whining and harping about his vanished kingdom and his blank sky, finally pushed the Magyars to take up a collection and send the petulant king back over the brown Danube to his frozen wasteland (the Magyars’ perception of Norway — Ha!) riding atop a particularly dark beauty, the daughter of a Magyar countess and her favorite stallion.

Finally settling into their new surroundings throughout Europe, the Norsemen were startled to find themselves pulled back to the Ostfold by some magnetic power, a meaningless, premature concept to the simple émigrés. Families would awaken on a given morning and find themselves right back in Norway, seated on lawn chairs three weeks previously, overlooking Sandefjord, confusing their children, the elderly but, especially, their cats.

Not all were thrilled to be back in their undeniably beautiful homeland, especially those who were fortunate enough to end up in the warmer climes, where smiles are more readily available and the wine is more structured. There is nothing Norwegians love more than structure.

When every citizen of the Ostfold was present and accounted for, a Drekar appeared in the mouth of the fjord flying a striped blue and white sail, hoisted on its mast, cruising at about one hundred and forty knots, a good one hundred and twenty six knots faster than the finest Drekar available.

The Ostfolders broke out into great applause. Only dead Norwegians do not appreciate a good boat when they see one.

As the Drekar drew near the applause began changing into gasps, whistles, hoots and hollers. Some applause, however, only got louder. Men.

The timid shielded their eyes; mothers grabbed their children and covered them with blankets. Husbands feigned boredom. The more adventurous among the children broke loose and ran back to the edge of the cliff.

Below the citizenry of the Ostfold, in the pristine waters of the fjord, the Drekar slowed to an elegant sixty knots and performed some particularly agile marine maneuvers for the amusement of the spectators.

They were, indeed, amused. A nice marine maneuver can be appreciated by anyone, Norwegian and heathen alike.

More impressive than the maneuvers was the Drekar itself.

Composed of two main parts, as all Drekars are, the body of the ship was made entirely of Harold Gille, floating on his back, churning the waters with his feet and doing the backstroke with his gloriously powerful arms, his bronze, muscular, smooth, powerful arms.

The sail was a giant Talit, a striped prayer shawl, held up by a perfectly naked Tehila, leaning forward, hoisted on a cedar mast the likes of which the Norwegians had never before seen. Tehila’s face radiated intolerable bliss and both she and Harold howled like wolves in heat, their love song bouncing off the cliffs and swirling through the air above the water.

Glistening with sweat from his long ride back from Hungary, Eystein rode his Magyar girlfriend to the precipice and looked down. He tugged on the reins and dug his heels into the mare’s pelvis and they tore away, riding east northeast towards his home in a rage.

The Drekar disappeared behind a cliff and the people of Ostfold rose in delirium, grabbed their children, their spouses, their lawn chairs and their cats and began the walk back home through the forest, stumbling into trees, muttering to themselves in disbelief, excited, disgusted, upset, and uplifted.

On their way home they noticed the sky had returned, covering the blank page that had been there just a minute ago. For a moment they were happy. Foolish, foolish Ostfolders.

And then smoke began rising in the town’s direction, a billowing, thickening, black, toxic soup above the trees.”

*

“Tehila slid down the mast, threw a rope over a tree stump on the shore and jumped into the shallows. She grabbed the end of the rope and pulled the Drekar to shore, looping the rope a few times around the trunk, until Harold Gille was securely moored.

She walked over to her long ship and stood over him. Harold was exhausted. He barely had the energy to grab an ankle and kiss her right foot. Tehila smiled and turned away. She walked over to a young tree, tore two leafy branches off and carried them back to Harold.

Bending down over her lover, Tehila knelt and covered them both with the branches. Lying on top of Harold, she held on to him, shielding him from the cold, nursing him with her heat.

While Harold slept, Tehila moved on him slowly, rocking back and forth like a baby, looking at the trees and the rising cliffs. Tehila could feel little eddies reach the shore around them. A slow, soft wind roamed aimlessly through the bay, a lost little translucent sheep looking for its mother.

Tehila rubbed her hands together and blew on them steadily until smoke rose from between them. Blowing without stop, Tehila rested her cupped hands on Harold’s chest and started a small fire over his heart, keeping it aflame with her breath.

The two lay there, glowing from the fire, illuminating the little rocks, the rubies that surrounded them like pebbles, their reflection dancing on the water, rippling up the cliffs, heaving and drifting down again towards the surface of the water.

A fog was rising from the fjord, sending out fingers of blue gray smoke over the cold earth; craving limbs moved through the trees; strands of copper hair, the aquamarine torches of her eyes rolling this way and that, shining through the thickening air; lovers’ smoldering steam climbing the rocks, mounting ledges, pausing for a moment to look down and see the disappearing waters below.

Barely smiling, the fog rose until the fjord was a cloud, above which floated Tehila and Harold, the sun and the moon of the Ostfold.

“There’s a fire,” howled a wolf at the passing moon.

“There’s a fire,” shrieked the fox at the shadow of the sun.

“A fire, a fire,” sang the geese and saluted the moon and the sun. “There’s no excuse for bad manners,” the mother goose reminded her offspring.

Tehila and Harold glided through the trees and touched down at the edge of the forest on a bed of wild flowers. Looking ahead they saw black smoke where Tehila’s house stood.

“Why?” said Tehila, “What happened?” she stared at the smoldering remnants of her house in tears.

As the two walked towards the ruins they saw a skull hanging from a long spear that had been thrust into the ground. A white scarf dangled from the skull, blowing lightly in the breeze.

Tehila walked up and stared at the skull.

“A wolverine,” she said.

“He left a message,” said Harold in a dark voice and pulled the scarf off. The skull didn’t look as dapper any more.

Tehila took the scarf from Harold and read out loud: “Eystein, King of the Ostfold, Norway, anything and anywhere else that really matters; Fucker of the maidens of Norway, Hungarian horses, and anything else that moves and owner of Androids; employer of manicurists and other sluts, demands the company of the Golem and his Jewish whore”.

Tehila dropped the scarf from her hands, spat on it and stepped on it hard, hard, hard, until it disappeared into the scorched ground. She grabbed the spear and yanked it out of the ground and hoisted it above her head.

“Let’s go, Harold. We’re wanted,” she said and began a run so wild, the ashes of her house rose and spun and blew away into the forest like a cloud of locusts.

Not a thought was completed in her furious mind before Harold and Tehila were at the king’s house, running through the front door and standing in the darkened hall.

“Coward,” screamed Tehila, “Show your face, king of nothing.”

“Oh, hello,” said Eystein, sauntering down the steps in as nonchalant a way as he could muster, “you found my little note?”

“You burned my house down,” said Tehila.

“No, I burned a whore-house down. Did you happen to live there?” asked the king with an innocent grimace.

“You know I lived there because I’ve seen you peeping through my windows and drooling every other day.”

“I was looking for sluts. I’m entitled. I’m king.”

“Find any?” asked Tehila.

“Same one each time,” said Eystein.

“Perfect breasts, round ass, strong thighs, copper hair?” asked Tehila, looking through Eystein.

The king groaned and swallowed hard.

“Lie down and open your legs,” he snarled at her, “I want to fuck you.”

Harold Gille moved forward, blocking Tehila.

Eystein spat at Harold’s feet. “You brought the idiot with you?”

“I brought my lover with me, my chosen one, my champion, my giant tree of life,” said Tehila and licked Harold’s chest.

Eystein thought to move towards the two but thought never translated into action. Tehila shook her head at him and a swarm of wasps flew at Eystein, stopping a millimeter from his face.

“Move and I’ll have them eat your lecherous eyes out,” said Tehila.

“I won’t. I promise, just send them away.”

The wasps took a radical left and flew out of the house through a crack in the door.

“I want you,” said the very still king of Norway.

Tehila remained expressionless.

“I love you. I want to make you my queen. Today. Right now,” said Eystein.

Tehila remained motionless.

“Answer me. Please,” he pleaded.

“I’m pregnant,” said Tehila and her eyes glistened.

Eystein sank to his knees. He grabbed his head in his hands and cried.

“I can’t live without you,” he sobbed, “You’re all I can think of.”

“Get over it,” said Tehila and turned to leave.

“I can’t,” yelled Eystein at her in a rage, pounding the floor with his fists, “I want you now. I can’t breathe. Help me,” he begged.

“I told you I’m pregnant,” said Tehila with disgust.

“I don’t care. I want you anyway. Let me just do it once — just once?” he pleaded.

Tehila stared at him in silence.

“Can I at least come home with you and watch Harold do it to you? I’ll sit on a chair. I’ll hide in a kettle — you can boil me. You can tie me to a post. You can even beat me up if you’d like, I don’t care, just don’t leave.” Eystein smashed his forehead on the floor and wailed.

Tehila turned and walked out. Harold leaned over and lifted Eystein up gently.

“My King,” said the Cedar of Lebanon, “Take care of yourself.” He put Eystein back down on his feet and looked deep into his eyes.

Eystein was sobbing and shaking like a child at the end of a long tantrum.

“If you ever try and harm Tehila I will rip your limbs out one by one, beginning with your smallest limb, the one you so adore, the ruler of your life. I will hurt you so badly you will beg of me to kill you, but I won’t,” said Harold and smiled at Eystein, “Don’t ever make me do that, my king.”

As Harold walked out the door Eystein screamed: “What am I supposed to do now?”

“Fuck ice,” Tehila yelled back at him from outdoors, “It will numb the pain.”

And so began the ice carving career of Eystein, king of Norway. His obsession so strong, so powerful that he filled the grounds of his compound with life size ice images of Tehila, each one in a different suggestive pose, silently pleading with him to mount her.

Eystein would carve and mount, carve and mount, his desire so strong the ice would melt away under his penetrating frenzy. Days would come to an end when Eystein was either too drunk to get an erection or too frostbitten to continue.

Evenings, the gardener would find the limp body of his monarch lying in the snow, reeking of Aquavit, the snow around him pot-marked with tears, raked with impotent rage and despair.”