The following is a chapter of Frithjof, the Viking of Norway, by Zénaïde Alexeïevna Ragozin.
Ingeborg was right when she said that a generous mind could never fathom the whole depth of a wicked one. Frithjof, as he busied himself with getting Ellide ready for the long and dangerous voyage, would have been amazed indeed could he have seen King Helge standing on a lonely spot of the wild shore, intent on mysterious incantations, for it was not generally known that he was a skilled wizard and had learned from the priests in whose society he spent most of his time not only how to worship the bright and beneficent powers —the gods— but also how to control the dark and evil ones. He was now holding converse with two mighty giants, Heid and Ham, the trolls of the storm wind and of the snow storm, whom he had conjured into his presence and was instructing to wreck Ellide on the high sea, where none of her crew might escape.
No sooner had Ellide put out of the harbor and run out of sight of the shore than the trolls began their work. Darkness as of descending night suddenly blackened the sky; waves, seething and heaving as from the lowest deep, lifted their crests of foam with thundering roar; the seagulls and other sea birds flew shrieking and in wild haste they knew not whither. Lightning streaked the blackness with red flame, and the thunder rolled and rumbled continuously all around and overhead.
Frithjof knew the signs: a storm was brewing, such as is not often met even in those dangerous seas. But the prospect of a hard fight with the elements rather suited his present rebellious mood. Besides, he trusted in the powers of his magic ship and looked forward to the conflict as to a more than usually exciting game, no more. So he rode out right into the midst of it and would not even make for any of the islands where well-known harbors might have afforded him shelter.
“It was pleasanter, I admit,” he said laughingly to Björn, “to sail across the mirror-like bay in the still moonlight and find Ingeborg waiting in Balder’s grove. But a doughty Viking loves to share the wild winds’ play. My Ingeborg would blush for her sea eagle, should he fly landward, with drooping wing lamed by a breath of wind.”
But the tempest grows fiercer with every minute; the sea seems to yawn down to its very bottom. The gale whistles viciously in the rigging, timbers crack ominously. Still Ellide does not quake, but bravely holds her course, leaping and plunging merrily along, like a frolicsome mountain goat. Now, however, the storm lashes itself into wilder fury still. A wintry chill spreads through the air, hail rattles against the shields hung along the sides of the ship, and snow quickly covers the deck. Seas mountain-high at the same time rush upon the doomed ship from both sides, and, as they clash and break, deluge and sweep her from poop to prow. She quivers as she emerges, half buried, from the grave which must reopen soon — and then even she, Ellide, though built by no human hands, must give up the fight.
Now, such a storm, with frost and driving snow, is unnatural in summer, and even unsuspecting Frithjof suddenly guessed the truth.
“Björn!” he shouted in a voice that was heard above the din and howl. “Come, take the helm; hold it for thy life. A storm like this never came from Valhalla’s powers. Witchcraft is at play. This is some of Helge’s unholy work — some of his singing and conjuring. I will go up and look.”
Nimble as the forest squirrel, he climbed to the top of the tallest mast and held a sharp lookout. And lo! he espied at no great distance what seemed a swimming islet, tossed loosely amidst the raging waves. Looking more intently, he made out a huge whale, and, on the creature’s back, the two trolls, who were working hard, doing Helge’s bidding: Heid in his snow coat, looking like an ice bear, and Ham in the shape of a storm eagle, flapping a pair of gigantic wings.
“Now, Ellide, show thy mettle!” Frithjof cried excitedly. “Hear my voice and, if thou art indeed a daughter of the gods, if high courage doth dwell within thy oaken breast — on to them, Ellide, and let thy copper keel cut the whale in two!”
And Ellide hears her master’s voice. She gives one mighty bound and angrily makes straight for the whale. A jet of steaming blood spurts high at the shock; the monster, hurt to death, sinks into the gaping chasm. At the same time two spears, hurled by an unfailing hand, pierce the ice bear’s and the eagle’s breasts. And instantly the storm surceases, the heavens clear, the sun comes forth in splendor, as a king entering the audience hall, and sheds the glory of his presence over ship and sea and land. Frithjof’s joy was solemn and subdued.
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“Ingeborg’s prayers,” he whispered, as his gaze rested on the smooth expanse and on the golden disc now sinking low behind some islands’ verdant strand. “Ingeborg’s prayers sped, pallid maidens, up to Odin’s hall, and, bending lily-white knees on its golden floor, touched the divine revelers’ hearts. To her be thanks!”
But Ellide has sorely felt the strain, and the shock with the whale has all but disabled her. Weary and bruised, she just creeps along. Still more weary are the men. So exhausted are they that they hardly manage to stand, leaning on their swords, and, when at last Ellide stops alongside one of the Orkney Isles, Björn and Frithjof almost carry them on land and lay them in a circle around the fire which they have quickly lit. They are deeply mortified at their weakness, and the chiefs have to comfort them with cheering words:
“Be not ashamed, ye pale friends! Even Vikings are not always a match for the sea, and water maidens’ embraces are chilling and unmanning. But here comes the mead horn on its welcome round. There’s life and warmth in it. To it with a will! And health to Ingeborg!”