*Odysseus' Face*

Land of the Midnight Scum

Since Aiolos' island had no fixed location, we had no idea where the hurricane had driven us. For days on end we had to row upon an absolutely calm sea with no indication of our whereabouts. I decided that so long as we were travelling due north, we would eventually reach land and be able to regain our bearings.

Given how easy it is to lose sight of shore, some other means than recognising distant landmarks should be available to the mariner for safe travel. I began observing the stars and their apparently fixed motions. It would be so useful to invent something like a mariner's astrolabe or sextant. Unfortunately, I could not wait for the Middle Ages in order to navigate home.

Strangely we found the days lengthening until I could no longer observe the celestial bodies of night, since night had completely vanished. We did eventually sight the crinkly edges of ragged cliffsides and made for unfamiliar country. After following the steep shores down large waterways and into the land's interior, we discovered a beach with a path leading over the rocks to vibrant green pasturage.

I sent several of my crew to discover what people lived here. They found a wagon track that led to a forest where felled trees lay on one end, and to a town on the other. Following it toward the town they met with a sizeable young girl carrying a pail for water from a nearby fountain. She told them that her name was Skadi and that the town was called Utgard.

They also asked her who ruled this land. In answer she took them to a lodge, which was of unusual length, and there presented them to her mother, Queen Angurboda. They were astounded by both her girth and hideousness. Angurboda called out to her husband, King Thjatsi. He was in conference with several other of his kind and was not pleased to be interrupted. Upon seeing my people, he grabbed one, tore him in two, smelled the blood for bouquet, then drank from one half and offered the other to his wife.

The remaining search party fled back to the ships with the whole tribe of these giant people not far behind. I cut the ropes that moored us to that beach and called out for all crew on all ships to staff the oars and pull with all their might. The giants lined up along the cliffs roaring. They threw down rocks that smashed planks and crew alike, then used spears to skewer my people's remains like fish for their supper.

In mortal fear the rowers cut a swathe through the ocean waves, shooting us swiftly out of harm's way. Before long we could catch our breaths and grieve the loss of still more friends.


Lots and Lots of Lots.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps