Now hear Thorhild sing her story,
Tell of loved ones lost to slaughter,
Hear the gulls cry! Hear the wolves howl!
Rune seer, spae-wife, loving mother
Far from Northland, lost in flat land,
In the telling, wounds are healing.
In Jorvik town, lived Skarthi’s bride,
Grey eyed Hilda glow’d with child bloom
Wed to Skarthi, friend of Bloodaxe,
Wealthy trader, Erik’s kinsman.
But all was lost when Erik fell
Jorvik taken, Skarthi fleeing.
Child heavy Hilda flees to coast cliff,
Skarthi’s seed grows in her belly.
Skarthi’s liege lord, Bloodaxe Erik,
Now King no more and Jorvik lost.
Skarthi - King’s man, friend and trader
Lordless, landless, needing shelter.
In cliff top farm was Thorhild born.
Sounding sea surge, soaking spume spray
Wild geese calling, Thorhild growing.
Then one winter - late the season,
Skarthi sailed with too few seamen.
Bright sail shrinking, Thorhild waving.
Long the dark nights, winter shrieking,
Cliff top watching, waits now Thorhild,
Waits with Hilda, waits not knowing.
Skarthi sleeps ‘neath Ran’s broad bosom.
Mother, daughter plied their sewing,
Hard the years of Thorhild’s growing
Thorhild watching, Thorhild waiting.
Came a sighting - dark sailed Viking
Thorhild on cliff top - watching, crying
Hilda’s death screams - too far to hear.
Blackened roof beams, dust and ashes,
Nothing left now, Thorhild stumbles.
Pock-face found her, beat her, used her.
Thorhild weak but fleet foot flying
Bleak land, moor land, safety seeking.
Nuns’ house took her, gave her healing.
New life learning, dark walls closing
Christ denying, nuns now beating.
One grey morning, sea mist fretting,
Thorhild leaving, wide road seeking.
In the dark woods, wise one dwelling,
Spell cast healer, Old Grim taught her
Simples, potions, curses, bindings.
Old ways knowing, Thorhild learning.
Norn’s thread cutting, Old Grim dying.
Wise-woman now was Thorhild’s craft.
Selling cure-alls, reading rune stones,
Wandered southing where Wyrd willed her.
Wandered Thorhild, seeking Pock-face,
Dark her deep soul, dreaming vengeance.
Then to Maeldune’s golden grazing,
And to Byrthelm, Byrthnoth’s kinsman,
Gave her love balm, gained her bridegroom.
Thegn’s bride glad now, wife and mother,
Gave to Byrthelm - Sigrun and Tola,
Keeps her dark heart, learns her bow craft.
Northey Island - Danes have landed,
Byrthelm cut down with Ealdorman.
Christian priests then bury Byrthelm,
Shunning Thorhild, sinful witch-wife.
Hear the wolf howl! Long the dark night!
Seek the North-land? Where are kinsfolk?
Byrthelm, bright and faithful warrior,
Fell beside his friend and ring-giver,
Raven meat upon the salt -marsh,
Bloodied symbol of her safety,
Thorhild wept to see him so.
North-folk, kin-folk killed her lover.
Craven king-man pays them Dane-geld,
Sated with an English fortune,
Sail to home-lands, laughing loud.
Yet she knows that she must follow,
On the whale-road, leave the Christ –folk,
Hostile kin-folk of her Byrthelm,
Sham of sweet-life now is shattered.
Again to walk a long-road, hard-road,
Away from danger, seek a haven,
With her daughters strong and fair.
Heart-clench, knot-tight, binding muscles,
Breathless, prey like down to river,
Silent steersman gives them greeting,
Under canvas, hiding, waiting,
Till the tide can bear them safely.
Taking nothing, new-life, new-birth,
Hope-thought, fear-thought, intermingle,
As the spray baptises faces.
Never could Christ baptism save her,
Heart-felt, wyrd-roots, lift her spirits.
Wide-breast, laden, rich with trade goods,
Up the wide Ouse into Danelaw,
Ships-ropes, nerve-ropes start to slacken.
From the vessel, on to quayside,
Then she went to feed her family.
Met a woman, brown-eyed, Jarl wife
Gave them apples, made them welcome.
Told of how she’d found her home-land,
Fen-land, friend-land, here at Ousekjarr,
With her Magnus, matchless warrior,
Make the good earth yield it’s harvest.
Thorhild feels a sense of knowing,
Brown eyes smiling, from an old dream,
Offers service as an archer,
Healer, helpmeet, to the Jarl wife.
Stays at Ousekjarr, builds a new life,
Working hard but harboured safe.
Thorhild bides here, new skills learning,
Daughters growing into women.
When the fight comes - arrows flighting,
When the fight’s done - Thorhild healing.
Dark her deep soul, not forgetting,
Keeps for Pock-face, arrows sharp’ning.
Years of service, steadfast, loyal,
Feeding men, and wives, and kindred,
Herding those who sought to wander,
Keeping all to fire's warmth,
Shelter sought and shelter given,
Strangers found and turned to friends,
Strung like yew, power garnered,
Fear would never hold her thrall,
Plain in speaking, wise in counsel,
Caring always, looking homeward,
Drawn by colder winds and moors
Back to North-folk's homely vale
Travelled far and found her calling,
Travelled home and found her hearth,
Yew-wood kept for times of danger,
Foes remained abroad in Dane-land,
Watching, waiting, westward gazing,
Feared to tread where she kept hearth-guard,
Time alone she spurned in watching,
Sickness crept by dead of night,
Mortal man could harm her not,
But fire within was not outfought,
Years of fighting, caring, herding,
A day-time sundered all she'd wrought.
So came Ousekjarr, wind-borne, grieving,
Joined by friends from far and near,
Volsung too had kept her heart,
All too short a time of knowing,
Walking with that band of friendship,
Led to moorland, high and windy.
Earthly rest now has Thorhild,
Daughters strong and worldly wise,
While as always had her way,
Planned the place and planned the day,
So we part this side of Bifrost,
But fame shall ne’er fade away...