Was my birthplace my home? Was it my passion with an axe, my zeal? Those questions entered my mind. Was it right? Would it be loyal to human life to kill?
The boat rocked slowly, timber oars dipping into the cool water. Fog set on the wet, and sails curdling with the wind. I sat down, on the wooden stool, beating the ocean with my oar. When captain’s faithful eye was gone, I stopped paddling. I swiftly reached for the sack underneath my stool and picked out my axe. I wanted to feel its evil, famished from fear.
The axe was covered in blood, the paint of all evil. Duke William’s ship was now parallel to us; the would-be king sat firmly on a decorated throne standing high. William was a ravenous man, oh, how I feared the safety of his wife! There were many times, when I had entered the court of Normandy, only to find William off hunting deer. William’s ship and the rest soon frizzled into the fog.
“That man over there, I am watching!” said the captain. Yet again I picked my oars, ready to paddle over the channel. What did it mean to be a Frank? Why was I fighting with the neighbor, Normandy? That question remained unanswered, but it was the reason I was disowned from my village, Bac.
They expelled me, Claudé De Mande was now a traitor, seasoned and relished in treason. My family kicked me out of my own home. My lover, disqualified me and walked away, oh how I pined for Alda, my one love. All my problems were started by one faithful deal, to help a woman to find her true love. Matilda, William’s wife, lingered for another man and life.
Matilda had hired me prior to the affair, cloaked in a deceptive veil of unworthy love. She pleaded for a new life, as she looked up to my solemn and understanding face. Her short stature was weary, her expressions vague.
I had to help her, I saw much of my own Alda in her beautiful nature. But when she told me who she was, I felt a stain of guilty pleasure in my heart.
Of course, it was only right to fall in love with Matilda, and so she bore me a child, much to Williams’ vivacious angst. After much love and adoration towards Matilda, I soon found myself in a rather vile case.
When I returned to my humble home months later, I was attacked by immoral rumors and rich accusations. Alda was gone, she was now well betrothed to the town’s drunk. I was the queen’s culpable lover, and sitting beside me on this dingy boat was the love child.
Before my child’s birth, I met with Matilda and arranged an agreement. Under the moonlight credence, I watched as she comforted her large belly. William was to be told the baby was still-born. And, finally on that faithful spring night, some thirteen years ago, Alain De Mande was born. I was to take the child, and William was to believe it was his own son.
To ensure my safety and that of my son and of my own life, I became a Norman soldier. I took the given name Richard Demand, my son, Alan. With fear and hope, I built a humble dwelling deep in the darkest shades of forest green.
And, so after many faithful years of modest hermitage, I received the very news which would situate me and my adolescent son on this ship.
The wind blew lightly on the decorated sail, the sown image of a deer pranced lifelike in the wind. We had been on this wretched ship for at least ten agonizing days. It was in these past days in which I had seen numerous friends and colleagues rot to insanity.
As I rowed tirelessly, a felt an innocent tap on my shoulder,
“Father, when will we arrive in England?” asked Alan.
“When the crow calls, my son, our journey will start” I told my son.
The boat moved on in the wicked silence. When the crow would call, we would land and fight. But then I pondered, could the crow that I had envisioned to my son, been shot at with a poison arrow? Could the boat have rowed the wrong way?
I had an eerie feeling of sombre fear, the night sky was unrolling. Hours of rowing and waiting were nothing now, due to the fact that Captain Hugo had been drunk ever since we first set foot on this boat. I recognized the fear in other men, and that of Alan. The prospect of mutiny was rising, as captain Hugo walked about the boat, in his hand a flask of brutal beer. Immediately I stopped rowing, the captain’s eyes fixated right on mine.
“Richard Demand! What is the meaning of this!” groggily shouted Captain Hugo.
“It is the fact that under your spell, we are forced to row into the salvations of a nightmare!” I said, looking right into his eyes.
The crew knew there was a fight brewing.
“How do you expect to get to England without me?” said Captain Hugo.
“By stopping you, you moronic dog!” the cheers of the crew went wild, but during the time that I was soaking up the cheers from my victorious sermon, Captain Hugo had already unsheathed his prized sword. I looked upon Alan’s starving face, deprived from nurture and need. The look of innocence was not just present on the young Alan’s face, but the rest of the miserable crew.
“Put down your sword Hugo!” I bravely said.
The whole crew faced Hugo, each member donning their own sword, swords which would never touch true battle.
“Hugo, we will rid this ship of evil and pray to God we end up safe” said I. “We will never make it home, whether we find England or not”.
The crew cheered with my gravely true address. Hugo gave up; he had lost the only battle we soldiers would ever come across. My words were a symbol of hope, a hope for land. The crew watched as Hugo settled into the back of the ship, silent like the night sky. That night all the crew slept in prosperity and question, hoping that someday they would set foot on land.
In the early hours of the morning, when the stars were reverting back into the fringes of darkness, Alan sighted land. A mass of green stood neutral on the horizon. Our prayers had been answered; the deed of ridding the ship of evil had been fulfilled. We had come across a new land, unbeknown to Normans or English alike.
And as I looked at the forthcoming land, I did not see a crow, but a white dove, calling for us. Then it made me think, was my birthplace my home? Was it my passion with an axe, my zeal?