The Dragon boat was loaded with fresh provisions and the crew was anxious to get moving. Farulf had made some good deals and they planned to trade the length of the seas until they reached home. The boat was full of olive oil and wine. He watched as Ellisif helped Olaf onto the boat. The big man was healing and he was glad to see that they didn’t have to cut off his arm. Once they were on the boat, he looked around to see if there was anyone left on the pier.
Lothar walked over to Farulf. “We have a problem.”
“We don’t need him.”
“No, but I think he needs us. The Athenians won’t let him leave the dock. Since we’ve arrived, he’s been sitting on the pier. Look.” Lothar pointed to the small form curled up on his side, laying on the ropes.
Farulf looked and then swore. “Why?”
“I don’t know. Athenians wouldn’t talk to me. I’m a Varangian as far as they are concerned, and it was none of my business.”
Farulf growled. “Go get the lad.” He sighed and walked onto the boat.
Lothar walked over to where Darius lay. “Darius, wake up.” He shook the boy when he didn’t move. He shook him again. When Darius didn’t respond, he checked his head. No fever, but his pulse was faint, and his skin was dry. Lothar growled a good imitation of Farulf’s and picked up the boy. He carried him to the boat and clambered on. Ellisif ran up to him, and then seeing the state of the boy, ran for the water skin.
Lothar sat down and held Darius while Ellisif trickled water into the boy’s mouth. After a few minutes, Darius coughed and tried to sit up.
“Sorry… didn’t mean to… won’t happen again…” He was delirious.
“Bring him back to where Olaf is.” Ellisif pointed and followed Lothar who carried Darius. Lothar laid Darius down next to where Olaf sat.
“Not if I can help it,” Ellisif said. She tipped a mixture of water and wine down the boy’s throat. Darius coughed, and then drank a bit more. He blinked and looked up at those around him.
“Oh, Ellisif. Lothar. Thank you.”
“Why wouldn’t the Athenian’s let you off the docks?”
“I am Persian. Too many wars.” He sipped a bit more of the watered wine and then fell asleep in Lothar’s arms.
“Will he be alright?” Lothar asked.
Ellisif touched Darius’ forehead. “Yes, when he wakes, feed him some grapes or bread. Not much.” She kissed Lothar and then headed out to talk to her fader.
Darius woke as the Dragon boat hit deep water swells. Lothar shushed him when he panicked. When he calmed down, Lothar gave him the grapes and bread that Ellisif had brought. Olaf and Lothar talked with the boy while he ate.
That night while Lothar took his turn at the tiller, Ellisif curled up next to him. They talked about the boy and how Farulf had groused good natured about the newest crew member.
“To think that they’d let him die, just because he was a Persian. Darius didn’t know when he agreed to pilot us did he?”
“No, Ellisif, he didn’t. I’m angry I didn’t notice his plight earlier.” Lothar stared out into the darkness pierced only by the moonlight. They spent the night watching as the boat sailed.
“No, I’m fine. I must have eaten something that disagreed with me,” said Ellisif as she threw up over the side of the boat. They were off the coast of Gaeta, having traded olives and wine for cheese, raisens, wine and fruit. It had been hotter than any of the Vikings were comfortable with and they had stayed only a short time at the port city.
“Are you sure? We all ate the same food.” Lothar wiped her face with a cloth and then stood back.
“I said I am fine!” She turned to head back to where Darius and Olaf rested. The two had become good friends. Once she reached them, she plopped onto the pillows and tried to get her stomach to settle.
Lothar started back towards her when Ragnar stopped him. “Wait Lothar.”
“Why? If she’s ill,” he started.
Ragnar smiled. “Think.”
Lothar looked at him trying to figure out what he was suppose to think about. “Ragnar, I don’t know what you are getting at.”
“When did she last have her courses?”
Lothar thought, and then smiled. “You think? Shouldn’t she know?”
“No. She lives with men, this boat, all her life. Snorri had to tell her about her courses. Farulf couldn’t bring himself to do it. We should be home by the time she is due. Give her time to think.”