12 July, 2016 by katelaity
‘Do people still believe such nonsense up here?’ I asked with what I should admit was unnecessary disdain.
Hogan smiled gently at me and something in his manner made me regret my words even more. He had been the quintessential host and I had been rude. ‘There are things one believes in the night that one cannot countenance in the day.’
‘I beg your pardon. I did not mean to insult you, sir.’ I could feel the pink blush of embarrassment rise up my neck like a poison. Or perhaps it was the whisky. ‘You may regret pouring so freely if our mouths become ungovernable.’
Tansy, who if anything seemed more in control of his wits, added his voice to the compliments. ‘We have much enjoyed your company and the elixir of the Highlands, but do please tell me how prevalent the things of which you speak remain in this northern land. We saw wonders in Cornwall that quite astonished us. I cannot say for certain there was magic involved, but it was most extraordinary.’
Hogan rose to his feet with exaggerated care. We were all a little worse for the drink, I fear. ‘It is late, gentlemen, but I will arrange for you to meet my friend in Stromness, who may be able to help you with your quest. As for the other question, I think it best if you experience the Orcadian life first-hand and draw your own conclusions.’ He chuckled and laid a hand on each of our shoulders, then bid us good night.
‘I have a strange feeling that we will find rather more than we expect on this journey,’ I said to Tansy, a little worried now as I heard the wild winds grow around us. I slept ill that night. In the morning our boat awaited us and we made the dramatic passage to the islands.
I cannot say that I was entirely comfortable on the journey. The only boats I had been on previous to that time were punts in rivers as far as I could recall. I dreaded becoming sick for I had heard many times of seasickness. The rest of the boat was filled with Orcadians, as far as I could tell, who were doubtless inured to the process. Of course Tansy rises to any adventure and did not huddle in the stern but walked about, talking with the sailors, pointing at things in the water or commenting on sea birds or the strange landscapes we passed.
As I said, I did not feel ill, but unaccustomed as I was to water travel I remained nervous about getting up, and any unexpected movement of the boat—occasioned by the waves or perhaps (I could not help imagining) by some leviathan of the deep—gave me a sudden stitch of panic that abated only gradually. I could hardly imagine how people had gone across the seas in huge galleons—let alone those tiny Viking boats that Hogan spoke of. My admiration for that bunch of intrepid travelers grew every moment I spent in that little boat…