“Seashore,” Arkhip Kuindzhi, 1887, WikiArt.

Part 6: Dyrfinna and Betrys

Sky and sea leaden-grey, two Viking longboats
Made for Northern Ireland, south sailing along
Norwegian coast to turning point Shetland
Mountain peaks. “Watch for beacon fires,”
Advised Dyrfinna, custom of Viking seafarers,
Roaring flame alighting rocky cliffs, visible
Night or day, steerboard man holding course
Amongst white-cresting waves. Lo! Island fires
Horizon-appeared, bent island tree copse,
Roaming sheep, ship landfall on high-sloped
Crescent beach, there guiding by torchlight,
Betrys, twin of Sister Muriel.

Daunted by striking similarities, Dyrfinna
Spoke not at first, sister same but different in
Eyes, Druidess touched by bloodthirsty gods,
Rituals of human dismemberment, brutality
Beyond Norsemen, minds taken with war and
Sea-rage. “No, we are not the same,” offered
Betrys. “Yet, enemies can be friends, friends
Become enemies, turn of knife and fates, such
Opportunities exist.” In silence they walked
Sea-view heights, beneath them, fifty Irish
Clansmen awaited. “If you had walked this
Way alone,” advised Betrys,” you, your men
Would not leave this land alive.”

And so upon hammered slopes, Dyrfinna,
Betrys talked, agreements pledge-forged,
Sanctuary of shores, isle given to Dyrfinna’s
Clans, stipulation of peace – or as Sister
Muriel and Gunnolf determined, life preferred
On windswept Faeroe hills. Mind-hearts
Touched, Dyrfinna found kinship with Betrys,
Envisioning Norse warriors setting foundation
stones, first lodge built, sheep grazing, fishing,
Blue-sky hopes, drink and bloodlines mingling
With welcoming Irish clans, Dyrfinna’s son in
Abdomen moving, his survival, Norse or Irish.

“The Shepherdess,” William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1873, WikiArt.

“I understand you practice healing magic, you
And your sister,” Dyrfinna inquired. Betrys
Nodded, “We are both blessed, curing illness,
Battle wounds, injuries. Chasm deep and wide
Separates Byrna and myself, for as I can heal
Crushed limbs, we crush limbs of enemies, our
Belief in nature’s balance, demanded by pagan
Gods. Dalliance in dark spells is child fire-
Playing. Byrna converted to Christianity, name
Sister Muriel taken, left our family for mystic
Divinities,” Betrys concluded, camp making,
Beacon fires burning for Muriel’s return.

Oft considered another “character,” setting is austere Rathlin-like Island on northern shores of Ireland. According to Wikipedia, “Rathlin was site of  first Viking raid on Ireland, according to the Annals of Ulster. The raid, marked by the pillaging of the island’s church and the burning of its buildings, took place in 795.”
For more on Rathlin Island, see link with many photos:

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