The wind rustles the leaves on both shores, the branches swaying and cracking under the sustained breath.
An exhale that seems to go on long past when it should have ended. It is a deep sigh, foreboding, in many ways a lament. As if the very air shared in their mourning. The wind has a chill to it, the first bite of the upcoming winter. The promise of cold far deeper and greater than this. For now, it is enough for some of the men to pull their cloaks a little tighter. For others, it hardly seems to register.
Save for the shuffle of the trees the night is still, the only other sounds coming from the longship. It rocks gently on the placid water of the fjord, the surface reflecting the bright moon that hangs overhead, broken only by the nearly syncopated dip of the oars. The wood comes up dripping, the remnants of the river falling back into place, adding their echoes to the silence. The ship creaks and groans slightly as it pulls along under the power of the men propelling it, far fewer now than when they had left earlier in the spring.
At the mouth of the fjord they had struck the mainsail and bundled it to the yard. Perhaps it was foolhardy to row during the darkness, but Frode knew the river better than any of them, and they all knew it like their own lovers. The moon is a beacon save for the thin wisps of clouds streaking across it, like the last strands of hair clinging to an old crones scalp. It casts discomforting shadows on man and shore, yet it gives Frode ample enough light by which to guide them through the channel. The oars turn and tumble in their ports through the gunwale, the jarring sound at odds with the strange serenity around them. Another breeze whistles through, flapping a loose section of the sail above. The men pull on. They want to get home. They need to get home.