The whole village was in mourning - Angus had died at sea. There was no body.
An anticlimactic death to a wild life - killed by a seal while out whaling. Body lost to the deep.
Despite the summer heat the men all dressed in their finest fishing gear, sturdy leather pants and heavy coats, respectfully pouring sweat near the funeral pyre. The canoe he built with his wife stood upright as the center piece to the pyramid, burning in place of his body, a relic to the best man New Sigtuna ever saw.
The small Norse village in eastern Greenland had gathered for the funeral. A priest murmured some prayers in Latin and then a short soliloquy in Norse, while the people stared off at the fire. The black night swayed behind the heat like uneasy water.
His son would be 14 tomorrow, a man, and carried his name as Angusson. He stoically held back tears, his massive grandfather's arm encasing him.
Mosquitos, embers and ash danced in the light of the perfect half-moon. Neither beginning nor end. A wet crunch sounded softy as the wood collapsed under it's own weight. Angusson shuddered. Smoke burned his eyes.
"It's getting late. Most have gone. Let's join them at the beer hall. Don't let the sorrow stain your heart."
The patriarch returned with two heavy wooden goblets, each as big as a man's head. He sat and offered one to his grandson, extending his arm across the table. A heavy branch on an ancient tree.
The boy took the goblet with both hands and set it in front of him, looking at his grandfather for reassurance. He smiled, showing black teeth. The boy drank deeply, his lips twisting in a grimace, his face flushing.
The boy let out a relieved sigh.
Igor laughed, "Mead makes a boy into a man. The Northmen knew that."
Teasing, the boy replied, "If mead makes a man, then what makes mead?"
"Child, you know a brewer needs cereal. But a brewer needs sweet things, too. Grapes, honey..."
"Honey..! Ambrosia," he said emphatically,
"Ambrosia. You've never seen honey, but it's sweeter than fruit, sweeter than cranberries or apples."
Angusson's eyes grew wide.
"Bees make honey... there are no bees in Greenland, it has to be shipped from Snowland. Expensive. Bees, tiny animals, insects, like a horsefly... their saliva is honey. But they bite and sting to defend it, and a man comes back covered in sores, but he has the honey. Then a brewer takes this ambrosia and throws it in a cask to let it rot!"
"And with time, it becomes bitter mead. But the Northmen knew it's power when they rode as Berserkers. This bitter thing will make you a man."