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The outstanding new Fargo adventure from the #1 New York Times–bestselling author.
Baffin Island: Husband-and-wife team Sami and Remi Fargo are on a climate-control expedition in the Arctic, when to their astonishment they discover a Viking ship in the ice, perfectly preserved—and filled with pre–Columbian artifacts from Mexico.
How can that be? As they plunge into their research, tantalizing clues about a link between the Vikings and the legendary Toltec feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl—and a fabled object known as the Eye of Heaven—begin to emerge. But so do many dangerous people. Soon the Fargos find themselves on the run through jungles, temples, and secret tombs, caught between treasure hunters, crime cartels, and those with a far more personal motivation for stopping them. At the end of the road will be the solution to a thousand-year-old mystery—or death.
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Clive Cussler is the author of dozens of New York Times bestsellers, most recently Mirage, The Bootlegger, and Ghost Ship. He lives in Arizona.
Russell Blake is the author of twenty-nine acclaimed thrillers, including the Assassin, JET, and BLACK series. He lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
SOMEWHERE IN THE LABRADOR SEA, A.D. 1085
Flashes of lightning seared the turbid night sky, illuminating the drawn faces of the men heaving on the long wooden oars of the Viking longship as it fought against the ravages of the unforgiving sea. The captain swayed in time with the relentless swell as he watched the wall of towering waves pounding the stern.
Sheer cliffs of black water driven by the icy wind threatened to capsize the hardy craft with each passing minute. Sheets of rain lashed the grim crewmen as they strained at their task, their survival depending on their unflagging effort. The captain eyed them with determination, his brow furrowed as the deluge tore at his skin, water running along the faint white battle scar stretching from the corner of his left eye to his blond beard. He’d grown up on the ocean, one of a hardened race of adventurers and plunderers, and nature’s untamed violence was nothing new. Countless nights he’d hurled oaths on the treacherous North Sea, but, even for him, this was a once-in-a-lifetime storm.
The wooden vessel was now badly off course, driven north as it ran with the seas. Had it pressed on its intended route, one of the mammoth waves would have assuredly broken over the bow and capsized the ship, bringing certain death. The best the captain could do was to steer the boat with the wind at his stern and ride out the fury of the gale.
A flare of brilliance streaked through the roiling clouds, glowing momentarily before fading back into the gloom. Salt water dripped from his bearskin cloak as the muscles on his powerful arms bulged from the effort. Another bright flash lit the night. The glowering profile of a carved wooden dragon reflected the light just aft of the captain’s head, soaked with the spray blowing off the angry sea.
From among the exhausted oarsmen, a tall man with skin the texture of leather and an untamed red mane lurched his way forward, his footing sure on the coarse oak planks beneath him even in these miserable conditions.
“Thor is venting his fury tonight, eh, Vidar?” the captain shouted to his mate over the howling wind.
“He is indeed, sir. But I think the worst is past. The swells seem smaller than a few hours ago.”
“I hope you’re right. My arms ache like I’ve been wrestling a bear all night.”
“I know the feeling. You’ve seen my wife.”
The two veteran seamen exchanged humorless smiles, and then the mate edged next to the captain and took the rudder staff from his grip.
“So much for trying to sleep in this nightmare. How are the men holding up?” the captain asked.
“As well as can be expected. Cold. Tired.” Vidar didn’t say “afraid.” It wasn’t in these warriors to admit fear.
“They’ve spent enough time quaffing ale and enjoying the native hospitality. This will give them something to think about in case they’ve softened like a maiden’s robe.”
“Aye, Captain. It’s definitely putting them to the test—”
A deafening explosion shook the deck beneath them. Both men gazed at the dazzling pyrotechnics with eyes seasoned from a lifetime on the ocean and in battle.
The captain glimpsed a shape rising behind him and turned instinctively. They stared as the stern split a massive wave, the rush of the breaking sea the only sound. After a brief moment suspended at the crest, they gradually eased down the back side, the black monster disappearing into the darkness.
“Could you imagine if we’d hit that one square on?” Vidar asked in a hushed voice.
“Or amidships. We’d all be on the way to Valhalla by now.”
Their eyes drifted to the mast, now shattered and useless, the top half torn away like a twig, along with a major portion of the sail—victim of the stealth with which the storm had hit. That had been a costly miscalculation. He should have lowered the woven wool sheet before the wind could rip it loose. But he’d been trying for every bit of speed possible. His men’s arms were strong, but after almost twenty-four hours of rowing, even in shifts, they were reaching their limit.
Among the most impressive longships ever launched, Sigrun was built to exacting standards for a crew of ninety, with rowing positions for up to eighty men, two to each of the ship’s forty oars, and a detachable mast fifty feet in height. She boasted a length of a hundred twelve feet and a beam of sixteen, a keel hewn from one massive oak, and square stones for ballast. Sigrun could travel at a speed approaching fourteen knots under sail in calm conditions, but during a winter storm of this proportion, in the farthest reaches of the North Atlantic, speed wasn’t an issue—staying afloat was.
The Sigrun had a typical Viking lapstrake, double-ender hull, but with a taller gunwale for open-sea expeditions, and its stern and bow were sculpted with identical dragon heads. Ships like Sigrun had a solid track record, navigating some of the most dangerous ocean on the planet, and their seaworthiness and speed were legendary. But even the most durable craft had its limits, and the storm had pushed Sigrun and her crew far beyond anything they’d been through in all their years together.
Long hours passed, and as dawn’s first glimmer fought through the heavy gray clouds the seas began to flatten. The captain called out the order for the exhausted oarsmen to rest now that the most dangerous part had passed—and then his eyes spotted a new menace: ice. Fifty yards ahead, an iceberg loomed in the haze, easily the size of a small hill. He twisted to the crewman manning the rudder and yelled a warning.
The ship had a shallow draft, but, even so, the churning waves could push them too near the submerged mass, which would shatter the wooden hull and sink the longship, the icy water killing all hands within minutes. The bow swung slowly, the steering sluggish as it resisted the surge of the following seas. Another rolling swell pushed them nearer—too close for the captain’s liking.
“Put your backs into it. Pull, damn you, pull or we’re done for.”
The ship glided past the brooding ice as silently as a wraith. The captain’s eyes roved over the frozen monolith, an island of desolation in the middle of the ocean. He offered yet another silent prayer to the gods. If the ship was in the ice, the storm must have blown them farther north than he’d feared, and the overcast would make it impossible to plot a course using the primitive means at his disposal.
“Bring one of the ravens from the hold,” he ordered.
Vidar relayed the command to the nearest crewman, who scuttled away. The storm surge was nearly spent, and it was time to use one of the Viking seafarers’ secret weapons: birds.
Two men heaved a deck hatch open and descended into the forward cargo hold. Moments later, they emerged carrying a rough wooden cage with a large, agitated black form in it. The taller of the two men carried the cage to the captain’s station at the stern and set it down on the deck. With a final glare at the sea, the captain squatted on his haunches and eyed the raven.
“Well, my friend, it’s time. May you fly straight and true. Don’t let me down. Our survival depends on your instincts. Let Odin guide you.”
He straightened and gave the crewman a curt nod. “Release it, and wish it Godspeed.”
The crewman lifted the cage to chest height as Vidar approached and, after fiddling with the leather binding that held the access door closed, pulled the door open and reached in. The raven flinched, but the fight was out of it, and Vidar easily cornered it with cold hands. He withdrew the bird, and then, with a prayer of his own, tossed it into the air.
The raven circled the ship, finding its wings, and then flew to port.
“Be quick about it. Bring the bow around. Follow the raven.”
Their gazes trailed the black speck as it disappeared into the distance, and they quickly aligned the prow’s fearsome dragon head to the bird’s flight.
“How many more do we have, Vidar?” the captain asked.
“Only one. We lost the other two from shock.”
“I know how they must have felt. That storm was one we’ll be talking about around the fire when we’re old and gray.”
“That’s the truth. But we made it. And now we know where landfall lies.”
“The only question is how far away.”
“Yes. And how hospitable.”
“Probably not warm beaches and willing maidens, I’d wager, judging by the ice and the dropping temperature.”
“I suspect you’re right.”
The men fell silent, lost in their thoughts, their course uncertain for now. Once they found land and the clouds had parted, they could use the sun to plot the way home.
“Order the rest of the men to the oars, Vidar. We need to make speedy time while it’s light. I don’t want to spend another night on the open sea with icebergs waiting to sink us.”
Vidar turned to the resting men, who were slumbering wherever they could find space on the deck. “Time to earn your keep. To the oars, Vikings, to the oars!”
By late afternoon, they could make out snow-covered mountains in the distance, perhaps a half a day ahead at their present speed. The welcome sight galvanized the exhausted men, who redoubled their efforts now that a destination was within reach. Vidar manned the rudder, and the captain looked landward from the helm, keeping a sharp eye on the water. As the ship drew nearer to land, the sea was filled with smaller chunks of floating ice, as well as the occasional massive iceberg.
“What do you think?” the captain asked, his face pallid from two days of relentless stress.
“It’s land, sure enough. I say we find safe harbor and put up for the night and then devise a plan once we’re rested.”
“The men are surely at the end of their rope. We can improvise some repair for the mast. It will be a long trip home if we have to row all the way.”
Vidar nodded. “That it will be.”
“Look—a fjord. If we follow it inland, we should be able to find a suitable spot to make camp,” the captain said, pointing a gnarled finger at the gap along the coastline. “With any luck, there may even be an open river.”
“Could be,” Vidar agreed, squinting to better make it out.
“If there is, that would mean fresh water. And possibly animals.”
“Both welcome guests to our diminishing stores.”
“We should follow the fjord and see how far it goes,” the captain said. “I don’t see any better options, and it will be dark again soon.”
“Anything that gets us out of this wind. At least the cliffs will provide us shelter from the worst of it.”
“Make for the fjord.”
Vidar fixed the oarsmen with a determined glare. “Come on, lads. Pull. We’re almost there.”
The only sound was the oars creaking as the men strained at their task. There was no other sign of life, no evidence that they weren’t the only living things on Earth. There was nothing to indicate that they hadn’t been blown to a freezing purgatory in some remote netherworld.
“Steady, men. Steady . . .” Vidar called out as they weaved around the ice floes toward the blue-white cliffs on either side of the fjord. He leaned toward the captain. “Can you make that out in the distance? It looks like a narrow channel.”
“Yes, I see it. It’s likely there’s another bay beyond it. Whatever the case, we need to keep moving forward until we find a place to put in for the night. It’s likely there’s no place to land along this unforgiving coast.”
The ship eased through the gap in the shore and found itself in an increasingly dense ice floe. The craggy canyon walls jutted high into the heavens and blocked out the dimming rays of the setting sun. As they continued forward, the area grew darker, but thankfully the worst of the weather had been left at the channel’s mouth and the water was still.
The captain pointed to a spot ahead.
“There. By the base of the glacier. It might be tight, but it looks like we can get the ship at least partially beached, safe for the night. We can then take a party and see what awaits us on land at dawn tomorrow.”
Vidar squinted at the sliver of flat ice and nodded. He leaned his weight against the rudder and turned the craft’s bow to the sloping indentation. The slim remaining light wavered across the surface of the ice-strewn inlet, and the men expended their last resources driving the longship the final distance. The curved bow scraped onto the frozen crust with a jolt, and the crew leapt out to heave the vessel farther ashore so it wouldn’t float away with a rising tide, using their battle-axes to secure grips in the ice. They were able to get half of the mammoth craft out of the water—a testament to the design and lightweight construction of Viking vessels. The captain gave the signal to cease; they’d done their best, and, with the final glow of the rapidly dwindling dusk, would do better to conserve their strength and make camp on deck for the night.
The captain gazed skyward at the tapestry of stars and offered a silent plea to the gods that they aid him in guiding his men to safety. Tomorrow they would mount an expedition armed with their longbows and, with any luck, bag venison for food while they repaired the shattered mast. While it was not impossible to use the oars to carry them east to their homeland, even a partial working sail would increase the odds of delivering their priceless cargo.
His final thought before drifting off was that no matter what, he had to make it back. He’d sworn a sacred oath to the expedition’s leader, who had died in a land so far from home.
The new dawn revealed an ominous gray backdrop of sky. Vidar shifted, his cloak crackling as a thin veneer of ice shattered along its surface. He forced his eyes open to find the entire ship dusted in white—snowfall from a midnight flurry that had entirely blanketed the craft. The captain stirred several feet away from him and then rose. His eyes roved over the slumbering crew before settling on what had been water and was now frozen solid. An ominous horizon of storm clouds brooded over the ocean. He watched as the dark line approached, and moved to where Vidar was struggling to sit up, his limbs stiff from the cold.
“I fear another storm is approaching. Have the men unfurl what’s left of the sail,” the captain ordered, “and we’ll use it for shelter. Judging by the look of those clouds, we’re not out of it yet.”
Vidar nodded as he squinted at the heavens. “We don’t have long before the storm returns.”
The captain turned to his crew. “Men! Up with you. Get the sail free and spread it over the deck for cover. And be quick about it. Unless you want to be up to your necks in sleet!”
The groggy crew pushed themselves into action, and by the time the freezing deluge fell they’d crafted a makeshift tent and were huddled beneath it. The first wave of hail hit with the force of a blow against the fabric, and to a man they were grateful for the captain’s quick thinking as the weather tore at the vessel with the fury of a demon.
On and on the storm raged until midday. Eventually the hammering ceased, and the only sound was the heavy breathing of the men, their exhalations warming the enclosure as the blizzard abated.
When the captain pushed the edge of the sail aside and moved into the now-...
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