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Ulla Flota á Fæti,

Alastair Macleod

Ulla Flota á Fæti,

or The Flight Over the Flow Country

to Ulla from Norway and to the birds and animals of the Great Bog , the Stilla Flöde or Stilla Flöð, the Flow Country of Caithness.

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Ulla Flota á Fæti, or the Flight over the Flow.



The setting;


The date is 1014 AD.


The story begins in Fresgeo, the North Caithness coast, and continues into the Stilla Flöð, The Flow Country of Caithness, the great bog that still stretches over much of the west of that county and beyond into Sutherland.


Vikings often had eke names, nick names or snigger names, that they were called behind their backs, sometimes these names described a physical feature or a behavioural characteristic, and so :



The Characters of the story are in order of appearance:


Helga Swan Hud: Helga Swan Skin, fair skinned.


Harald Svartur Skegg: Harald Black Beard.


Ivar Härja: Ivar Rage: always angry violent and aggressive.


Ragnur Helmingur Eyra: Ragnar Torn Ear, brother of Ivar.


Ulla Flotaá Fæti: Ulla Fleet of Foot, fourteen year old daughter of Helga Svan Hud and Harald Svartur Skegg.


Bjarni Crow: an old viking.


Graoch: Pictish wife of Bjarni.


Eun: outlawed Pict living in the Stilla Flöð.


Chief: Tarran, of the Torrish, a Pictish Clan located on the Torrish Burn, in upper Helmsdale


Ljotr Niding: former inhabitant of Westray, fugitive from a blood feud; uncle of Helga.


Steinvorr the Stout: wife of Ljotr Nidding, aunt of Helga.


Gunnar and Lodber: relatives of Ivar Härja, followers of the blóð mæla.





“Why did you leave your island mama?”

“I told you; on Westray there was an argument.”

Helga Svan Hud, turned from the fire. The peats were burning brightly now.

“Your father fell out with another man.”

“Uncle Ivar?”


“But Grilli said Ivar used to be your husband.”

“Ulla, why must you ask so many questions?”

Helga turned again to look at the bright glow.

“Harald is my husband now.”

“Is he my father?”

“Whatever made you ask that?” said her

Mother, “You were born right here in Fresgeo.”

“But Grilli said I was born in Hels Hutte, at the saeter.”

“Well, he is right; we felt it was safer there until things quietened down. Then we moved back down here to Fresgeo.”


Helga stared again into the brightness of the fire.

Those were wild and scary days. They had feared a pursuit that never came.

With the fear was a great excitement to be with her new lover Harald Svartur Skegg.


Her old husband, Ivar Härja, had proved to be a coarse and brutal man to his household and his subjects. He became worse when her parents had died. She had brought with her to that marriage to him the rights to a large farm in Westray as well as a share in a trading vessel. And when her parents died their remaining properties also fell to her.

The whole was still rightfully hers if she was able to claim it.

Harald Svartur Skegg had burst upon the scene on a mission to avenge his own brother and had killed a wealthy boendr in single combat on a battle holm.


Here, thought Helga, was the man to take me away from Ivar, the man who could protect me when Ivar tries to retrieve me.

But Ivar never made that attempt.

Harald had been declared outlaw by the Westray Thing and Ivar was not about to leave the property he had accumulated on Westray for a wayward wife and an outlaw.

He had stayed on Westray improving his farm, obtained a new wife, and began to have a family.


But it was pointed out to him by the Lawgiver that as long as Helga lived, the farm was rightfully hers as was the share in the boat.

She could challenge his ownership by appealing to the earl.

Ulla’s mother turned and said,

“You spend too much time with Grilli. He is full of tales. Now, flota á fæti, I want you to tell your father the food is ready. He is in the inby with the sheep.”


Ulla rose and went out. It was early April.


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