Unfortunate sailing: the terror of the Schelde

In the eerie quiet of the Schelde, the small vessel glided almost silently. Its crew was tense and vigilant. The river, usually bustling with activity, was shrouded in a thick fog that seemed to mute even the sound of the water lapping against the boat’s sides. Godric, a seasoned sailor with years of experience on these waters, stood at the helm. He scanned the mist for any sign of the dreaded giant known as Antigoon. Despite their efforts to pass unnoticed, a deep sense of foreboding hung over them all.

Godric was different from the other crew members. He was born in this region.

The lands surrounding the Schelde River were blessed with fertile soil and abundant natural resources, providing a foundation for economic prosperity. Trade flourished as merchants navigated the waterway, exchanging goods from the interior of Europe with those arriving from distant shores. The region’s textile industry was particularly renowned, with skilled artisans producing fine fabrics that were coveted across the continent.

However, this burgeoning wealth and economic potential was overshadowed by the looming presence of Antigoon, the giant who had taken up residence along the river’s banks. Drawn by the promise of riches flowing through the Schelde’s waters, Antigoon saw an opportunity to amass a fortune through extortion and intimidation. The giant would demand tribute: sailors would either have to pay up or lose one of their hands.

As news of the giant’s tyranny spread, fear gripped the hearts of sailors and merchants alike. Antigoon’s exorbitant toll fees, coupled with the threat of brutal punishment for those unable to pay, cast a shadow over the once-thriving trade routes. Merchants began to avoid the Schelde altogether, seeking alternative routes that were longer and more treacherous, but offered a measure of safety from the giant’s wrath.

In the bustling markets and ports that once hummed with activity, the sound of commerce grew quieter. Traders hesitated to risk their wares on the perilous journey, and the flow of goods slowed to a trickle. The region’s textile industry, once a source of pride and prosperity, found itself starved of the raw materials and trade connections that had fueled its success.

The impact of Antigoon’s reign rippled outward, affecting not only the merchants and sailors but also the farmers, artisans, and laborers whose livelihoods depended on the economic vitality of the region. Fields lay fallow, looms fell silent, and workshops stood empty as the fear of the giant’s toll paralyzed the once-vibrant economy.

Godric knew the stories, had seen friends fall victim to the giant’s greed, but where others saw only peril, he saw opportunity. The risk of crossing Antigoon’s waters meant fewer ships dared the journey, leading to high demand and even higher prices for those brave enough to venture through.

On a fateful morning, shrouded in mist that seemed to promise secrecy, Godric and his crew set sail. Their ship was laden with goods that could fetch fortunes in distant markets—textiles from the looms of Flanders, intricately carved wooden artifacts, and barrels of salted fish. The potential profit was enormous, a lure too strong for Godric to resist despite the known risks.

He kept scanning the river banks. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of colossal footsteps approaching. The water around them seemed to ripple with each thunderous step. Then, out of the fog, the immense figure of Antigoon appeared, standing in the middle of the river. His presence was overwhelming, his size enough to dwarf their vessel and his voice booming across the water.

Godric’s heart sank. Antigoon was not just any giant. He was a huge, muscular giant with pale skin and a terrible black beard. His skin was weathered and rough, bearing the marks of countless battles and the harsh conditions of living by the river. His eyes were vigilant and ruthless.

“Approach, sailors! You dare to cross my waters without tribute? Pay the toll, or pay with your flesh!” Antigoon demanded, his tone menacing and unforgiving.

The sailors quickly huddled, fear evident in their whispers. “We must gather what coins we have,” Godric instructed, his voice low. “This giant will not spare us if we cannot pay his price.”

“We’ve barely enough to feed ourselves, how can we afford this toll? Must we always live in fear of this tyrant?” another sailor lamented, his despair palpable.

Antigoon’s impatience grew. “Your prattle tires me! I am not a merchant to haggle with. Pay now or I shall take what is owed,” he thundered, his patience wearing thin.

Godric stepped forward, the weight of his crew’s safety on his shoulders. “Mighty Antigoon, we are but poor men! Spare us this day, and we promise to bring more when we next pass,” he pleaded, hoping to appeal to any semblance of mercy the giant might possess.

But Antigoon’s laugh was cruel and mocking. “Promises are the refuge of the weak! The river demands its due, and so shall I!” he declared, dismissing their pleas.

Faced with no other choice, Godric presented their meager offering, praying it would suffice. “We have no choice but to offer what we have. May the gods look upon us with mercy,” he said, his voice filled with resignation.

Antigoon inspected the offering and sneered. “This will not suffice! You know the price of passage. For your insolence and your poverty, a hand will suffice!” he decreed, his decision final.

Godric, his heart sinking, held out his hands, his last plea barely a whisper. “Please, no! We will find more, just give us time!”

But the giant was merciless. With a swift, brutal motion, he severed Godric’s hand, tossing it into the Schelde as if it were nothing more than a piece of refuse. “The river has claimed its toll. Let this be a lesson to all who traverse these waters without paying their dues,” Antigoon proclaimed, his voice echoing ominously.

As his fellow sailors supported him away from the scene, Godric’s mind reeled from the shock and pain. The loss of his hand not only ended his career as a sailor but also his ability to provide for himself. “We must away from this cursed place,” he gasped, his life forever changed. The last thing he could see was Antigoon taking half their goods and walking off to his lair at the banks of the Schelde.

Then he blacked out.