“Do you have a problem with the way we do things?”
“No, not at all.” The Imperial Princess seemed taken aback. “Just you’re a lot more… civilized than I’d been led to believe was common among the Clans.”
Einarr felt rage building in the back of his brain that had nothing to do with any Song magic. He wasn’t the only one, apparently: several of the men nearby had turned to stare incredulously at her. “What, you think because we raid your settlements and take thralls we’re nothing more than beasts? Kin is kin, and we care for our own. Don’t you? Or are you the animals you make us out to be?”
“No, that’s not…”
“You are a guest upon this boat. Don’t make me regret bringing you along.”
Bea’s voice tempered almost to meekness now. “I only wondered why your father does not pursue.”
“Because he’s not a fool,” Einarr snapped. He knew she was not this stupid. “Look, right about now they’re disappearing around that cape, right? I would wager my left eye that there are more ships back there, lying in wait for us – a lot more. My uncle is a crafty bastard, and we can’t afford to go sailing into any obvious traps.”
“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to fight them seriously!”
“You think we don’t know that?” Einarr felt the muscles in his jaw begin to twitch. Runa had never been so maddening. “Once we’ve unravelled the Weaving, though, not now. Not until they have a chance to regain their right minds.”
Bea blinked now. “Perhaps I don’t fully understand. I thought it was Song Magic that affected the mind, not Weaving.”
“It is. Just like the Painting you Coneheads practice makes physical effects.” Eianrr watched Bea’s face for sign of reaction and found none. “But Urdr’s Weaving bound their fates to her own – hers and her sons’. That commands a degree of loyalty. But once the Weaving is cut, they’re free to make the allegiance of their choice. Once that’s done, then we strike.”
“Taking advantage of the confusion. I see.”
That hadn’t been the reason he had in mind, but it was also probably accurate. Einarr grunted agreement. “But until then, we have no way of knowing who is loyal to the usurpers and who is merely compelled.”
“So how do you intend to cut the Weaving?”
Einarr grinned mysteriously. “With the Orlognir.”
Bea rolled her eyes, but seemed to understand that he would divulge no more.
Not that he had much more he could divulge. None of them knew how this breaking was supposed to work, only that he would have to do some rune work with Hrug, and then activate the distaff. Not that he was sure how to do that, either.
“So when do you intend to do this?”
“When we reach the central island, where Raenshold sits and where the Weaving is, we think, held.”
Einarr shrugged. It was their best guess, and not like they had any way of confirming it. Even if it wasn’t physically there, though, that should cut its hold rather thoroughly. Runa would probably say there was power in the location, although Einarr was never quite sure what was meant by that. “Father was out on the Vidofnir at the time, but we think that’s where it was worked. Whether or not it’s still there, physically, doesn’t matter. Or so I am assured.”
Bea shook her head. “Be that as it may… you’re worried about sailing into a trap, when you’ve already decided you have to make it to the center of their territory before you can really fight? I know you’re a better strategist than that, and your father should be too.”
Now Einarr smirked. “Indeed, we are. Just watch.”
Their miniature fleet veered to port and rounded the coast of the island they had been sailing past. This was a coast Einarr had not seen in a long time, and the rememberance was bittersweet. This was the island where his Afi had lived. There was a fjord not far from their old freehold, one that Ulfr’s men were likely to overlook as unimportant, and it was into that inlet that the Vidofnir slipped, followed closely by the Eikthyrnir and the Heidrun.
Once the open ocean had disappeared behind them, Einarr stretched his arms and smiled. “And now, we wait.”
The air grew dim early between the walls of the fjord, although none aboard were so green as to be fooled. Even the men from Kjell set about their wait with purpose, checking their armor or their blades, re-fletching damaged arrows, and such.
Before they really knew it, orange and pink streaked across the sky overhead as it began to darken from blue into lavendar, purple, and finally indigo. One by one the stars appeared, and as the silvery moonlight began to reflect off the walls of the fjord the three ships manned their oars once more.
The light of the moon was bright enough they did not need torches to see by as they slipped in near-silence out of the mouth of the fjord and back onto the open sea, but one burned on each ship, near the captain’s awning, for the purpose of consulting charts and sending messages between their three crews.
Einarr stood motionless near the mast of the Heidrun, his arms crossed as he surveyed his crew and watched for any sign from the others. Where earlier his heart had been in his throat as he worried over everything to come, now that it was upon them he felt fantastically calm. Perhaps arguing with Bea had been no bad thing, after all.
The oars slipped gently through the water, answered occasionally by a creak of wood. No ship could be utterly silent, but these three were as quiet as one could hope for. Finally, Einarr thought, he could claim his birthright and his bride all at once. A smile played at the corners of his mouth.
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