That night, Raenshold feasted in celebration of the victorious return of the Vidofnir and the Heidrun. From his seat by Father’s side, Einarr grinned across the table at the unflappable Kaldr and took a deep draught. He was mostly glad to be home, but it was hard to pass up a chance to nettle the man. “What you need,” he said, wiping the foam from his beard with the back of his hand, “Is to relax a little. Isn’t that right, Jorir?”
The dwarf, at Einarr’s side, chuckled.
Kaldr gave one of his trademark placid looks to the heir apparent. “I fail to see what is so relaxing about playing the fool.”
“Ease up, Einarr. That is relaxed.”
Einarr rolled his eyes in mock exasperation and picked up a joint of rabbit from his truncheon. “You, too?”
Jorir’s eyes twinkled with mirth. Plainly the dwarf knew something Einarr did not, but he had no chance to press. Stigander nudged his right shoulder and motioned with his head to come off to the side. Einarr stood immediately and followed, taking his meat with him.
“What is it, Father?”
“While you were out, we finally managed to learn where the ancestral barrows are.”
“You have?” Einarr’s eyebrows climbed with surprise – and relief.
Stigander nodded. Getting anything out of Grandfather Raen was difficult these days, but even before the witch got her claws in him he’d never spoken of where he’d come from originally. “I got a name, yes, and Reki’s confirmed it’s a real place.”
“Thank goodness. Now all I have to do is get the sword.”
“All is right. You’ve got two months before the wedding. With a fast ship and no delays, you’ll spend six weeks on the water. And we still don’t know anything about the place.”
“How is that different from any of our adventures these last few years? It seems like everything went crazy after they got Astrid.”
His father grunted in agreement.
“So where am I going? I’ll need a day or two to resupply the Heidrun, but I can leave right after.”
Einarr grimaced. “Well there’s an ill-favored name.”
“You’re not wrong. Take whoever you please for your crew: you’ve fought among the men more than I have, recently.”
“Thank you, Father.” Einarr gave one last, regretful look towards the feast-table with his truncheon still half-filled with food and then turned away from the hall, tearing the last of the meat from the rabbit joint as he left. It seemed his rest would be brief: he now had an expedition to plan, and the first thing to do was consult the sea charts.
Finally, an ancestral sword was attainable. The wedding could go on.
And this might actually be fun.
At dawn the following day, a messenger was sent to the harbor with instructions to resupply the Heidrun with all haste.
Over breakfast, Einarr called together Jorir, Reki, and Eydri in conference. “I have a location.”
Reki nodded: she had helped Father find it, after all.
“Day after tomorrow, I sail on the Heidrun for some place called Thorndjupr, with no idea what I’ll find there save my great-grandfather’s barrow, and as of yet no clear idea about my crew. If Reki’s willing to come along, though, I thought you might like a break, Eydri.”
Eydri drew herself up as though she were somehow offended. “Is my lord the prince dissatisfied?”
Einarr rolled his eyes. “Not at all. I only thought that, since you’ve been out for most of these thrice-cursed pacification ventures, you might like to rest a little. And as much as you’ve been out, Reki has been land-bound.”
Reki shook her head, chuckling a little. “I appreciate the thought, Einarr, but I think I will decline. I have my own matters to attend to here.”
Einarr nodded at both of them. “As you wish. I wanted to lay the option before you both.”
Eydri snorted. “We’re going to retrieve an ancestral sword from your family barrow, the sword your bride will hold in safekeeping for your heir, on an island your grandfather left for unknown reasons. And you expected me to pass this up? I signed on to follow the Cursebreaker. This is the most interesting thing you’ve done all year.”
Einarr sighed. He wished she hadn’t put it quite so bluntly, but she was right. Given his usually fatal Calling, and the name of the island, a quest that was supposed to be straightforward almost certainly wouldn’t be. “And now that we’ve been cursed to peril,” he said, turning to Jorir. “What of you?”
“Nay, Lord,” the dwarf grumbled. “Take Naudrek, though. He’ll watch your back in my stead.”
“Oh? And what, praytell, conspires to keep you here?”
Jorir gave a wan laugh. “You do. Or, rather, your wedding does. I’ll be surprised if you return much before time: someone has to see to your interests.”
Einarr nodded. It was true: there were few he could trust half so well as Jorir to see it done properly. “Thank you, my friend.”
The dwarf snorted. “Thank me when you come back in one piece.”
“I’m sure I will. But that still leaves the rest of the crew.”
“If you’ll excuse me,” Reki said, standing smoothly.
Einarr gave the albino Singer a smile and a nod as she took her morning bread and glided across the Hall to where Stigander sat in a conference very similar to Einarr’s.
“So if Naudrek is acting as Mate, I’ve at least got to give Hrug a chance to come… He’s seemed a bit restless lately, anyway.”
Eydri nodded agreement, and the three fell to discussing who was fresh, and who had reason to stay and to go. All three agreed that Vali should stay: there was no sense stirring up the dead by bringing a ghost into their midst. Likewise Tyr, who was as old as Uncle Gorgny, and Erik, Irding, and Arring. This was not a quest to take berserkers on.
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