For more than a week the Gufuskalam sailed south, pushing as hard as its crew could drive the boat with sail and oar, and for more than a week the black-haired dwarf on board hovered over the injured sailor who had been given into his care. If Erik did not seem to be improving, neither did his condition seem to worsen. He even regained consciousness a few times. In spite of his better judgement, Einarr found his attitude toward Jorir softening. Even Tyr could acknowledge his efforts were genuine.
Mid-morning of the eighth day, Einarr stood up to stretch and caught sight of land on the horizon. “Hey Tyr, double-check the chart, will you?”
The older man was still unrolling the parchment when he answered. “That should be the place, and if I’m right we can make landfall today.”
Einarr whooped, the last week’s worry lightening in a rapid burst of exuberance. Jorir looked up like a spooked cat before his gaze darkened to a glare.
“Don’t disturb me patient.”
“Does he look any more disturbed now than he was five minutes ago?” It was a nagging concern of Einarr’s that his friend had hardly stirred during their journey. He still breathed, though, and the leg looked a little better since it had been elevated. “If you’ve got nothing better to do than fuss you can help me row. The sooner we make port, the sooner we can find us a proper healer.”
“An’ how will we be paying this healer?”
“All else fails? It can come out of Erik’s share. Given the choice between keeping his leg and having a pretty for a mistress, I’m sure he’d choose the leg.”
“You might hide that bauble about yer neck, then, before we go ashore. Anyone who sees it will know it’s the most valuable thing aboard.”
Einarr nodded. “Good thinking. I hadn’t intended to keep wearing it, mind, although it’s been good having the goddess of winds on our side this trip.”
* * *
The Flatey Islands were among the southernmost lands controlled by the thanes and jarls of the north, and the influence of the Empire could be seen even before one made port. The harbor was built up, and ships of all sizes docked to either side of concrete piers. Those piers were the first, most obvious sign of the southern influence, though the roads that came into view behind them were pale dirt. Two- and three-story buildings rose up behind the harbor, but if the building materials were the same the construction still looked alien to Einarr.
A man in official-looking robes with a pair of glass lenses resting over his nose already stood at the pier as the Gufuskalam nosed between two larger karves that sat high in the water, their hulls evidently empty for the moment. The wood of their hull knocked against the pier and the harborman motioned for Einarr to toss him the docking line.
A moment later their skiff was tied and Einarr took a large step up onto the concrete pier.
“Welcome to Kem. What business are you on?”
“We require a healer.” He gestured toward where Erik lay, his leg still held up by a rope tied above the yardarm.
The harborman’s eyes widened to see the extent of the injuries. “I’ll say. …How?”
“Fimbulvulf. This was the nearest port where we thought there might be aid.”
“I see. …Well, for a boat this size, there is just the small matter of the harbor tax, and then I believe I can direct you where to find a capable healer.”
Einarr suppressed a groan. He had not expected to need coin on this voyage, given their route and their goal, and so had little on him save the gifts from the jotünhall. “How much?”
“For a craft that size, and given the nature of your business, two silver marks per day.”
Einarr growled, but he already heard the knocking of wooden planks. What would be pocket change for his father was going to be a near thing for the four of them. “Tyr, I believe you’ll find some silver belowdecks. Will you pay the man?”
“Already got it.” Tyr met Einarr’s eyes and held it for a long time, his expression saying plainer than words that they would not have many days’ toll for this.
“Thanks.” Einarr nodded his understanding to Tyr, and the marks were passed from Tyr’s hand to Einarr’s to the harborman’s. “Now. You said you had a name for me.”
“Indeed. This way, please, and I will sketch you a map.”
Jorir stepped up to the prow of the Gufuskalam. “If it’s all the same to you, my lord, I would come along.” When Einarr gave him a questioning look, he continued. “His condition’s not changed in days, and anything more I could do for him at this point Lord Tyr could, as well. It might be good if I talked ta the healer meself.”
Tyr looked amused every time the dwarf called him a lord, but had not yet told him to drop it.
“You may be right at that.” Einarr reached down to give the dwarf a hand up to the pier. “We’ll be back as soon as we can.”