The rest of that day and into the next morning, there was still no sign of Runa at the Hall, and that left Einarr unaccountably anxious. While he was assured that all was well, none would tell him where she was. When Stigander informed him the three of them – Einarr, Bardr, and himself – were headed for the village boatwright that morning, he nearly refused.
“What good will it do to sit around here?” Bardr elbowed him in the ribs. “Beyond that, we’ve matters to discuss.”
“Fine.” Einarr resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he took another bite of the morning’s mash. “Fine. You win. I’ll come. I’d just… hoped to see her already.”
“And who wouldn’t, in your shoes? Come on. Finish up and let’s go. Captain’s already waiting.”
“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Einarr lifted the bowl to his mouth and started to shovel his food more quickly. Keeping Stigander waiting was rarely advisable, and doubly so when you were under observation – as Einarr most certainly was, until his father determined the proper discipline for him.
He swallowed the last bite. “All right. I’m ready.”
“On our way, then.” Bardr rose and tossed him a summer cloak before swinging his own over his shoulders. “No time to lose – no evening stroll, here.”
Outside, the weather was already warm enough that Einarr wondered how necessary the cloak was. Goats grazed in the meadow near the hall; a few kids scampered in the morning sun. Near the palisade, a black-haired dwarf stood holding the reins for three horses, talking apparently amiably with the large, blonde figure of his father.
“Good morning!” He called, letting Stigander know they were there. Both figures glanced at the two of them before returning to their conversation.
“…we can talk about that further this evening,” Stigander said, and Jorir nodded in response. The Jarl might not care for the dwarf, but after so many years as a landless thane Stigander had become remarkably open to allies from wherever they happened to appear.
“We’re riding today? That’s unusual.”
Stigander shrugged at his son. “Going to start the resupply. Sooner we get there, the better.”
The three men were well down the trail to the village before their conversation turned away from friendly banter. “So, what was the real reason you wanted me to come along for this, Father?”
“What makes you think there’s only one?”
Bardr snorted. “We have a few things to commission before we sail again. A couple of them, you get a say in.”
“Father, you don’t seriously mean to commission a second ship?”
“I do. Fifteen years now, I’ve been trying to find a way to undo the Weaving. In that time, I’m afraid I’ve neglected something important.” Stigander looked back over his shoulder at Einarr. “It’s long past time you were married. Now you’ve found a bride, and I’ve nothing to offer for your future.”
Stigander continued as though he hadn’t heard, all regret fleeing his voice. “The second ship is only the start, of course. Be ready. This is going to be a hard summer, and we may have to take on some chancy raids to pull it off. Not to mention finding a crew for her. On top of all that, you went and swore a warrior to your service with no way to equip him. That fancy shield looks nice, but it’s gold.”
“Not pure, I don’t think. Metal wasn’t even scratched after everything I took it through on Svartlauf.”
Bardr grunted. “So he has an axe, and potentially a shield. Not enough, unless you want a one-armed smith. We’ve room for a grindstone on board at least, so that’s something.”
“Oh.” Stigander put in, almost off-handedly. “And I’ve decided on your punishment for dishonoring the clan. You’ll be carrying the resupply back to the Vidofnir.”
Einarr sighed in spite of himself. That the punishment was light for the offense did not mean he relished the prospect. “Very well, Father.”
They rode in silence another few minutes. The sounds of village life began to drift to their ears. “What do you two make of Jorir, anyway?”
Stigander set his mouth, leaving it for Bardr to say what they must have both been thinking. “He’s a svartdvergr. As a rule, they are cunning and not to be trusted.” A long moment passed. “But, for all of that, he seemed sincere when he spoke of his oath. And certainly he’s shown nothing but respect for us since we’ve met.”
Stigander sounded reluctant. “I think he, too, is bound by a Weaving.”
Einarr drew down his brow. “What do you mean?”
“A Weaving, or a curse of some kind I suppose. I can find no other explanation for the importance he lays on your gift of the tafl king. …And if that’s the case, perhaps he can help us.”
Kjellvic town bustled in the midmorning light, with sellers of all the expected kinds making all of the usual noises over the sounds of bleating goats and clucking chickens. After Kem it seemed tiny, but Einarr much preferred it this way.
“We’ll speak with the smith first,” Stigander declared. “Be thinking about what we should call our new boat.”
“Little early for that, isn’t it?”
“Yes. But this way we’ll have an idea when it’s ready come winter.”
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