Bardr must have purchased miles’ worth of extra rope for this expedition, and as much fresh water as they could store. Even still, it was a short journey from Attilsund, and spirits were high as they loaded the Vidofnir with supplies for a six-week trek to investigate the ship barrow.
To Einarr’s mind, most of the crew were too focused on the potential rewards once they got there by half. He didn’t doubt they could do it, of course, but those who failed to respect the sea were often claimed by her. For his part, he joined his father in reviewing the local charts.
The waters of Svartlauf seemed an apt comparison indeed. While there was unlikely to be an eternal tempest surrounding this area, the rock formations suggested terrible winds indeed.
“I’m glad we’ve a Singer with such a powerful voice,” he said at one point, tapping a particularly narrow passage where the currents were likely to be troublesome. “I’m not sure we would have been able to hear Astrid over these winds. What do you make of this? Will we fit?”
Stigander hummed in thought. “Hope so, otherwise we’ll have to back out and circle around, come in over here.”
Einarr shuddered. “You mean where we’d have to pole off the rocks to get anywhere? I’ll take my chances with the chute. That was bad enough in the Gufuskalam.”
“Which reminds me. Has anyone thought to ask about kalalintu?”
“No more than an ordinary harassment,” Bardr put in. “A flock, maybe two. Nowhere near a colony.”
“That’s something.” Einarr glanced up to see Irding and Svarek hovering just within earshot of their conversation. “A moment.”
The two newcomers to the crew tried to make themselves look busy as he approached. “What seems to be the trouble?”
“Ah, no trouble, sir.” Svarek started, but he wouldn’t look at Einarr while he said it.
“Bollocks. You two are nervous as fresh-weaned deer, and I’m quite sure I saw you joining in with everyone when we voted. Out with it.”
Irding scratched the back of his skull sheepishly. “Ah, well, it’s like this. We were talking in the square earlier, nothin’ too serious, about what we might find out there. One of the village boys must’ve overheard, ‘cause he comes by and tells us we’re fools fer goin’, ‘cause even if we get past the rocks we’ll have spirits to deal with.”
“Spirits?” Einarr raised an eyebrow.
“The restless dead,” Svarek filled in.
Now Einarr smiled, shaking his head. “Lads, if that’s all you’re worried about, get back to work. Even if the island is haunted, we’ve got one of the finest Singers I’ve ever met. She’ll keep our courage up, and so long as we’ve got that spirits can’t touch us. Okay?”
They both nodded, although Einarr thought he saw them swallow first. “Good work, finding that out though. Now get back to work. We’ll be sailing soon.”
Bardr raised an eyebrow as he returned to the table where the charts were spread out.
“One of the locals brought up the possibility of spirits.”
“Ah.” Bardr nodded. With as many sailors as were likely unburied on that island, it was a reasonable concern, but not one they were totally unprepared for.
“I’m sure she does, but Reki does know the grave songs, right?”
“I’ve never met a Singer who didn’t,” Stigander grumbled. “But I’ll confirm.”
When the Vidofnir put off from Attilsund with the evening tide, it was with an odd mix of sobriety and ebullience. Reki, as she stepped to the bow of the ship to begin the recitation, carried silence in her wake: there were two who had not yet heard the Song of Raen, for they had not been in port long enough at Apalvik to warrant its recitation. Truth be told, were it not for the dangerous waters they approached, they might have let it slide for the few days they had been here.
Watching the new crew’s reactions to the Song was interesting. Svarek wept – as some few did, their first hearing, although it felt to Einarr as though there were a personal note to it. Irding, on the other hand, stood by his father’s side, clenching and unclenching his fist. He’s going to fit right in.
Then, as the last lines faded over the water, Einarr sidled back to the prow to join his own father, Bardr, and Jorir with a cask of mead. Knowing he was their way of breaking the curse brought them little closer to actually doing so, after all.
Dawn this far north, when it came, was crisp and bright, with little of the warmth you might see in the sky farther south.
“All right, you lot, let’s move!” Bardr was bellowing to bring those still addled by last night’s drink to their feet. “We’ve got two weeks before the waters get rough, and we’ve still got a few things left to repair from those thrice-cursed Valkyries.”
Einarr yawned, well aware that they were all above the water line, and not much more troublesome than a split in a deck board or a weak patch of sail. It would have been nice, though, if Bardr had shown a little consideration for the morning after the recitation.
The rest of the crew was stirring, with about as much enthusiasm as Einarr felt. Fine. We’re up. Best get moving or I’ll freeze. He stood, stomping his feet in his boots to start the blood flowing. It was strange, though: they had only just left Attilsund, and already the temperature seemed to have dropped rather drastically. Mentally, he cursed.
“Eyes open for ice, everyone.” They might not see any today, but with as unseasonably cold as the air was Einarr wouldn’t be surprised to see a floe or two. This was going to be a long few weeks.