From where Einarr stood he saw nothing but mist and ocean and the bones of ships. “What happened?”
Sivid’s head popped over the railing from above. “Those freeboaters following us seem to have missed a turn.”
“Pretty sure. Cap’ and Bardr are ‘discussing’ sending aid.”
“What’s there to discuss? Of course we should help them out.”
“And if they’re hostile?”
“We’ll teach them a lesson, of course.”
Sivid laughed and his head disappeared back behind the ship. “Looks like the Captain won that one. We’re coming down!”
Their shadow had been rather unceremoniously dumped aground a good half-mile down the coast from where the Vidofnir had made landfall, a good hundred feet out from shore but, for the moment, at least mostly connected by a series of sandbars. Whether that would last with the changing of the tide remained to be seen.
Her crew swarmed about like ants, offloading anything and everything they could carry as though it might help them get off this island again. Their ship certainly wasn’t: where the Vidofnir was gouged, they had a rather horrendous crack.
“Ho there!” Stigander called as they neared the broken vessel.
The crew stopped moving as a unit and turned to look at them.
“I am Stigander Raensson of the Vidofnir, and these are my men. We thought you might like some assistance.”
A figure emerged from the deck and hopped lightly down to squelch in the sand. The brown-haired and bearded man took several slow steps toward them, wiping his hand with a rag. “You’re the boat we kept seeing ahead of us?”
“And you’re the ones who were tailing us.”
“Tailing nothing,” he spat. “We planned out our route in months ago. Go see to your own.”
Stigander raised an eyebrow. “Well, suit yourself, friend. If you change your mind we’ll be up the beach a ways, doing exactly as you suggest.”
They turned, and with a shrug began sauntering back up the sand to the shore proper.
“Wait!” The voice came from behind them. When they turned to see what the commotion was, a younger man from the other boat was hurrying up to speak with the one who had come to send them off. For a moment, it looked as though he would have his ear boxed for his trouble. At the last moment, their spokesman turned it to a clap on the shoulder.
“I’m not sure I like this,” Einarr whispered to his Father.
Stigander nodded. “Walk on, men.”
“Good sirs,” came the suddenly obsequious voice of the spokesman when they were perhaps five steps further on.
The Vidofnings continued walking. The call did not come again.
The crew of the Vidofnir split off into three parties. The first, and smallest, was to guard the ship, led by Arring. With the unknown crew stranded here, leaving the boat unattended struck everyone involved as unwise. The second headed east, towards the freeboaters, their first task to find good wood for patching the scar in their hull.
The third party was by far the largest. Had there been anyone to fight on the island, they would have been the raiding party. Einarr shouldered his shield and joined them, hardly alone in the precaution.
“So are we ready to find out what sort of a haul might be waiting for us here?” He half-grinned, clapping Erik on the shoulder.
Sivid laughed. No-one else ventured more than a nervous grin, save Reki. He thought she actually smiled under her hood, but it was difficult to tell.
“You’re not all still worried about the ghosts of sailors, are you? Have some faith in our Singer.”
“It’s not just that,” Irding grumbled. “I don’ know about the rest of ye, but what sort of luck will we be bringing on ourselves like this? Not like the Allthane’s wealth did him much good.”
Sivid laughed again. “If luck’s what you’re worried about, I think I’ve got us covered.”
Erik cocked an eyebrow. “But you’ve terrible luck.”
“I think we can trust him with this one, anyway.” Einarr spoke quickly to avoid forcing Sivid to dissemble. There was plainly a reason the man continually played and lost at dice, based on his Weaving, and if that got around the crew he’d never get in another game. “Are we all here?”
“Captain’s leaving some orders with the others,” Bardr answered. “Give him a few minutes.”
Stigander sauntered up behind his first mate. “I’m what now?”
To his credit, Bardr did not jump. “You were leaving instructions, weren’t you? But it looks as though we’re all here now.”
“Indeed we are. Now. Onward, and let us see if there is anything worth finding on this rock.”
Stigander led the way up the beach. Most of the wrecks they could see were rather thoroughly decomposed, empty skeletons of ships, their contents long ago rotted or washed out to sea or, possibly, buried beneath the sand… but they felt like unpromising places to dig.
Einarr was just as glad most of the crew was on the treasure hunt. He was not so indifferent to the atmosphere on the island as he pretended, and though the fog had lifted the gray haze weighed gloomily on their shoulders.
He shook his head. There was no sense worrying about it now: each and every one of them had known what they were signing up for when they chose this path. The only thing to be done now was to fill their hold quickly and get back to the open ocean, outside the maze of sandbars that trapped so many boats.
It was hard to tell the passage of time under the haze. After they had walked for a period, occasionally pausing to evaluate a wreck for promising finds, a strange noise came to Einarr’s ears. He stopped, closing his eyes to listen.
“…Seabirds?” He muttered, still trying to place it. They sounded almost like the gulls that had flocked about Kem Harbor, but he had seen no feathers along the shore. He shook his head: now he knew the sound. “Kalalintu.”