Lundholm sat near the shore of a narrow, rocky fjord only slightly less treacherous than the waters surrounding the Althane’s grave. Stigander and the Vidofnir led the way, and even from his position in the rear Einarr could see his father’s crew sounding the depths at regular intervals.
The town itself was tiny, and home to not more than four or five households but supporting at least double that living in more remote portions of this remote island. Einarr scowled: this was hardly the place he would have chosen for a resupply, even under such circumstances as these. Could they afford to supply the sheer quantities of goods three ships would require?
Father, however, seemed confident, and their course had never wavered after they broke free of Kaldr’s trap in the bay.
The town, when it finally appeared from behind the rocky walls of the fjord and the tree cover, was little more than a collection of wooden houses, most whitewashed but some treated and cured nearly black. Smoke rose from chimneys, and here and there he could pick out a shop stall. There would be a butcher, and a smith more familiar with horseshoes and nails than weaponry, and perhaps a miller for grain although he wasn’t sure where they would grow it.
Well. He had lived in such a place before – or, rather, in one of the freeholds surrounding such a place. They would all have to sleep on the ship, but the local alewives would do a brisk business, as would the fletcher. With a creaking of wood and the calm splash of water against their hulls, the three ships beached themselves just outside the town.
Stigander vaulted from the deck of the Vidofnir, followed quickly by the other captains from their own ships.
Stigander cupped a hand to his mouth and called out. “Halloo!”
A voice cut out from within a stand of trees just away from the beach. “State your intentions.”
“Shelter and resupply. Does Lundholm still honor the name of Raen?”
After a long moment, a skinny young man emerged from the stand of trees. He held an arrow still nocked to his bow, although it pointed at the ground. “Been a long time since we’ve heard that name. You don’t look like one of the Wolf’s dogs.”
“I am Stigander, son of Raen and rightful heir to his Thanedom. So I ask again: does Lundholm still honor the old agreements?”
The young man’s eyes went wide as he stared at Stigander. “W-wait here. I will bring the Elder.”
Not many minutes later the youth – probably younger than Einarr – returned leading a wizened old man who leaned heavily on his stick as he walked. Einarr’s eyebrows rose: the man was at least as old as Afi, and probably older. When they reached the edge of the sand, the old man held up his hand and his escort stopped.
The Elder continued on, his pace slow but both steady and firm, until he stood directly before Stigander and stared at him – long enough and hard enough that Einarr and Kormund both began to feel ill at ease. At last, though, he nodded his head. “You are the Son of Raen. Is it time at last, then?”
Stigander smiled down at the Elder. “It is time, at last.”
A grin split the old man’s white beard. “The Usurper’s men have not troubled us in many years. Now we will remind them of our existence.”
A pair of watchers were left behind on the boats in case Kaldr sent a boat down the fjord after them. If the watchers on the spit were any good, however, Einarr didn’t think they would have much to worry about. The rest of the crew followed the Elder up into the village proper.
As Einarr had expected, two of the three houses sold ale, and one made mead, but none of them were of a size to accomodate even one crew, let alone three. Even knowing they would have to sleep on deck did little to dampen their spirits, however: the promise of shelter, if even for a night, served to bleed off a good bit of the tension.
“Has your fletcher taken an apprentice? I’m afraid we’re in dire need of arrows,” Kormund asked the Elder as they tromped through the town to their meeting-place.
The Elder chuckled. “I’m afraid we don’t have a dedicated fletcher here. Not a man in the village can’t turn out a brace of arrows in the space of an hour, though.”
Stigander gave a half-smile to his old friend. “Lundholm is one of the more industrious of our freehold allies. They’ll put us to work, but we’ll get what we need. I’m just glad the Weaving spared you.”
The Elder snorted. “You’re welcome.”
Einarr jogged a half-step to come up even with the elder. “Beg pardon?”
After a sidelong look, the old man answered. “Your grandfather tried very hard to make this a proper part of his kingdom – not far short of open warfare, really. Only I was too cussed stubborn to go along with it, and he didn’t want to destroy us and rebuild.”
“You knew my grandfather, then?”
Now the Elder laughed. “Of course I did! How young do you think I am?”
While Einarr stammered, Stigander held up his hands in front of him for peace. “Come now, Vilding. He was only a boy when the Weaver came.”
Elder Vilding snorted again. “Not much more than a boy now.”
Before he could finish the insult, they arrived in a large green surrounding a single large oak tree. “Here we are. Our Herb-witch should be along shortly, and then there are many matters to discuss. For example, what changed?”
Stigander looked Elder Vilding straight in the eye. “That, sir, is simple. My son is the Cursebreaker.”
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