Stigander frowned out over the water. The four ships were near enough that you could make out the wolf’s head on the prow. Much closer, and they risked being seen in turn. “That’s them, all right,” he said again.
“I had hoped to have a few more days before they showed up,” Einarr mused.
“Bah! That was never going to happen, son. Not after they chased us from Eskihus.”
“I know, Father. I still hoped. But let’s face it, we haven’t been near here in more than a decade.”
“And they live in these waters. Yes, exactly.”
Kormund cleared his throat. “And they are continuing straight for the island. Might I suggest we draw back at least far enough to have tree cover?”
Hasty nods and grunts of agreement were heard from all around, and everyone save the village scout started walking back to Lundholm.
“Elder Vilding assures me we will be able to replenish all our arrows three days from now. Water, of course, we’re on our own, but one of the woodsmen showed Arring to a spring we can use. That just leaves food and pitch, plus any repairs that can’t wait.”
Kormund harrumphed. “I think any repairs can wait – unless one of you was taking on water?”
Father and son shook their heads.
“Good. We’re not going to have time to waste. Did the Elder say anything about food stores?”
“We’re in the wrong season for much of that. I’m sure there’ll be some who can sell us their excess, but most of what they have is going to be fresh or foraged.” Kormund must not have had a chance to speak with his Mate: this was exactly what Einarr had told them that morning. “If we can spare some men to hunt, though, what they do have is salt. And some others should make sure we all have good fishing nets.”
Stigander hummed. “Not sure I want to rely on fishing just now… but I suppose if we have to we should be able to.”
“My thought exactly.”
The other two answered at the same moment. “What?”
“Nothing. It’s just that your son is a born Mate, Stigander, and here he is a Captain already. At his age, neither of us would have given the resupply a second thought.”
“At his age, neither of us had earned our ships. He’s been riding the whale road for half his life already.”
Kormund chuckled again and left it at that.
Einarr hated to bring the mood down, but they had all been avoiding one important matter. “The real question is, will they give us time enough to even do that?”
“You’re worried they’ll attack the town,” Stigander said with a sigh. “I am, too, but I don’t think they will. Not if this Kaldr is the man I think he is.”
“He’s not the one I’m worried about.”
“The mad dog? What was his name, Urek?” Kormund ventured.
“That’s the one.”
Stigander hummed again. “If they do decide to raze the village, either because Kaldr is not as savvy as we think or because he doesn’t have the others properly in hand, there’s not much we can do save fight them here.”
Einarr nodded, thoughtful. “I had a feeling you’d say that.”
Kaldr studied the narrow fjord leading to Lundholm. It was almost certainly where the three rebel ships had fled, given the path they had taken after Eskihus. Lord Ulfr hated the place, he knew – when he bothered to remember it existed. But that Lord Ulfr hated a place did not render it fit for destruction. Now he only needed to make sure Urek and Vittir understood that they would lose more in good will than they gained should they raid the place.
Hopefully, the logistics of the assault should help with that. The fjord was impossible to navigate in more than single file: for that very same reason, it would be trivial to blockade and wait for them to try to slip out on their own.
Still frowning in thought, he gave a decisive nod. “Thjofgrir.”
“We will blockade the fjord. There is only one way out of Lundholm, and we’re looking at it. We will take center, along with Broki. Vittir gets the right flank, and Urek the left.” That should mollify them some, at least. They could hardly accuse him of cowardice when he placed himself in the center. As an added benefit, they would have a much harder time of it to slip past him and do something foolish.
Another thought occurred to him. “Stretch nets between our boats.”
“You intend to fish?”
“I intend to keep them from fishing.” He bared his teeth at his Mate in a vicious smile.
“Very good sir.”
The signals were given and the ships moved into position. Not long after the nets were in place, as ordered, a clatter of planks could be heard from the flanks of the blockade. Here we go. It was a struggle not to roll his eyes.
Sure enough, within moments, Urek came storming across the gap between their two ships. On the other side, Vittir was slowed by Broki’s temporizing, for which Kaldr was thankful.
“Urek,” he said, turning to face the man. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You call for yet another blockade? Are you Captain or coward?”
“Peace, Urek. There is more to a successful strategy than attack. Even wild wolves know that much.”
The other Captain, never known for his self-control, glared at him. “And now you insult me?”
Kaldr was careful to keep his voice bland. “Not at all.”
“Three times now we have set a trap for the rebels, and three times they have slipped the noose. Now you try it again, when they have landed at a rebel stronghold. Why?” The man’s face was already red with anger, and spittle flew from his mouth as he ranted.
“No! I will say my piece. They are weakened, they are tired, they are low on supplies. If we press the attack now, not only do we deal with that pesky rooster, we also eliminate a thorn in Lord Ulfr’s side.”
“If we press the attack now, Lord Ulfr will never hold his lands without his mother’s interference.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out, staring at Kaldr in obvious rage and disbelief. “Traitor!”
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