Two days after his conference, at dawn as he was preparing to launch the Heidrun, Einarr looked up and blinked in surprise. There, coming down the pier in her full armor, her spear across her back, was Beatrix.
“Good morning! I didn’t expect to see you here.”
The Imperial Princess offered Einarr a friendly smile. “I’m sailing for Kem this morning. I’ve stayed too long already, I’m afraid. Who knows what my siblings have been up to while I’ve been gone…”
Einarr nodded. “Good luck, then. And safe travels.”
Einarr hadn’t minded having Bea around, really, and if her work with Father went as well as they thought it had the friendship with the Imperials would be valuable. On the other hand, it was for the best she left before the wedding. The last time she and Runa had been in the same room together, you could have cut the tension with a knife.
“My thanks. Same to you: I hear you’re sailing off for parts unknown after some sort of relic?”
“Ah… sort of.” He had no desire to explain what he was after to an Imperial – even Bea – or why the groom should present a sword to his bride at the altar. “Does the name Thorndjupr mean anything to you?”
She frowned, thinking. Finally, Bea shook her head. “I’m afraid not, although the sound of it makes me shiver for some reason.”
“Heh. You and me both.”
“Captain!” Naudrek called from on deck.
“We’re all ready over here!”
“Understood. I’ll be right there.”
A karve, almost surely bound for Kem, and almost surely with Bea aboard, sailed away from the pier while the crew of the Heidrun made its final checks. It was less than halfway across the harbor, though, when Einarr gave the order to sail out. Naudrek suggested they “race” the merchant vessel, and with a grin Einarr agreed.
Once she was away from the docks, the Heidrun fairly leapt through the water, and the longship overtook the deeper, heavier karve. The ramshead vessel came alongside the merchantman, and Einarr called a greeting across to the other Captain.
“A safe journey to you, and a profitable!”
“Aye, and to you, my lord!”
Then the Heidrun surged forward once again, and before long they passed the rock which was the eternal resting place of the Weavess’ bones. Einarr couldn’t quite resist making a rude gesture at the ghastly sight: she would see exactly what the rightful heirs of Raen would make of the country she had nearly ruined. Naudrek laughed, but Hrug shook his head. Mocking the dead was not often wise.
“Perhaps you’re right, Hrug. And yet, does the witch not deserve all our scorn?”
The mute continued shaking his head, but did not attempt to press the matter. Einarr put it from his mind. Ahead was nothing but open ocean and blue skies, and the salt breeze at their backs.
“Make all sail, lads! Weather’s in our favor, we’d best enjoy it while we can!”
A general shout of agreement carried over the deck of the Heidrun. It felt good to be back aboard his ship and not headed to pacify some overconfident Jarl. Last summer he thought he’d had his fill of adventures, but something about this one had his spirits high.
“You seem awfully happy for such an ill-planned run.” Eydri’s voice was amused, and when he turned he was not surprised to see a half-smile of enjoyment on her face as well.
“How could I not be happy with weather like this? This is a perfect day to set out a-viking. We’ll deal with Thorndjupr when we get there. Right now, let’s enjoy our sail.”
“As you say.” Eydri offered him a slight bow, amusement still plain in her voice.
An idea struck Einarr then, and a memory of another boat with a much smaller crew. This crew hadn’t sailed together much recently: perhaps it would be a good idea to put the boat through it’s paces.
“Take oars, men!”
Grumblings of surprise floated back to him this time.
“You’ve proved to me we’re faster than a merchant karve. Now prove to me you haven’t grown fat and lazy sitting at home all winter! Show me what you can make her do!”
Now the enthusiasm was back.
“That’s more like it!”
Over the course of the morning, the crew of the Heidrun played at sailing, racing ahead to skid into a turn as sharp as they could make her go, pirouetting and slaloming across the waves. A pod of dolphins came to investigate, later in the morning, and thus was born a sailor’s game of tag.
Those dolphins followed them long after their game ended, and past the noonday meal, finally bidding them farewell in the mid-afternoon when a school of fish crossed their path. All in all, an auspicious start to their journey… although he didn’t care for the look of those clouds off on the western horizon.
Well. It certainly wouldn’t be their first cold, wet night aboard ship, and it just as certainly wouldn’t be their last. Still, though, the wind was taking them directly into that bank. Perhaps he could steer them around the worst of it with a little care. “Eydri, the chart if you would.”
“Of course, sir.”
The three moved to Einarr’s awning astern of the mast and fell to planning.
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