Einarr spent the first morning after they sailed restless, worrying simultaneously that he had done too much and too little. But, as the grey skies over the grey lands slipped back over the horizon, he turned his attention to more pressing matters. Namely, arriving home in time for his own wedding.
Based on the charts, he and Naudrek had agreed that they should be able to make it to Blávík, resupply, and be back on the water with enough time, barring unforseen circumstances, to get him home with a few days to spare. The fact that they were down to a matter of days was somewhat concerning, however.
As they neared Blávík, the source of the name became plain. Facing the Heidrunings was some of the brightest, bluest water Einarr had ever heard of north of Imperial waters. He whistled, impressed.
Equally plain, however, was the local opinion of interlopers. No fewer than three longships with blue and white sails came slicing across the water towards them as they neared the harbor.
“Run up the flag of peace, men! We want no quarrel.”
The patrol ships still moved to block their way. Einarr had to furl sail rather rapidly to avoid striking the center ship, but he turned the Heidrun in time. He moved to the bulwark and stood with one foot on the side to address the opposing Captain. “I am Einarr, son of Stigander, Thane of Breidelstein. We seek resupply here on our way home.”
The other Captain snorted. “A likely story. No ship comes out of those waters.”
“They’ve a bad infestation of draugr, I’m afraid. Bad water and food, to boot.”
The man squinted across at him. “So how do I know you’re not in league with them? Last anyone knew, Thorndjupr was a den of robbers.”
Einarr sighed. “I suppose you don’t know, although by now news should have reached here that Breidelstein had been reclaimed by its rightful Thane. Even if you hadn’t heard, though, our coin is good – and our own. I’m afraid I’m rather in a hurry, though.”
The Captain, who had not introduced himself, waited expectantly.
“I’m to be married in a little less than a month. At Raenshold.”
That got a reaction. The man spluttered a little. “What in blazes are you doing out here, then?”
“My last bit of preparation. Now, may we land?”
With much grumbling, the Blávíkin Captain gave orders to his other ships to escort the Heidrun into port.
“You have my thanks. We require food and water and ale, and then we’ll be on our way.”
Two of the three escort ships docked to either side of the Heidrun. Einarr ground his teeth in annoyance, but did not challenge them. Given what he knew of Thorndjupr, he’d be an uneasy neighbor with them as well. “Naudrek! Get your teams together. The quicker we get out of here, the better.”
While Naudrek and perhaps half the crew went into Blávík town to haggle, Einarr and the others had the—much duller—task of readying the ship for loading. There were empty casks and crates to be disposed of, and it was always a good idea to check the ship over for damage, even if you hadn’t seen combat since your last port, and a hundred other minor matters. Had their welcoming party been less hostile, Einarr might have traded Naudrek places anyway, but under the circumstances he thought it might be construed as hostile.
Hours passed, and the day wore on. As the sky began to deepen into twilight, the first of the teams returned hauling casks of ale and casks of water. Thank goodness.
All seemed to be going smoothly until, after perhaps half of the casks had been loaded, the second team arrived all-but empty handed. Naudrek approached Einarr, his eyes darting up and down the pier nervously.
Einarr raised an eyebrow. They could always fish, if they had to, but… “What happened?”
Naudrek came up close and spoke lowly in Einarr’s ear even as he thrust a scroll into his hand. “Trouble. Not just for us.”
Unrolling the scroll, Einarr took it in at a glance. Then his brow furrowed: something didn’t make sense. “Explain.”
“They’re forming a league to fight those crazy cultists. The ones who let loose the black kraken, I think. Only this so-called ‘League’ is buying up all the food. More than one townsperson complained they couldn’t even get cabbages.”
“Well, it gets worse. Some puffed-up young rooster overheard us trying to get something – anything – from the smokehouse. He swaggers up – you know the type – and tries to get us to join up with the League. ‘This town can only feed one army, but you can get in on it,’ that sort of thing. Only when that doesn’t work he tries threats. Odvir and I are sure as sure that we were tailed back here.”
“So they know what ship you’re on. And odds are solid they’ll think we’re freeboaters.” Einarr nodded unhappily. “Fine. I’ll make sure the watch knows – unless you think we’ll have a good tide tonight?”
“You think our escorts will let us out under cover of darkness?”
Einarr bit back a curse. “No. No, you’re right.” He pursed his lips, thinking. “I’m going to pay a visit to one of our guides. We have any of our own ale still in the hold?”
“Bring me a keg. I’m going to try to make nice. Maybe I can get some information about this ‘league’ out of them.”
“Good luck, Einarr.”
He nodded. “You, too. Be ready: if I think we can slip out before the moon’s up, we will. …Where’s Finn?”
“Finn? He was with us just…” Now Naudrek swore, as his eyes scanned the laboring crew and discovered that the scout was nowhere to be seen.
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