Einarr swore, too, right alongside Naudrek. Here they were, stuck in an unfriendly port on a tight schedule, and some so-called League decides to snatch one of his men? Leaving Finn behind was out of the question, but at the same time Einarr could not afford to do this the quiet way.
“Naudrek. Gather up the scouts and organize a search. While you try to find where they’ve taken him, I still need to go ingratiate myself with that local Captain.” He paused a moment and glanced down to see the wheels turning in his Mate’s eyes. “Hop to it!”
Not very much later Einarr walked up the pier towards the lead ship that had brought them into port, a cask of ale tucked under his arm. When he came alongside, he called up to the deck “Good evening to you!”
“Who goes there?” The voice that called back was suspicious and not entirely alert.
“Einarr of the Heidrun. I need to speak with your Captain.”
“He’s busy. It can wait for morning.”
Einarr shook his head. “I’m afraid it can’t, and this ale isn’t going to drink itself. Go tell him I need to see him: I can wait that long.”
Grumbling, the night watch wandered off towards the midships. Not long after, a familiar voice called down from out of the rapidly darkening twilight. “What do you want?”
“Only a word and a few minutes. And you and your men can do with this as you will.” He held up the cask so the other Captain could see it.”
“Be on your way. It will take more than some cheap swill to buy whatever it is you want from my men and I.”
“Pfaw! Cheap swill? It may not be Imperial Eisbock, but Breidelstein’s ale is far from swill.” He set the cask down with a thump at his feet. His voice turned very serious then. “My men and I have nearly finished our resupply. We will leave with the tide, if at all possible. However, not only has this ‘League’ we’ve heard about blocked us from purchasing foodstuffs, they have captured one of my men. I have scouts out searching for them now. Taking him quietly is probably not an option.”
“The League?” The Blávíkin Captain sighed heavily. “I knew you lot were going to be trouble. The League operates here with the tacit approval of the Jarl and his advisors. Their cause is worthy, but their methods… Well. I hope when you find your man he gave a good accounting of himself.”
Einarr looked suspiciously up at the shadowy figure of his counterpart. “Go on.”
“What, you want me to spell it out? If your man yet lives, and that is by no means certain, he will be very much the worse for wear. I will let my superiors know what you have said, but that is all I can do for you.”
“That was all I wanted. So then, I will bid you all good night.”
The other captain grunted. “Happy hunting and good fortune,” he called back, although it did not sound like he thought a good result likely. As Einarr strode back down the pier, he left the cask of ale where he’d set it.
Twilight had turned to full night, and the slender crescent of the moon had begun to peek above the horizon, when Einarr finally learned where Finn was being held.
It was not what he had expected.
Einarr and his team of warriors gathered in the street just outside of a large town square. In the center of the square, hanging limply from his wrists in the stocks, was a man of about Finn’s height and build. Einarr’s men assured him it was Finn.
Standing guard around the unconscious figure were four men in leather coats, all carrying their weapons ostentatiously. His men were certain this was a trap: Einarr’s own eyes confirmed as much. Were this Breidelstein, where he had access to maps and the local enforcers (how many of those men were local enforcers, he wondered), he could have organized a trap for the ambushers. As it was…
“Nothing for it,” he finally said after a long talk with Naudrek, Eydri, and Hrug. “Eydri doesn’t think she can put that many to sleep without knocking us out, too, and there are other problems with using the runes here. All right, everyone.” He looked out past the shoulders of the three. “Ready to show those rats what we’re made of?”
There was a quiet round of affirmatives. “Then let’s go.”
Einarr drew Sinmora in one smooth motion as he turned to face the square once more. “Forward!”
With a shout, the Heidrunings rushed forward at the startled guards surrounding the battered body of their comrade. Einarr rapidly found himself in the center of an honor guard as his crew moved to cover his sides and his back.
Ahead of them, the four ostentatiously armed guards moved to form a wall to meet the onrushing rescuers. Einarr noted with interest that two of them were armed with clubs as big as his thigh, while the other two hefted equally sizable axes. Peasants and farmers, then, rather than men with a head for politics. Einarr twisted his mouth wryly. Ordinarily, those were the men he could most trust to be reasonable.
This was not an ordinary circumstance, however – not by a long shot – and these men looked more like street toughs than farmers. Einarr lay about with the flat of his blade as they closed with the goons.
In that same moment the trap was sprung. From streets all around them came the other League warriors, shouting their own wordless cries and distracting the Heidrunings from the toughs before them.
Now that they were closer, Einarr could see the full extent of Finn’s humiliation. On the ground in front of him, the man’s blade had been snapped into pieces.
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