As dawn broke the Heidrun limped into a tiny cove on an equally tiny island not far from the treacherous Blávík so that she could be properly inspected for damage after their rather hasty departure.
A cursory inspection under the deck boards confirmed that she was not taking on water – even slowly. It was as dry as when they’d loaded her, although a number of the water casks had been tumbled about by the jolt and had to be reset while Finn went for a swim.
By midmorning the crew had hauled him out of the water. “Got a nasty-looking gouge running along next to the keel, but she’ll hold.”
Einarr sighed. “Is it bad enough the wood will swell?”
“Very likely. Six inches to the left, though, and it could have split the keel.”
That was small comfort. It merely meant that the repairs would be expensive, rather than impossible. Still, it wasn’t something they could fix with the Heidrun in the water. On the other hand, the odds that they could make it home with that wound were pretty good. Einarr nodded. “Very well. Get yourself warmed up. Oar team, get us back out on the open ocean. We have a wedding to attend.”
Thanks be to all the gods, the remainder of their journey was uneventful. By the time the Heidrun entered port she had been reinforced from within twice to prevent her taking on water, and the swelling of the klinker was bad enough that she listed uncomfortably to starboard.
By the time they moored themselves at the pier, a large crowd had gathered, including no small number from the Hold. Einarr smiled to see Jorir, Kaldr, and Father all near the front of the crowd. They must have started down the cliff as he sailed past the weaver-witch’s rock. He took up Ragnar’s sword and slung its baldric over his shoulder.
With a nod to Naudrek, Einarr vaulted over the bulwark to land on the pier. Stigander was waiting.
“Welcome home, my boy.”
“Aye, welcome back, milord.” Jorir stood just behind Stigander, looking pleased if not entirely happy. But then, sometimes it was hard to tell behind the dwarven beard.
“You’ve got it, then?”
By way of an answer, Einarr held up the extra blade he carried. “There is much to tell, but we’ve had nothing but fish to eat for weeks now.”
“Of course, of course.” His father clapped him on the shoulder, and they started up the pier even as the crew still aboard set the gangplank in place. “What happened to your ship?”
“That’s part of what there is to tell. But, how is Grandfather?”
“Much the same, I’m afraid. A thousand deaths were not enough for that woman.”
Einarr hummed his agreement. “I feel like we ought to thank him, though, for leaving Thorndjupr.”
As they wound their way through town and up the cliff road to the hold Einarr began telling what they had learned of the place Raen had left in his youth to establish his Hold on Breidelstein, and of the cult and of the League that had tried to press-gang his crew in Blávík.
“That is troubling.”
“Quite. Best to assume that they didn’t believe me when I said I was a prince, rather than a freeboater. At least for now.”
“What, you don’t want to have to go beat some sense into them for your honeymoon?”
“Not remotely. And if we went to war Blávík is even farther away than Kjell. We’ve only just finished pacifying our own holdings – it is finished, right?”
“We haven’t had to put out any fires while you were gone, at least.”
Einarr grumbled, and then his stomach grumbled. Stigander laughed.
“Dinner will be waiting when we get there, never fear. So that’s when your ship took damage?”
“Aye, and that will be a tale to tell of an evening.” Einarr chuckled. That was exactly the sort of fireside tale that warriors loved, and it would certainly be more fun to tell than to experience. “Have the Kjellings arrived yet?”
“Last week.” Now Stigander chuckled. “Your Runa was not the only one disappointed you were gone.”
“Oh?” Probably Bollinn, maybe some of the other warriors.
“I don’t know what you did for Hroaldr, but he’s been almost as anxious about you as she has.”
Einarr stopped in his tracks and blinked at his father in surprise. “Maybe it has something to do with destroying the Weavings?”
“Maybe so, maybe so.” Stigander looked amused.
Einarr stepped more lightly now, knowing that his bride waited in the hold at the top of the cliff.
As they rounded the last switchback and the gate came into view, Einarr could see a small crowd gathered there, as well. Einarr thought he saw a figure with long golden hair in a pale dress near the front: he stepped more quickly. When he drew near enough to make out the face, he grinned. Sure enough, it was Runa.
He did not feel the intervening ground. The next thing he knew his arms were around her waist and they spun, the ground still sloping under his feet. He didn’t care. She laughed, brilliantly, joyously, and her hair was like a halo around them. She smelled of spices. Cheers went up from the others gathered to greet them as they straggled up the road. Even Hroaldr, also standing near the front of the crowd, looked pleased. Even with his father’s warning, Einarr had not expected his future father-in-law to be anything more than an enemy.
Reluctantly, he set Runa’s feet back on earth and they moved forward, arm in arm, for Einarr to greet the others.
Hroaldr clasped his hand, a tight smile showing beneath his neatly-trimmed beard. “You’re late.”
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