“I did, milord.” The earnest-faced fisherman stepped forward, looking vaguely embarrassed.
Einarr nodded, curious as to why the man would be embarrassed – but now was not the time. “Good job. Keep it up. Do we have the tools you’ll need?”
The yellow-haired man straightened. “I believe so, milord. Got the basics, anyway. Anything else we should be able to improvise, although it’d be nice to have the shed for working in.”
Einarr frowned, considering anew, then shook his head. “I think we’d lose more time bringing it here than we’d save. Unless that storm did more damage than I think it did… Has anyone found a cart yet?”
Erik shrugged. “Not that I know of. You might check with Arkja.”
Einarr grunted acknowledgment. “All right. Good plan. I’ll go do that. Runa?”
She hummed at him, as though her mind had been elsewhere.
“Want to come help me look for a cart? Even if Arkja has one, odds are good we’ll need a second one for the gold.” He started off back towards the center of town, trusting her to follow.
She did not disappoint, settling into an easy walk by his side. “You’re just going to take it, without so much as a by-your-leave?”
“Well, yes. How do you think it was gathered in the first place?” He risked a glance at her face: yes, she apparently was that sheltered. “We’re raiders, Runa. We take what we want through guile, treachery, and main force, no matter what pretty rules we dress it up with among the Clans. What did you think went on with the Skudbrun while they were out all season?”
She opened her mouth, but could only stammer a little in response.
Einarr shook his head a little. “I know, it probably never occurred to you to wonder, and raiding doesn’t just fill the coffers – but fill them it does. That secret room in the back of the boat shed is filled with the ill-gotten gains of some unfortunate raider, turned fisher or boatwright once he realized he couldn’t break free. And the odds are very good he’s either long dead or he has dirty yellow hair and a scarred face.”
He could hear Arkja and Jorir shouting instructions now: they must have commandeered part of the group Erik was looking after. Einarr turned to smile at his beloved, only to have to stifle a laugh. She was pouting, of all things!
Einarr turned quickly back around. “Don’t be like that,” he said soothingly. “I’m sorry. If it weren’t for me, you probably never would have had cause to know that at all.”
As though in answer, she twined her fingers in his and shook her head. “No, it’s fine. Father’s told me before I need to be clear-eyed about things. Sooner or later it would have come up.”
She raised her head and looked at him sidelong. “Do you really think that ugly man used to be a raider?”
“Up until just a bit ago I’d have said the only experienced man among them was Arkja. Now I’m not so sure.”
In the intersection just ahead, Arkja and the dwarf who mistrusted him were in the midst of a discussion, probably regarding numbers.
“How goes,” Einarr called, alerting them to his approach.
“Well as can be expected,” Jorir answered. “We’ve got salt pork and jerky and dried plants of some sort, but maybe four barrels that don’t leak.”
Einarr almost laughed. “You’re working with the tavern-keeper! Can’t we make it up with ale?”
“I don’t know. How drunk do you want to be when we land?”
Now Einarr did laugh. “Remember the barrels already on board. The old man should know where we can fill them.”
Jorir harrumphed in a way that told Einarr the dwarf had, in fact, not accounted for those.
“Anyway. Arkja, I’m heading off to look for another cart. We’re going to need it.”
“Only one?” The tavern-keeper was scowling at the provisions surrounding them in the street.
“At least one. The blond fisherman with all the scars-”
“Maybe?” Einarr had not yet gotten most of their names. “Anyway, he found someone’s old stash of treasure. Like to take back what we can.”
Arkja grunted. “I certainly wouldn’t complain about not coming back empty-handed.”
They wouldn’t be, technically, but Einarr saw now reason to mention the distaff to him just yet.
“If we must go overland to your derelict, see if you can find two? The one from the Maid is already full.”
In the morning all was in readiness, and the (now somewhat larger) group set off down the track leading through the troll’s hunting ground. As… congenial as the troll had been before, when it needed something, Einarr was just as glad not to run into the creature again.
On the third night after leaving the abandoned town they arrived at the hulder village and retrieved Irding. The hulder did not trust the men of the town, and so they were not invited to camp among them that night. Erik wondered aloud why that might be, but Arkja’s evasive answer told Einarr as much as he needed to know. It was going to be his task and Erik’s to cut the new mast anyway.
Irding, for his part, looked to be as hale and healthy as one could expect a bare week after cracking a rib. He saw the new crew members, took a long minute to openly size them up, and shrugged. “Just one more thing to tell me around the fire tonight,” he said. The tales ran long, that night, but no-one seemed to mind.
The next day they arrived at the beach where the Gestrisni still lay beached. The old fisherman was nowhere to be seen: probably, Einarr thought, that meant he was out on the water. The grim old man was working, and so should they be: they had a ship to fix and an escape to plan, after all.
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