It was with a heavy heart and no small amount of trepidation that the Vidofnir once more entered the harbor at Kjellvic. Liupold returned to the Arkona, although the dromon did not immediately weigh anchor. The Eikthyrnir followed Stigander up to the docks, where the two ships were met by the harbormaster, whom Einarr had spoken to before.

He wasn’t sure if it was a positive sign or not that it was only the harbormaster who greeted them. On the one hand, it was probably a good sign that the people of the town were more interested in putting their lives back together than driving them off with torches and pitchforks. On the other hand, it also led him to doubt Trabbi’s claim.

“What news from the Hall?” The Harbormaster asked in response to Stigander’s hail.

Stigander shook his head. “Nothing but ash. The bastard took the Jarl and the Lady.”

Now fire sparked in the other man’s eye. “They what?”

“I thought Bollinn was back. Didn’t he say?”

The harbormaster shook his head. Probably, from what he knew of the Brunnings, they were trying to avoid panicking the townspeople. “I’ll call up the militia. Be surprised if they didn’t want to join you.”

Father and son nodded in tandem, then Einarr paused. “What happened to the mayor?”

The harbormaster gestured broadly at the town behind him. After a pause, he sighed. “They found him on the green. Gutted. Couldn’t tell you if he was still alive when the fire swept through.”

Einarr winced. Stigander merely nodded again. “That’s of a piece with what little news has come out of Breidelstein.”

“It’s true, then?”

“So it seems. It’s well past time I dealt with Ulfr’s treachery, anyway. …Is the shipwright about?”

“Oh, aye. You’ll find him down where he always is. He’ll be right glad to have your ship off his hands, I wager. …Oh, but, my Lord? You might warn your men against too much drink while they’re in town.”

“Surely no-one actually believes that calumny?”

“None as know you, no. Not many others, I wager, but you know what drink can do to a man’s wits.”

Stigander hummed, and then they were off.

As soon as Einarr laid eyes on the rams-head prow he knew the ship to be at least the equal of any he’d seen in Eskiborg. The wood seemed to glow from within, and the shipwright had seemed to know just from looking at him how Einarr would want to run his ship. It was no Eikthyrnir, to outrace anything she came up against, but neither was it a Bjorn, thick and bulky and tough but slow. It was, like the beast on her prow, built for balance.

The shipwright – who was otherwise quite happy to take Stigander’s coin – stared sullenly at him as he examined the new ship. His new ship. “She’s beautiful,” Einarr said, running his hand down the klinks.

“You better believe she is. An’ I’ll wager she’s as eager to fight as you lot are. Just keep the bloody wolves away from here, wouldya?”

“By the time we’re done with them, you’ll not have anything to worry about save some pelts,” Stigander’s voice was quiet and level as he answered.

Oddly, that did nothing to ease the other man’s glower. Instead, he pocketed their coin and mumbled a “pleasure doin’ business with you” before wandering off to elsewhere in his workspace.

Einarr shrugged then turned his attention back to the ship. She had fewer benches than the Vidofnir, but that was fine. She was likely to be running at half crew until they took Breidelstein at least, anyway. The awning stretched a good ten feet back from the mast, and could be collapsed quickly at need through an ingenious series of catches to roll up in itself. Einarr would have to study that, and have Jorir take a look as well.

“Where is Jorir, anyway? I’d have thought he’d want to be here for this.”

“He did, but he had some business with the smith. There’ll be time enough for you and all your crew to take it in – later. Right now, I want to hear all about what happened with the elves while you inspect her.”

Einarr chuckled. Oh. Of course. “Sounds good, pabbi.”

A handful of Vidofnings gathered that night at the lone public hall of Kjellvic, one of the few structures left largely untouched by the Wolfling’s raid, to share stories and recruit sailors for this next expedition. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what they had to do.

The sun had well set, although it was still far too early for people to be too deeply into their cups, when Einarr called for the attention of the hall. The townspeople had fallen to the sort of merrymaking only possible after a hard day’s work when one has just escaped catastrophe, and was in danger of turning rowdy later. That meant, however, that this was the perfect time.

“Good people of Kjellvic,” Einarr shouted over the din, raising his tankard high. The room began to quiet almost immediately. “On behalf of my father and all the Vidofnings, I thank you for your trust in our friendship. What has happened here, while we were away, is the result of the usuper’s cowardice and envy.”

Someone in the back of the hall jeered.

“I know. We have allowed him his games for far too long… But, at last, we have what we need to retake our home and re-grow the friendship between our two lands! We have, however, only three ships, two of which are under strength. When the Vidofnir sails forth to unravel the Weaving, and take back our lands and rescue our friends, who among you will sail with us to rescue your Lord the Jarl and the Lady Runa?”

A loud cheer went up, and Einarr, Jorir, and Bardr spent the rest of the night talking, man-to-man, with the volunteers.

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The rest of that day and into the next morning, there was still no sign of Runa at the Hall, and that left Einarr unaccountably anxious. While he was assured that all was well, none would tell him where she was. When Stigander informed him the three of them – Einarr, Bardr, and himself – were headed for the village boatwright that morning, he nearly refused.

“What good will it do to sit around here?” Bardr elbowed him in the ribs. “Beyond that, we’ve matters to discuss.”

“Fine.” Einarr resisted the urge to roll his eyes as he took another bite of the morning’s mash. “Fine. You win. I’ll come. I’d just… hoped to see her already.”

“And who wouldn’t, in your shoes? Come on. Finish up and let’s go. Captain’s already waiting.”

“Why didn’t you say so earlier?” Einarr lifted the bowl to his mouth and started to shovel his food more quickly. Keeping Stigander waiting was rarely advisable, and doubly so when you were under observation – as Einarr most certainly was, until his father determined the proper discipline for him.

He swallowed the last bite. “All right. I’m ready.”

“On our way, then.” Bardr rose and tossed him a summer cloak before swinging his own over his shoulders. “No time to lose – no evening stroll, here.”

Outside, the weather was already warm enough that Einarr wondered how necessary the cloak was. Goats grazed in the meadow near the hall; a few kids scampered in the morning sun. Near the palisade, a black-haired dwarf stood holding the reins for three horses, talking apparently amiably with the large, blonde figure of his father.

“Good morning!” He called, letting Stigander know they were there. Both figures glanced at the two of them before returning to their conversation.

“…we can talk about that further this evening,” Stigander said, and Jorir nodded in response. The Jarl might not care for the dwarf, but after so many years as a landless thane Stigander had become remarkably open to allies from wherever they happened to appear.

“We’re riding today? That’s unusual.”

Stigander shrugged at his son. “Going to start the resupply. Sooner we get there, the better.”

The three men were well down the trail to the village before their conversation turned away from friendly banter. “So, what was the real reason you wanted me to come along for this, Father?”

“What makes you think there’s only one?”

Bardr snorted. “We have a few things to commission before we sail again. A couple of them, you get a say in.”

“Father, you don’t seriously mean to commission a second ship?”

“I do. Fifteen years now, I’ve been trying to find a way to undo the Weaving. In that time, I’m afraid I’ve neglected something important.” Stigander looked back over his shoulder at Einarr. “It’s long past time you were married. Now you’ve found a bride, and I’ve nothing to offer for your future.”


Stigander continued as though he hadn’t heard, all regret fleeing his voice. “The second ship is only the start, of course. Be ready. This is going to be a hard summer, and we may have to take on some chancy raids to pull it off. Not to mention finding a crew for her. On top of all that, you went and swore a warrior to your service with no way to equip him. That fancy shield looks nice, but it’s gold.”

“Not pure, I don’t think. Metal wasn’t even scratched after everything I took it through on Svartlauf.”

Bardr grunted. “So he has an axe, and potentially a shield. Not enough, unless you want a one-armed smith. We’ve room for a grindstone on board at least, so that’s something.”

“Oh.” Stigander put in, almost off-handedly. “And I’ve decided on your punishment for dishonoring the clan. You’ll be carrying the resupply back to the Vidofnir.”

Einarr sighed in spite of himself. That the punishment was light for the offense did not mean he relished the prospect. “Very well, Father.”

They rode in silence another few minutes. The sounds of village life began to drift to their ears. “What do you two make of Jorir, anyway?”

Stigander set his mouth, leaving it for Bardr to say what they must have both been thinking. “He’s a svartdvergr. As a rule, they are cunning and not to be trusted.” A long moment passed. “But, for all of that, he seemed sincere when he spoke of his oath. And certainly he’s shown nothing but respect for us since we’ve met.”

Stigander sounded reluctant. “I think he, too, is bound by a Weaving.”

Einarr drew down his brow. “What do you mean?”

“A Weaving, or a curse of some kind I suppose. I can find no other explanation for the importance he lays on your gift of the tafl king. …And if that’s the case, perhaps he can help us.”

Kjellvic town bustled in the midmorning light, with sellers of all the expected kinds making all of the usual noises over the sounds of bleating goats and clucking chickens. After Kem it seemed tiny, but Einarr much preferred it this way.

“We’ll speak with the smith first,” Stigander declared. “Be thinking about what we should call our new boat.”

“Little early for that, isn’t it?”

“Yes. But this way we’ll have an idea when it’s ready come winter.”

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