The hike back down the mountain the next morning was cool and crisp and surprisingly straightforward, with the sun washing everything in fresh hues and no visions to slow their progress.
Einarr could not quite have the spirits fitting for the day. Before he met Runa he’d thought he could be perfectly happy with a life spent roaming the waves. He knew if they found a way to undo the Weaving that would end… but the possibility had never quite seemed real. To be honest, this new reality didn’t quite seem real yet, either, but it was a somewhat heavier reality to the one he had not quite managed to let go of yet.
Still, though, Jorir seemed happy, as did Father, and a Calling like this was a call to glory. Einarr shoved the weightier aspects to the back of his mind, turning his focus instead to enjoying the hike ahead of them. The clouds had nearly cleared from his head by the time the trail leveled off at the bottom of the mountain.
The noises coming from the village were nearly as joyous as the conversation among the group that had gone up the mountain, although perhaps somewhat more focused. As they stepped up to the village square, it became plain that Bardr was preparing for something big. They stood there for several moments before the Mate looked up from the stream of supplies he was directing – in both directions, evidently.
“Captain! You’re back!” A surprisingly boyish grin split Bardr’s face as he hurried over to greet the five of them. “The Elder said you’d be down today.”
“And here I am. Looks like you’ve been busy while I was away.”
“And how. Heard a fascinating story from the locals. Provided you agree, we all thought it might be worth checking out.”
Stigander raised an eyebrow.
“It seems some time ago one of their whaling boats caught sight of a ship’s graveyard not many weeks northeast of here. Treacherous shoals keep most ships away… but this whaler thought he saw the figurehead of the last Allthane’s ship.”
Einarr raised his eyebrows in surprise. Jorir whistled. While supposedly the last Allthane had been lost at sea, that was hundreds of years ago.
“D’ye think there’s anythin’ left?” Jorir voiced Einarr’s concern. Stigander nodded along. Sivid, on the other hand, looked like he might have caught Bardr’s enthusiasm.
“Not a whole lot of folks come out this direction, and I’m not gonna lie. Tyr and I looked at the charts the locals keep. Getting in there’s going to be tricky. Getting out, too. But if we can manage it, I’ll lay odds we’ll be set for the year.”
Stigander puffed out his moustache. “Knowing you, you’ve already bought a copy of these charts. Show me.”
“All right lads. I understand Bardr’s been filling your heads with all the treasure we’re likely to find if we get in to this ship-barrow, or you all wouldn’t be so excited. I’ll tell you now, though, unless every last one o’ you signs on after I tell you what we’re up against, we’re headed south.” Stigander looked over his men, waiting a moment until he was sure he had everyone’s attention.
“There is a reason this island is a ship-barrow. Based on what I’ve seen, the only ones among us who even might have seen waters as dangerous are the three who went to Svartlauf this spring. The currents are tricky, and unless I miss my guess the wind will howl. Once we’re inside, whether we find anything good or not, we have to get out. If we find something good, we’ll have to get out with a heavier ship.” Now he paused to let the murmuring die down again.
“If our circumstances were different than they are in any conceivable way, this would not even be a question. We would head south, and leave the barrow for men with more guts than brains. Now my crew has never lacked for guts. There’s no shame if your good sense overrides your glory seeking here. So. Do we attempt to reach the Allthane’s wreck, or do we seek our fortune through more conventional means?”
Father was being over-cautious, Einarr thought. He’d gotten the Gufuskalam in and out of Svartlauf with only three men, after all. Given that their line was at stake, however, he had trouble faulting his father for it. Too much.
The silence built after Stigander’s question. A few of the men exchanged glances and whispered thoughts. Stigander stood ahead of them, his arms folded, watching.
Then someone called out “All-thane!” It may have been more than one someone speaking together: Einarr couldn’t tell from where he stood.
Then more joined in. “All-thane! All-thane!”
It became a chant. Einarr, too, joined. As Father had said, the Vidofnings had never lacked for bravery, and in just a few short months they would have to provide payment for a new ship… and men to crew it. The promise of treasure, and maybe a little adventure, was sufficient.
Bardr looked smug, standing off to the side. Einarr sidled around the edge of the crew to stand between his father and their second in command. “I think that’s your answer, Father.”
Stigander harrumphed, but his expression said he had expected no less from the men of Breidelsteinn.