Einarr was far gladder than he cared to admit – especially to Runa – to see Breidelstein harbor as it hove into view. Captain Tormud of the Thorfridr had been more than gracious, and had pushed his ship beyond all limits so that they could pay the calls they had to in the allotted time. Nor could he fault the company: what he and Runa lacked in privacy, they gained in discretion from the crew. Unfortunately, not only was this not his Heidrun, but he’d also spent their time ashore engaged in political maneuvering.
Finally, though, the Thorfridr glided up to the pier and stopped with a gentle tap. Einarr stood and stretched and took a quick glance around their tent in the back of the ship. Everything seemed to be in order. “Ready to go?” he asked Runa with a smile.
Runa had not seemed to mind their political duties at all over the course of their honeymoon. On the contrary, she was in her element the entire time, even when facing the Matrons of the Circle. She stretched languidly in a way that accentuated her curves, deliberately teasing him. “I suppose we must.”
“Come now. Father will be expecting us. There is much to tell, after all.” He still enjoyed the view, however.
She laughed, the sound like tinkling chimes, as she rose gracefully to her feet and wrapped her arm around his. “In that case, let us be off.”
The brief scramble of noise that was a practiced docking was already dying down. Einarr shouldered the most important of their packs – the others would be brought up by porters later – and escorted his wife out and across the gangplank. It was a long walk up the cliff to the Hold, but that was no bad thing: Einarr wrapped his arm around Runa’s waist and they strolled leisurely through the streets of Breidelstein.
When their path eventually took them up to the gates of the Hold, Kaldr was waiting for them, a grim expression on his face.
“Well now,” Einarr said with a lopsided smile. “You’re as cheery as ever. Good to see you, too, Kaldr. Where’s Father?”
“In his study, waiting on the two of you with pastries and the second to last bottle of your wedding mead.” The corner of Kaldr’s mouth actually quirked upwards in amusement. “Walk with me. There’s been an incident since you left: I thought you should know before you spoke with your father.”
“What? What happened? Tell me I don’t have another island to go pacify…”
“No, not at all. Your father managed to smooth the remaining ruffled feathers at your wedding, I think. No… it’s Jorir.”
“Jorir?” He stopped. The dwarf was both loyal and reliable. What sort of trouble could he have gotten into in a month? Runa bit her lower lip, evidently worried.
“He’s missing. Ever since your wedding night.” Kaldr did not stop walking, forcing the other two to jog in order to catch up.
“What?” Einarr was caught between shock and outrage. “Why did no-one tell me?”
“You would have gone haring off after him, rather than attending to your wife and the other duties of your honeymoon.”
He glanced down at Runa, knowing it was true. “But he’s my liege man, and my friend.”
He could feel Runa glaring at him even without looking.
“Leaving aside the happiness of your marriage – which would suffer greatly in those circumstances – and the necessity of you producing an heir before one of your misadventures gets you killed, that still could not have been allowed. For nearly twenty years, now, Breidelstein had been completely isolated from the rest of the world. That little cruise we arranged for you was to show the other clans that era is over, and things have changed. …And here we are. Lord Stigander awaits, milord. And now that you are briefed, you can intelligently discuss your next steps.” Kaldr rapped loudly on the door to Stigander’s study.
“Enter,” came the answer.
Kaldr pushed open the door and gestured for Einarr and Runa to enter first.
“You’re back!” Stigander grinned as he stood and opened his arms wide. Kaldr quietly stepped inside and closed the door behind himself.
“Home at last,” Einarr smiled, embracing his father. “Anything interesting happen while we were away?”
Stigander hesitated. “No, of course not. As usual, all the excitement followed you around.”
“All of it? Then what’s this I hear about Jorir disappearing into the night?”
His father sighed, seeming to deflate a little, and glanced at Kaldr. “Have a seat, all of you. …Honey cakes?”
Einarr and Runa each accepted one, but Einarr did not bite into his immediately. “Kaldr tells me Jorir has been gone since my wedding night. Surely someone has gone in search of him, at least?”
“Aye. Finn returned two days ago. He managed to track your man to Mýrarhöfn, but he lost the trail there.”
Kaldr cleared his throat. “A free isle a good ways east of Kem, not far north of Imperial waters. As I understand it, it’s rather rough and lawless.”
“Quite right,” Stigander agreed. “I expect, now that you know, you want to head out after him?”
“Of course.” Einarr answered absently, rubbing his chin with his forefinger. “Kem’s not exactly close by . Is the Heidrun seaworthy?”
“Not yet -”
“We’ll be taking my boat,” Kaldr put in. When Einarr raised a questioning eyebrow at him, he quirked one in turn. “I’ve grown rather fond of him myself, you know.”
Stigander harrumphed. “You have my leave to go, but I recommend a karve or a small knarr rather than a longship. It will be a long journey, and we can’t send a lot of people, not with the League active. Choose your men, and good fortune go with you.”
“You have my thanks, Father.”
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