The beach they cast off from was little more than a glimmer in the moonlight when Stigander passed command to Bardr for the night. Sivid had drawn the short straw for watch this night, although even among those not on duty few slept. Most drank.
Stigander sprawled in the stern, staring up at the unblinking stars from under where his awning would ordinarily cover. Einarr approached, his boots deliberately loud on the deck, and took a swig from the skin he had just filled. It sloshed as he flopped down to sit by his father. He held it out by way of offer: his father’s paw nearly enclosed his hand when the offer was accepted. Neither man felt the urge to talk. There was little to talk about, until Stigander was deep enough in his cups that he started telling stories of home, and Einarr didn’t think there was enough in that skin to get that far.
Soon enough the skin was flaccid and empty. Before either of them could decide to roll over and sleep, another set of footsteps approached, the strides quicker than most of the crew’s. Einarr looked up from under heavy brows: it was Jorir, a fresh skin in each hand.
He held one up. “For the intrusion.”
Einarr motioned for the dark dwarf to join them. “Not regretting your oath, are you?”
“Feh.” It came out as half a laugh. “No chance.”
Einarr was gratified that his expectation was correct. “Then what can I do for you?”
“It’s more what I can do for you.” Jorir took a long draught from the first skin and passed it to Einarr. “That story tonight… that hasn’t been embellished too much, has it?”
Einarr shook his head.
“No.” Stigander’s voice was startling and husky. “No, that was faithfully writ by my Lahja.”
Jorir gave Einarr a quizzical look.
“Father’s second wife. My mo- the stepmother who raised me.” He had always thought of her as Mamma, but the dwarf was after clarity not sentiment.
The dwarf’s eyes grew round as the moon above. “I’m sorry. I meant no offense.”
Stigander chuckled, a low, rumbling rasp under the circumstances, and sat up. “None taken, I’m sure.” He reached a hand for the skin that Einarr had just finished drinking from.
He passed the skin, as requested. “Not a lot of thanes marry Singers, after all, although I fail to understand why.”
Stigander harrumphed. “Not a lot of Singers with the other qualifications of your dear little Runa, my boy, and not a lot of thanes with the luxury of marrying without them.”
Jorir cleared his throat. “Well. You see, the story put me in mind of someone who helped me once. She might be able to help you. But she does nothing free… and she’s not an easy person to reach.”
The dwarf let the pause after his statement stretch out: Einarr gave an exasperated sigh. “Well, out with it. Who?”
“Out in Attilsund… there’s an old elvish oracle – or at least there was, back before I fell under Fraener’s power. She should still be there, her or one of her apprentices.”
Einarr scoffed. “You want us to talk to a Weaver about undoing a weaving?”
“We’ve spoken with fate-spinners before, but…” Stigander looked thoughtful. “An elvish oracle, of the old, mystic school?” When Jorir nodded, he continued. “Might be worthwhile. They were said to have some very… different notions about their Art. …Yes, I’ll check the charts in the morning. Perhaps worth the detour.”
* * *
“New plan, lads!” Stigander announced entirely too cheerfully early the next day, while about half the crew were still nursing hangovers. One could almost believe he hadn’t been drinking right along with the rest of them, although Einarr knew better.
“Based on information from the two newest members of our crew, we’ll be headed for Attilsund to go consult with a very old, very wise elf who I wager knows a thing or three about Weaves and curses. It’s a bit out of the way, but maybe some gold will fall into our laps on the way, eh?”
“Long as we’re wishing, might as well wish for some wenches ta fall from the sky!” Sivid’s retort earned a round of laughter from around the deck: even Stigander joined in.
“I know. This was going to be a long season anyway, and this little detour is likely to make it longer. But tell me, lads: won’t it be worth it, if it helps us go home?”
Now came the round of cheers from the Vidofnings. Einarr joined in, and if he was less enthusiastic than some of the older men it was only because getting home to a place he barely remembered was no longer his only concern. Not long after the three of them had finished Jorir’s skins and rolled over for sleep, he realized he, too, wished to consult the oracle. Now he wondered who else among the crew might have a question to ask, and what Jorir had meant when he mentioned it would not be free. Surely he could not refer to coin, for that was as ordinary as a school of pike.
Speaking of whom… “Good morning.”
The dwarf grumbled his reply, evidently still a little foggy.
“Not sure if I should thank you or not for that bit of information last night.”
“I’m not, either.”
Einarr snorted. “So then what’s the catch? How does one pay for the services of this wise old elf?”
“Impossible to say, until she declares what she wants of you.”
“Oh? And what did she demand of you, when you sought her aid?”
“A… favor, that I’ve yet to be able to repay.”
“So that’s why you brought it up. Now that you’re free of Svartlauf, you want the debt off your shoulders too.”
There was a long moment where he thought Jorir was about to say something, but finally the dwarf merely nodded.
Einarr hummed. “Well. You’ll tell me what the favor was when you’re ready, I suppose. Someone showed you where I set up your grindstone?”
“You set up?” Jorir sighed and shook his head. “Yes, I’ve seen it. As good a location as I could ask for on a longship.”
Einarr nodded. “Yes, I set up. I was on the quest that took me to Svartlauf in the first place because I’d dishonored Father’s name: he couldn’t just let me off.”
Jorir still looked annoyed.
“Mind regrinding Sinmora’s edge for me? Our little fight down in the tunnels nicked it pretty bad.” It was an obvious change of subject, but no less true for that.
“This afternoon. Don’t think I’ll have room to do much before then.”