At some point after Lord Ulfr ordered him imprisoned, between his irregular meals and while he ran beginner exercises to keep his body spry, the noise of the key in the lock surprised him. For once, he had not heard the old crone’s cackling first. This was most irregular.
Kaldr sat down and leaned against the wall to observe his new visitor.
Even the dim light from the hall was now enough to make Kaldr squint: he peered at the newcomer, but all he could make out was the silhouette of a man.
“Has the Thing finally been assembled?” His voice came out like a croak.
A familiar voice tsked. “What have they done to you?”
“It must really be rough if you can’t even recognize your own Mate.”
Kaldr offered a wan smirk. “More that I can barely see you right now. It seems I’m to be kept in the dark in more ways than one.”
“Ain’t that the truth. You’ll be in here a long time if you’re waiting on the Thing to assemble. The rebel ships are on their way again, only our glorious Thane seems to have lost the ability to track them.”
“Tell me, Thjofgrir. If we had been at Lundholm, would things be any different?”
“Is that why you’re so calmly accepting this?” His Mate shook his head. “We might not have lost two Captains, if you had been leading that fight, but are we really worse off for their absence?”
Kaldr allowed himself a derisive snort. “Maybe not.”
“Look, Kaldr, the men and I have been about the town. The people are a hair’s breadth from rioting. Even if Lord Ulfr defeats the rebels, he loses – and I’m not so sure he can defeat them at this point.”
“Whether or not Lord Ulfr is a suitable Thane is not the question at hand here. He is the rightful Thane.”
“I’m not so sure you’re right about that, Captain. If I’m right, a fight against the rebels just might spark the people in the town to join them. And no Thane rules for long after the people turn against him. If you say the word, Captain, we’ll all follow you out of here. It might not be so bad, being a freeboater for a while. There are plenty of other clans who’d be happy to have us as mercenaries…”
“No. I will not flee like a coward or a common criminal. I have staked my pledge behind Lord Ulfr’s banner, and I intend to see this through.”
He could feel Thjofgrir’s weighing look. Eventually, his second-in-command sighed. “I had a feeling you’d say that. Have it your way. I’ll do what I can to keep the men in line, but their sympathies lie with the town. As do mine.”
“As do mine, in truth. But if things in the town are ever to improve, we must break the hold the Lady Mother has over her son’s mind. …You should go. I hear her in the hall. I wonder how much blood she will let this time…”
“What did you say?”
“Never forget, Thjofgrir. The problem is not Lord Ulfr. The problem is the weaver-witch.”
The Vidofnir led Einarr’s and Kormund’s ships directly for Raenshold. The fact that Urdr had been deprived of her original “weaving of inevitable victory,” or whatever she’d called it, did not mean she could not start a fresh one. The odds were considered good, though, that the longer they took the more likely she could build one up. Thus, they drove straight for Breidelstein.
When the island came into sight on the horizon the three ships weighed anchor and the Captains once more gathered on the deck of the Vidofnir. Sivid sat on the bulwark, staring towards home with a look of annoyance on his face. His broken arm was tied up in a sling: broken bones could only heal so quickly, even with Song Magic, which meant that he was stuck on the ship for the final fight. Einarr gave a wave of greeting, which was answered by a tight-lipped smile.
Their strategy meeting that night was brief. Not much had changed, frankly, from the last time they had made it as far as the harbor, save the number of enemy ships. They had not truly had time to rest at Lundholm, but if the Norns were on their side they shouldn’t need to do much fighting.
This set Sivid cackling from his watchpost, still leaning on the bulwark.
Kormund scowled at him. “What, praytell, is so funny? Stigander, I know you keep a loose ship, but still…”
Stigander and Einarr, and those in the conference who had traveled with them for any length of time, looked amused.
“If the Norns are on our side, you said.” Einarr smirked. “Well, the Usurper is kept in power by a Weavess who practices their dark Art, and -” He gave a momentary pause.
Sivid did not disappoint. “The Norns always correct their weave.”
Kormund furrowed his brow and stared at them, still plainly at a loss.
“It’s rather more literally appropriate here than usual, is all,” Stigander said. Kormund seemed to relax a little.
“For more than fifteen years,” he went on. “The weave over Breidelstein has been drawn more and more out of true by the Weavess. We are about to be as shears for the Norns. So far as they’re concerned, I suspect our petty, political aims matter not one whit.”
“I rather suspect,” Einarr drawled. “That we’re happier that way.” He remembered, again, the threat black-winged Hrist had left him with. As much as he wanted to believe the Aesir and the Vanir weren’t all like that, he wasn’t certain he could.
“I suppose the only question left is, do we push on through the night?” It would leave their men tired for the assault. On the other hand, it would also afford a better opportunity to catch the Usurper’s forces by surprise.
Stigander crossed his arms and lowered his chin. “If you think your men are up for it, I say yes.”
Nods of assent quickly followed from Kormund and Einarr. Then, with that settled, they each returned to their own ship and weighed anchor once more.
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