Tag: calling

2.31 – Ship-Barrow

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.


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2.20 – The Third Trial

They finished their lunch in silence. For his part, Einarr kept turning over in his head Jorir’s revelation – the one he plainly did not wish to speak more of. He wasn’t quite certain what to make of his father’s new scrutiny, either. That ‘cursebreaker’ had the ring of a title about it. I’m not entirely certain I like the sound of that.

He found that he had little appetite left. None of the others seemed terribly interested in more food, either: another handful or two of nuts, or a dried fish, and all five of them were on their feet again.

“Well,” Einarr said. His voice felt unnaturally loud after the long silence. “Lead the way.”

Jorir nodded and quick-stepped back toward the path. I should have a word with him about that… but not in front of everyone. Maybe if he could learn what the Oracle had actually told his liege-man it would clear matters up.

Einarr didn’t mind the idea of having a calling, per se. But for that calling to be cursebreaking… that was troubling. Urdr was supposed to be the exception among Weavers, after all, not the rule.

The trail entered a series of steep switchbacks up a nearly sheer granite face.

“Watch your step,” Jorir warned.

Einarr shuddered at the idea of the last vision hitting when a single misstep could send any of them plummeting to their doom. With every step he half expected the sound of bells to ring on the wind, heralding the final test… but with each step all he saw was the trail and the granite face beside him.

The air burned in Einarr’s lungs by the time the trail opened back out into a meadow once more. There were no trees now, and the grasses and shrubs grew low to the ground. He stepped to the side to stand in the grass and catch his breath while Stigander and Arring completed their climb and the sound of bells rang in his ears.

He blinked, and the mountainside was replaced by a large, dimly recognized room. The tapestries hanging on the stone walls were warm and properly abstract, suggesting rather than showing animals and plants, and a large and detailed sea chart was spread out on the table dominating the center of the room.

Standing with him around the table was a white-haired version of his father, Reki, Erik, Jorir… and Runa, also looking older but no less lovely for the matronly cast to her face. I can win her.

“Every last Clan of the north has suffered at the hands of the Order of the Valkyrie. Why will none of the other thanes see that together we have a chance?” Einarr heard the words coming from his own mouth, saw his own fist bang against the table. Oh. So that’s what the situation is.

“Oh, they see it,” Stigander rumbled. “But someone would have to be chosen to lead the navies. They worry more about what that someone might do with command of so many ships and warriors once the threat is eliminated than they do about the Order or the Empire.”

“They’re worried I’ll decide to name myself Althane? Are they crazy?”

“It’s been tried before,” said Jorir. “By rulers older and supposedly wiser than you.”

“Bah. We’ve only just got Breidelsteinn back under control.”

“And not quite that.” Erik crossed his arms. “A couple of the more westerly Jarls are just biding their time, methinks. A lot of trust was lost while we were all out at sea.”

“That was none of our doing, but you all see my point.”

“There’s not many outside our waters who know that, though, son, and if they did it wouldn’t necessarily help us. There’s not a lot within the Allthing with quite the experience we’ve had, and they all have their own priorities to consider as well.”

“You’re right, of course, Father.” Einarr looked back down at the map and snorted. “So. I guess that means the first question is how I convince them, first, to trust me and, second, that doing away with the Valkyries is in their best interest.”

“Start with a story, my lord.” Reki’s low voice had not lost its purr in the years since she joined the Vidofnir. Einarr turned his attention to the Singer’s red eyes and waited. “Tell them, over drinks at the hall perhaps, how the Hunters nearly wiped us out while we still wandered. Tell them of the battle that lead you to swear vengeance. That alone might win you a few.”

“Many of them have already heard the story.”

“Have they? The times I’ve overheard you speaking of it, you’ve said nothing of the actual battle.”

“’At’s a good idea, Reki. Why don’t you let me handle that part: I’ve a fair bit of experience spinning yarns over drinks.”

“Thanks, Erik. I never quite know where to begin.”

The big man laughed. “That is because you didn’t do nearly enough stupid shit while we were roaming.”

Einarr and Stigander both shook their heads, each laughing under their breath.

“All right, so that’s a good place to start. What else might help?”

Jorir glared up at him like he was being stupid. “You’ve got an actual plan in place for winning this, don’t ye? Give them some inkling what it is. Ye’ll be relying on independent action in a buncha different places anyway – why not let them know that. Put their minds at ease a bit.”

“Those independent forces are still going to have to coordinate together, but if they’re not fully under the command of the central force… Father? Do you think that would actually make a difference?”

“For some, maybe. Don’t expect it to allay everyone’s suspicions, though.”

“Of course.” Einarr looked across the table: Runa was biting her lip, as though she were weighing something. “Well, my love? Do you have an idea.”

“Um. Well, there is something I could do to help. I’m not sure it’s a good idea, though.” Runa glanced over at Reki, and suddenly her expression seemed less weighing and more nervous.

Reki’s attention was turned toward the map, and she didn’t seem to catch the look.

“There could be a Tune that might convince them.” Runa emphasized the word tune strangely. Reki’s head snapped up: daggers of ice seemed to shoot across the table at the other Singer.


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