Tag: games

1.13 – Glíma

Einarr stood in the dirt ring cleared for glíma, studying his opponent. For a hundred feet around it the field was filled with people watching and cheering and drumming. Jarl Hroaldr and all those at Kjell Hall gathered around.

This occupied only a small fragment of Einarr’s attention. More important by far was the swarthy, salt-and-pepper brick of a man standing across the ring from him – Trabbi. The man’s chest and arms were just as muscular as Father’s, and while his beard was thick it was also short and neat. The two men wore only trousers and boots, and the breeze tried to raise goosebumps on their bare arms. Einarr dropped into a fighter’s crouch, and his much larger rival did the same. Among the Vidofnings, the only man smaller than Einarr was Sivid. If there was one fact of wrestling that had been impressed on Einarr, though, it was that size was not as important as it appeared to be.

“Begin!” Jarl Hroaldr gave the signal, and the two men charged to the center of the ring, their arms joining in the clinch.

Einarr’s arms strained against strength born of pulling fish from the sea. Trabbi pulled right and Einarr stepped in, allowing his opponent the throw. No sooner had his back touched the ground than Einarr kicked his legs back into Trabbi’s knees. Einarr sprang back to his feet as the older man fell. A hand reached out to grab his ankle and he danced backward.

Trabbi stood, not bothering to slap the dust off, and the crowd cheered. They moved into the clinch again. Out of the corner of his eye, Einarr saw Runa watching anxiously. He tried to put it from his mind.

Einarr slid his hands up his rival’s arms to clasp them behind the man’s head. The older man’s head lowered with little resistance. Einarr’s eyes widened when he realized what was about to happen. Trabbi abruptly let go of his shoulders and lunged forward, knocking the wind from his rival’s chest even as he took hold of Einarr’s wrist to wrench the arm backwards.

Einarr twisted around to avoid the break and kicked at Trabbi’s hip. The man jumped backwards, releasing his grip on Einarr’s arm. They both dropped back into a crouch and began circling the ring. The crowd cheered wildly, and Einarr couldn’t tell for who. He spat, watching his rival.

Trabbi started the charge this time, and Einarr saw his opportunity. He went low, driving his shoulder into his rival’s stomach and lifting Trabbi’s legs as he straightened. Einarr rolled into the throw. Trabbi’s momentum carried him over to land on his back with Einarr sitting on his chest.

“Yield,” Trabbi wheezed. “I yield.”

Einarr stood and helped the other man to his feet. The crowd went wild with cheering. Jarl Hroaldr had to shout to be noticed above the din. Eventually, it quieted enough that he could speak. “Victory goes to Einarr, son of Stigander, Captain of the Vidofnir. The betrothal between my daughter and Trabbi has been annulled, although what you thought you were defending her from eludes me.”

“The Lady Runa is a strong, intelligent woman, my lord. I defended her against a future she did not wish, and claim her in hopes of fulfilling one she does.”

“Forgetting, for a moment, the things we spoke of last winter: tell me, boy, what makes you think I will give her hand to you? Given your actions of the past week, why should I not have you executed? Banished?” Jarl Hroaldr’s voice was cold. “You ran away with my daughter and betrayed my trust in your own father. Why should I now entrust her to you?”

“I did only what I thought was right, based on the wishes of the Lady Runa herself. I ask you, what is worse – a lifetime, potentially short, of wandering, or a longer one with a mate you do not love, and who I think does not love you?”

Trabbi shook his head. “The boy is right. I’d have treated her kindly, of course, but it is no accident that I have not remarried.”

“Against my better judgement, I will not pronounce him a criminal. However, I shall require tasks of him if he wishes to court my daughter.”

“Name your task, my Jarl, and I shall do it.”

The Jarl nodded once. “But first, let us retire to the Hall. I seem to smell another snowstorm on the wind.”

***

Kjell Hall was abuzz that evening with drinking games and the excited chatter of men recounting the afternoon’s match. The Vidofnir was to sail the next morning in search of the Grendel, and Einarr sat near the head of the room with his father, Runa, and the Jarl.

“Since both your father and Trabbi forgive you, and I know my daughter well enough to recognize when something is her idea, I have decided on your first task.” The Jarl’s voice was level, and his tone suggested that the request would be eminently reasonable. Doubt chewed on Einarr’s stomach nonetheless.

“The goddess Eira was once possessed of a torc studded with diamond and fashioned of gold filigree so pure it shines white – the Isinntog. It is said to have power over ice and storms. You know it?” He waited for them to nod. “The Isinntog was given into the care of the elves of Skaergard many hundreds of years ago to await Eira’s awakening, but it was stolen from them by the jotün Fraener and taken to Svartlauf. Bring me the Isinntog, and it shall be your morning gift for Runa.”

Einarr paled a moment, then nodded boldly. Stealing the Isinntog from a jotünhall was supposed to be the easy task? “Certainly any jewelry less fine would be too drab for her. I will return with this treasure.”

The Jarl nodded; that was the response he’d expected. Stigander clapped him on the back, hard, with a hearty laugh. “Sounds like we each have our impossible quests then, doesn’t it? For you a legendary torc, for me a rogue ship that travels with the storms.”

Einarr laughed in agreement, although he could not put more than half his heart into it. “Is there a boat sufficient to carry me there and back?”

“Runa’s little skiff, if you can find a man or two willing to help you crew it.”

“That I think I can do. Father, may I take a few of my comrades for this?”

“If they’re willing to go.”

“Thank you, Father.” Einarr rose and left to ask some of his fellow Vidofnings who might be willing to join him on such a quest.


1.12 – Negotiations 1.14 – Setting Sail
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1.12 – Negotiations

“Erik.”

The burly man nodded, rain streaming from the end of his beard.

“You’re not going to make me fight you, too, are you?”

“Cap’n’s mighty unhappy, Einarr, but he don’t want you dead an’ he don’t want either of us injured. Sent me to give you an offer.”

“And?”

“You come back aboard the Vidofnir and Runa goes to the Skudbrun, so everything’s done proper-like. Trabbi’s on board over there, but between we three and the fishes he’s not as unhappy about all this as the Jarl. Cap’n Stigander wants a word or three with Trabbi, thinks they can work something out.”

“How do we know this isn’t just some sort of trick? If my father sent a priest along…” Runa’s eyes were wide, as though the thought of marrying Trabbi instead of Einarr kindled fear in her.

“Runa.”

She turned her gaze to him, her eyes pleading.

“Runa, even if this all goes south, your father had his choice of suitors. I know he’s getting old, but I don’t believe you would be treated poorly. If we refuse, there are now two ships worth of men I would have to fight off before we could escape. On the other hand, I think there’s a good chance my Father will be able to work something out. Will you trust me?”

She opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it. Runa pursed her lips and lowered her eyes before finally nodding her acquiescence.

“Thank you. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we might not end up outcast after all.”

“Captain’s going to want words with you no matter what happens, you realize,” Erik put in.

“That’s fine.”

Barri and the other two Brunnings were standing, now, but prevented from rejoining battle by Erik’s muscular frame. Now the big man turned and addressed them. “You heard me. Go ahead and take your princess aboard, and tell your Captain that Captain Stigander Raenson of the Vidofnir requests permission to board.”

If it had been someone with less presence than Erik, or if Barri had been less honorable of a man, Einarr might have worried about treachery from the Skudbrun. As it was, though, he was able to clasp Runa’s hands in his own with a genuine smile of encouragement. “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out.”

He let Barri take Runa’s arm. Her worried gaze never strayed from Einarr as Barri carried her up to the Skudbrun on his back.

Einarr looked at Erik, squinting a little against the wind trying to blow rain in his eyes. “I’m getting busted back down to deckhand, aren’t I.”

Erik barked a laugh. “Wouldn’t suprise me.”

***

When the storm died down, both Skudbrun and Vidofnir were still tethered to the small skiff Runa had acquired for her daring escape. With many agreements shouted across the waves, the boats were brought alongside one another and planks were extended between their two railings. Standing in front of the gangplank on the Vidofnir was Stigander, a cask of mead under one arm, flanked by Bardr and Einarr. On the other side stood the captain of the Skudbrun with his first mate and Trabbi. Einarr searched their deck for sign of Runa, but did not see her.

Stigander cast a pointed look over his shoulder at his son before beginning. “Under flag of truce,” he called across. “I, Captain Stigander Raenson request permission to come aboard for the purpose of mediation with Trabbi Aridson.”

“Under flag of truce, and with full consideration of the long friendship between Kjell Hall and Raenshold,” the other captain answered. “I, Captain Kragnir Hokarson, grant permission to come aboard.”

Only then did Stigander step up onto the gangplank and stride across to the other ship, followed by Bardr and Einarr in quick – if not hasty – succession. Einarr steadied himself with his knees when a swell rocked their two boats with him in the middle of the plank. His father was presenting Captain Kragnir with the cask as a ceremonial gesture of goodwill – a gesture whose importance Einarr well knew was magnified by his actions.

The Fates did not decide to drop him between the two boats for his earlier temerity, and moments later he was able to complete the crossing. Captain Kragnir led them back to the Captain’s awning. Runa stood outside of it, red-faced and wringing her delicate hands. Einarr wished he could go to her, comfort her, but under the circumstances feared that would only make matters worse. Trabbi looked her way, pursed his lips – in frustration, anger, or concern Einarr could not tell – and did not look again.

The six men settled around the low table in the center of the sheltered area – Brunnings on one side, Vidofnings on the other. Kragnir opened the cask Stigander had brought as a peace-offering and poured everyone a cup of the sweet brew. Once they had all drunk, the ceremony was concluded.

“What is there that the wandering Son of Raen believes must be discussed?” Trabbi opened. The bitterness in his voice planted a rock in the bottom of Einarr’s belly.

“Perhaps the unwillingness of your bride?”

“My Jarl asked me to marry his daughter and keep her safe and well. To what part of that am I supposed to object?”

“He did not even mention her happiness?” Einarr had not intended to speak, but the words would not be contained.

“If this is also not something you wished, I believe we have a solution where you can back out and no-one has to lose face,” Bardr interrupted

“I will confess to mixed feelings on the idea of wedding a girl my sons’ age.”

Stigander nodded. “As would I, in your situation.” He looked sidelong at Bardr, who had the good grace to look embarrassed. “What say you to a duel?”

“Captain, I may lead a fleet, but it is a fleet of fishermen. I hardly think that a test of swordsmanship…”

“Glima, though?”

“Wrestling?”

“Wrestling. We may be getting on in years, but unless I miss my guess you’re not slowing down just quite yet. Your experience versus my son’s youthful vitality.”

Trabbi set his jaw and turned his gaze to study Einarr.

“Loser yields the right to marry the princess.”

“I won’t throw the match,” Trabbi warned.

Einarr met the man’s weighing eyes. “You’d be a coward if you did.”

“Just so long as that’s understood.”

“Of course.” Stigander shrugged as though he’d expected nothing else.

“In that case, I agree. Runa should stay on board the Skudbrun until we return to Kjell Hall. My Jarl would never forgive me if I allowed her to remain with the man who tried to steal her away.”

Einarr opened his mouth to protest, but before a sound could escape Stigander had already answered. “Agreed.”

Not two steps after he had left the awning, Runa had thrown her arms about Einarr’s neck. “Easy, easy. We’ve got it all settled.”

“I heard. You think you can win?”

He smirked now, lowering his voice to avoid being heard to insult his rival. “Against a fisherman? Come now.” His face fell then and he shook his head. “Even if I don’t, though, I think it might not make much difference for you. After what we did, Trabbi would be well within his rights to cancel the engagement.” It might matter for him, though, depending on how forgiving the Jarl felt.

She took a deep breath and held it for a moment, nodding before she let it out. He thought she might have been about to protest. She looked as anxious here as she had earlier, on the boat, when he was fighting off her countrymen.

“You’re that worried I’ll lose?”

She shook her head. “I’m worried you’ll be hurt.”

Bardr and his father were nearly to the gangplank, but Einarr found a moment to wrap her in his arms and kiss her hair before hurrying on.


1.11 – Capture 1.13 – Glìma
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1.8 – Dance Fight!

Einarr knew those boots very well, in fact. Had watched, in any spare moment she could find, as Astrid stitched them herself from the skins of rabbits she had asked him to catch. Stitched them herself, when it would have been the easiest thing in the world to pass it off to one of the thralls. And now Stigander swaggered onto the dance floor wearing them, courting a wife for his son.

He kicked himself through a backflip to stand upright. Stigander smirked and began to spin around on his heels, his hands held out as if to ask ‘what can I say?’

Einarr matched and opposed the spin, such that they crossed paths twice each rotation. Every few twirls he dropped to a crouch, and now it was Father’s turn to match him.

There was a limit to the acrobatics they could pull off with both of them in the circle, however. The music continued, shifting into the Warrior’s Dance. Stigander motioned to someone in the hall, who tossed him a staff. Einarr looked over at Erik and gestured for the same. He caught it with a flourish before knocking its end against the floor. The knock from his father’s staff rang out a bare breath later. Einarr met his father’s eyes with a boyish grin, and the older man’s confident smirk never faltered.

Muttered voices from outside the circle, those few who were not participating, were punctuated by the clink of coins changing hands. Both of them spun once on their heels, mugging for the crowd. Clack! Einarr’s feint was blocked by Stigander’s.

They exchanged a few more showy feints, their staves cracking against each other with every blow, before the flow of the music suggested a separation. Einarr planted his staff on the floor and pushed off into another cartwheel. Stigander held his at both ends and jumped over the middle of it. The crowd loved it, but Einarr saw the Jarl clench his jaw.

They spun together now, their staves striking with enough force to sting the palms this time. Stigander pressed close and growled at his partner. “So you do have some spirit in you. Give them a good show, now.”

“We’ve got her attention.”

In the moment before they sprang apart, Stigander’s smirk relaxed into a smile. The music led them on from occasional feints and into the “fight” at the center of the dance, and their staves kept time for the piper as much as the drummer did. Before long, the music allowed them to press forward again.

“It’s not her attention I’m worried about.”

Einarr glanced at the Jarl for just a moment and got shoved back three steps. From that third step, though, he leaped forward, staff raised overhead to strike. Stigander raised his overhead, braced in two hands.

“I can’t tell if he’s furious or bored.” Hroaldr was still in the circle, but deliberately not looking at the spectacle in the center.

“Furious.” Stigander looked deliberately over toward the Jarl. “But we might be in danger of boring the rest.” Stigander ducked and spun around behind Einarr, tagging the back of his legs with his staff. Einarr followed suit, ducking into a low spin and sweeping his staff towards his father’s legs. Stigander jumped.

Nice choice, Father. Einarr spun faster, rising gradually from his crouch. With each spin, Stigander had to jump a little higher. Eventually, when the stick was nearly to his waist, he backflipped out of the arc of the strike. Clack! Stigander brought his own staff around to meet his son’s.

Einarr lunged forward, taking his staff in a two-handed grip and driving his shoulder into his father’s rock-hard stomach. The man didn’t even grunt, and so Einarr turned the lunge into a spin on his outer heel, the other leg held out straight. When he turned around, Stigander had once again turned to face him. His face was red as he knocked the end of the staff against the floor, and he seemed out of breath. An icy flood of worry crushed Einarr’s flush of enjoyment, and he knocked his own staff to signal the end of the fight.

Stigander did not give up his swagger as he danced to the outer circle, but it was less certain of itself. He tossed the staff to the waiting Kjelling and moved to take Einarr’s old place in the circle.

The place near Runa was open, but there was no reason Stigander should have conceded there. Einarr tossed his staff back to Erik and tried to follow: a look over Stigander’s shoulder warned him off. Later, then. He stood straighter, ignoring for the moment his concern in favor of a “victory” lap around the stage before he trotted off to take his Father’s former place near the Jarl.

He nearly stopped in his tracks when he saw the Jarl’s face. Hroaldr’s face was redder than Stigander’s, his lips pursed in fury, staring at Einarr. He slid into the proffered opening anyway, giving Runa a thin-lipped smile.

It may have been the single most uncomfortable place he had stood during a Hall Dance, but thankfully it didn’t go on much longer. Even Sivid didn’t try to compete with the father-son show that had just occurred, and he wasn’t usually one to be cautious of the odds.

As the music faded and the circle dissolved, Einarr felt a strong hand grip his arm. A strong, male hand. He turned slowly, knowing who it had to be. Einarr was still unprepared for the fury filling the Jarl’s eyes.

“I’m not blind, boy. Even if I were, Stigander has made things quite plain t’me. D’ye think that maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason Trabbi is courting my daughter instead of the son of my friend?”

Einarr opened his mouth to interject, but the Jarl continued.

“You want to marry my daughter. So tell me, boy: d’ye have a hall?”

Einarr clapped his mouth shut.

“D’ye have a hearth? A ship? Oh, yes, you have a ship – or you will, crewed by your father’s men, loyal to him first, and no port to call your own. Is that what you would have me bind Runa to? Trabbi is a loyal vassal. Trabbi has holdings of his own, and if his boats are fishing boats, there are worse things. Now, tell me, boy, who should I marry my daughter to?”

“My lord, how many wives has Trabbi buried?” It was all he could come up with under the stinging truth of the Jarl’s rage.

“Fewer than Stigander.”

“And how old are his children?”

Hroaldr met his eyes in an icy glare, the anger undiminished, as though to say he had already considered such matters. “Do not test me where my daughter is concerned. Understood?”

“Yes, my lord.”


1.7 – Feast in the Hall 1.9 – Spring Thaw
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1.7 – Feast in the Hall

On their return to the Hall, Einarr and Stigander had turned over their skinned prize to the cooks of Kjell and went directly to the sauna to clean up.

At the feast that night, every time Einarr attempted to approach Runa, an older man of the Hall deftly slipped between them – holding her chair here, drowning his offer of tafl with a spontaneous verse there, and casting challenging looks at Einarr the entire time. Runa took all of this with a polite smile that did not touch her eyes. Meanwhile, at every turn he felt the fire in his breast being stoked.

Then the Jarl called for music, and the tables were cleared to allow for dancing. As the drummer and the piper struck up a lively tune and the revelers formed a circle, Runa took her place at her father’s right hand. Without anyone really noticing how he managed it, her new suitor took her other side. Einarr, meanwhile, ended up sandwiched between Erik and the cook he had last seen cleaning their reindeer.

The circle began it’s bouncing step to the beat of the drum. Then the piper and the lyrist launched into the tune itself – a quick number, such that the Hall’s children and those who had already drunk too much were prone to stumbles. This didn’t continue for long, however: within a few bars of the music, Sivid moved to the center of the circle with a clap to the sole of his boot. He was good, one of the best of the Vidofnings, but the hall dance was a competition in its own right. Rather than leave everything on the dance floor then and there, this was a warm-up. He dropped to a bridge and rose again, his hands never touching the floor, and to the rhythm of the drum performed some simple acrobatics. He kicked for the rafters once, and danced out to rejoin the circle at a favorable location.

A man of the was next to enter the circle, and if his agility was lacking he made up for it with spirit. Einarr caught his father’s eye and quirked his head before following the Kjelling into the center. Let’s put on a show…

When the man of the hall danced out, Einarr trotted in at the first acceptable moment. He clicked his heels and slapped his soles once or twice before dropping into a crouch and twirling on the balls of his feet. Before that could bore anyone, Einarr sprang up directly into a backflip and a one-handed cartwheel. He caught sight of the Princess’ face and saw an encouraging smile there. A few scattered cheers rose up from around the circle, and so he made a bouncing circuit inside the wheel before kicking for the rafters himself. Someone a little closer to the Princess let him back into the outer circle, and he was followed by another young man of the Hall. It was poor form, after all, for the guests to try and dominate the Hall dance.

Einarr paid little attention to the new Kjelling. His focus was on the old man with the Jarl’s favor, who had not looked away since he ceded the stage. The rest of the hall seemed to enjoy the performance, however, and Einarr tamped down on his impatience. The only person he cared about besting tonight was the anonymous suitor – a man Einarr expected chosen more for loyalty than any particular skill.

Eventually the greybeard had an opening to slide out onto the stage. He moved immediately into crouching kicks, all the while spinning as he moved around the circle. A bridge into a backflip – no hands – kick the rafters, and then he walked on his hands before springing back to his feet. More cheering – someone called out “Trabbi!” He trotted around the circle once more, quirking his head at Einarr as he passed, and returned to the circle.

Einarr bided his time. The earliest he could return to the floor would be four more dancers, he thought, based on the number on the floor. Much longer than that, though, and it would look like he conceded. He watched, half his brain weighing the other dancers and half determining how best to play on his rival’s performance.

Finally the Hall Dance came back around to where Einarr could step out, and he opened with a prance into a jumping axe kick that clopped against the floor but rattled no-one’s cup. He skipped only a half-circuit before gathering his strength in his thighs. Einarr launched himself in the spinning kick for the rafters, and no sooner had his first foot touched the floor than he hopped up into a hands-free backflip. He heard his crewmates cheering, and probably some of the Kjellings as well, but all that mattered right then was Runa’s smiling eyes. He grinned then: if she liked that, she would love this.

He bent his knees and bounced on his toes, kicking out like Trabbi had done for a time, and motioned to Sivid. The man tossed him a cap. He pulled it over his ears and sprang forward, somersaulting into a headstand. The floor here was a little rough, but it would do: he spun.

The crowd’s delighted laughter turned to excited muttering. Einarr saw another pair of boots step out onto the floor. He knew those boots: they had been a gift from Astrid before the last Ice.


1.6 – Winter Hunt 1.8 – Dance Fight!
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1.5 – Tafl

Winter fell hard and fast after the funeral. Three days later, the least experienced of the Vidofnings went to help bring in the goats. Three days after that, Kjellings and Vidofnings alike were snowed in.

That, of course, didn’t mean they were without things to do. There was wood to be chopped, and game to be hunted, and if there was one thing the people at Kjell Hall were good at it was making games out of everyday chores. Then, of an evening, once the sauna fire had been allowed to smolder, there were other entertainments to be had inside.

“Hah!” Erik laughed on the fifth night since the blizzard, shoving aside three empty bowls and various other remnants of their supper. “Anyone who can beat me at arm wrestling tonight wins my share of tomorrow’s mead!”

Einarr laughed to himself and did not step forward. The only person on the Vidofnir who could beat Erik at arm wrestling was Stigander himself, and he and the Jarl were speaking quietly at the far end of the hall. Some of the younger men of the hall tried their luck, though, and Einarr thought to watch them for a little.

After the third Kjelling had lost a night’s share of mead, Einarr found his attention wandering. Elsewhere there were people dicing, and he saw a one-on-one tug of war going on near the door. The figure-eight rope stretched between the two deck hands was dark from years of use as they each tried to pull the other one out of balance and break the tension between their feet. Einarr smiled a little: it didn’t appeal tonight – he’d had enough rowing on the ship for the moment – but as the winter wore on it might be worthwhile.

“Tafl?” A sweetly feminine voice asked from over his shoulder.

Startled, Einarr snapped his head around. He hadn’t realized anyone was there. “Runa! You play?”

“Of course I play! You’re the one who taught me, remember?”

“I . . .” He had forgotten. “I suppose I did, didn’t I. Well, then, let’s see how you’ve improved.”

They spoke as much as played, of old times and of the past seven years. The blue of her pinafore matched her eyes. Einarr found it hard to keep his mind on the game with the fire of her lips swaying in the breeze of every word, and since he was defending that meant Runa captured his king in a humiliating five rounds.

“I won!” She laughed gleefully, and her smile seemed to clear some of the smoke from the room.

Einarr shook his head. “So you did. I don’t know where my mind was. One more game?” He was better than that, and he knew it.

“Fine. But this time, I’ll defend, just to prove I can beat you either way.”

“You’re on.”

He paid more attention to the game this time, so that it took her a full fourteen turns to escape. Einarr’s brow knit in consternation until he looked up to see her smiling warmly at him. “Who have you played to get so good at this?”

“Father, mostly. Sometimes a visitor will play me, and I always trounce them because they never seem to take me seriously. Even you.”

“Hey, now that’s not fair. I was taking you seriously.” Maybe not quite in the way she meant, though. She was just a little distracting.

“Of course you were.” Her smile turned impish for a moment. She picked up one of the pawns and started to finger it, her face falling. “So, Father is wanting me to get married soon.”

“You are about the age.” So am I, for that matter. But… A strange reluctance crept over Einarr whenever that thought occurred to him. It wasn’t like he had anything much to offer a bride.

“Close, yes. And with Mother gone, I think he wants to know I’ll be taken care of.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“I think he wants me to marry your father.”

For the second time since they came to Kjell Hall, Einarr felt time come crashing to a stop. The din of the hall around them receded from his ears as he tried to accept her words. No.

“I don’t think he’s decided yet.” She was trying to make him feel better. The shock must have shown on his face. “But it’s not what I want, either.”

“Who was your father speaking to?” He tried to speak normally.

“It’s just the impression I’ve gotten.”

Einarr shook his head. Damn it. “After Astrid’s funeral… I heard Bardr floating the idea to my father.” He looked her in the eye. “I’ll talk to him. He’s a reasonable man.”

“As you like.” Runa’s face was shaded with doubt.

“Hey, smile. No-one gets married in the winter. We’ve got months to talk them out of it. Come on, one more? Or shall we play something else?”

“Hmmmm.” Her smile was mischievous now. “Have your mothers taught you verse?”

Despite himself, he was a little embarrassed. “I’m afraid not. Father always kept me tied up in other things.”

“Well then I suppose it wouldn’t be much fun to play at lausavisa. Tell me about someplace you’ve seen.” She leaned forward eagerly, her elbows pressed together where they rested on her knees. Einarr swallowed hard as his mind raced, trying to think of a story his princess would appreciate.

What am I thinking about, ‘my’ princess? Don’t fool yourself. Despite his status as Stigander’s heir, the Jarl had never given Einarr the time of day. There was no way he’d give up his daughter to him, not with the curse in play.

“Mistress?” A young woman of the hall approached.

“Yes, Helgi, what is it?”

“Your father would like a word with you.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll be right there.” She turned her attention back to Einarr. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to be back.”

Einarr nodded, for once distracted by something other than the beautiful woman who had trounced him at tafl. Stigander and the Jarl were both watching them intently.


1.4 – Funeral Rites  1.6 – Winter Hunt
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