“Traitor!” Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out like a toad’s. “Coward! Lord Ulfr will hear of this!”
“Lord Ulfr is well aware of my opinion regarding his mother. And I will thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head. There is more to strategy than attacking, Urek, and if you could understand that we’d have captured them already – alive, as commanded. But -” Kaldr peered pointedly up into the sky, towards Raenshold. “But, unless I miss my guess, the message is already on its way to our Thane. I trust, Urek, that you will be willing to eat those words when we accomplish our task.”
Vittir’s voice cut the air behind him with his sneer. “If you intended to accomplish our task, you’d be sending us up the fjord without delay.”
Kaldr turned to face his new uninvited guest, his eyebrows raised. And now the other one arrives. “Ah. Vittir. Yes, you may come aboard. As I was just telling your compatriot, we cannot afford to destroy Lundholm just to flush out some rats. Let them rest: it will do them no good.”
“You really are a coward if you think this backwater will put up a fight.”
“That is not the cost I was speaking of, Vittir. But never mind: you will all see, soon enough. Look here: the only way in or out of the town by sea is through this fjord, and it is impossible to go through more than one at a time. Assuming they’re not so kind as to simply decide to settle here, sooner or later they have to try to slip past us. Conversely, if we decided to raid the town, we would have the disadvantage of being stuck in that selfsame fjord.”
Vittir looked dubious. Kaldr was reasonably certain Urek hadn’t heard a word: he still stared bug-eyed, his hands clenched at his sides. Kaldr sighed. “If it will make you happier, we can send small parties up the fjord to harry them farther. If we harass the villagers, their guests will probably wear out their welcome faster.”
Urek crossed his arms, the color in his face finally starting to come down. “Fine. But just so you know, I’m still watching you.”
“Of course.” I should be so lucky.
If Einarr hadn’t known better, he would have thought the men of Lundholm unaware of the approaching ships. That was impossible, of course: news had reached the town at the same time it had reached them. The only real change from before, though, was a trifle more activity down by the water’s edge.
A fisherman paused on his way past the Captains while they still blinked in surprise. “I know it’s none o’ me business to say, but you might be wise to bring your ships up near the boathouse.”
Einarr paused a moment. It was a sound idea, but… “Why?”
“So they can’t sabotage them if they make it up the channel, of course.”
Of course. Einarr shrugged to himself: that was, in fact, the single best reason. He didn’t know what other answer he was expecting. “I take it they’ve harassed you before.”
The fisherman shook his head. “Every handfull of years, or so, that lord they follow gets a bee in his bonnet and tries to bring us to heel. ‘T’ain’t worked yet.”
A smile quirked at the corner of Einarr’s mouth. “Of course. Thanks for the advice.”
With a friendly wave, he jogged to catch up with Father and Kormund, who were already headed towards the shore. As glad as he was to see the town taking this in stride, there was one major difference from the last time his uncle had sent ships here.
Whether or not Kaldr was sensible, it was plain that at least one of his fleet captains was not. Would their presence make the wolfling response more violent? He could not answer that. All the same, the faster they could resupply their ships, the better.
He stopped a moment, thinking, and then changed course. There were only a few men down at the boats: most of their crews, the men who weren’t out hunting or bringing in water at least, would probably be on the green, and they would be needed.
Afternoon was waning by the time sufficient members of the three crews had gathered at the shore. Longships were light enough that a crew could carry them across land at need. On the other hand, it did take most of a crew, all doing their part. And so the fifty men Einarr had gathered all put their shoulders to the sides of the Vidofnir and heaved.
With a groan of wood and men, and the grinding of wood on wet sand, slowly the Vidofnir lifted off the beach and onto the shoulders of her porters. Einarr felt his feet begin to slip in the sand as he took on the unaccustomed weight: it had been a very long time since he had needed to move a ship this way.
On the other side, his own shoulder to the wood, Stigander called out. “Steady, now! And, forward!”
The boathouse stood in a cleared field on the edge of town nearest the shore, and by the time they were halfway there they had fallen into the proper rhythm. Twilight was falling by the time the Eikthyrnir rested alongside the Vidofnir and the Heidrun, and the crew all stretched tired arms and sore backs on their way to the stewpots of the town alewives.
Near the end of supper, a loud twang rang out over the village, as of a giant’s bowstring being released somewhere in the forest.
“Sleep armed, men,” Stigander warned. “It seems the wolves are still worrying at our heels.”
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