Einarr bared his teeth at their assailants in a feral grin. So they thought they were raiders, did they? Farmers turned to banditry, fishermen who might make decent warriors if given a few years practice. They had spirit, at least. Sinmora practically leapt into his hand. He would teach them who they were up against and gladly – and then he would offer these desperate men a chance to get off this rock.
It felt like it had been ages since he’d fought against men who were actually men – since their unfortunate run-in with the Valkyrian Hunters early in the spring, Einarr thought. Unfortunately, he had not underestimated the skill of their opponents here. They did not so much put up a fight as receive a sound drubbing from the experienced raiders of the Vidofnir.
Perhaps a minute later, even their leader sat huddled in the center of a ring formed by Einarr and his companions. Had one of them decided to run they probably could have escaped, but not one tried. Einarr folded his arms across his chest and stepped forward.
“Full points for bravery, gents, but you chose your target wrong this time. Or perhaps right, depending on how you look at it.”
Scramasax visibly gathered himself up and leaned forward. “‘Twere my idea, Lord. I’m the one as convinced ‘em all, once we ‘ad to leave the town. Let them go.”
Einarr smirked, and the leader of the would-be bandits quailed. “Don’t go leaping off of any cliffs just yet. My friends and I, we’re part of an actual longship crew, and that longship happens to have some open oars for brave men.”
The townsmen exchanged confused looks, as well they might. Einarr expected there were few if any raiding ships that landed on these shores.
“We’ve a fishing boat down the coast aways in need of repair. Anyone willing to help us fix it up and get off this rock, I’ll put in a word for with our Captain when we make it back.”
Scramasax’s men did not look as thrilled at the prospect as he’d hoped – although their relief at apparently being spared was evident.
“Beggin’ yer pardon, Lord,” one of the fishermen said, scratching sheepishly at the back of his head. “But there ain’t no way off this island. Cursed, it is, and all of us on it.”
“There’s always some way past a curse, even if nobody’s found it before. That’s what Cursebreakers are Called for, after all.” Einarr hoped they were less familiar with the lore than he had been. “Even if you’re right, though, my Father – our ship – is counting on our return. I can’t give up, not while there’s even a prayer of getting back to them.”
Scramasax cleared his throat to speak, but Einarr held up a hand to forestall him. “What’s your name?”
“Ah, Arkja, Lord.”
Einarr nodded. “Sorry. Go on.”
“Your wench there – ah, my apologies, no offense intended, but – is she a Singer?”
“I am,” Runa answered for herself, her annoyance audibly constrained.
“The ‘wench,’ as you so delicately termed her, is my bride, and I will thank you to remember that.”
“Yes, of course, Lord. I meant no aspersions. Only, if we’ve a Singer, maybe there’s a chance.”
“Well you see, Lord, it’s like this. Those as try an’ sail away from here always end up back where they started, wi’ no memory of having turned about.”
“That certainly sounds like something the song seithir could get us past.” Runa still sounded dubious.
“Well, not by itself, I don’t think, Lady.”
The man’s obsequiousness was beginning to grate on Einarr’s nerves.
“Haven’t been many, but some Singers has washed up here before, an’ the magic alone wasn’t enough to get them past it.”
Jorir grunted. “Wouldn’t be much of a curse if it was, I think.”
Some of the captives looked uncomfortable now that Jorir had drawn attention to himself. But so long as no-one tried to start trouble over it, Einarr would let it rest. “So. It’s the four of us, plus one injured man back with the hulder. If you’re willing to help us supply our boat and make her seaworthy again, we’re willing to take you aboard, with the possibility of a permanent berth on the Vidofnir. Who’s in?”
One or two of the would-be bandits glanced nervously at Jorir – Arkja not among them – but not one of them hesitated more than a moment. Einarr could work with that.
“Good. Welcome aboard the Gestrisni, such as she is. She needs a mast and provisions, and could do with some other repairs as well. She got us here, though, so I expect she’ll get us back to Breidhaugr all right.”
“A – mast, you say, Lord?”
“Indeed. It was struck by lightning when the storm washed us ashore.”
Arkja looked uncomfortable, as though there was news he did not wish to bring up. “Um, beggin’ yer pardon, Lord -”
Einarr rolled his eyes and held up a hand. “Please. Such… servility is neither necessary nor proper. I am Einarr. Jorir – the dwarf – is my man at arms.” He pointed at each of the men in turn. “Erik has been on my father’s ship longer than I have, and has had my back since I joined. And if you’re going to tell me the forest is too dangerous to cut a new mast, we’ve already dealt with it.”
“I see, um, L- Einarr.” Where had he learned to cringe like that? No matter: the man had a spine, he just needed to lose some old habits.
Erik was staring at the conscripted men, his arms folded across his chest and his gaze weighing them like cuts of meat. Einarr would ask the man’s opinion later, once Arkja’s men had been put to work.
In the meantime, they had a ship to resupply. “All right. Enough standing around. Let’s get to it.”
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