Tag: Singers have apprenticeships so it follows there would be levels of mastery – right?

4.2 – Alliance

When the Vidofnings gathered for supper that evening, they were joined by the greatest part of the Skudbrun’s crew – all of both ships, in fact, save those left to keep watch. In the Wandering Warrior that night, an air of confusion quickly turned to the sort of friendly banter they had all enjoyed the previous winter.

At some point in the middle of the first round of drinks, Stigander and Kragnir stood on a table near the center of the room and called for attention.

“Gentlemen!” Stigander began. “It is with great pleasure that I see the friendship between our two crews is undiminished after this last spring. It gives me great hope for the success of our coming mission… which I’m afraid is nowhere nearly so happy as our reunion tonight. So, first, a toast to one another’s health.”

The cheer that went up around the room was somewhat muted, as was probably to be expected after that introduction. A chorus of thunks marked the end of the toast as the men knocked their mugs against the tables. Stigander nodded, and now Captain Kragnir stepped forward.

“Gentlemen, for the last three weeks we have pursued a ship with a demon’s head that rides a storm black as night.”

Murmurs of recognition rose from most of the Vidofnings.

“We give chase because to do otherwise would be unconscionable. Last fall, a ship matching this description murdered your Battle Chanter. Three weeks ago, this ship stole away my Jarl’s daughter on her way to meet with an elder Singer.”

Now there were no murmurs, only the widened eyes of shock and pursed lips of anger.

“Einarr and I,” Stigander continued. “Were approached early this afternoon by Trabbi. I am sure I don’t need to explain to anyone why I have decided that aiding our brothers from Kjell in finding the foul demon-ship has become our first priority. Bardr informs me that we can be ready to leave the day after tomorrow.”

Captain Kragnir opened his mouth again. “Here, then, is to the demon hunt!”

There was nothing muted about the cheers for the toast this time, although the undercurrent was less one of camaraderie and more of anger. Einarr, leaning against the back wall, drained his cup to this toast. It would have been a decent ale, had he been able to taste it.

Einarr looked around the room, trying to be glad to see the two crews united, looking for his best path forward to the bar for a refill. Maybe he could goad Erik into a drinking contest tonight… the man would drink him under the table, but that didn’t seem like a bad place to be under the circumstances. Not when the alternative was worrying about Runa, and why they had taken her when they had murdered Astrid.

***

Getting stone-cold drunk always seems like a better idea when it’s happening than it does the morning after, and this morning was no exception. Einarr awoke on the floor beneath the table Erik had drunk him under the night before with, blessedly, no room to think about anything other than his aching head and the heaviness of his limbs. Which, he supposed, had been the point.

Einarr rolled out from under the table with a groan, not terribly concerned about why he had been left there. Probably due to Father’s disapproval. The fact that he did not seem to be the only one asleep on the tavern floor barely registered. Bleary, he shoved his hair back out of his face, his eyes scanning the room for something to wet his whistle with.

Stigander growled from across the room. “So you’re up, are you?”

“…’lo, Father.”

“I trust you got it out of your system last night?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Fine, then. Go help load the ship. Bardr and I will double-check the manifest.”

“Yes, sir.”

Stigander thrust a skin of water into his hands as Einarr trudged for the door. “We’ll get her back, and get vengeance for Astrid while we’re at it. Keep it together.”

Einarr paused, his hand on the door, to nod in agreement. Then he stepped out into the bright light of morning, blinking against the light and his hangover.

***

At the dawn tide, two days following the announcement of their venture, two ships slipped out of Mikilgata Harbor onto a calm sea, the sound of their oars plying the water the only sign of movement beyond the harbor master counting the rather generous tolls they had left.

On board the Vidofnir, the Skudbrun’s Mate consulted with Bardr, finalizing the heading they would take in pursuit of the demon-headed ship. There had been some hope, initially, that someone would spot the storm on the horizon, but in vain. Einarr listened with half his attention to the discussion: the other half paid more attention than truly necessary to the cadence of the rowing. If he did not, he would only dwell on the singular problem that stood before him. His stepmother’s murderers had his betrothed under their power. Why?

Eventually, though, when the harbor was little more than a smudge behind him, a gangplank was passed between the two ships and the Skudbrun’s Mate returned to his own crew and the sails were unfurled. Their heading: east by southeast, towards where the Skudbrun had lost sight of the storm – and where the Vidofnir had broken off her chase before.

For a moment it almost seemed as though the crowing cock of the Vidofnir were in a race against the Skudbrun’s wolf’s-head, but as they turned their new ally ceded the forerunner position to the crew that best knew what they pursued.

Einarr set his mouth even as they pulled the oars in. The Grendel, and whoever she was aligned with, would pay for their depredations in blood, or Einarr was not a Son of Raen. Perhaps, in the process, he might even learn what they were after in the first place.


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3.8 – Relics

Einarr and Jorir carried their findings somewhat awkwardly between the two of them, Jorir’s reduced height more than offsetting his greater strength. A pair of small piles was already building on the sandy shore near where Stigander, Bardr, and Reki observed. The pieces of timber they dumped in the pile that would be used to build the pyre, but rather than add the trunk wholesale to the (much smaller) pile of offerings they trundled it over to present to the commanders.

“Father. You and Reki should see this.”

“Oh?” An eyebrow quirked in curiosity, Stigander took a rolling step forward. Reki glided up behind.

With a flourish, Einarr flung open the lid of the trunk to reveal the instruments. If he hadn’t found them himself, he’d never have guessed they had been moldering in a chest on the beach long enough to be buried. Reki raised pale hands to her mouth.

“We found this trunk buried just over there.” Einarr pointed in the direction they’d come. “I know they were none of them musicians, but this is the most valuable thing I’ve found all day.”

“More valuable than you realize, I think,” Reki breathed. She knelt on the sand by the trunk and removed one of the lyres from within, her hand wandering gently over its frame. “The strings are still good, even,” she murmured.

“Mind elaborating?” Stigander’s voice crept towards a growl, although Einarr was sure he was not angry.

“These are relics, which I believe the Grandmasters of our order would pay dearly for. …Older, unless I miss my guess, than even the wreck we came here seeking.” She turned the lyre over in her hands. “Runework, although to what end I am not certain. To burn these would be unforgivable.”

Bardr hummed. “I mislike the idea of destroying runework I don’t know the action of.”

“And yet,” Stigander rumbled. “We have little to offer in the way of grave goods for these men that we do not find here.”

Reki looked like she was about to argue, but Stigander cut her off.

“Now, Reki, I’m not going to sacrifice them unless I have to. But I’ll also not send my men off as paupers, especially not from a place like this.” Stigander looked around as he said this and gave a visible shudder. That the people of Attilsund thought this place haunted was no surprise: Einarr, too, could easily believe it.

“Let’s see what everyone else manages to find. Einarr’s right that none of these men had much use for anything beyond a hunting horn.” He surveyed the beach for a long moment. “Next group that comes back, I want you two to show them where you found this, see if you can find anything else interesting there.”

“Yes, sir.” That had, in truth, gone better than Einarr had expected. Reki’s reaction was anticipated, although somewhat more subdued than he had expected. Having a Singer whose personality was as steady as calm seas was a new experience.

Sivid approached with an armload of wood, and Erik carried a cask under one arm and some carved ivory in the other.

“Good timing, you two!” Bardr called out, catching their attention. They emptied their arms and approached.

“A new task, then?” Sivid brushed the sand from his hands and sleeves even as he spoke.

“Go with Einarr and Jorir. They found the top of a cache, we think.”

Erik gave a lopsided grin even as Sivid allowed himself a whoop.

“Knew we’d find something good here.” Sivid trotted over to join them. Erik walked only a pace behind.

***

The sky was reddening before all was in order for the six-man funeral. They had not, thankfully, had to burn any of the instruments Reki had been so concerned about. Not only had there been more to the stash that Einarr had uncovered, and more appropriate for a warrior’s grave, but other groups had also made interesting discoveries on that section of beach.

Arring brought only half of the watch crew with him, bearing among them the personal effects of their fallen brethren.

Bardr pursed his brow when they showed up. “Did something happen?”

“Drove off a flock of jaegers looking for a new nest. We drew straws, in case the moonlight makes them bolder.”

Bardr nodded, thoughtful. “Good call. If the repair crew finishes before we’re done searching, keep half of them as reinforcements. I’ll make sure they know, as well.”

“Aye, sir.”

The Vidofnings fell silent, then, as the sun dipped below the horizon and Reki’s voice rose above the lapping waves to send forth their spirits to the gods. Even after her voice had trailed off the dirge seemed to continue on the wind that whistled across the shore.

Finally they stepped away from the spectacle. For tonight, everyone would head back to the Vidofnir: the alternative, camping on the beach under the haze of the pyre smoke and the unnatural chill of the air, appealed to no-one. They carried their finds among them, those that had not been burned with the bodies. That there would be no Vidofnings among the restless dead this night did nothing to warm their spirits.

For his part, Einarr was simply glad the freeboaters had not taken advantage of the short watch during the funeral. The fatigue in his arms told him he would do well to not get in another fight tonight.

His boots thunked against the deck boards among a string of wooden thunks as the Vidofnings returned home. No-one spoke: no-one had the energy. Men from the repair crew took night watch, to allow the others their rest. Under the pale light of just the stars it was hard to tell, but Einarr thought the injuries had been light among the watch-crew.

Einarr lowered himself to his bedroll and his thighs groaned with relief as his weight came off them. A good night’s sleep, and then back out in the morning. His eyes began to drift closed.

From off in the direction of the freeboater’s wreck, the shrill screech of terror cut through the night.


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