Sigfrøðr laughed behind her as if it was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard, but Eira knew better. She’d seen his warrior instinct in their weekly sessions, but she’d never seen him with a bow outside of class.
The wind blew through the trees a little on the warm side and she saw him standing beside a post fitting a quiver around his waist as they rounded the corner of the forge. He seemed drenched with sweat in a tunic with several burn marks on it. His hair clung to the nape of his neck and fluttered on the wind, pulled into a high ponytail and intricate braids that she bet he didn’t do himself. It was an almost formal style that she wouldn’t have minded seeing the night before. The bow in his hand didn’t look like any bow she’d ever seen and as expected he held it in his right hand.
It was highly unlikely that he would ever be chosen to represent Calder in anything because everyone underestimated him, and he was left-handed, but Eira would vouch for him to at least have a chance if he was good.
“You need me?” Bregðask asked without turning. There was something in his voice that made her heart jump and her stomach flip. Something flat and deep that she couldn’t place.
Sexy, a voice that sounded a lot like Kata said in her ear. His voice sounded different today, not so nervous. She would dare say confidence.
“It’s unusual for you to bring guests out back.”
“Let’s say they were insistent. Ax and sword sharpening in ten?”
“Five,” Bregðask said, “I’m almost done.”
“Alright,” he said as Bregðask drew an arrow and walked to the table with the stack of shields sitting on top of it.
“What is that?” Svein gestured to the table Bregðask drew his hand over. Eira bet that it was a magical device he’d built.
“Oh, you’ll see if you care to watch,” Gardar said his voice proud and that made Eira smile.
Sigfrøðr snorted, “I’m always good for watching the dweeb embarrass himself.”
Eira watched Bregðask walk to the spot just to the left of the table when it launched the first wooden disk into the air, but she missed the moment he drew the arrow. She blinked and the arrow had been released.
A few moments later, he fired again as the next disk launched then another. She watched Bregðask walk quickly around the field and fire at the flying targets. As they were released faster, he broke into a jog and then a run. A few minutes passed before the final target was launched into the air far faster than the others before. Bregðask kneeled and tracked it with his bow as it shot towards the trees and fired his last arrow.
Eira was no archer, but she was a good judge of distance and speed. The last shield had gone father a lot faster, almost as fast as a sea-bird over the waves diving for dinner.
Bregðask hummed, turned back to the table, and spun the dial on it. Every target rolled from the brush towards him each with his arrows embedded firmly in the center. He removed them each and set the shields on the table. When the final target arrived, painted as blue as the sky, he picked it up and grinned.
The arrow was dead center, and she had just found another thing to add to her secret list of why she had a crush on Bregðask.
Well, we’d probably never go hungry.
She shook the thought away and hoped that the cool wind would keep her from flushing.
“Verdict?” Gardar asked.
“Definitely better left-handed,” he said pulling his arrow out of the final shield, “Axes and swords, you said?”
“Yep. Come on then, guests. Let the man clean up.”
They turned back at Gardar’s behest, and she heard Sigfrøðr grumbling. She paused and looked back to where Bregðask was unwrapping his bow arm from the protective leather brace.
Why can’t you shoot like that in class? Eira wondered at once impressed and curious.
Svein remained quiet as Sigfrøðr glared at a spot on the floor. She took the cup of water that Gardar offered her as the back door opened and Bregðask walked in with an arm full of wood. He froze in the doorway and looked at the three of them.
“Good Morning,” he said as Gardar hauled Svein’s sword onto the grinding wheel and began to sharpen it. Sigfrøðr’s grumble stopped when Bregðask arrived. He stood up, unbelted his ax from his back, and threw it at Bregðask.
“You’d better not break it, dweeb.”
Eira knew from handling it in class that Sigfrøðr’s ax was even heavier than her usual ax, and it was about the weight of the ax Dag had given her for this little diversion, yet Bregðask caught it with ease in his left hand almost flippantly without dropping a single piece of wood. He carried it and the wood to his own station. Setting it down, he dropped the wood in the bin beside his station before beginning to sharpen it. It could have been him just following the force and swinging around, but Eira was pretty sure that wasn’t the case.
She wasn’t totally surprised that Bregðask was stronger than he looked, but it was surprising that he was that strong.
So why don’t you use that strength? Eira wondered. And where does it go?
She thought back to moments on the pitch when it felt as though Bregðask had needed such little training when they matched blow for blow and she was forced to push a little harder against his strength. She thought it was adrenaline then, but apparently, that wasn’t the case. It seemed that the mystery that was Bregðask Harvard kept growing more complex the more she found out about him.
Not that it’s a bad thing…
Gardar chattered on near mindlessly as if to draw their attention, yet Eira had mastered the art of watching Bregðask without being noticed. Bregðask’s eyes were focused, near impenetrable in the shadows of his face making his ice-gray eyes seem almost slate as he worked on Sigfrøðr’s ax. When he was finished, the blade gleamed bright and sharp in the forge’s light. Bregðask offered it to him, and Sigfrøðr inspected it.
“Well, I guess everyone has to have something they’re decent at.”
“Yes, and some people’s talents are actually useful,” Bregðask quipped and turned to Eira as she laughed.
“You say something, dweeb?”
“Just the truth,” he smirked, “What can I do for you Eira?
A lot, she thought and cleared her throat, “Well, it depends, do you know anything about gloves and can anything be done with this?”
She pulled the ax out of her holster and placed it on the table.
He quirked an eyebrow at it, “You’ve been busy.”
She shrugged, “Let’s say I like to keep my skills sharp.”
He picked it up to inspect it and ran his finger along the blade, “It’s not a lost cause, but it might take a while. What’s this about a glove?”
She offered her hand, “My uncle gave it to me, said that maybe a blacksmith could help.”
He set the ax aside and hummed as he eyed it, “A magical blacksmith, sure. Let me see.”
She held her breath as he untied the glove and unwrapped the leather straps until the length of leather lay flat on the table. His hands were warmer than she expected, almost burning against her cool hands.
He hummed, “This is a rather nice glove. It’s fixable.”
“Really?” she asked.
“Bregðask,” Svein said, “I believe Gardar would be a better fit for such a thing.”
Gardar snorted, “Not even if I was drunk would I go fiddling with something like that. Bregðask’s been studying it, let him do it.”
Bregðask didn’t seem to be interested in the conversation. He pulled out a sheet of paper from somewhere on his toolbelt and a stick of charcoal and leaned over the table to start drawing the runes with clear crisp strokes with his left hand. She watched his long fingers guide the charcoal and his concentrated expression and prayed that he wouldn’t notice how enraptured she was just watching him work.
“That should be good,” he said and pulled a piece of leather out and laid it flat on the table to cut it into the same shape as the other with quick slashes of a blade he’d pulled from his toolbelt, “You’ll need one for your other hand, right?”
“Yes,” she said almost breathless as he cut a few lengths of leather cord that mirrored the glove her uncle had given her.
He placed the piece of paper on top of the new piece of leather and at the tips of his fingers conjured bright lights. She gasped and bit her lip watching him trace over the runes. He lifted the page and revealed the pattern etched into the leather.
He offered it to her, “Give it a test?”
She offered her other hand and gasped as the cords twined around her wrist and up her forearm.
“I changed it a little, so you’ll only have as much support as you need,” he said, “It should adjust as you use it.”
“Wow,” she said, “Thank you.”
He nodded and did the same thing to the original glove. She set her other hand on top of the leather and watched it wrap around her arm.
He smiled at her as she flexed her hand, testing the tension of the chords, “Thanks, Bregðask.”
“Sure thing,” he said, “Now, let’s see what can be done with this disaster.”
She laughed at that and relaxed as he carried the ax towards his workbench. Adding his long fingers to her mental list, she wasn’t sure why she couldn’t stop smiling watching him in his element. Bregðask was short and kind of scrawny, but he exuded confidence and power, she’d say, that most didn’t. Whether it was fake or not, Bregðask seemed to always be aware of his shortcomings and strength while always striving to do better.
“How long have you been training?” Eira asked, “You never shoot like that in class.”
“What can I say? I have stage fright.”
Eira snorted, “As if I would believe that.”
“As you wish,” he shrugged as he began to dismantle the ax.
If it took him several hours or just a few minutes to restore the ax, she wouldn’t care if she could watch him. Gardar totaled Sigfrøðr and Svein out as Bregðask worked on her ax. When he was finished, it gleamed like new and he went over the charges with her.
It hardly mattered what it was to her, she had plenty of money since she never bought anything but the occasional sweet from the market.
“Thank you, Bregðask,” she said, handing over the money.
He smiled, “Let me know if you have any problems with your gloves.”
She nodded and followed Svein and Sigfrøðr out of the forge. If she enjoyed, more than usual, thrashing Sigfrøðr on the training pitch, neither of them noticed nor asked her why. She returned home full of butterflies.
“Well, are you going to tell me what happened? Or melt against the door?” Dag asked with a laugh.
She unbelted the ax and handed it to him. Dag let out a low whistle, “Well, you’ll never have to worry about not being prepared for battle.”
Dag grinned, “Well, knowing that you’re horrible at hunting, and your aunt is gone, do tell me all about it.”