When Bregðask woke up, he was at home in his own bed. There was a residual pain in his chest, but nothing else that he would have expected from an encounter with Sigfrøðr. He was also mostly naked in bed and hotter than usual.
Odd, he thought, but it wasn’t unwelcome. He checked his bedside clock and sighed. He’d slept through the entire school day. The stack of paper on his desk was probably from Dvalarr or maybe someone else in his classes. He didn’t really have any friends aside from Dvalarr and Kata, and Dvalarr had a totally different set of classes.
Bregðask stood from bed carefully and found his legs too weak to carry him. He crashed to the floor as if they were jelly and turned just enough to glare at his skinny legs. Bregðask walked almost five miles between Gardar’s forge, school and everywhere else on the island almost every day, he shouldn’t be so skinny.
“Are you kidding?” he asked, “This is the thanks I get for using you so much?”
His legs said nothing in reply, and he snorted at his own silliness. Gritting his teeth as his stomach rumbled, and he curled up against the pain.
This is all Sigfrøðr and his complexes’ fault.
Sigfrøðr had been the bane of his existence for years and not just because he beat him up regularly.
Most people believed that they were natural enemies because of the political situation of Calder, but no one actually believed that Bregðask would ever be named erfingi, not even Sigfrøðr, so Bregðask couldn’t understand why the other felt the need to torment him. He knew his uncle, Sigfúss, was probably really hard on his two sons, but that wasn’t Bregðask’s fault.
Everything is your fault. Haven’t you learned that by now? Bregðask chuckled at the thought, but it was hard to say that it wasn’t true.
Hilda had told him the story about what him being born had done to the Renouf’s plans. Sigfúss had two sons before Bregðask was born, so it was practically already decided that his sons would be the only options of succession. Sigfúss had hidden his frustration, but it was no secret that he hadn’t stopped scheming to take the position for the Renouf clan.
However, Bregðask’s issues with his cousin had nothing to do with his birthright. Bregðask had long since stopped caring about it. After years of hearing the horrible things they said about him and the mysterious woman they knew to be his mother, he hoped all of Calder enjoyed Sigfrøðr’s reign and lived just long enough to regret it.
Well, most of Calder.
For the rest of Calder, he hoped they were prepared to leave the island for better places. No, his biggest issue with Sigfrøðr was his interactions with Kata, Eira, Elli, and other young women of the tribe.
Kata had been dating Dvalarr for three years now, yet Sigfrøðr was anything but respectful towards her or Dvalarr. It ground his nerves, but he had the feeling that Dvalarr had already straightened him out in some fashion because Sigfrøðr had never said much of anything to Kata whenever Dvalarr was around. Instead, he always directed his bullying to Dvalarr who let him talk. When Dvalarr wasn’t around, there were the usual lewd suggestions, but Kata was quick to put him in his place right around the time Bregðask had gotten himself punched in the face for stepping in.
Sigfrøðr and the twins had a strange relationship. He knew from admission by Elli that they slept together often enough and fooled around when the mood was right, but he never understood why Elis was so friendly with Snotlout and keen to let Sigfrøðr’s disrespectful remarks about his sister slide. He’d thought maybe both twins were sleeping with him but had never confirmed it. Even though the twins joined in tormenting Bregðask, he’d still taken a fist to the face every time Sigfrøðr had been disrespectful towards Elli. The young woman seemed to appreciate it if the small smiles out of Sigfrøðr’s sight were anything to go by, but that didn’t stop her from playing her part in bullying him.
Could I blame her? He couldn’t really. The Renouf clan held a lot of power over the Thorketill clan economically. They weren’t thralls exactly, but it was close enough that the twins were in a dangerous position with Sigfrøðr.
There was, of course, Sigfrøðr harassing other young women of Calder. Bregðask’s stance against it had earned him more than one black eye or broken bone over the years, but he’d never regretted it. Sigfrøðr could be a creep at the best of times and something far more dangerous at the worst of times. Most adults of the lower town tended to turn their heads when he was involved, but Bregðask never had.
He still remembered when Sigfrøðr had been harassing Aslog. She was one of the only young women who had thanked him for stepping in at the time. Sigfrøðr had used his position to make it harder on the Thorgill’s and was part of the reason that Aslog’s father had shipped out despite the danger, yet the man had been more than grateful that at least someone wasn’t cowering at the Renouf’s position.
Then, there was Eira who seemed to inspire all the worst in Sigfrøðr. Eira had made it clear to Sigfrøðr on several occasions that she didn’t like him, appreciate his empty flattery, come-ons, or insults either. She was a young woman, and she deserved respect for who she was. Sigfrøðr frequently attempted to force Eira into a box of propriety that didn’t suit Eira at all and received a punch in the face for it every time.
Eira was a Valkyrie, not a housewife, and regardless of station, everyone on Calder deserved to be treated with respect. Such ideas got him punched more often than not, but he stood for them anyway because it was what was right. He was the only þjóðann, and therefore, the erfingi by right. If he didn’t do what was right, the island of Calder had more problems than figuring out what they should do to survive the next winter. Sometimes, it felt silly since he knew no one, save few, viewed him in such a light, but that didn’t stop him.
With a sigh, he forced himself to his feet and stumbled to the desk. The scent of Eira’s body oil drifted off the pages, and he flushed.
It had been Eira who dropped off his classwork. Someone knocked on the door, but he couldn’t tell who it was based on the knock.
It opened and a woman about his father’s age leaned in with short-cropped brown hair. She was a thrall, but he didn’t recognize her. The Harvard house had never had a thrall to his knowledge.
“Thank you,” Bregðask said with a sigh, “Is my father here?”
“The hilmir is having dinner with the Njalls tonight and will not be joining you.”
“And my Aunt?”
“She is having dinner with the Osulfs I believe.”
His father being gone wasn’t surprising, but he didn’t know that Hilda was on such good terms with the Osulfs. He stood slowly and made his way downstairs to the dining room. At the scent of meat, his stomach roared loudly. He sat down and began to eat as though he’d never eaten in his life. It was a strange sort of hunger that had him asking for seconds and thirds. After his third serving, a man appeared with short-cropped brown hair, another thrall it seemed, and lifted an eyebrow at him
“You have quite the appetite,” he smiled warmly, “Perhaps you’ll finally start growing.”
Bregðask swallowed, “I doubt that. Thanks for the vote of confidence though. I don’t think we’ve ever met before…”
“We were sent to look after you by the goðar and Svala,” the woman answered.
He paused and let his eyes slide to the food on his plate suspiciously. He didn’t remember the ritual clearly, but he was still suspicious of anything regarding the goðar. At the rumble of his stomach, he continued eating. With every serving, he felt more coherent and this burning in his chest and stomach began to fade. he was sure that his legs had regained their coordination too.
After eating, he returned to his room, Bregðask sat down to blaze through his rather trivial homework, Viking lore lined every wall of the Harvard clan house from the magical cow that had licked people out of the ice to Ragnarok. He could pass a Calder, or world, history test with his eyes closed and unconscious by now. His alarm went off, and he got ready to go to Gardar’s forge. Changing into flame retardant clothing, he grabbed his bag and left.
His lips twitched as he turned to see Hilda coming towards him as he walked down the path. She was accompanied by a man who seemed nervous to see him. Bregðask figured that the man had an interest in his aunt though she seemed unaware.
“You should be resting! What are you doing out here?”
“Hi, Aunt Hilda,” he said. “I’m fine.”
She gave him that same sad smile and shook her head, “You had a scorching fever and were unconscious for most of the day. You are not fine.”
“I’m fine. Gardar probably needs the extra hand, and I need time to think.”
She sighed, “At least take an escort?”
He hesitated but eventually agreed to her request. Between her and Gardar, there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for the asking. She turned to the man who had been walking her home and asked him just as he volunteered to escort him. Hilda kissed Bregðask’s cheek, said goodbye to the man, and went inside.
“She’s not your typical Calder woman,” Bregðask said with a smirk as they walked toward Gardar’s forge, “So if you aren’t prepared for that, I’d suggest you give up now.”
The man frowned in confusion and then chuckled, “It is good that you are protective of her, but I am not pursuing your aunt.”
Bregðask hummed, “And so you were nervous because…”?
He smirked, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Bregðask shrugged, “Touche.”
“What are your plans when you are done with schooling?”
“Why?” Bregðask asked.
“Is it not normal for a citizen to be concerned about their future?”
“I think we both know that my father has no intention of naming me erfingi,” he said, “So why?”
“You don’t think your father will name you erfingi?” The man seemed shocked, “You’re his only son.”
Bregðask shrugged, “He certainly doesn’t give off that impression.”
“Perhaps it is for your protection.”
“Perhaps it is for his protection,” Bregðask said, “But it doesn’t matter. I want to study magical engineering.”
The man hummed, “Do you plan on studying on Freyr?”
“At least at first, I think,” he said.
“Then, I can assume you’ll be taking the introduction to magic course in your final year.”
“Barring any incidents, yes.”
The man seemed thoughtful but smiled, “And what is it that you plan on doing with such knowledge?”
“Well, Calder could use some updated infrastructure and if the council drags its feet on the proposal as long as I think they will, it would be faster to do it without the need for their sign off.”
“That is quite ambitious,” he said, “A young man like yourself should be courting not concerning himself with the issues of infrastructure, but I suppose, you are preparing to become the erfingi.”
“It certainly helps that I’m less than a fathom tall, look and sound like I’m twelve, and am a general weirdo.”
He snorted, “You’ll grow taller, and your voice will drop. It’s only a matter of time.,. Barring all that, your father hasn’t spoken about betrothing you?”
“Who would want me?”Bregðask snorted, “And if he has, he certainly hasn’t told me about it.”
They neared Gardar’s forge and he could hear the man hobbling around inside looking for a hammer.
“Thank you for escorting me, I know how my aunt worries.”
“It was no chore, Þjóðann Bregðask,” he said, “Until we meet again.”
“Do I get to know who you are?”
“A jarl of the Osulf clan,” he said with a smirk, “I think that should suffice.”
“Jarl Osulf,” Bregðask repeated, “A pleasure.”
He waved the man goodbye and wasn’t what about the conversation made him curious, but he definitely was. He walked into the forge and the sound of the hammer hitting blades grew louder and greeted him like home.
“Bregðask!” Gardar greeted, “I heard you had a rough day. Didn’t expect you in.”
“Yeah? Well, staying at home wasn’t helping to brighten my mood.”
He set his bag down in the little workshop and put on his work apron and gloves. He joined Gardar on the floor and started sharpening one of the many swords that had been left to be sharpened.
It wasn’t therapy, but it was a distraction, and that was all that mattered.