Eira noticed that Bregðask hadn’t come to school the next in-session day within a few hours. Their lockers weren’t close, but his locker was in the hallway that led to her first and third period, and she often took the slightly longer path past his locker just for the little thrill of getting that shy little wave from him twice a day. Never mind that she could never manage much more than a smile in those moments. She hoped it was confident and radiant and a few other things that her uncle would never let her live down if he heard her thoughts. He was still teasing her about her melting against the door when she’d gotten back from the forge.
No chance I’m getting that glove back is there? He’d asked and she stuck her tongue out at him, cheeks hot.
None the less, Eira noticed when Bregðask was missing, so at lunch, she tapped Dvalarr on the shoulder to get some information.
“Hey Eira, what’s up?”
“Have you seen, Bregðask?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” Dvalarr said, “The hilmir asked me to get his notes for him for the rest of the week… I guess that Sigfrøðr did more damage than usual.”
She frowned. He’d been running a fever, not cradling broken bones, but even if something was broken, that had never stopped Bregðask from coming back the next day before. Even when they were younger and Sigfrøðr had broken his leg, Bregðask had come to school the next day defiant and as witty and sarcastic as ever. He’d left school with a black eye to match his leg, but that never stopped him. Bregðask never bowed down even when it was probably a good idea. It was part of the reason she liked him so much.
Kata arrived brandishing her new ax again a few moments later.
Eira frowned, “Are we good today?”
“Right now, yes!”Kata said brightly and removed it from its carrying strap. She whirled it in one hand, and it seemed like a normal battle ax until half of it flipped out and locked into a shaft with an ax blade on each end. Blue runes glowed along the shaft, and Eira’s eyes widened in awe.
Dvalarr gasped, “Wow! You figured out how to work it, huh?”
“Mostly,” Kata shrugged, “I’ve never wielded a magical ax before, and his note didn’t tell me exactly what it does, but I must say it’s nice. Very well-balanced.”
She flipped it back into its single blade form with a click, “We’re going to kick major butt in the next match. We’re a sure-win for the Ørlǫg Raun.”
“The first woman to represent Calder in the melee since Helka Bloodhawk,” Eira she said with a smile, “And the first Harulf-Calder team to take the games ever.”
It had been her dream to follow in her mother’s footsteps and carve her path to the Ørlǫg Raun to stand where she stood at Eira’s age. The ax her mother had given her was the one she used in the Nordic Game melee match. It had long since lost its magic, but it was enough to fight through the challenges of Calder. If perhaps she felt a twinge of jealousy seeing Kata’s ax, she hoped it didn’t show.
“I wanted to tell him that it’s been great so far. Have you seen him, Dvalarr?”
“No, I was asked to get his notes, though,” Dvalarr said.
Kata frowned, and her storm grey eyes looked over at Eira who did her best not to stare at her. She grinned and made it a point to tell Eira on the way out that she’d seen another box in Bregðask’s little workshop striped with Eira’s favorite colors.
“Who knows what he’s crafting for you?”
Eira would have hit her, but it would have done no good. Kata knew as well as Eira did that the thought of it had sent a little thrill of joy through her and easily replaced her usual twice daily fix of seeing Bregðask in the hallways.
She decided to wait a few more days before going to Gardar’s after classes to get an idea of what was going on. Dressed in her training gear and a new leather and stud kransen, she walked as calmly as possible through the city to Gardar’s workshop timing it just so that she would get there sometime in the middle of Bregðask’s shift.
“Detained from school indefinitely,” Bregðask deadpanned with a snort. “Never mind that I’ve been hurt way worse before and returned the next day every time. For goodness’ sake, I didn’t even bruise.”
Gardar hummed. He had a feeling that was exactly why Svein had seemed so panicked and forbade Bregðask from going to school. It wouldn’t take any time for someone to notice that the little fishbone hadn’t so much as pulled a muscle now that they were older and more attention fell on Bregðask. It would have sparked too many questions that Svein wasn’t ready to answer or confront. Bregðask began to grumble about missing school, though he thought circles around most of his professors, and Svein’s usual inability to actually speak to him aside from a few gruff commands.
“I’m sure your Dad is just concerned.”
Bregðask gave him a look that told Gardar that he’d stepped onto a land mine. It reminded him of Valka at the best of times. He sighed. He hadn’t let himself think of Valka in a very long time, and now, he wondered where she was, what she was doing, and when she was going to pick up her son so everyone could get a bit of peace who needed it.
“Concerned?” Bregðask repeated, “Concerned is not the word I would use for that man. Ambitious, sure. Aloof, obviously. Stubborn, arrogant– of course! But concerned is not on the list.”
“No,” he hissed, “This is beyond wrong. Beyond reason, not that my entire life doesn’t seem to be defying reason! Big, mutton-sized Svein plus mysterious mother figure makes a tiny bregða!”
Gardar winced at the words as Bregðask hung his head and forced himself to breathe. There was a low rumbling sound coming from him that shocked Gardar and made his blood go cold. Yes, it seemed that Svein was panicked and stressed for reasons that Bregðask hopefully never found out. Even Gardar wasn’t entirely sure what happened the night that Valka went missing, but he bet that whatever happened that night between her and Svein was at the center of how Svein was behaving now.
He was also pretty sure that Bregðask would not be happy or understanding about it.
“He never listens. He won’t even look at me most days, and when he does it’s always with this disappointed or disgusted scowl like he walked through the forest and right into a pile of–” Gardar laughed and Bregðask threw up his hands, “Of course, you find this funny!”
Bregðask huffed and stuck out his chest and deepened his voice to his father’s pitch, “Excuse me, woman! Have you not seen me? Me! Svein the Mighty! My son should be an extra large boy with a rockhard head, blonde hair, green eyes, and a penchant for lifting cattle in his spare time. This is a sardine-sized welp swimming in sass.“
“Now, you’re thinking about this all wrong,” Gardar chuckled, “It’s not so much what you look like, just everything you can’t control that he can’t stand.”
Bregðask’s expression told Gardar exactly how uncomforting Gardar was being at the moment. Gardar was frozen to the spot and felt a little sheepish for not finishing the thought on a better note. Perhaps, sarcasm wasn’t the best response to Bregðask’s rant.
“Thank you for summing that up,” Bregðask said.
“You know what I mean, your father is stubborn. He doesn’t understand that there a million and three things that he can’t control no matter how much he wants to. It makes him uncomfortable.”
“He’s uncomfortable? Think about how I feel when he looks at me like logic, reason, and communication– respect, even– is a foreign concept,” Bregðask huffed.
“Look, I’m not saying that this is a goal you should strive for because ultimately living to please your father isn’t going to do you much good. He doesn’t even know what he wants, but if you want to head that way, you’re going to have to change all of…”
He gestured vaguely at Bregðask.
“You just gestured to all of me,” Bregðask deadpanned pouring molten metal into a mold, “Are you supposed to be helping me feel better or making me feel worse?”
“I’m supposed to be telling you the truth,” he said, “I thought that’s why you asked me.”
Bregðask hung his head. Gardar huffed and rested his hand on his hip as Bregðask carried the mold with a pair of tongs to the clinching barrel. The water hissed and steam filled the air, adding to the moisture on Bregðask’s face. He sighed into the steam.
“Don’t be like your father. Accept what you can’t change and change what you can. You’ll be a lot happier.”
“I’d like a new conversation, please.”
“Alright, fine, but I’ll say that you shouldn’t worry about Svein liking you. You should focus on liking yourself a bit more,” Gardar grabbed the mold Bregðask had poured molten metal into and opened it. “How’s it going with the ladies?”
“Much better, really, you’re a wonderful conversationalist.”
“Ah, come on!”Gardar said before his tone turned sly, “I’ve seen the way you look at Eira, the way you two are together. There’s chemistry there, and you have those weakly dates and things…”
“Training, Uncle Gardar. She’s… taken pity on me and decided to whip me into a proper Calder Viking– ax and all.”
“You must talk more than that.”
“We… do, but it’s hardly the things romance stories are made of.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Gardar chuckled, “What do you talk about?”
“Shakespeare,” he said, “Calder politics, how bad my stance is,… my father– random stuff.”
Gardar gave him a pensive look, “Would you consider yourselves friends?”
“Somewhere in between that and acquaintances,” he said, “I still don’t understand what goes through her mind.”
“She’s another person,” Gardar snorted, “You won’t know until you ask, but I think you aren’t giving yourself enough credit. Maybe she likes sarcastic, fishbones who are handy.”
“Please,” he rolled his eyes, “Eira could have any guy on the island. She wouldn’t come near me if she was on fire, and I owned the ocean. We’ll be friends at best.”
Gardar laughed at that, “I guess we’ll see, who’s right about that.”
“Hey,” a voice called that Bregðask knew all too well.