He hadn’t realized that so much time had passed since he’d come to Gardar’s if Eira was out of school. He turned to look at Eira standing there in what Bregðask could only describe as his favorite look on her. It was her melee training uniform inspired by traditional Viking attire. He knew it had been modeled after her late mother’s uniform as had her actual competition uniform, and he’d always thought she looked best that way like a Valkyrie crossing a battlefield.
He could probably watch her destroy people on a battlefield at Kata’s side all day with Dvalarr, but it would have been incredibly creepy to do so since Dvalarr was Kata’s boyfriend and he wasn’t entirely sure that Eira knew that he existed outside of saving him from Sigfrøðr and their odd collection of inside jokes.
“Can I get this sharpened?” she asked. She threw it into the testing block of wood Gardar kept for Ørlǫg Raun candidates, and it barely sunk in. Normally, that ax would have cut through the chunk like butter, so it was obviously far past due for a sharpening.
“Uh,” Gardar began, “My manly apprentice here will service all of your needs. I have to go get some– I’m just gonna go outside.”
Bregðask couldn’t believe how awkward Gardar could be at the best of times but shook his head.
Thankful to have the heat to blame for his flush, “My Uncle Gardar, ladies and gentlemen.”
Eira pulled her ax out of the block of wood and handed it to him. It was heavy, made of an old ore, and had probably seen a number of battles. He’d been sharpening her ax every time she came in and he was on shift since two years ago but had barely managed more than a few sentences to her before she’d offered to train him.
He’d gotten up to full conversations now, but he hadn’t felt anything about the distance between them changing.
“Okay, razor-sharp battle ax coming right up,” he said carrying it towards the sharpening rotary.
“Careful,” she said as he swayed under its weight, “It was my mother’s.”
He knew exactly how much the ax meant to her as he eased it into the holder he’d fashioned for himself after the first time he’d nearly chopped his own foot off from nerves. His strength came and went at the worst and best of time, so he never bothered to dismantle the holder.
“So,” Bregðask began, “I saw you and Kata training the other day. It looks like you two have really improved.”
“Yeah,” Eira said, “We’re planning on going to the Ørlǫg Raun.”
Bregðask bobbed his head as he pumped the wheel with his foot until it spun fast enough. The block scraped against the metal and sparks flew around him.
“I don’t think you’ll have any problems getting there,” he said, “Just lucky that Sigfrøðr isn’t a melee fighter.”
“You think neither of us could take Sigfrøðr?”
He snorted, “I’m pretty sure that killing is illegal actually… even if he is a jerk.”
Eira choked on a breath and laughed behind him, her voice soft and warm in the air.
“They say that the Ørlǫg Raun aren’t worth it if you don’t get a scar out of it.”
“Yeah no kidding, right?” he said shaking his head. “Pain… love it.”
She laughed, and he could hear her wandering around the shop floor as he sharpened her ax.
“I’ll need a new ax for the actual games,” she said loftily.
“It’s tradition in the Bloodhawk and Osulf family, isn’t it, to pass down the weapon to the next generation and get a new one when you enter the Ørlǫg Raun?”
He heard her turn towards him and wished he could shoot himself in the mouth with a poisoned and rusty arrow for good measure.
Great job, Bregðask.
“How… do you know that?” Eira asked. Her tone wasn’t suspicious, but it was definitely north of curious, “No one outside of my family knows that.”
“Oh, uhm, you know the hilmir’s records are filled with Calder history. There’s a log of representatives of Berk in the Ørlǫg Raun detailing their weaponry. I was tasked with preserving the logs. Over the years, the Bloodhawks and Osulfs all registered different weapon names from the Calder trials to the Ørlǫg Raun. The years that followed, the kids of the last competitors all had the same weapons and then changed weapons for the Ørlǫg Raun. It seemed to be a solid conclusion.”
“Hm,” Eira hummed, “I… don’t think many people would have come to that conclusion or noticed that pattern.”
Bregðask shrugged, “You try sitting in a dusty old room with mountains of old books made of sheep’s skin and figure out what kind of conclusions you come up with.”
Eira laughed, and he looked up briefly. Her back was turned to him as she looked up at the wall.
“Did you make any of these?”
“Oh, no,” Bregðask said, “My contraptions don’t belong on these walls.”
“I wouldn’t call Kata’s ax a contraption. She seems to love it.”
“I’m glad,” he said and flipped the blade over to check the other side. “It seemed to–”
He looked up and saw her turn the corner to peer into the open door of his little tinkering space and froze. He was trapped in place holding her ax against the sharpening wheel and wanting to steer her away.
“What is all of this?” she asked leaning into the room.
“Oh, my workshop of sorts, nothing of real interest in there.”
She didn’t seem hindered by his statement and wandered in. Quickly, he lifted the ax out of the holder and set it as gently as possible on the table before rushing towards the door. He found her looking up at the wall and inched around the room to stand, not so suspiciously in front of the brightly painted weapons box in which he was holding her still-in-progress ax. There wasn’t much left to finish it, but the spells he wanted to put on her ax were a lot more complex than the ones he’d placed on Kata’s for a myriad of reasons.
“Did you draw all of this?” Eira asked looking up at the wall of drawings. Some of them were designs, some were landscapes and other pictures.
He thanked Thor that none of them were of Eira or Kata or any other girl their age. That would have sent a million different wrong signals.
“I-I did,” he said.
“You can paint too?” Eira asked.
“Er… yeah,” Bregðask said. “I’m at least decent.”
Eira snorted looking up at the twilight painting of Calder he did a few weeks prior.
“You’re a lot better than decent,” Eira said and turned to look at him, “A lot better… makes me almost want to peek.”
“Peek?” Bregðask asked. “Peek at what?”
“Your rather large sketchbook. The blue one.”
Bregðask’s eyes widened, and his heart skipped a beat. That just wouldn’t do. Why did Eira know about that sketchbook? He’d been looking for it all night.
“You… have my sketchbook?”
“I do,” she said looking up at the wall. “I was going to return it to you when I saw you next, but Dvalarr said you were staying home indefinitely.”
She tucked her hair behind her ear in a gesture that kept his attention for longer than was probably appropriate. Bregðask would have kicked himself for thinking it, but he was a sixteen-year-old boy who had never so much as held hands with a girl before. Per Gardar and Hilda, it was about time that his more mature instincts started to kick in. He couldn’t remain unaware of his sexuality, even if he ended up looking like he was twelve for the rest of his life.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
“I thought maybe Sigfrøðr had done more damage than I thought on top of the fever”
Bregðask shook his head, “I didn’t even bruise. The hilmir is keeping me from school indefinitely for reasons unknown.”
“I could bring it tomorrow,” she said, “When I have more time to go home and get it.”
Bregðask swallowed, “No, it’s fine. I’m already indebted to you for getting the lout off my back. Don’t let my sketchbook be an inconvenience. You could give it to Dvalarr.”
“No,” Eira said, “It’s fine, really. I don’t mind. Maybe next week during our training session if I don’t see you before?”
Bregðask worried his lip, and he looked away trying not to read too much into it, “Sounds good.”
She was Eira Osulf after all. What would she want with him? No matter how logical it seemed.
“Er… you have practice soon, right?” Bregðask asked.
Eira’s eyes widened, and he swore there was a bit of disappointment there before she nodded, “Uhm, yeah… Kata and I usually practice together, but we set it for later since my ax is in such bad shape.”
“Well, let me not keep you from conquering all of Calder, milady,” he said and gestured for her to precede him out the door.
She laughed and walked forward. He ushered her into a seat while he finished the final touches on her ax and polished it.
“Bregðask,” she said as he handed her the ax.
She took the ax with one hand and smiled, “Thank you.”
An awkward moment passed in which Bregðask did his best to not stare at her. Not only would it have been creepy, but it would have been downright disrespectful. Eira deserved better from him. She deserved better from everyone.
“Uhm, I wanted to ask,” Eira said, “After seeing Kata’s ax, why didn’t you say you’d gotten that advanced in magical blacksmithing?”
Bregðask scratched his head, “Er, it sort of slipped my mind. I’ve… been sort of encouraged not to talk about my magical studies for various reasons that haven’t been fully explained to me.”
“Oh,” something like hurt flickered in her expression, “Will you end up having to give it up?”
“If my father had his way, I would have never started,” he said, “But let’s say I don’t mind getting in trouble.”
“I bet,” she grinned, “So I should come see you when it’s time for that new ax, huh?”
“Er, I’m your guy,” Bregðask’s face heated up as she quirked an eyebrow at him, “I guess. I-I mean–”
“My guy, huh?” Eira smiled, “Good to know, catch you later, Bregðask.”
“Right… uhm, bye.”
Eira smiled and turned and Bregðask, in spite of himself, swallowed and called out to her. “Eira?”
She stopped and turned her eyes a bright blue in the light of the forge.
“I… uhm,” he stammered.
Come on, Bregðask, say something.
“I uh… like your new training band. It really compliments the War Goddess look.”
Her eyes brightened a bit, and she smiled, “Thank you. I’ll see you later?”
“Yeah, barring some catastrophe. W-Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
She waved goodbye and walked out and as soon as she was gone, Bregðask collapsed into a puddle of goo beside the chair she’d occupied.
“I like your new training band?” Bregðask groaned and hit himself on the forehead before pulling at his hair.
Of all the things to say? Why are you so stupid and awkward?