Gardar left him alone on deck and went to go talk to someone else on the boat. Alone with his thoughts, Bregðask had a chance to consider the positive side of this trip to Bjørn.
Perhaps in saying goodbye to Eira he would find a way to say goodbye to the nervousness. Maybe the next time he saw her he would have grown taller and broader, and his stupid voice would actually drop low enough to be worthy of the part of Romeo. He chuckled at the memory of the ruined play, but his mood quickly plummeted.
Who knew what would happen in the time apart? Even if he managed to grow and scrounge together some courage, there was no guarantee that Eira was interested or even available when and if he returned. Sigfrøðr was an idiot, but there were other young men in their age group, all of whom didn’t look like a twelve-year-old with a squeaky voice.
Also, how long would he be in Bjørn?
Bjørn was home to the Gunnulf Tribe. It was also Gardar’s home island and was known for being staunchly against magic of all types, but having met the current hilmir of Bjørn, Ivan Estur, he wasn’t entirely convinced of that as the entire truth. He had no doubt that Bjørn had preserved its martial standards as home to some of the most famous warriors throughout the archipelago, but there was something in Ivan that made Bregðask think that the man was very little like his predecessors.
While most of the archipelago shared a general distrust of the mysterious Ketill tribe of Asketill, Hilmir Estur had never seemed to voice his opinion clearly. He’d heard from the gossip between hilmir that Ivan’s father had been staunchly against magic use and had refused to do business with Freyr for that very reason. There was a rumor that the former hilmir had nearly pulled Bjørn from the Rekkr Vinfengi and allied with Mjöllnir.
How much was true and how much was rumor, Bregðask was sure he’d find out depending on how long he would be on Bjørn. If he was to be there for a substantial period, he’d be put through the martial training common to young men when they finished school starting that year since he was sixteen.
He walked to the brig and sat down beside Gardar who busied himself by polishing his metal hook.
“So, uncle Gardar, have you any idea why it feels like I’m being banished from Calder?”
“Your father is taking measurements for your safety.”
“Is that what he said or what sounds nice?”
When Gardar hesitated to answer, Bregðask stood up and left.
He didn’t need the answer and he didn’t wait. He walked to the entrance of the bowels of the ship where all of his things and the provisions were.
“Your bunk is actually with your father.”
“I’ll sleep on the deck before I share a room with him.”
He sank down with his traveling bag beside a trunk that had once been in his room and lifted the lid. He pulled out a new sketchbook and the flute he’d carved one sunny afternoon while waiting for his leg to heal after a particularly nasty run-in with Sigfrøðr. He still wasn’t sure why Sigfrøðr had decided to target him that day, but given that Bregðask had been so used to it, he saw no reason to be scared.
Fear what you can’t control, what you don’t know and then seek to learn it, Hilda had told him once, What is certain should not be feared.
With a stick of charcoal in hand, he began drawing just shapes and shadows at first, but it slowly grew into a landscape of Calder, and before he’d realized it, he’d drawn most of the scenes of Calder from the school to the Harvard house and moved on to people.
Gardar entered the chamber a few hours later.
“Hi Gardar,” he said.
“Care for something to eat?”
“I would say no to be stubborn, but it would be a lie.”
Gardar hobbled down the steps with the meal in his hand. The meal was meager, but Bregðask found that he had more than enough of an appetite for it.
“Is this the part where you tell me to be the bigger Viking?”
“I don’t believe that’s possible, lad. Your father’s almost twice your size.”
He snorted, “Thanks, Gardar.”
“I will say not to be so hard on yourself.”
Bregðask scoffed, “I’ll try.”
When the meal was over, Bregðask walked back up onto the deck with the flute he’d carved to stare out into the direction of Calder He lifted his flute and began to play. At first, it was just a song from Calder, but the notes wouldn’t stick and the song that haunted his dreams along with the face of his mother came from the flute. He could barely make out the words and the tone of the voice, but it was enough. It sounded a lot like the song on the ocean wind from the vision he’d had of his mother.
“The Storm King watches you; it’s a moonlit night. The sound of wings fills the sky…”
He frowned and looked out to the churning waters from where eyes stared up at him. He froze.
His heart pounded as it noticed him looking. It sunk back down into the depths of the water, and Bregðask worried his lip. He lowered the flute and began to hum the tune. Slowly, the words came to him like a whisper.
“To arms he calls, all those who fly, and on the wind, over the seas…”
The eyes grew closer until its eyes rose above the water, and Bregðask felt something in him telling him to reach out. The amber eyes glowed as it grew closer to Bregðask’s outstretched hand.
“Such peace does the wind bring…”
He gasped as his hand connected with the muzzle of the creature that rumbled with something like a purr before pulling back and disappearing beneath the water’s surface. It had been warm despite the cold water and smooth like leather. He drew back, shocked before he turned and hurried back to the storage below deck. He grabbed his sketchbook and began to draw the creature. It had to be a dragon, what else would it have been? He’d never seen a dragon before, yet it seemed to know him.
Is that because I’m half-Ketill? Or–
He frowned, abandoning his sketchbook to search through his books. There was something in an old book that he’d gotten years ago about the people of Ketill.
He found the little book and opened it, scanning the pages until he found it.
Among the tribe of Ketill are those bound to the line of Jörmungandr, the Jörmungandrbregðaskyldr or bregðaskyldr meaning “those who have been changed and bound to Jörmungandr.” They have served as the line of hilmir of the Ketill since people first walked upon Asketill.
He frowned looking through the book to find something more than that until he stumbled upon a symbol neatly drawn a few pages later.
The mark of the bregðaskyldr.
With trembling hands, he reached for his boot and pulled it off, then his sock and folded his legs to look at the bottom of his left foot. His birthmark had always been a strange shape. He’d always thought it looked like a dragon, but compared to the image in the book, he couldn’t find any difference between the two.
I’m a bregðaskyldr, he scoffed a laugh, She’s a bregðaskyldr.
That would explain the secrecy, the hesitance, and the worry, it would also explain why the religious fanatics of Calder seemed to at once scorn and fear him.
Loki’s brood indeed…
He made a note to read the newer book as soon as he got a chance. He closed the book as heavy and familiar footsteps came down the stairs. Bregðask set the book aside and took his other boot and sock off as if he’d been in the middle of doing so. From his pocket, he produced a roll of thread to repair the holes in his socks as the door opened and his father stood in the doorway.
Svein walked in, “Your quarters are upstairs.”
“I’d prefer it here,” he said, “All my stuff is here anyway.”
Svein closed the door behind him and narrowed his eyes at him.
“What are you doing.”
“Plotting my escape route,” he glared up at the man, “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Watch your tone, Bregðask.”
“Or… what?” Bregðask asked, “You’ll throw me overboard? Exile me? Oh, wait! Too late for that, right?”
Svein rounded his side and picked up the book beside Bregðask and Bregðask refused to react, continuing to string a needle.
It was a nondescript book on the outside and he kept his breath even as Svein flipped through it.
“Where did you get this?”
“It was a birthday gift,” he said, “From ages ago.”
His eyes narrowed and he opened it, flicking through the pages, “How many sketchbooks do you need?”
“Enough,” he said, “You have a sudden interest in what I do?”
Svein huffed, dropping the book, “Suit yourself. Don’t freeze to death.”
He can’t read it? Bregðask pulled the needle through his sock.
“I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction,” he said.
Svein slammed the door shut behind him, and Bregðask chuckled.
Another win for me, he grinned and let out a sigh picking up the book.
If all of the books his mother had sent him were for a Ketill’s eyes only, then it made sense that he’d never tried to confiscate them.
Sneaky, he thought with a smile, I can’t wait to meet you.
The next night, under the sunlight, Bregðask chose a different place on the deck and rather than the flute, he sang into the night’s cold. The song felt stronger than it had the night before and easier to sing in the light.
“With the dawn’s brilliant light, you will find your path through the night..”
Bregðask shut his mouth as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and he felt someone coming up from behind him. He turned around as Svein thundered up the steps and grabbed him by the shoulder to spin him around.
“Where did you hear that song?”
His eyes narrowed at him, “A dream?”
“Don’t sound so surprised. I know you don’t think much of me, but I do dream.”
Svein huffed and Bregðask hoped the words stung. Bregðask turned his head hearing something in the water. Svein pulled him away from the edge of the boat as he caught a glimpse of the eyes in the water.
“What are you doing?”
“I don’t want you out here at night. After dinner, you should be in our cabin. It seems that I’ve been too lenient until now.”
He tossed Bregðask into their shared cabin.
“Men have gone mad at the sound of the ocean and the demons that fill it.”
“Oh Thor, really?” Bregðask asked, “Do you even listen to what you say to me?”
Svein simply closed the door behind him hard enough to rattle the frame. He heard him march to the edge of the boat and hiss into the night.
“He isn’t one of you.”
Bregðask’s eyes widened, and he set his jaw, You knew… all this time?
He scoffed, Of course, he knew.
But the real question was what else Svein knew and had kept from him all these years. He needed to know, but how he would get that information out of Svein was the challenge. Svein was cunning, but Bregðask had the advantage in his temperament.
Let the games begin.