Where Your Evil Dare Not Tread

They walked the full market of the main time of and met quite a few people who Gardar knew. They seemed nice, but when they parted they whispered.

“He doesn’t seem like the typical þjóðann who ends up on Bjørn…”

“You never know just by looking at them.”

It was well known that hilmir sent their sons to Bjørn to undergo the physical training on the island when they were particularly difficult to manage. It had started as something like a favor and became common practice and a well-known threat for every son of a hilmir, not just the þjóðann. As it stood, Bregðask was Svein’s only son, so this wasn’t surprising for anyone on the island.

“What kind of person is the blacksmith?”

Gardar hummed, “Well, Becca’s a gruff man… We knew each other from a long time ago. He’ll probably underestimate you, but don’t worry about it. He trusts me more than he trusts his eyes most days.”

“Comforting,” Bregðask said as they walked on.

Gardar took him to the training grounds, and Bregðask could smell the sweat and blood that had soaked into the earth from the last session. It smelled like the training grounds back on Calder but more intense. It made sense given the Gunnulf tribe’s martial prowess, but Bregðask wasn’t looking forward to having his own sweat and blood join the thousands of men who had graced the training grounds before him.

“You’ll probably be spending a lot of time on this pitch, Bregðask.”

“I’m sure,” he said, “Can’t wait. Any other lovely sites to see before I have to smile politely for dinner?”

He sighed, “Well, we should probably pay a visit to the library.”

Bregðask grinned, “Now you’re talking.”

The walk to the library was a bit of a long one as it was a few miles from the main city. They walked up the hill to where the Bjørn side of the library sat and Gardar let out a low whistle.

“Do people actually walk across that?”

He chuckled, “I’m sure they do.”

He walked around the building to look out over the cliff’s edge and across to the island of Freyr. The long bridge swung lightly in the bridge as a pair of men made their way across it from Freyr.

“Tyr himself couldn’t convince me to cross that bridge,” Gardar said.

Bregðask chuckled, “It’s probably not made for a peg leg anyway.”

They walked into the library and Bregðask wandered the shelves until he found the back entrance that faced the cliff. The two men came in and shuddered.

“That never gets easier,” one of them said, and Bregðask smiled.

He could already feel his heart racing just thinking about crossing the bridge, but he knew that he would be crossing it often if he could at all help it. It seemed that the current hilmir of Bjørn wasn’t at all what his predecessor had been.

“Let’s head back before my heart gives out just looking at it.”

Bregðask chuckled but followed the man out of the library and down a different path to the house of the Estur clan. The men at the door nodded at them, and they entered the main room to find Svein and Ivan laughing and drinking.

“Come in,” Ivan said, “We’re about to sit for a meal. I take it you’ve had a bit of a tour by now.”

“Gardar’s been a great tour guide,” Bregðask said, “Thank you for letting him show me around, Hilmir Estur.”

“Think nothing of it. It will be a long road ahead. It is the least to be done. Now, let’s eat.”

Bregðask kept his silence and ate allowing Ivan and Svein to carry the conversation until they were released to the quarters they would be staying in for however long Gardar and Svein would remain on the island.

Bregðask knew it wouldn’t be long given that Svein was the hilmir and was needed back on Calder. It was also the most crucial time of the year when preparations for the winter were made, so Gardar would also be needed to help with repairs from the last winter.

He estimated two or three days for Bregðask to say his goodbyes and figure out a strategy to get some more information out of Svein before they left.

He only had a few objectives: how long he would have in Bjørn, what his limitations would be, why Svein was so desperate to keep Bregðask from finding his mother, and if Svein knew how to get to Asketill. The first two would be easy as Svein would outright tell him, but the last two would be tricky to ascertain.

He wasn’t sure if Svein was the kind of husband who would have made the journey to find his wife if he knew where she was or just expected her to come back.

The room he was shown in the house would be shared with Gardar and had none of his things.

“So,” Bregðask said, “I’m going to be treated like every other troublesome son of a hilmir, aren’t I? Living in a shack somewhere at the edge of the town.”

“Don’t take it personally,” Gardar advised, “Your father is stubborn.”

“How else am I meant to take this? Acting like I’m some sort of delinquent when I–” He cut himself off and shook his head, “It doesn’t matter.”

Gardar sighed, “Why don’t you get some rest. We’ll go hunting or something in the forest in the morning? You can teach me what Eira’s shown you.”

He laughed, “Other than how to get thrown around? Sure.”

 

Bregðask didn’t sleep that night. The scent of the house too unfamiliar and his nerves too wired. He sat up in the middle of the night when Gardar’s snoring was at its deepest and pulled on his boots. He left the room, walked down the hall, down the stairs, and out the back door. As was customary on the islands of the Archipelago, the house of the hilmir was on the second highest hill that overlooked the main town.

From the back yard of the house, he could see the sea and Freyr beyond. He would have started drafting a real letter to Eira, but it seemed that he wouldn’t have access to his things until at least a few days from the day they made landfall.

To pass the time, he pulled out his notebook and thanked the time of year for around-the-clock sunlight.

“You are up rather early,” a gruff voice said that he didn’t recognize.

Bregðask turned and looked at the man. He was tall and seemed no older than thirty years old. He looked as though he wasn’t fully awake yet, but there was something in his features that seemed familiar. His dark hair and dark eyes didn’t stand out much, but he was built like a warrior in clothing fit for the summer.

“I don’t sleep much.”

The man hummed and took a seat beside him, “I have heard that before. Hopefully, that will change when you start physical training.”

Bregðask’s lips twitched, “I doubt it, but if it does I might even be grateful for this ludicrous trip.”

“The hilmir of Calder wouldn’t bring you here if he didn’t have a reason, so what did you do? Too many pranks on the little old lady down the road? Messing with someone’s son? Daughter?”

He snorted, “Being only half Calder and being unable to conform.”

The man hummed, “Half Calder, you say? Well, fathers get upset for all sorts of reasons.”

“Oh?”

“Of course. I’m Kjeld, by the way,” he said offering him a hand.

“Bregðask,” he said and shook the man’s hand, “Are you a captain or something?”

“That too, but I’m also the hilmir’s younger brother.”

He hummed, “Huh, would have never guessed.”

He shrugged, “Let’s say our father had wandering eyes.”

He nodded at that, “Shame.”

“Fathers can be assholes, but that doesn’t have to ruin your life. How old are you?”

He smirked, “How old do I look?”

He laughed, “Eleven at best.”

“Sixteen.”

He hissed, “Yikes. How much trouble could you possibly be causing?”

“Enough to end up here.”

“Fair. I’m only twenty-five if it makes you feel any better.”

“Looking older than you are isn’t making me feel any better.”

He chuckled, “I like you kid; you’ve got spunk.”

“Hopefully, that serves me well. What do you know about the blacksmith?”

“Oh, he’s an asshole, but he’s good at what he does. A lot like your Gardar in that way.”

“Great.”

“My brother said you were some sort of apprentice back on Calder. Can’t promise he’ll take you on as an apprentice, but I’m sure that Gardar would be happy if he didn’t.”

Bregðask snorted, “I don’t think I’ll be going back to Calder anytime soon, so I don’t think it’ll matter.”

“Don’t jinx yourself.”

“I’m not. I have no interest in going back.”

“All roads lead home,” Kjeld sighed. “Trust me on that.”

“Hard to call Calder home. Some of the people maybe, but not Calder.”

Kjeld hummed, “Well, I look forward to seeing how atrocious you are on the training field.”

“I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it, everyone else does.”

He pat his back, “You’ll do fine here, Bregðask. How about breakfast? You might as well enjoy the hospitality before you’re banished to the bad son hut.”

Bregðask snorted, “Sounds wonderful.”

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