After breakfast, Kjeld showed him to the small armory and let him loose in the forest with a promise to let Gardar know where he’d gone.
“If you chop down a tree or two in anger, no one will blame you.”
Swinging the ax, left hand over right, he swung as hard as he could into a tree. He pulled it back and the weight of the ax made him stumble.
The more solid you are, the better your swing, Eira had told him. He bent his knees and swung again.
The ax landed with a solid thunk in the wood, and he pulled it out to swing again.
He had no idea how long he’d been swinging at the tree, but the repetitive nature of swinging made him feel a little better in its mindlessness.
He heard Gardar’s hobbling pace near him but he didn’t call out until the man was in the clearing.
“Good Morning, Uncle Gardar. Sleep well?”
“Better than you it seems. What’s got you so worked up?”
Bregðask huffed and let the ax head fall into the dirt as Gardar crossed the clearing to take a seat on a stump.
“I’ve been taken from Calder and brought to Bjørn like some delinquent,” Bregðask said and swung again.
“I’m an outcast.”
“My life in general fucking sucks.”
“And I’m pretty sure my father hates me,” he swung again and placed a foot on the tree to pull it out.
“I have to wait another four years to go looking for my mother who may or may not know where I am.”
He swung again, spinning with his entire body as he panted under the weight of the ax and something else weighing him down.
“Hold on lad,” Gardar said getting up and coming towards him, “Before you lose your grip on the ax. It’s a bit heavy for you, isn’t it?”
Bregðask laughed as Gardar fixed his grip, pulling his left hand higher up on the shaft. It felt a bit like when Gardar taught him to chop wood so many years ago.
“I think any ax made out of metal would be considered too heavy for me at some point.”
He chuckled at that, “Hardly. It seems like those sessions with Eira have been helping. I dare say you’ve gained some muscle.”
He squeezed his thin arm, and Bregðask laughed, “Thanks, Uncle Gardar.”
He grinned, “Maybe Eira likes that sort of thing. She never seemed interested in Sigfrøðr.”
“That’s because Sigfrøðr is an idiot.”
He turned back to the tree and Gardar huffed, “Don’t sell yourself short, Bregðask. You might not be a typical Viking, but I’ve watched you all grow up and Eira hasn’t ever hugged anyone else. That has to count for something. She never offered to tutor anyone else in ax swinging either.”
Bregðask swung again, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
He heard Svein making his way through the brush, and Gardar huffed as Bregðask swung again.
“Come on, Bregðask–” Bregðask swung again as Svein entered the clearing, “Oh, Svein–”
“Gardar, if you could leave. I’d like to have a word with Bregðask.”
He could hear Gardar hesitate, but the man sighed and walked back towards the Estur clan’s house.
Bregðask didn’t even acknowledge Svein, lifting the ax to swing again. The sound of splintering wood rang out, and he pulled the ax out to adjust his grip and swing again.
With every swing, his muscles burned a little more and the sound of the summer day drifted away.
He was angry, he realized as he buried the ax deeper into the tree as if it had personally done him some sort of wrong.
“Bregðask,” Svein began, “You will understand in time why I do the things that I do as hilmir and as your father.”
He swung again. Thunk!
“Take this time in Bjørn to think about that and who you want to be in the future, where your loyalties lie and who you are.”
He pulled the ax free and his hands tightened on the shaft as he paused his assault and slid his foot back just a little.
“I am only trying to protect you.”
The words sent a rush of rage through him so potent that he heard the tree crashing to the ground before he realized that he’d swung again.
He threw the ax into and through the next tree as he spun to face his father. Something in him relished the look of horror on the large man’s face as he remained sitting still and staring at him.
It made his stomach turn. It made him want to cover his face and hide in the woods for the rest of his life as well, but before he could think much more of it, the weight of something he couldn’t explain pulled him under into a deep black. He didn’t even register the pain of his body hitting the ground.
Svein watched Bregðask throw the ax and heard it whistle through the air even after cutting clean through the next tree. When Bregðask turned to look at him, his auburn hair was dark with sweat and the strands clung to his face around his glowing white eyes. Svein swore his heart stopped at the feral smirk on his son’s face and only resumed when he collapsed to the ground a moment later.
He took in a shuddering breath and stood up to cross the clearing to his son’s unconscious body. He shivered in the cool air as his sweat began to dry and twitched as Svein approached him. Svein looked up and around the clearing as his heart thudded.
This was truly the only choice. If he’d become like this already, despite everything they’d done, there was no other option if he meant to keep his son.
“Blood is stronger than you think,” Kjeld said and Svein looked up at him.
“What did you see?”
“Your son is a mage, and I didn’t have to see anything for him to tell me,” Svein’s eyes narrowed as Kjeld went on, “I don’t know how strong he is, but if he’s half Ketill, he will always wield magic.”
“It might be in his blood, but it does not have to consume him,” Svein hissed as he picked Bregðask off the ground.
The young man didn’t stir in his arms, and Kjeld shook his head.
“It’s going to be a long road for both of you. I hope you don’t end up regretting this.”
“Speak to me when you have children of your own.”
Kjeld chuckled, dark and bitter, and walked away as Svein carried Bregðask back to the Estur clan house. Gardar saw him but said nothing as he walked into the room they shared and laid him down on the rough bed.
“It’s not too late to change your mind, Svein,” Gardar said, “Please–”
“My decision is made, Gardar,” he said, “Bregðask will understand why and come to be grateful for it in time.”
He looked down at Bregðask and swallowed as he stroked his hair. He remembered the day he was born and how the sight of that birthmark on his foot and nearly made his heart stop. He remembered seeing his eyes glow through the dark of the nursery and fearing his own son.
His son wasn’t a monster, just like his mother wasn’t. Whatever it took to keep Bregðask safe, he would do it.
He pushed away the memory. It was years too late to think about what he could have done differently, years too late to regret it. All he could do was make the best decision possible with the information he had in hand.
“You’ve always looked like your mother,” he said wistfully, “Had the same stubbornness too, but I won’t lose you the way I lost her. You’re a Harvard, a Viking, a man of Calder, Bregðask, and I’ll make sure you stay that way.”
He left the room then and pat Gardar on the shoulder, “Look after him, Gardar.”
“I promised that I would,” he said and Svein left him there to find Ivan.
He sat down in the man’s office as he worked through the pages on his desk. Ivan looked up, and Svein couldn’t find words to say.
“You have to be the first hilmir to be so conflicted about leaving their troublesome son on Bjørn. Why?”
Svein sighed, heavy and weary, “I… don’t know.”
He knew that it was really the only possibility. Even if Freyr was just a short boat away, it was so far from the Asketill storm system that there was no chance that Valka would come so far south to kidnap him. He knew that the two islands had struck a deal, but there was no magic being used or taught on Bjørn.
There was also the matter that Bjørn was the only island in the Rekkr Vinfengi where nothing magical had ever worked. No one knew why, but if there was a place to get and keep Bregðask away from magic as effectively as possible, it would be where there was absolutely no magic to speak of.