Just Past Complicated

Bregðask leaned against the post of an awning as Hilda shopped for things for dinner just as she always had every Týrdøgr afternoon for as long as he remembered. The marketplace was housed in the island’s main square, and just like every Týrdøgr in the late winter just after skammdegí was ending, Svein was delivering the address that Bregðask had written just a few days prior about how they fared and what everyone needed to know for the upcoming summer. Around him were people of Calder and people from beyond the shores of the archipelago with cameras, apparently fascinated by this weekly tradition of letting people know that they’d more or less made it through the winter and should expect warmer weather soon.

Given the archipelago and the alliance’s interactions with dragons, it was a pretty standard occurrence for Europe as a whole to send journalists north to talk with them about dragons, the future of the archipelago, development and so on. Most of the archipelago had nothing but tales about the Dragon Wars to offer to them and a cup of Viking mead, but people seemed to love it, and the influx of journalists had brought waves of tourists and resources into the archipelago.

The archipelago, aside from being the apparent birthplace of dragons, was also one of the last places on planet Earth that hadn’t been fully explored or brought to current time. It hadn’t been a major concern of Svein’s until more of age people came back from beyond the archipelago talking about the conveniences of modern infrastructure.

Mostly hot water, internal plumbing, and central heating, he thought wryly.

For years, they had staved off development of the islands by promoting the lack of development as a unique quick that tourists loved and a measure to protect the ecology of the archipelago, but after the island had gotten wind of Harulf’s partial infrastructure installation from several years ago that was integrated and relied on the natural topography of the island, Svein had jumped on the chance to make himself seem like a forward thinking man who cared about his people without stepping on the toes of the goðar and allying Calder firmly with the new hilmir of Harulf whom Bregðask had known as a child long before he’d found his sister and erfingi, Kata, again in an orphanage on Calder.

Bregðask still wasn’t sure if he regretted bringing it up when Dagur and Kata had visited the year before or not, but at least that meant he’d have a chance to see some of that infrastructure in action the next time he visited Harulf.

“… The Rekkr Vinfengi will be convening about Europe’s request to study dragons in the archipelago during the next Þing as well as other magical research requests that have come over the years…”

I bet that meeting won’t include the people who need to be there, Bregðask  snorted.

The Ketill tribe of Asketill was untouchable so long as they chose to be and far outside the archipelago. They were the foremost authority on dragons, but generally unreachable, so what Svein, and the rest of the Rekkr Vinfengi, meant was that they would convene to discuss whether or not they wanted to try and reach out to the Ketill about it as they had little knowledge about dragons and magic on the whole.

Baring Asketill, Harulf and the other northern islands Harulf, Harang, and Vilulf were really the places of interest, as well as the southern island of Freyr where the only Norse magical college in the archipelago had been established, but no decision could be made without consensus of every hilmir of the archipelago because researchers would be passing through the archipelago as a whole, and every hilmir wanted their share to ensure safe passage.

It was a political mess that didn’t need to be and was nothing more than a matter of tradition and ambition. No decision that could affect the entire archipelago could be made without holding a Þing to discuss it, and Svein knew that leading the way to a brighter future by bridging the gaps between the more traditional hilmir of the south and the younger hilmir to the north was the best way to make him seem like the best candidate to represent the entire archipelago.

It almost made Bregðask sick.

His eyes drifted toward where Sigfrøðr stood. The young man caught his eyes and gave him a smirk. Of course, Sigfrøðr was feeling smug. While Sigfrøðr had never been formally introduced, for the most part, Bregðask had been introduced as Svein’s squire for as long as he remembered. Once he thought it was for his protection, but such delusions didn’t last very long. After all, who would want a þjóðann like Bregðask?

He hadn’t even hit puberty yet, and he was coming up on his sixteenth birthday.

A woman he recognized as a tourist based on her clothing, dark brown skin tone, figure and the map in her hands passed him. She looked right past him and then turned back before approaching him. She was tall, not as tall as his aunt, but she certainly felt that large standing over him with her head wrapped in a colorful scarf. The style made him think of Hilda’s story about the people she’d met while traveling across Africa. There was a word for her headwrap, he knew, but it evaded him as she smiled at him. Rather than intimidation, she seemed confident and maternal almost.

Oh no, he thought, She thinks I’m a kid…

“Where are your parents, young man?”

“Why?”

“Well, you’re the only child I’ve seen unaccompanied. Are you waiting for them?”

Bregðask sighed, “I’m just short, ma’am, not a child. I’m fifteen. Are you looking for something?”

Her eyes widened in shock before they went soft, “Dear, you need to eat more.”

He laughed, “If I could tell you how many times I’ve heard that… Never mind, what brings you to Calder?”

“I’m the leader of a survey team for a company that may be contracted to add some infrastructure to Calder. I’m sorry about the misunderstanding; I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“It’s no worries,” Bregðask waved it off, “What company are you from?”

“Avalon Engineering.”

Bregðask’s eyes widened. Avalon Engineering was a strictly magical company based in Italy. They were one of the leading companies for adding infrastructure that was entirely magic based and leaders in the field of typographical integration. They’d done the work on Harulf’s first phase and were currently in talks about the second he was sure. They were also one of the companies he imagined working for when he got old enough to leave Calder for good.

“Avalon did the infrastructure on the east side of Harulf, didn’t you?”

She smiled, “Yes, we did.”

Bregðask grinned, “I hear it’s amazing. My name is Bregðask, by the way.”

“Dr. Lea Amari. It’s nice to meet you,” She shook his hand and then turned back to watching Svein give his address, “I take it he’s someone important?”

“The hilmir?”

“No, the young man beside him.”

“That’s Sigfrøðr. He’s the son of the dugrforingi, Sigfúss Renouf.”

“So, where is the hilmir’s son, the erfingi? I know he has one.”

“Why?”

“Seems rather odd to not have him here as heir, right? Isn’t that how it works?”

“Let’s say that his son isn’t exactly the kind of person Svein could be proud of… He’s cut from a different cloth so to speak.”

She eyed him and then looked back to Svein. While he didn’t share the most obvious features with Svein, he did inherit a good deal from the Harvard line around the eyes and jawline. He heard the trip in her heart’s rhythm when she figured it out.

“That’s terrible. No parent should be ashamed of their own child.”

“Eh, the son doesn’t care. He’s just counting down the days to leave Calder forever.”

She grimaced, “That bad?”

Bregðask shrugged.

“Well, what is it that the young erfingi wants to do when he leaves?”

“Magical engineering.”

She turned to him, “Is that so?”

“It is. There’s only so much you can teach yourself.”

She chuckled, “I have to agree with that. Have you any idea where you want to go and study?”

“I’ve given it some thought. I thought perhaps I’d start in Freyr for the basics. It would at least get me close enough to an outbound ship from the archipelago.”

She nodded, “I’ve heard good things about Freyr’s college, but that’s only Nordic magic. If you’re hoping to get hired at a company like Avalon, you’ll at least need to study some form of African magic; Asian magic wouldn’t hurt you either. We have plenty of Mesopotamian mages, but we don’t have many Nordic ones. It would certainly look good if we get hired to do more infrastructure up here.”

Bregðask hummed, “I’ll keep that in mind… Who did you have as a consultant for Nordic magic?”

“One of my teammates studied in Freyr, and we did a lot of consulting with the librarian of the Bjørn-Freyr library.”

He hummed, “Good to know.”

“Is there any chance you know someone who might be able to give us a proper structural tour of the island? We were supposed to be shown around by–” her hip chimed, and she huffed, “Excuse me.”

Bregðask tilted his head in curiosity as she lifted the phone to her ear. He’d never seen one before, but he’d heard enough about them to recognize it and know that most mages couldn’t and preferred to use enchanted mirrors, so how was she doing so?

Could I use a phone?

“This is Lea, where are you two?”

Bregðask tried to tune out the conversation, but it was nearly impossible to do with her so close to him. He turned his attention to look for Hilda who had gotten caught up in haggling for a basket of vegetables.

Lea switched to speaking French, and Bregðask smirked at that. It had been one of the many languages that Hilda insisted that he learned growing up and one he still used relatively often since the Njalls quite often traded in France for supplies when necessary.

“We have no idea,” the woman on the other side responded. Her voice was slightly strained, “We crashed somewhere on the island from a freak storm to the South. Trust Smith to get us a crappy ride to Calder. Have you found our tour guide?”

She huffed, “No. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be, but I do see Smith’s favorites skulking around.”

Bregðask frowned and followed her line of sight until she found the foreigners following behind a man he knew from another section of the island. If there was anyone he would have expected to serve as a magical guide of Berk, it would have been anyone else but one of the Renouf clan’s lackeys. They didn’t know the first thing about Calder’s caves, let alone magic.

He wasn’t sure if that meant that Sigfúss was trying to make things harder for Svein to get the installation completed, or if Svein was allowing Sigfúss’ usurping agenda to serve his agenda of not actually having to change anything about Calder and keep the goðar happy. Either way, it made his head spin at exactly how much time and money could be saved if they just pulled their heads out of their asses and realized that they were in the twenty-first century.

The woman on the other side of the line growled, “That bastard. Just wait until Miller–  Jyoti, are you alright?”

Someone hissed on the other side of the line, and Bregðask felt his heart jump. It was the sound of pain.

“What is it?” Lea asked, “Is she hurt?”

“I’m fine,” another voice, Bregðask assumed belonging to Jyoti, said.

The original woman scoffed, “You’re bleeding, and the leg is probably broken. You’re not fine. It’s getting dark. You have any idea if there’s high tide?”

Lea turned to him, “When is high tide here?”

“In a few hours,” Bregðask said, “Does your team know where they are?”

Lea worried her lip and turned back to the phone, “Do you know where you are?”

“Some sort of cove. I’ll turn on our beacon.”

Lea held her phone between her ear and her shoulder before fumbling for a scroll in the holster attached to her boot. She huffed.

“You’re not on the south side of Calder,” Lea said, “You’re on the north side.”

Bregðask gasped and stepped forward, “Let me see.”

He scanned the map and found the little flashing light in the middle of Naðr Beach, and his stomach clenched.

“We need to get them out of there immediately.”

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