I Find Strength

“I… I…”

The leading man took him by the shoulders and forced him to meet his gaze as Bregðask’s mind began spinning out of control, replaying the man’s last moments in his mind’s eye. He was going to be sick.

He was going to be sick.

Murderer.

“Look at me.”

Bregðask looked up at him.

“You’ve done well,” he said, “And though I would never approve of asking a man so young to kill, there is a time for youth and a time for war. Right now, it is war. Do you understand?”

Bregðask swallowed thickly and nodded.

“The people on that boat make sure we eat winter after winter,” he said, “I understand that this isn’t your island, Freyran, but you have come to our aid, and we must ask more of you, so please, find it in you to do what must be done because you are the only one who can. The gods will understand and, in time, so will you. Do you understand?”

He nodded again shakily, his eyes burning and his breaths coming in shuddering pants, “Y-Yes.”

“Now answer me, can you do that again?”

“I… I-I can try.”

The man nodded and turned, “Get this young man all the arrows you can. He’s our forward archer and cover. The rest of you, get your asses in boats and sail out there to get our men off that burning wreck, and for the love of Asgard, get Calia off that boat before her father or brother show up!”

They moved quickly, and Bregðask shuddered. Someone placed a new quiver of arrows beside him as he picked up the bow and kneeled. Bregðask nodded again and took a shuddering breath s a man set another quiver of arrows beside him. He turned back to the ocean as his hands shook and he forced his stomach to settle. Bjørn would be his home for the next four years. Here, he wasn’t Bregðask, he was just someone who could help, so he drew another arrow from a quiver.

Wasn’t this what he always wanted?

I never wanted to kill anyone, Bregðask thought, Just do what was right.

Hilda would tell him to do what was right and what was necessary, no matter how much it scared him.

The way you always have.

Right now, making sure the boat of Bjorn made it to harbor, no matter the means, was what was right and necessary.

More men rowed out and the men on the shore continued to pull them in until the arrows gave way. He focused on the pirate’s ship as men scrambled to point their cannons at the harbor. The man who had been the last to arrive on the scene of the mage’s death ran for the nearest cannon.

If Tyr judges my cause just, his will be done.

Bregðask aimed for him just as he reached it and fired. The man flew back screaming, pinned to the post behind him as the arrow slammed into his chest. He struggled to get it out but that struggle died as he lost blood and the panic of death began to set in. Bregðask thought he was going to be sick.

Someone else ran across the deck to the canon as Bregðask swallowed, drew another arrow, and fired at him before he’d managed to light the canon. He dropped dead over the canon’s barrel.

If Tyr judges my cause just, Bregðask felt something hot and warm sliding down his cheeks as he reached for another arrow.

The captain ducked behind a canon and yelled. The man at the helm turned the wheel furiously, and Bregðask shot him down next. His body swayed over the steering wheel as Bregðask drew another arrow and fired it into the man who had ran up behind him to take the wheel and carry out whatever order he’d been given. The two bodies collapsed to the deck and the ship veered sharply in the water. Men on the deck swayed with the turn and gave Bregðask more openings. He killed three men before they’d regained the crew had regained their bearings. The next arrow blew up the main cannon’s support so it rolled over the man trying to light it.

“What the hell is that?” The lookout asked. “Starboard side!”

Bregðask scanned the dock to see a very large man carrying a smaller cannon and aiming it at Calia’s boat. He fired the arrow and watched it sink into the man’s skull. His body dropped the canon as it fell to the deck, and the lower deck’s weapon door opened.

There were only two canons of a larger capacity. He fired at the two men manning them the moment after they were lit. He fired again and broke one side of both of the supports so the cannons swayed and the cannonballs punched into the ocean.

The captain turned and screamed again and a woman stepped out from the lower decks and onto a rising wave. She seemed to simply be surveying the battle as he fired at the captain. A wave of water rose to break the next arrow into splinters. Her eyes found him and glowed with a smirk.

Her lips moved. His stomach churned and his breath came in short pants. He watched the ripple of power rush towards them. He’d never seen anything like it, but he turned around anyway.

“Get off the docks!”

He swung his hand through the air and sent a shockwave to throw men on the docks back.

The docks exploded beneath him as the men hit the shore. The water wrapped around him and dragged him under and through a rip tide beneath the Bjørn boat towards the woman.

When he surfaced, he gasped and looked up. This close, she smelled of something beyond the shores of Norway. He’d guess somewhere in the Mediterranean, but her features suggested farther than that. She was pale with slanted eyes, straight, dark hair and high cheekbones. She looked at him, curious and smiled.

“Aren’t you precious?” she said, “It seems that Bjørn has a baby mage.”

Asian magic, he racked his brain for what he knew about Asian mages. They tended to practice shamanism or gu craft. Which on she practiced he had no idea, but he guessed she specialized in shamanism.

What is a wu doing this far north?”

Her eyes widened, and she smiled, “A learned one.”

China, he thought. The other mage had seemed to be Indian or from central Asia based on his features and coloring.

He cursed. There was no telling what kind of wu she was if she was a wu at all. He swallowed thickly as she observed him.

Why are you so special? The spirits are reluctant to harm you…

He forced himself to calm down and scan her face.

“Kill him already, Calypso! They’re getting away!”

Calypso? These men aren’t from Mjöllnir, he met her gaze, “Your name isn’t Calypso.

Her eyes narrowed, “No, it is not. How odd, are you a sailor by trade?”

“Calypso!”

It was an odd question, but from what he knew of wu in general, they typically had a patron god. Mazu was her patron god, if he had to guess. It was the only reason she would ask such a question. As a disciple of a goddess of water and seafaring, she would be unable to harm seafarers directly and people from the Mediterranean would probably associate her with Calypso or a naiad maybe.

The people on the Bjørn boat weren’t sailors by trade, but merchants. Pirates were sailors albeit unlawful ones. His eyes drifted down to the band of wood on her wrist covered with a Greek script and then leaped to her face.

“Your friend–”

She hissed at him, “That plunderer is no friend of mine.”

“Calypso!” the man who seemed to be the captain growled, and he heard something burning around her wrist. The scent of burning flesh. She grit her teeth and narrowed her eyes. “Do as I command and kill him.

“I can get that off you,” he said, and her eyes widened before narrowing.

“At what price?” she sneered, “I have no interest in another debt.”

“No price,” he said, “I’ll be on Bjørn for the next four years, I’d just like to be able to eat.”

Before she could say much else, Bregðask reached up and grabbed the bands of wood and set them ablaze with a whisper, “As Tyr’s sword, freedom be given.”

The wooden band on her wrist fell to ashes and she gasped, releasing him so he fell into the water. The captain of the pirates hissed.

“Calypso–”

“My name is not Calypso!” she screeched turning on them and sending a wave crashing onto the deck. The pirates were washed overboard and carried into the sea. Their screams drowned in the roaring of the water as she stepped back onto the ship, and Bregðask swam as fast as he could towards the shore.

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