They reached the Great Hall where plenty of people were gathered. Kjeld left Bregðask at the back of the hall with a cloak to cover his head before walking to the front where Ivan stood. It was larger than the great hall of Calder and newer it seemed. He supposed that was because the last raid on Bjørn was far more recent.
“Hilmir,” Kjeld embraced Ivan, and it made Bregðask smile. Svein and Sigfúss had never displayed such closeness though they were in-laws through his aunt Øydís.
He’d never had the chance to meet any of his uncles, but given how Svein and Hilda acted around each other, he doubted that any of them had been particularly close to his father.
“Dugrforingi, now that you’re here, we can get started!” Kjeld shook hands with Viggo as Ivan addressed the crowd, “It has been an eventful morning, so I’ll cut to the chase as we have quite a bit of work to still do. Skipforingi Varangot’s ship came into the harbor, more or less, in one piece. She and the crew are all alive and are expected to fully recover.”
A round of cheering went up and Bregðask swallowed thickly.
They would have all died if you hadn’t. He closed his eyes and breathed through the wave of nausea at the thought, You saved their lives, Bregðask. Focus on that.
“We have an unnamed mage to thank for such. Thanks to his actions, the provisions for the winter preparations have arrived. We expect a couple of weeks, probably more to rebuild for the last few merchant trips off island. Freyr has said they may have thoughts about how to fix our lack of magic, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Don’t get your hopes up for indoor heating quite yet.”
“Now that’s out of the way, I believe our dugrforingi and ströndforingi have their reports to make.”
Keld gestured to Viggo who stood and sighed, “The southern decks have been partially destroyed, but we’ll reserve repairing them until winter preparations are completed. For now, we’ll direct inbound and outbound ships on the southern part of the island via the beach if we can and send them to other docks if we have to. That means merchants may be shuffled around, so look forward to an announcement about the change in ports and market places. There is hope that we might enlist Freyr for help with repairs, but for now, you can expect your sons to complain about digging holes, tying ropes, and diving during training for at least a few days.”
Bregðask chuckled with the rest of the crowd.
“They’ll be fine!” someone said, “Might as well put them to work.”
Kjeld chuckled, “There’s also the matter of the ship from this morning. While Mjöllnir in make, per the mage, the crew was not of Mjöllnir. We can’t be sure what that means, but we’ll keep an eye on the strait and surrounding seas. That means the forces will be shuffled around…”
Bregðask had never gone to a Great Hall meeting at which anyone other than the hilmir, the dugrforingi, the ströndforingi, the panel of advisors, and the goðar spoke, but it seemed that Bjørn knew something that Calder didn’t. The people seemed happier to have more say about the decisions that would change their lives. A conversation was being held for the betterment of the entire island. There were, of course, several more towns on Bjørn than on Calder, and each of them had their own skati, he just didn’t expect them to have so much to say or sway.
“Is there anything else we’d like to discuss before we adjourn?”
“Mage training,” a woman said standing.
“Go on, Marian.”
“We have the mage track, but none of our kids manage to do any good at it compared to Freyr. Is there something wrong?”
“Freyr students have the ability to practice when outside of school far easier. Without that practice, as I understand it, it is nearly impossible to cultivate the level of skill necessary to enter a magical college on the first try,” Ivan sighed, “It certainly isn’t helping our current predicament. Perhaps we would benefit from extra training on Freyr. Do keep in mind that until this morning everyone as fairly certain that magic couldn’t even be used on the island. I’ll bring it up when they come to meet with us.”
“Is there any chance we could get this unnamed made as a consultant on the next round of ships?”
Kjeld’s eyes widened, and Viggo frowned, “You think it would be of help?”
“I’m not a mage, but my daughter is studying magic on Freyr. They haven’t figured out how to make anything magical work on the island or anywhere near it. If this mage managed to fire an enchanted arrow from the docks over the ocean and it not lose its force, perhaps he knows something we don’t.”
“That is not a bad point,” Ivan said and looked to Kjeld, “Is there a chance you could speak to him?”
Kjeld chuckled, “He’ll be on the island for a while yet. I don’t believe that it’ll be a hassle to at least ask. If not, perhaps he and the Freyr mages could speak.”
Bregðask felt his mouth lift into a strained and awkward smile. He had no idea. He hadn’t even thought it would work, but Marian and the man had a point. He’d been able to fire not one but thirteen enchanted arrows and cast a spell while being out at sea near and on the island. It was unlikely that it had anything to do with being a bregðaskyldr. The meeting adjourned, and Bregðask listened to the excited and nervous whispers.
“I wonder why he doesn’t want to be named.”
“You think he could be a criminal?”
“Who cares? He saved our people’s lives and spared the harbor forces a great deal of trouble. If he’s still around we’ll be better off getting as much information from him as possible.”
“Do you think he could be from there?”
“Why would someone of that tribe be so far south?”
“I heard they’re supposed to be entering trade agreements and other talks with other islands, it’s not that far of a stretch.”
Bregðask watched the group go as Kjeld wrapped up his conversation with Ivan and Viggo.
“So,” Kjeld grinned, “Any thoughts?”
“Not a single one,” Bregðask grimaced, “But I’ll think about it.”
Kjeld nodded, “Well, enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll see you at dinner, I assume. I have dugrforingi things to contend with. What would you like to be done with the chests?”
Bregðask winced, “Well… I suppose they should be taken to where I’m staying, right?”
“I’ll get some men to carry it that way.”
Viggo walked towards them, “Bregðask, was it?”
He nodded hesitantly. Viggo took his hand and shook it, “Thank you, again, for what you did today. I hope you’ll consider some of the things that were discussed.”
“I definitely will.”
“If you plan on remaining unnamed,” Viggo said, “I might suggest a disguise of some sort.”
“Until we meet again,” he said and left to join a group of harbor men who nodded at him gratefully.
“At the very least, they won’t forget what you did,” Kjeld said.
“I don’t think it’s worth remembering.”
Kjeld pat him on the shoulder, “I’ve killed hundreds of men. Spent nights awake remembering their faces, the way they looked at me as they took their last breath… You know what puts me back to sleep?”
“The look on my family and friends’ faces when I returned home alive,” he looked at Bregðask, “This will be your home for at least the next few years, Bregðask. The people of Bjørn will become your friends, family, lovers, or what have you. What you did today made it so those people will make it another winter. Remember that and keep it close.”
He nodded and stood in the doorway of the Great Hall as Kjeld headed off to attend to his business. He turned back to watch Ivan speak with several members of Bjørn about what to look forward to for the oncoming winter, how to prepare, and more. Bjørn was shaping up to be a strange place compared to Calder. He was sure that no one outside of the original noble houses would dare to approach Svein and ask a slew of questions the way they had approached Ivan.
Maybe a better place.
With nothing left to think about, he headed out of the Great Hall and into the marketplace. People milled about going about their business with nervous excitement and the air was filled with chatting.
“Pirates?” someone hissed, “Are we sure they won’t come back?”
“Per my husband, the young man killed twelve of their crew members and sent the other mage home. I don’t think we have to worry about it.”
“Well, what did he look like?”
“No older than a boy,” she said, “He said Viggo had to give him a first kill talk.”
“Poor lad, where could he be from if not Freyr?”
“Well, the obvious choice is Asketill.”
Bregðask wandered towards the fisherman and bought enough fish for the night, salt, and a few loaves of bread before heading back to his hut.
“Excuse me, young man?”
He turned around to see a woman he vaguely recognized from the harbor that morning. While she was obviously pregnant, he remembered that she had worked just as hard to get men into boats and shoved off.
“You… wouldn’t happen to be the mage from this morning would you?”
He swallowed, and his gaze darted around. No one seemed to be paying any attention to them, so he nodded hesitantly. She took his hand and squeezed.
“You saved my husband’s life. He was on that ship injured. The healer doesn’t think he would have made it had they not been able to pull the boat in. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, “He’ll be okay?”
She chuckled, “He’s tougher than he looks. Here.”
She offered him a basket that looked like it was full of food, but he shook his head.
“My husband would want you to have it,” she said.
“I think your husband would rather have that little one have it.” He pushed the basket back towards her, “I did not help because I wanted anything. I’m glad he’ll make it out alright.”
“At least come to dinner. You’ll be on Bjørn for a while yet, won’t you?”
He nodded, “I will.”
She pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled on it, “You can ask just about anyone, and they can direct you to our house. Please? It’s the least we can do.”
He nodded, “I will.”
She smiled and bade him farewell leaving Bregðask shocked and staring after her. It would take some getting used to, but Kjeld was right. She, her husband, and a lot of people of Bjørn would make it one more winter because he’d simply done what needed to be done.
He walked back to his hut and sat down on his pelts. Soon, Kjeld and several soldiers were at his door. After the initial awkwardness of the door falling in before they’d even had a chance to know, they hauled the chests of treasure in and nodded at him before leaving. Kjeld grinned.
“Don’t suspect you’ll use all of this any time soon.”
“Probably not.” he said lokoing at the collection of treasure, “I’ll find something to do with it.”
Kjeld shrugged and left him with his thoughts. Less than an hour later, while Bregthask was digging through his trunks from Calder to find something that would do for a disguise, there was the sound of footsteps, and the soft thud of something on his porch and footsteps rushing away from the hut. Bregthask stood up and slid the door aside to see the basket full of food on his porch with well-wishing runes and gratitude all over it. He looked around to figure out who dropped it off, but there was no one on the road he could pick out even if he was interested in tracking them down.
He picked the basket up and carried it inside. There were various cuts of meat, fish, spices, leathers and even a fur large enough to sleep under. It seemed that the people of Bjørn were rather kind and his life on the island would be a far cry from his life on Calder.
Well, at least there’s that.