To Where Hearts Dare Not Stay

“Is something wrong?” the woman asked as he stared blankly at the time table she’d given him.

“No,” he said quickly clutching it to his chest as his heart fluttered.

He’d gotten all the classes he’d wanted.

The soldier who escorted him to the school’s compound waved him goodbye as soon as he was registered and left him alone. Bjørn adopted a similar rotation of days on and days off for school in the summer, so his first mage class wouldn’t be until later in the week, but the fact that he’d signed up with no problem was telling.

“We’ll see you tomorrow for classes!” she said happily.

He took the page and wondered what the hell Svein told Ivan when he’d dropped him off other than Bregðask was a troublemaker? With the rest of his day free to do as he pleased, Bregðask headed back to the little hut and laughed the entire way. He was pretty sure that people thought he was crazy, but he couldn’t help it. He was pretty sure that he had never been so happy, let alone so vindictively happy.  

The curriculum was standard, but Svein apparently didn’t know that Bjørn offered a magic course in tandem with Freyr’s magical college. It made sense since Freyr was next door.  If he was right, both islands were hoping to link their magical infrastructure if not simply give Bjørn some sort of infrastructure that would make the threat of survival less imminent by raising a new generation of völva. The two islands had already integrated their trade routes, practices, and general defenses, so it made sense that they would work towards their magical infrastructure being connected. From what he’d heard, the treaty had been serving both islands well despite the pirates that plagued the Greenland, Norwegian, and Barents Seas.

He arrived at his hut and finished his bow before the soldier came to collect him for the afternoon session of physical training. It was as grueling as he expected it to be but at least most of the people in training with him were more interested in meeting him than shoving him into the dirt. After training, he went back to the hut and stayed awake sitting on his trunk and writing letters to the appropriate people when he heard the sound of heavy rain starting.

With a groan, he got up and dragged his door over the open frame. He stacked the planks of wood he’d planned to repair the siding with to cover the hole in the wall. With that done he looked up through the hole in the ceiling with a helpless feeling. He pulled a large piece of leather out of his spare materials trunk, a hammer, and nails, before moving his door aside.

The rain hadn’t thickened yet, but if he waited any longer, his floor would be mud. He rolled up the leather, put the nails in his pocket, and tucked the hammer under his arm. Jumping onto the railing of the porch, he winced at the creak of the wood and jumped again to catch the edge of the roof before pulling himself onto the roof.  He scrambled up and crossed the roof carefully, listening for any cracks or creaks before he reached the hole. Carefully, he nailed the sheet of leather down as flat as possible, and on a whim etched a light runic spell to repel the rain.

The runes lit up with a soft glow.

Didn’t expect that to work.

It really shouldn’t have worked at all. He looked up curiously and worried his lip before getting down off the roof. He darted inside, grabbed another vial and collected some rainwater to examine.

While it wasn’t brimming with magic, there was more than enough to explain why the rune spell worked. Following his hunch, he took his shoes and socks off before walking outside to the side of the hut with the large hole. Finding the largest puddle on that side, he made a trench in the soft ground and stood in it before weaving the spell to repair the wall. Slowly, the wood of the planks creaked, bent, melted, and solidified into a surface and filled the hole.  

He was slightly dizzy and hungry, but at the least, he knew now that magic on Bjørn wasn’t impossible with just a bit of a buffer between him and the island’s earth. He walked back inside fixed the broken hinge of the door and peeled his wet clothes off. After starting a small fire in the dirt chimney to hang his clothes by and sat down on the pallet he’d fashioned into a bed. Though he’d patched the hole, there were quite a few planks left. He’d repair the roof next rain as he was just too tired to do so at the moment.

For now, he lay the planks on the ground and put his pallet on top of them. The difference between day and night was fuzzy this time of year, but he knew that the soldier assigned to watch over him would be there at the appropriate time, so he let himself doze off.

As expected, the soldier arrived and knocked on his door just as Bregðask was putting his clothes back on. As usual, the door fell in and they both laughed. The man smiled at him, offered him a slicker, and led him to the training pitch. Regardless of the rain, they ran laps all morning before classes started and sometime around the lunch break, he found himself speaking to one of the young men who had run around with him all morning.

“You have quite the stamina.”

Bregðask turned around prepared for a bully. The young man was taller than him with a warm smile beneath his sky blue eyes and blond hair. It felt a bit as though he’d simply walked out of the Viking books on ideal looks with his broad shoulders and impressive height. There was something about his jawline that made him think they’d met before, but he ignored it.

“I’ve had a lot of practice running.”

He laughed, warm and open before thrusting his hand out to him, “Magni, nice to meet you.”

Bregðask shook his hand, “Bregðask.”

His eyes widened, “You’re… not from Freyr, are you?”

“No, Calder.”

Magni winced, and then, he frowned. Bregðask knew the moment that his eyes widened, he’d figure out who he was, “What… could you have possibly done to land yourself here?”

“A little luck and a little fate.”

Magni chuckled, “I think we all have that in that case. How are you settling in so far?”

“Not bad,” he said stiffly, “My roof has a hole in it though.”

Magni chuckled, “Well, the last son of a hilmir to be sent here was stubborn and perfectly useless. He was here for about a year before he’d straightened up enough to go home. How long are you supposed to be here?”

“Four years.”

Magni winced, “I can’t tell if you did something horrible or your father’s just an ass.”

Bregðask shrugged, “Maybe a bit of both.”

“Well, since you’re going to be here for a while, let me give you a tour.”

He frowned, “Why are you being nice to me?”

Magni scoffed, “I can’t be a nice person?”

“Those people don’t tend to exist.”

Magni smirked, “Let’s say it’s because I think you’re cute. Now, let’s go before we’re late.”

Bregðask was sure that his face was bright red as Magni shoved him forward towards class. That wasn’t exactly what he’d expected to come out of the young man’s mouth, but he didn’t sense a lie in the words. Magni introduced him to people, showed him around the school’s compound, and did nothing more than talk to Bregðask. It was weird considering the fact that he’d never had so much interaction with another male around his age that didn’t involve some sort of injury. Magni grinned at him over lunch as the rest of his friends sat down and began to introduce themselves to Bregðask.

Selby Harou,” the young woman said, her eyes were dark brown and her hair was dirty blonde. She had a firm grip and made him think of Eira from the way she dressed and her dark hair. While she didn’t give off the War Goddess vibe, she definitely didn’t seem to be a pushover.

“A pleasure.”

“You say that now, but wait,” one of the brunette young man said with a snicker as he shook Bregðask’s hand. His features seemed a little familiar, but Bregðask couldn’t place why, “Rangvald Hvalman.”

“That’s Ivan Turgot,” Magni nodded as a broad-shouldered young man came over and took a seat, “You won’t meet a better group than this bunch.”

“Nice to meet you,” Bregðask said.

Magni jerked his head at him, “Must be Calder proper.”

“Calder?” Ivan asked with a low whistle, “What’d you do to end up here?”

“Breathe,” Bregðask said.

“My uncle lives on Calder,” Selby said, “Maybe you know him? Missing an arm and a leg, a blacksmith?”

“Gardar,” Bregðask said, “I know him. He was my mentor, my uncle, too.”

“That’s awesome! You’re that Bregðask? My uncle has told me so much about you! Our blacksmith will probably need you even if he doesn’t admit it.”

Rangvald frowned watching Bregðask as Selby began to tell them about her martial class and her latest argument with the young woman who had made it her life’s mission to make her life difficult.

“And that bitch had the nerve to call me a whore!” She huffed.

“Is she still alive?” Ivar asked with a spoon in his mouth.

She grinned devilishly, “Oh, she’ll wish she wasn’t.”

“What did you do?” Magni asked, “This trouble maker.”

“Nothing… yet. We don’t have class together until tomorrow.”

Magni groaned, “I don’t even want to know.”

“And you won’t,” she said, “How’s your sister?”

Bregðask turned his head and Magni shook his head, “Cranky as hell, but she’ll be fine if she lays the fuck down and lets her wounds heal.”

“What happened?” Bregðask asked.

“Calia Varangot is a skipforingi of Bjørn’s merchant ships. She was one of the last people to get pulled off the ship that was chased into the harbor.”

Bregðask set his jaw at the mention of the ship.

“So lucky that mage was around when he was,” Selby said, “What’d your dad say about him, Rag’?”

“Your father?” Bregðask asked as Rangvald lifted his head to meet his gaze.

“Viggo,” Rangvald said with a questioning gaze, “He said the mage in question looked like a child. With copper brown hair named Bregðask according to Kjeld, and at the meeting, they said he didn’t want to be named though he’d be on the island for a while.”

The table grew quiet. Bregðask swallowed thickly before grabbing his tray and staggering to his feet to make a quick escape. Magni grabbed him and pulled him back down before leaning into his space.

“Bregðask, nothing to say?”

“Not sure what to say.”

His eyes narrowed, “You said you’re from Calder…”

“I am.”

“This have anything to do with why you’re here? We’re an exception to the archipelago rule of distrust of magic.”

Bregðask swallowed and lowered his head, “Is… this the part where you start punching me anyway?”

Magni let him go, and they all jumped back as if they’d been burned.

“Punch you?” Selby asked, and her eyes narrowed, “Did they… used to do that on Calder?”

“Among other things, but it’s not because of– Are you? I just want to know for sure.”

“Valhalla,” Rangvald cursed and met his gaze, “You saved my father’s life, and Ivan’s… and Selby’s.”

Bregðask waited, and Magni smirked, “That means no. Relax. For the most part, people of Bjørn aren’t stupid. Mages wield power that should be respected just as they respect us. It’s not a big deal, but you just upgraded from cute to seriously hot.”

Selby burst into laughter as Bregðask’s face heated, “Better watch out, Bregðask. Magni’s pretty persistent and charming. He’ll get you naked before you realize.”

His lips twitched and he frowned, “Your parents work on the harbor?”

Selby grinned, “My father is second hand on the southern docks..”

Ivar’s lips twitched, “My father was the stýrimaðr of the ship pulled into the harbor.”

Bregðask choked, “Is he okay?”

“Barely a scratch on him,” Ivar said, “The man has the luck of all the seas when it comes to maritime battle.”

Bregðask sighed, “That’s great, so it’s a pretty big deal.”

“It’s a huge fucking deal,” Selby said, “You can use magic. You can use magic on Bjørn. There’s a reason why the magic track is hosted on Freyr.”

“It is?” He asked, “How am I supposed to get there?”

Magni laughed, “Don’t worry, they’ll take you there. Selby can show you the meeting place. I take it you’re on the track?”

“I am,” he said.

Rangvald shook his hand again, “I’m sure that all of us will be inviting you over for dinner when you’re ready to be known. Thank you, for what you did.”

Bregðask shied away from the attention but nodded. They parted and headed to their next class. Rangvald, Ivar, and Magni found him again when he was leaving to head to afternoon training. Ivar looked about ready to blow a gasket.

“You alright?” Bregðask asked.

“Just stupid people,” Ivar said.

“Is it about your Dad?”

“Of course, it is. People always blame the stýrimaðr when things go wrong,” he said, “As if they know how hard it is to get a boat out to sea and back through pirate-infested waters.”

Bregðask hummed, “Why not ask Freyr to inscribe protective spells on the boats?”

“They tried,” Ivar said, “I can’t remember what they said ultimately about it, but I think it amounted to pirates have better mages and without a mage on the ship, it’s like putting a bandage on a missing limb.”

Bregðask hummed. It was a curious thought, but he didn’t have much time to think about it as they arrived and Magni’s father began to order them around the training pitch. Torvald Varangot was as strict as he had been the day before, and while Bregðask kept up easily with the running, he struggled with the more physically demanding tasks of going through the obstacle course.

“Alright, good job,” he said as they all lay on the ground panting, “Tomorrow morning we meet on the beach. Be prepared to swim.”

Oh great, Bregðask thought laying on the grass breathing slowly. A break!

“You alright?” Magni asked leaning over him.

“Is he always like this?”

“Yeah,” Magni shrugged, “He’s a total softy on the inside though. Come on, I’ll walk you home.”

He let Magni pull him to his feet and walked him to the little hut at the edge of the town and winced at the state.

“I could help you repair it. It gets cold at night.”

Bregðask chuckled, “I’ve always run hot, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Magni chuckled, “We’ll see about that. Not sure how Calder waters feel, but our waters are freezing even this time of year, and they say it’ll be cold tomorrow even with all the sun.”

He shrugged, “We’re Norse. It’s a part of life.”

He laughed and waved goodbye before walking back home for dinner. Bregðask grabbed his finished bow and set of arrows and headed into the forest. The exhaustion ebbed the further he walked.

He managed to catch a rabbit for dinner, pair it with a bit of the ration that Hilda packed him and sat at his makeshift work table to eat. He smiled a bit feeling a little more at ease. Svein had meant to make him miserable, yet suddenly, he had friends who didn’t think he was a freak.

Being sent to Bjørn was turning out to be one of the best things that ever happened to him, and he’d only been there a few days.

Serves him right.

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