Bregðask returned to the Harvard clan house after dropping off Lea, Su Jin, and Jyoti at the town inn. Hilda was just setting the table and keen to hear about his strange adventure. Her expression had been warm and proud of his actions, but he’d seen the anger in her eyes at the thought of the three women being in danger because of the goðar. She packed up a basket and went to go visit the women the next morning with Bregðask. Óðinndøgr passed practically without him noticing, as did the school day on Þórrdøgr.
Before he knew it, he was laying in the dirt, staring up at the clouds as the moon began to ascend with the distinct knowledge that Eira had used some of her magic martial power to tumble him around the pitch effortlessly beneath the moonlight. There had been a little more sunlight today, but it was still winter and the days were still mostly dark.
The woman can lift a cart and wield axes half her weight with ease, he snorted, I’m a fishbone by comparison.
He should be panting, and he should really be concerned about the pain in his back, but all he could hear was her laughter, and all he could feel was his own grin at the sound of it.
Yep, I’ve officially lost it.
Eira leaned over him and offered her his hand, “Care for some help?”
Bregðask groaned, “I think you broke me.”
She laughed again, “I thought you were durable.”
He smirked, “Even that only goes so far.”
He forced himself to sit up and get on to his feet with a roll of his shoulders. She nodded to the bench.
“Take a seat, and let me have a look?”
He shuffled over to the bench. She walked behind him and hissed, “Sorry.”
“That ax should have been too dull to cut through anything.”
Bregðask chuckled, “In the hands of a Valkyrie, I think even a piece of driftwood could sever a rock.”
He felt her hands on his shoulders and shivered. She hummed and traced her fingers across his back. Her fingers felt cool and slightly wet, but there was no pain.
“You’re rather warm…Strange, though. There’s no wound…”
“Oh, maybe some of your luck is rubbing off on me.”
She clapped him on the shoulder, “Maybe. Back at it?”
He nodded and stretched his back before grabbing his practice sword and facing her.
She came at him quickly, and something in him knew how she would swing. Before he realized it, he moved aside and avoided the blow. When she spun around with her ax, he lifted the sword and guided her swing to slide down the length of his blade as he rotated it and spun around her.
She turned to face him with a raised eyebrow and frowned, “You’re holding your sword wrong.”
His eyes widened, “What?”
He looked down only to see his left hand above his right, “Oh… I didn’t notice…”
“You’re left-handed,” he flinched and met her gaze as she twirled her ax, “I had my suspicions… You never pick up your weapon with your right hand unless someone is yelling at you.”
He switched his grip silently under her gaze, “You should practice with both. It could be an advantage.”
He frowned, “You’re… not bothered by it.”
She shrugged, “We all have our secrets.”
He smiled at that, “You surprise me again, Lady Osulf.”
“It’s Eira,” she said, twirling her ax, “And I’m no lady.”
I beg to differ.
“Au contraire, mademoiselle,” he said with a flourish of his arm, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
She seemed shocked and smiled, “You read Shakespeare.”
“I read a lot of things.”
She hummed, “Well, we’ll have to compare reading lists one day. For now…”
She came at him slower this time, watching his movements and careful to pause when she needed to help him correct his stance.
The moon reached its zenith quickly, and the time approached that he needed to get to the forge before he knew it. he felt exhilarated, his heart fluttering, and happy.
“You’re actually not that bad,” she chuckled, “And when you get a handle on that other hand, I bet they’ll have nothing to say.”
“Thanks,” he said, “You’re… the ax-wielding champion of Calder.”
She laughed high into the air as they grabbed their bags and walked back towards the main road that led through the city.
“We should do this again,” she said, “Þórrdøgr is always good for me.”
He nodded, “I’ll keep my overloaded social calendar open for you.”
She chuckled, “Sounds good. Have a good evening, Bregðask.”
“Good evening,… Eira.”
She turned quickly leaving him with the taste of her name in his mouth, butterflies in his stomach, and wobbly knees. He walked into the forge, hung up his bag and ditched his practice sword for his brace and apron. He couldn’t stop smiling no matter how silly it felt, but he supposed that was just part of being young with a crush.
“You seem to be in a good mood,” Gardar wiggled his eyebrows, “Something happened?”
“I… I was with Eira.”
“And you’re still in one piece?” Gardar hissed as Bregðask turned, “Never mind. What happened to your back?”
“Oh… it’s just a tear, no wound.”
Gardar put his hand over the opening and his hand came away sticky with blood.
He hummed, “Well… that’s strange.”
“I’ve always healed quickly,” he said with a shrug, “If I can’t be strong, I might as well be durable I guess.”
Bregðask frowned at the man’s tone and turned around, “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head, “Nothing. We’ll be pretty busy today, are you okay to stay a bit later?”
“Not like I have a social calendar,” he said, “It’ll be fine.”
“Good… You should change before you head home. Wouldn’t want your aunt to worry.”
Bregðask chuckled, “I will.”
He got to work as Gardar began hammering at a sword.
“Your speech was good,” Gardar said, “I think you’ve got a future in politics, Bregðask.”
He smiled, “I’d never make it, but thanks.”
Gardar laughed, “I’m sure that there are several people who wouldn’t agree.”
The door opened and Hilda entered with a basket on her arm. Her eyes found Gardar and Bregðask immediately and brightened.
“Good to see you, Hilda! What brings you here?” Gardar asked, “I’m not sharpening anything meant to kill the hilmir.”
She laughed, “Well, then I’m obviously not here for you to sharpen my sword. I came to drop off dinner for you two and tell my nephew that his speech was brilliant… though I would have preferred it if he’d be the one to give it next time.”
Bregðask snorted, “Oh yes, a great orator I’d be while they heckled me.”
She sighed, “That’s not the point.”
He shrugged, “I’m okay. In a few years, it won’t even matter. I’ll be twenty, and I’ll be gone.”
I’ll be where I belong, he sighed and let the thought take away the sting of the truth. For whatever reason, he was somewhere that hated him and his other had seen it as a better alternative than to take him with her. She hadn’t seemed disparaging of him, but it wouldn’t be the first time that someone faked affection for him.
“You’ll come back and visit, won’t you?” Hilda asked.
He smiled, “Or you could come with me. You know Calder’s going to burn down when Sigfrøðr becomes erfingi, let alone hilmir.”
Gardar laughed, “I’d better be making plans to leave too!”
She sat down and set the basket on the table, “There’s something else as well, Kostr. The representatives from the engineering companies were hoping to talk with someone regarding the island’s make-up… Dr. Lea Amari asked for you to be at the next meeting.”
His lips twitched at the nickname. For as long as he could remember, Hilda had called him Kostr, meaning chance, rather than his given name. He remembered her telling him that it was because there was no such thing as a bregða. Every unexpected turn in your path was a chance to learn, grow, and move forward if you had faith.
And I have all the faith in the world in you, Kostr.
“Oh, how are they?” Bregðask asked, “Are they doing okay now?”
She nodded, “They’re doing just fine. Svala has pronounced them healed, and they’ve eaten well… Your father, however,…”
“Said no,” he said.
She sighed and shook her head, “I did my best to convince him, but that twin of mine should have been born a yak rather than a man.”
Bregðask shrugged, “I didn’t have much hope for it.”
After all, how would he explain Bregðask’s presence there to the council members who had already written him off as necessary to keep Svein’s position, but useless otherwise.
Hilda cleared her throat, “However, a certain hilmir arrived on Calder today with his Erfingi… Hilmir Dagur Norgard.”
Bregðask smirked, “They’re here?”
She shrugged, “Svein wanted his opinion given how well the infrastructure installation went on Harulf. Dagur happened to convince him that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to attend.”
Bregðask grinned, “Really?”
She nodded with a wide grin, “They’re meeting tomorrow morning. I’ve already told your professors that you’ll be busy, and gotten you the materials for the meeting.”
She pulled a folder out of the basket as Gardar grumbled, “Hey, I thought there was food in there.”
“There is, you old goat,” she said as Bregðask set his hammer down and walked to the table.
“Thanks, Aunt Hilda,” he said taking the folder, “I really appreciate it.”
“Of course, dear, though you should really be thanking Dagur.”
“I will,” he said and looked at the folder, “Wait… this is an application for Avalon’s internship program.”
There were a few other applications as well, but none of the other companies were ones he’d been interested in.
She shrugged, “I may have schmoozed a bit with them after the meeting was over… if you show off a little bit at the meeting, it wouldn’t hurt.”
He hugged her tightly, “You’re the best.”
“So long as you won’t be taking my apprentice from me, congratulations!” Gardar said.
Hilda rolled her eyes, “We see what you really care about.”
Bregðask laughed as Gardar shrugged. She stood up.
“I’m off now. Can’t be missing for too long or that brother of mine will get suspicious. I’ll see you at home, little one.”
She kissed his head and left.
Gardar breathed a sigh of relief, “Thank goodness she didn’t see your back.”
He chuckled, “For sure. I’ll put this away and be back.”
He carried the folder to the little workshop Gardar had given him and set it on his desk reverently. before returning to the working floor and getting back to work.
He and Gardar ate dinner after the rush ended in companionable quiet as Gardar relaxed in his chair and rubbed his leg, and Bregðask went over the tally sheets.
“Am I rich yet?” Gardar asked.
“Not quite, but you’re definitely richer,” he said, “Is your leg bothering you?”
“This old thing is the least of my worries.”
“I have something for you,” Bregðask said, and Gardar groaned.
“Not another leg, Bregðask.”
“Not at all,” he said, “Just an extension.”
Gardar glowered at him, “And what is it?”
“It’s a warming sock for what’s left of your leg. It’ll help it hurt less per modern medical science.”
Bregðask got up and hurried to his workshop before returning with the sleeve. He kneeled beside Gardar’s leg and removed the peg’s fitting gently. After murmuring a few spells and activating the spellwork on the sleeve, Gardar sighed as Bregðask slid it on.
“That’s a fair bit of magic,” he huffed, “Where’d you get it?”
“I had the Njalls bring it back for you,” he looked up, “Feel better?”
“Infinitely,” he smirked, “For what it’s worth, Bregðask, you would be a fine hilmir.”
It took a moment for him to breathe as he met the man’s gaze. It wasn’t often that Gardar praised anyone, but everytime he did it felt like a warm balm on wounds he didn’t even realize he had.
Gardar sighed, “If I had a son like you… I wouldn’t be worried about this old place, and…”
Bregðask knew what he was going to say, so he reattached Gardar’s peg leg and smiled up at him, “Will you tell me about him?”
Gardar looked down at him, and his eyes softened the way they always did when Bregðask asked him to tell him about his uncle Hrungnir. He would have died fighting a sickness if it had not been for the last raid on Calder. Svala could have treated his wounds, but the sickness was too strong for her to fight and had interfered with the healing process. He’d died in Gardar’s arms with his sword in hand, a hero’s death.
“We’d planned on leaving Calder together, maybe even the archipelago as a whole, but Odin called him to his table before any of that. He was a good man, and I couldn’t help it, such is the nature of Frigg’s gift… He would have lived if things had been different,” he shook his head, “I miss him, of course, but I hold no ill will towards why he didn’t live. Only the gods can know a man’s fate.”
There was something in Gardar’s tone that was more bitter than melancholic.
“This leg was the last thing he made,” Gardar said, “I don’t think I could ever part with it.”
“You’ll see him again,” Bregðask said, “There’s a spot right next to him at the table waiting for you.”
“Hopefully, I’ll still have hair then.”
The solemn air snapped with Bregðask’s laughter, and Gardar laughed along with him. He made sure the older man got to bed comfortably before cleaning up the forge, bringing down the fire and heading back to the Harvard clan’s house.
On his desk was a letter scented with a vaguely familiar and comforting scent. He picked up the letter with a smile.
You have quite the future in politics, son. I hope your father is paying you fairly for the services rendered…