Bregðask spent the night reading the letter from his mother and drafting a reply. In all the years he’d been receiving these unaddressed letters, he’d never asked why she never addressed it to him or signed her name. She once said that he would know her name when they met formally and he’d left it at that.
He assumed it was a custom of where she was from along with everything else, and maybe it was also a ploy to keep their correspondence a secret.
Maybe the scent is the signature?
As dawn rose over the next day, Bregðask reviewed the material one last time and brush up on some of his basic modeling spells. He dressed in his best tunic and breeches before heading downstairs where Svein was sitting at the dining table.
Svein looked up, “Bregðask, I–”
A knock sounded on the door and Hilda walked to get it.
“Good Morning, Harvard clan!”
Bregðask grinned, hearing Dagur’s ever-cheery voice. He’d grown taller since the last time Bregðask saw him, broader too, but his eyes hadn’t changed. They were still a wide, over-energized, rich brown in his pale face. His hair seemed a little darker, but it had been a long and dark winter across the archipelago. With a sword and ax strapped to his back and his rough beard, he looked everything a hilmir was supposed to be and was only twenty-two.
Bregðask couldn’t imagine the stress of running an island as large as Harulf as hilmir at such a young age, especially given Dagur’s disposition and frequent attacks that befell Harulf from the pirates in the Greenland Sea, but he knew that between Kata and Dagur they had everything well under control. He hadn’t heard anything from Kata about her brother pulling out his sword in the middle of a council meeting, so he could only hope for the best.
Hilda squealed as Dagur caught her in a warm hug, lifted her from the ground, and spun her around.
“Put me down, young man!”
“Aren’t you as beautiful as the last time I saw you?” Hilda laughed as he set her down and turned to shake hands with Svein, “Still as large as a mountain, Svein. How are you?”
“Fine, Dagur. Thank you for coming.”
“Nonsense!” he said, “It’s the least I can do when– Bregðask, you’ve grown a whole inch!”
Bregðask snorted, “Thanks Dagur, but we both know that isn’t true.”
Dagur laughed loud and warm the way he always did before lifting Bregðask off the floor and into his arms for a bone-stressing hug, “It’ll happen, little brother. You’ve got the Harvard genes.”
He set Bregðask down and slapped both hands on his shoulders meeting his gaze. His voice lost a bit of its manic edge and turned serious, “Before we shove off to talk to all these people wanting to get this infrastructure contract–”
“Applying for a potential contract,” Svein cut in.
Dagur rolled his eyes, “I just wanted to thank you, Bregðask.”
His eyes widened as Dagur wrapped an arm around his shoulder and squeezed him close.
“Without your suggestions and kick in my rear, it would have never happened. The east side of Harulf loves it so much that people are moving until the rest of the island is done. Other hilmir come visit and are so jealous, and everyone thinks that I’m a great hilmir. My council is pushing me to start earlier than they’d agreed on before and even talked about financing other parts of the infrastructure from the stupid treasure hoard we have to expedite the process. It’s the best!” He sighed proud of Bregðask and squeezing him meaningfully, “You apply to a magical college, count me in to be a reference.”
“What?” Svein asked as Bregðask cleared his throat.
“Thanks, Dag’, really.”
“Oh, and Kata says hi and to expect her to see you about her ax. She’s gotten so spoiled our blacksmiths at home have started to hate her.”
He chuckled. Kata had always been particular about her ax, so he doubted it was because of him.
“Bregðask, a word.”
Bregðask groaned and followed the taller man outside as Dagur and his inexhaustible energy sparked up a conversation with Hilda about her hair.
“Did you start bleaching it? The color looks lighter. It’s marvelous…”
“What’s this about magical college?”
“Well, being a speechwriter doesn’t seem to be paying very well. I thought it a more viable career.”
He groaned at the man’s tone, “I want to study magical infr–”
“Absolutely not,” Bregðask sighed. He’d known how Svein would feel about it; hence, he hadn’t mentioned it in even their most casual conversations. “I don’t know how such a ludicrous idea got into your mind. You’re a Calderan Viking. You don’t study magical anything.”
“I’m half Calderan,” Bregðask said, and Svein’s eyes widened, “That means half Viking.”
“You’re all Viking.”
“So my mother’s from Turgis?”
“Harang? Frigard? Houlegate?”
“I’m not discussing this with you.”
He turned to return inside, and Bregðask smirked, “Asketill.”
The large man froze and Turned back to look at him over his shoulder with a glare.
“How long did you think that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out? I write your speeches, and you think I’m stupid?”
Svein opened the door, and Bregðask grinned at the spark of victory that went through him.
Point to me.
He walked back in to grab his bag and followed Svein and Dagur to the Great Hall.
Inside, the goðar, Sigfúss, Sigfrøðr, and the rest of the Calderan advisors sat. Bregðask walked with Dagur. Lea smiled at him as he passed and he grinned at her, Jyoti, and Su Jin.
“Who are you?” one of the advisors asked Lea and her team, “We were under the impression that the companies would be sending engineers.”
“We are engineers,” Lea said, “My team and I–”
“I wouldn’t trust a single thing built by a woman,” another old man said, and Bregðask opened his mouth to protest, but Dagur spoke first in a tone that was surprisingly calm.
“Well, that is an odd thing to say,” Dagur smirked, “And rude to add. Dr. Amari and her team were the lead engineers on Harulf’s infrastructure. I assume Harulf should not expect a visit from Calder any time in the future, then?”
Lea smiled politely and Bregðask’s eyes widened.
The man cleared his throat, “Hilmir Norgard–”
“I believe Dr. Amari and her team are entitled to an apology.”
Bregðask refused to smile as the man gave a stiff apology, cowed by Dagur’s voice and his reputation. Dagur was the youngest hilmir of the archipelago but his reputation as a warrior and a leader had chilled a lot of men to the bone. He was the Bloody Hilmir for a reason.
“No offense was taken,” she said, “You aren’t the first man to underestimate us.”
The advisors cleared their throats, and Dagur grinned as Svein stood up.
“Thank you all for coming. Calder is considering updating the infrastructure as you all know. Today, we’ll be listening to what you have to offer us in terms of a solution now that you’ve had some time to explore the island.”
Lea looked at Bregðask who met her gaze. There was a question there but whatever it was he made sure to nod.
The first company was a smaller company based in Norway and had made several visits to Calder over the years. Dagur tapped him and wrote on the piece of paper for Bregðask to read as they presented.
Did they actually get a tour?
Bregðask shook his head and wrote below it.
They had the Renouf clan show them around except for Dr. Amari’s team.
Bregðask winced, I’ll tell you at the break.
“Given its position in the archipelago, we think it’s possible to implement all the infrastructure within a year. The readings we’ve taken from the shore suggest a very stable influx of power from the ocean…”
Lea’s eyes narrowed as the man carried on, and Bregðask had a feeling that it would be a long meeting.
When the break came, Bregðask walked outside with Dagur and explained the fiasco of Lea’s team’s arrival. Dagur flushed and somehow breathed through the flare of rage Bregðask knew he was feeling. Slowly, Bregðask heard Dagur’s heart ease back down to a relaxed rhythm, and Bregðask was proud.
He knew Dagur had been struggling since the former hilmir of Harulf, his and Kata’s father, died to temper his moods and function as a decent chief for his people. It had been a rough road that had required him to go looking for help outside of the archipelago to tame the berserker, borderline manic disposition that he’d awakened as a child. Whatever he’d gotten had left him more excitable than insane most days, but it was the top of the iceberg. Beneath the surface rested a Norgard berserker’s rage, cunning, and brute strength. Bregðask had seen it in action during a brief attack on Harulf while he and Svein had visited.
The explosion had shaken the Norgard clan house, and in a breath Dagur was outside giving orders and tearing through enemies. His eyes had practically glowed as he was covered in blood.
He hadn’t been the ever-loveable Dagur then, but the embodiment of war, yet even then Bregðask hadn’t been afraid. Dagur had seen him casting protective spells over him, his men, and Svein. When the battle ended, Dagur had thanked him with blood still in his hair and moonlight in his eyes and promised him that they would always be blood brothers.
You are always welcome here, Dagur said, Any table you are not welcome to drink, neither will I drink nor dine for we are kin.
Dagur had kept his secret and held his word for the last five years.
Dagur took a deep breath and let it out through his teeth, “That means that every company in there is working on bullshit.”
“Well, except maybe Dr. Amari’s team…They probably know a bit more than the rest.”
Dagur huffed and clapped him on the shoulder, “You did well, little brother.”
Bregðask smiled and looked up at Dagur as Lea walked outside, and her eyes found Bregðask.
“Hilmir Norgard,” she said, “Þjóðann Bregðask. Could I steal you away for a moment?”
“Of course,” Dagur said, “Anything for you.”
She laughed, “I just wanted some confirmation about this.”
Dagur frowned as she offered them a sheet of paper to look over.
Bregðask grimaced and shook his head, “No, but close. It looks more like this.”
He conjured a full model of Calder and made it translucent to show an approximation of the cave systems color-coded by magical concentrations.
“When could you do that?” Dagur asked as Lea’s eyes widened, “You definitely couldn’t do that the last time I saw you.”
“Oh… I’ve been practicing,” he said, “Trying to map the cave systems and–”
“By Odin!” They turned to see a member of the goðar staring at him horrified. Svein came out and his face lost all color seeing the model floating over Bregðask’s hand.
“What…?” he flushed, “What’s going on here?”
The goðar scurried back inside and Bregðask found his voice, “I’m answering Dr. Amari’s question.”
Lea looked between them, “There were some approximations that we couldn’t get due to the lack of tour we were given.”
“You should never show up to a meeting unprepared,” he sneered, “Bregðask, inside now.”
He groaned and walked after Svein leaving the model floating beside Dagur.
“Tell me you know what to do with that,” Dagur said behind them.
Svein turned to him and thrust a finger in his face, “You will remain silent for the rest of this meeting, and we will have words tonight, do you understand?”
Svein turned back before he could respond and called the meeting to continue.
Dagur and Dr. Amari came back inside. She smiled, adjusted her glasses, and conjured another model. Bregðask’s eyes widened as she expanded it in the air to give them a clear view. Dagur let out a low whistle.
“First, I’d like to thank Þjóðann Bregðask for being so gracious of a tour guide,” she said, “I can see why people say that the archipelago is a hospitable place. Thanks to him, my team managed to get quite a bit of data on the island including its cave systems and the magical flux on each sector of the island. Based on the historical currents around and through the archipelago we’ve deduced…”
Bregðask watched entranced as she went through her presentation and it convinced him even more that he wanted to go into magical engineering when he left Calder. When she finished there wasn’t much to be said, and the next company came up to speak. Bregðask remained quiet for the rest of the meeting, but he didn’t feel like he was missing out by anything since Avalon clearly had the better proposal and the council of Calder was unable to say anything contrary to that.
“We’ll ask for everyone’s second iteration before the end of the week,” Svein said dismissing the meeting.
Dagur hummed and pat Bregðask on the shoulder, “I think you might be a shoe in for an internship with Avalon.”
Lea approached them and she smiled at Bregðask, “I was impressed on the beach, but conjuring a full model that I could duplicate definitely took the cake.”
He beamed up at her, “I practice.”
“I think if everyone practiced the way you did, we wouldn’t need magical colleges,” she said, “When you decide where you want to go, contact me for a reference and don’t even think about going to intern anywhere else.”
He smiled, “Really?”
Svein approached them.
“You have great potential as a magical engineer.”
“As nice as it is for you to say so,” Svein cut in stepping between them, “Bregðask won’t be going into magical engineering of any sort. His place is in Calder.”
Lea looked at Svein and then to Bregðask whose jaw was set and angry. She offered a smile.
“Four years is a long time,” Bregðask looked up at her, “Perhaps he’ll change his mind. Have a good day. I’ll get the next iteration to you no later than tomorrow morning.
She left then, and Svein turned and glared down at him, “Get to class. We’ll talk later.”
Dagur frowned and took Bregðask by the shoulder to walk him to the school’s compound while he ground his teeth.
“Your Dad’s more uptight than usual,” Dagur said, “What got into him?”
“I won our argument this morning,” Bregðask said, “I’m sure that didn’t help.”
“Was it about your mom?”
Bregðask nodded and Dagur shook his head, “Your father has got to fucking relax. Every man deserves to know where he comes from.”
“Thanks, Dagur,” he said, “Stay cool?”
Dagur grinned, “I’ll try. Stay brave, little brother.”
Bregðask waved him goodbye and headed into the building. As he walked to class, he lifted his head high and took a deep breath.
Lea was right. Four years was a long time, but maybe it wasn’t too long. Absently, he rubbed at the dull ache in his chest.
It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Four years isn’t that long.
It was just a lot longer than the twenty minutes it would take him to reach Viking’s Cliff.