After the meeting, Bregðask went to school. By the end of the day, his tunic was torn, he had at least three bruises that had blossomed and healed within a few hours and a bit of a headache. The pain in his chest had turned into a stabbing pain and forces his attention towards the sea.
He ignored it and went to visit Aslog the way he had every Friday since she had been pronounced doomed to die of whatever mysterious plague she had contracted. He suspected that it was the same one that his uncle would have died from if he hadn’t died from his battle wounds. She was once their most promising archer and one of the best choices to represent Calder in the Ørlǫg Raun.
Though Aslog lived in a town on the lower part of the island, she went to school in the capital town because her parents wanted her to have a good education. Paying for it, as far as Bregðask knew, had been difficult, and they quite often struggled through winters. It was part of the reason that Aslog fell sick.
She’d taken up work to try and help after school, but between her archery training and everything else, she had overtaxed herself. They thought it was stress, but it became obvious that it wasn’t just stress soon after her father had been lost at sea and assumed dead. Svala had pronounced her illness beyond her knowledge and had instructed her to be made as comfortable as possible while she searched for a solution. The goðar had simply pronounced her terminal.
Svein had made a show of trying to console Gura for a few months, but he’d quickly shifted focus on to something that would gain more public approval on Calder and spread more easily to other islands.
Bregðask and Dvalarr hadn’t stopped visiting even after Svein had dropped his pretenses, and between the two of them, Aslog and Gura had survives two winters without stable income.
Aslog hadn’t gotten any better, but she and her mother, Gura, seemed at least happy to know that someone thought of them frequently. He’d stayed for as long as he was welcome to drop off her homework the way he did every week, chat with her for a little while, bring them food, and make sure they had enough firewood to last until the next time he came. Dvalarr arrived in the middle of his visit with the extra wool blankets that Bregðask had asked him to bring back from his family’s last trading excursion.
Gura had tried to turn the gifts away, but Bregðask only took her hands and told her that she was a citizen of Calder and thus it was his duty and pleasure to help her in any way he could.
This is a small thing, he told her, Let us be kind.
She had squeezed him tightly and said nothing more, but he knew that they would have the conversation again when the weather picked up with the coming of summer. Gura had carried on like a true Viking for the past two years, but Bregðask had no intention of abandoning them. He chuckled, thinking of how distraught she’d been in January when he’d showed up in the middle of the blizzard to check on them and bring them food. While the wind howled, he’d repaired the hole in their roof and the sides of their house. He’d insulated their house as best he could and checked up on them every day during skammdegí despite her protests.
When he left, the stresses of the day made themselves known in the weight of his feet as he made his way back to the Harvard house through the dark and cold at little more than a shuffle. He felt lighter, not just for going to see someone who needed hope and helping people in need, but for making contact with a brilliant mind in the field of magical engineering. The frigid air felt good against his overheated skin.
He was sure that Svein had plenty to say to him, but he couldn’t care. He’d have to finish the healing kista he wanted to give to Aslog sooner rather than later and hope that it at least helped. As he neared the Harvard clan house, he heard his father breathing slowly and almost patient, but wasn’t shocked for him to still be awake and apparently waiting up for him. Maybe today would be the day that Svein would actually ask his son where he spent all of his time.
Not in a million years. He’d have to care first.
If there was anything that Svein did well, it was keeping his promises to berate Bregðask when he said he would. Bregðask rolled his shoulder and opened the front door only to see Svein in the living room. The anger flared up again, but it didn’t feel like an out of control fire.
“Where’s Aunt Hilda?”
“Gone, she didn’t need to be here to hear this.“
You mean to get in your way.
“Well, I’m headed to bed–”
“Not quite,” Svein said, “While I applaud you for keeping things from me on my island, it won’t continue.”
“Where have you been studying magic?”
“With Svala and at the library. Are you going to close it?”
Svein sneered at him, “You must think you’re clever, Bregðask. You aren’t. I am hilmir of this island and my word is law. You will cease and desist.”
He stood up, “I’ll have you watched from this moment on. You won’t breathe or think without me knowing about it. Do you understand?”
Bregðask sighed and refused to roll his eyes, “For how long?”
“However long it takes for you to get this nonsense out of your head.”
“So until I’m twenty?” Svein glared down at Bregðask, “Last I checked, you’re hilmir, but when I turn twenty, I’ll be a free man across the entire archipelago, so you can have me watched, you can have me followed, you can do whatever you’d like on this island for the next four years.”
His hand lifted through the air and it wasn’t the first time that Bregðask had braced for the blow, “So help me, Bregðask–”
“You’ll hit me?” Bregðask asked, something dark and angry bubbling up and making him bare his teeth, “ Lock me up in that wooden shack we call a prison? Put me in the stocks? Be my guest. It’ll be the only real attention you’ve shown me my entire life! Everyone else on this island gets a chance to abuse me, most of them have hit me at least once, you might as well take yours too.”
Svein grit his teeth and their gazes locked, but the larger man lowered his hand. Instead, he grabbed the ax sitting on the table.
“You’ll be starting a new physical training regimen tomorrow,” Svein said and dropped the ax in Bregðask’s arms. It felt weightless as he glared at his father, “I expect you’ll be too tired to even lift a book, let alone a magic tome.”
The large man stalked past him, and Bregðask remained perfectly still.
“I can’t see how you spend so much time helping Gardar, yet you are still–” Svein sighed, “I expect you up in the morning to go running with Alek and Sordlak and have my speech for the Summer Feast done by morning. It’s on your desk, and if I catch you fiddling around with any more magic stuff, we’ll have words. Understand?”
Bregðask said nothing and the man turned around. Whatever Svein saw in his face, it made his green eyes darken and the shadows in his face deepen as he walked to tower over Bregðask. It was supposed to be intimidating, he knows, but all he can feel is angry. All it feels like is a challenge of who was more stubborn, who was more powerful, who was more unforgiving.
Something in his chest told Bregðask that he would win today and every day after.
No, Bregðask thought, You’re better than this.
“I expect an answer, Bregðask.”
Bregðask let the ax fall from his arms at the man’s feet. Svein flushed in anger, and Bregðask walked away and up the steps with a low, rumbling growl in his chest.
Once upstairs, he walked to his room, to his desk, sat down, and picked up a piece of charcoal with his left hand. He looked at the scrawling scratch of his father’s hand-writing and couldn’t even believe that the man had the nerve to place it there, yet Bregðask knew that he wouldn’t let his father write his own speech if he could help it.
Even if he was furious with him at the moment.
He knew that his mother, per Hilda, had done it, and then Hilda had taken over for a short time, but Svein’s inability to write a good speech wasn’t something known to many people. He was charismatic when speaking in situations that he could control like small groups, but the man could not write to save his life to speak to a crowd.
Unbelievable, he thought clenching his fist and growling low and angry.
The grit of charcoal between his fingers didn’t distract him the way it normally did by sending his mind spiraling down a million and three paths. It snapped in his fist with a soft crack as a knock sounded on his door. From the sound of the fist against the wood, it was Hilda.
Hilda poked her head in with a platter of what looked like mutton.
“I brought dinner,” she said and stared at him he heard her heartbeat jump for a moment before smoothing back to an easy pace as his shoulders relaxed.
“Thanks, Aunt Hilda.”
“You had another argument with him, didn’t you?” Bregðask nodded as she closed the door behind her, “How’d the meeting go?”
He threw his hands up and stood as she set the plate down and sat down in the other chair by his desk.
“It’s like they don’t even want Calder to be in the 21st century, sabotaging everyone’s research by letting an idiot lead them around. Ugh, and the look on his face when he saw me cast that spell–”
“You can cast spells now?”
Bregðask stilled and ducked his head, “I…”
“For how long?” She asked as he scratched his head.
He slowly looked up only to find her expression not one of horror or anger, but curiosity and pride, if he wasn’t mistaken.
“You’re not angry?”
“Why would I be?”
“You know, the whole Loki’s brood thing? The fact that no other Calder Viking seems to be able to?”
She laughed, “There are worse things than being able to do something incredible. Tell me, what kind of spell did you cast?”
“A… modeling one,” he said, “It was just to show the map of the caves beneath the island.”
Her eyes widened, “Have you traversed those caves?”
“Some of them, not all of them… I use it when I want to explore.”
She smiled, “That’s pretty advanced.”
Bregðask flushed, “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“It’s a pretty big deal,” she gave him a sly grin, “Though that sounds like that’s not the most impressive thing you can do…”
Bregðask grimaced, and she pulled up his chair, “How about you take a seat, eat, and tell me all about it?”
He hesitated, but of all the people in his life, Hilda had always been the one person who had taken everything in stride, so he sat down at the table and dragged the plate toward him.
“I made a staircase in the cliffs a few days ago.”
Her eyes widened, “Do tell me more.”