Bian -11- Foldings and Footballs

Somewhere, past the edge of trust lies a land called...

by Erin Halfelven


Chapter 11 - Foldings and Footballs

I desperately wanted to take all the cartridges out and count them again, but I restrained myself. Instead, I covered the guns and cartridges on the table with a cloth and went back out to my front room. I didn’t want to do too much thinking just then. Magic…. No, I didn’t want to think about it.

I stepped into the outer room, closing the door behind me. Unlike the oaken door to the hallway, this internal door was made of leather stretched over a wooden frame. A pattern of marks covered the shinier side of the leather, and I really looked at them for the first time. After a moment, the marks resolved themselves into runes, like ones I had seen in my own world. Except these I could read and understand. More magic.

The runes were a poem, told with alliteration and rhythm and with rhyming couplets at the end of each six-line stanza. I could read it but it seemed to be in an older version of the language I had been speaking without too much thought since I got here. And yet, I had no trouble at all translating this meaning in my mind, though I could not preserve all the poetry of it.

“So did Henrik, swift and stark, swim back to the ship. And his men
Helped to hale him aboard with laughter and frolic that he was alive.
But in his mouth he had a fish, and the kind of this fish was common,
But it was a cold, cold fish because it was icy, hard and stiff.
And Henrik said, ‘Better a song sung to a tune played on a broken harp,
Better a scant meal than none, even if it were only a frozen carp.’”

Which explained, sort of, something Rotgar had said before. The mental translation lost most of the feeling of the poem which was quite intricate and involved. For instance, the three times it said fish were three different words for fish: one for a caught fish (piskt), and one for a live fish (piske) and one for a preserved fish (salpish), each of which made the rhythm and alliteration in the line work.

I shook my head at the skill of the bard who had written the poem, but there was art in the way the runes were carved into the hide, too. And the lower part of the door had a sort of illustration incised into it, of a bearded man wearing a leather cap and holding a fish in his mouth while he swam toward a boat that looked very like a dragon ship. So we were Vikings, after all, or ex-Vikings, I supposed.

I made a noise, having been pretty much silent until then.

Kilda looked up, smiling. “There you are, heart,” she said. “I’ve got something for you.” She held up a gown to show me that she had sewn pockets into it as neat as could be, right along the side seams, so they hardly showed unless you knew to look for them.

I praised her work lavishly; it was, in fact, very good. The pockets would be practically invisible when the gown was worn; provided they did not get stuffed too full. I wanted to try them out immediately, so Kilda helped me change out my somewhat dressier current gown (it had some embroidery on the sleeves and neck) for the plainer one with the pockets. I didn’t put the vest-like overgown back on as it would stop me from reaching the pockets easily.

Kilda had done something else; each seam had two pockets. The smaller upper pockets sat at just about waist level while the larger pockets hung off my hips. That had been Kilda’s own idea and it was marvelously practical.

I handed her the vest, “Can you put hidden slits in this so I can reach through to get at the pockets?” She nodded and went to work on that right away.

After retrieving the smaller Glock from the inner bedroom, it fit well into the lower pocket on my right side and its two extra magazines went into the left hip pocket. Getting the Glock, or anything of similar size, back out of a hip pocket took two hands, though. It would be even harder once I was wearing the vest. And what about if I were outside and wore a coat or a cloak?

I stood there pondering what might be done to make all of it easier while Kilda nattered on.

“I’m going to add pockets to a couple of my gowns, too,” she said. “If it is all right with you, heart?”

“Ikka,” I mumbled, not really listening closely. I wondered if a leather lining to one of the pockets would make it act more like a holster.

“The kildrinir are going to want to make pockets for their kvinnirin, too, I think.” Kildrinir meant children but here she was using it to mean the serving women to the high-born ladies in residence. Kildrinir and kvinnirin were both double plurals, I noted absently, which was how you said all of something. In fact, kildrinir was a triple plural for some reason. “And for themselves, as well,” she added. “Ont onn demselferin, ikka den gota.”

I nodded vaguely, then reconsidered. “Don’t tell anyone about pockets, not right away. Let’s keep them hidden,” I said. “Hidden from other tongues, at least.” Secret, that is. I noticed that I had automatically double-pluraled tenga to tengirin. Top secret.

“Och, aye,” said Kilda but she made a noise at the disappointment of not being able to share something so juicy.

I was at the keldringer debating whether to get my holster out and try to fit it into my new pocket to see if that made pulling out a weapon easier when the door to the hallway opened and in stepped Rotgar followed by Alenna’s stepmother I had seen back in the Great Hall. No one of any rank ever seemed to think of knocking before entering a room.

Rotgar looked worried, and Borgifu (that was her name) looked sort of happy or satisfied about something.

“Your stedmuther came to tell you…” Rotgar began but the blond woman interrupted him.

“They are readying to send you off to Yuvil this afternoon,” she said. “To keep you safe.” She looked at me curiously. An elegant-seeming woman, she was several inches taller than Kilda and so towered over me.

“Fantastic,” I said in English, provoking Kilda to cough and nudge me. “Vas grosam speller gotam,” I added in Bloddingr. They all looked at me as if confused.

“This pleases you?” asked Borgifu, looking doubtful.

“What great good news,” I repeated, scowling and with more of an edge.

“Ach, zo ikka,” she said. “You meant it cuttingly.” She grinned at me, a woman who could appreciate sarcasm. “Your face and voice are so blameless; no one can know for sure.”

This caused Rotgar to flash a grin at me but he subsided back to his look of worry. “Lennakin,” he said, making a diminutive of my name, “you must decide if you want to go through with this.”

“I get a vote?” I said.

“Borgilla came to warn you and….”

Another diminutive but this one made me think of my stepmom as Borg-zilla, not a bad nickname for a woman who was eight or ten inches taller than me and probably forty pounds heavier. Saftiklik they would say locally, statuesque, or in another Germanic dialect, zaftig.

“…And to tell you that I have horses waiting if you still want to run away,” Borgifu finished for him. The word she used meant horses for traveling; horses for war was a different word.

Rotgar nodded. “And I have my own warhorse who is strong enough to break through any snow we might find on the road going north.”

Kilda squealed and moaned, causing all of us to jump. She seized me in a grip and kept repeating, “Oh, heart, oh my heart, my chick! Fare not, fare not. Fare not without me!”

“Well, of course, you will go if I do, tontie,” I whispered into her fierce hug. “I’d be lost without you.”

She subsided into blubbering and fretting about the North Wind whom she seemed to regard as a personage and an old enemy. “You’ll not take this chick from me, Tayn Nargaela,” she said. “Let me go, heart, and I will ready gear for a long and bitter trek.”

She had been holding me, not the other way around so I turned to Borgifu. “Why? Why did you come to tell me this?” I asked.

Stepmom didn’t like me asking and Rotgar turned to look at her with his eyes narrowing, too.

She tossed her head. “I have a daughter who will be fourteen in six months. If you are gone, perhaps Yuvil will accept her troth in trade for your broken pledge.”

She didn’t look old enough to have a teenage daughter, but if she had gotten married at fourteen too, it could be possible. “A step-sister?”

Borgifu explained, “Yes, but she is more. Your cousin Dagrun is the daughter of my first husband, Unlief, your father’s younger brother. Your father took me as wife when Unlief was killed fighting the Fremderin.” The Welsh? I didn’t ask.

“Okay,” I said. “This just gets more thrice-folded and turned-back-to-fore the more I hear.” I turned to Rotgar. “Why would we go north?” I asked.

He looked dumfuzzled. “My cousin, the Kong of Yorvik….” He trailed off.

Borgifu jumped in. “He’s one of the ones that wants to marry you off to Yuvil, to make the Esvelk fast in the Narthingr party.”

“Skaita,” said Rotgar.

“Should I have let Zenner’s men take me?” I asked but none of them looked happy with that thought.

“The Reymikerin want you for some fell end of their own, and the Sudderings are in their hold,” Kilda said, close to blubbering again.

“But they would take me to my… my mother….” The words almost stuck in my throat. I had never known a real mother back in my own world.

“Your mother wanting you back is just a story to ease their stealing you. Your grandfather is in on this as a way to weaken the Narthingrin. Because of selling lead and tin from mines, and wool and grain and hides from farms, he has got wealthy in trade with Reyma. If he can pull Adelwalt out of the Narthingr grip, then he will be able to name the Olkong at the Velkmote on Zommersdag. And with you in his or his friends' care, he could force Moleen to his side.”

“More foldings.” I snorted. “I’m a political football here,” I said in English. I tried it again in Bloddingr. “I’m a folk-stirring game ball,” it came out. And I look like a frosh-team cheerleader, I added privately.

“It’s true,” said Rotgar.

“There’s only one place to go then,” I said. “Lundenna is a free city, not controlled by the Reymikerin or any of the Bloddingr parties. Right?”

They tried to talk me out of it, all at once.

Kilda grabbed me tight again. “Lundenna is full of Saxons speaking their blatherskite and worshipping Ti-waw and drinking blood and selling babies….”

Rotgar was grim. “I don’t know anyone in Lundenna but that’s where most of the trading with Reyma is done. I don’t know what side they might be on if it came down to it or who they might seek to trade you to.”

Borgifu’s objection was simpler. “It’s not far enough away for Adelwalt and Yuvil to give up on getting you back.” And being willing to substitute her Dagrun for me.

The door behind Rotgar opened suddenly.

“Doesn’t anyone ever knock?” I protested but in English again. Kilda pinched me and I pulled myself free of her, determined to give whoever it was a piece of my mind.

Stepping around Rotgar, I confronted a warrior in full armor, almost as tall as Rotgar but much heavier. And no beard. A woman?

“Lillakatye!” said Rotgar. “I asked for someone else to help me ward you, Alenna. Who better than the house’s only kriegsvrow?”

Warwife? I stared at her. She had a big T-rune on the chest of her armor, looking like a crude drawing of a spear head. Also T for Ti-waw, god of war.

“Saxonish,” whispered Kilda behind me.

“Kvinna,” Lillakatye said to me politely in a voice only a little deeper than Kilda’s. “I will knock next time.” Then to Rotgar she said, “Fishbreath, you were to be out here guarding, not inside nattering with the women.” Then to me again, smiling. “He’s such a flirt.”

“Ikka,” I agreed.

Rotgar laughed.

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