Boeden gave his father a big hug when he finally came home from the docks. After dinner, they spoke for an hour or two in the study, in front of the fireplace, catching up. Boeden asked his father about the current war situation, and what exactly had the ships been encountering, and damage they had been sustaining.
Draedon the senior stretched his legs out and wrapped his hands around a mug of warm brandy, and was silent for a long time before answering. “The Jiand have called the tursa and traig mor. The attacks have been here, there, quick and over with. But the number of ships damaged …” He trailed off and shook his head. “More than half the fleet is either in the harbor for repairs, or just outside, awaiting them.”
“Einmar, the Jiand are using the tursa and the traig mor? I wonder why the Jiand have stepped-up the attack so?” Boeden took a deep breath, “I will stay, and help you and Dreadon as much as I can, for as long as you need me. I will go with you tomorrow morning, to work at the docks. Well, I better get some rest, it’s going to be a long day tomorrow, and we will be starting early.”
While it was still dark in the wee hours of the morning, Boeden got up and dressed in work clothes. He ate some breakfast, then packed Savarne’s box gently in some linen, then put it into a small backpack. Boeden waited for his father to come down from upstairs, grab a quick bite to eat, and then they were out the door, and on their way to the docks.
They walked in silence for awhile, then Boeden said, “Dad, a part of me feels like a kid again, walking to work with you, I just wish it was for better circumstances. Sometime later today I will try to see Ariel, I have missed her very much, but for this morning I will check in with the Yardmaster, and see where I can help.”
Draedon just nodded, and pointed Boeden to the Yardmaster’s office, as if his son might have forgotten how to find it, before heading off to his own duties.
As Boeden walked along the already-bustling shipwrights’ docks, he could tell from the general atmosphere that the war had taken a turn for the worse—the usual easy-going camaraderie of the shipbuilders and their assistants was gone, replaced with a grim-faced air of determination. The Yardmaster’s workhouse had an equally somber though noisy mood, and silver-haired Yardmaster Geirde Aras herself looked like she had worked throughout the night.
She greeted Boeden briefly, welcomed him back to Farolan, and just as quickly directed him to report to crew-chief Vadiman, a middle-aged Jotunn who had known Boeden since he was a child. Vadiman, in turn, looked him up and down, and asked skeptically whether he had become a better shipsbuilder in the south than he had been before he left.
Boeden furrowed his brow at the comment, but simply stated “No, but desperate times require desperate measures, I will be a mule if need be. Strong arms and backs are always needed to move and bring the heavy things to the ‘skilled’ workers, and there are not to many stronger than mine. Just give me a place to put my things, and I promise you, no one on these docks will outwork me.” Boeden strangly looked forward to straining his muscles, he loved to test his strength and he hadn’t done so, since dragging that humongous bear with Broc.
Vadiman nodded, and after Boeden had stowed his belongings, swiftly set him to work carrying and holding timbers, fetching buckets of spikes and barrels of pitch, hauling on ropes to, and unfurling massive rolls of canvas for sails. He was far from the only “mule” working—partway through the morning, he began to see the faces of men and women whom he knew were ship’s crew, or part of the harbor guard like his cousin Reidun, all putting in another shift of work and taking direction from the shipbuilders and lending muscle and strength where they lacked skill and craftsmanship. By noon, he was starting to feel the strain from the unaccustomed work, and by mid-afternoon the muscles in his shoulders, arms and thighs were burning.
When he turned to carry away broken timbers to find Reidun waiting for him, it was a welcome break. “Your mother said you came down with your father,” she said, reaching to take some of the wood from him and balancing it carefully across her own shoulders.
“Yeah”, he said between some quick breaths. “I wasn’t just going to do nothing, while everyone else was working their ass off.” His face betrayed the anger he felt at himself for feeling so worn. The strength was there to move anything anyone on the docks could and more, but his stamina was trained in fighting for the last ten years, and his body was not adapting to this type of work, like he had thought it would. He had made a promise, maybe even a boast to the yardmaster, and he was not going to break it, or let himself be broken.
“It’s not the type of work we’re used to,” Reidun replied with a note of understanding. “Give me a sword, or a warhammer, or a greataxe to swing, and I’ll swing away all day. Or march for a month. But this is its own type of monotony, and it’s … different.” She tried to shrug, but that set the timbers to sliding, and she stopped to readjust her grip.
“I hear that”, Boeden said with an apologetic look on his face. As they walked to place the timbers in the proper pile, Boeden said, “I guess there is not going to be much time to see Ariel, Naren, or…well anyone, right now. I would like to see them even for a little bit, after our shift, if that is all right with you?”
Reidun’s grin was wide, and fierce. “Of course. They’ll just have to put up with us being all sweaty and worn out. Maybe we can ask for some laying on of hands,” she added with another grin. “Just to relieve us of our weariness.” It was about all the jollity for which she had time or energy to spare, before Vadiman and his crew had them busily at work again.
When they were finally released, with a new set of people coming on duty for the evening shift, Reidun stretched her arms above her head and rolled her shoulders with a groan. “They’ll be at the Temple,” she told Boeden, referring to the floating buildings set out into the harbor. “I’ll get someone to row us about because, frankly,” she rolled her shoulders again with an audible pop, “I’m not up for it.”
Boeden almost automatically offered to row them about, but then thought better of it. As sore as he was right now, he wasn’t sure he could hold out Savarne’s gift with a steady hand, let alone after rowing. He chuckled at her comments, but decided he was going to do his best not to let Savarne see that he was in any pain, he would not look weak in her eyes again.
On the ride out to the Temple, Boeden closed his burning eyes, and thought about what he wanted to do while he was here. He couldn’t wait to see his sister, give her a great big hug, and do some catching up. He had to deliver the small crate he was carrying, with two bottles of twenty five year old whiskey, from the Lady of Sutton to the Oberste Dochter. Most of all he wanted to see Savarne again. He wanted to see the look on her face when he gave her, her gift, he hoped she liked it as much as he did.
The gentle rocking of the water almost put him to sleep until the boat suddenly bumped into the dock of the temple.
Even late as it was, this far north during the summer the sun still hung above the horizon, casting a warm sheen of gold over the harbor surface and the flowing curves of the temple. Boeden’s eyes tracked the gently rolling waves of the water, seeing again the inspiration for the temple’s design, tracking the sunlight towards the cliffs that spread their arms wide around the harbor. A series of menhirs were spread across the top of the sweep of those arms, dark shapes against the eastern sky. From this distance, it was impossible to make out the worn and carven faces, the visages of the lost sons of Pwyll, staring into the west, where the first daughters of Einmar had sailed into the sun.
Reidun, who had scrambled out of the boat and onto the gently rocking dock, caught his stare, and followed it towards the cliffs. “You can’t see them from Farolan,” she said, and extended a hand out to him, “unless you’re on top of the cliffs themselves. But here from the temple, you can look up and see them. Watching for the daughters.” There was a wistful note in her voice, and when Boeden looked at her, she smiled a bit sheepishly. “I like to go up there sometimes and look out, see it the way they do,” she nodded towards the standing stones. “Waiting for the ships.”
She stopped there, biting off the words. Boeden knew the tale, though, how the first daughters had never come back in all the long centuries the sons of Pwyll waited, with their bones sinking into the granite of the cliffs, and their hearts settling into stone.
“We give our hearts to the ones we love, knowing the risks. We just have to have trust in them, and faith in Einmar, that their ships always come home”, Boeden said softly, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Now let’s not waste another moment, on what might be, I for one, know I have waited a long time to see them.”
Reidun nodded, and after thanking the oarsman, turned to lead Boeden across docks. The temple consisted of a series of buildings, with the main temple hall in the center surrounded by lower buildings, and then a series of low, long boats around the perimeter, all interconnected by wood-and-plank walkways, or stairways, or bridges. If necessary, it could all be disconnected, shedding first the smaller boats, and then the larger, and then the smaller buildings shrugged off from the temple hall. Such had been done in the past, during the worst storms, which even the Daughters would not seek to calm; the smaller boats could take shelter in the docks at cliffside, the great weights of chain and stone that anchored the temple in place could be winched above the waters and the temple itself towed closer to land.
It had been years since Boeden had lived here—he had still been a child when his mother had stepped upon land to live with her father. But in a hundred feet, the shift of the planks beneath his feet, the sway of the ropes, had become familiar again. “Ariel and Naren will be waiting for us in the families’ hall,” Reidun told him, referring to the public dining hall where the Daughters could freely meet with other Jotunn. “I sent a message over this morning, to let them know we were coming.”
“You are smarter than I,” Boeden said smiling, “I had forgotten all about having to do that.”
They walked along in relative silence, but both smiling. They said hello to the occasional Daughter that were moving about the halls. Boeden took a deep breath as they entered the families’ hall, partially in remembrance, and partially because he could not wait to see Ariel. They walked into the large hall to get a better vantage point, to spot Ariel and Naren, when Boeden stopped dead in his tracks. Reidun, noticing Boeden was not next to her, stopped and turned around. “What is it?” she asked.
Boeden was just staring, over her right shoulder, “She looks just like Mom used to, when she was here”, Boeden said, as Reidun turned to see Ariel and Naren standing at a table. “Really?”
Reidun gave him a skeptical look, and examined Ariel from a distance. “I guess she looked more like your mother than your father, but …” She shrugged. “I can’t remember much about what Arene looked like when I was that young.” She lifted one hand, but Naren – taller than the dark-haired Reidun, and with lighter brown hair—had already noticed them, and nudged Ariel’s elbow to draw her attention. “That’s my girl,” Reidun said to Boeden. “Hands off.”
Boeden smiled, and with a nudge of his own to Reidun’s shoulder said, “She is pretty, but I have already given my heart to another.” They walked over to the table where Reidun introduced Naren to Boeden. “She’s quite a handful, Naren, are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?” Boeden said, thumbing at Reidun. “Nah, truth be told, she’s the best, I am very happy for the both of you.” Boeden walked over to Ariel, gave her a big hug, and whispered into her ear, “I have really missed you, sis.”
“Welcome back, brother.” She returned Boeden’s embrace, and he could feel the strength in her arms. Ariel had change in the five years since Boeden had seen her last; her girl’s face had hardened, but her smile was still warm. “I would say that you look all grown up, but I’d be afraid you would hit me”, Boeden said smiling. He motioned for the women to sit first, and then sat across from Areen, so it would be easier to talk. “So, tell me what has been going on for the past five years, I have heard some things about you, but I have been out of touch for awhile.” Boeden could not help but smile, looking at his sister, he was so very glad to be home.
“I would have thought Draedon had caught you up on things when you saw him in the south,” Ariel answered. But once they all had settled, she and the other two women started recounting every bit of family news and community gossip for the past five years, finally touching upon some of the events in the war, ships Naren and Ariel had served on, and people they all knew who had been injured or killed. “We are in a period of regrouping right now,” Ariel ended, “with so much of the fleet in the harbor or just outside, awaiting repair.”
Boeden, being someone ‘who wears his heart on his sleeve’, his face betrayed his emotions as Ariel and Naren told their stories. When they finished Boeden thought about Ariel’s original statement. “I was a little busy down south, and when Draedon came south well … there was a different set of problems going on.” He automatically wrinkled his brow thinking about, the whole fire on the docks night, but said nothing about it, THAT was in the past. “I am sure glad to back though, even with…” He did not finish the obvious. “Does anyone have an idea about why the Jiand picked now to attack, and so brutally? How did they convince the other two to get involved?”
Both Naren and Ariel looked at each other and shrugged. “It’s not as if they scheduled it with us, but things are always busier in the summer, when the sea lanes are clear of ice,” Naren answered.
“And the tursa and the traig mor are not inclined to answer our questions,” Ariel added.
“Funny. I just can’t remember the harbor being so full of our damaged ships. Maybe the war has been building over the five years I have been gone? Ariel, how long do you think you will be in port? I would like to see you as often as I can, while I am here.”
“For a couple of more weeks at least,” Ariel answered. Next to her, Naren reached one hand across the table to take Reidun’s.
“Thank Einmar, at least I will get to see you for a little while. Well it has been a long day, it is getting late, and I have one more stop. Does anyone know where I can find Dron Skippe Hoine?”
There was a beat, just the slightest pause while Ariel looked at her brother before she answered. “In the temple fold.” She cocked her head, considering. “It is still public hours. If you wanted to go see her without escort.”
“That sounds like a good idea, I have some things to discuss with her, some information I need, for Ellinden So, and the such.” Boeden stood and gave his sister and cousin a hug good-bye, and shook Naren’s hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”
Boeden left and went to the temple fold, to look for Savarne. Along the way, he remembered he came straight from work, and ran his hand through his long hair. ‘Remember look into her eyes,’ he thought to himself.
The Kjell rested in the center of the fold, in a lower space in the floor (to place it closer to the waters of the ocean beneath), with tiers of gently sloped benches rising around it on three sides. There were a handful of congregants gathered, sitting alone or in pairs scattered about. As Boeden paused in the entry, he could see Savarne about 80 degrees around the semicircle to his left, dressed in tunic and trousers of soft blue wool, hands folded in her lap and eyes closed in meditation.
‘Einmar she is beautiful,’ Boeden thought to himself, as he slowly and as quietly as possible, made his way to her.
She held herself motionless, and he took a seat a tier lower, and five feet away from her, waiting for her to open her eyes and notice him. Instead, after several minutes she spoke with her eyes still closed. “Welcome to the temple, Boeden Narwin. Or, welcome back.”
Boeden smiled. Even with her eyes closed, he stared at them. “It is good to be back , and even better to be welcomed by you. If I am disturbing you I can come back later, if not, I wondered if we could talk awhile.”
Savarne opened her eyes and considered him. “No disturbance.” She stood and held out one hand. “We should walk. There are those whose prayers continue.” A small gesture of her other hand indicated the others scattered about the room.
Boeden took her hand as firmly as she gave it. He just walked in silence with her for awhile, enjoying the feel of her hand in his, its warmth. When they found a place to talk in private, he sat across from her and made sure to look her in the eyes. “How have you been since I last saw you, I see you and all the Daughters have had their hands full?”
“It has been … challenging.” There was a world of weariness in the word, but determination as well.
“I am very glad to see you are safe. Do you know how long you will be in port? I hope it is at least as long as my sister’s stay. I would be honored if you would allow me to spend some of that time, with you.” Boeden reached into his pack and gently took out the linen wrapped carved wood box. As he held it out to her in both hands he said, looking into her eyes, “This is just to let you know, that even though we were apart, you were on my mind and in my heart. I hope that it makes more sense than the dinner did.”
Savarne held his stare steadily until he had finished speaking, her pale green eyes calm. A hint of a slight smile might have touched them, like a glint of sunlight on the sea, before she deftly unwrapped the package and set the linen aside. She traced the carvings of the box with her fingertips. “It is lovely.” She looked up and paused at his expression. “It’s not just the box, is it?”
“Go ahead and open it”, Boeden said smiling with a nervously excited glint in his eyes. Savarne paused a moment before opening the box, Boeden could not tell from his view what expression was on her face. As the lid opened, the torchlight reflected off of the intricate weave of the gold fishing net. The light made the scales of the fish, inside the net, seemed as if they were moving, as she moved the box. Einmar’s symbol lay at the top of the net, as solid as an anchor. The thick heavy chain of gold rope gleamed, and looked of strength. Rolling waves of protection eminated from it as it lay in the silk lined box.
Savarne held one hand over the pendant, eyes closing momentarily to feel the wash of magicks coming from the box. “This is beautiful,” she said before opening her eyes again. She lifted the chain, allowing the fish in the net to slide to the end, dangling. “A beautiful gift for a fisherman’s daughter.” She held out her hand. “If you would?” After he had looped the chain over his fingers, she reached back to lift her hair free of her neck so he could put the necklace on her.
Boeden stood and moved behind her to lock the heavy clasp. He could not contain his joy, and he smiled from ear to ear. He bent over and whispered into her ear, “I am very glad that you like it, I feel comforted that it will be with you to help protect you, and maybe it will remind you of me every once in a while.” Feeling slightly emboldened, he kissed her very gently on the cheek.