- The Grave of Valkyries – Part 1
- The Grave of Valkyries – Part 2
- The Evidence
- A Stopping Place
- The Storm
- Ragnar’s Hall
- Not Like Indiana Jones
- A Homecoming, A Gift
- Dragon Heads
- Dust and Misogyny
- Stone Walls
- The Vikings
- Circumstantial Truths
- Dance With Me
- Find a Question
- A New Home
- The King
Rionan was assisting her father when Ingrid returned. She stopped in the doorway, confused at the sight of two heads, the first covered in a helmet of red hair and the other blond and balding, leaning together in stilted discussion over something Rionan held gingerly between her fingers.
“Curve here?” the girl asked. “Bead have rune for water.”
Bo bobbed his head and showed her how to make a proper mark. When Rionan took the sharp knife and marked the surface in a few swift strokes, he smiled. It was small, but it was there. Startled, she didn’t hear when Yrsa opened the door behind her.
“Welcome home, dear,” her mother said as she leaned up to kiss her on the cheek before maneuvering a basket of eggs into the house. Bo and Rionan looked up with twin expressions of confusion.
“Ingrid!” Rionan jumped from the table and flung herself at her. In her hands was a collection of bone, stone, and wood spheres, and she was excitedly telling her about them. Ingrid noted how she only switched to Irish occasionally when she didn’t have a word. Her adorable excitement overshadowed the stilted Norse.
Bo stood from the table and cleared his throat. The sound silenced Rionan’s chatter. Ingrid glanced at her father and squared her shoulders, expecting a confrontation.
Instead, he offered a gruff “Welcome back” before collecting his tools and heading out to his workshop. Rionan smiled and continued showing off her carvings.
They were good. Some were long, others short, and some were smooth, but most bore the etchings of symbols or designs that shaped the honey-colored oak into something intricate and delicate in a way that reminded Ingrid of her mother’s wedding jewelry. It was familiar.
“Did Papa teach you this?” she asked. Rionan nodded. Her hair bounced around her ears. It was longer than Ingrid remembered.
“He agreed to show me his techniques,” she said in Irish. Her expression turned melancholic. “His fingers can’t make the smaller shapes anymore. He complains in the mornings that they hurt him. Yrsa makes him soak them in warm water.”
“I figured as much,” Ingrid admitted. She ran her finger over the smooth surface of a bone shaped so that a spiral ran down the side. There used to be a similar piece tied into the mane of their pony when she’d been young. It was nice to see the same design.
“Oh!” Rionan grabbed her hand and dumped the beads into it before darting to the table. “I forgot I made you something,” and held out a flat object dangling from a cord. She waited for Ingrid to hold out her free hand before depositing the item into it.
“It’s a cross,” Ingrid noted. Her blunt tone must have offended Rionan because she pouted and grumbled.
It was a lovely piece. A ring had been carved out that circled the cross-section, similar to the ones Ingrid saw in Ireland. Miniature knotwork curved through all four arms of the charm in an overlapping, scale-like braid, and in the center, a triple knot had been painstakingly carved in fine detail. Its snowy white surface felt smooth under Ingrid’s fingers, buffed to a shine.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “It’s lovely.” Her praise mollified Rionan, who turned to her and indicated that she should put it on.
“I know you do not share the faith, but I want you to have it,” she said. “You’ve treated me well these past months, and I know you made sure they paid me while you were gone.”
“As I promised,” Ingrid reminded her. She played with the gift. It wouldn’t have gone to waste when she’d been traveling. Plenty of sellers preferred to do business with someone of the Christian faith. Rionan seemed so happy with her work that she decided to put it on without thinking more about it.
“It’s lovely,” she agreed as the cord settled around her neck. The pendant rested against her sternum. Bo’s questioning huff pulled her attention from her present. He was looking at her expectantly from the doorway. “Yes, I secured a shop for us.” He grunted and disappeared outside once more.
“Shop?” Rionan repeated with big eyes. “We are going to sell?”
Ingrid nodded. “Part of the trip was to get rid of cargo,” she admitted. “The other part was to set up a storefront in Reykjavík.”
“It used to be that Bo was one of the only carvers and bead-makers on the island, but trade has picked up. Our colony is small, but we are becoming bigger. Merchant’s come to us now. We don’t have to export our goods to the old country.”
The once-bare assemblage of buildings bustled with life. There were three boats in the harbor the day Ingrid left Iceland. Two of them belonged to fishermen. In her brief visit, she counted over a dozen merchant vessels. The market was smaller than Dubh Linn but filled with foreigners and locals alike. Now that their venture had begun, Ingrid was itching to employ all she’d learned on her travels.
Iceland was young yet. Bo and Yrsa had been among the first couples who settled there when the settlement was new and the land untamed. At the time, Ingrid had been half-grown, and Sigrid was barely walking unassisted. There was an opportunity in merchant ventures. She could see a bright future for her family if they could get ahead of the competition and establish a name for themselves.
“I didn’t believe him at first, but with the gold that I brought, I purchased the land and the building from an old friend of his. We can sell in town, and Papa can carve bigger pieces here.”
Rionan gnawed on her lip. Ingrid could hear the thoughts tumbling around in her head.
“Where do I go?”
“You may choose.” Ingrid shrugged. “You can come with me and do the small requests. If you want to stay, I can bring Sigrid instead.”
“You are staying in Reykjavík?”
“I can visit.”
The thrall clutched the pieces in her hand. She examined the table where she’d been working earlier and then the landscape beyond their window. Resignation settled over her face.
“I will go with you.”
Ingrid smiled. “We have a lot of work to do then.”
It took time to create enough inventory, but Bo and Rionan accepted the challenge with relish. Yrsa and Sigrid had been hard at work stringing them onto necklaces and bracelets. Ingrid packed their wares and sent a few letters to old colleagues inviting them to do business. Along with their family’s wares, a few pieces made of iron and gold had been added to the lot.
“I sold my ship and partnered with the metalsmith in town,” Ingrid informed her family. “We’ll market all goods under our name and pay him a portion for his pieces.” She’d also acquired glass beads on a whim. Several of which sat nestled alongside bone and wood. In a handful of months, they were ready to leave.
“Accept only coin,” her father warned her again. “No more trading.”
“I know,” she sighed, but Bo was already off on another rant about swindlers trying to take advantage of the young country. By the time they were ready to go Ingrid had to borrow a donkey to move everything.
Bjørn greeted them at the edge of Bo’s land. His grin was welcome, as was the boat he’d brought. Unlike the rest of her crew, he’d forgone joining up with other sailors and merchants. Over a mug of mead to celebrate the sale of her vessel, her first mate confided in her that he’d inherited land in Ireland and would be returning soon to make it a proper homestead. After a round of congratulations, she ordered him to find a wife to make fat babies with and name her godmother to everyone. He chatted excitedly with Rionan while they loaded everything for travel to Reykjavík.
It was a short trip to the shore and a long boat ride to the harbor. Rionan waved until Bo and Yrsa faded from view. Bo’s longhouse sat on a curve of the island, and as they maneuvered to the southeast towards Reykjavík, it vanished.
“We’ll visit soon,” Ingrid promised.