Heard It On The Grapevine
All things considered, Pall did pretty well. Maybe you felt you wanted to see more of what happened, between Kala and Pall, but really, that was it. Kala cleaned her rifle, and once Pall had made tea he got his weapon done as well.
Pall made a few more attempts at conversation, but the words just hung in the air like old reproachful aunts when you fail to mind your manners at family dinner, and in the end he just gave up and focused on his rifle.
It wasn’t very fun, and you didn’t miss anything.
Eventually Fannar showed up and said it was okay for Pall to leave, but that Hulda still wanted to see him.
Admittedly, that could have been interesting. Pall and Hulda. It’d make a tale and a half that. For now though, you’re just going to have to keep wondering. There’s a lot of story left, and a lot of thing are still up in the air. Anything can happen.
For now, we’re going to check in with Otto and Harald instead. They’ve caught wind of something, and they’re concerned enough they’ve gone down to the harbor and built up a little fire on the pier behind Dagur’s boat house. They do that when they’re worried, and as long as they don’t use up too much of the fire wood, Dagur doesn’t quite mind.
– – –
“Here.” Otto handed Harald the flask.
“Thanks.” Harald put it to his lips and drank, took a deep breath, and put the stopper in the hole. “That sure hit the spot.”
“Every time, Otto.”
The fire crackled in front of them, the only light source for miles around. Good thing it was hidden by the wall on the pier. You couldn’t see it unless you were already in the harbor. It was a safe fire – small and comfortable.
Stars burned above. Tiny sparks of light in the dark vastness of the long night. The moon sailed high in the sky, just a little more than half full, bathing the landscape in its faint light. Pale. Cold.
Otto shifted on his feet. “I’m not sure about that fire business Dagur spoke about.”
“You mean Fannar and Kala?”
“Mhm…” Otto nodded.
“I think it’s good.” Harald fidgeted with the flask, and eventually put it in his chest pocket. “It’ll do her right to see all the freaks and weirdos hiding out there. She should learn to appreciate what she’s got here.”
Otto bowed his head and kicked at a chunk of snow on the ground. He stood still for a moment, and then in the end he just snorted and said nothing.
“We’re a good village,” said Harald. “We’re good honest people here. It’s time she understood that and stopped being all strange and special.”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” Otto shrugged. “It’s just… I’m worried, you know.”
“Can I have a sip?” Otto held out his hand for the flask.
Grunting, Harald reached inside his parka and pulled out the flask. “There’s nothing to be worried about.” He took a sip for himself and held the flask out to Otto. “It’s just a bunch of freaks dancing around a fire. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Yes, yes. Sure.” He grabbed the flask and took a big swig. “I’m just thinking, you know, what if they follow her here?”
“Well, Fannar was only going to stay a day or so, right? He practically lives here now.” Otto put the flask to his lips and drank again – another big gulp.
“Oh…” Harald’s voice trailed off. “I didn’t think of that.”
“Yeah.” Otto nodded.
He raised his hand to drink again, but Harald reached out and snatched the flask from him.
Otto glared at his brother for a moment and then shrugged. Yeah. Stupid right. They should all be worried.
“It’ll be fine,” said Harald and coughed from the drink. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. They can’t all come here, can they?”
“That Pall’s going there for sure, and he’s been here twice this winter already. Who knows what he’ll tell them about us.”
“He wouldn’t.” Harald held out the flask for Otto to take. “Would he?”
Otto snorted and took a swig of the drink. “You saw yourself what he did to poor Hulda. There’s no telling what a man like that would do.” He coughed, and slapped himself on the chest with his free hand. “I don’t like it. Not one bit do I like it.”
Harald fidgeted for a moment. “But they don’t want to live here. That’s why they live out on their own, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I know.” He sighed and stomped his feet into the ground. “Can’t help but worry though. That Kala. Nothing but trouble.”
“I know what you mean.” Harald sighed. “I hadn’t thought about it, but now that I do…”
He held out his hand and Otto handed him the flask.
They stood in silence for a while. Harald put the flask back into his pocket. He shifted back and forth on his feet and eventually he squatted down by the fire. Stared into the flames. Held up his hands. Felt the warmth through his mittens.
“There’s something special about them though, isn’t there?”
“What?” said Otto.
“Fires… They’re special.”
“Yes, sure, but…” A frown crept into Otto’s voice. “You’re not thinking of going are you?”
“No, no of course not.” Harald shook his head, just a little, and kept gazing into the flames.
“You can’t go you know. Not invited. “It’s just the outsiders, and the freaks.” Otto snorted. “The fylkin don’t invite honest folk like you and me. Only Fannar gets to go as he’s the shaman you know.”
Harald nodded. Didn’t say anything, just nodded – half to himself.
“There’s even elves going there I heard. Come down from the mountains and strut around like they own the place.”
“I heard Vissla went there once,” said Harald. He picked up a piece of wood from a small pile next to the fire and placed it on the fire.
They’d borrowed some from Dagur’s shed. The old man wouldn’t notice, and they’d make up for it in the summer. Chop some extra. Leave it there when no one saw. It’d even out. Just borrowing.
Otto snorted. “Yeah, well, that’s our Vissla for you. Goes where she pleases, does what she will. No elf’s gonna stop her if she wants to go see some freaks in the forest.”
With a grunt, Harald pushed himself to his feet. “Yes, for sure.” He took a few steps back and forth to stretch out his legs. “I don’t want to go. Just saying fire’s nice.”
“Yeah, I know. You’re not one to celebrate that the sun is gone.”
Harald fidgeted for a moment, and then brought out the flask again. “I don’t believe in that.” He took a sip, and then another, bigger on. “It’s just to celebrate the start of the wolf-hunting season.”
“You fool Harald.” Otto scoffed at him. “That’s just something they tell the fools and the kids so they won’t be scared. You know better than that.”