A Prince and his Quill
Next day, Egil sat alone in the scriptorium when he heard the door open. “Kate?” he questioned.
“Not quite,” Godfrey replied, entering the library hall.
Egil stuck his head out from the adjacent room. “You’re here! I haven’t seen you in months!”
“I’ve been busy. Is your master present?”
Egil looked towards a closed chamber door. “He is in his room. He doesn’t leave it anymore, really. Kate and I look after him, bring him food and water, but he doesn’t eat much.”
Godfrey sat down, letting his walking staff rest on a table. “I see. I feared something like this.”
“Like what? What’s happening to him?”
“I think the cruel treatment at the hands of your former prince broke not only his body, but also his spirit.”
Egil’s lips quivered. “The physician gave up on him, but there must be something we can do!”
Godfrey shook his head. “I know of no remedy for such a malady.”
“What about the norns at the Temple? They know every cure!”
“They can only heal his body. I fear the best you can do is simply to keep him company and tend to his needs.”
“What about – what about the Elves?” Egil lowered his voice. “They have strange powers, right?”
“None of this nature. Not even the heroes of old possessed such strength.”
“How do you know? You can’t know everything.”
“I have seen it before. Quill is lost in his own mind. Only time and his strength of will can save him,” Godfrey declared.
“I don’t believe that,” Egil argued.
“Believe what you wish. But there is nothing you or I can do for him. Prepare yourself, Egil. You may find yourself assuming the duties of the King’s Quill much sooner than you thought.” With those words, Godfrey stood up, grabbing his staff. “You and I will speak again on that account. On my return.”
Egil watched him leave and turned his gaze to slide over the countless volumes of lore covering the numerous shelves. With a determined look, he began searching through them.
Around noon, the alderman of the guilds went to the Citadel for the second day in a row. This time, it was not the lord protector who summoned him, but the dragonlord. With a nervous look, Edwin sat down opposite Konstans.
“I have prepared an edict for you to bring to the guilds,” the dragonlord explained. “Calm yourself,” he added with a frown. “I am not demanding anyone’s head.”
“Forgive me, milord,” Edwin replied, using his sleeve to wipe his brow. “These are trying times, especially for us poor merchants and craftsmen, simply trying to get by.”
“Not all your brethren are suffering from hardship,” Konstans remarked. “Despite the war, I am told that some traders seek to the summer fair in Silfrisarn.”
“The roads are dangerous, milord, it’s true, but all would suffer if trade ceased to flow. While he may be a traitor, even Jarl Isarn sees the value in protecting the merchants on his roads.”
“I agree with you on both accounts, but not entirely. I think Isarn would suffer far more if all trade ended with his jarldom. It is therefore in the best interests of the Crown to see that happen.”
“Oh, milord, so few merchants would dare take the trip these days, I believe that has already happened.”
“That seems doubtful. The fair at Silfrisarn is where copper from Vidrevi meets tin from Heohlond, not to mention furs, wool, iron, salt, and countless other goods to make life easier.”
“Your knowledge of these matters would be the envy of any merchant,” Edwin claimed.
“While the war may have disrupted trade, it is certain to embolden others. Greater risk, but also greater reward.”
“Sadly, greed does take hold of some,” the alderman assented.
“The Silfrisarn fair is a great source of wealth, which Isarn must be deprived of. Trading at the fair is the same as aiding an enemy of the Crown and thus treason in itself,” Konstans declared.
Edwin wiped his brow furiously. “Milord, those are strong words.”
“They are also true. Are you concerned, master alderman? Do you have goods being carted to Silfrisarn, perhaps?” Konstans kept his piercing gaze on the merchant.
“I’d never dare, milord! As you say, such is certain to enrich the jarl Isarn.”
“I fear not all your guildsmen might have the same attitude. Greed often wins out. To that end, I have prepared this edict.” Konstans picked up a parchment from his desk and handed it to Edwin.
The alderman ran his eyes across the writing. “Really, milord, is this necessary?”
“In this manner, none can claim ignorance. Have the proclamation spread amongst your members. I have already sent it to the town criers. It goes into effect immediately,” the dragonlord added.
Edwin swallowed. “Yes, milord. As you wish.”
“You are dismissed.”
Some hours later, Eleanor entered the rooms she shared with Arndis and found the latter buried in paper and parchment. “Arndis? I thought you were coming with me to the gardens.”
“Something has come up,” the other woman replied. “Our esteemed dragonlord has made a new law.”
“What is it about?”
“Any merchant trading at the Silfrisarn fair is considered a traitor. All his goods and possession are to be confiscated, and his life is forfeit,” Arndis explained without looking up.
“That sounds harsh,” Eleanor considered. “I suppose those are the times we live in. But why has it put you in such a state? You do not trade directly, but through others. Surely you cannot be held responsible?”
“That is not my concern either. The reduced trade at the fair will have other consequences worth contemplating.” She located a number in a ledger and copied it onto a parchment with other scribbles on it.
“The price of tin will continue to fall, and the price of copper and iron will rise. Without bronze or steel, the price of many other goods will increase as well. Stone and marble will see little change, though,” Arndis considered. She underlined a few numbers. “Vidrevi was never a place for building in stone.”
“Does this affect you? I thought you simply gave your coin to traders, and they conduct the actual business.”
“That is mostly the case, but I still decide in which sort of trade I set my coin to work,” Arndis replied. She gave a frown. “I wonder how long before it will be worthwhile to send a caravan to Herbergja and simply sail the goods to Trehaf.”
“I take it you will not be joining us this afternoon,” Eleanor remarked quietly.
Arndis looked up briefly before resuming her work. “I fear it is inopportune today.”
Her companion gave a faint smile that went unseen. “Of course. I understand.”
“Forgive me. Another time.”
The evening sun cast a warm glow into the library tower when Jorund entered, passing between the pair of kingthanes guarding the door. Inside, he found Kate and Inghard in conversation, discussing a story they had read.
“Well met, my younglings. Is our company a short man short?” Jorund asked with a grin.
“Egil’s almost as tall as you, and he’s still growing,” Kate countered.
“Until he does outgrow me, I reserve the right to remark on his height or lack thereof,” the Dwarf declared. “I have to make the most of the time left.”
“Egil is in the scriptorium,” the prince explained. “He has been there all day, I believe.”
“I know he’s a scribe, but I didn’t honestly think he ever scribed anything,” Jorund contemplated.
“He’s not writing, he’s reading. But really old books, and he has maps out,” Kate added. “I asked if he wanted help, but he just mumbled something.”
“Let’s not disturb the lad, then,” Jorund considered. “I won’t be staying long, in any case.”
“What?” asked Kate, sounding disappointed.
“Me and some of the boys are going into town tonight,” the Dwarf explained. “We’ve been on patrol for weeks, and by the gods, we deserve ale, proper food, and – polite company.” He cleared his throat.
“You are leaving us alone?” she continued.
“There’s three of you, you’re not alone,” Jorund countered. “I spent all evening with you yesterday, the first evening I was back, I might add! I’ll be back tomorrow – or the day after, depending on my consumption of brew.”
“Let the man have his leisure,” Inghard declared graciously. “He has been hard at work defending us all.”
The Red Hawk gave a little bow and a grin. “You are most magnanimous, my prince.”
“I have an idea.” The voice came from the door opening to the scriptorium and startled all three of them. They turned to find Egil. “It’s hard to be sure, but I think I am.”
“Can you elaborate?” asked Inghard.
“Something that was said to me. I asked someone if he could help Master Quill, and he said not even the heroes of old had such power,” Egil began to explain. “But how could he know? Maybe they did. There are strange things in the world we don’t always understand or even know about.”
Kate sent him an apprehensive look. “Egil, maybe you’re tired. When was the last time you ate? I can get something from the kitchen for you.”
“We all know the Song of Sigvard, and the old books has many other stories about that time. The Great War, the battle of Valmark where Sigvard ended the war, and so on,” Egil continued. “I’ve been reading them all, comparing with maps.”
“There’s a glint of madness in your eye, boy, but I’m too curious. What are you chasing?” asked Jorund.
“All the stories agree that Sigvard ascended the Wyrmpeak, and there, he found a hidden power. It made him strong enough to turn the battle of Valmark. One man, winning a battle by himself!”
“While I do enjoy tales of Sigvard,” inserted the dragonborn Inghard, “they are often merely that. Tales. One warrior cannot defeat an army by himself.” He looked towards Jorund, the only warrior in their company.
“The prince is right, though I don’t know.” The dwarf rubbed his chin. “In Thusund, we still tell the stories of the Great War, Eirik Wyrmbane, and Sigvard. Maybe it’s my islander blood, but I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them.”
“Don’t encourage him,” Kate admonished Jorund.
“Regardless of veracity, what does it matter now?” asked Inghard. “Sigvard is gone, as are all the other heroes.”
“But Wyrmpeak is not,” Egil countered.
“It’s a mountain,” Jorund laughed. “They tend to stay in place.”
“My point is,” the young scribe continued agitated, “what if it’s still there?”
“What if what is?” asked Kate.
“What Sigvard found! The power that made him a hero!” Egil stared at them triumphantly.
“Egil, it has been almost eleven hundred years since the battle of Valmark,” Inghard pointed out gently.
“So? Something like that doesn’t decay.”
“How do you know?” asked Inghard. “You do not even know what it is. Even assuming the legends are true, it could be anything. Most likely, it would have been long gone.”
“He has a point,” Jorund assented. “I always thought it was a sword or something that Sigvard brought with him from the mountain.”
“But something like that would have become an heirloom,” Egil countered. “The Dragon Crown was worn by Sigvard, for instance. But we have nothing else of his.”
“Egil, what exactly are you hoping?”
He looked at them, standing in his brown robe that he had nearly outgrown. “Nobody can help Master Quill. Nobody knows what to do. This is the only thing I can think of. Do you want me to just sit and wait while he gets worse and worse?”
“You can provide comfort for him,” Jorund suggested gently.
“He’s lying in bed all day, he couldn’t be more comfortable if I tried!” Egil’s outburst left him taking deep breaths. “Look, I’m not asking anything of you. I think I’ve uncovered enough clues to follow in Sigvard’s footsteps. Just take care of Master Quill and the library while I’m gone.” He looked at Kate.
She in turn glared back. “You can’t be serious. You’re going to trample up a mountain looking for something you don’t even know what is!”
“I have seen strange things already,” Egil countered. “In Hæthiod, in the – Alfskog,” he muttered. “I don’t care if you think it’s a bad idea. I’m going.”
Kate turned towards Inghard. “You can command him to stay. Tell him he’s being foolish!”
“Marching up the Wyrmpeak is a harsh journey, even in summer,” the prince considered, speaking slowly. “You should bring Jorund. He’s an experienced traveller.”
“What?” exclaimed the mercenary.
“I am sure your lieutenant will grant me your services for a week or two. I doubt he wishes to refuse the heir to the realms,” Inghard pointed out with a sly look.
“You’re going to encourage this?” Kate’s voice overflowed with disbelief.
“I do not believe Egil will find anything. Except maybe peace of mind that he has done everything he can for his master. Seeing as one day I will be king, and he will be my Quill, I find that a worthwhile goal,” Inghard explained. “I will be happy to arrange for Jorund to accompany you. Any other resources you might need?”
“I don’t think so,” Egil replied. “I’ll get provisions from the kitchens.”
“Look, at least postpone until the day after tomorrow,” Jorund pleaded. “Just let me have this evening back in town, and tomorrow for sleeping it off.”
“I see no reason we cannot delay that long,” Inghard granted.
Kate let her glare move between them. “Well, I’m coming to.”
“You have to stay and look after Master Quill,” Egil protested.
“Oh no, if you can leave him, so can I! You have a habit of trying to sneak away to go on adventures, and I’m not going to be left behind! I’ll have the kitchen girls take care of him and make sure he gets his meals.”
Inghard rose from the bench where he had been seated, glancing at the mercenary, the scribe, and the kitchen girl. “It sounds like the expedition is well in hand. I have the utmost faith that if any trace of Sigvard remains upon Wyrmpeak, you will find it. As your prince, I bless your endeavour.”
“I better get paid for every day I’m gone,” Jorund muttered with a surly expression
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