Chapter 46: Impossible Tasks

“Amund, if the Har Fleinn ever comes to you and offers you the chance to be an áðr, say no. Don’t ask any questions, just say no!” Halvard groaned and leaned his head down on the table. He was so tired he felt as though his body might never feel warm again.

The last few days had been relentless, he had never thought that he would look forward to the walks from cordon to cordon, but now, trapped in the room which used to be Gauss’s office he was desperate for anything which would distract him from sight of the four stone walls and the endless problems.

The Har Fleinn had not exaggerated when he had warned that he would be undermanned and underappreciated. Instead of the fifty soldiers most áðr’s normally commanded, he had just over fifteen dwarfs at his command. Though he had been forced to turn twice that number away once he had learned they had never been exposed directly to the red plague, and therefore were unlikely to be unsusceptible to it.

“How many more cordons went up last night?”
“Five.”
“Oh, for the love of Un! Why!” Halvard wailed and slammed his fist down on the table.

He took a deep breath and dragged his hands down his face to try and wake himself. “Alright, how many new volunteers?”
“One” Githa replied.
“One? Oh, doesn’t that just sound—”

“Pathetic?” Githa added.
“Lonely?”
“Desperate?”
“Screwed. That’s the word!” Halvard exclaimed. “We are completely and utterly

screwed!” Halvard stood up and kicked at the wall. The wall was a little tougher than his boot. He winced and swore at the wall.

“Áðr Byström?”

A dwarf none of them recognised walked into the room and Halvard groaned with frustration as he saw the familiar sight of a parchment from the Har Fleinn in his hand with its distinctive blue seal.”

“That’s it! Amund, you’re in charge until I get back.”
“What? Where are you going?”
“The only place I can get some sleep around here without some little vámr waking me

up!”
“But what about the new cordons?”
“You can deal with them without me. If I don’t get some sleep, I swear on Amma’s name,

I will kill one of you. If anyone asks, I’ll be at the fifth cordon.” “The cordon? Are you mad? Why would you do that?” “Because it’s the only place nobody will wake me up.”

* * *

Hallótta limped towards the huddle of blankets by the cordon with a sad expression. She was sure that she was about to look on the face of yet another plague victim. It would be the third

body she had dragged away from the gate within the last few days. The line of bodies she had laid out down the middle of the street grew longer almost by the hour.

To her shock she saw Halvard huddled under the blankets, his mouth wide open and his eyes tightly closed.

“Halvard?”

At the sound of his name Halvard groaned and shouted loudly that he was about to commit murder. Hallótta yelped and backed away. Halvard’s face glowed red when he saw who it was he had shouted at.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout at you.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I needed to sleep, this was the only place I could think of where I wouldn’t get

disturbed.”
Hallótta giggled and then burst out laughing at his reply. “You’re mad.”
“No, I’m exhausted. It’s far worse.”
“You can’t sleep out here.”
“Hallótta, I really don’t care where I sleep right now. I’d sleep in the sewers if it meant I

could get some sleep uninterrupted.”
Hallótta nodded and left quietly. A few minutes later she returned with her arms full of

blankets. She crouched next to Halvard too afraid to wake him again, so instead she slowly laid the blankets out on top of him one by one. Halvard was too deep in sleep to notice. She sat next to him for the next few hours until eventually he woke up, confused by the blankets on top of him.

“I thought you’d get cold,” Hallótta explained and made Halvard jump. He had not noticed her sat huddled under a thick shawl a few feel away from him.

“Dear Un, you scared the shit out of me!” Halvard muttered.
“Sorry, I thought you’d be cold.”
“You said that already.”
Halvard sat up and ran his hands through his hair. When he looked back at Hallótta she

had gone, the click of a doorway further down the street. Halvards shoulders dropped as he realised how ungrateful he just have just sounded.

“Idiot!” He muttered to himself before he lay back down and went back to sleep.

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