“Damned brojóta burðr bitch!”
Three hundred and seventy nine, Halvard thought. I wonder how many more times he’s going to use that word before we reach Einn.
He had already decided that as soon as they reached Einn he would leave as fast as he possibly could. Any doubts he may have had about the malevolence of Skad’s character, had been thoroughly dispelled over the past few days. Skad had insulted Astrid, then Jarl, then Astrid again. Halvard suspected that the only reason Skad had not insulted Halvard directly, was that he realised that without Halvard he would be unlikely to reach Einn alive.
“And as for that little brat—”
“Don’t!” Havard growled instantly. “You leave Knud out of this!”
“Vǫrn treats him like he’s still a child.”
“He is still a child!”
Skad snorted loudly. “When I was his age I was could already fight boys twice my age. The boy is a weakling.”
Halvard turned his pony sharply to the right so that Skad’s broken leg was pinned between his own pony and Halvard’s. Skad roared in pain and tried to hit Halvard, but Halvard caught his hand and pushed it back towards him.
“Don’t ever talk about Knud like that! Jarl might be his foster father, but Knute was my friend too.”
“You bastard!” Skad spat at him.
“Well, you need me, so I would go back to insulting the half breed if I were you.”
“They won’t take you back after this.”
“Who won’t take me back.”
“The army, not after this. If the king finds out—”
Halvard drove his pony back against Skad’s leg like a battering ram. This time he reached over and grabbed hold of Skad by his long white beard, his other hand with a knife pressed against Skad’s throat.
“Listen to me, you miserable little shit! If you say a word about Knud, Jarl or me I’ll let everyone know that you trained a blanda blóð!”
“Nobody would believe you! You’re just a neinn nefna, your word means nothing!”
“My father might have been an ósómi, but everyone knows you disappeared from Bjargtre for five years when you were asked to lead the king’s high guards. They might not believe me, but do you want to take that chance?”
Skad pushed Halvard away with a whimper and rode his horse ahead. His face bright red, humiliated.
Halvard stayed just behind him till they stopped for nightfall. This time Halvard did not help him down. Instead he took his time to collect as much firewood as he could and deliberately set up the fire as far away from Skad as he possible so that he was forced to hobble over.
They ate their meals in silence, Skad on one side of the fire, Halvard on the other. Halvard would look up occasionally to glare at the old dwarf and remember all the times he had wished the great Skad Löfgren would train him, like he had before his father had destroyed the Byström name. Every time he thought about it, that Skad had trained a half elf, he felt his blood boil.
“You should be ashamed, treating an elder like this.” Skad finally said.
“I don’t need to respect you, especially not now.”
“I trained Kings and Queens! Long before your murderous father threw your family name away!”
“Skad Löfgren,” Halvard laughed in a mocking voice, “Notable students include, the High Queen Vígdís Kron, and a nameless blanda blóð. What a great legacy.”
Skad reached for his sword and threw it at him. Halvard only just leaned away in time.
“I will be remembered as the greatest warrior in all of Ammasteinn!”
Halvard stood up, his mind finally made up, and began to re-pack his bag. Suddenly it all seemed so pointless, all the years he had spent so desperate to regain his family name, when a dwarf like Skad had far more shameful secrets, and still had the gall to hold his head high.
“What are you doing?”
Halvard tied his bag firmly onto his pony and mounted it. “I’m leaving.”
“You can’t leave!”
“Why not? After all, you’re the greatest warrior in all of Ammasteinn. You can make your way home on your own.”
“You know damn well I can’t travel with my leg like this!” Skad bellowed at him, his face bright red. “Come back here!”
Halvard mounted his pony and spat the largest glob of saliva he could muster in Skad’s direction.
“You trained a blanda blóð! If you ever had any right to be called an elder, you lost it when you trained her!”