Harald's Story

Late Night Planning

Harald was still picking over the food offered him when Father Delling returned. The old man smiled as he made his way back to his seat. "Your room is almost ready for the night. If you aren't too tired, I thought we might talk for a while, however."

Harald nodded, "That would be fine with me. To be honest, I'm not sure I'm ready for sleep yet. Far too much has happened in the past few days, and my mind has not yet settled from all the chaos."

The abbot smiled empathetically at that. "Yes, I would imagine that to be the case. I suspect your life will be rather interesting for the next several months. The good news is that what help I can give you, I will gladly do so.

"To that end, I thought it might be wise to talk about your travel plans. Am I correct in assuming that you have no money to pay for passage on a ship?"

"That's quite true. The old king said I should be able to book passage in exchange for providing labor during the journey."

"That's quite true. Especially if we can find a ship with the right kind of captain. I suspect that's the main reason the spirit sent you to me. I know many of the captains who seek harbor here. If we look for one who is a spiritual sort and believes in pilgrimages, we should be able to make arrangements. Of course, it won't be an easy voyage for you. The tasks assigned to such passengers tend to be grueling. And their bunking arrangements often leave much to be desired."

Harald replied, "That may be, but I will do what I must. Besides, I'm not one to turn my nose up at hard work."

"Very well, then. Of course, we also need to keep your traveling companion in mind. She said she would arrange her own payment, did she?"

"Well, that's what the spirit said. She wasn't exactly keen on the whole idea personally."

"I'm not surprised. But that's what you get when you choose to deal with spirits. So while she has my sympathies, they're somewhat limited. But at any rate, we must keep her in mind when looking for a ship. While it's possible she might have money to buy passage outright, I suspect she's more likely to arrange passage in exchange for her services as a witch. So we will need to try to find a captain who will be open to that possibility."

"Are there such captains, then?"

"There certainly are. However, most of them try to keep that fact hidden, so it doesn't hurt their business. Some members of my faith would never travel on a ship captained by a heathen."

"That sort of thing doesn't bother you?"

The abbot paused as a thoughtful look passed over his features. "I won't lie to you, Harald. I would much rather everyone would worship my God. However, I also understand that in addition to being His servant, I am a member of this community and I have a duty to serve them. Members of that community serve other gods, and that's something I have to live with. If I allow their faith in other gods to interfere with my ability to serve them, then I have done both the community and even God a great disservice."

"I see."

"At any rate, I think it would be best if the three of us went down to the docks tomorrow and started speaking with the captains."

"The three of us?"

"Oh, how easily my addled brain forgets that I haven't said something I meant to. Yes, Brother Jens will be joining us on this trip. After all, I think it important he be a part of the booking process, as I intend to send him with you."

"But why?"

"Brother Jens is a good man, and will be a great monk some day. Between you and me, I can see him taking my place some day. But he's young, and has many of the faults of youth. I think that traveling with you while you face your quest would be good for him. The experience would provide him with many opportunities to grow. He needs that right now."

"I can see your point. But one thing worries me. Given how he reacted to me when I used non-Christian wording, how is he ever going to deal with traveling with Berit, who practices witchcraft?"

Father Delling smiled broadly at that one. "As I said, this experience will provide him with many opportunities to grow. I suspect young Berit will be the source of no small number of such opportunities."

Harald returned the abbot's smile. "Father Abbot, for being such a holy man, you have a devious sense of humor."

Father Delling laughed at that. "And now you know why even an old monk like me still needs to make use of the confessional from time to time. At any rate, it has grown even later and we have much work to do come the day. Shall I show you to your room?"

"Thank you, Father Delling. I'm still not sure sleep will come quickly, but I'm ready to retire with my thoughts at least."

The abbot stood and walked to the door. "Very well then, my son. Follow me."