Harald's Story

Negotiating Passage for Berit

The next morning, Harald found himself sitting again in Captain Soren's cabin. The atmosphere was tense. Harald watched as Jens and Berit, having just met for the first time, kept glancing at each others, their faces a mix of suspicion and disdain. Berit occasionally shot equally suspicious glances at Father Delling.

Of those present, only the abbot seemed one unaffected by the rest of the company. Harald couldn't decide whether the old monk was oblivious to the tension around him or amused by it. Occasionally, he thought he caught a brief grin flash the abbot's face.

As the captain finished his work and looked up to address his clients, Father Delling spoke. "Soren, this is the young lady I mentioned during our last visit. Allow me to present..." The abbot's voice faltered.

"You may call me Berit, Captain," the young witch spoke as the old monk smiled at her intervention gratefully.

Soren looked the girl over carefully, his face fixed in half a scowl. "You're awful young to be travelling on a ship like this."

By the expression on the girl's face, Harald suspected that the captain was fortunate that the abbot quickly stepped in. "Sometimes, special circumstances require the unusual, Captain. Rest assured that this young lady is more than capable of making this journey."

"Will you be paying her way as well, Father?"

"No. While I might be willing to do so, I suspect she is far too proud to accept my offer. She will instead arrange for her own passage. I believe that she has skills that you might find useful."

Soren shot the old monk with a cautious look. "I see. I'm a bit surprised to hear a man of your calling makes such a suggestion. And the girl still seems rather young for this voyage, especially if she plans to buy her ticket in trade. But I suppose I might find room for her in my sleeping quarters."

Harald flinched at the speed with which Berit leaped out of her chair and smacked the captain across the face. Soren was still wincing and holding his cheek as she hissed at him. "How dare you! I am no man's play-thing! I should cut you for your insolence!"

Soren stood to face the girl. He was about to spout venomous words of his own when Father Dowling cut him off. "Settle down, Captain. You misunderstood me. To be honest, I cannot say as I blame the girl for taking offense at our presumption." Harald wondered at the glimmer in the abbot's eyes as he said this. Could the old monk be enjoying this exchange?

Soren turned his attention and his anger towards Father Delling. "What else did you expect me to think?! You said she would pay for her passage with her services. Most women who do so-"

Father Delling cut the sailor off at that. "Captain Soren, if you think that sexual prowess is the only skill of value that a woman might have to offer you, that says something about you. However, those were not the skills I was referring to. As a long-time seafarer, I'm sure I don't need to lecture you about pirates, stormy weather, or many of the other dangers you might face during your upcoming voyage. Now, I would imagine that someone skilled in predicting such events in advance so that you can prepare for them or even avoid them might be of value to you."

Harald watched as Soren's eyes narrowed. "You are offering me a witch for hire, then? What are you playing at, Delling? To accuse me of-"

The monk again cut him off. "Soren, I'm too old for such games. Do not bother with your protest. I have seen the trinkets near the bow of your ship, and I know their significance. Do not insult me by pretending you don't secretly worship the old gods and I will not insult you by lecturing you on the dangers of false religion."

Soren bowed his head at that. "I apologize, Father. However, in my defense, I'm far too used to men of your vocation giving me such lectures."

Father Delling nodded at that. "I'm sure you are. However, there are more important matters to discuss in the short time we have, so let us agree to save the religious arguments for another day."

"Agreed. So, Miss Berit, does our abbot friend speak true? Can you ply the skills he attributes to you?"

The girl, still trying to calm herself took a deep breath. "Indeed, I can. And if such services will pay for my passage, then I gladly offer them to you."

"They will indeed. I suppose, however, that I will need to find a way to bunk you with the other passengers. This could be tricky."

"Actually, Captain, I would prefer to sleep above deck, under the stars."

Soren frowned at this. "Young lady, I do not believe that is a good idea. I cannot guarantee your safety. Some of my men might take it into their heads to test your resistance to becoming their play-thing, as you put it earlier."

Berit grinned maliciously at that. "Captain, I assure you that I am a light sleeper and do not need your protection. I can take care of myself. I simply require your promise that you will not hold against me anything that befalls the man foolish enough to try anything."

Father Delling laughed at that, "It sounds like our young friend wishes to add to the list of drowning offenses, Soren!"

The captain glared at the abbot before returning his attention to the witch. "I can accept those terms. But do be careful."

"I will."

"Very well, then. Everything is settled. Those of you travelling should report back here two morning for now. I would encourage you to be prompt. We launch at sunrise. Those who are late will need to swim out to catch us or remain behind."

Harald followed Father Delling's lead as the old monk stood to take his leave. "Very well, then. It has been a pleasure doing business with you, Captain Soren."

The Captain scowled, "I'll reserve my judgment on that matter until this voyage is concluded. I fear your friends may mean trouble for me yet. Good day to you, Father. Good day, gentlemen. Good day, lady."