Eirikr stood in his family’s parlour with his hands clasped behind his back. He tried not to look around at the familiar surroundings as he waited for his father. Even if he and Ninim had not married four years before, he would have preferred never to return to that house. The memories of his childhood cried out to him in these halls and he’d prefer to leave them silenced in his past.
Quick, stuttering footsteps traveled down the hall. A boy just in his teens appeared in the doorway and his face lit up with surprise.
“Eirikr!” Abiorn rushed to his older brother and wrapped him in a hug. The young lad held on for a long moment and Eirikr did not release him until he eased his grip first. “It is so good to see you, brother. How’s Ninim?”
“She is well,” Eirikr replied stepping back to take a good look at him. His younger brother stood half a head taller than the last time he saw him and looked well enough. He watched closely as Abiorn stepped back and ran a slender and gnarled hand through his auburn hair. “How have you been, my lad? Well, I hope?”
Abiorn nodded. “Yes. As well as can be expected. Though after she left, Father-”
Eirikr held up his hand and shook his head. “Not here, Abbi. I will find you before I return to Lake-town, I promise.”
Abiorn nodded again, frowning. He turned at the sound of footsteps down the hall and quickly retreated from the room before Eirikr could even say farewell.
Kolrson Tenorbekk appeared in the doorway. He frowned after Abiorn before turning his head to gaze at his eldest son. Kolrson was a tall man that wore new money like a laurel around his shoulders. His attire, even so late in the evening that visitors were not expected, was crisp, clean, and expensive. As he strode into the room, a definitive chill followed him. He closed the door tightly behind him and turned to Eirikr with a frown.
“You must go after her.”
The hairs on Eirikr’s neck bristled. Four years away and nothing had changed.
“Well met, Father. I see that you are well. Yes, Ninim is doing just fine. She’s enjoying life in the south living on the lake, though she misses the bustle of Dale markets.” Eirikr spoke lowly, his voice steady despite the anger behind his sarcasm.
Kolrson narrowed his eyes and stalked over to the sidebar to pour himself a drink from a pewter pitcher. “Eirikr, if I had time to dispense with such pleasantries, I would not have summoned you with such urgency.”
“Summoned?” His fists clenched at his side. “Sending a team of your brutes to drag me out of my bed and toss me into the back of a wagon is not a summoning. I am your son. I would have come without the use of such force.”
The man raised a trimmed eyebrow at his son and his lips pressed together in a disapproving frown. His fingers twitched around his goblet. Eirikr tensed – an old habit.
“Regardless, you must go after her. You agree that man stole her from her family and led her on a wild goose chase into the West.” His father raised the goblet to his lips. “She must be found.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t sent any of your men to find her.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Are you afraid it will get out and the betrothal will fall through?”
Kolrson scowled, swirling the drink around for a moment before tipping it back. “It already has fallen through. One cannot hide the disappearance of a family member for this long, not without raising unfavorable suspicion.” He grimaced. “Already some say she was kidnapped. Some claim she stole our fortune and ran off to marry the old man. In any case, Eirikr, she must be dealt with.” The man’s eyes gleamed in the firelight.
It was Eirikr’s turn to narrow his eyes.
“What do you intend to do with her?”
Kolrson raised his brow as if insulted by the question. “Why, take her back into her loving home and tend to any damage inflicted by her little adventure.”
Growling, Eirikr raised an arm to point at his father. “You will not hurt her, old man.” His deep voice rumbled the unspoken threat.
“Oh? Shall I send Sten and his men to fetch her?” Kolrson gazed down into his goblet, nonchalant.
A chill ran down Eirikr’s spine. His voice trembled beneath its touch. “You wouldn’t dare send that beast after your own daughter.”
“It’s in her best interests, you know, Eirikr. To protect her from herself.”
“You’d allow that man to touch your daughter? How could you?” Eirikr’s entire being was strung to its limits. His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides as he glared at his father with pure hatred.
“Why, if you will not go, who else can I depend on?” Kolrson set the goblet upside-down on the sidebar and slid a hand into his vest pocket. “I am only looking out for her best interests, Eirikr.” He smiled, even white teeth gleaming.
“Your only interests are your own,” Eirikr snapped. Through clenched teeth, he snarled, “How soon will the team be ready?”
“You will go alone. Faster. You are good on the trail, you will find your way.”
“Does anyone know where they were heading?”
“Aye. Far to the West. Eriador, I believe.”
Eirikr blinked, stunned. “Eriador? So far west?” His thoughts roamed to Ninim and his work in Lake-town. “A journey like that would take at least ten months. And that is not including the time it would take to find her.”
“It must be done, Eirikr.”
“I cannot go.”
Kolrson laid a heavy stare on his son. “You have already run away from your family obligations, Eirikr. Abiorn will die, and if he survives to take control of the business, he will make a poor merchant. He is too soft.” A silence stretched between them only to be broken by the angry breaths of the son. “You owe me this, Eirikr. Bring her back.”