"Well, Agnetha, it looks like we lost our army."
"Eh. We can always get more cannibals."
"I can smell the sky metal – it's in that hold! That hold that we just spent an army not taking."
"I don't think it lives there, though – someone carried it along this trail, and not long ago. Let's head up the fjord. Maybe we can ambush the weapon-bearers and find our longship as well! Swimming all the way home – that's a lot to ask of these old bones."
"Anyway, if we swim home without the skymetal, Makavili will have our eyeballs for dumplings. Up the fjord it is!"
"Look, Anni-frid, they've got some kind of vines growing all over their walls! And with swords for leaves! I'll take control of it – none shall escape as the vines crawl inwards in an ever-tightening noose, driving the inhabitants of the hold before them with point and edge! Except the babies, the babies it can spear like meatballs and toss out to us!"
"Oo, that looks painful, Aggie. Do you want this healing draught? I see you drank yours."
"Thanks. Turns out that wasn't a real vine, it was more of a vine-shaped golem. I should have known – we've not had one bit of fortune on this whole journey!"
"Say, doesn't Black Hilde live in these parts? We can coven up! Let's drop in."
"I think she's in the swamp."
"Agnetha, Anni-Frid. I didn't expect to see you two sniffing around here. You didn't bring any of that nasty mold, did you? I won't be having any talking bloody mold under this roof!"
"No, of course not! Although I have no idea what you've got against our molds – they know all and see all!"
"Ugh. Just look what it does to those cannibals!"
"Well, we didn't just drop by for abuse about our lifestyle choices. What do you say to making a coven? I bet it's been ages since you've been in a proper coven, living out here on the edge of the world. Just us three!"
"But it wouldn't really be just us three, would it, it would be us three plus the mold. Blech."
"One is the loneliest number, Hilde."
"Where do you come up with these ridiculous bromides, Aggie? And they're without fail exactly wrong – one is the uniquely premier number! It's right there in the words, "unique", "premier". I spent about a century married to an Oni three decades ago, and let me tell you, one is just exactly the right number. Can I refill your tea?"
"Thank you. Well if you won't help us make a coven, at least tell us the news. We need to figure out some way to get back to Kalva, and we're also going to bring that skymetal back with us, one way or another."
"AH, news. News I have. The Feyjasfjordings are all in turmoil – they've gone and had the dvergr forge your precious skymetal into weapons, and the weapons have – as you might expect – rekindled the old feuds between the Skeggvarsons and the Hallgrimmsons. Now they're all rebuilding the longships – the viking years are back, and I'm sure ere long rings will be flowing through these parts like water. If you want a willing hand for dire deeds, I think you should speak to old Hallgrimm. He doesn't need hags like us, but the rumor on the water is he's seeking a friendly lawspeaker."
"I could be a lawspeaker. <Zzzzing!> There, how's that? 'Greetings, noble lady of the swamp, I am Kavlax Lawspeaker!'" Anni-Frid, you can be my assistant Papti."
"Why do I have be Papti? You be freaking Papti and let me be the lawspeaker! What sort of dumb name is 'Kavlax', anyway, it sounds just like 'Kalva'! 'Greetings, noble lady, I am I-want-a-ride-to-Kalva the Lawspeaker'!"
"It's a perfectly fine name. I get to be the lawspeaker because I'm older, and thus senior."
"Yes, but I was born first."
"But I spent twenty years in the First World while you were just mucking around in Kalva for a week, so I'm actually twenty years older."
"You spent twenty years in the First World AS AN END TABLE! I will gladly defer to your seniority if we ever need to, say, support some knick-knacks or a lamp, or stub somebody's toe."
"Actually I was there for fifteen minutes before I got turned into an end table. So I'm still senior in terms of time lived."
"But you have to mark off some time for the end table thing, that probably made you less wise…"
"So, are you two just going to sit here gabbing? I'm all out of tea. Out you go, good luck with the deceptions and all that. I'll be sure never to come to Kalva so I needn't return the visit."
"Greetings, noble lord! Word around the fjord is that you might be needing of a lawspeaker, and if that be the case then fortune has guided one to your door, for I am Kavlax Lawspeaker! (and this is my assistant Papti)"
"Oh yes? Then Gorum has surely smiled upon me, or whatever the old suit of armor does when he's pleased. My daughter had just brought to my attention a new infamy perpetrated upon my family by that foul harridan Gudrun, wife of my neighbor Gull-Skeggi. I've called a Thing for tomorrow; I was going to ask for Gudrun's sons as thralls. That should rile up Gull-Skeggi enough that we can settle this in a proper battle."
"I am sure that I will be able to assist you in that end, just as I'm sure that a thane of your legendary generosity will shower me with rings if his aims are achieved."
"Hrmm, well, we can no doubt come to some arrangement."
"Tell me, mighty jarl, is it true that your kin were abandoned on Kalva to the dark mercies of the Kalvamen? And that this is also Gudrun's doing?"
"It is so."
"And is it also the case that there is a viking voyage in the offing, which might well be manned by you and your kin, and Gull-Skeggi and his kin?"
"I hardly think that's likely, I'm not setting foot in any boat with that bastard – viking voyage or no. Perhaps after I take his children as thralls I will seize his longship as well."
"I might think such a joint voyage would present a unique opportunity for an even more just vengeance that merely seizing Gudrun's worldly goods or a couple of her spawn."
"Say that Gull-Skeggi and his kin were to drink some bad ale, and be taken ill just as the longship accidentally diverted course to Kalva… and say that they were then left there on the beach, dying or nearly so, as the cannibals approached!"
"Oh! Hmmm, they say no jarl can match the deviousness of a lawspeaker. I think you have shown your education in good light this eve, Kavlax. Let it be as you say. I'm sure Gull-Skeggi will jump at the chance of a new voyage, even if we split the crew evenly. The farmer's life has worn heavy on him these last couple of decades."
"Gnnnr! I can't believe Black Hilde showed up at the trial, and was LAUGHING!"
"It all worked out, though."
"No thanks to her! If the Feyjasfjordings saw through my disguise I was ready to get into a curse-off with her right there in front of everybody!"
"Let's get our rings from Hallgrimm and skedaddle. I'm sick of being Papti – I barely even get any lines! We can watch them gett the ship ready, and figure out a good place to hide."
"It's a longship. There's no 'good place to hide'. You were just in it, where are you going to hide? Clinging to the top of the mast?"
"So… we're not going to get home without getting wet, after all?"
"Well, Aggie, this is surely very wet. At least we don't have to swim, though. And they're bringing the skymetal with them! We are sooo clever!"
"Stop looking on the bright side, I hate that. My rheumatism is flaring up from all this cold."
"Quiet – and let's go invis! They're slowing down!"
"Thank goodness the crew don't seem to have much magic. We're nowhere near Kalva, I'm not even sure we're heading in the right direction. Be a pity to have to swim from here."
"SSH! ONE OF THEM JUST TURNED INTO A FISH!"
"Thank goodness the fish is gone. Ah, we're picking up speed again too. I guess they've given up."
"What do you mean, 'Oar!'?"
"Look to your stern, Anni-Frid, they're trying to scrape us off!"
"We have the skymetal, we have fresh meat, we have a nice purse of rings – this trip turned out ok after all!"
"For the last time, cut it out with the optimism!"
"Ok ok. But really, all we had to do was confuse the crew a bit while that lass smuggled the weapons ashore – and confusing men was ever an easy day's work. I did that, so you can carry the skymetal weapons back to Makavili."
"I'm not touching them. I'm still senior, you carry them."
"Eeyargh. I'm not touching them either. These thugs don't look like they're going to wake up any time soon – we can just go round up some cannibals and get them to carry the damn things."
The Tale of Agnetha and Anni-Frid
"Well, Agnetha, it looks like we lost our army."