It did not take long before they began to pass people—the huts of the workers. Women were fixing the leaks while children ran amok. A group of children ran and played alongside the train for a while, but they gave it up when the travelers came to a hill. The house of Ingut stood on the high ground, but when they reached it, it hardly looked like the house of a prosperous and successful man. In fact, it hardly looked different than the huts of the workers.
The old man sat outside on the front stoop, whittling with a wicked looking knife, and having a rather wicked look on his face. That he had been there most of the night seemed evident from the number of wood chips piled around.
Luckless got down, and the old man did not even bat an eye in the face of the dwarf. Vingevourt raised the man’s brows a little, but he knew and respected the sprite, even if he did not particularly like him. It seemed hard to say exactly what their relationship might be. It also seemed hard to say what he thought Mousden might be. He batted at the Pixie like Mousden was a giant insect or bat until Mousden confronted him, face to face. The man blinked and took a step back. Seamus came up, having fallen to the back of the pack, and Mirowen slipped off the back of the beast and stepped straight for the door. At this, the old man took a big step out of the way, and bowed. He might not care for Dwarfs, or Vingevourt, or giant insects, but he knew a light elf when he saw one.
Bran, Gregor and Hrugen kept a wary eye on the workers who appeared at the top of the hill. Mirowen opened the door, followed by Seamus, Luckless, Vingevourt, and Mousden. Festuscato still lay in bed with Inga, and though covered, it was evident that both were stark naked. Inga let out a little embarrassed peep and covered herself further. Festuscato put down his plate.
“I can’t eat another bite,” he said. His clothes were dry, but he could hardly stand naked in front of the ones staring, open-mouthed. He let his heart and spirit reach out to his place, the place of the Kairos, the island that stayed forever in the Second Heavens. He caught hold of his armor, the chain and leather which had been the gift of Hephaestus, and the elf spun cloth that shaped itself to whatever life he was living. In an instant, he became clothed in that glorious armor and stood, even as Mirowen spoke.
“He is only human, after all,” she said, meaning it as a simple fact and not entirely as an insult. All the little ones bowed, to Ingut’s surprise. Ingut had been watching from the doorway. He pushed his way into the room and stepped up to Festuscato with a most curious expression. He held one hand over one of Festuscato’s eyes. Perhaps Gregor had given him the idea.
Festuscato shook his head, hid his left hand behind his back and pointed to his wrist as if his arm ended there. Ingut’s eyes got wide as he imagined which god Festuscato might be, until Festuscato revealed his hand with a broad grin. Then Ingut guessed. He spat.
“Loki,” he said.
“Loki!?” Festuscato felt insulted, while Mirowen giggled.
“Who is Loki?” Seamus asked.
“Trickster,” Luckless said. “Not a nice fellow, I understand.”
“He wasn’t,” Vingevourt said, as he pushed himself forward while Ingut stepped back. Vingevourt fell to his wobbly knees and begged forgiveness for his inaction and innocence in not knowing who was aboard the fateful ship. He said the whole little speech in the language of Jutland, reverting from the British without thinking; but Festuscato understood it all, though he did not speak the tongue of the Jutes, because he heard it in the heart.
“Do not worry, great king,” he said, and resisted the urge to kneel which would have insulted the little one. “You have no power over the storms, and I did not call out for help. Perhaps it was my time to die.” Festuscato had to pause on that thought. “You never know.”
“All the same,” Vingevourt began, but Festuscato cut him off.
“Will you travel with us for a time?” he asked.
“I will,” Vingevourt said, without hesitation. “But where are we going?” he asked.
“Thorengard.” Ingut said. He had been listening in. “Yut-heim. Thorengard.”
Festuscato looked at his host and lifesaver. He pulled a big ruby ring from his finger and gave it to the man. “Would you tell him thanks for saving my life.” Vingevourt hesitated. Mirowen told him. Ingut looked at Festuscato with some shrewdness in his eyes.
“And where is Yut-Heim?” Festuscato asked. Mirowen asked Ingut and then translated the response. “In Thorengard.” She shrugged.
Ingut stepped outside and began to bellow orders to the gathered crowd like a man accustomed to being obeyed. Some of the men peeled away and came back in a very short time with two saddled horses and some bread, cheese, some smoked fish and watered down mead. Bran, Gregor, Hrugen, Seamus and the little ones had little time to eat, however. Ingut said something to Festuscato who had come outside with the others while Inga dressed.
Vingevourt translated this time. “He says he assumes this is your horse he found wandering down by the beach.” Festuscato looked and nodded. He mounted as Inga came running out of the house, calling his name. He leaned over and gave her a long kiss and lifted her gently off the ground to do it, but then he set her down.
“Thorengard?” he asked. Ingut pointed, and Festuscato started out without waiting for the others.
“But I’m not finished eating,” Luckless complained.
“So what else is new?” Gregor said and nudged the dwarf as he got back on his horse to follow. Fortunately, Vingevourt had run back to the sea as fast as the gingerbread man could run. He promised he would be waiting for them in the city.
“For a small one, you eat more than anyone I’ve ever known,” Seamus said to the dwarf.
“High metabolism,” Festuscato shouted back.
“I’ll explain,” Mirowen promised, as she took her place behind the cleric.
“But I’m not done!” Luckless shouted and realized he was last. He grabbed as much bread and cheese as he could carry and climbed up on his pony. “Wait up!” He kicked the animal to a trot and cursed for dropping half his booty.
The Jutes. Ingut, the ship builder, takes Festuscato and his crew to the Jute capital to meet the king. No telling what kind of reception they might get. Until Monday, Happy Reading.