A couple of days after the attack, Donovan approached Mister Grimm. Although Vali or Gytha might have been the logical choice to talk to, Donovan felt more comfortable talking to the lackadaisical Leaping Person.
"Sir?" Donovan asked respectfully. "A moment of your time?"
"Ahh... Donovan." Mister Grimm looked up from where he was bundling masses of tobacco leaves and hanging them from the rafters of his drying barn. Here, outside of the walls of Fyrkat, the breeze blew freely through the barn's open sides, making it comfortably cool and sweet smelling. "I'm just preparing for when we travel to Ashkam. We have lost much, and will need trade goods." He stood and dusted his hands off, before producing his pipe from his haversack and nodding to the barn's open doors. "I could use a break, however."
Outside, Mister Grimm settled himself down on a stump of wood, his back to the barn and his broad straw hat (which reminded Donovan of Tom Sawyer) pulled down low to keep the sun out of his eyes. He packed his pipe and then lit it with a smoldering scrap taken from a waxed leather tube he also produced from his haversack.
"Speak," he said, puffing his pipe alight.
With the moment of truth at hand, Donovan found it difficult to speak. He stood next to the Leaping Person, unable to meet his gaze.
Finally, he forced the words out. "Mister Grimm, sir," he said tightly. "The Sky Raiders, I heard them say when they arrived that they were looking for us. For 'the outlanders'. The one we captured confirmed it. They attacked the village because of us. I... we're sorry."
For a long uncomfortable moment Mister Grimm said nothing. “But not as sorry as the Sky Raiders I warrant.” He was silent for a moment, then pointed the stem of his pipe at Donovan. “What would have happened if you hadn’t been here, have you thought of that?”
Donovan's answer was laden with somberness. "Yes, I have, sir. There's a chance they might have still attacked, assuming there was something else they wanted. But I can't help think our presence here triggered the attack."
He paused before venturing forth the true reason for the conversation. "And there's a good chance they'll try again if we stay. We need to leave, if only to draw their attention from here. You've all been very good to us and... Fyrkat was beginning to feel like home. But I wouldn't be able to stand having more people die because I stayed. And the rest of the group feels the same way."
Donovan held his breath, not sure how Grimm would respond.
For a moment Mister Grimm's only answer was to exhale a cloud of smoke to be taken away by the breeze. "And where will you go?"
If Donovan's earlier response was dark as the night, this one was cold as steel, "We're heading for the ocean, and the Sky Raiders' home. We will make them regret what they've done here. Besides, if they're capturing outlanders, there may people from our home there."
“Hmm...” Standing, Mister Grimm gestured towards sunrise with his pipe. “Across the river, there used to be the village of Hurot.” He paused and replaced his pipe in his mouth. “When I was a young man, perhaps 60, 70 seasons, I desired a wife.” Donovan said nothing, having grown used to the slow way the elderly Leaping Person said anything. As Calvin had once commented, he’d be right at home up in Boston. “So I made the journey across the river, accompanied by friends, and together we found Hurot empty.”
He sat back down and gave Donovan a look. “All had been either slain or taken.” A puff on his pipe later he continued. “None of us, not even the Hunting People, could find a trail leading to or from Hurot.” Mister Grimm shook his head, long white tresses shaking. “It was then I knew Sky Raiders were more than a story used to scare small children into staying inside a longhouse at night.”
Donovan swallowed at the image the story brought forth.
"I do not want that to be the story of Fyrkat, too," Donovan said. "And we're willing to do what it takes to make sure it doesn't happen."
Mister Grimm nodded, than took a draw on his pipe. “The caravans say it takes then three or four seasons to make the trip from the ocean to here and back.” He thought for a moment, then continued. “Donovan, when you came among us, you were lost and hungry. We took you in, shared our bread with you... and for some our beds,” he gave Donovan and wink and a grin at that. “And in turn you helped us chase off the Giant People, helped us in the fields, in the hunt, and at our trades. You will always be welcome here.”
Donovan nodded respectfully, "We have been honored by your hospitality an generosity. That is why it is painful for me to think that our presence may have been the cause for..." He swallowed again.
"Sir, there's another thing I feel we must discuss," Donovan continued, now turning to face Grimm squarely. "Even if we leave and ensure the Sky Raiders know it, it's not a guarantee they won't come back. I'm sorry to bring this up, but it may be necessary for the village to move, to find another place to live."
The lanky Leaping Person cocked an eyebrow at that and puffed thoughtfully on his pipe. Donovan had a sudden flash, of Ian McKellen as Gandalf in Fellowship of the Ring. He almost expected to be told that Mister Grimm was never late, nor was he ever early, he also arrived precisely when he meant to. “Would you leave?” he asked. “Would Billyjo? Or Edward, who was once a húskarlar and looks to be so again?”
Donovan bowed his head. "I don't know," he admitted. "If it was my own life at stake, I would stay and fight. But I have no wife, no children of my own. It's hard for me to know what my decision would be if I had any to be affected by it.
"One can always find new land, grow new crops, build new houses. But a life lost cannot be regained." Donovan paused before adding with a voice tight with emotion. "No matter how one may wish otherwise."
“True.” Mister Grimm nodded to Donovan. “You speak well, almost like a skald at times. If you stay, I see you as a village elder in time, for you impart wisdom and sense with each word you say.” He sighed and looked out over the fields surrounding them. “We could move yes... but this has been our home for seasons beyond measure. I don’t think it’ll be easy to simply go somewhere else.”
Standing, Mister Grimm placed his hand on Donovan’s shoulder. “I’ve heard stories of Sky Raiders since I was a pup. Now you say you will find them and stop them. How can we run and hide if you mean to do such a thing?”
Donovan found himself unable to get words past the lump on his throat. Trying hard to keep the tears from coming out, he said in a hoarse voice, "I'll do everything in my power to make sure no one will have cause to fear the Sky Raiders again."
The rational part of his mind jumped in and chastised him for making such a stupid promise. The emotional part told it to shut the hell up and sit down.
Donovan added, in a voice still slightly shaky, "I'll head back and see if there're any of the trade goods we still have that can be added for your trip to Ashkam. It might be a good idea for one of us to come along, too, in case..." He let the sentence hang, unable to articulate his concern and guilt.
“One?” Mister Grimm seemed surprised. “I thought all of you should come. Especially Billyjo and Edward. Such deeds as they performed will be rewarded by Jarl Thorkell.”
"Oh," Donovan replied, a bit taken aback by the comment. "Okay, I'll let the group know."
He hesitated, then said, with feeling, "Thank you."
“If you can do as you say, then we will be thanking you.”
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