Igar Pusboil was on a mission and it was far and away the most important undertaking of his miserable existence. The specter of Snod Wormworth’s tortured eyes in that grotesque worm’s face invaded his every dream, every hour of sleep (which of late, were precious few). But worse, lately the recollection of that gut wrenching scenario haunted his every waking hour as well. Make no mistake; it was out of no empathy for Snod. Igar really didn’t care much for the overstuffed bully. But he had to admit that after serving with him for the better part of two decades, one thing was sure; Snod could be counted on in a fight. No, he may not have liked Snod but he had to admit that for better or worse, Snod was one of the only constants in his wretched, empty life.
But now Snod was gone and Igar had vowed that in no way would he share a similar fate. No sir! Igar would go to any and all lengths to be Lord Doden’s man and achieve all tasks set before him no matter who had to suffer in the mix. And right now the vein in his grotesquely broad forehead was doing an irritating, pulsating little dance. The five scouts he had sent up the valley on recon were hours overdue. He suspected desertion, or worse.
Igar had sent a new party out to discern the meaning of the delay but as yet there was no news forthcoming.
So he waited. He fidgeted. He sat in his tent and sweated until he could sit and sweat no more. He threw open the tent flap and strode directly to the edge of the vast campsite mindless of whose cook fires or mess kits got trampled in the bargain. And there he paced until he wore a ditch in the ground. And still no word.
Finally, when he had made up his mind to gather a party and go search for himself, he spotted torchlight coming toward him down the pass.
“Who goes?” queried the sentry Igar had just noticed, stationed halfway up the slope. “Gord Foulfish and outparty,” came the answer, “bringin’ in some dead.”
“Dead!” bellowed Igar, “Who’s dead ‘n’ how?”
“Oh, hail, Cap’n. Didn’t see ya there. Well, it’s Pimpweasel ‘n’ his lot and I’m not sure how but it looks like murder to me… ambush I’d guess.” Igar inspected the bodies. They looked like they’d come straight from the butcher. Then he noticed something else. “What’s this? This one’s been gnawed on?”
“Oh, that,” he said leveling a full roundhouse to the trull to his immediate left, catching him square in the ear, dropping him into the dust at his feet. “That’s what happens when Grizzit here goes too long without vittles.”
“Phaw… cannibal!” spat Igar. He turned on his heal and stumped back to his tent. “Well, this is just hearty fartin’ dandy!” he exclaimed approaching Flob Islow, his sergeant at arms. At Flob’s look of confusion, he clarified. “Gord just brought in Pimpweasel and his whole crew, all dead… gutted and put up fer jerk meat, every one of ‘em.”
Flob let loose a long low whistle. “Dis ain’t good, boss.”
“No shyte, it ain’t good,” retorted Igar mopping his lank hair across his sweaty brow. “Not even halfway to the rendezvous point with the rest of the hoard and someone knows we’re here.” Igar exhaled deeply and leaned against the nearest tent pole. He couldn’t shake the feeling that his life or his military career or both were about to undergo some precipitous changes. He was tired and this campaign wasn’t even off the ground. “Summon my lieutenants, Flob. My tent… one hour. Off with ya, now.” Flob obeyed. Igar turned, entering the tent he stripped off his armor and plopped down on his cot muttering, “Damned stupid Pimpweasel anyhow. I should’ve gutted him long ago… never was worth pail-o-piss anyway.” And with that he nodded off amidst images of old Snodie being cast into that filthy pit, there to dwell forever.
Briar Flynn had watched Garr and Dolf’s little drama with the trulls unfold from the start. He also had been tracking the herd’s progress across Fatigmon Flats, only he hadn’t mistaken them for game animals. He knew them for exactly what they were and was deeply concerned as to why they were so far south. Trull tribes had not been seen gathering in such numbers in centuries. Indeed, they could barely get along within their respective tribes, which generally numbered fifty to a hundred or so individuals. That they were now forming up in numbers far surpassing that and moving with purpose could only mean dire consequences for the rest of the Earthlands’ indigenous population. Trulls were never up to any good. What Briar feared most was the consolidating force behind this migration of a race that could usually be counted on to self-destruct gathered in such numbers.
After untying the hapless captives Briar searched the trull bodies for any papers or clues that would betray their purpose but found nothing but the usual collection of grizzly trophies such as severed fingers, ears, tooth necklaces, etc.
All the while, Garr and Dolf had rubbed their wrists and exchanged questioning looks until Garr spoke up saying “Um, Master Flynn is it, sir? I should like to extend my heartfelt thanks for our rescue.” If a rescue it truly was. Garr had to realize then that he still wasn’t certain of the stranger’s motives. In response Briar simply returned Garr’s sword, put his finger to his lips and motioned both of them back up the hill in the direction that they had come.
Upon reaching the site where they had left the horses, Garr held out his hand saying, “My name, sir, is Garr Guntarsen and this is my good friend and companion, Dolf Ildsted. We’re much obliged. If you don’t mind my saying so, sir, you sure are some hand with a sword. I have never seen the like.”
In response Briar grinned, shook each of their hands in turn and said, “My pleasure, laddie, but we’ve no time to spend on pleasantries.” At that he put two fingers in his mouth and blew a shrill whistle. In response, from a wooded thicket about fifty yards off came a huge pure black warhorse being led by a mastiff at least half its size. When the dog and horse had reached where the group was standing, Briar swung lightly into the saddle saying, “Lads, allow me to present Loki and Eben,” indicating first the dog and then the horse. “No finer companions could a soul wish for,” he said proudly, and then, “Let us away, lads.” He turned Eben and headed back down the trail toward Haarm, Loki in tow leaving Garr and Dolf to play catch-up.
When the trail had finally widened and merged with Haarm’s Way and they could ride three abreast, Garr decided to level a few not-too-intrusive questions at the enigmatic stranger. “Um, sir, so I take it you’re some sort of soldier or mercenary or someth…” He was stalled in his line of questioning when Briar spun around, reigning in Eben and looked Garr straight in the eye, his free hand resting on the saddles cantle dangerously close to that lethal weapon that he was so proficient at wielding.
“Look, laddie, we can dispense with the sirs. I’m not nobility nor am I a ranking officer of any kind. I am a teacher. And as to the ‘mercenary’ comment; to that I take umbrage. To me few things are lower than one willing to kill without so much as a vested interest in the cause. I do not sell murder”. He chuckled. “In your case, consider it a gift.”
Garr was flummoxed and not a little embarrassed, and it must have showed in the blush of his face because at that moment Briar relaxed a bit, grinned and said, “Alright laddie, look, I understand your curiosity and I don’t mind a few questions but right now I’m more than a little thirsty, hungry and tired. So what say we wait till we get somewhere that we can ease these ailments and I’ll be happy to trade histories with ya. How’s that sound?” To which Garr responded, “That sounds just fine, sir… um… I mean Master Flynn. We, ‘er Dolf and I, we have rooms at a fine establishment just a few leagues from here. The Maggies Tits Inn.”
“Well, I’ll be damned, son. It just so happens that’s my very destination,” Briar replied.
Given Briars’ penchant for irascibility, Garr thought it best to keep the conversation light. Actually, he had been quiet for some time and had considered not speaking at all until spoken to, but the silence was almost as uncomfortable as Briars mild rebuke so eventually he ventured, “Dolf and I were intending to do some hunting, that is before our unfortunate run-in with those trulls. You see, the owner of the inn is a friend of the family so we thought that since there are so many of us; nearly twenty with the children and all,” at this he looked to Dolf for confirmation. Dolf nodded reticently and Garr shot him a look that said ‘thanks for your help’. “Anyway,” he resumed, “given our numbers we thought we might do something to help defray the cost of our stay being that the proprietor won’t hear of our paying.”
“Ah, that’d be Hog. Yessir, stout fellow that one; in more ways than the obvious one,” retorted Briar obviously alluding to the innkeepers ample girth. “I have known him all his life. Used to bounce him on my knee when he was a toddler, and he was a hefty package even then.”
Dolf and Garr exchanged looks of obvious confusion. Finally Dolf interjected, “If you’ll pardon my saying so, Master Flynn, you must be mistaken. I… I mean our Master Hogni is clearly your senior by some years.”
Briar laughed and turned to each in their turn, finger tapping the side of his nose in the typical “I’ve got a secret” gesture. Both were relieved to witness a marked lightening of the man’s demeanor but for all that, were no more enlightened. Seeing their puzzlement Briar relented. “Ok, lads, here it is. Hulder blood, that’s it pure and simple. My name, Flynn, was given me by my stepfather, bless him, but it’s also the name of my birthplace, a little village in the hinterlands. The practice of taking to wed mates of the hulder race was a common thing in Flynn, at least before the trulls sacked it. Anyway, it would seem that some of that blood found its way to yours truly. And so there you have it, but make no mistake; my bones often remind me of my true age. Wet and cold weather plays devilment with me on occasion.”
“Well,” said Garr. “That was certainly was not in evidence by the show of swordplay I witnessed. Why, I swear I have never seen anything like it, and that sword of yours… it’s huge. How in the world does one wield something like that with such speed and effortlessness?”
“Well now, let me just say that there is no such thing as ‘effortlessness’,” Briar replied. “However, Frihet is a marvel of metallurgy, so finely balanced and for all her size, she is remarkably light.” This he said as he caressed the sword strapped to his back and then, “But make no mistake, lads, there is no substitute for untold hours of grueling training. Then, one day, you realize that all that hard work has paid off and your sword-work is as a dance, fine and fluid. To all such as that trull filth it is undeniably a dance of death.” This last was emphasized with a quick clench of his fist and said through gritted teeth.
“Well,” said Garr. “I, for one, would give the moon and stars for such skill, for you and I have something in common, Master Flynn. You see, my village too was razed by a force of trulls and I hate them with all my being and have vowed to seek my revenge no matter how long it takes.”
“And just how will you do that,” countered Flynn, “by throwing your sword away and diving headlong into their arms? I might ask where such as you would get ‘the moon and stars’ to give!”
Garr flushed with anger and shame. “I did not throw my sword away,” he sputtered, “it slipped from my grasp when I tripped over Dolf and… and…” And then he realized that he was just proving Flynn’s point. For all his bluster, he was but an untrained boy who had about as much chance of exacting revenge as he had of owning (or, in fact, giving) the moon and stars.
“Please, Briar,” said Garr, swallowing his pride along with a generous helping of humble pie. “Teach me what you know.”
“Look son,” said Flynn, reining his horse to a halt in front of the inn. “Even if you could afford me, which I daresay you cannot, my time and efforts for the immediate future are owed to one whom I dare not refuse, who happens to be here at this very inn. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I simply have prior commitments, sorry, lad.” He dismounted and entered the inn.
Garr had to admit, at least to himself, that while he found Briars answers galling, the man certainly was to the point. There was no posturing or pretense. Deceit was nowhere to be found in his character, which was all the more confounding because it was a trait that made one want to be associated with him; be in his company. In the short time Garr had known the man; he found a kinship growing, a void being filled. Now Briar Flynn was just, matter-of-factly, walking away, end of story.
Garr looked to Dolf who had, by this time, dismounted and was leading Freyja around back to the stable. “What is it with that guy?” he asked.
“Well,” Dolf replied, “it’s not like he owes us anything. Truth be told, it’s decidedly the other way around.”
Garr gathered up Baldur’s reins and followed feeling dejected. “Aye, I guess you’ve hit the mark there,” he replied, scratching at what he was surprised to find was stubble on his chin. “Still, I wish he wasn’t too busy to teach me a little of what he knows about sword-work.”
Dolf stopped and turned slowly and gripped Garr tightly on the shoulder. “Garr, don’t you get it? Remember he said he was a teacher? Well, what do you think he teaches knothead?” He grinned to see Garr slack-jawed and wide-eyed reaction. “He’s obviously a swordmaster. Such men are legendary, Garr. They are courted by the royal and the wealthy of this world, to teach their trade, and while you are the son of a renowned chieftain, your station in life at the moment, hardly qualifies. Now I’m sorry to put it so harshly, my friend, but those are the facts.” He really felt bad when he watched Garr’s shoulders slump and added, “Hey, bone up partner. You’re wealthy in those who love you.” Garr smiled and said, “Yeah, you’re right there. Come on, I’m all for a bath and something to eat.” With that, they stabled, curried and fed the horses and retired to their rooms.
They were just about to let the others know they had returned and retire to the bathhouse out back, when there came a knock at the door. Dolf opened the door and Ilsa flew into his arms nearly bowling him over. “Aha! The mighty hunters, back from the hunt,” she teased. “How’d it go?”
“Don’t ask,” chorused Garr and Dolf simultaneously. But Ilsa would not be put off so easily. “Oh, so you didn’t get anything your first time out. Big deal. You men are so concerned about your manly prowess. You act as if it’s some kind of shame to come back from the hunt empty h…” She stopped dead in her tracks when saw the look on both their faces. “Whoa! What’d I say?” She stood looking from one to the other, blinking her long blonde lashes. Garr turned and started fidgeting in his rucksack and Dolf led Ilsa gently to the door by the elbow saying, “Gather everyone together, we’re not gonna want to tell this story more than once but I suppose it’s something all should hear.”
“Oh, well that’s why I had originally come to you,” said Ilsa, “to tell you that Huldred requests your presence downstairs in the hall.”
“Alright, m’sweet,” whispered Dolf as they reached the door and with a kiss and a pat on the bottom said, “Tell her we’ll be along directly.” Ilsa “harrumphed” feigned indignation, but as she turned down the hallway she was smiling, and by the time she reached the stairway she was positively giddy.
Garr was in a mood. “I’m not looking forward to telling this tale,” he said grabbing a clean set of clothes.
“Would you rather be singing the tale from inside a trull cookpot? Geeze, but you are the maudlin one. What the hell’s gotten into you tonight, Garr?”
Garr seemed to deflate. “I don’t know, Dolf. It’s strange, but ever since Briar just walked away like that; seemingly wanting nothing more to do with us, I have this feeling almost like when they told me father was gone; a hollow feeling in my gut.”
Dolf crossed the room, threw his arm around Garr’s neck and said, “That’s hunger, old boy. C’mon, let’s go down and fill that void.” Garr smiled, if a little half-heartedly. He was thankful for a friend like Dolf. Dolf always seemed to say the right thing at the right time.
Downstairs in the hall, a large room serving the dual purposes of eatery and imbibery, the usual contingent of evening revelers was trickling in. The air smelled of pipe smoke, ale and roast mutton. In the rear of the hall was a partitioned area set apart from the common area, which could be used for private functions, meetings or whatever. This is where Huldred and the others were assembled, as was evidenced by Tykk’s loud, basso voice emanating from that area. As Garr walked the length of the room he looked for Briar Flynn, who was nowhere to be seen. Garr assumed he had met with his party and left, or taken a room. But as he turned the corner of the partitioned area, he was surprised to see Flynn leaning over the corner of the long table deeply embroiled in some covert conversation with Huldred, while Tykk, Bromar and Helmut filled their faces with ale and a variety of victuals. Ilsa and the children were seated at a table set a little apart.
Garr slid onto the bench next to Tykk while Dolf seated himself next to Bromar on the other side of the table. Garr shot Tykk a questioning look to which Tykk just shrugged. He held up one finger while he finished chewing a mouthful of mutton, swallowed and finally whispered, “Dunno. The old gal hasn’t seen fit to make introductions or otherwise enlighten the rest of us”
“Dolf and I met him… he … we… well, suffice it to say that we met him while we were hunting,” Garr whispered back. ‘We rode all the way back with him. His name’s Briar Flynn.”
Tykk, Helmut and Bromar simultaneously halted their chewing and/or guzzling and gaped at one another and then at the stranger with Huldred at the other end of the table. Finally Helmut broke the silence. He looked across the table at Tykk and whispered, “You think it’s him? Maybe it’s just the same name.” It was Bromar who responded. “Aye, he’s got the look. Though I thought he’d be older.” Witnessing this exchange, Garr glanced at Dolf who only smiled and nodded sagely as if to say ‘I told you so.’ It was at that moment that Huldred chose to get everyone’s attention by smartly rapping her pipe on the table.
“Gentlemen, may I have your attention? I have someone here who it is my distinct pleasure to introduce. Master Briar Flynn, these are my companions, Tykk Feitmann, Helmut Muskelmann, Bromar Steinklippet and, if I’m not mistaken, from what you’ve told me, you are already acquainted with Masters Guntarsen and Ildsted.” At this Briar bowed and said, “Gentlemen, it is my pleasure.”
“But it is our honor,” said Helmut. Extracting his long legs from under the table and striding the length of it. He extended his huge hand and said, “You, sir, are a legend, that is, if you are the Briar Flynn of Sverdmester fame.” Briar returned a strong handshake and grinning said, “Guilty as charged.” Tykk smiled at Bromar and said, “Well, I’ll be damned!”
“It would seem that your reputation precedes you, Swordmaster,” said Huldred, using the vernacular. To the others she said, “Master Flynn has graciously consented to take the lads under his tutelage. An honor I hope you can appreciate.” This last was obviously leveled at the boys.
Garr was speechless. He jumped to his feet forgetting the bench, tripped, and went sprawling arse first onto the floor just as Leorrelai rounded the corner. She stepped lightly over him, set her tray on the table, turned and said, “My hero!” At this the whole table, Huldred included, erupted into hysterical laughter. Poor Bromar even blew ale out of his nose. Garr realized that he didn’t even care. He was glad beyond imagining and no amount of embarrassment could change that. Lai reached down and offered him a hand up, which he gladly accepted.
Flynn stood at the far end of the table, arms crossed with one hand over his mouth to hide his grin over Garr’s mishap, but Garr could see it in his eyes so he smiled back, bowed and said, “You honor me, sir, I do not deserve it.” Flynn strode to Garr, clasped his shoulder and said, “We shall see, lad, we shall see.”
Then Garr remembered something. “Huldred said ‘the lads’, does that mean you’ll teach Dolf too?” To which he replied, “Why, of course, laddie. After all, what is a proper Viking chieftain without a strong right hand man?” Garr spun to see Dolf’s reaction and was not surprised to see a tear in the corner of his eye. He knew that such a thing was beyond all their hopes.
Hoping not to draw attention to himself, Dolf looked Flynn square in the eye, smiled and nodded his thanks. As he did, that pesky little saline drop worked its way loose from his eye wending a damp and damning little track down his cheek for all the world to see (or so he supposed). Standing, he quickly wiped his eyes announcing, “Ahem, it’s um, getting a little smoky in here. I’m gonna hit the baths.” But before he went, he was sure to grab a hot roll and a sizable hunk of mutton.
As he turned to leave he heard Ilsa call, “Hey! Bath-boy!” She smiled and tossed him an apple to go with the rest. Juggling his clean clothes, roll and meat, he caught the apple and gripped it firmly between his teeth. Winking at Ilsa, he turned and strode purposefully out the rear door of the inn.
Briar Flynn cocked an appreciative eyebrow and announced, “He’s coordinated anyway. How ‘bout you, lad?” This last, addressed to Garr.
“I’m afraid Dolf will prove to be a much more adroit student than myself,” he answered, almost surprised at the tone of humility, but continued, “However I shall strive doubly hard to merit every lesson, sir.”
Flynn frowned. “What’d I tell you about that muckety-muck ‘sir’ stuff?” “Ah,” Garr responded, “but that was before you were my mentor.” Briar grinned and clasped Garr by the shoulder saying, “Alright, lad, have it your way. But save it for the training ground. Tonight we must unwind and enjoy the comforts of Master Bjordyboffnoktopkaflapfart splendid establishment. Shake off the dust, so to speak.”
To this Garr whole-heartedly agreed but added, “Speaking of dust, I think I’d be wise to follow Dolf’s lead.” As he gathered up his clothing and some food, he realized that, at least so far, he and Dolf had escaped relating their embarrassing tale. He wondered how much Briar had told Huldred but as he glanced at her on his way out the door, she cast him a knowing look over the rim of her pipe. Garr knew then, she knew enough.
By the time he reached the bathhouse Dolf was just sliding into a large copper tub, steam roiling up around him. “He’s told her, you know,” said Garr, stripping out of his dusty hunting clothes.
“Hmm… Who told who what?” asked Dolf around a mouthful of mutton.
Garr walked over to a huge kettle of water that was kept boiling over a fire during business hours. He dipped out a large bucketful and headed back toward one of the other tubs saying, “Flynn, he’s told Huldred about rescuing us from the trulls.”
“So what! We were going to tell the others anyway,” Dolf answered.
“Yeah, I know, but we might have made it sound a little less…pathetic in the telling,” said Garr, retrieving a final bucket. He poured it in, mixing it with the cooler water in the tub and stirring it with his hand before he climbed in. “Ooh,” he sighed, sliding into the tub. “I just realized how much I ache. Ya know, I would have thought Briar would have been a little more discreet. There’s no doubt in my mind that he spilled the beans. You should have seen the look Huldr… What?” He was responding to the look Dolf was giving him.
“I just can’t believe you, that’s all. I mean, the man saves our arses and then on top of it offers to take, not just you, but the two of us on as students, and all you can think to do is bitch about how he might have told the tale of our inglorious expedition to dance with the trulls? I just hope he was able to relate it with the proper amount of humor that the tale merits.” Here he laughed out loud. “I mean, the sight of you running down that hill swinging that sword, it’s enough to make me piss myself laughing just thinking about it.”
Try as he might, Garr could not keep even a mild level of indignation. “Me? Why, you should have seen yourself swinging from that ledge like some kind of spastic ape. Now that’s a tale to tell.” Garr was now laughing so hard that water sloshed over the side of the tub. “Then let’s finish up here and go tell the tale with the relish it deserves,” replied Dolf.
When they had dried off, dressed and returned to the inn, Hogni had joined the group, which was now gathered in a tight huddle at one end of the table listening to some tale (obviously covert by the way they were all leaning in to listen) being spun by Huldred. “Ah, Garr, Dolf, come be seated,” she said as they arrived. “It seems our host has been very busy these past few days. He’s found homes for every one of the children.”
Garr was astounded. “You’re kidding,” he said, turning to Hogni. “That has been of great concern to all of us. How did you accomplish such a thing, and in only a few days?”
“Well,” Hogni responded, rubbing the back of his neck, “it really wasn’t as big a job as one might think. First of all there was a few of ‘em as had relatives here in Haarm. But more than that, some fifteen or so years ago, as I’m sure some of you’ll recollect, there was some sort o’ pox that swept through a lot o’ the towns here about. Well, it killed some folk outright, but left even more of ‘em barren. Whether it be the men or the women no one seems to know. All’s we know fer sure is the birthrate took a nosedive. I mean, it ain’t as though folks don’t want kids, it’s just that there’s precious little begettin’ takin’ place. Well, them folks is happy for the chance to finally raise a family. My main concern was bein’ able to keep the siblings together, but as it turns out, that wasn’t even a problem. Matter o’ fact, I got people comin’ in askin’ if I got any more kids as needs homes. All’s I had to do was put the word out and bingo!”
“Well,” said Huldred, “not to dampen the mood, but from what I hear from Master Flynn about this latest mobilization of trulls, I suspect there will be no short supply of orphans if something is not done to remedy the situation. Something is on the move, make no mistake.” At this, nods and mumblings of concurrence made their way around the table.
“Can I assume then that our tale has been told?” asked Garr.
“You may not,” replied Huldred. “Briar was very succinct. I’m sure he left all the juicy parts for you to fill in. Why? Are we to be regaled with some particular acts of heroism and derring-do on your parts?”
“Oh boy!” said Garr, looking to Dolf for encouragement, which was rendered in the form of a large grin and an even larger proffered mug of ale.
Steeling himself to the now inevitable task at hand Garr took a healthy pull at the mug and, wiping the foam from his upper lip, he began what he was sure would be the cause of lifelong discomfiture. But as the tale unwound he found that, even though the listeners were at some points in stitches of laughter, he quite enjoyed the telling and even embellished some of the more embarrassing parts for humors’ sake. He was pleasantly surprised to see that at the conclusion even Huldred was holding her side and slapping the tabletop.
“Hoo lad,” said Briar, “I was there for the original and I swear to ya, I liked the retelling better. By all that’s holy, if by chance you don’t succeed as a swordsman, you’ve certainly got a career as a chronicler or humorist waiting for you.”
While he appreciated the praise, part of what Briar had said had a very sobering effect on Garr. He paused as he met the swordmaster’s gaze and said, “Ah, but I must succeed as a swordsman, Briar, and you must see to it that I do.”
Briar Flynn could see the unmistakable seriousness and concern in the depths of that shared gaze and replied, “Aye lad, you shall not only succeed but excel, I promise you. You are your father’s son, I can see that.”
Garr was stunned. “You knew my father?”
“Knew him, why, I taught him, lad!” he replied adding, “You made some reference before to your clumsiness. Well, put it out of your mind, for there was no one less proficient than him when he came to me as a lad about your age. Clumsy did not begin to describe Guntar and yet…” Here he got a faraway look in his eye. “And yet when he finished his training, he was unquestionably my finest student. Guntar Bloodaxe was unparalleled.” At this he extended hand and forearm.
Garr gripped Briar’s forearm in response thinking he would never feel so proud as now.