Brede found Eirik where he had expected: in the kitchen.

Brede found Eirik where he had expected: in the kitchen, hunched over a table shoveling bread and cheese into his mouth.

“Well, at least I can find you this morning,” Brede sighed.

“Don’t you come complaining to me now, boy,” Eirik mumbled through a mouthful of bread.

“Complaining about what?”

“I’m hungry. I need to get my strength up to face the arduous task of breakfast.” But he pushed back his chair and stood—doubtlessly, Brede thought, because he enjoyed towering over his brother-​in-​law.

He pushed back his chair and stood.

“I don’t care about the damned bread,” Brede said. “Have you seen Murchad?”

Eirik ambled up to the table in the center of the room and picked up a bit of a different cheese from a different plate. “So, you hide the good stuff from me?” he teased one of the cooks.

Brede prompted, “Have you?”

“God damn, boy! The sky’s not even pink yet. Let that Murchad sleep.”

'Let that Murchad sleep.'

“But he’s not in his room.”

“What do you go to his room for? My sister she wasn’t enough for you?”

Brede groaned, “Eirik!”

“So, what are you doing out of bed already, anyway? You are a lazy ass all the time who like to sleep late. My sister she was too much for you?”

Brede scowled and waved a hand at the servants.


Eirik never minded the servants, and indeed, rather than ignoring them, he often implicated them in his little jokes by the occasional well-​timed wink or nod. And they loved him for it. Eirik’s presence in the house seemed to be both the source of an imminent mutiny and the very thing that would prevent it.

“We don’t see him, do we, ladies?” Eirik asked the cook and her two assistants. The three ladies all agreed they had not seen him.

“I want to find him before Synne gets up!” Brede said. “Damn him! I wanted to surprise her when she comes down for breakfast.”

'I wanted to surprise her when she comes down for breakfast.'

“I know. But did you look for his horse?”

“His horse is still here. All of the horses are here. And no one saw him go out the gate, unless the guard’s been sleeping again.”

“Did you look to see, maybe that Murchad he go play with the babies?”


Eirik shrugged. “Now Murchad he think he better get some idea how those things work, since he have one someday soon. What about the chapel?”

'What about the chapel?'


“I don’t know, boy!” Eirik cried in exasperation. “Am I my brother-in-law-in-law’s keeper?”

Eirik paced around the table, and Brede followed step for step.

“Anyway,” he said, ” I already looked there. And I peeked in the children’s room because Daeg was awake in there. I already looked everywhere in the house. You don’t think he changed his mind about Synn and ran away, do you?”

Eirik stopped and opened his arms in surrender. “Change his mind about Synne? That Murchad, all he talk about is Synne, Synne, Synne.”

'That Murchad all he talk about is Synne, Synne, Synne.'

“I don’t know,” Brede whined.

“Say… Did you check in Synne’s room?”

“Check in—” Brede’s heart skipped several beats, or else the very march of time was temporarily halted. “You don’t think he would…”

Eirik laughed.

'He wouldn't dare!'

“He wouldn’t dare!” Brede growled.

Eirik howled. “That Murchad, now he is my friend forever!”

“He would never!”

“What do you expect, boy?” Eirik grinned. “So, when you come home to Estrid last night, what is the first thing you do?”

'When you come home to Estrid last night, what is the first thing you do?'

Brede cringed.

“When I come home to Sigi last night, what is the first thing I do?”

“But they’re not…” Brede mumbled.

“Brother Brede, that boy he was in prison for more than one year. The only girl he see was the old lady who did his laundry.”

“But Synne…”

'But Synne...'

“Synne she will be his wife before one month. So you leave them be, Brede. Even if that baby he come early, no one will know. But we had better hurry and make that Murchad practice on Pinknose just in case.”

“But Sigi…” Brede whimpered. “And now Synne…”

“And you!” Eirik laughed. “He was a real bad boy, was my brother Brede,” Eirik said to the women. “But I suppose you ladies know?”

In fact Brede had been very careful not to employ any of his former paramours, but Eirik delighted in pretending that the opposite was true—and indeed many of the maids enjoyed playing along.

“There’s only Selwyn left…” Brede whispered.


“Selwyn!” Eirik laughed and clapped Brede on the shoulder. “Selwyn is fourteen, Brede.”

“I know, but…”

“How old were you?”

Brede cringed and hid his face in his hand.

“Why so glum, brother Brede?” Eirik asked him. “So, you four are the ‘happiest’ family I know. ‘Happy’ all the time! Eh, ladies?”

'Eh, ladies?'