Tryggve smiled slightly in anticipatory amusement as their host emerged from the castle. He was looking remarkably ill for a man who had had remarkably little to drink the night before.
“So!” Eirik cried. “Surprised to see me?”
“N-n-no… Th-th-that is…”
Tryggve thought it funny that he had never noticed Lord Blaehwen was a stutterer.
“So early, I mean,” Eirik explained.
“Oh!” The man’s relief was apparent. “No, but… Are you leaving, sir? There will be breakfast…”
“Do you think? Perhaps you have bread, but I think you find you don’t have so much cheese this morning.”
“I… beg your pardon?” The man had seemed discomposed before, but now he appeared truly mystified.
“I think you have a small rat problem since last time I am here,” Eirik said in a discreet whisper.
“I think because you do this paneling in the big room. Every time, you take the panel off the wall and, so, you never know what you find behind.”
Lord Blaehwen was silent and gray.
“Tryggve and I, we don’t sleep because I am a little scared of rats. Don’t tell my wife,” he winked.
“No, sir… I’m sorry if you were disturbed…”
“I never saw a so big rat. So big, I think he don’t chew holes in the wall, I think he just open the door.”
Tryggve finally could not help but laugh.
“Tryggve, he laugh because he don’t see my rat,” Eirik confided. “So, I tell him, next time you sleep with me. You save me from this rat, if you don’t believe. As for me, I don’t sleep alone here any more. I think the rats in my castle is big, but this one, he hunt my cat.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Lord Blaehwen repeated dazedly, and then he seemed to recognize his own discomfiture and added, “Forgive me. This is most distressing. I had no idea we had such rats…”
“I too, but now you know, and now you know that I know. So, Tryggve, we go?”
“I… I hope you won’t… let it come between us,” Lord Blaehwen said. “We do so enjoy your company, both of you. My wife and I…”
“Now, now, you know we do too,” Eirik scolded playfully. “And this place is on the way to wherever I want to go. And so, I do also love very much these castles by the sea. Don’t I, Tryggve?”
“You certainly do!” Tryggve agreed.
“I think we come back,” Eirik said. “Perhaps soon, perhaps not so soon.”
At last he let his playful smile drop and put on that grave and direful face whose portent Tryggve knew well. Brass-Dog showed it to few men, but for many of those it was the last thing they would ever see.
“But when we come, we take care of this rat problem.”