27. The Crimes of Brom are Revealed

         Poul, Kjartan, Thorgerd, and Silksif were just preparing to ride back to Skallagrim's home after meeting with Ingjavald on the road. Ingjavald had just left them, continuing North on the road to S yfjaourholur (Sleepy Hollow). However, as they look back from the rise, Thorgerd spots a dark rider headed North parallel to the road who seemed to be intercepting Ingjavald. All four of them decide to go after this sinister rider. As they approach, though, he notices them and begins to gallop through the woods. They give chase, with Thorgerd first and Kjartan second, while Poul and Silksif lag (being indifferent riders).

         Thorgerd reaches the rider first, and forces him to a halt by cutting him off into a thick grove of trees. As she comes in front of him, she suddenly realized that he appears headless in the twilight because he is wearing a black mask combined with soot on his face. She demands to know who he is and what he is doing. The rider angrily replies "This is none of your business" and Thorgerd immediately recognizes his voice as Brom. Brom demands that she back off or else, vowing that he would not let a mere girl get in his way again. Thorgerd is briefly angered and holds fast, at which point Brom takes a swing at her with his sword. Thorgerd blocks but then backs off to let him past.

         Just then, Kjartan rides in and immediately attacks Brom, naturally mistaking him for the headless horseman. His first blow is a lucky one, badly wounding Brom's left forearm, causing him to drop his reins and shield. Brom manages to fight through two exhanges, wounding Kjartan badly in the leg. Thorgerd then rides between them, stopping Kjartan but also causing Brom to fall off his horse. Poul and Silksif arrive a minute later to find Brom and Kjartan shouting angrily at each other with Thorgerd in between.

         Poul is furious with Brom, calling him dishonorable and saying that if he wanted to fight Ingjavald he should do it openly. Brom retorted that everyone already knew that he was more of a man than craven Ingjavald, but that Ingjavald was favored solely because he was rich. A short time into their discussion, though, they hear a high-pitched scream from off in the woods -- an unmanly scream which they suspect to be Ingjavald. Poul joins Thorgerd on her horse to ride out after the sound. However, they lose their way in the dark woods, and though they find the road again they find no trace of Ingjavald. Thorgerd's horse is frightened by a dark shadow which passed near them, however.

         Meanwhile, Silksif takes the wounded Kjartan and Brom back to nearby Tjaraholt. Kjartan suggests to Brom that they say nothing of what really happened, and act as if they fought together against the headless horseman. Unable to think of anything better, Brom agrees. As a trick, however, Kjartan lets Brom forget that he has soot around his eyes as part of his disguise. He is looked at oddly back at home for this until he realizes.

         Thorgerd and Poul go to Syfjaourholur. There they find that Arnor has returned from the wedding, but Ingjavald has not. Poul takes Ari the Learned aside and begins to tell him all of what happened. Ari stops him shortly into the tale and they move outside (with Thorgerd) to talk in private. Poul suggests bringing out people to search for him in the night. Ari replies that Ingjavald is not a child, and he will not search for him simply because he has not returned by nightfall. According to Poul's story, the only known threat to Ingjavald was Brom who was stopped and disabled. Poul then walks back to Skallagrim's house in the dark.

         Poul is welcomed by Skallagrim and Borgny. He also tells them the whole story. Skallagrim briefly wonders whether Brom had anything to do with the death of Vagn, which thought is picked up by Borgny. She promptly declares that Brom is an asshole who needs to get smacked upside the head, and she gives leave to her new husband to go do something of the sort the next morning.

         In the pre-dawn morning, Arnor and Thorgerd are awoken by a scratching at the door of their sleeping-closet. They find that it is Ingjavald. They are both eager to be hear what has happened, but Ingjavald is not eager to divulge. He says that he was chased by a headless horseman. His horse bolted until it foundered in a stream, and he fell off shortly on the other side. For some reason, though, the horseman did not follow him. He had hurt his hip in falling, and had to search for his horse in the dark, and only arrived back home a short time ago. He is reluctant, but Thorgerd insists that they need to go and confront Brom about this.

         In the early morning, Poul and Skallagrim meet Arnor, Thorgerd, and Ingjavald outside of Tjaraholt. Poul is angry with Ingjavald for not making himself known after his scream. Ingjavald responds with a tirade that he never asked for anyone to help him -- referring especially to their hijinks at the bear-hunt, and his relations to Katrina. He announces that he intends to go to the monastery at Ormskogur on Manhattan, where he would like to live a simple life and perhaps find a nice quiet woman to wed. He says that he simply is not suited for these sorts of adventures.

         After that, they come inside. Kjartan briefly attempts the pretense of trying to keep quiet the events of last night, but Poul and Skallagrim are quite open about it. They are chiding of Brom, and especially cite the problem of Gest as a critical one. They agree that they would like to go deal with Gest by opening his barrow. Ivar is briefly opposed to this, but then agrees to it on the condition that they bring back Gest's items. Poul is shocked, but Ivar points out that taking away his sword is the proper thing to do if Killer-Gest really is running amok. In any case, it is his condition for opening up his barrow, and the others agree to it.

         In a group, Bront, Brom, and Silksif go with all the guests to the grave mound which holds Gest's body. They open it up, and Thorgerd quietly notices that it has been opened recently. Gest's body is missing -- although his sword, helm and other items are there. Arguments quickly arise over what to do about this. Silksif notices that Brom has something to do with it. She hints at such to Bront, who soon is badgering his son over that, as well as Silksif over what she meant.

         Silksif refuses to answer other questions, however, and then lays down outside the mound and falls into a trance to search for answers to their questions. In the spirit world, there is a corresponding mound, but a woman dressed in black is standing at the entrance. Silksif recognizes this as a disir -- one of the female spirits of her clan, who act as guardians but also as harsh judges of wrongdoing. The disir tells her that one of her family has desecrated a body of the grave to deceive others about his crimes. He is also guilty of kinslaying. For these crimes, she has declared that he must die. She invites Silksif's help, but does not require it.

         Silksif comes out of her trance and at first says she received no clear sign. Soon, though, she has hinted to her friends that Brom had a hand in the body disappearance. At this point, Poul takes out his sword Oath-Binder and sticks it in the grounds, asking that Bront swear that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Gest's body. Bront is taken aback, and demands that each of the others swear first. They do so, and satisfied, Bront does so as well. Poul then turns to Bront's son Brom and asks the same of him. Brom at first tries to dismiss it, but when faced with a glare from his father he grasps the hilt of the sword and swears. As he utters the words, however, there is a hissing sound of shock, and Brom yelps and pulls back his right hand which has been burnt on the palm.

         Bront quickly accuses Poul of witchcraft, which Poul denies and begins to explain. In the meantime, Brom is slowly backing away, and then suddenly turns and runs.

John H. Kim <jhkim@darkshire.net>
Last modified: Tue Jan 7 17:40:49 2003