Chapter Five

Camlach led Finn to a drab yet comfortable inn called the Sunken Anchor that he apparently frequented often when in Lerwick. The thought of a warm meal and a bed suddenly appealed greatly to Finn. He had been aboard The Skald for nearly two weeks and even his last night back home was spent in a barn so the modest accommodations offered by The Anchor seemed like luxury. “Uncle Camlach” said Finn as they entered the inn “I have so many questions for you.” “And I for you” replied Camlach “but first let us get a room and more importantly, some ales. Then we shall talk young nephew.” “Ales” questioned Finn, “but my father has never let me try ale before.” “Finn, you will learn repeatedly that I am not your father” exclaimed Camlach with yet another grin. “After a hard days work a man deserves a good ale wouldn’t you say?” “I suppose” said Finn weakly, not seeing any connection between the two. Camlach purchased a room for them for the night and waltzed in to the noisy tavern to return moments later with a frothy flagon of amber fluid and two questionably clean mugs. They made their way up the creaky stairs and found the room. Inside Finn saw two substandard beds and little else but it looked like a palace to him just then. “Get comfortable lad and we shall toast to a family reunion” said Camlach happily. “Then we’ll look into that message and answer our questions, eh?” Finn flopped onto the bed and could already envision his first good sleep in many a day. Camlach went to the small table and went

about pouring them each some ale. He pulled up two rickety chairs and motioned for Finn to come and join him. “Come lad” said Camlach, “come have a pull of some good Island ale.” Finn reluctantly got off the uncomfortable yet heavenly bed and joined his uncle. Camlach handed him a mug and the two sat down together. “Not the most glorious setting for a meeting such as this” said Camlach raising his mug, “but it shall serve. Now young Finn, slangevah!” Finn, uncertain, hoisted his mug to his uncles with a dull thud and took a big mouthful of the ale. And promptly spit it out. Camlach roared with laughter and almost lost his mouthful as well. “There we go lad” he laughed. “Graceful as goats we two are!” “Uncle” said Finn after recovering, “this is terrible stuff.” “An acquired taste perhaps” said Camlach still chuckling, “and we will work on its acquisition with proper diligence. Now take a smaller pull this time” “But what about the message” asked Finn anxiously. “Finn, you have the attention span of a sparrow” said Camlach impatiently. “Tend to your ale lad! Let it help ease you to the place of relaxation you so need.” “I don’t see how this sour stuff will help me relax but I’ll try some more” said Finn. They sat in relative silence while Camlach drank from his mug and watched Finn attempting to do the same. After Finn had made it halfway through his mug Camlach topped them both up again. “There, can you feel it lad?”

“Feel what Uncle?” “Why, the spirit of course” exclaimed Camlach enthusiastically. “It’s like a warm glow spreading through your body or perhaps a slight tingling sensation. Damn it Finn, doesn’t it make you feel just plain old good?” “I am sorry Uncle” said a confused Finn, “perhaps this stuff doesn’t work on me.” Finn stood to get up from the small table and proceeded to trip over his own feet and crashed none too gracefully to the floor. Camlach again roared with laughter and rose to help Finn back into his chair. “I suspect this “stuff”, as you so eloquently put it, might just have an affect on you after all young lad. Excellent” said Camlach gently. Finn would normally have been horribly embarrassed for being so clumsy but he now found himself struggling to contain a grin. To no avail, Finn burst out laughing and was joined by a seemingly satisfied Camlach. “There lad, now just sit back and enjoy yourself for awhile and we shall chat. I find that a little ale can sometimes elevate a conversation to new heights.”

“Or new depths at times, eh Uncle” said Finn suddenly feeling very clever but sporting a silly grin that spread from ear to ear. “Ha! I do believe you are getting the hang of this Finn. And I do believe that the rest of the ale is for me as you learn to handle what you’ve just consumed. Now let’s see about this message from my dear sister. Move slowly Finn, slowly.” Finn made his way awkwardly over to his bed and took the scroll from his travel sack.

“Now, you have read this of course” stated Camlach. “On the ship one day, I couldn’t help myself” said Finn sheepishly. “It’s all right Finn, I would have too.” Camlach unrolled the scroll and leaned back to read it while Finn eased slowly back into his seat. He was not sure of this new feeling he was experiencing and might not call it relaxing but it certainly seemed to make things appear amusing. Finn studied Camlach’s face as his uncle absorbed the contents of the message, seeing Camlach smile, then furrow his brow, then smile once more. By the time Camlach was done reading Finn was about to burst with anticipation as to his uncle’s response. “Uncle” exclaimed Finn, “what do you think of the message.” “One moment young Finn” said Camlach and grabbed the flagon itself and downed the remnants of the ale. “Give me but a moment to digest and ponder this information and we shall continue.” Finn watched curiously as Camlach pulled a small bag from another of the pouches inside his cloak and produced a handsomely carved, long-stemmed pipe. He then grabbed a pinch of some dried-up, brown grass, stuffing it into the bowl of the pipe and picked up a small grey stone which he scraped against the edge of the bowl of the pipe. This somehow seemed to ignite the grass. Camlach again leaned back and put the pipe to his lips, drawing upon the stem. Finn’s eyes lit up as Camlach then proceeded to blow a ring of smoke from his mouth. “Uncle Camlach” questioned Finn again “what is it you’re doing now exactly?” “Smoking Finn, smoking my thinking pipe” replied Camlach. “For I must think for a moment you see.” Finn sat back in his own chair and let his uncle think. He noticed that his own thoughts were swirling about a little too freely to form any concrete ideas so he just began to relax. Perhaps this awful drink did

have its benefits after all. After several minutes and smoke rings had passed Camlach drew himself back up to the table. “All right Finn” he said “answer me this first. Of what manner was this trouble you brought upon yourself?” “Uncle, I truly meant no harm that day” said Finn pleadingly. “I merely wanted to stop those boys from throwing rocks at the ravens, I swear.” “Sounds a noble enough venture to me” offered Camlach. “So what happened?” “Well I figured that since ravens cannot throw rocks back in defense, I thought that I would, um, help out a little.” “I see, so you must have smote one of the thugs with a well placed toss then, I suspect.” “I only meant to hit the tree behind Snorri, just to distract them while the birds flew away.” “Snorri, sounds like a charming lad. All right Finn, that seems to make sense. Your mother says you are a good young chap and of course I would agree. But are you really prepared to live with me for, it seems, a number of years?” “Uncle, I am prepared for none of this.” “Hmmm, yes of course. Well met Finn. I can see you have not chosen this direction with purpose. Well Finn, rest easy. Duty bound or no, I am honored to serve as your guardian for as long as you deem it necessary and I will do my best to assist in your journey towards manhood and independence. But, young lad, I daresay life with me may be somewhat removed from your norm.” “I’ve had a feeling that may be the case sir” said Finn, intending no disrespect.

“Indeed” laughed Camlach. “Well, I suppose as your newly appointed guardian I should provide some food for you.” “But Uncle” asked Finn, “what is this ‘Order’ my mother refers to? And I still need to know how you knew I was here and…” “Finn, you need some food first to calm your thoughts and refine your questioning. Let me see to supper.” Camlach stood and patted Finn on the back and then slipped out of the room. Finn sat there feeling rather dazed and found that his eyelids were getting heavy. Camlach returned a few minutes later with some steaming bowls of stew and bread, a feast for kings thought Finn. He wasted no time in helping himself as he found he was absolutely famished. Camlach watched him eat, feeling a little pleased with himself at providing for his nephew. As Finn quickly consumed his meal Camlach slid over his bowl towards Finn. “Clearly you need this more than I Finn” said Camlach. “Uncle, I don’t mean to be a glutton but” resisted Finn mildly. Camlach just gestured towards the bowl so Finn carried on. Before long Finn’s eyes had all but closed as all his adventures slowly caught up to him. Camlach watched Finn’s head droop to the table. “Rest well young Finn” whispered Camlach as he lifted his nephew out of his chair and brought him over to the bed. Then he turned his attention back to the letter that lay waiting on the table.

Chapter Six
Finn awoke feeling like he was once again aboard the Skald yet he realized that should be impossible. There was no steady and now familiar rocking motion of the ship but his head was rocking nonetheless. He carefully glanced around the room and then the rhythmic sound of his Uncle’s snoring caught his ear. Ah, yes…. the Sunken Anchor. And yes, the port of Lerwick. And, of course, the ale. He admitted to himself; perhaps a little too much ale. Finn forced himself out of the questionable yet welcome comfort of the little cot and glanced over at the table where he and his Uncle had begun acquainting themselves the past night. The freshly written parchment that lay thereupon fast became his first point of interest of the morning. With all the stealth he could muster with his thudding head, Finn made his way over to the letter that Camlach must have written after he retired rather ingloriously for the evening. Seeing that his Uncle’s competent snoring showed no signs of losing

momentum, Finn allowed curiosity to once again augment his bravery and sat down at the table. Then he proceeded to reread his mother’s letter once again. “Finn” bellowed a presumably sleeping Camlach sitting bolt upright on the edge of the bed “you do seem to have developed a penchant for reading other people’s missives!” “But Uncle, I thought you were asleep?” replied Finn sheepishly. “Old trick, the snoring. Over the years it deterred many a brigand from slitting my throat while sleeping on the roadsides.” “Oh” exclaimed Finn, uncertain “but I was only just about to reread Mother’s letter to you.” “As a preamble to reading my letter no doubt” replied Camlach, now stretching away the evenings rest. “Read on Finn. You and I are soon to share little secrecy….. in the years to come.” “Do you mean that Uncle” exclaimed Finn excitedly. “As I said Finn; read on” said Cam with the look of a man who had made an important and sound decision. Finn reviewed his mother’s words needlessly, for they were forever in his mind as her heart was forever within his own. So he turned his attention to Camlach’s words as his Uncle busied himself preparing for the day. “Caetlyn

Please rest easy dear sister as I have had the fortune of having young Finn find me here in Lerwick, not long after disembarking from the Skald. You have a fine lad Caet, a very fine lad. In our very brief time together I see in Finn already an honest integrity that will yield an exemplary man.

Though slightly daunted by the task of guiding him these next years, I am honor-bound to do your bidding. Tull is right, as always. Finn needs not the distractions of his peer’s angry grief to deter his development. I shall do right by Finn and by you my sister. I will not willingly share with Finn my history with the Order but I must needs say this dear sister; Finn is a curious lad. Boundlessly curious indeed, I sense. Fate will guide him now as much as I. But I shall be there behind him through all I can. Be well my sister and mayhap we can all unite happily soon. Camlach”
Finn drew a long breath and stood up from the table and looked directly at Cam. Camlach, buckling on his sword belt, glanced over and said somewhat sternly “Best not let your head swell yet young man, we have many a mile and road to travel and I wouldn’t want you to prove me wrong prematurely” but allowed a small grin to slip free. “Yes sir, I mean no, sir. I mean Cam” stammered an excited Finn. One of his greatest fears had been alleviated for the time as it looked like he would go on to live with his somewhat mysterious Uncle Camlach. He was not on his own anymore. “Now” said Camlach getting on with business “let us away from the Anchor and indeed Lerwick and acquaint ourselves further upon the road. Gather your gear Finn and we can be off before most folk rise and become curious.” Finn went about collecting his modest belongings with an air of adventure setting upon him. This was even more exciting than preparing for a trip up to the glacier back home as he had done so

many times before. This was the unknown. The kind of thing a young boy leaving childhood behind thrives upon. So the two unlikely companions set out from the room and went downstairs to leave the Anchor behind. As Cam settled the note for the room Finn noticed a large disheveled figure looming unsteadily near the exit. Cam turned away from the inn keep and proclaimed happily “All right lad, let us be on our…” “Mac Connell” the figure by the door bellowed. Camlach swiftly looked towards the door. Then smoothly said “Ahhh. Doane, of course. How did you fare at the table last night then?” The man stepped forward and said “Mac Connell, that’ll be the last time you cheat me and the last time I let you slip away.” “Doane, let me make this perfectly clear to you. I neither cheated nor slipped away on you at our last game. Your own regular overindulgence has led you to believe both to be true.” “There you go again with your fancy words bird-man. No more talk. Outside with me now” yelled the visibly angry man. “Has that ever yielded a good result for you in the past Martin?” said Camlach now aware of Finn’s growing discomfort. “I have just received my good nephew from Norway and we wish to be on our way.” Finn wished to be on their way very soon. This man stood a full head taller than his Uncle and was very broad about him. Doane grabbed Cam and pushed him through the doorway of the Anchor following quickly behind with raised fists. Finn feared for his Uncle and went out directly after. He saw Cam roll and rise to his feet with the ease of acrobat.

“Martin, you are as devoid of character as you are bereft of charisma. Here is a bag of coppers if you’ll drop your grievance for now. We’ll settle the rest later, yes” as Cam tossed a small pouch on the ground in front of Doane. “Too late Mac Connell” and Doane threw a fierce blow that Finn would have sworn would knock down a horse. But as Finn was about to close his eyes to avoid the result he was certain he saw Camlach close his own eyes. Then seemingly disappear below Doane’s crushing strike. Finn could not believe his own eyes. Having only just found his Uncle he was sure that Cam would succumb to this attack but he had never seen anyone move so fast. Ever. Camlach sidestepped the much larger Doane and delivered a piercing blow to the side of his head, dropping the larger man in an instant. Camlach stood up and away, brushing off the dirt from the street and threw a nervous Finn a confident wink. “Relax young Finn. This kind of thing may happen from time to time. You just always have to be prepared, for fellows like Doane never show up conveniently”. “But Uncle” exclaimed Finn, visibly shaken “why didn’t you draw your sword on him? He is much bigger than you.” “Finn, Mister Doane here was unarmed. To draw my blade upon an unarmed man over a mere wager would tarnish the image I have tailored carefully over the years. You see?” “Not entirely Uncle. That man seemed angry enough to tear your arm off, or worse. Why worry about your image when so threatened?” “Finn, you will learn as you grow older that men like Martin are far too common, unfortunately. They are quick to anger and give little time to consider any consequences their brash actions may invite. Take your friends in the alley when first we met last night. Of the same stock maybe eh? They cared little what may happen when they set upon you and they were lucky to only receive a little fright from

me. And Finn, I’ll wager that one day soon you may be teaching a lesson or two.” “I don’t know Uncle. The more I see of the world the more bullies I come across. I don’t feel I’ll be teaching any lessons soon.” “Come Finn, cheer up. There’ll be many good folk to meet throughout your life. I’d wager Doane’s bag of coppers there that you met an interesting fellow or two upon the Skald, no?” “Well, yes, I suppose” said Finn thinking of Skiff and of course Captain Timgrinn. “Uncle Cam, are you just going to leave those coins for him?” “Of course, Finn. That will make him feel even more foolish. And likely more dangerous, so we best stay away from Lerwick for a while. So let us be off. It is a glorious morning waiting to embrace us both.” With that the two companions left the Anchor and Doane behind and made their way towards the deserted streets of the small village port. Neither saw the grey shadowed figure off in the alley who had watched the incident. And now made to follow as Cam and Finn set off. As they passed the many stone houses of the town, signs of folks rising for the day became evident, both sounds and smells. Finn realized that he was suddenly hungry again. “Uncle, I am getting a little hungry. Should we not break our fast before we leave the town?” “Cam, Finn. Please call me Cam. There are many small brooks that offer up a fine fish on our way to Scalloway. We’ll soon have us a fine morning’s catch but first let us leave the confines of fair Lerwick” said a slightly impatient Camlach. Finn complied and matched his Uncles stride as the two began to ascend a steep rise at the edge of town. Soon the port of Lerwick lay behind them and Finn saw a beautiful vista as the rise gave way to

sheer cliffs dropping steeply to the sea below. He suddenly became aware of birds, thousands of birds teeming in the clear morning sky as the sound of the surf thundered against the rocky shore. “Behold the majesty of the Shetlands Finn” exclaimed Camlach excitedly. “These fine birds are gannets that gather here to breed after traveling farther than you or I ever will. Watch how they fly with elegance and majesty, capturing the wind as surely as we take a breath of air. Truly, the greatest of creatures, as close to God as the sky will allow wouldn’t you say Finn?” Finn, rapt with the sight, agreed quickly “I do agree with you Cam. I have always followed the flight of the birds with admiration but I have never seen so many at once.” And then Finn also caught his first glimpse of the open ocean since turning away from the Skald. The very sea that had brought him here so far from home. After so many days staring out at the endless horizon Finn had thought he would never want to gaze upon it again. But now, here with Cam on this brilliant morning, he found himself imagining what his mother and father were doing now back home in Kopervick across those open waters. Camlach looked at Finn in his reverie and let the lad have his moment. And as Finn reluctantly turned away he could have sworn he caught a glimpse of two familiar silhouettes in the morning sky but he knew that Caeg and Ceem could not be soaring amongst the shorebirds. There was no way possible for them to have journeyed to Shetland as well. Was there? Finn did not have long to ponder this for soon after Camlach produced a small leather armguard out of his pack and strapped it to his left forearm. He smiled at a now perplexed Finn then turned towards a small copse of trees nearby and whistled a shrill call. Alighting from the tallest tree, the sleek and graceful form of a red hawk made its way swiftly towards them. The great bird seemed to be carrying something in its sharp talons, a catch of some sort perhaps. The bird continued closer and to Finn’s surprise landed familiarly upon Cam’s outstretched arm.

“Greetings Huntly my good chap, please do say hello to young Finn here” said Cam as he worked the strange object from the birds grasp. Finn saw Cam fasten to his belt what seemed to be a copper ring holding many different kinds of bird feathers. “There. That feels more complete. Well say hello to Huntly Finn, the little bird who told me of your arrival of course.” Bewildered, Finn managed a weak “Hello” and gazed briefly back to the rising sun and the glorious wind dance of the birds in the morning sky. Cam smiled again and casually reached into his cloak pocket and produced a small mouse for Huntly.