2. Brother Finn Arrives

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A month passed and the end of September was in sight. The fields, once vibrant with crops, were now swaths of low weeds growing out of the ash. The farmholders, finding little had survived, were left to scrounge. Every seed found was stored away for next year and they prayed it would be enough to start again.

Reimar played catch with Katrin after supper, while their mother watched while filling her drying racks with sliced apples. After one of his little sister's terrible throws Reimar picked up the felt ball and saw the man coming toward the gate.

"Mum, who is that?" Reimar asked looking down the north road toward Thiggardsborg. Anette looked and saw a man racing to beat the setting sun. He used his long harpoon as a walking stick. Deep blue, gray and white robes swished with his rapid pace. Beside him, a giant blue gray Mastiff thumped along in a loping jog.

"Looks like a Havarian. Very odd."

"What is a Havarian, Mum?" Reimar asked as he watched.

"It is one of the Sects of the Kyrkja. A monk or friar from the looks of it."

"Why is he coming here? Are we going to have Mass again?" he asked hopefully. Reimar liked Mass.

"We will see." She smiled at Reimar, then turned her attention across a small field to her husband. He was talking to other men by the nearly empty deer poles.

"Anton!" she hollered. "Stranger a-coming!"

Hearing her call, the farmhold began emerging from their roundhouses and longhouses to see the man and his dog approaching.

She stepped away from her drying racks, using her apron to wipe her hands while she watched. The Dagvordr who had been walking on the western side of the stockade ran over to take up his position at the gate. He challenged the stranger as he arrived.

"Peace be with you! Who are you?" the armed man shouted, and held his bow ready but not threatening

"I am Brother Finn of the Havarian Order. The Kyrkja sent me to aid you. This is my companion, Bergamot," he said referring to the massive canine that stood next to him.

"Come in peace, Brother Finn. Welcome to Aattaettirstrond."

Anton joined the gathering of farmholders before the northern gate who were busy discussing the stranger.

"Praise God!," Per said, "They finally answered us."

"I told you to have faith. The Anjars always help."

"Then why a Havarian?"

"I do not know. Maybe he was all that could come."

"Look at that dog! Uffda! That thing is bigger than me!"

By now the children had rushed to the gate to see the massive dog. A priest, no matter the sect, was always a welcome sight in the farmhold. The dog dwarfed most of the children. It stood at least three feet tall at the shoulders. Her blue steel coat was short and shiny with a long slim tail, massive floppy ears, and jowls slicked in thick drool. She panted heavily as she waited on her master. The children made low sounds of amazement at seeing the animal.

"Bergamot, sitt," the monk commanded, and the massive canine clumsily slouched on her haunches. She tipped to one side, tail thumping as he scratched her massive head that was bigger than a puma's.

Brother Finn looked at Bergamot's small crowd and gave a bittersweet smile. He had forgotten what it was like to be in the presence of children. Years tucked away in various Havarian estates and Hird courts made this common experience alien to him. Now that he thought about it, he had been cloistered away for so long he forgot what common life was like outside the Kyrkja. Not to mention how much had changed about him since his incarceration. It must have been great, for the innocence of all these children was shocking. It surprised him that he could not remember the last time he had blessed a child. Not even an infant baptism. He knew he had in the past, but when?

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