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Oct 16, 2021 2:46 PM
Carissa and Korva land in medieval Iceland
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Many stories of bravery and daring are recounted, often with great enthusiasm. They talk of bravery during raids, against outlaws, and against wild animals. There is a fault line in the feast hall, a low-level tension between Vigdis's newcomers and the existing Icelanders, which their guests may pick up in bits and pieces, but the simmering does not boil over. Vigdis's men are respectful, and were chosen in part for their ability to be respectful among a not-quite-foreign people. Vigdis tells them of how she killed the walrus, which is not a feat normally taken on alone. It's not a very complicated story - she stalked the walrus, caught it when it was alone, attacked it from the front to give it a chance to fight back, and managed to kill it anyway, through the right combination of speed, strength, daring, and a good spear - but it's told with the same enthusiasm as the others, and the rest of the hall seems to find it very entertaining.

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And eventually it is Catherine's turn.

She does not know Icelandic stories, not yet, not as precisely as she thinks they must be told here. It's well-known that the Icelanders are capable of producing very impressive storytellers, from time to time. She is not going to try to beat them at their own game. But the Odyssey is exotic, and has been popular with everyone she's ever told it to, so she gives them a slice of it that features many of its hero's greatest adventures. Her audience is impressed, but not awed, and notes that they have never known a woman to be so good at storytelling.

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Storytelling isn't even one of those things you'd expect men to be better at than women because of disparities in education. That said, the woman is incredible, and if she's a bard she's managing it very very subtly, so it just feels like you want very much to listen all the way through the end.

She likes these people. They seem friendly, within the bounds of what you can reasonably expect from strangers, and their ambitions are comprehensible and the things they admire seem nice and straightforward without being sickeningly Good or anything. 

She wishes she had any idea why they were here.

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The Icelanders have no answers for her, on that front. They eat late into the night, and then disperse to the other structures in the settlement. There are empty beds for visitors, though not separate bedrooms; the longhouse has only one interior wall, to separate the animals and slaves from the free men and women. A few people put up curtains to achieve some measure of privacy, but they're not provided as a matter of course.

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