A few nights after Eivor returned to Ravensthorpe to report on their successful alliance with the Sons of Ragnar and the new King of Mercia, much of the clan had gathered to feast in the longhouse. Eivor came upon Randvi and Ceolbert drinking and conversing, Dag Nithisson listening in across the table.
- Randvi: At one time, the title Jarl referred to a man second only to the king. But that use has softened. Now a jarl may be a chief, a leader, or a man with broad wealth and influence.
- Ceolbert: The world is bigger now, and broken into many pieces. It seems our language must do the same to keep up.
- Randvi: An interesting thought.
Eivor approached with amusement, drinking horn in hand.
- Eivor: Ceolbert, your father sent you here to learn, not teach.
- Randvi: Then you must start, Eivor. Give us a summary of our recent gains, for instance. The clan is thirsty for knowledge.
Eivor continued looking over the room, pleased, for a moment, before she realized what Randvi was asking and her face fell slack.
- Eivor: You want me to give a speech?
Randvi nodded. Eivor looked to Ceolbert, who smiled and nodded as well. Eivor considered it with an awkward, poorly hid grimace.
- Eivor: Right.
Steeling herself, Eivor stepped up to the head of the hall and raised her horn, calling the clan's attention.
- Eivor: My friend, hearken to me! And hear a tale of triumph and toil. I have traveled far since we landed, and seen much on the roads and fields of this new England. And for all my travels, strong alliances we have gained. The honorable Ceolwulf, King of Mercia, now calls us friend.
She nodded to Ceolbert, who nodded back.
- Eivor: And to the south, Soma Jarlskona and the Danes of Grantebridge have pledged their oaths to us.
Dag shook his head disgustedly and stood, coming to the fore as Eivor continued addressing the group.
- Eivor: By Sigurd's hand and my own, we have strengthened the ties of--
- Dag: You seat yourself as Sigurd's equal in these tales of yours. Would Sigurd do the same if he were here?
- Eivor: Sigurd knows what I have achieved. And he would celebrate it more roundly than I have. But this takes nothing from you, all of you. For I sit among some of the staunchest wills and strongest fighters I have ever known.
- Eivor: And so I raise my horn! First to Sigurd, may he return to us soon. And to the Raven Clan, the best of friends and fighters.
- Randvi: To Sigurd!
- Dag: To Sigurd! May he return and relieve us of you!
Attempting to stay calm in the face of Dag's anger, Eivor stepped down from the platform and concluded her speech.
- Eivor: And may all of you enjoy the ale as much as Dag has. Skal!
- Raven Clan: Skal!
The group returned to mingling, but Dag wasn't finished with Eivor.
- Dag: You think me drunk, Eivor? Would it soften my blows if I was?
- Eivor: Your words are blunt enough. But it would explain your boldness.
- Dag: My eyes are clear and open. And I see before me one eager to claim a piece of Sigurd's glory.
- Eivor: There is enough glory in the world to go around for all who earn it. And I have no doubt how much I am owed.
Just then, Sunniva ran into the longhouse, interrupting the feast.
- Sunniva: Attackers from the river! They look to be Danes!
- Eivor: Danes? How many?
Norvid entered behind Sunniva, breathless.
- Norvid: Too many! Now come! The battle roars already!
- Dag: Bloody curs! What quarrel have Danes with us?
- Eivor: Those who can fight, take up your weapons! All others, stay here!
Dag gave Eivor a sneer for her orders, but left the longhouse to fight. For a moment, Eivor couldn't hide her concern, but quickly pushed it aside for the coming battle.
- Eivor: With me!
Eivor was asked to give a speech about recent victories at the clan's feast. Dag accused her of trying to steal Sigurd's glory. The feast, and their argument, was interrupted by the settlement being attacked by a group of Danes.