Vinland Saga – 05 – A Duel Deferred

Despite Askeladd and his crew being sure Thorfinn would eventually die of hunger, thirst, and/or exposure on the captured ship, he survives long enough for them to sail into the Humber for a brief stint in England. At first his thirst for revenge outweighs everything, but he slips on some moss and gets knocked out by a tree trunk. Defeated by his surroundings before he’s anywhere near the enemy.

He awakes in a gorgeously lit forest and finally drinks some fresh water. He’s so surprised to still be alive he even manages to smile and laugh, but that cheerful mood doesn’t last when he starts to hear screams and spots flames in the distance. Askeladd’s men have decided to spend their “resting time” doing what they apparently do best: rape, burn, and pillage.

Once things die down Finn sneaks into the village and finds the hut where Askeladd is sleeping, unprotected. Eschewing his dagger for an unwieldy longsword, he raises it in preparation to behead his father’s murderer, but stops and retreats, much to the surprise of Askeladd (who was briefly roused before going back to sleep.

In the morning, it’s confirmed why Finn stayed his hand: he’s his’ father’s son. Stabbing a sleeping man in the back isn’t his style; he wants a proper duel with Askeladd. Unfortunately Finn is absolutely no match for Askeladd, especially when he’s letting his sword swing him. He gets a brutal kick to the gut, but that’s all he gets.

Back in Iceland, Leif and the rest of the crew return and inform Helga and Ylva of Thors’ honorable death, and promise to not rest until they’ve found Thorfinn. Ylva, bypassing several stages of grief, flies straight to detatched acceptance and gets back to work, reacting to the news with little more than a shrug and by admitting she figured he’d get killed one of these days.

Neither Ylva’s friends nor her mother are buying what she’s selling—that she feels nothing for what has happened and merely wants to move on—and this is most powerfully illustrated when Ylva is working on a loom late into the night and Helga puts her hands on hers to stop her.

Only then, when Ylva stops—working, busying her mind, simply stops—do tears start to flow, almost despite herself, from her crystal blue eyes. Then Helga draws her into an embrace of shared grief and comfort. Will Ylva stay with her mother, perhaps the only family she has left, or join Leif on the search for her kid brother?

As we know, she still has a brother, who simply refuses to die. While Thorfinn won’t accept scraps from Askeladd’s men when they’re offered, he comes back later to eat what little meat is left and suck out the marrow. He has a chance encounter with Bjorn (collecting mushrooms), who treats him as little more than an irritant, but tells him that while his father was indeed strong, he was also naive. Finn isn’t even strong, not yet, which means he doesn’t have a chance.

Taking that to heart, Thorfinn continues training in the forest, and one night encounters a hungry wolf. Remembering Askeladd’s words about being swung by his own sword, Finn ditches the huge weapon for something much more suited to his size: the dagger Thors gave him. He then kills his first wolf, learns to throw a dagger, kills his first rabbit, feeds himself, recovers some strength.

As Askeladd and his men prepare to depart, having stayed longer than originally planned, Thorfinn confronts him one last time with yet another duel challenge. This time, he shows Askeladd a lot more, and even surprises him with the thrown dagger, but Finn is still nowhere close to being a threat.

Demonstrating he has at least some heart and empathy for the kid’s plight, Askeladd refuses to kill him, and instead makes a promise: if Finn becomes stronger and distinguishes himself in battle, he will honor the duel at a later date. The implication is, he must first join Askeladd’s crew. Knowing that as much as he might want to avenge his father, he’s still too young and weak, Finn agrees, and a truce is struck.

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Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 05 – The Wild Hunt

When attempts to contact the recently deceased Waletta fail, Adashino swiftly declares Wills as the culprit, since he stood to gain the most from her death. Lord El-Melloi II contents—quite reasonably—that in the world of mages, it doesn’t matter who does something or how, because both of those things can be controlled via magecraft. Rather, it’s the why that matters most.

Since the storm has not ended the original agreement is still in place; Adashino will allow Lord El-Melloi to continue his investigations. He hires Shishigou Kairi to assist him, but as Kairi and Gray collect reference materials, they are attacked by a Black Dog—the final form of the lightning outside—that punches right through Adashino’s Bounded Field.

This incident not only confirms the “murder weapons” used in the string of killings, but piques Shishigou’s interest in Gray, and why the Black Dog seemed to fear her Mystic Code. With her okay, El-Melloi explains that the code is Rhongomyniad, the spear of King Arthur (Arturia), disguised and sealed by both Add and its scythe form. He calls Gray “a portrait of King Arthur created by a certain family.”

The Arthur connection confirms it for Kairi and El-Melloi: the storm of lightning, wind, and spirits surrounding the workshop is the legendary Wild Hunt, once led by Arthur, but which led to defeat and his departure to Avalon. El-Melloi bids that the others indulge him in carrying out a ritual to test his new hypothosis.

Using Wills Mystic Eyes (with Reines’ as a catalyst), El-Melloi is able to summon a fairy in the flesh—the same one that has been appearing before Wills as if to warn of an impending death. The fairy can speak, and admits that she herself killed Trevor as punishment for essentially disrupting the balance between worlds for his own selfish desire to build an army of “false fairies” (i.e. Black Dogs) that he can command.

Now El-Melloi has the “why” as well as the ultimate means: the Marburry Workshop itself being the murder weapon with its ability to summon the murderous Black Dogs.

In his shortsightedness, El-Melloi’s demonstrative ritual ended up activating that weapon, sending an entire army of Black Dogs (led by one large boss-sized one) at the mansion. Adashino stays inside to protect Reines while the others head out to meet the dogs of war in glorious battle.

And I have to say, despite it being a bit dark, it’s quite a battle to behold. Wills shows his prowess with mystic daggers, Kairi has a mystical shotgun, and even El-Melloi pops off a few magical bullets, if you will. But obviously the battle’s MVP was always going to be Gray, taking care of business with her scythe and saving El-Melloi from a premature end.

Ultimately Gray must rescind the second seal and unleash the true power of Rhongomyniad in order to defeat the boss. It’s a hauntingly beautiful sequence, as her “Lance that Shines to the Ends of the World” not only obliterates the boss but blasts away the storm clouds as well. Gray may only be a “portrait” (her name perhaps a reference to Dorian as well as her main color) but she can still bring it when called upon.

What her attack does not do is close the gate to the fairy realm from which the Black Dogs first emerged. To do that, Wills decides to do something he always suspected he’d had to do: walk through the gate himself. El-Melloi begs him not to go as it would be a one-way journey, but Wills is prepared, and knows that not only will he not really “die”, but that his father and Waletta are waiting for him there.

With the gate—and case—closed (and El-Melloi’s favor to Sophia-Ri fulfilled), all that’s left is to head back to London. But before parting ways, Adashino hands the lord some material she found in the aftermath relating to the origin of Wills’ Mystic Eyes, with which he wasn’t born as El-Melloi assumed. They were acquired via Rail Zeppelin, a legendary phantom train that buys and sells the eyes.

With part of the lengthy show title now in play things look to only get more interesting as Lord El-Melloi’s case files continue to flow. Meanwhile, before parting with Gray Kairi tells her to keep a close eye on El-Melloi, since he senses the former Waver to still have a strong connection to his now-dead servant. Since connections to the dead only draw people backwards into the past, it’s on Gray to ensure El-Melloi resists that pull and keeps moving forward.