1.24 – Giant’s Palace

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In the next heartbeat Sinmora was in Einarr’s hand. He pressed himself against the central pillar as he raised the sword to parry the dwarf’s blade. That was a long drop off the other side – one he definitely did not intend to take himself.

Axe struck long sword and the dwarf jumped backward, eyeing the drop himself.

“You could have just opened the door and been on about your business, you know.”

“Just like you could have turned back after your friend got chomped. My master is most displeased about his dog.”

“The wolf should be fine. My friend, on the other hand…”

“Got what he deserves.” The dwarf lunged again, striking out at Einarr’s chest from his position on the high ground.

Clang! This blow, too, was parried. Einarr edged up a step and struck at the dwarf’s inside arm.

The dwarf dodged back. He, too, was wary…

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1.23 – Dwarven Tunnels

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The dwarf stood from his seat at the table and brushed his hands off on his trousers as Einarr pocketed the king Runa had sent with him. He did not miss that his guide hooked an axe onto his belt before setting off, nor that the dwarf evidently felt no need of a cloak where they were going.

“Right this way, sir.”

“After you.” Einarr followed a full two paces behind, shortening his stride to avoid catching up with the trundling gait of the dwarf and dearly wishing he still had Erik along. Don’t let him give in, Tyr. He would just have to watch his own back this time.

The firelight from the dwarf’s forge cast eerie shadows on the cavern walls as he led Einarr further in, toward the hall where his prize lay hidden.

Eventually the cavern narrowed again into a tunnel not unlike the one Einarr…

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1.22 – The Cave

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With the morning light came the sound of metal striking metal from deep within the cave, rousing Einarr from his uneasy rest. The glow of fire lit the walls, even though Einarr’s had long since burnt itself to ash.

The noise became more distinct as he crept down the narrow, winding passageway. I wonder what sort of smith would set up in such a place?

Several minutes passed, and Einarr knit his brows. The tunnel had already continued on far longer than he had expected, but still he heard the rhythmic clinking sound of a distant forge hammer from up ahead.

The tunnel jogged sharply left, and then directly back in the other direction before opening out into a broad cavern. Like the tunnel behind him, the walls of the cavern did not appear to be man-hewn, and yet the sheer scope of the room suggested that very fact.


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1.21 – The Search

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Erik’s weight on Einarr’s narrow shoulders slowed him considerably as he made for the inlet where the Gufuskalam waited with Tyr and their supplies. The man had tried to protest, but every time anything so much as brushed his injured leg he paled.

For Erik’s part, he limped on his good leg, dragging the bad one behind and panting with exertion. The fimbulvulf was restrained, at least for now, which meant that Einarr had some time to search out an entrance to the Hall. But before he could allow himself to do that, he had to get Erik to Tyr. The old sailor had been around long enough to know a touch of medicine.

Blood had begun to well from the leg as the wounds warmed, but the initial freezing had been a boon. More worrisome was the bone: he hoped it was something Tyr could set.

Erik slowed. Einarr glanced…

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1.20 – Fimbulvulf

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The sun in the eye of the storm may have been warm enough by comparison, but the island itself had not yet escaped winter’s chill. More than once as they scaled the rock face Einarr and Erik both nearly lost their footing thanks to the thin layer of hoarfrost that covered the stone.

Einarr grimaced as he gripped the lip of the cliff with bare fingers and felt the wet bite of snow against his skin. He pulled himself up onto the ground above and into the windward side of a snow drift, then hurried out of the way so Erik could do the same. He beat the snow off the knees of his trousers and gauged their surroundings as Erik followed him over the lip. He patted the sack at his hip to reassure himself Runa’s gift had not been lost.

The surface of Svartlauf was covered in a…

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1.19 – Svartlauf Island

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The Gufuskalam launched out of the storm and into the calm waters beyond it. Rain and sleet still pelted Einarr’s back, but he hardly noticed it now.

Black, water-slicked cliffs shot from the ocean’s surface up fifty feet or more. Above, the black-leaved forest where the fimbulvulf was said to dwell loomed over them, rapidly swallowing their view of what lay inland. Before it was hidden from view, Einarr saw massive stone walls rising up from near the center of the island. The roof was also stone, he thought, and the entire edifice was nearly three times the size of Kjell Hall. It stood on four stone pillars that shot up from the forest floor. There was nothing it could be save the Jotünhall.

More of these massive pillars lined a path or a road of sorts down from the hall to the water’s edge through a break in the…

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1.18 – Eternal Storm

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Mid-morning the day after Einarr and Tyr reunited with Erik, no kalalintu had yet shown themselves on the island. This, they agreed, probably related to the albatross heads Erik had staked around his camp, which in the darkness neither Einarr nor Tyr had noticed.

Erik, it seemed, had fought just as hard as Einarr and Tyr, but been fortunate enough to be grabbed by beasts from one of the smaller, less-populated islands. Some few escaped, but whether they would find welcome among one of the other groups none of the three could guess. Once the sun was down, Erik had lit his signal fire with hope, rather than expectation, of rescue.

Since they had already landed, and proven the island relatively safe, the three agreed to take the day for fishing and tending to their little boat. They would have no more opportunities before Svartlauf, and Runa had warned of…

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1.17 – A Daring Rescue

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The Gufuskalam glided backwards along a path pointed by the anchor line, but the two men aboard paid it little heed. Of much more pressing concern were the kalalintu that swooped at them from above, attacking them directly, or rocked their sides from beneath the waves. As for the men themselves, they fought off their attackers with all the strength they could muster. Not infrequently, the flying kalalintu were knocked, dazed and bleeding or already dead, into the water.

The kalalintu who had hold of the sea anchor eventually crawled up onto the shore on its belly. The Gufuskalam was beached, and all around them on the rocky shore Einarr saw nests of the strange creatures’ hideous offspring. Some of them were being fed from the beaks of the adults. Einarr and Tyr fought even harder then: the steady ground under their feet and room to maneuver joined with the…

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1.16 – Kalalintu Island

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Einarr tore the wax from his right ear with a curse. “We can’t leave him there.”

“You want to take on an entire island full of those things?” Tyr yelled, his ears still stopped.

Einarr rolled his eyes and gestured to his ear. Yes, it was a risk, but they had to plan this carefully – and he wasn’t about to do that like he was talking over a storm.

Tyr complied. “Odds are he’ll be dead before we even set foot on their little rock.”

“Erik? Not likely. You really think he can’t hold off those things on land?” They had no legs – only wings and a long, snakelike tail. A snake was quick, but a snake wasn’t pushing around the body of an albatross, either.

“Erik’s a good sailor, and a fine warrior. Certainly I’d rather have him with us than not. But is it worth the…

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