1.33 – To Catch a Thief

Tangled Threads Publishing

Einarr took off at a sprint down the pier. The two could not have got far yet, and he remembered their faces. Jorir kept up admirably well, despite his shorter legs.

“You remember what they look like?” Einarr asked between breaths.

“Well enough.”

They pulled up short where the pier met dry land. There were only two ways the boys could have gone; a disturbance in the dockside market crowd said the answer was left. A heartbeat later Einarr, too, was dashing off after the ripples his fish made as it swam through the crowd.

He did not hear the dwarf’s footsteps pounding after him; a glance over his shoulder revealed Jorir examining something on the pavement. A glance was all he could spare, however, as the crowd was reluctant to be shouldered aside a second time in so short a period.

Scowling, Einarr gathered his breath without slowing. “Stop!…

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1.32 – Physician

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Einarr had been sure the map was because the harborman didn’t expect he could read right up until he saw the directions that were sketched therein. “Many thanks,” he said, gesturing with the paper. Then he had set out with Jorir into the twisting warrens of Kem’s back streets, glad he had left the bag of treasures stowed under the Gufuskalam’s deck.

“Have you ever been here before,” he asked Jorir quietly.

“Not recently enough to be any help,” the dwarf grumbled back.

“Wasn’t after help. Harborman’s map covers that.” Einarr glanced sidelong down at his new liege-man. “What’s got you so sour of a sudden?

“A man’s life hangs by a thread, and mine’s tied t’it. You’d be sour, too.”

Ah. That. He turned to the left down a not-quite-muddy street, shaking his head. “My apologies. Neither Tyr nor I doubt that you’ve done everything in your power…

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1.31 – Kem Harbor

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For more than a week the Gufuskalam sailed south, pushing as hard as its crew could drive the boat with sail and oar, and for more than a week the black-haired dwarf on board hovered over the injured sailor who had been given into his care. If Erik did not seem to be improving, neither did his condition seem to worsen. He even regained consciousness a few times. In spite of his better judgement, Einarr found his attitude toward Jorir softening. Even Tyr could acknowledge his efforts were genuine.

Mid-morning of the eighth day, Einarr stood up to stretch and caught sight of land on the horizon. “Hey Tyr, double-check the chart, will you?”

The older man was still unrolling the parchment when he answered. “That should be the place, and if I’m right we can make landfall today.”

Einarr whooped, the last week’s worry lightening in a rapid burst…

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1.30 – Field Medicine

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With Erik down, Tyr took the rudder and left the rowing to the strength of youth. Tempting as it was to let out the sail to travel nearly halfway around the island, everyone aboard worried that the jotün would notice something amiss. They were not safe until they crossed out through the storm. And so, Einarr rowed while Tyr kept their course and Jorir wrapped Erik in every woolen blanket on the boat and battened him to the deck.

What felt like hours later they turned away from the island, into the squall surrounding it. The oars tried to pitch out of Einarr’s frozen hands. Tyr fought with the rudder. Einarr was pleased to see Jorir taking his new position seriously: it seemed like every time he looked up he was either shielding Erik’s face from a breaking wave or mopping the man’s face – of sweat or seawater or…

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1.29 – Escape from Svartlauf

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“That piece was given to me before I left on this journey by the woman who will be my bride, so do not scorn it. I’m afraid I’m still going to have to bind you until we’re underway on my boat.” Einarr strode behind Jorir and swiftly wrapped the rope about his wrists in a figure-eight pattern.

“Better than staying here, an’ it’s not like I’ve given you much reason to trust my word. …Satisfied?”

Einarr finished tightening the rope around Jorir’s wrists and let his hand drop to the long tail he’d left to keep hold of the prisoner. “Yeah. Lead on.” He patted the dwarf’s axe that now hung at his own belt near Sinmora.

A small hallway led off from the main chamber they had tumbled into. The Isinntog was now so bright Einarr was tempted to take it off, but that would require trusting the dwarf…

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1.28 – Midden Maze

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I’m going to regret this, Einarr thought even as he fell. The darkness was nearly complete. Nearly, because the Isinntog about Einarr’s neck gave off a faint white glow.

Einarr’s legs plunged into the moldering kitchen refuse of the jotün and his dwarf. The smell that assailed his nose nearly made him vomit. Putrid meat, rancid fat, and rotting vegetables all mingled together in a slimy slurry that, by some miracle, only came to Einarr’s waist. He covered his nose and mouth with a hand.

Now what? Einarr cast about with his eyes, looking for anything that might be a way out. A dark patch behind a ledge of stone suggested his route. Getting there was like wading through swamp muck. When he pulled himself up onto the ledge he had to take a moment to remove the worst of the filth from his trouser legs and the tops…

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1.27 – Chase

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The giant’s steps fell like boulders as he entered the room and stopped. Einarr peeked around the treasure mountain he had ducked behind. The giant stood, his blue-white body draped about with filthy furs, and stared at the now-empty pedestal with eyes as black as midnight. Einarr bit off a silent curse. All thirty-plus feet of the giant had stopped immediately in front of the door, and thanks to the dwarf he knew Einarr was in here somewhere.

“Come out, little man.” The giant’s voice boomed from above. “You return what you stole now, I can still let you go.”

What sort of fool does he take me for? Einarr waited, crouching behind his stack. Sooner or later, the jotün would move, and then he could make a break for it. The odds were high that only place the jotün would ‘let’ Einarr go was a stewpot.

A tree-trunk leg…

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1.26 – The Isinntog

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After what felt like an eternity of creeping, during which he kept expecting to hear the creak of hinges or feel the vibrations of the giant’s steps on the floor, he made it to the pillar on which he had glimpsed his goal.

It was not ivory, he saw now that he stood before it, but instead a rough limestone, and thick enough to hide him from anyone standing at the door. Up we go.

What should have been an easy climb was rendered arduous by his inability to move horizontally around the pillar without exposing himself in front of the open doorway. He was faced more than once with the choice between exposure and an inadequate grip. He chose the grip. His odds of weathering the fall were better than his odds of facing a jotün and escaping with his prize.

When Einarr was about halfway up, he ventured…

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1.25 – Treasure Room

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Back down the crates he went, dropping from board to board until his feet landed on flagstone once more. The room he needed was all the way across the hall. Dashing across the open floor was tempting, but such was the call an animal would make. That he had seen no sign of the jotün did not mean he could not be discovered. Better to slip around the edges of the room, where he could hide if the need arose, than to dash across the floor and be caught in the open.

As he dashed across the doorway of a room that smelled like smoke – a kitchen, perhaps – Einarr heard a deep, rumbling wheeze from elsewhere. It sounded similar to how he thought a mountain might breathe. Glad I didn’t just cut across the room. Someone’s there, and I’m not sure if I’d rather it were the wolf…

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