5.13 – Hero Worship

Allene R. Lowrey

Runa stood at the entry to the room full of bubbles and swallowed. It was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen, but the thought of what she was likely to see set her stomach churning. Einarr had not hesitated: she owed it to him – to them – not to flinch. As he ducked under one of the green-glowing globes, Runa entered the room.

She took sideways, gliding steps, ever mindful of where the bubbles were, knowing she was going to make a mistake. Do not fear, she told herself. He’s right in front of you: you can face anything. Runa swallowed again, willing herself to believe it.

She stopped. In front of her, the bubbles floated in a solid wall. On the other side, she was sure, the exit would be in view. All she had to do was step forward.

Runa wiped sweaty…

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5.12 – Among the Leaves So Green

Allene R. Lowrey

Einarr was quite pleased with himself for spotting a fresh trail before his grandfather pointed it out to him, not many minutes up the forest path. Then they were off the beaten path, Einarr peering at the ground as they went for pellets or for the nigh-invisible shadows of hoofprints on the needle-strewn ground. At every turn he tried to find the mark before his grandfather could point it out. He managed perhaps half the time.

“Why do deer have to hide so well,” he grumbled at one point.

“Because they’re weaker than the wolf and the bear, of course. There are three choices in life, Einarr: be strong, be clever, or be dead. Best of all is to be strong and clever.”

“Yes, afi.” It was far from the first time Einarr heard those words of wisdom.

They finally caught up with the young buck where he slept…

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5.11 – Bubbles

Allene R. Lowrey

The sound of stone grinding on stone signalled the puzzle door closing behind them, although they were already far enough up the steep stair that the reduction in light was hardly noticeable. Where in the caves of the svartalfr cult the passages had been lit by a strange blue flame, here the stairwell seemed to have globes filled with glowbugs where one would otherwise expect torches.

Runa smiled with delight. “Well this seems downright friendly.”

“So far,” Jorir grumbled. “Remember who lives here.”

“Compared to where I just was? I might quite enjoy taking a meal with a pair of ravens.”

“Before or after you robbed their loft?” Irding’s voice came from behind them all. He sounded nervous.

“Oh, before of course.” Runa took his flat jibe and ran with it. “If all went well, I might be able to convince them to just give it to me, and then…

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5.10 – Into the Tower

Allene R. Lowrey

Tendrils of mist extended inward toward the tower that rose from the water like some giant’s spear, curling about the Gestrisni and obscuring what rocks might yet hide beneath the surface. Even now that their target was in sight it was slow going.

They wound their way through the reef in silence save for the dip of the oars and the lapping of water on their hull, each and every one of them worrying over what lay ahead. Just as in the thick of the fog, here too Einarr found it impossible to judge the passage of time. First the cave, now the fog: it would be nice, he thought, to be under a properly sunny sky for a time once they were finished here.

After what felt like an eternity of tense floating, the shadow of the tower covered their boat, the thing itself looming from its rocky perch…

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5.9 – Undersea Assailant

Allene R. Lowrey

Einarr cut his shout of surprise short as frigid water closed over his head. The thing that had hold of his leg yanked again, pulling him farther down. Then the downward pull stopped, although the creature did not let go. In that moment, the rope about his waist grew taut and he felt the water begin to move the other direction. His friends were pulling him up, the creature still attached to his leg.

The pause in downward pressure was a brief one, however. What felt like a hundred needles dug into his calf, and then the tug-of-war began between the men aboard the Gestrisni and the creature of the deep. More air escaped his mouth as he screamed involuntarily and he looked at his captured leg.

Staring back at him were the murderous eyes of a great eel, its jaw clamped around his calf. Already his lungs began to…

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5.8 – Lost in Fog

Allene R. Lowrey

For five days they sailed east, by oar as often as by wind, before they caught so much as a glimpse of a reef in the water. Even then, it was little more than a damp spot, big enough for the skua nest it held and nothing else. It was too late in the year for eggs, but Irding checked anyway. Fresh eggs were a rare treat on the water, after all.

Over the next two days they saw more small rocks, much like the bird’s nest. Once in a while they would spot a seal slipping back into the water: that, too, would have provided some nice variety in their diet of gravlax and hard tack had they only had a javelin to catch one with. For all that Runa was the one least accustomed to eating like a sailor, however, she only complained once, and that was when the…

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5.7 – A Borrowed Boat

Allene R. Lowrey

When Einarr and his team ventured forth the next morning most of East Port was still asleep, such that even on the busier docks the sound of the ocean lapping the shore and the call of sea birds dominated the air as they approached the shed where Sor kept his fishing boats. He and his men were up and about, of course, and this little section of the sleepy little town had the bustle of a much larger settlement.

Looking about, Einarr spotted a man of Trabbi’s approximate stature and age coiling a rope about his forearm. “Excuse me! Are you the owner?”

“Depends. Who’s asking?”

“Name’s Einarr, of the Vidofnir. The head of the Conclave of Singers told me you’d have a boat I could use.”

The man swore as though this were an old annoyance. “She did, did she? Wish she’d ask me if I’ve got one…

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