7.16 – Runestones

Allene R. Lowrey

In the middle of the night, Einarr was awakened by an idea. The keepers of the lodge might not think too highly of him for learning the runes, but Einarr had known very few who would refuse magical aid outright. Besides, he hadn’t practiced since he left the village.

Quietly, although he thought it unlikely he would wake the stupefied men at arms, Einarr made his way from the Lodge into the garden they kept. He had done this as practice some weeks ago in Mira’s garden, and while tedious he thought it would be some measure to repaying their aid and hospitality.

Einarr let himself into the vegetable patch and made his way carefully to the far corner. There, in the dirt around a pumpkin mound, he traced the ᛃ and willed it active, strengthening the plant and encouraging the fruit to grow. He went on, repeating this process…

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7.15 – Fever

Allene R. Lowrey

“Over here,” Einarr called upstream at Onnir’s back. Moments later, his guide splashed out of the water and up to the great oak where a small boy huddled.

“Frigg be praised,” he breathed, and scooped the child up. He cradled the boy’s head against his shoulder as he stood up, murmuring to the boy. Onnir met Einarr’s eye and then jerked his head, back the way they had come.

“What of the brother?”

Onnir shook his head. “No sign, and Armad here needs help quickly. We can make the lodge again tonight, but not the Hold.”

Einarr nodded his understanding, but the man was already off. Einarr followed, now keeping a lookout for his guide as they retraced their steps. Given the timing, it was unlikely the Shroud was still in the area, but…

…the half-conscious child whimpered as they went through the campsite where Onnir had found his father’s…

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7.14 – Search

Allene R. Lowrey

It was good, Einarr thought, to have someone watching his back again. Not that the forest would ordinarily have been that dangerous. No, it wsa just that after spending most of his life on a longship, solitude could feel a little unnatural. Onnir was more a presence ahead of him on the trail than a companion, and a temporary one at that, but that hardly mattered. What did matter was the sense that, soon, he would have a trail to follow.

Or at least he should. While the Shroud had rather thoroughly vanished after escaping the temple, Einarr had been looking for more tangible signs at the time – and somewhat distracted, besides.

“So I’m still a stranger on the island. What can you tell me about the Shroud,” Einarr asked around midmorning, after the drizzle had ceased but before the sky had cleared.

Onnir gave him a strange look…

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7.13 – Lodge

Allene R. Lowrey

The same qualities that made the woods about the Shrouded Village pleasant to live in – their brightness, their openness – also made them accursedly easy to get lost in. Within half a day Einarr learned to set his blazes within sight of each other to avoid walking in circles.

The hunting lodge he sought sat in a clearing much like the one that held the elven temple. Had he not wasted time getting turned around, Einarr thought he should have found it by midafternoon. As it happened, though, he stepped into the clearing to the smell of wood smoke and the sound of chopping wood just as the golden afternoon began to dim into grey twilight.

“Hallo there!” He called from the tree line. Einarr approached openly, making a point to keep his hands visible and empty. He had no intention of being mistaken for a bandit.

Einarr had…

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7.12 – Broken Cage

Allene R. Lowrey

The thief’s fiery sword, flaming no longer, fell to the floor with a clatter as the man backed towards the cellar ladder. The man’s eyes were wide, and it was like he couldn’t tell what was most horrifying.

Einarr, though, was too stunned to pursue. Sinmora still shone with the magic it had stolen… from… the wards!

Einarr spun on his heel even as the thief screamed. A red blur whipped past Einarr to the sound of feet racing up the rungs of the ladder. The glow of runes from within the vault was gone. The cellar was now lit only by the icy cold light emanating from Sinmora. The vault was empty.

Einarr now raced up the ladder, Sinmora’s hilt still clutched in his hand. At that moment, two thoughts warred for dominance in his head: where is the Shroud and what just happened?

At the top of the…

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7.11 – Rematch

Allene R. Lowrey

Einarr blinked back to consciousness with the faces of Melja and Mira staring down at him and a strange tingling on his forehead and shield arm. He knit his brow. “What happened?”

“The fool has gone to free the Shroud!” Melja’s voice was husky, as though from shouting. “Our runes had no effect. At this rate…”

Einarr nodded, pushing himself to his feet. “I’ll not lose a second time,” he swore.

With Sinmora back in her sheath, and a new shield on his arm, Einarr set off at a jog for the temple.

Catching up with the man before he found the temple was a lost cause, Einarr was sure. That meant he would be facing the thief at the temple – hopefully before he found the vault, but Einarr would not hold his breath for that.

As Einarr jogged the trail, glad it was clearly marked, he replayed their…

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7.10 – Wards

Allene R. Lowrey

“Mind your step,” Melja warned as he entered the room.

The warning was well-taken. At first glance it seemed as though every surface of the chamber was covered in gently glowing runes in baffling configurations. Einarr stopped in his tracks, scanning the room.

Gradually, the overwhelming formations resolved themselves into more recognizeable, if not comprehensible, configurations. Concentric circles of text ringed the floor, but as he watched a path, almost like stepping stones, began to emerge.

Ah. So that’s how. Feeling more confident, Einarr stepped out onto the revealed path. Melja, several paces ahead, paused for Einarr to catch up as the Shroud continued to twitch as though in a breeze.

“This is amazing,” Einarr breathed as he caught up.

“This is necessary. The last time the Shroud was active, entire villages were consumed.”

“Why wasn’t it destroyed?”

“What makes you think they didn’t try?”

This just kept getting better…

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