10.45 – Return

Tangled Threads Publishing

Einarr, Troa, and Jorir traded off at the oars for the rest of that afternoon. The sun was setting as they reached the lake Troa had spoken of.

“If we’re going to be out overnight, we should fish.” Urdr mentioned. “You’ll need your strength in the morning, after all.”

“I don’t think you have any room to be making suggestions, witch,” Runa spat.

Troa shook his head. “It’s not a bad idea. There’s good fish in this lake, and with the assault I don’t think any of us have eaten since yesterday.”

“You intend to eat raw lake fish?” Jorir asked, querelous.

“I suppose we would have to land to cook it properly.” Troa mused.

“Is that a problem? There’s no honor in starving an old woman.” Einarr peered at the lake shore. It looked like the forest came right up to the water’s edge most of the way around…

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10.44 – Capture

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Einarr burst out of the passageway and into the bright afternoon light on a portion of the island he did not recognize. He blinked, his eyes adjusting to the light, and saw that they were in a forest. Just ahead, he saw a small river not unlike the one he had rescued Runa from before. A fishing boat bobbed in the river. He did not immediately see the old woman.

“There!” Runa pointed urgently. Light caught on a long, silver braid as the woman it belonged to hobbled through the underbrush. She had nearly reached the water.

His quarry spotted, Einarr hurtled off through the brush, leaping bushes, ducking branches, and praying she hadn’t left any pits or loosed any caged wolves.

Gratifyingly, Troa was right there with him. Jorir and Runa were obliged to take things more slowly, but if the two of them couldn’t capture one old woman…

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10.43 – Flood

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Jorir led the way into the underwater passage, wary as though he were expecting an attack from any side. The Weavess wouldn’t have sent them underwater if she didn’t have something terrible planned. In spite of himself he jumped when the shutter sprang closed behind Runa. She squeaked. Shaking their heads, they continued forward. Her lamp was flickering badly now: he hoped it lasted long enough for them to get out of this nonsense.

The hallway appeared to come to a dead end perhaps sixty feet further on. The passage had not split, however, so hopefully there was some way through he just couldn’t see. A lever up near the ceiling looked promising. “Ye see that?”

“I do. Can it really be that easy?”

Metal clanged, the sound of more shutters opening overhead, and water began to gush into the hallway.

“That answer your question?” His boots would very shortly…

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10.42 – Traps

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Troa stopped suddenly enough that Einarr nearly ran into his outstretched arm. Better that, though, than to fall into the crevasse that had brought him up short.

“Did we choose the wrong path?” Einarr wondered.

Troa shook his head. “Not likely. I think she had her own path past all this. Probably some sort of bridge, here.”

“Think you can jump it?”

“Not likely. And I’d be very surprised if you could.”

Einarr had to agree. “Okay. So she destroyed her bridge once she was past. Now we just need to find a path. There’s nothing up here, though.”

Troa ran his hands along the walls on both sides of the tunnel before he agreed to that. “I think I see something, but you’re not going to like it.”

Einarr followed Troa’s gaze down into the crevasse and groaned. There, about eight feet down, a trio of levers stuck out…

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10.41 – Logic Puzzle

Tangled Threads Publishing

Troa bristled, as Einarr knew he would. “Now look here —”

“The longer this takes, the farther ahead she gets. You’re a scout, I’m not. So prove you’re as good a scout as Sivid is a thief and open a door.”

Troa clamped his jaw shut, grinding his teeth, and thrust the charcoal at Einarr.

The rune was already starting to give Einarr a headache: he set about marking the doors as quickly as he could. Then he finally allowed himself to shift his focus away from all the details he would ordinarily pass over. One more thing to do. “Hand me your knife.”

“What in blazes do you want that for?”

“You want light or not?” He’d gotten a little better at controlling how bright the sun rune was since last fall.

“Ah.” Rather than draw his knife, Troa thrust out his off-hand. “Draw it there, instead. Easier to…

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10.40 – Doors

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Runa’s scream cut off as the ledge on the opposite side slammed into her stomach. Her chest and her arms folded over the top, and she had pulled herself up to be firmly on solid ground before Jorir had crossed the distance.

“Roll!” He shouted.

“Huh?” She rolled from her front to her back even as she spoke.

Jorir’s boots thudded loudly into the ground a moment later, exactly where she had been laying. “Nice reactions.”

She took a deep breath and let out a cough. “Somehow, I don’t think Einarr would approve of that method.”

“Perhaps not,” he agreed.

“You will regret that, you realize.” She was still catching her breath. He couldn’t allow her too much more time for that, though.

“Perhaps. But it was the fastest, most assured way of getting us both across – as long as you didn’t see it coming.”

She harrumphed – an…

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10.38 – Secret Tunnel

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The four burst into Urdr’s workroom, Runa in the lead but only by a pace. The sailor’s report had been not quite accurate: the witch was gone, and there were a number of blank spaces on the wall and on her racks where tapestries had been until very recently, but she had been smart enough to leave her equipment behind. Einarr was a little surprised she had taken the tapestries along, truth be told. The only reason he could think of were the workings they must support. And, therefore, the workings I must destroy. He hoped Frigg did not decide to reclaim her distaff too soon.

The other thing Einarr did not see was the door Runa had mentioned. Then again, if it were cleverly hidden he probably wouldn’t. Runa, however, walked confidently across the floor of the room, her hair flashing like spun gold even dirtied as it was.

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10.37 – Regathering

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Beatrix nodded brusquely and thrust the bit of cloth she’d been using to dab at Runa’s face into her hands. “I expect you’re right. Lead on.”

Runa was only a little slower getting to her feet. She took a moment to dust off her skirts. Einarr was suddenly reminded of the little girl he’d seen out trying to wrangle goats and smiled.

“…What?”

“Nothing. Just glad you’re all right. Are we ready?”

The doors to the Hall stood open, and spilling out into the courtyard in front of them was a flurry of activity. Standing at the center of this, exactly where Einarr expected to find him, was Father, barking orders. Swirling around him like the inner edge of a storm’s eye were Bardr, Kormund, Hraerek, and …Kaldr?

Einarr glanced over his shoulder at the two women, suddenly glad none of the other Singers had arrived yet. Their attention seemed…

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10.36 – An End to Fighting

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“Very well, Kaldr Kerasson. Stand, and hear the judgement of the Thane of Breidelstein.” Stigander watched the man from the corner of his eye. When Kaldr stood and turned to face Stigander, his expression showed grim acceptance.

Stigander reversed his grip on his sword even as he lowered it, so that it came around in a smooth sweeping motion, and thrust the hilt towards Kaldr. “You will swear to me, before my Vidofnings tried and true, that you will serve me and strive ever and always for the good of this land.”

Kaldr blinked, evidently nonplussed.

“I will not waste talent laid before me. We will put an end to this senseless fighting, and then I will have your oath.”

Kaldr dropped to his knees and his shoulders sagged, as though he had been relieved of a great weight. Stigander could not quite repress a smile as he sheathed his…

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10.35 – In Raen’s Hall

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From the time the three groups of their forces rejoined at the base of the cliff road almost to the tower gate, all they saw was the backs of the defenders fleeing before them. For all that Stigander did not want to slay more of his clansmen than he had to, it made him more than a little worried his half-brother had turned them all into cowards.

With two switchbacks left before the gates the wolflings set up a defensive line. Stigander raised his shield and charged, all his allies hot on his heels. The man who had rallied the line plainly had some skill, or there would not have been one at all. It was not enough to let them hold, or even offer more than token resistance, though. The line buckled like birch bark.

Stigander refused to give up the momentum of his charge, and so they kept…

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