Spring thaw was not far off, and Stigander was impatient to be off hunting the Grendel. If they were going to act, it would need to be quickly, before the Vidofnir sailed and the two young lovers lost their chance forever. At court the night after they had agreed, Runa passed Einarr a message: her lady in waiting had gone to purchase them a fishing boat from the village across the island.

They hid the skiff in a cove up the coast from the Vidofnir’s mooring, and for the remainder of the Ice found ways – separately, of course – to squirrel supplies away on their skiff. Food, water, sea charts, a sextant… Einarr hoped it would be enough, because there would be no going back.

The night of the Equinox was to be a full moon, and it was bad fortune to sail before then. The timing troubled Einarr, but the superstition said nothing of the night itself. Surely that would be near enough? That was the night Einarr judged they would have the best chance of escaping, and so they decided to risk it. Forgive me, Father. I could not refuse her.

As the last light of sunset faded on the last night of winter, Einarr wandered past the table and hid some scraps of meat inside a small sack he carried beneath his cloak. He took no torch, and if anyone noticed when he slipped out they probably assumed he was headed for the outhouse. He gently lifted Sinmora from its hiding place beneath the eaves, pressing the sheath against his breast as he crossed the meadow. The light of the moon silvered the new spring grass around him, but he spared little attention for the beauties of the night.

Finally the shadow of the spruce wood rose up before him, and as he stepped into the deeper shade of a tree he buckled the sword about his waist. Its weight was a comfort, but its absence in the hall would give them away. He only hoped it was noted late, once they were already on the water.

Now he saw Runa nearly running across the open field, her face cast into shadow, her hair shining silver in the light. His breath caught in his throat, and all doubts as to their course fled his mind. Her cloak billowed behind her, and he saw a bag slung over one shoulder.

She, too, stepped into the shadow of the forest, and Einarr released a breath he had not known he held as she threw her arms about his neck. “Ready?” She whispered.

He nodded.

“Follow me.”

Out of sight of the Hall, in the shadow of the wood, they fairly flew down the well-remembered path to the cove Runa’s maid had favored. Only the need to step quietly, even here, slowed them, for the moon was bright and full. Einarr kept one hand on the hilt of his sword, his ears alert for trouble, even as he gripped Runa’s hand in his other. Two main concerns troubled his mind as they fled down the path: wolves, and the hounds of the Hall.

The path they followed to their hidden cove was long and meandering, and they had gone perhaps half the distance when one of those concerns came to the forefront.

A dog bayed.

“Hurry!” Runa’s voice was edged with worry but not at all winded.

“You go on ahead. I’ll slow them down and meet you there.”

“Be careful.”

Einarr grunted acknowledgment and stepped off the path to crouch in a bush. The darkness was still his best ally, but with dogs the men from the hall were sure to catch up. He scanned his surroundings. In the mottled light under the trees his eyes tried to play tricks, but he still spotted a deadfall just up the path.

He hurried forward, his boots light on the loamy ground, and put a shoulder to the log. Einarr was pleasantly surprised to find it light, hollowed out and dried by time. He moved it down a side path and set one end on a stone, leaving a gap between wood and ground. Into this gap he shoved pieces of the meat he stole earlier, as well as one of his leather gloves. To screen the bait, he covered it with fallen branches. That should keep them busy for a little while, anyway.

His trap set, Einarr hurried back to the cove trail as best he could, sacrificing a little speed in the name of moving quietly. It would be for nothing if he could not make it back to Runa, after all.

Some ways further down the familiar path, he smirked when he heard the sound of someone shouting at the dogs and picked up the pace. It probably wouldn’t take them long to get the dogs back on the real trail.

Indeed, not many minutes later the shouting stopped, followed after far too short a time by the sound of baying hounds.

Light reflected off of water up ahead and he poured on the speed, sprinting for the sea like he would charge for a boarding line. Einarr scrambled down the scree-covered path to the water. His distraction had slowed the hunters just barely long enough; he could hear his father’s voice bellowing behind, loudly enough that he did not worry about clattering rocks giving away his position. Runa stood in the bow of the boat with an oar resting on the wet sand below. Her hair glowed in the moonlight, a halo suggesting her true origins.

Three bounds took him across the tiny beach, and Einarr vaulted into the boat next to his stolen bride. Her smile was sweet as he took the oar from her hands and pushed off the shore, even as the dogs began racing down the rocky path with Stigander close on their heels.

The dogs stopped at the water’s edge, barking furiously. Runa’s boat had caught the tide, and they were deeper than the hounds wished to swim. Stigander stopped, also, and held his torch aloft.

“I’m sorry, father,” Einarr called across the gulf. Runa’s arms curled around him from behind, offering what support she could.

“Do you think that you will be safe because you are my only son?” Stigander’s voice cracked with anger and betrayal and hurt – and sorrow. A pang of guilt stabbed through Einarr’s resolve, but it was only a pang.

“No, Father. And yet, she has persuaded me. Happy hunting when you seek the Grendel.” Einarr took his seat and began rowing, turning his back on his father and the Vidofnir.

1.9 – Spring Thaw 1.11 – Capture
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