The public hall where Einarr found the Vidofnings and Brunnings was surprisingly large for a town no bigger than East Port. If Einarr had to take a guess, most of their custom came from ships such as their own, here to call on the Conclave.
A cheer went up as the door swung open under Reki’s hand. Inside the hall was as warm and cheery as one might expect at the end of a good season of raiding. With a grin, Einarr moved to join his crewmates with a drink while Reki went to report to Stigander. All eight of their party were able to breathe a sigh of relief when they saw that there had, in fact, been no transformations as of yet – only the complaints they had grown used to of nausea and headaches as though their crews had both contracted a lingering flu.
Even Reki’s news did not dampen their enthusiasm: if anything, the fact that they had found their “cure” before the corruption had claimed anyone was another victory over the madmen of the cult. Then it was Einarr’s turn.
“I’ve been given another impossible quest, I’m afraid, Father.”
“Feh. Do skalds give any other kind?”
“Well, what is it now?”
“I’m to travel to the Tower of Ravens and steal Frigg’s distaff out from under the noses of Huginn and Muninn.”
Stigander looked just as confused as Einarr had. “What in the depths of all the seas do you need that for?”
“Untangling fate, they say, and ridding us of the cult’s corruption for good.”
His father shook his head and wiped his hand down his moustaches, his expression changing from amusement to consternation and back again. “Well, if there’s anyone in this lot who can manage it, I’d lay my odds on you.”
Sivid could do it, if it weren’t for his accursed luck. “Thank you, Father. The Matrons said the tower required a smaller boat to reach: I’m to pay a call on a fisherman in the morning regarding the use of a boat. I’d like to take some of the crew along.”
“Long as they’re up for it, same as before. …This distaff, you said it untangles fate?”
Einarr nodded, and his father harrumphed. There was no need to say it: such a thing could easily break the Weaver’s curse on their homeland. He turned back to the hall full of his fellow Vidofnings.
“All right, everyone! Just like this spring, I need a few of you to venture out in a little fishing boat with me. This time we’re braving the wrath of a god!”
His pronouncement was followed by a peal of laughter, even by those who had heard the Matrons’ pronouncement at the Conclave.
Jorir, to no-one’s surprise, was the first to step forward. “Come hel or high water, I’m with ye.”
Einarr inclined his head at his man-at-arms. “Thank you, Jorir. Who else?”
The next man to step forward was gangly Irding, neither as tall nor as muscle-bound as his father but with the same brown hair and reckless grin. “Sounds like fun. I’ll give it a go.”
Erik’s head snapped around to look at his son. “You sure about that? We got into a heap o’ trouble going after the Isinntog.”
“I know. That’s why it sounds like fun.” Irding grinned at his father, and Erik laughed loudly.
“Who’m I kidding? Of course it does. Count me in, too.”
Einarr’s mouth curled in a half-smile. Irding looked a little less happy at the prospect now that Erik was also along, but it would be good for them. “Great. Anyone else? I expect we’ll have to work our way past traps, and if anyone knows how to read runes it would be a help.”
“I already told you, I’m coming,” Runa said, standing at the table.
“No, you’re not. There’s no telling what sort of violence we might come across.”
“You’re invading the tower of Huginn and Muninn. You need someone familiar with magic, who can read runes. I’m coming.”
Aema, the Brunning’s battle-chanter, stepped forward. “You’re hardly the only one here with those qualifications.”
“No, but I’m the only one here with those qualifications who isn’t needed here. You and Reki both have crews to tend, full of men doused with corrupted blood, and I do not. I may be a Jarl’s daughter, but that doesn’t make me useless.”
“Maybe not,” Trabbi rumbled, “but if anything should happen to you your Father will have my head. He may even if you go along and nothing happens.”
Runa met her erstwhile suitor’s eyes. “On my word of honor, I will not allow that to happen.”
Trabbi scowled back. “You have no more place on that boat than I do, my Lady.”
“That is where you’re wrong.” She turned her attention back to Einarr, and he felt the old familiar thrill. “What was it that the alfr gave you in the wood?”
“Some bauble he thought would help us through the tower, though at the moment I can’t see how.” That had been the way of Runa’s gifts, too, given as they left to seek the Jotünhall.
“Give it here.”
Einarr shrugged and removed the bird-shaped brooch from the pouch at his belt. “Doesn’t the use typically become plain when you need it?”
All three Singers rolled their eyes at him even as Runa took hold of the brooch and blanched.
Einarr couldn’t help the question. “What is it?”
“Let us hope the use becomes plain, because while I can read the runes, they look like so much nonsense.”
Reki threaded her way through the room to take a closer look. She raised pale eyebrows and let loose a low whistle. “Well, at the very least your elf-gift should actually be of use. How did he get this, though?”
“See, Runa? I’m sure we’ll be able to muddle through-”
“So long as you have someone who can read the runes. You need me, and one way or another I’m coming.” Runa’s jaw was set. Einarr turned to Bollinn.
The new Captain of the Skudbrun sighed. “I don’t think there’s any stopping her at this point. Over my own better judgement, I’ll allow it.”
Runa smiled in triumph. Einarr hoped she wouldn’t regret her insistence.
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