Einarr and Naudrek came to the water’s edge at an area of the docks that Einarr doubted he’d have found on his own, it was so far removed from the main road. Naudrek stopped, briefly, when they heard their footfalls echoing over water instead of ground and pointed out towards the sea.
“There, at the far end of the pier.” Then they were both running again, sure that their quarry had arrived ahead of them. Noises of startlement came from several of the ships as they passed, reacting to the sudden clamor but not chasing after its source. Einarr paid them no mind: they were ship lookouts, nothing more. He’d have been more surprised if they had begun to follow him.
Before long he could make out the shape of the ship floating at the end of the pier, an inky black against the indigo night. They picked up the pace.
Naudrek slowed once they could see the lamps burning underneath the Captain’s awning and announced himself to the lookout. He was waved through, but waited just on board.
Einarr stepped up into the light of the lookout’s lamp. “Einarr, son of Stigander, of the longship Vidofnir, hunting the Muspel Shroud. Permission to come aboard?”
“And why, praytell, does that require you to board the Bjorn?”
“He has reason to believe,” Naudrek interrupted. “That the artifact intends to secret itself aboard this ship.”
“This is credible?”
Einarr tried not to roll his eyes. He understood the guard’s suspicion, mentally, but his honor still rankled.
Naudrek nodded solemnly. “And from what I’ve heard, letting that thing off this island is a bad idea.”
The guard pursed his lips, then finally nodded. “Fine. But he’s under your care. If this scrawny fellow causes any trouble…”
“I swear to you on my honor as the blood of Raen of Breidelstein, my grandfather, I seek only the Shroud, to capture or destroy it.”
“Breidelstein? No ship’s come out of there in -”
“More than twenty years? Aye.”
“…I see.” Only slightly less reluctantly, the lookout stepped aside to allow Einarr to board.
“Have you lamps we can use?” He asked when both feet were on deck. It should, he thought, have been a reasonable request, but the lookout gave him a look that could have iced over a wave.
Einarr shrugged. “We need light to search by, still. I’ve a trick I learned from the elves, but you might not like it any better.”
The lookout snorted and turned his attention back to the pier. With a shrug, Einarr pulled a stick of charcoal, wrapped in a leaf, from his coin pouch and unwrapped one end. Evidently being “scrawny” was more of a mark against him than Naudrek’s word could counter.
“Give me just a moment, would you? This will make the ship easier to search, if I can do it without accidentally blinding us.” Calmly, Einarr bent over to draw a large ᛊ – the sun rune – on the deck of the ship.
“What are you…?”
“I’ve been learning from the elves for months now. Picked up a thing or two.” Einarr smiled vaguely at the deck as he straightened. He had intentionally drawn the three-line version, since the lighting was not such to allow him to check his inscription. With a nod of satisfaction, he willed the rune into life.
The deck of the Bjorn burst into bright light, which quickly faded to a dim glow. Cries of surprise echoed around the deck.
“Sorry,” Einarr said. “I’m not very good, I’m afraid.”
“You,” Naudrek demanded, incredulous. “You know magic?”
“Elder Melja would dispute that.”
“I never would have taken you for a sorceror.” Naudrek seemed suddenly wary of him, in spite of everything.
Einarr sighed. “I’m not. I’m a Cursebreaker. It became very plain to me that it was learn the Runes or die. So I’m learning the runes, and hoping it doesn’t kill me.”
“…Ah.” He didn’t seem convinced, but did not force the issue. At least, not yet.
With a nod from his companion, the two set to searching. Naudrek was very shortly thereafter interrupted by a man Einarr assumed was either the Captain or the Mate who came out from under the awning to investigate why, exactly, the ship was glowing. If anything, the explanation made the man less happy about it, but Einarr’s hunt was not interrupted.
It was nowhere above deck – not even, thank goodness, under the Captain’s awning. Einarr worried that it would be under the deck boards: he doubted he would be able to get the Captain to agree to let him search there. Then the lapping of water against the klinks caught his attention. It sounded… different than he was used to. Softer.
Einarr dashed to the seaward side of the ship and looked down towards the water. A grin spread slowly across his face. There, reflected in the surface of the water, he could see a long patch of red against the hull.
“There you are,” he muttered, and Sinmora rasped from her sheath. He focused his will and his determination: almost immediately, he felt the sword begin to vibrate. It had devoured the magic of the wards, before, in spite of hundreds of years of reinforcement. It should at least be able to knock out the artifact.
As the sword’s vibrations grew stronger in Einarr’s hands, the Shroud peeled itself from the side of the ship in what looked an awful lot like alarm to Einarr. His grin turned predatory.
“I’ve found it,” he called across the deck to his new ally. Naudrek’s answering smile was cold as he, too, drew his sword and came to stand by Einarr’s side. Slowly, as though acknowledging that it had been found out, the Shroud floated up to hover in front of the two warriors over the water.
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