7.32 – The Muspel Shroud

The shadow of the Shroud was a deep blood-red in the faint illumination still coming off the deck of the Bjorn. Sinmora practically hummed in Einarr’s hand as he stood on deck, facing the target of his quest once more.

Naudrek faced the Shroud at his side, and for that Einarr was grateful. He wasn’t sure how much help the other man would be against a living piece of cloth, but it was still good to have an ally.

Sinmora’s hum increased in time with Einarr’s resolve. Over the water, the Shroud seemed to quiver in place, almost as though it were cornered.

Why, though? Einarr was not going to complain, but it was puzzling. Why did the Shroud need to bother with a boat at all? It could fly under its own power, and it was not a creature to need rest. Whatever the reason, it was working to Einarr’s advantage. Still, though, he needed to get it back over the deck to end the standoff. Einarr took a testing step forward.

The Shroud began circling back around toward the deck, almost as though the water was as fearsome to it as Einarr’s awakened blade. Of course. The wards that were used to contain it were based around the water runes. That’s why they collapsed when Sinmora first awakened. As fascinating as that was, however, it didn’t solve the problem. By the time the Shroud stood over the deck, Einarr would be in the water.

Naudrek snorted and sheathed his blade. “Keep its attention a minute.”

Einarr hummed in answer and turned his full attention back to the Shroud as Naudrek quietly slipped away. Frowning, Einarr took another step towards the Shroud where it hung like a banner in strong wind. The Shroud, predictably, circled back the other direction. Marginally closer to the deck, he supposed, but not enough.

They repeated the steps of this dance a few more times, the Shroud always remaining a few feet out over the side of the boat, where Einarr could not hope to reach it with Sinmora.

“Incoming!” Naudrek’s voice rang out even as Einarr heard the whistling of a spear through the air and saw a barbed bident flash out over the water. Reflexively (does it have reflexes?) the Shroud wrapped itself around the fishing spear’s handle even as Naudrek began to pull it in.

A grin split Einarr’s face: so the man was clever as well as impetuous, was he? Good. Maybe Einarr would try to steal him away from the Captain of the Bjorn.

The Shroud jerked and tugged on the spear point, but drew inexorably nearer to the wall of the ship and the blade that devoured magic. Naudrek’s arms strained, but did not falter.

Einarr shifted on the balls of his feet, ready to lunge. Sinmora he brought up, ready to slash at the fabric. Please let this work.

Sinmora pulsed, much like she had back in the vault. Einarr took a deep breath.

Naudrek had the spear haft in hand again, and slammed the point of the bident down into the deck boards.

Now the Muspel Shroud thrashed wildly, pulling at the spear where it was pierced like a wild animal in a trap. It would keep pulling, Einarr knew, until its fabric tore and it could kill again. He had already seen that a simple thing like a pin or a tear would not stop the Shroud.

Sinmora pulsed again, and he brought his blade down in a mighty chop. The still, quiet voice in the back of his head remarked that the Captain would be right to demand damages of them. He silenced it.

A flash of red light nearly blinded him, and lines of a fiery energy converged in a whirlpool around Sinmora’s blade.

There was a sound like steam escaping a kettle, and the edges of the shroud went from red to black to grey. Underneath the screaming whine, though, Einarr heard the telltale sound of ripping cloth.

Sinmora pulsed again, and the fire energy began to flow faster. Unlike in the vault beneath the temple, though, this time the magic did not manifest immediately on the blade.

The shriek grew louder, echoing across the water below, but still the tearing noise continued as an undertone.

No you don’t… He drew back, and drove Sinmora down into the cloth once more.

Abruptly, the transition from red through black to grey accellerated. A moment later, Einarr and Naudrek stood panting, their weapons still embedded in the deck, with a small pile of ash between them. The steel of Sinmora’s blade had taken on a red-gold cast, and Einarr could still feel his sword pulsing with power.

With a deep breath, Einarr loosened his blade from where it had stuck fast in the deck boards. It was finished. He had hoped, on some level, to have a trophy to take back to Melja and prove his deed, but such was not to be. As it was, he had the fire pulsing in the sword (for how long? He did not know), and Naudrek’s witness, and a pile of ash.

“Is it… over?” The other man asked, a little tentatively.

With a nod, not tearing his eyes away from the spot where, not even a minute ago, the Shroud was doing everything in its power to escape. “Looks like it.”

Naudrek gave a tug and a bitter laugh. “Well, Hrug, at least you’ve had what little justice we can give you.”

Einarr stood a long moment, staring at the still faintly-glowing sword blade. “I almost can’t believe that worked. And I still don’t know why you can do that, Sinmora.”

“Really?” Naudrek laughed again. “It’s time we got back to our bunks for the night, if you’re talking to your sword.”

“Heh. I suppose. Not like you don’t want to check on your friend at all, though.”

“Not at all. And not like I want to avoid the Captain right this minute, either. Let’s go… and if you can stop the deck from glowing, it might not be a bad idea.”

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