As the six women retired to gain what little sleep they might before a servant inevitably summoned them to break their fast, Bea looked thoughtful. “You know, he seems like an ass, but he is not just a Captain but a wealthy one, and one with the king – er, thane’s – ear. You don’t rise that high with that strange of a view without support from below.”
Reki furrowed her eyebrows, but it was Aema who asked the question. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that his crew probably adores him. They’ll call him a paragon of virtue, I wager, and odds are good they’ll cite more than one of your nine.”
“…Our nine?” Aema arched an eyebrow, even as Svana and Eydri nodded.
“Your nine serve well enough among the Clans, where everyone fights everyone else and you don’t have to manage much beyond a few islands. But the Empire? If we weren’t a little less prickly than you lot, we’d never have lasted. All of that’s not really important right now, though.”
“She’s right,” Svana opined. “A man who was merely lucky, or who merely had the favor of his Lord, would not have risen so high. And its not clear to me he actually has the favor of his lord.”
Reki nodded. “I don’t see how it helps us right this instant, but its worth remembering. Let’s sleep on it: maybe something will suggest itself.”
Runa looked like she was chewing on her cheek: well, the girl would decide to share her thought if she thought it wise. “Try to get some rest, ladies. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
Reki felt like she had no sooner closed her eyes than there came a rapping on the door to their prison. With a groan, she sat up, still bone-weary and stiff besides. “Who is it?” She managed to croak.
“A-a-a-a-agnar, lady. M-m-m-my l-l-l-lord calls.”
Calls for what? She narrowly stopped herself from asking: it would be faster to go and see than to wait for poor Agnar to spit out the answer. “Please allow us a moment to freshen up.”
“P-p-p-p-please make haste, l-l-l-lady.”
Reki sighed, thankful that the only ones to see were her fellow prisoners. Was this Ulfr’s idea, or Urdr’s? Reki suspected Urdr’s, especially if Kaldr was not the only one to realize they had slipped out the night before. But refusing was not an option, not truly. Dragging weary limbs, she roused her fellows and attempted to wipe away the worst of the sleep-muss.
It was sunset before the six of them were once again sent back to their cell, and in all the hours of the day not once were they let out of the watchful view of either Urdr or one of her lackeys. Still, Reki was pleased at how they had handled themselves. They should still have a night or two before things became desperate.
Supper was to be brought to them, and likely a much poorer affair than the night before. That was no matter: based on what they’d seen in the larder, she wasn’t certain the banquet had been any more nourishing than the bread and broth she expected. One of Urdr’s attendants, though, had let slip something interesting in Reki’s hearing, and now she waited only on the guard who would come bearing their supper to share it.
Finally, once the thrall had left their tureens of broth and their fresh – very fresh, they still smelled of yeast and butter – loaves, they could count on being alone save for the guard outside the door. That one, Reki was fairly certain, couldn’t actually hear them so long as they kept their voices down.
“So, ladies, I’ve learned something interesting. What of the rest of you?”
Eydri bobbed her head as she sipped at the soup. “You know where the wolf was right before he summoned us? Consulting his mother’s loom. Some of the thralls were complaining about how early the old woman gets up to Weave. I guess they do that every day.”
Aema looked surprised. “They do that every day – and the thralls felt safe complaining about it?”
Eydri shrugged. “I think Reki was right: I think we’re here on the Norns business. The weave on this island has to be beyond distorted.”
Svana hummed. “That means Captain Kaldr is a natural ally – if something can convince him to turn on his master.”
Reki took a sip of her own soup, then tore off a piece of bread and dipped it in the broth. “With Urdr’s black weaving still in effect, that’s not likely.”
“Well, not on its own,” Runa volunteered, her shoulders hunched up around her ears. All four of the other Singers turned cold looks on the apprentice.
Bea looked confused. “What do you mean, not on its own?”
“I mean we could…” Runa seemed to realize who she was speaking in front of – namely, a non-Singer. “We could help it along.”
“Yes, we could,” Reki said, her voice as icy as her skin. “By destroying whatever weaving this is that’s keeping Ulfr victorious.”
“We don’t even know where that is!” Runa protested.
“Actually,” Reki smiled, the corners of her mouth turning up like a mischeivous fox’s. “I think we might.”
All five of the other women sat up. “Oh?”
“After he returned from the Oracle, Lord Stigander said something about his father still being alive, at least according to a vision he’d been given. I hadn’t given it too much thought, to be honest – right up until one of Urdr’s attendants started talking about helping her up and down stairs. Every day. I don’t know about you, but I doubt she’s going to that sort of trouble for Lord Hroaldr.”
“I think,” Reki said quietly, drawing them all in. “I think its time we checked the dungeon.”
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