Reki did not look away from Runa’s face. The spoiled young apprentice almost looked like she was about to cry.

“Whether she’d done what to Einarr?” Bea asked again. “Does it have anything to do with what happened to the pair who arrived on the boat with her?”

Reki raised an eyebrow – the one furthest from her Imperial Highness. If Bea was sharp enough to pick up on that, with no training in Song at all, then either Runa’s desperate move was clumsier than Reki thought or there was more to Beatrix than she let on. “It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with,” was Reki’s answer.

Bea pressed her lips together into a line. “I think it might be, actually. But now is not the time. I would speak of this later.”

Reki snorted. Beatrix might try. “Did you find a way through?”

“This way. You’re not planning on putting those two to sleep, are you?”

Reki shook her head. She had considered it, briefly, but it would raise too many questions if anyone were to discover them. “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

Beatrix led them through the alleys between buildings quickly and quietly until they moved up against the outer wall of the Hold. The moon would be setting soon, and the wall fell into shadow. As they neared the tower, the sound of raised voices carried down to them from a lit window overhead. They froze.

“My Lord! Sooner or later, your mother’s skill will fail you. What then?” It was Kaldr.

“You’ve said quite enough, Kaldr!” Ulfr’s response was significantly angrier than his liege man’s.

“You follow these weavings with such devotion, you don’t even know why you’re meant to do these things! My Lord, you can think for yourself! Now if only you would.”

Reki whistled quietly. The man was treading on dangerous ground. Would be, with any Thane or petty Jarl she had ever met – even Stigander. Probably even Einarr.

“Mother is my adviser because her advice has never yet failed me.” Ulfr’s voice was audibly tight, even from so far below. “If you cannot accept that, you may leave my service.”

Reki shared a look with her companions, eyebrows raised, to the sound of a slamming door. But if they had heard that, then so had all of the guards. Perhaps – if they had only a little luck – perhaps Kaldr would be distraction enough of himself. She continued forward along the wall: had anyone else heard that? Did she want anyone else to know about it, under the circumstances? To the extent that it destabilized the Usurper’s regime? Yes, yes she did. Be as loud as you dare, Kaldr, she thought with a small smile.

She led her fellow prisoners forward to the corner where the tower rose out from the wall like a great tree, guarding the gate and all who passed through it, and then around the curve of its walls to where she could just make out the two warriors standing guard on the entrance to the dungeon.

Kaldr was stalking away down the same road Reki and the others had been led along on their arrival, headed, she surmised, for bed and sleep. There, she waited, until he was long out of view and, she hoped, out of earshot. No-one had followed him. On the other hand, she thought it unlikely anyone else was likely to visit the tower this night.

Is it a trap? Just a mummer’s ruse, put on for our benefit? … She shook her head. What would it matter, if it were? It did not change what they had to do. She motioned for Svana to Sing the men to sleep.

This was it. Reki was certain that they had found where Urdr worked her Weavings. There were only two problems.

The first, was that after his argument with Kaldr last night, neither Ulfr nor Urdr had left the room. She was certain they were both in there: she could hear them conversing, although they kept their voices low enough she could glean nothing.

The second was that the horizon was just beginning to lighten and the tower was already beginning to come alive. She shifted her shoulders, uncomfortably aware of Eydri pressed against her back and Runa’s omnipresent elbow in her ribs from where they hid, watching, in a storage room near where the Weavess worked. The door, cracked slightly open, gave Reki and Aema an excellent view of the weaving room and allowed a trickle of cool air in. Every time Reki thought the hallway clear, however, a thrall would rush into view, carrying this or that in preparation for the day to come. She growled, frustration escaping as quietly as she could make it before she burst.

Finally she felt safe to open the door and slip into the corridor. She paused only a moment, glancing up and down to take her bearings, before striding off towards the stairs as though she belonged. The others were hard on her heels.

Down the stairs they went, trying hard to keep up their pace in spite of the soft soles of their boots. A presence ahead of her brought her up short, however. Standing on the stairs, not two steps below her, Kaldr glared coldly at them all. Reki met the man’s green-blue eyes levelly, trying not to show her surprise.

They stood like that for what felt like eternity. Finally, the Captain grunted, inclined his head as though in greeting, and stood aside for them to continue downward.

Warily, not taking her eyes off the man, Reki returned his nod in kind and slipped past, regaining the guise of ‘belonging’ as soon as he was out of her direct line of view.

“Be cautious, ladies,” he muttered as they passed. “If you are caught, all pretense will be broken.”

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