Troa stopped suddenly enough that Einarr nearly ran into his outstretched arm. Better that, though, than to fall into the crevasse that had brought him up short.
“Did we choose the wrong path?” Einarr wondered.
Troa shook his head. “Not likely. I think she had her own path past all this. Probably some sort of bridge, here.”
“Think you can jump it?”
“No chance. And I’d be very surprised if you could.”
Einarr had to agree. “Okay. So she destroyed her bridge once she was past. Now we just need to find a path. There’s nothing up here, though.”
Troa ran his hands along the walls on both sides of the tunnel before he agreed to that. “I think I see something, but you’re not going to like it.”
Einarr followed Troa’s gaze down into the crevasse and groaned. There, about eight feet down, a trio of levers stuck out of the rock. “You’re right. I’m not. And it looks like it’s just out of reach, too… What’s that?”
“What’s what?” Troa turned around to look where Einarr pointed.
“I think it’s another one of Urdr’s… hints.” Einarr bent down to pull the roll of bark out from the tiny crack it was wedged in on the edge of the crevasse. “So you’ve sacrificed a friend just to catch one old woman, have you?” He read. “Best choose carefully: the wrong lever will kill your support. Or don’t: I don’t mind if you die here. …Bah.”
Troa glanced down into the crevasse again. “So if we pull the wrong lever, we’re both dead.”
“Seems like it. And you’re both lighter and better with traps than I am.”
The scout swallowed. “I won’t let you down, milord.”
“If you fail, we’re both dead, the witch lives, and the weaving remains. Be absolutely sure of your choice.”
“I understand.” Troa looked uncomfortable, but he dropped his sword and shield and got down on his belly. He started inching over the ledge.
“So long as you do.”
As Troa lowered his chest over the ledge, Einarr got down on the ground as well to grab hold of his ankles. It was for the best that Troa was not much bigger than Sivid: Einarr could only just get the grip he needed. Worse, Einarr’s shoulders and fingers very quickly let him know exactly what they thought of this position. “What does it look like?”
When Troa answered, his voice carried much less strain than Einarr felt. “I see them. There are three levers, all completely unmarked. This is going to take me a minute.”
Please make it a short minute. “I understand.”
“No, wait, not that one!” Runa cried as Jorir started to move one of the plates on the puzzle lock. Quickly the dwarf shoved it back into place.
“Ye said the fourth from the bottom right, did ye not?”
“I did. I must have miscounted. It’s the one right above that.”
“I thought we already did that one?”
“That was a temporary place while we moved others out of the way. It should slot into that hole you just made and finish this up.”
She opened her mouth to say of course, but then thought better of it. She took a few moments to confirm her arrangement. “I’m sure.”
“Fine.” Jorir stretched up to reach the last of the pieces and shove it into place. Then he stepped back and crossed his arms, waiting.
With a slow grinding noise the door slid open. Beyond it was a long, straight hallway. Water trickled down the walls and pooled shallowly on the floor. Runa smelled brine.
Jorir grunted. “We must have been going down all this time. That’s taking us below sea level.”
Runa hummed in agreement. “No place else to go but forward, though.”
“None. And that is why I’m sure it’s another trap.”
Einarr’s shoulders were on fire. His fingers were cramping, and he was sure Troa’s feet must be as numb as his face was red. A steady scraping sound came from below where Troa worked by the light of his rune. “Almost ready?”
“I found the mechanism the levers control. It’s almost the same as the one on the doors. Just hold on: I’ve nearly bypassed her little booby trap.”
“Hah! Glad to hear it. Will that open the path?”
“It should.” The scraping sound continued. Moments later, Einarr heard a snap, but it was not followed by cursing. Instead, a rope ladder dropped from the ceiling down into the crevasse – which was not actually bottomless, as revealed by Troa’s light rune. If the trap had sprung, Troa could have survived the fall.
Troa stowed his knife and the thin steel picks he had been using and grabbed hold of the ladder. “You can let go now.”
Einarr nodded. It took him a minute to convince his cramped fingers to relax, but once they did Troa performed a rather impressive flip to right himself and descend the ladder. Einarr tossed Troa’s shield on his back and slid the man’s sword through his baldric. It was awkward, but far preferable to the other options.
At the bottom of the crevasse, they saw before them a very regular rectangular doorway. Einarr smelled brine, and the rock up ahead was distinctly damp. “She has us going underwater. I don’t like it.”
“No. But forward is the only way.”
With a nod of agreement, they stepped into the hallway – as straight and regular as the door behind them. Almost immediately a shutter slammed closed, blocking their retreat. Einarr felt cool air on his foot and looked down: the shutter had clipped his boot. With a grimace, he continued on.
About halfway down the hallway, he could see that it ended in a wall, with yet another lever up near the ceiling. That was also the moment he heard the sound of many shutters opening, followed by the sound of rushing water. The hallway began to fill with seawater.
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