Einarr, Troa, and Jorir traded off at the oars for the rest of that afternoon. The sun was setting as they reached the lake Troa had spoken of.
“If we’re going to be out overnight, we should fish.” Urdr mentioned. “You’ll need your strength in the morning, after all.”
“I don’t think you have any room to be making suggestions, witch,” Runa spat.
Troa shook his head. “It’s not a bad idea. There’s good fish in this lake, and with the assault I don’t think any of us have eaten since yesterday.”
“You intend to eat raw lake fish?” Jorir asked, querulous.
“I suppose we would have to land to cook it properly.” Troa mused.
“Is that a problem? There’s no honor in starving an old woman.” Einarr peered at the lake shore. It looked like the forest came right up to the water’s edge most of the way around, but there was a rather large rock they could use in the south.
Urdr smirked. Runa clapped her hand to her forehead. “Are you all idiots? No! We’re not landing.”
Einarr gave Runa an arch look, annoyed in spite of himself. “Excuse me?”
“She’s a Weavess! They read the future! Furthermore, she’s as black-hearted as they come. She dyed her threads in human blood, for crying out loud! You’re all smarter than this. If a Weaver wants you to do something, think about why!”
“The lass is right,” Jorir rumbled. “We shouldn’t land unless we want to try to catch this one again. And I’m somewhat less certain of my chances on a second try.”
Einarr blinked, bringing his attention back to the present moment. “You’re right, of course. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Urdr slumped again and turned her face down. “Tcheh.”
Runa crossed her arms and stared at the old woman seated on the deck. “See?”
They stayed on the lake overnight, sleeping in shifts so that one person was always guarding their prisoner and one was keeping them from drifting toward shore. Urdr slept fitfully through all this, but with Runa’s reminder to beware of plots, none of them relaxed their guard enough she could try to swim for it. When the sun rose, she lay huddled in the middle of the deck. She had tried, unsuccessfully, to procure one of her tapestries as a blanket, but not one of them was willing to trust her with that.
In the morning the river carried them swiftly downstream, and Einarr realized where they were significantly before mid-morning.
So did Runa. “This is the river we escaped to with my father!”
“So it is.” Einarr eyed Urdr and the pile of tapestries, then shook his head. “Probably we could get her up to Father through that tunnel, but I think taking her into such a warren as the dungeon would be hazardous. She will walk through town as a prisoner.”
She did not blanch at the statement. Perhaps the men of the city did not know who she was, but that would be easily remedied.
Urdr held her head high as they marched through town, announcing as they went that this woman was the Usurper’s mother and was being brought before the Thing to stand for her crimes. The people of the city stared, openly hostile, but neither jeered nor attacked the prisoner. For the best.
At the bottom of the cliff road, they hired a cart to carry their prisoner up to the Hold. Troa held her upright as the donkey cart trundled around the switchbacks while Runa and Jorir carried her workings. Finally, perhaps an hour before the sun reached its zenith, the five stood before the open gates of Raenshold.
“Einarr son of Stigander and his companions Jorir, the svartdverger, Troa son of Lonir and Runa daughter of Hroaldr return with the prisoner Urdr,” Einarr announced from his place at the head of the cart.
Arring stepped forward out of the gate and gave them all a warm smile. “Welcome back. Your father awaits you in the courtyard before the Hall.”
“Thank you. Are the chiefs here?”
Arring shook his head. “Messengers have been dispatched, but I very much doubt we’ll see anyone before that thing is destroyed.”
“I understand.” That would be why his Father waited for him outside, he expected. “We will need to guard this one carefully until the Thing is assembled,” he said.
Arring nodded and stepped out of the way. “I will see to it.”
Einarr continued forward with the cart and their prisoner. Arring would need time to arrange for the special guard – and Einarr, if he was honest, wanted her to see her wicked weavings destroyed.
The difficulty was not in finding his father in the courtyard, but rather in getting to where he was. The courtyard was a press of people, between sailors taking their ease to warriors carrying messages every which way, to men of the town anxiously looking for reassurances. At the very center of this maelstrom stood Stigander, Kaldr, Bardr, and a man Einarr did not recognize.
After a good deal of jostling and very little progress, Einarr stopped the donkey and spoke over the hum of the crowd: “Einarr son of Stigander son of Raen has returned with the Weavess in custody.”
Stigander and Kaldr looked up as everyone else fell silent together. A path opened, only barely wide enough for the cart to pass.
“Einarr. Welcome back.” Stigander clapped him on the shoulder. “I was beginning to worry.”
“Father. Sorry that took so long. Kaldr.” He nodded to his former enemy. “I see things are progressing smoothly here.”
“As smoothly as they can. You have the tapestries?”
“Everything she fled with, as near as I can tell.”
“So we can finally be rid of the thing?”
Einarr took a deep breath. “I think so.”
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