Troa bristled, as Einarr knew he would. “Now look here —”
“The longer this takes, the farther ahead she gets. You’re a scout, I’m not. So prove you’re as good a scout as Sivid is a thief and open a door.”
Troa clamped his jaw shut, grinding his teeth, and thrust the charcoal at Einarr.
The rune was already starting to give Einarr a headache: he set about marking the doors as quickly as he could. Then he finally allowed himself to shift his focus away from all the details he would ordinarily pass over. One more thing to do. “Hand me your knife.”
“What in blazes do you want that for?”
“You want light or not?” He’d gotten a little better at controlling how bright the sun rune was since last fall.
“Ah.” Rather than draw his knife, Troa thrust out his off-hand. “Draw it there, instead. Easier to see by.”
With a shrug, Einarr traced the ᛊ on the sleeve of his tunic. He knew it was possible to inscribe runes on a body, but that was not a line of questioning Elder Melja had encouraged.
When the sleeve began to shine Troa lowered his arm and stood looking down the hall for a long moment. “There are three doors,” he said finally. “Two on the inside, one on the outside. Construction would be easier on the outside wall…”
“But that seems too obvious. I agree.”
“So then, which of the two inside doors do we want to try?”
Einarr frowned. They hadn’t been able to find the path back to the prison room, so there was no way of knowing which was nearer to it. Still… “The Weavess is old. Probably she would want to shorten her path as much as she could. But which one is that?”
Troa shook his head. “You’re making this too complicated, and I may be an idiot. Whichever door she used should show signs of disturbance. Take the outer door. I’ll start here. Footprints are unlikely, but there might be bits of thread or scrapes on the floor or the wall around the edges of the door.”
The search took longer than either of them was happy with, and Troa’s efforts to open the door longer still, but finally they managed to pry open what they judged to be the most likely of the three doors. In the end, they stood before the yawning gulf of another passage, and once again Einarr’s neck prickled. Only this time, it didn’t feel like magic.
“If its all the same to you, Troa, I think I’m going to leave that light on your arm.”
Troa looked nearly as spooked as Einarr felt as he nodded. Silently they stepped into the new passage, searching as they moved for the cause of their nervousness.
Eventually, Troa came to a sudden halt, holding out an arm to forestall Einarr. His eyes were glued to the floor at his feet. Or, rather, the lack of floor.
After being thrown bodily across a pit filled with spikes dripping poison, Runa walked for quite a ways before she and Jorir ran into Urdr’s next trap. (She really was going to have to think up a suitable vengeance for that. Some other time, though.)
Before them, the passage was barred by an elaborate puzzle lock. That’s plainly what it was, and yet when Runa had tried to manipulate the clues, they refused to budge. It wasn’t that they were stuck – no. They were large and solid pewter, possibly with stone cores. In its center, a roll of birch bark stuck out from between two of the plates. Runa puffed air up as if to blow away hair from her forehead as she unrolled the note.
Part of her had hoped for a clue, but no. The old hag just wanted to gloat. Runa shook her head and tossed the bark away. There were runes on the plates, that much was clear… but the puzzle didn’t seem to fit together. “And me stuck with the one blacksmith on the sea who can’t read the runes.”
“Not by choice, Lady. Can you think of any smith who would shut himself off from the Art of his craft like that?”
She shook her head. She hadn’t actually meant to say that aloud. “My apologies, sir dwarf. I am merely irritated, and we cannot collaborate.”
Jorir frowned, looking at the puzzle pieces he could not read. To him, they must look like nothing more than smooth pewter disks. “Weavers most often work in images, though,” he mused. “What if the runes are merely there to obscure the plain image?”
Runa smacked a fist into her palm. “Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?”
“You’re a Singer. How many times have you actually consulted a Weaver?”
She hummed, her mind already manipulating the runes into possible combinations of less symbolic images. Eventually, she nodded to herself. “Alright, Jorir. I think I have a solution. It’s a little fuzzy towards the end, though, and I can’t move the pieces myself.”
He grunted. “Fine. But tell me, what happens if your ‘fuzzy at the end’ is wrong?”
With a sigh, she shrugged. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t worried. The Weavess only needed to slow them down, but Runa would be shocked if the old witch didn’t want them all dead anyway. “Probably nothing good. Do we have any way of finding out without trying it, though?”
Jorir studied the lock another long moment before shaking his head. “All right. Fine. Let’s get this over with. Hopefully my shade won’t have to explain to Einarr why you were buried under a rockslide.”
Runa rolled her eyes. She didn’t think he saw. “So cheerful. Come on, we’re wasting time. I do not intend to let that woman get away. Start near the bottom, second from the right corner. You’ll feel diamond-shaped ridges in the middle.”
She could hear Jorir grumbling even as he reached for the indicated plate. Now she just had to hope the image in her head matched the one that had been in Urdr’s.
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