They waited in silence until they were sure Kharmor was out of earshot and off the docks – with the way sound carried over water, the second was required for the first. Then Kaldr turned to Runa. “What do you know about these Paths of Stone?” She shook her head, her hair tickling Einarr’s nose….
“You there! What goes on here?” Stigander leveled a finger at one of the better-equipped townsfolk who had joined their ranks. He blinked and pointed at himself, a dumbfounded look on his face. “Yes, you! Why have the townsfolk taken up arms against the Thane here?” He hated to phrase it that way, but the…
Thane Soggvar turned to the advisor standing behind the throne to his left – a cadaverous shaman Jorir did not recognize. In that same moment, his attention was caught by a figure who very much did not belong in this hall: an elven woman in white, her tall and willowy figure exaggerated by the short,…
“That piece was given to me before I left on this journey by the woman who will be my bride, so do not scorn it. I’m afraid I’m still going to have to bind you until we’re underway on my boat.” Einarr strode behind Jorir and swiftly wrapped the rope about his wrists in a figure-eight pattern.
“Better than staying here, an’ it’s not like I’ve given you much reason to trust my word. …Satisfied?”
I’m going to regret this, Einarr thought even as he fell. The darkness was nearly complete. Nearly, because the Isinntog about Einarr’s neck gave off a faint white glow.
Einarr’s legs plunged into the moldering kitchen refuse of the jotün and his dwarf. The smell that assailed his nose nearly made him vomit. Putrid meat, rancid fat, and rotting vegetables all mingled together in a slimy slurry that, by some miracle, only came to Einarr’s waist. He covered his nose and mouth with a hand.
The giant’s steps fell like boulders as he entered the room and stopped. Einarr peeked around the treasure mountain he had ducked behind. The giant stood, his blue-white body draped about with filthy furs, and stared at the now-empty pedestal with eyes as black as midnight. Einarr bit off a silent curse. All thirty-plus feet of the giant had stopped immediately in front of the door, and thanks to the dwarf he knew Einarr was in here somewhere.
After what felt like an eternity of creeping, during which he kept expecting to hear the creak of hinges or feel the vibrations of the giant’s steps on the floor, he made it to the pillar on which he had glimpsed his goal.
Back down the crates he went, dropping from board to board until his feet landed on flagstone once more. The room he needed was all the way across the hall. Dashing across the open floor was tempting, but such was the call an animal would make. That he had seen no sign of the jotün did not mean he could not be discovered. Better to slip around the edges of the room, where he could hide if the need arose, than to dash across the floor and be caught in the open.
In the next heartbeat Sinmora was in Einarr’s hand. He pressed himself against the central pillar as he raised the sword to parry the dwarf’s blade. That was a long drop off the other side – one he definitely did not intend to take himself.
Axe struck long sword and the dwarf jumped backward, eyeing the drop himself.
“You could have just opened the door and been on about your business, you know.”
The dwarf stood from his seat at the table and brushed his hands off on his trousers as Einarr pocketed the king Runa had sent with him. He did not miss that his guide hooked an axe onto his belt before setting off, nor that the dwarf evidently felt no need of a cloak where they were going.