Einarr set about drawing the rune circle he and Hrug had devised while the Usurper’s former thralls made trip after trip from Urdr’s workroom, each time returning loaded down with tapestries which were then piled haphazardly in the center of the circle. “Draw” was perhaps a misnomer, though: the area he chose for this was in the center of a small grassy field. No chalk or charcoal would do: he cut the lines into the soft soil with the end of the Örlögnir. The distaff felt warm to Einarr’s touch as he worked: he hoped that meant that the Lady Frigg understood.
At some point during all this, Arring arrived with some proper iron shackles for the old woman, and even distracted Einarr did not miss that he brought both arm and leg irons. Well. Based on his answer from the Oracle, perhaps Arring had more reason than some to despise the witch. Even as he locked the shackles around her frail-seeming limbs, though, she watched.
As they began piling her life’s work in the middle of Einarr’s circle, she cackled. “Those tapestries are woven of the blood and bone of the clan. What do you expect your half-learned runes will do, Cursebreaker? You are no immortal.”
Einarr raised an eyebrow, but continued to draw. “So I am not.”
“And yet you will try your mortal will against the lifeblood of the clan?”
“If it were only my will, or even my will and Hrug’s, perhaps we would fail – although I suspect the ‘lifeblood of the clan’ rather objects to being used in such a way. Tell me, witch. Do you know what this is?” He lifted the Örlögnir from the line it carved and showed it to the growing crowd.
“A rather pretty distaff.” Somehow Urdr managed to sneer down at it even locked in irons as she now was. “Probably never been used for actual spinning.”
“That I couldn’t say. You see, this distaff belongs to the Lady Frigg herself. Do you happen to know the properties of hazel and ivory?”
She scowled, but did not answer, and Einarr went back to his work.
“I didn’t, this time last year. This, lady Urdr, is the Örlögnir. According to the Matrons, it purifies.”
Urdr contined to scowl and turned her head away, her chin thrust forward stubbornly. Einarr went back to ignoring her.
At last, all the warriors and a good number of the townsfolk had gathered around the working, as much out of curiosity as anything. A number of them, Einarr suspected, did not quite understand what it was he was ending. They were there because the rule of the Usurper and the Weavess had been intolerable, and so they had thrown their lot in with the so-called rebels.
He hoped this would not cause them too much distress. Kaldr had spoken of a bad headache when he first broke free, during the assault: Einarr suspected that might not be the worst, for some.
Finally, though, it was ready. Einarr straightened from his rune circle and walked once around its perimeter, taking in the faces of those who had come to watch. Some faces stood out, of course, primarily those of the Vidofnings and their allies in the assault. Jarl Hroaldr stood by Stigander’s side, tall and nearly as proud as his old friend, and much improved since his rescue from the witch. Kaldr stood with the Mates – including his own. A few others. Everyone met his gaze steadily, somber and expectant.
Satisfied, Einarr stopped on the south side of the circle, facing north. There was nothing to be said. Not yet. Very deliberately, he placed his feet on the edge of the circle, his stance a little broader than usual. The polished wood and ivory of the distaff gleamed in his hands in the light of the sun.
Einarr gripped the Örlögnir in both hands and raised it overhead. I hope this works… With a sudden violent thrust, he brought the base of the distaff back down to the ground, resting its end in the line of the rune circle he stood on. At the same time, he willed the runes to life.
Golden light spread around the circle like the light of a sunrise. Even in the full light of day, Einarr was sure that anyone near enough to see the ground could see the magic at work. Then the outer circle was completed, and the light rushed inwards. As it touched the edges of the tapestries piled in the center, they began to shimmer and smoke.
Urdr shrieked as the shimmer crawled along the surface of her work. Einarr would not be surprised if she fought to rush forward, but it was Arring who held her chains. She would not be able to throw herself on this conflagration. His attention was held by the light, and his will was currently captive to the Örlögnir.
As the light-fire grew over the pile of tapestries, Einarr was fascinated by what he saw. The cloth did not burn, not precisely. It was the dyes that smoked. His gaze was drawn ever inward, until it became plain that the individual threads of the cloth were pulling themselves apart, dancing in the light-fire like a million tiny worms.
Einarr blinked, actually grateful at this moment for Urdr’s panicked shrieking, and pulled his attention outward. Already he could feel a headache forming. There was no sense allowing himself to be swept away on the magic. He glanced over his shoulder.
A number of the townsfolk, and all of Ulfr’s former men, held their heads as though the dissonance were coming through. Urdr dropped to her knees, panting, as Arring stood firm, the chains that bound her hands and feet grasped firmly in his hand. In this moment, Einarr could almost pity her. Almost, but not quite.
He turned around the Örlögnir to face the onlookers. Behind him, the light-fire consumed the curse that had beset these islands for almost twenty years.
“The Norns always correct their weave.”
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