Reki swallowed hard as Beatrix helped the battered Jarl to sit on a nearby rock before limbering her sword. The others fanned out behind Reki, ready to follow her lead. Soon she could hear the gentle swish of the oars through the water.
Soon after, hushed voices carried to her ear. Familiar ones. She blinked.
“Is that… Jorir?”
“Jorir is the dwarf, right?” Bea asked, not taking her eyes from the approaching boat. “It may well be. I’m certain the other is -”
“Einarr!” Runa started forward, half running to the bank and peering ahead. Reki could hardly blame her, under the circumstances.
Before long, they could all see the occupants of the boat. Einarr and Jorir looked just as tense as the women all felt, even as they went over their own plans between themselves. Perhaps, Reki corrected, because of what those plans were.
Einarr gave a visible start when his eyes passed over their group, and his face brightened. “Runa! …Jorir, quickly now! It’s the Singers.”
Bea frowned at that description, but said nothing as the nearly-empty boat came aground in front of them.
Einarr hardly waited for the hull to scrape to a halt before he vaulted over the bulwark. His boots splashed in the shallow water, and half a moment later he embraced his betrothed. Reki allowed herself a wry half-smile.
“It seems the Norns really do smile upon our work,” she said.
Einarr pulled back from his embrace to grin at Runa, his hands still on her shoulders. “Sivid likes to say that they always correct their weave.”
Eydri nodded. “Based on what we’ve seen, Urdr is overdue for a ‘correction.’ Even still, how did you get through?”
“A hope and a prayer, Eydri. A hope and a prayer.”
What is that supposed to mean? “More importantly, why are you here? You can’t have known we were in need of a boat.”
Einarr shrugged. “I thought to work some sabotage… but it looks like you may have done more already than we could.” His eyes lit on Jarl Hroaldr. “I’m glad to see you’re safe. Father will be, as well.”
The old man nodded from his perch on a rock. “It’s good to see the sun again.”
Before the greetings could draw out any further, Reki broke in. “Did you bring the Örlögnir?”
Einarr blinked, then shook his head. “Truth be told, I’m a little afraid to touch it. What if I only get to use it once?”
“It’s a chance we’re going to have to take. One of these cloths is something she called a Weaving of Inevitable Victory.”
Einarr cursed. “So that’s why we’ve been having so much trouble.”
“Exactly. It’s protected somehow, or we’d have wrecked it ourselves.”
Jorir grumbled. “So what happens if Wotan shows up to claim the bloody thing after we undo this Certain Victory rug?”
“Then we hope that’s what it was needed for, and our dear Cursebreaker can find a different means of breaking the binding itself. What else can we do? The Vidofnir will never break through with this thing in effect.”
Aema cleared her throat. “Even so, we should be going. I don’t know how long that fire will serve to keep them from looking for us.”
A look of worry flashed over Einarr’s face, but he shook it off. “You’re right. Climb aboard, and let’s all get back to the ships.”
Einarr was dismayed to see that the ships were still – or, perhaps, again – locked in combat with Ulfr’s wolf fleet. Einarr could not be certain which, not least because each and every one of the ships was marked the same way.
With great care, the boat carrying all nine of them circled wide around the pack of wolves that beset the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir, looking for a gap in the line. Their only hope was to slip unnoticed past the attackers, just as they had on their way out.
This time, though, they had the Singers and an additional sword hand, should things come to fighting.
Einarr whispered a prayer that things not come to fighting. There was almost no room to maneuver on their deck with so many aboard, especially with the condition the Jarl was in.
Einarr directed them closer in. Their allies were not circled: that suggested that they were not truly surrounded. If that was the case…
“Jorir, do you see what I see?”
“I believe I do, Lord.”
“Bring us closer. We’ve got to get to the Heidrun.”
The dwarf harrumphed as though that were obvious, but he and Beatrix both put their backs into the oars and turned the boat.
The sounds of pitched battle from the decks of their ships soon drowned out the noise of their oars in the water, even for them; they rowed faster. Before long, the hull of their landing skiff bumped against the hull of the Heidrun.
“Oy!” Einarr called up, cupping a hand by his mouth. “Someone throw us a rope!”
He had to repeat this call twice, and was about to a third time, before a knotted rope twisted through the air to fall within reach. Einarr paused a moment, surveying his crew, trying to decide who to send up first.
“Just go,” Bea said. “They need you and your dwarf friend first. I can carry a few stragglers if I need to.”
Without another moment’s hesitation, Einarr started up the rope hand-over-hand, Jorir right behind him.
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