The sky was still pink when the younger apprentice woke father and son with a hand on their shoulders. As they sat up she placed a bowl of the same nut mash they had been eating in their hands and then, as quietly as she’d arrived, slipped back towards the dias where the three elves worked at the loom.
Einarr noticed the food he ate only insofar as to realize they had added honey this morning. It would have been a nice touch, had he not been so focused on what the Oracle’s weaving might reveal. In the bites when he wasn’t worried over that, he chewed over his new-found Calling. It was possible to break a curse without being a Cursebreaker, of course, if you could figure out what thread to tug. But the Black Arts always proliferated before the calling was invoked, or so the stories said.
He realized it was time when the spoon he placed in his mouth came up empty. He looked at the bowl for a long moment before letting out a deep breath. Right. Let’s do this.
A moment later he was on his feet, Stigander only a pace or two ahead of him, marching for the dias where the Oracle and her loom awaited.
“Did you sleep well?” The Oracle did not turn around as she greeted them, her attention still fixated on the colored threads arrayed before her.
Stigander cleared his throat. “As well as can be expected, I think.”
A glance from his father prompted Einarr to answer, as well. “Well enough, yes.” Never mind that he’d had strange dreams of being tied in tapestry cords and pulled one way and another by his friends. Strange did not mean inexplicable, after all.
“Very well.” She rested her fingers on one of the shuttles and paused another moment before spinning around on her toes. “The warp is prepared.”
Stigander waited an awkward moment before he realized that she was waiting for his question. He cleared his throat again. “What must be done in order to unweave the curse on Raenshold and reclaim Breidelsteinn?”
She nodded silently and pursed her lips. It was impossible that the question should be a surprise to her: Arring had mentioned it to her directly, and the Vidofnings had all spoken of it around the fire at night.
Crisply, the Oracle turned back to her loom and lifted a shuttle without looking at it.
From the moment the shuttle touched the frame the wood took on a light of its own, brighter and warmer than the light of the rising dawn. She had gone no more than a few inches when the threads began to shine as well, each in its own color.
On the other weavings, Einarr had been able to make some sense out of the images that came forth. Not so this morning. Rather than images, what materialized on the Oracle’s loom was a cloud of runes surrounding a great gold-colored eagle. Hm. So was the Eagle on Jorir’s tapestry Father, then?
Einarr had time for the idle thought, because he did not know the reading of runes. Neither Raen nor Stigander had ever been a particularly superstitious man, and outside of the enchanting of artifacts it was only shamans and soothsayers who used them. Still he watched, hoping something might strike him as familiar.
One was, but only because of how recently he had seen it. In a few different places on the tapestry, he recognized one of the runes that had been emblazoned on the Isinntogg.
The shadows had all but disappeared with the noonday sun by the time the Oracle lowered her arms and turned to face them once more. “Tell me, Cursebreaker, what do you see?”
He had to shake his head this time. “The Eagle is plainly my father. As for the rest… I’m afraid I never learned the reading of runes.”
“Illiterate? And you call yourself a prince!”
“My lady,” Stigander interrupted. “These characters have not been in common use among the clans for generations. He was to learn statecraft, not the copperweight divinations of a street corner soothsayer.”
The Oracle’s mouth twisted in annoyance. “So be it. But mark you well, the power of the runes is real, no matter how charlatans may abuse them.”
She turned back around to look at the tapestry before her. “Fate’s thread binds all,” she intoned. “Though pliant the cloth may be, the Norns correct their weaves. To cut the thread which binds your long-lost home, to bring the pattern back to light, the clear-eyed must light the blackened tool before the glory of elves, singing praise to the inattentive Norn. Mayhap she will hear you and test you, for norn-pride is a fickle thing.”
Einarr and his father shared a confused look. After a long moment, it became clear that the Oracle had finished. Einarr cleared his throat. “Which means… what, exactly?”
“I am certain, Cursebreaker, that if you bend your minds to it the task will become clear.”
“Son, what she just… read? It sounded like one of the skald’s songs.”
“Very good. If you begin from there, I am certain you will figure it out.” The Oracle’s shoulders relaxed and she turned to face them again. “Now then. If it is all the same to you, I believe it would be in everyone’s best interest to take a little food. This afternoon I will weave for the Cursebreaker, and then I will speak with the four of you regarding the payment I require. Tonight we shall feast again before I send you off.”
Einarr had not noticed the hollow pit of hunger in his gut until just that moment. “As you say, milady.”