Bowl of porridge in hand, the Singer came and sat across from Einarr at breakfast the next morning. “I’m told,” she said, lifting a spoonful. “That you wanted to talk to me. You looking for a battle chanter?”
Einarr smiled and shook his head, giving himself a chance to swallow. “Not exactly – although I will be in the spring, I expect.”
“Need rites performed? That’s not really…”
“Actually, I was hoping you could interpret something for me.”
She blinked. “Are you sure you need a Singer?”
“It’s a bit of a musical puzzle, you see.”
Now she looked intrigued, so Einarr described the vision his runestone had given him. When he finished, a distinctly amused smile appeared on her face.
“A puzzle for a warrior, perhaps, but plain as day to a Singer. The answer you’re looking for is ‘resonance,’ and it’s the principle that all Song Magic is based on.”
Einarr furrowed his brow, still not sure what she meant.
“A Singer creates an emotional effect with her choice of Song, and then the Song resonates with her listeners and the effect is amplified. The better we are, the more control we have over this resonance. In the same way, this Shroud you seek appears to resonate with fire. It grows stronger when exposed to fire, or when a rune is used to produce it.”
“So if I want to ‘wake up’ Sinmora, intentionally…”
“You need to figure out what she was resonating with. I suspect the answer is actually not ice, or the ice ward would not have been consumed.”
Now Einarr nodded, his face brightening. “Thank you. I think I at least know where to start, now.”
She smiled again – prettily, he thought, but no match for Runa’s. “My pleasure. Let me know if you want help figuring out what: you’ve got me curious now.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. But first I have a dive to locate. Heh – come to think of it, there was a bell associated with that, too.”
Now she laughed. “Afraid I can’t help you there. I’m Singing here precisely to avoid that sort of place – at least until I find a ship.”
“I’ll keep you in mind once my Hrútur is ready.” And he would: even if, by some miracle, Harl Hroaldr permitted his marriage in the spring, Runa was unlikely to be interested in the life of a battle-chanter.
After breakfast, his porridge unexpectedly supplemented with fresh sausages, Einarr reserved a bed for the coming night and tromped back out into the streets. As he walked, he turned over in his mind everything he could remember about that fight and that vault.
The most obvious thing to test would be parts of the wards laid over that vault, but Einarr was not too proud to admit they were far beyond his skill. While he could – and probably would – test individual runes, Einarr thought the key probably lay elsewhere. Or, at least he hoped it did. He was approaching the harbor, though, and so now was not the time to be distracted, no matter how important the problem he gnawed on was.
Yesterday, he had searched north of the main road. Today, he would try south.
The south side of the docks district appeared to cater to wealthier clientele, Einarr soon learned. This suited Einarr well enough, so long as they still had some cheap ale halls of the sort that would put rugs down even on the dance floor. And given that he was looking for a place related to a golden bell, and didn’t want to be stabbed in the back in the process, it might even be better.
Once again he spent his morning traipsing up and down the side streets of the docks, and once again asked for directions at a food stall – this one selling fried fish balls. “Hallo,” he said, eyeing the food. “Packet of five, if you please.”
The merchant snorted. “That all? You’re not working hard enough.”
Einarr just shrugged: searching the city was hungrier work than studying the runes, to be sure, but not so hungry as rowing a longship, and certainly not so hungry as unloading the deep-bellied knarr. “There a public hall around here named for a fancy bell?”
The dumpling vendor from the day before had looked at Einarr as though he were daft: this man acted as though Einarr were utterly cracked. “Not in this part of town, son. Maybe back west in the merchant district.”
Einarr shook his head. “Well, maybe it’s not the name, then. The alfs gave me a quest, and I need to find a place where men dance on rugs in order to catch up with it. Maybe it was that you could hear a golden bell from the place?”
Now the man frowned. “If the alfs sent you for it, the place must exist. …You didn’t do anything to make them mad, did you?”
Now Einarr shook his head. “I mean, this quest could be called penance, but they definitely want it done right.”
The man hummed, thinking, as he made a show of selecting five of the largest of the fish balls, as though he thought Einarr were too thin. “I still don’t have any idea what place you’re looking for, but I might know of someone who does. Only trouble is…”
“Yes?” Einarr had an inkling where the man was going with this, but he would hear him out.
“He’s not exactly the sort an honorable man wants to have dealings with, if you get my drift.”
Einarr sighed. He’d have been fine with being wrong about that. “I do, but unless we want the Muspel Shroud getting off the island, I think I’d better meet with him.”
The merchant blinked. “What’s the Muspel Shroud?”
“The artifact the alfs had imprisoned. Some idiot thief tried to steal it and it got loose. Now it’s my job to stop it.”
Now the man went pale as the pieces clicked into place. “Oh. You’d best come with me, then. Fjotli! Watch the counter! I’ve got to step off for a bit.”
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