The fire was spreading rapidly deeper into the smokehouse and Lundholm’s food stores. The runes were once again his best chance of putting out the blaze, but he didn’t dare draw them. Not with the arsonist himself right there, Einarr’s blood on his axe. The man hardly noticed when he twisted Sinmora to draw her free.
Einarr brought his blade around again, but the arsonist caught it on his axe handle. “Who sent you?” He hissed. “Was this Kaldr’s plan?”
The man’s teeth pulled back from his teeth in a snarl. “That coward? Never. The glory of this raid belongs to Lord Urek.”
Einarr sprang back. That explained a lot, if “frothing” Urek had given the order here. Even as the thought crossed his mind he was moving back in to sweep at the man’s legs, his shield held high to protect his head.
The man howled when Sinmora bit into the back of his knee, but he kept his feet as the arc of his hasty swing impacted Einarr’s shield with a thud of wood. Einarr nearly howled himself as his wounded arm took the blow. He had no time for such a display, however. Instead, he grit his teeth and pulled his sword straight back toward him, hamstringing the man. He would be lucky if he ever walked again.
Assuming anyone was willing to leave him alive, which at this point Einarr thought unlikely. His opponent evidently realized the same thing. Even as he fell to his knees Einarr could see death in his eyes.
The wolfling let loose another howl, primal enough to make Einarr’s neck prickle, and surged at his opponent in spite of the wounds to his legs. Once, twice, thrice he cut at Einarr in quick succession, and at each blow Einarr was forced to jump to the side.
Now the heat of the burning smokehouse pressed against his back. How the wolfling had kept his feet he could not fathom, but Einarr was out of time. With one last desperate slash blood bloomed in a line across his opponent’s back. He arched his back and stumbled forward, and his legs crumpled under him.
Finally. Einarr took two long strides away from the smokehouse and turned to face it. Even here the heat was oppressive: one of the casks nearer the front must have been filled with lard. Right where he was he dropped to one knee and began tracing the runes he had used before, at the boat house.
A popping sound from the fire ahead warned him. He rolled backward. A moment later the fire surged again. With a shake of his head he lowered his finger to the ground again, wishing he were as good as Hrug. No time. He drew water and air and stillness and sent forth his will to extinguish the inferno that threatened all Lundholm’s provisions. Something resisted him, but the fire devouring the smokehouse began to smother.
Then there came a spattering sound of hot oil from within as the water of his ward came into contact with the burning lard.
“Hrug!” He wasn’t sure where the man was. Hopefully close. He could try again, but there was not much time left to save the stores. Frowning, rather than water he drew ice this time, in hopes that the fat would respond better.
Before he could will his ward into being, however, a hand laid itself on his shoulder. He glanced over and grinned.
“Glad you could make it.”
The mute man merely nodded before unceremoniously wiping Einarr’s rune from the earth and drawing a simpler one of his own: ice and earth.
Frost rimed the outside of the charred smokehouse as Hrug sent forth his will and the last heat of the fire vanished. Einarr rose to his feet slowly and offered his ship sorceror a hand up. “Thank you. Were you already on your way?”
The other man nodded agreement.
“Good timing, then. …I suppose I should go see what the damage is.”
He picked his way slowly towards the charred remains of the smokehouse and its neighboring drying shed.
Dirty crystals of frost clung to the wood, whether because Hrug had used ᛃ or because of the char Einarr did not care to guess. It was oddly beautiful: Einarr raised his hand to touch it, though, and a chunk of wood fell away in his hand. He shook his head and sighed.
The vats and casks that had been in the drying shed alongside the wall of the smokehouse were, he thought, entirely ruined. Thankfully, though, the flames had not quite reached the sides of meat and the fish that hung from strings in the rafters. It was early enough in the season, he thought, that Lundholm should be fine.
Inside the smokehouse was another matter. The air was still hot and choked with smoke: Einarr raised the neck of his tunic to cover his mouth just so he could breathe. Even blinking against the smoke, however, Einarr could see that this was a disaster.
Several casks of lard had not just caught fire but actually exploded, which was what must have caused the surge near the end. Flaming grease had got everywhere, and the meat that hung in here was nearly as black as the wood outside.
Einarr ducked his head and left the smokehouse. The cool evening air prickled against his face and he took a deep breath of the open air. Once his eyes cleared, he looked at the crowd gathered around the food stores: villagers, every last one, with the Elder standing stooped in the middle of the road from town.
Elder Vilding stared at him from under lowered brows for what felt like eternity. “So are we.”
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