Tag: Divination

7.28 – Bells

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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7.27 – Eskiborg

All around Einarr people walked through the motions of daily life, utterly unknowing (or unconcerned by) the fiery doom flying about the island.

Einarr walked up and down the city streets getting the lay of the place, his eyes open for public halls or an obvious path to the docks. The sheer numbers of people pressed in on him, so many more endangered now – because of him.

Unconsciously, he drew his shoulders in until he walked half-hunched like a thief. What was he supposed to do, here in the city? He was one man, and there were hundreds of places the Shroud could hide here. For all he knew, the Shroud had already finished with the Hall and was ensconced below the deck of its ship.

Einarr shook his head. No sense thinking like that. The divination had said he would get three chances: that had to mean he would find the thing if he just kept looking. With a grimace he straightened his shoulders and picked up his pace.

He passed a handful of public halls as he roamed the upper city, but none with the air of dilapidation he had seen in Melja’s divination. Most likely, then, that meant it was a Hall for dockworkers and sailors – the sort of place Erik would go for a brawl, or Sivid for a contest. That was fine by him: if the Shroud was confined to the harbor area, that was less ground Einarr had to keep an eye on.

The harbor road and the main road were, Einarr soon discovered, one and the same, the broad street sloping gently downward past homes and merchant’s shops and into the heart of a shipyard.

Einarr had never seen so many half-built ships in one place in his life, and the vast majority were longships or their less-agile cousins, the merchant-favored knarr. Nothing up on blocks, though, bore a bear’s head that he could see. That meant it was most likely a ship in service – which only made sense, if the Shroud intended to escape on it.

The main road of the harbor district seemed as clean and lively as the street had farther inland: Einarr began to repeat his pattern from above. The sun was already high in the sky, but he found nothing smelled appetizing. He should eat… If you buy a couple of those dumplings, maybe the cook will know something about the place you’re looking for.

It was a long shot, but the hope of information gave him the impetus he needed to put food in his belly, and he knew he would think more clearly once he had eaten. “Two, please.”

The man on the other side of the counter of the wooden shanty grunted and took his coins and pulled a cabbage leaf from the head he had handy.

“There a Hall around these parts that likes putting down rugs?”

The man raised an eyebrow. “That’s an awfully funny question to be askin’. You got some to sell or somethin’?”

Einarr opened his mouth to object, but thought better of it. It would be easier than explaining. He shrugged. “Something like that.”

The man rolled his eyes so hard they took his head with them. “’Ere’s a couple I know. Not sure they’ll have much coin for buying new, now, mind: mostly use ‘em to keep mud down.”

That sounded like exactly the sort of place Einarr was looking for, and he said so.

Lookin’ for? Are ye daft? …Y’know what, never mind. Go straight down that-a-way and hang a right at the sign of the Ferret. There’s four or five dives between there and the waterfront. Just don’t come whinin’ to me with your guts hangin’ out, understood?”

“You have my word.” Einarr chuckled to himself as he walked away with a pair of dumplings wrapped in cabbage and, more precious than food, a place to start hunting in earnest.


Einarr trudged out of what was quite thoroughly the rough part of Eskiborg as the sun began to set, he was no closer to knowing what Hall the Shroud would hide in than before he spoke with the dumpling man. As urgent as his quest was, though, he needed a place to stay the night where he would not find a knife in his ribs come morning, and he needed a Singer to consult with. Thankfully, he had an idea where to find both of these at once.

Einarr trudged the last few hundred steps up the main thoroughfare in the dim of twilight to the hall he had thought looked promising when he spotted it: The Bronze Archer.

Warm light spilled out from the still-open door, and lively music with it. As he thought he’d seen earlier, a comely young woman sang with the rest of the musicians, and unless he missed his guess she was keeping everyone’s energy high. With a smile and a spring in his step that hadn’t been there earlier, Einarr stepped into the Bronze Archer and let the warmth of the room envelop him.

The singer was definitely working her magic on the crowd – not that anyone in that crowd was going to mind. A hallingdanse was already in full swing, and those not participating still made merry, talking and laughing over ale and stew and bread alike. With a smile, Einarr took a seat on the end of a bench and waved for the serving maid.

“What’ll it be?”

“A bowl of whatever supper is, a tankard, and a place to sleep if you’ve got one.”

She gave him a smile and a wink. “Traveler’s special, comin’ right up! I’ll let the mistress know you’re lookin’ for a bed.”

There was nothing more he could do tonight, except try to talk to that Singer once the dance was done, and he couldn’t arrange for that until the mistress of the house came by. In the meantime, he intended to enjoy his meal.


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7.20 – Return

At first glance, the Shrouded Village appeared exactly as it had the day the alfr from Breidhaugr delivered him. Surely, though, that could not be the case. Melja had said they would continue their research while he hunted it. Einarr had no reason to doubt that, save for an offhand comment by a cynical old woman he met in the woods. He walked – determinedly, yes, perhaps even doggedly, but still well short of stalking – into the village, to the house where the scrolls were kept.

On the way, Einarr could not help but note that the villagers were going about their daily lives more or less as normal, if perhaps more nervously than before. Was research truly the only preparation they had to make? Did everything fall to Melja and his wife, truly? Einarr shook his head and pressed on, pushing the door to the scroll house open without announcing himself.

Melja, at least, was where Einarr had expected to find him: at the work table inside, half-buried in texts, all of which appeared to concern the Shroud.

“Good day,” Einarr said, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

“Ah, Einarr. You’re back. Wonderful. Take a seat, I think I’m finally on the right track.” Melja sounded utterly unconcerned, at the very least.

Einarr felt the anger that had been beginning to burn in his belly recede. Not all the way, not with Melja left to do everything himself, but Geiti’s seed of doubt had been diminished. He joined his teacher at the table.

An hour later, to judge by the light, Melja leaned back and pressed his hands to his eyes. “Please, for the love of all the gods, tell me you found something.”

Einarr, too, sat back, but not to rub his eyes. He studied his teacher as he spoke. “A dead Jarl’s son, a burned village, an old woman and a scrap of cloth.” The piece of the Shroud Einarr lay on the table in front of his teacher. “Also, more than a few questions.”

Melja opened his eyes and stared at the cloth, fingering it in silence for a long moment. “The old woman – Geiti?”

Einarr nodded, although he wasn’t sure the alfr saw him.

“What did old Geiti have to say? She didn’t pour poison in your ear, did she?”

“Not as such.” Einarr smirked. “She was too busy calling me an idiot. Although she may be paying you a visit soon. Said I should tell you to stop hiding dangerous information if you didn’t want to lose more students.”

Melja snorted. “And why, praytell, did she say that?”

Einarr shrugged, a little uncomfortably. “Because she found me unconscious, with more than a few runestones on me. I stumbled on the technique practicing on the road.”

Now his master snorted again. “And, since I’d not mentioned them, you didn’t know your limit. All right, I can tolerate the old witch long enough to admit fault there. How many had you made before you blacked out?”

“Seven, I think.” He hadn’t been paying too much attention, at the time, but he saw no reason to mention that.

“Not bad, for a human novice. Keep yourself to no more than four, for now, and you should be fine. You may eventually be able to maintain more, but for the time being that should be a safe upper limit.”

Einarr nodded, glad to have it confirmed.

“You haven’t made any more since then?”

“Just one. The Óss.”

Melja tilted his head to the side. “An interesting choice. Most of our students pick something a little more… offensive for their first runestone.”

Einarr shrugged. He was and always would be a warrior first and foremost, even if he couldn’t rely on brute strength to carry him through. He supposed it might be too much to ask someone like Melja to really understand that, in some ways, he had more in common with the thief than he did with the rest of the village.

“Don’t take that the wrong way,” Melja added, perhaps reading something on Einarr’s face he had not intended to show. “I approve. The Wisdom Rune is one I often wish a student would choose. Only, think carefully on the answers you receive from it. They are not always, or even usually, straightforward.”

“I understand.”

“But. You had questions. Ask, and I will endeavor to answer. Remember that, for all that we have been guarding it for generations, there is still much we do not know about the Shroud.”

Einarr nodded once. “I’ll start smaller, then. Why are you the only one in the village who is working on this?”

Melja blinked at him blankly a few times, then smiled as realization dawned. “My dear boy, their work is done. The divination ritual is only waiting this scrap of cloth you’ve brought us.”

“I- you- … How did you know I would find it?”

“This in particular? We didn’t. This is both the best and the worst possible talisman you could have found for the ritual. But that you would come back, with something we could use as a focus? Almost inevitable.”

Einarr leaned his elbows forward on the heavy wooden table. “So what if I hadn’t gone?”

Melja shook his head. “Were you an alfr, or perhaps even a dvergr, that might have been a question, but you are human, and, as you yourself have said, a warrior. That you would go eventually was never a question. Honestly, you stuck around longer than anyone other than Mira expected.”

Einarr stared at Melja for a long moment, his shock at the revelation slowly giving way to annoyance. Gods, but the alfs could be infuriating sometimes. Finally he took a long, slow breath and let it out. “All right. So since everything I’ve done so far has been according to plan, how do we end this?”


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