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Eastern Mercy.

Shining silver through the hoar mist, Thorarna saw a tall man of princely port, and crowned.

Beside the man stood a shrewish woman, and it was the woman who sang this stave:

"Because she heard, but lost,

barnacles guard the heart

I do not hear, but it is mine.

And so I am long searching,

from end to this beginning.

Thorarna harkens not her heart

Although she hears; and it is hers.

And so I am long searching,

And make the endless circle.

Guthredd harkens to her heart

And well she hears; and it is hers.

And so I am long searching

Because she heard, but lost."

And the words were strange sounding to Thorarna and nor could she devise of their meaning but stranger still; her lips sang the stave even as the figures turned and walked back into the cliff face.

That evening Thorarna told Antler of the two figures and told him the words of the woman who spoke the stave.

Antler said; "I fear that what you have seen, my love, was a fetch and that does not bode well."

That same evening came a knock upon the farmstead door and standing in the mist was a man, tall and strong.

"Fox sends you this house-curl to tend your livestock and crops that you may more easily meet the Kings fee. My name is Steiner."

Antler and Thorarna gave Steiner the house-curl a good welcome, offering him to join their supper and said that this gift showed great generosity from Fox and that he must be a man of great honour.

But later, in the secret folds of their bed-closet, Antler told Thorarna;

"Beware, for a gift often looks to its return."

And the farmstead felt to Antler and Thorarna as though the walls had grown ears.


Time turned and season followed season and each day Antler and Steiner worked the farmstead, tending to the crops in the home-field or shepherding the livestock out on the heath.

And ever did the beautiful Thorarna make a dutiful housekeeper, yet despite all of their hard work were the crops blighted and the livestock lost over cliff or found killed as if by wolf.

One evening at sunset Antler and Thorarna took the cliff-top path to watch the gulls sore and dive amidst their nests upon the ledges of the cliffs.

"We have entered a time when the ill-fortune begun when first the fee-taker entered our farmstead grows worse: For look!"

Antler pointed a sudden at the birds flying about their nests upon the ledges of the cliffs and Thorarna felt the creeping willies for surely was each and every bird flying widdershins about the cliff.

Both Antler and Thorarna took this as portentous signing and returned from their walk along the cliff-top path heavy hearted.

And even as Antler had settled his peepers on the widdershins of the flying birds, was he blind to the killing of another of his herd at that same moment.

For on that night a year back in the strong-hold of King Onund, Steiner had taken rede and been ruled; and seen to it that the crops were ruined and the livestock lost so that when next Fox called a fee-taking Thorarna might be forced to sell saucier coinage than homespun or silver.

Nor was that all the house-curl had undertaken; for peep holes appeared through log and turf walls and rocks moved a slight so that the farmstead might have no door closed to the left eye of Steiner.

And oft times did Thorarna halt amid the washing of her long hair, letting her blonde tresses drip into the bowl and placing one arm across her naked breasts, that she might find reason for feeling watched. But never did Thorarna rest her peepers on where the left eye lurked behind log or rock.

Over the seasons since Steiner first arrived at the farmstead saying 'Fox sends you this house-curl to tend your livestock and crops that you may more easily meet the Kings fee' had Steiner's left eye peeped into every shadow and corner of the farmstead so that no secret could hide.

Of the tender love-making between Antler and Thorarna had the left eye of Steiner peeped, drawn to the tender pale flesh of Thorarna's thighs glowing re

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