Thirty minutes had passed since she had eaten the fly agaric. Cathy's leg began to twitch more frequently. So did one shoulder. Her forehead gleamed and her face was becoming red. Hildr judged that it was time to push.
"...wouldn't believe the things people say about skua. They always mistake them for other birds, most people haven't even heard of them, have no idea what they're about, even on the Orkney Islands people were..."
"Tell me about the Orkney Islands," said Hildr.
"Lovely islands, really fucking gorgeous, people used to talk this funny sort of Old Norse called norn, that's where I first picked up a few words. Did you know some people tell me my Icelandic has a Scottish accent? I thought that was really funny. Loads of sheep..."
"The sheep were there when you woke up."
"I've always liked the black ones a lot. This is a sheepskin isn't it? It's very nice, though I don't usually like fur much. Funny, I'm feeling sort of cold. Is there more soup?"
"What island," said Hildr, "were the sheep on?"
"What a funny question! All of them, of course," said Cathy, hugging the sheepskin closer to her shoulders. Her booted foot spasmed slightly. "Haven't you ever been to the Orkney Islands? Really gorgeous places, I'm sure you would like them..."
"What island," said Hildr, "did you wake up on?"
"Would you believe that I don't really remember? It doesn't matter anyway, all the islands are the same..." Cathy shuddered suddenly, a little convulsive shiver that made Hildr sit up straighter.
"Why did you pass out?" Hildr asked sharply.
"No idea. Sheep are lovely, but sheep-poop is not. The beaches were covered in..."
"What did you see before you fainted?"
"Sheep! Lots of sheep! And rocks, and birds!" Cathy's teeth were definitely chattering now. "That's why I went there, to see the birds."
"What else did you see?" Hildr demanded.
"Nothing! I didn't see anything!" Cathy shivered violently and added, between shaking lips, "I swear!"
"Why do you swear? Who did you swear to?"
"Nobody, nobody was there! The island was uninhabited."
"No, it wasn't!"
Hildr lunged up from her seated position, towering suddenly over the shaking, sweating girl. Startled, Cathy threw herself backwards, scrambling crab-fashion from Hildr's advance.
"Tell me who you saw!"
"Nobody, nobody! I have to go, I have..."
"You weren't alone there. Who was with you? A man?"
Cathy scrambled to her feet and tried to run, but Jack--not so sleepy after all--was ready. He bounded onto the trestle tables and raced along their length, outpacing Cathy in a few long strides before leaping down to block her way. Head lowered, hackles raised, the wolf snarled in a way that halted even Hildr. Cathy stopped, shaking like she stood in a blizzard, her ever-running voice dissolving into sobs.
"Tell me, Cathy!" said Hildr to the girl's thin, shuddering back. "Who was the woman? What did she do!"
Cathy turned--and shrieked. She pointed a finger over Hildr's shoulder, towards the back of the hall. She cried something in English.
"What is there!" demanded Hildr.
"They're here! They're here!" she screamed in Icelandic. She backed away, oblivious now to the wolf behind her. "They followed me! They know!"
"Who are they?" growled Jack.
"The trows! The trows!"
"The what?" asked Hildr.
"What are they doing?" floated Galdri's voice from high above.
"They're carrying a stone, a huge stone, that they fetched up from the sea!"
Something happened when Cathy said that, Hildr could feel it. It reminded her of a breaking thread: no real sound, but nevertheless a tangible feeling of stretching, stretching, and then the sudden snap of tension. The spell had been broken.