The staircase opened up into a large, pitch-black room. Janne couldn’t see anything beyond the glow of Valgard’s flame, but the soft clinking of chains against the polished stone floor betrayed the presence of another person farther within the gloom. Asgeir stepped forward, drawing a torch from an unnoticed sconce in the wall and handing it to the Archbishop. He brushed the blade against it and sparked it to life. The added light only accentuated the deep furrows on Valgard’s clenched face. In this light, in this dark deep place, Janne thought he looked more like a jotnur than any of the goblins she’d seen.
Asgeir stepped back towards the staircase to wait with the lit torch; Valgard marched forward into the unrelenting darkness. Janne hesitated for a moment before rushing after Valgard, curiosity winning over fear. They continued silently across the broad, empty room towards the shifting chains. She was so focused on what lay ahead that Janne didn’t pay attention to her feet and nearly tripped over a thick iron chain sprawled across the floor. It clanked noisily; Valgard turned and glared at her.
“Do be careful, my dear,” a soft feminine voice called out from the void in front of them. “They didn’t plan for visitors when they constructed this place.”
Janne looked ahead, startled. “Who are you?” she asked even as Valgard’s stare turned from chastising to hostile.
“He hasn’t told you anything.” It wasn’t a question. “It’s not his fault, you know. Did you know that Valgard has a beautiful singing voice? He hasn’t sung in years; he does his talent a disservice.”
Valgard whirled around, brandishing his flaming sword at the voice in the darkness. “Stop sowing your discord! Do not speak of what has passed!”
“Nothing has passed for me. Nothing can pass here in this prison.” Now there was a note of sadness in the voice. “I have not moved. Only you have passed by.”
The Archbishop stomped forward. In the light of his sword, Janne could see him step in front of a stooped figure. She – it must be a woman – was shrouded in sheets of fox-red hair speckled with dashes of grey that glittered in the presence of Valgard’s flames. Snaking out from the figure in every direction were chains stretching across the floor and out into the darkness. Valgard towered over the hunched figure, hands clenched on his sword’s hilt.
“You knew!” he shouted, his voice ringing off the chamber’s walls. “You knew what would happen! Tell me how he did it!”
The figure shifted. “What bothers you more – that your blade did not stop your son, or that you did not stop your blade?”
Valgard quivered with rage. “You will answer me!”
“I have answered you, Valgard. I have answered every question you have ever asked me. I have kept my oath to you.”
“You have done nothing but injure me!” Valgard slammed his sword down against the stone floor. Sparks shot off in every direction, but the figure did not flinch. “Everything you have ever told me has only served to wound me!”
“The truth can hurt.” The sadness Janne had heard earlier crept back into the figure’s voice. “It is the truth that will free you from your prison, though. If I must wear chains to break you free of yours, then so be it.”
“Don’t play the martyr with me.” Now Valgard pointed the sword at the figure, its flickering flames inches away. “Don’t pretend you don’t deserve this.”
The figure sighed. “That is the difference between us, Valgard. I know what I deserve.” The figure shifted, seeming to turn towards Janne. “But you, child. I have been rude, especially since you are here on my request. I am Katla Broddrson.”