Now One-Eye had no love for children. He looked down with no affection at all at the grubby little girl with the runemark on her hand, and wondered how he could have let her draw him in. He was getting old – wasn’t that the truth? – old and sentimental, and it was likely to be the death of him – aye, as if the runes hadn’t already told him as much. His most recent casting of the runestones had given him Madr, the Folk, crossed with Thuris, the Thunderer, and finally Hagall, the Destroyer, and if that wasn’t a warning to keep
‘Teach me,’ said the little girl.
‘Leave me alone.’ He began to walk, long-legged, down the side of the Hill, with Maddy running after him.
One-Eye made an exasperated sound and forked a runesign with his left hand. Maddy thought she saw something between his fingers – a fleck of blue fire, no more than a spark, as if a ring or gemstone he was wearing had caught the light. But One-Eye wore no rings or gems . . .
Without thinking, she raised her hand against the spark and pushed it back towards him with a sound like a firecracker going off.
One-Eye flinched. ‘Who taught you that?’
‘No one did,’ said Maddy in surprise. Her runemark felt unusually warm; once more changing colour from rusty brown to tiger’s-eye gold.
For a minute or two One-Eye said nothing. He looked at his hand and flexed the fingers, now throbbing as if they had been burned. He looked at Maddy with renewed curiosity.
‘Teach me,’ she said.
There was a long pause. Then he said, ‘You’d better be good.
I haven’t taken a pupil – let alone a girl – in more years than I care to remember.’
Maddy hid her grin beneath her tangled hair.
For the first time in her life, she had a teacher.