Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!
Captain Kormund froze a moment, staring at Einarr. He blinked, then swore quietly. “You. A Cursebreaker. How long?”
“Almost a year now.”
The Captain swore again. “So you’ve made it long enough to know you attract trouble. When were you intending to tell me about this?”
Einarr paused in his preparations. He hadn’t even thought about that: it felt like ages since it had come up, although in reality it was only late last summer. “You’re right. I should have mentioned that. My apologies: I was named Cursebreaker by an alfish Oracle early last spring. She recommended I learn the runes. By midsummer, I agreed.”
Captain Kormund looked at him flatly for a long moment, then sighed. “You’ve made it this far, and I suppose I can’t just strand you somewhere. Carry on.”
Einarr blanched. It was truly lucky that Kormund thought well of his father, he thought.
Neither Hrug nor Einarr saw the point in setting up the full divination ritual. Either the dromon was a Valkyrie, or it was not: either it was after them, or it was not. Even the more limited reading,though, would have been a problem to set up alone on deck.
At length, the circle was drawn and the runes were set Hrug gestured for the Captain to seat himself at its center.
“The one in the center of the array recieves the revelations,” Einarr explained.
“Ah. Very well, then.” With no further hesitation, the Captain stepped into the ritual seat, taking care not to disturb the charcoal markings on his deck. “I am ready.”
Hrug nodded and sat at the edge of the circle. His brow furrowed as he focused his will, and then he reached out to touch the line.
Captain Kormund’s eyes grew wide momentarily before he closed them. The double vision caused by these visions could be quite disorienting otherwise.
The vision was a brief one: only a minute later, his eyes opened again and he exhaled sharply. Kormund looked directly at Einarr. “Damnit all. I appreciate you sounding the alarm about the ship early, but part of me is still inclined to blame you. Yes, they are of the Order of the Valkyrie, and yes, they are pursuing us. But, in that case, fine. I’ve outrun Order ships before.”
That evening, they lit no torches, and the hearth was extinguished immediately after dinner. Once the sunset had faded into full night, Captain Kormund gave the order to unfurl the sail. They would be sailing by starlight, as thankfully there was no moon: with luck, it would suffice.
The ship was almost eerily silent as it slipped off into the night: all Einarr could hear was the lapping of water against the side of the boat and the occasional rapping of knuckles against the hull in a set of signals unique to the Eikthyrnir.
Still, he kept a watchful eye behind them. He had no real hope that he would see them at that distance in the dark of night, but to not watch seemed the height of folly. And, perhaps, he would be able to catch their silhouette against the indigo sky. All night, he stared at the horizon behind them, never sure if he saw the other ship moving or not – certain, only, that they were too far to hear the sound of oars.
At some point he slept, and all the while refought his battle against the Order from nearly a year ago. At dawn he awoke with a groan.
“You’ve got that right,” Naudrek said from where he stood, leaning against the bulwark.
Einarr stood and went to look out over the water. He groaned again, lowering his forehead to the wood. There was the dromon, the wing-and-spear symbol of the Order plain on its sail. They had not lost it in the night: on the contrary, the ship appeared to have drawn closer in spite of their efforts. “Why does this not surprise me.”
“Because nothing is ever easy, my friend. Nothing is ever easy.”
“Especially not when the gods decide someone has to clean up all the black magic floating around, and you look like a good candidate.” He wished the Captain hadn’t reminded him of all the trouble his calling brought along with it. After the winter, he’d almost managed to put it behind him.
Naudrek laughed. “Yep, that’s a Cursebreaker all right. But based on what you said about last Season, I think we’ll be all right here.”
“You say that now. Just watch, it turns out they’re all possessed and under the control of that monster cult.”
“An Order ship? More likely they’ve got an actual Valkyrie giving them orders, and she wants a rematch.”
Now it was Einarr’s turn to laugh. “Nope. Not doing that again. She can have the feather back if that’s what she’s after.”
Naudrek smirked at Einarr. “That’s more like it. Last night can’t have been the only trick up the captain’s sleeve, so let’s not despair just yet, shall we?”
As Naudrek expected, Captain Kormund had more tricks up his sleeve than the nighttime evasion. All that day they kept the sail furled and rowed. Every hour or so Hraerek would ring a bell and the rowers would change shift so that everyone stayed relatively fresh.
By all rights, they should have left the dromon in their wake this way. But all through that day they rowed, and they never seemed to put any distance at all between themselves and the Valkyrian ship. Einarr started to wonder if they really had bound a vindstang to the ship.
For his part, the captain seemed only mildly impressed. As the day wore on, Einarr noted that they had shifted course somewhat to the east. He wasn’t overly familiar with the waters in these parts, but he had to assume there was some sort of obstacle they were aiming for. Captain Kormund was a canny fellow, after all. Einarr did his best not to clench his fists around the oars, lest white knuckles betray his nerves.
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