10.24 -Audience

Kaldr walked swiftly forward into the chamber, his chain dragging on the ground behind him. “My Lord, I pushed my ship as fast as she could go.”

“The journey from Lundholm should be possible in half the time it took you to arrive.”

Kaldr stopped. His Thane was evidently in no mood to be reasonable: it was, in theory, possible to cover the distance that quickly. If you had a following wind the entire way, and if you pressed your crew to row the entire distance. The wind had not been so kind, and he had been unwilling to drive his crew to either mutiny or exhaustion – the two most probable results of such a demand. “The winds were unfavorable, my Lord.”

Ulfr snorted. He still lounged across his father’s chair, which always made him look like a petulant teenager despite the gray in his hair and the wrinkles on his face. Saying as much, of course, was not generally considered wise.

Abruptly, he swung his legs down off the arm of the chair and sat up straight, leaning forward toward Kaldr. “What was unfavorable has been your behavior ever since the rebels entered our waters. First I had to curry favor with those witches you captured so the thrice-cursed Matrons will continue to leave us alone.” Ulfr pushed himself forward out of the chair to stand on his dais.

“Then, after they escape – with some of Mother’s most important workings, mind – she tells me you had a hand in their escape. When the girl was critical to my keeping the upper hand over the rebels. Mother’s Weaving is never wrong.” Ulfr gesticulated wildly. “Then Urek’s pigeon arrives. What was I supposed to think when he said you were a rank coward, that you had let the rebels slip through your grasp not once, not twice, but no fewer than three times? Hm?”

Kaldr lifted his chin to meet his Thane’s eyes. He would not be so easily cowed. “You know my methods of hunting, my Lord. This hunt was no different from any other. Had I not been precipitously called back, the rebels would have been in hand in short order.”

“Wrong again, Kaldr. Broki’s pigeon arrived this morning. The rebels launched a sneak attack on your vaunted blockade. Urek and Vittir are dead, and Broki’s ship is hardly seaworthy.”

“If a sneak attack was successful, then surely it was the watch to blame.” There was only one way out of Lundholm. Wasn’t there?”

“They were attacked from the open water, behind their position.” Ulfr spat the words.

Kaldr blinked, unable to entirely cover his surprise. They shouldn’t have been able to get to the open water from there. So, how?

“Kaldr Kerasson, I hereby strip you of your rank and privileges. I find the allegations of treason against your Thane credible. You shall await the pleasure of the Thing in the dungeon.”

Kaldr swallowed, but bowed his head in acceptance. If such was the Thane’s pleasure, he could wait a little. Or, perhaps, Lord Ulfr would calm down and come to his senses. It was true that, on the surface at least, the sequence of events could lead one to believe him a traitor. That he was not was, for now, immaterial.

The guard moved forward to once again take hold of Kaldr’s chain.

“Take him away.”

The guard bowed his head and strode brusquely out of the room. Kaldr found himself faced with the option of walking or being dragged by his wrists: he chose the former.

The path to the dungeon took him back across the yard to the tower of the gate house. Before, it had seemed as though those few he passed ignored him. Now something irrational in his mind tried to convince him they laughed. As always, he ignored it, and walked to his fate with the pride and dignity of an innocent man, which scandal could not touch.


The weaver-witch – Lord Ulfr’s Lady Mother, he corrected himself – waited for Kaldr at the door to his cell, making no attempt to hide her glee at his predicament.

“What do you want?” If there was a hard edge to his voice, he thought it could be excused under the circumstances.

Lady Urdr smiled even more broadly and brought a hand to her collar. “Why, I only wished to welcome you back, Captain Kaldr. It seems you and I will be sharing a roof for the forseeable future, so I thought I might be neighborly.”

Kaldr managed not to snort, but it was a near thing.

Lady Urdr’s smile did not touch her eyes as she moved in to whisper – loudly – in his ear. “Welcome to my parlor, little boy. We’ll have such fun here. Perhaps you’ll even take part in some of my work.”

Kaldr raised an eyebrow and looked down his nose at the crazy old woman. She cackled. His jailer opened his cell and he stepped in, grateful to be shut away from her. As the door closed on his back, darkness fell around him.

Over the next… while – Kaldr found it difficult to measure the passage of time from inside a cell with neither light nor air from the outside – he grew accustomed to the sound of cackling laughter from the dungeon hallway, and the stifling closeness of his cell.

That laughter always presaged one of Lady Urdr’s visits. One would think, as the only person he ever saw, he would have grown fonder of the woman – or perhaps not. It was not in his nature, after all, to grow fond of any witch, and she was a particularly sadistic one. She bled him regularly: he could never quite make out why, but he was sure she was up to no good. It was never enough to keep him from the training he had devised for himself, though. He could not, after all, afford to grow weak while he awaited the pleasure of the Thing.


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10.23 – Return to Raenshold

Kaldr knew he should have been glad of a quiet journey back to the capitol. Unfortunately, every man aboard knew what was happening, and so the mood of his ship was as rough as the waves in his head. No-one suggested treason – not openly, anyway, or at least not where he could hear – but Kaldr could see the anger simmering just under the surface. A fight at least would have allowed his men to work off some steam.

As it was, he kept his usual calm demeanor as an example to his men, and watched the horizon for the cliffs of Breidelsteinn.

There were no guards waiting at the harbor to escort him before their Thane: that was something, at least. It seemed as though, while the harbormaster obviously expected his return, no-one else knew anything at all was out of the ordinary. Kaldr was pleased, on one level, that he arrived to see a perfectly ordinary day at the docks. It was somewhat surreal to walk through, nonetheless.

Their ship secured, Kaldr set off up the docks for the cliff road. Thjofgrir motioned for one of their men to watch the ship and then fell in beside his Captain. For a long while, they walked in silence, but Kaldr could feel the muscles in his jaw working, and he was certain his Mate had picked up on it. Finally, when they reached the cliff road and there were fewer – one might almost say no more – people about, Kaldr spoke.

“Something about this doesn’t make sense.” Kaldr pitched his voice low, certain that Thjofgrir would hear and equally certain no-one else could.

“What is that, Sir?”

“Why now?”

There was a long pause. It seemed Thjofgrir had been taken aback by the question. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“I have hunted many a quarry for our Lord. Each time, I study my opponent and take them out methodically. It takes longer, but my victory is assured. So, why now, when he pitted me against his single biggest foe, would he call me back?”

Thjofgrir did not answer, but Kaldr could almost hear the man’s shrug.

“Do not follow me into the Hold. One of us needs to stay with the ship.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And don’t let them mutiny. I am only their Captain, understand?”

Thjofgrir’s agreement was slower in coming that time, but it did come. It would have to do.


They had parted ways at the last switchback before the gate house. One of the guards might have seen Thjofgrir, but Kaldr doubted it. Even if they had, it would have been easy enough to explain. Two guards stood before the gate, spears in hand, and stared severely out towards the water.

“I am Captain Kaldr, presenting myself to our Lord Ulfr as ordered,” he announced.

One of the guards – the thinner one, with a hint of jaundice about his face – turned to look directly at him even as he beckoned for someone behind him. “You’re late.”

“I came with all possible speed…” Oh, never mind. This one didn’t actually care. Kaldr wondered, though, how quickly Ulfr thought he could have arrived, given where he left from?

A thickset man stepped forward from the shadows of the gate bearing rough-looking iron manacles. Kaldr scowled at them.

“You insult me, sirs.”

“Orders is orders, Captain, and we has orders to take you prisoner.”

So I’m to be stripped of my commission and made a prisoner? For devising a strategem that was working? Still, he held out his hands, and managed to avoid rolling his eyes in the process. It was a good thing he’d sent Thjofgrir back: his Mate could never have borne this. The iron closed firmly around his wrists: it was just as rough as it looked, and almost painfully cold.

The man with the manacles took hold of the chain that connected them and turned his back on the town and the water. When Kaldr did not immediately start walking, he yanked on the chain.

They crossed under the shadow of the gates to stride down the broad lane leading through the rings of buildings to the central Hold, where Lord Ulfr would be waiting. The sky was disconcertingly bright and blue as Kaldr was marched through the streets, as though the gods were having a laugh at his expense. No matter: soon enough, this would all be settled out, and he would be able to return to his command. It seemed as though nearly the entire fleet was out on the water: the streets were empty of everyone save the Lord’s thralls and the occasional sycophant.

The stone fortress at the heart of Raenshold seemed to loom overhead in the sunlight. Inside, Kaldr nearly stumbled a time or two before his eyes could adjust to the sudden gloom. The lack of light did not seem to bother his guard, somehow, curse the man.

Finally, they stopped before the large oaken door of the Thane’s Hall. It had seen little use of late: Lord Ulfr was well aware that his coffers could no longer afford the feasts of Kaldr’s youth, even if he could not see the root of the problem. The guard stopped in front of the door and took the end of the chain in his second hand.

Kaldr raised an eyebrow. What nonsense is this?

With flair suited to a jester in court, the guard swung the end of the chain against a metal plate on a stand to the side of the door. The sound reverberated up and down the corridor. Kaldr felt rather like he was standing inside a bell when it rang.

Slowly, the door creaked open. Before him lay the threadbare rugs that still led down the center of the hall to the Thane’s seat. Kaldr allowed his gaze to travel up that rug to the end of the hall. There, slouching across his father’s seat as though it were a sleeping couch, waited Lord Ulfr.

“You’re late.”


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10.22 – The Fall of Urek

“Another weakling from the rebels? You are nothing more than flies. We should have squashed you ages ago.” Urek did not give Einarr time to retort: the hammer was already singing through the air, and for what felt like ages all Einarr could do was dodge.

“Funny thing about flies,” Einarr gasped out while they were in the clinch. “Enough bites will still kill a man.” He leapt out of the clinch to the side and drove forward to strike at the weak spot with Sinmora.

Urek grunted as a blow struck him across the ribs a second time. More importantly, Einarr thought he heard the grinding of metal links. Urek glared down at him from one eye. Einarr sprang back before his opponent could try to take him in a bear hug.

“I’d like to see you try, little fly.”

Rather than answer that, Einarr slipped back in under the man’s guard to strike again at the weakening maille. The gods smiled on him here, for even a man in the grips of the fury might realize when someone was trying to break his armor given three strong hits like this: an axe bit into Urek’s calf at the same moment he struck for the maille.

Einarr spared a scowl for his dwarven retainer while Urek yelped. Thoroughly unnecessary. The dwarf, of course, ignored him, and he could not spare more than a moment’s attention. The enemy captain recovered himself rapidly, and swung his hammer with renewed vigor. Einarr had to step quickly to avoid a fate very like Sivid’s.

Jorir’s plan had been a solid one, though. If Einarr focused too much on the gash that was forming in Urek’s maille, sooner or later the man would cover the weakness.

The next opening Einarr saw, he struck not at the half-smashed section of maille but at the big man’s hamstring. Blood now flowed freely down both legs and under his feet. Flames licked the edges of the puddle, and Jorir’s axe crashed into Urek’s side. Broken chains tumbled to the deck, audible even over the din of battle.

Urek roared in rage and brought his hammer down hard on the dwarf’s golden shield. A sound like a gong rang over the combatants.

Now! Einarr’s angle was not ideal, but there was the gash. He couldn’t give Urek time to recover. He twisted on the balls of his feet to bring Sinmora around in a mighty cut.

The longsword’s blade bit deep into Urek’s side, and blood welled out of the wound as Einarr finished the cut.

Even that barely slowed the man. He fought like an enraged bear, all teeth and claws and fury. Given the blood on the deck boards and the blood spurting from his side, the man would fall soon even if Einarr did nothing. That wasn’t an option, however.

Urek swung his hammer wildly, plowing down unwary friends and foes alike as though he were rage personified, and Urek’s allies showed no sign of quitting while their captain still fought. Even if the fire took them.

Einarr growled as he danced away from yet another hammer swing. This was exactly why Father had taught him how to resist the fury: men made stupid decisions while in its grip, and no Captain could afford those sorts of mistakes.

The very hammer that made Urek so deadly also proved to be his downfall. His wild swings left an opening every time. A daring man could take advantage of that. Daring, or desperate. Einarr reset his shield and drove forward with Sinmora’s point.

Urek’s howls cut off abruptly as the longsword drove through his belly and up into his lungs. The hammer, raised to strike downward at the opponent who refused to die, clattered down against Einarr’s shield and fell to the deck.

Sinmora tried to stick in the man’s chest. Breathing heavily, the smoke burning his throat and covering the smell of viscera, Einarr gave it a quarter turn and withdrew his blade.

The Song still pulsed at the edge of his awareness, but it didn’t matter. Einarr looked at Jorir, currently standing on guard against three very distracted wolflings, and gestured towards the Heidrun. “Fall back.”

Jorir backed away from his opponents, who were still too shocked by the death of their Captain to pursue. The dwarf’s voice rang over the din. “Fall back!”

Drenched in sweat, Einarr wearily crossed across to his own boat. The rest of the Heidrunings followed in good order. Meanwhile, on the wolfling vessels, it looked as though their leadership had abandoned them entirely. Most of the sailors fled the burning ship like a frightened herd of sheep. Those who didn’t still stared dumbly at the body of Frothing Urek. One by one, the Singers brought their men down out of the battle fury.

“Get us off that ship!” Einarr called to his crew, his throat raw. He was just glad the wood in his own boat was still green. Even with that there were the beginnings of scorch marks where the boats had been tied.

The Vidofnir, singed a little, rowed a little ways further out of the fjord, to where the water was wide enough the Heidrun could come alongside, and waited.

Urek’s ship tried to pull away, but even from this distance Einarr could tell it was too late. The dry wood of the wolfling ships kindled quickly.

As the Heidrun pulled up alongside the Vidofnir, Einarr ordered his men to drop anchor. Before long the Eikthyrnir came to join them, the third and final wolfling ship fleeing into the distance. The men of the allied crews stood silent vigil as the wolfling ships became their funeral pyres. Finally, as the sun dropped below the horizon, the last flame died.

The signal lamp flared to life on the deck of the Vidofnir. Father was calling for a meeting, and Einarr knew why. None of those Captains had been the threat they had faced so far. So, where was Kaldr?


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10.21 – Frothing Urek

The sweat on Sivid’s brow was only partially to do with the fire. He had found himself face to face with the man they called Frothing Urek, and decided to test his luck. If it were not for the fire, he thought he would be doing better. As it was, he found himself hemmed in by a beast of a man before him and licking flames to either side. The bulwark was far too close to his back for comfort, as well.

He ducked another swing of Urek’s hammer and lost another half-step of ground. I have two choices. Neither of them is good. If he tried to vault over the man’s head, there was an excellent chance he would take a hammer to the head. It might or might not leave the contents intact, but he didn’t want to take that gamble.

His other option, Sivid thought, was to borrow a move from the hall dance. If he kicked for the rafters, he might still be able to get over the flames without getting scorched. Maybe he could even do it in such a way that Urek would miss him. If he was going to try, though, it needed to be quickly. The wolfling deck was going up like a dry forest: either the boat was older than the Vidofnir or the Captain had neglected her maintenance.

He licked his lips. The heat from the blaze dried them immediately. It has to be the rafters. Wait for it…

Urek pulled back for another swipe at the quick man’s chest. Sivid gathered himself: if he didn’t time this just right…

Urek’s hammer whistled through the air. Sivid hopped to the left, pulling his ribs back towards his spine. The air of the hammer’s passage pressed his shirt against his skin even through his maille. Then his toes touched the deck and he bent his knees deeply.

While Urek was still caught in the momentum of that swing, Sivid propelled himself into the air. He kicked his legs out to the side, straining for height. The heat of the fire pressed against his face and his hands, and he smelled burning hair, but it did not touch his skin.

Sivid landed on the deck on the side of the flames nearer to his allies. He paused a moment, still crouching, to catch his balance, and a stupid grin split his features. He’d made it.

That was when the hammer’s backswing clipped him in the shoulder. Even as glancing a blow as that was sent Sivid flying – into his allies’ line, thankfully. He hit the opposite bulwark with a crack and lay on the too-warm deck clutching his broken shoulder.


Einarr watched as Sivid made the landing of his dancing leap. The man was a genius at the dance – but this was a battle, and the hammer-wielding Captain hardly seemed to notice. Einarr opened his mouth to shout a warning, but it was almost like he moved in slow-motion: before the words had reached his lips, Sivid was already tumbling back across the wolfling ship.

Einarr turned hard eyes on the man responsible. Sivid was a good friend: captain or no captain, Einarr would take out the man with the hammer. He adjusted his grip on his shield as he stepped up to take his friend’s place, Sinmora coming up into position.

Urek grinned ferally at Einarr, as plainly in the grip of the fury as if his eyes had been red. Einarr eyed his hammer warily: like a battle axe, he thought, only instead of lopping off limbs it would crush them. Well. I guess I just can’t let myself get hit.

You mean, like Sivid did? He clamped down on the wry voice in the back of his head. The voice had a point, of course – it always did – but Einarr couldn’t let that get in the way of what had to happen.

Urek started swinging his hammer in a figure-eight pattern in front of him. The big man stepped slowly forward.

Einarr frowned, watching. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, ready to dodge wherever he had to. Whatever his skill as a captain – and Einarr thought it likely low – he was certainly a threat on the battlefield.

Urek’s gaze shifted momentarily and Einarr felt a familiar presence at his knee. Jorir had caught up. The dwarf knew what to do: Einarr’s stance shifted a little. The knowledge that his man at arms had his back meant he could focus on the fight before him.

Urek’s hammer dropped to his side and swung up overhead as he surged forward. The blow was meant for his head, he was sure: Einarr dodged right and then ducked in to slash with Sinmora at the man’s belly. The maille jangled, but Einarr smiled anyway.

There was rust.

The blood of unknown enemies had, in fact, become rust in the joins of his maille as the years went on. Sooner or later it was inevitable… but he was wearing rusty maille. Does he not realize? Or is it simply the best he can get?

It hardly mattered. Einarr sprang back out of the man’s reach before he, too, fell victim to a backswing.

The next blow tried to take Einarr’s head off at the shoulders. He ducked, and while Urek’s guard was still open from the giant swing of the hammer he charged in. The boss of his shield struck against the man’s ribs with a dull clang and he pulled back once more. Urek grunted but seemed otherwise unimpressed.

“Another weakling from the rebels? You are nothing more than flies. We should have squashed you ages ago.”

Urek did not give him time to retort: the hammer was already singing through the air, and for what felt like ages all Einarr could do was dodge. The man was relentless, and there was no denying his skill with his weapon.


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10.20 – Berserker

Einarr heard the warriors aboard the trapped wolfling ship give a battle roar only moments before they swarmed over the boarding lines. The ship swayed under the weight of reinforcements even as the fire spread from the arrows along the deck boards.

Einarr set his mouth in a grim line. They needed to take out the wolflings quickly, before this became an inferno. And if they escape, Lundholm is done for.

Their line was solid: he stood shoulder to shoulder with his own men and the men of his father’s ship – it was still odd that those were two different things now. The first boots were pounding across the blackening deck boards. “Brace yourselves!”

Einarr lowered his shoulder. A heartbeat later, the wolflings collided with their shield wall. Einarr stabbed through the gap between his shield and Jorir’s and Sinmora’s tip came away wet with fresh blood.

The wolfling screamed, pain mixed with rage, and did not fall back. Blood ran down his leg from the wound in his thigh, and he brought his axe around to strike at Einarr.

Jorir took the opportunity and drove his axe home in the man’s already-wounded leg. The wolfling hit the deck, hard, and Jorir ensured he would not rise again. Einarr’s attention was already forward, on the next man coming to fill the hole, wondering if their captain, too, would come forward to join the melee.

The next man up tried to put his scramasax in Einarr’s side and lost his hand for his trouble. He staggered backward clutching his stump and Einarr shouldered his way forward into the gap. The crackle of fire on the deck and the reek of smoke lent an unusual urgency to Eydri and Reki’s Song. Still he resisted it: no Captain worth his salt gave in to the battle chant, not if there was any other way.

Slowly, relentlessly, he began cutting his way through the wolflings in search of their Captain. His arm began to tire, and a thousand small wounds burned across his forearms and his legs. The wolflings were falling, but they were falling hard. Where is Kaldr?

He wasn’t even certain this was Kaldr’s ship, based on what the Singers had said of the man.

One man, bigger than the other wolflings, laid about himself with a formidable hammer. Not Kaldr. Might be a leader, though. Not many men wielded hammers on the battlefield: it took a special combination of brawn and coin. Leader or not, though, the man with the hammer was plowing through Einarr’s allies like they were nothing. He raised his sword and pointed across the deck at his target.

Jorir, beside him, grunted agreement.

Einarr shouldered his way through the throng, trying to ignore just how hot it was getting on the wolfling ship. That was another reason to hurry: he couldn’t let the fire spread to the Heidrun.

There was Sivid, giving the enraged hammer-wielder a taste of his own wolf pack tactics. Sivid would bait the man into a wild swing, and while he was open dash in to cut at his legs. It looked like the other wolves were interfering, though. With a grunt, Einarr slid in between Sivid and the man about to take a stab at his kidneys.

Clang! The blade instead hit the boss of Einarr’s shield. “Got your back,” he shouted over his shoulder.

Sivid spared him a glance and a breathless “thanks” before turning back to the enemy captain.


Sivid became aware that the pressure was off his back abruptly. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Einarr? “Thanks,” he managed. Almost immediately he had to duck another swing of the massive hammer the enemy captain used.

This was, without a doubt, Frothing Urek. Tyr had said the man had made Captain somehow: Sivid had just not expected to have to face the man on the field. Why is he in the fury, though? Captain Stigander never takes it…

The hammer still whistled through the air. Sivid bounced out of the way, then lunged in to stab at the man’s exposed leg. Urek was big, but not as big as Erik. Urek was strong, but not as strong as Arring. And even Arring would have had trouble not leaving openings with a weapon like that. Sivid just hoped his stamina would hold out.

The hammer came from above this time. Sivid danced off to the side as the heavy steel head splintered the deck boards where he had been a moment before. The fire crackled, licking at the newly-made kindling.

One way or another, they needed to take Urek out of the picture before this ship took everyone to their graves. It was time to gamble.

Sivid dropped into a low lunge, darting inside the berserker’s reach and stabbing his blade home in the man’s thigh. He couldn’t stay there, though: his blade still in Urek’s leg, he dropped his other hand down to the deck and kicked his heels up.

Urek roared as the blade twisted in his thigh. Sivid’s first boot caught him in the teeth: the second in the jaw, and as he regained his feet he finally drew out the blade.

Urek turned to face Sivid again, a level of disgust showing through the rage as he popped his neck and once more started his hammer moving. Sivid scowled: he hadn’t really expected much out of the kicks, but it had been worth a try.

Urek pressed forward, sweeping his hammer back and forth in front of him, and Sivid was forced to hop backwards with every sweep. He wasn’t getting in under the man’s guard again anytime soon, it looked like.

Sivid glanced to either side nervously: those flames were far too close, and far too high, for his liking, and they hemmed him in. By the same token, he couldn’t go backward too much farther without going over the wrong side. Can I kick the rafters well enough to get clear?


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If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

10.19 – Ebb and Flow

Two more of the pocket of wolflings fell before Sinmora’s blade. The others looked shaken: perhaps, then, he could get through to them. “Surrender and quarter will be given.”

The man in front of the others hardened his jaw, although his eyes were still wide with fear.

“Are we not countrymen?”

The man in front found enough of his spine to spit on the deck and answer. “You rebel scum are no countrymen of mine.”

So that’s how it was going to be, was it? Einarr’s jaw hardened in turn. He had tried: there were witnesses to show he had tried to save these mens’ lives. “Then fight like men!”

Einarr did not give in to the battle fury, although the wolflings could be forgiven for thinking he had. With a roar he brought his blade up again overhead.

The men broke and ran. Einarr shook his head: these were the men who had been giving them so much trouble? Even had his uncle been the legitimate heir, if these were the men in his service he would have no right to rule.

Jorir harrumphed from beside him.

Einarr spared his Mate and liege-man a glance. “Have you ever seen such cowardice?”

“Not in a long time, my lord.”

Einarr hummed. “I’m going across.”

“Not without me, ye’re not.”

“That’s fine. I’ll want you there anyway, I expect.”

With a grunt of assent, Jorir shouldered his shield of golden fire and stamped his feet in his boots. “Let’s go, then.”

On the wolfling ship, the first wave of Heidrunings and Vidofnings were locked in the clinch with the enemy crew. They already held most of the deck but, much like the wolflings Einarr had frightened off his own ship, these were refusing to back down. He frowned: was this the Weaving at work?

It almost had to be, but there was nothing he could do about it right now. They needed the distaff to dissolve Urdr’s curse, and even if they had not been locked in combat it would be far too risky to try that now. Einarr shouldered his way forward toward the line: if these men would not surrender, as it appeared they would not, they were lost.

Jorir matched him step for step, their charge building across the deck boards, and when the dwarf raised his voice in a battle yell Einarr joined him. They crashed into the enemy line and broke through with almost no resistance.

Others followed, and soon the deck was filled with pockets of wolflings fighting desperately to stave off the “rebel” assault. Einarr frowned again: this was too easy.

The smell of burning pitch tickled his nostrils. Einarr looked up in time to see the other wolfling ship, the one trapped in the fjord, with a blazing line of fire on its deck. Or, rather, above its deck, on the arrows of the archers arrayed for a volley.

He could hear the order to fire echo from the other ship.

“Shields! Now!” Ignoring the wolfling in front of him for a moment, he spun around to face the Heidrun. “Hrug!”

For his trouble, he felt the searing heat of a sword slice across the back of his leg as he spun the rest of the way around. Einarr found he could not care: he raised his shield overhead even as he thrust forward with Sinmora at the man’s gut.

The wolfling doubled over as two feet of steel thrust through his belly. A moment later, fire arrows rained down around him, thudding into the deck and catching the wolfling ship ablaze.

Einarr looked over his shoulder once more, but the Heidrun was safe. Hrug must have gotten the shields up in time. He turned his attention back to the fight, only to see the other wolfling ship sailing up to join the fray. Boarding lines whistled through the air, and the line in front of Einarr gave a ragged cheer.

Einarr scowled at the lines around him. They could not keep the other ship from joining the fray – not without exposing their backs to the warriors already aboard – but they could control where they fought the enemy reinforcements.

“Heidrunings! Vidofnings! Fall back!”

If they formed a solid line on the other side of the mast, possibly even almost as far as the other bulwark, then the wolfling lines would have to advance through the fire to get at them. That was worth it.


Urek grinned a wolf’s grin as boarding lines flew toward Vittir’s ship. That volley hadn’t landed quite where he wanted it to, but fire was always effective. A little niggling voice in the back of his head wondered what sort of witchcraft that was, that protected the Heidrun, but it was easy to ignore. The only thing that mattered right now was the battle ahead of him.

Urek settled his grip on his shield and drew his prized hammer from its hook on his belt. He swung it back and forth a few times, limbering his arm for the fight to come and nodded in satisfaction.

Now. Where is she. Ah. There. “Gudrun! We are about to put an end to the rebels once and for all. Give us a Song!”

For a very long moment she just looked at him. Sometimes, Urek wondered if his very own battle chanter looked down on him. If he could ever confirm it, he would put her in her place, but so far she had always done her duty.

As the boarding hooks gripped the bulwarks of Vittir’s ship, Gudrun raised her voice in a suitably victorious-sounding battle chant. The red haze of the fury began to pulse at the edges of Urek’s vision. With a roar he accepted it. The other warriors on board joined him in his battle cry and they charged across the lines.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

10.18 – Three Captains

Kaldr spent a long, weary night locked in combat in his own mind. For Lord Ulfr to call him back like this could only mean one thing. And yet, the more he thought it through, the more he was convinced that he had done nothing to regret. Certainly nothing that should have gotten him recalled in disgrace – or even castigated on his return, provided he was successful. The rebels were undermanned and poorly equipped, but not so undermanned that they could be caught without significant losses. And for trying to save the strength of Breidelstein, I am humiliated? He rolled over under his blanket, but still sleep eluded him.

The atmosphere on deck was tense, as well. From oarsmen to lookout, he could hear dissatisfied mutterings from his men. That, too, was troublesome, and the corner of his mind that did not gnaw on his abrupt summons like a dog on a bone wondered what new fire he would have to put out on deck come morning.


Frothing Urek waited and watched, a smug smile peeking out from under his beard, until Kaldr’s ship was small on the horizon before he turned to his Mate. “Bring Vittir and Broki over. This blockade is over.”

The man snapped an unusually crisp salute, grinning through his own whiskers. “Yes, sir!”

It did not take long for the captains to gather on the deck of their new flagship. Neither of them looked quite as eager as Urek felt, but that didn’t bother him.

“Welcome aboard, gentlemen. Now that Coward is no longer in charge, I declare this blockade is ended. Ready yourselves for an assault.”

“An assault?” Broki started. “Up the fjord?”

“We are men of action, are we not? We will strike as lightning up the fjord, before the rebels have a chance to pull any of their tricks on us.”

Vittir cleared his throat. “Before they left, we received a report from Kaldr’s scouts. Something is already in the works.”

Broki looked at him sharply. “Something? What something?”

“He didn’t know.”

“All the more reason that we must strike now, while the iron is hot! Ready your ships, men.”

The two under-captains returned to their boats, and the nets with their incidental catch drawn up. The sun was kissing the waves by the time all was in readiness, but that suited Urek well enough. He looked to his Mate and nodded.

“Oars out!” They would have to be quick, to minimize the time when they were vulnerable in the fjord.


Twilight had descended on the waters of Lundholm by the time Stigander and his three ships once more neared the fjord, although it was not yet so dark as to hide anyone. That was why Einarr called not only Jorir but also Naudrek up to confirm what he thought he saw.

The blockade was gone.

The ships were still there: two ships were visible between the fjord walls, with a third ready to enter as soon as its allies made way. Then where is the fourth ship?

There was no place for the last boat to wait in ambush that Einarr could see, which meant they had to be farther up the fjord. Father evidently thought the same: he heard Bardr sound the battle horn. Two other horns joined in, their voices melding into a single loud trumpet announcing their intentions.

The ship that had held back smoothly reversed its course, probably hoping to give its allies time to come around as well. Kormund’s Eikthyrnir launched a volley of arrows and dashed forward while most of them were still in the air. The Vidofnir and the Heidrun, meanwhile, slipped around the boat to either side. If Kormund couldn’t handle them for whatever reason, they would signal.

The ship with its nose halfway into the fjord was still scrambling to prepare for this new threat when the first volley from the Vidofnir struck its deck. That volley was still in the air when Einarr gave the order to shoot from the Heidrun.

“Take us to port! Prepare the boarding lines!” Einarr’s voice rang clear over the deck of the Heidrun, and without hesitation his ship headed off to port while the Vidofnir moved starboard so that they flanked the unfortunate wolf in the trap.

The wolves were not so surprised that they did not answer back, of course, although by then it was far too late for archery. Boarding lines whistled both ways, followed by the clunk or the splash of steel grappling hooks on wood as they fought for purchase.

“Make fast the lines! Go!”

The order was almost superfluous: Irding and some of the other more reckless warriors were already crossing the ropes before the word ‘go’ was out of Einarr’s mouth. With a satisfied smirk, he turned his attention to the woman next to him. “Eydri. Whenever you’re ready.”

Some few of the wolfling warriors had tried a counter-invasion, perhaps not realizing their true straits. Einarr calmly stepped towards the pocket of enemies that had gained a foothold and drew Sinmora.

Eydri’s clear, sweet tones rose over the deck of the Heidrun, urging her warriors to swift victory, as Einarr settled his grip on Sinmora’s hilt. The strongest of the men – himself perhaps as large as Irding, but certainly no larger – raised his shield and readied his axe.

From across the mouth of the fjord, Reki’s low sultry voice joined Eydri’s bell-like one and echoed over the water in harmony.

A moment later, a third voice rose in Song, although it was not a Singer Einarr had ever heard before. The sound set his teeth on edge, so he thought he did not care to hear her again, either. Or is that deliberate?

The red fury was still pulsing at the edges of his vision, though, so whatever she thought she was doing it was not going to break the Chant for the Heidrunings. Einarr raised his shield before him as he brought Sinmora up over his back shoulder. Her strike was true. Ein.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

10.17 – Summons

Without needing to be told, the men on Kaldr’s ship formed ranks behind their Captain. The messenger would see, at least, that he kept proper discipline aboard his own ship. Not that it necessarily mattered what the messenger saw.

The man who appeared over the bulwark was long and lean and more than mean enough to ply the waves alone, even if his lumpy nose and thick brow did suggest he’d lost more than a few brawls. As the messenger bowed and introduced himself, Kaldr could not help but notice that they had already attracted an audience. Urek leaned over the rail of his own ship, a smug grin plastered over his face, while on the other side Vittir and Broki watched with interest. At least they got off my ship.

“Welcome aboard. I’m afraid you’ve arrived during the boring part of the hunt, though,” Kaldr answered the messenger.

“Have I? That was not my understanding of the situation here.”

“I rather assumed not. But you see, we have our quarry trapped here. There is only one way out of Lundholm, and we have it blocked. Soon or late, the villagers will grow tired of the rebels, and then they will be driven into our nets.”

The messenger hummed, evidently unimpressed. “If that’s the case, then there should be no trouble at all. Thane Ulfr demands your presence at Raenshold, to answer the charges laid against you by your fellow captains. You are to make all haste to the capitol and present yourself before Lord Ulfr without delay. In your absence, Urek, as next most senior captain, will take charge of the fleet. Should the rebels fall into your net as you expect during your absence it may mitigate our lord’s ire.” The man had the nerve to sound skeptical.

“I see.” He did see: somehow, he had lost the trust of his Lord. Could Ulfr have found out the witches had help escaping? No, unlikely at best, and they would have poisoned everyone’s minds had they stayed.

Kaldr wanted to rant and rage, as his father always had every time he was caught by a witch. But there were two things he had learned from the man that had served him in good stead. The first was, never trust a witch, and the second was that a calm demeanor would see him through every time. Thus, he turned on his heels to face his men without so much as another glance at the messenger. “Men, it seems our mission is at an end. Rund, send up the signal that our scout must return immediately. The rest of you, make ready to sail. We’ll be pressing on through the night, I’m afraid.”

He saw angry glares among his crew, but all of them were directed at the Thane’s messenger. To their credit, every last man answered ‘aye’ and moved about their business. Before many minutes passed, he was left alone with Thjofgrir and the messenger. “Have you other business here?”

“No, sir. But do not forget that Lord Ulfr’s eye is upon you.”

“I have never for a moment forgotten my duty to my lord.”

“As you say, sir.” The messenger kept his face entirely impassive. “If you will excuse me, then…”

Kaldr dismissed the man with a wave of his hand and turned his attention to more urgent matters. Pitching his voice low, he addressed his Mate. “Thjofgrir, when Inja returns, make sure Vittir and Broki get his report.”

“What, not sure Urek can read?” Thjofgrir said with a quiet laugh.

“Sure he would ignore it, rather. The messenger could hardly have chosen a worse juncture to arrive…”

“It’s not too late to sink him.”

“No, Thjofgrir. That would make more trouble, not less. Even if we could then point to our success here. No, at this point I think we just have to hope Urek doesn’t make a dog’s dinner out of what should be a straightforward capture.”

Thjofgrir’s answering laugh said what he thought of that, but he turned to see about his duties nontheless.

A chortle floated across the gap between ships, and Kaldr turned to see Urek’s smug grin. “I guess even Lord Ulfr runs out of patience sometimes. How does it feel to know you’ve brought his ire down on your own head?”

“I don’t know, Urek. How does it feel to know you won’t have me around to pull your sorry ass out of the fire?”

Urek guffawed as Kaldr moved amidships to survey his crew’s preparations.


It was another hour before Inja made it back to their ship, and when he did he looked troubled.

“I couldn’t find out what it was, but they’re plotting something, sir.”

Kaldr exhaled and let his shoulders drop. “It’s no longer our concern, I’m afraid. Give Thjofgrir your report: he’ll make sure it gets to the other ships.”

“Yes, sir.”

That report was all they were waiting on. Even as Thjofgrir was in conference with the two more reliable of the captains remaining, Kaldr was directing the crewmen disconnecting his ship from the rest of the blockade. Done properly, this could cost them some hours. Done improperly, though, it could cost them their lives: a cost Kaldr was certain Lord Ulfr would be unwilling to pay. Even at the worst extremity, the Thane would want to hand down Kaldr’s fate himself.

Finally, though, as the sun lowered in the late afternoon sky, Kaldr and his disfavored ship set back out upon the waves, leaving Stigander and his rebels behind them. This would be a long, tiring, and pointless journey. He only hoped Urek could net their prey. If not, this entire enterprise would be nothing but a waste of time and men.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

10.16 – Command Decision

When the final boat sat with the waves lapping her hull and their crews sat resting their shoulders and their thighs on the shore, a figure appeared in the door of the hermitage. He wore the skin of a bear as a cloak, the creature’s snout extending past the old man’s head.

Einarr was the first to notice him. He raised an arm in greeting. For a long while Gotlief, the hermit, did nothing more than stare at them. One by one, though, the rest of the fleet greeted him in silence – all except Bea, who watched with one eyebrow raised. Do the Imperials not have holy monks?

Finally, when the old monk was satisfied, he raised both arms into the air, the bear’s paws moving with his own clenched fists. Then a war cry broke the stillness, and even Einarr jumped at the ferocity of the man’s voice. The startlement only lasted a moment, however, and the hills echoed with their answer.

Einarr and Stigander exchanged grins, and then Stigander turned his face to the sky. “All aboard!”


The arrival of Lord Ulfr’s messenger came only a day after the successful, if unwise, raid against Lundholm. Early enough that Kaldr wondered if Urek had sent the message earlier than he thought, or if his Thane was also dissatisfied with his service. He flared his nostrils in a loud exhale.

“Trouble, sir?” Thjofgrir, ever-attentive, asked.

“I’m afraid we will be unable to see our plans to fruition. It seems our Lord has grown impatient.”

Thjofgrir frowned, following his Captain’s gaze out to sea to the little skiff dancing over the waves on its way to their blockade, Ulfr’s sigil plainly visible on its sail.

“Shall I ready the fire-arrows, sir?”

It was a measure of his annoyance that Kaldr did not answer immediately. But, without much hesitation, he shook his head. “If the messenger cannot be persuaded to wait a little for our quarry to come to us, then we shall just have to return. As galling as that is.”

Thjofgrir, too, took longer to respond than was his wont. For a long moment he stared at Kaldr, but in the end the words out of his mouth were still “as you say, sir.”

What does Lord Ulfr think he’s doing? He’s never been this impatient before, and I’ve never failed to capture my quarry. So, why…?

The tiny karve drew closer at an alarming rate. While that boat could be faster than a longship, this was still too fast for the messenger to have been dispatched from Raenshold. That meant a pigeon had traveled from Urek to the Thane to one of the other outlying islands… he shook his head. That was too unbelievable. That weaver-witch must have something to do with it.

Movement caught his eye from the other ships in his fleet: boards were being stretched across, and there was no discussion aboard Broki’s ship as Vittir strode across. Urek, as he might have expected, was already leaning against the bulwark by his own plank without so much as a by-your-leave. The man wore one of the most self-satisfied grins Kaldr could remember seeing. Perhaps Lord Ulfr is right. This mission isn’t under my control anyway.

“What goes on?” Vittir asked as the two from that side trotted up.

Kaldr pursed his lips, his words coming out short and clipped. “Ask Urek.”

The man himself answered with a braying laugh, his boots clomping on the deck as he swaggered over to join the other Captains.

“Well, Urek, I hope you’re pleased with yourself. Our Lord acted unusually swiftly, for your having just dispatched that bird yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” Urek laughed again, even going so far as to slap his thigh. “Coward, I sent that bird after they slipped our noose in that shallow harbor.”

Thjofgrir’s hand went to the blade at his belt. Kaldr held out a hand.

“Wait. Listen to what he has to say. I’m sure it will be …educational.” Kaldr could hear an edge in his voice. He wondered if anyone else did.

“Kaldr, it was painfully obvious from the beginning that you never intended to actually catch these thrice-damned rebels. I couldn’t begin to say why – oh, wait, I could. But that’s a matter for you to take up with Lord Ulfr.”

Kaldr felt his jaw tense. This… this idiot had the gall to imply he was a traitor? In front of other Captains, no less! Wait. He took a deep breath: the man was probably trying to bait him into something stupid. Before his promotion, Urek had all but lived to fight duels. He spoke low, keeping iron discipline over his voice. “I see. Was there anything else?”

“Does there need to be?” Urek did not laugh, at least not out loud, but one look at his eyes told Kaldr he still was.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “And you two. Do you agree?”

Broki shook his head sadly. “No, Captain. I was pleased to be selected to come along on this hunt: you are known as one of the best hunters in the fleet.”

“Speak for yourself, sheep,” Vittir snarled. “Urek’s right. Kaldr hasn’t got a speck of real fight in ‘im. Comes of being so scrawny, I shouldn’t wonder.”

Kaldr glanced up at the sky from under his eyebrows,wondering if the gods would, just this once, smite the idiots.

He had no time to go farther than that, however: the thump of two wooden hulls caught his attention.

“Ho there!” A voice rang out from over the water. “I come in the name of the Thane! Permission to come aboard?”

With a mental sigh, Kaldr nodded at his Mate. “Permission granted. Throw him a line.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

10.15 – Forest Road

When the sun set that evening, Einarr was as glad for the end of the day’s labors as he was for the return of their scouts. Lundholm would recover: probably without too much trouble, even, for while Urek had instructed his raiders to do as much damage as possible, they had avoided doing much to the villagers themselves.

Still, the cleanup had been back-breaking and tedious. Erik, rising from his work at the boathouse, inspecting their ships, was the first to spot them. He lifted a big hand high in the air and waved. “What ho! Welcome back!”

That signalled the end of work as surely as the setting sun and everyone made their way to the green to hear from the scouts.

“It’s not an easy road,” Troa warned. “Even without the ships, the way is steep, and the forest presses in on either side.”

“In two separate places we had to clear a deadfall from the road,” Boti added. “Those were apparently what kept the old monk away: he seems to be in fine health, and bade us tell you he will arrive with the season’s first and second honey within the fortnight.”

A woman’s voice in the crowd said “oh, thank the gods.” All three scouts smiled as though they had expected that response.

“And the monk accepts that we must go past his hermitage?” Stigander sounded thoughtful.

“Yes,” Troa answered. “I spoke with him myself. He was mostly glad to know the way had been cleared, because he is old and the trees were heavy.”

Stigander’s lips parted in a smile. “Excellent! We leave at first light.”


The wolflings did not launch a second raid on the town that night. When dawn broke and the alarm had not sounded, a quiet cheer went round the waking men of fleet and village alike. As they rose they each headed for the boat house as they chewed a small bit of dried salmon for strength.

Elder Vilding waited for them at the boat house. Stigander, in the lead, motioned the men behind him to wait. “You have our thanks,” he said, offering a small bow.

“And you, ours. I only wish we could have carried out our agreement properly.”

Stigander accepted this with a gracious nod of his head.

“I have sent a guide on ahead to the first fork. He will ensure you do not lose the path.”

“You have my thanks, again.”

A wry smile cracked the old man’s face. “Now go. Give ‘em Hel.”

Stigander grinned, and then they moved on. Each Captain took his place at the bow of his own boat, and then their men put their shoulders to it and lifted.

With no small amount of groaning, of men and wood alike, the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir rose into the air and began trundling forward like a trio of monstrous centipedes.

The forest road was narrow, as Troa had said. Einarr expected it would also be steep, once they were a little farther inland. Still, it was nothing their crews couldn’t handle. He resettled his shoulder under the weight of his ship. This would be a long portage: perhaps among the longest he had ever attempted. But for all of that, it might just do the trick.


When night fell, the three crews sat atop a mountain with their guide and rested for the evening. In the morning they pressed on, still tired and sore but glad to be past the worst of it.

Mist hung in the air along the road that morning, lending the world around a feeling of unreality. And yet, with the clear sky above and the warm light filtering through the mist, Einarr could almost forget the burden he bore on his back as they made their way down the far side of the mountain. Someone started up a rower’s cadence song. Before long, men all up and down the line were singing it together.

The road led around a series of tight hairpin turns – tight enough and steep enough that it was tricky to maneuver the boats through – but only a little later leveled off. Through the trees ahead, Einarr could see the blue-gray sparkle of the ocean.

“Look ahead!” He called in cadence. “Nearly there!”

Everyone’s spirits picked up at that, and with their spirits rose their pace. The forest opened up ahead of them, and almost before they realized they stood on the edge of a meadow. Off to their left was a small stone house. Smoke rose from the ceiling vent. That must be the hermitage: Einarr could hear buzzing off in the distance.

The road tapered off into nothing from here, but already they could see the grey, rocky shore ahead, and beyond it the beckoning sea.

The cadence song was now replaced by cheerful banter amongst the men. Someone proposed a race: his Mate shot it down.

Einarr maneuvered his Heidrun to move parallel to the Vidofnir so that he could speak quietly with his father.

“We’re not going to just leave the wolflings at the fjord, are we?”

His father shook his head. “If we attack them, we lose one of the primary advantages of slipping out this way. If we don’t, sooner or later they’re going to try raiding Lundholm again. And this time, we won’t be there to help. And that is why tactics must be complemented with both strategy and ethics. No matter the short-term advantages it would gain us, I cannot abandon the town to the wolflings. Not when I’m the one who brought them in the first place.”

Einarr nodded as his boots crunched in the stones on the beach. “You first, father.”

Without breaking his stride at all, Stigander led the head of the Vidofnir into the cold ocean water before them. With only the tiniest of splashes they set the Vidofnir down in the water where she sat groaning on the beach, waiting.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.