10.6 – Encirclement

The Vidofnir veered left as the wolfling ship began to circle around in front of them but did not slow her pace.

“Steady!” Einarr ordered. “Be ready to cut lines.”

There was nowhere to go now but forward. Even if they changed directions, the rope behind them was solid. The Eikthyrnir, built for speed as she was, seemed to be having a little trouble maintaining position, but the Heidrun kept to her wing.

They weren’t going to make it. The noose was closing too quickly. Einarr’s fingers tightened around Sinmora’s hilt.

The Vidofnir’s prow nosed into the rapidly-slimming gap that was their only way out.

Abruptly the ship ahead of them surged toward the Vidofnir, boarding lines already aloft. Einarr held his breath: surely his father must have foreseen this. But, how did he intend to break free?

The ship to Einarr’s right had not moved to close the gap created by the foreward ship’s lunge. Another trap?

Did it matter if it were? “Hard to starboard! Drive forward!”

The Heidrun tilted as Arkja leaned into the tiller. It might not be enough to save them, but Einarr was not willing to let the chance pass. There might not be another one. Then the oarsmen redoubled their efforts once more even as the wolfling ship was still struggling to react to its fellow’s abrupt aggression.

Kormund, too, was making a break for freedom. Don’t get bogged down, Father…

“Hrug?”

“On your word.”

Einarr nodded at the one-armed man, his attention already back out on the wolves circling on the water’s surface.

The starboard-side ship was finally turned to intercept, but Heidrun was already nosing into the space between it and its neighbor. “Hàkon!”

The drummer knew exactly what he was after: he increased his tempo yet again, so that the oarsmen were pulling into a sprint.

The Heidrun crossed over to outside the circle. Boarding lines flew from the wolfling ship, but there was not a thrower alive who could have made that toss. The Heidrun was just out of range. Einarr smirked, satisfaction flowing over his shoulders like water.

“Drop tempo and bring her about. We can’t just leave our flagship behind.”

That was the moment when the Heidrun shuddered and jerked nearly to a stop. Evidently there was an exceptional thrower among the wolves on that ship. Nevertheless, a moment later the lone caught line was severed.

Not a moment too soon, either. Kormund had somehow managed to squeeze through the rapidly narrowing gap left by the impulsive wolfling Captain, but that left Stigander to fend for himself in the center of the circle.

Not for long, however. Einarr grinned as his ship jerked back into motion. The Heidrun and the Eikthyrnir would free the Vidofnir – although it looked like she was doing a decent job of fighting free on her own – and then they would make for the nearest port. Whether or not Kaldr continued to follow, though, Einarr had found a weakness in their fleet.


Kaldr blew the horn to call Frothing Urek’s ship back, half expecting the man not to heed. When he did, however reluctantly, Kaldr released a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and nodded. There would be nothing for it, now, but to track them into port. If the other fleet allowed a fourth encounter they were lost, and so the rebels would make all speed for the nearest freehold. Lundholm, if he recalled aright.

Still, though, that was twice now Urek had deviated from the plan in the name of personal glory. That could not be allowed to stand: not if the fleet was going to have any chance at success. “Thjofgrir.”

“Aye, sir?”

“Signal the other Captains to join us here. And set us on course to continue following them.” Despite the rage seething in his belly, he was pleased to note that his face remained placid. Had it not, his Mate would have questioned him.

“As you wish, sir. You should know, however, that the other crews grow restless.”

“I, too, grow restless. Spread it around – quietly – that they escaped us this time because of Urek’s impatience.”

“As you say, sir.”

Kaldr nodded a dismissal, but his Mate was already off about his errand.

Boarding lines passed between the four ships, and within the hour all four Captains were gathered on Kaldr’s deck.

Urek, as expected, looked thoroughly dissatisfied. As well he should, although Kaldr doubted he had the self-awareness to realize why. Kaldr cleared his throat.

“We have lost them, for the moment,” he began. “I very much doubt they will let us catch them again so easily before they reach a port.”

“We’d not have lost them,” Urek spat. “If you hadn’t kept calling me back like some craven fool. I could have ended the rebels.”

“You overestimate your own skills, Urek. Or grossly underestimate theirs. Had I allowed you to go haring off after the Vidofnir, you’d have caught it – or they’d have caught you, and proceeded to send you back to us rather ill-used.”

“How dare you -” Urek started.

Vittir, of all people, spoke up next. “Urek’s right, you know. If you hadn’t been keeping us back like a craven pack of dogs…”

Count on Vittir to regurgitate what the others told him.

“Now, now. Kaldr has a point, too. We’d have netted them all this time, if Urek hadn’t gotten impatient and broken formation.”

“They were about to slip through our much-vaunted formation anyway.”

Kaldr raised an eyebrow. That was not what he’d seen. “I did not call you all aboard to discuss what has already happened, gentlemen, but to discuss how we will smoke them out of port when they finally arrive in one.”


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10.5 – Blockade Run

The beat of Hàkon’s drum changed, subtly, from the rower’s cadence to a battle drum as the men hastily donned their maille. Eydri caught Einarr’s eye as he approached and inclined her head in acknowledgement. Good: it seemed she knew exactly what he had in mind. Einarr took up a position just forward of the mast and looked out over the water, studying their enemies.

It was a blockade, like the wolves had tried to keep them in Breidelsteinn harbor. There, though, they had used a runic trick and who knows how much of their store of good luck to confuse the wolves. Einarr still couldn’t believe how well that worked: the fleet Captain must have been incompetent as well as unlucky to botch things that badly. He was not willing to assume that of Kaldr.

They could scatter, and try to meet back up after losing their tails. Dangerous, but possible, if either he or Kormund knew where Stigander was headed next. Einarr didn’t, which meant probably Kormund didn’t either, so that was out. He frowned.

“Naudrek. Keep your eyes on the Vidofnir. Let me know the moment you see a signal.”

“Aye, sir!”

“How’s Hrug holding up?” Getting past that previous blockade had taken a lot out of both of them, but the one-armed sorcer had been overextending himself for a lot longer than that.

Jorir cleared his throat as he held up Einarr’s maille shirt. “Bored, near as I can tell. You’ll have to ask him if he’s up for another miracle.”

Einarr grunted and pulled the shirt over his arms. “I’d best go do that, then.”

The fact that he didn’t know already was irksome, but there hadn’t been a great deal of time for discussion since Hrug’s last ‘miracle.’ Things had been moving entirely too quickly on this expedition for niceties such as making sure your sorcerer wasn’t working himself to death.


The lookout on board the Eikthyrnir spotted what looked like a gap in the wolfling’s line. There was a tense moment aboard the Heidrun while Einarr and Jorir considered whether it was a trap, and whether or not such a trap was worth trying anyway. Einarr didn’t see much choice in the matter: either they made a break for it or they settled on the island behind them. Jorir urged caution.

Eventually, though, they agreed to spring the trap. There was no more time to dither. Stigander pulled the Vidofnir forward to be the point of their spear. Einarr took the right flank, while Kormund came up on the left.

Every third man aboard the Heidrun stood guarding the rowers with shields and axes. Another third had their bows limbered and a few of their scant remaining arrows to hand. They could not afford more than one, maybe two volleys here. The idea, though, was to move quickly enough they would not need more than that.

Stigander’s hunting horn echoed over the water and the Vidofnir began its rush.

Kormund’s horn joined Stigander’s as the Eikthyrnir also surged forward.

With a long breath, Einarr brought his own horn up to his mouth and joined his voice to theirs. Hàkon’s cadence shifted slightly as the oarsmen began to row with all speed. The voices of all five Singers lifted over the waves in the wake of the hunting horns call, and they were committed.

Behind Einarr, seated on the deck near Eydri and Runa, Hrug traced the now-familiar runes of a ward at his knees. He had insisted he had the wherewithal to fight, and Einarr was in no position to argue. Let Kaldr sneer all he wants: I’ll not scorn a tool at my disposal.

The three ships surged through the water for the gap in Kaldr’s line. It should be sufficient, barely, for their wedge to slip through with a little luck and a lot of speed.

A cloud of arrows in the sky showed when they had entered bow range. Einarr set his mouth and watched, waiting.

A second volley flew their way. More of these landed on the deck or planted themselves in shields, but still most flew wide. The wind was excellent for sailing, but evidently giving their archers trouble. Einarr glanced down at Hrug, but his one-armed friend showed no sign of having toyed with the wind.

Finally the people on the deck of the wolfling ships looked recognizably human to Einarr. A third flock of arrows rose into the sky. “Archers! Fire!”

The answering volleys from the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir were striking home even as the three ships came into boarding line range – of one ship. Einarr groaned to see that one of the ships on the edge of the gap was pulling back and firing again. If they weren’t careful, they would be encircled. Maybe even if they were careful.

He signalled for Hàkon to speed his cadence. Some of the slower oarsmen might have trouble keeping up if they held it for a long time, but for a short sprint they should be able to manage.

The ship ahead of them was still falling back, although even from here Einarr could see boarding lines being readied. He caught himself settling into a fighting stance and shrugged his shoulders: it was far too early for the Captain to be preparing to fight – not hand to hand, anyway. He glanced behind them.

Sure enough, another of the wolfling ships – Einarr thought it was Kaldr’s, although he couldn’t say for certain – was trying to sneak behind them. This was about to get very, very messy.


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10.4 – Nerves

For a long while Einarr stood staring over the stern at the four wolfling ships that once more followed in their wake. Why had that ship been called back?

The leader of the pursuing fleet was harrying them, wearing down their morale with every league they followed and every skirmish they forced. If that ship hadn’t been called back, but instead been allowed to nip at their heels, it could have been catastrophic.

Unless the wolflings were also trying to minimize casualties? He didn’t expect it of his uncle, but perhaps if Kaldr hoped to win some of them over it was possible.

“What are they up to?” Arkja muttered from his post nearby. “Why would they just let us go like that?”

Einarr cleared his throat. “What makes you think it would be so easy as that?”

The former de-facto leader of the Forgotten sailors had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Ah, Captain, sir. It’s not that it’d be easy, per se. Just that after all the trouble we had sneaking in, we’re all of us beat. Tired. Ain’t none of us used to this sort of long campaign no more, if we ever were.”

Einarr harrumphed, but nodded anyway. The man wasn’t wrong. “Eskihus was not our only option for a resupply, Arkja. Captain Stigander has a few other options in mind. You let us worry about what they’re up to and concentrate on making it into port with the rest of us.”

“Yes, sir,” he said. The man looked chagrined, but not particularly comforted.

Einarr sighed. Arkja could not be the only one feeling that way. If he was honest with himself, he was starting to as well. With a nod to himself, he walked down the deck to where Eydri waited. She, too, stared pensively back at their pursuers.

Einarr leaned his elbows on the bulwark next to the Singer and spoke out over the sea. “Morale is dropping.”

“And water is wet,” she snapped. “Even if I refresh their bodies,” she went on, less peevishly, “Kaldr’s fleet will wear on their minds. Then you’ll have an anxious, energetic crew. Possibly even a panicky one.”

Einarr winced. A panicky crew could prove deadly at the drop of a hat. “Any thoughts, then?”

Eydri sighed now. “Talk to Bea, too. But the ghost is right about Kaldr. He’s a snake, and the way that fleet is wearing us down he’s certain to be leading it.”

“The… ghost?”

She shook her head. “Sorry. Reki.”

“Do you have something against my father’s Singer?”

She stammered a little before managing a coherent answer. “No. Not… personally. She just puts me on edge a bit. I can still work with her – under her, even, if I have to.”

“Fine. Go on, then.” It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do.

“It’s like she said over on the Vidofnir. The man is devious, and I will swear his blood is ice. The fact that he hasn’t yet struck decisively probably means there’s something he wants from us – and I haven’t the foggiest idea what.”

Einarr nodded. “I have some guesses. Where is Bea, anyway?”

“I think she cajoled Irding and some of the others into a game of dice.” Eydri rolled her eyes, but Einarr chuckled.

“More than one way to boost morale. Thanks.”


They sailed on in this way all through that night and on into the next morning, always with someone looking over their shoulders to see if the enemy had given up yet. Every time Einarr gave in and looked himself, the wolflings were still maintaining the pace.

Mid-morning, the Vidofnir abruptly changed course. They headed now between two islands that were little more than large rocks, but some little ways ahead was a larger piece of land. Is that where we’re going, or are we trying to lose our tail?

The Heidrun turned to follow, and it was as though everyone aboard held their breath, waiting.

The Vidofnir deployed oars as Stigander led his allies along the coast of this larger island. They moved quickly – perhaps faster than most of them were comfortable with, given their proximity to shore. It was, however, not enough. The shore curved gently inward, forming a shallow bay, and as they neared the far end of the bay a horn on the Eikthyrnir sounded the alarm.

Just as, rounding the island initially, there had been a collective inhale, now everyone seemed to exhale at the same time. The release of tension was followed immediately by the jangle of maille. Einarr, moving across the deck once again to reach his own gear, looked up across the water.

Arrayed across the mouth of the bay, not covering all of it by far but covering enough, all four of the wolfling ships lay in wait. Einarr’s mouth went suddenly dry and he had to swallow hard to find his voice. “To arms! All hands, to arms! Archers – form up!”

This would measure among the fights of his life, he felt certain. Behind them the apparently wild land of one of the freehold islands: ahead, a blockade they would have to run. It was that, or give up on rescuing the Jarl or retaking Breidelstein anytime soon. The land was a trap: a wall against their backs to force the men forward. Einarr scowled across at the crew scrambling into their armor and belting on their blades. They were jittery.

It did not take him long to spot Eydri. Just who I was looking for. It was time for her to Sing and hope the battle fury would blunt their nerves.


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10.3 – Pincer

Author’s Note: My apologies for the lateness of the post. I realized at the eleventh hour that the chapter as I had started it needed to come later.

The three ships with their three tails made good progress toward the outlying island of Eskihus, where Einarr had once spent half of an idyllic summer with Grimhildr’s parents. Ulfr’s men kept steady pace with them, and Einarr had no doubt that if they wished to catch up, they could. So then, why did they wait?

Einarr shook his head. He knew the answer to that: the wolves were wearing them down even when they weren’t in combat. But it wouldn’t matter for much longer: Eskihus village was just a few hours’ further ahead. Assuming these ‘wolves’ were more than merely rabid dogs, gaining the harbor should also gain them some much-needed respite.

Moments later his hopes were dashed. Another ship sailed into view from where she had been laying in wait, the wolf on its prow plain to see. Before words could make it to his mouth he had snatched the horn off his belt and sounded the alarm himself. A chorus of other horns joined in: he looked behind them once more, only to see the three ships led by Kaldr closing in.

“To arms!” How had Kaldr known they would come here? The fourth ship proved that he had, somehow.

Even as he worried, though, Naudrek was helping him into his maille as Jorir checked Sinmora’s blade for any damage. He wouldn’t find any: the edge seemed preternaturally resilient since the sword began eating magic.

“Archers! Form up!” He called as he fitted his own helmet to his head. When the wolflings had assaulted them before, they had been lucky and he hadn’t needed to fire. This time, he didn’t see a way around it. The dwarf returned his sword even as he echoed the order.

“How many volleys do you think we have?”

“Not enough.”

“I knew that. I need your best estimate.”

“Five, maybe? Maybe six? It’s not this fight I’m worried about, it’s the next one.”

Einarr nodded. “That makes us both.” He raised his voice again to bellow at his crew. “Do not – I repeat do not – allow yourselves to be tempted into recklessness here! Concentrate your energy on keeping them from gaining our deck.”

Irding snorted. Einarr hoped he would remember that in the thick of battle. Hoped, but did not expect. He would have gone on, but there was no more time. The enemy was in bowshot.

“Archers! Draw!”

As the sound of the enemy loosing reached his ears, Einarr gave the order to “Fire!”

Arrows whizzed past each other in the air to rain on deck and sea alike. On the Heidrun, Einarr heard the characteristic thunk of several sticking fast in shield and deck. No-one cried out – this time. “Draw!”

Could he afford a second volley? No time to second-guess now. “Fire!”

Again the arrows flew in all directions. Someone cursed: by the sound wounded, but not badly. Not that he could really afford even that, at the moment. Eydri’s battle-chant rose over the deck.

“Man oars! Prepare to repel boarders!”

As though on cue, boarding lines flew from the deck of the wolfling ships toward the Vidofnir and her allies. “Hard about! Now!”

Tyr leaned hard on the tiller and the Heidrun turned about as quickly as she could. It helped, at least: several of the thrown lines landed with a splash in the water. Those who were not on the oars rushed forward to cut at the lines that did take hold.

One glance toward the island told Einarr they would not break through that way. The new ship was near enough to intercept anything they might try in that direction. One of the original three appeared to be circling to join her, as well.

Behind them, Kaldr and the other of his original ships came in under full sail and rowing. Can’t go that way.

He shook his head. Eydri’s song was starting to get to him, and he could not allow that. Not if any of them were going to survive outside Ulfr’s dungeon.

The Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir were under heavy arrow fire from the onrushing drakken. No surprise, that: they would want Father and the Vidofnir most of all. He could try to push through that way…

No good. We’d just get tangled up.

That only left one direction to go: south. “Sternwise, men! Row!”

The Heidrun shot through the gap. The Vidofnir did not follow: she was caught by the wolfling ship. Einarr frowned, then jogged back to speak with Tyr at the rudder. “Can you get us around behind them?”

“Can? Yes. To what end?”

Einarr looked up. In that brief moment, the last of the boarding lines had fallen from his father’s ship. They plowed forward, away from Einarr and the Heidrun.

“To catch up, evidently.”

A wry smile tugged at Tyr’s mouth as leaned into the tiller once more. “As you say.”

The ship which had come to join the forward anvil changed course now, cutting across the path of its sister ships to pursue the Vidofnir.

Einarr signalled for the cadence drum to play at full speed.

A horn sounded from one of the wolfling ships, sharp and urgent. Not one of them changed course.

The horn sounded again, and again nothing happened. The wolfling was getting far too close to the Vidofnir for Einarr’s liking, but he could coax no more speed from fatigued men at the oars.

A third time the horn sounded. Reluctantly, grudgingly, the ship slowed itself and moved to rejoin its fellows. What was that all about?

There would be time to question it later. For now, he needed to rejoin his allies, as well.


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10.2 – Strategy

A note in Jorir’s voice caught Einarr’s ear. “Well, spit it out. What’s the matter?”

“Only this. How many more skirmishes like that can we take?”

Einarr frowned. “That probably depends on how many volleys we have to fire. You’re concerned about supplies, then.”

“Aye. That, and manpower.”

“You’re right, of course.” Movement caught Einarr’s eye from the deck of the Vidofnir. “That’s Bardr, signalling a conference. You, Tyr, and Eydri, and Vali with me.”

“Not that I question your wisdom, but why the ghost?”

“Same reason as Tyr. Experience.”

Jorir harrumphed but said no more.

Half an hour later, all three Captains were gathered on board the Vidofnir with their Mates and advisors. Einarr had brought the largest contingent, but neither Father nor Captain Kormund so much as batted an eye.

Stigander locked eyes with Tyr and nodded in greeting. “Tyr.”

“C- Stigander.”

“You see anyone you know on those ships?”

“One or two.”

“Good.” Stigander turned his attention now to the other Captains. “How are your crews holding out.”

“Well enough, Father, but…”

Captain Kormund shook his head. “The men are getting tired, Stigander, and we’re going to need not just food and water but arrows and pitch and bandages before long.”

Jorir made a rumbling noise that might have been a chuckle as Einarr nodded.

“Exactly. Is there still a town near Afi’s old freehold?” It had been safe enough for him to summer there after Breidelstein fell, after all.

Stigander frowned. “I haven’t heard if they recovered or not. But there’s not often a lot of news coming out of the smaller islands like that, so we might not have. And if they’re not terribly happy to see me, there were others nearby.”

“Why would they have anything to hold against us?”

Stigander raised his eyebrows. “You were there. You can’t tell me you didn’t know.”

Einarr’s answer was to look at his father with greater confusion.

The older man sighed. “Those raiders who burned the town and killed your grandparents? They were Ulfr’s men, under a false flag. Looking for us.”

“Ah.”

Nevertheless, Stigander nodded to Bardr, who stepped away to give their new heading to Arring at the tiller. That done, Stigander turned back to their conference. “Now then. Tyr, you said you caught sight of some familiar faces during the fighting?”

“Oh, aye. And some of them men I’d never have expected to see live this long, let alone taking the helm.”

Tyr settled himself on a barrel near the mast. “Let’s start with the dangerous one – the one our Singers warned us about.”

Reki scowled. “Kaldr.”

Einarr perked up. “You remember him? Was he as odd about magic before the Weaving?”

“Oh, aye. But you see, I remember his pabbi, too. Man was always blaming his own mistakes on ‘bewitchment,’ and it seemed like he was always in some sort of trouble. But however weird he is about the Arts, that’s not what makes him dangerous.”

Eydri nodded in agreement. “He’s devious as a snake, and just as bloodless.”

“You say ‘devious,’ I say ‘clever,’ and he plainly has a good head for strategy. Is he still following us?”

Einarr glanced back into the wake of their passage and pursed his lips. “Yes.”

“I’d have been more surprised if he wasn’t,” Hraerek grumbled, and Captain Kormund nodded in agreement.

“Plainly he intends to harry us into submission,” Stigander said, his arms crossed. “Just as plainly, we need time to rest the men and resupply our ships if we’re going to win back the Isles. But we’ve already set course to deal with just that. What of the others?”

“Men who, I think, would have long since retired under you or Lord Raen, that I saw. None of whom would have gained their own ship in that circumstance. I suspect the Usurper chose his Captains based on toadying and biddability more than skill. If you can believe it, Stigander, it looks like little Frothing Urek has a commission.”

Stigander snorted. “Him? The one who you could goad into a fight by disagreeing over the weather?”

“The very same.” Tyr chuckled along with his old Captain.

“I wonder if he ever grew out of that?”

“If not,” Kormund mused. “We can use that. He’s also, presumably, the sort who can’t back down?”

“If he’s the same as he used to be, yes.”

Einarr shook his head. “And he’s a Captain? Well. If he’s working under Kaldr, he’s not going to tolerate this harrying strategy. That gives us something we can try, at least.”

The conference continued in this way throughout the rest of the day as the three ships sailed for one of the outlying islands, tailed by three of the wolfling ships keeping just out of bow range. Eventually Einarr sent Vali back to the Heidrun with the plan as it existed.

“And Vali? Ask Hrug to be ready to destroy those rugs when we make landfall.”

The ghost gave a wry smile and a mocking salute before winking out of existence. Einarr shook his head and turned his attention back to their discussion.

Captain Kormund and Hraerek, his Mate, stared, agog.

“Did you… not know about him?”

Kormund cleared his throat. “I had heard you had a ghost among your crew, but…”

“But the sheer insolence of it!” Hraerek chuckled. Bardr smirked.

“Far be it for me to tell you how to run your ship…” Kormund cleared his throat, plainly intending to do just that until Stigander raised a forestalling hand.

“I’ve seen no sign since his return from Svartlauf that suggests discipline slips under his command.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Stigander nodded acknowledgement. “Be cautious, however. The friendlier you are with your crew, the worse it will be when you have to make the hard call.”

Einarr swallowed, then inclined his head in return. He had thought of that, long and hard, after taking Hrug’s hand the previous fall. But, in the end, he knew he could be no other way.

“There is one last thing we must consider, Father.”

“Oh?”

“Will our hunters strike at us in port?”


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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.

10.1 – Dawn Assault

With the tapestries in hand, Einarr had thought they might gain some time to breathe and regroup. For the space of a night, he thought he’d been right. They’d prayed the confusion in their enemies would continue and sailed all through the night, sleeping in shifts.

Einarr wakened at the break of dawn and rose, stretching, his arms still aching with fatigue from the day before. “Damn them all to Hel.”

Approaching from the East, nearly obscured by the light of the rising sun, were ships. Only a fool, at this point, would bet on these being anything other than part of the wolf fleet. Einarr cupped a hand to his mouth. “Draken incoming!

With a series of groans and muttered curses, the men of his Heidrun roused themselves. Belatedly, someone sounded the warning bell. Moments later, it was taken up by the other two ships, and soon followed by the rattling of maille as the men armed themselves.

Then it was as though meteors flew from the sun as the wolf fleet launched its first volley of fire arrows and combat was joined.

“Will we be returning fire, my lord?” Jorir asked from beside him.

Einarr frowned. It was risky, but he needed to be mindful of how many arrows they had already spent. “No, not this time.”

The dwarf merely grunted, as though he agreed. “Hold your fire, men! Shields up, be ready for the assault!”

Captain Kormund’s Eikthyrnir made the same call, veering south where Einarr veered north. In the middle, the Vidofnir plowed doggedly ahead, and she did return fire.

Einarr nodded to himself. Father should draw their fire that way. Perhaps, if they had only a little good luck, the effect of that rug would be waning. Eydri had said the Weavess had plainly needed to maintain it, and now she couldn’t.

Now came the test, though: boarding lines flew.

“Keep them off us!” Einarr bellowed. He thought he knew what Father had in mind, but for it to work he and Kormund needed to be free to engage on their own terms.

His oarsmen were nimble, and what few the shield wall could not block were handled readily by axe or by sword. Now Einarr grinned as the Wolfling ships, like their totem creature, focused their attention on the ship which decided to stand and fight.

Kormund had already zipped most of the way around the wolves’ flank as though he intended to flee. Einarr knew better, but he hoped the enemy captain did not.

As the Heidrun sailed out of the wolves’ encirclement, they passed near enough to the leader of the pack for Einarr to spot its captain, and as he did he was struck by an odd sense of unreality. The man barking orders on the deck of the other ship could be none other than the man who had stolen the women before! The Singers and Bea had all seemed to think him grounded, though. What was he doing out here? Einarr shook his head: now was not the time to worry over such matters.

In just that moment, the enemy captain looked up and straight at Einarr. The two men locked eyes, and a predatory grin spread over the mouth of the man called Kaldr.

A shiver ran along Einarr’s spine. That man knew exactly what they were trying. “Prepare to repel boarders!” Einarr ordered.

He was too late, or they were too close for it to do any good. This time the lines caught fast.

“Eydri!” At the sound of her name, the battle chanter began to Sing, and Einarr felt the familiar touch of the battle fury on his mind. With a deep breath, he forced himself to focus on the enemy ship. Giving in to the fury as a Captain was never wise. Against a man like Kaldr, he suspected it would be death.

Still, he too drew his sword, and flanked by Jorir and Naudrek stalked toward the bulwark and the wolfling ship.

In the moments their walk took, the first clash had already occurred on the ropes over the water, and then there were Wolflings on the Heidrun’s deck.

Sinmora flashed and men fell. Einarr knew his father wished to minimize casualties, but he would not spend his crew here. Not when they were seemingly no closer to gaining the Hold.

Then the smell of smoke filled the air and fire rained down on the deck of Kaldr’s ship. Now it was Einarr’s turn to grin as the wolves assaulting his ship turned in surprise.

“Press them,” he ordered, and the call was echoed by both Jorir and Naudrek.

Chaos followed as the wolflings tried to get back to their own ship in any way they could. Kormund was back with the Eikthyrnir, and whether or not Kaldr had forgotten about them, his men certainly had.

As his men climbed on the bulwark to follow, though, Kaldr’s men began to cut the lines.

“Hold,” Einarr called now. Whatever Kaldr had planned, the solution was not to charge headlong onto the man’s ship. The Singers had spoken of a man with ice in his veins, and so it might be that he would prove a harrier. If so, then the key was to pace themselves, as well.

As quickly as they had closed, the Usurper’s ships withdrew again, back the way they had come but not out of sight. Einarr scowled over the water every time they crossed his field of view, just out of engagement range. The Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir resumed their retreat under sail.

“Still,” he mused aloud, “It seems Eydri was right about that so-called rug of ‘inevitable victory.’ We caught them by surprise there.”

Jorir cleared his throat as though there was something caught in it. “Maybe so,” he grumbled. “But I’m not sure how much good it actually did us if we did.”

“He pulled back rather than risk panic in his men when Kormund joined the fray. That helps us, I think.”

“Maybe so. Maybe so.” The dwarf did not sound convinced.


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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.

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

9.32 – Food From the Mouth

Author’s Note: This marks the end of Book 9: Einarr and the Wolf’s Flame. Book 10 will pick up right where we left off on 3/10, at which point we should be finished with our move to Saipan.


Kaldr hurried down the cliff road for the harbor where his ship waited. He should have been out there already, directing the attack, not stuck up in the Hold waiting on Lord Ulfr. Thjofgrir, his mate, trailed a half-pace behind, and as they moved Kaldr confirmed that all was in readiness.

Ulfr hadn’t even wanted anything, so far as Kaldr could tell – at least, nothing worthwhile. He had been kept ashore, it seemed, only because the Lady Urdr wanted him punished for bringing all the Singers instead of just the half-trained one. Even now, though, he could not regret that. Hopefully Lord Ulfr would see soon what came of relying too much on the Arts. Even better if the Lady Urdr learned some humility: the woman was insufferable, and if she would only get out of her son’s way and be a proper matriarch Breidelstein could come back into its own.

There was no time for such musings, though. Kaldr looked out over the harbor again, trying to judge how quickly they would have to move to join the blockade. The smell of smoke tickled his nose and the alarm bells rang, but his orders were clear – and issued after the alarm was sounded. If Lord Ulfr was confident in his ability to contain the fire, who was Kaldr to gainsay that?

On the water, his sister ships had engaged the rebel vessels. It was hard to be sure, but Kaldr did not believe they had managed to board yet. He picked up his pace, in a hurry to join the hunt but unwilling to risk a tumble down the steep slope.

The blockade tightened, drawing around in an attempt to encircle the rebels, but something was wrong. Now he stopped, his throat tightening as he looked out over the stair wall. The rebel ships appeared to be charging straight forward into the blockade, but it was not possible the rebels were that stupid. I need to send up a signal…

He shook his head. In order to send a signal, he would have to climb back up to the tower and through the fire, and then hope that his smoke signal could be distinguished from the Singers’ handiwork. Not likely, that. Even if it could be, though, there was not time with the feint already in motion.

Worse, the commander out there appeared to be taking the bait. The arms of the ships started to close around the three rebel vessels. Why was Captain Beir not using fire arrows? Captives were all well and good, but only if your victory was assured already. Unless it was more of Lord Ulfr’s foolishness. He was the rightful Thane, without a doubt, but the man had an unhealthy obsession with domination and subjugation.

“We’re too late,” he said aloud, interrupting Thjofgrir’s running inventory. Now he looked up, as well.

“Are you sure?”

Out on the water, the rebel vessels changed course with an agility Kaldr had never before seen. The Eikthyrnir, he supposed, was renowned for its speed, but the Vidofnir and the Heidrun were ships after the same mold as the wolf fleet. They should not have been able to turn that quickly, nor pick up so much speed. Arrows flew from the arms of the blockade, so much wasted ammunition as they rained down on the water.

“Just watch.”

Watch they did. It was almost beautiful in its tragedy: the hind, the rooster, and the ram moved as though under a wind sent by the gods themselves, darting around and through the pack of the blockade as though they were barges. Soon – long before they could have cast off, let alone joined the fray – an answering volley shot from the decks of the retreating rebels. The jaws of the blockade snapped down on empty air, the prey escaped.

Meanwhile, Captain Beir was proving himself incompetent once again. The ships of the blockade were getting in each others’ way as they tried to turn and sail in pursuit. Even from the stair Kaldr could see wolves colliding as they tried to turn themselves. Those on the edges, he wagered, would soon leave off pursuit to untangle the mess in the center. That was none of his business, he supposed, and perhaps he was being unfair to Captain Beir. He could not help but think, though, that had he been out there where he belonged, the rebels would have been brought properly to heel.

For a long moment, Kaldr stood on the mountain path, watching as his prey escaped the net Ulfr had set. He could not deny that their escape had been beautifully executed. And they would not go far, he wagered. Come sunup, they would still be in Lord Ulfr’s waters. Likely close by, in some sheltered cove. Probably they would take a day or two, secure in the knowledge of their escape, to rest and regroup before they tried again. Two or three likely options came immediately to mind. His charts, though, were down on his ship still.

A small smile curled the corner of his mouth, almost involuntarily. “Come, Thjofgrir. It seems the hunt is on.”


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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.

9.31 – Reunion

Reki swallowed hard as Beatrix helped the battered Jarl to sit on a nearby rock before limbering her sword. The others fanned out behind Reki, ready to follow her lead. Soon she could hear the gentle swish of the oars through the water.

Soon after, hushed voices carried to her ear. Familiar ones. She blinked.

“Is that… Jorir?”

“Jorir is the dwarf, right?” Bea asked, not taking her eyes from the approaching boat. “It may well be. I’m certain the other is -”

“Einarr!” Runa started forward, half running to the bank and peering ahead. Reki could hardly blame her, under the circumstances.

Before long, they could all see the occupants of the boat. Einarr and Jorir looked just as tense as the women all felt, even as they went over their own plans between themselves. Perhaps, Reki corrected, because of what those plans were.

Einarr gave a visible start when his eyes passed over their group, and his face brightened. “Runa! …Jorir, quickly now! It’s the Singers.”

Bea frowned at that description, but said nothing as the nearly-empty boat came aground in front of them.

Einarr hardly waited for the hull to scrape to a halt before he vaulted over the bulwark. His boots splashed in the shallow water, and half a moment later he embraced his betrothed. Reki allowed herself a wry half-smile.

“It seems the Norns really do smile upon our work,” she said.

Einarr pulled back from his embrace to grin at Runa, his hands still on her shoulders. “Sivid likes to say that they always correct their weave.”

Eydri nodded. “Based on what we’ve seen, Urdr is overdue for a ‘correction.’ Even still, how did you get through?”

“A hope and a prayer, Eydri. A hope and a prayer.”

What is that supposed to mean? “More importantly, why are you here? You can’t have known we were in need of a boat.”

Einarr shrugged. “I thought to work some sabotage… but it looks like you may have done more already than we could.” His eyes lit on Jarl Hroaldr. “I’m glad to see you’re safe. Father will be, as well.”

The old man nodded from his perch on a rock. “It’s good to see the sun again.”

Before the greetings could draw out any further, Reki broke in. “Did you bring the Örlögnir?”

Einarr blinked, then shook his head. “Truth be told, I’m a little afraid to touch it. What if I only get to use it once?”

“It’s a chance we’re going to have to take. One of these cloths is something she called a Weaving of Inevitable Victory.”

Einarr cursed. “So that’s why we’ve been having so much trouble.”

“Exactly. It’s protected somehow, or we’d have wrecked it ourselves.”

Jorir grumbled. “So what happens if Wotan shows up to claim the bloody thing after we undo this Certain Victory rug?”

“Then we hope that’s what it was needed for, and our dear Cursebreaker can find a different means of breaking the binding itself. What else can we do? The Vidofnir will never break through with this thing in effect.”

Aema cleared her throat. “Even so, we should be going. I don’t know how long that fire will serve to keep them from looking for us.”

A look of worry flashed over Einarr’s face, but he shook it off. “You’re right. Climb aboard, and let’s all get back to the ships.”


Einarr was dismayed to see that the ships were still – or, perhaps, again – locked in combat with Ulfr’s wolf fleet. Einarr could not be certain which, not least because each and every one of the ships was marked the same way.

With great care, the boat carrying all nine of them circled wide around the pack of wolves that beset the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir, looking for a gap in the line. Their only hope was to slip unnoticed past the attackers, just as they had on their way out.

This time, though, they had the Singers and an additional sword hand, should things come to fighting.

Einarr whispered a prayer that things not come to fighting. There was almost no room to maneuver on their deck with so many aboard, especially with the condition the Jarl was in.

Einarr directed them closer in. Their allies were not circled: that suggested that they were not truly surrounded. If that was the case…

“Jorir, do you see what I see?”

“I believe I do, Lord.”

“Bring us closer. We’ve got to get to the Heidrun.”

The dwarf harrumphed as though that were obvious, but he and Beatrix both put their backs into the oars and turned the boat.

The sounds of pitched battle from the decks of their ships soon drowned out the noise of their oars in the water, even for them; they rowed faster. Before long, the hull of their landing skiff bumped against the hull of the Heidrun.

“Oy!” Einarr called up, cupping a hand by his mouth. “Someone throw us a rope!”

He had to repeat this call twice, and was about to a third time, before a knotted rope twisted through the air to fall within reach. Einarr paused a moment, surveying his crew, trying to decide who to send up first.

“Just go,” Bea said. “They need you and your dwarf friend first. I can carry a few stragglers if I need to.”

“Thanks, Bea.”

Without another moment’s hesitation, Einarr started up the rope hand-over-hand, Jorir right behind him.


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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.

9.30 – Search

Author’s Note: My apologies for the long delay. I got about 3 hours sleep on our redeye flight from Pago Pago, and then couldn’t stay awake well enough to finish while we were in Honolulu. We’re safely ensconced in Portland now, so Thursday’s chapter should be more or less on time. My hope is to have book 9 finished before we fly to Saipan in the middle of February.


Reki threw open the door to Urdr’s workroom with a bang, just in time to see the old woman disappearing through the door they had seen earlier. She raced across the floor, the others hard on her heels, but even if the room had not been littered with baskets of thread they would not have made it in time. Halfway there, she heard the sound of a key turning in a lock.

Reki stopped and swore. Bea continued on, heedless, and slammed the hilt of her sword into the door as though she intended to break it down.

“Bea. We don’t have time for that.”

She took another swing at the door, leaving a pommel-shaped divot in the wood. “What are you talking about? We can’t just let her get away!”

“Bea! We do not have time for that. How long do you really think we have before more guards show up? You yourself said your fight in the stairwell was not quiet.” Reki took a deep breath. “The important thing right now is to get the tapestry. Even if we can’t destroy it, Einarr has the distaff.”

Eydri had already moved to the nearest of the cupboards that lined the walls and was glancing over the smaller tapestries stored inside. “Don’t we already know which one we really need?”

“You mean the one on the loom, that looks like it shows what already happened this morning?” Aema answered, tossing a cloth over her arm even as she unrolled another. Urdr had been nothing if not prolific.

Reki surveyed the cloths hanging from the wall, searching for images she was reasonably sure she didn’t want to leave in the crone’s possession. “I’d assumed that was part of the trap.”

“Why would it be?”

“Because it would be too easy otherwise. And because everything else we saw when we walked in was.”

Runa hummed. “She was pretty confident her toughs could capture us, though. And if that’s the case, and she has to work on that weaving regularly – which I expect she would – then why would she put a fake tapestry on her loom? It seems like an awful lot of work for not much benefit.”

Reki shrugged one shoulder. “It can’t hurt to take it. Bea, would you?”

“Gladly.”

The warrior princess straightened her tunic as she stepped away from the locked door and toward the loom that was the centerpiece of the room. As she moved, she brought her sword around and down. The last few steps she ran, bringing the blade up into an overhand chop.

It struck the center of the tapestry with a clang, as though she were striking steel. Bea frowned.

Svana hummed. “And here I thought it was probably bravado when she said we couldn’t damage the thing.”

“Evidently not,” Reki mused. “All right. In that case… Runa, Svana, give Bea a hand getting that down.” It was gratifying that none of them questioned her. Even Eydri, and Reki’d had some worries about working with her.

There was one other thing they needed to do before they absconded down to the harbor, however. Reki turned her attention from the tapestries hanging on the walls to the sconces between them. The room seemed to be lit by lamps, however, and an oil-soaked wick would never do what she wanted.

Before she could venture out into the hallway behind them, though, she heard voices. Grimacing, she pulled it mostly closed behind her and watched through the crack to see what they would have to deal with.

The tromp of boots came, and went, and the two men in the hall wagered over whether the godawful shriek they’d heard earlier had been someone named Frotti tripping over a rat or a cat in heat. Worst guards ever? …No. Listen. Watch. Wait.

The footsteps tromped on, though, and soon enough she could not hear them anymore. Cautiously, Reki poked her head outside the door. The men were nowhere to be seen. She snatched the torch from the sconce by the door and disappeared back into the workroom.

“You have it?” She demanded.

“Nearly there,” Svana answered, undoing a knot.

“Good. We’re going to have company soon.”

“There! That should do it.” Runa unhooked another thread and the whole thing collapsed like a sail with no wind. The three women bringing it down crumpled it into a rough tube and tossed it over Bea’s shoulders.

Reki stalked forward, her torch in hand, as she heard noises of alarm from the hall behind them. Someone, she would wager, had spotted the blood. She raised the torch and laid the flame to the wood of Urdr’s loom.

Unlike the Oracle’s, this loom was not magical in and of itself. Before long, the aged timber began to blacken and smoke. As flames rose from the loom, Reki lit each of the cabinets, then tossed the torch into a basket of thread. “Run.”


Reki had led her circle of women down into the dugeons below the tower by the time she heard the clangor of alarm bells. She made a mental note to never try to manipulate fate. If this was any indication, when a Weaver’s misdeeds unravel it happens all at once. A Singer’s misdeeds, though….

She shook her head. Focus. “Runa! Lead on. Get us out of here!”

The apprentice took the lead, and it was good she did. Reki was not certain, in her circumstances, whether she could have. They pelted through twisting dungeon corridors, panting under the weight of their stolen tapestries. Runa only had to pause a handful of times to remember her route.

At one point Runa hesitated. A man’s groans could be heard echoing down the hallway, and the smell of smoke tickled her nostrils. Her father? Reki took a deep breath. “Go ahead. I’m not sure I trust them to remember the prisoners anyway.”

The man who emerged from the cell Runa opened bore little resemblance to the man Reki had met, briefly, the previous spring. Though dirty, haggard, and as wan as though he had been the victim of Urdr’s ministrations, Jarl Hroaldr retained his proud bearing.

“Can you run?” Runa asked, anxious. When her father shook his head, she turned pleading eyes to Bea.

“Of course I’ll help.”

There was some shifting of loads, but when they’d finished Bea carried the Jarl on her back, his arms slung over her shoulders, and Runa led the way out into the bright light of day.

When they emerged from the dimness of the tunnels they found themselves halfway down the cliff, on a tiny trail that might sometimes see use by wild animals. Their progress slowed now, as they picked their way down the rocky path, sometimes pressing their backs against the rock wall for balance.

Finally they made it to the bottom of the cliff. Just ahead was a small river, or perhaps a large creek, flowing out towards the harbor. Runa stopped at the water’s edge and looked about anxiously.

“There’s no boat, though.”

“Maybe if we walk downstream?” Eydri ventured.

“I’m not sure anyone knew about this place other than those two….”

Reki cleared her throat. “Look again.”

There, rowing quietly up the waterway, a boat approached.


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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.