Category: Einarr Stiganderson

9.18 – Search

They kept the shutters open that night after they returned to their newly-swept, properly bedded prison, even after extinguishing the lamps they themselves used and retiring. Each one lay still under the covers, listening to the night sounds and watching as the light from outside shifted ever closer to natural moonlight.

As the midnight hour approached, as they had all agreed, they rose and slipped noiselessly toward the door. There was very little time before their three ships approached the harbor, and as they expected they, too, had a part to play in retaking Breidelstein.

The guard had dutifully locked the door, but that was only a small impediment. As Aema Sang the man to sleep, Bea slid the blade of her knife through the crack between the door and the frame to slide the lock open. Before long, snores emanated from outside their door. Bea rose and, with a nod from the other women, opened the door.

Outside, the hold was thoroughly asleep. Ulfr had suggested that his mother’s Art had more than a little to do with his strength in battle, which meant there was likely a tapestry. Now all they had to do was find it and destroy it. Unfortunately, they had been here less than a day and had seen almost nothing of the Hold.

Taking a stab in the dark, Reki led them towards the main hall. Urdr was an old crone, and Reki did not doubt for an instant that Ulfr’s excuse regarding her joints had the benefit of truth. It would make sense, then, if she kept her loom and her thread close by.

Once inside, the six split up into two teams. Runa and Aema went with Reki to the next building down, while the other three took the hall where they had dined with the usurper.

Said building seemed to be, in fact, the larder. “I’d be shocked if we found anything here,” Aema muttered.

“You and me both.” Reki sighed. “But better to have a look now than discount it and have to come back.”

Dutifully the three women set to exploring the larder. Based on what she saw, Reki hoped the usurper didn’t eat like they had every night, although she wasn’t going to bet on it. The only thing that resembled a proper Hold’s larder was the quantity of food: the quality of most of that food would have seen paupers looking askance. A cloud of gnats emerged from the bag of onions Reki had just discovered was beginning to rot.

“My Lady Runa,” Aema said with a sigh. “You’ve been here longer than we have. I don’t suppose you have any insight?”

“Not unless she does her Weaving near the dungeon. When I escaped, my rescuers and I went straight for a boat.”

Reki hummed. ‘Rescuers’ was an interesting term to use for those poor sots, although she suspected they’d deserved what they got. But so long as Runa made no move to break the taboo again, she would let it be. That said, the dungeon seemed almost as unlikely a place for a loom as the larder.

“About the dungeon, though…”

“Of course we’ll aim to free Lord Hroaldr while we’re here, my Lady.” Aema seemed to know exactly what was on the girl’s mind, for which Reki was glad.

She came up short in front of the far end of the long building. No secret compartments, no hidden passages, just moldering vegetables and well-cured meats. “Well, that’s this building done. On to the next.”

Each group went through another building this way before the sky began to lighten and they called a halt for the night. They walked back as silently as they had left their comfortable prison, ready to slip back in unnoticed and make their excuses for fatigue when the rest of the hold awakened.

It was not to be. A man leaned against the wall by the closed, but not locked, door where the sleeping guard had slumped, his arms folded over his chest and his ankles crossed. As they approached his features grew clearer in the deep twilight before false dawn. He looked up at them from under lowered brows, his nose a pale dagger pointed toward the ground. It was Kaldr.

“An odd time for a stroll, ladies.”

Reki stopped and straightened, drawing back her shoulders. “Captain Kaldr. What brings you out here?”

“I heard music as I prepared myself for sleep, and thought ‘surely they cannot be so dim as all that?’ I regret to see I was wrong.”

“We required the use of the privy,” Svana said, thinking quickly. “And thought it best not to go alone, under the circumstances.”

“Oh, truly?” Kaldr stood up off the wall, his voice frankly disbelieving. “And it takes a group of six women six whole hours to complete a trip to the privy?”

Reki stared at him a long moment, taking his measure. This was the man who declared his hatred of Song – of all Arts, really, based on his argument in the Hall. Her odds of persuading him seemed slim at best. “What do you intend to do?”

“Tonight? When all you managed to do was tire yourselves out and pick up the smell of old onions? Nothing. Just know that, even if you manage to bypass the guard on your chambers, I will be watching you.”

“We will take that under consideration.”

Kaldr grunted and stalked off into the early morning dimness. None of them moved until he had disappeared into another of the buildings within the ring fort. Then Reki stepped quickly, the other five hard on her heels. None of them felt secure until the door was once more shut and bolted behind them.

“Well.” Bea said as she flopped down on her bedding. “That one is more observant than we gave him credit for. What are we going to do about him?”

Reki lowered her eyes and shook her head. “We were insufficiently cautious tonight. Tomorrow night we will be prepared. I just don’t know how yet.”


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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.

9.17 – Weavess

Reki was arrested, briefly, by the sharp cunning in the old crone’s eyes – eyes that, were she to let her guard down at all, would see through any plan she might concoct. They would have to be careful.

“The pleasure is ours, I’m sure,” Reki purred, offering a slight bow in the other woman’s direction.

Urdr, the weavess who bound all of Breidelstein to the will of herself and her two-faced son, merely hummed before turning her attention back to the table before them.

Ulfr blanched a little, then swallowed before continuing. “Please, be seated, and tell me what brings such a delegation of Singers to my waters?”

Reki’s mouth curled up in what was half a smile, half a sneer as she approached the table. He intended to play stupid, did he? That would never do. “Surely you cannot expect me to believe you are unaware of the ships we rode on to come here? The Lady Runa is one of our apprentices, yes, but I am attached to the Vidofnir, Eydri is attached to the ship led by not just your nephew but by Runa’s betrothed, and Aema is attached to the leader of the ships out of Kjell.”

Ulfr raised an eyebrow. “That accounts for three – well, four, of you. What of the others?”

Reki laughed as musically as she knew how. If the man was even half so stupid as he pretended to be, she might be able to charm him. “Svana signed on with the Eikthyrnir, captained by an old friend of your half-brother’s, and Ria is an apprentice who happened to be traveling with them. And I assure you, after all that has happened? Making nice with the Matrons is the least of your worries.”

The man stared at her, thin-lipped, as he took his seat at the head of the table. The throne, interestingly. He was perhaps not so confident in his rule as he pretended to be.

The other women all stood at ease around the table now. With poise and grace she could be proud of, each of them sat. Not one of them reached forward for the wooden mug – filled with who-knew-what – or their trancheon to fill it with meat.

The usurper gestured, and suddenly thralls swarmed about the table, lading everyone’s trancheons until they were piled high with venison, fish, bread, and more braised vegetables than Reki could count. She offered a thin-lipped smile to her hosts and their thralls, but did not stint on filling her belly. There was more food, she thought, than all the crew of the Vidofnir could have eaten at one sitting, and she wondered whose idea that was.

Ulfr, once they had all finished their first cup, smiled a little more loosely, as though he thought himself safe enough to speak now. “I understand you may bear some loyalty to your respective Captains, but it really is hopeless you know.”

Eydri smirked. “Oh? Are the vagabonds, who spend all their seasons out raiding and fighting, really so much weaker than your little navy, kept at home every season just in case your half-brother decides to try for your throne?”

“Not at all.” A grin split Ulfr’s face. There was nothing at all pleasant about it. “It’s just that my victory is certain. I cannot lose.”

“There is no-one in this world whose victory is certain – not ever,” Aema snapped. “The Norns will not allow it.”

“But what, then, of Oracles? Do they not foretell the future? And should they foretell victory, is that not certain?”

“I think you will find,” Reki purred. “That Oracles very rarely speak of victories and defeats.” Certainly the one on Attilsund, according to Lord Stigander, had shown the results of battle only incidentally.

“But Oracles, I’m sure you know, have sworn a very particular oath. Most weavers are under no such compunction.”

Reki’s white eyebrows rose. “I’m surprised you know so much about the Oracles.”

Ulfr scoffed. “Please. Mother went through her apprenticeship, as all proper Weavers must. The Elven Oracles are famously extreme.”

“If your lady Mother went through her proper apprenticeship, then she must be intimately familiar with the ways of the Norns and of fate…” Svana ventured.

Good. Get the old woman talking. Reki inhaled and tried not to hold her breath, waiting for Urdr to finally speak.

“Aye,” the old woman croaked, then returned to eating in silence. Reki saw her disappointment mirrored in the faces of those around her.

“Mother.” Ulfr’s voice was half-scolding, half-pleading. “What’s the harm in sharing? They, too, are enchantresses.”

“Their Art is different,” Urdr croaked.

“The mysteries of Song and the mysteries of Cloth are two separate things. You cannot enchant a rug by singing at it, just as you cannot strengthen a man by Weaving at him,” Runa answered – and not by rote, Reki was pleased to hear. The girl had been learning, after all.

“Bah! Fine, then,” Ulfr said, throwing up a hand. “Well then I’ll tell you -”

“You shall not!” Urdr shot to her feet, and it was as though lightning shot from her eyes at her son. “Speak no more, idiot boy, and allow us to enjoy our meal in peace.”

Ulfr, cowed, shrank back into his throne. “Yes, mother.”

Tcheh. Too bad, that. Ulfr had been looking for a chance to boast, and probably hadn’t really cared that the women at table with him were his enemies. It was even possible he didn’t think they were a threat, despite being enemies. Some men were stupid that way, and it began to look as though Ulfr were one of them.

Afterwards, they ate in silence for some time. “Lady Urdr,” Bea ventured at one point, but was silenced by a look even deadlier than the one given Ulfr. Urdr would be a formidable opponent.

Reki hid a vulpine grin behind the rim of her mug. This was going to be fun.


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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.

9.16 – Accomodations

The thrall led them in silence to a decently sized outbuilding, bowing and scraping so servilely that Reki wondered if he were a man or a dog. As he opened the door, the musty smell of old straw and dust assailed her nose, and the dust inside looked like it had not been disturbed in a good many years. The thrall bowed deeply again, gesturing for the women to enter. Trying not to show her disgust – indeed, trying to breathe as little as she had to, so as not to sneeze – Reki stepped across the threshold.

Eydri and Aema entered as serenely as Reki could have hoped for. Even Runa and Beatrix only showed a moment’s hesitation before entering the building that was to be their – temporary – prison. It was, of all people, plump little Svana who protested.

“You can’t seriously -” she started, then interrupted herself with a sneeze. The poor thrall looked dejected and a little panicky, as though he expected he would be blamed if they would not stay here.

“Yes, Svana, we can.” Eydri’s tone made it sound as though she were speaking to a small child.

Reki could sympathize, but that was hardly the way to speak to an ally. With forced brightness, she smiled at the Singer from the Eikthyrnir. “We’ll open the shutters, and Runa can give it a thorough sweep. After that, it should be lovely, don’t you think?”

When the other woman gave her an incredulous look, Reki raised her eyebrows. Even if their next option wasn’t the dungeon, they were unlikely to find a space as congenial as this for their purposes.

“Yes, I suppose,” she said finally, picking up her skirt and stepping gingerly into the dust of ages. With a relieved sigh, the thrall Agnar bowed again and closed the door behind them. Reki heard the tell-tale scrape of a lock sliding into place. As expected.

The others had already begun opening the shutters, very likely the first real daylight these chambers had seen in a decade or more. Still, there was more than enough room for the six of them to sleep on the benches – although if another thrall did not come by, they might be forced to request bedding and a washbasin from the Usurper at supper. That would gall, although it was plain he had not expected anyone other than Runa.

“Well, ladies,” she said, turning on her heel. “It seems we have work to do.”

Runa’s shoulders slumped now that she was out of view of Ulfr’s men. “Here I’d just broken free of this place… What work is that?”

Reki smirked. “Did you hear what that cold fish of a captain was saying? I think the Norn’s work.”

“We’re here, and plainly he only wanted you, Runa. That means something is already starting to unravel,” Eydri said, gesturing vaguely upwards with one hand.

Svana looked at her sidelong. “Wordplay? Someone’s confident.”

Eydri laughed. “I signed on with the Cursebreaker’s ship. I may not be a warrior, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in honors and glory.”

“Speaking of warriors… Beatrix, I don’t think they realize you’re not one of us.” Reki turned her attention to the lone warrior among them.

The Imperial Princess smiled ruthlessly. “Nor do I. For now, call me Ria and make me an ‘apprentice.’ So long as they don’t demand I Sing, we should be able to keep that little trump card to ourselves.”

Reki grinned. “Ria, is it? You’ve done this sort of thing before.”

“On purpose, even.”

“Runa,” Aema started, hesitantly. “What was it they were trying to get out of you when you escaped?”

“Anything and everything I knew about Lord Stigander and Einarr.” She shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. Aema reached out to pat her arm.

The lock slid open. Six sets of eyes turned to look at the opening door to their filthy room, but it was only Agnar again.

“S-s-s-s-sauna,” he stammered in a wet, nasally voice, bowing and gesturing for them to leave the hut. That explained why he hadn’t tried to talk before, at least.

Reki put on her best haughty Singer expression and strode forward, trusting the others to follow at the promise of a bath. “Thank you, Agnar,” she said. “Please have blankets and pillows fetched, and a wash basin and chamber pot if you would. Oh, and kindly ask someone to sweep the floors.”

“Y-y-y-y-yes, Lady.” He bowed more deeply, and then led the six women to freshen up before supper with the Usurper and the Weavess.


When, at sunset, the six of them were escorted once more under guard to the main hall, they found it dimly lit, with a candelabrum at either end of the trestle table and another, smaller, sitting in the middle. The Usurper and the Weavess were already seated. The Usurper, at least, did them the honor of rising to greet them. “My apologies,” he said, sounding insincere. “Mother is old and her joints aren’t what they used to be.”

The Singers murmured platitudes, insisting they were not offended – and, of everything they had faced so far, it was among the least offensive matters.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Ladies, I would like to present to you my mother, the Weavess Urdr. It is thanks to her hard work that Breidelstein is as peaceful and prosperous as you have seen.”

Reki had to work not to snort at that. Peaceful, maybe, but only because the people had grown accustomed to the boot on their necks. Prosperous? Hardly.

Urdr, as she was named, was an ancient, nearly toothless old crone with dirty gray hair and a sharp nose. Her mouth was puckered in a look of constant disapproval. Her eyes, though, Reki did not miss. She may be old – ancient, even – but that was the sharp look of a young woman who missed nothing. If her son was a wolf, she was a falcon, ready to stoop.


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.

9.15 – Ulfr

The oversized wooden door opened inwards before the group of women and their so-called honor guard to reveal an equally oversized hall. As Reki strode forward, her shoulders squared, at the head of her companions her impression was of walking through a great, empty cavern. Their soft-soled boots still managed to echo through the stone room. There did not even appear to be trestles for a long table, although it was possible those were merely stored elsewhere in a hold such as this.

At the far end of the hall stood the Thane’s seat, large and ornately carved oak, polished to a shine. As they drew closer, Reki noted that there were no cushions on the chair, and wondered if the lack of a rug – or any furnishings, really – was truly the desire of the man sitting, slumped, in the worn seat.

If she had not known he was Stigander’s half-brother, she never would have guessed. The man looked not unlike his name suggested: a rangy, scrappy lone wolf who had to fight for what he needed and steal what he wanted. His ashen brown hair fell across his face, hiding his eyes, and a sharp nose poked out from above a thin beard.

In front of the throne, the Captain of the boat that had brought them in was giving his report. “Sire, you rely too thoroughly on your mother’s bits of cloth! There is no honor in all this skulking about.”

“That’s enough, Captain Kaldr. I’ll hear no more against her, or her Weavings. They have never yet betrayed me.” Ulfr surged to his feet before his liege man, but the anger quieted from his face almost as quickly.

“My Lord -”

“No. More. See to your ship, Kaldr. Let me focus on our next moves.”

Captain Kaldr bowed deeply, and Reki caught a glimpse of cold disapproval on the man’s face when it was hidden from his Lord. Interesting. When he straightened, however, his face was calm once again, and the captain strode from the room without so much as a glance at Reki and her companions.

Ulfr, no longer confronted by a man at arms with a message he disliked, paced restlessly, his eyes watching the approaching women. He looked even more like a wolf now than he had before. The leader of the honor guard reached ten paces from the throne and knelt before his Thane.

“Rise,” Ulfr sneered. “Who are these?”

The guard leader stood but did not look his Lord in the face, a fact that Reki filed away for later consideration. “These,” he said, emphasizing the word, “Are the Singers that were aboard the three rebel ships.”

Rebel? It seemed an odd choice of words to Reki, but that was hardly the point to challenge the Usurper on. If she challenged him, today. It might be better to pretend servility, at least until she could figure out what was going on. Her eyes darted to either side: Runa was on her left, and Bea on her right. It was a struggle not to shake her head at her own thoughts. Neither of them would be able to feign that.

“The only one I wanted was Runa Hroaldrsdottir. Why do you trouble me with the others?”

The second in command of the honor guard looked embarrassed and started to speak, but his leader surreptitiously elbowed him in the ribs.

“My Lord, they are three ships and they carried no fewer than six Singers, once you count in the young Lady Runa. By capturing all of them, we have dealt your foes a major blow.”

Ulfr stared disdainfully at the man who had spoken. “Tell me. Your own Captain forbids Song Magic aboard. What makes you think no other ship can fight without it?”

He only stammered a little, Reki noted, before he parroted back the same idea Kaldr had used on board his ship. “Reliance on Magic makes them weak, sir. Without it, they’ll be no threat.”

Ulfr snorted but did not try to correct the man. Probably adjudged it as impossible as changing Kaldr’s mind on the subject. “Very well. This was uneccessary, but acceptable tactics nonetheless.”

Finally Ulfr turned his attention to the captives, and all trace of the hungry wolf disappeared from his demeanor save a slight stoop to his shoulders. Reki pasted a sickly-sweet smile on her face, waiting to see how he would try to play this.

“Ladies. Welcome to my court. My sincerest apologies for any unpleasantness you may have faced along the way: I’m afraid Captain Kaldr has some rather… unorthodox ideas.”

Unorthodox. That was the word. Was he really going to try to pretend that he hadn’t just had that conversation right in front of them? Well, two could play at that game. She kept the smile plastered to her face. “No trouble at all, Lord. Your invitation was most gracious.”

“How could I do otherwise, with such a delegation of Singers in my waters? I assure you, any discomfort you may have endured on the Mánagarmr will be remedied here in my Hall. Have they given you rooms yet? …No, they couldn’t have, could they.” He clapped his hands. Moments later a thrall appeared, the dark circles under his eyes the only color Reki could see on the man. “See to it they have comfortable chambers, and have the sauna heated. I trust the Lady Runa would prefer to remain with her father?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Reki saw the apprentice blanch. Not that she would have let them separate her anyway. “That will not be necessary,” she purred. “The Lady Runa has training we must see to, even at a time such as this.”

Ulfr offered her a gallant, if shallow, bow. “As my lady wishes. Agnar here will show you to your chambers. If it is not too much trouble, I would ask that you all join Mother and I for supper this evening.”

“We should be delighted.”


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.

A Ghost Story for the Holidays

Once upon a time, ghost stories were big all winter long, not just at Halloween. (I’m pretty sure this is how we ended up with the Three Ghosts of Christmas, actually.) So, in keeping with the tradition, I’m happy to announce that Einarr and the Althane’s Masquerade is now live, just in time for holiday shopping and gift giving!

At the moment it’s only available on Amazon. I will update this post in a few days when I get a live link from Books2Read.

Linky links:

New cover for EInarr and the Jotunhall
Cover for Einarr and the Oracle of Attilsund
Cover for Einarr and the Althane's Masquerade

And, just in case you haven’t been to the Books page, here’s an Amazon link for my first book, Advent of Ruin, as well.

Cover for Advent of Ruin

All of these links are also available on my Books page, as well as the back-cover blurb for each of them.

Updated, 12/2/2019: As of now, the paperback is live on Amazon, and the universal book link for Apple, Kobo, etc. is also live! Ebook and paperback should be linked within the next few days, but for now that will get you to a dead-tree version.

9.14 – Breidelstein

The captain of the wolf-headed boat they rode on finally deigned to introduce himself to the circle of Singers he had aboard when the noon sun hung high in the sky. The man wore a wolf pelt over his shoulders, pinned to the cloth of his tunic with gold-and-ivory pins. Reki raised an eyebrow: somehow, given how long she had been left to bake in the sun, she had not expected the Captain to be wealthy enough for such ostentation. Her eyes ached from the brightness, and she had accepted hours ago that she would have a painful sunburn to deal with.

Still, even beyond the rich pins, the Captain was not the sort of man she would have expected. He seemed almost bloodless, of the sort who is nearly impossible to rattle, as he actually looked down his nose at his distinguished ‘guests’ standing before him, encircled by their ‘honor guard’ and denied even a shawl or a cloak for shade. “Good day to you, ladies,” he began. “I hope you are enjoying your stay aboard my ship?”

“It’s lovely,” Reki answered through clenched teeth. She struggled not to squint at the man. “Although the accommodations seem a little spare. Tell me, are all of your lord’s guests treated so warmly?”

The corner of his lip curled in a sneer. “I should think you would be glad of the light. It can’t be healthy, being always hidden away from view like that.” Reki seethed, but the man wasn’t done. “You should be honored. You are the first sorcerers of any stripe to set foot on my deck, and you’re being escorted to the Lord himself. A rare honor indeed.”

Bea stepped forward. “Now wait just a moment-”

“Hold your tongue, woman.”

Beatrix was so surprised she actually did.

“I do not hold with the use of Song, or of any of the other so-called Arts. They make men disinclined to rely on their own power. That I have allowed not one but six of you aboard is a testament to my devotion to Thane Ulfr. While you are aboard you will not be ill-treated, but neither will you be allowed to wander about at your leisure, nor to conceal your doings. I do not trust those who can so freely manipulate men’s hearts. Some call this a failing: I call it wisdom. And now, please, I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey. We should reach port early on the morrow.”

As the Captain turned on his heel and stepped away, his boots clicking on the deck as though he were perpetually walking on stones, Reki’s jaw dropped.

Runa’s face had gone red, and not from the sun. “Who does he think,” she started to mutter.

“Well.” Eydri said, sounding as nonplussed as Reki felt. “That explains a few things.”

“More than I cared to know, truth be told,” Reki answered. “How does a man like that come to be a captain at all – let alone a rich one?”

Aema shook her head. “Does it matter? We know now that we’re stuck like this until he sees fit to escort us up to Raenshold. Here, Reki, you can at least sit in my shadow. It’s not much, but…”

“Thank you Aema. I’ll take you up on that.” Reki shifted a little bit and sank down onto the deck. The other woman’s shadow was poor shade at best, but it was still better than nothing.


Breidelstein harbor was broad and deep, with high cliffs rising to either side and up behind the port town itself. As they drew near, a path up the cliffs became visible, and Reki got her first glimpse of Raenshold where it squatted over the port like an overprotective hound.

The town was unnaturally subdued as they were led through it under armed guard, and it had nothing to do with the six of them. If it had, the people they passed would have either stared or pointedly looked away. Instead, they went on with their day as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on. A surprisingly high portion of the city appeared unwell. Malnourished, really. It was as though Ulfr had proven to be unskillful at rulership after he seized the reins of power.

Reki snorted quietly and suppressed a smirk – not at the people’s misfortune, but at the fate common to usurpers. Would men never learn? Leadership was a skill like any other, and rulership passed from father to son so that the skill could be taught. Would be taught, barring gross incompetence, as a consequence of raising the heir.

The walk up the road leading to the Hall was steep even after accounting for the switchbacks. No matter what else Reki wanted to say about Stigander’s father, the man had good tactical sense. This may well have been one of the most defensible locations she had ever seen. Were it not for the Weaver’s treachery, it might never have fallen.

She glanced over. Beatrix walked between the rest of them and the sheer drop below, as though she, too, were guarding them. She couldn’t help but like the Imperial Princess, so very different from the Lady Runa and not just in culture. How she could have been mistaken for a Singer was a mystery none of them had an answer to yet, but for her part Reki was glad to have someone along who thought like a warrior. Later, when they finally slipped the leash of their guards, they could wonder about things like that. Right now, though, Reki needed to be preparing herself to face lord Stigander’s half-brother.

It felt impossible, and yet she knew it was not, not truly. All she knew about the man she had learned from the Lay, but that should be enough to extrapolate from. That and the (ahem) quality of the man who had been sent to capture them. And she was almost out of time: the grim stone walls of Raenshold towered over their party now. Their so-called honor guard did not slow as they neared the gate, though Reki wished they might. The time was at hand.


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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.

9.13 – Reki

Reki awoke with a groan, laying on bare wood planks. She pressed a hand to her head as she raised herself up on one arm, only to realize two things. First, her cloak was gone, her delicate skin exposed to the sun it could ill tolerate. Second, she was not aboard the Vidofnir any longer. A circle of armored men carrying spears stood in a circle about where she lay. No, not she – they. She was not alone: laying near her were Runa, Beatrix, Eydri, Aema, and Svana. None of them appeared to have been harmed: at least this ‘Usurper’ had that much good sense.

Aema was beginning to stir, as well, as was Eydri. Reki had hoped to put off dealing with Eydri a little longer: she had not missed the woman’s reaction when they were introduced, although she did not think she had ever met the other Singer before. Well, no matter: they were all in this together, now, and it would be good to get a read on what the Empire was up to. Why was Beatrix here, though?

Aema opened her eyes first, and the way she lay she met Reki’s gaze immediately. Reki raised one snow-white finger to her lips. The guards had not yet realized they were awake, which meant they had some time to observe relatively unimpeded. Aema nodded as she sat up, not even tapping the deck boards with a hand for balance. The Brunning’s Singer may not be much of a scholar, but she was an excellent ally.

The ship outside their little prisoner’s circle appeared much like any other longship Reki had been aboard. Warriors moved about their business in an unhurried manner, those who had business to attend to. They were under sail, though, so most of them had broken off into their own little groups to pass the time with dice or japes or other foolery. Other than the circle of guards, only one thing really stood out, and that was the wolf’s head atop the prow. But why would Ulfr be aboard a random ship out searching for the apprentice?

She could not answer that, not without coming face to face with the man, and she wasn’t ready to do that yet.

Eydri moaned and rolled over on her side, much as Reki had done not long before. By whatever chance, though, she rolled away from the two who were already awake. As Eydri sat up, possibly before she had even opened her eyes to see their circumstances, she spoke recognizably. “What happened?”

Reki saw one of the guards glance, disinterestedly, over his shoulder. “Lord Ulfr wishes to welcome you all to Breidelsteinn. We have been sent to escort you to Raenshold, where he holds court.”

Reki sighed and cast an irritated glance at the other Singer but said nothing about it. She didn’t think there was much more to be learned from that observation, anyway. “How are you feeling,” she murmured instead.

“My head feels like someone spiked Eisbock with mushrooms, but otherwise I’m fine.”

Aema shook her head. “Neither ale nor mushrooms, I think. The herb-witches on Kjell have a powder they mix with vinegar that will put people out. This seems similar.”

Reki nodded: she had encountered the stuff, albeit only briefly. “I think you’re right. Are we agreed, though, that we’re prisoners here, not guests?”

The other two women nodded, and Reki was glad to confirm she wasn’t paranoid.

“Good. …I wonder if they were instructed to take us all? Certainly their main target had to be the young one.”

“The Lady Runa?” Aema muttered. “Almost definitely. I’m sure sooner or later we’ll be ‘greeted’ by their Captain. At least, we will if they want to keep up the pretense.”

Reki hummed. “You both know, don’t you, that we’ll need to keep an eye on the Lady apprentice, right?”

Eydri set her lips in a line. “Undoubtedly. I wonder if we shouldn’t warn her intended.”

Reki shook her head. “Not yet, I don’t think. …Oh, look. Good morning, Svana.”

The Singer from the Eikthyrnir was waking up, shaking her head and taking in her surroundings silently. “So they followed the apprentice when she escaped, I wager.”

“How else would they have caught up so quickly?” Reki shrugged, but Aema shook her head.

“If she’s the only one they care about, then that can’t be it. If they could follow her, they could stop her from leaving.”

Now it was Reki’s turn to disagree. “Not necessarily. If she was spotted when she made contact with us, or when we were in the cove, they could have followed us from there.”

“Spotted by whom?” Eydri asked, one eyebrow raised skeptically. “All three boats had lookouts, and no-one raised the alarm.”

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “Frankly, this whole situation is more than a little fishy. But speculating like this will get us nowhere, and the girls are waking up.”

An apprentice, and an Imperial: there was much they should not hear. Svana changed the subject adroitly. “What do the rest of you know about this Weavess? I know the Lay of Raen well enough to sing it, but not much more.”

Eydri looked uncomfortable. Reki shrugged. “I know a little more than that, but I’ve only been on the crew about a year now…”

Aema, on the other hand, looked rather pleased. “Stigander and my Lord the Jarl were childhood friends. The story is almost as well known on Kjell as it is to the Vidofnings themselves. But are you sure you want to hear about it… here?”

Svana smirked. “Worried we’ll antagonize our captors? Fine, you’re probably right. I only wondered what sort of a Weaver we found ourselves against.”

Reki shook her head. “One who thought nothing of using the black Arts to her own gain. Isn’t that enough?”

Runa sat up and looked about herself in silence, her knees hugged to her chest, and Eydri, of all people, was the fastest to move to comfort her. Probably eager to prove she wasn’t after Einarr. Beatrix, the Imperial Princess, still lay on her back, but her eyes were wide open. Of all of them, it was she who had done the best job of feigning sleep. Reki hummed: she would have to watch that one.


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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.

9.12 – Runic Ward

Over all three ships, flaming arrows arced their way down towards the decks. Einarr’s breath caught in his throat as they began their descent. Then, as though they were passing through a bubble that surrounded the boats, the pinpricks of light winked out. If Einarr looked very closely, he could see a shimmering blue energy rippling along as the fires extinguished.

This was not over, though. The leader of the self-styled “wolf pack” may have abandoned the decks of the ships, but it was too much to hope that they would just leave after this display. “To arms!” he bellowed.

Most of the crew was ahead of him, as it happened. The chink of maille being tossed about had begun even as the first volley of arrows launched. The wolfling ships, not to be deterred, were lighting a second round already.

“Keep it up, Hrug! Everyone else, prepare to return fire!” The twanging of bowstrings could already be heard from the deck of the Vidofnir. He hadn’t heard how the conversation had gone over there, but he could guess.

They were committed, of course. Einarr looked around, only to see Jorir and his golden shield standing close at hand holding Einarr’s maille shirt. Without a word, the dwarf tossed him the maille as though it were cloth. Einarr, lacking the dwarf’s strength, had a somewhat harder time catching it, but had still pulled it over his head within moments.

The archers were ready, it appeared. As much as he wanted to, the same ward that extinguished the enemy’s fire arrows prevented them from sending their own. Ordinary arrows would have to do. “Fire!”

The wolfling volley of shooting stars once again winked out under the power of Hrug’s ward even as the Heidruning volley rained iron on their heads. The oars were coming out on the other side, and now Einarr saw ropes dangling from the bulwarks of his ship. The ropes were twitching, each and every one. He smirked and swaggered over to the bulwark, Sinmora hissing from her sheath. “I think some dogs need a bath.”

Casually, he brought Sinmora down with a thunk into the wood of the bulwark, severing the boarding line. This was followed by the satisfying sounds of a startled yelp and a splash as the wolfling attempting the climb found himself instead in the water. A chuckle spread through his crew, and the men acting as shield bearers for the archers drew and followed suit. That wouldn’t prevent boarding for long, but it bought them a little time. With a deep breath, Einarr steadied himself. “Next volley, fire when ready! Prepare for boarding!”

The wolflings did not try a third volley of fire arrows, for which Einarr was grateful. A ward of that size would be exhausting to maintain: indeed, he saw sweat beading on Hrug’s brow.

The men of the Heidrun fired off a fourth volley while their enemies maneuvered, before Einarr realized they were not maneuvering to try to board. Nor had more ropes come up from the smaller boats below. Instead, the wolflings were making a fighting retreat. Arrows still flew both ways between the ships, but they did not approach. Slowly it dawned on him: his father’s wheel-spoke formation made it impossible to board without entrapping your own ship. Einarr grinned: between the circle of ships and the rocks, the wolflings didsn’t seem to have much of a choice.

“Hold your fire!” They would only waste arrows at this point: the wolfling ships were nearly out of range, and there was Father’s standing order not to engage. Einarr strode to the prow and stepped up on the bulwark, steadying himself against his ship’s tail. Before long, he was joined by Stigander and Kormund.

“What news?”

“A few injuries,” Kormund answered, as calm as ever.

“I take back everything bad I ever said about rune magicians.” Stigander shook his head in wonder. “That was your sorcerer, right? Who made their fire arrows wink out like so many shooting stars?”

“That was Hrug, yes. Are your Singers still aboard?”

The other captains both shook their heads.

“So that means they have Reki, Aema, Svana, Eydri, Runa, and Beatrix.”

“Beatrix?” His father sounded surprised.

Einarr shrugged. “I guess they mistook her for another battle chanter, although why they’d think I had three aboard is anyone’s guess. But with that lot working together? I think they may have more than they can handle aboard.”

Stigander chuckled.

“Are we certain they will be working together with Beatrix? She is an Imperial, you remember.”

It was Stigander who answered. “I’ve heard of stranger bedfellows.”

“They’re all smart enough to know where their interest lies. It may not be according to plan, but it’s far from a disaster.”

Kormund hummed. “I suppose there’s not much we can do besides let them look out for themselves. Certainly Svana is capable of looking out for herself in a pinch.”

Einarr nodded, although he was not so sanguine with this as he pretended. Runa had been out of enemy hands for less than a day: how could he call himself worthy to marry her, if he let her be taken again so easily? “Exactly. And if I know Runa, they’ll have the wolflings spinning on their ears before we even reach the harbor.”

Stigander gave him a long, weighing look before nodding once more. “We’d best be moving. That lot will be quick to return and report our location, but if we play this right we can be in the harbor by sunrise.”

In agreement, the three Captains ended their conference and returned to the decks of their respective boats. “All right, men! Now that everyone’s awake, it’s time to be off! We’ve got a curse to end, damsels to save, and usurpers to put to justice. We’ve got a busy night ahead.”

In surprisingly good cheer, the Heidrunings doffed their maille and moved to their oars. Einarr wondered if any of them realized how close it had been with Hrug’s ward.


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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.

9.11 – Parley

The Heidrun sat, dead in the water, like a wheelspoke guarding the prows of the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, just as they guarded his prow. Surrounding them, and most of the cluster of rocks where they had sheltered for the day, he counted no fewer than nine ships that were bound to his uncle the usurper. Half of them bore wolf heads on their prow, making Einarr think Ulfr used that not to identify a ship but a member of his fleet.

Their watchmen were bound and gagged, thrown together in a pile in the center of the deck. On the bulwarks, arrows trained against the men just rising from their day’s sleep, stood the warriors who were responsible. Confirming Einarr’s thought, about one in three of them wore a wolf pelt tied to his shoulders. A mark of rank? He shook his head: it hardly mattered.

“Who are you?” He demanded, even though he already knew. “Why are you on my ship?”

“You are trespassing in the waters of Breidelstein, with clear intent to raid our lands.” A man wearing a wolf pelt answered, confirming Einarr’s suspicion.

Einarr glanced around: he could see Hrug fingering the carved beads at his belt. He caught the man’s eye and nodded before answering. “I think you will find, gentlemen, that it is not we who are trespassing. The waters of Breidelsteinn have been in enemy hands for fifteen years now: we simply come to take them back.”

Hrug’s fist closed around one of the runestones he had been fidgeting with and a pulse went out over the deck of the ship. The men who were slow to rise were slow no longer: all his sailors were on their feet. Ing, then. Eydri may be absent, but they still had Hrug. He could do in a pinch.

Einarr could hear the sounds of men rising for battle coming from the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir: had the rune reached the other ships, as well? If so, that was some impressive will. Einarr rolled his shoulders and drew Sinmora. There was no time to be distracted like that.

“So, men of the usurper, who assaulted the rightful rulers of these lands when we slept, like cowards. What have you done with the women?” That he did not yet hear Reki’s or Aema’s voices said all he needed to know about their status.

“Your Singers are guests on my ship,” wolf-pelt answered with a leer. “Fear not: they will be well-treated, and taken to my Lord’s Hall as a delegation of their status deserves.”

Singers? What of Bea? It was possible, Einarr thought, that with everyone asleep they had mistaken the Imperial princess for a Singer. If that was the case, then suddenly he could breathe easier. The girl could fight: backed up by not one but four Singers? Ulfr and his crone of a mother might have more than they could handle with that bunch. “You’ll forgive me,” he said, even as this was running through his head. “If I’m not inclined to take the word of a bunch of sneak-thieves and nithing cowards.”

The man on the bulwark actually twitched at that one. “What you think of us is of no importance. Either you and your men surrender, and we will tow your ships into harbor, or we will set you alight, right here and now.”

On the one hand, that would let them reach Raenshold a full day ahead of when they’d planned. On the other hand, to do so as prisoners, without weapons and under guard? That seemed like a fool’s choice. Einarr pasted a sneer on his face. “Surrender? To the usurper? Are you mad? We’d never make it back to Raenshold, and you know it. He’d have our boats put to the flame before we were halfway there. Possibly yours as well. If you’re going to lie, at least make it believable.”

“Have it your way, then.” Wolf-pelt raised his hand in a gesture Einarr well knew as a signal to archers. From the ships around them – all of the ships around them, he noted: Father and Kormund must have come to his same conclusion – a ring of fire sprang into existence.

Einarr risked a glance at Hrug. The man had squatted down and was staring at the enemy archers, but his good hand hung toward the deck, twitching furiously. Einarr swallowed.

“Can’t even stand to face us in open combat, I see.” Anything to buy time for Hrug’s ward. “You’re just going to set us alight and then turn tail? Some pack of wolves you turned out to be. More like lapdogs.”

“Think what you will,” the man sneered. “You’ve little enough time left to think it, after all.” With the hand not raised to signal his archers, he waved backward. The men standing on the bulwark all stepped backward, seemingly into thin air. Their disappearance was not followed by splashing water, however, but by the thump of boots on wooden boards.

This hadn’t quite gone the way Einarr had hoped. He swallowed.

“Last chance: surrender quietly, and you can at least be tried like men in the capital.”

Einarr spat. Wolf-pelt dropped his arm, and the arrows from the encircling ships flew even as he, too, dropped down to the waiting boat below.

Einarr spun to face the sorcerer. “Hrug!”

The arrows reached the top of their arc. Soon they would rain fire down on the deck of not just the Heidrun but also the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, and put an ignominius end to their quest.

The mute did not even grunt acknowledgement. His head snapped up, and Einarr would swear he saw a flash of light in the man’s blue eyes even as he felt the power of the ward pulse into place.

“Shields up!”

Those who had their shields available responded even as extinguished arrows began to rain over the deck. Einarr hurried to the prow: had it been enough?


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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.

9.10 – Stealth

“Wait,” Stigander rumbled.

Everyone froze, looking at him expectantly.

“There is still one order of business. You two.”

The two men who had brought Runa to them stiffened, although they did not – quite – yelp.

“You are sworn to Ulfr, the son of the Weaver, are you not?”

“Y-y-yes, sir,” stammered the one who had done most of the talking thus far.

“You now stand before Stigander, son of Raen, rightful ruler of these lands. Will you forswear your false lord and swear to me?”

They stood staring at him, the muscles in their jaws working, but no sound came forth.

“I would be willing to overlook much, were you to renounce the usurper and join us in our fight.”

One of them looked like he was about to choke on his tongue. Finally, he exhaled loudly. “We cannot, your lordship. We are compelled.”

Stigander nodded brusquely. “Bind them. I will take them as prisoners aboard the Vidofnir. Lady Runa-”

“I will board my Lord Einarr’s ship, of course.” She had managed to compose herself, at least mostly, but there was no mistaking that her eyes were still red.

Stigander lowered his head in acqueiscence. The thrill that Einarr felt at the prospect was quickly damped: there were going to be some awkward introductions to make.

“My Lady,” he said, still pleased in spite of everything, and offered her his arm. “Right this way. You know Jorir, of course. This is Naudrek: he assisted me greatly last fall, and came along with me from Eskiborg.”

Runa nodded, seeming a little distracted. That, though, could be the late hour and the recent stress of her captivity.

Einarr glanced up as they approached the Heidrun: as he had expected, Bea was standing at the edge waiting for them. What he had not expected was the weighing look on her face, as though she had seen something unusual and now studied the two of them on their approach.

Irding and Bea both leaned out over the bulwark, though, and offered Runa a hand up into the ship. Runa cast a cold look at Bea before accepting Irding’s assistance.

“And who, praytell, might this be?” she asked as Einarr’s boots hit the deck.

“Runa, my love, allow me to introduce Beatrix Maria Gundahar, fourth Imperial Princess and leader of the Hrist Brigade. Bea, this is Runa Hroaldsdottir, my betrothed.” He twined his fingers in Runa’s as he spoke and did not look at Bea except to confirm where she was. Let her find room there, if she could.

Runa blinked once, surprised, then fixed a frosty glare on the other woman. “And why, praytell, is there an Imperial Princess aboard your ship?”

“That,” Bea put in, her own voice as haughty and frosty as Runa’s. “Is a very long story, best saved for when we are not in a hurry to be back out on the water, racing to the rescue of your own father.”

Runa hummed, openly studying the other woman. Bea fixed Runa with a steady look. After what felt like forever, they each looked away. Neither looked defeated.

Well. That could have gone better. She’s not going to be jealous of Eydri, too, is she?


The three ships slipped back out onto the open ocean as silently as they had plied it before, although it soon became plain silence alone would not preserve them as they made their way to the heart of Breidelstein. A new layer of stars had appeared, it seemed, right above the water level. Only rather than star stuff, these were torches, born upon the decks of ships meant to bring back Runa and the two who Ulfr undoubtedly judged traitors.

Mercifully, both Bea and Runa were less interested in pursuing their fight than they were in evading capture, so the deck of the Heidrun was blessedly silent, save for the occasional creak of wood or the small splash of an oar entering the water.

There were enough ships out, actually, that rather than extinguish their torches Stigander had them light more, so that they could hide in plain sight, as it were. The idea made Einarr want to hold his breath, but after the third time they passed within hailing range of another ship without drawing notice he put it from his mind.

When the sky first began to hint at grey dawn, the Vidofnir veered off towards a cluster of rocks in the northern part of the archipelago, as they had discussed. No-one ever came here, or they hadn’t fifteen years ago, simply because they had no reason to except in the fall during seal hunts.

On the north side of a rock that was almost large enough to be an island, the three ships lowered their sea anchors. Today they would rest here: then, at night, when they could once more pass unnoticed through the Usurper’s waters, they would make their way to a bay on the far side of the main island. Around midmorning, when the watches were settled, Einarr crawled into his bedroll and went to sleep.

At sunset, Einarr awoke. Something was amiss. He raised his head to look around, but could not see what was troubling him that way.

Einarr slid out from beneath his wool blanket and propped himself up on his elbows. All was silent, and nothing moved. Still he could not see why.

He stood. When he had gone to sleep, there had been three ships: his, his father’s, and Captain Kormund’s. Now he counted at least a dozen, and at a glance four of those had wolves carved on the prow.

The men who were supposed to be on watch had been disabled to a man. He saw them now, stacked like cordwood in the middle of the deck. As he stared about himself, he realized there was no sign of Eydri. Of Bea. Of Runa.

Einarr wanted to scream: if it weren’t for the muffled curses he could make out now from the hog-tied watchmen, he might think this was all some terrible nightmare. What is going on?


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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.