Tag: Arkona

9.4 – A New Quest

It was with a heavy heart and no small amount of trepidation that the Vidofnir once more entered the harbor at Kjellvic. Liupold returned to the Arkona, although the dromon did not immediately weigh anchor. The Eikthyrnir followed Stigander up to the docks, where the two ships were met by the harbormaster, whom Einarr had spoken to before.

He wasn’t sure if it was a positive sign or not that it was only the harbormaster who greeted them. On the one hand, it was probably a good sign that the people of the town were more interested in putting their lives back together than driving them off with torches and pitchforks. On the other hand, it also led him to doubt Trabbi’s claim.

“What news from the Hall?” The Harbormaster asked in response to Stigander’s hail.

Stigander shook his head. “Nothing but ash. The bastard took the Jarl and the Lady.”

Now fire sparked in the other man’s eye. “They what?”

“I thought Bollinn was back. Didn’t he say?”

The harbormaster shook his head. Probably, from what he knew of the Brunnings, they were trying to avoid panicking the townspeople. “I’ll call up the militia. Be surprised if they didn’t want to join you.”

Father and son nodded in tandem, then Einarr paused. “What happened to the mayor?”

The harbormaster gestured broadly at the town behind him. After a pause, he sighed. “They found him on the green. Gutted. Couldn’t tell you if he was still alive when the fire swept through.”

Einarr winced. Stigander merely nodded again. “That’s of a piece with what little news has come out of Breidelstein.”

“It’s true, then?”

“So it seems. It’s well past time I dealt with Ulfr’s treachery, anyway. …Is the shipwright about?”

“Oh, aye. You’ll find him down where he always is. He’ll be right glad to have your ship off his hands, I wager. …Oh, but, my Lord? You might warn your men against too much drink while they’re in town.”

“Surely no-one actually believes that calumny?”

“None as know you, no. Not many others, I wager, but you know what drink can do to a man’s wits.”

Stigander hummed, and then they were off.


As soon as Einarr laid eyes on the rams-head prow he knew the ship to be at least the equal of any he’d seen in Eskiborg. The wood seemed to glow from within, and the shipwright had seemed to know just from looking at him how Einarr would want to run his ship. It was no Eikthyrnir, to outrace anything she came up against, but neither was it a Bjorn, thick and bulky and tough but slow. It was, like the beast on her prow, built for balance.

The shipwright – who was otherwise quite happy to take Stigander’s coin – stared sullenly at him as he examined the new ship. His new ship. “She’s beautiful,” Einarr said, running his hand down the klinks.

“You better believe she is. An’ I’ll wager she’s as eager to fight as you lot are. Just keep the bloody wolves away from here, wouldya?”

“By the time we’re done with them, you’ll not have anything to worry about save some pelts,” Stigander’s voice was quiet and level as he answered.

Oddly, that did nothing to ease the other man’s glower. Instead, he pocketed their coin and mumbled a “pleasure doin’ business with you” before wandering off to elsewhere in his workspace.

Einarr shrugged then turned his attention back to the ship. She had fewer benches than the Vidofnir, but that was fine. She was likely to be running at half crew until they took Breidelstein at least, anyway. The awning stretched a good ten feet back from the mast, and could be collapsed quickly at need through an ingenious series of catches to roll up in itself. Einarr would have to study that, and have Jorir take a look as well.

“Where is Jorir, anyway? I’d have thought he’d want to be here for this.”

“He did, but he had some business with the smith. There’ll be time enough for you and all your crew to take it in – later. Right now, I want to hear all about what happened with the elves while you inspect her.”

Einarr chuckled. Oh. Of course. “Sounds good, pabbi.”


A handful of Vidofnings gathered that night at the lone public hall of Kjellvic, one of the few structures left largely untouched by the Wolfling’s raid, to share stories and recruit sailors for this next expedition. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what they had to do.

The sun had well set, although it was still far too early for people to be too deeply into their cups, when Einarr called for the attention of the hall. The townspeople had fallen to the sort of merrymaking only possible after a hard day’s work when one has just escaped catastrophe, and was in danger of turning rowdy later. That meant, however, that this was the perfect time.

“Good people of Kjellvic,” Einarr shouted over the din, raising his tankard high. The room began to quiet almost immediately. “On behalf of my father and all the Vidofnings, I thank you for your trust in our friendship. What has happened here, while we were away, is the result of the usuper’s cowardice and envy.”

Someone in the back of the hall jeered.

“I know. We have allowed him his games for far too long… But, at last, we have what we need to retake our home and re-grow the friendship between our two lands! We have, however, only three ships, two of which are under strength. When the Vidofnir sails forth to unravel the Weaving, and take back our lands and rescue our friends, who among you will sail with us to rescue your Lord the Jarl and the Lady Runa?”

A loud cheer went up, and Einarr, Jorir, and Bardr spent the rest of the night talking, man-to-man, with the volunteers.


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9.3 – Wolfling Raid

Stigander froze in his tracks, then seemed to sway a little as the words hit him harder than any physical blow. “Too late?” he finally managed.

Einarr and Trabbi both moved to where Stigander stood poleaxed. Einarr arrived first, despite the old fisherman being much closer. “What do you mean, too late?”

Trabbi, his face as ashen as the rest of him, shook his head slowly. “The raiders been gone for days, now. All that’s left here is to save what remains. Build again, if we find the Jarl.”

Stigander recovered himself. “I think you’d better come down to the Vidofnir with us, have some food and drink. Then you can tell us what happened.”

Trabbi nodded as though still half-dazed. “I think that might be a good idea. Can’t tell you when I last ate.”


Three days before the Arkona, the Eikthyrnir and the Vidofnir narrowly avoided doing battle in the harbor, a drakken with a wolf’s head on the prow arrived. They made no pretense of friendship: this was a raid, and the wolf’s raiders were searching for someone.

Stigander.

As soon as they saw the Vidofnir wasn’t in port, they made sure everyone at the Hall – and, Trabbi supposed, likely everyone in the town – knew that they had come for the thief Stigander and the ship he had stolen from Breidelstein, the Vidofnir. The wolflings were trying to draw them out.

The battle at the Hall was the worst any of them had seen in years. The men of the Skudbrun fought valiantly, and gave chase, but just yesterday had limped back, unable to follow further. They did confirm one thing, though.

Trabbi stared into the ale in the wooden tankard they had brought him. “The Wolfling ship – we never got its name – had both the Jarl and the Lady Runa aboard. Captive.”

Stigander’s face had gone red with rage, and Einarr saw his beard twitching in time with the muscle over his jaw. “He has the nerve to call me a thief?”

Einarr, though, was preoccupied with another bit of that story. “Was she unharmed?”

The odds that the Jarl had been taken without a fight, and therefore without injury, were almost nil. Trabbi sighed. “As near as Bollinn could tell. She was gagged and tied to the mast when he saw her, and my Lord was trussed up like a boar. Also gagged: apparently their Captain wasn’t willing to deal with my Lord’s temper.”

Stigander had calmed a little. “No. He wouldn’t be.”

“Father?”

“The Captain of the ship that razed Kjell is most likely Ulfr son of Urdr. My half-brother, and your uncle.”

Einarr hesitated a moment, then hummed agreement into his own cup. “It couldn’t be anyone else, with the story Trabbi told.”

“I’d hoped to have a little longer to muster forces…”

Einarr shook his head. “We should have realized we were out of time last summer, when I came back with the Örlögnir. I’ve already lived longer than most Cursebreakers manage, and it seems like every time I turn around someone has raised the stakes on me. My ship is ready?”

“Assuming it wasn’t damaged in the assault on the town. Even after last fall, I’ve only got a skeleton crew I can spare you.”

“I’m sure that will work itself out.”

“I imagine,” Trabbi interrupted. He looked and sounded much more alive now that he was out of the smoking ruin and fed. “I imagine that, if you put round the town what you’re doing, you’ll have a good number of able bodies wanting to get their own back against the raiders.”

“See?” Einarr looked more seriously at Trabbi now. “How badly was the Skudbrun damaged?”

“You’d have to ask Bollinn, but I’m sure they’ll be itching to go.” Ulfr had Jarl Hroaldr, after all.

Now Einarr turned to the foreigners in their midst. “You have delivered me, as promised, to my father’s ship and my own people. I have no more hold on you, and if you wish to return the Princess to Imperial waters, not a soul will hold it against you. On the other hand…”

Liupold shook his head. “For myself, I would chase this justice with you, and I know that there are many among my crew who admire you for your work on Hohenwerth. There are just as many, however, who despise the Clans beyond all reason. My Mate among them. I fear I must return south with the Arkona.”

Einarr inclined his head. He had expected as much, but they were going to be facing the entire strength of the land that used to be home, with whatever navy and whatever loyalty the Weaver and her bastard son managed to forge.

Bea, however, straightened her shoulders. “I will come. As a token of goodwill, let us say.”

“Your Highness!” Liupold protested.

“I have made up my mind, Captain. This Cursebreaker intrigues me, and I believe it is not only in my Patron’s interest but the interest of the Empire to ensure his success and continued survival. I will go.”

Liupold looked to Einarr and Stigander for assistance and found none. Neither did Trabbi, the Jarl’s retainer, look inclined to stop her. Finally he sighed. “In that case, I would ask that you fight on my behalf, as well.”

She beamed. “Of course. I will send you with a missive in my own hand, in case Father should object.”

Liupold rolled his eyes, and Einarr suddenly wondered if all highborn women were so overbearing. “Well,” he said, to change the subject. “In that case, it sounds as though we should get back to town. And… hope my uncle’s slander did not take hold.”

Trabbi nodded, slowly. “I think you have little to fear, there. Lord Stigander and his crew are well-known, after all, not only for your friendship to Lord Hroaldr but also for your generosity in town.”

That was true, as far as it went, but Einarr was uneasy nonetheless.


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9.2 – Vidofnir

The order was given, and Arring tossed a rope across to the rowboat. Einarr lashed the boats together and pulled himself up onto the old, familiar deck. Grinning broadly, he clasped arms with Arring before turning around to offer a hand up to those who wished for one.

“Where’s Father?” He asked as soon as the last of them was aboard, still grinning at everyone around him. His companions were all looking around, some more bemused than others.

Arring pointed towards the bow, where Stigander stood waiting in a cleared area just ahead of the mast, his arms crossed but looking just as pleased to see Einarr. Next to him was Reki, and he felt as much as saw Eydri tense. Now was not the time for that conversation, though. He straightened the hem of his tunic and strode forward.

Stigander appeared to be listening to something Reki was muttering. The albino woman never once took her eyes from Einarr’s group. What had happened between her and Eydri? Surely there must have been something. Still, Stigander nodded, and as Einarr drew up with the mast a grin split his thick yellow beard.

“At last, my troublemaker returns to us!” Stigander laughed and reached out his arms.

Einarr met the gesture in kind, taking his father in a manly embrace for just a moment.

“Welcome back, son,” Stigander said more quietly.

“Thank you, Father.” He clapped his father on the shoulder once more before turning. “And now I’m afraid there are introductions to be made and common cause to be made.” He ran through the introductions a second time, this time starting with Bea, followed by Liupold, and then the others in order of their respective rank. He did not fail to notice that Eydri and Reki both seemed to avoid looking at one another.

“And that’s where we stand, Father,” he finished.

“I see. Welcome aboard, I suppose.” Stigander watched Bea quietly, the way a cat watches a hunting dog.

“The honor is mine,” Bea said smoothly, extending her hand. “I understand one of my ships gave you some trouble last spring: for that, you have my apologies.”

Stigander hummed and turned his attention to Liupold. “Captain Liupold of the Arkona. My Mate informs me that your ship is apparently not to blame for the sacking of my friend’s land?”

“That is correct, Captain. The Arkona arrived earlier today bearing your son and the others following a service they performed in Imperial waters.”

That got a raised eyebrow from Stigander, and Einarr knew they would have a great deal to discuss later.

Liupold was still speaking. “We arrived to find the town already in flames and sent a boat ashore to determine what had occurred here. We were still determining that when your two ships arrived and opened fire on us.”

“An unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“And, under the circumstances, an understandable one. But we had not yet learned the identity of the raiders when we had to break off to secure this cease-fire.”

Stigander turned to Einarr. “The Hall?”

Einarr shook his head. “Also hit. Also burning, I think, but the harbormaster didn’t know how bad, and everyone else was too busy putting out fires. And we do know one thing, actually. The ship responsible had a wolf’s head on the prow.”

Stigander looked stricken. “We have to get to Kjell Hall.”

“You know that ship, Father?”

“In my time, I have known three ships to bear that animal. Two of them are long since broken, but all three of them were terrors of the sea. Bardr! My horn.”

“Sir!”

“In the meantime… Captain Liupold, your Highness. Do you intend to see this through? Or, having delivered your cargo, will you return south to safer waters?” He did not say flee, but all among them heard it.

Bea straightened, as haughty as ever a princess could be. “We shall see it through, shan’t we, Captain? The Cursebreaker is of great interest to me.”

Einarr rolled his eyes, fairly certain she couldn’t see, and groaned internally. She would complicate matters greatly.

“I was just about to say the same, your Highness,” Liupold was saying.

“Very good. Then if you would kindly return to your ship, so no-one decides I have made hostages of you, we should be underway.”


The three ships slipped from the harbor almost without further incident. However, where the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir could simply reverse course, the Arkona had to be turned about. While this was not a difficult maneuver, it did slow their progress. Einarr wondered idly if the harbormaster had paid any attention to what was going on out on the waves.

Just a few hours later, the two longboats and an Imperial rowboat beached themselves just up the river from the narrow bay near the Hall. The forest appeared untouched, which was a mercy. Whatever they had done, there would be survivors even out here.

Still, only a relatively small party was sent up the forest trail. Einarr and Stigander, Reki, Captain Kormund, Bea, Rambert, and Jorir – who had been just as pleased to see him, in his way, as Stigander. “We’ve much to discuss, you and I – once we’ve confirmed the safety of your Lady, of course,” he’d said.

“You’re right, we do. Glad to see you well.”

That had been the end of it, for the time being. Now the seven of them hurried up the bay trail toward Kjell Hall. Einarr spotted chop marks in the forest around the trail, although he could not discern their purpose.

When the Hall came into view in its clearing in the trees, it was a burnt-out ruin. Men still moved within the confines of its walls, searching among the ashes for who-knew-what. Stigander took off at a run for the walls, and the rest of the party followed after.

“Trabbi? Trabbi, is that you?”

The old retainer rose from the pile of ash he sifted through to look, numb, at the man who addressed him. “You’re too late.”


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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.

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9.1 – Burn

With Hrist’s ominous parting words ringing in his ears, it would have been an understatement to call Einarr impatient to return to Kjell. Where before he marveled at the Arkona’s speed, especially for a ship of her size and draft, now it would not have been enough had she been able to fly.

He shared his encounter with Hrist only with Eydri, Naudrek, and Hrug, and while they, too, were now anxious to return that word, too, was insufficient. He spent his days pacing the deck, cursing under his breath the alfs and their High Roads for keeping him from his place on the Vidofnir.

His relentless pacing meant he was among the first to notice the unnatural light on the horizon as they approached Kjell. His throat went dry: had the whole island burned, in some dark reflection of their purification of Hohenwerth? He shook his head. No, that couldn’t be. Whatever it was, though, was bad. He tried everything to make himself sleep, but even under the effects of Eydri’s Lullaby he was subjected to terrible nightmares and fitful slumber.

The next day Kjell came into view and he saw smoke before he saw anything else – great inky clouds of it. The largest of these rose from what was obviously Kjellvic, and Einarr could soon see large swaths of untouched forest. That meant, though, that the other two merging pillars of smoke rose from the Hall and the Chapel, respectively.

Liupold could not coax any more speed out of his ship at this stage: he had done all he could in that regard in the days after Einarr’s encounter with the Valkyrie had led to a shift in his mood. He did, however, keep the Arkona at speed for far longer than he otherwise would have dared.

The Arkona sailed into Kjell harbor far faster than anyone considered safe, for this reason. The people on shore seemed on the verge of panic, held in check only by the keen memory of the harbormaster, who recognized them. When a landing craft was put down, Einarr practically flew to its deck. His companions were close behind, followed by Bea, Rambert and Liupold, and every one of them save Eydri manned an oar.

Eydri sang. Even with the boost she lent them, though, Einarr wanted to tear his hear out for how long it was taking. Threads can be cut, Cursebreaker, Hrist had warned. He did not see the Vidofnir in port: that could only mean it had been Runa under threat.

After minutes that felt like hours, the rowboat sidled up to the dock and Einarr leapt out in front of the harbormaster. “What has happened?” He demanded without preamble or introduction.

The harbormaster studied him for a long and wary moment before he answered. “Ah. You are the Lady Runa’s betrothed, are you not?”

“Yes!” It was an effort not to snap at the man, although that he remembered at all could be counted a small miracle.

For his part, the harbormaster was visibly relieved. “Three days ago, Kjell was hit by a raiding ship with a wolf’s head on the prow. They seemed to be looking for something, or someone. I’m afraid no-one seems to know what. Apparently they didn’t find it, because after they sailed off refugees started arriving from the Hall. They had been asking the same questions there, and stealing everything that was not nailed down in the process. The town is still burning, as you can see, but I think we’ve finally got it contained…”

“Good, good,” Einarr broke in at the first convenient moment. “Horses. We need horses. Are there any available?”

The harbormaster gave him a look as though he’d made a particularly bad joke. “With the town still in flames?”

Einarr shook his head. “No. No, of course you’re right. It’s just… I need to get to the Hall.”

“I understand, my lord, but unless you’re wiling to walk, or take that Conehead ship there back around the island, there just isn’t anything.”

Bea spluttered a little. Einarr heard her whisper “C-conehead?” as though she had never heard the insult applied to them before.

“Oh, wonderful.” The harbormaster sounded genuinely pleased about something. He was staring over Einarr’s shoulder. When he turned to look, he saw what would ordinarily have been the sweetest sight imaginable: the Vidofnir and the Ekthyrnir sailed into port together, both of them under full sail.

“Oh, no.” Einarr’s face dropped. “Back in the boat! Everyone, get back in the boat. I have to talk to my Father, immediately.”


In spite of their best efforts, arrows flew between the two longships and the Arkona before Einarr could get between them in their rowboat. He stood in the middle of the rowboat and shouted. “This is Einarr, son of Stigander. Do not fire! Repeat, do not fire!”

Arrow fire tapered off from the Vidofnir first, then from the Arkona as Walter realized that not only had the other ship relented, his Captain was in the line of fire.

A very familiar face peered over the bulwark at their small boat.

“Bardr! By the gods, it feels like forever. Permission to come aboard?”

“For you? Always. Who are those people?”

“Eydri is a Singer. Naudrek and Hrug are friends who helped me out last fall,” he began the introductions with their own people. “Liupold here is Captain of that vessel you’ve been firing on, and Rambert is from his crew. And this–” he gestured. “Is Her Imperial Highness Beatrix Maria Gundahar, Admiral of the Hrist Brigade and recent captive of that damn kraken the Grendel let loose.”

Bardr stared for a long moment, and Einarr could see him doing the mental gymnastics required to accept this. In the end, though, Einarr’s tenure as a Cursebreaker had subjected them all to far stranger circumstances than those.

“Come aboard, then,” he finally answered, after some guffaws and jeering from further back in the boat. “I look forward to hearing just what the hel happened out there.”


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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.

8.28 – Value

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. Today marks the end of the marathon, as well as the end of book 8. It’s a little shorter than most, but I hope it’s been satisfying. Tomorrow morning, back on the regular posting schedule, will be chapter 1 of Book 9: Einarr and the Wolf’s Flame.

Bea took the proffered cup and held it to hide her mouth. She was Admiral of the Hrist Brigade, was she? Einarr shook his head: probably, all the real power was with the Valkyrie patron. But she could fight, he would give her that. Maybe she wasn’t just a figurehead.

The night passed, and the five who were outsiders to the Arkona spoke quietly among themselves. Bea kept casting furtive glances at Einarr, to the point where he wondered if he’d done something to offend her. She was an Imperial Princess, and had at least in theory, command over the Order’s hunting ships. If she wanted to, she could make his life miserable even from half a world away. If he had offended her, though, it was only through honesty, and he refused to repent of that.

As dawn broke so did their company, each to their respective bunks. That the princess had not displaced Eydri was only because no one wished to put a woman in steerage with the men, and so the two shared a cabin and a cot. They were still abovedecks when Einarr went below to crawl into one of the hammocks where all the common sailors slept.


When he awoke, it was well past noon. He had expected as much of a hangover as he’d gotten after planning with the captain, but strangely his head did not hurt at all. This was strange, but no more worth remarking on than the headache would have been, so he climbed the ladder with a spring in his step for the unexpected good fortune.

Above, the crew was sailing along as normal. A quick glance at the sky showed they were traveling roughly northeast, back towards Kjell and Runa. Satisfied, and certain he would be little more than a passenger on their return, he sauntered over to where she leaned against the bulwark.

“Good morning!”

“It’s after noon.” Eydri stared out over the water, looking thoughtful.

“Princess didn’t keep you awake, did she?” In a longhouse or a hall it would have been nothing, but sharing such close quarters could be problematic if one person was unused to it as Bea almost certainly was.

“No. Well, not exactly.”

“Oh?”

“She loves you, you know. Or thinks she does. Probably if you’d asked last night she would have tried to follow you north.”

Einarr shrugged. “If I’d asked. But why would I? She’s as tied to the Empire as I am to Breidelstein. Maybe more.”

“That’s not the point. …If she ever meets Runa, be as ostentatiously affectionate as you can. Make yourself uncomfortable with it, if you can do it naturally. Otherwise she might think she can steal you away, no matter what you say.”

Einarr blinked. “What… why?”

Eydri sighed. “You are as naive as she is, in some ways. She is a princess, as used to getting her own way as your Runa is. Maybe more: I’ve only met Runa once. When you fight between men, you knock each other about for a while, one of you concedes, and that’s the end of it, right?”

“Right.”

“Women never concede.”

He blinked. That made no sense. “What?”

“Oh, we might back off for a time, to lick our wounds and gather our resources. But when women fight each other it is tooth and claw and vicious slander, until one side or the other has nothing left to give. Do not let Bea think she has an opening between you and Runa, or there will be war.”

Einarr stared at Eydri, still not quite able to believe what he was hearing.

“Have you never wondered why magic is considered womanly?”

He hadn’t, not particularly. He had some vague assumptions that all tied back into why it was dishonorable to fight a woman who hadn’t started it, but nothing concrete.

“Because men are too straightforward. Your honor gets in the way.”

“But man or woman has nothing to do with how honorable someone is.”

Eydri smirked. “Tell me. Whose idea was it to elope?”

“Runa’s.”

She nodded now. “And whose plan did you carry out, in the main, when you tried?”

“Runa’s.”

“If it had been up to you, what would have happened instead?”

“I’d have skipped the escape attempt and challenged Trabbi directly… oh.”

“Yes. Oh. Now pit your Runa against poor Bea.”

Einarr winced. Bea could fight, Einarr would give her that. But Runa was clever as the day was long, and he wasn’t certain Bea could come close to matching her. Which meant… “Bea can’t see an opening between us. And Runa can’t be allowed to see Bea as a threat.”

“Now you’ve got it. I knew you had a good head on those shoulders.”

Einarr was more than a little disturbed to realize Eydri’s look was not that dissimilar to Bea’s of the night before. It must have shown, because Eydri laughed.

“Oh, come on. A girl’s allowed to look.”

Einarr rolled his eyes. “Not in front of Runa you’re not. You know, when we were leaving Eskiborg, I worried she was going to think you were a threat?”

She nodded slowly. “Smart man. I’m not, of course: I knew you were claimed the moment I met you. But smart.”

“How could you possibly have…?”

Eydri smiled impishly. “That’s a secret.”


Three days passed, and the Arkona sped northward, toward Kjell, toward Runa, toward home. Einarr leaned against the bulwark again, staring out impatiently over the sea, enjoying the sunset as best he could.

“You should not have refused her offer.” A woman’s voice cut through the evening, ominous and familiar. Einarr spun around.

There, hovering effortlessly above the deck of the ship, was Hrist, her black hair shining in the sunlight as much as her golden wings and armor did. No-one else seemed to notice, nor did she cast a shadow. He opened his mouth to challenge her, but she did not give him the opportunity.

“You have no idea of your value, Cursebreaker. It is a waste to leave you in the North, more than even Beatrix knows. But, you were right: there are threads that bind.” She paused, and the look on her face turned predatory. “And threads can be cut.”

The predatory look became a too-wide smile as the Valkyrie faded from sight, until at the last all that lingered was the smile. “Hurry home, Cursebreaker.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

8.27 – Empire and Clan

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

In spite of their victory, a somber mood hung over the Arkona as it turned northward once more. Too many lives had been lost at Hohenwerth, and not just in battle. Einarr retreated to a quiet corner with Eydri and his men. It would be better, he thought, to give the men of the Order their space, at least for this night.

As the four of them sat quietly, discussing their plans for the coming summer and what they were likely to expect once they finally caught up with Stigander, the sound of boots tapping on the deck boards sounded behind Hrug. All of them looked up.

“Mind if I join you?” Beatrix asked. “I’m not part of the crew here, either.”

“I would imagine not.” Einarr would be surprised if she were a part of any crew, except maybe as a figurehead leader. But, it was that kind of a night. “Have a seat.”

“My thanks. I bring an offering.” She held up a glass bottle with some sort of liquid in it.

Einarr raised an eyebrow. What was that supposed to be?

“Give me your cups. You’ll like this.”

They had been drinking from Einarr’s claimed cask of Eisbock. “Tell you what,” he said. “Hand me yours. Once we’ve all finished this round, we’ll try… whatever that is you’re holding.”

She eyed the dark liquid in their cups before holding out her own. “Fine. …So how did you four find your stay in Imperial waters?”

They all shared a look, wondering for just a moment if they should be honest or polite. Eventually, Einarr shrugged. “It was interesting.”

Bea snorted. “Interesting. Okay, fine, I should have expected that answer. Answer me honestly, now: were you treated well?”

“Well enough. Captain Liupold seems to understand how the Clans work on some level, at least, which helped.”

Bea nodded slowly. “He would. He was raised in Kem.”

“Ah. That explains it, then. Wonderful city.” Einarr smiled in recognition. His cause for going had been unpleasant, but the city itself had seemed almost as nice as Eskiborg.

“I’m sure he would be glad to hear you say that.”

“Liupold’s hospitality left nothing to be desired, although I’m not certain I can say the same for the accomodations.” He chuckled, hoping she would not take it amiss.

She didn’t seem offended, at any rate, but sipped thoughtfully at her cup full of Eisbock before making a face. “This is that ale Liupold was going on about? Uck.” She sighed. “This is getting nowhere. I will be plain.”

Einarr turned his face so that he looked directly at her. She’d spoken as plainly as he could expect of a Conehead before, so this should be interesting.

“I want you four to enter my service, as liasons between the Hrist Brigade and the North. I’ve said it before, your talents are wasted on a simple longship…”

“Wait, the what brigade?”

“The Hrist Brigade. We-”

“You hunt us.”

“What?”

“Bea, before I made contact with the Arkona, my last contact with any Order ship was so deep into Clan waters they’d almost come out the other side again. They attacked us, entirely unprovoked, and we lost good men in the battle. While we were taking our spoils, I found the Captain’s orders. The name didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but now I finally understand. The ship’s orders had come through the Hrist Brigade, from the Valkyrie herself!”

“What? That can’t be. I’ve never sent a ship that far north. Are you certain they weren’t… lost?”

“Quite. We were taken by surprise, of course: we’d never heard of a hunter ship coming that far north, either, but the fact remains good men died there for no reason.”

To her credit, Bea seemed genuinely upset by this news.

“Now. You were going to offer me, again, the opportunity to abandon my father and my Clan to the Weaver’s curse that sent us into exile in the first place. To abandon the woman I am promised to, whose hand I have finally secured permission to marry, in order to enter your service as some sort of functionary? If I were the sort of person who would accept such an offer, you wouldn’t have made it.”

She did not answer for a long moment, only stared, dumbstruck, before taking a long pull on the drink she had earlier disdained. Finally, a strange strain in her voice, she muttered “I did not know.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. And if the Lady Hrist is commanding ships behind your back, it may be time to have a word with your patron.” He was about to go on, but she spoke over him without seeming to realize she was.

“Why did no-one tell me you were promised?”

Eydri spoke up. “Why should we have?”

“I see. In that case, I’m sorry to have bothered you. It won’t happen again.”

“Bea, wait.”

The princess, standing, stared down at them, cup in one hand and bottle in the other, as though she could not quite believe them. She was lovely. If he had met her before he found Runa, would he have been so quick to reject the offer?

“Sit down. Finish your cup, and we’ll share in… whatever that is that you brought, and we can boast of our deeds until the sun comes up. I’m not interested in joining the Order. That doesn’t mean I can’t like some of the people in it.”

The princess seemed to deflate as she folded her legs back under her. “Oh,” was all she said.

“You’re coming with us into the North, aren’t you? I’d like you to meet them – Father, for one, and Runa of course.”

“I…”

“She’s a fiery one, she is. I think the two of you might have more than a little in common. …But the North is my home, just as the Empire is yours. And we can’t just abandon our homes.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

8.26 – Inferno

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

So far as Einarr was aware, they had only one piece of business left on Hohenwerth. It seemed a shame, to Einarr’s way of thinking, that such a fertile piece of land should be put to flame – but the alternative meant leaving a pocket of corruption to fester like an open wound. It was bad enough that the svartalfr fortress in Clan waters still existed: for something like that to spring up in Imperial territory would be a disaster.

After roasting the black kraken alive, the Arkona’s stores of sea fire were no more. They still had more mundane means of setting things alight, however, and these they applied. The landing crew that had taken the bodies of the fallen to shore moved inland had one other task, and after the bodies were prepared they loaded packs of torches on their backs and moved inland.

When offered, Einarr refused the chance to go along on this task as he promised he would, and instructed his companions to do the same. “It’s not that we don’t trust you,” he told Liupold. “It’s that I don’t trust your higher-ups.” Most especially Hrist, but he wasn’t going to say that. “I agreed to assist you for my own reasons, as you well know. I will not give some ambitious functionary the chance to claim it was raiders at fault for Hohenwerth.”

Liupold took this with better grace than Einarr had really expected, even considering that he had been warned. But Liupold had more than once acted with better sense than Einarr typically expected of the Coneheads, so perhaps there was something to Walter’s accusation after all. Perhaps, as the Mate said, Liupold was half “barbarian.”

Two hours past dawn, the first column of smoke rose above the center of the island. New columns appeared at regular intervals after, in various places around the island. Three hours after they fanned out, the men of the Order climbed back in their landing boat and rowed back towards the Arkona. Behind them, Einarr could see flames licking up towards the sky.

Before they came back aboard, they tethered themselves to the Arkona and were towed around to the south side of the island. There was one more fire to light, one area shielded by a mass of stone from the rest of the blaze: the docks and the castle at Southwaite. Arguably the most crucial area to burn, given what happened there.

There were no more flesh-puppets to deal with, now that the black kraken had been destroyed, but flesh-puppets were not all that had been created on the island – the jailer was proof enough of that. As the castle dock came into view against the steep shale coast of the island, Einarr could see movement against the fiery backdrop. There were still living creatures on the island. Some of whom had once been men. And all of whom could potentially be able to escape into the sea.

Rambert was calling cadence on the rowboat, and when they loosed themselves from the main ship they closed the distance to the docks swiftly. Some few of the kraken’s monstrosities were already approaching the steep steps that led to the dock. Einarr did not doubt that they would find their way down, whether or not they were still able to walk down stairs.

Movement from the smaller boat again caught his eye. Rambert (at least, he thought that’s who it was) had drawn back his bow. Flame flickered at the tip of the arrow he had nocked. Then the first flame arrow flew. It landed at the very edge of the docks, right in front of the stair.

“Good shot,” Einarr muttered under his breath as the fire licked at the wood.

Moments later, a volley of flaming arrows flew across the gap to land in the bridge or in the forerunners of the island abominations – and they were all, he could see even from this distance – abominations.

One of them, vaguely humanoid but with the snout of a dog and moving on squid-like tentacles, braved the kindling fire ahead and sort of slid down onto the dock.

More fire arrows flew, whether intended as a second volley for the dock or with the intention of stopping the creature, it was hard to say. Whatever the intention, several burning arrows found their mark on the abomination and it slumped to the ground.

So they’re not all as strong as the jailer, are they? That’s good to know.

The bridge was burning merrily, now, and the creatures that had fled to the shore milled about between the fire and the water. Einarr frowned and moved forward, toward where Liupold stood watching with a similar frown on his face.

“Captain, might I suggest a volley of our own? Sooner or later, those things will end up jumping to escape the flames…”

“You’re quite right.” He frowned. “Walter! Do we still have the emergency cask held back?”

Walter glared at his captain and spoke through gritted teeth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir.”

“Walter. Would you rather ensure that nothing gets off this island, or preserve the most obvious of secrets from men who have acted as our allies? Load the cask.”

The Mate looked like he wanted to argue further, but then he looked towards the shore. Already some of the abominations were testing their courage and the edge of the cliff. “Yes, sir.”

While Walter disappeared belowdecks to do as his Captain commanded, Liupold ordered the ship brought in closer to shore.

The Arkona was far closer to shore than anyone really liked when Walter reappeared. “Ready, sir.”

“Very good. Fire on my mark.”

“Sir!”

Liupold stared towards the shore for a long moment. He appeared to be counting. “Ready… mark!”

A gush of sea fire spouted from a nozzle in the prow of the boat with a sound like rushing wind through a chimney. The abominations on shore shrieked in a voice like the kraken’s, although Einarr doubted most of them ever realized the water, too, was now ablaze. They were too busy trying to put out the flames that now burned them directly.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

8.23 – Tying a Net

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

“So now what do we do?”

Bea’s question was so eager and innocent that, for a moment, no-one could answer. An honest-to-goodness Valkyrie descends, throws down a gauntlet, and then retreats, all while the castle burns around their ears, and she dismisses it with a casual wave of her hand?

Eventually, Einarr found his voice. “First, we make sure Hrug’s plan doesn’t require us to come back here again. It doesn’t, right?”

The mute sorcerer thought for a long moment before nodding in the affirmative.

“Are you sure?” He was certain the man had not had a chance to complete an array. Where was the rest of it going to go?

Hrug’s nod was more certain this time. Einarr would not insult the man by questioning him further: if he said his plan for the island was complete, it would be. “Very well. In that case, I would like to suggest we return to the Arkona and make ready to fight a black-blooded kraken.”

Everyone who knew about the black blood shuddered at the thought. Bea and the two oarsmen looked troubled. Finally, Burkhart spoke up. “Begging your pardon, but what does the color of their blood have to do with anything?”

Einarr clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll explain later.”


Hrug might not have had more runes to lay, but it was decided they did need to do one more thing before leaving the accursed island for the last time. When they left, it was with a string of five fishing boats tied to the back of their landing craft, and Liupold declared that he would send another boat down to the dock by Southwaite to steal any boats moored there, as well.

As they rowed, Einarr made an agreement with Liupold: in exchange for another cask of Eisbock, Einarr would inform the ignorant on the boat of what, exactly, had happened last summer when the Vidofnir first encountered the monstrous cult. Since Einarr refused to tell it more than once, however, and since the ale was stored on the Arkona, Liupold insisted that he tell it before the entirety of the crew, rather than just the ignorant among the landing party.

“Very well. It will be important, after all, for everyone to understand why they should not close with the thing.” Einarr’s mouth twisted wryly: as if being a kraken wasn’t enough, with its ship-crushing tentacles as tough to hew through as any hundred-year tree, oh no. Some poor fool would still try rushing it at that point, out of desperation if nothing else. But if it bled on them…

The landing party was welcomed back warmly by Walter and the rest of the crew, who were thrilled to see Bea back safe and sound, and never mind that Einarr was sure Liupold had claimed there were multiple women and children held captive. Either they had retrieved the only “important” captive, or the Arkona was accustomed to cutting its losses like that. Einarr wasn’t certain he liked the implications of either answer.

But, now that they were safely aboard the Arkona, Liupold sent for the promised cask of Eisbock and gathered everyone together. It was time for Einarr to fulfill his end of the bargain, while those who already knew the tale began preparing a fire ship.

Bea, at the end of the story, looked as though she wanted nothing so much as to comfort Einarr. Even if he was not engaged to Runa, even if they did not have preparations to make, in spite of the horror of it all Einarr did not want to make himself into an object of pity through his story. He avoided Bea for the rest of the day as they busied themselves with the hard work of ensuring no-one had to be purified, by fire or by herb, at the end of this.

There was still one minor issue, however. Hrug could ensure that the fire ship and the harpoon boats would have the wind they needed to move, but someone would still need to guide them in.

“Is there any question?” Einarr asked. “We take volunteers. I’m not going to force a man to take on a suicide quest unless there’s no other choice.”

Echoes of agreement ran around the command circle of the Arkona. Even Walter agreed, in spite of the source of the comment. The man might not like the men of the Clans, but at least he could see sense at need.

At length, after a day and a night, their preparations were ready. The Arkona did not lack for men of bravery: they had had to draw lots among the volunteers for guiding the fire ship. The ‘losers’ of those lots had been assigned to the harpoon ships. All that remained was to lure the black kraken to the surface. It was agreed that they would begin luring the horror at dawn the next morning, so that the men would be fresh.

Einarr, restless, grabbed the blanket off of his bunk and went to stretch out in an out-of-the-way corner above deck. The close stuffiness of the steerage room, he thought, kept him awake. He stretched out on the deck and pillowed his head in his hands, staring up at constellations familiar and unfamiliar.

A female voice broke the silence. “Can’t sleep?”

Eianrr did not immediately recognize her. He lifted his head to look even as he answered “Yeah.”

“It’s a solid plan, you know.” Bea sat down on the deck next to him and leaned back.

“I know. Not that it will work out quite right. Seems like nothing ever does.

“Nothing?”

“Well, maybe not quite nothing.”

“I get it. No plan ever survives first contact. And there’s plenty to worry about with this thing.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“Probably not. But I think we’ve got a good chance. …Have you thought on what I told you, before?”


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.

8.22 – Hrist

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

The landing boat that waited to take the eight of them back to the Arkona was not unattended. Leaning casually against the side of the boat, as though she had been out for a stroll, stood a woman who looked remarkably like an older Bea, only if possible more supernaturally beautiful.

Einarr subconsciously slowed, his feet dragging to a stop, even as Captain Liupold and Bea hurried forward. The two oarsmen hung back with Einarr and his companions – not, he thought, out of any great trepidation at the woman’s presence, but out of respect for rank.

“Lady Hrist, you’re back,” Liupold said, taking a knee about ten paces in front of where the woman lounged.

…No. Einarr took a closer look. Her hair was a different color, and she wore trousers instead of the impossible skirt armor, but breastplate, helmet and spear alone should have been enough for him to realize. That was a Valkyrie ahead, and one apparently known to Captain Liupold and the Princess.

Better to the Princess, apparently, than to Liupold. The ship Captain had stopped a respectful distance back. Bea, on the other hand, went right up to her and knelt before her in an oddly familial gesture. The Valkyrie – Hrist, Einarr assumed, cupped the princess’ head in her hands.

Now Einarr’s caution turned to confusion. That was definitely an honest-to-goodness Valkyrie. So why…?

The grin on Bea’s face was positively girlish as she stood and turned to beckon the rest of the group forward. Liupold, too, looked delighted as he turned back around.

“Everyone,” he said. “Allow me to present the Lady Hrist, Patron of the Order of the Valkyrie.”

Liupold made no attempt to introduce them to her: probably, Einarr thought, that meant she was already aware of their identities.

The last time Einarr had met a Valkyrie, she had tried to kill him. On the other hand, Liupold had said it was Hrist who said he would be required. He swallowed his nerves and stepped forward as smoothly as he could. “I am honored, Lady.”

She inclined her head slightly. “Cursebreaker. My sister tells me you acquitted yourself well.”

“I am glad to hear it.” That didn’t seem to match with what she’d said at the time, but perhaps distance lent perspective even to Valkyries.

“Are you still wondering why I required your presence here?”

He looked pointedly between Hrist and the Princess. “I would guess you wished for some insurance as to the health of a… favorite?” Or she wasn’t entirely above midgardian politics. If Bea wasn’t somehow related to the Valkyrie, he would eat his own foot.

“A not unreasonable venture, Cursebreaker, but don’t get ahead of yourself. That the horror is loose in the seas at all is your responsibility, and therefore I will have you clean up your own mess.”

She sounded harsh, but he did not miss the implications of the first statement. “I understand,” he said.

“Do you?” The Valkyrie met his eyes, challenging.

He returned the gaze unyieldingly. “Was it you who ensured the Arkona could always find the Eikthyrnir?”

“In a way.”

“Were you on board the Arkona when we left Kjellvic?”

“No. I had other matters to attend to, I’m afraid.”

Einarr hummed, but did not challenge it. The Valkyrie’s were Wotan’s reapers, after all: why should they be limited to mortal means of travel?

“At any rate, you have rescued Beatrix, and for that I thank you.”

Einarr inclined his head again. “You’re very welcome. But to what do we owe the honor of your visit? Surely you didn’t come out here just to talk pleasantries?”

She smirked now. “Indeed, I did not. When my sister spoke with me about you, she said it was a shame she could not have claimed your soul. I wish to witness your mettle myself.”

Einarr could not quite keep a straight face at the idea. “My Lady, I have yet to finish the task you set for my companions and I. If I am to face you-”

She snorted. “Who said anything about facing me? You may have survived your exchanges against my sister by luck and by guile: such would not avail you against me. No, this task is my test.”

A million retorts sprang to Einarr’s mind and his lip curled in a sneer before he could stop it – but none of those retorts would be wise under the circumstances. She had tried to provoke him, but Einarr was not some mad dog.

Bea was looking at the Valkyrie with something approaching disapproval, to Einarr’s surprise. Could this have something to do with that strange offer she had tried to make earlier?

“I have already sworn that we will help the Arkona to destroy the black kraken. All that remains to be done to cleanse this island is to burn it, although I leave this task to Liupold and his crew.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You are cannier than I have come to expect of your vaunted Clans. Very well: but in that case, we shall not burn the island before you have defeated the beast.”

Einarr glanced at Hrug. The man nodded slowly: Einarr hoped that meant his array would still work. “Fine,” he said. “There will be other ways to draw it out.”

Now, finally, the Valkyrie straightened. “Good. We’re agreed, then. I have other matters to attend to, but I’m sure Beatrix can keep you barbarians in line.”

Naudrek and Hrug bristled, but Einarr wasn’t at all sure she was only referring to them. That disdainful glance had encompassed the Conehead men, as well.

Hrist strode off up the path toward Kettleness, and as she moved her armor and her hair began to shine with an otherworldly light. As she neared the top of the rise, just before she would have gone around a bend and been lost to sight, she vanished in a flash like sunlight on glass.

Beatrix rolled her eyes. “She’s always like that. So, now what do we do?”


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.

8.21 – Under Seige

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

“Do it.”

At Einarr’s word, Liupold and Naudrek tossed the bar out of the way and scrambled back over the makeshift palisade.

No sooner had they righted themselves, javelins in hand, than the press of bodies forced open the door to reveal a writhing mass of the kraken’s flesh-puppets.

They surged into the armory, arms and weapons flailing clumsily. Each time one was struck by arrow or javelin they crumpled to the ground, inert, only to rise again moments later. The killing field slowly filled with the bodies of the puppet master’s servants.

Eydri sang even as she drew her bow, but no illusions fell from Einarr’s eyes this time. They were not monsters wearing human skin, but tools manipulated by the monster directly. He fired another arrow: this one took its target in the eye. It did not rise again.

“The eyes!” He called across the room. “Shoot the eyes!”

The point was momentarily mooted as Hrug lit off one of his fire runes in the center of a mass of the flesh-puppets. With a whoosh like the Arkona’s sea-fire cannon a fireball engulfed them and spread. More of the flesh puppets fell and did not rise again.

It wasn’t much, but Einarr would take it. Good shooting and the occasional ball of fire would get them out of here, and then they could turn this island into an ash heap. He drew back his bow.

Another eye shot, another fallen puppet. But so long as Hrug could keep cleaning them out with the occasional fireball, they could escape this without dousing themselves in corruption.

Einarr just hoped his hand would hold out. It had been a very long time since he had done this much shooting.


Hrug was exhausted. Out of all the arrows and javelins they had started with, a bare handful remained both unshot and unburnt. Rambert had a nasty looking gash on his arm from a lucky shot by one of the flesh-pupppet’s pitchforks… but that was the worst of the damage they had taken.

The armor racks they had used as a palisade were well-nigh destroyed, of course, as was the armor they had left on the racks in question. But the flesh puppets no longer surged into the armory like a tide of hungry death and for that, at least, they could be glad. Einarr wanted little so much as to collapse onto the floor and sleep for a week. Hrug must be feeling it even more, with as much rune work as they had required of him.

Liupold groaned and levered himself back up to his feet, slowly. “We should go before the puppet master decides he wants to try us again.”

“Can everyone move?” Einarr asked as he, too, staggered to his feet.

“I think so,” Rambert answered. Eydri had bandaged the gash on his arm. Einarr hoped that meant it wasn’t bad enough to Sing over, and not that it would require specialized ointments she hadn’t brought ashore.

“Then let’s get out of here. Job’s not done yet.”

With groans and mutters, the eight of them took up the last of the ammunition and moved out of the armory and back into the halls, the fatigue all but forgotten as they jogged once more for the front entrance.

What flesh puppets remained in the hallway seemed uninterested, as though, having tried their skill, the kraken was content to leave them alone. The beast was a horror of the deeps, but did it think like an animal? Had they, in fact, asserted their dominance over it sufficiently that it would show its belly?

Einarr shook his head, chuckling to himself as they moved. What did it matter, if the black, corrupted kraken acted like a submissive dog the next time they saw it? That just made its belly easier to open.

As the front gates closed with a resounding thud behind them, Einarr felt like he could breathe a little easier. According to Naudrek, Hrug had managed to lay more pieces of the array while they were in the citadel, which meant that it should nearly be complete. How he intended to complete the array, Einarr had no idea, but that was why Hrug was Melja’s best student.

They hurried back mostly the way they had come, avoiding what few flesh-puppets they saw and detouring towards the northern coast. If the Coneheads wondered why, they did not ask, and Einarr was not inclined to explain.

Striding down one of the island’s many narrow roads, Bea hustled up beside him. “Your father – he is one of your northern lords? A… chieftan?”

Einarr smirked bitterly. “By birthright, he is a Thane, yes.”

“By birthright only? Not in actuality?”

“That is… complicated.”

Bea nodded, a small frown on her almost otherworldly face. “It would be a shame to waste a talent such as yours on a raiding ship.”

Einarr gave her a sharp look, but she wasn’t done.

“My father, I’m sure, will wish to reward those responsible for my rescue. There could be any number of powerful positions available.” She seemed to see his expression now, and the shadow of refusal in his eyes. “Just think on it. We can talk more later.” The princess Beatrix dropped back to walk with Liupold again.

Einarr shook his head and picked up the pace. What did she think she was suggesting? Easy enough, though, to turn her down when they spoke next.

Finally the burnt husk of Kettleness rose into view over the desolate fields. Nothing now stood between them and the relative safety of the Arkona save a mile or so of ocean. The eight of them hurried down the path to their waiting boat.

The boat was not all that waited them in the inlet. Leaning casually against its side stood a tall, statuesque woman with black hair even longer and more lustrous than Bea’s, wearing a gleaming golden breastplate. Beside her rested her winged helmet and spear.


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