Tag: Beatrix

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 she had given her son. She would be a formiddable 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.


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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.

9.14 – 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.

9.11 – 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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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.

9.8 – Nightfall

“Do you have a problem with the way we do things?”

“No, not at all.” The Imperial Princess seemed taken aback. “Just you’re a lot more… civilized than I’d been led to believe was common among the Clans.”

Einarr felt rage building in the back of his brain that had nothing to do with any Song magic. He wasn’t the only one, apparently: several of the men nearby had turned to stare incredulously at her. “What, you think because we raid your settlements and take thralls we’re nothing more than beasts? Kin is kin, and we care for our own. Don’t you? Or are you the animals you make us out to be?”

“No, that’s not…”

“You are a guest upon this boat. Don’t make me regret bringing you along.”

Bea’s voice tempered almost to meekness now. “I only wondered why your father does not pursue.”

“Because he’s not a fool,” Einarr snapped. He knew she was not this stupid. “Look, right about now they’re disappearing around that cape, right? I would wager my left eye that there are more ships back there, lying in wait for us – a lot more. My uncle is a crafty bastard, and we can’t afford to go sailing into any obvious traps.”

“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to fight them seriously!”

“You think we don’t know that?” Einarr felt the muscles in his jaw begin to twitch. Runa had never been so maddening. “Once we’ve unravelled the Weaving, though, not now. Not until they have a chance to regain their right minds.”

Bea blinked now. “Perhaps I don’t fully understand. I thought it was Song Magic that affected the mind, not Weaving.”

“It is. Just like the Painting you Coneheads practice makes physical effects.” Eianrr watched Bea’s face for sign of reaction and found none. “But Urdr’s Weaving bound their fates to her own – hers and her sons’. That commands a degree of loyalty. But once the Weaving is cut, they’re free to make the allegiance of their choice. Once that’s done, then we strike.”

“Taking advantage of the confusion. I see.”

That hadn’t been the reason he had in mind, but it was also probably accurate. Einarr grunted agreement. “But until then, we have no way of knowing who is loyal to the usurpers and who is merely compelled.”

“So how do you intend to cut the Weaving?”

Einarr grinned mysteriously. “With the Orlognir.”

Bea rolled her eyes, but seemed to understand that he would divulge no more.

Not that he had much more he could divulge. None of them knew how this breaking was supposed to work, only that he would have to do some rune work with Hrug, and then activate the distaff. Not that he was sure how to do that, either.

“So when do you intend to do this?”

“When we reach the central island, where Raenshold sits and where the Weaving is, we think, held.”

“You think?”

Einarr shrugged. It was their best guess, and not like they had any way of confirming it. Even if it wasn’t physically there, though, that should cut its hold rather thoroughly. Runa would probably say there was power in the location, although Einarr was never quite sure what was meant by that. “Father was out on the Vidofnir at the time, but we think that’s where it was worked. Whether or not it’s still there, physically, doesn’t matter. Or so I am assured.”

Bea shook her head. “Be that as it may… you’re worried about sailing into a trap, when you’ve already decided you have to make it to the center of their territory before you can really fight? I know you’re a better strategist than that, and your father should be too.”

Now Einarr smirked. “Indeed, we are. Just watch.”

Their miniature fleet veered to port and rounded the coast of the island they had been sailing past. This was a coast Einarr had not seen in a long time, and the rememberance was bittersweet. This was the island where his Afi had lived. There was a fjord not far from their old freehold, one that Ulfr’s men were likely to overlook as unimportant, and it was into that inlet that the Vidofnir slipped, followed closely by the Eikthyrnir and the Heidrun.

Once the open ocean had disappeared behind them, Einarr stretched his arms and smiled. “And now, we wait.”

“For what?”

“For nightfall.”


The air grew dim early between the walls of the fjord, although none aboard were so green as to be fooled. Even the men from Kjell set about their wait with purpose, checking their armor or their blades, re-fletching damaged arrows, and such.

Before they really knew it, orange and pink streaked across the sky overhead as it began to darken from blue into lavendar, purple, and finally indigo. One by one the stars appeared, and as the silvery moonlight began to reflect off the walls of the fjord the three ships manned their oars once more.

The light of the moon was bright enough they did not need torches to see by as they slipped in near-silence out of the mouth of the fjord and back onto the open sea, but one burned on each ship, near the captain’s awning, for the purpose of consulting charts and sending messages between their three crews.

Einarr stood motionless near the mast of the Heidrun, his arms crossed as he surveyed his crew and watched for any sign from the others. Where earlier his heart had been in his throat as he worried over everything to come, now that it was upon them he felt fantastically calm. Perhaps arguing with Bea had been no bad thing, after all.

The oars slipped gently through the water, answered occasionally by a creak of wood. No ship could be utterly silent, but these three were as quiet as one could hope for. Finally, Einarr thought, he could claim his birthright and his bride all at once. A smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Finally.


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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.

9.7 – Ocean Skirmish

“Draken, dead ahead!”

Sailing into view ahead of them, almost like a mirror image, came three draken bearing sails in the red and yellow of Ulfr’s Breidelstein.

“Make ready!” Stigander’s voice rose over the water from the Vidofnir, echoed moments later by Kormund and Einarr. Einarr’s heart pounded in his chest like it hadn’t since he was still a deckhand, and suddenly he wondered if he was really ready to be Captain. Or ready to retake their homeland, for that matter. Fifteen years is a long time…

“To arms!” He ordered again, this time breaking free of the paralysis that threatened to grip his legs. He didn’t have to be sure, he just had to do. Just like everything else since the Oracle had named him Cursebreaker. The chainmail slid over his head as easily as it ever did.

Easier, in some ways. Runa was ahead, captive and bound by the same hands that held his grandfather and all the other men of Breidelstein in thrall. When he thought of it that way, how could he even think of hesitating?

The ships ahead were near enough now that Einarr could make out their prow totems – not one of them a wolf. Well, that was fine. He could hardly expect the usurper to sally forth so early.

His men were readying bows, now – everyone aboard, really, save for Bea and Jorir. She stood, spear in hand, just ahead of him and to the left, with Jorir on the right. Einarr shook his head: there were far worse choices for a bodyguard, he supposed, and if she were ahead of him that meant he could keep an eye on her.

They were almost in range. “Ready volley!” Wait for it…

“Fire!”

Arrows launched from all three ships almost at once, and only a few landed in the water. The counter-volley came at almost the same moment, and the slower among the Heidrunings had to scramble to raise their shields in time. Arrows sprouted from the deck and from shields, but Einarr heard none of the inevitable cries of pain from his deck. “Again!”

Once more, bows drew back, and on his command they loosed arrows and raised shields once more. The time for arrow fire was nearing its end, however: some few of the missiles launched from their opposites were javelins, now.

“Prepare to board!”

About half of his crew shouldered their bows and moved to ready the boarding lines. The other half kept their shields raised, guarding their fellows. Einarr looked on approvingly: this was the start of a good crew, he thought. Hopefully most of them would survive the battles to come.

Eydri’s battle hymn began to take hold on the edges of his mind. He acknowledged it, but did not let himself sink fully under its sway. That was a luxury that was not afforded to Captains: those who lost themselves in its grip were brutally effective – right up until the rage got them killed. Usually sooner rather than later.

Now the enemy boarding lines launched. Einarr could feel the blood pumping in his veins as he drew Sinmora, still resisting the heady call of the battle chant. It would get easier with time, he knew – just so long as he did resist it.

There was no more time for contemplation. The boarding lines grew taut. Quick as a thought, the first wave of men were up and racing along their precarious footing to be the first to reach the other deck.

The enemy sailors, too, were racing across the ropes, trusting in long practice and good luck to keep them out of the water. Where the two forces met in the middle, they clashed, and there were usually two fates possible in that first clash: either you won, and the other man fell, or you lost, and fell to the water below, to swim and hope you could escape being crushed between the ships.

The men of the Heidrun, since they were few in number and mostly still green, had been instructed in a cleverer way of fighting. They were not to clash like rams, horns against horns, on the boarding lines. Instead their first rush was to evade the enemy and slip past to the deck beyond, while those who remained behind defended the Heidrun and their captain from a place of better footing. Einarr had the idea from watching Sivid, and it had the benefit of taunting the enemy while they were securing their own footing.

It seemed to be working. He heard very few splashes, and of the few who fell even fewer were Heidrunings, men of Kjell or experienced sailors either one.

That also meant, however, that the fighting was harder on his own deck. Bea and Jorir closed ranks so that the three of them stood back to back, just behind the first line of defenders.

One man, a fellow built like Stigander but with a wild red mane the color of Einarr’s, crashed through the line of defenders to close with Einarr. He studied the man’s face: could this be an uncle, or a cousin?

Family or not, he was fighting in deadly earnest, and so Einarr did not hesitate to do the same. They exchanged three blows. On the fourth, Einarr buried Sinmora’s blade in his shoulder. The blade slid free and the man clutched at the wound, stumbling backward with a scream of rage and pain. He might live, if their Singer got to him quickly enough, but that had been his sword arm. He would never fight again.

The battle was almost over before it began. Not long after the red-headed bear withdrew, the enemy captains sounded the retreat.

Once their men had cut their way back aboard the Heidrun, and the enemy sailors had fled, the boarding lines were drawn back. Bea stared in consternation at the fleeing ships.

“That was all it took to send them off? Why did your father fear these men so?”

Einarr shook his head. “They were testing us. Those were scout ships. And those men, some of them anyway, are kin. Father does not fear them, he fears for them.”

Bea hummed. She did not look convinced.


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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.

9.6 – Sinmora

The blue and gold sail of the Eikthyrnir and the gold and white of the Heidrun flanked the blue and white of the Vidofnir as they sailed past the island where Einarr’s grandfather had once taught him to hunt, one summer after the curse was laid but before he was old enough to join the crew.

Einarr had been a little concerned with allowing Bea on any of their boats – not because she was Imperial, but because she was a princess – but those fears had rapidly proved unfounded. On their first full day out of Kjellvic she had asked Irding to spar with her – what the impetus for this was, Einarr never learned. He became aware of it when a circle formed just ahead of the mast and the laying of bets caught his ear. Curious, he went to investigate.

The spearwoman at the head of the most aggressive faction of the Order of the Valkyrie faced the most reckless of the warriors aboard the new-minted Heidrun and proceeded to mop the deck with him. What’s more, she did it in such a way that Einarr was convinced the result would have been the same against Erik, Sivid, or even Arring. Then she reached out a hand to help him to his feet, and just like that she was a sailor like all the others.

Now they were entering the waters around Breidelstein, and the princess who had thought to lure him to the Empire seemed just as determined as all the others to end the usurpers’ rule. Well, perhaps he shouldn’t be surprised. She’d had a strong sense of justice since he met her. Still, though, that she was like this when she knew they were aiming to rescue his betrothed… he could not think ill of her, no matter who she was affiliated with.

The main island was just peeking into view over the horizon as they passed Afi’s old freehold – long since fallen to ruin, after the Wolf’s raiders came. Einarr shuddered involuntarily. Before the raiders had left, Afi had given him Sinmora and sent him up into the mountains to live and watch for the Vidofnir. Einarr had never seen either of his step-grandparents again after that. Just one more crime to be laid at the feet of the Wolf. Soon, though, they would be met by ships under Urdr’s and Ulfr’s control.

Einarr’s hands itched. He wanted very much to take up the Örlögnir and study it, much as Hrug was now doing from beneath the awning, but he didn’t dare. The theft had been not only detected but allowed, and who knew when Wotan or his wife might demand the artifact’s return. He couldn’t count on being able to use it more than once: what if, in examining it, he activated the thing?

From behind him, Jorir cleared his throat. When Einarr turned to look, his Mate and first man-at-arms beckoned him back to the stern. The dwarf sat at his whetstone and drizzled a fine line of water over it.

“Something amiss?”

“You. You’re making the men nervous, pacing up there like some sort of caged animal. Now. Take a seat, and hand me your sword. Magic-touched or not, I’m sure her edge could use a little loving care.”

A little sheepish, Einarr handed Sinmora to the svartdvergr and sat cross-legged on the deck. “Sorry.”

“Now nobody faults your nerves, under the circumstances. Your first command, and the culmination of your father’s bloody quest? Who wouldn’t be. But no-one wants a Captain so wrapped up in their own heads that they’re not sure he even knows where they’re sailing.”

“You’re right, of course.”

Jorir harrumphed, as though that much were obvious. “So tell me what happened with Sinmora here.”

This wasn’t the first time Jorir had asked to hear that, nor the first time Einarr had told it. He wasn’t sure what the dwarf thought he could learn, hearing it again, but the act of telling the tale did help calm his nerves.

When he was about halfway through the tale, around the time he was working with Eydri, Bea arrived. Quietly, she folded her legs under herself and sat listening as intently as Jorir. When he was done, she continued to stare at the blade Jorir was sharpening.

“Do you have any idea what you have in that sword, there?” She asked, finally.

“A good blade, sturdy and true, that’s been by my side for more than a decade.”

She shook her head. “Maybe so, but that’s not what I meant. Whoever forged that blade must have had uncommon magic about them. In all my schooling, in all the histories I’ve read, nowhere does it mention anything about an enchantment that allows a blade to eat magic. Nowhere, in more than a thousand years of history. Do you know who forged it?”

Einarr shook his head. “It was given to me by my stepmother’s parents when I was still a boy. I assume it was his sword, back in his raiding days, but I don’t know. But after last summer, part of me feels like it would have been stranger if something hadn’t happened to it. I’m just glad it was something good.”

She nodded, still watching Jorir as he worked. Fourth princess or not, how had she come to be in charge of a division like the Hrist Brigade? She seemed far too earnest and kind for the leader of a group that hunted longships like whales.

Bea glanced at him briefly and smirked: had he been staring? That was something he could not allow, no matter what was on his mind at the time. He could not allow Runa to get the wrong idea.

“How long have you had that Valkyrie feather in your buckle?” was all she asked.

“Since the Tower of Ravens,” he began, but was interrupted.

“Draken, dead ahead!” came the lookout’s cry.


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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.

9.3 – 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.


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.