Tag: Cursebreaker

10.37 – Regathering

Beatrix nodded brusquely and thrust the bit of cloth she’d been using to dab at Runa’s face into her hands. “I expect you’re right. Lead on.”

Runa was only a little slower getting to her feet. She took a moment to dust off her skirts. Einarr was suddenly reminded of the little girl he’d seen out trying to wrangle goats and smiled.

“…What?”

“Nothing. Just glad you’re all right. Are we ready?”

The doors to the Hall stood open, and spilling out into the courtyard in front of them was a flurry of activity. Standing at the center of this, exactly where Einarr expected to find him, was Father, barking orders. Swirling around him like the inner edge of a storm’s eye were Bardr, Kormund, Hraerek, and …Kaldr?

Einarr glanced over his shoulder at the two women, suddenly glad none of the other Singers had arrived yet. Their attention seemed caught closer to the fringes of the crowd, which he took for a good thing under the circumstances. “Father! What news?”

Stigander looked up from the discussion he was holding with his Mate and waved the four of them over. “Einarr! Glad to see you made it. Everything went smoothly down below?”

“As well as I could have hoped. Hrug’s going to be out of it for a while, but I can’t rely on him for everything.”

Kaldr looked up from the message he had just finished dispatching to turn a questioning eye on Stigander. Behind Einarr, Beatrix and Runa stiffened as they could no longer ignore the man’s presence.

“This is my son, Kaldr. Einarr is the Cursebreaker.”

Kaldr pivoted on his heels, clapped a fist to his chest, and bowed to Einarr. Einarr blinked, unable to process what he was seeing at first.

“Father?”

“Your ritual allowed at least one man to slip free entirely of the Weavess’ work.”

“I see.”

“Are you certain it was the ritual?” Bea’s voice was tight.

Kaldr did not rise. “I assure you, my lady, my actions at that time were taken out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.”

Beatrix hummed, evidently skeptical.

“I believe, actually, that you’ve met all of these people, Kaldr,” Stigander went on smoothly. “It was Einarr’s ship you took for your platform right after you stole the Singers from our decks. Runa is the daughter of Jarl Hroaldr – who is also in our safekeeping now. Someday I will want to hear just how you managed that.”

Kaldr did not even shift his shoulders to show discomfort. “Of course, my lord.”

“The svartdverger is Einarr’s right-hand man – and among the truest of liege men. And this,” Stigander continued. “Is Beatrix Mari… bah. Beatrix. She is no Singer, but an Imperial princess who happened to decide our cause was just.”

For once the man looked surprised. “You have my apologies, my lady, for the error.”

“Lord Stigander!” One of the newer Vidofnings approached, who had signed since Einarr wintered with the elves, dodging through the whirling chaos of men that surrounded the captains. For the first time in a very long time, Einarr did not know everyone who was a part of his father’s crew.

“Yes, what is it?”

“The Weavess’ work room – it’s empty, sir. We can’t find her anywhere.”

Einarr could see his father swallowing a shout. Berating the messenger would do no-one any good. “Keep looking! Comb that tower top to bottom: she couldn’t have got far, not at her age.”

“My lord,” Kaldr demurred. “She almost never left the tower. She climbed the stairs between her workroom and the dungeon several times a day.”

Runa gasped, her fingers moving to cover her mouth.

Einarr turned to look at her. “What is it?”

“The secret door! Bea, you remember. She was turning the lock in the door when we came back down to steal the Victory weaving. You tried to break it down.”

Beatrix winced. “That door. You’re right, that has to be where she went.”

Einarr met Stigander’s gaze and saw his own thoughts writ there. “I’ll go, Father. You, too, Jorir?” When the dwarf nodded, he continued. “Great. Runa, you’ll lead the way?”

“Naturally.”

“In that case, we just need someone who can deal with the lock… Sivid should still be down in the harbor. Do we have anyone else who can pick a lock, or do we need Arring?”

Stigander nodded, then raised a hand to his mouth and called over his shoulder. “Troa!”


Runa raced back across the courtyard for the tower, followed closely by Einarr, Jorir, and Troa. Beatrix had wanted to come as well, but before Troa arrived she had been drawn into the exigencies of diplomacy with the soon-to-be-restored Thane. Perhaps that was not what she had in mind when she joined Einarr’s cause, but no matter how much she wanted to continue the assault, her place was now at the Hall with the leadership. Truth be told, Runa should have stayed as well: she would have almost as many letters to draft, come the evening.

Troa pelted along at Einarr’s side, very carefully looking straight ahead. Einarr’s fault, that: after the duel with the Althane’s shade, Einarr had never been entirely comfortable around him. Knowing the aversion was irrational did not help. There were more important matters to hand, though, so Einarr also kept his attention focused on Runa’s back, urging her faster. That they were chasing an old woman was no comfort: the Weavess had managed to build her own private escape route. Who knew what they might find waiting for them inside? And the longer they took to get there, the more time the crone had to prepare.

Faster, Runa. Faster.


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10.31 – Struggle

“You there! What goes on here?” Stigander leveled a finger at one of the better-equipped townsfolk who had joined their ranks.

He blinked and pointed at himself, a dumbfounded look on his face.

“Yes, you! Why have the townsfolk taken up arms against the Thane here?” He hated to phrase it that way, but the odds were good this man still thought of the Usurper that way.

Now the man nodded in understanding. “Thane Ulfr’s men claim you are rebels. Well, his men treat us as thralls, even though we are free men. If it means we are rid of them, rebels we will be.”

Stigander looked again at the man. He was malnourished, and unkempt as one would expect of a drunkard, but his blue eyes were clear and proud.

“I am Stigander, son of Raen, and while Ulfr calls me a rebel I am in fact the rightful Thane. I will remember your resolve.”

The townsman blanched a little as Stigander began shouldering his way back to the front of his crew’s line, but returned to the battle at hand. How many of these people even remember what happened all those years ago? He can’t be much older than Einarr… Stigander growled low in his throat: that line of thinking was a distraction he did not need right now.

Perhaps a hundred feet ahead the road began its steep, switchbacked ascent up the cliffs to Raenshold.

The wolflings had fallen back to the far side of the square and reset their shield wall yet again, in the familiar pattern. Yet again, he and his Vidofnings surged forward to batter it down. This time, though, it did not buckle like so much rotted timber.

Battle screams roared from either side of the square as wolfling warriors fell upon them from both sides at once. Stigander and his crewmen were boxed in. To stay in the square would be foolish, and if they somehow managed to batter through the forward line then they had to worry about wolflings nipping at their heels. That left only one option: turn their own tactic against them. “Fall back!”


Beatrix had been startled to see Einarr’s bride chasing after her into the thick of combat: the Singers, after all, had been meant to stay behind. But, the other girl at least knew enough about combat to keep herself out of danger, and her Song was useful enough.

Bea frowned, though: she could tell they were losing momentum, but not why. Certainly it shouldn’t be fatigue, not with the Singer working her Art. And they weren’t outnumbered, at least not once you counted the local reinforcements. They had to reach the cliff road, though: Lord Stigander had been clear. And yet, they were on the verge of being pushed back. Do I dare let us lean on our back foot?

It was not immediately clear she would have a choice. The wolflings were massing ahead, and her group had been the smallest of the three forces. She frowned. Their forward progress had almost stalled, but if they could make the next intersection she might be able to reroute. The difficulty would be not letting the line fall apart when they inevitably reached the narrow footpaths that were ever-present and never meant for more than one or two abreast.

The Song magic that had been sustaining her thus far cut off with a shriek, not so much of pain or fear as of rage. Bea’s head snapped around: there was Runa, the Cursebreaker’s bride, biting the hand of the wolfling who had tried to capture her. She seemed to have drawn blood, too. The girl stabbed backwards at her assailant with the knife all Singers wore, but Bea didn’t think it had yet drawn blood.

She cursed. Where had the wolfling even come from? This was why fighting through a city was so terrible: even when you thought your back was secure, someone could sneak around behind with a poisoned knife. Perhaps one of Beatrix’s sisters could have let her rival be taken like this, but Beatrix could not – a trait that had often hampered her in Imperial politics.

“Fall back!” If they gave a little ground, Bea could drop back without leaving a hole in the middle of their line. They would just have to find their way forward again from there.


Jorir stood, his axe and golden shield at the ready, just outside of Lord Einarr’s rune circle, staring toward the bulwark.

Someone was in the water. Several someones, he thought, and if this ship wasn’t their target he was a farmer.

Jorir glanced over his shoulder, and wished for the umpteenth time he could tell how close they were to finishing the ritual. Curse that witch and the helspawn she rode in on. I’m a dwarf – I’m supposed to be good with runes! At least he was sure it was doing something: the feeling of magic crackled in the air like lightning.

The gentle splashing in the water went silent, only to be followed by the sounds of boots climbing on wood. Jorir flexed his grip on his axe handle and glanced over at his fellow bodyguard.

Naudrek had set himself for battle nearly as quickly as Jorir had, and without needing Jorir to say anything. With a little luck, that meant the invaders still didn’t know they were discovered.

The first of the invaders appeared over the side of the bulwark, their hair streaming water, with scramasax clenched in their teeth as they climbed the Heidrun’s clinks.

Naudrek moved on cat’s feet over to where the wolfling was emerging from the water, his blade held low, and raised one foot. The sole of his boot impacted the first wolfling’s forehead and he lost his grip, tumbling into the water.

Jorir charged forward, much more noisily, and raised his shield over his head. The edge of the shield hit the second man’s teeth with a gong, followed by another splash.

Now men were coming up the other side, though, three and four at a time. Jorir shared a look with Naudrek before the other man raced back across the deck to fend off that group of attackers. Jorir looked back over his shoulder at Einarr, hoping for some clue that they were nearly done.

He still couldn’t tell. He raised his axe and stepped forward to block as many as he could.

Then the crackling magic at his back went still and the pressure vanished. For a heartbeat, everything was still.

In the next heartbeat, it was as though the world itself exploded. A wave of magic crashed over the deck of the Heidrun and rippled out over the water, towards the fighting in the town.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

10.7 – Safe Harbor

Lundholm sat near the shore of a narrow, rocky fjord only slightly less treacherous than the waters surrounding the Althane’s grave. Stigander and the Vidofnir led the way, and even from his position in the rear Einarr could see his father’s crew sounding the depths at regular intervals.

The town itself was tiny, and home to not more than four or five households but supporting at least double that living in more remote portions of this remote island. Einarr scowled: this was hardly the place he would have chosen for a resupply, even under such circumstances as these. Could they afford to supply the sheer quantities of goods three ships would require?

Father, however, seemed confident, and their course had never wavered after they broke free of Kaldr’s trap in the bay.

The town, when it finally appeared from behind the rocky walls of the fjord and the tree cover, was little more than a collection of wooden houses, most whitewashed but some treated and cured nearly black. Smoke rose from chimneys, and here and there he could pick out a shop stall. There would be a butcher, and a smith more familiar with horseshoes and nails than weaponry, and perhaps a miller for grain although he wasn’t sure where they would grow it.

Well. He had lived in such a place before – or, rather, in one of the freeholds surrounding such a place. They would all have to sleep on the ship, but the local alewives would do a brisk business, as would the fletcher. With a creaking of wood and the calm splash of water against their hulls, the three ships beached themselves just outside the town.

Stigander vaulted from the deck of the Vidofnir, followed quickly by the other captains from their own ships.

Stigander cupped a hand to his mouth and called out. “Halloo!”

A voice cut out from within a stand of trees just away from the beach. “State your intentions.”

“Shelter and resupply. Does Lundholm still honor the name of Raen?”

After a long moment, a skinny young man emerged from the stand of trees. He held an arrow still nocked to his bow, although it pointed at the ground. “Been a long time since we’ve heard that name. You don’t look like one of the Wolf’s dogs.”

“I am Stigander, son of Raen and rightful heir to his Thanedom. So I ask again: does Lundholm still honor the old agreements?”

The young man’s eyes went wide as he stared at Stigander. “W-wait here. I will bring the Elder.”

Not many minutes later the youth – probably younger than Einarr – returned leading a wizened old man who leaned heavily on his stick as he walked. Einarr’s eyebrows rose: the man was at least as old as Afi, and probably older. When they reached the edge of the sand, the old man held up his hand and his escort stopped.

The Elder continued on, his pace slow but both steady and firm, until he stood directly before Stigander and stared at him – long enough and hard enough that Einarr and Kormund both began to feel ill at ease. At last, though, he nodded his head. “You are the Son of Raen. Is it time at last, then?”

Stigander smiled down at the Elder. “It is time, at last.”

A grin split the old man’s white beard. “The Usurper’s men have not troubled us in many years. Now we will remind them of our existence.”


A pair of watchers were left behind on the boats in case Kaldr sent a boat down the fjord after them. If the watchers on the spit were any good, however, Einarr didn’t think they would have much to worry about. The rest of the crew followed the Elder up into the village proper.

As Einarr had expected, two of the three houses sold ale, and one made mead, but none of them were of a size to accomodate even one crew, let alone three. Even knowing they would have to sleep on deck did little to dampen their spirits, however: the promise of shelter, if even for a night, served to bleed off a good bit of the tension.

“Has your fletcher taken an apprentice? I’m afraid we’re in dire need of arrows,” Kormund asked the Elder as they tromped through the town to their meeting-place.

The Elder chuckled. “I’m afraid we don’t have a dedicated fletcher here. Not a man in the village can’t turn out a brace of arrows in the space of an hour, though.”

Stigander gave a half-smile to his old friend. “Lundholm is one of the more industrious of our freehold allies. They’ll put us to work, but we’ll get what we need. I’m just glad the Weaving spared you.”

The Elder snorted. “You’re welcome.”

Einarr jogged a half-step to come up even with the elder. “Beg pardon?”

After a sidelong look, the old man answered. “Your grandfather tried very hard to make this a proper part of his kingdom – not far short of open warfare, really. Only I was too cussed stubborn to go along with it, and he didn’t want to destroy us and rebuild.”

“You knew my grandfather, then?”

Now the Elder laughed. “Of course I did! How young do you think I am?”

While Einarr stammered, Stigander held up his hands in front of him for peace. “Come now, Vilding. He was only a boy when the Weaver came.”

Elder Vilding snorted again. “Not much more than a boy now.”

Before he could finish the insult, they arrived in a large green surrounding a single large oak tree. “Here we are. Our Herb-witch should be along shortly, and then there are many matters to discuss. For example, what changed?”

Stigander looked Elder Vilding straight in the eye. “That, sir, is simple. My son is the Cursebreaker.”


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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.

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.”


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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.

8.5 – Pursuit

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!

Captain Kormund froze a moment, staring at Einarr. He blinked, then swore quietly. “You. A Cursebreaker. How long?”

“Almost a year now.”

The Captain swore again. “So you’ve made it long enough to know you attract trouble. When were you intending to tell me about this?”

Einarr paused in his preparations. He hadn’t even thought about that: it felt like ages since it had come up, although in reality it was only late last summer. “You’re right. I should have mentioned that. My apologies: I was named Cursebreaker by an alfish Oracle early last spring. She recommended I learn the runes. By midsummer, I agreed.”

Captain Kormund looked at him flatly for a long moment, then sighed. “You’ve made it this far, and I suppose I can’t just strand you somewhere. Carry on.”

Einarr blanched. It was truly lucky that Kormund thought well of his father, he thought.

Neither Hrug nor Einarr saw the point in setting up the full divination ritual. Either the dromon was a Valkyrie, or it was not: either it was after them, or it was not. Even the more limited reading,though, would have been a problem to set up alone on deck.

At length, the circle was drawn and the runes were set Hrug gestured for the Captain to seat himself at its center.

“Excuse me?”

“The one in the center of the array recieves the revelations,” Einarr explained.

“Ah. Very well, then.” With no further hesitation, the Captain stepped into the ritual seat, taking care not to disturb the charcoal markings on his deck. “I am ready.”

Hrug nodded and sat at the edge of the circle. His brow furrowed as he focused his will, and then he reached out to touch the line.

Captain Kormund’s eyes grew wide momentarily before he closed them. The double vision caused by these visions could be quite disorienting otherwise.

The vision was a brief one: only a minute later, his eyes opened again and he exhaled sharply. Kormund looked directly at Einarr. “Damnit all. I appreciate you sounding the alarm about the ship early, but part of me is still inclined to blame you. Yes, they are of the Order of the Valkyrie, and yes, they are pursuing us. But, in that case, fine. I’ve outrun Order ships before.”


That evening, they lit no torches, and the hearth was extinguished immediately after dinner. Once the sunset had faded into full night, Captain Kormund gave the order to unfurl the sail. They would be sailing by starlight, as thankfully there was no moon: with luck, it would suffice.

The ship was almost eerily silent as it slipped off into the night: all Einarr could hear was the lapping of water against the side of the boat and the occasional rapping of knuckles against the hull in a set of signals unique to the Eikthyrnir.

Still, he kept a watchful eye behind them. He had no real hope that he would see them at that distance in the dark of night, but to not watch seemed the height of folly. And, perhaps, he would be able to catch their silhouette against the indigo sky. All night, he stared at the horizon behind them, never sure if he saw the other ship moving or not – certain, only, that they were too far to hear the sound of oars.

At some point he slept, and all the while refought his battle against the Order from nearly a year ago. At dawn he awoke with a groan.

“You’ve got that right,” Naudrek said from where he stood, leaning against the bulwark.

Einarr stood and went to look out over the water. He groaned again, lowering his forehead to the wood. There was the dromon, the wing-and-spear symbol of the Order plain on its sail. They had not lost it in the night: on the contrary, the ship appeared to have drawn closer in spite of their efforts. “Why does this not surprise me.”

“Because nothing is ever easy, my friend. Nothing is ever easy.”

“Especially not when the gods decide someone has to clean up all the black magic floating around, and you look like a good candidate.” He wished the Captain hadn’t reminded him of all the trouble his calling brought along with it. After the winter, he’d almost managed to put it behind him.

Naudrek laughed. “Yep, that’s a Cursebreaker all right. But based on what you said about last Season, I think we’ll be all right here.”

“You say that now. Just watch, it turns out they’re all possessed and under the control of that monster cult.”

“An Order ship? More likely they’ve got an actual Valkyrie giving them orders, and she wants a rematch.”

Now it was Einarr’s turn to laugh. “Nope. Not doing that again. She can have the feather back if that’s what she’s after.”

Naudrek smirked at Einarr. “That’s more like it. Last night can’t have been the only trick up the captain’s sleeve, so let’s not despair just yet, shall we?”

“Deal.”

As Naudrek expected, Captain Kormund had more tricks up his sleeve than the nighttime evasion. All that day they kept the sail furled and rowed. Every hour or so Hraerek would ring a bell and the rowers would change shift so that everyone stayed relatively fresh.

By all rights, they should have left the dromon in their wake this way. But all through that day they rowed, and they never seemed to put any distance at all between themselves and the Valkyrian ship. Einarr started to wonder if they really had bound a vindstang to the ship.

For his part, the captain seemed only mildly impressed. As the day wore on, Einarr noted that they had shifted course somewhat to the east. He wasn’t overly familiar with the waters in these parts, but he had to assume there was some sort of obstacle they were aiming for. Captain Kormund was a canny fellow, after all. Einarr did his best not to clench his fists around the oars, lest white knuckles betray his nerves.


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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.

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

7.33 – Leaving Eskiborg

“Ah. Right.” With a thought, Einarr withdrew his will and the deck of the Bjorn ceased glowing. “But we cannot leave yet. As much as it pains me, I do need to make arrangements with your Captain for the damage we caused.”

“Fine, but right now is not the best time for that.”

“It has been my experience that delay in these matters tends to worsen things, not improve them.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you…” Naudrek stepped quietly back from Einarr, toward the dock, but did not turn his back on the Captain’s awning.

Einarr turned to face that direction, his face cool and composed in the face of the tawny bear of a man approaching like a squall. “You have my apolo-”

The man, self-evidently the Captain, did not give Einarr a chance to finish his statement before his fist embedded itself in Einarr’s stomach. “That was for coming aboard without my say-so.”

Einarr doubled over, momentarily winded. Of all the reactions he had been expecting, immediate violence was not one of them.

Before Einarr could catch his breath, the man growled in his ear. “Now. You going to tell me why you came on board and vandalized my newly repaired deck, or am I going to turn you two into new deck boards?”

“Had… to… destroy… Shroud,” Einarr managed to gasp out.

The captain took a step back and crossed his arms: evidently he was willing to give Einarr a moment to breathe.

Once he got a deep breath, he introduced himself and told how he had come to follow Naudrek out to the Bjorn.

The captain glowered at Einarr and snorted. That was all the warning Einarr had before the man pulled back and planted a second fist in his gut. “Fine. Now we’re even. Don’t let me see you here again.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Einarr choked out. As he staggered back toward the docks, the Captain called past him.

“That goes for you, too, Naudrek! What were you thinking, bringing a stranger aboard?”

The man swallowed before he answered. “I was thinking that thing got Hrug’s arm, sir. But I’ll be going, just as you asked.”

The Captain grunted. “Hrug was a good sailor. Sorry to see the two of ye go.”

“Me, too, sir.”

Once they were a good ways up the docks, Naudrek breathed a sigh. “That was why I’d wanted to wait for morning. Captain’s got a temper, and he sticks with whatever he decides when it’s up. Guess it’s time to find me a new ship.”

“I just might be able to help with that…”


Day was dawning as the two men returned to the Pewter Pot, and it seemed a pale and wan thing after the night’s exertions. Einarr disliked that he had gotten the man thrown off his ship, even if Naudrek denied that he was to blame.

Hrug’s face was as wan as the morning light, but he slept peacefully in one of the Pewter Pot’s few bed closets. It was perhaps for the best that he had not awakened yet: better to face reality in the light of day, with friends on hand. And, on the subject of misplaced blame, Naudrek hovered over his former crewmate like a mother bird over its nest.

The mute finally awakened around midday, although the cast of his eyes said he wished he had not. By supper, though, color had come back to the man’s face, and he sat up and acted lively again. Einarr brought his bowl of greasy stew with its slab of dark bread over then.

“The two of you helped me in my quest, and it cost you. But I bet if you come back to the Shrouded Village with me, there will be some sort of reward to be had.”

Hrug only shrugged, but Naudrek urged him to go. “After all,” he said, “if the blessed alfs can’t help you, who can?”

Thus it was decided, and on the first day of autumn the three men set off from Eskiborg, with only a brief stop at the Bronze Archer. Einarr wanted to let Eydri know she’d been right about Sinmora – and to remind her that, if she was still in want of a ship come spring, he would likely still be in need of a Singer.

Business in the city concluded, they set back out on the main road leading into the interior of the island. It struck Einarr that he still had no clear idea where in the seas they were, other than near waters claimed by the Konneul Empire, nor did he know the name of the island, or even if it was a lone island or an archipelago. Mentally, he shrugged. He could always ask the alfrs, before they sent him back to Breidhaugr and the Vidofnir.

As their feet carried them down the road, only half-remembered but impossible to miss at this stage, and Einarr regaled his two new companions with tales of his adventures on his father’s ship, it occurred to him that something was different now, not in him but in the world around him. He fell quiet a moment as it struck him: not once during this elf-quest had he cursed his Calling as Cursebreaker.

“Einarr? Everything all right?” Naudrek asked.

Einarr shook his head, unsure for how long he’d lapsed into silence and unwilling to ask. “Right as rain, Naudrek. Right as rain.” Here he paused again, finally deciding against telling them that right this instant. “Just thinking how surprised master Melja will be when he hears how we did it.” And that was true, too. Now they just needed to get back to the village.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! This marks the second-to-last chapter of Book 7: Einarr and the Crimson Shroud. Book 8 will begin on October 8, 2019.

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

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7.31 – The Bjorn

Einarr and Naudrek came to the water’s edge at an area of the docks that Einarr doubted he’d have found on his own, it was so far removed from the main road. Naudrek stopped, briefly, when they heard their footfalls echoing over water instead of ground and pointed out towards the sea.

“There, at the far end of the pier.” Then they were both running again, sure that their quarry had arrived ahead of them. Noises of startlement came from several of the ships as they passed, reacting to the sudden clamor but not chasing after its source. Einarr paid them no mind: they were ship lookouts, nothing more. He’d have been more surprised if they had begun to follow him.

Before long he could make out the shape of the ship floating at the end of the pier, an inky black against the indigo night. They picked up the pace.

Naudrek slowed once they could see the lamps burning underneath the Captain’s awning and announced himself to the lookout. He was waved through, but waited just on board.

Einarr stepped up into the light of the lookout’s lamp. “Einarr, son of Stigander, of the longship Vidofnir, hunting the Muspel Shroud. Permission to come aboard?”

“And why, praytell, does that require you to board the Bjorn?”

“He has reason to believe,” Naudrek interrupted. “That the artifact intends to secret itself aboard this ship.”

“This is credible?”

Einarr tried not to roll his eyes. He understood the guard’s suspicion, mentally, but his honor still rankled.

Naudrek nodded solemnly. “And from what I’ve heard, letting that thing off this island is a bad idea.”

The guard pursed his lips, then finally nodded. “Fine. But he’s under your care. If this scrawny fellow causes any trouble…”

“I swear to you on my honor as the blood of Raen of Breidelstein, my grandfather, I seek only the Shroud, to capture or destroy it.”

“Breidelstein? No ship’s come out of there in -”

“More than twenty years? Aye.”

“…I see.” Only slightly less reluctantly, the lookout stepped aside to allow Einarr to board.

“Have you lamps we can use?” He asked when both feet were on deck. It should, he thought, have been a reasonable request, but the lookout gave him a look that could have iced over a wave.

Einarr shrugged. “We need light to search by, still. I’ve a trick I learned from the elves, but you might not like it any better.”

The lookout snorted and turned his attention back to the pier. With a shrug, Einarr pulled a stick of charcoal, wrapped in a leaf, from his coin pouch and unwrapped one end. Evidently being “scrawny” was more of a mark against him than Naudrek’s word could counter.

“Give me just a moment, would you? This will make the ship easier to search, if I can do it without accidentally blinding us.” Calmly, Einarr bent over to draw a large ᛊ – the sun rune – on the deck of the ship.

“What are you…?”

“I’ve been learning from the elves for months now. Picked up a thing or two.” Einarr smiled vaguely at the deck as he straightened. He had intentionally drawn the three-line version, since the lighting was not such to allow him to check his inscription. With a nod of satisfaction, he willed the rune into life.

The deck of the Bjorn burst into bright light, which quickly faded to a dim glow. Cries of surprise echoed around the deck.

“Sorry,” Einarr said. “I’m not very good, I’m afraid.”

You,” Naudrek demanded, incredulous. “You know magic?”

“Elder Melja would dispute that.”

“I never would have taken you for a sorceror.” Naudrek seemed suddenly wary of him, in spite of everything.

Einarr sighed. “I’m not. I’m a Cursebreaker. It became very plain to me that it was learn the Runes or die. So I’m learning the runes, and hoping it doesn’t kill me.”

“…Ah.” He didn’t seem convinced, but did not force the issue. At least, not yet.

With a nod from his companion, the two set to searching. Naudrek was very shortly thereafter interrupted by a man Einarr assumed was either the Captain or the Mate who came out from under the awning to investigate why, exactly, the ship was glowing. If anything, the explanation made the man less happy about it, but Einarr’s hunt was not interrupted.

It was nowhere above deck – not even, thank goodness, under the Captain’s awning. Einarr worried that it would be under the deck boards: he doubted he would be able to get the Captain to agree to let him search there. Then the lapping of water against the klinks caught his attention. It sounded… different than he was used to. Softer.

Einarr dashed to the seaward side of the ship and looked down towards the water. A grin spread slowly across his face. There, reflected in the surface of the water, he could see a long patch of red against the hull.

“There you are,” he muttered, and Sinmora rasped from her sheath. He focused his will and his determination: almost immediately, he felt the sword begin to vibrate. It had devoured the magic of the wards, before, in spite of hundreds of years of reinforcement. It should at least be able to knock out the artifact.

As the sword’s vibrations grew stronger in Einarr’s hands, the Shroud peeled itself from the side of the ship in what looked an awful lot like alarm to Einarr. His grin turned predatory.

“I’ve found it,” he called across the deck to his new ally. Naudrek’s answering smile was cold as he, too, drew his sword and came to stand by Einarr’s side. Slowly, as though acknowledging that it had been found out, the Shroud floated up to hover in front of the two warriors over the water.


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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.

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7.18 – Crone

Einarr accepted the old crone’s porridge somewhat cautiously. Last night she had spoken of ‘questions,’ and made it sound like more than a few. He wasn’t sure he looked forward to answering them, although he would as honestly as he could.

The porridge, at least, was good. It had a pleasant woodsiness to it that Mira’s did not, and even as he ate he felt his strength returning to him. To Geiti’s apparent amusement, he found himself shoveling the thick grain stew ravenously into his mouth. She, too, ate, though far more sedately.

“I am glad to see your strength returned to you, young Cursebreaker.”

He nodded, buying time to swallow a mouthful. “Thank you for taking care of me. I’ll be sure to pass along your message when I return to the village. For now, though, I must return to my hunt.”

Geiti shook her head, chuckling. Stringy white hair fell forward into her face. “I’d a feeling you were going to say that. You know they have means of tracking it, right? Divining with the runes is more than just fortune-teller’s tricks.”

Now it was Einarr’s turn to shake his head. “I don’t like neglecting my training this way, it’s true… but I am a warrior, not a scholar, and until the Shroud is dealt with it is scholarship they must focus on.”

Geiti snorted. “After all this time, and still those elves don’t understand people. And this time, they’ve sent out a half-literate Cursebreaker to get themselves out of a bind, assuming he doesn’t get himself killed first.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow to hear the woman’s muttering, but said nothing. He wasn’t certain he would put it so uncharitably, but she also wasn’t necessarily wrong. There was, in fact, nothing he could say that would satisfy both hospitality and honesty.

“Don’t you worry yourself over trifles, boy. You go on about your hunt. Maybe, by some stroke of luck, you’ll manage to stop the Shroud before they can. Maybe you’ll even live through it – you look like a scrappy one. Meanwhile, this old woman has work to do.”

Einarr paused, his spoon halfway to his mouth, and stared at her. There was something just a little off about old Geiti. “Who… are you?”

She smirked. “What, do you expect me to throw off my cloak and reveal myself to be Wotan? Frigg? While I may be the Wise Old Woman in the Woods, I am mortal like yourself. I’ve just learned in my years as the highest-ranking Singer on this island something of what to expect of the ljosalfs here. I have something of an understanding with them, you see, although it appears to be past time I paid them another visit.”

“I… see.” Part of him, he was surprised to discover, was a little disappointed that she was not a god in disguise. Most of him, however, was just as glad not to come face to face with either of the Aesir he had robbed earlier this summer.

Now she cackled again. “Be about your hunt, child. You have some idea how to follow the thing?”

“Some, vaguely. I think it might be torn.”

She nodded. “In that case, look for the ends of branches and twigs that have been singed. And if you must make more runestones for yourself, no more than four, and never more than one at a time. At least not until you have a chance to speak with Melja about it. I don’t doubt a stone of two runes would kill you all by itself.”

“Thank you, grandmother. I will remember.”


It took Einarr less than two hours to find his way back to the Chief’s favored campsite where, some four days before, they had found the knife and the trail to the little boy. The new chief, in all likelihood. He pitied the child, but only for a moment. More important by far was finding the Shroud that had in all likelihood orphaned him, and his best chance of doing that was to find the mark his father’s knife had left in the dirt.

He had not, yet, carved himself fresh runestones. The old woman had said four: well, he would keep three about himself, at least for now, but he needed to consider carefully which three.

Einarr stood in the center of the campsite, on the stones of the fire ring, and stared about him. There was the path the children had taken in their mad flight. Unfortunately, that told him little. He allowed himself an exasperated sigh. Calm down. Remember what Afi taught you.

Einarr took a step off to the side and squatted down near the fire ring, closing his eyes. The smell of wet ash still permeated the clearing, somehow, and strongest from the ring in front of him. But that wasn’t the only source.

He pivoted, one knee dropping to the ground, and walked on his knees over to the edge of the clearing. Yes, this was it: this was where Onnir had found the knife stabbed into the ground. Strange that it should have been like that…

…unless someone had been trying to fight off the Shroud. He could see how pinning a thing that was a blindingly fast, flying scarf might be an effective attack. Based on the little boy’s story, it seemed likely that was the case.

The slit was still there, half-hidden by brush. That was probably the only reason it still existed at all. And his nose told him there was a source of char here. He bent down so that his nose was practically touching the ground and dirt got in his whiskers. Nothing on the surface, but that meant little after so long. He combed his fingers over the dirt.

Something tickled his palm. When he moved his hand, in a space that had previously been covered by dust and pebbles, he saw a small patch of diaphanous crimson cloth.


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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.

7.5 – The High Road

Their farewells said, with a smile and a wave Einarr turned away from his family to face Ystävä and the Whispering Wood and they started off down the trail.

The alfr offered no conversation, but Einarr was content to enjoy the cool summer morning in quiet. They passed into the shade of the forest, and then from the well-trod path to the Conclave into a thicker, less tame portion of the wood.

Ystävä’s voice shattered the silence. “Be very careful to stick with me, now. The High Roads are treacherous for alfs, let alone men, and if you beome lost it will be nigh impossible to find you again.”

“I understand.”

Satisfied, the alfr spoke some words in a lilting language that Einarr could not place and made a parting motion with his hands. He did not slacken his pace, though, and as Einarr followed him the forest took on an otherworldly feel. The colors grew brighter, and the shadows deeper.

“This is where you trapped me when you gave me that weird broach!”

“Runestone.”

“Whatever.”

“Yes, sort of. We were… I guess you would say halfway between the realms at that point. It was the easiest way to ensure you didn’t fall out of Midgardr’s time.”

“Ah.” Then it hit him. “Wait, those little broaches were runestones?”

“They were. Fairly simple and prosaic ones, to be sure, but runestones nonetheless. What else would Wotan use as a key?”

Einarr grunted. It was a fair point, although he felt somewhat cheated that he had held something imbued with the essence of the gods and not even known it.

“Watch your step now.”

The warning was well-taken. As Einarr followed after his guide, the underbrush seemed to reach out, grasping for his leg even as the earth itself shifted under his forewrad leg. Even with the warning he was nearly knocked flat on his face. “There are no leshen in these parts, are there?”

“Leshen? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

Probably not, then. By way of conversation, he told the alfr of the one they’d fought on the Isle.

At the end of the tale, Ystävä gave a small shudder. “That, I think, is a creature that we may be better off forgetting.”

“Certainly I would rather not encounter another. …For how long will we be on foot? Should we not be coming to a shore before long?”

The alfr laughed. “My dear boy! I told you, did I not, that we travel on one of the High Roads of Ljosalfheimr? We need nothing so crude as a ship. We ahve already crossed several shores, with no more difficulty than stepping over a stream.”

Startled, Einarr looked down at his feet, then behind him. Sure enough, the path that stretched unnaturally straight behind him was crossed by a handful of streams, and probably by more that had fallen out of sight. He turned his attention forward again and found he had to run to catch up.

“Please don’t fall behind. My intention is to deliver you by nightfall, but I cannot do that if you fall from the path.”

“Er, of course… fall from the path?”

“Traveling the High Roads is an exercise of will and focus. That’s why its so dangerous for Midgardians.”

“I… see,” Einarr said, reasonably sure that he did as he hurried after the suspiciously helpful alfr.


The sun was setting when Ystävä once more warned Einarr to watch his step. This time it was as though his back foot were caught in a fast current, even as his front foot stopped cold. He still couldn’t see any difference in the path they walked – anything that might distinguish where the High Road began or ended. Einarr suppposed it didn’t matter: convenient as it was, he was unlikely to travel this way more than once more in his life, and that to return to Kjell in the fall.

Now that they had paused, though, he had a moment to actually take in his surroundings. The deep golden light of sunset illumined the fluttering leaves of the beech and ash that surrounded them so that they seemed to glow, and even the underbrush seemed strangely vibrant in the fading light. Einarr blinked, staring, as Ystävä stretched tired muscles.

“We’re not still in Ljosalfheimr, are we?”

“Absolutely not. Keeping a mortal on the High Road at night may as well be asking him to disappear.”

Einarr gave a low whistle. “This island, then… wherever we are, it’s amazing.”

“Elder Melja will be glad to hear that.”

“So, we’ve made it, then?”

“We’re in the vicinity. Travel by the High Roads is not a precise art. Come on, then. With a little luck, I’ll have you there by nightfall as I promised.”

For all Ystävä’s claim that he wasn’t sure exactly where the village lay in relation to them, he set out with a quick confidence through the beech grove to the west, where he could now and then glimpse the darker green of conifers. Thin, soft grasses waved gently in the breeze at Einarr’s feet, and he could see no sign of a marsh other than the grove itself. As pleasant as it was to walk through, this must have been a dry summer on the island. Occasionally a hare would dart across their path, or he would spot a deer farther back from what resolved into a path grazing unconcernedly on the rich grass.

This had to be the most peaceful place Einarr had ever visited. The Rune masters in the village must have something to do with it, for it felt carefully tended, almost garden-like, rather than merely wild. Despite the long day’s walk, Einarr felt a spring coming back into his step. Here, he would learn. And here, the island itself seemed to promise, he, too, would gain a respite from the demands of his unwanted Calling.


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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.

7.3 – Elf Bargain

The old Matron hissed at his pronouncement.

“Well,” Ystävä said after a beat. “That is quite the conundrum you’re in then, isn’t it.”

“Yes, and made more difficult by the fact that the boy is either an idiot or hopelessly naive. If that’s the way you bargain, boy, I’ll wash my hands of you.”

“Now, now. I appreciate the candor – and I have reason to want to keep him alive, as well.”

“I can’t very well perform your morally unobjectionable favor if I’m dead, after all.”

Saetild shook her head, her expression that most terrifying of grandmotherly looks: disappointment. “So really what you’re saying is you’re bad at negotiation? And it’s okay this time because of the bad deal you got last time?”

“The alfr demand payment in kind, do they not? That was the way with the Oracle, and that is the way in the legends. In exchange for one favor, which will violate neither my nor my father’s conscience, he provided me with a key that allowed me to reach the treasure vault, which I would otherwise have been unable to do. I fail to see the problem.”

“Ah, you are young yet. You have no idea the horrors that can lurk in favors which appear morally innocuous,” Saetild said darkly.

Ystävä clicked his heels together where he stood. “Nevertheless,” he said, “it is still true that, for the time being, I have a vested interest in helping him stay alive. It is also true that I may have an answer for you.”

The alfr turned now to face Saetild directly. “I must speak with some old friends of mine. Within three nights’ time I will come and stand at the threshold of the Conclave, bearing my answer.”

“I shall ensure the Matrons are made aware – of all of it.”

Ystävä grinned then: it was a wild look, like the smile of a wolf or a wildcat. He bowed, again with a ridiculous flourish, lifted one foot high, and stepped to his left, vanishing back into his cut in the air.

Once he was gone, Einarr turned to Saetild. “Well. Since that’s the case -”

“I think it would be wisest if you returned to the Conclave anyway. We may yet find a rune master who will not require an elf-price of you, and it seems there is much else we could teach you, after all.”

“There is much yet to be done before we leave port, honored Matron. Father was not best pleased that I agreed to travel with you today.”

“I cannot stop you, but think. What are you actually going to be doing back in town if you go? Your father will not want your imput on proving those new sailors you found. They finished their repairs weeks ago, and have not yet started loading. At the Conclave, not only will you have access to all our wisdom, but you will know the moment the alfr returns.”

Einarr opened his mouth to protest, but could find nothing that did not seem childish in front of her reasoning. He closed it again with a click.

“Better. I am not accustomed to either explaining or repeating myself.”

“It would be the height of arrogance to turn down wisdom where it is offered, under the circumstances, I think.”

***

For two days, Einarr was kept busier than any apprentice at the Conclave. During the day he was set to reading beginner texts – the only ones consistently written in Imperial. He suspected Saetild had a strong hand in the selections, however: an improbable number were about bargains gone bad.

By the middle of the second day, the Matrons concluded with no small degree of annoyance that the elf’s contact would likely be the strongest candidate for a Cursebreaker in want of magical knowledge. There was, as Saetild explained it, not only a depth of learning to be had among the long-lived elves, but also a pattern to the matter – a pattern set in motion the first time Einarr and Ystävä had spoken.

All through the third day Einarr was restless. He would stare at the pages and see not words but meaningless loops and lines. To clear his head, he would step outside to chop wood – of which the Matrons approved – or run sword drills, of which they did not. Then, his muscles warm and his mind focused once more, he would sit down to read. Ten minutes later, the words would once again swirl into meaninglessness.

By noon, no-one even tried to get him back to the manuscripts. And so, in the height of midafternoon, he was the first to spot the elf’s return.

It was a subtle thing. Einarr set up one log to be split, and the forest’s edge was empty. He raised the maul and split the log into eight. Wiping his forehead, he looked up again.

Standing just beyond the edge of the wood, in brown trousers and a flamboyantly green tunic, a leather vest belted about his middle, a golden-haired twig of an alfr stood staring expectantly in.

The knot of tension that had been driving Einarr all day loosed and he rolled his shoulders. Finally. He picked up another log to split as one of the apprentice Singers hurried out to see what the Whisperer of the Woods might possibly want.

Ystävä sent the young woman running back with a word and a patronising smile. Some minutes later, the full circle of Matrons came bustling out of the Conclave Hall, many of them settling shawls on their shoulders still. Einarr fell in behind them.

The elf waited until they were all gathered, peering at faces until he was satisfied and giving an “ah!” of recognition when he saw Einarr among them. “I have good news. The village I remembered still exists, and they are happy to take on a Cursebreaker. May we speak inside, or must I give their terms standing here like a beggar?”


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.