Tag: Frigg

7.15 – Fever

“Over here,” Einarr called upstream at Onnir’s back. Moments later, his guide splashed out of the water and up to the great oak where a small boy huddled.

“Frigg be praised,” he breathed, and scooped the child up. He cradled the boy’s head against his shoulder as he stood up, murmuring to the boy. Onnir met Einarr’s eye and then jerked his head, back the way they had come.

“What of the brother?”

Onnir shook his head. “No sign, and Armad here needs help quickly. We can make the lodge again tonight, but not the Hold.”

Einarr nodded his understanding, but the man was already off. Einarr followed, now keeping a lookout for his guide as they retraced their steps. Given the timing, it was unlikely the Shroud was still in the area, but…

…the half-conscious child whimpered as they went through the campsite where Onnir had found his father’s knife. They paused, only long enough for Einarr to retrieve the knife they had left stuck in the ground, and hurried back toward the lodge they had left only that morning.


Armad lay stretched in his father’s bed, a thick wool blanket pulled up to his chin and a wet cloth on his forehead. Onnir had gone to the hearth in the main room and was boiling a thick porridge against the boy’s waking. Hidir was out chopping wood: Einarr wished he was. It would have given him something to do besides pace, waiting for the boy to be lucid enough to answer questions.

His fingers itched. There were ways of healing with runes, just as Singers were able to heal with their music. But Einarr’s understanding of the runes was still crude, and Melja had warned that it was not often done. Breathe. The boy will wake when he does. No good will come of rushing here.

So he told himself, but it was hard – and moreso because Father was training him to lead. Einarr shook his head and rewet the cloth over Armad’s head.

The boy groaned. Einarr sat up straighter, but his eyes did not open this time.

“How is he?” Onnir’s voice came from the door, a steaming bowl in his hands.

“Still asleep. I keep catching myself trying to puzzle out the runes to help him and having to remind myself I don’t know them. Water might bring the fever down, but even Melja says healing with runes is tricky…”

“As anxious as I am for the young lord to recover, I’d rather not risk something even a master thinks is difficult. Right now, he needs food. Help me sit him up.”

The first spoonful dribbled down the boy’s chin, but his lips began to twitch. The second spoonful was accepted almost eagerly, in spite of the boy’s continued unconsciousness. As they continued, the boy’s eyelids began to flutter. Soon, he was merely half asleep and eating as though he were half-starved.

“Gently, now,” Onnir murmured, and Einarr was not certain if he was talking to the boy or himself. As Onnir neared the bottom of the bowl, awareness came back into the boy’s eyes.

He smiled at the older man. “Uncle. You found me.”

“Yes, Armad. I found you, and brought you back to the Lodge.”

“I’m glad. I had the worst dream. A red mist came, and if it touched you, you disappeared in a flash of red light.” The boy still sounded half-asleep.

Einarr raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

“It sent Father and Mother off somewhere, and it caught Gruki too after we ran, but I hid. Didn’t I do good?”

“Yes, Armad. You did very good.” Einarr could see the strain on Onnir’s face. Armad was already drifting back off to sleep.

“Wake him again,” Einarr said, feeling choked himself. “Please.”

“I don’t think you’re going to get anything clearer from him. For the best he thinks it was a dream, for now. I’ll let him hold on to that, I think, until he’s stronger.”

Einarr nodded his agreement. Probably for the best. “If the fever holds on for more than a couple days, take him to the Shrouded Village. They have a skilled healer, and… and I’m concerned the fever may not be entirely natural.” The Shroud was inextricably linked to fire magic, after all.

Onnir grunted, looking as though he had not considered that. “I’ll do that.”

“You don’t think he saw where it came from?” Einarr tried to put hope in his voice, but it was forlorn anyway. Where the Shroud went from there was a lost cause, with the sort of flight the boy would have had to have taken.

“Even if he did, I don’t think we could trust his account. He’s still caught up in dream logic.”

That was unfortunately probably true. Einarr allowed himself a sigh. “Well. It’s more of a lead than I had, at least. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll stay until morning.”

“Of course. It’s the least we can do, after you found Armad for us.”

Einarr grunted and let himself out of the sick room. Mentally, questions assailed him about the boy and his ability to inherit, but such matters were none of his business. Focus on the Shroud, fix the mess you made. Even if you could do something to help their Clan, they probably wouldn’t want you to.

Dinner that evening was a somber affair. While the child would probably recover at this rate, Onnir and Hidir had just lost their Lord and most of his family. It was a hard thing, and ale flowed freely that night.

Eventually, Einarr slipped off to a corner of the Hall to sleep while the other two drank themselves stupid. He was not in mourning, and he could not afford a hangover in his hunt. Not with as cold and as faint as the trail already was.


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6.20 – Lair

“No.”

For a second, the troll’s face hung slack and stupid. Einarr could see the moment when it realized she meant it: rage began to build like a squall on the ocean, until finally the storm broke. The creature roared: “What?”

Einarr and his companions flinched away from the thunderous noise. Not that he could blame the troll entirely. “Um, Runa, isn’t that why we came all this way?”

“I’m not going in there, Einarr. Not with it smelling like a half-rotted carcass someone tossed in an outhouse. Whatever this ‘bad-head’ is, the first step to curing it is cleaning their lair.”

“Poison light comes. Lair clean enough. Music lady fix bad-head.”

“I cannot treat anyone in a place that smells like that. I will not be able to breathe, let alone sing, and I may well vomit. I cannot ‘fix bad-head’ or anything else under those circumstances.”

She had a point, but Einarr doubted the troll could see that. Especially since it had minutes to get inside before the sun turned it to stone. He sighed and turned to the troll. “Look. She’s right, but I know you can’t be out much longer either. So why don’t…” Einarr glanced at Erik. He was going to hate this. “Why don’t we see what we can do to make your cave less smelly.”

Predictably, he got a long flat look from Erik. That didn’t sound like he intended to fight him about it, at any rate, and right now that was what he cared about. The faster Runa was able to fulfill her promise, the sooner they could get back on the water. Einarr already shuddered to think how many of their friends might have been claimed by the insanity of the black blood.

The troll looked at Einarr just as stupidly as he had looked at Runa’s refusal. It was dancing a little, anxious to be inside. “Music lady friends want help?”

Want was probably a strong word, but he went with it. “We do.”

“Good good. In come. Make good for music lady.” The troll darted under the cover of the cave roof then, and beckoned them to follow.

Einarr made it wait a little longer. “Runa. Hide yourself somewhere, will you? Climb a tree. If something happens… if we end up in the cookpot…”

She raised her chin haughtily. “What sort of a woman do you take me for? I will climb a tree, but if they turn on you I will have my vengeance on them.”

Jorir had caught up, he saw. Einarr opened his mouth to protest, but stopped himself. Good enough. “We’ll hurry.”

The sound of tearing cloth caught his attention. When he turned around, Jorir was offering him a square of fabric: the other two already had some tied to cover their noses. Gratefully, Einarr accepted the mask. “Let’s go,” he said once the knot was secure.

***

The troll’s lair was filthy, of course, but not in the manner of a beast’s filth. Beasts could be relied on not to shit in their own bed. Trolls, evidently, were more akin to the most worthless class of humanity, and could not. They had no more than stepped inside the cave when Einarr wished he’d told them to wait for evening, for under any other circumstance here would say this did not need cleaned, but rather burned.

By midday, however, the worst of the filth had been washed away, revealing a pair of mouldering straw mats and a fire pit near the entrance. On one of those straw mats slept a troll even uglier than the one who had led them here, and plainly the one suffering from “bad head.” Not that Einarr had any clearer idea what that meant now that Runa could stomach entering the cave to see to her patient.

Einarr frowned out at the meadow beyond the cave. That there was nothing he could do to help rankled, somehow, and keeping watch outside of a troll cave seemed singularly useless – even when one of the trolls in residence was rather thoroughly incapacitated.

Erik, for his part, had taken out a knife and begun carving a piece of wood he’d found outside the cave. He seemed strangely relaxed, given the circumstances.

“Never took you for a whittler,” Einarr said to break the silence.

Erik shrugged one shoulder and continued carving. “Times like these, gives me something to do besides worry. And let’s face it, we’ll need fish hooks when we get off this rock.”

Einarr snorted. “That we will. You don’t think this was a mistake?”

“What, coming here to help a troll? Nah. She may be spoiled rotten, but your Lady has a decent head on her shoulders, and she knows the Tales besides. Between her an’ you, we’ll get back to the Cap’n. I’m sure of it.”

Einarr didn’t answer right away, staring out across the field. It was quite picturesque under the midmorning sun, actually. It was hard to believe that a troll lived here at all, let alone that there was anything dangerous lurking in the grass. Finally he managed to get his voice to work again, even if he did still choke a little on the words. “Thank you, Erik.”

“You are your father’s son, lad. I told you this spring: not a man aboard the Vidofnir wouldn’t follow you to the gates of Hel itself.” Erik paused, and shot a sidelong look at him, and his mouth curled in wry humor. “Of course, that’s before they all hear about the raven feathers.”

Einarr rolled his eyes. “Quiet, you. You’d have done the same thing, in my shoes.”

“I’m pretty sure it would have been Irding if he’d seen them.” Erik chuckled now. “That’s what it is to be a young hothead.”

Erik’s mouth opened to say more, but then Runa’s voice carried forward from the back of the cave. “…- bad air. Make sure he gets out of the cave every night, even if you have to carry him yourself. Your brother should come back to his right mind over the next few days, so long as you do that and keep this place…” She hesitated, and disgust filled her voice when she settled on the word. “Clean. Cleaner than we found it this morning. Move the fire outside. Dig yourselves a pit away from the door. And if he starts trashing things, give him a little Frigg’s grass.”

The familiar troll’s voice made a noise of agreement.

“Good,” Jorir answered. “And now, we must go.”

Jorir and Runa emerged from the cave a moment later and took a deep breath of the comparatively fresh air.

Einarr straightened off of the wall where he leaned. “Ready, then?”

“More than,” the two answered together.

Jorir set out ahead. “Come on,” he said. “I know the way back to the ridge.”


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5.7 – A Borrowed Boat

When Einarr and his team ventured forth the next morning most of East Port was still asleep, such that even on the busier docks the sound of the ocean lapping the shore and the call of sea birds dominated the air as they approached the shed where Sor kept his fishing boats. He and his men were up and about, of course, and this little section of the sleepy little town had the bustle of a much larger settlement.

Looking about, Einarr spotted a man of Trabbi’s approximate stature and age coiling a rope about his forearm. “Excuse me! Are you the owner?”

“Depends. Who’s asking?”

“Name’s Einarr, of the Vidofnir. The head of the Conclave of Singers told me you’d have a boat I could use.”

The man swore as though this were an old annoyance. “She did, did she? Wish she’d ask me if I’ve got one available first. What sort of terrible water does she want to send one of my boats into this time?”

“East. I’m guessing there’s some sort of reef, because she said a longship would have trouble.”

Sor grumbled. “Well at least that’s better than the last group she sent out on a quest. I won’t have to worry about kalalintu destroying my boat this time, or an unexpected bit of whitewater. Fine. I’ll have one ready for you at the evening tide.”

“My thanks. We will be ready.”

Sor harrumphed and went back to his work, grumbling about demanding women being a tax on their sons. Einarr’s mouth twisted in a half-smile as they made their way back to the public hall. Now if only he had a better idea what to prepare for.

***

True to his word, Sor had one of his fishing boats set aside and waiting for the five of them as the sun was brushing the horizon behind them. Einarr thought it might well have been the worst of his fleet: the fabric of the sail hung soddenly, although the deck was dry, and the railing made it look as though the ship had seen battle. His disappointment must have shown: Sor snorted.

“She’ll get you where you need to go, and back, if you take proper care of her. If you don’t take proper care of her, I’ll have to ask that you replace my boat – unless you can convince my dearest mother at the Conclave to do so.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow. Not terribly hospitable of him, but it began to sound as though the crone took advantage of him regularly. Anyone’s patience might wear thin after a few years of that. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

The other man grunted. “Good. I’ve left you a net, since it sounds as though you don’t know how far east you need to sail. And, good luck, whatever this is they’ve sent you haring off to find.”

“My thanks, again. I suspect we will need it.”

Only now did Sor turn his eye to the rest of his party. When his eyes landed on Runa, they narrowed. “A Singer? You did bring a cask or three of mead, then, for the throat?”

Runa stepped forward, her shoulders square and her hands folded in front of her. “I assure you I am prepared for whatever harm might befall my voice.”

The man grunted. “Well, she’s all yours, then. And remember: I want her back in one piece!”

“Of course.” Einarr repressed his own sigh of annoyance until after Sor had moved off to deal with his actual work for the evening. “All aboard. Let’s not miss the tide.”

Painted on the side of the boat in the Imperial script was the name Gestrisni: when Einarr noticed it, he chuckled. The man’s hospitality was, indeed, just about worn out to judge by the state of the boat.

The sky had begun to darken, although the sun had not yet disappeared from the sky, when the Gestrisni plied out of the harbor with Erik and Irding at the oars and Einarr on the tiller.

It was not until they were safely out of harbor and the wind had caught the heavy sail that Erik leaned on his oar and looked expectantly at Einarr. “So. Last time we stole a magic necklace from a jotün, you made a friend and I almost lost my leg. What are we after this time?”

Einarr combed fingers through his hair, glad of the darkness to obscure his face. It still sounded strange to him. “Frigg’s distaff.”

Father and son both chuckled to hear that.

“Laugh now. According to the Conclave, it will cleanse us of the cult’s corruption… and it sounds like it can break the curse on Breidelstein, too.”

“Well, if that ain’t something.” Erik smoothed his hand over his beard. “Still seems like a mighty strange thing to ask for.”

“You’re not wrong. To make matters more interesting, remember that the tower we’re headed for is the nest of Huginn and Muninn.”

Runa moved a half-step closer to her betrothed and twined her fingers in his. The others cursed.

“We’re stealing from Wotan?” Irding jumped to his feet as it finally clicked.

“Afraid so.”

“The item we need belongs to Frigg, however, and our cause is worthy. My hope is that she will stay his hand for us.” Runa answered, her voice low.

“We might also wish to hope she does so quickly enough. He knows seithir and he’s a berserker. One wrong move and we’re screwed.” Jorir’s head was tilted back, looking at the moon.

“Rather.” Erik drew the word out dryly.

“My thoughts exactly, I’m afraid.” Einarr stepped in before this could become a fight. “But according to the Conclave, the distaff is necessary to prevent us from turning into abominations like we were fighting before. The black blood is corrupting, they said. I will risk calling down the wrath of Wotan on my head to save our crew and the Brunnings any day.”

Jorir hummed. “Never said I disagreed. Just if we’d known we might have had a better idea what to prepare for.”

“We’re looking at a tower likely to be filled with magical traps, riddles, and other trickery. What is there to prepare other than ensuring we have a Singer of our own?” Einarr shook his head. “But if the quest were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. Right?”

Erik laughed. Soon, the others joined him, and the Gestrisni sailed off into the night.


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5.8 – Coming Soon

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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 Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

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