Tag: Frothing Urek

10.22 – The Fall of Urek

“Another weakling from the rebels? You are nothing more than flies. We should have squashed you ages ago.” Urek did not give Einarr time to retort: the hammer was already singing through the air, and for what felt like ages all Einarr could do was dodge.

“Funny thing about flies,” Einarr gasped out while they were in the clinch. “Enough bites will still kill a man.” He leapt out of the clinch to the side and drove forward to strike at the weak spot with Sinmora.

Urek grunted as a blow struck him across the ribs a second time. More importantly, Einarr thought he heard the grinding of metal links. Urek glared down at him from one eye. Einarr sprang back before his opponent could try to take him in a bear hug.

“I’d like to see you try, little fly.”

Rather than answer that, Einarr slipped back in under the man’s guard to strike again at the weakening maille. The gods smiled on him here, for even a man in the grips of the fury might realize when someone was trying to break his armor given three strong hits like this: an axe bit into Urek’s calf at the same moment he struck for the maille.

Einarr spared a scowl for his dwarven retainer while Urek yelped. Thoroughly unnecessary. The dwarf, of course, ignored him, and he could not spare more than a moment’s attention. The enemy captain recovered himself rapidly, and swung his hammer with renewed vigor. Einarr had to step quickly to avoid a fate very like Sivid’s.

Jorir’s plan had been a solid one, though. If Einarr focused too much on the gash that was forming in Urek’s maille, sooner or later the man would cover the weakness.

The next opening Einarr saw, he struck not at the half-smashed section of maille but at the big man’s hamstring. Blood now flowed freely down both legs and under his feet. Flames licked the edges of the puddle, and Jorir’s axe crashed into Urek’s side. Broken chains tumbled to the deck, audible even over the din of battle.

Urek roared in rage and brought his hammer down hard on the dwarf’s golden shield. A sound like a gong rang over the combatants.

Now! Einarr’s angle was not ideal, but there was the gash. He couldn’t give Urek time to recover. He twisted on the balls of his feet to bring Sinmora around in a mighty cut.

The longsword’s blade bit deep into Urek’s side, and blood welled out of the wound as Einarr finished the cut.

Even that barely slowed the man. He fought like an enraged bear, all teeth and claws and fury. Given the blood on the deck boards and the blood spurting from his side, the man would fall soon even if Einarr did nothing. That wasn’t an option, however.

Urek swung his hammer wildly, plowing down unwary friends and foes alike as though he were rage personified, and Urek’s allies showed no sign of quitting while their captain still fought. Even if the fire took them.

Einarr growled as he danced away from yet another hammer swing. This was exactly why Father had taught him how to resist the fury: men made stupid decisions while in its grip, and no Captain could afford those sorts of mistakes.

The very hammer that made Urek so deadly also proved to be his downfall. His wild swings left an opening every time. A daring man could take advantage of that. Daring, or desperate. Einarr reset his shield and drove forward with Sinmora’s point.

Urek’s howls cut off abruptly as the longsword drove through his belly and up into his lungs. The hammer, raised to strike downward at the opponent who refused to die, clattered down against Einarr’s shield and fell to the deck.

Sinmora tried to stick in the man’s chest. Breathing heavily, the smoke burning his throat and covering the smell of viscera, Einarr gave it a quarter turn and withdrew his blade.

The Song still pulsed at the edge of his awareness, but it didn’t matter. Einarr looked at Jorir, currently standing on guard against three very distracted wolflings, and gestured towards the Heidrun. “Fall back.”

Jorir backed away from his opponents, who were still too shocked by the death of their Captain to pursue. The dwarf’s voice rang over the din. “Fall back!”

Drenched in sweat, Einarr wearily crossed across to his own boat. The rest of the Heidrunings followed in good order. Meanwhile, on the wolfling vessels, it looked as though their leadership had abandoned them entirely. Most of the sailors fled the burning ship like a frightened herd of sheep. Those who didn’t still stared dumbly at the body of Frothing Urek. One by one, the Singers brought their men down out of the battle fury.

“Get us off that ship!” Einarr called to his crew, his throat raw. He was just glad the wood in his own boat was still green. Even with that there were the beginnings of scorch marks where the boats had been tied.

The Vidofnir, singed a little, rowed a little ways further out of the fjord, to where the water was wide enough the Heidrun could come alongside, and waited.

Urek’s ship tried to pull away, but even from this distance Einarr could tell it was too late. The dry wood of the wolfling ships kindled quickly.

As the Heidrun pulled up alongside the Vidofnir, Einarr ordered his men to drop anchor. Before long the Eikthyrnir came to join them, the third and final wolfling ship fleeing into the distance. The men of the allied crews stood silent vigil as the wolfling ships became their funeral pyres. Finally, as the sun dropped below the horizon, the last flame died.

The signal lamp flared to life on the deck of the Vidofnir. Father was calling for a meeting, and Einarr knew why. None of those Captains had been the threat they had faced so far. So, where was Kaldr?


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10.21 – Frothing Urek

The sweat on Sivid’s brow was only partially to do with the fire. He had found himself face to face with the man they called Frothing Urek, and decided to test his luck. If it were not for the fire, he thought he would be doing better. As it was, he found himself hemmed in by a beast of a man before him and licking flames to either side. The bulwark was far too close to his back for comfort, as well.

He ducked another swing of Urek’s hammer and lost another half-step of ground. I have two choices. Neither of them is good. If he tried to vault over the man’s head, there was an excellent chance he would take a hammer to the head. It might or might not leave the contents intact, but he didn’t want to take that gamble.

His other option, Sivid thought, was to borrow a move from the hall dance. If he kicked for the rafters, he might still be able to get over the flames without getting scorched. Maybe he could even do it in such a way that Urek would miss him. If he was going to try, though, it needed to be quickly. The wolfling deck was going up like a dry forest: either the boat was older than the Vidofnir or the Captain had neglected her maintenance.

He licked his lips. The heat from the blaze dried them immediately. It has to be the rafters. Wait for it…

Urek pulled back for another swipe at the quick man’s chest. Sivid gathered himself: if he didn’t time this just right…

Urek’s hammer whistled through the air. Sivid hopped to the left, pulling his ribs back towards his spine. The air of the hammer’s passage pressed his shirt against his skin even through his maille. Then his toes touched the deck and he bent his knees deeply.

While Urek was still caught in the momentum of that swing, Sivid propelled himself into the air. He kicked his legs out to the side, straining for height. The heat of the fire pressed against his face and his hands, and he smelled burning hair, but it did not touch his skin.

Sivid landed on the deck on the side of the flames nearer to his allies. He paused a moment, still crouching, to catch his balance, and a stupid grin split his features. He’d made it.

That was when the hammer’s backswing clipped him in the shoulder. Even as glancing a blow as that was sent Sivid flying – into his allies’ line, thankfully. He hit the opposite bulwark with a crack and lay on the too-warm deck clutching his broken shoulder.


Einarr watched as Sivid made the landing of his dancing leap. The man was a genius at the dance – but this was a battle, and the hammer-wielding Captain hardly seemed to notice. Einarr opened his mouth to shout a warning, but it was almost like he moved in slow-motion: before the words had reached his lips, Sivid was already tumbling back across the wolfling ship.

Einarr turned hard eyes on the man responsible. Sivid was a good friend: captain or no captain, Einarr would take out the man with the hammer. He adjusted his grip on his shield as he stepped up to take his friend’s place, Sinmora coming up into position.

Urek grinned ferally at Einarr, as plainly in the grip of the fury as if his eyes had been red. Einarr eyed his hammer warily: like a battle axe, he thought, only instead of lopping off limbs it would crush them. Well. I guess I just can’t let myself get hit.

You mean, like Sivid did? He clamped down on the wry voice in the back of his head. The voice had a point, of course – it always did – but Einarr couldn’t let that get in the way of what had to happen.

Urek started swinging his hammer in a figure-eight pattern in front of him. The big man stepped slowly forward.

Einarr frowned, watching. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet, ready to dodge wherever he had to. Whatever his skill as a captain – and Einarr thought it likely low – he was certainly a threat on the battlefield.

Urek’s gaze shifted momentarily and Einarr felt a familiar presence at his knee. Jorir had caught up. The dwarf knew what to do: Einarr’s stance shifted a little. The knowledge that his man at arms had his back meant he could focus on the fight before him.

Urek’s hammer dropped to his side and swung up overhead as he surged forward. The blow was meant for his head, he was sure: Einarr dodged right and then ducked in to slash with Sinmora at the man’s belly. The maille jangled, but Einarr smiled anyway.

There was rust.

The blood of unknown enemies had, in fact, become rust in the joins of his maille as the years went on. Sooner or later it was inevitable… but he was wearing rusty maille. Does he not realize? Or is it simply the best he can get?

It hardly mattered. Einarr sprang back out of the man’s reach before he, too, fell victim to a backswing.

The next blow tried to take Einarr’s head off at the shoulders. He ducked, and while Urek’s guard was still open from the giant swing of the hammer he charged in. The boss of his shield struck against the man’s ribs with a dull clang and he pulled back once more. Urek grunted but seemed otherwise unimpressed.

“Another weakling from the rebels? You are nothing more than flies. We should have squashed you ages ago.”

Urek did not give him time to retort: the hammer was already singing through the air, and for what felt like ages all Einarr could do was dodge. The man was relentless, and there was no denying his skill with his weapon.


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10.10 – Preparations

“Traitor!” Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out like a toad’s. “Coward! Lord Ulfr will hear of this!”

“Lord Ulfr is well aware of my opinion regarding his mother. And I will thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head. There is more to strategy than attacking, Urek, and if you could understand that we’d have captured them already – alive, as commanded. But -” Kaldr peered pointedly up into the sky, towards Raenshold. “But, unless I miss my guess, the message is already on its way to our Thane. I trust, Urek, that you will be willing to eat those words when we accomplish our task.”

Vittir’s voice cut the air behind him with his sneer. “If you intended to accomplish our task, you’d be sending us up the fjord without delay.”

Kaldr turned to face his new uninvited guest, his eyebrows raised. And now the other one arrives. “Ah. Vittir. Yes, you may come aboard. As I was just telling your compatriot, we cannot afford to destroy Lundholm just to flush out some rats. Let them rest: it will do them no good.”

“You really are a coward if you think this backwater will put up a fight.”

“That is not the cost I was speaking of, Vittir. But never mind: you will all see, soon enough. Look here: the only way in or out of the town by sea is through this fjord, and it is impossible to go through more than one at a time. Assuming they’re not so kind as to simply decide to settle here, sooner or later they have to try to slip past us. Conversely, if we decided to raid the town, we would have the disadvantage of being stuck in that selfsame fjord.”

Vittir looked dubious. Kaldr was reasonably certain Urek hadn’t heard a word: he still stared bug-eyed, his hands clenched at his sides. Kaldr sighed. “If it will make you happier, we can send small parties up the fjord to harry them farther. If we harass the villagers, their guests will probably wear out their welcome faster.”

Urek crossed his arms, the color in his face finally starting to come down. “Fine. But just so you know, I’m still watching you.”

“Of course.” I should be so lucky.


If Einarr hadn’t known better, he would have thought the men of Lundholm unaware of the approaching ships. That was impossible, of course: news had reached the town at the same time it had reached them. The only real change from before, though, was a trifle more activity down by the water’s edge.

A fisherman paused on his way past the Captains while they still blinked in surprise. “I know it’s none o’ me business to say, but you might be wise to bring your ships up near the boathouse.”

Einarr paused a moment. It was a sound idea, but… “Why?”

“So they can’t sabotage them if they make it up the channel, of course.”

Of course. Einarr shrugged to himself: that was, in fact, the single best reason. He didn’t know what other answer he was expecting. “I take it they’ve harassed you before.”

The fisherman shook his head. “Every handfull of years, or so, that lord they follow gets a bee in his bonnet and tries to bring us to heel. ‘T’ain’t worked yet.”

A smile quirked at the corner of Einarr’s mouth. “Of course. Thanks for the advice.”

With a friendly wave, he jogged to catch up with Father and Kormund, who were already headed towards the shore. As glad as he was to see the town taking this in stride, there was one major difference from the last time his uncle had sent ships here.

Them.

Whether or not Kaldr was sensible, it was plain that at least one of his fleet captains was not. Would their presence make the wolfling response more violent? He could not answer that. All the same, the faster they could resupply their ships, the better.

He stopped a moment, thinking, and then changed course. There were only a few men down at the boats: most of their crews, the men who weren’t out hunting or bringing in water at least, would probably be on the green, and they would be needed.


Afternoon was waning by the time sufficient members of the three crews had gathered at the shore. Longships were light enough that a crew could carry them across land at need. On the other hand, it did take most of a crew, all doing their part. And so the fifty men Einarr had gathered all put their shoulders to the sides of the Vidofnir and heaved.

With a groan of wood and men, and the grinding of wood on wet sand, slowly the Vidofnir lifted off the beach and onto the shoulders of her porters. Einarr felt his feet begin to slip in the sand as he took on the unaccustomed weight: it had been a very long time since he had needed to move a ship this way.

On the other side, his own shoulder to the wood, Stigander called out. “Steady, now! And, forward!”

The boathouse stood in a cleared field on the edge of town nearest the shore, and by the time they were halfway there they had fallen into the proper rhythm. Twilight was falling by the time the Eikthyrnir rested alongside the Vidofnir and the Heidrun, and the crew all stretched tired arms and sore backs on their way to the stewpots of the town alewives.

Near the end of supper, a loud twang rang out over the village, as of a giant’s bowstring being released somewhere in the forest.

“Sleep armed, men,” Stigander warned. “It seems the wolves are still worrying at our heels.”


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10.9 – Seige

Stigander frowned out over the water. The four ships were near enough that you could make out the wolf’s head on the prow. Much closer, and they risked being seen in turn. “That’s them, all right,” he said again.

“I had hoped to have a few more days before they showed up,” Einarr mused.

“Bah! That was never going to happen, son. Not after they chased us from Eskihus.”

“I know, Father. I still hoped. But let’s face it, we haven’t been near here in more than a decade.”

“And they live in these waters. Yes, exactly.”

Kormund cleared his throat. “And they are continuing straight for the island. Might I suggest we draw back at least far enough to have tree cover?”

Hasty nods and grunts of agreement were heard from all around, and everyone save the village scout started walking back to Lundholm.

“Elder Vilding assures me we will be able to replenish all our arrows three days from now. Water, of course, we’re on our own, but one of the woodsmen showed Arring to a spring we can use. That just leaves food and pitch, plus any repairs that can’t wait.”

Kormund harrumphed. “I think any repairs can wait – unless one of you was taking on water?”

Father and son shook their heads.

“Good. We’re not going to have time to waste. Did the Elder say anything about food stores?”

“We’re in the wrong season for much of that. I’m sure there’ll be some who can sell us their excess, but most of what they have is going to be fresh or foraged.” Kormund must not have had a chance to speak with his Mate: this was exactly what Einarr had told them that morning. “If we can spare some men to hunt, though, what they do have is salt. And some others should make sure we all have good fishing nets.”

Stigander hummed. “Not sure I want to rely on fishing just now… but I suppose if we have to we should be able to.”

“My thought exactly.”

Kormund chuckled.

The other two answered at the same moment. “What?”

“Nothing. It’s just that your son is a born Mate, Stigander, and here he is a Captain already. At his age, neither of us would have given the resupply a second thought.”

“At his age, neither of us had earned our ships. He’s been riding the whale road for half his life already.”

Kormund chuckled again and left it at that.

Einarr hated to bring the mood down, but they had all been avoiding one important matter. “The real question is, will they give us time enough to even do that?”

“You’re worried they’ll attack the town,” Stigander said with a sigh. “I am, too, but I don’t think they will. Not if this Kaldr is the man I think he is.”

“He’s not the one I’m worried about.”

“The mad dog? What was his name, Urek?” Kormund ventured.

“That’s the one.”

Stigander hummed again. “If they do decide to raze the village, either because Kaldr is not as savvy as we think or because he doesn’t have the others properly in hand, there’s not much we can do save fight them here.”

Einarr nodded, thoughtful. “I had a feeling you’d say that.”


Kaldr studied the narrow fjord leading to Lundholm. It was almost certainly where the three rebel ships had fled, given the path they had taken after Eskihus. Lord Ulfr hated the place, he knew – when he bothered to remember it existed. But that Lord Ulfr hated a place did not render it fit for destruction. Now he only needed to make sure Urek and Vittir understood that they would lose more in good will than they gained should they raid the place.

Hopefully, the logistics of the assault should help with that. The fjord was impossible to navigate in more than single file: for that very same reason, it would be trivial to blockade and wait for them to try to slip out on their own.

Still frowning in thought, he gave a decisive nod. “Thjofgrir.”

“Sir!”

“We will blockade the fjord. There is only one way out of Lundholm, and we’re looking at it. We will take center, along with Broki. Vittir gets the right flank, and Urek the left.” That should mollify them some, at least. They could hardly accuse him of cowardice when he placed himself in the center. As an added benefit, they would have a much harder time of it to slip past him and do something foolish.

Another thought occurred to him. “Stretch nets between our boats.”

“You intend to fish?”

“I intend to keep them from fishing.” He bared his teeth at his Mate in a vicious smile.

“Very good sir.”

The signals were given and the ships moved into position. Not long after the nets were in place, as ordered, a clatter of planks could be heard from the flanks of the blockade. Here we go. It was a struggle not to roll his eyes.

Sure enough, within moments, Urek came storming across the gap between their two ships. On the other side, Vittir was slowed by Broki’s temporizing, for which Kaldr was thankful.

“Urek,” he said, turning to face the man. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“You call for yet another blockade? Are you Captain or coward?”

“Peace, Urek. There is more to a successful strategy than attack. Even wild wolves know that much.”

The other Captain, never known for his self-control, glared at him. “And now you insult me?”

Kaldr was careful to keep his voice bland. “Not at all.”

“Three times now we have set a trap for the rebels, and three times they have slipped the noose. Now you try it again, when they have landed at a rebel stronghold. Why?” The man’s face was already red with anger, and spittle flew from his mouth as he ranted.

“Urek-”

“No! I will say my piece. They are weakened, they are tired, they are low on supplies. If we press the attack now, not only do we deal with that pesky rooster, we also eliminate a thorn in Lord Ulfr’s side.”

“If we press the attack now, Lord Ulfr will never hold his lands without his mother’s interference.”

It was the wrong thing to say. Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out, staring at Kaldr in obvious rage and disbelief. “Traitor!”


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10.2 – Strategy

A note in Jorir’s voice caught Einarr’s ear. “Well, spit it out. What’s the matter?”

“Only this. How many more skirmishes like that can we take?”

Einarr frowned. “That probably depends on how many volleys we have to fire. You’re concerned about supplies, then.”

“Aye. That, and manpower.”

“You’re right, of course.” Movement caught Einarr’s eye from the deck of the Vidofnir. “That’s Bardr, signalling a conference. You, Tyr, and Eydri, and Vali with me.”

“Not that I question your wisdom, but why the ghost?”

“Same reason as Tyr. Experience.”

Jorir harrumphed but said no more.

Half an hour later, all three Captains were gathered on board the Vidofnir with their Mates and advisors. Einarr had brought the largest contingent, but neither Father nor Captain Kormund so much as batted an eye.

Stigander locked eyes with Tyr and nodded in greeting. “Tyr.”

“C- Stigander.”

“You see anyone you know on those ships?”

“One or two.”

“Good.” Stigander turned his attention now to the other Captains. “How are your crews holding out.”

“Well enough, Father, but…”

Captain Kormund shook his head. “The men are getting tired, Stigander, and we’re going to need not just food and water but arrows and pitch and bandages before long.”

Jorir made a rumbling noise that might have been a chuckle as Einarr nodded.

“Exactly. Is there still a town near Afi’s old freehold?” It had been safe enough for him to summer there after Breidelstein fell, after all.

Stigander frowned. “I haven’t heard if they recovered or not. But there’s not often a lot of news coming out of the smaller islands like that, so we might not have. And if they’re not terribly happy to see me, there were others nearby.”

“Why would they have anything to hold against us?”

Stigander raised his eyebrows. “You were there. You can’t tell me you didn’t know.”

Einarr’s answer was to look at his father with greater confusion.

The older man sighed. “Those raiders who burned the town and killed your grandparents? They were Ulfr’s men, under a false flag. Looking for us.”

“Ah.”

Nevertheless, Stigander nodded to Bardr, who stepped away to give their new heading to Arring at the tiller. That done, Stigander turned back to their conference. “Now then. Tyr, you said you caught sight of some familiar faces during the fighting?”

“Oh, aye. And some of them men I’d never have expected to see live this long, let alone taking the helm.”

Tyr settled himself on a barrel near the mast. “Let’s start with the dangerous one – the one our Singers warned us about.”

Reki scowled. “Kaldr.”

Einarr perked up. “You remember him? Was he as odd about magic before the Weaving?”

“Oh, aye. But you see, I remember his pabbi, too. Man was always blaming his own mistakes on ‘bewitchment,’ and it seemed like he was always in some sort of trouble. But however weird he is about the Arts, that’s not what makes him dangerous.”

Eydri nodded in agreement. “He’s devious as a snake, and just as bloodless.”

“You say ‘devious,’ I say ‘clever,’ and he plainly has a good head for strategy. Is he still following us?”

Einarr glanced back into the wake of their passage and pursed his lips. “Yes.”

“I’d have been more surprised if he wasn’t,” Hraerek grumbled, and Captain Kormund nodded in agreement.

“Plainly he intends to harry us into submission,” Stigander said, his arms crossed. “Just as plainly, we need time to rest the men and resupply our ships if we’re going to win back the Isles. But we’ve already set course to deal with just that. What of the others?”

“Men who, I think, would have long since retired under you or Lord Raen, that I saw. None of whom would have gained their own ship in that circumstance. I suspect the Usurper chose his Captains based on toadying and biddability more than skill. If you can believe it, Stigander, it looks like little Frothing Urek has a commission.”

Stigander snorted. “Him? The one who you could goad into a fight by disagreeing over the weather?”

“The very same.” Tyr chuckled along with his old Captain.

“I wonder if he ever grew out of that?”

“If not,” Kormund mused. “We can use that. He’s also, presumably, the sort who can’t back down?”

“If he’s the same as he used to be, yes.”

Einarr shook his head. “And he’s a Captain? Well. If he’s working under Kaldr, he’s not going to tolerate this harrying strategy. That gives us something we can try, at least.”

The conference continued in this way throughout the rest of the day as the three ships sailed for one of the outlying islands, tailed by three of the wolfling ships keeping just out of bow range. Eventually Einarr sent Vali back to the Heidrun with the plan as it existed.

“And Vali? Ask Hrug to be ready to destroy those rugs when we make landfall.”

The ghost gave a wry smile and a mocking salute before winking out of existence. Einarr shook his head and turned his attention back to their discussion.

Captain Kormund and Hraerek, his Mate, stared, agog.

“Did you… not know about him?”

Kormund cleared his throat. “I had heard you had a ghost among your crew, but…”

“But the sheer insolence of it!” Hraerek chuckled. Bardr smirked.

“Far be it for me to tell you how to run your ship…” Kormund cleared his throat, plainly intending to do just that until Stigander raised a forestalling hand.

“I’ve seen no sign since his return from Svartlauf that suggests discipline slips under his command.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Stigander nodded acknowledgement. “Be cautious, however. The friendlier you are with your crew, the worse it will be when you have to make the hard call.”

Einarr swallowed, then inclined his head in return. He had thought of that, long and hard, after taking Hrug’s hand the previous fall. But, in the end, he knew he could be no other way.

“There is one last thing we must consider, Father.”

“Oh?”

“Will our hunters strike at us in port?”


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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.