Tag: Honor is complicated

10.25 – Honor

At some point after Lord Ulfr ordered him imprisoned, between his irregular meals and while he ran beginner exercises to keep his body spry, the noise of the key in the lock surprised him. For once, he had not heard the old crone’s cackling first. This was most irregular.

Kaldr sat down and leaned against the wall to observe his new visitor.

Even the dim light from the hall was now enough to make Kaldr squint: he peered at the newcomer, but all he could make out was the silhouette of a man.

“Has the Thing finally been assembled?” His voice came out like a croak.

A familiar voice tsked. “What have they done to you?”

“Thjofgrir?”

“It must really be rough if you can’t even recognize your own Mate.”

Kaldr offered a wan smirk. “More that I can barely see you right now. It seems I’m to be kept in the dark in more ways than one.”

“Ain’t that the truth. You’ll be in here a long time if you’re waiting on the Thing to assemble. The rebel ships are on their way again, only our glorious Thane seems to have lost the ability to track them.”

“Tell me, Thjofgrir. If we had been at Lundholm, would things be any different?”

“Is that why you’re so calmly accepting this?” His Mate shook his head. “We might not have lost two Captains, if you had been leading that fight, but are we really worse off for their absence?”

Kaldr allowed himself a derisive snort. “Maybe not.”

“Look, Kaldr, the men and I have been about the town. The people are a hair’s breadth from rioting. Even if Lord Ulfr defeats the rebels, he loses – and I’m not so sure he can defeat them at this point.”

“Whether or not Lord Ulfr is a suitable Thane is not the question at hand here. He is the rightful Thane.”

“I’m not so sure you’re right about that, Captain. If I’m right, a fight against the rebels just might spark the people in the town to join them. And no Thane rules for long after the people turn against him. If you say the word, Captain, we’ll all follow you out of here. It might not be so bad, being a freeboater for a while. There are plenty of other clans who’d be happy to have us as mercenaries…”

“No.”

“Pardon?”

“No. I will not flee like a coward or a common criminal. I have staked my pledge behind Lord Ulfr’s banner, and I intend to see this through.”

He could feel Thjofgrir’s weighing look. Eventually, his second-in-command sighed. “I had a feeling you’d say that. Have it your way. I’ll do what I can to keep the men in line, but their sympathies lie with the town. As do mine.”

“As do mine, in truth. But if things in the town are ever to improve, we must break the hold the Lady Mother has over her son’s mind. …You should go. I hear her in the hall. I wonder how much blood she will let this time…”

“What did you say?”

“Never forget, Thjofgrir. The problem is not Lord Ulfr. The problem is the weaver-witch.”


The Vidofnir led Einarr’s and Kormund’s ships directly for Raenshold. The fact that Urdr had been deprived of her original “weaving of inevitable victory,” or whatever she’d called it, did not mean she could not start a fresh one. The odds were considered good, though, that the longer they took the more likely she could build one up. Thus, they drove straight for Breidelstein.

When the island came into sight on the horizon the three ships weighed anchor and the Captains once more gathered on the deck of the Vidofnir. Sivid sat on the bulwark, staring towards home with a look of annoyance on his face. His broken arm was tied up in a sling: broken bones could only heal so quickly, even with Song Magic, which meant that he was stuck on the ship for the final fight. Einarr gave a wave of greeting, which was answered by a tight-lipped smile.

Their strategy meeting that night was brief. Not much had changed, frankly, from the last time they had made it as far as the harbor, save the number of enemy ships. They had not truly had time to rest at Lundholm, but if the Norns were on their side they shouldn’t need to do much fighting.

This set Sivid cackling from his watchpost, still leaning on the bulwark.

Kormund scowled at him. “What, praytell, is so funny? Stigander, I know you keep a loose ship, but still…”

Stigander and Einarr, and those in the conference who had traveled with them for any length of time, looked amused.

“If the Norns are on our side, you said.” Einarr smirked. “Well, the Usurper is kept in power by a Weavess who practices their dark Art, and -” He gave a momentary pause.

Sivid did not disappoint. “The Norns always correct their weave.”

Kormund furrowed his brow and stared at them, still plainly at a loss.

“It’s rather more literally appropriate here than usual, is all,” Stigander said. Kormund seemed to relax a little.

“For more than fifteen years,” he went on. “The weave over Breidelstein has been drawn more and more out of true by the Weavess. We are about to be as shears for the Norns. So far as they’re concerned, I suspect our petty, political aims matter not one whit.”

“I rather suspect,” Einarr drawled. “That we’re happier that way.” He remembered, again, the threat black-winged Hrist had left him with. As much as he wanted to believe the Aesir and the Vanir weren’t all like that, he wasn’t certain he could.

“I suppose the only question left is, do we push on through the night?” It would leave their men tired for the assault. On the other hand, it would also afford a better opportunity to catch the Usurper’s forces by surprise.

Stigander crossed his arms and lowered his chin. “If you think your men are up for it, I say yes.”

Nods of assent quickly followed from Kormund and Einarr. Then, with that settled, they each returned to their own ship and weighed anchor once more.


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7.19 – Tracking

It was unmistakeably the same material as the Shroud. Oddly, it did not feel hot to the touch, nor did it burn anything else it came in contact with. For whatever reason, once separated from the whole there was no more magic in it.

This was just as well, Einarr figured, but ultimately unimportant. What mattered to him was the rough, ragged edge that seemed stretched in places. That meant the torn edge of the Shroud should also be ragged and stretched, and thus (he hoped) easier to track.

Or, a voice whispered in the back of his head, you could take the scrap back to your Master in the village and let them divine its location, like old Geiti said they could.

He might find it faster that way, he supposed, but it was still an unworthy thought. He shook his head. “I’ve been spending too much time around magicians,” he muttered.

No matter what Melja said, he was partly responsible for the Shroud’s release – however unintended it was. And the Shroud was in the process of killing its way across the island, to what purpose Einarr could not guess. He owed it to the Shrouds victims to at least try to discover their fates. Then they could be properly mourned, if not buried, and the restless dead would not trouble the island. Thus resolved, he shoved the scrap of cloth in the pouch at his belt and began peering at foliage and twigs, looking for burned ends.

Now that he knew what he was looking for, the signs were there to be found: a singed sprig of leaves here, a blackened blaze against the white bark of a birch there (and when he found that, he blessed the chief whose son they had found). Had the Shroud not been wounded, as it were, it would not have left such a sloppy trail.

Or, would it? He had no idea what drove the thing. Did it even care that it had been torn? He fingered the scrap of cloth in his pouch. Perhaps it would be best to go back to the village after all. After half a day of tracking it as it floated, seemingly aimless among the trees, he began to wonder.

He stopped and closed his eyes. If he were here, what would Jorir tell me? Had it been less than a season since the svartdvergr swore to him under suspicious circumstances? The dwarf had proven his worth – even his loyalty and his friendship – many times over already. Einarr smiled, because he already knew the answer to that: it had been Jorir’s voice before, telling him to go back to the village. He took a deep breath —

—And smelled smoke. Not faint and damp and faded, like he had been all day, but fresh and pungent woodsmoke. His eyes snapped open and he began to run, following his nose, toward the source of the smell.


Einarr could hardly believe his eyes. He had thought the Shrouded Village to be the only hidden village on the island, but here before him stood the smoking ruin of another. Had it been on the coast, he would have assumed a particularly vicious group of raiders, but he was still in the middle of the hardwood forest that seemed to dominate this island.

Here and there a timber jutted out, but little else remained beyond charred rubble. Einarr stopped at the edge of the village, frozen. Was this…

A sound of sobbing came from further into the village, and Einarr was moving again. Someone survived this?

The sound came from what must have once been the village green, but now was a scene of horror as herb-witches and whoever in the village had an ounce of song magic tended to the bodies still living among the rows of corpses. The sobbing he had heard came from a group of small children, huddled together near the edge of the green for comfort.

He left the children to comfort each other: likely their parents were among the dead. What little he knew about the Shroud said it had not done this, and yet he could not think the smell of smoke would be this fresh had the thief somehow ransacked the village by himself. An old woman was placing thin copper coins over where a man’s eyes used to be: he approached her.

“Honored grandmother… what happened here?”

She looked up sharply and squinted at him for a long moment. “Ye be a stranger. What brings ye?”

“I hunt the Shroud.”

“Then on the right track ye be. Old Snor’s home was the worst burnt, and the first, and still no sign of Snor.”

Einarr stared around them for a long moment. “All of this, from one man’s house?”

“’Tis a long story, an’ a sad one, but if’n you hunt the thing that started it, best be on wit’ ye. This village is finished, but at least we’ll be avenged.”

“I understand, grandmother. Good fortune to you all…” It felt ridiculous to wish it, and yet what else was he to do? Condolences from a stranger would only ring hollow. But he would see them avenged, that was certain. Them and all the other victims on the island.

He took his time leaving the village, scouring the forest border all the way around until he was certain he knew which direction the Shroud went. The smell of burnt thatch and charred flesh stung his nose the entire time.

When he left, though it was not West, towards the sea, after the Shroud. There was still too much he didn’t know, too many questions, for him to be out chasing it through the forest. He would take word, and the scrap, to Melja. And tonight he would carve the first of his three runestones: . After all, he wouldn’t necessarily have a dwarf to rely on all the time, either.


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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.