Tag: Hrug

10.6 – Encirclement

The Vidofnir veered left as the wolfling ship began to circle around in front of them but did not slow her pace.

“Steady!” Einarr ordered. “Be ready to cut lines.”

There was nowhere to go now but forward. Even if they changed directions, the rope behind them was solid. The Eikthyrnir, built for speed as she was, seemed to be having a little trouble maintaining position, but the Heidrun kept to her wing.

They weren’t going to make it. The noose was closing too quickly. Einarr’s fingers tightened around Sinmora’s hilt.

The Vidofnir’s prow nosed into the rapidly-slimming gap that was their only way out.

Abruptly the ship ahead of them surged toward the Vidofnir, boarding lines already aloft. Einarr held his breath: surely his father must have foreseen this. But, how did he intend to break free?

The ship to Einarr’s right had not moved to close the gap created by the foreward ship’s lunge. Another trap?

Did it matter if it were? “Hard to starboard! Drive forward!”

The Heidrun tilted as Arkja leaned into the tiller. It might not be enough to save them, but Einarr was not willing to let the chance pass. There might not be another one. Then the oarsmen redoubled their efforts once more even as the wolfling ship was still struggling to react to its fellow’s abrupt aggression.

Kormund, too, was making a break for freedom. Don’t get bogged down, Father…

“Hrug?”

“On your word.”

Einarr nodded at the one-armed man, his attention already back out on the wolves circling on the water’s surface.

The starboard-side ship was finally turned to intercept, but Heidrun was already nosing into the space between it and its neighbor. “Hàkon!”

The drummer knew exactly what he was after: he increased his tempo yet again, so that the oarsmen were pulling into a sprint.

The Heidrun crossed over to outside the circle. Boarding lines flew from the wolfling ship, but there was not a thrower alive who could have made that toss. The Heidrun was just out of range. Einarr smirked, satisfaction flowing over his shoulders like water.

“Drop tempo and bring her about. We can’t just leave our flagship behind.”

That was the moment when the Heidrun shuddered and jerked nearly to a stop. Evidently there was an exceptional thrower among the wolves on that ship. Nevertheless, a moment later the lone caught line was severed.

Not a moment too soon, either. Kormund had somehow managed to squeeze through the rapidly narrowing gap left by the impulsive wolfling Captain, but that left Stigander to fend for himself in the center of the circle.

Not for long, however. Einarr grinned as his ship jerked back into motion. The Heidrun and the Eikthyrnir would free the Vidofnir – although it looked like she was doing a decent job of fighting free on her own – and then they would make for the nearest port. Whether or not Kaldr continued to follow, though, Einarr had found a weakness in their fleet.


Kaldr blew the horn to call Frothing Urek’s ship back, half expecting the man not to heed. When he did, however reluctantly, Kaldr released a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and nodded. There would be nothing for it, now, but to track them into port. If the other fleet allowed a fourth encounter they were lost, and so the rebels would make all speed for the nearest freehold. Lundholm, if he recalled aright.

Still, though, that was twice now Urek had deviated from the plan in the name of personal glory. That could not be allowed to stand: not if the fleet was going to have any chance at success. “Thjofgrir.”

“Aye, sir?”

“Signal the other Captains to join us here. And set us on course to continue following them.” Despite the rage seething in his belly, he was pleased to note that his face remained placid. Had it not, his Mate would have questioned him.

“As you wish, sir. You should know, however, that the other crews grow restless.”

“I, too, grow restless. Spread it around – quietly – that they escaped us this time because of Urek’s impatience.”

“As you say, sir.”

Kaldr nodded a dismissal, but his Mate was already off about his errand.

Boarding lines passed between the four ships, and within the hour all four Captains were gathered on Kaldr’s deck.

Urek, as expected, looked thoroughly dissatisfied. As well he should, although Kaldr doubted he had the self-awareness to realize why. Kaldr cleared his throat.

“We have lost them, for the moment,” he began. “I very much doubt they will let us catch them again so easily before they reach a port.”

“We’d not have lost them,” Urek spat. “If you hadn’t kept calling me back like some craven fool. I could have ended the rebels.”

“You overestimate your own skills, Urek. Or grossly underestimate theirs. Had I allowed you to go haring off after the Vidofnir, you’d have caught it – or they’d have caught you, and proceeded to send you back to us rather ill-used.”

“How dare you -” Urek started.

Vittir, of all people, spoke up next. “Urek’s right, you know. If you hadn’t been keeping us back like a craven pack of dogs…”

Count on Vittir to regurgitate what the others told him.

“Now, now. Kaldr has a point, too. We’d have netted them all this time, if Urek hadn’t gotten impatient and broken formation,” Broki answered. He had been the one caught off-guard when Urek charged ahead.

“They were about to slip through our much-vaunted formation anyway.”

Kaldr raised an eyebrow. That was not what he’d seen. “I did not call you all aboard to discuss what has already happened, gentlemen, but to discuss how we will smoke them out of port when they finally arrive in one.”


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10.5 – Blockade Run

The beat of Hàkon’s drum changed, subtly, from the rower’s cadence to a battle drum as the men hastily donned their maille. Eydri caught Einarr’s eye as he approached and inclined her head in acknowledgement. Good: it seemed she knew exactly what he had in mind. Einarr took up a position just forward of the mast and looked out over the water, studying their enemies.

It was a blockade, like the wolves had tried to keep them in Breidelsteinn harbor. There, though, they had used a runic trick and who knows how much of their store of good luck to confuse the wolves. Einarr still couldn’t believe how well that worked: the fleet Captain must have been incompetent as well as unlucky to botch things that badly. He was not willing to assume that of Kaldr.

They could scatter, and try to meet back up after losing their tails. Dangerous, but possible, if either he or Kormund knew where Stigander was headed next. Einarr didn’t, which meant probably Kormund didn’t either, so that was out. He frowned.

“Naudrek. Keep your eyes on the Vidofnir. Let me know the moment you see a signal.”

“Aye, sir!”

“How’s Hrug holding up?” Getting past that previous blockade had taken a lot out of both of them, but the one-armed sorcer had been overextending himself for a lot longer than that.

Jorir cleared his throat as he held up Einarr’s maille shirt. “Bored, near as I can tell. You’ll have to ask him if he’s up for another miracle.”

Einarr grunted and pulled the shirt over his arms. “I’d best go do that, then.”

The fact that he didn’t know already was irksome, but there hadn’t been a great deal of time for discussion since Hrug’s last ‘miracle.’ Things had been moving entirely too quickly on this expedition for niceties such as making sure your sorcerer wasn’t working himself to death.


The lookout on board the Eikthyrnir spotted what looked like a gap in the wolfling’s line. There was a tense moment aboard the Heidrun while Einarr and Jorir considered whether it was a trap, and whether or not such a trap was worth trying anyway. Einarr didn’t see much choice in the matter: either they made a break for it or they settled on the island behind them. Jorir urged caution.

Eventually, though, they agreed to spring the trap. There was no more time to dither. Stigander pulled the Vidofnir forward to be the point of their spear. Einarr took the right flank, while Kormund came up on the left.

Every third man aboard the Heidrun stood guarding the rowers with shields and axes. Another third had their bows limbered and a few of their scant remaining arrows to hand. They could not afford more than one, maybe two volleys here. The idea, though, was to move quickly enough they would not need more than that.

Stigander’s hunting horn echoed over the water and the Vidofnir began its rush.

Kormund’s horn joined Stigander’s as the Eikthyrnir also surged forward.

With a long breath, Einarr brought his own horn up to his mouth and joined his voice to theirs. Hàkon’s cadence shifted slightly as the oarsmen began to row with all speed. The voices of all five Singers lifted over the waves in the wake of the hunting horns call, and they were committed.

Behind Einarr, seated on the deck near Eydri and Runa, Hrug traced the now-familiar runes of a ward at his knees. He had insisted he had the wherewithal to fight, and Einarr was in no position to argue. Let Kaldr sneer all he wants: I’ll not scorn a tool at my disposal.

The three ships surged through the water for the gap in Kaldr’s line. It should be sufficient, barely, for their wedge to slip through with a little luck and a lot of speed.

A cloud of arrows in the sky showed when they had entered bow range. Einarr set his mouth and watched, waiting.

A second volley flew their way. More of these landed on the deck or planted themselves in shields, but still most flew wide. The wind was excellent for sailing, but evidently giving their archers trouble. Einarr glanced down at Hrug, but his one-armed friend showed no sign of having toyed with the wind.

Finally the people on the deck of the wolfling ships looked recognizably human to Einarr. A third flock of arrows rose into the sky. “Archers! Fire!”

The answering volleys from the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir were striking home even as the three ships came into boarding line range – of one ship. Einarr groaned to see that one of the ships on the edge of the gap was pulling back and firing again. If they weren’t careful, they would be encircled. Maybe even if they were careful.

He signalled for Hàkon to speed his cadence. Some of the slower oarsmen might have trouble keeping up if they held it for a long time, but for a short sprint they should be able to manage.

The ship ahead of them was still falling back, although even from here Einarr could see boarding lines being readied. He caught himself settling into a fighting stance and shrugged his shoulders: it was far too early for the Captain to be preparing to fight – not hand to hand, anyway. He glanced behind them.

Sure enough, another of the wolfling ships – Einarr thought it was Kaldr’s, although he couldn’t say for certain – was trying to sneak behind them. This was about to get very, very messy.


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9.20 – Audacity

Einarr paced up and down the beach of the tiny island where they had been forced aground. Less than a full day after the capture of the women, more ships had come to harry them. It was almost as though the Usurper knew where they were going to be. Father had not given himself over to pacing, but Einarr could see the restlessness in his face. Out there, on the water, half a dozen ships circled like sharks, waiting for the three beached boats to make a run for it. Waiting for sport.

The men were building lean-tos on the beach. They hadn’t been ordered to, but none of the Captains saw fit to gainsay them. Better to have the shelter, Einarr thought, than to be stuck in the elements should it decide to pour before they were ready. Soon or late, there would be a plan. They had already wasted too much time here, though, to Einarr’s way of thinking. The longer they waited, the more ships would join that hungry pack.

An idea came to him. “Hrug! Jorir!”

Einarr looked about: neither of his friends was in view. Grumbling, he went in search of them. There were very few places on this island they might be, and he only had to check two of them before he discovered the svartdvergr sharpening swords in the company of the mute.

“Just the two I was looking for!”

Jorir looked up, startled, but did not cease grinding Irding’s chipped axe bit. Hrug waved a relaxed greeting, not looking up from the diagram he had sketched in the sand.

Einarr folded his legs to sit on the sand with them. Now that he got a better look at it, he thought Hrug was tinkering with the pattern they would need to destroy the Weaving. With a grunt, he looked back up. “How much do you two know about disrupting Weavings?”

Hrug gave him a sour look.

“No, not that one. We’ve all grumbled about how they seem to know exactly where to find us. We also know for a fact that they have a Weaver on their side. I suppose its possible she’s not working her Art to keep her son in power, but I doubt it.”

“And you’re thinking that you and Hrug might be able to do something about it?” Jorir sounded skeptical. He kept his attention firmly on Irding’s blade: Einarr was sure it must have been sharpened since they returned from the Isle of the Forgotten, but it didn’t really look like it.

“Possibly. You have the most experience with Weavers out of all of us, Jorir, and as a blacksmith you must have at least some experience with Runes. Between you, me, and Hrug, we ought to be able to come up with something.”

Jorir frowned. “Maybe. But my knowledge of runes is all theoretical. Thanks to my own curse, I can’t even see runes, let alone read them.”

Einarr blinked. “So you are cursed.” His father had suspected that Jorir was under some sort of curse of his own, but it had never actually come up before now.

“Aye.”

“And when, exactly, were you intending to ask me to do something about this?”

“When your own affairs had been tidied, not before.”

Einarr hummed. For all that the svartdvergr had a reputation nearly as bad as the svartalfr’s, Einarr had found no fault with Jorir as a retainer: while it would have been nice to know of the handicap earlier, he could not truly fault the dwarf. “All right. That won’t stop you from pondering runes with Hrug and I. Now. Our odds of being able to affect whatever spell Urdr’s woven directly are vanishingly small. So how do we use runes to hide from fate?”


Stigander brightened briefly when Einarr told him of the plan he’d hammered out with Hrug and Jorir, but then slumped back down into a bored despond. “That’s wonderful, son – once we’re off this island. But how do we get past them?” He gestured emphatically out over the water at the drakken lying in wait.

Einarr could not quite suppress a grin. “Audaciously, Father. How else?”

Stigander quirked an eyebrow and stayed silent.

“In all seriousness, Father, isn’t that what you and Kormund and I need to figure out? Or perhaps the three of us and our Mates?”


The last fire of daylight had vanished from the sky when the three ships slipped from the shore of their tiny refuge island out onto the open ocean, where a pack of the Wolf’s ships circled hungrily.

Einarr, standing under the mast, stared out over the black water and the indigo, pinpricked sky. A small smile played on his mouth. The answer he had sought from Jorir and Hrug had actually came from Sivid, in the end. “The Norns always correct their weave,” he had muttered darkly, rolling dice between his fingers.

The Norns always correct their weave. It was so simple, Einarr had nearly missed it. Across the yardarms of all three ships, they had written in runes the words “cursebreaker” and “reweaver,” and every man aboard had said a prayer that the Norns would help them in their task. Even Sivid. If Urdr was abusing her power the way Einarr expected, then surely the weavers of Fate would aid them in their task.

Now all they had to do was break past Ulfr’s trained hounds without putting any more blood in the water then they had to. That was why they were sailing dark now: it would never get them past the enemy encirclement, but it just might let the Vidofnir and her sister ships make good use of a little shock-and-awe.

The air hung still over their boats. The only sound was the lapping of water against the hulls and the occasional gentle swish of the oars. At each man’s feet, in a tiny rock oven, a torch smoldered. It was almost time.


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9.12 – Runic Ward

Over all three ships, flaming arrows arced their way down towards the decks. Einarr’s breath caught in his throat as they began their descent. Then, as though they were passing through a bubble that surrounded the boats, the pinpricks of light winked out. If Einarr looked very closely, he could see a shimmering blue energy rippling along as the fires extinguished.

This was not over, though. The leader of the self-styled “wolf pack” may have abandoned the decks of the ships, but it was too much to hope that they would just leave after this display. “To arms!” he bellowed.

Most of the crew was ahead of him, as it happened. The chink of maille being tossed about had begun even as the first volley of arrows launched. The wolfling ships, not to be deterred, were lighting a second round already.

“Keep it up, Hrug! Everyone else, prepare to return fire!” The twanging of bowstrings could already be heard from the deck of the Vidofnir. He hadn’t heard how the conversation had gone over there, but he could guess.

They were committed, of course. Einarr looked around, only to see Jorir and his golden shield standing close at hand holding Einarr’s maille shirt. Without a word, the dwarf tossed him the maille as though it were cloth. Einarr, lacking the dwarf’s strength, had a somewhat harder time catching it, but had still pulled it over his head within moments.

The archers were ready, it appeared. As much as he wanted to, the same ward that extinguished the enemy’s fire arrows prevented them from sending their own. Ordinary arrows would have to do. “Fire!”

The wolfling volley of shooting stars once again winked out under the power of Hrug’s ward even as the Heidruning volley rained iron on their heads. The oars were coming out on the other side, and now Einarr saw ropes dangling from the bulwarks of his ship. The ropes were twitching, each and every one. He smirked and swaggered over to the bulwark, Sinmora hissing from her sheath. “I think some dogs need a bath.”

Casually, he brought Sinmora down with a thunk into the wood of the bulwark, severing the boarding line. This was followed by the satisfying sounds of a startled yelp and a splash as the wolfling attempting the climb found himself instead in the water. A chuckle spread through his crew, and the men acting as shield bearers for the archers drew and followed suit. That wouldn’t prevent boarding for long, but it bought them a little time. With a deep breath, Einarr steadied himself. “Next volley, fire when ready! Prepare for boarding!”

The wolflings did not try a third volley of fire arrows, for which Einarr was grateful. A ward of that size would be exhausting to maintain: indeed, he saw sweat beading on Hrug’s brow.

The men of the Heidrun fired off a fourth volley while their enemies maneuvered, before Einarr realized they were not maneuvering to try to board. Nor had more ropes come up from the smaller boats below. Instead, the wolflings were making a fighting retreat. Arrows still flew both ways between the ships, but they did not approach. Slowly it dawned on him: his father’s wheel-spoke formation made it impossible to board without entrapping your own ship. Einarr grinned: between the circle of ships and the rocks, the wolflings didsn’t seem to have much of a choice.

“Hold your fire!” They would only waste arrows at this point: the wolfling ships were nearly out of range, and there was Father’s standing order not to engage. Einarr strode to the prow and stepped up on the bulwark, steadying himself against his ship’s tail. Before long, he was joined by Stigander and Kormund.

“What news?”

“A few injuries,” Kormund answered, as calm as ever.

“I take back everything bad I ever said about rune magicians.” Stigander shook his head in wonder. “That was your sorcerer, right? Who made their fire arrows wink out like so many shooting stars?”

“That was Hrug, yes. Are your Singers still aboard?”

The other captains both shook their heads.

“So that means they have Reki, Aema, Svana, Eydri, Runa, and Beatrix.”

“Beatrix?” His father sounded surprised.

Einarr shrugged. “I guess they mistook her for another battle chanter, although why they’d think I had three aboard is anyone’s guess. But with that lot working together? I think they may have more than they can handle aboard.”

Stigander chuckled.

“Are we certain they will be working together with Beatrix? She is an Imperial, you remember.”

It was Stigander who answered. “I’ve heard of stranger bedfellows.”

“They’re all smart enough to know where their interest lies. It may not be according to plan, but it’s far from a disaster.”

Kormund hummed. “I suppose there’s not much we can do besides let them look out for themselves. Certainly Svana is capable of looking out for herself in a pinch.”

Einarr nodded, although he was not so sanguine with this as he pretended. Runa had been out of enemy hands for less than a day: how could he call himself worthy to marry her, if he let her be taken again so easily? “Exactly. And if I know Runa, they’ll have the wolflings spinning on their ears before we even reach the harbor.”

Stigander gave him a long, weighing look before nodding once more. “We’d best be moving. That lot will be quick to return and report our location, but if we play this right we can be in the harbor by sunrise.”

In agreement, the three Captains ended their conference and returned to the decks of their respective boats. “All right, men! Now that everyone’s awake, it’s time to be off! We’ve got a curse to end, damsels to save, and usurpers to put to justice. We’ve got a busy night ahead.”

In surprisingly good cheer, the Heidrunings doffed their maille and moved to their oars. Einarr wondered if any of them realized how close it had been with Hrug’s ward.


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9.11 – Parley

The Heidrun sat, dead in the water, like a wheelspoke guarding the prows of the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, just as they guarded his prow. Surrounding them, and most of the cluster of rocks where they had sheltered for the day, he counted no fewer than nine ships that were bound to his uncle the usurper. Half of them bore wolf heads on their prow, making Einarr think Ulfr used that not to identify a ship but a member of his fleet.

Their watchmen were bound and gagged, thrown together in a pile in the center of the deck. On the bulwarks, arrows trained against the men just rising from their day’s sleep, stood the warriors who were responsible. Confirming Einarr’s thought, about one in three of them wore a wolf pelt tied to his shoulders. A mark of rank? He shook his head: it hardly mattered.

“Who are you?” He demanded, even though he already knew. “Why are you on my ship?”

“You are trespassing in the waters of Breidelstein, with clear intent to raid our lands.” A man wearing a wolf pelt answered, confirming Einarr’s suspicion.

Einarr glanced around: he could see Hrug fingering the carved beads at his belt. He caught the man’s eye and nodded before answering. “I think you will find, gentlemen, that it is not we who are trespassing. The waters of Breidelsteinn have been in enemy hands for fifteen years now: we simply come to take them back.”

Hrug’s fist closed around one of the runestones he had been fidgeting with and a pulse went out over the deck of the ship. The men who were slow to rise were slow no longer: all his sailors were on their feet. Ing, then. Eydri may be absent, but they still had Hrug. He could do in a pinch.

Einarr could hear the sounds of men rising for battle coming from the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir: had the rune reached the other ships, as well? If so, that was some impressive will. Einarr rolled his shoulders and drew Sinmora. There was no time to be distracted like that.

“So, men of the usurper, who assaulted the rightful rulers of these lands when we slept, like cowards. What have you done with the women?” That he did not yet hear Reki’s or Aema’s voices said all he needed to know about their status.

“Your Singers are guests on my ship,” wolf-pelt answered with a leer. “Fear not: they will be well-treated, and taken to my Lord’s Hall as a delegation of their status deserves.”

Singers? What of Bea? It was possible, Einarr thought, that with everyone asleep they had mistaken the Imperial princess for a Singer. If that was the case, then suddenly he could breathe easier. The girl could fight: backed up by not one but four Singers? Ulfr and his crone of a mother might have more than they could handle with that bunch. “You’ll forgive me,” he said, even as this was running through his head. “If I’m not inclined to take the word of a bunch of sneak-thieves and nithing cowards.”

The man on the bulwark actually twitched at that one. “What you think of us is of no importance. Either you and your men surrender, and we will tow your ships into harbor, or we will set you alight, right here and now.”

On the one hand, that would let them reach Raenshold a full day ahead of when they’d planned. On the other hand, to do so as prisoners, without weapons and under guard? That seemed like a fool’s choice. Einarr pasted a sneer on his face. “Surrender? To the usurper? Are you mad? We’d never make it back to Raenshold, and you know it. He’d have our boats put to the flame before we were halfway there. Possibly yours as well. If you’re going to lie, at least make it believable.”

“Have it your way, then.” Wolf-pelt raised his hand in a gesture Einarr well knew as a signal to archers. From the ships around them – all of the ships around them, he noted: Father and Kormund must have come to his same conclusion – a ring of fire sprang into existence.

Einarr risked a glance at Hrug. The man had squatted down and was staring at the enemy archers, but his good hand hung toward the deck, twitching furiously. Einarr swallowed.

“Can’t even stand to face us in open combat, I see.” Anything to buy time for Hrug’s ward. “You’re just going to set us alight and then turn tail? Some pack of wolves you turned out to be. More like lapdogs.”

“Think what you will,” the man sneered. “You’ve little enough time left to think it, after all.” With the hand not raised to signal his archers, he waved backward. The men standing on the bulwark all stepped backward, seemingly into thin air. Their disappearance was not followed by splashing water, however, but by the thump of boots on wooden boards.

This hadn’t quite gone the way Einarr had hoped. He swallowed.

“Last chance: surrender quietly, and you can at least be tried like men in the capital.”

Einarr spat. Wolf-pelt dropped his arm, and the arrows from the encircling ships flew even as he, too, dropped down to the waiting boat below.

Einarr spun to face the sorcerer. “Hrug!”

The arrows reached the top of their arc. Soon they would rain fire down on the deck of not just the Heidrun but also the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, and put an ignominius end to their quest.

The mute did not even grunt acknowledgement. His head snapped up, and Einarr would swear he saw a flash of light in the man’s blue eyes even as he felt the power of the ward pulse into place.

“Shields up!”

Those who had their shields available responded even as extinguished arrows began to rain over the deck. Einarr hurried to the prow: had it been enough?


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9.9 – Refugees

Silent as ghosts, the three ships slipped through the night towards Breidelstein and Raenshold. The air of anticipation was almost palpable on the Heidrun: Einarr could only imagine what it must be like on the Vidofnir.

Hrug busied himself about the ship inscribing runes based on what they had discussed with the Matrons on Breidhaugr and his own knowledge of runes from the Shrouded Village. So far as that went, Einarr could only trust he would know what to do when the time came.

A low whistle rolled across the water from the Vidofnir, the signal that another boat approached. The men of the Heidrun, having put on their maille before they sailed from the fjord, limbered their bows. Einarr moved forward, peering over the water to see what they were likely to be dealing with.

Only a fishing boat. For no reason that Einarr could fathom, he was put in mind of the Gufuskalam – the boat Runa had bought after she convinced him to elope. Soon. Just hang on, and I’ll have you free soon…

Someone in the boat waved a torch, as though trying to catch the attention of the ship captains. That was curious. A moment later, the signal to stand down came from the deck of the Vidofnir. Einarr turned his attention there as the fishing boat drew up next to his father’s ship. Right at that moment, Einarr wished he had a rune combination that would let him be part of whatever was going on over there, but so far as he knew even Melja could not do that.

A third time a whistle sounded, this time followed by waves of the torch indicating a change in course. That was very curious.


The Vidofnir led them unerringly to a little cove with a sheltered, sandy shore on an island not far from where they encountered the fishing boat and all three longships sent people ashore to learn what was going on. A tiny fire was already lit on the beach, with a small group of Vidofnings clustered around it, when Einarr vaulted from the deck of the Heidrun. Jorir and Naudrek were not far behind. From the Eikthyrnir, Captain Kormund was joined by his Mate and his Battle Chanter.

Einarr was nearly upon them when he realized who it was that sat, huddled under a shawl, her fingers curled around a steaming horn of something. “Runa?” He all but ran the intervening distance.

There she was: disheveled, with great dark circles beneath her bloodshot eyes, her skin pale except where it showed either the yellow-green of old bruises or, more damningly, the purple of new ones, but still the loveliest creature Einarr had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

“It is you,” he said, a little breathlessly, as he joined the small circle about the fire. “How did you get here? What have they done to you? Are you all right?”

She smiled wanly, but her lip trembled. “So you did come for me. I knew you would. But… but I… I couldn’t wait.”

Einarr felt his throat go dry. He didn’t try to say anything, just pushed forward to take a seat next to her. Runa threw her arms around his neck and started to cry.

An unfamiliar man sitting on her other side spoke then. “His lordship wanted her broken, he said. Said that was going to be the way to get information out of her pabbi. Only, that didn’t sit right. So me an’ another fellow went to talk with the Lady. Seems like the next thing I know, I’m rowing out toward you lot in a fishing boat.”

“You blanked out?” Reki demanded.

“No, ma’am. Only the Lady is very persuasive, and she talked us into it before we quite knew what we were about. I’m mighty glad we found you, though,” he continued. “Gods only know how long before they send out boats to search for the Lady.”

“She is very persuasive, at that,” Einarr said, rubbing Runa’s shoulder. “Did they…?”

Runa shook her head, still without raising it. “But that’s why I couldn’t wait. I thought… I thought these two were sent to…”

Einarr hushed his betrothed soothingly and met his father’s eye darkly. “Never you fear. They will get what’s coming to them.”

Stigander nodded silently at him.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, my lords, but it might be best if we hurried up and got out of the islands. His lordship won’t be pleased once he knows she’s gone, and then he’ll have these waters crawling with boats searching for her.”

Stigander hummed. “Well, you’re right about one thing, anyway. We had best be getting on again. The night’s wasting away while we sit here gabbing. But we’re not leaving.” A wicked grin split Stigander’s yellow moustaches. “Oh, no. The Wolf and the Weaver aren’t getting off so easily this time.”

“No,” Einarr muttered. “No, they are not. Although, one thing confuses me. I was told the Weavess’ curse bound your loyalties to her son, and no matter what you couldn’t act against him. So then, how?”

The one who had been relating their tale sat up proudly. “I’ve not acted against his Lordship. I’ve kept him from staining his honor.”

Somehow, Einarr doubted Ulfr would see it that way, but that was hardly the point. He nodded. “It’s a courageous thing to do, to act against your lord for their own good.”

Elsewhere around the fire, someone hummed. In Einarr’s arms, though, Runa was finally beginning to calm herself. Gently he extricated himself and stood. “Father is right, though. We need to be getting back out on the water. If there will soon be a full fleet out looking for the three of you, then we have even more reason to make haste.”

“Quite right.” It was Captain Kormund. “Let’s load back up and push off before the night grows any older. We don’t want to be caught out on the open water at dawn, after all.”


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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.

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9.6 – Sinmora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something amiss?”

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

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

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

“You’re right, of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.5 – War Footing

All the new crew members needed time to arm themselves and see to their affairs, but that suited Einarr and the Vidofnings just fine. Einarr, in particular, had some matters to attend to regarding his new ship. Thus, it was decided that the three ships would sail to war one week hence.

On board the newly-christened Heidrun, Jorir and Naudrek went over the same inspection that Einarr had with his father just days before. Eydri sat on the bulwark, repeating the Lay of Raen to Tyr for what was probably the hundredth time as she worked to memorize it. She and Reki, together with the Battle Chanters from the Eikthyrnir and the Skudbrun, would sing it together as they left Kjell harbor. If all went well, this would be the last voyage the sons of Raen had to begin this way. Meanwhile, Hrug and Vali took each other’s measure in some strange way that Einarr did not fully understand.

“So?” Einarr asked as Naudrek and Jorir were coming to the end of their inspection and looking satisfied. “What do you make of Arkja and his crew, now that you’ve had some more normal sailing around them.”

“Good hardworking boys,” Jorir answered promptly, plopping down on the deck beside his Lord. “I think Arkja knew we were suspicious of him: he seemed more than eager to please.”

“You don’t think he’ll turn coward on us?”

Now Jorir hummed. “I think, so long as he’s not placed under too great a strain, you haven’t much of anything to worry about. Not sure I’d go making him an officer, mind. Hey, Vali – what think you?”

“Oh, aye. Arkja’s loyal enough. Just make sure he’s in front of you when the seas are rough.”

“That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. The man asked to swear to me, and I’m out of excuses to put him off. You two spent the end of last summer watching him. If there’s a reason I should refuse, I need to know it.”

Jorir shrugged. “You’ll be taking some sort of oath from everyone who comes aboard this ship, won’t you? Just have him swear the same.”

Vali shook his head slowly. “The trouble is, we didn’t see the sort of situation that might lead a man like Akel to break.”

“Akel? Who’s Akel?”

“Oh, uh. Right. He was the Mate aboard the Althane’s ship. You remember.”

Einarr nodded. Vali had warned him about Arkja and used the Althane’s Mate as an example.

“So I don’t see any reason not to take him aboard, or even to let him swear to be your man, but I would consider his advice carefully, especially where it concerns the wellbeing of others.”

“Worth doing with most advice, I find. Very well. I’ll trust your judgement.”

Jorir smirked. “I expect no less, by now. So. We’ve told you about the Forgotten men. What can you tell us of Breidelstein?”

Einarr looked sheepish. “Hasn’t Father talked about it? I was only a boy. I’m afraid my recollections aren’t likely to be all that helpful.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Naudrek put in. “We’re about to put our necks on the line for your boyhood home. We want to know what we’re fighting for. And we want to know you remember what we’re fighting for.”

“…Ah. Well, all right then. I guess I should start by saying that, until winter before last, I wasn’t rightly sure I cared if we got our home back. The sea was my home. And then I met Runa again.”


At long last, the Vidofnir and her two allies – fortified with sailors from the Skudbrun, which could not be repaired in time – were fully on war footing. The Vidofnir led the way out of the harbor under oars, and the beat of the cadence drum carried the promise of violence to come.

Once they were out of the harbor the three ships raised their sails and turned north. The drumming continued all that afternoon and into the evening, as the four Singers raised their voices together for the Lay of Raen.

Leafy rug lies under
Lee of rock ridge, the
Free-hearted Raen’s hold
High built, its vigil born
To guard men above gold.
Grant plenty, pious king,
But forget not folly
Of fate-dabbler’s design.

The four voices twined together, echoing over the water between the ships while the drums continued to play. Einarr, for the first time at the helm of his own ship instead of standing by his father’s side, felt a shiver run down his spine at the eerie sound.

Raen’s folly, a fair lass
Flax-haired, by eye-gleams held:
Urdr did he woo, under
Umber moon she swooned.
No troth spoke though one she
Took: the ring-breaker Raen
She would wed. When sea-steed
Stole Raen, Urdr did remain.

Unwisely wooed, Urdr
Bore Ulfr, boy-child of
Greyed eyes, guileful blade.
Threads Urdr traced, fiber spun
While wolf’s fangs he forg’d.
To seek redress on swan’s road
Their uncut thread binds all
.

The mood aboard ship – Einarr assumed all three ships – had nothing of the melancholy he was used to. No: this time was different in every regard. This time, the ritual was performed not for remembrance but for determination. The Weavess and her usurper son would, finally, after sixteen long years, face justice for their crimes.

Without realizing he did so, Einarr joined his own voice to the voices of the Singers.

Ulfr did usurp, and Urdr does
Under cursèd thrall snarl
Mountain’s men, and entomb’d
Raen maltreats. Raven-wine
By Art bound, and by Art’s touch
Alone undone: hie home,
Raen’s sons, soon your birthright
Save, and cut the woven chain.

He was not alone. He heard his Father’s voice, and Tyr’s. Erik. Sivid. One by one, all the Vidofnings who had been with the ship for even half of those years raised their voices, until it was less a Lay and more of a Chant. They were declaring their enemy’s crimes before sea and wind and sky, and this time they would not be turned back.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.1 – Burn

With Hrist’s ominous parting words ringing in his ears, it would have been an understatement to call Einarr impatient to return to Kjell. Where before he marveled at the Arkona’s speed, especially for a ship of her size and draft, now it would not have been enough had she been able to fly.

He shared his encounter with Hrist only with Eydri, Naudrek, and Hrug, and while they, too, were now anxious to return that word, too, was insufficient. He spent his days pacing the deck, cursing under his breath the alfs and their High Roads for keeping him from his place on the Vidofnir.

His relentless pacing meant he was among the first to notice the unnatural light on the horizon as they approached Kjell. His throat went dry: had the whole island burned, in some dark reflection of their purification of Hohenwerth? He shook his head. No, that couldn’t be. Whatever it was, though, was bad. He tried everything to make himself sleep, but even under the effects of Eydri’s Lullaby he was subjected to terrible nightmares and fitful slumber.

The next day Kjell came into view and he saw smoke before he saw anything else – great inky clouds of it. The largest of these rose from what was obviously Kjellvic, and Einarr could soon see large swaths of untouched forest. That meant, though, that the other two merging pillars of smoke rose from the Hall and the Chapel, respectively.

Liupold could not coax any more speed out of his ship at this stage: he had done all he could in that regard in the days after Einarr’s encounter with the Valkyrie had led to a shift in his mood. He did, however, keep the Arkona at speed for far longer than he otherwise would have dared.

The Arkona sailed into Kjell harbor far faster than anyone considered safe, for this reason. The people on shore seemed on the verge of panic, held in check only by the keen memory of the harbormaster, who recognized them. When a landing craft was put down, Einarr practically flew to its deck. His companions were close behind, followed by Bea, Rambert and Liupold, and every one of them save Eydri manned an oar.

Eydri sang. Even with the boost she lent them, though, Einarr wanted to tear his hear out for how long it was taking. Threads can be cut, Cursebreaker, Hrist had warned. He did not see the Vidofnir in port: that could only mean it had been Runa under threat.

After minutes that felt like hours, the rowboat sidled up to the dock and Einarr leapt out in front of the harbormaster. “What has happened?” He demanded without preamble or introduction.

The harbormaster studied him for a long and wary moment before he answered. “Ah. You are the Lady Runa’s betrothed, are you not?”

“Yes!” It was an effort not to snap at the man, although that he remembered at all could be counted a small miracle.

For his part, the harbormaster was visibly relieved. “Three days ago, Kjell was hit by a raiding ship with a wolf’s head on the prow. They seemed to be looking for something, or someone. I’m afraid no-one seems to know what. Apparently they didn’t find it, because after they sailed off refugees started arriving from the Hall. They had been asking the same questions there, and stealing everything that was not nailed down in the process. The town is still burning, as you can see, but I think we’ve finally got it contained…”

“Good, good,” Einarr broke in at the first convenient moment. “Horses. We need horses. Are there any available?”

The harbormaster gave him a look as though he’d made a particularly bad joke. “With the town still in flames?”

Einarr shook his head. “No. No, of course you’re right. It’s just… I need to get to the Hall.”

“I understand, my lord, but unless you’re wiling to walk, or take that Conehead ship there back around the island, there just isn’t anything.”

Bea spluttered a little. Einarr heard her whisper “C-conehead?” as though she had never heard the insult applied to them before.

“Oh, wonderful.” The harbormaster sounded genuinely pleased about something. He was staring over Einarr’s shoulder. When he turned to look, he saw what would ordinarily have been the sweetest sight imaginable: the Vidofnir and the Ekthyrnir sailed into port together, both of them under full sail.

“Oh, no.” Einarr’s face dropped. “Back in the boat! Everyone, get back in the boat. I have to talk to my Father, immediately.”


In spite of their best efforts, arrows flew between the two longships and the Arkona before Einarr could get between them in their rowboat. He stood in the middle of the rowboat and shouted. “This is Einarr, son of Stigander. Do not fire! Repeat, do not fire!”

Arrow fire tapered off from the Vidofnir first, then from the Arkona as Walter realized that not only had the other ship relented, his Captain was in the line of fire.

A very familiar face peered over the bulwark at their small boat.

“Bardr! By the gods, it feels like forever. Permission to come aboard?”

“For you? Always. Who are those people?”

“Eydri is a Singer. Naudrek and Hrug are friends who helped me out last fall,” he began the introductions with their own people. “Liupold here is Captain of that vessel you’ve been firing on, and Rambert is from his crew. And this–” he gestured. “Is Her Imperial Highness Beatrix Maria Gundahar, Admiral of the Hrist Brigade and recent captive of that damn kraken the Grendel let loose.”

Bardr stared for a long moment, and Einarr could see him doing the mental gymnastics required to accept this. In the end, though, Einarr’s tenure as a Cursebreaker had subjected them all to far stranger circumstances than those.

“Come aboard, then,” he finally answered, after some guffaws and jeering from further back in the boat. “I look forward to hearing just what the hel happened out there.”


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.

8.27 – Empire and Clan

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!

In spite of their victory, a somber mood hung over the Arkona as it turned northward once more. Too many lives had been lost at Hohenwerth, and not just in battle. Einarr retreated to a quiet corner with Eydri and his men. It would be better, he thought, to give the men of the Order their space, at least for this night.

As the four of them sat quietly, discussing their plans for the coming summer and what they were likely to expect once they finally caught up with Stigander, the sound of boots tapping on the deck boards sounded behind Hrug. All of them looked up.

“Mind if I join you?” Beatrix asked. “I’m not part of the crew here, either.”

“I would imagine not.” Einarr would be surprised if she were a part of any crew, except maybe as a figurehead leader. But, it was that kind of a night. “Have a seat.”

“My thanks. I bring an offering.” She held up a glass bottle with some sort of liquid in it.

Einarr raised an eyebrow. What was that supposed to be?

“Give me your cups. You’ll like this.”

They had been drinking from Einarr’s claimed cask of Eisbock. “Tell you what,” he said. “Hand me yours. Once we’ve all finished this round, we’ll try… whatever that is you’re holding.”

She eyed the dark liquid in their cups before holding out her own. “Fine. …So how did you four find your stay in Imperial waters?”

They all shared a look, wondering for just a moment if they should be honest or polite. Eventually, Einarr shrugged. “It was interesting.”

Bea snorted. “Interesting. Okay, fine, I should have expected that answer. Answer me honestly, now: were you treated well?”

“Well enough. Captain Liupold seems to understand how the Clans work on some level, at least, which helped.”

Bea nodded slowly. “He would. He was raised in Kem.”

“Ah. That explains it, then. Wonderful city.” Einarr smiled in recognition. His cause for going had been unpleasant, but the city itself had seemed almost as nice as Eskiborg.

“I’m sure he would be glad to hear you say that.”

“Liupold’s hospitality left nothing to be desired, although I’m not certain I can say the same for the accomodations.” He chuckled, hoping she would not take it amiss.

She didn’t seem offended, at any rate, but sipped thoughtfully at her cup full of Eisbock before making a face. “This is that ale Liupold was going on about? Uck.” She sighed. “This is getting nowhere. I will be plain.”

Einarr turned his face so that he looked directly at her. She’d spoken as plainly as he could expect of a Conehead before, so this should be interesting.

“I want you four to enter my service, as liasons between the Hrist Brigade and the North. I’ve said it before, your talents are wasted on a simple longship…”

“Wait, the what brigade?”

“The Hrist Brigade. We-”

“You hunt us.”

“What?”

“Bea, before I made contact with the Arkona, my last contact with any Order ship was so deep into Clan waters they’d almost come out the other side again. They attacked us, entirely unprovoked, and we lost good men in the battle. While we were taking our spoils, I found the Captain’s orders. The name didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but now I finally understand. The ship’s orders had come through the Hrist Brigade, from the Valkyrie herself!”

“What? That can’t be. I’ve never sent a ship that far north. Are you certain they weren’t… lost?”

“Quite. We were taken by surprise, of course: we’d never heard of a hunter ship coming that far north, either, but the fact remains good men died there for no reason.”

To her credit, Bea seemed genuinely upset by this news.

“Now. You were going to offer me, again, the opportunity to abandon my father and my Clan to the Weaver’s curse that sent us into exile in the first place. To abandon the woman I am promised to, whose hand I have finally secured permission to marry, in order to enter your service as some sort of functionary? If I were the sort of person who would accept such an offer, you wouldn’t have made it.”

She did not answer for a long moment, only stared, dumbstruck, before taking a long pull on the drink she had earlier disdained. Finally, a strange strain in her voice, she muttered “I did not know.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. And if the Lady Hrist is commanding ships behind your back, it may be time to have a word with your patron.” He was about to go on, but she spoke over him without seeming to realize she was.

“Why did no-one tell me you were promised?”

Eydri spoke up. “Why should we have?”

“I see. In that case, I’m sorry to have bothered you. It won’t happen again.”

“Bea, wait.”

The princess, standing, stared down at them, cup in one hand and bottle in the other, as though she could not quite believe them. She was lovely. If he had met her before he found Runa, would he have been so quick to reject the offer?

“Sit down. Finish your cup, and we’ll share in… whatever that is that you brought, and we can boast of our deeds until the sun comes up. I’m not interested in joining the Order. That doesn’t mean I can’t like some of the people in it.”

The princess seemed to deflate as she folded her legs back under her. “Oh,” was all she said.

“You’re coming with us into the North, aren’t you? I’d like you to meet them – Father, for one, and Runa of course.”

“I…”

“She’s a fiery one, she is. I think the two of you might have more than a little in common. …But the North is my home, just as the Empire is yours. And we can’t just abandon our homes.”


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