Tag: Kaldr

10.7 – Safe Harbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Elder snorted. “You’re welcome.”

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

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

“You knew my grandfather, then?”

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

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

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

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

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


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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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10.4 – Nerves

For a long while Einarr stood staring over the stern at the four wolfling ships that once more followed in their wake. Why had that ship been called back?

The leader of the pursuing fleet was harrying them, wearing down their morale with every league they followed and every skirmish they forced. If that ship hadn’t been called back, but instead been allowed to nip at their heels, it could have been catastrophic.

Unless the wolflings were also trying to minimize casualties? He didn’t expect it of his uncle, but perhaps if Kaldr hoped to win some of them over it was possible.

“What are they up to?” Arkja muttered from his post nearby. “Why would they just let us go like that?”

Einarr cleared his throat. “What makes you think it would be so easy as that?”

The former de-facto leader of the Forgotten sailors had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Ah, Captain, sir. It’s not that it’d be easy, per se. Just that after all the trouble we had sneaking in, we’re all of us beat. Tired. Ain’t none of us used to this sort of long campaign no more, if we ever were.”

Einarr harrumphed, but nodded anyway. The man wasn’t wrong. “Eskihus was not our only option for a resupply, Arkja. Captain Stigander has a few other options in mind. You let us worry about what they’re up to and concentrate on making it into port with the rest of us.”

“Yes, sir,” he said. The man looked chagrined, but not particularly comforted.

Einarr sighed. Arkja could not be the only one feeling that way. If he was honest with himself, he was starting to as well. With a nod to himself, he walked down the deck to where Eydri waited. She, too, stared pensively back at their pursuers.

Einarr leaned his elbows on the bulwark next to the Singer and spoke out over the sea. “Morale is dropping.”

“And water is wet,” she snapped. “Even if I refresh their bodies,” she went on, less peevishly, “Kaldr’s fleet will wear on their minds. Then you’ll have an anxious, energetic crew. Possibly even a panicky one.”

Einarr winced. A panicky crew could prove deadly at the drop of a hat. “Any thoughts, then?”

Eydri sighed now. “Talk to Bea, too. But the ghost is right about Kaldr. He’s a snake, and the way that fleet is wearing us down he’s certain to be leading it.”

“The… ghost?”

She shook her head. “Sorry. Reki.”

“Do you have something against my father’s Singer?”

She stammered a little before managing a coherent answer. “No. Not… personally. She just puts me on edge a bit. I can still work with her – under her, even, if I have to.”

“Fine. Go on, then.” It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do.

“It’s like she said over on the Vidofnir. The man is devious, and I will swear his blood is ice. The fact that he hasn’t yet struck decisively probably means there’s something he wants from us – and I haven’t the foggiest idea what.”

Einarr nodded. “I have some guesses. Where is Bea, anyway?”

“I think she cajoled Irding and some of the others into a game of dice.” Eydri rolled her eyes, but Einarr chuckled.

“More than one way to boost morale. Thanks.”


They sailed on in this way all through that night and on into the next morning, always with someone looking over their shoulders to see if the enemy had given up yet. Every time Einarr gave in and looked himself, the wolflings were still maintaining the pace.

Mid-morning, the Vidofnir abruptly changed course. They headed now between two islands that were little more than large rocks, but some little ways ahead was a larger piece of land. Is that where we’re going, or are we trying to lose our tail?

The Heidrun turned to follow, and it was as though everyone aboard held their breath, waiting.

The Vidofnir deployed oars as Stigander led his allies along the coast of this larger island. They moved quickly – perhaps faster than most of them were comfortable with, given their proximity to shore. It was, however, not enough. The shore curved gently inward, forming a shallow bay, and as they neared the far end of the bay a horn on the Eikthyrnir sounded the alarm.

Just as, rounding the island initially, there had been a collective inhale, now everyone seemed to exhale at the same time. The release of tension was followed immediately by the jangle of maille. Einarr, moving across the deck once again to reach his own gear, looked up across the water.

Arrayed across the mouth of the bay, not covering all of it by far but covering enough, all four of the wolfling ships lay in wait. Einarr’s mouth went suddenly dry and he had to swallow hard to find his voice. “To arms! All hands, to arms! Archers – form up!”

This would measure among the fights of his life, he felt certain. Behind them the apparently wild land of one of the freehold islands: ahead, a blockade they would have to run. It was that, or give up on rescuing the Jarl or retaking Breidelstein anytime soon. The land was a trap: a wall against their backs to force the men forward. Einarr scowled across at the crew scrambling into their armor and belting on their blades. They were jittery.

It did not take him long to spot Eydri. Just who I was looking for. It was time for her to Sing and hope the battle fury would blunt their nerves.


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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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10.1 – Dawn Assault

With the tapestries in hand, Einarr had thought they might gain some time to breathe and regroup. For the space of a night, he thought he’d been right. They’d prayed the confusion in their enemies would continue and sailed all through the night, sleeping in shifts.

Einarr wakened at the break of dawn and rose, stretching, his arms still aching with fatigue from the day before. “Damn them all to Hel.”

Approaching from the East, nearly obscured by the light of the rising sun, were ships. Only a fool, at this point, would bet on these being anything other than part of the wolf fleet. Einarr cupped a hand to his mouth. “Draken incoming!

With a series of groans and muttered curses, the men of his Heidrun roused themselves. Belatedly, someone sounded the warning bell. Moments later, it was taken up by the other two ships, and soon followed by the rattling of maille as the men armed themselves.

Then it was as though meteors flew from the sun as the wolf fleet launched its first volley of fire arrows and combat was joined.

“Will we be returning fire, my lord?” Jorir asked from beside him.

Einarr frowned. It was risky, but he needed to be mindful of how many arrows they had already spent. “No, not this time.”

The dwarf merely grunted, as though he agreed. “Hold your fire, men! Shields up, be ready for the assault!”

Captain Kormund’s Eikthyrnir made the same call, veering south where Einarr veered north. In the middle, the Vidofnir plowed doggedly ahead, and she did return fire.

Einarr nodded to himself. Father should draw their fire that way. Perhaps, if they had only a little good luck, the effect of that rug would be waning. Eydri had said the Weavess had plainly needed to maintain it, and now she couldn’t.

Now came the test, though: boarding lines flew.

“Keep them off us!” Einarr bellowed. He thought he knew what Father had in mind, but for it to work he and Kormund needed to be free to engage on their own terms.

His oarsmen were nimble, and what few the shield wall could not block were handled readily by axe or by sword. Now Einarr grinned as the Wolfling ships, like their totem creature, focused their attention on the ship which decided to stand and fight.

Kormund had already zipped most of the way around the wolves’ flank as though he intended to flee. Einarr knew better, but he hoped the enemy captain did not.

As the Heidrun sailed out of the wolves’ encirclement, they passed near enough to the leader of the pack for Einarr to spot its captain, and as he did he was struck by an odd sense of unreality. The man barking orders on the deck of the other ship could be none other than the man who had stolen the women before! The Singers and Bea had all seemed to think him grounded, though. What was he doing out here? Einarr shook his head: now was not the time to worry over such matters.

In just that moment, the enemy captain looked up and straight at Einarr. The two men locked eyes, and a predatory grin spread over the mouth of the man called Kaldr.

A shiver ran along Einarr’s spine. That man knew exactly what they were trying. “Prepare to repel boarders!” Einarr ordered.

He was too late, or they were too close for it to do any good. This time the lines caught fast.

“Eydri!” At the sound of her name, the battle chanter began to Sing, and Einarr felt the familiar touch of the battle fury on his mind. With a deep breath, he forced himself to focus on the enemy ship. Giving in to the fury as a Captain was never wise. Against a man like Kaldr, he suspected it would be death.

Still, he too drew his sword, and flanked by Jorir and Naudrek stalked toward the bulwark and the wolfling ship.

In the moments their walk took, the first clash had already occurred on the ropes over the water, and then there were Wolflings on the Heidrun’s deck.

Sinmora flashed and men fell. Einarr knew his father wished to minimize casualties, but he would not spend his crew here. Not when they were seemingly no closer to gaining the Hold.

Then the smell of smoke filled the air and fire rained down on the deck of Kaldr’s ship. Now it was Einarr’s turn to grin as the wolves assaulting his ship turned in surprise.

“Press them,” he ordered, and the call was echoed by both Jorir and Naudrek.

Chaos followed as the wolflings tried to get back to their own ship in any way they could. Kormund was back with the Eikthyrnir, and whether or not Kaldr had forgotten about them, his men certainly had.

As his men climbed on the bulwark to follow, though, Kaldr’s men began to cut the lines.

“Hold,” Einarr called now. Whatever Kaldr had planned, the solution was not to charge headlong onto the man’s ship. The Singers had spoken of a man with ice in his veins, and so it might be that he would prove a harrier. If so, then the key was to pace themselves, as well.

As quickly as they had closed, the Usurper’s ships withdrew again, back the way they had come but not out of sight. Einarr scowled over the water every time they crossed his field of view, just out of engagement range. The Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir resumed their retreat under sail.

“Still,” he mused aloud, “It seems Eydri was right about that so-called rug of ‘inevitable victory.’ We caught them by surprise there.”

Jorir cleared his throat as though there was something caught in it. “Maybe so,” he grumbled. “But I’m not sure how much good it actually did us if we did.”

“He pulled back rather than risk panic in his men when Kormund joined the fray. That helps us, I think.”

“Maybe so. Maybe so.” The dwarf did not sound convinced.


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

9.32 – Food From the Mouth

Author’s Note: This marks the end of Book 9: Einarr and the Wolf’s Flame. Book 10 will pick up right where we left off on 3/10, at which point we should be finished with our move to Saipan.


Kaldr hurried down the cliff road for the harbor where his ship waited. He should have been out there already, directing the attack, not stuck up in the Hold waiting on Lord Ulfr. Thjofgrir, his mate, trailed a half-pace behind, and as they moved Kaldr confirmed that all was in readiness.

Ulfr hadn’t even wanted anything, so far as Kaldr could tell – at least, nothing worthwhile. He had been kept ashore, it seemed, only because the Lady Urdr wanted him punished for bringing all the Singers instead of just the half-trained one. Even now, though, he could not regret that. Hopefully Lord Ulfr would see soon what came of relying too much on the Arts. Even better if the Lady Urdr learned some humility: the woman was insufferable, and if she would only get out of her son’s way and be a proper matriarch Breidelstein could come back into its own.

There was no time for such musings, though. Kaldr looked out over the harbor again, trying to judge how quickly they would have to move to join the blockade. The smell of smoke tickled his nose and the alarm bells rang, but his orders were clear – and issued after the alarm was sounded. If Lord Ulfr was confident in his ability to contain the fire, who was Kaldr to gainsay that?

On the water, his sister ships had engaged the rebel vessels. It was hard to be sure, but Kaldr did not believe they had managed to board yet. He picked up his pace, in a hurry to join the hunt but unwilling to risk a tumble down the steep slope.

The blockade tightened, drawing around in an attempt to encircle the rebels, but something was wrong. Now he stopped, his throat tightening as he looked out over the stair wall. The rebel ships appeared to be charging straight forward into the blockade, but it was not possible the rebels were that stupid. I need to send up a signal…

He shook his head. In order to send a signal, he would have to climb back up to the tower and through the fire, and then hope that his smoke signal could be distinguished from the Singers’ handiwork. Not likely, that. Even if it could be, though, there was not time with the feint already in motion.

Worse, the commander out there appeared to be taking the bait. The arms of the ships started to close around the three rebel vessels. Why was Captain Beir not using fire arrows? Captives were all well and good, but only if your victory was assured already. Unless it was more of Lord Ulfr’s foolishness. He was the rightful Thane, without a doubt, but the man had an unhealthy obsession with domination and subjugation.

“We’re too late,” he said aloud, interrupting Thjofgrir’s running inventory. Now he looked up, as well.

“Are you sure?”

Out on the water, the rebel vessels changed course with an agility Kaldr had never before seen. The Eikthyrnir, he supposed, was renowned for its speed, but the Vidofnir and the Heidrun were ships after the same mold as the wolf fleet. They should not have been able to turn that quickly, nor pick up so much speed. Arrows flew from the arms of the blockade, so much wasted ammunition as they rained down on the water.

“Just watch.”

Watch they did. It was almost beautiful in its tragedy: the hind, the rooster, and the ram moved as though under a wind sent by the gods themselves, darting around and through the pack of the blockade as though they were barges. Soon – long before they could have cast off, let alone joined the fray – an answering volley shot from the decks of the retreating rebels. The jaws of the blockade snapped down on empty air, the prey escaped.

Meanwhile, Captain Beir was proving himself incompetent once again. The ships of the blockade were getting in each others’ way as they tried to turn and sail in pursuit. Even from the stair Kaldr could see wolves colliding as they tried to turn themselves. Those on the edges, he wagered, would soon leave off pursuit to untangle the mess in the center. That was none of his business, he supposed, and perhaps he was being unfair to Captain Beir. He could not help but think, though, that had he been out there where he belonged, the rebels would have been brought properly to heel.

For a long moment, Kaldr stood on the mountain path, watching as his prey escaped the net Ulfr had set. He could not deny that their escape had been beautifully executed. And they would not go far, he wagered. Come sunup, they would still be in Lord Ulfr’s waters. Likely close by, in some sheltered cove. Probably they would take a day or two, secure in the knowledge of their escape, to rest and regroup before they tried again. Two or three likely options came immediately to mind. His charts, though, were down on his ship still.

A small smile curled the corner of his mouth, almost involuntarily. “Come, Thjofgrir. It seems the hunt is on.”


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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.

9.29 – Regrouping

Author Note: On Monday night, we will be flying out of Pago Pago headed for Portland and, ultimately, Saipan. Due to the vagaries of moving and airport/hotel internet, Tuesday’s post may be somewhat delayed. My apologies, and thank you for understanding


Bea stood on guard, two steps up from the last of Urdr’s guards. Her opponent watched her, cautious. Like his fellows, he’d seen her struggle before. Unlike his fellows, he’d just watched her break a man’s nose before taking his head. And… there was something else.

“You’re not bad,” he muttered. “But why are you here? You’re not from the North.”

“Thanks,” she answered, just as quietly. “I’ve decided the climate does wonders for my complexion, though.”

The man snorted, still studying her. She was not as good with a sword as with a spear, not by a long shot, but with the high ground and a narrow space she didn’t need to be.

“If you give me your word you will not alert the tower, I will let you see to your friend there.” She looked over his shoulder toward the man whose arm she had taken.

“You think that’s an option? Even if I could betray the Lady’s trust, he already alerted the tower.”

Tcheh. I was afraid of that. “That so? Unfortunate.”

Without giving him a chance to respond, she feinted for his sword arm. When he twisted away to avoid the blow, Bea brought the flat of her blade up and across, clocking him on the jaw.

He hardly seemed to notice, striking upwards when she expected him to be reeling back and drawing a line of blood across her thigh. Yes, Einarr – or at least his father – would definitely want this one left alive. She could do that. Probably.

Bea backed up another step, not really expecting the man to drop his guard. He kept pace, adjusting his grip on the hilt of his blade. Can’t drag this out too long, either. The others will start to worry. Her opponent, though, was proving difficult to bait.

She made another testing feint, this time at his forward leg, which he swatted away easily.

“Tsk, tsk. I know you’re a better warrior than that.”

“Sorry. I’ve got more important things to do than keep some nobody entertained here.”

He twitched. He regained his mask of calm quickly, but he definitely twitched. Finally, something she could use.

“You’re an awfully skillful warrior to be stuck guarding the false Thane’s mother, of all people, when there are enemies at the gate. They question your loyalty, don’t they? They think you’ll betray them, so they keep you stuck at home. Home, where you can’t gain any glory at all.”

“So long as we follow the Lady Urdr’s commands, Breidelsteinn will never fall,” he said through clenched teeth. “It is… an honor… to be made one of her guards.”

Maybe it was, but not to him. Not if Bea was reading him right. “That’s all well and good – for the Usurper and his Black Arts mother. If it weren’t for them, you’d be a Captain by now.”

The man paled, then shook his head. “Let us end this.”

Bea smirked even as the man lashed wildly towards her with his sword. She dodged easily, the steel barely brushing her own shirt of maille. Before he could regain his balance, Bea struck out. As with the man whose arm she’d taken, she struck with the hilt to the back of the neck. The man crumpled to the ground.

“About time,” she muttered, taking a moment to catch her breath.


The Usurper Wolf was not happy.

Reki wished she could be more pleased about that knowledge, but at present she didn’t see how it could help them. For five minutes she had pressed her ear to the door where he sat, berating Captain Kaldr for things outside of his control – such as allowing the ships into port at all, when he had plainly been grounded since he brought them in. The others had already closeted themselves on the other side of the hallway.

Reki turned to find the door, and saw Bea emerge out of the staircase. The young woman trotted toward her, somewhat bloody.

“Tell me -”

Reki put a finger to her puckered lips in the universal sign for ‘shush.’ Obligingly, Bea lowered her voice.

“Tell me you have good news.”

Reki shrugged. “The stair is clear?”

“Of everything but bodies. One of them might wake up in a bit, although I doubt he’ll be a threat once he does.”

She moved two doors down the hall and rapped lightly in a prearranged signal. “Good enough.”

“But what about…?” She gestured toward the main door.

“If we had some way to bar it, we could set it and, probably, the whole tower ablaze, and likely end this. But it opens inward, and Lord Stigander would never forgive me.”

“Ah.”

If she was honest, it was that last she cared about. That, and that damnable Victory Weaving the crone had bragged about.

“Besides,” Bea supplied, looking at her askance. “We do that before we wreck that loom, and the Usurper’s just going to find a way to wriggle out of it.”

Reki gave her a wry smile as the door opened. “Exactly. Come on, ladies, let’s go. We have a Weaving to steal.”

The other Singers, as they left their momentary hiding place, were by turns grim and eager. Good. They understand what we have ahead of us.

Reki let Bea lead them back down the stair. It was, after all, the site of her victory – and she was the one who knew where to step around the bodies, at least presumably. She herself brought up the rear. When the others had all disappeared down the stair, she took one last look down the hallway towards the room where her enemy sat.

The door was open. Kaldr stepped out into the hall, his eyes downcast but not defeated. He looked annoyed, she thought. Quickly Reki, too, slipped into the stairwell and pulled the door closed as silently as she could. That had been entirely too close.


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.

9.22 – Kaldr

Reki did not look away from Runa’s face. The spoiled young apprentice almost looked like she was about to cry.

“Whether she’d done what to Einarr?” Bea asked again. “Does it have anything to do with what happened to the pair who arrived on the boat with her?”

Reki raised an eyebrow – the one furthest from her Imperial Highness. If Bea was sharp enough to pick up on that, with no training in Song at all, then either Runa’s desperate move was clumsier than Reki thought or there was more to Beatrix than she let on. “It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with,” was Reki’s answer.

Bea pressed her lips together into a line. “I think it might be, actually. But now is not the time. I would speak of this later.”

Reki snorted. Beatrix might try. “Did you find a way through?”

“This way. You’re not planning on putting those two to sleep, are you?”

Reki shook her head. She had considered it, briefly, but it would raise too many questions if anyone were to discover them. “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

Beatrix led them through the alleys between buildings quickly and quietly until they moved up against the outer wall of the Hold. The moon would be setting soon, and the wall fell into shadow. As they neared the tower, the sound of raised voices carried down to them from a lit window overhead. They froze.

“My Lord! Sooner or later, your mother’s skill will fail you. What then?” It was Kaldr.

“You’ve said quite enough, Kaldr!” Ulfr’s response was significantly angrier than his liege man’s.

“You follow these weavings with such devotion, you don’t even know why you’re meant to do these things! My Lord, you can think for yourself! Now if only you would.”

Reki whistled quietly. The man was treading on dangerous ground. Would be, with any Thane or petty Jarl she had ever met – even Stigander. Probably even Einarr.

“Mother is my adviser because her advice has never yet failed me.” Ulfr’s voice was audibly tight, even from so far below. “If you cannot accept that, you may leave my service.”

Reki shared a look with her companions, eyebrows raised, to the sound of a slamming door. But if they had heard that, then so had all of the guards. Perhaps – if they had only a little luck – perhaps Kaldr would be distraction enough of himself. She continued forward along the wall: had anyone else heard that? Did she want anyone else to know about it, under the circumstances? To the extent that it destabilized the Usurper’s regime? Yes, yes she did. Be as loud as you dare, Kaldr, she thought with a small smile.

She led her fellow prisoners forward to the corner where the tower rose out from the wall like a great tree, guarding the gate and all who passed through it, and then around the curve of its walls to where she could just make out the two warriors standing guard on the entrance to the dungeon.

Kaldr was stalking away down the same road Reki and the others had been led along on their arrival, headed, she surmised, for bed and sleep. There, she waited, until he was long out of view and, she hoped, out of earshot. No-one had followed him. On the other hand, she thought it unlikely anyone else was likely to visit the tower this night.

Is it a trap? Just a mummer’s ruse, put on for our benefit? … She shook her head. What would it matter, if it were? It did not change what they had to do. She motioned for Svana to Sing the men to sleep.


This was it. Reki was certain that they had found where Urdr worked her Weavings. There were only two problems.

The first, was that after his argument with Kaldr last night, neither Ulfr nor Urdr had left the room. She was certain they were both in there: she could hear them conversing, although they kept their voices low enough she could glean nothing.

The second was that the horizon was just beginning to lighten and the tower was already beginning to come alive. She shifted her shoulders, uncomfortably aware of Eydri pressed against her back and Runa’s omnipresent elbow in her ribs from where they hid, watching, in a storage room near where the Weavess worked. The door, cracked slightly open, gave Reki and Aema an excellent view of the weaving room and allowed a trickle of cool air in. Every time Reki thought the hallway clear, however, a thrall would rush into view, carrying this or that in preparation for the day to come. She growled, frustration escaping as quietly as she could make it before she burst.

Finally she felt safe to open the door and slip into the corridor. She paused only a moment, glancing up and down to take her bearings, before striding off towards the stairs as though she belonged. The others were hard on her heels.

Down the stairs they went, trying hard to keep up their pace in spite of the soft soles of their boots. A presence ahead of her brought her up short, however. Standing on the stairs, not two steps below her, Kaldr glared coldly at them all. Reki met the man’s green-blue eyes levelly, trying not to show her surprise.

They stood like that for what felt like eternity. Finally, the Captain grunted, inclined his head as though in greeting, and stood aside for them to continue downward.

Warily, not taking her eyes off the man, Reki returned his nod in kind and slipped past, regaining the guise of ‘belonging’ as soon as he was out of her direct line of view.

“Be cautious, ladies,” he muttered as they passed. “If you are caught, all pretense will be broken.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

9.21 – Taboo

There had been no small amount of discussion among the Singers for how to best slip past their guard on this second night’s search. Thank the Gods, Runa had not even alluded to Tuning again, although Reki thought that was more because of Bea’s presence than out of any insight on her part. In the end, they decided they had to chance the lullaby again. Only this time it was Svana who Sang, since her voice was the highest and softest of everyone’s.

“Why are you a battle-chanter?” Reki asked, her curiosity getting the better of her, as they hurried to the hold’s lone tower.

The plump woman offered a small smile. “Family matters, I’m afraid.”

“Ah.” That explained precisely nothing, and yet everything it needed to. They hurried on.

The tower was built overlooking the cliff face that led down to Breidelstein town and served as over watch as well as dungeon. They were perhaps halfway across the courtyard in the middle of the ring fort when they heard their first patrol.

Reki ducked between the nearest two long houses, the others close on her heels. As the last of their number disappeared under the deeper shadows of the buildings, a pair of guards with wooden wolf’s-head brooches holding their cloaks closed swaggered by. Reki frowned: ordinarily, the most emotion you saw on the face of a patrolling guard was boredom. These men were scowling. What that meant, she could not begin to guess, but she was sure it would be important. Had they been discovered already?

She shook her head. If that was the case, why hadn’t they sounded an alarm? The pretense that they were not prisoners here was thinner than a poor man’s bedclothes, and just as tattered. No matter: they would learn, and one way or another it would be soon enough.

The men did not speak between themselves as they passed. Bea crept forward toward the end of the alley to peer after them: eventually, she nodded. Reki headed on down the alleyway, rather than back out to the main street. There was no sense courting danger by moving so openly.

Despite their caution, they narrowly missed three more patrols as they inched their way across the hold. Last night there had been none. It was almost as though Ulfr – or, more likely, his seneschal – had been put on alert. Had Kaldr lied when he said he would not expose them?

Whether he lied or not, they still had a job to do. After what felt like half the night, the six of them crouched in the shadows of a longhouse. Ahead of them stood a broad open yard and the entrance to the tower.

A man stood on either side of the door. One of the two stood straight and alert, one hand resting on top of the axe at his hip. The other leaned casually against the wall, his arms crossed and one foot planted against the stone behind him. Moonlight glinted in his eyes, though, and Reki judged him to be the more dangerous of the two.

Bea hummed. “Let me scout around the perimeter,” she whispered. “Maybe there’s a better way in.”

Reki nodded. That was all the permission she needed: the Imperial Princess vanished into the night. They could not even hear gravel under her soft-soled boots.

Runa raised her chin after the girl, as though she were glad to see Bea gone. After another minute passed, and without a word to any of the rest of them, Runa stepped forward to stand between Reki and Eydri. A low hum emanated from her throat – low, and oddly soothing.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Reki raised her hand and clapped Runa on one side of her head, even as Eydri did the same on the other side.

“Ow!” Runa exclaimed, then clapped her hands over her mouth.

The more alert-looking of the guards had not moved, but the lounging man’s eyes now scanned the yard. After what felt like forever, he relaxed again. A sigh of relief rippled over the waiting women.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Reki hissed. “That is taboo!”

“We overlooked it with those men who ‘helped’ you escape,” Eydri muttered. “Do not expect us to be so lenient in the future.”

“I fail to see what the problem is,” Runa said, thankfully remembering to keep her voice down this time – although it may have been haughtier for it. “A tiny tuning adjustment would have them just let us in, with no need to sneak across the wide, brightly lit yard. Father is over there, and who knows what else we might find. Wouldn’t it be better to have allies at our back?”

Reki stared at the Apprentice, speechless, for a long moment. Finally, the words she managed to splutter were “Are you an idiot?”

“Has your father taught you no sense?” Eydri muttered at the same time.

“Do you know why Tuning is taboo, Apprentice? You should.”

Runa’s brow knit in confusion.

“It can be argued that it is we Singers who rule the northern seas, not the petty jarls and thanes. Do you know why? Because we have their ears. We know the stories and the songs, the histories, and because of this we are valuable as advisors. But what happens if Tuning becomes as widely known as Curse Weaving?”

The apprentice blinked in apparent confusion – or perhaps startlement at the older women’s vehemence.

Eydri picked up here. “You think Kaldr mad? Good, because that is how the Matrons wish it. But if the taboo becomes known? Not just you, but all Singers, become pariahs. Because Kaldr’s wariness is vindicated.”

Runa blanched, even under the moonlight, but Reki wasn’t done. “Your beloved Einarr already knows. The Oracle spilled the beans. You want to know what question he all but begged me to answer? Whether or not you’d done it to him. Think about that.”

“Whether she’d done what to Einarr?” The question came from Bea, approaching from back up the alley way she’d left earlier.


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.

9.19 – Interlude

As the six women retired to gain what little sleep they might before a servant inevitably summoned them to break their fast, Bea looked thoughtful. “You know, he seems like an ass, but he is not just a Captain but a wealthy one, and one with the king – er, thane’s – ear. You don’t rise that high with that strange of a view without support from below.”

Reki furrowed her eyebrows, but it was Aema who asked the question. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that his crew probably adores him. They’ll call him a paragon of virtue, I wager, and odds are good they’ll cite more than one of your nine.”

“…Our nine?” Aema arched an eyebrow, even as Svana and Eydri nodded.

“Your nine serve well enough among the Clans, where everyone fights everyone else and you don’t have to manage much beyond a few islands. But the Empire? If we weren’t a little less prickly than you lot, we’d never have lasted. All of that’s not really important right now, though.”

“She’s right,” Svana opined. “A man who was merely lucky, or who merely had the favor of his Lord, would not have risen so high. And its not clear to me he actually has the favor of his lord.”

Reki nodded. “I don’t see how it helps us right this instant, but its worth remembering. Let’s sleep on it: maybe something will suggest itself.”

Runa looked like she was chewing on her cheek: well, the girl would decide to share her thought if she thought it wise. “Try to get some rest, ladies. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”

Reki felt like she had no sooner closed her eyes than there came a rapping on the door to their prison. With a groan, she sat up, still bone-weary and stiff besides. “Who is it?” She managed to croak.

“A-a-a-a-agnar, lady. M-m-m-my l-l-l-lord calls.”

Calls for what? She narrowly stopped herself from asking: it would be faster to go and see than to wait for poor Agnar to spit out the answer. “Please allow us a moment to freshen up.”

“P-p-p-p-please make haste, l-l-l-lady.”

Reki sighed, thankful that the only ones to see were her fellow prisoners. Was this Ulfr’s idea, or Urdr’s? Reki suspected Urdr’s, especially if Kaldr was not the only one to realize they had slipped out the night before. But refusing was not an option, not truly. Dragging weary limbs, she roused her fellows and attempted to wipe away the worst of the sleep-muss.


It was sunset before the six of them were once again sent back to their cell, and in all the hours of the day not once were they let out of the watchful view of either Urdr or one of her lackeys. Still, Reki was pleased at how they had handled themselves. They should still have a night or two before things became desperate.

Supper was to be brought to them, and likely a much poorer affair than the night before. That was no matter: based on what they’d seen in the larder, she wasn’t certain the banquet had been any more nourishing than the bread and broth she expected. One of Urdr’s attendants, though, had let slip something interesting in Reki’s hearing, and now she waited only on the guard who would come bearing their supper to share it.

Finally, once the thrall had left their tureens of broth and their fresh – very fresh, they still smelled of yeast and butter – loaves, they could count on being alone save for the guard outside the door. That one, Reki was fairly certain, couldn’t actually hear them so long as they kept their voices down.

“So, ladies, I’ve learned something interesting. What of the rest of you?”

Eydri bobbed her head as she sipped at the soup. “You know where the wolf was right before he summoned us? Consulting his mother’s loom. Some of the thralls were complaining about how early the old woman gets up to Weave. I guess they do that every day.”

Aema looked surprised. “They do that every day – and the thralls felt safe complaining about it?”

Eydri shrugged. “I think Reki was right: I think we’re here on the Norns business. The weave on this island has to be beyond distorted.”

Svana hummed. “That means Captain Kaldr is a natural ally – if something can convince him to turn on his master.”

Reki took a sip of her own soup, then tore off a piece of bread and dipped it in the broth. “With Urdr’s black weaving still in effect, that’s not likely.”

“Well, not on its own,” Runa volunteered, her shoulders hunched up around her ears. All four of the other Singers turned cold looks on the apprentice.

Bea looked confused. “What do you mean, not on its own?”

“I mean we could…” Runa seemed to realize who she was speaking in front of – namely, a non-Singer. “We could help it along.”

“Yes, we could,” Reki said, her voice as icy as her skin. “By destroying whatever weaving this is that’s keeping Ulfr victorious.”

“We don’t even know where that is!” Runa protested.

“Actually,” Reki smiled, the corners of her mouth turning up like a mischeivous fox’s. “I think we might.”

All five of the other women sat up. “Oh?”

“After he returned from the Oracle, Lord Stigander said something about his father still being alive, at least according to a vision he’d been given. I hadn’t given it too much thought, to be honest – right up until one of Urdr’s attendants started talking about helping her up and down stairs. Every day. I don’t know about you, but I doubt she’s going to that sort of trouble for Lord Hroaldr.”

I think,” Reki said quietly, drawing them all in. “I think its time we checked the dungeon.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.