Tag: Kormund

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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9.10 – Stealth

“Wait,” Stigander rumbled.

Everyone froze, looking at him expectantly.

“There is still one order of business. You two.”

The two men who had brought Runa to them stiffened, although they did not – quite – yelp.

“You are sworn to Ulfr, the son of the Weaver, are you not?”

“Y-y-yes, sir,” stammered the one who had done most of the talking thus far.

“You now stand before Stigander, son of Raen, rightful ruler of these lands. Will you forswear your false lord and swear to me?”

They stood staring at him, the muscles in their jaws working, but no sound came forth.

“I would be willing to overlook much, were you to renounce the usurper and join us in our fight.”

One of them looked like he was about to choke on his tongue. Finally, he exhaled loudly. “We cannot, your lordship. We are compelled.”

Stigander nodded brusquely. “Bind them. I will take them as prisoners aboard the Vidofnir. Lady Runa-”

“I will board my Lord Einarr’s ship, of course.” She had managed to compose herself, at least mostly, but there was no mistaking that her eyes were still red.

Stigander lowered his head in acqueiscence. The thrill that Einarr felt at the prospect was quickly damped: there were going to be some awkward introductions to make.

“My Lady,” he said, still pleased in spite of everything, and offered her his arm. “Right this way. You know Jorir, of course. This is Naudrek: he assisted me greatly last fall, and came along with me from Eskiborg.”

Runa nodded, seeming a little distracted. That, though, could be the late hour and the recent stress of her captivity.

Einarr glanced up as they approached the Heidrun: as he had expected, Bea was standing at the edge waiting for them. What he had not expected was the weighing look on her face, as though she had seen something unusual and now studied the two of them on their approach.

Irding and Bea both leaned out over the bulwark, though, and offered Runa a hand up into the ship. Runa cast a cold look at Bea before accepting Irding’s assistance.

“And who, praytell, might this be?” she asked as Einarr’s boots hit the deck.

“Runa, my love, allow me to introduce Beatrix Maria Gundahar, fourth Imperial Princess and leader of the Hrist Brigade. Bea, this is Runa Hroaldsdottir, my betrothed.” He twined his fingers in Runa’s as he spoke and did not look at Bea except to confirm where she was. Let her find room there, if she could.

Runa blinked once, surprised, then fixed a frosty glare on the other woman. “And why, praytell, is there an Imperial Princess aboard your ship?”

“That,” Bea put in, her own voice as haughty and frosty as Runa’s. “Is a very long story, best saved for when we are not in a hurry to be back out on the water, racing to the rescue of your own father.”

Runa hummed, openly studying the other woman. Bea fixed Runa with a steady look. After what felt like forever, they each looked away. Neither looked defeated.

Well. That could have gone better. She’s not going to be jealous of Eydri, too, is she?


The three ships slipped back out onto the open ocean as silently as they had plied it before, although it soon became plain silence alone would not preserve them as they made their way to the heart of Breidelstein. A new layer of stars had appeared, it seemed, right above the water level. Only rather than star stuff, these were torches, born upon the decks of ships meant to bring back Runa and the two who Ulfr undoubtedly judged traitors.

Mercifully, both Bea and Runa were less interested in pursuing their fight than they were in evading capture, so the deck of the Heidrun was blessedly silent, save for the occasional creak of wood or the small splash of an oar entering the water.

There were enough ships out, actually, that rather than extinguish their torches Stigander had them light more, so that they could hide in plain sight, as it were. The idea made Einarr want to hold his breath, but after the third time they passed within hailing range of another ship without drawing notice he put it from his mind.

When the sky first began to hint at grey dawn, the Vidofnir veered off towards a cluster of rocks in the northern part of the archipelago, as they had discussed. No-one ever came here, or they hadn’t fifteen years ago, simply because they had no reason to except in the fall during seal hunts.

On the north side of a rock that was almost large enough to be an island, the three ships lowered their sea anchors. Today they would rest here: then, at night, when they could once more pass unnoticed through the Usurper’s waters, they would make their way to a bay on the far side of the main island. Around midmorning, when the watches were settled, Einarr crawled into his bedroll and went to sleep.

At sunset, Einarr awoke. Something was amiss. He raised his head to look around, but could not see what was troubling him that way.

Einarr slid out from beneath his wool blanket and propped himself up on his elbows. All was silent, and nothing moved. Still he could not see why.

He stood. When he had gone to sleep, there had been three ships: his, his father’s, and Captain Kormund’s. Now he counted at least a dozen, and at a glance four of those had wolves carved on the prow.

The men who were supposed to be on watch had been disabled to a man. He saw them now, stacked like cordwood in the middle of the deck. As he stared about himself, he realized there was no sign of Eydri. Of Bea. Of Runa.

Einarr wanted to scream: if it weren’t for the muffled curses he could make out now from the hog-tied watchmen, he might think this was all some terrible nightmare. What is going on?


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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.

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.

9.7 – Ocean Skirmish

“Draken, dead ahead!”

Sailing into view ahead of them, almost like a mirror image, came three draken bearing sails in the red and yellow of Ulfr’s Breidelstein.

“Make ready!” Stigander’s voice rose over the water from the Vidofnir, echoed moments later by Kormund and Einarr. Einarr’s heart pounded in his chest like it hadn’t since he was still a deckhand, and suddenly he wondered if he was really ready to be Captain. Or ready to retake their homeland, for that matter. Fifteen years is a long time…

“To arms!” He ordered again, this time breaking free of the paralysis that threatened to grip his legs. He didn’t have to be sure, he just had to do. Just like everything else since the Oracle had named him Cursebreaker. The chainmail slid over his head as easily as it ever did.

Easier, in some ways. Runa was ahead, captive and bound by the same hands that held his grandfather and all the other men of Breidelstein in thrall. When he thought of it that way, how could he even think of hesitating?

The ships ahead were near enough now that Einarr could make out their prow totems – not one of them a wolf. Well, that was fine. He could hardly expect the usurper to sally forth so early.

His men were readying bows, now – everyone aboard, really, save for Bea and Jorir. She stood, spear in hand, just ahead of him and to the left, with Jorir on the right. Einarr shook his head: there were far worse choices for a bodyguard, he supposed, and if she were ahead of him that meant he could keep an eye on her.

They were almost in range. “Ready volley!” Wait for it…

“Fire!”

Arrows launched from all three ships almost at once, and only a few landed in the water. The counter-volley came at almost the same moment, and the slower among the Heidrunings had to scramble to raise their shields in time. Arrows sprouted from the deck and from shields, but Einarr heard none of the inevitable cries of pain from his deck. “Again!”

Once more, bows drew back, and on his command they loosed arrows and raised shields once more. The time for arrow fire was nearing its end, however: some few of the missiles launched from their opposites were javelins, now.

“Prepare to board!”

About half of his crew shouldered their bows and moved to ready the boarding lines. The other half kept their shields raised, guarding their fellows. Einarr looked on approvingly: this was the start of a good crew, he thought. Hopefully most of them would survive the battles to come.

Eydri’s battle hymn began to take hold on the edges of his mind. He acknowledged it, but did not let himself sink fully under its sway. That was a luxury that was not afforded to Captains: those who lost themselves in its grip were brutally effective – right up until the rage got them killed. Usually sooner rather than later.

Now the enemy boarding lines launched. Einarr could feel the blood pumping in his veins as he drew Sinmora, still resisting the heady call of the battle chant. It would get easier with time, he knew – just so long as he did resist it.

There was no more time for contemplation. The boarding lines grew taut. Quick as a thought, the first wave of men were up and racing along their precarious footing to be the first to reach the other deck.

The enemy sailors, too, were racing across the ropes, trusting in long practice and good luck to keep them out of the water. Where the two forces met in the middle, they clashed, and there were usually two fates possible in that first clash: either you won, and the other man fell, or you lost, and fell to the water below, to swim and hope you could escape being crushed between the ships.

The men of the Heidrun, since they were few in number and mostly still green, had been instructed in a cleverer way of fighting. They were not to clash like rams, horns against horns, on the boarding lines. Instead their first rush was to evade the enemy and slip past to the deck beyond, while those who remained behind defended the Heidrun and their captain from a place of better footing. Einarr had the idea from watching Sivid, and it had the benefit of taunting the enemy while they were securing their own footing.

It seemed to be working. He heard very few splashes, and of the few who fell even fewer were Heidrunings, men of Kjell or experienced sailors either one.

That also meant, however, that the fighting was harder on his own deck. Bea and Jorir closed ranks so that the three of them stood back to back, just behind the first line of defenders.

One man, a fellow built like Stigander but with a wild red mane the color of Einarr’s, crashed through the line of defenders to close with Einarr. He studied the man’s face: could this be an uncle, or a cousin?

Family or not, he was fighting in deadly earnest, and so Einarr did not hesitate to do the same. They exchanged three blows. On the fourth, Einarr buried Sinmora’s blade in his shoulder. The blade slid free and the man clutched at the wound, stumbling backward with a scream of rage and pain. He might live, if their Singer got to him quickly enough, but that had been his sword arm. He would never fight again.

The battle was almost over before it began. Not long after the red-headed bear withdrew, the enemy captains sounded the retreat.

Once their men had cut their way back aboard the Heidrun, and the enemy sailors had fled, the boarding lines were drawn back. Bea stared in consternation at the fleeing ships.

“That was all it took to send them off? Why did your father fear these men so?”

Einarr shook his head. “They were testing us. Those were scout ships. And those men, some of them anyway, are kin. Father does not fear them, he fears for them.”

Bea hummed. She did not look convinced.


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.

8.13 – Agreement

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!

The Arkona moved more swiftly than it had any right to. In fact, once the Eikthyrnir split off to head for Breidhaugr, it swiftly became evident that the ship had been holding itself back as it trailed Kormund’s longship across the sea. This, in spite of its deeper draft, its extra deck and increased storage space, its sea fire, and the mud wall in its kitchen.

There was no other answer, at this point. At least some of the ships of the Order were magically enhanced. Not that there should have been any way for a Singer or a Painter to do that. Perhaps they embraced curse weaving? Or perhaps their shipwrights were superlative Runemasters? Neither of those quite made sense to him, but if Hrug had any better ideas he didn’t bother to share them. And, somehow, asking one of the crew seemed like a poor decision.

Whatever the reason, the Arkona fairly flew over the waves toward the unfortunate southlanders as it sailed across Clan waters. As near as Einarr could tell, they moved in a straight line, although the weather was considerably warmer before he saw so much as a hint of land on the horizon. That, perhaps unsurprisingly, was also when the ship was allowed to slow. Not long thereafter, Einarr, Naudrek and Eydri were invited to the Captain’s cabin to discuss their quest.

“So now that we’re outside Clan waters, are you finally going to tell us how big of an outbreak we’re looking at?”

Liupold sighed. “The locals have no name for the island we’re headed for – they just call it ‘Land.’ Among the Order, we refer to it as Hohenwerth, since its coast is almost entirely steep cliffs. They access the sea by means of the river flowing through Langtoft, and another through Kettleness.”

Einarr frowned. “So it all started with the fishermen, then.”

“Yes. How did you guess?”

“Awfully hard to make contact with a kraken on land.” It wasn’t something one ordinarily expected to meet on the water, either, of course, and this was hardly the usual giant squid. It seemed to make sense to Liupold, at least.

“What of the massacred village?”

Eydri interrupted. “There are three separate villages? Based on what you describe, Hohenwerth can’t be a large island. How can it support three different settlements?”

“Poorly,” Liupold admitted. “When I was given charge over the area, I was told it was the result of a family feud and to leave it alone. This seemed prudent, and so I have as much as possible. ‘Twas Kettleness destroyed, and the bodies left to rot.”

This was beginning to sound all too familiar. Einarr shook his head. “Okay. So you still haven’t explained why it is you think you need us. Sure, I’m the Cursebreaker. But I’ve already told you how to keep this from spreading. It doesn’t even sound like it would be a problem on an island like that. You’ve got sea-fire, for crying out loud.”

“The Lady Hrist was adamant that the Cursebreaker was required if we were to put an end to the source of the corruption.”

Einarr stared at the man for a long moment, processing what he had just told them.

“You want to fight and kill a giant, corrupted kraken. In your own boat. And you want my help to do it. Am I hearing this right?”

Liupold lowered his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was thick with emotion. “If we do not destroy the monster, the corruption will spread. To the heart of the Empire, Hrist tells me. Now. I recognize that the Clans and the Empire are never likely to be friends, so let me put it this way: would you rather fight us as men, or as corrupted beasts?”

That was enough to make Einarr pause and think. After a long moment, he swallowed. “We cannot fight this in the ordinary way. We have to lure it up, somehow, and keep it on the surface long enough to kill it from a distance. I’ve been doused with the thing’s blood before: once is more than enough.”

Naudrek and Eydri both turned to stare at him, plainly not comprehending why he had suddenly changed his mind.

“The black kraken is not the only horror that escaped those islands that day. We fought for our lives just to escape, but in the process three of their abominations were set loose. I cannot tell you if or for how much longer the cult would have kept them contained within their longships, only that they used the confusion of our battle to break free. The black kraken was the first released, and the only one injured on that day. It was all the Vidofnir could do to injure it, and that fight cost us a great deal.”

The wheels were turning, but Einarr could tell they hadn’t quite reached the same conclusion he had. “It’s a tragedy, what has happened to these villages, but a containable one. If we fail to contain these horrors, though, and the corruption spreads to, say, the Order of the Valkyrie and the Imperial Navy, there will be hundreds of fanatically loyal super soldiers capable of descending on any known Clan port.”

Eydri blinked. “You’re right. But your father has the Örlögnir, and I cannot fault our captain for wanting to skip Breidhaugr, at least for the time being. So how does one kill a kraken, corrupted or otherwise, without getting covered in its blood and guts?”

The room fell silent for a long moment, until Einarr finally decided no-one else was going to offer the obvious answer. “With sea fire, and with ordinary fire, and with spear throwers. Any way we can. We limped away last time without making sure this thing was dead. This time, that’s not an option.”

Hrug made a hand motion that looked very like a gesture of confidence. “Hrug, you have a plan?”


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.

8.12 – A New Quest

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!

“Of course not.” Einarr paused. “Father. I’m glad that you recognize I’ve met your requirements, and look forward to formalizing the terms of our engagement upon my return.”

Jarl Hroaldr fell silent for a long moment, studying Einarr. It had been a gamble, but the way Einarr saw it he won either way. Either the Jarl corrected him, in which case he didn’t have to go fight the kraken. Or he didn’t, in which case all he had to do was make it back and their engagement could proceed.

The Jarl opened his mouth to speak, but the man from the Order cut him off.

“Excellent! I am glad to hear you have such faith in your future son-in-law, and look forward to working with him to eradicate this menace.”

Well, that was that. Einarr watched as the tendons in the Jarl’s neck shifted as he swallowed whatever it was he’d been about to say. He couldn’t take it back now.

Of course, neither could Einarr. But all that meant was he had to come back alive and uncorrupted. He gave Liupold a slightly wan smile. “I’ll do what I can. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go speak with my companions.”

As he rose and walked away from their circle, he felt someone watching him. Glancing surreptitiously over his shoulder, he saw the Jarl glaring daggers at him. Einarr rolled his other shoulder in half a shrug.

The four friends he had brought from Eskiborg reacted to the news with surprising equanimity – a sure sign, Einarr thought, that they did not truly understand what they would be facing. Still, what could he say but ‘thank you’?

“Eydri, will you work with Runa and see if the two of you can figure anything out about these creatures or the corruption or what have you? She’s quite a good scholar, despite being ‘only’ an apprentice.”

“I don’t mind. I’d like to make her acquaintance anyway, if I’m going to be working with you for any length of time.”

Einarr nodded and Eydri went to speak with Runa.

“Naudrek, Liupold seems like a personable fellow. See if you can’t get on his good side, would you?” He lowered his voice. “It struck me, just a bit ago, how this could be some sort of Imperial trick. Do what you can to make sure we’re not walking into a noose, would you?”

“Gladly. Valuable information, that.”

“Excellent. Hrug, I want you to help me figure out a way to trap the thing, like the Village used to imprison the Shroud, sort of. Are you up for that?”

The other man grunted and flashed half a smile. Good: it wouldn’t be easy, but at least it should be interesting, and a good use of the man’s newfound expertise.


Liupold was, of course, in a hurry to be on their way, but the Arkona and the Eikthyrnir both needed to be resupplied, and after Captain Kormund’s tale when they arrived at port the two ships needed to leave together, as well.

Kormund, for his part, readily agreed to take a message to Stigander at Breidhaugr. Considering that the last contact he’d had with the Vidofnings had been before he traveled the elven roads to study in the Shrouded Village, this took a considerable load off of Einarr’s shoulders.

“Thank you, and good luck.”

“I believe I should be saying that to you, don’t you think?” Kormund raised an eyebrow even as the two shook hands. “Stay sharp. There’s something about this whole situation that smells fishy to me.”

“I will, and me, too. Thank you for all your help so far.”

“My pleasure. I look forward to having an ale with you and your father in Raenshold.”

Then Kormund climbed aboard the Eikthyrnir and Einarr strode up the plank to the deck of the Arkona.

Einarr’s first impression of the dromon was of luxury and spaciousness. No-one’s bedroll sat on the deck: it looked like, no-one’s had to. He saw a ladder heading down to a lower deck. Is that why dromon were so much taller than longships?

Evidently so. Liupold, still chatting in a friendly manner, led the four of them down the ladder to a room that seemed somewhat smaller than the deck above. A door let out on the far end, and the room was lined with mats laid out on the floor and hammocks strung from the walls. “This is where most of the crew sleeps, in shifts. Out that door is the lower tier of oars, but we shouldn’t need to use them while you’re aboard.”

Einarr grunted. On the one hand, no-one would have to sleep out in the rain. On the other hand, even with no-one else in it the air in here was close and stifling.

“There’s also a galley on this deck, and a few small separate rooms. I have one, and I have prepared a second one for the lady Eydri. This is also the deck where the galley is.”

“I’m sorry,” Naudrek interrupted. “Galley?”

“The kitchen? Where food is prepared?”

Einarr wrinkled his nose: no wonder the steerage room felt so hot. He had gone from being impressed to being once more convinced of the longship’s superiority rather more rapidly than expected. “So the men sleeping off-duty are the first ones to burn if there’s a fire?”

“Not at all. There’s a fire wall of clay between the two rooms.”

Einarr nodded his understanding. If he’d tryed to say anything, he would have insulted his host’s ship, and that would have been poor form. Still, he was getting some ideas for how to fight off the black kraken that was supposedly waiting for them. The Arkona might even still be able to fight afterwards.

Einarr did not dislike Liupold. He seemed like an honorable fellow, for all that he was a Conehead. But the Konneul Empire was not above trickery, and the Order worked hand in hand with the Empire. It would be acceptable if the Arkona was not in fighting shape, so long as she could still sail.


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.

8.11 – Petition

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!

The only way Einarr could have been more glad to see a shore, he thought, would be if it were Breidelstein, and their victory complete. As it was, Kjell had begun to feel almost like a home itself, and Einarr could not quite disguise his pleasure at seeing it again.

The only shadow on the whole affair came from the dromon sailing in their wake. Their captain had acceeded to the escort and the flag of surrender easily enough, which said to Einarr that the problem might actually be more serious than they had let on. So far as that went, he was torn. On the one hand, if one were to assign blame for the release of those horrors, it would fall to the crews of the Vidofnir and the Skudbrun. On the other hand, they were creatures which should not exist in the first place, and the fault of their existence could be laid squarely at the feet of the svartalfr cult.

Well. Soon they would be able to put the matter before Father, Bollinn, and Jarl Hroaldr. In the meantime, the Eikthyrnir sailed around to find a berth in town.

The harbormaster in Kjellvic was quite put out, in fact, by the presence of the dromon, even after Captain Kormund claimed it was his prize – over the objections of the Valkyrian captain, of course.

The Vidofnir was not docked in the harbor, although it was entirely possible Stigander had beached her in the inlet near the hall instead. He did get a glimpse, however, of the rams-head prow Father had commissioned for him last year.

It was with a spring in his step that Einarr led his new companions, as well as Captains Kormund and Liupold, down the road to Kjell Hall, where he expected to find Runa as well as the Vidofnings.

He was, unfortunately, disappointed. Runa was there, and while they were permitted to greet each other the Jarl kept her close to hand for the entirety of his visit. The Vidofnir, he learned, had set out on the equinox headed for Breidhaugr in hopes of finding some clue as to Einarr’s whereabouts. Still, however, Bollinn of the Skudbrun was expected back any day now. When Liupold of the Arkona requested consultation with them, the Jarl also sent for the retired Kragnir at Einarr’s suggestion.

On the third day after their arrival at the Hall, Bollinn arrived. All of the captains, Einarr, and the Jarl seated themselves near the fire pit to hear Liupold’s petition.

“One of the islands that the Arkona defends from attack,” he began, much more diplomatically than before. “Suddenly went silent. We went in to investigate. The village… the village was dead. Massacred. We wondered, at first, if one of the Clan ships had turned rogue…”

He never finished that thought, as everyone else in the circle shook their heads vehemently ‘no.’ Such behavior was unthinkable among the Clans.

“We learned soon enough not. We left the village and sent a squad’s worth of priests in to see to last rights and purification. Not long thereafter, a Valkyrie appeared before me.” His tale went on in that vein, and was either the truth or a remarkably well-practiced lie, for Einarr could detect no meaningful difference between what he had been told when they finally confronted their tail and now.

“Captain Liupold wished to convince my father and I to travel south and deal with the issue, under the theory that they would not be loose were it not for our rescue of Runa.” Einarr left it there: he could see the same answer he had given on Bollinn’s and Kragnir’s faces already. The Jarl schooled his expression somewhat more, however, and Einarr found he could not tell what he was thinking.

“Hopeless,” Bollinn began.

“Pointless,” Kragnir continued. “If you had any idea how many men we lost, fighting the cultists and those helbeasts in the first place, you wouldn’t ask. You want to blame someone, blame the cult. They might even have someone left you could hold responsible.”

Bollinn crossed his arms. “Bleed the villagers. Anyone with black blood has to die – they’re too far gone. As for the rest… I suppose it’s possible they could be saved, depending. You might be able to convince the Matrons on Breidhaugr to share the formula for their medicine, but my understanding is that it only delays the effects. Stigander has the distaff.”

Liupold’s brow creased. “The distaff?”

“The Matrons required Frigg’s distaff in order to fully cleanse us of the corruption. I was sent to retrieve it from the Tower of Ravens, where I encountered a Valkyrie. When I went to study with the alfs, I left it with Father. We will have need of it.”

Liupold nodded. “That fits with what Hrist said of you. I’d wondered how she knew the Clans had produced another Cursebreaker.”

“What did Hrist say of me?”

“Enough that I knew you on sight. But it’s really not important right now. What I need to know is, will you come?”

“We’ve already told you how to deal with this curse. You don’t need me, just the stones to do it.” Unless they would then turn around and use this as a pretext for war against the Clans. Einarr had to bite his tongue to keep from saying that aloud, and hope this ‘Hrist’ wasn’t spying on him right now.

Jarl Hroaldr smiled, and the expression sent shivers down Einarr’s spine. “They are right, I’m afraid. However… I believe an agreement may be reached. I will not be sending the Skudbrun with you. But I expect my future son-in-law may have some insights that will prove useful to you in dealing with the outbreak, especially since he’s fought this great black squid before. Surely you have no objection to that, do you, son?”

Well, it seemed like the Jarl was still against Einarr marrying Runa. His mouth felt suddenly dry. “Of course not.”


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.

8.10 – Parley

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 the morning, whether by excellent foresight or an excess of caution, Captain Kormund ordered that they continue rowing under sail, as the wind remained favorable. He also doubled the watch off their stern. No-one seemed surprised, and if there was grumbling about all the rowing, it was directed at the accursed Imperials who seemed intent on running the Eikthyrnir to ground.

Indeed, come midmorning, a shimmer on the horizon swiftly resolved itself into the all-too-familiar shape of an Imperial dromon under full sail. Another round of cursing traveled around the deck of the ship, and some of the men muttered darkly about effeminate Imperial magicians and enslaved spirits.

Captain Kormund had a whispered conference of rather fierce intensity, and then an order was given that really got the sailors talking.

They dropped the sea anchor and furled the sail. Evidently, the Captain intended to wait for the other ship and confront them directly.

The men readied for boarding. Some of the rasher of their number likely looked forward to taking the fight to their pursuers. Most of them, however, were not so angry as to forget what happened the last time they tried to fight this ship.

The dromon accepted the invitation. Over the next several hours, they watched the ship grow incrementally closer. As it did, two things became plain. First, the ship itself did shine, although in the full light of day it was harder to tell. Second, the nearer the ship drew the harder it was to be angry about it and the easier it was to admit, at least to oneself, that they were afraid of it. Like hiding in a hunting blind while a giant bear searched for berries above your head, as Vold had described it. Naudrek and Hrug looked at Einarr, and he could see in their faces the very thing he was thinking.

Finally, the dromon, too, dropped its sea anchor. They were within hailing distance, if only just. Captain Kormund strode to the bulwark and called across.

“Hail, enemy ship of the Order of the Valkyrie! You are within Clan waters, pursuing a vessel on peaceful errand. If you do not break off we will be forced to seek an alliance against you.”

Einarr tried to think who controlled this area, between the ruins of Langavik and the svartalfr stronghold. Did the thane over Langavik still care? Or had he ceded control to the cult?

“Hail, pirate scum!” Came the reply from the other ship, spoken just as coolly as Kromund’s initial call. Predictably, a dull roar of protest rose up off the deck of the Eikthyrnir.

“We have reason to believe that you will soon be in contact with those responsible for unleashing a curse of corruption upon the peoples of Langtoft and Southwaite, and that they have among their number those capable of ending this affliction.”

Einarr froze. None of the cultists had gotten away, that he knew of, so how…?

“Our information suggests that one of their number may be aboard your ship. If this is so, we will gladly accept him as a guest on the Arkona, but we must still ask that you guide us to those we seek.”

The Captain, to his credit, did not hesitate. “We refuse. I say again, return to your port and leave us be.”

“We refuse. We cannot and will not abandon these people to such a fate. Moreover, the Order holds that responsibility for this curse rests with the Clans, as its origin, which we have just yesterday visited, is within Clan waters.”

Einarr bit off a curse.

“Then it seems we are at an impasse. I had hoped to avoid fighting…”

“You are welcome to try.”

“Wait.” Einarr stepped forward. “I know only one way of ending that curse, and it is bloodshed. If you wish to stop it in its tracks, then burn Langtoft and Southwaite to the ground. Leave none alive, and pray you do not have one of the horrors in the region.”

“You are the one Hrist spoke of?”

“Perhaps. It is true that last summer my father’s ship pursued some kidnappers into the island we just left, and as we escaped we did battle with the svartalfr cultists who lived beneath it. Some of the elder Singers were able to cleanse us of the corruption, but only with the aid of a divine artifact.”

“Then we would ask you to finish what you started, and cleanse these islands of the plague you released upon them, and bring with you the artifact.”

“I cannot go with you.” So long as one of those horrific creatures that had escaped the cultists’ hulls was not in the area, burning it to the ground was still the surest way to ensure it did not spread. “I can warn you not to let the black blood touch you, and I can sincerely wish you the best of luck eradicating the corruption, but it is not me you need, nor any of the Vidofnings. Only the stomach to do what is needed, and the knowledge that those with the black blood are no longer men but monsters.”

There was a long pause from the dromon. “Hrist assures me that your presence will be necessary on the archipelago, and wishes me to mention a… black kraken.”

Now he blanched. “I had hoped that thing would die of its wounds. It was all we could do to keep it from destroying our ship.”

“We would follow you to speak with your father, whatever you say.”

Einarr sighed. “He will tell you what I have told you, and at that point you will be farther from the afflicted towns. But-” and he turned to Captain Kormund. “It is true that the horror of the black kraken would likely still be bound in the hull of a demon-ship called Grendel if we had not fought them there.”

The captain’s nostrils widened momentarily, then he nodded. “Very well. We will escort you as far as this man’s port. But if you do not wish to invite further attack, I recommend sailing in our wake. It may be wise to run up your white flag, if you have such a thing.”


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