Tag: Kormund

10.28 – Assault

The ships of the blockade gave chase, once they had uncoupled the rest of their boats. Captain Kormund and the Eikthyrnir hung back to harrass them at least long enough for Einarr and Hrug to carry out their part of the plan.

Breidelstein grew larger as they neared the shore, resolving itself into the various warehouses and halls that made up a city. Up close like this, it seemed somehow… smaller than he had expected, and Einarr did not know how much of that was Ulfr’s fault. Einarr, after all, only had childhood memories and his father’s stories to rely on.

Naudrek cleared his throat. “Hrug’s ready whenever you are.”

“I understand.”

“You think this is going to work?”

“It should.” I hope. Father would be taking most of both their crews on the assault. With Kormund still engaged behind them, both groups were counting on the success of Einarr’s ritual.

Einarr glanced at the Örlögnir where it rested on the deck in the center of their rune circle. Would they get a second chance, if it didn’t work? He shook his head: it was too late to worry about that now.

“Naudrek, Jorir, get us docked. Hrug and I are going to be busy for a while.”

“Yes, Captain!”

“Einarr wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to being a “Captain.” He tried not to twitch.

With a glance at Hrug, who still sat cross-legged on the deck, Einarr took his place in the center of the array with the distaff. “Let’s begin.”


Runa stood at the bulwark behind the gangplank, wrapping her fingers in the folds of her skirts and chewing her lip. Once again, she had been left behind – and not just that but ordered to stay behind with her father. Even though she knew she could be of use to Einarr out there, just like she was on the Isle of the Forgotten.

There was the Heidrun, docking now. As expected, Einarr’s crew was also joining the main assault… and was that Bea? …Yes, there went Beatrix, the Imperial Princess, in her fancy breastplate and with her fancy spear. Bea was definitely going to stick close to Einarr, if only to try to impress him. Thus, if Runa stuck with Beatrix, she could remind him she, too, was good to have around.

Still biting her lip, Runa looked over her shoulder. There was Aema, speaking with Father. There was Reki, tending to Sivid’s shoulder. Neither of them was paying attention: it was now or never.

She chose now. Without another thought, she raced down the gangplank after her rival.

Runa ran through the streets of Breidelstein, pelting heedlessly around corners as she tried to catch up. She kept one hand clutching the hilt of her belt knife, just in case, but none of the locals tried to stop her.

As she rounded the next corner she slid to a halt, suddenly faced with the chaos of melee. How had she not realized how close she was?

That didn’t matter. She was here, now, and there was Bea. No sign of Einarr, but he was sure to be nearby. If she was to prove her worth, she would have to support them properly. Runa opened her mouth and began to Sing.

She did not sing to invoke the battle fury: they were here to recapture the island, not merely raid it. It would not do to send the warriors forward indiscriminately.

Instead, she sang to lift their fatigue and strengthen their resolve. She saw Bea glance back, startled, but only for a moment. In the next instant she had returned her attention to the fight at hand.

Beatrix was like a whirlwind in the battle line. Runa could not help but admire the speed and grace with which the Valkyrie plied her spear. If Einarr had wanted a wife to fight alongside him, he could make no better choice.

Stop that, she thought, dashing away the grimness that threatened to choke her voice. That had never been her role, would never be her role, and Einarr knew it. If she intended to prove her worth, it was not combat she needed to excel at.

The line followed Bea as they continued to advance into the city. Runa walked after them, keeping at least half a city block between herself and the fighting, and sang more strongly. If she happened to make Bea look good while she shone, well, so be it.


Contrary to his usual practice, Stigander was among the first off the Vidofnir. It felt good to finally step on the ground he had once called home. If he was honest, it felt even better to visit some measure of payback on the traitors – poor ensorceled men defending the Usurper’s hold on the land. He turned the flat of his blade forward and laid about himself relentlessly.

The wolflings fell back before the liberators’ onslaught like barley before the scythe. Stigander pressed their advantage, driving straight up the main road that led to the cliff.

The further they went, the stronger their ranks seemed to grow. As Stigander looked to either side, he realized that the ordinary townsfolk were falling in behind him, bearing whatever weapons they had to hand. He blinked, gratified but confused. This was not normal behavior.

There was a large square just ahead. Much like the rest of the city, it appeared much grimmer than Stigander remembered. Still, though, it would provide a good place to regroup, and he had questions. They pressed on, taking full advantage of their enemies’ poor morale.

The Usurper’s men fell back to the next strong point. Stigander motioned his men forward even as he fell back, looking for a likely candidate.

The men of the Vidofnir and the Heidrun who fought with needed no encouragement to press on. His shoulders itched to give up the front line, but there was information he needed. Stigander spotted one of the locals who was a little better equipped than the rest.

He pointed at the man. “You there. What goes on here?”


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10.25 – Honor

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

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

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

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

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

“Thjofgrir?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

“Pardon?”

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

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

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

“What did you say?”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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10.18 – Three Captains

Kaldr spent a long, weary night locked in combat in his own mind. For Lord Ulfr to call him back like this could only mean one thing. And yet, the more he thought it through, the more he was convinced that he had done nothing to regret. Certainly nothing that should have gotten him recalled in disgrace – or even castigated on his return, provided he was successful. The rebels were undermanned and poorly equipped, but not so undermanned that they could be caught without significant losses. And for trying to save the strength of Breidelstein, I am humiliated? He rolled over under his blanket, but still sleep eluded him.

The atmosphere on deck was tense, as well. From oarsmen to lookout, he could hear dissatisfied mutterings from his men. That, too, was troublesome, and the corner of his mind that did not gnaw on his abrupt summons like a dog on a bone wondered what new fire he would have to put out on deck come morning.


Frothing Urek waited and watched, a smug smile peeking out from under his beard, until Kaldr’s ship was small on the horizon before he turned to his Mate. “Bring Vittir and Broki over. This blockade is over.”

The man snapped an unusually crisp salute, grinning through his own whiskers. “Yes, sir!”

It did not take long for the captains to gather on the deck of their new flagship. Neither of them looked quite as eager as Urek felt, but that didn’t bother him.

“Welcome aboard, gentlemen. Now that Coward is no longer in charge, I declare this blockade is ended. Ready yourselves for an assault.”

“An assault?” Broki started. “Up the fjord?”

“We are men of action, are we not? We will strike as lightning up the fjord, before the rebels have a chance to pull any of their tricks on us.”

Vittir cleared his throat. “Before they left, we received a report from Kaldr’s scouts. Something is already in the works.”

Broki looked at him sharply. “Something? What something?”

“He didn’t know.”

“All the more reason that we must strike now, while the iron is hot! Ready your ships, men.”

The two under-captains returned to their boats, and the nets with their incidental catch drawn up. The sun was kissing the waves by the time all was in readiness, but that suited Urek well enough. He looked to his Mate and nodded.

“Oars out!” They would have to be quick, to minimize the time when they were vulnerable in the fjord.


Twilight had descended on the waters of Lundholm by the time Stigander and his three ships once more neared the fjord, although it was not yet so dark as to hide anyone. That was why Einarr called not only Jorir but also Naudrek up to confirm what he thought he saw.

The blockade was gone.

The ships were still there: two ships were visible between the fjord walls, with a third ready to enter as soon as its allies made way. Then where is the fourth ship?

There was no place for the last boat to wait in ambush that Einarr could see, which meant they had to be farther up the fjord. Father evidently thought the same: he heard Bardr sound the battle horn. Two other horns joined in, their voices melding into a single loud trumpet announcing their intentions.

The ship that had held back smoothly reversed its course, probably hoping to give its allies time to come around as well. Kormund’s Eikthyrnir launched a volley of arrows and dashed forward while most of them were still in the air. The Vidofnir and the Heidrun, meanwhile, slipped around the boat to either side. If Kormund couldn’t handle them for whatever reason, they would signal.

The ship with its nose halfway into the fjord was still scrambling to prepare for this new threat when the first volley from the Vidofnir struck its deck. That volley was still in the air when Einarr gave the order to shoot from the Heidrun.

“Take us to port! Prepare the boarding lines!” Einarr’s voice rang clear over the deck of the Heidrun, and without hesitation his ship headed off to port while the Vidofnir moved starboard so that they flanked the unfortunate wolf in the trap.

The wolves were not so surprised that they did not answer back, of course, although by then it was far too late for archery. Boarding lines whistled both ways, followed by the clunk or the splash of steel grappling hooks on wood as they fought for purchase.

“Make fast the lines! Go!”

The order was almost superfluous: Irding and some of the other more reckless warriors were already crossing the ropes before the word ‘go’ was out of Einarr’s mouth. With a satisfied smirk, he turned his attention to the woman next to him. “Eydri. Whenever you’re ready.”

Some few of the wolfling warriors had tried a counter-invasion, perhaps not realizing their true straits. Einarr calmly stepped towards the pocket of enemies that had gained a foothold and drew Sinmora.

Eydri’s clear, sweet tones rose over the deck of the Heidrun, urging her warriors to swift victory, as Einarr settled his grip on Sinmora’s hilt. The strongest of the men – himself perhaps as large as Irding, but certainly no larger – raised his shield and readied his axe.

From across the mouth of the fjord, Reki’s low sultry voice joined Eydri’s bell-like one and echoed over the water in harmony.

A moment later, a third voice rose in Song, although it was not a Singer Einarr had ever heard before. The sound set his teeth on edge, so he thought he did not care to hear her again, either. Or is that deliberate?

The red fury was still pulsing at the edges of his vision, though, so whatever she thought she was doing it was not going to break the Chant for the Heidrunings. Einarr raised his shield before him as he brought Sinmora up over his back shoulder. Her strike was true. Ein.


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

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10.14 – Reconnaissance

Kaldr awoke to the smell of smoke with the rising of the dawn. A low growl rumbled in his throat as he sat up. Those idiots.

That they would conduct a raid was expected. He had given leave, after all – as much because he was certain Urek would have sent one anyway as because it was good to make sure the rebels remembered they were there. But this was not the smell of wood smoke. He smelled meat.

He looked around the deck of his ship: most of them seemed unaware anything was amiss, and that was as it should be. Some, though, wore scowls as dark as Kaldr’s thoughts.

“Thjofgrir?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Find Skon. Send him up the fjord. Reconnaissance only. I want to know what was destroyed and how many died. Tell him to be quick, but not to let himself be seen.”

“Yes, sir.” No sooner had Thjofgrir answered, though, than a familiar and grating laugh sounded from behind them, in the direction of Urek’s ship. Slowly, making sure his expression was properly schooled, Kaldr turned to face the man.

“Now that’s how it’s done!” Urek was leaning on the bulwark of his ship and looking smugly across at Kaldr.

“Do tell me, precisely what is ‘how it’s done’?” If he’s killed the townsfolk, I will put his head on a pike.

“Those cursed rebels will come slinking out of there with their tails between their legs now, just you wait. Lundholm can’t very well resupply them when they have to see to their own stores!”

In spite of himself, Kaldr could feel his face go pale. On the one hand, Urek had complied with the letter of his instructions. On the other hand, in terms of ill will, this was almost worse. “You didn’t…”

The man took a long, over-dramatic sniff of the air. “Proof is on the wind, sir. The men who went raiding last night didn’t draw steel on anyone but rebels, but they burned everything they could.”

Kaldr closed his eyes and counted slowly to ten under his breath. Urek, around the time he hit “two” and had not answered, walked away laughing to himself.

“Thjofgrir.” He opened his eyes and looked at his Mate. “Cancel that reconnaissance. Urek is a fool and a braggart, but not a liar.”

“As you say, sir.”


After all the fires had been put out and the food pulled from the smokehouse and the drying shed, the people of Lundholm had lost fully half their stores before accounting for the damage done at the boat house. Einarr could not fault their anger, although it rankled to be the object of it when they had done everything in their power to stop the attack.

They would not be able to finish the resupply now. The men of Lundholm would have to rebuild their own stores, and there simply were not enough materials to go around to handle both.

At the same time, though, they were in no condition to fight their way out of the fjord. Thus, with the noon sun high in the sky, Stigander turned to Elder Vilding with one last request. “Do you have a map?”

“A map? What in Hel’s name do you want with a map?”

Captain Kormund pressed his hands together. “Elder Vilding. There is currently a blockade at the mouth of the fjord that we would have to pass through one at a time. While we would, no doubt, take them down, we would take them down with us. But if Stigander and Einarr do not reach Raenshold, you will never be free of the Usurper. Thus, we need another way out.”

“Our boats are already on dry land,” Einarr filled in.

The Elder spluttered. “Surely you don’t mean to portage your ships across the whole island?”

Stigander nodded. “If a way exists, it may save us. So, please, as one final favor before you are rid of us.”

Now Elder Vilding sighed. “Such a route exists. Or did, last fall. There’s a hermitage on the southwestern coast with a small, rocky beach. Haven’t seen old Gotlief yet this year, and Dagny needs honey for her mead soon.”

Stigander nodded. “So long as it’s broad enough to launch a ship, that sounds like exactly what we need.”

“There is no map – not like what you’re thinking of. We had one, twenty years ago, but it burned up in one of the Usurper’s raids.”

“That’s fine,” Einarr put in quickly. “If you’ll show us the road, we can send a man or two on ahead to scout out the way.”

Vilding hummed. “And while we wait for these scouts of yours to return?”

“We will divide our men in half, if you allow it.” Stigander answered easily. “The first half will help clean up the mess left by the wolflings. The other half will keep making arrows, drawing water, and harvesting pitch. It’s the only way we have a chance of making it back to Raenshold.”

A low grumble rose from among the villagers, but the Elder shook his head. “Fine. And half of any game you take comes back to us, to replace what was burnt.”

“Done.”

The young man who had hailed them when they first arrived stepped forward. “I will go with the scouts, Elder.”

Elder Vilding scowled at the man. “We need you out hunting.”

“More than we need someone Lord Gotlief recognizes running up to the hermitage? The old monk doesn’t take kindly to trespassers.”

“Have it your way.”

The man bobbed his head and darted off into one of the nearby huts. Meanwhile, Stigander had made his decision as well. “Troa. Boti. You’re our scouts. If there’s an obstacle on the road, it’s on you to figure out how to clear it.”

“Yes, sir!” they chorused, quite obviously pleased.

“You’re to head out as soon as your guide is ready. Make sure you are, as well.”


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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.

10.9 – Seige

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father and son shook their heads.

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

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

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

“My thought exactly.”

Kormund chuckled.

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

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

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

Kormund chuckled again and left it at that.

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

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

“He’s not the one I’m worried about.”

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

“That’s the one.”

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

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


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

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

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

“Sir!”

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

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

“You intend to fish?”

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

“Very good sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Urek-”

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

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

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


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10.8 – Promenade

The conference between the three captains and Elder Vilding stretched long into the evening. Well before the end of it, Einarr was very conscious of a pair of eyes trying to bore holes in his back. Every time he glanced over his shoulder, Runa was very pointedly looking elsewhere. She was very plainly expecting something from him, and he hadn’t the faintest idea what. No matter. I’ll be sure to take her walking after supper. Whatever was the matter, even if that didn’t help it should at least point him in the right direction.

The conference did not break for dinner, however, and by the time they did stop for the night nearly everyone else had retired to the ships. When the Elder invited the three of them to sleep on his floor for the night, and both Stigander and Kormund agreed immediately, it was with a sense of impending doom that he joined them.

He rose with the dawn the next morning in hopes of slipping down to the ships to speak with her. He was not, however, in luck: all three Mates were already up and about, and were eager to hear the results of their long conference of the night before. With a sigh, Einarr put aside his intention. She had been in perfect health when they were rescued, and both she and the Jarl had been under Father’s sail. It would keep, whatever it was.

He was less than halfway through his explanation when Jarl Hroaldr himself joined them. He looked like half the man he’d been when Einarr had last seen him: pale and haggard, and bony in a way that suggested he’d been starved down there. Still, he was less pale than he had been when Einarr found them on the beach, so that was something.

After his conversation with the Mates, the day was in full swing. When midday came around and he found himself able to breathe again, the sensation of being watched returned. This time, when he turned around, Runa did not bother to look away.

“It was one thing, Einarr, to ignore me when we were busy running for our lives.”

“I… what?” Had he been? He hadn’t intended to.

She snorted. “Don’t play dumb. You haven’t said a word to me since we landed, nor two since we got to the ships in the harbor. I’ll have you know, I’ll not tolerate a husband married to his ship!”

Oh. Einarr lowered his face to hide the self-mocking smile even as he shook his head. “I’m sorry. I actually tried to come see you this morning, only I wasn’t fast enough.”

She crossed her arms, not looking mollified.

“I don’t think we’ve had a moment to ourselves since the Forgotten Island, have we.” He was sure of it: most of that time, he’d spent away from everyone. He offered his arm. “Walk with me?”

“Very well, Einarr son of Stigander. But don’t think this lets you off the hook.” She was pretending to pout: now it was safe to smile. “Really, though. We’ve been on shore less than a full day. You’d think we’d be allowed a little time to breathe.”

“Runa, we don’t know when Kaldr is going to show up, or with how many ships. We’re not really resting here, so much as catching our breath and stocking up.”

“Kaldr.” She practically spat the name. “Just when you start to think the man might be reasonable, he comes around and starts chasing you like a dog with a rabbit.”

Einarr blinked. That didn’t quite match up with what the other Singers had said. “How do you mean.”

“When he caught us, he was all high and mighty about the ‘perils of magic,’ or what have you. But then, after we’d been there a few days, he caught us snooping around and didn’t do anything about it.”

Einarr hummed. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

“Then, later, when we were making our escape, he actually warned us what to look out for. Accurately, even. And now, this.”

“Wait, he helped you escape? Why?”

Runa shrugged. “I have no idea, but he seems to hate the Weavess as much as you do. More, maybe.”

“Truly?”

Runa nodded. “She is a vile woman, Einarr. Her Weaving is blacker than you know.”

Einarr nodded, not because he knew but because he was not surprised. Eydri had said, after all, that she was the one who had been in charge of Jarl Hroaldr’s care. “Don’t worry. She will be brought to justice.”

“I’m not worried – about that, at any rate.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but.’”

“But I am worried that this assault is going to consume you.”

He smirked. “Runa, I’ve not been on the main island since I was six, or any of the freeholds since I was ten. If there’s someone I’m worried about being consumed here, it’s Father.”

“That would also be bad, don’t you think?”

Einarr was nodding his agreement when a hunting horn sounded in the distance, from the direction of the spit. “They’ve spotted something? Already?”

No further word was spoken. The two raced back the way they had come, headed for the village green.


Four wolf-headed ships slipped over the ocean waves, headed straight for the Lundholm fjord. The three Captains, along with three of their best scouts, stood at the end of the spit, peering out over the water at the wolflings who must have guessed where they were going. Guessed, because after the encirclement was broken they had not followed – at least, not where any of their watchmen could see.

Stigander’s voice was grim. “That’s them alright. And that fjord’s narrow enough, it won’t matter if they’re not all working together.”

“Will they try to raze the town?” Einarr knew he sounded worried, but did not care.

“I don’t know. Probably not right away, at least. We should have some time to prepare.”


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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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10.6 – Encirclement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hrug?”

“On your word.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

“Aye, sir?”

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

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

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

“As you say, sir.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How dare you -” Urek started.

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

Count on Vittir to regurgitate what the others told him.

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

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

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


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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.

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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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.

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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