Tag: Langavik

8.14 – Kettleness

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!

Hohenwerth island looked like the island of the cult in miniature in many ways, although for the moment it lacked the blackness of that bigger, more northerly island. Steep shale slopes rose from the surface of the water, topped by the green of good farmland and orchards. A sinister silence hung over the area, though, and it didn’t take Einarr long to realize why. There were no fishing boats out on the water, despite the time and the weather.

All eyes on deck were glued to the shore as an inlet came into view and, behind it, a village.

Even from here it was plain the village was a husk. Deserted, Einarr would have said, if not for Liupold’s story. Dead.

“That,” Captain Liupold confirmed, “is all that remains of Kettleness.”

Einarr hated to have to ask it, but: “Have the dead been properly buried?”

“The priests were arriving to deal with them when we left.”

“I do not know Imperial burial practices. But if so much as one body remains in the village, you will do for them as we did for Langavik. Eydri, would you be willing to assist in this?”

“Of course.”

“What happened at Langavik?” Liupold asked.

“While we were tracking the ship that kidnapped Runa, we put into port there. Hoping for information. Well, we got some… although not exactly the way we hoped. The entire city was painted with blood. Men hung from meat hooks. Some of them were disemboweled…”

“Survivors?”

“None. The city became their pyre, and we sailed on. Then we picked up the storm they rode and it led us to the island where all of this started.” The horror remained, although not so visceral as at the time. Still his eyes remained glued to the husk of a village he could see on shore. Had the priests done their job, or had they been corrupted in turn?

“Drop anchor,” Liupold ordered. “Ready the landing boat: I’ll be taking our guests ashore.”

His Mate protested, but the Captain was having none of it. “We’ve both been ashore here already. You have the Arkona, I have responsibility for what happens here.”


An almost eerie feeling of oppression hung heavy over the landing party as they stepped ashore. Liupold was the only one who had been here before, but Einarr was certain he knew what he was about to see. Naudrek, Hrug, Eydri, and Burkhart and Rambert from the Arkona followed. The two Arkonites tried to put on a brave face for the outsiders in their midst, but the four from the Clans merely plunged grimly ahead.

Einarr had thought, based on relative sizes and that someone had already come through here, that Kettleness couldn’t possibly be as disturbing as Langavik had been. And, in a way, he was right.

It was worse.

As soon as they entered the circle of huts the smell of rotting flesh assailed his nose. Blood stained the ground dark and painted the walls of the huts, and though it appeared black Einarr suspected that was due to time, not corruption. After all, he had not known the cultists to murder their own like this.

Bodies hung by the neck from tree branches, although they may not have died from the hanging. Flies buzzed about their bloated faces that still showed evidence of brutal beatings. Some of them also showed open wounds in their sides. Einarr wanted to retch.

Liupold, too, had turned a sickly shade of green. He motioned for them to leave the ruined village, and their companions gladly followed.

Once they had caught their breath, back on the beach by their landing boat, Einarr turned an angry look on the Order Captain. “What became of your vaunted priests, eh, knight? The gods need no intercessors: that could have been avoided if you and your crew had simply given them rites yourself.”

Burkhart looked especially shaken. “There were priests… among the bodies.”

“Aye,” Liupold agreed. “But not all of them. So where are the rest?”

“My guess? Southwaite. I could be wrong, they could be using Langtoft as their stronghold, but I suspect they want some distance from the open ocean to prepare.” Einarr did not try to keep the venom from his voice. “We will perform rites for the villagers in the way of our people, so that this will not become an isle of the dead, but you must light the pyre yourselves.”

Liupold hesitated a moment, but eventually nodded. “Yes, that is fair. Funeral pyres are not our way… but I do not expect the survivors will allow us time to dig proper graves here.”

Inwardly, Einarr breathed a sigh of relief. That the village, at least, and probably the entire island must be put to flame was unquestioned. But if Einarr or any of his companions lit the fire, the Empire could later twist that to their own ends to make war on the north, and that he could not allow.

Eydri took over from here, setting Einarr and Naudrek to preparing the ground while Hrug, with a nod of approval from Einarr, began inscribing runes on the beach.

Finally it was ready. Liupold stood in front of Eydri, lit torches in hand, while Einarr and Naudrek formed an honor guard behind her. Then she opened her mouth to sing the dirge.

It ranked among the most beautiful tunes Einarr had ever heard. He had known, from hearing her perform in Eskiborg, that she was a skilled Singer. He had not imagined, however, that a funeral dirge could transport the living as well as the dead.

As the flames consumed the village, licking the afternoon sky and traveling up the village trees, Einarr imagined he could see the spirits of the dead within the purifying white smoke of the pyre.


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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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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.

8.8 – Cat and Mouse

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!

“Explain.”

Einarr took a deep breath. Of everything that happened last year, this was the worst. “If these are the islands I think they are, there will be an entrance to a svartalfr fortress under that island.” He gestured, indicating the green-topped island with no apparent beaches. “We chased a ship of cultists here last summer after they kidnapped my bride. They were also responsible for the massacre of Langavik.”

Captain Kormund’s frown turned thoughtful. “It’s true, the svartalfs are unsavory types…”

Einarr shook his head. “No. They’re not… not alfs anymore, the ones who were in the first place. Some of the cultists used to be human, as well, and some were dwarves. But when we fought them, they were all corrupted monsters.”

“Corrupted how?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Black-blooded tentacled horrors wearing men like skinsuits, sir. And if they bled on you, the corruption spread. We dealt them a serious blow in our escape, I think, but… but even the ruins of Langavik would be a more auspicious hiding place.”

“If you had not declared yourself a cursebreaker, I might accuse you of making all this up.”

Einarr shuddered in thinking about the kind of mind that could invent what he had seen. “If anything, sir, I’ve underplayed what we saw here. It was directly responsible for me ending up in the Shrouded Village, half a world away from the Vidofnir.” That was perhaps not strictly true: there was little to do with runes here, after all, but the events led in a straight line.

The Captain paused to think for a moment, then shook his head. “I hear your warning. However, I also hear that the evil creatures which dwelled below were dealt a serious defeat last summer, by your own hand, and that there is an excellent place to hide beneath that island. I have no idea how that Order dromon is matching us knot for knot, but I know that continuing to run as we have will exhaust the men to no effect. Therefore, I believe I will take my chances.” He smiled at Einarr, and it was more the predatory grin of a wolf than anything stag-like.

Einarr straightened up stiffly. “I suppose even telling you that it was our ships that burned Langavik when we found it drenched in blood cannot change your mind?”

“That is correct, sailor. Return to your post.”

“Aye, sir.”

The worst part was not that the captain would not heed his warning. No, under the circumstances that was all too understandable, especially since the Captain hadn’t witnessed the horrors himself. No, the worst part was wondering how much of the cult’s taint still lingered. The storm had broken when they fought last summer – but what did that mean?

The cave waterway was right where Einarr expected it to be. Captain Kormund ordered a stop at the entrance. He hadn’t noticed it before, but on the cliffs outside the cave entrance were grassy ledges. They were small, and probably not terribly comfortable, but a man or maybe two could sit and look out over the ocean. Kormund left two men with a hunting horn and instructions to blow it once an hour if the coast was clear. One of them grabbed a pole and line before he got off the boat. Einarr wasn’t sure he would want to eat the fish from these waters, but ordinarily it would have been a good plan.

Once the lookouts were in place on their perches outside, the Eikthyrnir slipped into the cave where last summer the Vidofnir had once more come face to face with the ship that killed his stepmother.

Einarr fought against holding his breath, but the cave was more or less as they’d left it – at least as far in as Captain Kormund took his ship. The sea anchor was lowered just past where the shadow of the cave wall fell, so that the Eikthyrnir should be all but impossible to spot from the outside. Einarr would not be able to see what became of the city since their battle – but he wasn’t truly sure he wanted to, anyway.

The first time the horn sounded, everyone on board jumped. They hadn’t realized just how tense they were, waiting in the shadows, until it sounded. After that, they relaxed a little and settled in for a long wait. Four times the horn had sounded, then five, and they were beginning to think the dromon had finally turned aside.

At the sixth hour, as counted by Hraerek, there was no horn. The games of dice and other friendly diversions ceased.

Again at the seventh hour they waited for a sound that never came.

At the eighth hour, the dromon appeared in the mouth of the cave and stopped there. Einarr’s breath caught. What had happened to their lookouts? There was no shelter to speak of on their tiny ledges: the Valkyrians could hardly have missed seeing them.

Then he noticed something that almost wiped the thought of their lookouts from his mind: the dromon cast no shadow on the water. Indeed, it almost looked as though it cast its own light. Einarr glanced to his side and saw Vari standing there, also staring at the ship that had chased them all this way. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“It’s… real, right?”

“Sure looks real.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“So’s a jellyfish, under the right conditions. Doesn’t mean I want anything to do with one.”

“Nah, of course not. Only, why?”

“If we knew that, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Someone shushed them, but the dromon was already backing out of the mouth of the cave to continue on its way.

Once it was gone, it was another few hours before the horn sounded the all-clear again. The Eikthyrnir slipped from its hiding place and reclaimed its watchmen, who even after all these hours still seemed badly shaken.


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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.

4.6 – The Isle of the Cult

The remains of Langavik were an inferno behind them as the Vidofnir and the Skudbrun sailed out of port. While the sailors had put the town to the torch, the Singers stood on the dock and performed proper rites for the dead. No-one aboard either ship cared to look back at the horror they had found even as the blaze turned the sky to orange night.

Between the navigators of both crews, Einarr thought they had a good idea where to look… but that may have been the least satisfying conjecture he had ever heard. If there was one thing Einarr was glad of right now, it was his turn on the oars. He threw his back into every stroke, knowing that exhausting himself would be the only way he slept that night – or for most nights after, until his bride was back in his arms.

A dark elf fanatic, helming a cult that sacrificed people. And they had Runa. How could any man rest easy in that circumstance? And so, he rowed, because passing out drunk on the water would not be tolerated.

A few days out from the charred ruins of Langavik, the sky to the north grew dark, as though there were storm clouds just out of sight. With grim certainty, Vidofnir and Skudbrun turned towards the darkness, and before two more days had passed the storm they had sought – and the island they expected – loomed on the horizon.

The island seemed almost to shelter beneath the storm, but even before they passed under the shadow of clouds it looked like one of Hel’s hands reaching up from the underworld. A massive mountain seemed to stretch directly up from the dark waters, its craggy cliffs promising no safe harbor or beach to land on. Above, blackness roiled, although there was little wind below.

The sound of oars slipping through the water and the glow of torches from the decks were all that proved the two ships’ existence on their long, spiralling approach. On board, those who did not row peered towards the coast in search of any sign of habitation, or even simply an inlet where they might put in to continue their search on foot.

Two and a half turns around the island, Einarr spotted a deeper darkness along the coast, within what was now plainly a broad fjord and easily large enough for a longship to enter. “Sound ho!”

Watching sailors from further down the ship hurried up to see for themselves, and Einarr pointed toward the likely entrance to the island.

“The cult is led by a svartalfr, isn’t it? Everything I’ve heard says they prefer to live underground.”

“You think they’d build a dock in a cave?” Sivid sounded skeptical.

“One that size? Why wouldn’t they?”

Sivid had no answer for that. After a brief consultation between Captains and Mates, the two ships turned inwards, toward the hoped-for dock.

***

As the two ships slipped under the mouth of the cave, those aboard held their breath. Torches illuminated the stone walls in warm yellow light – which is more than could be said for their effect outside the underground inlet. As men shifted, chain mail jangled softly. Only the men still at oars – among them the newcomers aboard the Vidofnir – had not yet equipped themselves for battle.

For his part, Einarr hoped it would not come to that – not immediately, anyway. Not until they knew how to get Runa out. Once she was safe her captors could rot. His grip tightened on Sinmora’s hilt at his belt.

The underground river they floated along curved off to the right, and now Einarr could hear the distant echoes of voices from ahead, and see the reflection of whatever it was they used for light against the far wall of the cavern. Whatever they burned, its color was colder.

Stigander ordered their torches extinguished as they came around the bend, plunging the crew of the Vidofnir into near-blackness. A moment later the Skudbrun followed suit, and all were glad the current was slow. Eventually, though, the men’s eyes began to adjust, and even the small amount of cold bluish light from ahead was enough that they could see the outlines of their path.

Ahead, where the light was concentrated if not much brighter, a stone quay could be seen as a matte patch against the rippling water, and shadows seemed to move in the distance.

Stigander held up a hand. The rowers nearest him spread the word to those before and behind – reverse and hold. What the captain expected to see from here, none were certain… but Einarr, too, strained his eyes towards the subterranean harbor before them, hoping against hope that one of those shadows would resolve itself into a human woman with flaxen hair. That, at least, would prove that she hadn’t provoked them into acting hastily.

More likely she was biding her time, waiting for a chance to escape – or so Einarr told himself. He growled and did not look away.

The Skudbrun came up alongside the Vidofnir and a low-voiced question floated across the gap. “What news?”

Stigander shook his head, as though anyone more than five feet away could have seen the action. “Still can’t see. Any closer and we’ll be seen, though.”

Captain Kragnir growled. “Ships aplenty at the dock. You see any familiar-looking banners?”

“Not as yet. …Let’s ease in to the end of the quay. Pretend like we belong there, at least for now.”

Kragnir grunted in agreement, and once again the two ships began to crawl forward. Still Einarr saw no sign of either his beloved or the crew that killed Astrid not quite a year ago.

As they neared the pier, the two human ships weighed their sea anchor. A moment later, just before their hulls would have bumped into the stone edge of the pier, they pulled up short. None of the shadows on shore looked in their direction.

“Good,” Stigander muttered. The less attention they attracted from those on shore, the easier this became.


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