Tag: Liupold

9.3 – Wolfling Raid

Stigander froze in his tracks, then seemed to sway a little as the words hit him harder than any physical blow. “Too late?” he finally managed.

Einarr and Trabbi both moved to where Stigander stood poleaxed. Einarr arrived first, despite the old fisherman being much closer. “What do you mean, too late?”

Trabbi, his face as ashen as the rest of him, shook his head slowly. “The raiders been gone for days, now. All that’s left here is to save what remains. Build again, if we find the Jarl.”

Stigander recovered himself. “I think you’d better come down to the Vidofnir with us, have some food and drink. Then you can tell us what happened.”

Trabbi nodded as though still half-dazed. “I think that might be a good idea. Can’t tell you when I last ate.”


Three days before the Arkona, the Eikthyrnir and the Vidofnir narrowly avoided doing battle in the harbor, a drakken with a wolf’s head on the prow arrived. They made no pretense of friendship: this was a raid, and the wolf’s raiders were searching for someone.

Stigander.

As soon as they saw the Vidofnir wasn’t in port, they made sure everyone at the Hall – and, Trabbi supposed, likely everyone in the town – knew that they had come for the thief Stigander and the ship he had stolen from Breidelstein, the Vidofnir. The wolflings were trying to draw them out.

The battle at the Hall was the worst any of them had seen in years. The men of the Skudbrun fought valiantly, and gave chase, but just yesterday had limped back, unable to follow further. They did confirm one thing, though.

Trabbi stared into the ale in the wooden tankard they had brought him. “The Wolfling ship – we never got its name – had both the Jarl and the Lady Runa aboard. Captive.”

Stigander’s face had gone red with rage, and Einarr saw his beard twitching in time with the muscle over his jaw. “He has the nerve to call me a thief?”

Einarr, though, was preoccupied with another bit of that story. “Was she unharmed?”

The odds that the Jarl had been taken without a fight, and therefore without injury, were almost nil. Trabbi sighed. “As near as Bollinn could tell. She was gagged and tied to the mast when he saw her, and my Lord was trussed up like a boar. Also gagged: apparently their Captain wasn’t willing to deal with my Lord’s temper.”

Stigander had calmed a little. “No. He wouldn’t be.”

“Father?”

“The Captain of the ship that razed Kjell is most likely Ulfr son of Urdr. My half-brother, and your uncle.”

Einarr hesitated a moment, then hummed agreement into his own cup. “It couldn’t be anyone else, with the story Trabbi told.”

“I’d hoped to have a little longer to muster forces…”

Einarr shook his head. “We should have realized we were out of time last summer, when I came back with the Örlögnir. I’ve already lived longer than most Cursebreakers manage, and it seems like every time I turn around someone has raised the stakes on me. My ship is ready?”

“Assuming it wasn’t damaged in the assault on the town. Even after last fall, I’ve only got a skeleton crew I can spare you.”

“I’m sure that will work itself out.”

“I imagine,” Trabbi interrupted. He looked and sounded much more alive now that he was out of the smoking ruin and fed. “I imagine that, if you put round the town what you’re doing, you’ll have a good number of able bodies wanting to get their own back against the raiders.”

“See?” Einarr looked more seriously at Trabbi now. “How badly was the Skudbrun damaged?”

“You’d have to ask Bollinn, but I’m sure they’ll be itching to go.” Ulfr had Jarl Hroaldr, after all.

Now Einarr turned to the foreigners in their midst. “You have delivered me, as promised, to my father’s ship and my own people. I have no more hold on you, and if you wish to return the Princess to Imperial waters, not a soul will hold it against you. On the other hand…”

Liupold shook his head. “For myself, I would chase this justice with you, and I know that there are many among my crew who admire you for your work on Hohenwerth. There are just as many, however, who despise the Clans beyond all reason. My Mate among them. I fear I must return south with the Arkona.”

Einarr inclined his head. He had expected as much, but they were going to be facing the entire strength of the land that used to be home, with whatever navy and whatever loyalty the Weaver and her bastard son managed to forge.

Bea, however, straightened her shoulders. “I will come. As a token of goodwill, let us say.”

“Your Highness!” Liupold protested.

“I have made up my mind, Captain. This Cursebreaker intrigues me, and I believe it is not only in my Patron’s interest but the interest of the Empire to ensure his success and continued survival. I will go.”

Liupold looked to Einarr and Stigander for assistance and found none. Neither did Trabbi, the Jarl’s retainer, look inclined to stop her. Finally he sighed. “In that case, I would ask that you fight on my behalf, as well.”

She beamed. “Of course. I will send you with a missive in my own hand, in case Father should object.”

Liupold rolled his eyes, and Einarr suddenly wondered if all highborn women were so overbearing. “Well,” he said, to change the subject. “In that case, it sounds as though we should get back to town. And… hope my uncle’s slander did not take hold.”

Trabbi nodded, slowly. “I think you have little to fear, there. Lord Stigander and his crew are well-known, after all, not only for your friendship to Lord Hroaldr but also for your generosity in town.”

That was true, as far as it went, but Einarr was uneasy nonetheless.


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

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9.2 – Vidofnir

The order was given, and Arring tossed a rope across to the rowboat. Einarr lashed the boats together and pulled himself up onto the old, familiar deck. Grinning broadly, he clasped arms with Arring before turning around to offer a hand up to those who wished for one.

“Where’s Father?” He asked as soon as the last of them was aboard, still grinning at everyone around him. His companions were all looking around, some more bemused than others.

Arring pointed towards the bow, where Stigander stood waiting in a cleared area just ahead of the mast, his arms crossed but looking just as pleased to see Einarr. Next to him was Reki, and he felt as much as saw Eydri tense. Now was not the time for that conversation, though. He straightened the hem of his tunic and strode forward.

Stigander appeared to be listening to something Reki was muttering. The albino woman never once took her eyes from Einarr’s group. What had happened between her and Eydri? Surely there must have been something. Still, Stigander nodded, and as Einarr drew up with the mast a grin split his thick yellow beard.

“At last, my troublemaker returns to us!” Stigander laughed and reached out his arms.

Einarr met the gesture in kind, taking his father in a manly embrace for just a moment.

“Welcome back, son,” Stigander said more quietly.

“Thank you, Father.” He clapped his father on the shoulder once more before turning. “And now I’m afraid there are introductions to be made and common cause to be made.” He ran through the introductions a second time, this time starting with Bea, followed by Liupold, and then the others in order of their respective rank. He did not fail to notice that Eydri and Reki both seemed to avoid looking at one another.

“And that’s where we stand, Father,” he finished.

“I see. Welcome aboard, I suppose.” Stigander watched Bea quietly, the way a cat watches a hunting dog.

“The honor is mine,” Bea said smoothly, extending her hand. “I understand one of my ships gave you some trouble last spring: for that, you have my apologies.”

Stigander hummed and turned his attention to Liupold. “Captain Liupold of the Arkona. My Mate informs me that your ship is apparently not to blame for the sacking of my friend’s land?”

“That is correct, Captain. The Arkona arrived earlier today bearing your son and the others following a service they performed in Imperial waters.”

That got a raised eyebrow from Stigander, and Einarr knew they would have a great deal to discuss later.

Liupold was still speaking. “We arrived to find the town already in flames and sent a boat ashore to determine what had occurred here. We were still determining that when your two ships arrived and opened fire on us.”

“An unfortunate misunderstanding.”

“And, under the circumstances, an understandable one. But we had not yet learned the identity of the raiders when we had to break off to secure this cease-fire.”

Stigander turned to Einarr. “The Hall?”

Einarr shook his head. “Also hit. Also burning, I think, but the harbormaster didn’t know how bad, and everyone else was too busy putting out fires. And we do know one thing, actually. The ship responsible had a wolf’s head on the prow.”

Stigander looked stricken. “We have to get to Kjell Hall.”

“You know that ship, Father?”

“In my time, I have known three ships to bear that animal. Two of them are long since broken, but all three of them were terrors of the sea. Bardr! My horn.”

“Sir!”

“In the meantime… Captain Liupold, your Highness. Do you intend to see this through? Or, having delivered your cargo, will you return south to safer waters?” He did not say flee, but all among them heard it.

Bea straightened, as haughty as ever a princess could be. “We shall see it through, shan’t we, Captain? The Cursebreaker is of great interest to me.”

Einarr rolled his eyes, fairly certain she couldn’t see, and groaned internally. She would complicate matters greatly.

“I was just about to say the same, your Highness,” Liupold was saying.

“Very good. Then if you would kindly return to your ship, so no-one decides I have made hostages of you, we should be underway.”


The three ships slipped from the harbor almost without further incident. However, where the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir could simply reverse course, the Arkona had to be turned about. While this was not a difficult maneuver, it did slow their progress. Einarr wondered idly if the harbormaster had paid any attention to what was going on out on the waves.

Just a few hours later, the two longboats and an Imperial rowboat beached themselves just up the river from the narrow bay near the Hall. The forest appeared untouched, which was a mercy. Whatever they had done, there would be survivors even out here.

Still, only a relatively small party was sent up the forest trail. Einarr and Stigander, Reki, Captain Kormund, Bea, Rambert, and Jorir – who had been just as pleased to see him, in his way, as Stigander. “We’ve much to discuss, you and I – once we’ve confirmed the safety of your Lady, of course,” he’d said.

“You’re right, we do. Glad to see you well.”

That had been the end of it, for the time being. Now the seven of them hurried up the bay trail toward Kjell Hall. Einarr spotted chop marks in the forest around the trail, although he could not discern their purpose.

When the Hall came into view in its clearing in the trees, it was a burnt-out ruin. Men still moved within the confines of its walls, searching among the ashes for who-knew-what. Stigander took off at a run for the walls, and the rest of the party followed after.

“Trabbi? Trabbi, is that you?”

The old retainer rose from the pile of ash he sifted through to look, numb, at the man who addressed him. “You’re too late.”


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.1 – Burn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.

8.26 – Inferno

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!

So far as Einarr was aware, they had only one piece of business left on Hohenwerth. It seemed a shame, to Einarr’s way of thinking, that such a fertile piece of land should be put to flame – but the alternative meant leaving a pocket of corruption to fester like an open wound. It was bad enough that the svartalfr fortress in Clan waters still existed: for something like that to spring up in Imperial territory would be a disaster.

After roasting the black kraken alive, the Arkona’s stores of sea fire were no more. They still had more mundane means of setting things alight, however, and these they applied. The landing crew that had taken the bodies of the fallen to shore moved inland had one other task, and after the bodies were prepared they loaded packs of torches on their backs and moved inland.

When offered, Einarr refused the chance to go along on this task as he promised he would, and instructed his companions to do the same. “It’s not that we don’t trust you,” he told Liupold. “It’s that I don’t trust your higher-ups.” Most especially Hrist, but he wasn’t going to say that. “I agreed to assist you for my own reasons, as you well know. I will not give some ambitious functionary the chance to claim it was raiders at fault for Hohenwerth.”

Liupold took this with better grace than Einarr had really expected, even considering that he had been warned. But Liupold had more than once acted with better sense than Einarr typically expected of the Coneheads, so perhaps there was something to Walter’s accusation after all. Perhaps, as the Mate said, Liupold was half “barbarian.”

Two hours past dawn, the first column of smoke rose above the center of the island. New columns appeared at regular intervals after, in various places around the island. Three hours after they fanned out, the men of the Order climbed back in their landing boat and rowed back towards the Arkona. Behind them, Einarr could see flames licking up towards the sky.

Before they came back aboard, they tethered themselves to the Arkona and were towed around to the south side of the island. There was one more fire to light, one area shielded by a mass of stone from the rest of the blaze: the docks and the castle at Southwaite. Arguably the most crucial area to burn, given what happened there.

There were no more flesh-puppets to deal with, now that the black kraken had been destroyed, but flesh-puppets were not all that had been created on the island – the jailer was proof enough of that. As the castle dock came into view against the steep shale coast of the island, Einarr could see movement against the fiery backdrop. There were still living creatures on the island. Some of whom had once been men. And all of whom could potentially be able to escape into the sea.

Rambert was calling cadence on the rowboat, and when they loosed themselves from the main ship they closed the distance to the docks swiftly. Some few of the kraken’s monstrosities were already approaching the steep steps that led to the dock. Einarr did not doubt that they would find their way down, whether or not they were still able to walk down stairs.

Movement from the smaller boat again caught his eye. Rambert (at least, he thought that’s who it was) had drawn back his bow. Flame flickered at the tip of the arrow he had nocked. Then the first flame arrow flew. It landed at the very edge of the docks, right in front of the stair.

“Good shot,” Einarr muttered under his breath as the fire licked at the wood.

Moments later, a volley of flaming arrows flew across the gap to land in the bridge or in the forerunners of the island abominations – and they were all, he could see even from this distance – abominations.

One of them, vaguely humanoid but with the snout of a dog and moving on squid-like tentacles, braved the kindling fire ahead and sort of slid down onto the dock.

More fire arrows flew, whether intended as a second volley for the dock or with the intention of stopping the creature, it was hard to say. Whatever the intention, several burning arrows found their mark on the abomination and it slumped to the ground.

So they’re not all as strong as the jailer, are they? That’s good to know.

The bridge was burning merrily, now, and the creatures that had fled to the shore milled about between the fire and the water. Einarr frowned and moved forward, toward where Liupold stood watching with a similar frown on his face.

“Captain, might I suggest a volley of our own? Sooner or later, those things will end up jumping to escape the flames…”

“You’re quite right.” He frowned. “Walter! Do we still have the emergency cask held back?”

Walter glared at his captain and spoke through gritted teeth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir.”

“Walter. Would you rather ensure that nothing gets off this island, or preserve the most obvious of secrets from men who have acted as our allies? Load the cask.”

The Mate looked like he wanted to argue further, but then he looked towards the shore. Already some of the abominations were testing their courage and the edge of the cliff. “Yes, sir.”

While Walter disappeared belowdecks to do as his Captain commanded, Liupold ordered the ship brought in closer to shore.

The Arkona was far closer to shore than anyone really liked when Walter reappeared. “Ready, sir.”

“Very good. Fire on my mark.”

“Sir!”

Liupold stared towards the shore for a long moment. He appeared to be counting. “Ready… mark!”

A gush of sea fire spouted from a nozzle in the prow of the boat with a sound like rushing wind through a chimney. The abominations on shore shrieked in a voice like the kraken’s, although Einarr doubted most of them ever realized the water, too, was now ablaze. They were too busy trying to put out the flames that now burned them directly.


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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.

8.25 – Fire Ship

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!

“Launch!” Liupold’s order echoed over the surface of the water.

Hrug willed the wind to life in the fire ship’s sails, and as it sailed past Einarr turned to watch Burkhart. The man stalked the deck of the ship, lighting the carefully placed torches. For just a moment, Einarr saw his face clearly. The man’s expression was one of pure hatred.

Keep your head. Don’t try anything stupid. Just ram the thing and abandon ship. Einarr could well imagine someone in Burkhart’s shoes doing something stupid in the name of vengeance and glory. The man had no family left, after all, and in times such as those men tend to wonder what they have to lose. Only, in this instance, there was a high probability of a fate worse than death.

Einarr could see Burkhart’s figure move to take the tiller just as his form became indistinct. The boat veered just slightly starboard even as it picked up inhuman speed.

The fire ship shot across the sea like a meteor through the sky, the fire spreading slowly to the bulwarks and the deck. Burkhart kept her steady, though, aimed directly for the center of the horror’s baleful red eye.

The fire ship hit the swell caused by one of the horror’s tentacles grabbing for the unfortunate ship and skipped off the surface of the water. Even still, Burkhart held her steady in spite of the bouncing and the heat.

Einarr found he could not draw his eyes away. He only barely knew the man, for all that they had fought together in Southwaite, and yet right now his charge was the only thing that mattered on the field.

Two more times the fire ship skipped across the water, but Burkhart was as good as he swore: always the prow remained aimed at the horror’s eye.

At the last possible instant, the black silhouette of a man’s shape dove from the back of the boat into the churned waters below. Burkhart had sworn he was an excellent swimmer: now he would have a chance to prove it.

The fire ship launched out of the water once more as the black kraken reached a tentacle for the capsized harpoon boat and the horror of the deep let out an ear-splitting, high-pitched chitter. The prow of the fire ship embedded itself in the horror’s eye.

Einarr plugged his ears. He had never known an ordinary squid to make noise, but this one apparently could when it was in pain and the sound set his teeth on edge.

Then the fire on the decks caught the cask of sea-fire that had been loaded on board and Einarr was doubly glad he had his ears covered. The sound was painful even then, and the shockwave from the fireball could be felt even as far back as the Arkona yet remained.

Liupold ordered the Arkona forward into firing range as the horror shrieked a second time. As the fireball cleared, the black kraken continued to burn.

The harpoon boats that had not yet caught hold of their target threw once more at the thrashing, burning beast, while the ones that had loosed their first volley of fire arrows.

They could not yet afford to stop, but as they sailed in close Einarr spotted several figures moving in the water. Good. At least some of them can swim. He turned his attention back to the black kraken, who seemed to be recovering somewhat. The remains of the ship still protruded from its eye, which leaked black blood into the water, but it seemed to have given up on getting it loose. Instead, it was sending far too many tentacles out after the harpoon boats, but almost without fail those were being caught up. Then the harpoon boats began to spray sea fire from small, hand-held flamethrowers.

Hrug activated the spell he had been laying on the island and the abomination stiffened.

“Fire!”

Sea fire flared out in concert from the harpoon boats and from the Arkona herself. Soon it would all be over.


When the kraken floated on the surface, a charred, lifeless husk, one of the harpoon boats went around to collect any survivors there might still be in the water. To a man, the survivors felt ill once they were recovered from the water: Einarr commisserated, remembering the same feeling from when he had fought the creature in close combat last year, and recommended they find themselves a priest or a healer. The corruption in the blood, after all, was a powerful thing, and it had bled copiously in the water.

Burkhart, unfortunately, was not among the survivors. Einarr had lost track of the man once he dove free of the fire ship, but of the other survivors not one remembered seeing him swimming free. They did, eventually, find him, as the boats combed the water into the evening. He had died with a grin on his face, as well he should have.

“Thus ends the line of Eichel,” Liupold intoned as the body was laid out on the deck of the Arkona.

“He was it?”

The Order captain nodded.

“He died well.”

Other words were said, by those among the crew who knew him better. Rambert stood silent, staring at the body as though to better remember the details. Einarr did not disturb him.

Burkhart was not the only casualty, although he was the only one Einarr had known. The bodies of the dead were laid out across the deck, and those among the crew who wished were allowed to stand vigil over night. As dawn broke, though, the bodies were loaded once more into one of the landing boats and rowed to shore. There, they were laid out on the shore on wooden biers close to the tree line.


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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.

8.24 – Bait

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!

Bea was looking at him expectantly. What she’d told him before? …Oh. Einarr shook his head no.

“You really should. Talent like yours is wasted as a raider, and if power is what you’re after Father can grant you more than you could ever hope to gain as thane over some tiny island.”

“That’s not – ”

“Not power? Is it wealth, then, or a beautiful bride? Not all of my Father’s daughters are married, after all, or even promised…” She trailed off, as though expecting him to take some sort of a hint from that.

“I’m sorry… Bea. I just… haven’t had time to think about it.” It was at least a partial lie. He had dismissed it out of hand when she first mentioned it and moved on to the task at hand. But what was she trying to get at with the nonsense about brides? “Perhaps we should focus on destroying the black kraken?”

She looked at him like he had somehow grown horns and puffed air towards her hairline. Women were strange.

“You’re right, of course,” she said. “I just wanted to remind you of the possibilities.”

“Of course…” A thought occurred to him. Improbable, of course, but not impossible. “While we’re speaking of possibilities… is Hrist your mother?”

Her face fell. “Would it make a difference if she were?”

“Not really. You just look like her, so I wondered.”

Bea nodded, then rose. “Well. I suppose I will leave you to your thoughts, since you don’t seem to want sleep tonight.”

Einarr snorted, but did not retort as she walked away. Let her think what she would. He pulled his blanket over his shoulders and rolled over.


Come morning, it was as though their conversation never happened. This was good: it meant Einarr could focus on the task at hand. And that task was cutting down the monster that had come closest to destroying the Vidofnir and her crew. Einarr wanted no distractions.

The landing boats were already in the water, seeding chum in hopes of drawing the kraken. No-one was really sure what the beast ate, though, only that it had to eat a lot. So they put out chum, and if the black kraken didn’t come for that perhaps it would come for the sharks that did.

Before long the water they had chummed was churning, frothy and red with the blood of the bait – and, probably, some of the sharks caught up in the feeding frenzy. The harpoon boats lay in wait some distance back from the chaos they had sown, thinking that if this did not work at least they could have fresh fish, for a change, that night.

The feeding frenzy was beginning to slow as the bait was consumed. The white and red froth calmed, and while there was still blood in the water it seemed the beasts were growing sated. One of the boats cast its harpoon at a fleeing shark and caught it, based on the way they jerked into motion after. Well, Einarr wouldn’t complain about something fresh for dinner for once, either.

Einarr started to turn away from the baited area: today, they had failed, and tomorrow they would try something different. Then he saw movement out of the corner of his eye and his blood ran cold. A single black tentacle appeared out of the water and wrapped around the harpoon boat that was fighting the shark.

“Look out!” The words were out of Einarr’s mouth before the knowledge he could do nothing reached his brain.

“It’s here!” Walter bellowed, hard on the heels of Einarr’s useless warning.

“Signal the fire ship,” Liupold ordered. “Ready the assault!”

And so it began. Burkhart had won the honor of piloting the fire ship in the initial assault: said he wanted to strike the first blow against the monster that took his brother when the priests fell. After that, no-one tried to gainsay him.

A second tentacle rose above the water and began reaching for the same ill-fated harpoon boat. Silence descended upon the Arkona, and Einarr had to remind himself to breathe.

A long black shape appeared below the water and surfaced like a whale coming up for air. Soon they could see its great red eyes. More tentacles surfaced – somehow too many, even for as large as it was.

The shark boat stopped jerking around on the surface of the water as its crew deployed oars. They were trying to run: so was the shark, still attached to the boat by the harpoon line.

The harpoon boat picked up a sudden burst of speed as the rowers added their power to the panicked shark beneath the water. The black kraken had not expected that. Its first tentacle curled around open air.

Einarr clenched his fist, nails digging into his palm.

The boat scudded along through where the shark chum had been, its course as unpredictable as a panicked animal’s. Time after time a great black tentacle as big around as a tree trunk reached out to grab it and closed on open air.

Meanwhile, the other harpoon boats cast their lines for the black mantle or one of the glowing red eyes of the massive squid. This was not the distraction they had expected, but it was one they had the guts and good sense to take advantage of. Some of their lines drew taut. Others hit the rubbery flesh and bounced harmlessly off into the water, to be pulled back and thrown again.

The running boat turned hard around – far harder than the boat itself was capable of. From the Arkona Einarr could see its deck tilting at a precarious angle as the shark below turned to run away from the underwater grasping arms.

Another tentacle rose up from below the surface of the water and the swell it caused pushed the scudding harpoon boat all the way over. That same tentacle wrapped about the hull of the boat, and Einarr could only pray to Eira that the sailors aboard could all swim.

“Launch!”


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.

8.23 – Tying a Net

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!

“So now what do we do?”

Bea’s question was so eager and innocent that, for a moment, no-one could answer. An honest-to-goodness Valkyrie descends, throws down a gauntlet, and then retreats, all while the castle burns around their ears, and she dismisses it with a casual wave of her hand?

Eventually, Einarr found his voice. “First, we make sure Hrug’s plan doesn’t require us to come back here again. It doesn’t, right?”

The mute sorcerer thought for a long moment before nodding in the affirmative.

“Are you sure?” He was certain the man had not had a chance to complete an array. Where was the rest of it going to go?

Hrug’s nod was more certain this time. Einarr would not insult the man by questioning him further: if he said his plan for the island was complete, it would be. “Very well. In that case, I would like to suggest we return to the Arkona and make ready to fight a black-blooded kraken.”

Everyone who knew about the black blood shuddered at the thought. Bea and the two oarsmen looked troubled. Finally, Burkhart spoke up. “Begging your pardon, but what does the color of their blood have to do with anything?”

Einarr clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll explain later.”


Hrug might not have had more runes to lay, but it was decided they did need to do one more thing before leaving the accursed island for the last time. When they left, it was with a string of five fishing boats tied to the back of their landing craft, and Liupold declared that he would send another boat down to the dock by Southwaite to steal any boats moored there, as well.

As they rowed, Einarr made an agreement with Liupold: in exchange for another cask of Eisbock, Einarr would inform the ignorant on the boat of what, exactly, had happened last summer when the Vidofnir first encountered the monstrous cult. Since Einarr refused to tell it more than once, however, and since the ale was stored on the Arkona, Liupold insisted that he tell it before the entirety of the crew, rather than just the ignorant among the landing party.

“Very well. It will be important, after all, for everyone to understand why they should not close with the thing.” Einarr’s mouth twisted wryly: as if being a kraken wasn’t enough, with its ship-crushing tentacles as tough to hew through as any hundred-year tree, oh no. Some poor fool would still try rushing it at that point, out of desperation if nothing else. But if it bled on them…

The landing party was welcomed back warmly by Walter and the rest of the crew, who were thrilled to see Bea back safe and sound, and never mind that Einarr was sure Liupold had claimed there were multiple women and children held captive. Either they had retrieved the only “important” captive, or the Arkona was accustomed to cutting its losses like that. Einarr wasn’t certain he liked the implications of either answer.

But, now that they were safely aboard the Arkona, Liupold sent for the promised cask of Eisbock and gathered everyone together. It was time for Einarr to fulfill his end of the bargain, while those who already knew the tale began preparing a fire ship.

Bea, at the end of the story, looked as though she wanted nothing so much as to comfort Einarr. Even if he was not engaged to Runa, even if they did not have preparations to make, in spite of the horror of it all Einarr did not want to make himself into an object of pity through his story. He avoided Bea for the rest of the day as they busied themselves with the hard work of ensuring no-one had to be purified, by fire or by herb, at the end of this.

There was still one minor issue, however. Hrug could ensure that the fire ship and the harpoon boats would have the wind they needed to move, but someone would still need to guide them in.

“Is there any question?” Einarr asked. “We take volunteers. I’m not going to force a man to take on a suicide quest unless there’s no other choice.”

Echoes of agreement ran around the command circle of the Arkona. Even Walter agreed, in spite of the source of the comment. The man might not like the men of the Clans, but at least he could see sense at need.

At length, after a day and a night, their preparations were ready. The Arkona did not lack for men of bravery: they had had to draw lots among the volunteers for guiding the fire ship. The ‘losers’ of those lots had been assigned to the harpoon ships. All that remained was to lure the black kraken to the surface. It was agreed that they would begin luring the horror at dawn the next morning, so that the men would be fresh.

Einarr, restless, grabbed the blanket off of his bunk and went to stretch out in an out-of-the-way corner above deck. The close stuffiness of the steerage room, he thought, kept him awake. He stretched out on the deck and pillowed his head in his hands, staring up at constellations familiar and unfamiliar.

A female voice broke the silence. “Can’t sleep?”

Eianrr did not immediately recognize her. He lifted his head to look even as he answered “Yeah.”

“It’s a solid plan, you know.” Bea sat down on the deck next to him and leaned back.

“I know. Not that it will work out quite right. Seems like nothing ever does.

“Nothing?”

“Well, maybe not quite nothing.”

“I get it. No plan ever survives first contact. And there’s plenty to worry about with this thing.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“Probably not. But I think we’ve got a good chance. …Have you thought on what I told you, before?”


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.

8.22 – Hrist

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 landing boat that waited to take the eight of them back to the Arkona was not unattended. Leaning casually against the side of the boat, as though she had been out for a stroll, stood a woman who looked remarkably like an older Bea, only if possible more supernaturally beautiful.

Einarr subconsciously slowed, his feet dragging to a stop, even as Captain Liupold and Bea hurried forward. The two oarsmen hung back with Einarr and his companions – not, he thought, out of any great trepidation at the woman’s presence, but out of respect for rank.

“Lady Hrist, you’re back,” Liupold said, taking a knee about ten paces in front of where the woman lounged.

…No. Einarr took a closer look. Her hair was a different color, and she wore trousers instead of the impossible skirt armor, but breastplate, helmet and spear alone should have been enough for him to realize. That was a Valkyrie ahead, and one apparently known to Captain Liupold and the Princess.

Better to the Princess, apparently, than to Liupold. The ship Captain had stopped a respectful distance back. Bea, on the other hand, went right up to her and knelt before her in an oddly familial gesture. The Valkyrie – Hrist, Einarr assumed, cupped the princess’ head in her hands.

Now Einarr’s caution turned to confusion. That was definitely an honest-to-goodness Valkyrie. So why…?

The grin on Bea’s face was positively girlish as she stood and turned to beckon the rest of the group forward. Liupold, too, looked delighted as he turned back around.

“Everyone,” he said. “Allow me to present the Lady Hrist, Patron of the Order of the Valkyrie.”

Liupold made no attempt to introduce them to her: probably, Einarr thought, that meant she was already aware of their identities.

The last time Einarr had met a Valkyrie, she had tried to kill him. On the other hand, Liupold had said it was Hrist who said he would be required. He swallowed his nerves and stepped forward as smoothly as he could. “I am honored, Lady.”

She inclined her head slightly. “Cursebreaker. My sister tells me you acquitted yourself well.”

“I am glad to hear it.” That didn’t seem to match with what she’d said at the time, but perhaps distance lent perspective even to Valkyries.

“Are you still wondering why I required your presence here?”

He looked pointedly between Hrist and the Princess. “I would guess you wished for some insurance as to the health of a… favorite?” Or she wasn’t entirely above midgardian politics. If Bea wasn’t somehow related to the Valkyrie, he would eat his own foot.

“A not unreasonable venture, Cursebreaker, but don’t get ahead of yourself. That the horror is loose in the seas at all is your responsibility, and therefore I will have you clean up your own mess.”

She sounded harsh, but he did not miss the implications of the first statement. “I understand,” he said.

“Do you?” The Valkyrie met his eyes, challenging.

He returned the gaze unyieldingly. “Was it you who ensured the Arkona could always find the Eikthyrnir?”

“In a way.”

“Were you on board the Arkona when we left Kjellvic?”

“No. I had other matters to attend to, I’m afraid.”

Einarr hummed, but did not challenge it. The Valkyrie’s were Wotan’s reapers, after all: why should they be limited to mortal means of travel?

“At any rate, you have rescued Beatrix, and for that I thank you.”

Einarr inclined his head again. “You’re very welcome. But to what do we owe the honor of your visit? Surely you didn’t come out here just to talk pleasantries?”

She smirked now. “Indeed, I did not. When my sister spoke with me about you, she said it was a shame she could not have claimed your soul. I wish to witness your mettle myself.”

Einarr could not quite keep a straight face at the idea. “My Lady, I have yet to finish the task you set for my companions and I. If I am to face you-”

She snorted. “Who said anything about facing me? You may have survived your exchanges against my sister by luck and by guile: such would not avail you against me. No, this task is my test.”

A million retorts sprang to Einarr’s mind and his lip curled in a sneer before he could stop it – but none of those retorts would be wise under the circumstances. She had tried to provoke him, but Einarr was not some mad dog.

Bea was looking at the Valkyrie with something approaching disapproval, to Einarr’s surprise. Could this have something to do with that strange offer she had tried to make earlier?

“I have already sworn that we will help the Arkona to destroy the black kraken. All that remains to be done to cleanse this island is to burn it, although I leave this task to Liupold and his crew.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You are cannier than I have come to expect of your vaunted Clans. Very well: but in that case, we shall not burn the island before you have defeated the beast.”

Einarr glanced at Hrug. The man nodded slowly: Einarr hoped that meant his array would still work. “Fine,” he said. “There will be other ways to draw it out.”

Now, finally, the Valkyrie straightened. “Good. We’re agreed, then. I have other matters to attend to, but I’m sure Beatrix can keep you barbarians in line.”

Naudrek and Hrug bristled, but Einarr wasn’t at all sure she was only referring to them. That disdainful glance had encompassed the Conehead men, as well.

Hrist strode off up the path toward Kettleness, and as she moved her armor and her hair began to shine with an otherworldly light. As she neared the top of the rise, just before she would have gone around a bend and been lost to sight, she vanished in a flash like sunlight on glass.

Beatrix rolled her eyes. “She’s always like that. So, now what do we do?”


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.

8.21 – Under Seige

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!

“Do it.”

At Einarr’s word, Liupold and Naudrek tossed the bar out of the way and scrambled back over the makeshift palisade.

No sooner had they righted themselves, javelins in hand, than the press of bodies forced open the door to reveal a writhing mass of the kraken’s flesh-puppets.

They surged into the armory, arms and weapons flailing clumsily. Each time one was struck by arrow or javelin they crumpled to the ground, inert, only to rise again moments later. The killing field slowly filled with the bodies of the puppet master’s servants.

Eydri sang even as she drew her bow, but no illusions fell from Einarr’s eyes this time. They were not monsters wearing human skin, but tools manipulated by the monster directly. He fired another arrow: this one took its target in the eye. It did not rise again.

“The eyes!” He called across the room. “Shoot the eyes!”

The point was momentarily mooted as Hrug lit off one of his fire runes in the center of a mass of the flesh-puppets. With a whoosh like the Arkona’s sea-fire cannon a fireball engulfed them and spread. More of the flesh puppets fell and did not rise again.

It wasn’t much, but Einarr would take it. Good shooting and the occasional ball of fire would get them out of here, and then they could turn this island into an ash heap. He drew back his bow.

Another eye shot, another fallen puppet. But so long as Hrug could keep cleaning them out with the occasional fireball, they could escape this without dousing themselves in corruption.

Einarr just hoped his hand would hold out. It had been a very long time since he had done this much shooting.


Hrug was exhausted. Out of all the arrows and javelins they had started with, a bare handful remained both unshot and unburnt. Rambert had a nasty looking gash on his arm from a lucky shot by one of the flesh-pupppet’s pitchforks… but that was the worst of the damage they had taken.

The armor racks they had used as a palisade were well-nigh destroyed, of course, as was the armor they had left on the racks in question. But the flesh puppets no longer surged into the armory like a tide of hungry death and for that, at least, they could be glad. Einarr wanted little so much as to collapse onto the floor and sleep for a week. Hrug must be feeling it even more, with as much rune work as they had required of him.

Liupold groaned and levered himself back up to his feet, slowly. “We should go before the puppet master decides he wants to try us again.”

“Can everyone move?” Einarr asked as he, too, staggered to his feet.

“I think so,” Rambert answered. Eydri had bandaged the gash on his arm. Einarr hoped that meant it wasn’t bad enough to Sing over, and not that it would require specialized ointments she hadn’t brought ashore.

“Then let’s get out of here. Job’s not done yet.”

With groans and mutters, the eight of them took up the last of the ammunition and moved out of the armory and back into the halls, the fatigue all but forgotten as they jogged once more for the front entrance.

What flesh puppets remained in the hallway seemed uninterested, as though, having tried their skill, the kraken was content to leave them alone. The beast was a horror of the deeps, but did it think like an animal? Had they, in fact, asserted their dominance over it sufficiently that it would show its belly?

Einarr shook his head, chuckling to himself as they moved. What did it matter, if the black, corrupted kraken acted like a submissive dog the next time they saw it? That just made its belly easier to open.

As the front gates closed with a resounding thud behind them, Einarr felt like he could breathe a little easier. According to Naudrek, Hrug had managed to lay more pieces of the array while they were in the citadel, which meant that it should nearly be complete. How he intended to complete the array, Einarr had no idea, but that was why Hrug was Melja’s best student.

They hurried back mostly the way they had come, avoiding what few flesh-puppets they saw and detouring towards the northern coast. If the Coneheads wondered why, they did not ask, and Einarr was not inclined to explain.

Striding down one of the island’s many narrow roads, Bea hustled up beside him. “Your father – he is one of your northern lords? A… chieftan?”

Einarr smirked bitterly. “By birthright, he is a Thane, yes.”

“By birthright only? Not in actuality?”

“That is… complicated.”

Bea nodded, a small frown on her almost otherworldly face. “It would be a shame to waste a talent such as yours on a raiding ship.”

Einarr gave her a sharp look, but she wasn’t done.

“My father, I’m sure, will wish to reward those responsible for my rescue. There could be any number of powerful positions available.” She seemed to see his expression now, and the shadow of refusal in his eyes. “Just think on it. We can talk more later.” The princess Beatrix dropped back to walk with Liupold again.

Einarr shook his head and picked up the pace. What did she think she was suggesting? Easy enough, though, to turn her down when they spoke next.

Finally the burnt husk of Kettleness rose into view over the desolate fields. Nothing now stood between them and the relative safety of the Arkona save a mile or so of ocean. The eight of them hurried down the path to their waiting boat.

The boat was not all that waited them in the inlet. Leaning casually against its side stood a tall, statuesque woman with black hair even longer and more lustrous than Bea’s, wearing a gleaming golden breastplate. Beside her rested her winged helmet and spear.


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.

8.20 – Armory

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 trick with the runes gave them a chance to get out of the dungeon, but they could only do it once. There simply wasn’t time, while dodging the flesh-puppets of a creature whose attention was only now coming to focus on them. Even if there had been time, Einarr was not at all certain it would work against the full attention of the undersea horror.

Liupold led them down corridor after corridor, more than once making a hasty turn when something shambled into their path. By the time they reached the top of the second set of stairs, each and every one of them was out of breath.

“Where to now?” Einarr asked.

With a quick glance around, Liupold pointed, but they had hardly started down that hallway when a pack of the flesh-puppets appeared ahead of them.

Three turns later, when they were once again facing the exit, it happened again.

And again.

“I think it knows where we’re trying to go,” Naudrek offered.

“I think you’re right. Well, I guess that means we have to do this the hard way.”

Liupold nodded again and took off down the corridor to their left. Whatever the puppet master had expected, this wasn’t it. Once again, the shambling horde was reduced to chasing the much-faster living humans.

It couldn’t last forever. The puppetmaster had enough eyes to see through that it was only a matter of time until he could redirect his flesh-puppets to block the way to the armory. Liupold picked up the pace, and everyone else stayed with him.

Another flight of stairs. Rambert hurled a javelin at one of the puppets that was getting a little too close behind them. Einarr could hear more closing in from the sides.

“Up there!” Liupold pointed forward at a large, heavy door just as a pair of the flesh-puppets shambled in front of it. Only two, though. Einarr and Naudrek brought up their bows, aimed, and fired. Two puppets sprouted arrows and fell forward, inert. Moments later, Liupold led them in hurdling over the bodies.

Einarr turned his shoulder to ram the door open without stopping. Naudrek, Hrug, and the oarsmen followed suit as Liupold and the women scrambled out of the way.

Already the kraken was beginning to reassert control over the fallen peasants, but the door creaked open on its hinges under the combined force of five charging warriors.

Moments later, they had all scrambled inside. With that same drawn-out creak, they shoved the door closed behind them, and then Bea dropped the heavy wooden bar with a bang.

Einarr, the first to recover his breath, took in the room with a glance. If the door could be barred, there were probably other entrances from higher up in the citadel. “Bea, Hrug, Rambert. Go check for other ways out of here. Bar them if you can.”

The princess gave him a long, appraising look but did not object.

“Burkhart, gather up all of the arrows and javelins you can find. All of them. Liupold, Naudrek, let’s see if we can’t make this room a little more defensible. I bet we can pile up some of those racks into a nice, defensible wall we can shoot through.”

Liupold, too, gave him a long look, although his seemed oddly more annoyed than Bea’s had. Still, he didn’t seem inclined to dispute the call, so while the others were making sure they had weapons and didn’t get attacked from behind, the three of them set up a wall inside the armory, outside the sweep of the door but curving around to meet the walls of the room on either side. The closest thing to a killing field they could come up with.

The flesh puppets were trying to force the door, but it seemed they could afford a moment’s rest. Einarr flopped down on the floor and began inspecting his bow. It would very shortly be seeing heavy use.

“You’re a natural at this, aren’t you,” Liupold said, sitting next to him. It wasn’t a question.

“What, taking charge?” Einarr shrugged. “I wouldn’t say that. My grandfather was Thane over the clans of Breidelstein. Father knows he never will be, not with as long as its taken us to reclaim our throne. My whole life he’s been preparing me, first for captaincy, then for thanehood.”

Liupold nodded. “He’s taught you well, but I think he had a good student. Even the princess didn’t hesitate when you took charge.”

Einarr shrugged again. “Just because she’s not likely to ever inherit doesn’t mean she’s got soup for brains. It needed to be done, and it was better if we did the grunt-work.”

“I’ll not deny it.” Liupold exhaled a deep breath and stood again. “We should get the ammunition racks set. We’re going to have to unbar that door if we ever want to get out of here.”

Einarr heaved a breath himself, then followed suit. The sooner they could bust free of this castle, the sooner they could torch the island and turn their full attention to the kraken.


Einarr was reluctantly impressed: the bar had started to crack. They all gathered around the outside of the wall, bows in hand and plenty of javelins and arrows in easy reach. Even Eydri had a bow.

Bea stood by the pulley that would raise the bar and let the flesh-puppets surge forward. Hrug had also prepared a number of fire runes as a last defense. The idea of setting the castle on fire around their ears did not appeal, but neither did the idea of a never-ending surge of flesh-puppets. The arrows that had taken down the ones in the hall, before, had not hit anything vital. That suggested to Einarr that the kraken’s control over its puppets was tenuous. But by the same token, he didn’t think reasserting control had taken much effort, either.

“Are we ready?” Bea called.

A series of affirmations came from around their perimeter. “Do it,” Einarr answered after everyone else had called in.


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