Tag: Naudrek

10.5 – Blockade Run

The beat of Hàkon’s drum changed, subtly, from the rower’s cadence to a battle drum as the men hastily donned their maille. Eydri caught Einarr’s eye as he approached and inclined her head in acknowledgement. Good: it seemed she knew exactly what he had in mind. Einarr took up a position just forward of the mast and looked out over the water, studying their enemies.

It was a blockade, like the wolves had tried to keep them in Breidelsteinn harbor. There, though, they had used a runic trick and who knows how much of their store of good luck to confuse the wolves. Einarr still couldn’t believe how well that worked: the fleet Captain must have been incompetent as well as unlucky to botch things that badly. He was not willing to assume that of Kaldr.

They could scatter, and try to meet back up after losing their tails. Dangerous, but possible, if either he or Kormund knew where Stigander was headed next. Einarr didn’t, which meant probably Kormund didn’t either, so that was out. He frowned.

“Naudrek. Keep your eyes on the Vidofnir. Let me know the moment you see a signal.”

“Aye, sir!”

“How’s Hrug holding up?” Getting past that previous blockade had taken a lot out of both of them, but the one-armed sorcer had been overextending himself for a lot longer than that.

Jorir cleared his throat as he held up Einarr’s maille shirt. “Bored, near as I can tell. You’ll have to ask him if he’s up for another miracle.”

Einarr grunted and pulled the shirt over his arms. “I’d best go do that, then.”

The fact that he didn’t know already was irksome, but there hadn’t been a great deal of time for discussion since Hrug’s last ‘miracle.’ Things had been moving entirely too quickly on this expedition for niceties such as making sure your sorcerer wasn’t working himself to death.


The lookout on board the Eikthyrnir spotted what looked like a gap in the wolfling’s line. There was a tense moment aboard the Heidrun while Einarr and Jorir considered whether it was a trap, and whether or not such a trap was worth trying anyway. Einarr didn’t see much choice in the matter: either they made a break for it or they settled on the island behind them. Jorir urged caution.

Eventually, though, they agreed to spring the trap. There was no more time to dither. Stigander pulled the Vidofnir forward to be the point of their spear. Einarr took the right flank, while Kormund came up on the left.

Every third man aboard the Heidrun stood guarding the rowers with shields and axes. Another third had their bows limbered and a few of their scant remaining arrows to hand. They could not afford more than one, maybe two volleys here. The idea, though, was to move quickly enough they would not need more than that.

Stigander’s hunting horn echoed over the water and the Vidofnir began its rush.

Kormund’s horn joined Stigander’s as the Eikthyrnir also surged forward.

With a long breath, Einarr brought his own horn up to his mouth and joined his voice to theirs. Hàkon’s cadence shifted slightly as the oarsmen began to row with all speed. The voices of all five Singers lifted over the waves in the wake of the hunting horns call, and they were committed.

Behind Einarr, seated on the deck near Eydri and Runa, Hrug traced the now-familiar runes of a ward at his knees. He had insisted he had the wherewithal to fight, and Einarr was in no position to argue. Let Kaldr sneer all he wants: I’ll not scorn a tool at my disposal.

The three ships surged through the water for the gap in Kaldr’s line. It should be sufficient, barely, for their wedge to slip through with a little luck and a lot of speed.

A cloud of arrows in the sky showed when they had entered bow range. Einarr set his mouth and watched, waiting.

A second volley flew their way. More of these landed on the deck or planted themselves in shields, but still most flew wide. The wind was excellent for sailing, but evidently giving their archers trouble. Einarr glanced down at Hrug, but his one-armed friend showed no sign of having toyed with the wind.

Finally the people on the deck of the wolfling ships looked recognizably human to Einarr. A third flock of arrows rose into the sky. “Archers! Fire!”

The answering volleys from the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir were striking home even as the three ships came into boarding line range – of one ship. Einarr groaned to see that one of the ships on the edge of the gap was pulling back and firing again. If they weren’t careful, they would be encircled. Maybe even if they were careful.

He signalled for Hàkon to speed his cadence. Some of the slower oarsmen might have trouble keeping up if they held it for a long time, but for a short sprint they should be able to manage.

The ship ahead of them was still falling back, although even from here Einarr could see boarding lines being readied. He caught himself settling into a fighting stance and shrugged his shoulders: it was far too early for the Captain to be preparing to fight – not hand to hand, anyway. He glanced behind them.

Sure enough, another of the wolfling ships – Einarr thought it was Kaldr’s, although he couldn’t say for certain – was trying to sneak behind them. This was about to get very, very messy.


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10.3 – Pincer

Author’s Note: My apologies for the lateness of the post. I realized at the eleventh hour that the chapter as I had started it needed to come later.

The three ships with their three tails made good progress toward the outlying island of Eskihus, where Einarr had once spent half of an idyllic summer with Grimhildr’s parents. Ulfr’s men kept steady pace with them, and Einarr had no doubt that if they wished to catch up, they could. So then, why did they wait?

Einarr shook his head. He knew the answer to that: the wolves were wearing them down even when they weren’t in combat. But it wouldn’t matter for much longer: Eskihus village was just a few hours’ further ahead. Assuming these ‘wolves’ were more than merely rabid dogs, gaining the harbor should also gain them some much-needed respite.

Moments later his hopes were dashed. Another ship sailed into view from where she had been laying in wait, the wolf on its prow plain to see. Before words could make it to his mouth he had snatched the horn off his belt and sounded the alarm himself. A chorus of other horns joined in: he looked behind them once more, only to see the three ships led by Kaldr closing in.

“To arms!” How had Kaldr known they would come here? The fourth ship proved that he had, somehow.

Even as he worried, though, Naudrek was helping him into his maille as Jorir checked Sinmora’s blade for any damage. He wouldn’t find any: the edge seemed preternaturally resilient since the sword began eating magic.

“Archers! Form up!” He called as he fitted his own helmet to his head. When the wolflings had assaulted them before, they had been lucky and he hadn’t needed to fire. This time, he didn’t see a way around it. The dwarf returned his sword even as he echoed the order.

“How many volleys do you think we have?”

“Not enough.”

“I knew that. I need your best estimate.”

“Five, maybe? Maybe six? It’s not this fight I’m worried about, it’s the next one.”

Einarr nodded. “That makes us both.” He raised his voice again to bellow at his crew. “Do not – I repeat do not – allow yourselves to be tempted into recklessness here! Concentrate your energy on keeping them from gaining our deck.”

Irding snorted. Einarr hoped he would remember that in the thick of battle. Hoped, but did not expect. He would have gone on, but there was no more time. The enemy was in bowshot.

“Archers! Draw!”

As the sound of the enemy loosing reached his ears, Einarr gave the order to “Fire!”

Arrows whizzed past each other in the air to rain on deck and sea alike. On the Heidrun, Einarr heard the characteristic thunk of several sticking fast in shield and deck. No-one cried out – this time. “Draw!”

Could he afford a second volley? No time to second-guess now. “Fire!”

Again the arrows flew in all directions. Someone cursed: by the sound wounded, but not badly. Not that he could really afford even that, at the moment. Eydri’s battle-chant rose over the deck.

“Man oars! Prepare to repel boarders!”

As though on cue, boarding lines flew from the deck of the wolfling ships toward the Vidofnir and her allies. “Hard about! Now!”

Tyr leaned hard on the tiller and the Heidrun turned about as quickly as she could. It helped, at least: several of the thrown lines landed with a splash in the water. Those who were not on the oars rushed forward to cut at the lines that did take hold.

One glance toward the island told Einarr they would not break through that way. The new ship was near enough to intercept anything they might try in that direction. One of the original three appeared to be circling to join her, as well.

Behind them, Kaldr and the other of his original ships came in under full sail and rowing. Can’t go that way.

He shook his head. Eydri’s song was starting to get to him, and he could not allow that. Not if any of them were going to survive outside Ulfr’s dungeon.

The Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir were under heavy arrow fire from the onrushing drakken. No surprise, that: they would want Father and the Vidofnir most of all. He could try to push through that way…

No good. We’d just get tangled up.

That only left one direction to go: south. “Sternwise, men! Row!”

The Heidrun shot through the gap. The Vidofnir did not follow: she was caught by the wolfling ship. Einarr frowned, then jogged back to speak with Tyr at the rudder. “Can you get us around behind them?”

“Can? Yes. To what end?”

Einarr looked up. In that brief moment, the last of the boarding lines had fallen from his father’s ship. They plowed forward, away from Einarr and the Heidrun.

“To catch up, evidently.”

A wry smile tugged at Tyr’s mouth as leaned into the tiller once more. “As you say.”

The ship which had come to join the forward anvil changed course now, cutting across the path of its sister ships to pursue the Vidofnir.

Einarr signalled for the cadence drum to play at full speed.

A horn sounded from one of the wolfling ships, sharp and urgent. Not one of them changed course.

The horn sounded again, and again nothing happened. The wolfling was getting far too close to the Vidofnir for Einarr’s liking, but he could coax no more speed from fatigued men at the oars.

A third time the horn sounded. Reluctantly, grudgingly, the ship slowed itself and moved to rejoin its fellows. What was that all about?

There would be time to question it later. For now, he needed to rejoin his allies, as well.


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10.1 – Dawn Assault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now came the test, though: boarding lines flew.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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9.10 – Stealth

“Wait,” Stigander rumbled.

Everyone froze, looking at him expectantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.

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9.9 – Refugees

Silent as ghosts, the three ships slipped through the night towards Breidelstein and Raenshold. The air of anticipation was almost palpable on the Heidrun: Einarr could only imagine what it must be like on the Vidofnir.

Hrug busied himself about the ship inscribing runes based on what they had discussed with the Matrons on Breidhaugr and his own knowledge of runes from the Shrouded Village. So far as that went, Einarr could only trust he would know what to do when the time came.

A low whistle rolled across the water from the Vidofnir, the signal that another boat approached. The men of the Heidrun, having put on their maille before they sailed from the fjord, limbered their bows. Einarr moved forward, peering over the water to see what they were likely to be dealing with.

Only a fishing boat. For no reason that Einarr could fathom, he was put in mind of the Gufuskalam – the boat Runa had bought after she convinced him to elope. Soon. Just hang on, and I’ll have you free soon…

Someone in the boat waved a torch, as though trying to catch the attention of the ship captains. That was curious. A moment later, the signal to stand down came from the deck of the Vidofnir. Einarr turned his attention there as the fishing boat drew up next to his father’s ship. Right at that moment, Einarr wished he had a rune combination that would let him be part of whatever was going on over there, but so far as he knew even Melja could not do that.

A third time a whistle sounded, this time followed by waves of the torch indicating a change in course. That was very curious.


The Vidofnir led them unerringly to a little cove with a sheltered, sandy shore on an island not far from where they encountered the fishing boat and all three longships sent people ashore to learn what was going on. A tiny fire was already lit on the beach, with a small group of Vidofnings clustered around it, when Einarr vaulted from the deck of the Heidrun. Jorir and Naudrek were not far behind. From the Eikthyrnir, Captain Kormund was joined by his Mate and his Battle Chanter.

Einarr was nearly upon them when he realized who it was that sat, huddled under a shawl, her fingers curled around a steaming horn of something. “Runa?” He all but ran the intervening distance.

There she was: disheveled, with great dark circles beneath her bloodshot eyes, her skin pale except where it showed either the yellow-green of old bruises or, more damningly, the purple of new ones, but still the loveliest creature Einarr had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

“It is you,” he said, a little breathlessly, as he joined the small circle about the fire. “How did you get here? What have they done to you? Are you all right?”

She smiled wanly, but her lip trembled. “So you did come for me. I knew you would. But… but I… I couldn’t wait.”

Einarr felt his throat go dry. He didn’t try to say anything, just pushed forward to take a seat next to her. Runa threw her arms around his neck and started to cry.

An unfamiliar man sitting on her other side spoke then. “His lordship wanted her broken, he said. Said that was going to be the way to get information out of her pabbi. Only, that didn’t sit right. So me an’ another fellow went to talk with the Lady. Seems like the next thing I know, I’m rowing out toward you lot in a fishing boat.”

“You blanked out?” Reki demanded.

“No, ma’am. Only the Lady is very persuasive, and she talked us into it before we quite knew what we were about. I’m mighty glad we found you, though,” he continued. “Gods only know how long before they send out boats to search for the Lady.”

“She is very persuasive, at that,” Einarr said, rubbing Runa’s shoulder. “Did they…?”

Runa shook her head, still without raising it. “But that’s why I couldn’t wait. I thought… I thought these two were sent to…”

Einarr hushed his betrothed soothingly and met his father’s eye darkly. “Never you fear. They will get what’s coming to them.”

Stigander nodded silently at him.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, my lords, but it might be best if we hurried up and got out of the islands. His lordship won’t be pleased once he knows she’s gone, and then he’ll have these waters crawling with boats searching for her.”

Stigander hummed. “Well, you’re right about one thing, anyway. We had best be getting on again. The night’s wasting away while we sit here gabbing. But we’re not leaving.” A wicked grin split Stigander’s yellow moustaches. “Oh, no. The Wolf and the Weaver aren’t getting off so easily this time.”

“No,” Einarr muttered. “No, they are not. Although, one thing confuses me. I was told the Weavess’ curse bound your loyalties to her son, and no matter what you couldn’t act against him. So then, how?”

The one who had been relating their tale sat up proudly. “I’ve not acted against his Lordship. I’ve kept him from staining his honor.”

Somehow, Einarr doubted Ulfr would see it that way, but that was hardly the point. He nodded. “It’s a courageous thing to do, to act against your lord for their own good.”

Elsewhere around the fire, someone hummed. In Einarr’s arms, though, Runa was finally beginning to calm herself. Gently he extricated himself and stood. “Father is right, though. We need to be getting back out on the water. If there will soon be a full fleet out looking for the three of you, then we have even more reason to make haste.”

“Quite right.” It was Captain Kormund. “Let’s load back up and push off before the night grows any older. We don’t want to be caught out on the open water at dawn, after all.”


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

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

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

9.5 – War Footing

All the new crew members needed time to arm themselves and see to their affairs, but that suited Einarr and the Vidofnings just fine. Einarr, in particular, had some matters to attend to regarding his new ship. Thus, it was decided that the three ships would sail to war one week hence.

On board the newly-christened Heidrun, Jorir and Naudrek went over the same inspection that Einarr had with his father just days before. Eydri sat on the bulwark, repeating the Lay of Raen to Tyr for what was probably the hundredth time as she worked to memorize it. She and Reki, together with the Battle Chanters from the Eikthyrnir and the Skudbrun, would sing it together as they left Kjell harbor. If all went well, this would be the last voyage the sons of Raen had to begin this way. Meanwhile, Hrug and Vali took each other’s measure in some strange way that Einarr did not fully understand.

“So?” Einarr asked as Naudrek and Jorir were coming to the end of their inspection and looking satisfied. “What do you make of Arkja and his crew, now that you’ve had some more normal sailing around them.”

“Good hardworking boys,” Jorir answered promptly, plopping down on the deck beside his Lord. “I think Arkja knew we were suspicious of him: he seemed more than eager to please.”

“You don’t think he’ll turn coward on us?”

Now Jorir hummed. “I think, so long as he’s not placed under too great a strain, you haven’t much of anything to worry about. Not sure I’d go making him an officer, mind. Hey, Vali – what think you?”

“Oh, aye. Arkja’s loyal enough. Just make sure he’s in front of you when the seas are rough.”

“That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. The man asked to swear to me, and I’m out of excuses to put him off. You two spent the end of last summer watching him. If there’s a reason I should refuse, I need to know it.”

Jorir shrugged. “You’ll be taking some sort of oath from everyone who comes aboard this ship, won’t you? Just have him swear the same.”

Vali shook his head slowly. “The trouble is, we didn’t see the sort of situation that might lead a man like Akel to break.”

“Akel? Who’s Akel?”

“Oh, uh. Right. He was the Mate aboard the Althane’s ship. You remember.”

Einarr nodded. Vali had warned him about Arkja and used the Althane’s Mate as an example.

“So I don’t see any reason not to take him aboard, or even to let him swear to be your man, but I would consider his advice carefully, especially where it concerns the wellbeing of others.”

“Worth doing with most advice, I find. Very well. I’ll trust your judgement.”

Jorir smirked. “I expect no less, by now. So. We’ve told you about the Forgotten men. What can you tell us of Breidelstein?”

Einarr looked sheepish. “Hasn’t Father talked about it? I was only a boy. I’m afraid my recollections aren’t likely to be all that helpful.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Naudrek put in. “We’re about to put our necks on the line for your boyhood home. We want to know what we’re fighting for. And we want to know you remember what we’re fighting for.”

“…Ah. Well, all right then. I guess I should start by saying that, until winter before last, I wasn’t rightly sure I cared if we got our home back. The sea was my home. And then I met Runa again.”


At long last, the Vidofnir and her two allies – fortified with sailors from the Skudbrun, which could not be repaired in time – were fully on war footing. The Vidofnir led the way out of the harbor under oars, and the beat of the cadence drum carried the promise of violence to come.

Once they were out of the harbor the three ships raised their sails and turned north. The drumming continued all that afternoon and into the evening, as the four Singers raised their voices together for the Lay of Raen.

Leafy rug lies under
Lee of rock ridge, the
Free-hearted Raen’s hold
High built, its vigil born
To guard men above gold.
Grant plenty, pious king,
But forget not folly
Of fate-dabbler’s design.

The four voices twined together, echoing over the water between the ships while the drums continued to play. Einarr, for the first time at the helm of his own ship instead of standing by his father’s side, felt a shiver run down his spine at the eerie sound.

Raen’s folly, a fair lass
Flax-haired, by eye-gleams held:
Urdr did he woo, under
Umber moon she swooned.
No troth spoke though one she
Took: the ring-breaker Raen
She would wed. When sea-steed
Stole Raen, Urdr did remain.

Unwisely wooed, Urdr
Bore Ulfr, boy-child of
Greyed eyes, guileful blade.
Threads Urdr traced, fiber spun
While wolf’s fangs he forg’d.
To seek redress on swan’s road
Their uncut thread binds all
.

The mood aboard ship – Einarr assumed all three ships – had nothing of the melancholy he was used to. No: this time was different in every regard. This time, the ritual was performed not for remembrance but for determination. The Weavess and her usurper son would, finally, after sixteen long years, face justice for their crimes.

Without realizing he did so, Einarr joined his own voice to the voices of the Singers.

Ulfr did usurp, and Urdr does
Under cursèd thrall snarl
Mountain’s men, and entomb’d
Raen maltreats. Raven-wine
By Art bound, and by Art’s touch
Alone undone: hie home,
Raen’s sons, soon your birthright
Save, and cut the woven chain.

He was not alone. He heard his Father’s voice, and Tyr’s. Erik. Sivid. One by one, all the Vidofnings who had been with the ship for even half of those years raised their voices, until it was less a Lay and more of a Chant. They were declaring their enemy’s crimes before sea and wind and sky, and this time they would not be turned back.


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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.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

8.22 – 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?”


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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.

8.21 – 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!

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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.

8.20 – 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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