Tag: Orlognir

10.47 – Unbinding

A light like golden dawn shone from the grass behind Einarr, illuminating the faces before him. Those who were bound most loosely by the curse – Stigander, Kormund, most of their crews, Kaldr – watched in respectful silence, as they would a grave ship. Among the townsfolk, some looked pained. Others, nauseous. That was a result of the dissonance, and would pass in time.

Those who had fought under Ulfr had, in general, stronger reactions. Some vomited. Others dropped to their knees, clutching their heads. A bare handful had been bound so tightly their minds could not accept the dissonance and they fled into the forest. Einarr watched calmly, hiding his surprise that there were any of those here to witness the ritual.

Urdr had aged a century in a little over ten minutes. Einarr had called her a crone before, but the destruction of her work sapped her of vitality. Once again he stifled a pang of pity: for what she and her son had worked on Breidelstein, this was only a partial measure of justice. Arring stood behind her, holding her on her feet to witness the undoing of her schemes.

Eventually, those with homes in the city below began to drift towards the gate house and rest. Of the warriors who remained, those who were less affected aided those in greater distress towards rooms where they might rest. Arring, Erik, and Thjofgrir led Urdr to the dungeon, where she would await the convenience of the Thing.

The bonfire of tapestries continued in the center of the circle. Stigander’s eyes did not rest, searching over the faces that remained, plainly looking for someone, although Einarr could not guess who.

He was not needed here. Einarr drove the end of the distaff into the rune circle. For just a moment, the ivory inlay flashed with the same light as the working below. He was not entirely certain what that meant, but now that it was there he did not think he should move it – at least not until the working was finished.

The Örlögnir stood on its own. With a sigh and a mental shrug, Einarr left the bonfire of light to join the rest of his crewmates.


When dawn broke, Einarr rose from his sleeping couch not quite able to accept that it was his. The odd sense of displacement, though, he knew was temporary. More urgently, there was work to be done.

Einarr followed the smell of wood smoke to a cookfire outside the hall, where he found his father and an older man crouched near the fire, speaking in hushed tones. Einarr thought he recognized the man, but with the haze of long years he couldn’t be certain.

“His Lordship is resting in town, under the care of an herb-witch,” the old man was saying.

Stigander nodded in understanding. “I only saw him for a moment. He looked weak. How is he, really?”

The old man looked up and straight at Einarr, his eyes suddenly hooded. Stigander turned around and waved for him to join them.

“Uncle Gorgny, you remember Einarr, don’t you?”

Uncle Gorgny! So that’s why he looked familiar. Einarr smiled.

Gorgny looked poleaxed. He finally stammered out “The Cursebreaker is your very own son?”

“My very own.”

“It’s not that surprising that he wouldn’t recognize me, Father. Last time I saw Uncle Gorgny, I was just a small boy.”

Stigander turned his attention back to Raen’s closest advisor. “Well? How is my father?”

“…Weak, as you say, Lord. I have reason to believe much of the blood in those tapestries was his. But that was not the only way in which she tortured him. Now that she is gone, and he is free, I hope he will recover.”

Stigander set his mouth grimly. “I understand.”

“You are not surprised.” Gorgny watched Stigander for confirmation.

“I suspected. Last spring we paid a visit to an Oracle: she left me virtually certain.” He sighed, then shook his head. “We will need to visit him, sooner rather than later, and not just because he’s family.”

“Then…” Einarr couldn’t finish the thought.

“Trying to give your grandfather back his seat is likely to be impossible, based on everything I’ve heard.”

“Unfortunately true,” Gorgny agreed. “Even if Raen were as hale as you, the years under the usurper cost him a great deal of support, and even more honor.”

“That should be mitigated once the Jarls realize Ulfr didn’t actually have Grandfather’s support.” That his grandfather was still alive was nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, it also made what came next complicated.

“Not enough, I’m afraid,” Stigander rumbled. “But it’s moot anyway. Be thankfull, Einarr, that your sorcery in the harbor brought Kaldr to his senses. You are no more prepared to be a Thane than your uncle was. How long before the Thing can be assembled?”

Gorgny sighed. “At least a week. More likely two.”

“Good. I want careful count kept of who comes and who doesn’t. Clans have fractured over less than this.”

“Of course, my Prince.” Gorgny pressed his hands against his knees and rose, allowing himself the luxury of a groan. He, too, was getting on in years, but he had not been subjected to the witch’s tender ministrations. “There is much yet to do before the Jarls begin to arrive. If you will excuse me.”

“Of course. And, Uncle Gorgny, it’s good to see you again.”

The old retainer offered Stigander a tight smile. “It’s good you came back.”

Einarr furrowed his brow. Once Gorgny had crossed half the courtyard, he turned his attention back to his father. “What’s wrong with him?”

Stigander sighed. “You heard it too, then. I have never questioned his loyalty to your grandfather, not once. I suspect he just has some soul-searching to do. He may blame himself. He may be worried about Father. Maybe it’s all of the above.”

“You should start taking men’s oaths, Father. The sooner the better.”

“You’re not wrong. But that won’t help him.”


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10.46 – Unweaving

Einarr set about drawing the rune circle he and Hrug had devised while the Usurper’s former thralls made trip after trip from Urdr’s workroom, each time returning loaded down with tapestries which were then piled haphazardly in the center of the circle. “Draw” was perhaps a misnomer, though: the area he chose for this was in the center of a small grassy field. No chalk or charcoal would do: he cut the lines into the soft soil with the end of the Örlögnir. The distaff felt warm to Einarr’s touch as he worked: he hoped that meant that the Lady Frigg understood.

At some point during all this, Arring arrived with some proper iron shackles for the old woman, and even distracted Einarr did not miss that he brought both arm and leg irons. Well. Based on his answer from the Oracle, perhaps Arring had more reason than some to despise the witch. Even as he locked the shackles around her frail-seeming limbs, though, she watched.

As they began piling her life’s work in the middle of Einarr’s circle, she cackled. “Those tapestries are woven of the blood and bone of the clan. What do you expect your half-learned runes will do, Cursebreaker? You are no immortal.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow, but continued to draw. “So I am not.”

“And yet you will try your mortal will against the lifeblood of the clan?”

“If it were only my will, or even my will and Hrug’s, perhaps we would fail – although I suspect the ‘lifeblood of the clan’ rather objects to being used in such a way. Tell me, witch. Do you know what this is?” He lifted the Örlögnir from the line it carved and showed it to the growing crowd.

“A rather pretty distaff.” Somehow Urdr managed to sneer down at it even locked in irons as she now was. “Probably never been used for actual spinning.”

“That I couldn’t say. You see, this distaff belongs to the Lady Frigg herself. Do you happen to know the properties of hazel and ivory?”

She scowled, but did not answer, and Einarr went back to his work.

“I didn’t, this time last year. This, lady Urdr, is the Örlögnir. According to the Matrons, it purifies.”

Urdr contined to scowl and turned her head away, her chin thrust forward stubbornly. Einarr went back to ignoring her.

At last, all the warriors and a good number of the townsfolk had gathered around the working, as much out of curiosity as anything. A number of them, Einarr suspected, did not quite understand what it was he was ending. They were there because the rule of the Usurper and the Weavess had been intolerable, and so they had thrown their lot in with the so-called rebels.

He hoped this would not cause them too much distress. Kaldr had spoken of a bad headache when he first broke free, during the assault: Einarr suspected that might not be the worst, for some.

Finally, though, it was ready. Einarr straightened from his rune circle and walked once around its perimeter, taking in the faces of those who had come to watch. Some faces stood out, of course, primarily those of the Vidofnings and their allies in the assault. Jarl Hroaldr stood by Stigander’s side, tall and nearly as proud as his old friend, and much improved since his rescue from the witch. Kaldr stood with the Mates – including his own. A few others. Everyone met his gaze steadily, somber and expectant.

Satisfied, Einarr stopped on the south side of the circle, facing north. There was nothing to be said. Not yet. Very deliberately, he placed his feet on the edge of the circle, his stance a little broader than usual. The polished wood and ivory of the distaff gleamed in his hands in the light of the sun.

Einarr gripped the Örlögnir in both hands and raised it overhead. I hope this works… With a sudden violent thrust, he brought the base of the distaff back down to the ground, resting its end in the line of the rune circle he stood on. At the same time, he willed the runes to life.

Golden light spread around the circle like the light of a sunrise. Even in the full light of day, Einarr was sure that anyone near enough to see the ground could see the magic at work. Then the outer circle was completed, and the light rushed inwards. As it touched the edges of the tapestries piled in the center, they began to shimmer and smoke.

Urdr shrieked as the shimmer crawled along the surface of her work. Einarr would not be surprised if she fought to rush forward, but it was Arring who held her chains. She would not be able to throw herself on this conflagration. His attention was held by the light, and his will was currently captive to the Örlögnir.

As the light-fire grew over the pile of tapestries, Einarr was fascinated by what he saw. The cloth did not burn, not precisely. It was the dyes that smoked. His gaze was drawn ever inward, until it became plain that the individual threads of the cloth were pulling themselves apart, dancing in the light-fire like a million tiny worms.

Einarr blinked, actually grateful at this moment for Urdr’s panicked shrieking, and pulled his attention outward. Already he could feel a headache forming. There was no sense allowing himself to be swept away on the magic. He glanced over his shoulder.

A number of the townsfolk, and all of Ulfr’s former men, held their heads as though the dissonance were coming through. Urdr dropped to her knees, panting, as Arring stood firm, the chains that bound her hands and feet grasped firmly in his hand. In this moment, Einarr could almost pity her. Almost, but not quite.

He turned around the Örlögnir to face the onlookers. Behind him, the light-fire consumed the curse that had beset these islands for almost twenty years.

“The Norns always correct their weave.”


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10.28 – Assault

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

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

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

“I understand.”

“You think this is going to work?”

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

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

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

“Yes, Captain!”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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9.31 – Reunion

Reki swallowed hard as Beatrix helped the battered Jarl to sit on a nearby rock before limbering her sword. The others fanned out behind Reki, ready to follow her lead. Soon she could hear the gentle swish of the oars through the water.

Soon after, hushed voices carried to her ear. Familiar ones. She blinked.

“Is that… Jorir?”

“Jorir is the dwarf, right?” Bea asked, not taking her eyes from the approaching boat. “It may well be. I’m certain the other is -”

“Einarr!” Runa started forward, half running to the bank and peering ahead. Reki could hardly blame her, under the circumstances.

Before long, they could all see the occupants of the boat. Einarr and Jorir looked just as tense as the women all felt, even as they went over their own plans between themselves. Perhaps, Reki corrected, because of what those plans were.

Einarr gave a visible start when his eyes passed over their group, and his face brightened. “Runa! …Jorir, quickly now! It’s the Singers.”

Bea frowned at that description, but said nothing as the nearly-empty boat came aground in front of them.

Einarr hardly waited for the hull to scrape to a halt before he vaulted over the bulwark. His boots splashed in the shallow water, and half a moment later he embraced his betrothed. Reki allowed herself a wry half-smile.

“It seems the Norns really do smile upon our work,” she said.

Einarr pulled back from his embrace to grin at Runa, his hands still on her shoulders. “Sivid likes to say that they always correct their weave.”

Eydri nodded. “Based on what we’ve seen, Urdr is overdue for a ‘correction.’ Even still, how did you get through?”

“A hope and a prayer, Eydri. A hope and a prayer.”

What is that supposed to mean? “More importantly, why are you here? You can’t have known we were in need of a boat.”

Einarr shrugged. “I thought to work some sabotage… but it looks like you may have done more already than we could.” His eyes lit on Jarl Hroaldr. “I’m glad to see you’re safe. Father will be, as well.”

The old man nodded from his perch on a rock. “It’s good to see the sun again.”

Before the greetings could draw out any further, Reki broke in. “Did you bring the Örlögnir?”

Einarr blinked, then shook his head. “Truth be told, I’m a little afraid to touch it. What if I only get to use it once?”

“It’s a chance we’re going to have to take. One of these cloths is something she called a Weaving of Inevitable Victory.”

Einarr cursed. “So that’s why we’ve been having so much trouble.”

“Exactly. It’s protected somehow, or we’d have wrecked it ourselves.”

Jorir grumbled. “So what happens if Wotan shows up to claim the bloody thing after we undo this Certain Victory rug?”

“Then we hope that’s what it was needed for, and our dear Cursebreaker can find a different means of breaking the binding itself. What else can we do? The Vidofnir will never break through with this thing in effect.”

Aema cleared her throat. “Even so, we should be going. I don’t know how long that fire will serve to keep them from looking for us.”

A look of worry flashed over Einarr’s face, but he shook it off. “You’re right. Climb aboard, and let’s all get back to the ships.”


Einarr was dismayed to see that the ships were still – or, perhaps, again – locked in combat with Ulfr’s wolf fleet. Einarr could not be certain which, not least because each and every one of the ships was marked the same way.

With great care, the boat carrying all nine of them circled wide around the pack of wolves that beset the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir, looking for a gap in the line. Their only hope was to slip unnoticed past the attackers, just as they had on their way out.

This time, though, they had the Singers and an additional sword hand, should things come to fighting.

Einarr whispered a prayer that things not come to fighting. There was almost no room to maneuver on their deck with so many aboard, especially with the condition the Jarl was in.

Einarr directed them closer in. Their allies were not circled: that suggested that they were not truly surrounded. If that was the case…

“Jorir, do you see what I see?”

“I believe I do, Lord.”

“Bring us closer. We’ve got to get to the Heidrun.”

The dwarf harrumphed as though that were obvious, but he and Beatrix both put their backs into the oars and turned the boat.

The sounds of pitched battle from the decks of their ships soon drowned out the noise of their oars in the water, even for them; they rowed faster. Before long, the hull of their landing skiff bumped against the hull of the Heidrun.

“Oy!” Einarr called up, cupping a hand by his mouth. “Someone throw us a rope!”

He had to repeat this call twice, and was about to a third time, before a knotted rope twisted through the air to fall within reach. Einarr paused a moment, surveying his crew, trying to decide who to send up first.

“Just go,” Bea said. “They need you and your dwarf friend first. I can carry a few stragglers if I need to.”

“Thanks, Bea.”

Without another moment’s hesitation, Einarr started up the rope hand-over-hand, Jorir right behind him.


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9.8 – Nightfall

“Do you have a problem with the way we do things?”

“No, not at all.” The Imperial Princess seemed taken aback. “Just you’re a lot more… civilized than I’d been led to believe was common among the Clans.”

Einarr felt rage building in the back of his brain that had nothing to do with any Song magic. He wasn’t the only one, apparently: several of the men nearby had turned to stare incredulously at her. “What, you think because we raid your settlements and take thralls we’re nothing more than beasts? Kin is kin, and we care for our own. Don’t you? Or are you the animals you make us out to be?”

“No, that’s not…”

“You are a guest upon this boat. Don’t make me regret bringing you along.”

Bea’s voice tempered almost to meekness now. “I only wondered why your father does not pursue.”

“Because he’s not a fool,” Einarr snapped. He knew she was not this stupid. “Look, right about now they’re disappearing around that cape, right? I would wager my left eye that there are more ships back there, lying in wait for us – a lot more. My uncle is a crafty bastard, and we can’t afford to go sailing into any obvious traps.”

“Sooner or later, you’re going to have to fight them seriously!”

“You think we don’t know that?” Einarr felt the muscles in his jaw begin to twitch. Runa had never been so maddening. “Once we’ve unravelled the Weaving, though, not now. Not until they have a chance to regain their right minds.”

Bea blinked now. “Perhaps I don’t fully understand. I thought it was Song Magic that affected the mind, not Weaving.”

“It is. Just like the Painting you Coneheads practice makes physical effects.” Eianrr watched Bea’s face for sign of reaction and found none. “But Urdr’s Weaving bound their fates to her own – hers and her sons’. That commands a degree of loyalty. But once the Weaving is cut, they’re free to make the allegiance of their choice. Once that’s done, then we strike.”

“Taking advantage of the confusion. I see.”

That hadn’t been the reason he had in mind, but it was also probably accurate. Einarr grunted agreement. “But until then, we have no way of knowing who is loyal to the usurpers and who is merely compelled.”

“So how do you intend to cut the Weaving?”

Einarr grinned mysteriously. “With the Orlognir.”

Bea rolled her eyes, but seemed to understand that he would divulge no more.

Not that he had much more he could divulge. None of them knew how this breaking was supposed to work, only that he would have to do some rune work with Hrug, and then activate the distaff. Not that he was sure how to do that, either.

“So when do you intend to do this?”

“When we reach the central island, where Raenshold sits and where the Weaving is, we think, held.”

“You think?”

Einarr shrugged. It was their best guess, and not like they had any way of confirming it. Even if it wasn’t physically there, though, that should cut its hold rather thoroughly. Runa would probably say there was power in the location, although Einarr was never quite sure what was meant by that. “Father was out on the Vidofnir at the time, but we think that’s where it was worked. Whether or not it’s still there, physically, doesn’t matter. Or so I am assured.”

Bea shook her head. “Be that as it may… you’re worried about sailing into a trap, when you’ve already decided you have to make it to the center of their territory before you can really fight? I know you’re a better strategist than that, and your father should be too.”

Now Einarr smirked. “Indeed, we are. Just watch.”

Their miniature fleet veered to port and rounded the coast of the island they had been sailing past. This was a coast Einarr had not seen in a long time, and the rememberance was bittersweet. This was the island where his Afi had lived. There was a fjord not far from their old freehold, one that Ulfr’s men were likely to overlook as unimportant, and it was into that inlet that the Vidofnir slipped, followed closely by the Eikthyrnir and the Heidrun.

Once the open ocean had disappeared behind them, Einarr stretched his arms and smiled. “And now, we wait.”

“For what?”

“For nightfall.”


The air grew dim early between the walls of the fjord, although none aboard were so green as to be fooled. Even the men from Kjell set about their wait with purpose, checking their armor or their blades, re-fletching damaged arrows, and such.

Before they really knew it, orange and pink streaked across the sky overhead as it began to darken from blue into lavendar, purple, and finally indigo. One by one the stars appeared, and as the silvery moonlight began to reflect off the walls of the fjord the three ships manned their oars once more.

The light of the moon was bright enough they did not need torches to see by as they slipped in near-silence out of the mouth of the fjord and back onto the open sea, but one burned on each ship, near the captain’s awning, for the purpose of consulting charts and sending messages between their three crews.

Einarr stood motionless near the mast of the Heidrun, his arms crossed as he surveyed his crew and watched for any sign from the others. Where earlier his heart had been in his throat as he worried over everything to come, now that it was upon them he felt fantastically calm. Perhaps arguing with Bea had been no bad thing, after all.

The oars slipped gently through the water, answered occasionally by a creak of wood. No ship could be utterly silent, but these three were as quiet as one could hope for. Finally, Einarr thought, he could claim his birthright and his bride all at once. A smile played at the corners of his mouth.

Finally.


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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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5.30 – Escaping the Tower

“I’ll catch up by the time you reach the apothecary room.” Einarr flashed a cocky grin at his liege-man before he dashed back into the room, toward the fireplace. Had the familiars left their feathers on purpose, like the Valkyrie had? He couldn’t say, but they were sure to be just as magical.

Einarr bent to scoop up the two feathers without slowing down, then skidded around the giant perch.

The doorway stood empty. Good. Now to fulfill his end of the promise. Einarr tucked the feathers, black as night, into the pouch at his belt and poured on the speed. The distaff was like a goad against his back, and he was glad it wasn’t any longer. Perhaps another foot of length and he’d have had to worry about it tangling in his legs.

He shot through the doorway and cornered hard on the landing to take the stairs two at a time. The rumbling beneath his feet was rougher now, although somehow he felt certain the tower was not breaking apart.

That might actually be worse. Something whizzed past his face and a warm line stung his cheek. Was something firing arrows up at him? He took the stairs at full tilt, two and sometimes three at a time. Another arrow flew, and this one trimmed his sleeve. Were these warning shots?

By the time he reached the floor below he saw Jorir’s boot disappearing down the opposite stairwell. So he hadn’t been quite as quick as he thought he would be: the important part was that he was right behind.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and Einarr froze just before the threshold of the stairway leading down. Not a step too soon: the axe that dropped from above trimmed the ends of his beard already. He risked a quick glance around: just a trap.

Then he heard Runa’s shriek echoing up the stair. Einarr leapt forward, the back of the blade scraping against the bottom of his boots, and all but flew down the steps. He counted and ignored not one but three slices into his legs in his haste to reach them.

Erik stood, his feet planted and one hand braced against the wall, the other extended and holding Runa by her delicate wrist. Runa herself hung from that arm, scrabbling for purchase with her fine boots against what had suddenly become a smooth ramp instead of stairs. She gasped as though in pain, and only in that moment did Einarr realize he, too, was gasping for air. She’s fine. Calm down.

Jorir shot him a poisonous look, which he ignored as he slipped up to stand next to Erik. “Runa. Reach up your other hand for me.

She looked up at him from panic-ringed eyes and her breathing slowed. She managed a nod and slowly stretched her other arm out. Einarr’s hand closed around hers.

“Okay. Now we’re going to pull you back up, all right?”

“Please.” She still sounded like she was in pain: perhaps the jolt of her rescue had dislocated a shoulder?

“Ready? One, two, and … heave.”

Runa was not heavy, especially not for two men who had their balance back, and so a handful of heartbeats later Runa stood a step above them, dusting herself off and making a show of testing her shoulder and rubbing at the wrist Erik had grabbed.

“Right. Well. On we go. Watch your step.” He felt bad about the floor dropping out from under Runa: these traps were almost certainly his fault, after all – but not so bad that he was willing to drop the prize. Instead, he stepped forward onto the ramp and pushed off with his back foot, so that he was able to slide down the stone much as he had slid down a mound of coins early in the spring.

The ramp went all the way down to the landing for the next floor, and Einarr was not the only one who could not quite contain a laugh as they skied down. He was certain he heard Irding, and quite possibly Erik, as he half-ran, half-stumbled off the ramp and into the third floor challenge room. The door on the other side stood open. Feeling jaunty, Einarr sauntered forward.

The smell of ozone was his only warning. Einarr froze.

Lightning cracked down in the center of the room.

Seconds later, as the others skidded up behind him, lightning struck again. In the exact same spot. Einarr frowned, counting.

Five seconds before the third strike. He could make it. The Vidofnings could make it. Could Runa? Much as he loved her, she was more than a little pampered.

Well, nothing for it. Five seconds after the third strike came the fourth. The light had not fully faded from his eyes before Einarr was moving again, dashing for the far door with every ounce of speed he could muster.

The next time lightning struck, the hair on his head crackled with static – but he was clear. Einarr stopped to wait at the door for his friends to run the gauntlet.

Irding came next. It looked like he was trying to beat Einarr’s time. Einarr shook his head, smiling at the other young man as he crossed the finish line into the stair. Einarr’s hair had merely stood on end: Irding’s smelled of smoke.

Erik and Jorir made it with little issue, despite their twin and opposite problems of size. That only left Runa, who stood staring across at Einarr with indecision. He nodded encouragement to her, beckoning her on, and she set her jaw. That’s my Runa.

The lightning sizzled down again, and then Runa made her break across the floor, her dress trailing behind her. Einarr caught her hands as another flash appeared.

She was smoking. Or, rather, her skirt was. Runa herself seemed to be fine.

“Turn around.” When she obliged, Einarr beat out the flames licking her skirt at the edges of where the lightning had struck.

Nothing else in the tower slowed them more than a moment. There were more arrows and knives, and even another ramp, but as the sun sank below the horizon and seemed to light the sea on fire they stood in the Gestrisni catching their breath.

“See, Jorir? Not a problem at all.” Einarr could not quite repress a smile. In spite of everything, that had almost been fun.

“Are ye sure about that, lad?” Jorir’s voice was oddly flat, but Einarr still heard the edge in it.

“Why, what do you —” He turned his head to look at his man-at-arms and suddenly he knew what the problem was. The Gestrisni now sat in the open ocean, not a rock to be seen. All around them, the water was perfectly still, and there wasn’t so much as a breeze to stir a lock of hair among them. He had to let that sink in a moment before he found anything to say. “I hope we’re all ready to row.”

Jorir grunted. “I’m decent at navigating by the stars, as well. At least we won’t be striking out blindly.”

Erik snorted. “You let me an’ Irding worry about the oars, Einarr. You and your lady should keep watch.”

To that, Einarr nodded easy agreement. “My thanks. In that case, oh fearless navigator, let’s have a look at the charts.”


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So ends Book 5 of Einarr’s adventures. Book 6 will pick up right where we left off, with our heroes lost in the middle of the ocean, on November 13. By then, I should be comfortably ensconced in my new home in Pago Pago. If you’d like to read about our adventures abroad (with an infant!), I will be starting a separate blog for just that purpose.

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 Smashwords, 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.

5.29 – Örlögnir

Runa frowned at the distaffs laying neatly in a row on the shelf of the loft. The description the Matrons had left them had only narrowed it down to two, and she seemed as reluctant to risk picking one up to examine it as Einarr was.

“The Örlögnir untangles fate,” she mused. “Probably our clue is in the pattern of the inlay.”

Einarr peered more closely at the two they were considering. “But… they look the same to me?”

On each, there was a pattern of cross-hatching that seemed vaguely familiar to him, as well as a small round symbol that was difficult to discern in the smoky light up here. It could have been either the Vegvisir or the Helm of Awe, he just couldn’t see without picking it up.

Runa solved this issue neatly by kneeling on the floor to examine the two hazel and ivory distaffs. Feeling stupid, Einarr crouched next to her.

One of the distaffs was plainly the Helm of Awe, and the other was the Runic Compass. Protection, and Guidance. Only, either of them could be appropriate here, depending on if the craftsman considered it primarily curative or if its use would be more broadly entwined with the Norns’ workings.

He looked at Runa from the corner of his eye, hoping she might have a better idea. Her lips were pursed into a line, and her eyes darted between them. Comparing, he was sure. “Well?”

“A moment. It’s down to the hatching.”

Einarr grunted agreement.

“We’re looking at either the Web of Wyrd or Gugnir, on both of them, but I feel like my eyes are playing tricks on me in the light.”

“That one has the Helm of Awe, if it helps.” He pointed to the one on the right, with crossed diamonds encircling the handle in bands. “And that one has the Runic Compass.”

She nodded, frowning. “That’s what I thought I saw, yes. …If only there were a surface I could draw on.”

“Plenty of dust on the floor.”

Runa hummed, looking doubtfully down at the floorboards. “It will have to do, I suppose. Fine.”

She turned toward him and stretched an arm down to draw some quick lines in the dust, and her braid slipped down over her elegant shoulder. Beautiful and brilliant. Could any man be luckier?

Runa cleared her throat and shot him an impatient look.

Right. Focus, man. “Sorry.”

She hummed and looked back down at the hatch mark patterns she had drawn in the dust. “One of these is Gugnir. The other is the Web of Wyrd. We want the one – I think – that has the Web of Wyrd drawn on it.”

Einarr looked down and examined them. They were both familiar, and very similar to each other. The primary difference, as he studied her work, seemed to be the vertical lines running through the angles. “The web is the one built like a ladder of the other, more or less?”

“More or less, yes.”

He nodded, then turned his attention back to the line of artefacts. If he wanted the cross-hatch pattern that was bounded by three lines, then that meant… He got down on his knees and leaned against the edge of the shelf. His eyes, too, seemed to be playing tricks, but being named Cursebreaker had to be worth something, didn’t it?

He peered, and as he peered he blinked, and slowly the inlay pattern of ivory on pale wood came clear. The one that was banded by the Web of Wyrd was also the one stamped with the Vegvisir.

Einarr swallowed. Logically, that had to be right, didn’t it? With no little hesitation, he reached out for the distaff on the left.

Runa’s voice stopped his hand inches from the handle. “Are you sure?”

He paused, considering, and turned his head to look over his shoulder. “It shows the Web of Wyrd, like you said I should look for, and the Runic Compass. Guidance and Fate. That sounds like what we were told to look for, doesn’t it?”

She pressed her lips together, still worried, but nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. Only…”

“Only?”

“Only this feels too straightforward.”

“You’re saying I should take the one stamped with the Helm of Awe and Gugnir?”

“No…”

“I think it’s our best bet. You said it yourself, you’ve had little to do other than study. If you say we want the web pattern and not the spear pattern, I’ll trust you.”

“But what if…?”

“You’re wrong? Then we fail. But sometimes, you just have to trust your gut. And my gut says we reasoned right.”

Einarr gave himself no more time to deliberate. As the last word left his mouth, his hand closed on the handle of the distaff he had chosen.

A cawing erupted from the floor below, and Einarr felt a vibration beneath his feet. He doubted the tower would actually collapse about their heads, but there was absolutely no reason to stay now.

Einarr thrust the distaff through his baldric and slid down the side rails of the ladder, but then he stopped. He would not be his father’s son if he did not help the lady down, after all.

Runa hardly needed the help, although she accepted it with grace. Then they were off again, their companions standing at the top of the stair and waving them on to hurry. Of Huginn and Muninn, Einarr saw no sign save a pair of black feathers on the ground in front of the fire. The white one woven into his buckle caught his eye and he paused. On impulse, he turned to the others. “Go on ahead. I’ll catch up.”

“Are ye daft, man?” Jorir looked at him as though he quite believed his Lord was.

Einarr grinned back. This was foolish, sure, but it was also not an opportunity he could stand to let pass. “Perhaps. Don’t worry: I’ll be fine. I’ll catch up by the time you hit the apothecary room.”


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Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by! 

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 Smashwords, 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.

5.28 – Huginn and Muninn

A fireplace dominated one wall of the long, rectangular room, and in front of that fireplace stood a thick pine pole. A pair of posts extended out from either side of the pole, and once the feathers settled down Einarr faced the impassive stares of two enormous ravens. He swallowed.

Unsure how one addresses the beings one intends to steal from, he took a step further into the room. “I am Einarr, son of Stigander, of Raenshold. I believe you know why we are here.”

One of the ravens cocked its head to the side and croaked “Cursebreaker.”

The other one dipped as though to grab a morsel of food from thin air. “First accursed.”

“I’m… going to take that as a yes.” Einarr stepped further into the room, never taking his eyes from Wotan’s familiars.

The one who had dipped its head lifted it again with a jerk to stare past Einarr. Runa stepped into the hall, all grace and beauty and self-assurance.

“I hope you will forgive our intrusion, noble birds,” she crooned.

The first raven lifted its open beak in the air and seemed to laugh at her pretense. No-one called ravens noble, even if they were a god’s familiars. “Wily,” it cawed.

“Broken Breaker,” the other began. “Unsnarl the web you hang in.”

“Frigg permits.”

“Wotan reclaims.”

“Be quick!”

Einarr started toward where he could just make out a ladder into what would ordinarily be a loft.

“Touch nothing.”

He stopped at the last command. “Which is it?”

Both birds spoke together now. “Be quick! Touch nothing. Cursebreaker must break his own curse.”

“Hand of Hel grows strong.”

“Frigg permits. Wotan reclaims.”

Confused, Einarr looked with a furrowed brow to first Runa, who shrugged, and then Jorir, still outside the door.

“The Örlögnir,” Jorir mouthed. “Just don’t take anything else.”

Ah. Right. He nodded gratefully at his liege-man and hurried for the dimly glimpsed ladder.

The hall grew smoky as Einarr neared the loft, and his steps seemed to echo in his own ears, but he could still hear the clipped phrases of Huginn and Muninn as Runa attempted to speak with them. It seemed to him that they were teasing her, the thought of which amused him more than he would admit – to her.

Up the ladder he went, the side rails clattering against the wall with every step. The smoke above was thick enough to make his eyes and throat burn: he hoped he could recognize the Örlögnir for what it was: it had been a good long time since he had seen Grimhildr spinning, and he didn’t remember much about hers other than it was a long rod with a pointed end.

The loft was filled with chests, stacked haphazardly, many of them half-open. Inside some of them glinted gold or jewels to tempt a saint. Einarr paused before the fourth of these before shaking his head. They had plenty of wealth after the Allthane’s hoard, or at least they should, but they had no other way of quelling the black blood that tainted both their crews.

“Going to have to try harder than that to throw me off,” he muttered as he continued back, his eyes scanning for the half-remembered shape.

One of the ravens below laughed. The raucous caw grated on Einarr’s nerves.

Then, finally, he spotted a shelf running along the side of the loft. An arrow slit in the wall allowed a thin beam of light to slant down along its length. On it lay a series of rods.

“They said it was… ivory inlaid,” he muttered, trying to remember exactly how the wise women had described it. Five of the rods before him, however, had ivory inlays of various designs. That narrowed it down a little, anyway. But what was the type of wood?

Holly? Hazel? Birch? It was something pale, he felt certain. That narrowed it down to four, at least. …There was someone else along who would know. Runa had been there when the quest was handed down, and was a Singer besides. With a nod, he fixed the place in his mind and went back to the ladder to call across the room. “Runa?”

A raven cackled, as though it knew why he called.

“What is it?” She sounded exasperated.

“Can you leave the others to converse with our hosts? I could use a hand.”

“Go, Lady,” Jorir rumbled, audible all the way across the hall.

Runa exchanged a few words with the dwarf, too low for Einarr to hear, and then nodded. She picked up her skirts and headed back toward the loft.

“I’d hardly call it conversing,” she muttered as she dusted off her hands. “Blasted birds just love being cryptic.”

“Aren’t you the one who was excited to match wits with them?”

Runa hummed. “So what was it you wanted me for?”

“There are a lot of distaffs up here, assuming I remember aright what one looks like. I’ve got it down to four. I’m hoping you can help me narrow it down.”

She smiled at him, and his heart skipped a beat again just like it had every time last winter. “Let’s have a look.”

Einarr led her back toward the shelf. “I don’t suppose you managed to figure out what happens if we get the wrong one?”

She shook her head. “Best case? We get back and find out the Matron’s ritual doesn’t work. Worst case, we bring the tower down on our heads and the ritual fails.”

“I was afraid of that. Well. Let’s figure this out right, then.”

The rods all lay on the shelf exactly where Einarr had found them. He had not dared move them around as he sorted, just in case the ravens’ “touch nothing” had been a little more literal than Jorir seemed to think.

“That one,” he pointed to one that looked like birch with ivory knotwork. “Or one of these three.” The last set, all near to each other, was one holly and two hazel, if his woodcraft did not fail him.

Runa pursed her lips. “Hazel and ivory, they said, for purification. …Which I think means it’s one of these two?”

Einarr groaned. He’d been afraid of that, as the only sample there were two of. If he could touch them… but no. All of them were sure to be magical in some way or another. Nothing for it but to go over the lore. “What else do we know of the distaff?”


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Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by! 

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 Smashwords, 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.

5.6 – At the Blue Hall

The public hall where Einarr found the Vidofnings and Brunnings was surprisingly large for a town no bigger than East Port. If Einarr had to take a guess, most of their custom came from ships such as their own, here to call on the Conclave.

A cheer went up as the door swung open under Reki’s hand. Inside the hall was as warm and cheery as one might expect at the end of a good season of raiding. With a grin, Einarr moved to join his crewmates with a drink while Reki went to report to Stigander. All eight of their party were able to breathe a sigh of relief when they saw that there had, in fact, been no transformations as of yet – only the complaints they had grown used to of nausea and headaches as though their crews had both contracted a lingering flu.

Even Reki’s news did not dampen their enthusiasm: if anything, the fact that they had found their “cure” before the corruption had claimed anyone was another victory over the madmen of the cult. Then it was Einarr’s turn.

“I’ve been given another impossible quest, I’m afraid, Father.”

“Feh. Do skalds give any other kind?”

“Not likely.”

“Well, what is it now?”

“I’m to travel to the Tower of Ravens and steal Frigg’s distaff out from under the noses of Huginn and Muninn.”

Stigander looked just as confused as Einarr had. “What in the depths of all the seas do you need that for?”

“Untangling fate, they say, and ridding us of the cult’s corruption for good.”

His father shook his head and wiped his hand down his moustaches, his expression changing from amusement to consternation and back again. “Well, if there’s anyone in this lot who can manage it, I’d lay my odds on you.”

Sivid could do it, if it weren’t for his accursed luck. “Thank you, Father. The Matrons said the tower required a smaller boat to reach: I’m to pay a call on a fisherman in the morning regarding the use of a boat. I’d like to take some of the crew along.”

“Long as they’re up for it, same as before. …This distaff, you said it untangles fate?”

Einarr nodded, and his father harrumphed. There was no need to say it: such a thing could easily break the Weaver’s curse on their homeland. He turned back to the hall full of his fellow Vidofnings.

“All right, everyone! Just like this spring, I need a few of you to venture out in a little fishing boat with me. This time we’re braving the wrath of a god!”

His pronouncement was followed by a peal of laughter, even by those who had heard the Matrons’ pronouncement at the Conclave.

Jorir, to no-one’s surprise, was the first to step forward. “Come hel or high water, I’m with ye.”

Einarr inclined his head at his man-at-arms. “Thank you, Jorir. Who else?”

The next man to step forward was gangly Irding, neither as tall nor as muscle-bound as his father but with the same brown hair and reckless grin. “Sounds like fun. I’ll give it a go.”

Erik’s head snapped around to look at his son. “You sure about that? We got into a heap o’ trouble going after the Isinntog.”

“I know. That’s why it sounds like fun.” Irding grinned at his father, and Erik laughed loudly.

“Who’m I kidding? Of course it does. Count me in, too.”

Einarr’s mouth curled in a half-smile. Irding looked a little less happy at the prospect now that Erik was also along, but it would be good for them. “Great. Anyone else? I expect we’ll have to work our way past traps, and if anyone knows how to read runes it would be a help.”

“I already told you, I’m coming,” Runa said, standing at the table.

“No, you’re not. There’s no telling what sort of violence we might come across.”

“You’re invading the tower of Huginn and Muninn. You need someone familiar with magic, who can read runes. I’m coming.”

Aema, the Brunning’s battle-chanter, stepped forward. “You’re hardly the only one here with those qualifications.”

“No, but I’m the only one here with those qualifications who isn’t needed here. You and Reki both have crews to tend, full of men doused with corrupted blood, and I do not. I may be a Jarl’s daughter, but that doesn’t make me useless.”

“Maybe not,” Trabbi rumbled, “but if anything should happen to you your Father will have my head. He may even if you go along and nothing happens.”

Runa met her erstwhile suitor’s eyes. “On my word of honor, I will not allow that to happen.”

Trabbi scowled back. “You have no more place on that boat than I do, my Lady.”

“That is where you’re wrong.” She turned her attention back to Einarr, and he felt the old familiar thrill. “What was it that the alfr gave you in the wood?”

“Some bauble he thought would help us through the tower, though at the moment I can’t see how.” That had been the way of Runa’s gifts, too, given as they left to seek the Jotünhall.

“Give it here.”

Einarr shrugged and removed the bird-shaped brooch from the pouch at his belt. “Doesn’t the use typically become plain when you need it?”

All three Singers rolled their eyes at him even as Runa took hold of the brooch and blanched.

Einarr couldn’t help the question. “What is it?”

“Let us hope the use becomes plain, because while I can read the runes, they look like so much nonsense.”

Reki threaded her way through the room to take a closer look. She raised pale eyebrows and let loose a low whistle. “Well, at the very least your elf-gift should actually be of use. How did he get this, though?”

“See, Runa? I’m sure we’ll be able to muddle through-”

“So long as you have someone who can read the runes. You need me, and one way or another I’m coming.” Runa’s jaw was set. Einarr turned to Bollinn.

The new Captain of the Skudbrun sighed. “I don’t think there’s any stopping her at this point. Over my own better judgement, I’ll allow it.”

Runa smiled in triumph. Einarr hoped she wouldn’t regret her insistence.


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Hi, everyone! Thanks for stopping by!

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 Smashwords, 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. I just reworked my reward tiers, so I hope you’ll give it another look.

5.5 – Whispering Woods

Einarr set his jaw. Cursing himself for a fool, and glad he hadn’t moved his feet just there, he turned himself exactly around. He was a decent tracker, even if he’d never been able to do a lot of hunting: with a little luck he’d be able to retrace his own steps.

Behind him, though, the path soon disappeared into an impenetrable bramble of thorns into which his boot prints disappeared. He attempted to follow around the outside of the thicket, but there, too, the thorns grew – so quickly they seemed to sprout and curl before his eyes. Whatever else this trickster spirit is, it certainly is persistent. Frowning harder now, he turned back around and marched further in.

“I don’t know who you are or what you want, but I will have you return me to my friends,” he announced to the forest around him. No answer came, save the trilling of bird song. At least it’s not cawing. Of the many hazards of stealing the Őrlögnir, one that he had not until this moment contemplated was that he would be going against Wotan’s personal spies. He cursed aloud.

“Oh, there’s no cause for that now.” The voice was light and airy, although still masculine, and seemed to come out of thin air.

Einarr stopped, his hand traveling to Sinmora’s hilt. “Who are you?”

The slender, almost effeminate form of a male alfr separated itself from a tree just ahead of him on the path. “Does it matter?”

Einarr would swear the elf had not been there before: his clothes were the color of tree bark, true, but his hair was as golden as the Oracle’s, and his skin fairer than Runa’s. Einarr stared openly at the creature, waiting for an answer.

“You may call me Ystävä.”

Well, that name couldn’t be more obviously fake. “I shall choose my own friends, thank you. What do you want?”

“Let us say that I, too, have an interest in your success on this quest. I have something which may aid you…”

“I see. And what would the price of this aid be?” Everyone knew that alfr “gifts” came at a heavy price.

The elf smirked. “Are you, perhaps, not so stupid as you first appear?”

Einarr bristled, but was not given a chance to retort.

“But I am not here to play games with you. As pleasant as that can be, I must mind your mortal time if this is to work. There is a small task I will ask you to perform with Frigg’s distaff once you acquire it – nothing major, and you will alleviate a great deal of suffering by doing so.”

“And if I refuse?”

“Refuse?” The alfr laughed, the notes as musical as any Singer’s. “Perhaps you are entirely stupid. You allowed yourself to be drawn into my domain, and in my domain you will stay until I decide otherwise. You have my word, on the font of Art itself and by the hand of Tyr, that my request will not violate your conscience or your father’s.”

Einarr glared at the elf. “I mistrust this mysterious task of yours, but you make it plain I have no choice. Very well; give it here and I will be on my way.”

“Wonderful!” The alfr smiled, and a chill ran down Einarr’s spine when it did not touch his eyes.

“Why all this subterfuge, if what you want is so harmless?”

“Well, you see, I am known to the Circle of Singers…”

“And they don’t trust you either?”

“You wound me! What possible reason have I given you to distrust me?”

Einarr did not dignify that with a response even as the elf pouted at him.

“Very well. Spoil my fun. Here. Once you get to the tower, you’ll know what to do with it.” The elf shoved a wooden brooch into Einarr’s hand. When he opened his palm to look, it was in the shape of a raven and covered in runes.

“What -” But when he looked up from the brooch, the elf was already gone. A low growl escaped his throat.

The lush greenery almost seemed to grow back into the earth, it faded so quickly back into the oak wood he had been walking through just this morning.

A thread of song filtered through the trees from off to his right: Runa. How long had they been searching for him? Einarr set off at a jog in search of the voice.

It was not long before he could see his companions stopped on the road: they looked tired, and Reki in particular looked very annoyed by the way she held her shoulders under her cloak.

“Sorry,” he said as he approached the road, before any of them could begin to scold him. “Some ass of an alfr decided he was going to help us whether we wanted it or no.”

Reki scowled at him from under her hood. “Tell me what happened. In detail.”

Einarr sighed. And, as expected, she was even less happy with this turn of events than Einarr had been after hearing the tale.

“I take it this ‘Ystävä’ is known to you?”

“Unfortunately. And while I’m glad he returned you to us with only minimal delay…”

“You also mistrust the ‘task’ he wishes to ask of me. How long since I disappeared?”

“Half a day,” Trabbi grumbled.

Einarr bit off a curse. “Then let us discuss this further once we’re out of his little playground… whoever he actually is.”

Now Reki was not the only one setting a brisk pace: if they wanted to reach East Port before dark, speed was of the essence. Even so it was late afternoon before they emerged from the shadow of the forest, and deep into twilight before they arrived at the outskirts of the town. Einarr flared his nostrils: from here everything appeared normal, at least. There were no screams of tentacled horrors that came to his ears – or any screams at all – which had to be a good sign. He shared a glance with Reki. “Let’s go.”


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