Tag: Reki Fjorisdottir

10.20 – Berserker

Einarr heard the warriors aboard the trapped wolfling ship give a battle roar only moments before they swarmed over the boarding lines. The ship swayed under the weight of reinforcements even as the fire spread from the arrows along the deck boards.

Einarr set his mouth in a grim line. They needed to take out the wolflings quickly, before this became an inferno. And if they escape, Lundholm is done for.

Their line was solid: he stood shoulder to shoulder with his own men and the men of his father’s ship – it was still odd that those were two different things now. The first boots were pounding across the blackening deck boards. “Brace yourselves!”

Einarr lowered his shoulder. A heartbeat later, the wolflings collided with their shield wall. Einarr stabbed through the gap between his shield and Jorir’s and Sinmora’s tip came away wet with fresh blood.

The wolfling screamed, pain mixed with rage, and did not fall back. Blood ran down his leg from the wound in his thigh, and he brought his axe around to strike at Einarr.

Jorir took the opportunity and drove his axe home in the man’s already-wounded leg. The wolfling hit the deck, hard, and Jorir ensured he would not rise again. Einarr’s attention was already forward, on the next man coming to fill the hole, wondering if their captain, too, would come forward to join the melee.

The next man up tried to put his scramasax in Einarr’s side and lost his hand for his trouble. He staggered backward clutching his stump and Einarr shouldered his way forward into the gap. The crackle of fire on the deck and the reek of smoke lent an unusual urgency to Eydri and Reki’s Song. Still he resisted it: no Captain worth his salt gave in to the battle chant, not if there was any other way.

Slowly, relentlessly, he began cutting his way through the wolflings in search of their Captain. His arm began to tire, and a thousand small wounds burned across his forearms and his legs. The wolflings were falling, but they were falling hard. Where is Kaldr?

He wasn’t even certain this was Kaldr’s ship, based on what the Singers had said of the man.

One man, bigger than the other wolflings, laid about himself with a formidable hammer. Not Kaldr. Might be a leader, though. Not many men wielded hammers on the battlefield: it took a special combination of brawn and coin. Leader or not, though, the man with the hammer was plowing through Einarr’s allies like they were nothing. He raised his sword and pointed across the deck at his target.

Jorir, beside him, grunted agreement.

Einarr shouldered his way through the throng, trying to ignore just how hot it was getting on the wolfling ship. That was another reason to hurry: he couldn’t let the fire spread to the Heidrun.

There was Sivid, giving the enraged hammer-wielder a taste of his own wolf pack tactics. Sivid would bait the man into a wild swing, and while he was open dash in to cut at his legs. It looked like the other wolves were interfering, though. With a grunt, Einarr slid in between Sivid and the man about to take a stab at his kidneys.

Clang! The blade instead hit the boss of Einarr’s shield. “Got your back,” he shouted over his shoulder.

Sivid spared him a glance and a breathless “thanks” before turning back to the enemy captain.


Sivid became aware that the pressure was off his back abruptly. He risked a glance over his shoulder. Einarr? “Thanks,” he managed. Almost immediately he had to duck another swing of the massive hammer the enemy captain used.

This was, without a doubt, Frothing Urek. Tyr had said the man had made Captain somehow: Sivid had just not expected to have to face the man on the field. Why is he in the fury, though? Captain Stigander never takes it…

The hammer still whistled through the air. Sivid bounced out of the way, then lunged in to stab at the man’s exposed leg. Urek was big, but not as big as Erik. Urek was strong, but not as strong as Arring. And even Arring would have had trouble not leaving openings with a weapon like that. Sivid just hoped his stamina would hold out.

The hammer came from above this time. Sivid danced off to the side as the heavy steel head splintered the deck boards where he had been a moment before. The fire crackled, licking at the newly-made kindling.

One way or another, they needed to take Urek out of the picture before this ship took everyone to their graves. It was time to gamble.

Sivid dropped into a low lunge, darting inside the berserker’s reach and stabbing his blade home in the man’s thigh. He couldn’t stay there, though: his blade still in Urek’s leg, he dropped his other hand down to the deck and kicked his heels up.

Urek roared as the blade twisted in his thigh. Sivid’s first boot caught him in the teeth: the second in the jaw, and as he regained his feet he finally drew out the blade.

Urek turned to face Sivid again, a level of disgust showing through the rage as he popped his neck and once more started his hammer moving. Sivid scowled: he hadn’t really expected much out of the kicks, but it had been worth a try.

Urek pressed forward, sweeping his hammer back and forth in front of him, and Sivid was forced to hop backwards with every sweep. He wasn’t getting in under the man’s guard again anytime soon, it looked like.

Sivid glanced to either side nervously: those flames were far too close, and far too high, for his liking, and they hemmed him in. By the same token, he couldn’t go backward too much farther without going over the wrong side. Can I kick the rafters well enough to get clear?


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10.4 – Nerves

For a long while Einarr stood staring over the stern at the four wolfling ships that once more followed in their wake. Why had that ship been called back?

The leader of the pursuing fleet was harrying them, wearing down their morale with every league they followed and every skirmish they forced. If that ship hadn’t been called back, but instead been allowed to nip at their heels, it could have been catastrophic.

Unless the wolflings were also trying to minimize casualties? He didn’t expect it of his uncle, but perhaps if Kaldr hoped to win some of them over it was possible.

“What are they up to?” Arkja muttered from his post nearby. “Why would they just let us go like that?”

Einarr cleared his throat. “What makes you think it would be so easy as that?”

The former de-facto leader of the Forgotten sailors had the good grace to look embarrassed. “Ah, Captain, sir. It’s not that it’d be easy, per se. Just that after all the trouble we had sneaking in, we’re all of us beat. Tired. Ain’t none of us used to this sort of long campaign no more, if we ever were.”

Einarr harrumphed, but nodded anyway. The man wasn’t wrong. “Eskihus was not our only option for a resupply, Arkja. Captain Stigander has a few other options in mind. You let us worry about what they’re up to and concentrate on making it into port with the rest of us.”

“Yes, sir,” he said. The man looked chagrined, but not particularly comforted.

Einarr sighed. Arkja could not be the only one feeling that way. If he was honest with himself, he was starting to as well. With a nod to himself, he walked down the deck to where Eydri waited. She, too, stared pensively back at their pursuers.

Einarr leaned his elbows on the bulwark next to the Singer and spoke out over the sea. “Morale is dropping.”

“And water is wet,” she snapped. “Even if I refresh their bodies,” she went on, less peevishly, “Kaldr’s fleet will wear on their minds. Then you’ll have an anxious, energetic crew. Possibly even a panicky one.”

Einarr winced. A panicky crew could prove deadly at the drop of a hat. “Any thoughts, then?”

Eydri sighed now. “Talk to Bea, too. But the ghost is right about Kaldr. He’s a snake, and the way that fleet is wearing us down he’s certain to be leading it.”

“The… ghost?”

She shook her head. “Sorry. Reki.”

“Do you have something against my father’s Singer?”

She stammered a little before managing a coherent answer. “No. Not… personally. She just puts me on edge a bit. I can still work with her – under her, even, if I have to.”

“Fine. Go on, then.” It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do.

“It’s like she said over on the Vidofnir. The man is devious, and I will swear his blood is ice. The fact that he hasn’t yet struck decisively probably means there’s something he wants from us – and I haven’t the foggiest idea what.”

Einarr nodded. “I have some guesses. Where is Bea, anyway?”

“I think she cajoled Irding and some of the others into a game of dice.” Eydri rolled her eyes, but Einarr chuckled.

“More than one way to boost morale. Thanks.”


They sailed on in this way all through that night and on into the next morning, always with someone looking over their shoulders to see if the enemy had given up yet. Every time Einarr gave in and looked himself, the wolflings were still maintaining the pace.

Mid-morning, the Vidofnir abruptly changed course. They headed now between two islands that were little more than large rocks, but some little ways ahead was a larger piece of land. Is that where we’re going, or are we trying to lose our tail?

The Heidrun turned to follow, and it was as though everyone aboard held their breath, waiting.

The Vidofnir deployed oars as Stigander led his allies along the coast of this larger island. They moved quickly – perhaps faster than most of them were comfortable with, given their proximity to shore. It was, however, not enough. The shore curved gently inward, forming a shallow bay, and as they neared the far end of the bay a horn on the Eikthyrnir sounded the alarm.

Just as, rounding the island initially, there had been a collective inhale, now everyone seemed to exhale at the same time. The release of tension was followed immediately by the jangle of maille. Einarr, moving across the deck once again to reach his own gear, looked up across the water.

Arrayed across the mouth of the bay, not covering all of it by far but covering enough, all four of the wolfling ships lay in wait. Einarr’s mouth went suddenly dry and he had to swallow hard to find his voice. “To arms! All hands, to arms! Archers – form up!”

This would measure among the fights of his life, he felt certain. Behind them the apparently wild land of one of the freehold islands: ahead, a blockade they would have to run. It was that, or give up on rescuing the Jarl or retaking Breidelstein anytime soon. The land was a trap: a wall against their backs to force the men forward. Einarr scowled across at the crew scrambling into their armor and belting on their blades. They were jittery.

It did not take him long to spot Eydri. Just who I was looking for. It was time for her to Sing and hope the battle fury would blunt their nerves.


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10.2 – Strategy

A note in Jorir’s voice caught Einarr’s ear. “Well, spit it out. What’s the matter?”

“Only this. How many more skirmishes like that can we take?”

Einarr frowned. “That probably depends on how many volleys we have to fire. You’re concerned about supplies, then.”

“Aye. That, and manpower.”

“You’re right, of course.” Movement caught Einarr’s eye from the deck of the Vidofnir. “That’s Bardr, signalling a conference. You, Tyr, and Eydri, and Vali with me.”

“Not that I question your wisdom, but why the ghost?”

“Same reason as Tyr. Experience.”

Jorir harrumphed but said no more.

Half an hour later, all three Captains were gathered on board the Vidofnir with their Mates and advisors. Einarr had brought the largest contingent, but neither Father nor Captain Kormund so much as batted an eye.

Stigander locked eyes with Tyr and nodded in greeting. “Tyr.”

“C- Stigander.”

“You see anyone you know on those ships?”

“One or two.”

“Good.” Stigander turned his attention now to the other Captains. “How are your crews holding out.”

“Well enough, Father, but…”

Captain Kormund shook his head. “The men are getting tired, Stigander, and we’re going to need not just food and water but arrows and pitch and bandages before long.”

Jorir made a rumbling noise that might have been a chuckle as Einarr nodded.

“Exactly. Is there still a town near Afi’s old freehold?” It had been safe enough for him to summer there after Breidelstein fell, after all.

Stigander frowned. “I haven’t heard if they recovered or not. But there’s not often a lot of news coming out of the smaller islands like that, so we might not have. And if they’re not terribly happy to see me, there were others nearby.”

“Why would they have anything to hold against us?”

Stigander raised his eyebrows. “You were there. You can’t tell me you didn’t know.”

Einarr’s answer was to look at his father with greater confusion.

The older man sighed. “Those raiders who burned the town and killed your grandparents? They were Ulfr’s men, under a false flag. Looking for us.”

“Ah.”

Nevertheless, Stigander nodded to Bardr, who stepped away to give their new heading to Arring at the tiller. That done, Stigander turned back to their conference. “Now then. Tyr, you said you caught sight of some familiar faces during the fighting?”

“Oh, aye. And some of them men I’d never have expected to see live this long, let alone taking the helm.”

Tyr settled himself on a barrel near the mast. “Let’s start with the dangerous one – the one our Singers warned us about.”

Reki scowled. “Kaldr.”

Einarr perked up. “You remember him? Was he as odd about magic before the Weaving?”

“Oh, aye. But you see, I remember his pabbi, too. Man was always blaming his own mistakes on ‘bewitchment,’ and it seemed like he was always in some sort of trouble. But however weird he is about the Arts, that’s not what makes him dangerous.”

Eydri nodded in agreement. “He’s devious as a snake, and just as bloodless.”

“You say ‘devious,’ I say ‘clever,’ and he plainly has a good head for strategy. Is he still following us?”

Einarr glanced back into the wake of their passage and pursed his lips. “Yes.”

“I’d have been more surprised if he wasn’t,” Hraerek grumbled, and Captain Kormund nodded in agreement.

“Plainly he intends to harry us into submission,” Stigander said, his arms crossed. “Just as plainly, we need time to rest the men and resupply our ships if we’re going to win back the Isles. But we’ve already set course to deal with just that. What of the others?”

“Men who, I think, would have long since retired under you or Lord Raen, that I saw. None of whom would have gained their own ship in that circumstance. I suspect the Usurper chose his Captains based on toadying and biddability more than skill. If you can believe it, Stigander, it looks like little Frothing Urek has a commission.”

Stigander snorted. “Him? The one who you could goad into a fight by disagreeing over the weather?”

“The very same.” Tyr chuckled along with his old Captain.

“I wonder if he ever grew out of that?”

“If not,” Kormund mused. “We can use that. He’s also, presumably, the sort who can’t back down?”

“If he’s the same as he used to be, yes.”

Einarr shook his head. “And he’s a Captain? Well. If he’s working under Kaldr, he’s not going to tolerate this harrying strategy. That gives us something we can try, at least.”

The conference continued in this way throughout the rest of the day as the three ships sailed for one of the outlying islands, tailed by three of the wolfling ships keeping just out of bow range. Eventually Einarr sent Vali back to the Heidrun with the plan as it existed.

“And Vali? Ask Hrug to be ready to destroy those rugs when we make landfall.”

The ghost gave a wry smile and a mocking salute before winking out of existence. Einarr shook his head and turned his attention back to their discussion.

Captain Kormund and Hraerek, his Mate, stared, agog.

“Did you… not know about him?”

Kormund cleared his throat. “I had heard you had a ghost among your crew, but…”

“But the sheer insolence of it!” Hraerek chuckled. Bardr smirked.

“Far be it for me to tell you how to run your ship…” Kormund cleared his throat, plainly intending to do just that until Stigander raised a forestalling hand.

“I’ve seen no sign since his return from Svartlauf that suggests discipline slips under his command.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Stigander nodded acknowledgement. “Be cautious, however. The friendlier you are with your crew, the worse it will be when you have to make the hard call.”

Einarr swallowed, then inclined his head in return. He had thought of that, long and hard, after taking Hrug’s hand the previous fall. But, in the end, he knew he could be no other way.

“There is one last thing we must consider, Father.”

“Oh?”

“Will our hunters strike at us in port?”


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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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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.

9.30 – Search

Author’s Note: My apologies for the long delay. I got about 3 hours sleep on our redeye flight from Pago Pago, and then couldn’t stay awake well enough to finish while we were in Honolulu. We’re safely ensconced in Portland now, so Thursday’s chapter should be more or less on time. My hope is to have book 9 finished before we fly to Saipan in the middle of February.


Reki threw open the door to Urdr’s workroom with a bang, just in time to see the old woman disappearing through the door they had seen earlier. She raced across the floor, the others hard on her heels, but even if the room had not been littered with baskets of thread they would not have made it in time. Halfway there, she heard the sound of a key turning in a lock.

Reki stopped and swore. Bea continued on, heedless, and slammed the hilt of her sword into the door as though she intended to break it down.

“Bea. We don’t have time for that.”

She took another swing at the door, leaving a pommel-shaped divot in the wood. “What are you talking about? We can’t just let her get away!”

“Bea! We do not have time for that. How long do you really think we have before more guards show up? You yourself said your fight in the stairwell was not quiet.” Reki took a deep breath. “The important thing right now is to get the tapestry. Even if we can’t destroy it, Einarr has the distaff.”

Eydri had already moved to the nearest of the cupboards that lined the walls and was glancing over the smaller tapestries stored inside. “Don’t we already know which one we really need?”

“You mean the one on the loom, that looks like it shows what already happened this morning?” Aema answered, tossing a cloth over her arm even as she unrolled another. Urdr had been nothing if not prolific.

Reki surveyed the cloths hanging from the wall, searching for images she was reasonably sure she didn’t want to leave in the crone’s possession. “I’d assumed that was part of the trap.”

“Why would it be?”

“Because it would be too easy otherwise. And because everything else we saw when we walked in was.”

Runa hummed. “She was pretty confident her toughs could capture us, though. And if that’s the case, and she has to work on that weaving regularly – which I expect she would – then why would she put a fake tapestry on her loom? It seems like an awful lot of work for not much benefit.”

Reki shrugged one shoulder. “It can’t hurt to take it. Bea, would you?”

“Gladly.”

The warrior princess straightened her tunic as she stepped away from the locked door and toward the loom that was the centerpiece of the room. As she moved, she brought her sword around and down. The last few steps she ran, bringing the blade up into an overhand chop.

It struck the center of the tapestry with a clang, as though she were striking steel. Bea frowned.

Svana hummed. “And here I thought it was probably bravado when she said we couldn’t damage the thing.”

“Evidently not,” Reki mused. “All right. In that case… Runa, Svana, give Bea a hand getting that down.” It was gratifying that none of them questioned her. Even Eydri, and Reki’d had some worries about working with her.

There was one other thing they needed to do before they absconded down to the harbor, however. Reki turned her attention from the tapestries hanging on the walls to the sconces between them. The room seemed to be lit by lamps, however, and an oil-soaked wick would never do what she wanted.

Before she could venture out into the hallway behind them, though, she heard voices. Grimacing, she pulled it mostly closed behind her and watched through the crack to see what they would have to deal with.

The tromp of boots came, and went, and the two men in the hall wagered over whether the godawful shriek they’d heard earlier had been someone named Frotti tripping over a rat or a cat in heat. Worst guards ever? …No. Listen. Watch. Wait.

The footsteps tromped on, though, and soon enough she could not hear them anymore. Cautiously, Reki poked her head outside the door. The men were nowhere to be seen. She snatched the torch from the sconce by the door and disappeared back into the workroom.

“You have it?” She demanded.

“Nearly there,” Svana answered, undoing a knot.

“Good. We’re going to have company soon.”

“There! That should do it.” Runa unhooked another thread and the whole thing collapsed like a sail with no wind. The three women bringing it down crumpled it into a rough tube and tossed it over Bea’s shoulders.

Reki stalked forward, her torch in hand, as she heard noises of alarm from the hall behind them. Someone, she would wager, had spotted the blood. She raised the torch and laid the flame to the wood of Urdr’s loom.

Unlike the Oracle’s, this loom was not magical in and of itself. Before long, the aged timber began to blacken and smoke. As flames rose from the loom, Reki lit each of the cabinets, then tossed the torch into a basket of thread. “Run.”


Reki had led her circle of women down into the dugeons below the tower by the time she heard the clangor of alarm bells. She made a mental note to never try to manipulate fate. If this was any indication, when a Weaver’s misdeeds unravel it happens all at once. A Singer’s misdeeds, though….

She shook her head. Focus. “Runa! Lead on. Get us out of here!”

The apprentice took the lead, and it was good she did. Reki was not certain, in her circumstances, whether she could have. They pelted through twisting dungeon corridors, panting under the weight of their stolen tapestries. Runa only had to pause a handful of times to remember her route.

At one point Runa hesitated. A man’s groans could be heard echoing down the hallway, and the smell of smoke tickled her nostrils. Her father? Reki took a deep breath. “Go ahead. I’m not sure I trust them to remember the prisoners anyway.”

The man who emerged from the cell Runa opened bore little resemblance to the man Reki had met, briefly, the previous spring. Though dirty, haggard, and as wan as though he had been the victim of Urdr’s ministrations, Jarl Hroaldr retained his proud bearing.

“Can you run?” Runa asked, anxious. When her father shook his head, she turned pleading eyes to Bea.

“Of course I’ll help.”

There was some shifting of loads, but when they’d finished Bea carried the Jarl on her back, his arms slung over her shoulders, and Runa led the way out into the bright light of day.

When they emerged from the dimness of the tunnels they found themselves halfway down the cliff, on a tiny trail that might sometimes see use by wild animals. Their progress slowed now, as they picked their way down the rocky path, sometimes pressing their backs against the rock wall for balance.

Finally they made it to the bottom of the cliff. Just ahead was a small river, or perhaps a large creek, flowing out towards the harbor. Runa stopped at the water’s edge and looked about anxiously.

“There’s no boat, though.”

“Maybe if we walk downstream?” Eydri ventured.

“I’m not sure anyone knew about this place other than those two….”

Reki cleared her throat. “Look again.”

There, rowing quietly up the waterway, a boat approached.


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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.

9.29 – Regrouping

Author Note: On Monday night, we will be flying out of Pago Pago headed for Portland and, ultimately, Saipan. Due to the vagaries of moving and airport/hotel internet, Tuesday’s post may be somewhat delayed. My apologies, and thank you for understanding


Bea stood on guard, two steps up from the last of Urdr’s guards. Her opponent watched her, cautious. Like his fellows, he’d seen her struggle before. Unlike his fellows, he’d just watched her break a man’s nose before taking his head. And… there was something else.

“You’re not bad,” he muttered. “But why are you here? You’re not from the North.”

“Thanks,” she answered, just as quietly. “I’ve decided the climate does wonders for my complexion, though.”

The man snorted, still studying her. She was not as good with a sword as with a spear, not by a long shot, but with the high ground and a narrow space she didn’t need to be.

“If you give me your word you will not alert the tower, I will let you see to your friend there.” She looked over his shoulder toward the man whose arm she had taken.

“You think that’s an option? Even if I could betray the Lady’s trust, he already alerted the tower.”

Tcheh. I was afraid of that. “That so? Unfortunate.”

Without giving him a chance to respond, she feinted for his sword arm. When he twisted away to avoid the blow, Bea brought the flat of her blade up and across, clocking him on the jaw.

He hardly seemed to notice, striking upwards when she expected him to be reeling back and drawing a line of blood across her thigh. Yes, Einarr – or at least his father – would definitely want this one left alive. She could do that. Probably.

Bea backed up another step, not really expecting the man to drop his guard. He kept pace, adjusting his grip on the hilt of his blade. Can’t drag this out too long, either. The others will start to worry. Her opponent, though, was proving difficult to bait.

She made another testing feint, this time at his forward leg, which he swatted away easily.

“Tsk, tsk. I know you’re a better warrior than that.”

“Sorry. I’ve got more important things to do than keep some nobody entertained here.”

He twitched. He regained his mask of calm quickly, but he definitely twitched. Finally, something she could use.

“You’re an awfully skillful warrior to be stuck guarding the false Thane’s mother, of all people, when there are enemies at the gate. They question your loyalty, don’t they? They think you’ll betray them, so they keep you stuck at home. Home, where you can’t gain any glory at all.”

“So long as we follow the Lady Urdr’s commands, Breidelsteinn will never fall,” he said through clenched teeth. “It is… an honor… to be made one of her guards.”

Maybe it was, but not to him. Not if Bea was reading him right. “That’s all well and good – for the Usurper and his Black Arts mother. If it weren’t for them, you’d be a Captain by now.”

The man paled, then shook his head. “Let us end this.”

Bea smirked even as the man lashed wildly towards her with his sword. She dodged easily, the steel barely brushing her own shirt of maille. Before he could regain his balance, Bea struck out. As with the man whose arm she’d taken, she struck with the hilt to the back of the neck. The man crumpled to the ground.

“About time,” she muttered, taking a moment to catch her breath.


The Usurper Wolf was not happy.

Reki wished she could be more pleased about that knowledge, but at present she didn’t see how it could help them. For five minutes she had pressed her ear to the door where he sat, berating Captain Kaldr for things outside of his control – such as allowing the ships into port at all, when he had plainly been grounded since he brought them in. The others had already closeted themselves on the other side of the hallway.

Reki turned to find the door, and saw Bea emerge out of the staircase. The young woman trotted toward her, somewhat bloody.

“Tell me -”

Reki put a finger to her puckered lips in the universal sign for ‘shush.’ Obligingly, Bea lowered her voice.

“Tell me you have good news.”

Reki shrugged. “The stair is clear?”

“Of everything but bodies. One of them might wake up in a bit, although I doubt he’ll be a threat once he does.”

She moved two doors down the hall and rapped lightly in a prearranged signal. “Good enough.”

“But what about…?” She gestured toward the main door.

“If we had some way to bar it, we could set it and, probably, the whole tower ablaze, and likely end this. But it opens inward, and Lord Stigander would never forgive me.”

“Ah.”

If she was honest, it was that last she cared about. That, and that damnable Victory Weaving the crone had bragged about.

“Besides,” Bea supplied, looking at her askance. “We do that before we wreck that loom, and the Usurper’s just going to find a way to wriggle out of it.”

Reki gave her a wry smile as the door opened. “Exactly. Come on, ladies, let’s go. We have a Weaving to steal.”

The other Singers, as they left their momentary hiding place, were by turns grim and eager. Good. They understand what we have ahead of us.

Reki let Bea lead them back down the stair. It was, after all, the site of her victory – and she was the one who knew where to step around the bodies, at least presumably. She herself brought up the rear. When the others had all disappeared down the stair, she took one last look down the hallway towards the room where her enemy sat.

The door was open. Kaldr stepped out into the hall, his eyes downcast but not defeated. He looked annoyed, she thought. Quickly Reki, too, slipped into the stairwell and pulled the door closed as silently as she could. That had been entirely too close.


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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.

9.28 – A Single Blade

Beatrix lunged, taking a mighty swipe with her sword around the curve of the stair at the guards who pursued them up it. The dull thud of a blade striking home was followed by the clattering of maille dropping to the floor as the man wearing it fell. She turned her head just enough to glance over her shoulder. “Keep going! I can hold the stair.”

The Singers all exchanged worried glances. Eydri opened her mouth to protest, but Runa cut her off.

“No. She’s right. She can hold this stair by herself, probably for a good long time… although I’d be happier if we could lend support.”

“What, with that barbaric battle chant? No, thanks. Clear us a path.”

The second of the guards had made his way up to his partner’s body. A longsword swung clumsily up around the curve, as though he was having trouble with his footing. He might well be, between the blood and the bulk of the body itself. Bea swatted it handily away.

“Go!”

Reki gave a quick nod of acknowledgement before dashing up the stairs after her fellow Singers. Runa lingered a moment longer, meeting the other girl’s eyes, before she, too, nodded and hurried up the stairs.

Bea, meanwhile, tightened her grip on her sword, wishing she hadn’t left her spear on the Arkona even as she was glad she had. The sword, after all, had only come with her by chance. A spear would not have, and she’d have been as disarmed as the others.

Hurry, she mentally urged. If the guards below were thinking, one of them would have alerted the tower. She did not hear alarm bells, though, which suggested that had not been the case. Therefore, if the others could find them an escape…

The second guard seemed to have found his footing again. Once more his longsword flashed around the corner. This time, Bea slammed her sword down on his elbow. Subtle. She let out an exasperated sigh as the man screamed in pain. Not that she could blame him, really – but who needs alarm bells when your guards will scream to wake the dead? She took two steps forward and clubbed the back of his head with her hilt.

The other two were hard on his heels. Bea sliced at the knees of the one in front before scrambling back up the steps to just past the landing. They had seen her, which was no bad thing. Now she needed to give a little ground. So long as they still thought they could catch her themselves, they would not call for help. And if they called for help, things would get very bad, very fast.

The sound of a heavy boot on the stair behind her made her turn, her first foot on the stair after the landing, to see the first of the remaining pair rounding the bend. She took two steps up backwards, her blade held steady before her.

Urdr’s guard leered at her as he prowled forward. Amazing, the confidence he still had after seeing his friends defeated so handily. He must be discounting the advantage of the stairway because of how much trouble she’d had in his mistress’ workroom.

The man made a testing swipe at her feet. Bea raised her foot and brought it down on the flat of the blade before meeting his eyes with a savage grin.

Before he could react, she shifted all her weight to the foot that pinned his sword and kicked him in the nose, hard enough she could hear the bone snap.

Now rage burned in his eyes, even as he clapped one hand over his broken and suddenly bleeding nose. He stood there, reeling, for only a moment, but that was long enough. He wasn’t out of the fight, not by a long shot: Bea brought her sword around in a two-handed grip to take the man’s head and his hand all at once.

The body had not hit the ground before she was backing farther up the stairs, her attention already locked on the one remaining guard. This one seemed a little smarter – or at the very least, less cocksure. It amounted to the same thing.

Above, she heard a door swing shut. Good.


The sound of fighting echoed up the stairway behind them. Truth be told, Reki still hesitated to leave Bea by herself… but Runa was quite right about the stairs, and those who had seen all agreed the princess was a formidable fighter. Don’t worry. Just go.

There was no real landing at the top of the stairs, merely a door. Why there should have been a landing in the center of the flight, Reki could not guess, but now she was left standing a step below the door she had to get through, with no way of knowing what waited on the other side. She frowned.

The lower levels of this tower held the dungeon: of that, she was reasonably certain. The third floor had the Weavess’ grisly workroom: would the floor above that be storage, or a war room? She carefully rested her ear against the wood, hoping for some glimmer of answer, and heard nothing.

With a deep breath, prepared to launch the Raptor Method again if she had to, Reki pushed open the door to the next floor.

The staircase opened into a long, broad hallway, with a single door along the right hand side, and several smaller doors along the left. For the moment, she saw no people, so she stepped up onto the rugs of the hallway. Motioning behind her towards the left, Reki moved towards that single door on the right. They needed a place to regroup – briefly – before they could make another attempt on the ‘Weaving of Inevitable Victory.’ But there was no reason they shouldn’t try to learn a little more while they were at it.


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.

9.26 – Flight

Bea hopped backward two paces, placing herself near her companions as her eyes cast desperately about the room. Reki knew what she must be thinking: why, oh why, was she the only warrior of the bunch? Einarr seemed to think highly of the woman’s fighting skills, however, so when Bea pivoted and shouldered her way through the group Reki kept her face towards the other pair of guards. She pursed her lips, though, and motioned behind her for the other Singers to stay close to the Princess. Carefully, she, too, backed that direction.

The sound of steel clashing on steel rang through the room as Beatrix clashed against the men standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the doorway. Glancing over her shoulder, Reki winced. Bea was holding steady, so far, but these were full-grown men she fought, and the Princess could not be much older than Runa.

Bea seemed to know this, too. She lunged to slash at legs and arms time and again, but every time her blade was parried with almost scornful ease. More than once she had to turn her attack to avoid losing an arm. Beatrix risked a glance over her shoulder and caught Reki’s eye with a desperate look.

“Tell me,” she grunted, shoving back the blow of one of their assailants. “Tell me there’s something you can do. Anything?”

Reki pursed her lips again, her eyes scanning the room. Yes, it was unfair to expect a young woman to break a path through four full-grown guardsmen. There was, of course, an option available, although she wasn’t entirely keen on revealing it to an Imperial. Still, if they were caught, they would face more unspeakable things than Runa had dared to contemplate before. With a sigh that came out more like a puff of air, she nodded to herself.

Reki turned her head and met the eyes of Eydri, of Aema, and of Svana in turn. Each of them nodded agreement. The other pair of guards would be on them soon, after all.

“Very well. It is true, we are not helpless in extremity.” Reki turned back to face the center of the room and stare levelly at Urdr, but the old crone had ceased to pay attention to her would-be captives. So much the better.

Reki took a deep breath and began, as her voice was the lowest. Lowest, but still the note she produced was high and piercing, almost like a scream if the note of a scream could be pure. Runa winced. Urdr turned halfway around on her bench: that got her attention.

Then Aema joined in, her smooth mezzo taking on a note even more shrill than Reki’s.

When Eydri took up her note the guards began to flinch. Urdr raised her hands toward her ears, but did not clap them shut. Yet. The notes they sang corresponded to no chord used in Clan music: even Reki felt the skin on her shoulders start to crawl. And they weren’t done yet.

It was Svana’s turn. The usually quiet singer, whose high soprano tended to the soft and gentle, rang forth with a note that harmonized discordantly with the other three. The piercing shriek of the Raptor Method filled the weaving room. Urdr plastered herself against her loom, and it was as though the guards before Reki were flung back by the onslaught as they clapped hands against their ears in a futile attempt to shut out the sound. Were Runa fully trained, they could have truly pierced eardrums. As it was, the men would only wish they had been deafened.

The two guards at the door staggered backward, almost tripping over themselves in their attempt to escape the noise that was threatening their consciousness.

Bea, her own eyes wide, stumbled forward but did not drop her blade. The two men who had been holding her off so handily staggered back into the hall, but she was in no condition to dash for the gap.

As one, the Singers ceased their notes and hurried out the door. Reki caught Bea’s arm and threw it over her shoulder, half-dragging the girl out into the hallway with her. Aema did the same for Runa.

They hurried down the hallway toward the stairs. Before long, Bea shook her head as she came back to herself.. “What was that?”

“Secret,” Reki almost snapped, pointing down the hall toward the stairs. “Talk later, escape now.”

The Princess groaned and shook her head again. “Down is no good. We need to go up.”

What did she mean, down was no good? “Where else are we supposed to go, but down to the harbor?”

“They’re going to be after us again before long. If we have to fight them again, with them above me on the stairs, we’re all done for. I think there’s another floor above this one, though, and we still have to do something about that Weaving.”

The guards were already beginning to recover. Before they had gone a quarter-circle around the tower Reki heard the heavy footfalls of pursuing warriors. Finally, though, less than another quarter-turn around, they passed a small door. Bea ripped it open, then gestured for her companions to enter.

Inside, a narrow stairway spiralled up to the next level. There was no choice: Reki hurried up as fast as she could without slipping, the others hard on her heels.

Midway between floors the staircase leveled out for a breath. At its edge, Bea stopped and turned to face the oncoming warriors. “There any way you can do that again?” she asked without turning her head.

“Best not,” Reki said. They could, if they absolutely had to, but she had to remember that, however nice of a girl she was, and however willing to work together, Bea was ultimately an enemy of all the Clans.

The girl grunted. “Fine.”

Footsteps rang in the stairwell below them. Bea shifted her stance, firming her grip on her sword. Reki cast about, looking for anything she could do to help them escape. They were out of time.


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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.

9.25 – Bloody Threads

For a moment, the six women stood stunned. Of all the things that had gone mysteriously well, this was the strangest. Reki’s neck prickled in alarm: glancing to right and left, Aema and Eydri looked no easier than she felt.

All around stood spools of thread of all colors, vats of dye, and half-finished tapestries. What truly arrested the attention, though, was the room’s centerpiece.

Urdr’s loom was tall and visibly heavy, the wood so heavily carved and gilt that it was difficult to see how age-darkened the timbers were. On it hung one of those half-finished tapestries: Reki could see the masts of three indistinct ships off to the left, while on the right there was a circle of women – although she could not tell what they were doing. She rather thought she knew anyway.

In front of the loom, though, sat the Weavess herself. Her leathery skin practically crinkled over itself, and her hair hung in lank strings as though she could not be bothered with it. Those falcon eyes, though, looked at the six purported guests who had just charged into her workshop not with anger, annoyance, or even fear, but with amusement. “So you’re finally here.”

Bea took a step forward, her mouth set in a stubborn line belied by the unease Reki read in her shoulders.

“Welcome, your Highness,” the old crone purred.

Beatrix stopped in her tracks.

“Oh, yes, I know who you are, Princess Beatrix Maria Gundahar. I would have known even if my spies had learned nothing.” Urdr’s expression retained its malicious amusement.

Undissuaded, Beatrix strode forward, the point of her sword lowered at the crone. “Step aside.”

Urdr actually laughed, a sound like pinecones scraping against stones. “I know why you have come, you and the troop of Singers that idiot Kaldr brought under our roof. You are here, you think, to destroy my Weaving of Inevitable Victory.”

“If you know that much, then -”

“You are wrong. Even could my weaving be broken by such a paltry thing,” the crone’s gaze lingered contemptuously on Bea’s blade, “the fate that brought you here is different.

“You do not understand.” She clucked, as though in annoyance at poor students. Then, her eyes glittered coldly. “But you will. Tell me, croaker, what is the Art of Weaving?”

The Singers bristled slightly a moment, at both insult and apparent lecture. Whatever trap there might be was still hidden from Reki’s eyes. As such, she wanted to keep the Weavess talking, and so she answered. “Weaving is a means of reading, and sometimes binding, the future, is it not?”

“Good! Very good! Just as the songs say and your matrons claim,” Urdr cackled. She dropped her voice, then. “And yet – common, shallow, and wrong.”

“Unlike your Song – a fleeting, ephemeral touch, vanishing in a heartbeat – Weaving is permanence. Do you not know that the Norns Weave? As their weaving, so is all Weaving. It is blood, and flesh, and bone, the very stuff of life. Not merely Fate, but all that makes it up.

“My threads are not merely the bone and sinew and blood of my Art, and not so different from the bone and sinew and blood of those they bind.” Urdr gestured past her loom to a stack of pale thread, undyed, an empty basin, and a spinning wheel. “My shears are as mighty as a thousand swords. How could it not be, when the Norns themselves are the mistresses of my Art?”

Runa shuddered. Reki, carefully schooling her face, saw Eydri bristle and Bea’s eyes desperately seek an opening, even as the crone held her gaze like a snake.

“I’ll tell you a further secret, children. Weaving binds more tightly if it has a… physical connection to those it rules. Hair is an easy way to do this, although not a particularly effective one. Blood is better.

“Do you know now why you are here?” Urdr’s snaggle-toothed smile was a horrifying void as she stood, moving toward an empty dying basin. As though in concession to her age she moved with bone-creaking slowness, but it was the only such concession she seemed to allow. “Blood of a southern princess. Blood of a Jarl. Blood of song from across all the isles. What a masterful Binding you will become. My line will not end merely as thanes of a forgotten island, or even masters of this sea. Oh no. Far greater things await, for which you shall be the foundation.” She whistled sharply, piercingly.

Four guards rushed into the room – two from behind them, and two from another door she had not noticed – heavily armed and plainly ready for them. From the steel bands about their brows to the leather boots on their feet, Reki had seen no-one at Raenshold with better-kept armor, and if their swords showed signs of heavy use it was surely due to age. Not one of Urdr’s bodyguards appeared to be younger than thirty summers, and each of them had the cold glint of a battle-hardened mercenary in their eyes. Already the door was blocked.

The crone smiled gently, yet all the more hideously for that. “Know despair, for my Weaving lies before you, yet forever outside of your grasp. But even still, be joyous, young ones, for you shall soon become the very foundation of the world.

“Seize them.”


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.

9.24 – Into the Tower

Reki sat up in alarm. “They’re here?”

“So it sounds.”

“All right, ladies. Everybody up! We have a job to do.”

Eydri sat up and dusted off her skirts as though she hadn’t actually been asleep. For how long, Reki couldn’t begin to guess. Runa and Svana both stirred with a groan, as though they were feeling the lack of sleep from the last two nights. They would need a few minutes, she thought, but that was fine. So did the rest of them.

“Chances are good this caught them by surprise, too,” she said. “If we hurry, and we’re lucky, we might be able to beat them to the weaving room, but we’re out of time for skulking. Gather your things, those of you who have them: I very much doubt we’ll be coming back here.”

“At least not before Lord Stigander has reclaimed Breidelstein,” Runa agreed. “And who knows what will happen in the meantime.” The girl slung her pack over her shoulder, alert more quickly than Reki had thought possible. “Let’s go. The sooner we wreck that loom, the sooner we get back where we belong, and the sooner Father gets freed.”

Svana moved only a little more slowly, but she, too, was ready to be gone from this place.

“We all remember how to find the weavings, correct?”

One by one, they nodded. “All right. In that case, let us make haste cautiously.”


Escaping their chambers was easy. Surprisingly, the guards were not at their post, with no sign of their whereabouts.

The streets and alleys of Raenshold were perversely easier to navigate unnoticed now, as warriors girt themselves to repel raiders below and children scrambled – either for a good vantage point or for a place to hide, depending on their age and temperament. Bea rushed straight for the tower at the main gate, the sword on her back all the excuse she needed to shoulder through the crowds as though she were rushing to the defense of the town below.

Reki and the others slipped quietly through her wake, never falling far behind, but always maintaining their composure as Singers. No-one, under these circumstances, was going to question them.

No-one, that is, except the men still standing guard at the entrance to the tower. They took one look at the group of women quick-stepping their direction and moved to stand shoulder to shoulder, blocking the door.

Svana opened her mouth to Sing, but Reki held up a forestalling hand. A lullaby was one thing in the middle of the night. Now? Now, even if it worked they would draw more attention to themselves. “We need to figure out a distr …”

Before Reki could finish, Bea strode forward.

“Stand aside,” Beatrix demanded, and in that moment she was not just the Imperial Princess, she was the commander of a fleet.

It was not good enough. “The Lord has commanded no-one is to come in or out of here until the raiders are repelled.”

To her credit, Bea hardly even blinked. “Oh? And are you going to tell him that’s why the Lady Urdr had no bodyguard? We were sent to ensure her safety.”

“The Lady Urdr’s bodyguard team is still up there,” the other guard snapped. “What sort of idiots do you take us for?”

“That’s last night’s team,” drawled the first guard. “They haven’t been relieved yet.”

“What are you talking about? Of course they haven’t. Shift change isn’t for another hour.”

Reki and Aema exchanged a glance from behind Bea as the two guards began to argue. With a nod, they slipped around to either side and went for the door.

The guards, caught up in their argument, paid them no heed. Amused, Reki did not fail to note that the second guard kept leading his fellow around by the nose. Why that would be, she could only guess, but she was glad of it.

The door closed behind them with a thunk, and Svana slid the bar into place. Now instead of yelling at each other the two guards – both the gullible one and the insolent one – pounded on the door, shouting after the women to let them in. If Reki were to guess, only about half of the protests were sincere.

That shouldn’t have worked. Why did that work? She shook her head. We need to hurry.

Reki set her concerns aside for the moment, to be addressed later. Up the tower they went, to the third floor where they had heard Ulfr and Urdr the night before. They passed no-one as they raced upwards save for thralls, who seemed utterly unconcerned about the commotion outside.

Don’t get cocky, Reki reminded herself. Once we’ve wrecked the weaving, we still have to escape. It hardly bore thinking of, how they might be treated if they were caught and made prisoners in truth. Ulfr had ordered Runa broken for no better reason than information she did not have: under threat of rape Reki, too, would break the taboo, and once she was free there might not be much left of Breidelstein for Lord Stigander to reclaim. Best for all if it did not come to that, and for that reason… “Runa.”

“What?” The girl sounded a little winded, but they did not dare let up.

“Do you remember how your ‘rescuers’ got you to the harbor before?”

“Well enough.”

“You could lead us down it?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” They crested the third flight of steps. Ahead, Reki saw the door they had watched last night, only now it stood open. Perversely, sunlight streamed out into the hallway, though it would have made no sense for the Weavess to work in a windowless room. “There it is.”

Bea’s hand rested on the hilt of her sword as she watched the door. Aema passed about the water skin she had managed to keep with her. Reki, too, kept a wary eye on the Weavess’ room as she sipped from the skin, half expecting the Weavess’ actual bodyguards to come boiling out of the room at any moment.

At long last the companions exchanged a nod of readiness. Bea’s sword hissed out of its sheath and she led the surge into the Weavess’ workshop. Inside, amid the baskets of thread, Urdr relaxed on the bench of her loom, a look of amusement on her papery face. Otherwise, they were alone.


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