Tag: Runa

10.37 – Regathering

Beatrix nodded brusquely and thrust the bit of cloth she’d been using to dab at Runa’s face into her hands. “I expect you’re right. Lead on.”

Runa was only a little slower getting to her feet. She took a moment to dust off her skirts. Einarr was suddenly reminded of the little girl he’d seen out trying to wrangle goats and smiled.

“…What?”

“Nothing. Just glad you’re all right. Are we ready?”

The doors to the Hall stood open, and spilling out into the courtyard in front of them was a flurry of activity. Standing at the center of this, exactly where Einarr expected to find him, was Father, barking orders. Swirling around him like the inner edge of a storm’s eye were Bardr, Kormund, Hraerek, and …Kaldr?

Einarr glanced over his shoulder at the two women, suddenly glad none of the other Singers had arrived yet. Their attention seemed caught closer to the fringes of the crowd, which he took for a good thing under the circumstances. “Father! What news?”

Stigander looked up from the discussion he was holding with his Mate and waved the four of them over. “Einarr! Glad to see you made it. Everything went smoothly down below?”

“As well as I could have hoped. Hrug’s going to be out of it for a while, but I can’t rely on him for everything.”

Kaldr looked up from the message he had just finished dispatching to turn a questioning eye on Stigander. Behind Einarr, Beatrix and Runa stiffened as they could no longer ignore the man’s presence.

“This is my son, Kaldr. Einarr is the Cursebreaker.”

Kaldr pivoted on his heels, clapped a fist to his chest, and bowed to Einarr. Einarr blinked, unable to process what he was seeing at first.

“Father?”

“Your ritual allowed at least one man to slip free entirely of the Weavess’ work.”

“I see.”

“Are you certain it was the ritual?” Bea’s voice was tight.

Kaldr did not rise. “I assure you, my lady, my actions at that time were taken out of a misplaced sense of loyalty.”

Beatrix hummed, evidently skeptical.

“I believe, actually, that you’ve met all of these people, Kaldr,” Stigander went on smoothly. “It was Einarr’s ship you took for your platform right after you stole the Singers from our decks. Runa is the daughter of Jarl Hroaldr – who is also in our safekeeping now. Someday I will want to hear just how you managed that.”

Kaldr did not even shift his shoulders to show discomfort. “Of course, my lord.”

“The svartdverger is Einarr’s right-hand man – and among the truest of liege men. And this,” Stigander continued. “Is Beatrix Mari… bah. Beatrix. She is no Singer, but an Imperial princess who happened to decide our cause was just.”

For once the man looked surprised. “You have my apologies, my lady, for the error.”

“Lord Stigander!” One of the newer Vidofnings approached, who had signed since Einarr wintered with the elves, dodging through the whirling chaos of men that surrounded the captains. For the first time in a very long time, Einarr did not know everyone who was a part of his father’s crew.

“Yes, what is it?”

“The Weavess’ work room – it’s empty, sir. We can’t find her anywhere.”

Einarr could see his father swallowing a shout. Berating the messenger would do no-one any good. “Keep looking! Comb that tower top to bottom: she couldn’t have got far, not at her age.”

“My lord,” Kaldr demurred. “She almost never left the tower. She climbed the stairs between her workroom and the dungeon several times a day.”

Runa gasped, her fingers moving to cover her mouth.

Einarr turned to look at her. “What is it?”

“The secret door! Bea, you remember. She was turning the lock in the door when we came back down to steal the Victory weaving. You tried to break it down.”

Beatrix winced. “That door. You’re right, that has to be where she went.”

Einarr met Stigander’s gaze and saw his own thoughts writ there. “I’ll go, Father. You, too, Jorir?” When the dwarf nodded, he continued. “Great. Runa, you’ll lead the way?”

“Naturally.”

“In that case, we just need someone who can deal with the lock… Sivid should still be down in the harbor. Do we have anyone else who can pick a lock, or do we need Arring?”

Stigander nodded, then raised a hand to his mouth and called over his shoulder. “Troa!”


Runa raced back across the courtyard for the tower, followed closely by Einarr, Jorir, and Troa. Beatrix had wanted to come as well, but before Troa arrived she had been drawn into the exigencies of diplomacy with the soon-to-be-restored Thane. Perhaps that was not what she had in mind when she joined Einarr’s cause, but no matter how much she wanted to continue the assault, her place was now at the Hall with the leadership. Truth be told, Runa should have stayed as well: she would have almost as many letters to draft, come the evening.

Troa pelted along at Einarr’s side, very carefully looking straight ahead. Einarr’s fault, that: after the duel with the Althane’s shade, Einarr had never been entirely comfortable around him. Knowing the aversion was irrational did not help. There were more important matters to hand, though, so Einarr also kept his attention focused on Runa’s back, urging her faster. That they were chasing an old woman was no comfort: the Weavess had managed to build her own private escape route. Who knew what they might find waiting for them inside? And the longer they took to get there, the more time the crone had to prepare.

Faster, Runa. Faster.


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10.36 – An End to Fighting

“Very well, Kaldr Kerasson. Stand, and hear the judgement of the Thane of Breidelstein.” Stigander watched the man from the corner of his eye. When Kaldr stood and turned to face Stigander, his expression showed grim acceptance.

Stigander reversed his grip on his sword even as he lowered it, so that it came around in a smooth sweeping motion, and thrust the hilt towards Kaldr. “You will swear to me, before my Vidofnings tried and true, that you will serve me and strive ever and always for the good of this land.”

Kaldr blinked, evidently nonplussed.

“I will not waste talent laid before me. We will put an end to this senseless fighting, and then I will have your oath.”

Kaldr dropped to his knees and his shoulders sagged, as though he had been relieved of a great weight. Stigander could not quite repress a smile as he sheathed his sword and offered his hand instead.

“Stand, Kaldr Kerasson. There is work yet to be done before all can be put to right.”

“We had best hurry if we are to catch the Witch. She is likely in her workshop in the tower, but once she learns all is lost there’s no telling what she will do.”


The pulse of will that exploded out from the deck of the Heidrun left even its creators stunned for a time. The wolflings who had attempted to assault their deck were blown backwards into the water. No-one who was on board was in any state to pull them out, though, even assuming they were not still hostile.

Einarr shook his head as he came out of it. That had easily been the most intense rune-working he had ever been part of, and he had been mostly fresh when they set it off. He looked at Hrug: the mute was slumped over, half-conscious at best and breathing heavily, but still breathing. That was something. Einarr had relied on him too much since they began retaking his homeland, and the strain had been evident even before this.

Jorir had already shaken off the effects of the magic and stood steadfast. Naudrek looked shaken but otherwise unharmed. And evidently Frigg had determined that their task was not yet done, because the Örlögnir still lay at his feet in the center of the expended runic circle. Einarr nodded to himself and then met Naudrek’s eye.

“Keep an eye on him.” Einarr gestured with his head toward Hrug. “Jorir and I have to get the Örlögnir up to the Hold. Send Vali if you run into anything you can’t handle.”

“Yes, sir!”

Truth be told, Einarr would have preferred to have those two with him, but Hrug was in no condition to climb that cliff, and Naudrek would never leave his sworn brother behind. He scooped up the Örlögnir and threaded it through his baldric before turning his attention to Jorir. “Let’s go.”

The dwarf just grunted and lifted a plank to let them down to the pier.

As Einarr and his liege man made their way through the town of Breidelstein, Einarr was struck by how busy the place was – or, rather, should have been. Despite the evidence of a long string of lean years this was a city that had once done brisk business.

He heard the sound of fighting from time to time as they jogged, but only in small pockets far from the main thoroughfare. But stamping out sparks was not how he ended this. The fighting would only stop when he destroyed the Weavess’ work and ended her curse for good. Einarr shook his head and jogged on, Jorir keeping pace easily.

He did slow when he started up the cliff road, and was pleasantly surprised to find it clear of enemies. At the top, lounging in the gate house, he saw Erik and Irding – somewhat the worse for wear, but nothing like how badly injured they’d become on the Isle of the Forgotten.

“Erik. Irding. Well-fought.”

“Well-fought, Einarr!” Erik clapped him on the shoulder as he came within range. “We were in a spot of trouble before your spell went off, I don’t mind telling you. Whatever that was you did, it was like they lost all their will to fight.”

Einarr smiled back at his friend. “I’m glad it helped. Where’s Father?”

“Headed for the Hall, last I saw.”

“Thanks.”

He had not been to Raenshold since he was a small child, but the Hall was the centerpiece of the entire courtyard and hard to miss. He jogged off in that direction, but had not gotten far before he saw a sight he never would have imagined: Bea and Runa were tending each others wounds.

Einarr stopped in his tracks. Why by all the gods is Runa here? All the Singers were supposed to have stayed back with the ships. She knew that, and she’d even been told why, so… She had some bruising around her mouth, and what looked like a minor gash on one arm, but Bea looked only a little worse. He needed to find Father, to hear where they stood, but how could he not check in with her? “Runa? What happened? Why aren’t you with the other Singers?”

She gave him a rueful smile even as Bea dabbed at a cut on her face. “I wanted to help. Didn’t realize you weren’t with the assault until the magic swept by.”

Beatrix rolled her eyes at Einarr, but whatever was going on between those two he intended to stay out of it. Besides, given their personal positions, they would be needed at the Hall in short order. “I’m glad you’re all right. …Come on: there are messages that will need to be sent, I’m sure Father will need both of you.”


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10.31 – Struggle

“You there! What goes on here?” Stigander leveled a finger at one of the better-equipped townsfolk who had joined their ranks.

He blinked and pointed at himself, a dumbfounded look on his face.

“Yes, you! Why have the townsfolk taken up arms against the Thane here?” He hated to phrase it that way, but the odds were good this man still thought of the Usurper that way.

Now the man nodded in understanding. “Thane Ulfr’s men claim you are rebels. Well, his men treat us as thralls, even though we are free men. If it means we are rid of them, rebels we will be.”

Stigander looked again at the man. He was malnourished, and unkempt as one would expect of a drunkard, but his blue eyes were clear and proud.

“I am Stigander, son of Raen, and while Ulfr calls me a rebel I am in fact the rightful Thane. I will remember your resolve.”

The townsman blanched a little as Stigander began shouldering his way back to the front of his crew’s line, but returned to the battle at hand. How many of these people even remember what happened all those years ago? He can’t be much older than Einarr… Stigander growled low in his throat: that line of thinking was a distraction he did not need right now.

Perhaps a hundred feet ahead the road began its steep, switchbacked ascent up the cliffs to Raenshold.

The wolflings had fallen back to the far side of the square and reset their shield wall yet again, in the familiar pattern. Yet again, he and his Vidofnings surged forward to batter it down. This time, though, it did not buckle like so much rotted timber.

Battle screams roared from either side of the square as wolfling warriors fell upon them from both sides at once. Stigander and his crewmen were boxed in. To stay in the square would be foolish, and if they somehow managed to batter through the forward line then they had to worry about wolflings nipping at their heels. That left only one option: turn their own tactic against them. “Fall back!”


Beatrix had been startled to see Einarr’s bride chasing after her into the thick of combat: the Singers, after all, had been meant to stay behind. But, the other girl at least knew enough about combat to keep herself out of danger, and her Song was useful enough.

Bea frowned, though: she could tell they were losing momentum, but not why. Certainly it shouldn’t be fatigue, not with the Singer working her Art. And they weren’t outnumbered, at least not once you counted the local reinforcements. They had to reach the cliff road, though: Lord Stigander had been clear. And yet, they were on the verge of being pushed back. Do I dare let us lean on our back foot?

It was not immediately clear she would have a choice. The wolflings were massing ahead, and her group had been the smallest of the three forces. She frowned. Their forward progress had almost stalled, but if they could make the next intersection she might be able to reroute. The difficulty would be not letting the line fall apart when they inevitably reached the narrow footpaths that were ever-present and never meant for more than one or two abreast.

The Song magic that had been sustaining her thus far cut off with a shriek, not so much of pain or fear as of rage. Bea’s head snapped around: there was Runa, the Cursebreaker’s bride, biting the hand of the wolfling who had tried to capture her. She seemed to have drawn blood, too. The girl stabbed backwards at her assailant with the knife all Singers wore, but Bea didn’t think it had yet drawn blood.

She cursed. Where had the wolfling even come from? This was why fighting through a city was so terrible: even when you thought your back was secure, someone could sneak around behind with a poisoned knife. Perhaps one of Beatrix’s sisters could have let her rival be taken like this, but Beatrix could not – a trait that had often hampered her in Imperial politics.

“Fall back!” If they gave a little ground, Bea could drop back without leaving a hole in the middle of their line. They would just have to find their way forward again from there.


Jorir stood, his axe and golden shield at the ready, just outside of Lord Einarr’s rune circle, staring toward the bulwark.

Someone was in the water. Several someones, he thought, and if this ship wasn’t their target he was a farmer.

Jorir glanced over his shoulder, and wished for the umpteenth time he could tell how close they were to finishing the ritual. Curse that witch and the helspawn she rode in on. I’m a dwarf – I’m supposed to be good with runes! At least he was sure it was doing something: the feeling of magic crackled in the air like lightning.

The gentle splashing in the water went silent, only to be followed by the sounds of boots climbing on wood. Jorir flexed his grip on his axe handle and glanced over at his fellow bodyguard.

Naudrek had set himself for battle nearly as quickly as Jorir had, and without needing Jorir to say anything. With a little luck, that meant the invaders still didn’t know they were discovered.

The first of the invaders appeared over the side of the bulwark, their hair streaming water, with scramasax clenched in their teeth as they climbed the Heidrun’s clinks.

Naudrek moved on cat’s feet over to where the wolfling was emerging from the water, his blade held low, and raised one foot. The sole of his boot impacted the first wolfling’s forehead and he lost his grip, tumbling into the water.

Jorir charged forward, much more noisily, and raised his shield over his head. The edge of the shield hit the second man’s teeth with a gong, followed by another splash.

Now men were coming up the other side, though, three and four at a time. Jorir shared a look with Naudrek before the other man raced back across the deck to fend off that group of attackers. Jorir looked back over his shoulder at Einarr, hoping for some clue that they were nearly done.

He still couldn’t tell. He raised his axe and stepped forward to block as many as he could.

Then the crackling magic at his back went still and the pressure vanished. For a heartbeat, everything was still.

In the next heartbeat, it was as though the world itself exploded. A wave of magic crashed over the deck of the Heidrun and rippled out over the water, towards the fighting in the town.


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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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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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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.

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10.8 – Promenade

The conference between the three captains and Elder Vilding stretched long into the evening. Well before the end of it, Einarr was very conscious of a pair of eyes trying to bore holes in his back. Every time he glanced over his shoulder, Runa was very pointedly looking elsewhere. She was very plainly expecting something from him, and he hadn’t the faintest idea what. No matter. I’ll be sure to take her walking after supper. Whatever was the matter, even if that didn’t help it should at least point him in the right direction.

The conference did not break for dinner, however, and by the time they did stop for the night nearly everyone else had retired to the ships. When the Elder invited the three of them to sleep on his floor for the night, and both Stigander and Kormund agreed immediately, it was with a sense of impending doom that he joined them.

He rose with the dawn the next morning in hopes of slipping down to the ships to speak with her. He was not, however, in luck: all three Mates were already up and about, and were eager to hear the results of their long conference of the night before. With a sigh, Einarr put aside his intention. She had been in perfect health when they were rescued, and both she and the Jarl had been under Father’s sail. It would keep, whatever it was.

He was less than halfway through his explanation when Jarl Hroaldr himself joined them. He looked like half the man he’d been when Einarr had last seen him: pale and haggard, and bony in a way that suggested he’d been starved down there. Still, he was less pale than he had been when Einarr found them on the beach, so that was something.

After his conversation with the Mates, the day was in full swing. When midday came around and he found himself able to breathe again, the sensation of being watched returned. This time, when he turned around, Runa did not bother to look away.

“It was one thing, Einarr, to ignore me when we were busy running for our lives.”

“I… what?” Had he been? He hadn’t intended to.

She snorted. “Don’t play dumb. You haven’t said a word to me since we landed, nor two since we got to the ships in the harbor. I’ll have you know, I’ll not tolerate a husband married to his ship!”

Oh. Einarr lowered his face to hide the self-mocking smile even as he shook his head. “I’m sorry. I actually tried to come see you this morning, only I wasn’t fast enough.”

She crossed her arms, not looking mollified.

“I don’t think we’ve had a moment to ourselves since the Forgotten Island, have we.” He was sure of it: most of that time, he’d spent away from everyone. He offered his arm. “Walk with me?”

“Very well, Einarr son of Stigander. But don’t think this lets you off the hook.” She was pretending to pout: now it was safe to smile. “Really, though. We’ve been on shore less than a full day. You’d think we’d be allowed a little time to breathe.”

“Runa, we don’t know when Kaldr is going to show up, or with how many ships. We’re not really resting here, so much as catching our breath and stocking up.”

“Kaldr.” She practically spat the name. “Just when you start to think the man might be reasonable, he comes around and starts chasing you like a dog with a rabbit.”

Einarr blinked. That didn’t quite match up with what the other Singers had said. “How do you mean.”

“When he caught us, he was all high and mighty about the ‘perils of magic,’ or what have you. But then, after we’d been there a few days, he caught us snooping around and didn’t do anything about it.”

Einarr hummed. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.

“Then, later, when we were making our escape, he actually warned us what to look out for. Accurately, even. And now, this.”

“Wait, he helped you escape? Why?”

Runa shrugged. “I have no idea, but he seems to hate the Weavess as much as you do. More, maybe.”

“Truly?”

Runa nodded. “She is a vile woman, Einarr. Her Weaving is blacker than you know.”

Einarr nodded, not because he knew but because he was not surprised. Eydri had said, after all, that she was the one who had been in charge of Jarl Hroaldr’s care. “Don’t worry. She will be brought to justice.”

“I’m not worried – about that, at any rate.”

“I’m sensing a ‘but.’”

“But I am worried that this assault is going to consume you.”

He smirked. “Runa, I’ve not been on the main island since I was six, or any of the freeholds since I was ten. If there’s someone I’m worried about being consumed here, it’s Father.”

“That would also be bad, don’t you think?”

Einarr was nodding his agreement when a hunting horn sounded in the distance, from the direction of the spit. “They’ve spotted something? Already?”

No further word was spoken. The two raced back the way they had come, headed for the village green.


Four wolf-headed ships slipped over the ocean waves, headed straight for the Lundholm fjord. The three Captains, along with three of their best scouts, stood at the end of the spit, peering out over the water at the wolflings who must have guessed where they were going. Guessed, because after the encirclement was broken they had not followed – at least, not where any of their watchmen could see.

Stigander’s voice was grim. “That’s them alright. And that fjord’s narrow enough, it won’t matter if they’re not all working together.”

“Will they try to raze the town?” Einarr knew he sounded worried, but did not care.

“I don’t know. Probably not right away, at least. We should have some time to prepare.”


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

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

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

9.31 – 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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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.


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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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