Tag: Sinmora

7.31 – The Bjorn

Einarr and Naudrek came to the water’s edge at an area of the docks that Einarr doubted he’d have found on his own, it was so far removed from the main road. Naudrek stopped, briefly, when they heard their footfalls echoing over water instead of ground and pointed out towards the sea.

“There, at the far end of the pier.” Then they were both running again, sure that their quarry had arrived ahead of them. Noises of startlement came from several of the ships as they passed, reacting to the sudden clamor but not chasing after its source. Einarr paid them no mind: they were ship lookouts, nothing more. He’d have been more surprised if they had begun to follow him.

Before long he could make out the shape of the ship floating at the end of the pier, an inky black against the indigo night. They picked up the pace.

Naudrek slowed once they could see the lamps burning underneath the Captain’s awning and announced himself to the lookout. He was waved through, but waited just on board.

Einarr stepped up into the light of the lookout’s lamp. “Einarr, son of Stigander, of the longship Vidofnir, hunting the Muspel Shroud. Permission to come aboard?”

“And why, praytell, does that require you to board the Bjorn?”

“He has reason to believe,” Naudrek interrupted. “That the artifact intends to secret itself aboard this ship.”

“This is credible?”

Einarr tried not to roll his eyes. He understood the guard’s suspicion, mentally, but his honor still rankled.

Naudrek nodded solemnly. “And from what I’ve heard, letting that thing off this island is a bad idea.”

The guard pursed his lips, then finally nodded. “Fine. But he’s under your care. If this scrawny fellow causes any trouble…”

“I swear to you on my honor as the blood of Raen of Breidelstein, my grandfather, I seek only the Shroud, to capture or destroy it.”

“Breidelstein? No ship’s come out of there in -”

“More than twenty years? Aye.”

“…I see.” Only slightly less reluctantly, the lookout stepped aside to allow Einarr to board.

“Have you lamps we can use?” He asked when both feet were on deck. It should, he thought, have been a reasonable request, but the lookout gave him a look that could have iced over a wave.

Einarr shrugged. “We need light to search by, still. I’ve a trick I learned from the elves, but you might not like it any better.”

The lookout snorted and turned his attention back to the pier. With a shrug, Einarr pulled a stick of charcoal, wrapped in a leaf, from his coin pouch and unwrapped one end. Evidently being “scrawny” was more of a mark against him than Naudrek’s word could counter.

“Give me just a moment, would you? This will make the ship easier to search, if I can do it without accidentally blinding us.” Calmly, Einarr bent over to draw a large ᛊ – the sun rune – on the deck of the ship.

“What are you…?”

“I’ve been learning from the elves for months now. Picked up a thing or two.” Einarr smiled vaguely at the deck as he straightened. He had intentionally drawn the three-line version, since the lighting was not such to allow him to check his inscription. With a nod of satisfaction, he willed the rune into life.

The deck of the Bjorn burst into bright light, which quickly faded to a dim glow. Cries of surprise echoed around the deck.

“Sorry,” Einarr said. “I’m not very good, I’m afraid.”

You,” Naudrek demanded, incredulous. “You know magic?”

“Elder Melja would dispute that.”

“I never would have taken you for a sorceror.” Naudrek seemed suddenly wary of him, in spite of everything.

Einarr sighed. “I’m not. I’m a Cursebreaker. It became very plain to me that it was learn the Runes or die. So I’m learning the runes, and hoping it doesn’t kill me.”

“…Ah.” He didn’t seem convinced, but did not force the issue. At least, not yet.

With a nod from his companion, the two set to searching. Naudrek was very shortly thereafter interrupted by a man Einarr assumed was either the Captain or the Mate who came out from under the awning to investigate why, exactly, the ship was glowing. If anything, the explanation made the man less happy about it, but Einarr’s hunt was not interrupted.

It was nowhere above deck – not even, thank goodness, under the Captain’s awning. Einarr worried that it would be under the deck boards: he doubted he would be able to get the Captain to agree to let him search there. Then the lapping of water against the klinks caught his attention. It sounded… different than he was used to. Softer.

Einarr dashed to the seaward side of the ship and looked down towards the water. A grin spread slowly across his face. There, reflected in the surface of the water, he could see a long patch of red against the hull.

“There you are,” he muttered, and Sinmora rasped from her sheath. He focused his will and his determination: almost immediately, he felt the sword begin to vibrate. It had devoured the magic of the wards, before, in spite of hundreds of years of reinforcement. It should at least be able to knock out the artifact.

As the sword’s vibrations grew stronger in Einarr’s hands, the Shroud peeled itself from the side of the ship in what looked an awful lot like alarm to Einarr. His grin turned predatory.

“I’ve found it,” he called across the deck to his new ally. Naudrek’s answering smile was cold as he, too, drew his sword and came to stand by Einarr’s side. Slowly, as though acknowledging that it had been found out, the Shroud floated up to hover in front of the two warriors over the water.


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7.30 – Midnight Assault

They were well into the midnight watch, and shadows cast by the fire flickering in the hearth sent shadows dancing over the walls. Hrug grunted and jostled Einarr with an elbow. Dutifully, but without much hope, Einarr turned to look, expecting just another false alarm.

Something slid through the smoke and down into the firelight. For just an instant, Einarr thought he saw red.

The color only lasted a moment, but now Einarr could see something moving even after it was out of the light. He nodded for Hrug as he shifted to face the fluttering Shroud, unsure if the man saw. Either way, he reset his grip on Sinmora’s handle even as he brought the blade back up to guard.

Naudrek moved around, as well, and now the three men formed a line watching the movement of deeper darkness through the room. If it knew they watched, it gave no sign.

Einarr focused his will on Sinmora, feeling for the humming vibration that he thought meant he was close to awakening its power, even as he followed the Shroud’s path through the room (for there was no mistaking it for anything but the Shroud).

Still the thing ignored them. It was headed for the side of the room where the trestle tables never were, where the proprietress put down rugs that kept down the mud and made the hallingdanse, which she actively encouraged, treacherous sport indeed.

Carefully, Einarr stepped forward, followed a moment later by his two unexpected allies. They, more than anything, made him feel that this was possible tonight. Thus it was that as they stalked toward their apparently unwary prey, a smile played at the corners of his mouth.

As they approached, Naudrek took hold of a long candlestick and held it up like one would a brand.

The Shroud began to glow with a light the color of molten rock, casting the entirety of the hall in an evil red light. The temperature of the room seemed to grow noticeably hotter, to the point where sweat began to bead on Einarr’s forehead almost immediately.

That was the moment the Shroud abruptly changed direction, zipping back toward the three who had thought themselves unnoticed.

Naudrek thrust forward with the candlestick, and as it momentarily tangled itself around the would-be brand Einarr saw that there were no tears to be seen in its fabric. A moment of fear pulsed behind his ears, followed quickly by the resolve to end this here, and Sinmora began to hum.

The Shroud untangled itself from the candlestick to reveal a half-melted, burning candle. Hrug gave a wordless yell and slashed at the delicate-looking material, only to have the artifact wrap itself around the blade. Soon after Hrug’s yell changed in timber from defiance to pain as the sword flashed white hot. The guard melted against his hand and fused to the hilt, which glowed red even through the leather bindings. The smell of burned flesh rose like smoke. Eldritch fire began to climb up Hrug’s arm and the man screamed again.

Einarr did not think, he merely acted. Fast as lightning, Sinmora cleaved through Hrug’s arm at the elbow. The forearm was ash before it hit the floor.

Hrug staggered backward, clutching at the stump of his arm, his face grown pale and his eyes and mouth open wide in a silent scream.

“No!” Naudrek screamed.

Einarr ripped the hem from his tunic. Hrug would still die, if Einarr didn’t move quickly, and that was something he could not allow. The man had stepped up to help with no thought of reward. The malign red light in the room faded as Einarr wrapped the tourniquet just above the cut he himself had caused. Someone caught Hrug as he began to collapse and lowered him gently to the floor – Naudrek, Einarr saw.

The rest of the hall was beginning to rouse itself, now, in response to the commotion.

One of the sailors who had turned their backs on Einarr before demanded “What goes on here?”

“The Muspel Shroud was here. Someone call for an herb-witch!”

“The Shroud…” Naudrek muttered, his voice full of hate.

“We’ve still got one more chance.”

“It got away. Up through the smoke hole.”

“We know where it’s going. He will live, and he will have vengeance.”

The other man grunted.

“Is someone going for a healer?” Einarr asked the room. The owner had stumbled out, bleary-eyed and somehow even more rumpled than when Einarr had first met her. “This man needs an herb-witch, or a Singer.”

The owner shouted out a name, and a boy some years younger than Einarr appeared from the loft – one of her sons, he guessed – and slipped out the door. “He’ll have one. Shroud gone?”

“From here.”

The owner nodded, then turned and went back in to her bed closet.

Einarr looked to Naudrek, who was checking his friend’s body over for other injuries. “We should go after it.”

With only a little reluctance the other man agreed. “You will be avenged,” he muttered to the fallen Hrug. “Follow me.”

The two of them stepped out into the moonlight streets of the docks district and Einarr was struck once again by how large Eskiborg was. Naudrek took off at a jog, and Einarr followed. Not many minutes later, they passed the boy from the Pot leading a rather bleary-looking middle-aged woman going the other way.

Naudrek did not lead them to the broad, main street that cut through the city like a sword, but rather deeper into the twisty, narrow streets of the Docks district. Before long the only thing Einarr was certain of was that they headed generally east, toward the water’s edge, where the Bjorn floated, awaiting both its stowaway and the pursuers.


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7.29 – The Pewter Pot

Einarr stood before what was unmistakeably the public hall from the vision, glad to have found it but wishing he had found it some other way. He shuddered: the man may as well have been a snake on two legs, the way menace and charm both seemed to hang about his head like a miasma. But, he wanted the Shroud dealt with as much as the next person – perhaps more, as he actually had people under his care – and his information was sound.

The sign of the Pewter Pot swung from its post where it hung outside the place itself. Einarr stared at it a good long minute after his guide excused himself, suddenly reluctant to enter. The building still stood, but that didn’t really mean much. There was nothing for it, though, so Einarr stepped inside.

The Hall was considerably cleaner than Einarr had expected based on the vision, although his informant had hinted as much. Now he just needed to convince the owner to let him work – well, that was all he had to do here, for now.

The woman who ran the Pewter Pot wore the sallow skin and lank hair of a hard life like one who doesn’t much care anymore. Still, after a (mercifully brief) conversation, the words “Muspel Shroud” and “hunting” convinced her to cooperate. By the time he returned to the Bronze Archer that evening, he had the first layer of wards laid.

Three more nights he spent at the Bronze Archer, working with Eydri the Singer to discover Sinmora’s secret. At the end of the third day they thought they were on the right track.

That third day, however, was also the day rumors began to swirl about mysterious disappearances in the city. That night, he gave up his bunk at the Bronze Archer for one at the Pewter Pot.


Whatever else Einarr wanted to say about the place, The Pewter Pot was lively after dark. He sat on the corner of the table nearest the door and watched the room, the patrons doing their best to forget the cares of the day with poor drink and their pick of company. The musicians were not on Reki’s level, or even Eydri’s, for that matter, but they kept a good pace for the players of the hallingdanse and did not make Einarr want to cover his ears.

It was not here yet. In the three days since he had drawn the ward, nothing had tripped it, and there was not a scrap of red cloth gone to keeping down mud on the floor. The vision suggested that the Shroud would hide itself in among the rugs, although after the debacle at Armad’s Hall he was not sure how much he wanted to count on that.

Towards the end of what would have been first watch on the Vidofnir the crowd began to thin, and soon it was only Einarr and a few hard-luck sailors left who had taken bunks here. Einarr had just kicked off his second boot when he felt the tingling sensation that meant the ward had been breached.

He didn’t bother with his boots: he took Sinmora in hand and stepped out toward the center of the floor.

Two of the sailors raised an eyebrow and rolled over, putting their backs to the room. None of their never-mind, the postures said clear as day. The other two, though, stopped what they were doing.

“Something the matter?” One of them asked, his thick accent screaming Empire even though he looked Clan bred and born.

Einarr only hesitated a moment over how much to tell them. “I’m on an alfr-quest, hunting an evil artifact. It’s coming.”

Neither the borderlander nor his companion hesitated a moment. Both men rose and took up their own weapons to join Einarr, ready to fight in nothing but their trousers.

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Who said anything about have to?” The borderlander grinned. “I’ll join you same reason I joined my Captain: it sounds like fun. Ain’t that right, Hrug?”

The other man grinned broadly. Einarr was appalled to see that he was missing not only half his teeth but also his tongue.

“Welcome aboard then, I guess. Name’s Einarr. You?”

“Naudrek. So what are we fighting?”

“You been on-island long enough to hear about the Muspel Shroud?”

Naudrek shook his head. “Something to do with fire, I presume.”

“It touches you, you’re ash. If I don’t destroy it here, I only get one more chance, and I’ve yet to spot a ship in port with a bear’s head.”

“It’s headed for the Bjorn? Aw, Hel, now I really have to help you.”

“That your ship?”

Naudrek nodded.

“Well then, let’s hope we get it here before we have to try to get it out of there.”

The three men put their backs together, their swords drawn and ready. Einarr watched the front door, Naudrek the kitchen, Hrug the fireplace. Minutes passed: nothing happened.

“You’re sure it’s coming?”

“It breached the alfs’ ward.” Something equally powerful had, anyway, and he had no reason to believe this island harbored two such artifacts. Hrug grunted. Einarr risked a glance over his shoulder, but the man merely acknowledged his answer. “Don’t underestimate the Shroud. It played me for a fool once before. It may simply be waiting for us to drop our guard.”

“If that’s the case, what’s to prevent it just moving on to the ship?”

“I believe there’s something it wants to accomplish here… although I couldn’t tell you what. Any of the rest of these fellows on your crew?”

“Afraid not.”

“Then either it’s looking to hitch a ride with one of you, or it’s looking to kill again before it leaves. You seen anyone obviously slumming it here the last few nights?”

“Just you, but that don’t mean much.”

Einarr grunted. “This could be a long night, then.”

“All the more reason to lend a hand, don’t you think?” Naudrek grinned at Einarr over his shoulder. Einarr grinned back.

“Couldn’t have said it better.”


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7.28 – Bells

Bowl of porridge in hand, the Singer came and sat across from Einarr at breakfast the next morning. “I’m told,” she said, lifting a spoonful. “That you wanted to talk to me. You looking for a battle chanter?”

Einarr smiled and shook his head, giving himself a chance to swallow. “Not exactly – although I will be in the spring, I expect.”

“Need rites performed? That’s not really…”

“Actually, I was hoping you could interpret something for me.”

She blinked. “Are you sure you need a Singer?”

“It’s a bit of a musical puzzle, you see.”

Now she looked intrigued, so Einarr described the vision his runestone had given him. When he finished, a distinctly amused smile appeared on her face.

“A puzzle for a warrior, perhaps, but plain as day to a Singer. The answer you’re looking for is ‘resonance,’ and it’s the principle that all Song Magic is based on.”

Einarr furrowed his brow, still not sure what she meant.

“A Singer creates an emotional effect with her choice of Song, and then the Song resonates with her listeners and the effect is amplified. The better we are, the more control we have over this resonance. In the same way, this Shroud you seek appears to resonate with fire. It grows stronger when exposed to fire, or when a rune is used to produce it.”

“So if I want to ‘wake up’ Sinmora, intentionally…”

“You need to figure out what she was resonating with. I suspect the answer is actually not ice, or the ice ward would not have been consumed.”

Now Einarr nodded, his face brightening. “Thank you. I think I at least know where to start, now.”

She smiled again – prettily, he thought, but no match for Runa’s. “My pleasure. Let me know if you want help figuring out what: you’ve got me curious now.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. But first I have a dive to locate. Heh – come to think of it, there was a bell associated with that, too.”

Now she laughed. “Afraid I can’t help you there. I’m Singing here precisely to avoid that sort of place – at least until I find a ship.”

“I’ll keep you in mind once my Hrútur is ready.” And he would: even if, by some miracle, Harl Hroaldr permitted his marriage in the spring, Runa was unlikely to be interested in the life of a battle-chanter.


After breakfast, his porridge unexpectedly supplemented with fresh sausages, Einarr reserved a bed for the coming night and tromped back out into the streets. As he walked, he turned over in his mind everything he could remember about that fight and that vault.

The most obvious thing to test would be parts of the wards laid over that vault, but Einarr was not too proud to admit they were far beyond his skill. While he could – and probably would – test individual runes, Einarr thought the key probably lay elsewhere. Or, at least he hoped it did. He was approaching the harbor, though, and so now was not the time to be distracted, no matter how important the problem he gnawed on was.

Yesterday, he had searched north of the main road. Today, he would try south.

The south side of the docks district appeared to cater to wealthier clientele, Einarr soon learned. This suited Einarr well enough, so long as they still had some cheap ale halls of the sort that would put rugs down even on the dance floor. And given that he was looking for a place related to a golden bell, and didn’t want to be stabbed in the back in the process, it might even be better.

Once again he spent his morning traipsing up and down the side streets of the docks, and once again asked for directions at a food stall – this one selling fried fish balls. “Hallo,” he said, eyeing the food. “Packet of five, if you please.”

The merchant snorted. “That all? You’re not working hard enough.”

Einarr just shrugged: searching the city was hungrier work than studying the runes, to be sure, but not so hungry as rowing a longship, and certainly not so hungry as unloading the deep-bellied knarr. “There a public hall around here named for a fancy bell?”

The dumpling vendor from the day before had looked at Einarr as though he were daft: this man acted as though Einarr were utterly cracked. “Not in this part of town, son. Maybe back west in the merchant district.”

Einarr shook his head. “Well, maybe it’s not the name, then. The alfs gave me a quest, and I need to find a place where men dance on rugs in order to catch up with it. Maybe it was that you could hear a golden bell from the place?”

Now the man frowned. “If the alfs sent you for it, the place must exist. …You didn’t do anything to make them mad, did you?”

Now Einarr shook his head. “I mean, this quest could be called penance, but they definitely want it done right.”

The man hummed, thinking, as he made a show of selecting five of the largest of the fish balls, as though he thought Einarr were too thin. “I still don’t have any idea what place you’re looking for, but I might know of someone who does. Only trouble is…”

“Yes?” Einarr had an inkling where the man was going with this, but he would hear him out.

“He’s not exactly the sort an honorable man wants to have dealings with, if you get my drift.”

Einarr sighed. He’d have been fine with being wrong about that. “I do, but unless we want the Muspel Shroud getting off the island, I think I’d better meet with him.”

The merchant blinked. “What’s the Muspel Shroud?”

“The artifact the alfs had imprisoned. Some idiot thief tried to steal it and it got loose. Now it’s my job to stop it.”

Now the man went pale as the pieces clicked into place. “Oh. You’d best come with me, then. Fjotli! Watch the counter! I’ve got to step off for a bit.”


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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.

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

7.26 – Wisdom of Runes

Einarr rode out from the young new Jarl’s Hall as light was just beginning to touch the sky. He’d have left immediately, but riding in the middle of the night, unrested, with a likely still-frightened horse seemed an excellent way to break his neck. So, he waited.

Shame burned in his mind, as hot as the Shroud. If he hadn’t let himself be distracted by the stable fire, would Hridi still be alive?

Maybe not. His failure that night was twofold, after all. First, he had let himself be distracted by the stable fire, and while horseflesh was worth saving it was not his duty. Obviously that was the Shroud’s intention, though – asuming it was as free-willed as Melja seemed to think.

Second, though, and more critically, he had failed to awaken Sinmoira’s power when he needed it most. That was the one that rankled. He had, after all, arrived in time to save the woman. He had simply failed to do it.

He rode away from the Hall, his mouth set in a grim line.

The problem, he thought, is that I don’t actually know how I woke her up in the first place.

Einarr reined in and looked about. The Hall was long since out of sight, and he saw no sign that anyone was likely to travel this way today. It looked to be a long, lonely rode through the forest. He would simply have to work it out as he traveled.

A hard edge jabbed at his thigh from inside his money pouch. The Runestone? Einarr shook his head. He at least wanted to try working it out on his own first.


The sun was high in the sky when Einarr finally stopped for lunch, no closer to working out the mystery of Sinmora’s new power than he had been when he started.

The trouble was, at least in part, that he first had to create a magical effect for Sinmora to ‘eat,’ and he was still very much a novice at the runic arts. If the old grandmother Geiti were here, perhaps he could convince her to Sing something it would be obvious if Sinmora disrupted, but she was not.

As he chewed a piece of jerky, he thought again of the Runestone he had carved back before he returned to the Shrouded Village. A Wisdom Rune, so that he could find his way through whatever quandaries his Calling threw his way. Carved with his own life force. A half-smile cracked his face. Stop being so stubborn. Do you want to keep stopping every five minutes to draw a new ward?

Einarr pulled the carved piece of wood from the money pouch on his belt. It was simple, without any of the ostentation he had seen on Wotan’s key broaches from the Tower of the Ravens. Just a smooth, square-ish bead of wood, carved with the ᚩ.

How did this even work? If he divined the answer like this, where would it come from? His own mind? Wotan?

Now he knew why he was so reluctant to use the stone. If he didn’t know the source of the answer, how could he trust it? But Runic divinations, the real ones, were among the best, even if the answers did tend toward the cryptic. He pursed his lips and pressed the bead against his forehead, between his eyebrows and focused.

He saw himself down in the temple vault once more, fighting the thief. The wards still existed.

The thief bellowed in rage and charged at Einarr’s past self, the screams oddly muted. Past-Einarr brought Sinmora up to guard, and as the blade gave its remembered pulse, the clear tone of a tower bell sounded in Einarr’s ears.

The fight continued as before. The eldritch runes began to glow in the vault, and Sinmora pulsed a second time. A second time, the bell sounded in Einarr’s ears. The walls of the vault seemed to vibrate with the sound of it.

The vision ended. Einarr drew his brows down in consternation and tore off another bite of jerky. What… did that even mean?

He turned the question over in his mind the rest of the afternoon as he continued his ride toward the port city of Eskiborg. As night fell, with family farms scattered to either side of the road, he was no closer to an answer.

Eskiborg, he estimated, would be another few hours’ ride yet. The roads here were passable enough that the dray was unlikely to trip and kill them both, but still he thought it best to rest for the evening. Better chances of finding a place to sleep in the city if he did not arrive in the wee hours of the morning.

As he stretched out by the side of the road, his cloak flung over his shoulders for a blanket, he sighed. I’m not getting anywhere with the question this way. There’s sure to be a Singer in town. Someone who knows music should understand.


A low haze hung in the sky when Einarr arose the next morning. To his mind there was something ominous about it, but none of the farmers he passed seemed troubled. His dray, too, plodded along as though nothing were out of the ordinary. Must just be nerves, since I know what I’m facing.

Eskiborg may have been as large a city as Kem, and as he approached its outskirts he learned that the haze that had troubled him all morning was in fact wood smoke. Armad’s Clan could be, if they chose, fabulously wealthy: the hardwood forests here produced superb timber for building ships and halls alike, and while that morning he saw no evidence that they built dromon for the Empire itself, but merchant ships were not outside the realm of possibility.

Dread settled in the pit of Einarr’s stomach. One ship, out of what looked to be a massive shipyard, and all he had to go on was a bear’s head. He needed to stop the Shroud before that.


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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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7.24 – Wards

It took some hours before Einarr was able to stop raging at the sheer, petty irresponsibility of the Lady’s missive, but eventually he was able to sleep that night.

In the quiet hour before dawn, Einarr was awakened by a small, insistent nagging feeling. He lay still, staring through the darkness at the ceiling, trying to figure out what it was he had missed. Then it came again, louder this time. The wards!

Einarr was up, buckling on Sinmora, within the span of two heartbeats. His eyes were already adjusted to the darkness of the hall, and he slipped quietly between sleeping forms toward the High Seat, where he had seen the Shroud draped in Melja’s divination.

The sound of lowered voices caught his attention from the small servant’s closet behind the Seat. It was far earlier than he expected even kitchen thralls to be up and about, so who… or perhaps a better question would be why? Einarr continued past the chair, where he had intended to stand to face the Shroud, to see a light on in the closet.

As he approached, the voices became distinctly feminine, and then distinctly familiar. Einarr knit his brows and continued to move silently towards the closet: why would Lady Hridi and Eifidi be conversing in there, at this hour, of all things?

“I recognize that he’s unhappy about it, but will he do it?” Eifidi asked, her voice both low and sharp.

“Hard to say.” Hridi’s answer sounded almost deferential: Einarr could not quite credit that it was the same person he had spoken with earlier in the day. He paused outside the door, listening. “He seems quite caught up his ‘responsibility’ for dealing with the thing.”

Eifidi made an exasperated noise. “Men can be so stubborn sometimes.”

“Now be fair, my lady. He has gone out of his way not to interfere with us, and does not know your brother’s court.”

Wait, what? Einarr stepped forward, pushing the door open so that he could look at the conspiring women. He stared at them, and as he spoke his voice was cool. “My ladies, a magical artifact has just tripped the wards and is headed towards the hall.”

“Thank you, sir. I trust you will deal with it.” The dismissal, from the woman dressed as Lady Hridi, was plain.

“What is going on here?”

“I thought you said you had no interest in meddling in Clan affairs.”

“So I did. But I feel as though I am being made a dupe, and I do not appreciate it.”

“It truly has nothing to do with you. Follow the letter of my missive, and you shall fulfill your duty admirably.”

Looking at them together, conspiring like this, suddenly it dawned on him what he had missed. “I understand. Lady Hridi, Eifidi. Stick together for the moment, if you would. Maybe pay a visit to the boy. I have an artifact to find.”

Two more wards had gone off as he spoke with the Lady Regent and her body-double. They were right: this was some sort of elaborate game they played, and it was not him they intended to dupe but some or all of those who played at politics in the late Jarl’s court. He wanted to spit: when he finally became Thane (and may he be old when that day finally came), he would forbid such underhanded dealing. Those who could not be discouraged would be disgraced – somehow.

As they left the room past him, he was struck by a troubling thought. “Is there another lamp at hand? I shall want some light to ensure I don’t miss the Shroud.”

“In the back of the closet,” Eifidi answered, her voice as sweet as he was accustomed to hearing it. “I would thank you to behave around us exactly as you have been the past several days.”

“Of course.” That shouldn’t be difficult: he hadn’t interacted much at all with ‘Eifidi,’ and he still disliked ‘Hridi,’ although for very different reasons now.

“You have our thanks.”

Einarr hummed, and the women slipped off into the night and their own sleeping area.

Candle lamp in hand, Einarr returned to the main room. The artifact had not yet breached the Hall, he was sure: he had finished that ward well before dinner, and it had not triggered. Even so, he very carefully patrolled the Hall. There had been no mistaking its location in the vision, after all. As expected, the Shroud was not yet inside.

That was when a horse’s scream shattered the night.

Einarr, still clutching the lamp, raced for the door, droplets of oil flinging about him as he moved. Something had attacked the stables, and Einarr had one guess as to what it was.

A blazing inferno lit up the night: the last time Einarr had seen a blaze even half so hot, it was the one he lit for the Althane’s burial rites. Swearing, he dropped the lamp now and poured on more speed. The alfs’ dray was in there. She wasn’t much of a horse, but he intended to return her – alive – if at all possible.

Some small part of him had expected charging into a burning building to be, yes, dangerously hot, but brightly lit. If it was, he could not tell. As soon as he crossed the threshold, one arm held up to shield his face, the smoke stung his eyes so that he felt half-blind and choked his lungs. The heat bore down on him like nothing he’d ever felt before – this was a physical suppression, but even more it was a spiritual one.

Come on, Einarr. All you have to do is make sure the horses can get out. He drew Sinmora: this was a simple stable on a half-rural island. If he could find the ropes, he could free all the horses with two quick cuts and be out of there.

Now all he had to do was find the ropes through the smoke and the heat.


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7.12 – Broken Cage

The thief’s fiery sword, flaming no longer, fell to the floor with a clatter as the man backed towards the cellar ladder. The man’s eyes were wide, and it was like he couldn’t tell what was most horrifying.

Einarr, though, was too stunned to pursue. Sinmora still shone with the magic it had stolen… from… the wards!

Einarr spun on his heel even as the thief screamed. A red blur whipped past Einarr to the sound of feet racing up the rungs of the ladder. The glow of runes from within the vault was gone. The cellar was now lit only by the icy cold light emanating from Sinmora. The vault was empty.

Einarr now raced up the ladder, Sinmora’s hilt still clutched in his hand. At that moment, two thoughts warred for dominance in his head: where is the Shroud and what just happened?

At the top of the ladder Einarr stopped, trying to spot the thief. He shouldn’t have been that far ahead, but Einarr could neither see nor hear any trace of him.

Frowning, Einarr ran for the exit. He didn’t know where the thief had gone, but it didn’t much matter now. The Muspel Shroud was loose, and if even half what Melja had told him was accurate they were in trouble.

The bay was gone. Einarr had no way of knowing if it was being run into the ground or if it had fallen victim to the Shroud. He sheathed his sword and ran for the village.


Einarr arrived on the outskirts of the village, red-faced and winded, an hour later. Melja demanded, before he had caught his breath, “Did you stop him?”

Einarr shook his head. “I mean, yes, but it didn’t matter. My sword -”

He was interrupted by a long wail from his teacher. “What do you mean, it didn’t matter?”

“My sword… it’s never done anything like this before! My sword ate the wards, and then used that to put out his sword!” He drew Sinmora to show them the blade, still unnaturally cold and glowing faintly even in daylight.

“So the Shroud is free, for the first time in generations,” Melja moaned again, but then seemed to really see the blade held out before him. “What did you say?”

“Sinmora. Always before, she wasn’t magical at all. Then today, fighting that thief, it was like she sucked in all the power from the wards. It put out his sword, but…”

“But it cost us the ward.” The man sighed, then cursed. “You plainly didn’t expect your sword to start pulling power. There’s no point in casting stones. Let’s just… find the thing and lock it back down.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Einarr paused, trying to recall what all he’d been told. “Um, how was it caught the first time?”

“My great-great grandfather set a trap for it.” Melja sighed again. “But, so far as we can tell, he never told anyone how he trapped it. My grandfather said he thought something about the trap was shameful.”

Einarr grimaced. That gave him an unfortunate idea of what might have been involved. “Let’s see if we can’t come up with a cleaner method, then. Surely, as its guardians for so long, there are records of what it can do?”

Melja nodded, suddenly looking very tired. “This way.”


No-one ever saw the thief – or his horse – again. Within the village, it was assumed they fell to the Shroud.

Einarr, closeted away with the dusty scrolls of the Runemasters, quickly grew frustrated. Always before he could consult a Singer, and even if they did not know they could extrapolate. Here, it seemed that the records were all either far too precise or hopelessly vague.

By noon on the second day after the attack, he was fed up. “This is not where I belong here. I’m going to go out and look for the thing, so that hopefully once you have an answer we can just use it.”

Melja looked up from his scroll from under his brows. “That impatience will be the death of you one day, if you’re not careful.”

Einarr snorted. “But not, I think, today. I am not a scholar, Melja, and all my progress with the runes isn’t going to change that. But I am a decent hunter.”

“Suit yourself.”

With a nod of thanks, Einarr excused himself. The clean air outside refreshed his mood immediately, and the clear sky and bright sun made it hard to remember that there was an intelligent piece of cloth on the island, looking for its next prey. What in the name of all the gods am I doing with my life?

He shook his head, shaking off the wry impression that had been haunting him all summer, it seemed. The Shroud had either kept to the forest thus far, or bypassed the village that had for so long been set to watch over its prison. The port, however, was an equally poor place to try to pick up its track: too far away, and likely too large.

Luckily, the local chief maintained a hunting lodge not far from the Shrouded village that he was known to frequent, and when he was not there personally there were some few hired hands who lived there to maintain it. If anyone would have noticed something amiss, it would be a professional hunter. With a spring in his step and his good elven cloak over his shoulders, Einarr set out across the forest.

Now all that was necessary was for Melja or Mira to find something – anything – that could help them defeat the damnable thing.


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7.11 – Rematch

Einarr blinked back to consciousness with the faces of Melja and Mira staring down at him and a strange tingling on his forehead and shield arm. He knit his brow. “What happened?”

“The fool has gone to free the Shroud!” Melja’s voice was husky, as though from shouting. “Our runes had no effect. At this rate…”

Einarr nodded, pushing himself to his feet. “I’ll not lose a second time,” he swore.

With Sinmora back in her sheath, and a new shield on his arm, Einarr set off at a jog for the temple.

Catching up with the man before he found the temple was a lost cause, Einarr was sure. That meant he would be facing the thief at the temple – hopefully before he found the vault, but Einarr would not hold his breath for that.

As Einarr jogged the trail, glad it was clearly marked, he replayed their earlier fight. It had been, he thought, like going up against Erik, except that so far as Erik was concerned, sparring was play. But even outmassed and out-reached as Einarr was, even with that magic sword, Einarr knew there had to be a way to fight the thief. He just hoped he had enough time to discover what that was.

As Einarr entered the open field surrounding the temple, he saw the thief’s horse grazing hungrily. The thief was nowhere in sight. Einarr sighed and picked up his pace: time was running out.

It was easy, unfortunately, to track the thief’s progress through the temple by the scorch marks he left on walls and floor alike. Einarr could think of no reason for those, or for the sword to be drawn in the first place. Had he been expecting guards? That seemed unlikely. The man’s wanton destruction did suggest a means under his skin, however. Those most willing to show off their swords, after all, were also said to be lacking in manhood – if not perhaps in quite the same way as those who turn to magic. Provoking the man would never be Einarr’s first choice of tactics, but under the circumstances it might be the best available.

The door to the cellar stood open. Einarr slid down the ladder, the smell of blood and burned flesh already assaulting his nose. Anger began to bubble in his stomach, and harder when he saw the body of the guard. That had been no fight: that was butchery.

Behind the body, the door to the vault also stood open. Inside, the brash man with the fiery sword strode straight towards the crimson fabric, his prize, at the center of the wards. The Shroud now snapped and cracked like a banner in high wind.

Einarr planted his feet at the threshold and drew Sinmora. He leveled his blade at the burly man. “That’s far enough.”

The thief stopped in his tracks. Then, slowly, ostentatiously casually, he rotated on one foot to face the door. He wore a smug grin like a mask. “Well. Look who’s back for more.”

“I can’t let you break that seal.”

“Like you can stop me?” He spat to the side and leered at Einarr. “You might as well just bend over and take your beating.”

“You’ll not find me so easy the second time. Now step out of that room and answer for yourself, you pig-sticker.”

“…Eh?”

“Tell me, on those cold winter nights, is it pigs or goats you turn to for comfort?”

“Say that again.”

“Did I mumble? You don’t like it, come out here and fight me properly.” The enclosed space of the cellar would level the playing field between them, at least. And with the other man hopefully not thinking clearly…

The black-haired man charged at Einarr, barrelling forward fast enough that Einarr had to skip backward to get out of the way. A quick sidestep took him out of the man’s path and left an opening. Sinmora slashed, and the man howled.

The thief gathered himself and took his sword in both hands, his eyes never leaving Einarr’s. “You’ll regret that.”

“Will I? Your swordplay makes me wonder if I wasn’t right. Has a woman ever graced your bed?”

With a wordless scream, the thief charged for Einarr yet again, his fiery blade unavoidable this time.

Einarr brought Sinmora and his shield up to guard. Sinmora seemed to pulse with power, but Einarr had no time to question that. He turned the blade aside with his shield boss, narrowly, and scrambled back around behind his opponent.

Which is why he saw the runes in the vault begin to glow with an eldritch blue light. Hel. That can’t be good. I need to finish this quickly

Sinmora pulsed a second time as Einarr brought her up to guard against the incoming blow. Last time, it was at about this point in the fight that the man battered down Einarr’s guard.

In the instant before their blades met, Einarr saw a flash of cold blue light from inside the vault. A whirlpool of energy formed with Sinmora at the center, drawing it in, and then it was the blade itself glowing with the cold energy of the runes.

Steel clashed against steel, and ice crystals formed all up and down the length of Sinmora’s blade. Einarr nearly dropped it from cold and surprise. That white, icy energy suddenly infusing Sinmora attacked the flames running along the length of the other blade. Extinguishing them.

A heartbeat later, it was over. The thief’s blade clattered to the floor, now evidently just an ordinary long sword, as its owner stared at it in disbelief.

Einarr stared at the blade in his hand, dumbfounded. That had never happened before. There would have been stories if it had.

The thief, no longer paying any attention to his prize in the vault, also stared dumbly at the weapons. With a strangled scream, he scrambled back towards the cellar entrance.


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7.6 – The Shrouded Village

The light had dimmed from its lustrous gold by the time Ystävä led Einarr out of the trackless wood and onto a broad path – broad enough that a wagon could be driven down it at need, if barely. The sky had turned the white of early dusk, and from the trees about them he could hear the calls of birds setlting in for the night.

“Nearly there,” Ystävä muttered as he strode off south along the trail. Needlessly, Einarr thought. Within a hundred paces he could smell the tang of wood smoke and hear the sounds of village life. Not many paces further on, Einarr caught sight of buildings.

It was, somehow, not in the slightest what Einarr expected and exactly what it had to be. There were no spiralling towers, or even any true stone. The village reminded him a bit of the freehold where he stayed with Grimhildr’s parents as a youth. Walls of treated timber, rooved with thatch or shakes or, if the inhabitant was truly well-off, tile. Inside, the floors would be covered in fresh, or at least fresh-ish, rushes.

Einarr smiled. He remembered those few summers, before he was given Sinmora, fondly. If this was that sort of place, he thought he would do well.

His guide was already striding deeper into the village – heading, it appeared, to the largest of the buildings with a tile roof. Einarr hurried to once more close the gap between them.

Those few people he still saw out and about looked more like farmers than rune masters, but with the appearance of the village that fit. Still, though, he wondered. “If these alfs are all rune masters,” he murmured when he caught up to Ystävä. “Why does there not seem to be any magic in the village?”

Why they were on Midgardr and not Alfheim was another question, but not one he wanted to ask just then.

Ystävä smiled cryptically. “You’ll see.”

Then they stopped, the tile-roofed home before them, light spilling out from under the shutters. Ystävä rapped lightly on the door and stood back.

The deep baritone that sounded from within was unmistakeably annoyed. “Whoever you are,” he said. “You’d best have an excelent reason for interrupting my supper!”

Ystävä smiled, amused (although Einarr was not certain what could be amusing). “How about a new student, Elder Melja?”

The door burst open before them. Filling the open doorway, framed by the welcoming glow of candlelight, stood an alfr man with the golden hair and upswept features one expects of his race. If it were not for those, Einarr might have thought he was looking at a particularly well-formed human man: he towered over the two of them, broad-shouldered and clean-shaven.

“There you are, you old dog! I’d begun to think the human had gotten cold feet!”

“No, no. You know how chancy the High Road can be, though.”

The village elder laughed. “Too true. Come in, come in. You’ll be resting the night, I trust?”

As they followed Melja into the warmly lit room, Ystävä bowed his head as though to demure. “I’d hate to impose.”

“Nonsense! Stay, rest, visit your mysterious lady in the morning. The High Road is no place to be at night.”

Ystävä gave that small, amused smile again and said “If you insist.”

Inside, the home was as simple as Einarr expected, and as welcoming. A woman, as slight as the Elder was large, ladled the night’s meal into a pair of bowls. The smell of fresh bread tickled his nose, and he felt his cheeks color in embarrasment when his stomach had the audacity to rumble loudly.

The Elder laughed, not unkindly. “I imagine you’ve not eaten all day, have you?”

Einarr shook his head: they had not stopped more than a moment during the day’s travel.

“I beg your pardon,” Ystävä said. “Allow me to introduce Einarr, son of Stigander, son of Raen, scion of Breidelstein and Cursebreaker, so named by the Oracle at Attilsund.”

“Welcome, young Cursebreaker. Sit, eat, and we will speak once the edge has come off your hunger. Are their places set, my love?”

“Aye, ready and cooling while you lot flap your jaws. Sit! Eat! Be welcome in our home.” The woman’s voice was pleasant, if aged in a way her husband’s was not.

Einarr’s family was half an ocean, give or take, away, and yet this first meal in an unknown village was one of the most pleasant he had experienced in recent memory. No doom-seeking axe now hung over his neck. Melja, with Mira his wife, welcomed him into their home as though he were a long-lost son, and over the course of their conversation he learned that he was neither the first nor the fifth human they had instructed in the course of their long alfish lives. They made him so comfortable, in this short stretch of time, that the question he had not wanted to ask earlier came unbidden to his lips.

“So why is the Shrouded Village on Midgardr?”

Melja paused a long moment, looking more sober than Einarr had yet seen him. “That is a long story, which will be better explained over the course of your training. You are road-weary tonight: there will be plenty of time to explore these mysteries later.”

Einarr inclined his head, not entirely satisfied. Still, a promise of more to come would do, for now.

Since the topic had turned, however obliquely, to training, Melja explained how the next several weeks were going to go. Einarr would rise with the sun and assist with chores in the mundane way. There was always wood to be chopped and chickens to be fed, after all. Then, after breakfast, he would learn the form and reading and nuance of a single rune, and in the afternoon put that rune to practical use. What was meant, exactly, by practical use Melja did not explain, but Einarr was satisfied. That night he slept soundly under the roof of his new tutors.


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6.25 – Banditry

Einarr bared his teeth at their assailants in a feral grin. So they thought they were raiders, did they? Farmers turned to banditry, fishermen who might make decent warriors if given a few years practice. They had spirit, at least. Sinmora practically leapt into his hand. He would teach them who they were up against and gladly – and then he would offer these desperate men a chance to get off this rock.

It felt like it had been ages since he’d fought against men who were actually men – since their unfortunate run-in with the Valkyrian Hunters early in the spring, Einarr thought. Unfortunately, he had not underestimated the skill of their opponents here. They did not so much put up a fight as receive a sound drubbing from the experienced raiders of the Vidofnir.

Perhaps a minute later, even their leader sat huddled in the center of a ring formed by Einarr and his companions. Had one of them decided to run they probably could have escaped, but not one tried. Einarr folded his arms across his chest and stepped forward.

“Full points for bravery, gents, but you chose your target wrong this time. Or perhaps right, depending on how you look at it.”

Scramasax visibly gathered himself up and leaned forward. “‘Twere my idea, Lord. I’m the one as convinced ‘em all, once we ‘ad to leave the town. Let them go.”

Einarr smirked, and the leader of the would-be bandits quailed. “Don’t go leaping off of any cliffs just yet. My friends and I, we’re part of an actual longship crew, and that longship happens to have some open oars for brave men.”

The townsmen exchanged confused looks, as well they might. Einarr expected there were few if any raiding ships that landed on these shores.

“We’ve a fishing boat down the coast aways in need of repair. Anyone willing to help us fix it up and get off this rock, I’ll put in a word for with our Captain when we make it back.”

Scramasax’s men did not look as thrilled at the prospect as he’d hoped – although their relief at apparently being spared was evident.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, Lord,” one of the fishermen said, scratching sheepishly at the back of his head. “But there ain’t no way off this island. Cursed, it is, and all of us on it.”

“There’s always some way past a curse, even if nobody’s found it before. That’s what Cursebreakers are Called for, after all.” Einarr hoped they were less familiar with the lore than he had been. “Even if you’re right, though, my Father – our ship – is counting on our return. I can’t give up, not while there’s even a prayer of getting back to them.”

Scramasax cleared his throat to speak, but Einarr held up a hand to forestall him. “What’s your name?”

“Ah, Arkja, Lord.”

Einarr nodded. “Sorry. Go on.”

“Your wench there – ah, my apologies, no offense intended, but – is she a Singer?”

“I am,” Runa answered for herself, her annoyance audibly constrained.

“The ‘wench,’ as you so delicately termed her, is my bride, and I will thank you to remember that.”

“Yes, of course, Lord. I meant no aspersions. Only, if we’ve a Singer, maybe there’s a chance.”

“Explain.”

“Well you see, Lord, it’s like this. Those as try an’ sail away from here always end up back where they started, wi’ no memory of having turned about.”

“That certainly sounds like something the song seithir could get us past.” Runa still sounded dubious.

“Well, not by itself, I don’t think, Lady.”

The man’s obsequiousness was beginning to grate on Einarr’s nerves.

“Haven’t been many, but some Singers has washed up here before, an’ the magic alone wasn’t enough to get them past it.”

Jorir grunted. “Wouldn’t be much of a curse if it was, I think.”

Some of the captives looked uncomfortable now that Jorir had drawn attention to himself. But so long as no-one tried to start trouble over it, Einarr would let it rest. “So. It’s the four of us, plus one injured man back with the hulder. If you’re willing to help us supply our boat and make her seaworthy again, we’re willing to take you aboard, with the possibility of a permanent berth on the Vidofnir. Who’s in?”

One or two of the would-be bandits glanced nervously at Jorir – Arkja not among them – but not one of them hesitated more than a moment. Einarr could work with that.

“Good. Welcome aboard the Gestrisni, such as she is. She needs a mast and provisions, and could do with some other repairs as well. She got us here, though, so I expect she’ll get us back to Breidhaugr all right.”

“A – mast, you say, Lord?”

“Indeed. It was struck by lightning when the storm washed us ashore.”

Arkja looked uncomfortable, as though there was news he did not wish to bring up. “Um, beggin’ yer pardon, Lord -”

Einarr rolled his eyes and held up a hand. “Please. Such… servility is neither necessary nor proper. I am Einarr. Jorir – the dwarf – is my man at arms.” He pointed at each of the men in turn. “Erik has been on my father’s ship longer than I have, and has had my back since I joined. And if you’re going to tell me the forest is too dangerous to cut a new mast, we’ve already dealt with it.”

“I see, um, L- Einarr.” Where had he learned to cringe like that? No matter: the man had a spine, he just needed to lose some old habits.

Erik was staring at the conscripted men, his arms folded across his chest and his gaze weighing them like cuts of meat. Einarr would ask the man’s opinion later, once Arkja’s men had been put to work.

In the meantime, they had a ship to resupply. “All right. Enough standing around. Let’s get to it.”


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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 Smashwords, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

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