Tag: Song Magic

9.22 – Kaldr

Reki did not look away from Runa’s face. The spoiled young apprentice almost looked like she was about to cry.

“Whether she’d done what to Einarr?” Bea asked again. “Does it have anything to do with what happened to the pair who arrived on the boat with her?”

Reki raised an eyebrow – the one furthest from her Imperial Highness. If Bea was sharp enough to pick up on that, with no training in Song at all, then either Runa’s desperate move was clumsier than Reki thought or there was more to Beatrix than she let on. “It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with,” was Reki’s answer.

Bea pressed her lips together into a line. “I think it might be, actually. But now is not the time. I would speak of this later.”

Reki snorted. Beatrix might try. “Did you find a way through?”

“This way. You’re not planning on putting those two to sleep, are you?”

Reki shook her head. She had considered it, briefly, but it would raise too many questions if anyone were to discover them. “We’ll figure that out when we get there.”

Beatrix led them through the alleys between buildings quickly and quietly until they moved up against the outer wall of the Hold. The moon would be setting soon, and the wall fell into shadow. As they neared the tower, the sound of raised voices carried down to them from a lit window overhead. They froze.

“My Lord! Sooner or later, your mother’s skill will fail you. What then?” It was Kaldr.

“You’ve said quite enough, Kaldr!” Ulfr’s response was significantly angrier than his liege man’s.

“You follow these weavings with such devotion, you don’t even know why you’re meant to do these things! My Lord, you can think for yourself! Now if only you would.”

Reki whistled quietly. The man was treading on dangerous ground. Would be, with any Thane or petty Jarl she had ever met – even Stigander. Probably even Einarr.

“Mother is my adviser because her advice has never yet failed me.” Ulfr’s voice was audibly tight, even from so far below. “If you cannot accept that, you may leave my service.”

Reki shared a look with her companions, eyebrows raised, to the sound of a slamming door. But if they had heard that, then so had all of the guards. Perhaps – if they had only a little luck – perhaps Kaldr would be distraction enough of himself. She continued forward along the wall: had anyone else heard that? Did she want anyone else to know about it, under the circumstances? To the extent that it destabilized the Usurper’s regime? Yes, yes she did. Be as loud as you dare, Kaldr, she thought with a small smile.

She led her fellow prisoners forward to the corner where the tower rose out from the wall like a great tree, guarding the gate and all who passed through it, and then around the curve of its walls to where she could just make out the two warriors standing guard on the entrance to the dungeon.

Kaldr was stalking away down the same road Reki and the others had been led along on their arrival, headed, she surmised, for bed and sleep. There, she waited, until he was long out of view and, she hoped, out of earshot. No-one had followed him. On the other hand, she thought it unlikely anyone else was likely to visit the tower this night.

Is it a trap? Just a mummer’s ruse, put on for our benefit? … She shook her head. What would it matter, if it were? It did not change what they had to do. She motioned for Svana to Sing the men to sleep.


This was it. Reki was certain that they had found where Urdr worked her Weavings. There were only two problems.

The first, was that after his argument with Kaldr last night, neither Ulfr nor Urdr had left the room. She was certain they were both in there: she could hear them conversing, although they kept their voices low enough she could glean nothing.

The second was that the horizon was just beginning to lighten and the tower was already beginning to come alive. She shifted her shoulders, uncomfortably aware of Eydri pressed against her back and Runa’s omnipresent elbow in her ribs from where they hid, watching, in a storage room near where the Weavess worked. The door, cracked slightly open, gave Reki and Aema an excellent view of the weaving room and allowed a trickle of cool air in. Every time Reki thought the hallway clear, however, a thrall would rush into view, carrying this or that in preparation for the day to come. She growled, frustration escaping as quietly as she could make it before she burst.

Finally she felt safe to open the door and slip into the corridor. She paused only a moment, glancing up and down to take her bearings, before striding off towards the stairs as though she belonged. The others were hard on her heels.

Down the stairs they went, trying hard to keep up their pace in spite of the soft soles of their boots. A presence ahead of her brought her up short, however. Standing on the stairs, not two steps below her, Kaldr glared coldly at them all. Reki met the man’s green-blue eyes levelly, trying not to show her surprise.

They stood like that for what felt like eternity. Finally, the Captain grunted, inclined his head as though in greeting, and stood aside for them to continue downward.

Warily, not taking her eyes off the man, Reki returned his nod in kind and slipped past, regaining the guise of ‘belonging’ as soon as he was out of her direct line of view.

“Be cautious, ladies,” he muttered as they passed. “If you are caught, all pretense will be broken.”


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9.21 – Taboo

There had been no small amount of discussion among the Singers for how to best slip past their guard on this second night’s search. Thank the Gods, Runa had not even alluded to Tuning again, although Reki thought that was more because of Bea’s presence than out of any insight on her part. In the end, they decided they had to chance the lullaby again. Only this time it was Svana who Sang, since her voice was the highest and softest of everyone’s.

“Why are you a battle-chanter?” Reki asked, her curiosity getting the better of her, as they hurried to the hold’s lone tower.

The plump woman offered a small smile. “Family matters, I’m afraid.”

“Ah.” That explained precisely nothing, and yet everything it needed to. They hurried on.

The tower was built overlooking the cliff face that led down to Breidelstein town and served as over watch as well as dungeon. They were perhaps halfway across the courtyard in the middle of the ring fort when they heard their first patrol.

Reki ducked between the nearest two long houses, the others close on her heels. As the last of their number disappeared under the deeper shadows of the buildings, a pair of guards with wooden wolf’s-head brooches holding their cloaks closed swaggered by. Reki frowned: ordinarily, the most emotion you saw on the face of a patrolling guard was boredom. These men were scowling. What that meant, she could not begin to guess, but she was sure it would be important. Had they been discovered already?

She shook her head. If that was the case, why hadn’t they sounded an alarm? The pretense that they were not prisoners here was thinner than a poor man’s bedclothes, and just as tattered. No matter: they would learn, and one way or another it would be soon enough.

The men did not speak between themselves as they passed. Bea crept forward toward the end of the alley to peer after them: eventually, she nodded. Reki headed on down the alleyway, rather than back out to the main street. There was no sense courting danger by moving so openly.

Despite their caution, they narrowly missed three more patrols as they inched their way across the hold. Last night there had been none. It was almost as though Ulfr – or, more likely, his seneschal – had been put on alert. Had Kaldr lied when he said he would not expose them?

Whether he lied or not, they still had a job to do. After what felt like half the night, the six of them crouched in the shadows of a longhouse. Ahead of them stood a broad open yard and the entrance to the tower.

A man stood on either side of the door. One of the two stood straight and alert, one hand resting on top of the axe at his hip. The other leaned casually against the wall, his arms crossed and one foot planted against the stone behind him. Moonlight glinted in his eyes, though, and Reki judged him to be the more dangerous of the two.

Bea hummed. “Let me scout around the perimeter,” she whispered. “Maybe there’s a better way in.”

Reki nodded. That was all the permission she needed: the Imperial Princess vanished into the night. They could not even hear gravel under her soft-soled boots.

Runa raised her chin after the girl, as though she were glad to see Bea gone. After another minute passed, and without a word to any of the rest of them, Runa stepped forward to stand between Reki and Eydri. A low hum emanated from her throat – low, and oddly soothing.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Reki raised her hand and clapped Runa on one side of her head, even as Eydri did the same on the other side.

“Ow!” Runa exclaimed, then clapped her hands over her mouth.

The more alert-looking of the guards had not moved, but the lounging man’s eyes now scanned the yard. After what felt like forever, he relaxed again. A sigh of relief rippled over the waiting women.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Reki hissed. “That is taboo!”

“We overlooked it with those men who ‘helped’ you escape,” Eydri muttered. “Do not expect us to be so lenient in the future.”

“I fail to see what the problem is,” Runa said, thankfully remembering to keep her voice down this time – although it may have been haughtier for it. “A tiny tuning adjustment would have them just let us in, with no need to sneak across the wide, brightly lit yard. Father is over there, and who knows what else we might find. Wouldn’t it be better to have allies at our back?”

Reki stared at the Apprentice, speechless, for a long moment. Finally, the words she managed to splutter were “Are you an idiot?”

“Has your father taught you no sense?” Eydri muttered at the same time.

“Do you know why Tuning is taboo, Apprentice? You should.”

Runa’s brow knit in confusion.

“It can be argued that it is we Singers who rule the northern seas, not the petty jarls and thanes. Do you know why? Because we have their ears. We know the stories and the songs, the histories, and because of this we are valuable as advisors. But what happens if Tuning becomes as widely known as Curse Weaving?”

The apprentice blinked in apparent confusion – or perhaps startlement at the older women’s vehemence.

Eydri picked up here. “You think Kaldr mad? Good, because that is how the Matrons wish it. But if the taboo becomes known? Not just you, but all Singers, become pariahs. Because Kaldr’s wariness is vindicated.”

Runa blanched, even under the moonlight, but Reki wasn’t done. “Your beloved Einarr already knows. The Oracle spilled the beans. You want to know what question he all but begged me to answer? Whether or not you’d done it to him. Think about that.”

“Whether she’d done what to Einarr?” The question came from Bea, approaching from back up the alley way she’d left earlier.


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9.15 – Ulfr

The oversized wooden door opened inwards before the group of women and their so-called honor guard to reveal an equally oversized hall. As Reki strode forward, her shoulders squared, at the head of her companions her impression was of walking through a great, empty cavern. Their soft-soled boots still managed to echo through the stone room. There did not even appear to be trestles for a long table, although it was possible those were merely stored elsewhere in a hold such as this.

At the far end of the hall stood the Thane’s seat, large and ornately carved oak, polished to a shine. As they drew closer, Reki noted that there were no cushions on the chair, and wondered if the lack of a rug – or any furnishings, really – was truly the desire of the man sitting, slumped, in the worn seat.

If she had not known he was Stigander’s half-brother, she never would have guessed. The man looked not unlike his name suggested: a rangy, scrappy lone wolf who had to fight for what he needed and steal what he wanted. His ashen brown hair fell across his face, hiding his eyes, and a sharp nose poked out from above a thin beard.

In front of the throne, the Captain of the boat that had brought them in was giving his report. “Sire, you rely too thoroughly on your mother’s bits of cloth! There is no honor in all this skulking about.”

“That’s enough, Captain Kaldr. I’ll hear no more against her, or her Weavings. They have never yet betrayed me.” Ulfr surged to his feet before his liege man, but the anger quieted from his face almost as quickly.

“My Lord -”

“No. More. See to your ship, Kaldr. Let me focus on our next moves.”

Captain Kaldr bowed deeply, and Reki caught a glimpse of cold disapproval on the man’s face when it was hidden from his Lord. Interesting. When he straightened, however, his face was calm once again, and the captain strode from the room without so much as a glance at Reki and her companions.

Ulfr, no longer confronted by a man at arms with a message he disliked, paced restlessly, his eyes watching the approaching women. He looked even more like a wolf now than he had before. The leader of the honor guard reached ten paces from the throne and knelt before his Thane.

“Rise,” Ulfr sneered. “Who are these?”

The guard leader stood but did not look his Lord in the face, a fact that Reki filed away for later consideration. “These,” he said, emphasizing the word, “Are the Singers that were aboard the three rebel ships.”

Rebel? It seemed an odd choice of words to Reki, but that was hardly the point to challenge the Usurper on. If she challenged him, today. It might be better to pretend servility, at least until she could figure out what was going on. Her eyes darted to either side: Runa was on her left, and Bea on her right. It was a struggle not to shake her head at her own thoughts. Neither of them would be able to feign that.

“The only one I wanted was Runa Hroaldrsdottir. Why do you trouble me with the others?”

The second in command of the honor guard looked embarrassed and started to speak, but his leader surreptitiously elbowed him in the ribs.

“My Lord, they are three ships and they carried no fewer than six Singers, once you count in the young Lady Runa. By capturing all of them, we have dealt your foes a major blow.”

Ulfr stared disdainfully at the man who had spoken. “Tell me. Your own Captain forbids Song Magic aboard. What makes you think no other ship can fight without it?”

He only stammered a little, Reki noted, before he parroted back the same idea Kaldr had used on board his ship. “Reliance on Magic makes them weak, sir. Without it, they’ll be no threat.”

Ulfr snorted but did not try to correct the man. Probably adjudged it as impossible as changing Kaldr’s mind on the subject. “Very well. This was uneccessary, but acceptable tactics nonetheless.”

Finally Ulfr turned his attention to the captives, and all trace of the hungry wolf disappeared from his demeanor save a slight stoop to his shoulders. Reki pasted a sickly-sweet smile on her face, waiting to see how he would try to play this.

“Ladies. Welcome to my court. My sincerest apologies for any unpleasantness you may have faced along the way: I’m afraid Captain Kaldr has some rather… unorthodox ideas.”

Unorthodox. That was the word. Was he really going to try to pretend that he hadn’t just had that conversation right in front of them? Well, two could play at that game. She kept the smile plastered to her face. “No trouble at all, Lord. Your invitation was most gracious.”

“How could I do otherwise, with such a delegation of Singers in my waters? I assure you, any discomfort you may have endured on the Mánagarmr will be remedied here in my Hall. Have they given you rooms yet? …No, they couldn’t have, could they.” He clapped his hands. Moments later a thrall appeared, the dark circles under his eyes the only color Reki could see on the man. “See to it they have comfortable chambers, and have the sauna heated. I trust the Lady Runa would prefer to remain with her father?”

Out of the corner of her eye, Reki saw the apprentice blanch. Not that she would have let them separate her anyway. “That will not be necessary,” she purred. “The Lady Runa has training we must see to, even at a time such as this.”

Ulfr offered her a gallant, if shallow, bow. “As my lady wishes. Agnar here will show you to your chambers. If it is not too much trouble, I would ask that you all join Mother and I for supper this evening.”

“We should be delighted.”


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9.5 – War Footing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Akel? Who’s Akel?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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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8.14 – Kettleness

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

Hohenwerth island looked like the island of the cult in miniature in many ways, although for the moment it lacked the blackness of that bigger, more northerly island. Steep shale slopes rose from the surface of the water, topped by the green of good farmland and orchards. A sinister silence hung over the area, though, and it didn’t take Einarr long to realize why. There were no fishing boats out on the water, despite the time and the weather.

All eyes on deck were glued to the shore as an inlet came into view and, behind it, a village.

Even from here it was plain the village was a husk. Deserted, Einarr would have said, if not for Liupold’s story. Dead.

“That,” Captain Liupold confirmed, “is all that remains of Kettleness.”

Einarr hated to have to ask it, but: “Have the dead been properly buried?”

“The priests were arriving to deal with them when we left.”

“I do not know Imperial burial practices. But if so much as one body remains in the village, you will do for them as we did for Langavik. Eydri, would you be willing to assist in this?”

“Of course.”

“What happened at Langavik?” Liupold asked.

“While we were tracking the ship that kidnapped Runa, we put into port there. Hoping for information. Well, we got some… although not exactly the way we hoped. The entire city was painted with blood. Men hung from meat hooks. Some of them were disemboweled…”

“Survivors?”

“None. The city became their pyre, and we sailed on. Then we picked up the storm they rode and it led us to the island where all of this started.” The horror remained, although not so visceral as at the time. Still his eyes remained glued to the husk of a village he could see on shore. Had the priests done their job, or had they been corrupted in turn?

“Drop anchor,” Liupold ordered. “Ready the landing boat: I’ll be taking our guests ashore.”

His Mate protested, but the Captain was having none of it. “We’ve both been ashore here already. You have the Arkona, I have responsibility for what happens here.”


An almost eerie feeling of oppression hung heavy over the landing party as they stepped ashore. Liupold was the only one who had been here before, but Einarr was certain he knew what he was about to see. Naudrek, Hrug, Eydri, and Burkhart and Rambert from the Arkona followed. The two Arkonites tried to put on a brave face for the outsiders in their midst, but the four from the Clans merely plunged grimly ahead.

Einarr had thought, based on relative sizes and that someone had already come through here, that Kettleness couldn’t possibly be as disturbing as Langavik had been. And, in a way, he was right.

It was worse.

As soon as they entered the circle of huts the smell of rotting flesh assailed his nose. Blood stained the ground dark and painted the walls of the huts, and though it appeared black Einarr suspected that was due to time, not corruption. After all, he had not known the cultists to murder their own like this.

Bodies hung by the neck from tree branches, although they may not have died from the hanging. Flies buzzed about their bloated faces that still showed evidence of brutal beatings. Some of them also showed open wounds in their sides. Einarr wanted to retch.

Liupold, too, had turned a sickly shade of green. He motioned for them to leave the ruined village, and their companions gladly followed.

Once they had caught their breath, back on the beach by their landing boat, Einarr turned an angry look on the Order Captain. “What became of your vaunted priests, eh, knight? The gods need no intercessors: that could have been avoided if you and your crew had simply given them rites yourself.”

Burkhart looked especially shaken. “There were priests… among the bodies.”

“Aye,” Liupold agreed. “But not all of them. So where are the rest?”

“My guess? Southwaite. I could be wrong, they could be using Langtoft as their stronghold, but I suspect they want some distance from the open ocean to prepare.” Einarr did not try to keep the venom from his voice. “We will perform rites for the villagers in the way of our people, so that this will not become an isle of the dead, but you must light the pyre yourselves.”

Liupold hesitated a moment, but eventually nodded. “Yes, that is fair. Funeral pyres are not our way… but I do not expect the survivors will allow us time to dig proper graves here.”

Inwardly, Einarr breathed a sigh of relief. That the village, at least, and probably the entire island must be put to flame was unquestioned. But if Einarr or any of his companions lit the fire, the Empire could later twist that to their own ends to make war on the north, and that he could not allow.

Eydri took over from here, setting Einarr and Naudrek to preparing the ground while Hrug, with a nod of approval from Einarr, began inscribing runes on the beach.

Finally it was ready. Liupold stood in front of Eydri, lit torches in hand, while Einarr and Naudrek formed an honor guard behind her. Then she opened her mouth to sing the dirge.

It ranked among the most beautiful tunes Einarr had ever heard. He had known, from hearing her perform in Eskiborg, that she was a skilled Singer. He had not imagined, however, that a funeral dirge could transport the living as well as the dead.

As the flames consumed the village, licking the afternoon sky and traveling up the village trees, Einarr imagined he could see the spirits of the dead within the purifying white smoke of the pyre.


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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.

8.6 – Ambush

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

For a day and a half they rowed in short shifts, although by the morning of that second day Einarr could see what the captain was leading the Valkyrian ship toward. Just ahead in their path stood a collection of tiny, rocky islands not unlike the ones where Einarr had fought off a flock of kalalintu with Erik and Tyr the year before. The sort of waters one typically tries to avoid – unless, of course, he idea is to lose a tail, or to lay in wait.

“Half speed,” Captain Kormund ordered. With a gesture, he personally relieved the man at the tiller.

All that afternoon they wove in and out of the rocks, sometimes moving deliberately into full view of the Valkyrian ship before ducking back into hiding behind one of the larger rocks. The Eikthyrnir had the sleekness and swiftness of the deer on her figurehead, but that did not make her prey.

That night, the sea anchor was dropped near the center of the grouping in a place sheltered by the rocks. Come morning, no-one should still be fatigued from rowing.

As the sun rose, with the dromon now also approaching the rocks, the Eikthyrnir crept out of the grouping to lay in wait behind one of the larger exterior masses – one large enough to be thought a small island.

Einarr and Naudrek prepared to board. Eydri conferred with the regular Singer aboard, coordinating to ensure they harmonized properly. For hours they held like this.

A sound like a rushing waterfall came suddenly from their stern. Einarr turned in time to see the last of the gout of flame dying, far short of the Eikthyrnir’s hull, let alone her mast. Now flames flickered on the surface of the water itself.

They had sea-fire. And that was plainly a warning shot. But, how did they know where the Eikthyrnir hid? Or even that the ship was hiding, rather than fled? Those thoughts were quickly tamped down as Einarr raced for the stern. Battle was at hand, and thus there would be no time for pondering why.

More questions arose, though, when he reached the stern. The two watchers had been felled by a single arrow apiece – one in the throat, the other, more impressively, through an eye. If they could do that, why had there not been a volley of arrows?

“To oars!” The order came in the moment Einarr stood staring dumb at the two fallen men. About half the crew took up oars. The rest took up position to repel boarders with Einarr. Hrug, he saw, was strapping a shield to his stump. Did he intend to fight with his off hand? Einarr checked his grip on his shield and drew Sinmora.

Still he wondered why they had not yet launched a proper volley. The Eikthyrnir had been caught unawares in her own ambush: had the dromon wished, the battle could be already over, the ship ablaze and half her crew dead to arrow fire – especially if they had the sort of archers aboard who could take a man in the eye like that. What was going on? Why risk boarding?

He was out of time for wondering. The other ship, too, had been coming about, and now boarding lines flew in both directions.

Two voices raised in harmony and Einarr felt the battle fury begin to build. If the Valkyrian ship wanted a fight, a fight they would have. He hacked through an enemy line that tried to find puchase just ahead of him, and then their own lines drew taut.

He was not among the first across the lines, out of long habit more than anything else. On the Vidofnir, his father had forbidden it: he was the only heir, and likely to remain so. He was, however, among the first of the second wave, after the initial clash over open water. No sooner had he leapt up to the bulwark, however, than the lines fell slack again, tumbling a good number of sailors from both sides into the water.

Einarr braced himself, but something stopped the boats before they could collide and crush their sailors between them. They had hardly even crossed swords, and already this was one of the strangest battles Einarr could remember. What was going on?

He was not to have his answer then, as the boarding lines were cast off of both ships and lowered to allow sailors to climb back aboard. Another gout of flame issued from the bow of the dromon, as though warning them against trying to board again, and the other ship unfurled her sail and turned for open ocean.

The battle chant stopped before the fury could take full hold – thank the gods for perceptive Singers – and leaving the boat in confusion.

Mate Hraerek’s voice cut across the noise on the deck, encapsulating the moment. “What in Hel’s name just happened?”

“That’s the Order. Not only did they force that fight, they broke it off, too.” Einarr said to no-one in particular. He remembered Naudrek’s jest from the other day. Actual Valkyrie or not, it did look like someone’s orders got countermanded. “So who ordered the attack, and who ordered the belay?”

“Was it belayed, or was the whole action just a warning?” Vari wondered from just behind Einarr.

“What do you mean?”

“Their Captain obviously figured out that we were trying to drive them off with an ambush. Really, I’ve never seen the Captain outmaneuvered like that before. If the Order has leaders like that…” He trailed off, then shook his head. “Anyway, like I was saying. Neither shot of sea-fire came anywhere near us. They released no volleys. That whole thing looked like a warning to me, like they wanted us to know they could crush us whenever they wanted. So if that’s the case, why are they following us?”

“Maybe they want us to lead them somewhere?”

“That’s my thought. Only, where?”


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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.

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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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.

7.27 – Eskiborg

All around Einarr people walked through the motions of daily life, utterly unknowing (or unconcerned by) the fiery doom flying about the island.

Einarr walked up and down the city streets getting the lay of the place, his eyes open for public halls or an obvious path to the docks. The sheer numbers of people pressed in on him, so many more endangered now – because of him.

Unconsciously, he drew his shoulders in until he walked half-hunched like a thief. What was he supposed to do, here in the city? He was one man, and there were hundreds of places the Shroud could hide here. For all he knew, the Shroud had already finished with the Hall and was ensconced below the deck of its ship.

Einarr shook his head. No sense thinking like that. The divination had said he would get three chances: that had to mean he would find the thing if he just kept looking. With a grimace he straightened his shoulders and picked up his pace.

He passed a handful of public halls as he roamed the upper city, but none with the air of dilapidation he had seen in Melja’s divination. Most likely, then, that meant it was a Hall for dockworkers and sailors – the sort of place Erik would go for a brawl, or Sivid for a contest. That was fine by him: if the Shroud was confined to the harbor area, that was less ground Einarr had to keep an eye on.

The harbor road and the main road were, Einarr soon discovered, one and the same, the broad street sloping gently downward past homes and merchant’s shops and into the heart of a shipyard.

Einarr had never seen so many half-built ships in one place in his life, and the vast majority were longships or their less-agile cousins, the merchant-favored knarr. Nothing up on blocks, though, bore a bear’s head that he could see. That meant it was most likely a ship in service – which only made sense, if the Shroud intended to escape on it.

The main road of the harbor district seemed as clean and lively as the street had farther inland: Einarr began to repeat his pattern from above. The sun was already high in the sky, but he found nothing smelled appetizing. He should eat… If you buy a couple of those dumplings, maybe the cook will know something about the place you’re looking for.

It was a long shot, but the hope of information gave him the impetus he needed to put food in his belly, and he knew he would think more clearly once he had eaten. “Two, please.”

The man on the other side of the counter of the wooden shanty grunted and took his coins and pulled a cabbage leaf from the head he had handy.

“There a Hall around these parts that likes putting down rugs?”

The man raised an eyebrow. “That’s an awfully funny question to be askin’. You got some to sell or somethin’?”

Einarr opened his mouth to object, but thought better of it. It would be easier than explaining. He shrugged. “Something like that.”

The man rolled his eyes so hard they took his head with them. “’Ere’s a couple I know. Not sure they’ll have much coin for buying new, now, mind: mostly use ‘em to keep mud down.”

That sounded like exactly the sort of place Einarr was looking for, and he said so.

Lookin’ for? Are ye daft? …Y’know what, never mind. Go straight down that-a-way and hang a right at the sign of the Ferret. There’s four or five dives between there and the waterfront. Just don’t come whinin’ to me with your guts hangin’ out, understood?”

“You have my word.” Einarr chuckled to himself as he walked away with a pair of dumplings wrapped in cabbage and, more precious than food, a place to start hunting in earnest.


Einarr trudged out of what was quite thoroughly the rough part of Eskiborg as the sun began to set, he was no closer to knowing what Hall the Shroud would hide in than before he spoke with the dumpling man. As urgent as his quest was, though, he needed a place to stay the night where he would not find a knife in his ribs come morning, and he needed a Singer to consult with. Thankfully, he had an idea where to find both of these at once.

Einarr trudged the last few hundred steps up the main thoroughfare in the dim of twilight to the hall he had thought looked promising when he spotted it: The Bronze Archer.

Warm light spilled out from the still-open door, and lively music with it. As he thought he’d seen earlier, a comely young woman sang with the rest of the musicians, and unless he missed his guess she was keeping everyone’s energy high. With a smile and a spring in his step that hadn’t been there earlier, Einarr stepped into the Bronze Archer and let the warmth of the room envelop him.

The singer was definitely working her magic on the crowd – not that anyone in that crowd was going to mind. A hallingdanse was already in full swing, and those not participating still made merry, talking and laughing over ale and stew and bread alike. With a smile, Einarr took a seat on the end of a bench and waved for the serving maid.

“What’ll it be?”

“A bowl of whatever supper is, a tankard, and a place to sleep if you’ve got one.”

She gave him a smile and a wink. “Traveler’s special, comin’ right up! I’ll let the mistress know you’re lookin’ for a bed.”

There was nothing more he could do tonight, except try to talk to that Singer once the dance was done, and he couldn’t arrange for that until the mistress of the house came by. In the meantime, he intended to enjoy his meal.


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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.

6.33 – Ghost Stories

“There never was any old man.”

Arkja’s pronouncement fell on the deck of the Gestrisni like a brick of lead.

A million questions flooded Einarr’s brain at once, such that he could not ask any of them – merely sat, staring, at the pronouncer.

Irding recovered first. “So this is twice this season we’ve run up against ghosts. At least this one wasn’t trying to entrap us into his crew.”

Now it was Arkja’s turn to gape. “Twice this season? What sort of vessel are you taking us to?”

Einarr held up an open hand, palm towards the deck. “This has been a bad year…”

Arkja hummed, not apparently reassured, but Runa broke in before the talk could spiral out of hand. “It is Einarr’s nature as a Cursebreaker, newly awakened and coming to the fore. Once we are away from the island, I will be helping him learn how to deal with it – but now I must Sing, so that we have a chance of breaking free.”

***

Einarr relieved Irding from his night watch as the first hints of grey dawn touched the horizon.

Irding thanked him with a yawn and pressed an arm against his still-healing rib. As the other man trudged back towards his bedroll, Einarr turned towards the sea ahead of them. There was not a cloud to be seen in the sky, and a pleasant breeze tugged at his hair.

And then, as the light increased, an all-too-familiar shore appeared ahead of them. At first it seemed almost ghostly, and he entertained the idea that it might be a mirage, but as the light rose it grew more and more substantial.

Runa’s night-long vigil had done nothing, save exhaust her voice. There was the shack, and standing tiny on the shore the ghost of an old man. With a sinking feeling in his breast, Einarr made the announcement:

“Land, ho.”

Jorir looked up from the mortar where he was preparing a restorative for their exhausted Singer. “So the Lady’s song…”

Einarr shook his head. “Didn’t help at all. Poor Runa.”

“Well, milord, we expected to be turned back at least once.”

“But we expected to learn something in the attempt!”

A peal of laughter rang out from Irding’s bedroll. “All of that – for nothing?”

The rest of their cobbled-together crew was beginning to rise. Einarr ordered, “Prepare for landing.”

Jorir came up to stand beside his liege lord. “We have learned something, I think. We’ve learned that it’s not an illusion or a trick of the mind turning people back.”

Einarr cast a sidelong look at his man-at-arms. “Which leaves us with – what, exactly?”

“Something intrinsic to the island, I expect, or at least trapped here with us.”

Einarr harrumphed. That was cold comfort at best right now. He could only hope the Matrons were still keeping the corruption of the black blood at bay for those left behind.

The sun was full in the sky by the time the Gestrisni sat once more on the sand of the Isle. Well before that the figure of the old man vanished, although Einarr did not see if he’d done so in the ordinary way or not.

Once they were all on land again a fire was built on the beach, and some few of their more perishable provisions set to roasting. The melancholy mood of the night before still – or perhaps only again – held sway. As they ate, Arkja stared into the fire, a faraway look on his face.

“It occurs to me,” he mused, biting off a hunk of fish. “There’s a story I heard, a local legend, from one of my patrons not long after I landed. Well before Päron, or whoever he was, started terrorizing the town.” He fell quiet for a long moment.

It was Irding who finally broke the silence, once it became plain Arkja was content to let it stretch. “Well? Go on.”

“No one alive has ever known anyone to live in that shack, it’s true… but there are those as talk of a terror that walks these shores, an evil spirit in the guise of an old man. They say calamity follows him like an old friend, and fell magic clings to him. He was the first, you see, first in a long line of devils doomed to be forgotten.”

Einarr, too, sat staring into the fire as he contemplated this. Confusion fairly radiated off of Erik, though – and once again it was Irding who broke the silence.

“How is this supposed to help us?”

“It means the creepy old man who took us in that night may be just as much a revenant as the Päron we fought in the town,” Runa explained, certain that some of the others were just as lost. “And maybe, if we can break the chain binding him to the moral realm we can free ourselves, as well. Not that we have a lot to go on.”

Einarr stood abruptly. “We need to search that shack.”

Runa followed him, up the beach to the tiny shack, as did Jorir. The old man was not at home when Einarr opened the door, although it looked almost as though he had merely stepped out for a minute. A stew, very similar to the one Einarr remembered, already bubbled in the pot for the night’s dinner, and the wooden bowls and spoons did not appear to have moved. All of this, they could safely ignore.

Runa moved to examine the lone shelf not filled with cooking implements, while Jorir and Einarr stepped over to what served as the old man’s bed.

No-one spoke as they searched. It would have felt crass: this already felt like a breach of hospitality. And yet…

Jorir rolled under the crude bed frame even as Einarr lifted the pillow. Beneath it, old and yellowed but otherwise well-preserved, was a bound book. There was a golden key on a fine chain wrapped about the cover, but no lock. Gently, Einarr unwound the chain and opened the book.


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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 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.

 

6.26 – Spirit Bait

Before Einarr put his new recruits to work, curiosity burned a question through his lips. “What was it drove everyone out of the town, anyway?”

Arkja shrugged, shaking his head helplessly. “Some sort of ghost, we all figured. Right up until people started keeling over, bleeding out their ears.”

Einarr looked at Runa, who shook her head. “It might still be some sort of ghost, or it might not. I’d never heard of a leshy before, either.”

He nodded. “So when everyone fled the town…?”

“Broad daylight. A group of folks in the town square all died at once when the wailing picked up, and that were the last straw.” This from one of the men Einarr had pegged as a farmer.

Einarr frowned. They would have to deal with that spirit, one way or another. He stared at the mouth of the tunnel that had led them here and set his jaw. The four of them, against some sort of malign spirit. Einarr wasn’t even sure how it would manage to kill someone by bursting their ears.

Yes, technically it wasn’t just the four of them now. Arkja might even be able to hold his own in a fight, with some capable backup. But those seven were to see about supplies, and Einarr wasn’t about to send them off without the closest thing to a warrior they had.

Which left the four of them to take on a spirit of unknown abilities, when they were really in no condition for dealing with one at all. He shook his head. “No time like the present. Runa, do you think ear plugs might work against this thing?”

“Can’t hurt to try.”

Well, it could, depending on how the creature was bursting ears, but it was the best idea he had. And it would certainly make the wailing more bearable. Thus.

Einarr was in no hurry to pour hot wax in his ears again, though. He turned his attention to one of the three farmers in Arkja’s group. He was going to have to get names soon. “Do you know where we might come by some loose cotton or wool?”

“Believe so, Lord. Me neighbor raises sheep, she does. Imagine I kin get some clean wool from there.”

“Good! See to it. Enough for all of us to plug our ears. …Don’t bother trying to hide what we’re up to.” A riot at this point seemed unlikely at best, and the attempt might earn them some goodwill. The man was already on his way off to his neighbor’s.

“There’s that accounted for. Runa, Jorir, if either of you has an idea for beating back a ghost that won’t turn into another debacle like the Allthane did, I’m all ears.”

***

The escape tunnel, dug during spare moments by Arkja beginning long before the advent of the ghost, seemed no less threatening now that they were marching towards danger, their pockets full of wool roving. Einarr was coming to the conclusion he just didn’t belong underground.

They didn’t have a plan. Einarr would have been much happier if they had. One of the hazards, though, of being on the Isle of the Forgotten was that its inhabitants had been, largely. So whatever this was they faced, neither Singer nor dwarf had ever encountered as much as a scrap of a legend.

There were two different creatures it sounded similar to, at least: a nokken, since its victims seemed to drown, or a draugr. Einarr did not like the idea that the two types of spirit shared a common source, but under the circumstances it was an idea worth entertaining. Not that he had any idea how to send an ordinary draugr back to its grave: the Allthane had been able to communicate, however removed from reality it was. He was reasonably certain most draugr couldn’t speak, though.

No, they did not have a plan. But if (and it was a mighty if) the spirit was drowning people on dry land in the middle of the day, they thought they had a prayer.

Einarr blinked and realized they were approaching the tunnel exit. He shook his head, trying to clear it, as they began the ascent up into the Salty Maid. Now was not the time to be worrying.

The streets of the town looked, if anything, even emptier in the bright light of midday. Wind whistled between the buildings and created an eddy out of sparse dried leaves.

How much time was left in the season? Was that even the same here? Einarr froze momentarily, but shook it off. Time enough to worry about that later. Focus. They had a ghost to kill – or at least drive off. And it was going to take each and every one of them to pull it off. The town square was just past the sign of the Salty Maid, and that was where the spirit had been most active.

There was one thing the victims all had in common, Arkja had been able to tell them: they had all been telling stories when they died. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of story: the wise old man sharing legends with a younger man and the fisherman boasting about his catch met the same fate.

Which explained why the wailing began when it did, at least – and why it didn’t follow them into the tunnel. And it gave them a way to draw out the spirit, although not one Einarr was happy about. Once they knew that much, though, Runa insisted.

The woman herself stood in the center of the square, looking supremely confident. “Once upon a time,” Runa intoned, her ears already stopped with wool. Einarr, Erik, and Jorir now put in their own plugs, and the world took on a muffled feel. He was glad one of them was confident, at any rate.

Even through the roving Einarr could hear the wailing begin.

“A great hero fell into ignominy and was cursed, banished to the shores of the Isle of the Forgotten.” Runa’s intonation moved slowly into the syncopated rhythm of the Song of Sight, a song to pierce the veil and strip away illusions. That Runa knew it was the only reason they thought they had a prayer.

Einarr, Jorir, and Erik moved into a circle around their Singer, their weapons in hand, as they searched for the strange spirit that had an issue with stories.

“This hero wandered the Isle alone for many years, until his shame and his solitude drove him mad. Eventually the hero died, but his shade could not rest easy.”

The wind that whistled through the streets tugged at Einarr’s beard and stood his hackles on end. That was a wind belonging to the depths of winter. Still, though, he saw nothing.

“The shade continued to wander, alone, for another long time. And then, finally, someone else found their way to the Isle’s shores.”

Something down the street, down past the Maid, stirred up a dust cloud as it raced towards the four in the square.


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