Tag: Stigander Raenson

9.11 – Parley

The Heidrun sat, dead in the water, like a wheelspoke guarding the prows of the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, just as they guarded his prow. Surrounding them, and most of the cluster of rocks where they had sheltered for the day, he counted no fewer than nine ships that were bound to his uncle the usurper. Half of them bore wolf heads on their prow, making Einarr think Ulfr used that not to identify a ship but a member of his fleet.

Their watchmen were bound and gagged, thrown together in a pile in the center of the deck. On the bulwarks, arrows trained against the men just rising from their day’s sleep, stood the warriors who were responsible. Confirming Einarr’s thought, about one in three of them wore a wolf pelt tied to his shoulders. A mark of rank? He shook his head: it hardly mattered.

“Who are you?” He demanded, even though he already knew. “Why are you on my ship?”

“You are trespassing in the waters of Breidelstein, with clear intent to raid our lands.” A man wearing a wolf pelt answered, confirming Einarr’s suspicion.

Einarr glanced around: he could see Hrug fingering the carved beads at his belt. He caught the man’s eye and nodded before answering. “I think you will find, gentlemen, that it is not we who are trespassing. The waters of Breidelsteinn have been in enemy hands for fifteen years now: we simply come to take them back.”

Hrug’s fist closed around one of the runestones he had been fidgeting with and a pulse went out over the deck of the ship. The men who were slow to rise were slow no longer: all his sailors were on their feet. Ing, then. Eydri may be absent, but they still had Hrug. He could do in a pinch.

Einarr could hear the sounds of men rising for battle coming from the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir: had the rune reached the other ships, as well? If so, that was some impressive will. Einarr rolled his shoulders and drew Sinmora. There was no time to be distracted like that.

“So, men of the usurper, who assaulted the rightful rulers of these lands when we slept, like cowards. What have you done with the women?” That he did not yet hear Reki’s or Aema’s voices said all he needed to know about their status.

“Your Singers are guests on my ship,” wolf-pelt answered with a leer. “Fear not: they will be well-treated, and taken to my Lord’s Hall as a delegation of their status deserves.”

Singers? What of Bea? It was possible, Einarr thought, that with everyone asleep they had mistaken the Imperial princess for a Singer. If that was the case, then suddenly he could breathe easier. The girl could fight: backed up by not one but four Singers? Ulfr and his crone of a mother might have more than they could handle with that bunch. “You’ll forgive me,” he said, even as this was running through his head. “If I’m not inclined to take the word of a bunch of sneak-thieves and nithing cowards.”

The man on the bulwark actually twitched at that one. “What you think of us is of no importance. Either you and your men surrender, and we will tow your ships into harbor, or we will set you alight, right here and now.”

On the one hand, that would let them reach Raenshold a full day ahead of when they’d planned. On the other hand, to do so as prisoners, without weapons and under guard? That seemed like a fool’s choice. Einarr pasted a sneer on his face. “Surrender? To the usurper? Are you mad? We’d never make it back to Raenshold, and you know it. He’d have our boats put to the flame before we were halfway there. Possibly yours as well. If you’re going to lie, at least make it believable.”

“Have it your way, then.” Wolf-pelt raised his hand in a gesture Einarr well knew as a signal to archers. From the ships around them – all of the ships around them, he noted: Father and Kormund must have come to his same conclusion – a ring of fire sprang into existence.

Einarr risked a glance at Hrug. The man had squatted down and was staring at the enemy archers, but his good hand hung toward the deck, twitching furiously. Einarr swallowed.

“Can’t even stand to face us in open combat, I see.” Anything to buy time for Hrug’s ward. “You’re just going to set us alight and then turn tail? Some pack of wolves you turned out to be. More like lapdogs.”

“Think what you will,” the man sneered. “You’ve little enough time left to think it, after all.” With the hand not raised to signal his archers, he waved backward. The men standing on the bulwark all stepped backward, seemingly into thin air. Their disappearance was not followed by splashing water, however, but by the thump of boots on wooden boards.

This hadn’t quite gone the way Einarr had hoped. He swallowed.

“Last chance: surrender quietly, and you can at least be tried like men in the capital.”

Einarr spat. Wolf-pelt dropped his arm, and the arrows from the encircling ships flew even as he, too, dropped down to the waiting boat below.

Einarr spun to face the sorcerer. “Hrug!”

The arrows reached the top of their arc. Soon they would rain fire down on the deck of not just the Heidrun but also the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, and put an ignominius end to their quest.

The mute did not even grunt acknowledgement. His head snapped up, and Einarr would swear he saw a flash of light in the man’s blue eyes even as he felt the power of the ward pulse into place.

“Shields up!”

Those who had their shields available responded even as extinguished arrows began to rain over the deck. Einarr hurried to the prow: had it been enough?


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9.10 – Stealth

“Wait,” Stigander rumbled.

Everyone froze, looking at him expectantly.

“There is still one order of business. You two.”

The two men who had brought Runa to them stiffened, although they did not – quite – yelp.

“You are sworn to Ulfr, the son of the Weaver, are you not?”

“Y-y-yes, sir,” stammered the one who had done most of the talking thus far.

“You now stand before Stigander, son of Raen, rightful ruler of these lands. Will you forswear your false lord and swear to me?”

They stood staring at him, the muscles in their jaws working, but no sound came forth.

“I would be willing to overlook much, were you to renounce the usurper and join us in our fight.”

One of them looked like he was about to choke on his tongue. Finally, he exhaled loudly. “We cannot, your lordship. We are compelled.”

Stigander nodded brusquely. “Bind them. I will take them as prisoners aboard the Vidofnir. Lady Runa-”

“I will board my Lord Einarr’s ship, of course.” She had managed to compose herself, at least mostly, but there was no mistaking that her eyes were still red.

Stigander lowered his head in acqueiscence. The thrill that Einarr felt at the prospect was quickly damped: there were going to be some awkward introductions to make.

“My Lady,” he said, still pleased in spite of everything, and offered her his arm. “Right this way. You know Jorir, of course. This is Naudrek: he assisted me greatly last fall, and came along with me from Eskiborg.”

Runa nodded, seeming a little distracted. That, though, could be the late hour and the recent stress of her captivity.

Einarr glanced up as they approached the Heidrun: as he had expected, Bea was standing at the edge waiting for them. What he had not expected was the weighing look on her face, as though she had seen something unusual and now studied the two of them on their approach.

Irding and Bea both leaned out over the bulwark, though, and offered Runa a hand up into the ship. Runa cast a cold look at Bea before accepting Irding’s assistance.

“And who, praytell, might this be?” she asked as Einarr’s boots hit the deck.

“Runa, my love, allow me to introduce Beatrix Maria Gundahar, fourth Imperial Princess and leader of the Hrist Brigade. Bea, this is Runa Hroaldsdottir, my betrothed.” He twined his fingers in Runa’s as he spoke and did not look at Bea except to confirm where she was. Let her find room there, if she could.

Runa blinked once, surprised, then fixed a frosty glare on the other woman. “And why, praytell, is there an Imperial Princess aboard your ship?”

“That,” Bea put in, her own voice as haughty and frosty as Runa’s. “Is a very long story, best saved for when we are not in a hurry to be back out on the water, racing to the rescue of your own father.”

Runa hummed, openly studying the other woman. Bea fixed Runa with a steady look. After what felt like forever, they each looked away. Neither looked defeated.

Well. That could have gone better. She’s not going to be jealous of Eydri, too, is she?


The three ships slipped back out onto the open ocean as silently as they had plied it before, although it soon became plain silence alone would not preserve them as they made their way to the heart of Breidelstein. A new layer of stars had appeared, it seemed, right above the water level. Only rather than star stuff, these were torches, born upon the decks of ships meant to bring back Runa and the two who Ulfr undoubtedly judged traitors.

Mercifully, both Bea and Runa were less interested in pursuing their fight than they were in evading capture, so the deck of the Heidrun was blessedly silent, save for the occasional creak of wood or the small splash of an oar entering the water.

There were enough ships out, actually, that rather than extinguish their torches Stigander had them light more, so that they could hide in plain sight, as it were. The idea made Einarr want to hold his breath, but after the third time they passed within hailing range of another ship without drawing notice he put it from his mind.

When the sky first began to hint at grey dawn, the Vidofnir veered off towards a cluster of rocks in the northern part of the archipelago, as they had discussed. No-one ever came here, or they hadn’t fifteen years ago, simply because they had no reason to except in the fall during seal hunts.

On the north side of a rock that was almost large enough to be an island, the three ships lowered their sea anchors. Today they would rest here: then, at night, when they could once more pass unnoticed through the Usurper’s waters, they would make their way to a bay on the far side of the main island. Around midmorning, when the watches were settled, Einarr crawled into his bedroll and went to sleep.

At sunset, Einarr awoke. Something was amiss. He raised his head to look around, but could not see what was troubling him that way.

Einarr slid out from beneath his wool blanket and propped himself up on his elbows. All was silent, and nothing moved. Still he could not see why.

He stood. When he had gone to sleep, there had been three ships: his, his father’s, and Captain Kormund’s. Now he counted at least a dozen, and at a glance four of those had wolves carved on the prow.

The men who were supposed to be on watch had been disabled to a man. He saw them now, stacked like cordwood in the middle of the deck. As he stared about himself, he realized there was no sign of Eydri. Of Bea. Of Runa.

Einarr wanted to scream: if it weren’t for the muffled curses he could make out now from the hog-tied watchmen, he might think this was all some terrible nightmare. What is going on?


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9.9 – Refugees

Silent as ghosts, the three ships slipped through the night towards Breidelstein and Raenshold. The air of anticipation was almost palpable on the Heidrun: Einarr could only imagine what it must be like on the Vidofnir.

Hrug busied himself about the ship inscribing runes based on what they had discussed with the Matrons on Breidhaugr and his own knowledge of runes from the Shrouded Village. So far as that went, Einarr could only trust he would know what to do when the time came.

A low whistle rolled across the water from the Vidofnir, the signal that another boat approached. The men of the Heidrun, having put on their maille before they sailed from the fjord, limbered their bows. Einarr moved forward, peering over the water to see what they were likely to be dealing with.

Only a fishing boat. For no reason that Einarr could fathom, he was put in mind of the Gufuskalam – the boat Runa had bought after she convinced him to elope. Soon. Just hang on, and I’ll have you free soon…

Someone in the boat waved a torch, as though trying to catch the attention of the ship captains. That was curious. A moment later, the signal to stand down came from the deck of the Vidofnir. Einarr turned his attention there as the fishing boat drew up next to his father’s ship. Right at that moment, Einarr wished he had a rune combination that would let him be part of whatever was going on over there, but so far as he knew even Melja could not do that.

A third time a whistle sounded, this time followed by waves of the torch indicating a change in course. That was very curious.


The Vidofnir led them unerringly to a little cove with a sheltered, sandy shore on an island not far from where they encountered the fishing boat and all three longships sent people ashore to learn what was going on. A tiny fire was already lit on the beach, with a small group of Vidofnings clustered around it, when Einarr vaulted from the deck of the Heidrun. Jorir and Naudrek were not far behind. From the Eikthyrnir, Captain Kormund was joined by his Mate and his Battle Chanter.

Einarr was nearly upon them when he realized who it was that sat, huddled under a shawl, her fingers curled around a steaming horn of something. “Runa?” He all but ran the intervening distance.

There she was: disheveled, with great dark circles beneath her bloodshot eyes, her skin pale except where it showed either the yellow-green of old bruises or, more damningly, the purple of new ones, but still the loveliest creature Einarr had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

“It is you,” he said, a little breathlessly, as he joined the small circle about the fire. “How did you get here? What have they done to you? Are you all right?”

She smiled wanly, but her lip trembled. “So you did come for me. I knew you would. But… but I… I couldn’t wait.”

Einarr felt his throat go dry. He didn’t try to say anything, just pushed forward to take a seat next to her. Runa threw her arms around his neck and started to cry.

An unfamiliar man sitting on her other side spoke then. “His lordship wanted her broken, he said. Said that was going to be the way to get information out of her pabbi. Only, that didn’t sit right. So me an’ another fellow went to talk with the Lady. Seems like the next thing I know, I’m rowing out toward you lot in a fishing boat.”

“You blanked out?” Reki demanded.

“No, ma’am. Only the Lady is very persuasive, and she talked us into it before we quite knew what we were about. I’m mighty glad we found you, though,” he continued. “Gods only know how long before they send out boats to search for the Lady.”

“She is very persuasive, at that,” Einarr said, rubbing Runa’s shoulder. “Did they…?”

Runa shook her head, still without raising it. “But that’s why I couldn’t wait. I thought… I thought these two were sent to…”

Einarr hushed his betrothed soothingly and met his father’s eye darkly. “Never you fear. They will get what’s coming to them.”

Stigander nodded silently at him.

“Beggin’ yer pardon, my lords, but it might be best if we hurried up and got out of the islands. His lordship won’t be pleased once he knows she’s gone, and then he’ll have these waters crawling with boats searching for her.”

Stigander hummed. “Well, you’re right about one thing, anyway. We had best be getting on again. The night’s wasting away while we sit here gabbing. But we’re not leaving.” A wicked grin split Stigander’s yellow moustaches. “Oh, no. The Wolf and the Weaver aren’t getting off so easily this time.”

“No,” Einarr muttered. “No, they are not. Although, one thing confuses me. I was told the Weavess’ curse bound your loyalties to her son, and no matter what you couldn’t act against him. So then, how?”

The one who had been relating their tale sat up proudly. “I’ve not acted against his Lordship. I’ve kept him from staining his honor.”

Somehow, Einarr doubted Ulfr would see it that way, but that was hardly the point. He nodded. “It’s a courageous thing to do, to act against your lord for their own good.”

Elsewhere around the fire, someone hummed. In Einarr’s arms, though, Runa was finally beginning to calm herself. Gently he extricated himself and stood. “Father is right, though. We need to be getting back out on the water. If there will soon be a full fleet out looking for the three of you, then we have even more reason to make haste.”

“Quite right.” It was Captain Kormund. “Let’s load back up and push off before the night grows any older. We don’t want to be caught out on the open water at dawn, after all.”


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9.7 – Ocean Skirmish

“Draken, dead ahead!”

Sailing into view ahead of them, almost like a mirror image, came three draken bearing sails in the red and yellow of Ulfr’s Breidelstein.

“Make ready!” Stigander’s voice rose over the water from the Vidofnir, echoed moments later by Kormund and Einarr. Einarr’s heart pounded in his chest like it hadn’t since he was still a deckhand, and suddenly he wondered if he was really ready to be Captain. Or ready to retake their homeland, for that matter. Fifteen years is a long time…

“To arms!” He ordered again, this time breaking free of the paralysis that threatened to grip his legs. He didn’t have to be sure, he just had to do. Just like everything else since the Oracle had named him Cursebreaker. The chainmail slid over his head as easily as it ever did.

Easier, in some ways. Runa was ahead, captive and bound by the same hands that held his grandfather and all the other men of Breidelstein in thrall. When he thought of it that way, how could he even think of hesitating?

The ships ahead were near enough now that Einarr could make out their prow totems – not one of them a wolf. Well, that was fine. He could hardly expect the usurper to sally forth so early.

His men were readying bows, now – everyone aboard, really, save for Bea and Jorir. She stood, spear in hand, just ahead of him and to the left, with Jorir on the right. Einarr shook his head: there were far worse choices for a bodyguard, he supposed, and if she were ahead of him that meant he could keep an eye on her.

They were almost in range. “Ready volley!” Wait for it…

“Fire!”

Arrows launched from all three ships almost at once, and only a few landed in the water. The counter-volley came at almost the same moment, and the slower among the Heidrunings had to scramble to raise their shields in time. Arrows sprouted from the deck and from shields, but Einarr heard none of the inevitable cries of pain from his deck. “Again!”

Once more, bows drew back, and on his command they loosed arrows and raised shields once more. The time for arrow fire was nearing its end, however: some few of the missiles launched from their opposites were javelins, now.

“Prepare to board!”

About half of his crew shouldered their bows and moved to ready the boarding lines. The other half kept their shields raised, guarding their fellows. Einarr looked on approvingly: this was the start of a good crew, he thought. Hopefully most of them would survive the battles to come.

Eydri’s battle hymn began to take hold on the edges of his mind. He acknowledged it, but did not let himself sink fully under its sway. That was a luxury that was not afforded to Captains: those who lost themselves in its grip were brutally effective – right up until the rage got them killed. Usually sooner rather than later.

Now the enemy boarding lines launched. Einarr could feel the blood pumping in his veins as he drew Sinmora, still resisting the heady call of the battle chant. It would get easier with time, he knew – just so long as he did resist it.

There was no more time for contemplation. The boarding lines grew taut. Quick as a thought, the first wave of men were up and racing along their precarious footing to be the first to reach the other deck.

The enemy sailors, too, were racing across the ropes, trusting in long practice and good luck to keep them out of the water. Where the two forces met in the middle, they clashed, and there were usually two fates possible in that first clash: either you won, and the other man fell, or you lost, and fell to the water below, to swim and hope you could escape being crushed between the ships.

The men of the Heidrun, since they were few in number and mostly still green, had been instructed in a cleverer way of fighting. They were not to clash like rams, horns against horns, on the boarding lines. Instead their first rush was to evade the enemy and slip past to the deck beyond, while those who remained behind defended the Heidrun and their captain from a place of better footing. Einarr had the idea from watching Sivid, and it had the benefit of taunting the enemy while they were securing their own footing.

It seemed to be working. He heard very few splashes, and of the few who fell even fewer were Heidrunings, men of Kjell or experienced sailors either one.

That also meant, however, that the fighting was harder on his own deck. Bea and Jorir closed ranks so that the three of them stood back to back, just behind the first line of defenders.

One man, a fellow built like Stigander but with a wild red mane the color of Einarr’s, crashed through the line of defenders to close with Einarr. He studied the man’s face: could this be an uncle, or a cousin?

Family or not, he was fighting in deadly earnest, and so Einarr did not hesitate to do the same. They exchanged three blows. On the fourth, Einarr buried Sinmora’s blade in his shoulder. The blade slid free and the man clutched at the wound, stumbling backward with a scream of rage and pain. He might live, if their Singer got to him quickly enough, but that had been his sword arm. He would never fight again.

The battle was almost over before it began. Not long after the red-headed bear withdrew, the enemy captains sounded the retreat.

Once their men had cut their way back aboard the Heidrun, and the enemy sailors had fled, the boarding lines were drawn back. Bea stared in consternation at the fleeing ships.

“That was all it took to send them off? Why did your father fear these men so?”

Einarr shook his head. “They were testing us. Those were scout ships. And those men, some of them anyway, are kin. Father does not fear them, he fears for them.”

Bea hummed. She did not look convinced.


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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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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.

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

9.4 – A New Quest

It was with a heavy heart and no small amount of trepidation that the Vidofnir once more entered the harbor at Kjellvic. Liupold returned to the Arkona, although the dromon did not immediately weigh anchor. The Eikthyrnir followed Stigander up to the docks, where the two ships were met by the harbormaster, whom Einarr had spoken to before.

He wasn’t sure if it was a positive sign or not that it was only the harbormaster who greeted them. On the one hand, it was probably a good sign that the people of the town were more interested in putting their lives back together than driving them off with torches and pitchforks. On the other hand, it also led him to doubt Trabbi’s claim.

“What news from the Hall?” The Harbormaster asked in response to Stigander’s hail.

Stigander shook his head. “Nothing but ash. The bastard took the Jarl and the Lady.”

Now fire sparked in the other man’s eye. “They what?”

“I thought Bollinn was back. Didn’t he say?”

The harbormaster shook his head. Probably, from what he knew of the Brunnings, they were trying to avoid panicking the townspeople. “I’ll call up the militia. Be surprised if they didn’t want to join you.”

Father and son nodded in tandem, then Einarr paused. “What happened to the mayor?”

The harbormaster gestured broadly at the town behind him. After a pause, he sighed. “They found him on the green. Gutted. Couldn’t tell you if he was still alive when the fire swept through.”

Einarr winced. Stigander merely nodded again. “That’s of a piece with what little news has come out of Breidelstein.”

“It’s true, then?”

“So it seems. It’s well past time I dealt with Ulfr’s treachery, anyway. …Is the shipwright about?”

“Oh, aye. You’ll find him down where he always is. He’ll be right glad to have your ship off his hands, I wager. …Oh, but, my Lord? You might warn your men against too much drink while they’re in town.”

“Surely no-one actually believes that calumny?”

“None as know you, no. Not many others, I wager, but you know what drink can do to a man’s wits.”

Stigander hummed, and then they were off.


As soon as Einarr laid eyes on the rams-head prow he knew the ship to be at least the equal of any he’d seen in Eskiborg. The wood seemed to glow from within, and the shipwright had seemed to know just from looking at him how Einarr would want to run his ship. It was no Eikthyrnir, to outrace anything she came up against, but neither was it a Bjorn, thick and bulky and tough but slow. It was, like the beast on her prow, built for balance.

The shipwright – who was otherwise quite happy to take Stigander’s coin – stared sullenly at him as he examined the new ship. His new ship. “She’s beautiful,” Einarr said, running his hand down the klinks.

“You better believe she is. An’ I’ll wager she’s as eager to fight as you lot are. Just keep the bloody wolves away from here, wouldya?”

“By the time we’re done with them, you’ll not have anything to worry about save some pelts,” Stigander’s voice was quiet and level as he answered.

Oddly, that did nothing to ease the other man’s glower. Instead, he pocketed their coin and mumbled a “pleasure doin’ business with you” before wandering off to elsewhere in his workspace.

Einarr shrugged then turned his attention back to the ship. She had fewer benches than the Vidofnir, but that was fine. She was likely to be running at half crew until they took Breidelstein at least, anyway. The awning stretched a good ten feet back from the mast, and could be collapsed quickly at need through an ingenious series of catches to roll up in itself. Einarr would have to study that, and have Jorir take a look as well.

“Where is Jorir, anyway? I’d have thought he’d want to be here for this.”

“He did, but he had some business with the smith. There’ll be time enough for you and all your crew to take it in – later. Right now, I want to hear all about what happened with the elves while you inspect her.”

Einarr chuckled. Oh. Of course. “Sounds good, pabbi.”


A handful of Vidofnings gathered that night at the lone public hall of Kjellvic, one of the few structures left largely untouched by the Wolfling’s raid, to share stories and recruit sailors for this next expedition. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind what they had to do.

The sun had well set, although it was still far too early for people to be too deeply into their cups, when Einarr called for the attention of the hall. The townspeople had fallen to the sort of merrymaking only possible after a hard day’s work when one has just escaped catastrophe, and was in danger of turning rowdy later. That meant, however, that this was the perfect time.

“Good people of Kjellvic,” Einarr shouted over the din, raising his tankard high. The room began to quiet almost immediately. “On behalf of my father and all the Vidofnings, I thank you for your trust in our friendship. What has happened here, while we were away, is the result of the usuper’s cowardice and envy.”

Someone in the back of the hall jeered.

“I know. We have allowed him his games for far too long… But, at last, we have what we need to retake our home and re-grow the friendship between our two lands! We have, however, only three ships, two of which are under strength. When the Vidofnir sails forth to unravel the Weaving, and take back our lands and rescue our friends, who among you will sail with us to rescue your Lord the Jarl and the Lady Runa?”

A loud cheer went up, and Einarr, Jorir, and Bardr spent the rest of the night talking, man-to-man, with the volunteers.


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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.

8.27 – Empire and Clan

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!

In spite of their victory, a somber mood hung over the Arkona as it turned northward once more. Too many lives had been lost at Hohenwerth, and not just in battle. Einarr retreated to a quiet corner with Eydri and his men. It would be better, he thought, to give the men of the Order their space, at least for this night.

As the four of them sat quietly, discussing their plans for the coming summer and what they were likely to expect once they finally caught up with Stigander, the sound of boots tapping on the deck boards sounded behind Hrug. All of them looked up.

“Mind if I join you?” Beatrix asked. “I’m not part of the crew here, either.”

“I would imagine not.” Einarr would be surprised if she were a part of any crew, except maybe as a figurehead leader. But, it was that kind of a night. “Have a seat.”

“My thanks. I bring an offering.” She held up a glass bottle with some sort of liquid in it.

Einarr raised an eyebrow. What was that supposed to be?

“Give me your cups. You’ll like this.”

They had been drinking from Einarr’s claimed cask of Eisbock. “Tell you what,” he said. “Hand me yours. Once we’ve all finished this round, we’ll try… whatever that is you’re holding.”

She eyed the dark liquid in their cups before holding out her own. “Fine. …So how did you four find your stay in Imperial waters?”

They all shared a look, wondering for just a moment if they should be honest or polite. Eventually, Einarr shrugged. “It was interesting.”

Bea snorted. “Interesting. Okay, fine, I should have expected that answer. Answer me honestly, now: were you treated well?”

“Well enough. Captain Liupold seems to understand how the Clans work on some level, at least, which helped.”

Bea nodded slowly. “He would. He was raised in Kem.”

“Ah. That explains it, then. Wonderful city.” Einarr smiled in recognition. His cause for going had been unpleasant, but the city itself had seemed almost as nice as Eskiborg.

“I’m sure he would be glad to hear you say that.”

“Liupold’s hospitality left nothing to be desired, although I’m not certain I can say the same for the accomodations.” He chuckled, hoping she would not take it amiss.

She didn’t seem offended, at any rate, but sipped thoughtfully at her cup full of Eisbock before making a face. “This is that ale Liupold was going on about? Uck.” She sighed. “This is getting nowhere. I will be plain.”

Einarr turned his face so that he looked directly at her. She’d spoken as plainly as he could expect of a Conehead before, so this should be interesting.

“I want you four to enter my service, as liasons between the Hrist Brigade and the North. I’ve said it before, your talents are wasted on a simple longship…”

“Wait, the what brigade?”

“The Hrist Brigade. We-”

“You hunt us.”

“What?”

“Bea, before I made contact with the Arkona, my last contact with any Order ship was so deep into Clan waters they’d almost come out the other side again. They attacked us, entirely unprovoked, and we lost good men in the battle. While we were taking our spoils, I found the Captain’s orders. The name didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but now I finally understand. The ship’s orders had come through the Hrist Brigade, from the Valkyrie herself!”

“What? That can’t be. I’ve never sent a ship that far north. Are you certain they weren’t… lost?”

“Quite. We were taken by surprise, of course: we’d never heard of a hunter ship coming that far north, either, but the fact remains good men died there for no reason.”

To her credit, Bea seemed genuinely upset by this news.

“Now. You were going to offer me, again, the opportunity to abandon my father and my Clan to the Weaver’s curse that sent us into exile in the first place. To abandon the woman I am promised to, whose hand I have finally secured permission to marry, in order to enter your service as some sort of functionary? If I were the sort of person who would accept such an offer, you wouldn’t have made it.”

She did not answer for a long moment, only stared, dumbstruck, before taking a long pull on the drink she had earlier disdained. Finally, a strange strain in her voice, she muttered “I did not know.”

“I’m sure you didn’t. And if the Lady Hrist is commanding ships behind your back, it may be time to have a word with your patron.” He was about to go on, but she spoke over him without seeming to realize she was.

“Why did no-one tell me you were promised?”

Eydri spoke up. “Why should we have?”

“I see. In that case, I’m sorry to have bothered you. It won’t happen again.”

“Bea, wait.”

The princess, standing, stared down at them, cup in one hand and bottle in the other, as though she could not quite believe them. She was lovely. If he had met her before he found Runa, would he have been so quick to reject the offer?

“Sit down. Finish your cup, and we’ll share in… whatever that is that you brought, and we can boast of our deeds until the sun comes up. I’m not interested in joining the Order. That doesn’t mean I can’t like some of the people in it.”

The princess seemed to deflate as she folded her legs back under her. “Oh,” was all she said.

“You’re coming with us into the North, aren’t you? I’d like you to meet them – Father, for one, and Runa of course.”

“I…”

“She’s a fiery one, she is. I think the two of you might have more than a little in common. …But the North is my home, just as the Empire is yours. And we can’t just abandon our homes.”


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

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.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

7.17 – Practical Magic

Einarr’s head swam, although he could feel the hard ground beneath it. The crackle of a nearby campfire was unmistakeable. The last thing he remembered was etching an ᚱ into some birch bark to keep for later use. What… happened? Where am I?

He blinked, and at first all he saw was a brownish blur. When he opened his eyes again, though, his vision was clear. That brown blur was the glow of firelight on the branches of an ash, and beyond that the starry field of night. Einarr groaned.

“Awake, are you?” The creaking voice of an old woman broke the stillness. “I’d begun to wonder if your foolishness had actually killed you.”

With another groan, Einarr pushed himself up on his elbows and squinted at the source of the voice. “What do you mean?”

The woman who sat across the fire from him in a colorless cloak appeared ancient – older, even, than the oldest of the Matrons on Breidhaugr. Old enough that Einarr was surprised to see her out in the forest at all.

“What I mean,” the crone said. “Is that the village alfs never should have let you out of their sight. What were you thinking, carving all those runestones?”

Einarr blinked at her, a little confused. “You mean those chips? I thought they’d be useful…”

“Not much use if you’ve so much of your life tied up in them they kill you. You’re a novice, and a human to boot. There’s no way your soul could support more than a handful.”

Einarr sat all the way up. For just a campfire, the light seemed awfully bright to his eyes right then. “What do you mean?”

The old woman with her drawn features snorted. “Wise enough to listen to your elders, at any rate. Did your alfr master tell you, properly, what the limits of rune magic are?”

“The Runemaster requires time, primarily. Time to inscribe the proper runes for his purpose.”

The crone nodded. “That’s right, so far as it goes. He didn’t mention runestones?”

Einarr shook his head. “I’ve only a few months with them. I only really wanted to learn how to read them. Probably he decided there wasn’t time to teach me.”

She snorted again. “Not quite, I suspect. Runestones are an advanced technique. Not because they’re particularly difficult: any fool can inscribe a rune and make it last. But every one you make ties up a portion of your life energy. With the number you had on you, you’re lucky I found you.”

“I… Yes. Thank you, for that. How long was I out?”

“It’s been a day and a half since I destroyed them for you. As for how long you’d been out before that, I really couldn’t say.”

Einarr blanched. “More than a day… since you destroyed them?”

“That’s right – and a good thing you put them on wood, too. If you’d been fool enough to carve them in stone, this old woman wouldn’t have been able to break them. That’s the only way to reclaim the bits of your spirit, after all.”

“I see.” He did, actually: his eyes finally felt like they were back to normal. “How do you know so much?”

The crone cackled. “You’re not the first over-extended student of the runes this old Singer has seen. Not on this island.”

“Wait, hold on. You’re a Singer?”

“I was, in my youth. Voice is gone, now, but it didn’t take my mind with it.” She laughed again.

Einarr nodded slowly, considering. “You have my thanks for the rescue. Tell me, did you move me from where I was found?”

“You give these old bones a good deal of credit, young man. We are not far off the path where I found you, in a little clearing not many others know. In the morning, you are free to go about your business – although if you know what’s good for you, you’ll get back to that village and bow your neck to Elder Melja. Tell him Geiti sent you scampering back, and if he doesn’t want to lose more students he should stop hiding ‘dangerous’ information.”

Einarr couldn’t keep a small smile off of his face. “I’ll be sure to tell him that when I return. But I can’t go back immediately.”

The crone resettled herself on the ground, leaning forward a bit with interest. “And what, then, has a young novice wandering about like a toddler just finding his feet?”

I think I deserved that one? “The Shroud has been freed.”

“Good gods, man, what are you doing out here? Get back to the village, let the Runemasters handle it.”

“The Runemasters can’t handle it if they can’t find it. I’m trying to make sure they know where to look.”

“And why, praytell, did they let a novice take on that job?”

He sighed. “Forgive me, grandmother Geiti. I’m afraid I haven’t properly introduced myself. I am Einarr, only son of Stigander, the son of Raen of Breidlestein. Wandering prince, veteran raider, no meagre hunter, and the named Cursebreaker besides.”

“Well well well. Now I have even more questions. But, they will wait. It is late, and you are still recovering your strength. Sleep now, and we will speak more in the morning.”

And so Einarr laid his head back down on the bare earth to stare at the stars and the light flickering on the branches above. Sleep eluded him, and he was uncertain if that was because his life energy was returning to him – he felt stronger almost by the minute – or if it was because even here he could not escape his Calling. Eventually, though, he must have dropped off, because when next he opened his eyes the sky was the pale blue of early morning. The smell of berried porridge clung to the morning air. When he sat up, the ancient Singer offered him a toothless smile and a wooden bowl.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

7.1 – Reunion

It was unlikely that the public hall in East Port had seen a celebration of this magnitude in the whole of its existence.

After the purification ritual, Stigander and Bollinn agreed that some sort of relaxation was in order. The Matrons, unexpectedly, agreed and, what’s more, declared that they would host the feast. Perhaps it was simple relief at no longer having the sword of the black-blooded monsters hanging over the island, but Einarr suspected their jubilance had more to do with the knowledge Runa had brought back.

After the toasts and the speeches had been made – or at least the first round of them – Einarr led Arkja and four of his men over to where Stigander sat conversing with Tyr and Bollinn.

“Father.”

“Son. You did good work out there.”

Einarr shrugged. He’d accomplished his task, sure, but if it weren’t for him they’d have been back a lot sooner, too. “Father, in exchange for their help getting off the island, I told these men I might be able to get them a berth on the Vidofnir.”

Stigander turned fully to face the group. Arkja stood flanked by Hàkon, Saergar, Rig and Oskar. From the corner of his eye he caught sight of Vali leaning ostentatiously against the wall.

“We’re mighty low on crew, certainly. Been a rough season. Any of you men gone raiding before?”

Two of the five stepped forward – Arkja, and Saergar.

“For farmers, the others came by their sea legs easily,” Einarr put in.

Stigander harrumphed. “And they know what sort of a boat this is?”

“They’ve heard the Lay, Father, and some of what’s happened this past year.”

Stigander hummed now, studying the five for a long moment. “Gods know we need men. Come to the docks in the morning. I’ll put you to the test.”

Hàkon, Oskar and Rig tugged at their forelocks and said they would. Saergar, answered as a true sailor: “Aye, sir.”

That left Arkja, who stood clenching and unclenching his fist as though locked in indecision. “My lords, there is one other thing.”

Stigander and Einarr both raised an eyebrow at this.

“It’s been on my mind since the cave on the island, y’see…” He turned to face Einarr square. “I would swear to you, lord, if you’ll have me.”

Einarr blinked, more than a little taken aback. His father looked as though he was torn between amusement and taking offense.

Movement in the periphery caught Einarr’s attention: Vali had started upright from his position against the wall and was shaking his head. There is a certain strain of cowardice, he had said, that is reckless as regards himself, but craven where others are concerned.

Einarr smiled warmly at Arkja. “It’s a bit awkward, having men sworn to me when I’m still serving on my father’s ship. I know, there’s Jorir, but that was a special circumstance.”

“We do, however, have a second ship under commission,” Stigander rumbled. “I expect it to be ready for next season.”

“My thought exactly, Father. So, to avoid any more confusion, why don’t we wait until we’ve claimed my ship?” That would give them the rest of the season to prove the man, at least.

Arkja stiffened momentarily, but then his shoulders relaxed again. “Of course, my lords. That does, indeed, make good sense.”

He lowered his head to them and wandered off, not looking entirely mollified, Einarr shrugged and turned his attention back to Stigander and the others.

“Well played,” his father murmured. “You have questions regarding that one’s character?”

“A few. Something Vali said before we sailed stuck with me.”

“But he’ll not be an issue for me?”

“I don’t think so. He’s eager to prove himself.”

Stigander hummed. Arkja would probably be watched, aboard, but Einarr thought he would have no trouble getting there. “At any rate. We three were just discussion this Vali you brought back…”

“Yes, what about him?”

“Is he really…?”

“A ghost? So far as I can tell, yes.”

“Then how…?”

“I haven’t the foggiest idea. He’s bound, somehow, to that Imperial jar that’s been following me around since the incident with the Althane.”

“But a jar can’t move!”

“So you’d think. You have no idea, though, how many times I threw that one away, only to have it reappear in the most improbable places. Saved Runa, though, this last time.” Einarr motioned for Vali to join them. As the ghost appeared to saunter over from his place against the wall, Einarr continued. “Apparently I triggered something when I picked the jar up in the ship-barrow, so until I either die or otherwise break that connection Vali and I are stuck together. At least, that’s how Runa explained it.”

No sooner had Vali crossed the distance to join them, curiosity writ large on his earnest face, than Tyr and Bollinn engaged him directly. Perhaps because they saw the other figures coming up behind Stigander.

“Runa tells us,” came a wizened old woman’s voice. “That you wish to learn the runes.”

Stigander gave his son a sharp look.

Einarr scratched at the back of his head sheepishly. “Ah, yes, you see… Father, I think I need to. Just in order to survive. If Runa hadn’t insisted on coming along, I don’t think we’d have made it.”

Stigander harrumphed and crossed his arms.

“The boy is right,” croaked the Matron. “And he is wise to seek aid.” She paused here, long enough for Stigander to start to relax and Einarr to straighten.

“And yet,” she went on. “One of our prentice Singers is hardly an appropriate teacher. Oh, I’ve no doubt the girl has tried -” she held up a hand to shush Einarr before he could interrupt. “But even her knowledge is yet shallow. Come with us on the morrow, and we will discover a more suitable teacher for you.”

“Thank you, Lady. So long as my father does not object, I shall take you up on your offer.”

Stigander waved a dismissive hand. “Fine.”


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