Tag: Thjofgrir

10.48 – The Thing

Over the course of the next three weeks, something more than half of all the jarls who once swore allegiance to Raen arrived in port at Breidelstein or sent pigeons explaining why they couldn’t. Stigander made a point of greeting each and every Jarl personally, after which they would spend some time in hushed conversation while their crews unloaded barrels of ale and mead and other contributions to the coming festival.

Tyr, Kaldr, and Jorir had disagreed with Einarr’s thoughts on taking oaths, and in the end their thinking won. The renewal of vows would take place after the trial of Urdr.

Thus, at the end of three weeks, when careful note had been made of those Jarls who had not arrived for the Thing – excuse or no – a true Thing was held in Breidelstein for the first time in more than a decade. When the Jarls assembled in a circle around the courtyard, they stared at the figures in the center with grim solemnity.

A wooden seat had been brought out for Raen. The old man sat, stooped and feeble but alert, and he stared about himself with childlike wonder. Many was the man who winced to see their former Thane in such a reduced state – and winced again when Urdr was brought forth in chains, led once more by Arring and Erik and Thjofgrir. Raen physically shrank away from the crone. Gorgny, who attended him on the stage, comforted him like he would a child.

Einarr, from his place at Stigander’s side, fought to keep a straight face at the sight of his grandfather. He could see from the corner of his eye the knotting of muscles in his father’s jaw. But the two of them had to remain neutral, despite being among the aggrieved.

“This Thing is assembled,” Stigander intoned. “Before you are Raen, your former Thane, and the Weavess Urdr, who is accused. Gorgny, you may state your case.”

Raen’s oldest and most loyal liege-man straightened, leaving a comforting hand on Raen’s shoulder. “Men of the Thing, this woman and her son are solely responsible for the current state of these islands. She used her Weaving to bind the fates of all Breidelstein and unseat Lord Raen. In his place, she installed her son Ulfr, and the two of them have taxed the citizens beyond all measure. She has imprisoned and tortured Lord Raen, whom she claimed was her husband, as well as countless others who have passed through the dungeon here. She has practiced Black Arts in order to hold power for herself and her son. Free men of the Thing, I lay all these things at the feet of this woman.”

A low rumble passed around the assembled Jarls. Then Stigander stepped forward. “Weavess Urdr. You stand accused before the Thing of high treason, treason against your Thane, practicing the black arts, murder by means of magic, and of practicing the torturer’s arts. Among your accusers, your victims, are members of this Thing. Have you any defense?”

The crone straightened, haughty and defiant even now. “You dare to try me here, with my accusers among the judges?”

“I see none in this circle who have added to the weight of charges laid out by Gorgny.”

“And yet you yourself are a son of Raen. Does that not make your judgment invalid?”

“It is not my judgement you have to fear. You will offer no defense, then?”

A cold stare was his only answer. Stigander shrugged. “Are there any present who would stand in her defense?”

No-one stepped forward. On its face, Einarr thought Urdr’s claim had merit. Unfortunately for her, that was the nature of crimes against a Thane, and there was no way to call an Althing. Her tricks would find no purchase here.

“Very well,” Stigander boomed. “The penalty for any one of these crimes is death, and so I put the question before this Thing. Did this woman conspire to overthrow the rightful Thane of Breidelstein?”

A chorus of “Ayes” rang around the circle.

“In the overthrow of the Thane Raen, by whom she bore a son, did she practice the black art of curse-weaving?”

Once again each man in the circle answered aye.

“Was the rightful Thane, a man she has called her husband, tortured by her hand?”

There were fewer ‘ayes’ this time, likely because the Jarls hesitated to confirm a charge that was not so self-evident.

“Very well. Based on the determination of this Thing, who have witnessed the actions of the accused, the weavess Urdr is guilty. You shall be stripped of all you posess and chained to a rock in the harbor, where you may look upon the lands you so desired until your bones fall into the sea.”

“Arring. Erik. Thjofgrir. See to it.”

The three men named snapped off an “Aye,sir,” as though they were still aboard ships before leading the crone out of the circle of the Thing. If there was one thing that could be said to her credit, it was that her pride did not desert her as she was led to her death. She held her head high and stared defiantly forward.

“Now that the unpleasantness is concluded, there is one more bit of formality to handle before the festivities begin. Kaldr Kerasson, step forward.”

Kaldr moved with the calm grace that everyone who knew him was accustomed to and knelt before Stigander.

“Earlier, during the fighting, you laid your life before me. Now I will have your oath.” Stigander drew Grjóthrun from the scabbard on his baldric and held the hilt out toward the man called the Ice Wolf.


The reswearing of those whose bonds had been severed, first by the witch and then by Einarr, took until it was full dark. A bonfire – a real one, this time – was lit in the field, and the feast table laid near it. Musicians from the town had offered their services for a place at the table and been welcomed.

It was a night of celebration and the reforging of bonds long tested. Finally, Breidelstein could begin the long road toward rebuilding its former glory.


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10.47 – Unbinding

A light like golden dawn shone from the grass behind Einarr, illuminating the faces before him. Those who were bound most loosely by the curse – Stigander, Kormund, most of their crews, Kaldr – watched in respectful silence, as they would a grave ship. Among the townsfolk, some looked pained. Others, nauseous. That was a result of the dissonance, and would pass in time.

Those who had fought under Ulfr had, in general, stronger reactions. Some vomited. Others dropped to their knees, clutching their heads. A bare handful had been bound so tightly their minds could not accept the dissonance and they fled into the forest. Einarr watched calmly, hiding his surprise that there were any of those here to witness the ritual.

Urdr had aged a century in a little over ten minutes. Einarr had called her a crone before, but the destruction of her work sapped her of vitality. Once again he stifled a pang of pity: for what she and her son had worked on Breidelstein, this was only a partial measure of justice. Arring stood behind her, holding her on her feet to witness the undoing of her schemes.

Eventually, those with homes in the city below began to drift towards the gate house and rest. Of the warriors who remained, those who were less affected aided those in greater distress towards rooms where they might rest. Arring, Erik, and Thjofgrir led Urdr to the dungeon, where she would await the convenience of the Thing.

The bonfire of tapestries continued in the center of the circle. Stigander’s eyes did not rest, searching over the faces that remained, plainly looking for someone, although Einarr could not guess who.

He was not needed here. Einarr drove the end of the distaff into the rune circle. For just a moment, the ivory inlay flashed with the same light as the working below. He was not entirely certain what that meant, but now that it was there he did not think he should move it – at least not until the working was finished.

The Örlögnir stood on its own. With a sigh and a mental shrug, Einarr left the bonfire of light to join the rest of his crewmates.


When dawn broke, Einarr rose from his sleeping couch not quite able to accept that it was his. The odd sense of displacement, though, he knew was temporary. More urgently, there was work to be done.

Einarr followed the smell of wood smoke to a cookfire outside the hall, where he found his father and an older man crouched near the fire, speaking in hushed tones. Einarr thought he recognized the man, but with the haze of long years he couldn’t be certain.

“His Lordship is resting in town, under the care of an herb-witch,” the old man was saying.

Stigander nodded in understanding. “I only saw him for a moment. He looked weak. How is he, really?”

The old man looked up and straight at Einarr, his eyes suddenly hooded. Stigander turned around and waved for him to join them.

“Uncle Gorgny, you remember Einarr, don’t you?”

Uncle Gorgny! So that’s why he looked familiar. Einarr smiled.

Gorgny looked poleaxed. He finally stammered out “The Cursebreaker is your very own son?”

“My very own.”

“It’s not that surprising that he wouldn’t recognize me, Father. Last time I saw Uncle Gorgny, I was just a small boy.”

Stigander turned his attention back to Raen’s closest advisor. “Well? How is my father?”

“…Weak, as you say, Lord. I have reason to believe much of the blood in those tapestries was his. But that was not the only way in which she tortured him. Now that she is gone, and he is free, I hope he will recover.”

Stigander set his mouth grimly. “I understand.”

“You are not surprised.” Gorgny watched Stigander for confirmation.

“I suspected. Last spring we paid a visit to an Oracle: she left me virtually certain.” He sighed, then shook his head. “We will need to visit him, sooner rather than later, and not just because he’s family.”

“Then…” Einarr couldn’t finish the thought.

“Trying to give your grandfather back his seat is likely to be impossible, based on everything I’ve heard.”

“Unfortunately true,” Gorgny agreed. “Even if Raen were as hale as you, the years under the usurper cost him a great deal of support, and even more honor.”

“That should be mitigated once the Jarls realize Ulfr didn’t actually have Grandfather’s support.” That his grandfather was still alive was nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, it also made what came next complicated.

“Not enough, I’m afraid,” Stigander rumbled. “But it’s moot anyway. Be thankfull, Einarr, that your sorcery in the harbor brought Kaldr to his senses. You are no more prepared to be a Thane than your uncle was. How long before the Thing can be assembled?”

Gorgny sighed. “At least a week. More likely two.”

“Good. I want careful count kept of who comes and who doesn’t. Clans have fractured over less than this.”

“Of course, my Prince.” Gorgny pressed his hands against his knees and rose, allowing himself the luxury of a groan. He, too, was getting on in years, but he had not been subjected to the witch’s tender ministrations. “There is much yet to do before the Jarls begin to arrive. If you will excuse me.”

“Of course. And, Uncle Gorgny, it’s good to see you again.”

The old retainer offered Stigander a tight smile. “It’s good you came back.”

Einarr furrowed his brow. Once Gorgny had crossed half the courtyard, he turned his attention back to his father. “What’s wrong with him?”

Stigander sighed. “You heard it too, then. I have never questioned his loyalty to your grandfather, not once. I suspect he just has some soul-searching to do. He may blame himself. He may be worried about Father. Maybe it’s all of the above.”

“You should start taking men’s oaths, Father. The sooner the better.”

“You’re not wrong. But that won’t help him.”


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10.45 – Return

Einarr, Troa, and Jorir traded off at the oars for the rest of that afternoon. The sun was setting as they reached the lake Troa had spoken of.

“If we’re going to be out overnight, we should fish.” Urdr mentioned. “You’ll need your strength in the morning, after all.”

“I don’t think you have any room to be making suggestions, witch,” Runa spat.

Troa shook his head. “It’s not a bad idea. There’s good fish in this lake, and with the assault I don’t think any of us have eaten since yesterday.”

“You intend to eat raw lake fish?” Jorir asked, querulous.

“I suppose we would have to land to cook it properly.” Troa mused.

“Is that a problem? There’s no honor in starving an old woman.” Einarr peered at the lake shore. It looked like the forest came right up to the water’s edge most of the way around, but there was a rather large rock they could use in the south.

Urdr smirked. Runa clapped her hand to her forehead. “Are you all idiots? No! We’re not landing.”

Einarr gave Runa an arch look, annoyed in spite of himself. “Excuse me?”

“She’s a Weavess! They read the future! Furthermore, she’s as black-hearted as they come. She dyed her threads in human blood, for crying out loud! You’re all smarter than this. If a Weaver wants you to do something, think about why!”

“The lass is right,” Jorir rumbled. “We shouldn’t land unless we want to try to catch this one again. And I’m somewhat less certain of my chances on a second try.”

Einarr blinked, bringing his attention back to the present moment. “You’re right, of course. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Urdr slumped again and turned her face down. “Tcheh.”

Runa crossed her arms and stared at the old woman seated on the deck. “See?”

They stayed on the lake overnight, sleeping in shifts so that one person was always guarding their prisoner and one was keeping them from drifting toward shore. Urdr slept fitfully through all this, but with Runa’s reminder to beware of plots, none of them relaxed their guard enough she could try to swim for it. When the sun rose, she lay huddled in the middle of the deck. She had tried, unsuccessfully, to procure one of her tapestries as a blanket, but not one of them was willing to trust her with that.

In the morning the river carried them swiftly downstream, and Einarr realized where they were significantly before mid-morning.

So did Runa. “This is the river we escaped to with my father!”

“So it is.” Einarr eyed Urdr and the pile of tapestries, then shook his head. “Probably we could get her up to Father through that tunnel, but I think taking her into such a warren as the dungeon would be hazardous. She will walk through town as a prisoner.”

She did not blanch at the statement. Perhaps the men of the city did not know who she was, but that would be easily remedied.


Urdr held her head high as they marched through town, announcing as they went that this woman was the Usurper’s mother and was being brought before the Thing to stand for her crimes. The people of the city stared, openly hostile, but neither jeered nor attacked the prisoner. For the best.

At the bottom of the cliff road, they hired a cart to carry their prisoner up to the Hold. Troa held her upright as the donkey cart trundled around the switchbacks while Runa and Jorir carried her workings. Finally, perhaps an hour before the sun reached its zenith, the five stood before the open gates of Raenshold.

“Einarr son of Stigander and his companions Jorir, the svartdverger, Troa son of Lonir and Runa daughter of Hroaldr return with the prisoner Urdr,” Einarr announced from his place at the head of the cart.

Arring stepped forward out of the gate and gave them all a warm smile. “Welcome back. Your father awaits you in the courtyard before the Hall.”

“Thank you. Are the chiefs here?”

Arring shook his head. “Messengers have been dispatched, but I very much doubt we’ll see anyone before that thing is destroyed.”

“I understand.” That would be why his Father waited for him outside, he expected. “We will need to guard this one carefully until the Thing is assembled,” he said.

Arring nodded and stepped out of the way. “I will see to it.”

Einarr continued forward with the cart and their prisoner. Arring would need time to arrange for the special guard – and Einarr, if he was honest, wanted her to see her wicked weavings destroyed.

The difficulty was not in finding his father in the courtyard, but rather in getting to where he was. The courtyard was a press of people, between sailors taking their ease to warriors carrying messages every which way, to men of the town anxiously looking for reassurances. At the very center of this maelstrom stood Stigander, Kaldr, Bardr, and a man Einarr did not recognize.

After a good deal of jostling and very little progress, Einarr stopped the donkey and spoke over the hum of the crowd: “Einarr son of Stigander son of Raen has returned with the Weavess in custody.”

Stigander and Kaldr looked up as everyone else fell silent together. A path opened, only barely wide enough for the cart to pass.

“Einarr. Welcome back.” Stigander clapped him on the shoulder. “I was beginning to worry.”

“Father. Sorry that took so long. Kaldr.” He nodded to his former enemy. “I see things are progressing smoothly here.”

“As smoothly as they can. You have the tapestries?”

“Everything she fled with, as near as I can tell.”

“So we can finally be rid of the thing?”

Einarr took a deep breath. “I think so.”


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10.34 – The Ice Wolf

“What?” Ulfr demanded, his smug certainty suddenly evaporating into angry confusion. A vein twitched at his temple as his eyes grew wide.

Kaldr’s blood boiled in fury, not merely at the truth of having been ensorcelled – enthralled! – but at the lack of mettle of the man who had controlled him. With the practice of long years, he forced his emotions down. This was a battle like any other. Calmness was the order of the day.

The sounds of battle drifted in through the arrow slits. The Vidofnings drew nearer at a rapid clip, if Kaldr was any judge of matters. Thjofgrir had not held, and although he hoped his Mate had not fallen Kaldr was glad.

“Have you forgotten, Usurper?” Kaldr breathed out his icy rage. “By your own words, if I go to seek justice, I will forget, and you will escape.”

He chuckled bitterly. “No, perhaps you will not escape this time. Breidelstein cannot hold Stigander back now, if the men defending the hold have even a fragment of my doubt. By all reports, they have more than that. But that seems an un-fitting end for a man of your stature, does it not?

“So you command that I go. I will not. You command that I forget. I will not. Consider it my last loyalty, as Breidelsteinn’s Ice Wolf. If justice cannot be had… then only injustice remains, does it not?”

“You cannot!” Ulfr responded, a hint of desperation beginning to enter his voice. “You are bound in the Weaving! You should not be able to even think such things!”

“Have you forgotten so easily, Thane, your loyal captain’s advice about relying on magic?” Kaldr advanced on the throne, marveling at the ease of it. He drew his blade with a slow, satisfying rasp. “Magic fails. I do not know what the ritual performed on Stigander’s ships did – but something has unraveled. The Witch’s threads have slipped – and I am unbound.”

He paused. “Your crimes against Breidelsteinn and its people demand death, but I do not wish to kill an unarmed man. Draw your sword and die on your feet, if you are a man at all.”

Ulfr bore no weapon, though the great blade, Grjóthrun, hung in the Hall as the sign of his Thaneship. The Usurper scrambled from the throne toward the hanging sword. “Does your fifteen-year oath mean nothing to you?”

“Strange you should say that, Ulfr, considering that you were just mocking me for my loyalty.” Kaldr strode easily after the fleeing man. “But if you think about it, you’ll see that my oath demands this.”

Ulfr grasped Grjóthrun and turned, confusion evident on his face as he raised the blade in unpracticed hands. Kaldr responded with the feral grin of a wolf who has captured his prey. “As you said – I am fated to be loyal to Breidelstein’s Thane.” And a man who makes thralls of his free subjects is no Thane.

Ulfr opened his mouth – to protest, likely, that Kaldr had made his point for him – then stiffened as he realized the true meaning of Kaldr’s words.

The sounds of fighting echoed more strongly through the Hall. They were at the gate, by the sound of things, but if Thjofgrir could not hold the gate would crumble. He maintained his icy smile, though it did not touch his eyes. “Stigander and his men draw near, Ulfr. One way or another, it ends.”

Ulfr raised the blade with a shout and lunged at Kaldr, throwing himself entirely off-balance and nearly falling on his face. He had spent decades in indolence, and Kaldr was a Captain of warriors, trained as a warrior himself from his youth. Kaldr stepped aside easily and struck, his blade steady and sure. Ulfr’s body collapsed to the stone floor, his head rolling over twice before coming to rest in the rapidly expanding pool of his own blood.

“You lived as a coward and a tyrant. For honor, you should have died as a dog, executed by the rightful Thane when he retakes his place.” He regarded the headless body of the man who had raped his home for so long. “But we cannot permit Breidelstein go from the hands of a Usurper to those of a Kinslayer.”

This would be his last act, in all likelihood, but it would be the act of a free man. The price for killing one of the Thane’s blood – no matter how deserved – would need to be paid. But with his sacrifice, Breidelstein would be able to move forward.

I wish I could see it.

Kaldr did not give a second glance to the body on the floor, but moved to sit on the edge of the dais by the foot of the throne. He rested his sword point-down between his feet, his elbows on his knees, and took a deep breath as he awaited his Fate.

When the door swung open not many minutes later, he faced the true Thane with the equanimity he had always prided himself on.


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10.32 – Unraveling

A wave of blinding light swept over the town below and through the war room. Kaldr staggered where he stood. So did everyone else in the war room, and for a long moment the sounds of fighting in the city below fell silent. What… was that?

Whatever it was, the direction of the battle below would be decided on the ground. One side was bound to recover first, and they would win the day. He walked over to the window and waited. While he waited, he massaged his temples as he looked out on the battle below. Whatever else the burst had done, it had given him a headache. But a mere headache won’t help the rebels.

Evidently it was more than just a headache for some. The shield walls – the very core of his bait and encirclement strategy, which had been whittling away at the rebel invaders – began to buckle. It was not long before the battle lines began to push once more toward the cliff road and Raenshold. Thjofgrir had arrived just minutes before the shockwave had passed over, and he confirmed the worst of what Kaldr had pieced together: not only had the townspeople decided to take up arms, some of the sailors and guards were questioning whether Lord Ulfr was worth defending. Thjofgrir said nothing of Kaldr’s own men, and Kaldr assumed nothing.

Did they have enough healthy men to blockade the cliff road? They might, if they placed themselves on top of one of the switchbacks… But morale was so low as to be almost nonexistent. If the rebels pushed too much farther, it was likely that their defense would crumble. There might even be turncoats on the ground, if there weren’t already.

If only this blasted headache wasn’t clouding his thoughts!

He would be fine, he was sure, if the witch hadn’t been bleeding him down in the dungeons. His confinement – he hadn’t bothered to ask how long it was – had left him weakened.

“Thjofgrir, take command of the switchbacks and hold them.”

His Mate nodded an acknowledgement and dashed off. Thjofgrir would buy them time, and Kaldr would find the men to hold even if he had to join them himself. They must, else they would allow the true-born son of Raen to be cast from his throne in favor of the usurper brother.

The blood beat in his temples like a drum.

Ulfr is not true-born, but bastard.

He shook his head: where had that come from? Whatever its source, he knew the thought for truth. Bastard or not, however, Ulfr had the right of the throne. He was the elder brother, and acknowledged by his father.

Was he? When did that happen, and how? …Why did we acclaim him as our Thane?

Kaldr felt as though someone were stabbing blades of light through his eyes and he staggered again, catching himself on the window ledge before he collapsed to the floor. He scoured his mind, searching for answers and finding only uncertainty and more questions.

One after another, he remembered the thousand insults that Ulfr had given. His own father, half-starved and thrown in the dungeon to rot. His Hall, stripped of warmth and life to pay for – what? His Captains, chosen not for any particular skill but for fawning sycophancy and absolute loyalty, sent hither and yon for – what? His people. The people of Breidelstein, taxed beyond all reason both in coin and in labor, for – what? And there, looming in the background of it all, the hunched, cackling figure of his Lady Mother, the witch. The Weaver-witch.

Kaldr pressed his palm into the cold stone of the window ledge and pushed himself to standing while all these thoughts ran through his head. For a while, he stood, staring blankly at the stones he was pressing under his palms. This has to end. He raised his head, his hawk’s gaze fixed on the horizon, and squared his shoulders. Then he turned and stalked wordlessly toward the door.

“Sir, where are you going?”

“Lord Ulfr’s Hall. I have questions.”


For the third time that day Kaldr crossed the courtyard between the tower gate and the Thane’s Hall. The sky was brilliantly blue, but thunderheads trailed in his wake. No guards tried to stop him as he reached the hall where Ulfr sat: they had all been called down to aid in the defense. If Thjofgrir could not hold the road, Ulfr would fall.

His head pounded again when he realized a new point of discord: he did not care, just now, if Ulfr fell.

He raised his arms and did not hear the clink of chains, nor miss the weight of iron about his wrists. With all his rage-born strength, he flung the doors wide. The heavy wood struck the stone walls dully. Kaldr marched forward, his fists clenched at his sides.

Ulfr now lounged in the Thane’s seat, the very image of an indolent, petulant youth in the body of an aging man. How long does he spend on those braids every day, wondered the rebellious part of Kaldr’s mind. It was the only part that seemed coherent right now.

“My Lord.”

Ulfr turned dull blue eyes on the Captain he had just this morning released from captivity. “Kaldr. We have won the day, then?”

“Quite the contrary, my lord. When I left the war room, the rebels had nearly reached the cliff road. I’ve ordered our forces to retrench to the switchbacks—”

“Then why are you here?”

“For answers, my Lord.”


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10.25 – Honor

At some point after Lord Ulfr ordered him imprisoned, between his irregular meals and while he ran beginner exercises to keep his body spry, the noise of the key in the lock surprised him. For once, he had not heard the old crone’s cackling first. This was most irregular.

Kaldr sat down and leaned against the wall to observe his new visitor.

Even the dim light from the hall was now enough to make Kaldr squint: he peered at the newcomer, but all he could make out was the silhouette of a man.

“Has the Thing finally been assembled?” His voice came out like a croak.

A familiar voice tsked. “What have they done to you?”

“Thjofgrir?”

“It must really be rough if you can’t even recognize your own Mate.”

Kaldr offered a wan smirk. “More that I can barely see you right now. It seems I’m to be kept in the dark in more ways than one.”

“Ain’t that the truth. You’ll be in here a long time if you’re waiting on the Thing to assemble. The rebel ships are on their way again, only our glorious Thane seems to have lost the ability to track them.”

“Tell me, Thjofgrir. If we had been at Lundholm, would things be any different?”

“Is that why you’re so calmly accepting this?” His Mate shook his head. “We might not have lost two Captains, if you had been leading that fight, but are we really worse off for their absence?”

Kaldr allowed himself a derisive snort. “Maybe not.”

“Look, Kaldr, the men and I have been about the town. The people are a hair’s breadth from rioting. Even if Lord Ulfr defeats the rebels, he loses – and I’m not so sure he can defeat them at this point.”

“Whether or not Lord Ulfr is a suitable Thane is not the question at hand here. He is the rightful Thane.”

“I’m not so sure you’re right about that, Captain. If I’m right, a fight against the rebels just might spark the people in the town to join them. And no Thane rules for long after the people turn against him. If you say the word, Captain, we’ll all follow you out of here. It might not be so bad, being a freeboater for a while. There are plenty of other clans who’d be happy to have us as mercenaries…”

“No.”

“Pardon?”

“No. I will not flee like a coward or a common criminal. I have staked my pledge behind Lord Ulfr’s banner, and I intend to see this through.”

He could feel Thjofgrir’s weighing look. Eventually, his second-in-command sighed. “I had a feeling you’d say that. Have it your way. I’ll do what I can to keep the men in line, but their sympathies lie with the town. As do mine.”

“As do mine, in truth. But if things in the town are ever to improve, we must break the hold the Lady Mother has over her son’s mind. …You should go. I hear her in the hall. I wonder how much blood she will let this time…”

“What did you say?”

“Never forget, Thjofgrir. The problem is not Lord Ulfr. The problem is the weaver-witch.”


The Vidofnir led Einarr’s and Kormund’s ships directly for Raenshold. The fact that Urdr had been deprived of her original “weaving of inevitable victory,” or whatever she’d called it, did not mean she could not start a fresh one. The odds were considered good, though, that the longer they took the more likely she could build one up. Thus, they drove straight for Breidelstein.

When the island came into sight on the horizon the three ships weighed anchor and the Captains once more gathered on the deck of the Vidofnir. Sivid sat on the bulwark, staring towards home with a look of annoyance on his face. His broken arm was tied up in a sling: broken bones could only heal so quickly, even with Song Magic, which meant that he was stuck on the ship for the final fight. Einarr gave a wave of greeting, which was answered by a tight-lipped smile.

Their strategy meeting that night was brief. Not much had changed, frankly, from the last time they had made it as far as the harbor, save the number of enemy ships. They had not truly had time to rest at Lundholm, but if the Norns were on their side they shouldn’t need to do much fighting.

This set Sivid cackling from his watchpost, still leaning on the bulwark.

Kormund scowled at him. “What, praytell, is so funny? Stigander, I know you keep a loose ship, but still…”

Stigander and Einarr, and those in the conference who had traveled with them for any length of time, looked amused.

“If the Norns are on our side, you said.” Einarr smirked. “Well, the Usurper is kept in power by a Weavess who practices their dark Art, and -” He gave a momentary pause.

Sivid did not disappoint. “The Norns always correct their weave.”

Kormund furrowed his brow and stared at them, still plainly at a loss.

“It’s rather more literally appropriate here than usual, is all,” Stigander said. Kormund seemed to relax a little.

“For more than fifteen years,” he went on. “The weave over Breidelstein has been drawn more and more out of true by the Weavess. We are about to be as shears for the Norns. So far as they’re concerned, I suspect our petty, political aims matter not one whit.”

“I rather suspect,” Einarr drawled. “That we’re happier that way.” He remembered, again, the threat black-winged Hrist had left him with. As much as he wanted to believe the Aesir and the Vanir weren’t all like that, he wasn’t certain he could.

“I suppose the only question left is, do we push on through the night?” It would leave their men tired for the assault. On the other hand, it would also afford a better opportunity to catch the Usurper’s forces by surprise.

Stigander crossed his arms and lowered his chin. “If you think your men are up for it, I say yes.”

Nods of assent quickly followed from Kormund and Einarr. Then, with that settled, they each returned to their own ship and weighed anchor once more.


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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.

10.23 – Return to Raenshold

Kaldr knew he should have been glad of a quiet journey back to the capital. Unfortunately, every man aboard knew what was happening, and so the mood of his ship was as rough as the waves in his head. No-one suggested treason – not openly, anyway, or at least not where he could hear – but Kaldr could see the anger simmering just under the surface. A fight at least would have allowed his men to work off some steam.

As it was, he kept his usual calm demeanor as an example to his men, and watched the horizon for the cliffs of Breidelsteinn.

There were no guards waiting at the harbor to escort him before their Thane: that was something, at least. It seemed as though, while the harbormaster obviously expected his return, no-one else knew anything at all was out of the ordinary. Kaldr was pleased, on one level, that he arrived to see a perfectly ordinary day at the docks. It was somewhat surreal to walk through, nonetheless.

Their ship secured, Kaldr set off up the docks for the cliff road. Thjofgrir motioned for one of their men to watch the ship and then fell in beside his Captain. For a long while, they walked in silence, but Kaldr could feel the muscles in his jaw working, and he was certain his Mate had picked up on it. Finally, when they reached the cliff road and there were fewer – one might almost say no more – people about, Kaldr spoke.

“Something about this doesn’t make sense.” Kaldr pitched his voice low, certain that Thjofgrir would hear and equally certain no-one else could.

“What is that, Sir?”

“Why now?”

There was a long pause. It seemed Thjofgrir had been taken aback by the question. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

“I have hunted many a quarry for our Lord. Each time, I study my opponent and take them out methodically. It takes longer, but my victory is assured. So, why now, when he pitted me against his single biggest foe, would he call me back?”

Thjofgrir did not answer, but Kaldr could almost hear the man’s shrug.

“Do not follow me into the Hold. One of us needs to stay with the ship.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And don’t let them mutiny. I am only their Captain, understand?”

Thjofgrir’s agreement was slower in coming that time, but it did come. It would have to do.


They had parted ways at the last switchback before the gate house. One of the guards might have seen Thjofgrir, but Kaldr doubted it. Even if they had, it would have been easy enough to explain. Two guards stood before the gate, spears in hand, and stared severely out towards the water.

“I am Captain Kaldr, presenting myself to our Lord Ulfr as ordered,” he announced.

One of the guards – the thinner one, with a hint of jaundice about his face – turned to look directly at him even as he beckoned for someone behind him. “You’re late.”

“I came with all possible speed…” Oh, never mind. This one didn’t actually care. Kaldr wondered, though, how quickly Ulfr thought he could have arrived, given where he left from?

A thickset man stepped forward from the shadows of the gate bearing rough-looking iron manacles. Kaldr scowled at them.

“You insult me, sirs.”

“Orders is orders, Captain, and we has orders to take you prisoner.”

So I’m to be stripped of my commission and made a prisoner? For devising a strategem that was working? Still, he held out his hands, and managed to avoid rolling his eyes in the process. It was a good thing he’d sent Thjofgrir back: his Mate could never have borne this. The iron closed firmly around his wrists: it was just as rough as it looked, and almost painfully cold.

The man with the manacles took hold of the chain that connected them and turned his back on the town and the water. When Kaldr did not immediately start walking, he yanked on the chain.

They crossed under the shadow of the gates to stride down the broad lane leading through the rings of buildings to the central Hold, where Lord Ulfr would be waiting. The sky was disconcertingly bright and blue as Kaldr was marched through the streets, as though the gods were having a laugh at his expense. No matter: soon enough, this would all be settled out, and he would be able to return to his command. It seemed as though nearly the entire fleet was out on the water: the streets were empty of everyone save the Lord’s thralls and the occasional sycophant.

The stone fortress at the heart of Raenshold seemed to loom overhead in the sunlight. Inside, Kaldr nearly stumbled a time or two before his eyes could adjust to the sudden gloom. The lack of light did not seem to bother his guard, somehow, curse the man.

Finally, they stopped before the large oaken door of the Thane’s Hall. It had seen little use of late: Lord Ulfr was well aware that his coffers could no longer afford the feasts of Kaldr’s youth, even if he could not see the root of the problem. The guard stopped in front of the door and took the end of the chain in his second hand.

Kaldr raised an eyebrow. What nonsense is this?

With flair suited to a jester in court, the guard swung the end of the chain against a metal plate on a stand to the side of the door. The sound reverberated up and down the corridor. Kaldr felt rather like he was standing inside a bell when it rang.

Slowly, the door creaked open. Before him lay the threadbare rugs that still led down the center of the hall to the Thane’s seat. Kaldr allowed his gaze to travel up that rug to the end of the hall. There, slouching across his father’s seat as though it were a sleeping couch, waited Lord Ulfr.

“You’re late.”


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.

10.17 – Summons

Without needing to be told, the men on Kaldr’s ship formed ranks behind their Captain. The messenger would see, at least, that he kept proper discipline aboard his own ship. Not that it necessarily mattered what the messenger saw.

The man who appeared over the bulwark was long and lean and more than mean enough to ply the waves alone, even if his lumpy nose and thick brow did suggest he’d lost more than a few brawls. As the messenger bowed and introduced himself, Kaldr could not help but notice that they had already attracted an audience. Urek leaned over the rail of his own ship, a smug grin plastered over his face, while on the other side Vittir and Broki watched with interest. At least they got off my ship.

“Welcome aboard. I’m afraid you’ve arrived during the boring part of the hunt, though,” Kaldr answered the messenger.

“Have I? That was not my understanding of the situation here.”

“I rather assumed not. But you see, we have our quarry trapped here. There is only one way out of Lundholm, and we have it blocked. Soon or late, the villagers will grow tired of the rebels, and then they will be driven into our nets.”

The messenger hummed, evidently unimpressed. “If that’s the case, then there should be no trouble at all. Thane Ulfr demands your presence at Raenshold, to answer the charges laid against you by your fellow captains. You are to make all haste to the capitol and present yourself before Lord Ulfr without delay. In your absence, Urek, as next most senior captain, will take charge of the fleet. Should the rebels fall into your net as you expect during your absence it may mitigate our lord’s ire.” The man had the nerve to sound skeptical.

“I see.” He did see: somehow, he had lost the trust of his Lord. Could Ulfr have found out the witches had help escaping? No, unlikely at best, and they would have poisoned everyone’s minds had they stayed.

Kaldr wanted to rant and rage, as his father always had every time he was caught by a witch. But there were two things he had learned from the man that had served him in good stead. The first was, never trust a witch, and the second was that a calm demeanor would see him through every time. Thus, he turned on his heels to face his men without so much as another glance at the messenger. “Men, it seems our mission is at an end. Rund, send up the signal that our scout must return immediately. The rest of you, make ready to sail. We’ll be pressing on through the night, I’m afraid.”

He saw angry glares among his crew, but all of them were directed at the Thane’s messenger. To their credit, every last man answered ‘aye’ and moved about their business. Before many minutes passed, he was left alone with Thjofgrir and the messenger. “Have you other business here?”

“No, sir. But do not forget that Lord Ulfr’s eye is upon you.”

“I have never for a moment forgotten my duty to my lord.”

“As you say, sir.” The messenger kept his face entirely impassive. “If you will excuse me, then…”

Kaldr dismissed the man with a wave of his hand and turned his attention to more urgent matters. Pitching his voice low, he addressed his Mate. “Thjofgrir, when Inja returns, make sure Vittir and Broki get his report.”

“What, not sure Urek can read?” Thjofgrir said with a quiet laugh.

“Sure he would ignore it, rather. The messenger could hardly have chosen a worse juncture to arrive…”

“It’s not too late to sink him.”

“No, Thjofgrir. That would make more trouble, not less. Even if we could then point to our success here. No, at this point I think we just have to hope Urek doesn’t make a dog’s dinner out of what should be a straightforward capture.”

Thjofgrir’s answering laugh said what he thought of that, but he turned to see about his duties nontheless.

A chortle floated across the gap between ships, and Kaldr turned to see Urek’s smug grin. “I guess even Lord Ulfr runs out of patience sometimes. How does it feel to know you’ve brought his ire down on your own head?”

“I don’t know, Urek. How does it feel to know you won’t have me around to pull your sorry ass out of the fire?”

Urek guffawed as Kaldr moved amidships to survey his crew’s preparations.


It was another hour before Inja made it back to their ship, and when he did he looked troubled.

“I couldn’t find out what it was, but they’re plotting something, sir.”

Kaldr exhaled and let his shoulders drop. “It’s no longer our concern, I’m afraid. Give Thjofgrir your report: he’ll make sure it gets to the other ships.”

“Yes, sir.”

That report was all they were waiting on. Even as Thjofgrir was in conference with the two more reliable of the captains remaining, Kaldr was directing the crewmen disconnecting his ship from the rest of the blockade. Done properly, this could cost them some hours. Done improperly, though, it could cost them their lives: a cost Kaldr was certain Lord Ulfr would be unwilling to pay. Even at the worst extremity, the Thane would want to hand down Kaldr’s fate himself.

Finally, though, as the sun lowered in the late afternoon sky, Kaldr and his disfavored ship set back out upon the waves, leaving Stigander and his rebels behind them. This would be a long, tiring, and pointless journey. He only hoped Urek could net their prey. If not, this entire enterprise would be nothing but a waste of time and men.


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.

10.16 – Command Decision

When the final boat sat with the waves lapping her hull and their crews sat resting their shoulders and their thighs on the shore, a figure appeared in the door of the hermitage. He wore the skin of a bear as a cloak, the creature’s snout extending past the old man’s head.

Einarr was the first to notice him. He raised an arm in greeting. For a long while Gotlief, the hermit, did nothing more than stare at them. One by one, though, the rest of the fleet greeted him in silence – all except Bea, who watched with one eyebrow raised. Do the Imperials not have holy monks?

Finally, when the old monk was satisfied, he raised both arms into the air, the bear’s paws moving with his own clenched fists. Then a war cry broke the stillness, and even Einarr jumped at the ferocity of the man’s voice. The startlement only lasted a moment, however, and the hills echoed with their answer.

Einarr and Stigander exchanged grins, and then Stigander turned his face to the sky. “All aboard!”


The arrival of Lord Ulfr’s messenger came only a day after the successful, if unwise, raid against Lundholm. Early enough that Kaldr wondered if Urek had sent the message earlier than he thought, or if his Thane was also dissatisfied with his service. He flared his nostrils in a loud exhale.

“Trouble, sir?” Thjofgrir, ever-attentive, asked.

“I’m afraid we will be unable to see our plans to fruition. It seems our Lord has grown impatient.”

Thjofgrir frowned, following his Captain’s gaze out to sea to the little skiff dancing over the waves on its way to their blockade, Ulfr’s sigil plainly visible on its sail.

“Shall I ready the fire-arrows, sir?”

It was a measure of his annoyance that Kaldr did not answer immediately. But, without much hesitation, he shook his head. “If the messenger cannot be persuaded to wait a little for our quarry to come to us, then we shall just have to return. As galling as that is.”

Thjofgrir, too, took longer to respond than was his wont. For a long moment he stared at Kaldr, but in the end the words out of his mouth were still “as you say, sir.”

What does Lord Ulfr think he’s doing? He’s never been this impatient before, and I’ve never failed to capture my quarry. So, why…?

The tiny karve drew closer at an alarming rate. While that boat could be faster than a longship, this was still too fast for the messenger to have been dispatched from Raenshold. That meant a pigeon had traveled from Urek to the Thane to one of the other outlying islands… he shook his head. That was too unbelievable. That weaver-witch must have something to do with it.

Movement caught his eye from the other ships in his fleet: boards were being stretched across, and there was no discussion aboard Broki’s ship as Vittir strode across. Urek, as he might have expected, was already leaning against the bulwark by his own plank without so much as a by-your-leave. The man wore one of the most self-satisfied grins Kaldr could remember seeing. Perhaps Lord Ulfr is right. This mission isn’t under my control anyway.

“What goes on?” Vittir asked as the two from that side trotted up.

Kaldr pursed his lips, his words coming out short and clipped. “Ask Urek.”

The man himself answered with a braying laugh, his boots clomping on the deck as he swaggered over to join the other Captains.

“Well, Urek, I hope you’re pleased with yourself. Our Lord acted unusually swiftly, for your having just dispatched that bird yesterday.”

“Yesterday?” Urek laughed again, even going so far as to slap his thigh. “Coward, I sent that bird after they slipped our noose in that shallow harbor.”

Thjofgrir’s hand went to the blade at his belt. Kaldr held out a hand.

“Wait. Listen to what he has to say. I’m sure it will be …educational.” Kaldr could hear an edge in his voice. He wondered if anyone else did.

“Kaldr, it was painfully obvious from the beginning that you never intended to actually catch these thrice-damned rebels. I couldn’t begin to say why – oh, wait, I could. But that’s a matter for you to take up with Lord Ulfr.”

Kaldr felt his jaw tense. This… this idiot had the gall to imply he was a traitor? In front of other Captains, no less! Wait. He took a deep breath: the man was probably trying to bait him into something stupid. Before his promotion, Urek had all but lived to fight duels. He spoke low, keeping iron discipline over his voice. “I see. Was there anything else?”

“Does there need to be?” Urek did not laugh, at least not out loud, but one look at his eyes told Kaldr he still was.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “And you two. Do you agree?”

Broki shook his head sadly. “No, Captain. I was pleased to be selected to come along on this hunt: you are known as one of the best hunters in the fleet.”

“Speak for yourself, sheep,” Vittir snarled. “Urek’s right. Kaldr hasn’t got a speck of real fight in ‘im. Comes of being so scrawny, I shouldn’t wonder.”

Kaldr glanced up at the sky from under his eyebrows,wondering if the gods would, just this once, smite the idiots.

He had no time to go farther than that, however: the thump of two wooden hulls caught his attention.

“Ho there!” A voice rang out from over the water. “I come in the name of the Thane! Permission to come aboard?”

With a mental sigh, Kaldr nodded at his Mate. “Permission granted. Throw him a line.”


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.

10.9 – Seige

Stigander frowned out over the water. The four ships were near enough that you could make out the wolf’s head on the prow. Much closer, and they risked being seen in turn. “That’s them, all right,” he said again.

“I had hoped to have a few more days before they showed up,” Einarr mused.

“Bah! That was never going to happen, son. Not after they chased us from Eskihus.”

“I know, Father. I still hoped. But let’s face it, we haven’t been near here in more than a decade.”

“And they live in these waters. Yes, exactly.”

Kormund cleared his throat. “And they are continuing straight for the island. Might I suggest we draw back at least far enough to have tree cover?”

Hasty nods and grunts of agreement were heard from all around, and everyone save the village scout started walking back to Lundholm.

“Elder Vilding assures me we will be able to replenish all our arrows three days from now. Water, of course, we’re on our own, but one of the woodsmen showed Arring to a spring we can use. That just leaves food and pitch, plus any repairs that can’t wait.”

Kormund harrumphed. “I think any repairs can wait – unless one of you was taking on water?”

Father and son shook their heads.

“Good. We’re not going to have time to waste. Did the Elder say anything about food stores?”

“We’re in the wrong season for much of that. I’m sure there’ll be some who can sell us their excess, but most of what they have is going to be fresh or foraged.” Kormund must not have had a chance to speak with his Mate: this was exactly what Einarr had told them that morning. “If we can spare some men to hunt, though, what they do have is salt. And some others should make sure we all have good fishing nets.”

Stigander hummed. “Not sure I want to rely on fishing just now… but I suppose if we have to we should be able to.”

“My thought exactly.”

Kormund chuckled.

The other two answered at the same moment. “What?”

“Nothing. It’s just that your son is a born Mate, Stigander, and here he is a Captain already. At his age, neither of us would have given the resupply a second thought.”

“At his age, neither of us had earned our ships. He’s been riding the whale road for half his life already.”

Kormund chuckled again and left it at that.

Einarr hated to bring the mood down, but they had all been avoiding one important matter. “The real question is, will they give us time enough to even do that?”

“You’re worried they’ll attack the town,” Stigander said with a sigh. “I am, too, but I don’t think they will. Not if this Kaldr is the man I think he is.”

“He’s not the one I’m worried about.”

“The mad dog? What was his name, Urek?” Kormund ventured.

“That’s the one.”

Stigander hummed again. “If they do decide to raze the village, either because Kaldr is not as savvy as we think or because he doesn’t have the others properly in hand, there’s not much we can do save fight them here.”

Einarr nodded, thoughtful. “I had a feeling you’d say that.”


Kaldr studied the narrow fjord leading to Lundholm. It was almost certainly where the three rebel ships had fled, given the path they had taken after Eskihus. Lord Ulfr hated the place, he knew – when he bothered to remember it existed. But that Lord Ulfr hated a place did not render it fit for destruction. Now he only needed to make sure Urek and Vittir understood that they would lose more in good will than they gained should they raid the place.

Hopefully, the logistics of the assault should help with that. The fjord was impossible to navigate in more than single file: for that very same reason, it would be trivial to blockade and wait for them to try to slip out on their own.

Still frowning in thought, he gave a decisive nod. “Thjofgrir.”

“Sir!”

“We will blockade the fjord. There is only one way out of Lundholm, and we’re looking at it. We will take center, along with Broki. Vittir gets the right flank, and Urek the left.” That should mollify them some, at least. They could hardly accuse him of cowardice when he placed himself in the center. As an added benefit, they would have a much harder time of it to slip past him and do something foolish.

Another thought occurred to him. “Stretch nets between our boats.”

“You intend to fish?”

“I intend to keep them from fishing.” He bared his teeth at his Mate in a vicious smile.

“Very good sir.”

The signals were given and the ships moved into position. Not long after the nets were in place, as ordered, a clatter of planks could be heard from the flanks of the blockade. Here we go. It was a struggle not to roll his eyes.

Sure enough, within moments, Urek came storming across the gap between their two ships. On the other side, Vittir was slowed by Broki’s temporizing, for which Kaldr was thankful.

“Urek,” he said, turning to face the man. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“You call for yet another blockade? Are you Captain or coward?”

“Peace, Urek. There is more to a successful strategy than attack. Even wild wolves know that much.”

The other Captain, never known for his self-control, glared at him. “And now you insult me?”

Kaldr was careful to keep his voice bland. “Not at all.”

“Three times now we have set a trap for the rebels, and three times they have slipped the noose. Now you try it again, when they have landed at a rebel stronghold. Why?” The man’s face was already red with anger, and spittle flew from his mouth as he ranted.

“Urek-”

“No! I will say my piece. They are weakened, they are tired, they are low on supplies. If we press the attack now, not only do we deal with that pesky rooster, we also eliminate a thorn in Lord Ulfr’s side.”

“If we press the attack now, Lord Ulfr will never hold his lands without his mother’s interference.”

It was the wrong thing to say. Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out, staring at Kaldr in obvious rage and disbelief. “Traitor!”


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.