Tag: Ulfr

9.32 – Food From the Mouth

Author’s Note: This marks the end of Book 9: Einarr and the Wolf’s Flame. Book 10 will pick up right where we left off on 3/10, at which point we should be finished with our move to Saipan.


Kaldr hurried down the cliff road for the harbor where his ship waited. He should have been out there already, directing the attack, not stuck up in the Hold waiting on Lord Ulfr. Thjofgrir, his mate, trailed a half-pace behind, and as they moved Kaldr confirmed that all was in readiness.

Ulfr hadn’t even wanted anything, so far as Kaldr could tell – at least, nothing worthwhile. He had been kept ashore, it seemed, only because the Lady Urdr wanted him punished for bringing all the Singers instead of just the half-trained one. Even now, though, he could not regret that. Hopefully Lord Ulfr would see soon what came of relying too much on the Arts. Even better if the Lady Urdr learned some humility: the woman was insufferable, and if she would only get out of her son’s way and be a proper matriarch Breidelstein could come back into its own.

There was no time for such musings, though. Kaldr looked out over the harbor again, trying to judge how quickly they would have to move to join the blockade. The smell of smoke tickled his nose and the alarm bells rang, but his orders were clear – and issued after the alarm was sounded. If Lord Ulfr was confident in his ability to contain the fire, who was Kaldr to gainsay that?

On the water, his sister ships had engaged the rebel vessels. It was hard to be sure, but Kaldr did not believe they had managed to board yet. He picked up his pace, in a hurry to join the hunt but unwilling to risk a tumble down the steep slope.

The blockade tightened, drawing around in an attempt to encircle the rebels, but something was wrong. Now he stopped, his throat tightening as he looked out over the stair wall. The rebel ships appeared to be charging straight forward into the blockade, but it was not possible the rebels were that stupid. I need to send up a signal…

He shook his head. In order to send a signal, he would have to climb back up to the tower and through the fire, and then hope that his smoke signal could be distinguished from the Singers’ handiwork. Not likely, that. Even if it could be, though, there was not time with the feint already in motion.

Worse, the commander out there appeared to be taking the bait. The arms of the ships started to close around the three rebel vessels. Why was Captain Beir not using fire arrows? Captives were all well and good, but only if your victory was assured already. Unless it was more of Lord Ulfr’s foolishness. He was the rightful Thane, without a doubt, but the man had an unhealthy obsession with domination and subjugation.

“We’re too late,” he said aloud, interrupting Thjofgrir’s running inventory. Now he looked up, as well.

“Are you sure?”

Out on the water, the rebel vessels changed course with an agility Kaldr had never before seen. The Eikthyrnir, he supposed, was renowned for its speed, but the Vidofnir and the Heidrun were ships after the same mold as the wolf fleet. They should not have been able to turn that quickly, nor pick up so much speed. Arrows flew from the arms of the blockade, so much wasted ammunition as they rained down on the water.

“Just watch.”

Watch they did. It was almost beautiful in its tragedy: the hind, the rooster, and the ram moved as though under a wind sent by the gods themselves, darting around and through the pack of the blockade as though they were barges. Soon – long before they could have cast off, let alone joined the fray – an answering volley shot from the decks of the retreating rebels. The jaws of the blockade snapped down on empty air, the prey escaped.

Meanwhile, Captain Beir was proving himself incompetent once again. The ships of the blockade were getting in each others’ way as they tried to turn and sail in pursuit. Even from the stair Kaldr could see wolves colliding as they tried to turn themselves. Those on the edges, he wagered, would soon leave off pursuit to untangle the mess in the center. That was none of his business, he supposed, and perhaps he was being unfair to Captain Beir. He could not help but think, though, that had he been out there where he belonged, the rebels would have been brought properly to heel.

For a long moment, Kaldr stood on the mountain path, watching as his prey escaped the net Ulfr had set. He could not deny that their escape had been beautifully executed. And they would not go far, he wagered. Come sunup, they would still be in Lord Ulfr’s waters. Likely close by, in some sheltered cove. Probably they would take a day or two, secure in the knowledge of their escape, to rest and regroup before they tried again. Two or three likely options came immediately to mind. His charts, though, were down on his ship still.

A small smile curled the corner of his mouth, almost involuntarily. “Come, Thjofgrir. It seems the hunt is on.”


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9.29 – Regrouping

Author Note: On Monday night, we will be flying out of Pago Pago headed for Portland and, ultimately, Saipan. Due to the vagaries of moving and airport/hotel internet, Tuesday’s post may be somewhat delayed. My apologies, and thank you for understanding


Bea stood on guard, two steps up from the last of Urdr’s guards. Her opponent watched her, cautious. Like his fellows, he’d seen her struggle before. Unlike his fellows, he’d just watched her break a man’s nose before taking his head. And… there was something else.

“You’re not bad,” he muttered. “But why are you here? You’re not from the North.”

“Thanks,” she answered, just as quietly. “I’ve decided the climate does wonders for my complexion, though.”

The man snorted, still studying her. She was not as good with a sword as with a spear, not by a long shot, but with the high ground and a narrow space she didn’t need to be.

“If you give me your word you will not alert the tower, I will let you see to your friend there.” She looked over his shoulder toward the man whose arm she had taken.

“You think that’s an option? Even if I could betray the Lady’s trust, he already alerted the tower.”

Tcheh. I was afraid of that. “That so? Unfortunate.”

Without giving him a chance to respond, she feinted for his sword arm. When he twisted away to avoid the blow, Bea brought the flat of her blade up and across, clocking him on the jaw.

He hardly seemed to notice, striking upwards when she expected him to be reeling back and drawing a line of blood across her thigh. Yes, Einarr – or at least his father – would definitely want this one left alive. She could do that. Probably.

Bea backed up another step, not really expecting the man to drop his guard. He kept pace, adjusting his grip on the hilt of his blade. Can’t drag this out too long, either. The others will start to worry. Her opponent, though, was proving difficult to bait.

She made another testing feint, this time at his forward leg, which he swatted away easily.

“Tsk, tsk. I know you’re a better warrior than that.”

“Sorry. I’ve got more important things to do than keep some nobody entertained here.”

He twitched. He regained his mask of calm quickly, but he definitely twitched. Finally, something she could use.

“You’re an awfully skillful warrior to be stuck guarding the false Thane’s mother, of all people, when there are enemies at the gate. They question your loyalty, don’t they? They think you’ll betray them, so they keep you stuck at home. Home, where you can’t gain any glory at all.”

“So long as we follow the Lady Urdr’s commands, Breidelsteinn will never fall,” he said through clenched teeth. “It is… an honor… to be made one of her guards.”

Maybe it was, but not to him. Not if Bea was reading him right. “That’s all well and good – for the Usurper and his Black Arts mother. If it weren’t for them, you’d be a Captain by now.”

The man paled, then shook his head. “Let us end this.”

Bea smirked even as the man lashed wildly towards her with his sword. She dodged easily, the steel barely brushing her own shirt of maille. Before he could regain his balance, Bea struck out. As with the man whose arm she’d taken, she struck with the hilt to the back of the neck. The man crumpled to the ground.

“About time,” she muttered, taking a moment to catch her breath.


The Usurper Wolf was not happy.

Reki wished she could be more pleased about that knowledge, but at present she didn’t see how it could help them. For five minutes she had pressed her ear to the door where he sat, berating Captain Kaldr for things outside of his control – such as allowing the ships into port at all, when he had plainly been grounded since he brought them in. The others had already closeted themselves on the other side of the hallway.

Reki turned to find the door, and saw Bea emerge out of the staircase. The young woman trotted toward her, somewhat bloody.

“Tell me -”

Reki put a finger to her puckered lips in the universal sign for ‘shush.’ Obligingly, Bea lowered her voice.

“Tell me you have good news.”

Reki shrugged. “The stair is clear?”

“Of everything but bodies. One of them might wake up in a bit, although I doubt he’ll be a threat once he does.”

She moved two doors down the hall and rapped lightly in a prearranged signal. “Good enough.”

“But what about…?” She gestured toward the main door.

“If we had some way to bar it, we could set it and, probably, the whole tower ablaze, and likely end this. But it opens inward, and Lord Stigander would never forgive me.”

“Ah.”

If she was honest, it was that last she cared about. That, and that damnable Victory Weaving the crone had bragged about.

“Besides,” Bea supplied, looking at her askance. “We do that before we wreck that loom, and the Usurper’s just going to find a way to wriggle out of it.”

Reki gave her a wry smile as the door opened. “Exactly. Come on, ladies, let’s go. We have a Weaving to steal.”

The other Singers, as they left their momentary hiding place, were by turns grim and eager. Good. They understand what we have ahead of us.

Reki let Bea lead them back down the stair. It was, after all, the site of her victory – and she was the one who knew where to step around the bodies, at least presumably. She herself brought up the rear. When the others had all disappeared down the stair, she took one last look down the hallway towards the room where her enemy sat.

The door was open. Kaldr stepped out into the hall, his eyes downcast but not defeated. He looked annoyed, she thought. Quickly Reki, too, slipped into the stairwell and pulled the door closed as silently as she could. That had been entirely too close.


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9.27 – Harbor Assault

The decks of the Vidofnir and her allies had finally been sluiced clean of the blood of their countrymen. The inscribed runes on the yardarms had evidently had some effect, as they were no longer stymied at every turn. But breaking through always came at a cost, and Einarr mourned those that fell every time. If Einarr’s mood was grim as they neared Breidelsteinn harbor and Raenshold, his father’s was moreso. Some of these had likely been men he’d known, after all, and they had not chosen their bewitchment.

That ensorcellment would end soon, one way or another. Ahead, he could see now the graceful inward sweep of the harbor’s arms around a city huddled at the water’s edge. Looming above stood his grandfather’s Hold. From the water he could see nothing, of course, save the tower at the front gate and the stone walls curving back from it.

That tower was, as father had explained it, the biggest challenge they would face in retaking their home. Now that he was finally seeing it, for the first time since he was a small boy, he understood why. Whatever else anyone wanted to say about Grandfather Raen, the man in his prime had plainly been a superb strategist. Not only had he united the clans of their archipelago under his own banner, he had built that. Either accomplishment would have landed most men a place in the histories.

That made what had happened with the Weavess and the Usurper even more of a disgrace, to Einarr’s mind. His grandfather should be remembered for his feats on the battlefield, dammit! Not one ill-chosen dalliance in his youth.

Einarr shook his head. The harbor was a choke point: they could not avoid facing more of Ulfr’s ships here. Now was not the time for idle musings. He looked around at his crew and nodded. It was that time, however. “Arm yourselves, men!”

A jangle of maille filled the near-silence that followed his orders. There were those of his crew who had come from the Vidofnir – newer men, mostly, and thus mostly those who had never been to these shores before. One man stood out, however: in quiet conference before they left Kjell, Stigander had asked Tyr to serve as Einarr’s advisor, and Tyr had agreed without hesitation. Thus, the oldest salt on the Vidofnir had now sailed under three generations of the same line. Einarr only hoped he could do as well by the man as Stigander had.

They were nearing the harbor mouth now, and no fewer than five wolf’s-head ships had emerged to try to block their path. Einarr once again regretted Eydri’s absence: having a Singer allowed men to fight harder and longer. Well: they had not rescued their captives yet, and thus they would just have to fight smarter.

From the deck of the Vidofnir, in the center, Bardr waved a torch as a signal to the other ships.

“Archers – draw!” The enemy ships seemed a bit far away yet for a volley, but there was sure to be a reason for that. Knowing that if it came to boarding he would have to stay on the Heidrun, Einarr, too, took up his bow and drew. Please, lady Fates, be true.

The Wolf’s ships did not take the defensive posture Einarr had expected them to. Rather, they rushed forward as though desperate. Einarr furrowed his brow: there was a natural narrowing in the harbor mouth not far behind the enemy ships. Why had they not formed a line there?

He shook his head. Perhaps this was the Norn’s work, after all. At any rate his enemy’s tactical misstep was his gain, and Father and Bardr seemed to have anticipated it. They were nearly in range…

“Fire!”

Bowstrings sang as a flock of arrows rose from the decks of the rooster and the ram and the roebuck to strike at the approaching pack of wolves.

No few of them overshot their mark, raining down on the water on the other side of the defending boats. Einarr blinked: he had known of very few boats that fast, and none of them that bore a wolf.

“Ready volley!” Even with the speed of their adversaries, they should have time for at least one more shot. “Fire!”

This time the volley struck true. After a moment’s consideration, Einarr nodded to himself. “Fire at will!”

Einarr sent three more arrows flying before the next signal came: others loosed more. “Prepare for boarding!”

Einarr resettled Sinmora’s baldric as Jorir took his place by Einarr’s side. The dwarf, normally indefatigable, looked tired. Even getting this far had been a long slog: if Jorir was worn out, so were the rest of his men. They would have to end this rapidly. Even so, to leave these ships behind them was to cut off their only means of escape.

He glanced down at Jorir again, weighing his options. They had to either send these dogs back to port with their tails between their legs, or disable them completely. He wasn’t sure which his crew was more capable of, but he had an idea. “Jorir,” he whispered. “You and I have a special operation to take care of.”

“Oh? And what might this be?” The dwarf kept his voice as low as Einarr’s.

“Sabotage.” Einarr offered his leige-man a feral grin. “We can’t fight too long: we’re all exhausted, and there’s still more to come. So we need to give these curs some reason to break off.”

Jorir nodded slowly. “I see your plan, my Lord, and it is sound. But might I suggest you send others? Your place is here, and mine is by your side.”

“Thank you, Jorir, but most of my crew is so wet behind the ears they could swim in the water there. It needs to be you and me if we’re all to get out of this.”

To his credit, the dwarf merely shrugged. “Let’s have it, then.”


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9.20 – Audacity

Einarr paced up and down the beach of the tiny island where they had been forced aground. Less than a full day after the capture of the women, more ships had come to harry them. It was almost as though the Usurper knew where they were going to be. Father had not given himself over to pacing, but Einarr could see the restlessness in his face. Out there, on the water, half a dozen ships circled like sharks, waiting for the three beached boats to make a run for it. Waiting for sport.

The men were building lean-tos on the beach. They hadn’t been ordered to, but none of the Captains saw fit to gainsay them. Better to have the shelter, Einarr thought, than to be stuck in the elements should it decide to pour before they were ready. Soon or late, there would be a plan. They had already wasted too much time here, though, to Einarr’s way of thinking. The longer they waited, the more ships would join that hungry pack.

An idea came to him. “Hrug! Jorir!”

Einarr looked about: neither of his friends was in view. Grumbling, he went in search of them. There were very few places on this island they might be, and he only had to check two of them before he discovered the svartdvergr sharpening swords in the company of the mute.

“Just the two I was looking for!”

Jorir looked up, startled, but did not cease grinding Irding’s chipped axe bit. Hrug waved a relaxed greeting, not looking up from the diagram he had sketched in the sand.

Einarr folded his legs to sit on the sand with them. Now that he got a better look at it, he thought Hrug was tinkering with the pattern they would need to destroy the Weaving. With a grunt, he looked back up. “How much do you two know about disrupting Weavings?”

Hrug gave him a sour look.

“No, not that one. We’ve all grumbled about how they seem to know exactly where to find us. We also know for a fact that they have a Weaver on their side. I suppose its possible she’s not working her Art to keep her son in power, but I doubt it.”

“And you’re thinking that you and Hrug might be able to do something about it?” Jorir sounded skeptical. He kept his attention firmly on Irding’s blade: Einarr was sure it must have been sharpened since they returned from the Isle of the Forgotten, but it didn’t really look like it.

“Possibly. You have the most experience with Weavers out of all of us, Jorir, and as a blacksmith you must have at least some experience with Runes. Between you, me, and Hrug, we ought to be able to come up with something.”

Jorir frowned. “Maybe. But my knowledge of runes is all theoretical. Thanks to my own curse, I can’t even see runes, let alone read them.”

Einarr blinked. “So you are cursed.” His father had suspected that Jorir was under some sort of curse of his own, but it had never actually come up before now.

“Aye.”

“And when, exactly, were you intending to ask me to do something about this?”

“When your own affairs had been tidied, not before.”

Einarr hummed. For all that the svartdvergr had a reputation nearly as bad as the svartalfr’s, Einarr had found no fault with Jorir as a retainer: while it would have been nice to know of the handicap earlier, he could not truly fault the dwarf. “All right. That won’t stop you from pondering runes with Hrug and I. Now. Our odds of being able to affect whatever spell Urdr’s woven directly are vanishingly small. So how do we use runes to hide from fate?”


Stigander brightened briefly when Einarr told him of the plan he’d hammered out with Hrug and Jorir, but then slumped back down into a bored despond. “That’s wonderful, son – once we’re off this island. But how do we get past them?” He gestured emphatically out over the water at the drakken lying in wait.

Einarr could not quite suppress a grin. “Audaciously, Father. How else?”

Stigander quirked an eyebrow and stayed silent.

“In all seriousness, Father, isn’t that what you and Kormund and I need to figure out? Or perhaps the three of us and our Mates?”


The last fire of daylight had vanished from the sky when the three ships slipped from the shore of their tiny refuge island out onto the open ocean, where a pack of the Wolf’s ships circled hungrily.

Einarr, standing under the mast, stared out over the black water and the indigo, pinpricked sky. A small smile played on his mouth. The answer he had sought from Jorir and Hrug had actually came from Sivid, in the end. “The Norns always correct their weave,” he had muttered darkly, rolling dice between his fingers.

The Norns always correct their weave. It was so simple, Einarr had nearly missed it. Across the yardarms of all three ships, they had written in runes the words “cursebreaker” and “reweaver,” and every man aboard had said a prayer that the Norns would help them in their task. Even Sivid. If Urdr was abusing her power the way Einarr expected, then surely the weavers of Fate would aid them in their task.

Now all they had to do was break past Ulfr’s trained hounds without putting any more blood in the water then they had to. That was why they were sailing dark now: it would never get them past the enemy encirclement, but it just might let the Vidofnir and her sister ships make good use of a little shock-and-awe.

The air hung still over their boats. The only sound was the lapping of water against the hulls and the occasional gentle swish of the oars. At each man’s feet, in a tiny rock oven, a torch smoldered. It was almost time.


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9.19 – Interlude

As the six women retired to gain what little sleep they might before a servant inevitably summoned them to break their fast, Bea looked thoughtful. “You know, he seems like an ass, but he is not just a Captain but a wealthy one, and one with the king – er, thane’s – ear. You don’t rise that high with that strange of a view without support from below.”

Reki furrowed her eyebrows, but it was Aema who asked the question. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that his crew probably adores him. They’ll call him a paragon of virtue, I wager, and odds are good they’ll cite more than one of your nine.”

“…Our nine?” Aema arched an eyebrow, even as Svana and Eydri nodded.

“Your nine serve well enough among the Clans, where everyone fights everyone else and you don’t have to manage much beyond a few islands. But the Empire? If we weren’t a little less prickly than you lot, we’d never have lasted. All of that’s not really important right now, though.”

“She’s right,” Svana opined. “A man who was merely lucky, or who merely had the favor of his Lord, would not have risen so high. And its not clear to me he actually has the favor of his lord.”

Reki nodded. “I don’t see how it helps us right this instant, but its worth remembering. Let’s sleep on it: maybe something will suggest itself.”

Runa looked like she was chewing on her cheek: well, the girl would decide to share her thought if she thought it wise. “Try to get some rest, ladies. We’ve got a long day ahead of us.”

Reki felt like she had no sooner closed her eyes than there came a rapping on the door to their prison. With a groan, she sat up, still bone-weary and stiff besides. “Who is it?” She managed to croak.

“A-a-a-a-agnar, lady. M-m-m-my l-l-l-lord calls.”

Calls for what? She narrowly stopped herself from asking: it would be faster to go and see than to wait for poor Agnar to spit out the answer. “Please allow us a moment to freshen up.”

“P-p-p-p-please make haste, l-l-l-lady.”

Reki sighed, thankful that the only ones to see were her fellow prisoners. Was this Ulfr’s idea, or Urdr’s? Reki suspected Urdr’s, especially if Kaldr was not the only one to realize they had slipped out the night before. But refusing was not an option, not truly. Dragging weary limbs, she roused her fellows and attempted to wipe away the worst of the sleep-muss.


It was sunset before the six of them were once again sent back to their cell, and in all the hours of the day not once were they let out of the watchful view of either Urdr or one of her lackeys. Still, Reki was pleased at how they had handled themselves. They should still have a night or two before things became desperate.

Supper was to be brought to them, and likely a much poorer affair than the night before. That was no matter: based on what they’d seen in the larder, she wasn’t certain the banquet had been any more nourishing than the bread and broth she expected. One of Urdr’s attendants, though, had let slip something interesting in Reki’s hearing, and now she waited only on the guard who would come bearing their supper to share it.

Finally, once the thrall had left their tureens of broth and their fresh – very fresh, they still smelled of yeast and butter – loaves, they could count on being alone save for the guard outside the door. That one, Reki was fairly certain, couldn’t actually hear them so long as they kept their voices down.

“So, ladies, I’ve learned something interesting. What of the rest of you?”

Eydri bobbed her head as she sipped at the soup. “You know where the wolf was right before he summoned us? Consulting his mother’s loom. Some of the thralls were complaining about how early the old woman gets up to Weave. I guess they do that every day.”

Aema looked surprised. “They do that every day – and the thralls felt safe complaining about it?”

Eydri shrugged. “I think Reki was right: I think we’re here on the Norns business. The weave on this island has to be beyond distorted.”

Svana hummed. “That means Captain Kaldr is a natural ally – if something can convince him to turn on his master.”

Reki took a sip of her own soup, then tore off a piece of bread and dipped it in the broth. “With Urdr’s black weaving still in effect, that’s not likely.”

“Well, not on its own,” Runa volunteered, her shoulders hunched up around her ears. All four of the other Singers turned cold looks on the apprentice.

Bea looked confused. “What do you mean, not on its own?”

“I mean we could…” Runa seemed to realize who she was speaking in front of – namely, a non-Singer. “We could help it along.”

“Yes, we could,” Reki said, her voice as icy as her skin. “By destroying whatever weaving this is that’s keeping Ulfr victorious.”

“We don’t even know where that is!” Runa protested.

“Actually,” Reki smiled, the corners of her mouth turning up like a mischeivous fox’s. “I think we might.”

All five of the other women sat up. “Oh?”

“After he returned from the Oracle, Lord Stigander said something about his father still being alive, at least according to a vision he’d been given. I hadn’t given it too much thought, to be honest – right up until one of Urdr’s attendants started talking about helping her up and down stairs. Every day. I don’t know about you, but I doubt she’s going to that sort of trouble for Lord Hroaldr.”

I think,” Reki said quietly, drawing them all in. “I think its time we checked the dungeon.”


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9.17 – Weavess

Reki was arrested, briefly, by the sharp cunning in the old crone’s eyes – eyes that, were she to let her guard down at all, would see through any plan she might concoct. They would have to be careful.

“The pleasure is ours, I’m sure,” Reki purred, offering a slight bow in the other woman’s direction.

Urdr, the weavess who bound all of Breidelstein to the will of herself and her two-faced son, merely hummed before turning her attention back to the table before them.

Ulfr blanched a little, then swallowed before continuing. “Please, be seated, and tell me what brings such a delegation of Singers to my waters?”

Reki’s mouth curled up in what was half a smile, half a sneer as she approached the table. He intended to play stupid, did he? That would never do. “Surely you cannot expect me to believe you are unaware of the ships we rode on to come here? The Lady Runa is one of our apprentices, yes, but I am attached to the Vidofnir, Eydri is attached to the ship led by not just your nephew but by Runa’s betrothed, and Aema is attached to the leader of the ships out of Kjell.”

Ulfr raised an eyebrow. “That accounts for three – well, four, of you. What of the others?”

Reki laughed as musically as she knew how. If the man was even half so stupid as he pretended to be, she might be able to charm him. “Svana signed on with the Eikthyrnir, captained by an old friend of your half-brother’s, and Ria is an apprentice who happened to be traveling with them. And I assure you, after all that has happened? Making nice with the Matrons is the least of your worries.”

The man stared at her, thin-lipped, as he took his seat at the head of the table. The throne, interestingly. He was perhaps not so confident in his rule as he pretended to be.

The other women all stood at ease around the table now. With poise and grace she could be proud of, each of them sat. Not one of them reached forward for the wooden mug – filled with who-knew-what – or their trancheon to fill it with meat.

The usurper gestured, and suddenly thralls swarmed about the table, lading everyone’s trancheons until they were piled high with venison, fish, bread, and more braised vegetables than Reki could count. She offered a thin-lipped smile to her hosts and their thralls, but did not stint on filling her belly. There was more food, she thought, than all the crew of the Vidofnir could have eaten at one sitting, and she wondered whose idea that was.

Ulfr, once they had all finished their first cup, smiled a little more loosely, as though he thought himself safe enough to speak now. “I understand you may bear some loyalty to your respective Captains, but it really is hopeless you know.”

Eydri smirked. “Oh? Are the vagabonds, who spend all their seasons out raiding and fighting, really so much weaker than your little navy, kept at home every season just in case your half-brother decides to try for your throne?”

“Not at all.” A grin split Ulfr’s face. There was nothing at all pleasant about it. “It’s just that my victory is certain. I cannot lose.”

“There is no-one in this world whose victory is certain – not ever,” Aema snapped. “The Norns will not allow it.”

“But what, then, of Oracles? Do they not foretell the future? And should they foretell victory, is that not certain?”

“I think you will find,” Reki purred. “That Oracles very rarely speak of victories and defeats.” Certainly the one on Attilsund, according to Lord Stigander, had shown the results of battle only incidentally.

“But Oracles, I’m sure you know, have sworn a very particular oath. Most weavers are under no such compunction.”

Reki’s white eyebrows rose. “I’m surprised you know so much about the Oracles.”

Ulfr scoffed. “Please. Mother went through her apprenticeship, as all proper Weavers must. The Elven Oracles are famously extreme.”

“If your lady Mother went through her proper apprenticeship, then she must be intimately familiar with the ways of the Norns and of fate…” Svana ventured.

Good. Get the old woman talking. Reki inhaled and tried not to hold her breath, waiting for Urdr to finally speak.

“Aye,” the old woman croaked, then returned to eating in silence. Reki saw her disappointment mirrored in the faces of those around her.

“Mother.” Ulfr’s voice was half-scolding, half-pleading. “What’s the harm in sharing? They, too, are enchantresses.”

“Their Art is different,” Urdr croaked.

“The mysteries of Song and the mysteries of Cloth are two separate things. You cannot enchant a rug by singing at it, just as you cannot strengthen a man by Weaving at him,” Runa answered – and not by rote, Reki was pleased to hear. The girl had been learning, after all.

“Bah! Fine, then,” Ulfr said, throwing up a hand. “Well then I’ll tell you -”

“You shall not!” Urdr shot to her feet, and it was as though lightning shot from her eyes at her son. “Speak no more, idiot boy, and allow us to enjoy our meal in peace.”

Ulfr, cowed, shrank back into his throne. “Yes, mother.”

Tcheh. Too bad, that. Ulfr had been looking for a chance to boast, and probably hadn’t really cared that the women at table with him were his enemies. It was even possible he didn’t think they were a threat, despite being enemies. Some men were stupid that way, and it began to look as though Ulfr were one of them.

Afterwards, they ate in silence for some time. “Lady Urdr,” Bea ventured at one point, but was silenced by a look even deadlier than the one given Ulfr. Urdr would be a formidable opponent.

Reki hid a vulpine grin behind the rim of her mug. This was going to be fun.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.16 – Accomodations

The thrall led them in silence to a decently sized outbuilding, bowing and scraping so servilely that Reki wondered if he were a man or a dog. As he opened the door, the musty smell of old straw and dust assailed her nose, and the dust inside looked like it had not been disturbed in a good many years. The thrall bowed deeply again, gesturing for the women to enter. Trying not to show her disgust – indeed, trying to breathe as little as she had to, so as not to sneeze – Reki stepped across the threshold.

Eydri and Aema entered as serenely as Reki could have hoped for. Even Runa and Beatrix only showed a moment’s hesitation before entering the building that was to be their – temporary – prison. It was, of all people, plump little Svana who protested.

“You can’t seriously -” she started, then interrupted herself with a sneeze. The poor thrall looked dejected and a little panicky, as though he expected he would be blamed if they would not stay here.

“Yes, Svana, we can.” Eydri’s tone made it sound as though she were speaking to a small child.

Reki could sympathize, but that was hardly the way to speak to an ally. With forced brightness, she smiled at the Singer from the Eikthyrnir. “We’ll open the shutters, and Runa can give it a thorough sweep. After that, it should be lovely, don’t you think?”

When the other woman gave her an incredulous look, Reki raised her eyebrows. Even if their next option wasn’t the dungeon, they were unlikely to find a space as congenial as this for their purposes.

“Yes, I suppose,” she said finally, picking up her skirt and stepping gingerly into the dust of ages. With a relieved sigh, the thrall Agnar bowed again and closed the door behind them. Reki heard the tell-tale scrape of a lock sliding into place. As expected.

The others had already begun opening the shutters, very likely the first real daylight these chambers had seen in a decade or more. Still, there was more than enough room for the six of them to sleep on the benches – although if another thrall did not come by, they might be forced to request bedding and a washbasin from the Usurper at supper. That would gall, although it was plain he had not expected anyone other than Runa.

“Well, ladies,” she said, turning on her heel. “It seems we have work to do.”

Runa’s shoulders slumped now that she was out of view of Ulfr’s men. “Here I’d just broken free of this place… What work is that?”

Reki smirked. “Did you hear what that cold fish of a captain was saying? I think the Norn’s work.”

“We’re here, and plainly he only wanted you, Runa. That means something is already starting to unravel,” Eydri said, gesturing vaguely upwards with one hand.

Svana looked at her sidelong. “Wordplay? Someone’s confident.”

Eydri laughed. “I signed on with the Cursebreaker’s ship. I may not be a warrior, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in honors and glory.”

“Speaking of warriors… Beatrix, I don’t think they realize you’re not one of us.” Reki turned her attention to the lone warrior among them.

The Imperial Princess smiled ruthlessly. “Nor do I. For now, call me Ria and make me an ‘apprentice.’ So long as they don’t demand I Sing, we should be able to keep that little trump card to ourselves.”

Reki grinned. “Ria, is it? You’ve done this sort of thing before.”

“On purpose, even.”

“Runa,” Aema started, hesitantly. “What was it they were trying to get out of you when you escaped?”

“Anything and everything I knew about Lord Stigander and Einarr.” She shrugged her shoulders uncomfortably. Aema reached out to pat her arm.

The lock slid open. Six sets of eyes turned to look at the opening door to their filthy room, but it was only Agnar again.

“S-s-s-s-sauna,” he stammered in a wet, nasally voice, bowing and gesturing for them to leave the hut. That explained why he hadn’t tried to talk before, at least.

Reki put on her best haughty Singer expression and strode forward, trusting the others to follow at the promise of a bath. “Thank you, Agnar,” she said. “Please have blankets and pillows fetched, and a wash basin and chamber pot if you would. Oh, and kindly ask someone to sweep the floors.”

“Y-y-y-y-yes, Lady.” He bowed more deeply, and then led the six women to freshen up before supper with the Usurper and the Weavess.


When, at sunset, the six of them were escorted once more under guard to the main hall, they found it dimly lit, with a candelabrum at either end of the trestle table and another, smaller, sitting in the middle. The Usurper and the Weavess were already seated. The Usurper, at least, did them the honor of rising to greet them. “My apologies,” he said, sounding insincere. “Mother is old and her joints aren’t what they used to be.”

The Singers murmured platitudes, insisting they were not offended – and, of everything they had faced so far, it was among the least offensive matters.

“Wonderful, wonderful. Ladies, I would like to present to you my mother, the Weavess Urdr. It is thanks to her hard work that Breidelstein is as peaceful and prosperous as you have seen.”

Reki had to work not to snort at that. Peaceful, maybe, but only because the people had grown accustomed to the boot on their necks. Prosperous? Hardly.

Urdr, as she was named, was an ancient, nearly toothless old crone with dirty gray hair and a sharp nose. Her mouth was puckered in a look of constant disapproval. Her eyes, though, Reki did not miss. She may be old – ancient, even – but that was the sharp look of a young woman who missed nothing. If her son was a wolf, she was a falcon, ready to stoop.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.15 – Ulfr

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

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

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

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

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

“My Lord -”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We should be delighted.”


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.14 – Breidelstein

The captain of the wolf-headed boat they rode on finally deigned to introduce himself to the circle of Singers he had aboard when the noon sun hung high in the sky. The man wore a wolf pelt over his shoulders, pinned to the cloth of his tunic with gold-and-ivory pins. Reki raised an eyebrow: somehow, given how long she had been left to bake in the sun, she had not expected the Captain to be wealthy enough for such ostentation. Her eyes ached from the brightness, and she had accepted hours ago that she would have a painful sunburn to deal with.

Still, even beyond the rich pins, the Captain was not the sort of man she would have expected. He seemed almost bloodless, of the sort who is nearly impossible to rattle, as he actually looked down his nose at his distinguished ‘guests’ standing before him, encircled by their ‘honor guard’ and denied even a shawl or a cloak for shade. “Good day to you, ladies,” he began. “I hope you are enjoying your stay aboard my ship?”

“It’s lovely,” Reki answered through clenched teeth. She struggled not to squint at the man. “Although the accommodations seem a little spare. Tell me, are all of your lord’s guests treated so warmly?”

The corner of his lip curled in a sneer. “I should think you would be glad of the light. It can’t be healthy, being always hidden away from view like that.” Reki seethed, but the man wasn’t done. “You should be honored. You are the first sorcerers of any stripe to set foot on my deck, and you’re being escorted to the Lord himself. A rare honor indeed.”

Bea stepped forward. “Now wait just a moment-”

“Hold your tongue, woman.”

Beatrix was so surprised she actually did.

“I do not hold with the use of Song, or of any of the other so-called Arts. They make men disinclined to rely on their own power. That I have allowed not one but six of you aboard is a testament to my devotion to Thane Ulfr. While you are aboard you will not be ill-treated, but neither will you be allowed to wander about at your leisure, nor to conceal your doings. I do not trust those who can so freely manipulate men’s hearts. Some call this a failing: I call it wisdom. And now, please, I hope you enjoy the rest of your journey. We should reach port early on the morrow.”

As the Captain turned on his heel and stepped away, his boots clicking on the deck as though he were perpetually walking on stones, Reki’s jaw dropped.

Runa’s face had gone red, and not from the sun. “Who does he think,” she started to mutter.

“Well.” Eydri said, sounding as nonplussed as Reki felt. “That explains a few things.”

“More than I cared to know, truth be told,” Reki answered. “How does a man like that come to be a captain at all – let alone a rich one?”

Aema shook her head. “Does it matter? We know now that we’re stuck like this until he sees fit to escort us up to Raenshold. Here, Reki, you can at least sit in my shadow. It’s not much, but…”

“Thank you Aema. I’ll take you up on that.” Reki shifted a little bit and sank down onto the deck. The other woman’s shadow was poor shade at best, but it was still better than nothing.


Breidelstein harbor was broad and deep, with high cliffs rising to either side and up behind the port town itself. As they drew near, a path up the cliffs became visible, and Reki got her first glimpse of Raenshold where it squatted over the port like an overprotective hound.

The town was unnaturally subdued as they were led through it under armed guard, and it had nothing to do with the six of them. If it had, the people they passed would have either stared or pointedly looked away. Instead, they went on with their day as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on. A surprisingly high portion of the city appeared unwell. Malnourished, really. It was as though Ulfr had proven to be unskillful at rulership after he seized the reins of power.

Reki snorted quietly and suppressed a smirk – not at the people’s misfortune, but at the fate common to usurpers. Would men never learn? Leadership was a skill like any other, and rulership passed from father to son so that the skill could be taught. Would be taught, barring gross incompetence, as a consequence of raising the heir.

The walk up the road leading to the Hall was steep even after accounting for the switchbacks. No matter what else Reki wanted to say about Stigander’s father, the man had good tactical sense. This may well have been one of the most defensible locations she had ever seen. Were it not for the Weaver’s treachery, it might never have fallen.

She glanced over. Beatrix walked between the rest of them and the sheer drop below, as though she, too, were guarding them. She couldn’t help but like the Imperial Princess, so very different from the Lady Runa and not just in culture. How she could have been mistaken for a Singer was a mystery none of them had an answer to yet, but for her part Reki was glad to have someone along who thought like a warrior. Later, when they finally slipped the leash of their guards, they could wonder about things like that. Right now, though, Reki needed to be preparing herself to face lord Stigander’s half-brother.

It felt impossible, and yet she knew it was not, not truly. All she knew about the man she had learned from the Lay, but that should be enough to extrapolate from. That and the (ahem) quality of the man who had been sent to capture them. And she was almost out of time: the grim stone walls of Raenshold towered over their party now. Their so-called honor guard did not slow as they neared the gate, though Reki wished they might. The time was at hand.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

9.11 – 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?


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.