Tag: Vari

8.8 – Cat and Mouse

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

“Explain.”

Einarr took a deep breath. Of everything that happened last year, this was the worst. “If these are the islands I think they are, there will be an entrance to a svartalfr fortress under that island.” He gestured, indicating the green-topped island with no apparent beaches. “We chased a ship of cultists here last summer after they kidnapped my bride. They were also responsible for the massacre of Langavik.”

Captain Kormund’s frown turned thoughtful. “It’s true, the svartalfs are unsavory types…”

Einarr shook his head. “No. They’re not… not alfs anymore, the ones who were in the first place. Some of the cultists used to be human, as well, and some were dwarves. But when we fought them, they were all corrupted monsters.”

“Corrupted how?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Black-blooded tentacled horrors wearing men like skinsuits, sir. And if they bled on you, the corruption spread. We dealt them a serious blow in our escape, I think, but… but even the ruins of Langavik would be a more auspicious hiding place.”

“If you had not declared yourself a cursebreaker, I might accuse you of making all this up.”

Einarr shuddered in thinking about the kind of mind that could invent what he had seen. “If anything, sir, I’ve underplayed what we saw here. It was directly responsible for me ending up in the Shrouded Village, half a world away from the Vidofnir.” That was perhaps not strictly true: there was little to do with runes here, after all, but the events led in a straight line.

The Captain paused to think for a moment, then shook his head. “I hear your warning. However, I also hear that the evil creatures which dwelled below were dealt a serious defeat last summer, by your own hand, and that there is an excellent place to hide beneath that island. I have no idea how that Order dromon is matching us knot for knot, but I know that continuing to run as we have will exhaust the men to no effect. Therefore, I believe I will take my chances.” He smiled at Einarr, and it was more the predatory grin of a wolf than anything stag-like.

Einarr straightened up stiffly. “I suppose even telling you that it was our ships that burned Langavik when we found it drenched in blood cannot change your mind?”

“That is correct, sailor. Return to your post.”

“Aye, sir.”

The worst part was not that the captain would not heed his warning. No, under the circumstances that was all too understandable, especially since the Captain hadn’t witnessed the horrors himself. No, the worst part was wondering how much of the cult’s taint still lingered. The storm had broken when they fought last summer – but what did that mean?

The cave waterway was right where Einarr expected it to be. Captain Kormund ordered a stop at the entrance. He hadn’t noticed it before, but on the cliffs outside the cave entrance were grassy ledges. They were small, and probably not terribly comfortable, but a man or maybe two could sit and look out over the ocean. Kormund left two men with a hunting horn and instructions to blow it once an hour if the coast was clear. One of them grabbed a pole and line before he got off the boat. Einarr wasn’t sure he would want to eat the fish from these waters, but ordinarily it would have been a good plan.

Once the lookouts were in place on their perches outside, the Eikthyrnir slipped into the cave where last summer the Vidofnir had once more come face to face with the ship that killed his stepmother.

Einarr fought against holding his breath, but the cave was more or less as they’d left it – at least as far in as Captain Kormund took his ship. The sea anchor was lowered just past where the shadow of the cave wall fell, so that the Eikthyrnir should be all but impossible to spot from the outside. Einarr would not be able to see what became of the city since their battle – but he wasn’t truly sure he wanted to, anyway.

The first time the horn sounded, everyone on board jumped. They hadn’t realized just how tense they were, waiting in the shadows, until it sounded. After that, they relaxed a little and settled in for a long wait. Four times the horn had sounded, then five, and they were beginning to think the dromon had finally turned aside.

At the sixth hour, as counted by Hraerek, there was no horn. The games of dice and other friendly diversions ceased.

Again at the seventh hour they waited for a sound that never came.

At the eighth hour, the dromon appeared in the mouth of the cave and stopped there. Einarr’s breath caught. What had happened to their lookouts? There was no shelter to speak of on their tiny ledges: the Valkyrians could hardly have missed seeing them.

Then he noticed something that almost wiped the thought of their lookouts from his mind: the dromon cast no shadow on the water. Indeed, it almost looked as though it cast its own light. Einarr glanced to his side and saw Vari standing there, also staring at the ship that had chased them all this way. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“It’s… real, right?”

“Sure looks real.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“So’s a jellyfish, under the right conditions. Doesn’t mean I want anything to do with one.”

“Nah, of course not. Only, why?”

“If we knew that, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Someone shushed them, but the dromon was already backing out of the mouth of the cave to continue on its way.

Once it was gone, it was another few hours before the horn sounded the all-clear again. The Eikthyrnir slipped from its hiding place and reclaimed its watchmen, who even after all these hours still seemed badly shaken.


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Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

8.7 – Gossip

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

Captain Kormund turned downright broody as the Eikthyrnir sailed away from their ill-fated ambush. It seemed he was also troubled by the other ship’s behavior.

No-one on board could explain why they had started to board and then simply disengaged. Some agreed with Einarr – plainly there was some sort of power struggle happening, as no rational captain would break off an attack at that moment. Others held with Vari, that the whole matter was an elaborate display of dominance.

What the Captain thought, no-one was sure. He ordered a double lookout, set them on course, and then retired to the stern of the ship, where he stared out over the water. No-one was willing to disturb him at this, at least not yet.

At dawn the next day, the dromon was once again visible behind them. It was plain when a sailor noticed its return by the moment they let out a curse entirely unrelated to what they had been about at the time. By breakfast there was not a soul aboard not speculating about the dromon save the Captain and his Mate.

The chatter became a dull roar of consternation and excitement as the day wore on, until there were some who forgot their duties as their speculations grew ever wilder.

“Enough!” Captain Kormund roared at this point, and chatter ceased.

“I don’t know any more than you, right now,” the Captain admitted. “About how they beat us at every turn, or why they let us go like they did, or why they’re after us in the first place. But they are unmistakeably after this ship.”

A brave voice piped up from among the sailors. “But why can’t we give ‘em the slip?”

The Captain shook his head. “I don’t know how they tracked us at night, and I don’t know how they found us again after they broke off yesterday. But what I do know is – we’re not licked yet.”

A cheer of agreement traveled around the deck.

“We’ve got a good wind now, although nought but empty seas for quite a distance. We’re bringing back the one hour rowing shifts, but I’m keeping us under full sail. If they can keep up with the Eikthyrnir with her at a full clip, I’m going to have to get clever.”

The cheer went around again, a bit more enthusiastic this time. Einarr nodded to himself. This was a very different ship than his father ran, but Kormund managed it masterfully. Einarr would be shocked if each and every one of these men weren’t as loyal to their captain as Erik or Tyr were to his father.

“That’s what I like to hear. Now, get to it! I want the first team manning their oars before the lookouts are back to their posts.”


They rowed under sail for as long as the wind was with them, but still the Valkyrian ship remained on their tail. Einarr began to wonder if they really were under the command of the Valkyrie that had nearly killed him last summer, and if so what reason she might have for coming after him. When he caught himself thinking this, he snorted. “That was a stupid jest, and you know it.”

He did, but he would have sounded more convincing, even to himself, if the other ship did anything other than gain on them, slowly but surely. And Einarr was not the only one beginning to fall prey to the more ludicrous theories.

Finally, though, the Captain turned them to the north after days of sailing, not knowing if or when the dromon would decide to attack in earnest. There would be another tiny archipelago, or shallows, or some other hazard that they could use to lose the dromon. Anything, he thought, to break the monotony of the chase.

The wind turned against them and they furled the sail. Even then, rowing against the wind, they only managed to gain a little on the other ship. Mutterings started again among the sailors, in spite of the confidence built from the Captain’s earlier speech. It should have been impossible for a dromon of that size, especially one with sea fire, to keep up with a longship built for speed over the open ocean. And yet, for more than a week now it had kept pace or gained on them. Dark mutters of black magic and captive vindstenger became more frequent around the deck of the ship.

Dark shapes were coming up on the horizon, somewhat larger than the rocky atoll they had played hide and seek in before. If they couldn’t lose the dromon here, Einarr thought they would have to hope for a storm – or they would have to catch the Order ship by surprise, which he felt less confident in since they had been trounced the other day.

The islands that rose into view as the Eikthyrnir scudded northward seemed somehow familiar to Einarr, in a way that left him feeling fainly queasy. He didn’t think he’d ever been near to Eskiborg, however.

One island in particular caught his eye. It rose tall out of the water, like the hand of a giant or a god. Dark cliffs fell toward water almost as dark, with no hope of a beach or a cove for shelter. Einarr’s breath caught in his throat: all this lacked to be the island where they had rescued Runa from the cult was a roiling storm above.

“Sir?” He hurried to where the Captain stood before the mast, his gaze continually scanning the horizon.

“What is it?”

“Where are we, exactly?”

“Somewhat north of where we wished to be, I’m afraid.”

“No, sir, this is important. Are we near Langavik?”

The captain’s mouth twisted in distaste. “What’s left of it, yes.”

A groan escaped from Einarr’s chest. “This is an evil place, sir. Please, even if it means we cannot shake our tail, do not tarry here.”

That got a furrowed brow and crossed arms from Captain Kormund. “Explain.”


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.

8.6 – Ambush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

“Maybe they want us to lead them somewhere?”

“That’s my thought. Only, where?”


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.

8.4 – Setting Sail

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

The Eikthyrnir was not due to leave port for several more days. Einarr chafed at the delay, but preferred not to take his chances on searching out another boat. Especially given that Captain Kormund only brought them on board out of half-remembered friendship for Stigander. Einarr was well aware of how tenuous that made their position on board, and so advised his companions to work twice as hard as they had before. Accusations of favoritism were pure poison on the open sea, and Einarr had no desire to bring that down on his head.

Finally, though, the day dawned when the Eikthyrnir was scheduled to leave port. The weather was clear and cool, as Einarr had come to expect from this island, and his new shipmates did not seem to begrudge him their Captain’s regard. If anything, they seemed to pity him for it. But if there was one thing Einarr was growing used to, it was meeting unreasonably high expectations. If the Captain expected him to live up to his memories of Stigander, well, at least he wasn’t trying to steal from Wotan or escape the forgotten island.

The ship slipped out of the harbor as silently as she had entered it. Had Einarr not been on an oar, he might not have believed they were rowing out, she moved so swiftly and silently. There was barely a ripple as the oars dipped in and out of the sea, and while he could hear the waves lapping at the sides of the Eikthyrnir, it was rather akin to hearing them lap against a sandy shore. Even more than most raiders she was built for speed and for stealth, and Einarr soon discovered that everyone from the lowest deckhand to Hraerek, the ship’s Mate, were quick to boast of it.

Unlike the Vidofnir, there were no post-sailing rituals among the Eikthyrnings. It felt odd to leave port without hearing the Lay of Raen, but neither Eydri nor her senior Singer on board was familiar with it. He shrugged, and that first night out on the water he took some time in his watch to recite the lay to himself. He’d heard it often enough, after all: he’d had it memorized by the time he was 14.

Four days out of port, before they had yet turned north to head towards Kjell but well outside the territory claimed by the Coneheads, Einarr happened to glance toward the stern during supper.

A dromon sat on the horizon, plain as the nose on his face. For an hour, and then two, Einarr watched and waited. The ship seemed, if anything, to be gaining on them. He pursed his lips, thinking. “Excuse me,” he muttered to the men he was eating with.

The men patrolling on watch seemed unconcerned, though, when he pointed the dromon out to them.

“I see him. Nothing to fear,” said Vari, a tall, slender man who nonetheless looked like he would be a terror with the blades at his belt. “We’ve outrun dromon before.”

Einarr looked back out at the dromon, then again at Vari from the corner of his eye. That may be so, but something about this gave him a bad feeling. But, he swallowed his protest and nodded. He was never likely to become anything other than ‘new’ on this ship. Still, he kept his eyes astern.

His turn for watch came around. He gave it half a candle-mark, or so, before he reported the vessel. He definitely thought it was gaining on them.

“Mate Hraerek, I’ve something to report.”

“The dromon off our stern?”

“Aye.”

“Good work. Spotted it hours ago.”

A swell of relief washed over Einarr. “Does it look like it’s gaining to you, sir?”

“Unlikely. I expect it will turn aside eventually. It has no proof we’re raiders, after all.”

“If it’s a Valkyrie ship, that might not matter.”

“What do you mean?”

“Last spring, in the waters between Kjell and Apalvik, the Vidofnir was attacked by one of their hunting ships – and I can tell you from experience that there’s nothing to raid in those waters.”

The Mate furrowed his brow. “Apalvik? Why in the world were you headed there?”

Einarr snorted. “We weren’t, until we had a hold full of Valkyrian treasure to sell.”

That got a laugh out of the man, at least. “Keep an eye on it if it makes you feel better. I assure you, you won’t be the only one. But I wager it will turn aside soon enough. There’s not a lot between Eskiborg and Kjell, either, and our business in Eskiborg was peaceful.”

“Thank you, sir.” While not exactly reassuring, at least the Mate knew about it. He returned to his watch, all the while keeping one eye on the mysterious dromon to their south.

Matters continued like that for another day, and another, during which Einarr became increasingly sure that not only was the ship gaining, it was tailing them. He could see, now, the all-too-familiar wing-and-spear of the Order of the Valkyrie when the wind was right. But if he could, so could the Mate and so could the Captain.

On the seventh day out of port, Captain Kormund called on the skills of Hrug.

“All right, fortune teller. We’re far off the normal trade routes by now, and well out of anything the Coneheads even try to claim. Divine for me who mans that ship and why they follow us.”

Hrug made an exaggerated bow, even going so far as to flourish with his stump. The request had sounded more than a little pompous, although at this point he had come to expect that from this captain. Then the mute looked at Einarr and raised an eyebrow.

“Of course I’ll help.”

“What, you’re a fortune-teller to?”

“Not exactly.”

“Then how is it he asks you for help?”

“Oh, I’ve received the same training. At the same time, even. But he’s better at it. I’m just a Cursebreaker.”


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.