Tag: Vittir

10.18 – Three Captains

Kaldr spent a long, weary night locked in combat in his own mind. For Lord Ulfr to call him back like this could only mean one thing. And yet, the more he thought it through, the more he was convinced that he had done nothing to regret. Certainly nothing that should have gotten him recalled in disgrace – or even castigated on his return, provided he was successful. The rebels were undermanned and poorly equipped, but not so undermanned that they could be caught without significant losses. And for trying to save the strength of Breidelstein, I am humiliated? He rolled over under his blanket, but still sleep eluded him.

The atmosphere on deck was tense, as well. From oarsmen to lookout, he could hear dissatisfied mutterings from his men. That, too, was troublesome, and the corner of his mind that did not gnaw on his abrupt summons like a dog on a bone wondered what new fire he would have to put out on deck come morning.


Frothing Urek waited and watched, a smug smile peeking out from under his beard, until Kaldr’s ship was small on the horizon before he turned to his Mate. “Bring Vittir and Broki over. This blockade is over.”

The man snapped an unusually crisp salute, grinning through his own whiskers. “Yes, sir!”

It did not take long for the captains to gather on the deck of their new flagship. Neither of them looked quite as eager as Urek felt, but that didn’t bother him.

“Welcome aboard, gentlemen. Now that Coward is no longer in charge, I declare this blockade is ended. Ready yourselves for an assault.”

“An assault?” Broki started. “Up the fjord?”

“We are men of action, are we not? We will strike as lightning up the fjord, before the rebels have a chance to pull any of their tricks on us.”

Vittir cleared his throat. “Before they left, we received a report from Kaldr’s scouts. Something is already in the works.”

Broki looked at him sharply. “Something? What something?”

“He didn’t know.”

“All the more reason that we must strike now, while the iron is hot! Ready your ships, men.”

The two under-captains returned to their boats, and the nets with their incidental catch drawn up. The sun was kissing the waves by the time all was in readiness, but that suited Urek well enough. He looked to his Mate and nodded.

“Oars out!” They would have to be quick, to minimize the time when they were vulnerable in the fjord.


Twilight had descended on the waters of Lundholm by the time Stigander and his three ships once more neared the fjord, although it was not yet so dark as to hide anyone. That was why Einarr called not only Jorir but also Naudrek up to confirm what he thought he saw.

The blockade was gone.

The ships were still there: two ships were visible between the fjord walls, with a third ready to enter as soon as its allies made way. Then where is the fourth ship?

There was no place for the last boat to wait in ambush that Einarr could see, which meant they had to be farther up the fjord. Father evidently thought the same: he heard Bardr sound the battle horn. Two other horns joined in, their voices melding into a single loud trumpet announcing their intentions.

The ship that had held back smoothly reversed its course, probably hoping to give its allies time to come around as well. Kormund’s Eikthyrnir launched a volley of arrows and dashed forward while most of them were still in the air. The Vidofnir and the Heidrun, meanwhile, slipped around the boat to either side. If Kormund couldn’t handle them for whatever reason, they would signal.

The ship with its nose halfway into the fjord was still scrambling to prepare for this new threat when the first volley from the Vidofnir struck its deck. That volley was still in the air when Einarr gave the order to shoot from the Heidrun.

“Take us to port! Prepare the boarding lines!” Einarr’s voice rang clear over the deck of the Heidrun, and without hesitation his ship headed off to port while the Vidofnir moved starboard so that they flanked the unfortunate wolf in the trap.

The wolves were not so surprised that they did not answer back, of course, although by then it was far too late for archery. Boarding lines whistled both ways, followed by the clunk or the splash of steel grappling hooks on wood as they fought for purchase.

“Make fast the lines! Go!”

The order was almost superfluous: Irding and some of the other more reckless warriors were already crossing the ropes before the word ‘go’ was out of Einarr’s mouth. With a satisfied smirk, he turned his attention to the woman next to him. “Eydri. Whenever you’re ready.”

Some few of the wolfling warriors had tried a counter-invasion, perhaps not realizing their true straits. Einarr calmly stepped towards the pocket of enemies that had gained a foothold and drew Sinmora.

Eydri’s clear, sweet tones rose over the deck of the Heidrun, urging her warriors to swift victory, as Einarr settled his grip on Sinmora’s hilt. The strongest of the men – himself perhaps as large as Irding, but certainly no larger – raised his shield and readied his axe.

From across the mouth of the fjord, Reki’s low sultry voice joined Eydri’s bell-like one and echoed over the water in harmony.

A moment later, a third voice rose in Song, although it was not a Singer Einarr had ever heard before. The sound set his teeth on edge, so he thought he did not care to hear her again, either. Or is that deliberate?

The red fury was still pulsing at the edges of his vision, though, so whatever she thought she was doing it was not going to break the Chant for the Heidrunings. Einarr raised his shield before him as he brought Sinmora up over his back shoulder. Her strike was true. Ein.


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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.


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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.”


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10.10 – Preparations

“Traitor!” Urek’s face turned from red to crimson, and his eyes bulged out like a toad’s. “Coward! Lord Ulfr will hear of this!”

“Lord Ulfr is well aware of my opinion regarding his mother. And I will thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head. There is more to strategy than attacking, Urek, and if you could understand that we’d have captured them already – alive, as commanded. But -” Kaldr peered pointedly up into the sky, towards Raenshold. “But, unless I miss my guess, the message is already on its way to our Thane. I trust, Urek, that you will be willing to eat those words when we accomplish our task.”

Vittir’s voice cut the air behind him with his sneer. “If you intended to accomplish our task, you’d be sending us up the fjord without delay.”

Kaldr turned to face his new uninvited guest, his eyebrows raised. And now the other one arrives. “Ah. Vittir. Yes, you may come aboard. As I was just telling your compatriot, we cannot afford to destroy Lundholm just to flush out some rats. Let them rest: it will do them no good.”

“You really are a coward if you think this backwater will put up a fight.”

“That is not the cost I was speaking of, Vittir. But never mind: you will all see, soon enough. Look here: the only way in or out of the town by sea is through this fjord, and it is impossible to go through more than one at a time. Assuming they’re not so kind as to simply decide to settle here, sooner or later they have to try to slip past us. Conversely, if we decided to raid the town, we would have the disadvantage of being stuck in that selfsame fjord.”

Vittir looked dubious. Kaldr was reasonably certain Urek hadn’t heard a word: he still stared bug-eyed, his hands clenched at his sides. Kaldr sighed. “If it will make you happier, we can send small parties up the fjord to harry them farther. If we harass the villagers, their guests will probably wear out their welcome faster.”

Urek crossed his arms, the color in his face finally starting to come down. “Fine. But just so you know, I’m still watching you.”

“Of course.” I should be so lucky.


If Einarr hadn’t known better, he would have thought the men of Lundholm unaware of the approaching ships. That was impossible, of course: news had reached the town at the same time it had reached them. The only real change from before, though, was a trifle more activity down by the water’s edge.

A fisherman paused on his way past the Captains while they still blinked in surprise. “I know it’s none o’ me business to say, but you might be wise to bring your ships up near the boathouse.”

Einarr paused a moment. It was a sound idea, but… “Why?”

“So they can’t sabotage them if they make it up the channel, of course.”

Of course. Einarr shrugged to himself: that was, in fact, the single best reason. He didn’t know what other answer he was expecting. “I take it they’ve harassed you before.”

The fisherman shook his head. “Every handfull of years, or so, that lord they follow gets a bee in his bonnet and tries to bring us to heel. ‘T’ain’t worked yet.”

A smile quirked at the corner of Einarr’s mouth. “Of course. Thanks for the advice.”

With a friendly wave, he jogged to catch up with Father and Kormund, who were already headed towards the shore. As glad as he was to see the town taking this in stride, there was one major difference from the last time his uncle had sent ships here.

Them.

Whether or not Kaldr was sensible, it was plain that at least one of his fleet captains was not. Would their presence make the wolfling response more violent? He could not answer that. All the same, the faster they could resupply their ships, the better.

He stopped a moment, thinking, and then changed course. There were only a few men down at the boats: most of their crews, the men who weren’t out hunting or bringing in water at least, would probably be on the green, and they would be needed.


Afternoon was waning by the time sufficient members of the three crews had gathered at the shore. Longships were light enough that a crew could carry them across land at need. On the other hand, it did take most of a crew, all doing their part. And so the fifty men Einarr had gathered all put their shoulders to the sides of the Vidofnir and heaved.

With a groan of wood and men, and the grinding of wood on wet sand, slowly the Vidofnir lifted off the beach and onto the shoulders of her porters. Einarr felt his feet begin to slip in the sand as he took on the unaccustomed weight: it had been a very long time since he had needed to move a ship this way.

On the other side, his own shoulder to the wood, Stigander called out. “Steady, now! And, forward!”

The boathouse stood in a cleared field on the edge of town nearest the shore, and by the time they were halfway there they had fallen into the proper rhythm. Twilight was falling by the time the Eikthyrnir rested alongside the Vidofnir and the Heidrun, and the crew all stretched tired arms and sore backs on their way to the stewpots of the town alewives.

Near the end of supper, a loud twang rang out over the village, as of a giant’s bowstring being released somewhere in the forest.

“Sleep armed, men,” Stigander warned. “It seems the wolves are still worrying at our heels.”


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

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

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