Tag: Walter

9.3 – Wolfling Raid

Stigander froze in his tracks, then seemed to sway a little as the words hit him harder than any physical blow. “Too late?” he finally managed.

Einarr and Trabbi both moved to where Stigander stood poleaxed. Einarr arrived first, despite the old fisherman being much closer. “What do you mean, too late?”

Trabbi, his face as ashen as the rest of him, shook his head slowly. “The raiders been gone for days, now. All that’s left here is to save what remains. Build again, if we find the Jarl.”

Stigander recovered himself. “I think you’d better come down to the Vidofnir with us, have some food and drink. Then you can tell us what happened.”

Trabbi nodded as though still half-dazed. “I think that might be a good idea. Can’t tell you when I last ate.”


Three days before the Arkona, the Eikthyrnir and the Vidofnir narrowly avoided doing battle in the harbor, a drakken with a wolf’s head on the prow arrived. They made no pretense of friendship: this was a raid, and the wolf’s raiders were searching for someone.

Stigander.

As soon as they saw the Vidofnir wasn’t in port, they made sure everyone at the Hall – and, Trabbi supposed, likely everyone in the town – knew that they had come for the thief Stigander and the ship he had stolen from Breidelstein, the Vidofnir. The wolflings were trying to draw them out.

The battle at the Hall was the worst any of them had seen in years. The men of the Skudbrun fought valiantly, and gave chase, but just yesterday had limped back, unable to follow further. They did confirm one thing, though.

Trabbi stared into the ale in the wooden tankard they had brought him. “The Wolfling ship – we never got its name – had both the Jarl and the Lady Runa aboard. Captive.”

Stigander’s face had gone red with rage, and Einarr saw his beard twitching in time with the muscle over his jaw. “He has the nerve to call me a thief?”

Einarr, though, was preoccupied with another bit of that story. “Was she unharmed?”

The odds that the Jarl had been taken without a fight, and therefore without injury, were almost nil. Trabbi sighed. “As near as Bollinn could tell. She was gagged and tied to the mast when he saw her, and my Lord was trussed up like a boar. Also gagged: apparently their Captain wasn’t willing to deal with my Lord’s temper.”

Stigander had calmed a little. “No. He wouldn’t be.”

“Father?”

“The Captain of the ship that razed Kjell is most likely Ulfr son of Urdr. My half-brother, and your uncle.”

Einarr hesitated a moment, then hummed agreement into his own cup. “It couldn’t be anyone else, with the story Trabbi told.”

“I’d hoped to have a little longer to muster forces…”

Einarr shook his head. “We should have realized we were out of time last summer, when I came back with the Örlögnir. I’ve already lived longer than most Cursebreakers manage, and it seems like every time I turn around someone has raised the stakes on me. My ship is ready?”

“Assuming it wasn’t damaged in the assault on the town. Even after last fall, I’ve only got a skeleton crew I can spare you.”

“I’m sure that will work itself out.”

“I imagine,” Trabbi interrupted. He looked and sounded much more alive now that he was out of the smoking ruin and fed. “I imagine that, if you put round the town what you’re doing, you’ll have a good number of able bodies wanting to get their own back against the raiders.”

“See?” Einarr looked more seriously at Trabbi now. “How badly was the Skudbrun damaged?”

“You’d have to ask Bollinn, but I’m sure they’ll be itching to go.” Ulfr had Jarl Hroaldr, after all.

Now Einarr turned to the foreigners in their midst. “You have delivered me, as promised, to my father’s ship and my own people. I have no more hold on you, and if you wish to return the Princess to Imperial waters, not a soul will hold it against you. On the other hand…”

Liupold shook his head. “For myself, I would chase this justice with you, and I know that there are many among my crew who admire you for your work on Hohenwerth. There are just as many, however, who despise the Clans beyond all reason. My Mate among them. I fear I must return south with the Arkona.”

Einarr inclined his head. He had expected as much, but they were going to be facing the entire strength of the land that used to be home, with whatever navy and whatever loyalty the Weaver and her bastard son managed to forge.

Bea, however, straightened her shoulders. “I will come. As a token of goodwill, let us say.”

“Your Highness!” Liupold protested.

“I have made up my mind, Captain. This Cursebreaker intrigues me, and I believe it is not only in my Patron’s interest but the interest of the Empire to ensure his success and continued survival. I will go.”

Liupold looked to Einarr and Stigander for assistance and found none. Neither did Trabbi, the Jarl’s retainer, look inclined to stop her. Finally he sighed. “In that case, I would ask that you fight on my behalf, as well.”

She beamed. “Of course. I will send you with a missive in my own hand, in case Father should object.”

Liupold rolled his eyes, and Einarr suddenly wondered if all highborn women were so overbearing. “Well,” he said, to change the subject. “In that case, it sounds as though we should get back to town. And… hope my uncle’s slander did not take hold.”

Trabbi nodded, slowly. “I think you have little to fear, there. Lord Stigander and his crew are well-known, after all, not only for your friendship to Lord Hroaldr but also for your generosity in town.”

That was true, as far as it went, but Einarr was uneasy nonetheless.


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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.

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9.1 – Burn

With Hrist’s ominous parting words ringing in his ears, it would have been an understatement to call Einarr impatient to return to Kjell. Where before he marveled at the Arkona’s speed, especially for a ship of her size and draft, now it would not have been enough had she been able to fly.

He shared his encounter with Hrist only with Eydri, Naudrek, and Hrug, and while they, too, were now anxious to return that word, too, was insufficient. He spent his days pacing the deck, cursing under his breath the alfs and their High Roads for keeping him from his place on the Vidofnir.

His relentless pacing meant he was among the first to notice the unnatural light on the horizon as they approached Kjell. His throat went dry: had the whole island burned, in some dark reflection of their purification of Hohenwerth? He shook his head. No, that couldn’t be. Whatever it was, though, was bad. He tried everything to make himself sleep, but even under the effects of Eydri’s Lullaby he was subjected to terrible nightmares and fitful slumber.

The next day Kjell came into view and he saw smoke before he saw anything else – great inky clouds of it. The largest of these rose from what was obviously Kjellvic, and Einarr could soon see large swaths of untouched forest. That meant, though, that the other two merging pillars of smoke rose from the Hall and the Chapel, respectively.

Liupold could not coax any more speed out of his ship at this stage: he had done all he could in that regard in the days after Einarr’s encounter with the Valkyrie had led to a shift in his mood. He did, however, keep the Arkona at speed for far longer than he otherwise would have dared.

The Arkona sailed into Kjell harbor far faster than anyone considered safe, for this reason. The people on shore seemed on the verge of panic, held in check only by the keen memory of the harbormaster, who recognized them. When a landing craft was put down, Einarr practically flew to its deck. His companions were close behind, followed by Bea, Rambert and Liupold, and every one of them save Eydri manned an oar.

Eydri sang. Even with the boost she lent them, though, Einarr wanted to tear his hear out for how long it was taking. Threads can be cut, Cursebreaker, Hrist had warned. He did not see the Vidofnir in port: that could only mean it had been Runa under threat.

After minutes that felt like hours, the rowboat sidled up to the dock and Einarr leapt out in front of the harbormaster. “What has happened?” He demanded without preamble or introduction.

The harbormaster studied him for a long and wary moment before he answered. “Ah. You are the Lady Runa’s betrothed, are you not?”

“Yes!” It was an effort not to snap at the man, although that he remembered at all could be counted a small miracle.

For his part, the harbormaster was visibly relieved. “Three days ago, Kjell was hit by a raiding ship with a wolf’s head on the prow. They seemed to be looking for something, or someone. I’m afraid no-one seems to know what. Apparently they didn’t find it, because after they sailed off refugees started arriving from the Hall. They had been asking the same questions there, and stealing everything that was not nailed down in the process. The town is still burning, as you can see, but I think we’ve finally got it contained…”

“Good, good,” Einarr broke in at the first convenient moment. “Horses. We need horses. Are there any available?”

The harbormaster gave him a look as though he’d made a particularly bad joke. “With the town still in flames?”

Einarr shook his head. “No. No, of course you’re right. It’s just… I need to get to the Hall.”

“I understand, my lord, but unless you’re wiling to walk, or take that Conehead ship there back around the island, there just isn’t anything.”

Bea spluttered a little. Einarr heard her whisper “C-conehead?” as though she had never heard the insult applied to them before.

“Oh, wonderful.” The harbormaster sounded genuinely pleased about something. He was staring over Einarr’s shoulder. When he turned to look, he saw what would ordinarily have been the sweetest sight imaginable: the Vidofnir and the Ekthyrnir sailed into port together, both of them under full sail.

“Oh, no.” Einarr’s face dropped. “Back in the boat! Everyone, get back in the boat. I have to talk to my Father, immediately.”


In spite of their best efforts, arrows flew between the two longships and the Arkona before Einarr could get between them in their rowboat. He stood in the middle of the rowboat and shouted. “This is Einarr, son of Stigander. Do not fire! Repeat, do not fire!”

Arrow fire tapered off from the Vidofnir first, then from the Arkona as Walter realized that not only had the other ship relented, his Captain was in the line of fire.

A very familiar face peered over the bulwark at their small boat.

“Bardr! By the gods, it feels like forever. Permission to come aboard?”

“For you? Always. Who are those people?”

“Eydri is a Singer. Naudrek and Hrug are friends who helped me out last fall,” he began the introductions with their own people. “Liupold here is Captain of that vessel you’ve been firing on, and Rambert is from his crew. And this–” he gestured. “Is Her Imperial Highness Beatrix Maria Gundahar, Admiral of the Hrist Brigade and recent captive of that damn kraken the Grendel let loose.”

Bardr stared for a long moment, and Einarr could see him doing the mental gymnastics required to accept this. In the end, though, Einarr’s tenure as a Cursebreaker had subjected them all to far stranger circumstances than those.

“Come aboard, then,” he finally answered, after some guffaws and jeering from further back in the boat. “I look forward to hearing just what the hel happened out there.”


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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.

8.26 – Inferno

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!

So far as Einarr was aware, they had only one piece of business left on Hohenwerth. It seemed a shame, to Einarr’s way of thinking, that such a fertile piece of land should be put to flame – but the alternative meant leaving a pocket of corruption to fester like an open wound. It was bad enough that the svartalfr fortress in Clan waters still existed: for something like that to spring up in Imperial territory would be a disaster.

After roasting the black kraken alive, the Arkona’s stores of sea fire were no more. They still had more mundane means of setting things alight, however, and these they applied. The landing crew that had taken the bodies of the fallen to shore moved inland had one other task, and after the bodies were prepared they loaded packs of torches on their backs and moved inland.

When offered, Einarr refused the chance to go along on this task as he promised he would, and instructed his companions to do the same. “It’s not that we don’t trust you,” he told Liupold. “It’s that I don’t trust your higher-ups.” Most especially Hrist, but he wasn’t going to say that. “I agreed to assist you for my own reasons, as you well know. I will not give some ambitious functionary the chance to claim it was raiders at fault for Hohenwerth.”

Liupold took this with better grace than Einarr had really expected, even considering that he had been warned. But Liupold had more than once acted with better sense than Einarr typically expected of the Coneheads, so perhaps there was something to Walter’s accusation after all. Perhaps, as the Mate said, Liupold was half “barbarian.”

Two hours past dawn, the first column of smoke rose above the center of the island. New columns appeared at regular intervals after, in various places around the island. Three hours after they fanned out, the men of the Order climbed back in their landing boat and rowed back towards the Arkona. Behind them, Einarr could see flames licking up towards the sky.

Before they came back aboard, they tethered themselves to the Arkona and were towed around to the south side of the island. There was one more fire to light, one area shielded by a mass of stone from the rest of the blaze: the docks and the castle at Southwaite. Arguably the most crucial area to burn, given what happened there.

There were no more flesh-puppets to deal with, now that the black kraken had been destroyed, but flesh-puppets were not all that had been created on the island – the jailer was proof enough of that. As the castle dock came into view against the steep shale coast of the island, Einarr could see movement against the fiery backdrop. There were still living creatures on the island. Some of whom had once been men. And all of whom could potentially be able to escape into the sea.

Rambert was calling cadence on the rowboat, and when they loosed themselves from the main ship they closed the distance to the docks swiftly. Some few of the kraken’s monstrosities were already approaching the steep steps that led to the dock. Einarr did not doubt that they would find their way down, whether or not they were still able to walk down stairs.

Movement from the smaller boat again caught his eye. Rambert (at least, he thought that’s who it was) had drawn back his bow. Flame flickered at the tip of the arrow he had nocked. Then the first flame arrow flew. It landed at the very edge of the docks, right in front of the stair.

“Good shot,” Einarr muttered under his breath as the fire licked at the wood.

Moments later, a volley of flaming arrows flew across the gap to land in the bridge or in the forerunners of the island abominations – and they were all, he could see even from this distance – abominations.

One of them, vaguely humanoid but with the snout of a dog and moving on squid-like tentacles, braved the kindling fire ahead and sort of slid down onto the dock.

More fire arrows flew, whether intended as a second volley for the dock or with the intention of stopping the creature, it was hard to say. Whatever the intention, several burning arrows found their mark on the abomination and it slumped to the ground.

So they’re not all as strong as the jailer, are they? That’s good to know.

The bridge was burning merrily, now, and the creatures that had fled to the shore milled about between the fire and the water. Einarr frowned and moved forward, toward where Liupold stood watching with a similar frown on his face.

“Captain, might I suggest a volley of our own? Sooner or later, those things will end up jumping to escape the flames…”

“You’re quite right.” He frowned. “Walter! Do we still have the emergency cask held back?”

Walter glared at his captain and spoke through gritted teeth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir.”

“Walter. Would you rather ensure that nothing gets off this island, or preserve the most obvious of secrets from men who have acted as our allies? Load the cask.”

The Mate looked like he wanted to argue further, but then he looked towards the shore. Already some of the abominations were testing their courage and the edge of the cliff. “Yes, sir.”

While Walter disappeared belowdecks to do as his Captain commanded, Liupold ordered the ship brought in closer to shore.

The Arkona was far closer to shore than anyone really liked when Walter reappeared. “Ready, sir.”

“Very good. Fire on my mark.”

“Sir!”

Liupold stared towards the shore for a long moment. He appeared to be counting. “Ready… mark!”

A gush of sea fire spouted from a nozzle in the prow of the boat with a sound like rushing wind through a chimney. The abominations on shore shrieked in a voice like the kraken’s, although Einarr doubted most of them ever realized the water, too, was now ablaze. They were too busy trying to put out the flames that now burned them directly.


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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.

8.24 – Bait

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!

Bea was looking at him expectantly. What she’d told him before? …Oh. Einarr shook his head no.

“You really should. Talent like yours is wasted as a raider, and if power is what you’re after Father can grant you more than you could ever hope to gain as thane over some tiny island.”

“That’s not – ”

“Not power? Is it wealth, then, or a beautiful bride? Not all of my Father’s daughters are married, after all, or even promised…” She trailed off, as though expecting him to take some sort of a hint from that.

“I’m sorry… Bea. I just… haven’t had time to think about it.” It was at least a partial lie. He had dismissed it out of hand when she first mentioned it and moved on to the task at hand. But what was she trying to get at with the nonsense about brides? “Perhaps we should focus on destroying the black kraken?”

She looked at him like he had somehow grown horns and puffed air towards her hairline. Women were strange.

“You’re right, of course,” she said. “I just wanted to remind you of the possibilities.”

“Of course…” A thought occurred to him. Improbable, of course, but not impossible. “While we’re speaking of possibilities… is Hrist your mother?”

Her face fell. “Would it make a difference if she were?”

“Not really. You just look like her, so I wondered.”

Bea nodded, then rose. “Well. I suppose I will leave you to your thoughts, since you don’t seem to want sleep tonight.”

Einarr snorted, but did not retort as she walked away. Let her think what she would. He pulled his blanket over his shoulders and rolled over.


Come morning, it was as though their conversation never happened. This was good: it meant Einarr could focus on the task at hand. And that task was cutting down the monster that had come closest to destroying the Vidofnir and her crew. Einarr wanted no distractions.

The landing boats were already in the water, seeding chum in hopes of drawing the kraken. No-one was really sure what the beast ate, though, only that it had to eat a lot. So they put out chum, and if the black kraken didn’t come for that perhaps it would come for the sharks that did.

Before long the water they had chummed was churning, frothy and red with the blood of the bait – and, probably, some of the sharks caught up in the feeding frenzy. The harpoon boats lay in wait some distance back from the chaos they had sown, thinking that if this did not work at least they could have fresh fish, for a change, that night.

The feeding frenzy was beginning to slow as the bait was consumed. The white and red froth calmed, and while there was still blood in the water it seemed the beasts were growing sated. One of the boats cast its harpoon at a fleeing shark and caught it, based on the way they jerked into motion after. Well, Einarr wouldn’t complain about something fresh for dinner for once, either.

Einarr started to turn away from the baited area: today, they had failed, and tomorrow they would try something different. Then he saw movement out of the corner of his eye and his blood ran cold. A single black tentacle appeared out of the water and wrapped around the harpoon boat that was fighting the shark.

“Look out!” The words were out of Einarr’s mouth before the knowledge he could do nothing reached his brain.

“It’s here!” Walter bellowed, hard on the heels of Einarr’s useless warning.

“Signal the fire ship,” Liupold ordered. “Ready the assault!”

And so it began. Burkhart had won the honor of piloting the fire ship in the initial assault: said he wanted to strike the first blow against the monster that took his brother when the priests fell. After that, no-one tried to gainsay him.

A second tentacle rose above the water and began reaching for the same ill-fated harpoon boat. Silence descended upon the Arkona, and Einarr had to remind himself to breathe.

A long black shape appeared below the water and surfaced like a whale coming up for air. Soon they could see its great red eyes. More tentacles surfaced – somehow too many, even for as large as it was.

The shark boat stopped jerking around on the surface of the water as its crew deployed oars. They were trying to run: so was the shark, still attached to the boat by the harpoon line.

The harpoon boat picked up a sudden burst of speed as the rowers added their power to the panicked shark beneath the water. The black kraken had not expected that. Its first tentacle curled around open air.

Einarr clenched his fist, nails digging into his palm.

The boat scudded along through where the shark chum had been, its course as unpredictable as a panicked animal’s. Time after time a great black tentacle as big around as a tree trunk reached out to grab it and closed on open air.

Meanwhile, the other harpoon boats cast their lines for the black mantle or one of the glowing red eyes of the massive squid. This was not the distraction they had expected, but it was one they had the guts and good sense to take advantage of. Some of their lines drew taut. Others hit the rubbery flesh and bounced harmlessly off into the water, to be pulled back and thrown again.

The running boat turned hard around – far harder than the boat itself was capable of. From the Arkona Einarr could see its deck tilting at a precarious angle as the shark below turned to run away from the underwater grasping arms.

Another tentacle rose up from below the surface of the water and the swell it caused pushed the scudding harpoon boat all the way over. That same tentacle wrapped about the hull of the boat, and Einarr could only pray to Eira that the sailors aboard could all swim.

“Launch!”


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.

8.15 – A Slight Wrinkle

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 landing party returned to the ship after setting Kettleness ablaze. Even had they not worried about attracting the attention of the heart of the cult, and they did, not one of them had the sort of attachment to place or resident that would have permitted them to stand vigil over the entire thing.

No sooner had Liupold climbed back aboard the Arkona than his Mate accosted him. He asked through gritted teeth, “Already you let them set fire to the island? Are you half savage yourself?”

“Calm yourself, Walter. Yes, we did burn the remains in the village when it became clear that the priests had failed in their task. The funeral rites of the Clans are different from ours, but they still bring peace to the dead. Or would you prefer for this to become a cursed isle of the dead?”

“What do you mean, the priests failed? How does that even happen?”

Einarr, already over the bulwark and giving Eydri a hand for balance, broke in. “The same way any other man fails at their task, I wager. It’s not like being ‘ordained’ suddenly gives a man superhuman ability.” There were priests among the Clans, but not many, and most of their duties revolved around the major holy days.

Walter apparently did not like that answer, however. “Watch your mouth, bar-!”

“Enough!” Liupold cut off his Mate. “These people are guests aboard our ship, whose presence we requested to assist in dealing with a problem within Imperial waters. If you provoke this man into a duel, I will not help you.”

Walter visibly restrained himself, although not enough to keep Einarr from seeing the look of anger directed at Liupold – or the look of hatred he cast at the four from the Clans.

“My people prepared the way, and Eydri Sang them to the gods. Your own Captain lit the first spark of their pyre, and it was well done.”

Liupold inclined his head toward Einarr. “Now. No matter what we might think of each other, the problem of the corruption is not yet resolved, not even in the slightest. Walter, send for a cask of my good Eisbock and plenty of bread. We will be in my cabin. Burkhart, Rambert, go about your duties. We may send for you again.”

“Aye, sir,” the two men echoed.

“Now, this way, if you please.”

Liupold led them all belowdecks once more, and as they clambered off the ladder he spoke again. “My apologies for Walter’s behavior…”

Einarr shook his head and held out a hand to forestall him. “For now, it is enough that you corrected him. It is not as though it is any secret what our people think of one another. I do not intend to let myself be drawn into a duel while I am in your waters.” He did not add – aloud – that if he needed to put a yapping dog in its place, he was fully capable of doing so without a duel. Either way, the Captain seemed mollified.

“Very good. …On the beach, earlier, I saw your sorceror working some spell?”

“Hrug seems to have a plan to trap the kraken: he was laying the foundation of that.” If he understood what the other man was doing properly, it would do more than just trap it, but it would definitely do at least that.

Liupold’s face grew blank as he opened the door to his cabin and welcomed them in. “Runes, you say? There are still people who work those?”

“Not many, and most of them alfs to judge by our teachers. But yes.”

“Ah, I see.” Liupold shook his head, as though there were something about the idea of runes he disliked. “Carry on then, I suppose. But while he’s working on that, what are we supposed to do about the villagers?”

Einarr raised an eyebrow. “Do? Can’t your sorcerors call up winds, or create lightning from a clear sky? If you encourage the fire in Kettleness just a little, no-one has to set foot on that island again.”

“But what if…”

“What if?”

The Captain sighed. “No what if involved. They have captives – maybe more, now that the priests have fallen.”

Now Einarr cursed, loudly and long. “You’re sure they’re captive, and not new members?” He couldn’t quite repress a shudder at that, thinking of what must have to happen to grow their numbers.

“As sure as we can be. So, no, we can’t just put the whole island to the torch. There are young women and children imprisoned on that island. Sacrifices, we think.”

“Why are we only hearing about this now?”

Liupold hesitated.

Einarr narrowed his eyes. “What do you think of the Clans, that you would just assume that would make no difference to me?”

“It is well-known that you take slaves from among the Imperial villages you raid. It is also well-known that a man’s slaves will often be murdered as part of his funeral rites. How is that different from human sacrifice?”

While Einarr was still spluttering with anger, Eydri answered. Her voice, so enchanting before, was cool as ice. “In the first place, a man may earn his way free of thralldom. In the second, no thrall is required to attend to his master in death. Only the most favored are given the option, and of those only the loyallest and most devoted ever accept.”

“Is that so.” Liupold sounded skeptical, but just then a knock came on the door. It was a deckhand, bearing the cask of ale the captain had requested and five cups. “Well, whatever the case may be, we have a handful of young women to save before they find themselves on the altar. Sit down, sip a cup – sip, mind, this is stronger than you expect – and let us determine our course of action.”

“Agreed,” Einarr answered, only somewhat mollified. “Have you a map of the island?”


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