Tag: weaving

10.46 – Unweaving

Einarr set about drawing the rune circle he and Hrug had devised while the Usurper’s former thralls made trip after trip from Urdr’s workroom, each time returning loaded down with tapestries which were then piled haphazardly in the center of the circle. “Draw” was perhaps a misnomer, though: the area he chose for this was in the center of a small grassy field. No chalk or charcoal would do: he cut the lines into the soft soil with the end of the Örlögnir. The distaff felt warm to Einarr’s touch as he worked: he hoped that meant that the Lady Frigg understood.

At some point during all this, Arring arrived with some proper iron shackles for the old woman, and even distracted Einarr did not miss that he brought both arm and leg irons. Well. Based on his answer from the Oracle, perhaps Arring had more reason than some to despise the witch. Even as he locked the shackles around her frail-seeming limbs, though, she watched.

As they began piling her life’s work in the middle of Einarr’s circle, she cackled. “Those tapestries are woven of the blood and bone of the clan. What do you expect your half-learned runes will do, Cursebreaker? You are no immortal.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow, but continued to draw. “So I am not.”

“And yet you will try your mortal will against the lifeblood of the clan?”

“If it were only my will, or even my will and Hrug’s, perhaps we would fail – although I suspect the ‘lifeblood of the clan’ rather objects to being used in such a way. Tell me, witch. Do you know what this is?” He lifted the Örlögnir from the line it carved and showed it to the growing crowd.

“A rather pretty distaff.” Somehow Urdr managed to sneer down at it even locked in irons as she now was. “Probably never been used for actual spinning.”

“That I couldn’t say. You see, this distaff belongs to the Lady Frigg herself. Do you happen to know the properties of hazel and ivory?”

She scowled, but did not answer, and Einarr went back to his work.

“I didn’t, this time last year. This, lady Urdr, is the Örlögnir. According to the Matrons, it purifies.”

Urdr contined to scowl and turned her head away, her chin thrust forward stubbornly. Einarr went back to ignoring her.

At last, all the warriors and a good number of the townsfolk had gathered around the working, as much out of curiosity as anything. A number of them, Einarr suspected, did not quite understand what it was he was ending. They were there because the rule of the Usurper and the Weavess had been intolerable, and so they had thrown their lot in with the so-called rebels.

He hoped this would not cause them too much distress. Kaldr had spoken of a bad headache when he first broke free, during the assault: Einarr suspected that might not be the worst, for some.

Finally, though, it was ready. Einarr straightened from his rune circle and walked once around its perimeter, taking in the faces of those who had come to watch. Some faces stood out, of course, primarily those of the Vidofnings and their allies in the assault. Jarl Hroaldr stood by Stigander’s side, tall and nearly as proud as his old friend, and much improved since his rescue from the witch. Kaldr stood with the Mates – including his own. A few others. Everyone met his gaze steadily, somber and expectant.

Satisfied, Einarr stopped on the south side of the circle, facing north. There was nothing to be said. Not yet. Very deliberately, he placed his feet on the edge of the circle, his stance a little broader than usual. The polished wood and ivory of the distaff gleamed in his hands in the light of the sun.

Einarr gripped the Örlögnir in both hands and raised it overhead. I hope this works… With a sudden violent thrust, he brought the base of the distaff back down to the ground, resting its end in the line of the rune circle he stood on. At the same time, he willed the runes to life.

Golden light spread around the circle like the light of a sunrise. Even in the full light of day, Einarr was sure that anyone near enough to see the ground could see the magic at work. Then the outer circle was completed, and the light rushed inwards. As it touched the edges of the tapestries piled in the center, they began to shimmer and smoke.

Urdr shrieked as the shimmer crawled along the surface of her work. Einarr would not be surprised if she fought to rush forward, but it was Arring who held her chains. She would not be able to throw herself on this conflagration. His attention was held by the light, and his will was currently captive to the Örlögnir.

As the light-fire grew over the pile of tapestries, Einarr was fascinated by what he saw. The cloth did not burn, not precisely. It was the dyes that smoked. His gaze was drawn ever inward, until it became plain that the individual threads of the cloth were pulling themselves apart, dancing in the light-fire like a million tiny worms.

Einarr blinked, actually grateful at this moment for Urdr’s panicked shrieking, and pulled his attention outward. Already he could feel a headache forming. There was no sense allowing himself to be swept away on the magic. He glanced over his shoulder.

A number of the townsfolk, and all of Ulfr’s former men, held their heads as though the dissonance were coming through. Urdr dropped to her knees, panting, as Arring stood firm, the chains that bound her hands and feet grasped firmly in his hand. In this moment, Einarr could almost pity her. Almost, but not quite.

He turned around the Örlögnir to face the onlookers. Behind him, the light-fire consumed the curse that had beset these islands for almost twenty years.

“The Norns always correct their weave.”


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10.45 – Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Thank you. Are the chiefs here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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10.44 – Capture

Einarr burst out of the passageway and into the bright afternoon light on a portion of the island he did not recognize. He blinked, his eyes adjusting to the light, and saw that they were in a forest. Just ahead, he saw a small river not unlike the one he had rescued Runa from before. A fishing boat bobbed in the river. He did not immediately see the old woman.

“There!” Runa pointed urgently. Light caught on a long, silver braid as the woman it belonged to hobbled through the underbrush. She had nearly reached the water.

His quarry spotted, Einarr hurtled off through the brush, leaping bushes, ducking branches, and praying she hadn’t left any pits or loosed any caged wolves.

Gratifyingly, Troa was right there with him. Jorir and Runa were obliged to take things more slowly, but if the two of them couldn’t capture one old woman, no matter how crafty, they may as well hang up their swords and take up farming.

Einarr vaulted another bush and looked up. The old crone – and a crone she was, stooped and withered and looking like she hadn’t seen the sun in a decade – had reached the boat, but the tapestries she carried were hampering her. He tried to find some more speed, but the underbrush was too thick. He growled, but he could think of nothing they could do to slow her.

Oh Frigg, let us catch her. He was unaccustomed to calling on Frigg, but under the circumstances it seemed most appropriate.

They were getting close. He could see Urdr’s whole stooped figure as it stood unsteadily in the boat, pulling her tapestries after her. But she saw them, too. She looked straight at him and cackled: he could not tell if it was glee, like she was almost away, or madness.

It didn’t matter. His foot touched the river bank and he gave one final leap, landing in the small fishing boat with the woman who had caused them so much grief. “It’s over. Give up now and save us both some trouble.”

“That was a mistake, Cursebreaker.” She launched herself forward at Einarr with surprising force for a woman of her age, but she struck with all the force of a barn cat.

Einarr grabbed her by the arm without recoiling even a step. “What did you expect that to —” then he cried in surprise as her knife plunged into the extended wrist.

“That. Now drown!” She scrambled back to the far side of the boat and bent over.

Einarr took one stride forward and stopped when he realized he was walking not on deck boards but on a rug. Or, more likely, one of her tapestries. One of her tapestries that she had grabbed the edge of. She gave a mighty yank. Einarr felt the tapestry pull around his boot, but not enough to trouble him.

On shore, Troa had taken hold of the mooring line and was wrapping it around his arm. Runa and Jorir were nearly there. Good.

Einarr closed the distance to the old witch and took hold of her wrist. She stared at him, panic plain in her eyes. Even as she started to bring her knife back up, though, he spun her around and left her lying on the deck, her arm pinned against her back.

To her very slim credit, she did not scream and thrash about. “What do you intend to do with me?”

“That is for the Thing to decide.”

She went very still then. Whatever the Thing decided, it would not be pleasant. Einarr saw her look towards her knife, in the hand he had not pinned.

“I don’t think so.” He pivoted on one foot as he stood, still holding the first arm, to pin the second under a foot. “You have turned the Norns and Frigg herself against you. Their justice will be no more merciful than ours. Jorir. Tell me you have some shackles or some rope or something.”

“Nay, lord. But your man Troa has that mooring line well in hand.”

Einarr grunted. That was far from ideal, but it would have to do. “Fine. Get aboard, then. We’ll need to take the boat back around to Breidelstein city.”

Jorir cut a length from the end of the mooring line to bind the witch’s hands with before climbing aboard. While he bound Urdr’s hands behind her back, Runa climbed aboard. Troa seemed to be staring about at their surroundings.

Einarr looked at the scout. “Tell me you know how to get back.”

Troa smirked. “That is exactly what I was just considering, my lord. I believe if we row up stream we should come upon a lake with another outlet near the city and the hold.”

Once Urdr’s hands were securely bound and Runa had rolled up the tapestry she had spread on the deck, Einarr moved her to sit in the center of the boat. “Runa, I leave her in your care until we reach the city.”

Urdr sat up straighter, a glimmer of hope in her eyes until she turned to look at Runa, but wilted under the other woman’s cold regard. Even Einarr quailed a little at that expression: his bride was a formidable woman.

With a nod, he turned to the others. “As for us, we have some rowing to do. You’re sure of this lake, Troa?”

“Reasonably. It’s been some time since I hunted this island, but if this is where I think it is we’re in good shape.”

“In that case, let’s go. We’re wasting daylight.”

As Einarr and Troa began rowing up river, with Jorir taking up position to help guard the prisoner, Urdr pushed herself up to a seated position. “Tell me one thing. I don’t know how you managed to best the rest of my traps, but you lost at least one ally, and neither the Cursebreaker nor the Thief shows signs of having fought. How did you leave the Glutton behind?”

“There were only ever four of us.”

Urdr fell silent, evidently unsettled.


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10.33 – Ulfr

Lord Ulfr relaxed back in his seat as though the response bored him. “Your place is defending the Hold, Captain Kaldr. Or have you already forgotten how tenuous your position here is?”

“Not at all, my lord.” Kaldr tasted bile as he realized he could feel nothing but loathing for his Thane. He dares call himself a wolf? Kaldr cleared his throat, trying to ensure his voice was steady. “My Lord, I fear the day is lost. Our men are losing their will to fight.”

“Then remind them what my displeasure feels like!”

“My lord, the lash can only take you so far. Sooner or later, the lashed man will take hold of the whip and turn it against his master. Already word has reached me that your warriors are beginning to question whether or not the Hold is worth defending.”

“What are you saying?”

“I am saying that, whether or not you are Lord Raen’s true-born son, whether or not he acknowledged you as heir, you have not been behaving as a Thane should. Tell me, Lord, what your father said when named you heir?”

“My father is an old, senile fool. What does it matter?”

“It matters, Lord, because I suddenly cannot remember the event. Granted I was young and inexperienced at the time, but such an event would have echoed throughout the Clan. Especially since the rebel leader had been well-liked, as I recall. I, who have counted myself among your most loyal servants, cannot think of a single reason we would have acclaimed you as Thane. —Wait, that’s not quite true. I can think of one. The Lady Witch.”

Lord Ulfr actually rolled his eyes. Kaldr had to be mistaken, but for a moment it seemed as though there was amusement glinting over that petulant face. Amusement, where he had expected anger at the aspersion cast against the witch. “Sixteen years is a long time, Kaldr. Are you certain your sudden anger is not twisting your memory?”

“Quite the opposite, I assure you. In the time since you have taken power and driven off the rebels who now assault our shores, you have driven Breidelstein – the prosperous city your father made – into penury. You have rewarded the boot-lickers and the stupid while driving the competent and the honorable to seek their fortunes elsewhere. You have stripped your father’s hall of all its comfort and its warmth – and for the life of me, I cannot fathom why.”

Lord Ulfr had sat up straight while Kaldr was talking, and now sat smirking down at his subject, a wicked light gleaming in his eye. “You call yourself loyal and yet you question me now, of all times? Fine. I will answer your questions, Kaldr. I am the Thane, and all of you, my Captains, exist to obey me.”

“You have always thought of my mother as a chain about my neck, Kaldr, but you’re wrong. Mother is my sword and my shield, and the reason I sit here on this throne before you. It was Mother’s plan that made everyone on Breidelstein acknowledge me, the eldest son, as the true heir of Raen. It was her masterpiece: the tapestry that brought all of these islands under my thumb and bound everyone to my service. You say I should fear my own lash? Hardly. Not one person living here has the wherewithal to challenge me, because we have bound their fates in a tapestry. I am well aware that Mother has let no small amount of your blood. Think of it as medicine, to rid the land of Breidelstein of its imperfections. You should be proud: your own body has been used to perfect this country under my rule.”

Kaldr rocked back on his heels involuntarily. Did Ulfr know what he was confessing to?

“Sixteen years ago, Mother and I sailed to these islands, determined to make my father acknowledge me. We had been poor, before, but through her Weaving Mother had managed to save up enough to buy us passage here. While we sailed, she began work on her masterpiece. By the time we arrived, all that was left to do was one single, finishing touch. We walked openly into this very hall and stood before my father and declared ourselves. The man had the audacity to claim he had no son besides Stigander! So when we returned to our room, Mother finished the piece. Oh, there was some fighting at first, and then some more after the Vidofnir came back with my baby brother, all unawares. But Breidelstein is mine, and it always will be. Fate binds it to me.”

That’s madness. “Ulfr,” — no ‘Lord’ for him now, nor ever again — “…do you understand what you are confessing? This witchcraft, this madness, goes beyond mere treason! Even if you drive off Stigander, you’ll be pulled down by your own Captains and people — myself among them — once I share the truth.” Even weakened, he was more of a warrior than Ulfr – younger, stronger, faster. The Usurper could not stop him.

The madman on the throne laughed as though bored. “Kaldr, Kaldr, Kaldr. My ever-loyal Ice Wolf. We have danced this dance before, you and I, so very many times. When Falkenjorg shook free after a long raid and rebelled — do you not remember your first hunt? Of returning to confront me after your victory with the words pledged by a dying man? Or your doubts after I ordered the waste of Aldvik? Truly, you are so quick to doubt that I would have had you executed long before had Mother not insisted that your talents were of use to me …and were you not so amusing.”

“Why —”

“— Would I tell you? It’s almost tiresome how you always ask the same questions. I tell you because, even knowing, you cannot escape. What will happen is what has always happened.” Ulfr’s eyes blazed with merriment. “You will storm out in your righteous fury, swearing to rally the Captains and the people, to overthrow me for the good of Breidelstein. I surely cannot stop you from doing so, alone. Within ten paces, you will forget why you are angry. Within twenty, our words. Within thirty, all your anger, and you will return to ask and serve my will, as you always have. After all, it is your Fate to be a loyal captain in the service of Breidelstein’s Thane. So go, Ice-Wolf, go and know the hopelessness of your defiance, and that you serve at my pleasure.”

Kaldr stiffened, staring at the indolent figure on the throne. He could not remember, not truly, but he did not doubt the madman’s words. But here, now, at the Fall of Breidelstein, he could feel the bonds that held him unraveling. He clenched his jaw and raised his face to the Usurper, expression clear and proud. “No, Ulfr. I will not go. Let us end it, Thane.”


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10.32 – Unraveling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blood beat in his temples like a drum.

Ulfr is not true-born, but bastard.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sir, where are you going?”

“Lord Ulfr’s Hall. I have questions.”


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

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

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

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

“My Lord.”

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

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

“Then why are you here?”

“For answers, my Lord.”


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10.24 -Audience

Kaldr walked swiftly forward into the chamber, his chain dragging on the ground behind him. “My Lord, I pushed my ship as fast as she could go.”

“The journey from Lundholm should be possible in half the time it took you to arrive.”

Kaldr stopped. His Thane was evidently in no mood to be reasonable: it was, in theory, possible to cover the distance that quickly. If you had a following wind the entire way, and if you pressed your crew to row the entire distance. The wind had not been so kind, and he had been unwilling to drive his crew to either mutiny or exhaustion – the two most probable results of such a demand. “The winds were unfavorable, my Lord.”

Ulfr snorted. He still lounged across his father’s chair, which always made him look like a petulant teenager despite the gray in his hair and the wrinkles on his face. Saying as much, of course, was not generally considered wise.

Abruptly, he swung his legs down off the arm of the chair and sat up straight, leaning forward toward Kaldr. “What was unfavorable has been your behavior ever since the rebels entered our waters. First I had to curry favor with those witches you captured so the thrice-cursed Matrons will continue to leave us alone.” Ulfr pushed himself forward out of the chair to stand on his dais.

“Then, after they escape – with some of Mother’s most important workings, mind – she tells me you had a hand in their escape. When the girl was critical to my keeping the upper hand over the rebels. Mother’s Weaving is never wrong.” Ulfr gesticulated wildly. “Then Urek’s pigeon arrives. What was I supposed to think when he said you were a rank coward, that you had let the rebels slip through your grasp not once, not twice, but no fewer than three times? Hm?”

Kaldr lifted his chin to meet his Thane’s eyes. He would not be so easily cowed. “You know my methods of hunting, my Lord. This hunt was no different from any other. Had I not been precipitously called back, the rebels would have been in hand in short order.”

“Wrong again, Kaldr. Broki’s pigeon arrived this morning. The rebels launched a sneak attack on your vaunted blockade. Urek and Vittir are dead, and Broki’s ship is hardly seaworthy.”

“If a sneak attack was successful, then surely it was the watch to blame.” There was only one way out of Lundholm. Wasn’t there?”

“They were attacked from the open water, behind their position.” Ulfr spat the words.

Kaldr blinked, unable to entirely cover his surprise. They shouldn’t have been able to get to the open water from there. So, how?

“Kaldr Kerasson, I hereby strip you of your rank and privileges. I find the allegations of treason against your Thane credible. You shall await the pleasure of the Thing in the dungeon.”

Kaldr swallowed, but bowed his head in acceptance. If such was the Thane’s pleasure, he could wait a little. Or, perhaps, Lord Ulfr would calm down and come to his senses. It was true that, on the surface at least, the sequence of events could lead one to believe him a traitor. That he was not was, for now, immaterial.

The guard moved forward to once again take hold of Kaldr’s chain.

“Take him away.”

The guard bowed his head and strode brusquely out of the room. Kaldr found himself faced with the option of walking or being dragged by his wrists: he chose the former.

The path to the dungeon took him back across the yard to the tower of the gate house. Before, it had seemed as though those few he passed ignored him. Now something irrational in his mind tried to convince him they laughed. As always, he ignored it, and walked to his fate with the pride and dignity of an innocent man, which scandal could not touch.


The weaver-witch – Lord Ulfr’s Lady Mother, he corrected himself – waited for Kaldr at the door to his cell, making no attempt to hide her glee at his predicament.

“What do you want?” If there was a hard edge to his voice, he thought it could be excused under the circumstances.

Lady Urdr smiled even more broadly and brought a hand to her collar. “Why, I only wished to welcome you back, Captain Kaldr. It seems you and I will be sharing a roof for the forseeable future, so I thought I might be neighborly.”

Kaldr managed not to snort, but it was a near thing.

Lady Urdr’s smile did not touch her eyes as she moved in to whisper – loudly – in his ear. “Welcome to my parlor, little boy. We’ll have such fun here. Perhaps you’ll even take part in some of my work.”

Kaldr raised an eyebrow and looked down his nose at the crazy old woman. She cackled. His jailer opened his cell and he stepped in, grateful to be shut away from her. As the door closed on his back, darkness fell around him.

Over the next… while – Kaldr found it difficult to measure the passage of time from inside a cell with neither light nor air from the outside – he grew accustomed to the sound of cackling laughter from the dungeon hallway, and the stifling closeness of his cell.

That laughter always presaged one of Lady Urdr’s visits. One would think, as the only person he ever saw, he would have grown fonder of the woman – or perhaps not. It was not in his nature, after all, to grow fond of any witch, and she was a particularly sadistic one. She bled him regularly: he could never quite make out why, but he was sure she was up to no good. It was never enough to keep him from the training he had devised for himself, though. He could not, after all, afford to grow weak while he awaited the pleasure of the Thing.


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9.25 – Bloody Threads

For a moment, the six women stood stunned. Of all the things that had gone mysteriously well, this was the strangest. Reki’s neck prickled in alarm: glancing to right and left, Aema and Eydri looked no easier than she felt.

All around stood spools of thread of all colors, vats of dye, and half-finished tapestries. What truly arrested the attention, though, was the room’s centerpiece.

Urdr’s loom was tall and visibly heavy, the wood so heavily carved and gilt that it was difficult to see how age-darkened the timbers were. On it hung one of those half-finished tapestries: Reki could see the masts of three indistinct ships off to the left, while on the right there was a circle of women – although she could not tell what they were doing. She rather thought she knew anyway.

In front of the loom, though, sat the Weavess herself. Her leathery skin practically crinkled over itself, and her hair hung in lank strings as though she could not be bothered with it. Those falcon eyes, though, looked at the six purported guests who had just charged into her workshop not with anger, annoyance, or even fear, but with amusement. “So you’re finally here.”

Bea took a step forward, her mouth set in a stubborn line belied by the unease Reki read in her shoulders.

“Welcome, your Highness,” the old crone purred.

Beatrix stopped in her tracks.

“Oh, yes, I know who you are, Princess Beatrix Maria Gundahar. I would have known even if my spies had learned nothing.” Urdr’s expression retained its malicious amusement.

Undissuaded, Beatrix strode forward, the point of her sword lowered at the crone. “Step aside.”

Urdr actually laughed, a sound like pinecones scraping against stones. “I know why you have come, you and the troop of Singers that idiot Kaldr brought under our roof. You are here, you think, to destroy my Weaving of Inevitable Victory.”

“If you know that much, then -”

“You are wrong. Even could my weaving be broken by such a paltry thing,” the crone’s gaze lingered contemptuously on Bea’s blade, “the fate that brought you here is different.

“You do not understand.” She clucked, as though in annoyance at poor students. Then, her eyes glittered coldly. “But you will. Tell me, croaker, what is the Art of Weaving?”

The Singers bristled slightly a moment, at both insult and apparent lecture. Whatever trap there might be was still hidden from Reki’s eyes. As such, she wanted to keep the Weavess talking, and so she answered. “Weaving is a means of reading, and sometimes binding, the future, is it not?”

“Good! Very good! Just as the songs say and your matrons claim,” Urdr cackled. She dropped her voice, then. “And yet – common, shallow, and wrong.”

“Unlike your Song – a fleeting, ephemeral touch, vanishing in a heartbeat – Weaving is permanence. Do you not know that the Norns Weave? As their weaving, so is all Weaving. It is blood, and flesh, and bone, the very stuff of life. Not merely Fate, but all that makes it up.

“My threads are not merely the bone and sinew and blood of my Art, and not so different from the bone and sinew and blood of those they bind.” Urdr gestured past her loom to a stack of pale thread, undyed, an empty basin, and a spinning wheel. “My shears are as mighty as a thousand swords. How could it not be, when the Norns themselves are the mistresses of my Art?”

Runa shuddered. Reki, carefully schooling her face, saw Eydri bristle and Bea’s eyes desperately seek an opening, even as the crone held her gaze like a snake.

“I’ll tell you a further secret, children. Weaving binds more tightly if it has a… physical connection to those it rules. Hair is an easy way to do this, although not a particularly effective one. Blood is better.

“Do you know now why you are here?” Urdr’s snaggle-toothed smile was a horrifying void as she stood, moving toward an empty dying basin. As though in concession to her age she moved with bone-creaking slowness, but it was the only such concession she seemed to allow. “Blood of a southern princess. Blood of a Jarl. Blood of song from across all the isles. What a masterful Binding you will become. My line will not end merely as thanes of a forgotten island, or even masters of this sea. Oh no. Far greater things await, for which you shall be the foundation.” She whistled sharply, piercingly.

Four guards rushed into the room – two from behind them, and two from another door she had not noticed – heavily armed and plainly ready for them. From the steel bands about their brows to the leather boots on their feet, Reki had seen no-one at Raenshold with better-kept armor, and if their swords showed signs of heavy use it was surely due to age. Not one of Urdr’s bodyguards appeared to be younger than thirty summers, and each of them had the cold glint of a battle-hardened mercenary in their eyes. Already the door was blocked.

The crone smiled gently, yet all the more hideously for that. “Know despair, for my Weaving lies before you, yet forever outside of your grasp. But even still, be joyous, young ones, for you shall soon become the very foundation of the world.

“Seize them.”


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9.24 – Into the Tower

Reki sat up in alarm. “They’re here?”

“So it sounds.”

“All right, ladies. Everybody up! We have a job to do.”

Eydri sat up and dusted off her skirts as though she hadn’t actually been asleep. For how long, Reki couldn’t begin to guess. Runa and Svana both stirred with a groan, as though they were feeling the lack of sleep from the last two nights. They would need a few minutes, she thought, but that was fine. So did the rest of them.

“Chances are good this caught them by surprise, too,” she said. “If we hurry, and we’re lucky, we might be able to beat them to the weaving room, but we’re out of time for skulking. Gather your things, those of you who have them: I very much doubt we’ll be coming back here.”

“At least not before Lord Stigander has reclaimed Breidelstein,” Runa agreed. “And who knows what will happen in the meantime.” The girl slung her pack over her shoulder, alert more quickly than Reki had thought possible. “Let’s go. The sooner we wreck that loom, the sooner we get back where we belong, and the sooner Father gets freed.”

Svana moved only a little more slowly, but she, too, was ready to be gone from this place.

“We all remember how to find the weavings, correct?”

One by one, they nodded. “All right. In that case, let us make haste cautiously.”


Escaping their chambers was easy. Surprisingly, the guards were not at their post, with no sign of their whereabouts.

The streets and alleys of Raenshold were perversely easier to navigate unnoticed now, as warriors girt themselves to repel raiders below and children scrambled – either for a good vantage point or for a place to hide, depending on their age and temperament. Bea rushed straight for the tower at the main gate, the sword on her back all the excuse she needed to shoulder through the crowds as though she were rushing to the defense of the town below.

Reki and the others slipped quietly through her wake, never falling far behind, but always maintaining their composure as Singers. No-one, under these circumstances, was going to question them.

No-one, that is, except the men still standing guard at the entrance to the tower. They took one look at the group of women quick-stepping their direction and moved to stand shoulder to shoulder, blocking the door.

Svana opened her mouth to Sing, but Reki held up a forestalling hand. A lullaby was one thing in the middle of the night. Now? Now, even if it worked they would draw more attention to themselves. “We need to figure out a distr …”

Before Reki could finish, Bea strode forward.

“Stand aside,” Beatrix demanded, and in that moment she was not just the Imperial Princess, she was the commander of a fleet.

It was not good enough. “The Lord has commanded no-one is to come in or out of here until the raiders are repelled.”

To her credit, Bea hardly even blinked. “Oh? And are you going to tell him that’s why the Lady Urdr had no bodyguard? We were sent to ensure her safety.”

“The Lady Urdr’s bodyguard team is still up there,” the other guard snapped. “What sort of idiots do you take us for?”

“That’s last night’s team,” drawled the first guard. “They haven’t been relieved yet.”

“What are you talking about? Of course they haven’t. Shift change isn’t for another hour.”

Reki and Aema exchanged a glance from behind Bea as the two guards began to argue. With a nod, they slipped around to either side and went for the door.

The guards, caught up in their argument, paid them no heed. Amused, Reki did not fail to note that the second guard kept leading his fellow around by the nose. Why that would be, she could only guess, but she was glad of it.

The door closed behind them with a thunk, and Svana slid the bar into place. Now instead of yelling at each other the two guards – both the gullible one and the insolent one – pounded on the door, shouting after the women to let them in. If Reki were to guess, only about half of the protests were sincere.

That shouldn’t have worked. Why did that work? She shook her head. We need to hurry.

Reki set her concerns aside for the moment, to be addressed later. Up the tower they went, to the third floor where they had heard Ulfr and Urdr the night before. They passed no-one as they raced upwards save for thralls, who seemed utterly unconcerned about the commotion outside.

Don’t get cocky, Reki reminded herself. Once we’ve wrecked the weaving, we still have to escape. It hardly bore thinking of, how they might be treated if they were caught and made prisoners in truth. Ulfr had ordered Runa broken for no better reason than information she did not have: under threat of rape Reki, too, would break the taboo, and once she was free there might not be much left of Breidelstein for Lord Stigander to reclaim. Best for all if it did not come to that, and for that reason… “Runa.”

“What?” The girl sounded a little winded, but they did not dare let up.

“Do you remember how your ‘rescuers’ got you to the harbor before?”

“Well enough.”

“You could lead us down it?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” They crested the third flight of steps. Ahead, Reki saw the door they had watched last night, only now it stood open. Perversely, sunlight streamed out into the hallway, though it would have made no sense for the Weavess to work in a windowless room. “There it is.”

Bea’s hand rested on the hilt of her sword as she watched the door. Aema passed about the water skin she had managed to keep with her. Reki, too, kept a wary eye on the Weavess’ room as she sipped from the skin, half expecting the Weavess’ actual bodyguards to come boiling out of the room at any moment.

At long last the companions exchanged a nod of readiness. Bea’s sword hissed out of its sheath and she led the surge into the Weavess’ workshop. Inside, amid the baskets of thread, Urdr relaxed on the bench of her loom, a look of amusement on her papery face. Otherwise, they were alone.


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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.

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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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.

5.6 – At the Blue Hall

The public hall where Einarr found the Vidofnings and Brunnings was surprisingly large for a town no bigger than East Port. If Einarr had to take a guess, most of their custom came from ships such as their own, here to call on the Conclave.

A cheer went up as the door swung open under Reki’s hand. Inside the hall was as warm and cheery as one might expect at the end of a good season of raiding. With a grin, Einarr moved to join his crewmates with a drink while Reki went to report to Stigander. All eight of their party were able to breathe a sigh of relief when they saw that there had, in fact, been no transformations as of yet – only the complaints they had grown used to of nausea and headaches as though their crews had both contracted a lingering flu.

Even Reki’s news did not dampen their enthusiasm: if anything, the fact that they had found their “cure” before the corruption had claimed anyone was another victory over the madmen of the cult. Then it was Einarr’s turn.

“I’ve been given another impossible quest, I’m afraid, Father.”

“Feh. Do skalds give any other kind?”

“Not likely.”

“Well, what is it now?”

“I’m to travel to the Tower of Ravens and steal Frigg’s distaff out from under the noses of Huginn and Muninn.”

Stigander looked just as confused as Einarr had. “What in the depths of all the seas do you need that for?”

“Untangling fate, they say, and ridding us of the cult’s corruption for good.”

His father shook his head and wiped his hand down his moustaches, his expression changing from amusement to consternation and back again. “Well, if there’s anyone in this lot who can manage it, I’d lay my odds on you.”

Sivid could do it, if it weren’t for his accursed luck. “Thank you, Father. The Matrons said the tower required a smaller boat to reach: I’m to pay a call on a fisherman in the morning regarding the use of a boat. I’d like to take some of the crew along.”

“Long as they’re up for it, same as before. …This distaff, you said it untangles fate?”

Einarr nodded, and his father harrumphed. There was no need to say it: such a thing could easily break the Weaver’s curse on their homeland. He turned back to the hall full of his fellow Vidofnings.

“All right, everyone! Just like this spring, I need a few of you to venture out in a little fishing boat with me. This time we’re braving the wrath of a god!”

His pronouncement was followed by a peal of laughter, even by those who had heard the Matrons’ pronouncement at the Conclave.

Jorir, to no-one’s surprise, was the first to step forward. “Come hel or high water, I’m with ye.”

Einarr inclined his head at his man-at-arms. “Thank you, Jorir. Who else?”

The next man to step forward was gangly Irding, neither as tall nor as muscle-bound as his father but with the same brown hair and reckless grin. “Sounds like fun. I’ll give it a go.”

Erik’s head snapped around to look at his son. “You sure about that? We got into a heap o’ trouble going after the Isinntog.”

“I know. That’s why it sounds like fun.” Irding grinned at his father, and Erik laughed loudly.

“Who’m I kidding? Of course it does. Count me in, too.”

Einarr’s mouth curled in a half-smile. Irding looked a little less happy at the prospect now that Erik was also along, but it would be good for them. “Great. Anyone else? I expect we’ll have to work our way past traps, and if anyone knows how to read runes it would be a help.”

“I already told you, I’m coming,” Runa said, standing at the table.

“No, you’re not. There’s no telling what sort of violence we might come across.”

“You’re invading the tower of Huginn and Muninn. You need someone familiar with magic, who can read runes. I’m coming.”

Aema, the Brunning’s battle-chanter, stepped forward. “You’re hardly the only one here with those qualifications.”

“No, but I’m the only one here with those qualifications who isn’t needed here. You and Reki both have crews to tend, full of men doused with corrupted blood, and I do not. I may be a Jarl’s daughter, but that doesn’t make me useless.”

“Maybe not,” Trabbi rumbled, “but if anything should happen to you your Father will have my head. He may even if you go along and nothing happens.”

Runa met her erstwhile suitor’s eyes. “On my word of honor, I will not allow that to happen.”

Trabbi scowled back. “You have no more place on that boat than I do, my Lady.”

“That is where you’re wrong.” She turned her attention back to Einarr, and he felt the old familiar thrill. “What was it that the alfr gave you in the wood?”

“Some bauble he thought would help us through the tower, though at the moment I can’t see how.” That had been the way of Runa’s gifts, too, given as they left to seek the Jotünhall.

“Give it here.”

Einarr shrugged and removed the bird-shaped brooch from the pouch at his belt. “Doesn’t the use typically become plain when you need it?”

All three Singers rolled their eyes at him even as Runa took hold of the brooch and blanched.

Einarr couldn’t help the question. “What is it?”

“Let us hope the use becomes plain, because while I can read the runes, they look like so much nonsense.”

Reki threaded her way through the room to take a closer look. She raised pale eyebrows and let loose a low whistle. “Well, at the very least your elf-gift should actually be of use. How did he get this, though?”

“See, Runa? I’m sure we’ll be able to muddle through-”

“So long as you have someone who can read the runes. You need me, and one way or another I’m coming.” Runa’s jaw was set. Einarr turned to Bollinn.

The new Captain of the Skudbrun sighed. “I don’t think there’s any stopping her at this point. Over my own better judgement, I’ll allow it.”

Runa smiled in triumph. Einarr hoped she wouldn’t regret her insistence.


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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 Smashwords, 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. I just reworked my reward tiers, so I hope you’ll give it another look.