The Valkyrian hunter’s aim was steady. Any moment could give him the clear shot he needed to take out Reki.
Einarr ran, every footfall pounding a resounding ‘no’ against the deck of the Geirskögul. A fighter dodged someone else’s blow into Einarr’s path: Einarr shoved past him roughly, not even noticing if it was hunter or Vidofning. Three steps further on his leg lit up with the heat of being cut. It would hurt, later. Now, all that mattered was the crossbowman whose sights were set on Mother/Reki. The reasoning part of his brain flagged that juxtaposition for later thought.
The hunter had his crossbow snug against his shoulder. His finger was on the trigger. Not close enough…
Einarr willed his legs faster. The hot one felt sluggish: it must have been a bad hit. He raised Sinmora for an overhand strike. Almost there…
Two paces from his target, Einarr roared. That caught his attention: the hunter nearly dropped his crossbow when he looked toward the threat and saw near two hundred pounds of red-headed warrior barreling at him.
The hunter swung his bow around to Einarr, but too late. Einarr’s swing had already begun, and the mighty blow to defend their battle chanter cleaved the man’s skull in two. Tre.
He turned, seeking his next enemy. The cut in his leg was filed away with other irrelevancies, such as why the Geirskögul apparently didn’t have a Painter, the throbbing in his leg, or how Jorir was managing.
A Valkyrie came for him, then, his face contorted by vengeful rage which he did not know how to properly harness. The man’s vengeance for his crewmate broke against the battle fury of Reki’s song. Fjorir.
Einarr’s count hit twenty-five before Reki’s hymn began to slow and the fury ebbed from his mind and his muscles at once. His arms and legs were on fire, and not just from swinging Sinmora about or hefting his shield: that cut to his leg had nearly hamstrung him, it seemed, and his arms were a mess of shallower wounds.
Some few of the Valkyrian crew surrendered – deck hands, mostly, still green enough to be willing to take their chances as thralls in the north. The Valkyries had no cowards in their ranks.
Einarr glanced around: Stigander stood, his arms crossed, watching as his fellows hauled valuables from the hold of the Geirskögul across the planks. He took one step forward, intending to assist, and felt the blood running down his leg. He would be no help like this. Best go see Reki. I guess I’ll see firsthand if her healing song is as good as her battle chant.
No few of his crewmates were clustered around Reki when Einarr hobbled up. A bubble of calm surrounded them, supported by the gentle mood of a Singer’s healing song. That song magic could heal at all was a mystery to those outside the Singer’s ranks: it was a magic that played on the mind, typically. Einarr had asked Grimhildr, once, but the answer had made no sense at the time and been quickly forgotten.
Reki’s sultry voice was one of uncommon power: as Einarr relaxed in the field of her song, he watched as wounds knit themselves before his very eyes. Such a wisp of a woman tied to that voice. Will Sivid get to her first, or Erik, I wonder? They were idle thoughts, no more, as he allowed himself to be swept along.
Some few were not so lucky. The crewmen who knew their way around a medicine bag applied compresses or stitches to wounds too deep to heal with the magic alone – Einarr spotted both Tyr and Jorir among the wound-dressers – and the sound of axe hafts drumming on shields said that at least one of their number would henceforth sup with the gods. Idly, Einarr wondered who: when his mind came free of the song he knew the loss would hit him.
Something jostled Einarr’s healing leg. He rolled his eyes downward to see what: Jorir. He offered the dwarf a drunken smile. “Be good as new soon enough. Scratch like this shouldn’t merit more’n the song.”
Jorir snorted. “Sure, you say that now, after I’ve done poulticed it up. That blade near took your leg off. Give me a look at the rest ‘o you now.”
“Fine, fine, worry wort. …Looks like you fared well enough in the battle.”
Jorir chuckled as he looked Einarr over for more serious wounds. Most of them showed new pink flesh where they had already knit together. “I get the impression these so-called Valkyries aren’t used to fighting dvergr.”
“Not too surprising. Most of the clans are human, after all. They’ve been known to defend földvergr villages, though.”
Jorir snorted. “Földvergr. Pretentious.” He paused, still staring at his lord’s arm. “You’re a reckless fighter, if you’ll pardon me saying so. I might be more mindful of my father’s predicament, in your shoes. Else a lot of people are like to be sore disappointed some day.”
Einarr raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to answer, but the dwarf wasn’t done.
“What were ye thinkin’, dashing half way across the ship like that? Nearly got yerself killed that way, an’ for what?”
Now Einarr pursed his lips. If the dwarf had seen that, he had to answer. “He had his sights on Reki… and this is the first time in a long time that our battle chanter has not also held the title of Mother for me.” He didn’t really understand the juxtaposition himself, yet, only that there was a habit of thought involved.
Jorir nodded, his brows drawn down in thought for a long moment.
Einarr hummed. “Well? Is your poultice safely tied? The death-drumming’s been going for a while now. It’s probably time I investigated.”
“Go on, then. They may not have known what to do with me, but they certainly took their pound o’ flesh.”
Einarr sighed, calling together the energy to stand up and leave the comfortable envelope of song magic. “I was afraid of that.” He wiped the palms of his hands on his pant legs, despite the fact that they were dry. Sooner or later, someone was going to have to deal with the Order of the Valkyrie.
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