8.13 – Agreement

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 Arkona moved more swiftly than it had any right to. In fact, once the Eikthyrnir split off to head for Breidhaugr, it swiftly became evident that the ship had been holding itself back as it trailed Kormund’s longship across the sea. This, in spite of its deeper draft, its extra deck and increased storage space, its sea fire, and the mud wall in its kitchen.

There was no other answer, at this point. At least some of the ships of the Order were magically enhanced. Not that there should have been any way for a Singer or a Painter to do that. Perhaps they embraced curse weaving? Or perhaps their shipwrights were superlative Runemasters? Neither of those quite made sense to him, but if Hrug had any better ideas he didn’t bother to share them. And, somehow, asking one of the crew seemed like a poor decision.

Whatever the reason, the Arkona fairly flew over the waves toward the unfortunate southlanders as it sailed across Clan waters. As near as Einarr could tell, they moved in a straight line, although the weather was considerably warmer before he saw so much as a hint of land on the horizon. That, perhaps unsurprisingly, was also when the ship was allowed to slow. Not long thereafter, Einarr, Naudrek and Eydri were invited to the Captain’s cabin to discuss their quest.

“So now that we’re outside Clan waters, are you finally going to tell us how big of an outbreak we’re looking at?”

Liupold sighed. “The locals have no name for the island we’re headed for – they just call it ‘Land.’ Among the Order, we refer to it as Hohenwerth, since its coast is almost entirely steep cliffs. They access the sea by means of the river flowing through Langtoft, and another through Kettleness.”

Einarr frowned. “So it all started with the fishermen, then.”

“Yes. How did you guess?”

“Awfully hard to make contact with a kraken on land.” It wasn’t something one ordinarily expected to meet on the water, either, of course, and this was hardly the usual giant squid. It seemed to make sense to Liupold, at least.

“What of the massacred village?”

Eydri interrupted. “There are three separate villages? Based on what you describe, Hohenwerth can’t be a large island. How can it support three different settlements?”

“Poorly,” Liupold admitted. “When I was given charge over the area, I was told it was the result of a family feud and to leave it alone. This seemed prudent, and so I have as much as possible. ‘Twas Kettleness destroyed, and the bodies left to rot.”

This was beginning to sound all too familiar. Einarr shook his head. “Okay. So you still haven’t explained why it is you think you need us. Sure, I’m the Cursebreaker. But I’ve already told you how to keep this from spreading. It doesn’t even sound like it would be a problem on an island like that. You’ve got sea-fire, for crying out loud.”

“The Lady Hrist was adamant that the Cursebreaker was required if we were to put an end to the source of the corruption.”

Einarr stared at the man for a long moment, processing what he had just told them.

“You want to fight and kill a giant, corrupted kraken. In your own boat. And you want my help to do it. Am I hearing this right?”

Liupold lowered his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was thick with emotion. “If we do not destroy the monster, the corruption will spread. To the heart of the Empire, Hrist tells me. Now. I recognize that the Clans and the Empire are never likely to be friends, so let me put it this way: would you rather fight us as men, or as corrupted beasts?”

That was enough to make Einarr pause and think. After a long moment, he swallowed. “We cannot fight this in the ordinary way. We have to lure it up, somehow, and keep it on the surface long enough to kill it from a distance. I’ve been doused with the thing’s blood before: once is more than enough.”

Naudrek and Eydri both turned to stare at him, plainly not comprehending why he had suddenly changed his mind.

“The black kraken is not the only horror that escaped those islands that day. We fought for our lives just to escape, but in the process three of their abominations were set loose. I cannot tell you if or for how much longer the cult would have kept them contained within their longships, only that they used the confusion of our battle to break free. The black kraken was the first released, and the only one injured on that day. It was all the Vidofnir could do to injure it, and that fight cost us a great deal.”

The wheels were turning, but Einarr could tell they hadn’t quite reached the same conclusion he had. “It’s a tragedy, what has happened to these villages, but a containable one. If we fail to contain these horrors, though, and the corruption spreads to, say, the Order of the Valkyrie and the Imperial Navy, there will be hundreds of fanatically loyal super soldiers capable of descending on any known Clan port.”

Eydri blinked. “You’re right. But your father has the Örlögnir, and I cannot fault our captain for wanting to skip Breidhaugr, at least for the time being. So how does one kill a kraken, corrupted or otherwise, without getting covered in its blood and guts?”

The room fell silent for a long moment, until Einarr finally decided no-one else was going to offer the obvious answer. “With sea fire, and with ordinary fire, and with spear throwers. Any way we can. We limped away last time without making sure this thing was dead. This time, that’s not an option.”

Hrug made a hand motion that looked very like a gesture of confidence. “Hrug, you have a plan?”

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