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 now what do we do?”
Bea’s question was so eager and innocent that, for a moment, no-one could answer. An honest-to-goodness Valkyrie descends, throws down a gauntlet, and then retreats, all while the castle burns around their ears, and she dismisses it with a casual wave of her hand?
Eventually, Einarr found his voice. “First, we make sure Hrug’s plan doesn’t require us to come back here again. It doesn’t, right?”
The mute sorcerer thought for a long moment before nodding in the affirmative.
“Are you sure?” He was certain the man had not had a chance to complete an array. Where was the rest of it going to go?
Hrug’s nod was more certain this time. Einarr would not insult the man by questioning him further: if he said his plan for the island was complete, it would be. “Very well. In that case, I would like to suggest we return to the Arkona and make ready to fight a black-blooded kraken.”
Everyone who knew about the black blood shuddered at the thought. Bea and the two oarsmen looked troubled. Finally, Burkhart spoke up. “Begging your pardon, but what does the color of their blood have to do with anything?”
Einarr clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ll explain later.”
Hrug might not have had more runes to lay, but it was decided they did need to do one more thing before leaving the accursed island for the last time. When they left, it was with a string of five fishing boats tied to the back of their landing craft, and Liupold declared that he would send another boat down to the dock by Southwaite to steal any boats moored there, as well.
As they rowed, Einarr made an agreement with Liupold: in exchange for another cask of Eisbock, Einarr would inform the ignorant on the boat of what, exactly, had happened last summer when the Vidofnir first encountered the monstrous cult. Since Einarr refused to tell it more than once, however, and since the ale was stored on the Arkona, Liupold insisted that he tell it before the entirety of the crew, rather than just the ignorant among the landing party.
“Very well. It will be important, after all, for everyone to understand why they should not close with the thing.” Einarr’s mouth twisted wryly: as if being a kraken wasn’t enough, with its ship-crushing tentacles as tough to hew through as any hundred-year tree, oh no. Some poor fool would still try rushing it at that point, out of desperation if nothing else. But if it bled on them…
The landing party was welcomed back warmly by Walter and the rest of the crew, who were thrilled to see Bea back safe and sound, and never mind that Einarr was sure Liupold had claimed there were multiple women and children held captive. Either they had retrieved the only “important” captive, or the Arkona was accustomed to cutting its losses like that. Einarr wasn’t certain he liked the implications of either answer.
But, now that they were safely aboard the Arkona, Liupold sent for the promised cask of Eisbock and gathered everyone together. It was time for Einarr to fulfill his end of the bargain, while those who already knew the tale began preparing a fire ship.
Bea, at the end of the story, looked as though she wanted nothing so much as to comfort Einarr. Even if he was not engaged to Runa, even if they did not have preparations to make, in spite of the horror of it all Einarr did not want to make himself into an object of pity through his story. He avoided Bea for the rest of the day as they busied themselves with the hard work of ensuring no-one had to be purified, by fire or by herb, at the end of this.
There was still one minor issue, however. Hrug could ensure that the fire ship and the harpoon boats would have the wind they needed to move, but someone would still need to guide them in.
“Is there any question?” Einarr asked. “We take volunteers. I’m not going to force a man to take on a suicide quest unless there’s no other choice.”
Echoes of agreement ran around the command circle of the Arkona. Even Walter agreed, in spite of the source of the comment. The man might not like the men of the Clans, but at least he could see sense at need.
At length, after a day and a night, their preparations were ready. The Arkona did not lack for men of bravery: they had had to draw lots among the volunteers for guiding the fire ship. The ‘losers’ of those lots had been assigned to the harpoon ships. All that remained was to lure the black kraken to the surface. It was agreed that they would begin luring the horror at dawn the next morning, so that the men would be fresh.
Einarr, restless, grabbed the blanket off of his bunk and went to stretch out in an out-of-the-way corner above deck. The close stuffiness of the steerage room, he thought, kept him awake. He stretched out on the deck and pillowed his head in his hands, staring up at constellations familiar and unfamiliar.
A female voice broke the silence. “Can’t sleep?”
Eianrr did not immediately recognize her. He lifted his head to look even as he answered “Yeah.”
“It’s a solid plan, you know.” Bea sat down on the deck next to him and leaned back.
“I know. Not that it will work out quite right. Seems like nothing ever does.
“Well, maybe not quite nothing.”
“I get it. No plan ever survives first contact. And there’s plenty to worry about with this thing.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
“Probably not. But I think we’ve got a good chance. …Have you thought on what I told you, before?”
Hi everyone. Thanks for reading!
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