The blue and gold sail of the Eikthyrnir and the gold and white of the Heidrun flanked the blue and white of the Vidofnir as they sailed past the island where Einarr’s grandfather had once taught him to hunt, one summer after the curse was laid but before he was old enough to join the crew.

Einarr had been a little concerned with allowing Bea on any of their boats – not because she was Imperial, but because she was a princess – but those fears had rapidly proved unfounded. On their first full day out of Kjellvic she had asked Irding to spar with her – what the impetus for this was, Einarr never learned. He became aware of it when a circle formed just ahead of the mast and the laying of bets caught his ear. Curious, he went to investigate.

The spearwoman at the head of the most aggressive faction of the Order of the Valkyrie faced the most reckless of the warriors aboard the new-minted Heidrun and proceeded to mop the deck with him. What’s more, she did it in such a way that Einarr was convinced the result would have been the same against Erik, Sivid, or even Arring. Then she reached out a hand to help him to his feet, and just like that she was a sailor like all the others.

Now they were entering the waters around Breidelstein, and the princess who had thought to lure him to the Empire seemed just as determined as all the others to end the usurpers’ rule. Well, perhaps he shouldn’t be surprised. She’d had a strong sense of justice since he met her. Still, though, that she was like this when she knew they were aiming to rescue his betrothed… he could not think ill of her, no matter who she was affiliated with.

The main island was just peeking into view over the horizon as they passed Afi’s old freehold – long since fallen to ruin, after the Wolf’s raiders came. Einarr shuddered involuntarily. Before the raiders had left, Afi had given him Sinmora and sent him up into the mountains to live and watch for the Vidofnir. Einarr had never seen either of his step-grandparents again after that. Just one more crime to be laid at the feet of the Wolf. Soon, though, they would be met by ships under Urdr’s and Ulfr’s control.

Einarr’s hands itched. He wanted very much to take up the Örlögnir and study it, much as Hrug was now doing from beneath the awning, but he didn’t dare. The theft had been not only detected but allowed, and who knew when Wotan or his wife might demand the artifact’s return. He couldn’t count on being able to use it more than once: what if, in examining it, he activated the thing?

From behind him, Jorir cleared his throat. When Einarr turned to look, his Mate and first man-at-arms beckoned him back to the stern. The dwarf sat at his whetstone and drizzled a fine line of water over it.

“Something amiss?”

“You. You’re making the men nervous, pacing up there like some sort of caged animal. Now. Take a seat, and hand me your sword. Magic-touched or not, I’m sure her edge could use a little loving care.”

A little sheepish, Einarr handed Sinmora to the svartdvergr and sat cross-legged on the deck. “Sorry.”

“Now nobody faults your nerves, under the circumstances. Your first command, and the culmination of your father’s bloody quest? Who wouldn’t be. But no-one wants a Captain so wrapped up in their own heads that they’re not sure he even knows where they’re sailing.”

“You’re right, of course.”

Jorir harrumphed, as though that much were obvious. “So tell me what happened with Sinmora here.”

This wasn’t the first time Jorir had asked to hear that, nor the first time Einarr had told it. He wasn’t sure what the dwarf thought he could learn, hearing it again, but the act of telling the tale did help calm his nerves.

When he was about halfway through the tale, around the time he was working with Eydri, Bea arrived. Quietly, she folded her legs under herself and sat listening as intently as Jorir. When he was done, she continued to stare at the blade Jorir was sharpening.

“Do you have any idea what you have in that sword, there?” She asked, finally.

“A good blade, sturdy and true, that’s been by my side for more than a decade.”

She shook her head. “Maybe so, but that’s not what I meant. Whoever forged that blade must have had uncommon magic about them. In all my schooling, in all the histories I’ve read, nowhere does it mention anything about an enchantment that allows a blade to eat magic. Nowhere, in more than a thousand years of history. Do you know who forged it?”

Einarr shook his head. “It was given to me by my stepmother’s parents when I was still a boy. I assume it was his sword, back in his raiding days, but I don’t know. But after last summer, part of me feels like it would have been stranger if something hadn’t happened to it. I’m just glad it was something good.”

She nodded, still watching Jorir as he worked. Fourth princess or not, how had she come to be in charge of a division like the Hrist Brigade? She seemed far too earnest and kind for the leader of a group that hunted longships like whales.

Bea glanced at him briefly and smirked: had he been staring? That was something he could not allow, no matter what was on his mind at the time. He could not allow Runa to get the wrong idea.

“How long have you had that Valkyrie feather in your buckle?” was all she asked.

“Since the Tower of Ravens,” he began, but was interrupted.

“Draken, dead ahead!” came the lookout’s cry.

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