Kaldr spent a long, weary night locked in combat in his own mind. For Lord Ulfr to call him back like this could only mean one thing. And yet, the more he thought it through, the more he was convinced that he had done nothing to regret. Certainly nothing that should have gotten him recalled in disgrace – or even castigated on his return, provided he was successful. The rebels were undermanned and poorly equipped, but not so undermanned that they could be caught without significant losses. And for trying to save the strength of Breidelstein, I am humiliated? He rolled over under his blanket, but still sleep eluded him.
The atmosphere on deck was tense, as well. From oarsmen to lookout, he could hear dissatisfied mutterings from his men. That, too, was troublesome, and the corner of his mind that did not gnaw on his abrupt summons like a dog on a bone wondered what new fire he would have to put out on deck come morning.
Frothing Urek waited and watched, a smug smile peeking out from under his beard, until Kaldr’s ship was small on the horizon before he turned to his Mate. “Bring Vittir and Broki over. This blockade is over.”
The man snapped an unusually crisp salute, grinning through his own whiskers. “Yes, sir!”
It did not take long for the captains to gather on the deck of their new flagship. Neither of them looked quite as eager as Urek felt, but that didn’t bother him.
“Welcome aboard, gentlemen. Now that Coward is no longer in charge, I declare this blockade is ended. Ready yourselves for an assault.”
“An assault?” Broki started. “Up the fjord?”
“We are men of action, are we not? We will strike as lightning up the fjord, before the rebels have a chance to pull any of their tricks on us.”
Vittir cleared his throat. “Before they left, we received a report from Kaldr’s scouts. Something is already in the works.”
Broki looked at him sharply. “Something? What something?”
“He didn’t know.”
“All the more reason that we must strike now, while the iron is hot! Ready your ships, men.”
The two under-captains returned to their boats, and the nets with their incidental catch drawn up. The sun was kissing the waves by the time all was in readiness, but that suited Urek well enough. He looked to his Mate and nodded.
“Oars out!” They would have to be quick, to minimize the time when they were vulnerable in the fjord.
Twilight had descended on the waters of Lundholm by the time Stigander and his three ships once more neared the fjord, although it was not yet so dark as to hide anyone. That was why Einarr called not only Jorir but also Naudrek up to confirm what he thought he saw.
The blockade was gone.
The ships were still there: two ships were visible between the fjord walls, with a third ready to enter as soon as its allies made way. Then where is the fourth ship?
There was no place for the last boat to wait in ambush that Einarr could see, which meant they had to be farther up the fjord. Father evidently thought the same: he heard Bardr sound the battle horn. Two other horns joined in, their voices melding into a single loud trumpet announcing their intentions.
The ship that had held back smoothly reversed its course, probably hoping to give its allies time to come around as well. Kormund’s Eikthyrnir launched a volley of arrows and dashed forward while most of them were still in the air. The Vidofnir and the Heidrun, meanwhile, slipped around the boat to either side. If Kormund couldn’t handle them for whatever reason, they would signal.
The ship with its nose halfway into the fjord was still scrambling to prepare for this new threat when the first volley from the Vidofnir struck its deck. That volley was still in the air when Einarr gave the order to shoot from the Heidrun.
“Take us to port! Prepare the boarding lines!” Einarr’s voice rang clear over the deck of the Heidrun, and without hesitation his ship headed off to port while the Vidofnir moved starboard so that they flanked the unfortunate wolf in the trap.
The wolves were not so surprised that they did not answer back, of course, although by then it was far too late for archery. Boarding lines whistled both ways, followed by the clunk or the splash of steel grappling hooks on wood as they fought for purchase.
“Make fast the lines! Go!”
The order was almost superfluous: Irding and some of the other more reckless warriors were already crossing the ropes before the word ‘go’ was out of Einarr’s mouth. With a satisfied smirk, he turned his attention to the woman next to him. “Eydri. Whenever you’re ready.”
Some few of the wolfling warriors had tried a counter-invasion, perhaps not realizing their true straits. Einarr calmly stepped towards the pocket of enemies that had gained a foothold and drew Sinmora.
Eydri’s clear, sweet tones rose over the deck of the Heidrun, urging her warriors to swift victory, as Einarr settled his grip on Sinmora’s hilt. The strongest of the men – himself perhaps as large as Irding, but certainly no larger – raised his shield and readied his axe.
From across the mouth of the fjord, Reki’s low sultry voice joined Eydri’s bell-like one and echoed over the water in harmony.
A moment later, a third voice rose in Song, although it was not a Singer Einarr had ever heard before. The sound set his teeth on edge, so he thought he did not care to hear her again, either. Or is that deliberate?
The red fury was still pulsing at the edges of his vision, though, so whatever she thought she was doing it was not going to break the Chant for the Heidrunings. Einarr raised his shield before him as he brought Sinmora up over his back shoulder. Her strike was true. Ein.
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