Two more of the pocket of wolflings fell before Sinmora’s blade. The others looked shaken: perhaps, then, he could get through to them. “Surrender and quarter will be given.”
The man in front of the others hardened his jaw, although his eyes were still wide with fear.
“Are we not countrymen?”
The man in front found enough of his spine to spit on the deck and answer. “You rebel scum are no countrymen of mine.”
So that’s how it was going to be, was it? Einarr’s jaw hardened in turn. He had tried: there were witnesses to show he had tried to save these mens’ lives. “Then fight like men!”
Einarr did not give in to the battle fury, although the wolflings could be forgiven for thinking he had. With a roar he brought his blade up again overhead.
The men broke and ran. Einarr shook his head: these were the men who had been giving them so much trouble? Even had his uncle been the legitimate heir, if these were the men in his service he would have no right to rule.
Jorir harrumphed from beside him.
Einarr spared his Mate and liege-man a glance. “Have you ever seen such cowardice?”
“Not in a long time, my lord.”
Einarr hummed. “I’m going across.”
“Not without me, ye’re not.”
“That’s fine. I’ll want you there anyway, I expect.”
With a grunt of assent, Jorir shouldered his shield of golden fire and stamped his feet in his boots. “Let’s go, then.”
On the wolfling ship, the first wave of Heidrunings and Vidofnings were locked in the clinch with the enemy crew. They already held most of the deck but, much like the wolflings Einarr had frightened off his own ship, these were refusing to back down. He frowned: was this the Weaving at work?
It almost had to be, but there was nothing he could do about it right now. They needed the distaff to dissolve Urdr’s curse, and even if they had not been locked in combat it would be far too risky to try that now. Einarr shouldered his way forward toward the line: if these men would not surrender, as it appeared they would not, they were lost.
Jorir matched him step for step, their charge building across the deck boards, and when the dwarf raised his voice in a battle yell Einarr joined him. They crashed into the enemy line and broke through with almost no resistance.
Others followed, and soon the deck was filled with pockets of wolflings fighting desperately to stave off the “rebel” assault. Einarr frowned again: this was too easy.
The smell of burning pitch tickled his nostrils. Einarr looked up in time to see the other wolfling ship, the one trapped in the fjord, with a blazing line of fire on its deck. Or, rather, above its deck, on the arrows of the archers arrayed for a volley.
He could hear the order to fire echo from the other ship.
“Shields! Now!” Ignoring the wolfling in front of him for a moment, he spun around to face the Heidrun. “Hrug!”
For his trouble, he felt the searing heat of a sword slice across the back of his leg as he spun the rest of the way around. Einarr found he could not care: he raised his shield overhead even as he thrust forward with Sinmora at the man’s gut.
The wolfling doubled over as two feet of steel thrust through his belly. A moment later, fire arrows rained down around him, thudding into the deck and catching the wolfling ship ablaze.
Einarr looked over his shoulder once more, but the Heidrun was safe. Hrug must have gotten the shields up in time. He turned his attention back to the fight, only to see the other wolfling ship sailing up to join the fray. Boarding lines whistled through the air, and the line in front of Einarr gave a ragged cheer.
Einarr scowled at the lines around him. They could not keep the other ship from joining the fray – not without exposing their backs to the warriors already aboard – but they could control where they fought the enemy reinforcements.
“Heidrunings! Vidofnings! Fall back!”
If they formed a solid line on the other side of the mast, possibly even almost as far as the other bulwark, then the wolfling lines would have to advance through the fire to get at them. That was worth it.
Urek grinned a wolf’s grin as boarding lines flew toward Vittir’s ship. That volley hadn’t landed quite where he wanted it to, but fire was always effective. A little niggling voice in the back of his head wondered what sort of witchcraft that was, that protected the Heidrun, but it was easy to ignore. The only thing that mattered right now was the battle ahead of him.
Urek settled his grip on his shield and drew his prized hammer from its hook on his belt. He swung it back and forth a few times, limbering his arm for the fight to come and nodded in satisfaction.
Now. Where is she. Ah. There. “Gudrun! We are about to put an end to the rebels once and for all. Give us a Song!”
For a very long moment she just looked at him. Sometimes, Urek wondered if his very own battle chanter looked down on him. If he could ever confirm it, he would put her in her place, but so far she had always done her duty.
As the boarding hooks gripped the bulwarks of Vittir’s ship, Gudrun raised her voice in a suitably victorious-sounding battle chant. The red haze of the fury began to pulse at the edges of Urek’s vision. With a roar he accepted it. The other warriors on board joined him in his battle cry and they charged across the lines.
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