Hi, everyone. Allene here. This marks the last chapter of Book 10: Einarr and the Ice Wolf – a book that is nearly half again as long as any other book! This wraps up the first half of the story fairly neatly, and so as opposed to my normal one-month hiatus, I am going to take TWO months in order to plan out the second half of Einarr’s story. I hope, since you’ve stuck with me thus far, that you will return on November 10, 2020, to see Einarr get married and find out what happens with the cult and with Jorir – not necessarily in that order. Thanks for reading!

The second day of the Thing began with the recitation of the law by one of the town elders – a far more festive event than Einarr had expected it could ever be, but more than a decade of misrule may have made a difference there. Afterward everyone was free to attend to their own business, and there was business aplenty to be had. Merchants had set up stalls within the walls of the hold and were displaying the best of their wares. Jarls took tankards together and sat in serious discussion over matters of trade and of weddings and funerals and ships.

At some point midafternoon, Einarr received a summons to attend his Lord Father in the Hall. He had expected this, in truth, but still his guts churned like water.

When he arrived, the doors stood wide open to allow in light and air, but even with the open doors and the torches burning over near where Stigander and Jarl Hroaldr sat in conference the Hall was dim and smoky. Einarr took a deep breath and strode across the hall to the bench where they conversed.

“You sent for me, Father?”

Stigander peered up at his son from under heavy blond brows and smoothed his beard. “Einarr. Have a seat. We have some business to hand, do we not?”

Jarl Hroalr harrumphed. “So it seems.”

Einarr pulled a stool up and swung a leg over. “After everything that’s happened, and you’re still against it?”

Hroaldr grumbled something unintelligible and waved his hand at the other two.

Stigander chuckled. “It’s more that he finds himself in something of a sticky situation. The son of his Thane has also made overtures for Runa’s hand, you see, while we were away, and Runa is his only child. Whoever she marries gains control of Kjell.”

Einarr frowned. “But after everything that happened, Kjell could justifiably cut ties with Thane Thorgnyr and become one of our holdings.”

“Son. I know you’re too young to know this, but even at the height of Raen’s power our control didn’t stretch even halfway to Kjell. When Thorgnyr tries to take back his holding, we will be too far away to do anything about it. And probably otherwise occupied, besides. And Thorgnyr will assume he needs to do that when you marry Runa.”

“Oh, aye, it is a when,” Hroaldr agreed irritably. “I can’t very well deny you’ve met my conditions at this point.”

Einarr brightened. He had been ready to argue that exact point, and here it was conceded without a fight.

“Now we must set a date,” Stigander broke in. “Set a date, and set the wheels in motion.”

Einarr cleared his throat. “If that is the case, aren’t we missing someone?”

The two older men looked at each other – Stigander blankly, but Hroaldr chuckled now. “Runa knows exactly what this meeting is about. She is with the Princess Beatrix and Aema, drafting the first of the letters that will need to be sent. Her idea.”

Einarr could not quash his smile. “It seems like most things are, doesn’t it?”

Now Stigander laughed. “Get used to it, son. Women are good at that.”

The date was fixed for midsummer’s day, a year hence. Einarr had argued for a shorter span as hard as he dared, but it seemed there was no way to get through all the preparations before then. Even without counting the thorny political situation (and getting thornier – Bea’s continued presence made him antsy, even though she had thus far been a reliable ally), apparently wedding mead was supposed to ferment a full nine months.

Not that he recalled his father waiting that long to wed Astrid. Einarr shrugged the thought off: there may have been other considerations there, and he was sure to be occupied in the interim. It’s not like there wouldn’t be plenty to do while he waited: Einarr was sure he was going to have to go knock some sense into some of the jarls who hadn’t come to the Thing.

But, all of that was a matter for another day. Right now, he was home for the first time since he was six years old. He had old friends to celebrate with, and new friends to make.

There, off on the edges of the festivities, Jorir and Kaldr each sat on a stump with a flagon of drink, watching the revelry before them. Jorir’s expression said this was exactly how he wanted it, so Einarr left them to it.

Cheers erupted from a broad field near where Urdr’s spells had quite literally come unraveled, and so he wandered that way. The smell of roasting meat tickled his nose, but after the discussion he’d just had food was the last thing on his mind.

“Einarr! There you are!” Erik’s voice boomed across the field. “The glima tournament’s already started!”

With a grin, Einarr broke into a trot. He hadn’t had a chance to wrestle much since his bout with Trabbi. “Count me in! Who’s up next?”

“Me!” Irding shouted, standing shirtless on a stump with his chest puffed out like a rooster’s, grinning like a loon.

Einarr laughed. “You’re on! Just try not to hold a grudge when I swab the deck with your head.”

He arrived moments later and stripped to the waist. Irding stood ready on the far side of the ring, still grinning.

There was much yet to be done, to restore Breidelstein and the glory of Raen. But as Einarr’s boots joined his tunic on the grass, and his feet pressed into the ground, he knew in his bones that he was home.

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