Einarr set his mouth as he watched the vines twine over Thjofgrir’s still form. How long had he been Kaldr’s Mate? Likely not as long as Bardr had served Father, but certainly many years more than Jorir had served Einarr. That would be a hard blow for Kaldr and for their ship. He had no room to hesitate, though, and even in the man’s death Thjofgrir had spat in their foe’s eye: until his blood watered them, the vines had not grown.
His sacrifice will not be in vain. Sinmora practically leapt out of her sheath as Einarr, too, rushed to join the fray now. As the vines grew, changing in the blink of an eye from tiny sprouts into creeping tendrils and then to prize beans and on, until they were as thick as rigging ropes, and still they grew. They quested inwards, towards the thing which should not be in their midst, and plucked at the meat-puppet’s robes and twined about its feet. Malùnion pulled it’s feet away in a strange sort of dance, trying to keep from being entwined. Einarr was abruptly reminded of the leshy, whom they had fought on the Isle of the Forgotten.
The working seemed to be taking on a life of its own, but with Hrug’s look of intense concentration Einarr was sure they would not have to worry about the vines deciding they, too, were a threat. He rushed in, and the vines he stepped on actually seemed to speed him towards the dark vortex at the center of the circle.
To his right, he saw Jorir also riding the wave of plants, looking as fiercely determined as when they’d fought back on Svartlauf, and across from him was Arring, his face contorted with the battle fury. Well, such was life.
A moment later, Kaldr leapt over the edge of the formation, his own sword held low and back to slash upwards at the beast that had just killed his best friend.
Malùnion, in spite of his best efforts, struggled against the binding of the vines now, and the face of the flesh puppet twisted even as the vines gripped his limbs more tightly.
An arrow flew past Kaldr, and this time one of the energy tendrils grew a spine. Thick black energy began dripping from the wound like blood, and the vines reached for it hungrily.
This was working, but Einarr hoped never to have to use this formation again. But his surmise had been right: evil cannot create, but it can be destroyed by creation. Now I just hope Hrug can keep control of our working. Especially since, while they still bent their wills to it, it was feeding on the blood that was shed within.
Then followed a time where everything was flailing tentacles and chopping blades. Jorir hacked the sucker off one arm. Arring nearly cleaved a second in twain. When the blood spattered on his skin, it hissed and smoked like an ember – and the vines reached for that, as well, so that Arring’s flesh underneath was pink and new. For a wonder, even then they did not try to capture Arring. Einarr could no longer see Hrug’s face to know if that was his doing.
Whether it was or not, it needed to keep happening or none of them were going to come out of this uncorrupted. Einarr, too, felt the burn of the black blood’s source – such a difference from what flowed in the veins of the cursed. This, though, was what they had gathered their fleet to do, and if they could not end the scourge here it would be a thousand years of torment on Midgardr.
Troa had rushed up to join the fray as well, his bow slung over his shoulder and his quiver empty.
Einarr felt a sudden drawing in, as though all the air had abruptly been sucked towards Malùnion. He froze. So did everyone else.
A soundless boom hit Einarr like a yardarm swinging in a storm. It knocked him off his feet and sent him flying backwards into the wall of the temple. The others, too, all went flying.
It took Einarr a moment to be able to see straight again, and when he finally blinked away the swimming picture before him he saw that the octopus arms all stood straight out from the body, as though forming some sort of perverse halo around the meat-puppet.
It had thrown them off, and it had snapped countless vines, but it had not extricated itself from the circle. Indeed, the vines that remained were growing more aggressive. I sure hope we don’t have to fight the formation in order to destroy it.
Arring loosed another battle yell and charged forward into the fray once more. One by one, the others all followed. It was visibly weakened, but not enough. Arring was batted aside once more when he came within reach. His back curled around the edge of one of the stone benches, but again the man rose to his feet.
Kaldr and Jorir dashed in at the same moment, now, and both of them nearly made it back into the fight. Kaldr dodged the flailing arms quite nimbly until he had nearly reached the circle that held their nemesis. He jumped to the side when one of the arms was coming down from over his head, however, and sprang right into the path of a second arm that knocked him, too, into one of the numerous benches scattered about the room.
Jorir was somewhat more staid in his approach. He tramped forward several steps and then stopped, bracing himself for the inevitable strike. When it came, if it did not look like he could take it and keep his feet, he would sidestep and take a swing at the flailing demigod. That looked to be working, except Einarr was afraid the dvergr would be next to feel the squeeze. That meant it was his turn.
He exhaled through his nose and closed his eyes, just for a moment, focusing on Sinmora’s rhythm. When he could not just hear it, but feel it, he opened his eyes and dashed forward.
He could never afterwards say how he did it, but as he ducked and dodged and whirled and ran, somehow his feet once again found purchase on the swell of vines created by the runes. He leapt.
Einarr plunged Sinmora deep into one of the octopus’ arms and released the resonance. It rang, and for a moment Einarr’s ears rang with it, so loud was the sound of its resonance here.
Hi everyone. Thanks for reading!
This is what I expect to be the final book of The Adventures of Einarr Stigandersen. After four, almost five, years and fourteen books, I’m ready to move on to other projects – and I’m sure Einarr is ready for me to do so, as well – if only so I stop tormenting him! Fear not, however: my intention is to start a new serial, although not a purely free one. Look for a poll or an announcement from me in the next few weeks as I firm up my ideas.
If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.
If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon. Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr e-book through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.
Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.