Author’s Note: Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa. This should have been posted months ago. Between March and June of this year, we moved twice – once halfway around the world – and when I wasn’t actively involved in packing/unpacking, I suddenly had the Young Master at home all the time, rather than at Montessori school. None of this was conducive to writing. So, today you will get this chapter, and every day this week you will get another until we reach the end of the story (it’s not far off). Then, sometime next week or perhaps in the first part of the new year, there will be a definitive announcement as to my next project. And, at some point in there, this website will be getting rebuilt, as recent changes appear to have broken my old design at some point in there.
The Song, as eerie and strange as it was to Einarr’s ear, got an immediate reaction from Malùnion. The kraken-like mass of energy surged, and for a moment it seemed to be moving twice as fast. Only a moment, though: it soon became clear it had gone into a frenzy.
Not that that was better.
It struck wildly left and right, and then, not bothering to check if it had actually knocked them out of the way or not, surged towards Eydri. Einarr ducked past a flailing tentacle to chop at the body between them and nearly got crushed as it pushed forward. He used the arm he had just cut at as a springboard, narrowly avoiding an ignominious death. Whatever this new Song was, Malùnion seemed to hate it.
Nobody else needed any encouragement to defend Eydri, either, of course. Whether or not they realized what she was doing, “guarding the Singer” was ingrained in the very marrow of the Clan warriors. Naudrek and Arring both leapt for an eye at the same moment, and while it flinched Einarr wasn’t certain it actually used those eyes for seeing. It was, after all, not really flesh.
No, never mind: it was definitely looking at things through those eyes: one each focused on those two, and a moment later it lashed out with crackling arms. Naudrek barely managed to spin free of its grasp, while Arring cut the tip off the arm. It recoiled, although the arm tip quickly grew back.
Eydri’s voice was sustaining notes he had not often heard Runa hit – and Runa had the higher voice, generally speaking. Furthermore, she was doing so at a volume best described as piercing. How long can she keep this up?
Troa had caught its flinch, too, and now reclaimed arrows flew for its eyes. Whatever Eydri was trying to do, they had to stall it long enough for her to break down its resistance. There was a reason, after all, that Song Magic was generally only applied to ones allies.
It wasn’t trying to seduce him into despair any longer, at least, but Einarr thought its wordless rage in the back of his head might be worse. It was perhaps harder to resist when it bore such a strong resemblance to the Singer’s battle-fury. No matter: he slashed at the octopus arms as they flailed within reach, sometimes biting deep and sometimes doing nothing more than bouncing off the surface. The frenzy had one other irritating side effect: with all those arms, it was even more difficult to get near the main body than it had been before.
Even with their best efforts, they had closed half the distance toward where Eydri stood, singing with all her might, her eyes closed. If they didn’t manage to stop this thing before it got her, they might not be able to stop it at all. A glance to the side, where Kaldr and Naudrek fought as desperately as Einarr showed the same thought on their minds. On his other side, Arring and Troa hacked gamely away. Arring’s face looked surprisingly peaceful, and Einarr had a sneaking suspicion he knew why.
Malùnion’s main body jerked towards him, and as Einarr dodged he had no more time to check on his companions.
His arms moved mechanically now. Eydri’s stamina was not the only one in question. This cut, he got lucky: Sinmora found an already-open wound ahead of him and cut deeply.
Beside him, Arring roared and leapt up into the air, his blade held high overhead. Einarr blinked, startled, as the strong man landed atop one of the writhing arms and drove the bit of his axe deep enough into the body of the demigod that it was engulfed by flesh. Malùnion’s howl reverberated through the air and through Einarr’s mind at once.
What happened next was almost too quick to comprehend. The arm Arring stood on whipped back toward the body and wrapped itself about his middle. There was a sucking sound, and a tearing, and then Arring was slammed against one of the pillars that held up the ceiling with a sickening crunch. His axe fell to the ground and his arms flopped bonelessly, but Malùnion didn’t seem to care whether he was dead or merely senseless. The enraged demigod continued to beat Arring’s body against the pillar.
There was the opening. Grimly, Einarr charged forward: Arring’s sacrifice would not be in vain.
No less than three of Troa’s arrows planted themselves in the new wound before Einarr reached it, but the eight-legged demigod was far from rational now: something about the combination of Eydri’s Song and the blow that had obviously hurt it had focused all its rage on the cause of the latter. That was good for Troa, and good for Einarr.
Einarr drove Sinmora up to the hilt into the opening Arring had made, but this didn’t seem to cause any more reaction than Troa’s arrows had.
He had one idea left: if it didn’t work, he didn’t know what they would do. He focused on the rhythm of Eydri’s Song. This was very different from the beat Sinmora usually resonated at: even if he could make it work, he had no idea what it would do.
It was going to do something, anyway. He felt Sinmora begin to reverberate with Eydri’s eerie singing.
The sound of Arring’s corpse being beaten against the wall stopped as a new alarm grew in the mental whispers that still emanated from the mind of Malùnion.
Einarr opened his mouth and let loose a primal roar. He felt the thrumming in his hands and the bones of his arms as he forced Sinmora’s blade deeper into the body. The pulsation, strangely, grew faster. It was still in time with the song, but it seemed to be racing along at the same time.
Deep within the body of Malùnion, Sinmora shattered. Einarr felt the moment the blade gave way.
A moment later, there was a flash of light from inside the massive body before Einarr, and he was flung away, Sinmora’s hilt still clutched in his hand. His flight came to an abrupt end when he impacted the back of one of the stone pews, not far ahead of Eydri. Lightning danced around the edges of his vision: something had broken, but he had no idea what.
The others were racing across the floor to where he landed: he saw that before he saw what was happening behind them.
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.
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