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.
Eydri saw them coming. For a while she stood still, although she was as stiff as Einarr had ever seen. When they were most of the way over to the corner where she had been, however, she suddenly began to move – along the wall, toward the stairs they had just left. Einarr stopped and blinked, a little confused. Then he looked at Naudrek. “Is she mad at me for something?”
Naudrek shook his head, his face unreadable. “No. Not angry. At least, not at you.”
“You know something I don’t.”
Naudrek smirked at him, one eyebrow rising up his forehead.
“You also know what I meant.”
“It’s not mine to tell. Are you going after her, or are you going to give her time to calm down?”
“…I think that is no longer my decision to make.”
Eydri had turned on her heel and now walked stiffly back toward the three of them. Einarr turned to face her and stood quietly. She stopped in front of them and met Einarr’s eyes with a challenging stare.
Einarr sighed. “You are my Singer, but you are also my friend. What is wrong?”
She shook her head violently and turned that same angry look back up at his face. Then she opened her mouth to talk, but all that came out was a croaking cough at first. When the cough died down, she tried again.
“I am ruined.” Eydri’s voice, which had once been nearly as lovely as Runa’s, came out as a rasp. Einarr’s jaw dropped.
“You mean, your voice?” Einarr asked stupidly. She nodded.
“Won’t it heal, given time?”
She shook her head violently once more. “It is gone. Hrug’s working just now proved it. I will never Sing again. What am I to do now?” Coughs racked her body again. Naudrek reached out as though to comfort her, but drew back.
Einarr took a deep breath and nodded in understanding. “I swear to you, you will always have a place at my court, as a trusted advisor. I, of all people, know that a Singer’s worth is more than just her voice.”
Strangely, this did not seem to be what she wanted to hear. “So I am to be an advisor only, left to pace the halls with your lady wife and only hear of your feats secondhand.” Eydri squeezed her eyes shut, and her knuckles turned white on her clenched fists. She turned her back on them. “That is not what I signed on for… but I knew the risk when I began that Song.”
Einarr’s forehead wrinkled. What in the world had she wanted? He looked at Naudrek, about to ask what he advised, but stopped. The other man had a very peculiar look on his face – one Einarr remembered all too well. He smiled as the realization dawned. “Good luck,” he mouthed and clapped him on the shoulder with his good hand. But, when Einarr and Jorir turned to give them space, Naudrek stopped him.
“It’s you she wants.”
“And she knows I am always and only Runa’s. That’s why this is your chance. Good luck.”
Naudrek turned back to face Eydri and straightened his tunic. Good man, Einarr thought, as he and Jorir left them alone as quickly as Einarr could manage.
* * *
While the ground team were setting up an impromptu camp within the fortress and tending to their wounded, a small fishing boat crewed by Troa and the other scouts led the fleet into the harbor.
The damage was severe. About a third of the fleet was sunk. Of the surviving boats, most merely limped along and many took on water.
The Vidofnir was no exception. Erik and Irding clasped elbows and clapped each other’s shoulders in greeting. Then Einarr saw Stigander and Bardr leaning on each other as they crossed the harbor and ran to join them.
“Father! What news from the fleet?”
Stigander lifted a haggard face to his son. The fighting had been fierce: the shoulder opposite Bardr was tied with bandages, and there were more than a few places blood had seeped through already. Bardr was in worse shape: one of his legs was just about shredded and tied off with a tourniquet.
“What of the Singers?”
Stigander offered a wan smile. “Rejoice, my boy. We’ve won – a resounding victory. The Singers? Exhausted to a one. They’ll be down once they’ve gathered themselves somewhat.”
Einarr nodded, swallowing the worry that had threatened to choke him when he saw the state these two were in.
“I don’t know what it was you did, son,” Stigander said, and Einarr could hear what almost sounded like admiration in his voice. “But even after Bea showed up that fight was theirs to lose. Right up until that shockwave rolled out from the tower. We lost a couple ships to the wave, I’m afraid, but nothing like we would have lost if things had kept on as they were. And you still came back to me, so… well done.”
“Thank you, father.”
Movement from the ships caught his eye, and Einarr looked up to see Reki’s white figure coming slowly down the plank to the shore, followed by several other women. They walked slowly, and a few of them limped, but they held themselves erect. Probably, if Einarr’s guess was correct, trying to keep the men from worrying over them.
“It looks like the Singers are on their way down.”
Stigander nodded. “They’ll not be much use for healing, remember.”
“I’m afraid Hrug and I are about spent in terms of magic, as well. Let’s leave the wounded to Jorir and the scouts, then.”
Bardr nodded in agreement. “I’ll see to it.”
Einarr held up a hand, trying not to look at the man’s ruined leg. “Allow me. You two should find a place to rest. All of our wounded are just back that way.” He pointed.
“I’ll do that, then.”
Einarr turned to walk slowly back the way he had come, towards where he had last seen Jorir. It was no coincidence that he kept pace with the other two. “We will need to speak to Reki and the other Singers, however, as regards funeral arrangements.”
Einarr was surprised to see that Stigander’s face could still become a shade or two paler as he blanched. “At least there are no shortages of ships for a proper burial.”
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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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.
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