Jorir shouldered his way forward as Einarr slipped back into the open space behind their line. I wonder how the other teams are getting on? He shook his head: there was no way to find out, and he had more important matters to hand.

In one smooth motion he slid Sinmora back into her sheath and drew a piece of chalk from his belt pouch. The simplest way to crack rock is with Isa – ice. One single downward stroke accomplished that – but then he hesitated. Isa was stasis, so by itself it wouldn’t do much. He needed something else to actually sunder the block.

Then another thought occurred to him: if they were under assault from this side, wasn’t it likely there would be more enemies on the other side of the wall? In that case…

Einarr activated first, and cold began to radiate off the stone. He could actually see the cold air falling away from it. Then he drew a and put the full force of his will into it, directing it like a hammer blow away and into the fortress.

The stone shattered like a thunderclap.

The cursed warriors pressing his team froze as though stunned by the noise. From the other side of the wall, Einarr heard shouts of surprise and pain as whoever waited there was pelted by the shattered block.

“Let’s move!” Einarr traded his chalk for his sword once again and ducked into the opening Jorir had cut before the dust had begun to clear.

When he emerged from the cloud he saw five or six men – ordinary men, so far as he could tell – sporting well-tended maille and shields made entirely of steel. If these men had the black blood, they had not yet succumbed to it. Einarr dropped into a wary guard as his companions dashed through behind him. Jorir came last and stood facing their impromptu gate, taking out the cursed ones as they tried to follow.

“Who do you serve?” Einarr demanded.

One of the men they faced laughed, but didn’t lower his guard. “I’ll ask the questions here.”

Einarr was well aware of the absurdity. “If those black-blooded men and the tentacled cats are your allies, then we are foes. But your squad appears to be in their right mind. Who do you serve?”

Now the man sneered back. “How dare you compare my men and me to animals such as those! We are of the Talon Knights, elite guard of the Holy City Cresurgh!”

“Holy – to whom?” Troa’s usual calm felt unusually tight to Einarr.

The spokesman went on as though they hadn’t said anything. “Those cats, and the animals pressing at the gates, are as pets to our order.”

Why am I not surprised? Einarr tensed, ready to strike the moment he saw a weakness.

Irding made an opening. He let loose a war cry and charged, both axes held behind himself. He chopped at the spokesman’s knees.

The knight jumped back to avoid the blow. Irding smoothly pivoted to bury one axe in the leg of a different knight.

Meanwhile, the talkative one had taken his eyes off of Einarr. Now! Einarr lunged, shield first, to shove him off-balance. As the knight stumbled, Einarr brought Sinmora down to chop at his opponent’s elbow.

Sinmora clanged off the shield. Somehow, he had the presence of mind to catch himself with one hand and bring the shield around, even with the surprise attack.

The knight, crouched over backwards, sneered at Einarr. Then there was a flash of silver, and before Einarr could react his opponent was upright again, if still crouching, and the breeze cooled a trickle of blood through a new slice in Einarr’s trousers.

“Tsk. You might almost be as good as you think you are.” A drop of blood dripped from the knight’s spear. Einarr had not realized that was what the man wielded until just that second.

“Thanks. I try.” Einarr did not take his eyes off the rising knight. That was faster than he’d ever heard of a man being. Was it Malúnion’s power, or was he just that good? Arkja had drawn his blade, as well, and he and Irding each fought two of these Talon Knights while Einarr dueled their leader. Meanwhile, Jorir and Troa were still busy trying to keep the cursed warriors from coming through and overwhelming them. I need to end this quickly. “Holy City, huh? So, is everyone here a damn Squiddie?”

The semi-permanent sneer on the man’s face twisted into a snarl. “Watch your tongue!”

Einarr had to fend off three strikes in quick succession. He turned the spear on the first one and side-stepped the second, but the third put a second tear in his pant leg. Still, Einarr was satisfied. The knight was an excellent warrior, but he was easily nettled. He thought he saw how to break past his guard, too, but he wanted to test it again before he committed.

“Talon knights? Don’t you mean tentacle knights?”

As hoped, that provoked another flurry of stabs from the knight’s spear. And, as Einarr thought, when in the middle of one of those flurries, the man dropped his shield. Not very far, and not for very long, but it would be enough. He dropped into a low stance, Sinmora held up and back, as though he were going to try his shield charge again. “Real question, though, Squid knight. How many of those cursed warriors used to be knights like you?”

The knight’s face reddened at the appellation of ‘squid knight.’ He might not even have heard the question. This time he abandoned defense entirely and stabbed for Einarr’s belly.

Einarr sidestepped. The tip of his spear caught in the brokkrsteel maille and snapped. The knight stumbled forward, and Einarr brought Sinmora down. The knight had been moving just a little too quickly, though, and so rather than striking the knight’s head from his shoulders it clashed against the back of his silvered armor. Some of the silvering flaked off: underneath, it was black as coal.

“Holy City, my foot. Malúnion is nothing more than a minion of Hel, and before this day is through you will know it personally!”

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.

 

Smoke rose from the roof of Jarl Rosta’s hall, but Einarr was certain his men were not the ones who set the blaze. All around him, men roared in the grips of the battle fury as Rosta’s rebels spat defiance at Einarr and his war band. The man he faced, broad-shouldered and red-faced, bellowed and raised his axe to charge.

Einarr settled into his stance and readied his shield. At the last possible instant, he punched forward with the edge of the shield. The axe was deflected harmlessly as Einarr’s shield struck the man hard against the bridge of his nose. Einarr heard a satisfying crunch as the man’s eyes rolled up in his head and he crumpled. What is that now? Tólf? Threttán?

It didn’t matter: the next warrior who thought to end the fighting by taking out the War Leader had arrived. Einarr blew through his long red mustache and reset his stance yet again.

This was a tall, tow-headed man who gave Einarr a large, toothy grin even as he raised his axe in both hands. He carried no shield.

This is ridiculous. Einarr charged this time, and struck out with Sinmora from behind his shield to take the man in his exposed thigh. This man, too, fell, clutching the gushing wound in his leg.

“Breidelings, forward!” Einarr cried, pressing the attack. If they didn’t take Jarl Rosta soon he was liable to escape, and if he escaped they were going to be stuck here on Búethold for gods only knew how much longer.

Arring’s characteristic berserker scream rang over the field of battle.

“Forward!” Einarr called again, although he needn’t have bothered. Already the Heidrunings and Vidofnings surged forward, giving chase to the latest batch of would-be freeholders.

Einarr pressed himself faster, even, than that. He wanted to look the Jarl in the eye before he was subdued.

The smoke grew heavier, much heavier, and Einarr realized it wasn’t just the Hall on fire: the forest was beginning to catch. Or had been set alight. Either way, it just became that much more urgent to end the battle. He raced to the front of the press, scanning the fleeing warriors for any sign of the Jarl.

Movement caught his eye off to the left. A glint of sunlight off of polished metal: not a warrior, that. His men had the pursuit well in hand: he veered off to follow this hidden figure.

He was quick, whoever he was. The figure led Einarr on a merry chase through the wood, crashing through stands of trees and ducking behind bushes, all in an attempt to lose his pursuer. Still, Einarr gained.

Finally, at the far edge of a clearing in the wood, faced with a wicked looking bramble and out of breath, the figure turned to face his pursuer.

The man standing, panting, before Einarr wore a heavy leather jerkin and had a longsword strapped to his side. Despite being plainly old and somewhat tattered, though, his clothes were of fine cloth, richly dyed. “You are Jarl Rosta?”

“I am. Or was, I suppose.”

“Your cause is lost. Surrender now, and my father the Thane may be merciful.”

“What, so I will not be executed, the way the Weavess was? Will he merely make me outlaw until the end of my days?”

“That remains to be seen. But my lord father and those of us from his crew would have peace and prosperity in these islands again. You could not even defend yourselves against two ships of Breidelstein: how long do you think your freehold will last without our protection?”

“Ulfr was a usurper and used us badly. But it had been a full generation since he took power. Stigander is untried and old, and the very first thing he did on taking the throne was exceed his authority. Casting that woman out into the wilderness as an outlaw would have been as sure a death sentence, and yet her bones are still chained to a rock in the harbor. You would have us gamble on the mercy of such a man?”

“Aye, I would. Do you deny that there was justice in her death? Remember that her magic allowed her not only to see but to change the future, and she did so without compunction. Not one but three Singers agreed that was the best possible solution. The sons of Raen wish to end the discord in this land. Will you surrender, so that we can talk about this like civilized men?”

Jarl Rosta hung his head. For a moment, his shoulders stooped, but then he shook his head in violent denial, still looking at the ground beneath his feet. With a desperate growl he jerked his sword free of its sheath. He held it raised in both hands at his back shoulder, and the look on his face was pure despair.

“So be it.”

Einarr raised Sinmora as the man committed to the only cut he could possibly make from that charge and the blade was deflected easily. The Jarl hopped backward, and Sinmora’s blade sliced across his heavy leather jerkin rather than through it. The Jarl was a more practiced warrior than Einarr had expected: he settled down into his accustomed stance.

After his first mad charge failed the Jarl, too, settled into a more sustainable stance. Einarr was not sure if the man typically fought without a shield or not, but he suspected not. A Jarl was too valuable to risk on the field with such an aggressive style.

Einarr advanced cautiously, judging where best to strike. Even in his more cautious stance the Jarl was full of openings. He frowned. Father would still want the man alive, if at all possible. He pulled back to punch the man with the edge of his shield.

That was when Jarl Rosta made his move. Had it not been for the brokkrsteel maille Jorir had insisted he take, Einarr might have taken a mortal blow. As it was, he was sure his ribs would bruise from the blow.

The Jarl was not quite so quick to recover that time. Einarr brought Sinmora’s hilt down hard on the back of his head and the Jarl crumpled to the ground.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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 ebook 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.

“So. Where to next?”

Einarr stared for a long moment, not yet quite able to believe his eyes. The jar that had stuck to him like a bad copper all summer, was itself haunted? And the creature doing the haunting… didn’t seem overly concerned about being dead, so long as he was free to move about.

Said creature appeared as a tall and stocky man, tow-headed with beard and hair alike tied in thick braids. How much of that was residual from life, Einarr could not begin to guess. What almost had to be, however, was the look of earnest eagerness on Vali’s face.

It was that eagerness that did it, Einarr thought, then realized he was still staring. Someone poked him in the ribs and he shook his head: Runa, of all people, had recovered her wits first.

“Once we’re off this island,” Einarr answered, only a little belatedly. “We’re headed to rejoin my Father’s crew on Breidhaugr. But first, we’re going to have a look around in here.”

The spirit raised his head, sniffed the air, and then smiled. “Very good! There doesn’t seem to be any residual dark energy, but it does feel like someone hid something good in here.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow, but did not try to stop the others as they went looking for anything worth bringing back. “How can you tell?”

Vali offered him an almost rakish smile. “Ever since I was bound to that jar, I’ve learned a few things about magical energy. What it does, yes, but more how it tastes. It’s basically my food. That big giant curse you just fed me? Was more or less like eating a whole stag by myself. I shouldn’t need more for a good long time – but I can still smell other dishes around the room. For example, the dwarf’s shield is particularly pungent. …You did know his shield was magic, right?”

Einarr laughed in spite of himself, nodding. “Yes, I know.”

“Best get hunting, if you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff.” Vali waggled his eyebrows, but Einarr knew all but one of them better than that. Still, though, Runa was sitting up now, apparently unharmed, and they were still in a hurry.

The others had finally lit torches, having deemed the dull glow of the walls insufficient for the search. Jorir knelt off to one side, fingering a piece of maille with what looked like glee in his eyes. Curious, Einarr wandered over.

“Something good?” He asked as he approached his man-at-arms.

Jorir glanced over at him, chortling. “Good timing, milord. Here, try this on.”

The maille that Jorir tossed at Einarr – tossed, as though it were some linen tunic! – glinted gold in the torchlight. Einarr reached out with both hands, scrambling to catch it. The maille shirt landed with a strangely musical rattle and spilled over the sides of his hands, but did not fall. It was shockingly light.

“What’s this now?” Einarr turned the maille about in his hands until he could hold it up by the shoulders.

“Something to replace that battered hunk of iron you call maille, my Lord,” Jorir chuckled, then went on. “That is maille forged by the smiths of Brokkr, strengthened by powdered diamonds and lightened by the bristles of the golden boar. You’ll not find better steel anywhere. It’s said that even the failures from the forges of Brokkr were infused with magic, and that is no failure.”

“I can’t -” Einarr started to protest.

“Yes, you can. I found it, and I am presenting it to my liege lord because I’d like to keep him alive. I can’t tell you what the magic in it does, but no ordinary blade will get past Brokkrsteel.”

Einarr paused, staring at the dwarf. “Thank you,” he said finally.

Jorir grinned at him, looking for all the world like the cat that got the cream, and wandered off to continue the search. It was more than a little strange to see a reaction like that from the normally staid Jorir. Einarr shrugged: he would get it from his liege man eventually. In the meantime, there was treasure to be had.

***

In addition to Einarr’s new maille that delighted Jorir so well, they found a shield for Arkja, a pair of small axes for Irding and another for Erik, and a helm nearly as nice as the maille that would fit Jorir’s head but not Einarr’s. There were other goods, but none so practical. Runa claimed for herself a bit of jewelry, rubies set in gold, and the rest would be presented to Stigander with the rest of the treasure from the island. Their haul divided, they set forth toward the already laden Gestrisni.

Some hours later than when they had entered, they emerged blinking into the sunlight of the tiny cove. Einarr carried Vali’s jar under one arm, his old maille in the same hand, as they went to rejoin the rest of the crew. The new maille, he thought, would take some getting used to: he could barely tell he was wearing it, and in the light of the sun the golden sheen of the metal was almost distracting.

Vali himself walked along the shore with them, doing a credible impersonation of the living so long as one did not look too closely. His feet never quite seemed to meet the ground, and if one stared too intently one could see through him. Still, though, under the circumstances it seemed best not to ask the others to accept a ghost into their midst. Not yet, anyway.

Up ahead, on the beach, the remainder of Arkja’s gang of would-be bandits sat about on the beach tending to their gear and watching the boat primarily by being in its vicinity. Einarr sighed: while this island was likely safe, that would not long be the case. He would have to have a word with them. He raised an arm in greeting and hailed the men.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


Hi everyone. Thanks for reading!

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 ebook 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.