Stigander smiled approvingly at Einarr, but held his peace for the moment. This, too, was as they had agreed. Nor did Bollinn speak up immediately, although Jarl Hroaldr and Thane Thorgnyr had already, privately, committed to the venture. They were forgoing the honor of being “first” to join in order to better gauge the reactions of the other clans.

There was a long pause following the end of his speech. Einarr scanned the room. As his eyes passed over Tore, he saw the Captain glance at his own lord, the Jarl Grimwald – a man with a stony face and hair as steely as his eyes. Grimwald ducked his chin, a motion so quick and slight that Einarr nearly missed it.

Tore rose. “The Sterkerbjorn of Hrafnhaugr will sail.”

If Hrafnhaugr was anything like Kjell, they might only have two or three ships to their name. It was interesting that Jarl Grimwald looked to no man before agreeing, though: unaffiliated jarls were unusual.

Two or three others added their ships to the fleet: Einarr watched Serk. He had actually taken less persuading than Tore had, but Thane Olaf still seemed reluctant. Or, rather, stubborn: Einarr knew a mulish look when he saw one.

Now Bollinn stood. “The Skudbrun sails. We, too, have fought these monsters before – and I assure you, that is not an overstatement. Even the ones who look like men are not: the moment they feel threatened, they may sprout tentacles anywhere on their body, and their blood is as black as night and as poisonous as Loki’s serpent.”

Thane Thorgnyr inclined his head. “Aye. And the Skudbrun of Kjell will not be alone. I was accompanied here by five ships of Geittoft. Word has reached us of these villains from places other than Kjell, and we will gladly throw our strength behind the Cursebreaker and his quest.”

More men threw their lot with Einarr, now – some of them without ships of their own, and still Serk watched for a sign from his Thane.

At last, as the flurry was dying down, Serk practically leapt to his feet. His hands were clenched into fists, and even so, Einarr thought he could see those fists quivering. “Whether or no Sweindalr sails with you, the Björtstag does!”

Thane Olaf whirled on his Captain, fury writ large in every muscle, but before he could speak Serk went on.

“Perhaps you did not see, milord. You stayed aboard when we stopped at Kaldreik… but the things that had been done, there. You are my Thane. You may forbid my crew, or my ship, but should you attempt to forbid me I will be forsworn. I cannot let this rest.”

“You would throw your weight behind one bunch of fools, who merely rush off to clean the mess begun by another group of fools? Not one of the cities we have spoken of would have fallen if it weren’t for that thrice-cursed League and their insanity.”

Serk’s voice dropped, although it was still plainly audible across the Althing. “Not so, my lord. Do I go alone, on a personal quest, or will you allow the Björtstag to bring a portion of the glory home to Sweindalr?|

Thane Olaf spat. “Have it your way. But know this: should Sweindalr fall, ‘twill be on your own head!”

Serk bowed to his Thane.

Stigander cleared his throat, amused. “You have my thanks, all of you. To the already assembled fleet, Breidelstein will add five ships above the Heidrun, including my very own Vidofnir. We have no reason to believe the church of Malùnion knows we’re coming, but we should still assume that time is not on our side. The sheer number of settlements which have been massacred since the fall of Kem is proof enough of that. The longer we take, the more clans will fall. The fleet will assemble at Blávík in one month’s time. Two weeks later, we will sail for the stronghold of Malùnion.”

Thane Geirleif took a moment to scan the assembled crowd. “Does anyone care to object to this course of action?”

No-one spoke.

“Very well then. May the gods go with you all.”


All told, more than fifty ships arrived at Blávík, representing more than fifteen clans. Several groups of freeboaters arrived, as well, having heard of what was happening and willing to help for coin or glory or both. Thrand, when they entered his home port, went ashore under heavy guard and led the crew of the Heidrun to the place where he had always met with the League.

It was empty.

Thrand stood, agape, at the warehouse that he claimed had once housed the League’s operations. “I don’t understand.”

Einarr shook his head. “Kaldr was here while the Heidrun was in Kem. He said they were still in the city then. Let’s have a look around. Maybe we’ll learn something that way.”

When Einarr had been here before, the League had been a major force within the city – major enough that they were able to use the local lord’s resources to attempt to press-gang himself and all of his crew. Now, though? At some point between when Kaldr left and when the fleet arrived, they had apparently vanished into thin air. Einarr pressed his lips together, thinking.

“I’ll ask Father to pay a visit to lord Illugi – that was his name, wasn’t it? Surely, if this is his settlement, he would know what happened to such a large company of freeboaters.”

Thrand blanched. “Perhaps. But… but our Prince always seemed to have a hold on the jarl. He might know something… or he might be gone, too.”

Einarr stood studying Thrand for a long moment. “The men who crewed your ships for your raids. Did they… have anything in common?”

“Of course! We were the best sailors, and the most earnest. Why?”

“Oh, no reason.” He couldn’t exactly tell Thrand that they’d been sent away to die, to get them out of their leader’s way. “Nevertheless, we’ll have Father try, and Hrug and I will see what we can find out with the bones. I’d hoped to bring your fellows along with us, so they could help clean up their own mess, but if that’s not possible then I suppose we’ll have to make do without.” Einarr patted Thrand on the shoulder and started the walk back towards the docks and the Heidrun’s berth.

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

So begins 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 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.

 

The guard identified as Magnyl hit the ground with a thump, caught unawares by Einarr’s attack. His comrades were not so slow-witted, though. Before their fellow had even come back to his feet, Einarr had kicked out to take one in the teeth and dropped his elbow on the skull of another. They did not draw their weapons: evidently, they wanted their captives as intact as possible. Einarr was just as glad: he could have fought barehanded against a pack of dvergr, but he rated his chances of survival as much better if he didn’t have to.

One of the dvergr unleashed a nasty kick to the back of Einarr’s knee and nearly dropped him to the ground. In his momentary stumble, another planted his fist directly under Einarr’s ribs. That one hurt. Einarr took the opportunity, as he rose, to jab the perpetrator in the eye. This was a knock-down street brawl, nothing more, nothing less, and he meant what he’d said, that they would have to take him seriously to take him in. Never mind that he had turned himself in. This would be pointless if it didn’t mitigate at least some of the terror the Thane’s men were inflicting on the city.

Einarr punched and kicked and bit and gouged, and used every dirty trick he knew, but in the end, it was still one against ten. And, when they pinned him to the ground and bound his hands behind his back, he was battered and bruised. He thought one of them may have managed to break one of his teeth with a well-aimed kick as he fell. Still, through the swelling of his cheek, Einarr smiled. This wasn’t quite how the plan was supposed to go, but it was a satisfying result.

The dvergr stood him back up without gagging him and he grinned. As they marched through the streets towards the Thane’s hall, even now he did not go quietly. As they went, he proclaimed for all to hear that he was the Cursebreaker, brought by one of their own to end this madness – all according to the script they had discussed. Runa had composed the words for him.

“I am Einarr, son of Stigander, son of Raen, prince of Breidelstein, named Cursebreaker! I am here at the behest of Jorir the Smith, to drive out the false gods that have led you astray!”

This earned him cuffs and kicks, and they could have brought him down, had they all piled on again, to gag him – but for some strange reason (possibly because of their audience) they were unwilling to do that. Einarr schooled his face, but in the back of his mind he chuckled. Even the Acolytes and Enforcers of Malùnion had to worry about public opinion.

Finally they arrived back at the Thane’s hall. Einarr was only mildly surprised to find he was taken here, rather than to the Mount. He supposed that said good things about the effects of their assault the other night. They marched him up before the Thane and gave a violent tug upon the bindings that held his wrists so that it was kneel or be bent backwards. Now he flashed a deliberately cocky grin. “So we meet again, your lordship.”

“Silence!” the grey-skinned Thane bellowed. “So. You claim responsibility for the chaos in the streets and for the unprovoked assault on the Holy Mount? Why, after you escaped, you would throw your life away on such a thing I could not guess. But, if you wish so much to be sacrificed to Malùnion, we will grant your wish. On the next auspicious day, there will be a great purge, and the mountain will flow with blood!”

Uh-oh, Einarr thought. I hope I at least bought time for some people to get away. This isn’t the sort of thing they will do without announcing – not according to Gheldram. I just hope my friends are in place early in the proceedings…


Jorir trailed Einarr as far as the gates of the Thane’s hall. He would have tailed him all the way in if he dared, but there was no way to sneak into the Hall itself without being seen. Jennora was still here, and still uncorrupted so far as they knew, so he would just have to trust in her wits. He had a view inside the gates from where he stood in the street, but she was nowhere to be seen. Probably for the best, although he would have liked to speak with her more. With a mental shrug, Jorir continued along his path, taking the first cross-street he came to and circling back towards the bathhouse.

Brandir, he was sure, would have been shocked. After all this time in human lands, Jorir was almost as good at slipping away unnoticed as Mornik was.

When he returned, the others didn’t look his way until he – rather ostentatiously – beat at some dust on his cloak.

Runa wrung her hands. “It is done, then?”

“Aye, so it is. Nothing to do now but wait for news from Jennora.”

“That’s not quite true,” Brandir rumbled.

“You’re right. Einarr made a stink to keep Soggvar’s posses from catching anyone else. We need to start smuggling people out of Nilthiad.”

Gheldram shook his head. “Just as you told the Lady Runa before, Jorir. Just because there is a part of the plan you do not like does not mean it isn’t critical.”

“If our allies cannot reach a safe house on their own, they will simply have to hide in their own homes until the appointed time.” Brandir finished. Kaldr nodded in agreement.

Gheldram sighed. “They will make a show out of sacrificing your Cursebreaker. He may not be first, but he will be early, so as many people as possible witness it. We will simply need to be in place to act early in the rites. We have wagon loads of spare axes: the people will be ready.”

Jorir ran a hand through his hair, looking at the floor. “I still don’t like the idea of throwing away Lord Einarr’s efforts like this.”

Brandir shook his head. “Lord Einarr. Hmph. So, you’ll be leaving with the humans, then.”

“I will. That’s my home, now.”

“Jennora will be disappointed.”

“Whyever for?” She was a comely lass, and a clever one, and Jorir couldn’t for the life of him fathom why she would still be carrying a torch for him.

“You know why. But, long absence or no, I think I know when your mind is made up. She’ll just have to come to terms with it.” Now Brandir sighed. “I think that’s enough talk. There’s work to be done yet.”

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.

 

That priest wouldn’t have come alone, or even just with a single attendant. Einarr and his companions clattered up the stairs, abandoning all pretense of stealth in favor of speed. When they emerged into the hallway, however, they found themselves in the middle of a swarm of grey-skinned acolytes. The passage was packed almost too tightly to fight. Probably the priest had been unsure what was happening, and they awaited some sort of signal. They didn’t get their signal, but they got something “better:” fresh meat.

With a shout, the acolytes fell upon Einarr and his friends. Down the hallway, over the clamor of their own fight, Einarr could just make out the sounds of another battle going on. That must be Jorir, Einarr thought. He turned to face the sound of the other battle and lashed out at the closest dvergr in his path. “This way!”

It had been a long time since Einarr found himself in this sort of a scrum, but not so long that he had missed it. He found, however, that the rhythm which had served him so well against the svartalfrs on his way to the docks in their fortress, and against the revenants of the Althane, once again worked to his advantage here.

He stood shoulder to shoulder with Naudrek and Thjofgrir and Kaldr, with Runa protected in the middle, and they made their way, step by hacking step, slowly towards their dvergr friends and the exit where they had agreed to meet.

The trouble with this sort of extreme close-quarters fighting was that it was slow, and over time you were certain to become injured. If you let it go on too long, it could become death by a thousand cuts. This was compounded by the fact that every time they struck an enemy they had no way to shield themselves from the corrupting black blood. Einarr already began to feel unwell, although he could not say for certain if it was only in his own mind. Thankfully, with their ring of blades, Runa was not being exposed. Also thankfully, Einarr was much stronger than the last time he had faced a wave of enemies such as this.

After what felt like hours, but couldn’t have been, they reached the place where Jorir and his kin stood with their backs to the secret passage, securing the way out.

The dvergr looked awful. They were splattered with quantities of the black blood and covered in small slashes besides. Their eyes were bloodshot. Mornik, standing behind the other three, struggled to suppress a cough. Jorir’s face brightened when he saw Einarr and his crew cut their way through the last rank of enemies to join them.

“Get inside!” Einarr ordered. “We’ll close the door behind us!”

“Thank you!” Jorir gasped, and the four dwarves blocking the entrance backed further up into it. Runa was next, followed by Einarr and Kaldr, and then with a final slash Thjofgrir kicked the support and the door fell closed behind them. A shriek of pain and rage came from the other side: Einarr guessed that the heavy stone door had caught one of them.

The closed-off passageway suddenly seemed very quiet, compared to the bedlam they had just left. Einarr took a deep breath. “Everyone in one piece?”

“More or less.” Gheldram offered a wan, wry smile.

“What happened to you guys?”

“One o’ their cursed beasts,” Brandir spat. “And then, in spite of everything, I’ll swear ta ye that all the acolytes here were in that damned hallway.”

“You didn’t see anyone down there?” Kaldr was incredulous.

“Just a snake as thought we were mice,” Jorir answered. “And only that after I decided to apply a little fire to the situation.”

Mornik coughed, underscoring the point.

In spite of himself, Einarr snapped. “Then where in Hel’s lair is that shaman?”

Jorir shook his head. “I think I know where we’ll find him… but if we go tonight, we’ll only kill ourselves. Even assuming he would be there at this time of night.”

Runa put a hand gently on Einarr’s arm – careful to avoid the inky splatters. “He’s right, Einarr. Not one of us is in any condition to fight right now. We need a quiet place to recover.”

Einarr looked at the delicate fingers that somehow deigned to reach for him, not quite comprehending at first. “You’re right, of course. Brandir, if we get back to the bathhouse, will they let us rest there again?”

After a long moment’s thought, he nodded. “She’s dependable. I can lead the way, but… we’re going to need you big folk to make sure we all make it in one piece. That beast nearly did us in.”

“It would be an honor.”


Their infiltration had taken long enough that the unrest in the streets had mostly calmed by the time they left the temple district, but it seemed to have taken its toll on the Thane’s men as much as it did on the uncorrupted dvergr. The streets were deserted, and they did not pass a single lighted window. They moved as quickly and as quietly as they could, but by the end of it Gheldram was supporting Mornik – the smaller dvergr seemed to have taken the worst of it.

When they arrived at the familiar bathhouse, Einarr thought for a moment the proprietress was going to turn them away. That is, until she caught sight of Mornik. Based on her reaction, Einarr thought they might be more than simply friends.

Once she spotted him, she clapped both hands to her mouth in a familiar gesture of shock and ushered the party of nine into the baths. She cast a sidelong look at Runa as she passed, but when Runa twined her arm about Einarr’s she was evidently satisfied.

“Have you a stock of medicinal herbs?” Runa asked as the last of the men stumbled into the bathing room.

“Some, yes. Why? What happened to them?”

Runa just shook her head, even as she scribbled a list of herbs on a scrap of paper from her pack. “Can you get me these? As much as you can, please.”

The dvergr woman lowered her brows as she read the list. “Aye, I have some of these. Some others I might be able to find in the market on the morrow – if you’ve the coin for them. These are all…”

“Purifiers, yes. I’ll gladly pay for what you can provide. As much as you can bring, please.”

The proprietress nodded slowly. “Since it’s for Mornik. Give me a few minutes, I’ll fetch some from my stores.”

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.

 

Jorir sat on a large block in Brandir’s smithy, pressing his hands against his knees to keep from pacing. As he had feared, the situation now was far worse than when he had left.

That was fine. It would be fine: he had found the Cursebreaker. All he had to do now was convince the Thane to let him come. Now if only he hadn’t had to slip off like that…

Brandir hammered away on the axe head he was working on – had been since Jorir had landed more than two months ago. Two months since he’d landed. And still, Thane Soggvar had kept him cooling his heels here in Nilthiad. At least he’d been able to make contact with his friends.

The smiths of the Guild – the young ones, who had not been seduced by the fancies of old men and remained true to their Art – were still biding their time. After Jorir had been caught and cursed they had all formed an agreement. Only, he worried he had taken too long. Jorir grumbled. “He went so far as to summon me back. The least he could do is tell me why.”

“I’m shocked you came. He found you, he wanted you back. I highly doubt he actually wants anything else from you.”

“Bah. If he found me, he could find my human friends, and it was time I came back anyway.”

“So you’ve said. Not that you’d ever get permission to bring humans here.”

“Bah,” Jorir said again, hopping down off the block.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Out.” Perhaps he had grown too used to the human way of doing things, but he thought it reasonable to be restless at this point.

“Nothing is going to have changed with the others, either, you realize.”

“I know. I just need to stretch my legs a bit.”

The door shut with a thud behind Jorir. All he could hear from inside the smithy was the striking of Brandir’s hammer. He briefly considered paying a visit to another one of his fellows, but discarded the idea. It was probable that he would be followed, after all, and there wasn’t really any good to be done by a visit. They’d already discussed their plans into the ground. Instead, he went wandering out toward the outskirts of the city. To the temple district.

All around him, his fellow svartdvergr went about as though nothing were amiss. At least, not on the surface.

Oh, he heard the usual background chatter. People appeared to be living their lives, just as they always had. But nothing felt normal. The svartdvergr had always been rougher-edged than their paler counterparts, but that prickly spirit seemed to be gone now. In its place was a quiet stillness as black as the ocean’s depths. Jorir shuddered: just thinking about it made his skin crawl.

He turned at the next cross-street. He would head for the local brewhouse for a pint, or maybe two. It wouldn’t help, but it was at least something to do.


As Jorir settled down at a small table in the corner of the room, a carved bone stein between his hands, he thought it might be worse than unhelpful. Even here, somehow, the black alienation pricked and prodded at the back of his mind, as though there were something malevolent sitting in the shadows and watching.

Now you’re just being paranoid. He shook his head and took a sip of the ale in his cup, then nearly spat it back out. Warm piss? Suddenly wary again, he scanned the room slowly. As his glance traveled, the few other patrons in the brewhouse hastily averted their eyes from him. So that’s how it is. With a sigh, he lay down a coin on the table – more than that slop was worth, but he didn’t care. He knew those stares: he was being watched – but not by anything hidden. He was recognized, and he didn’t particularly feel like brawling.

Almost ostentatiously, he hooked his thumbs over his belt and sauntered toward the exit. He kept his eyes half-lidded so that he could watch from the corners of his eyes, but it didn’t seem like anyone else in the room cared enough to pick a fight, either.

Why did I come back? The more he thought about it, the more certain he was that Brandir was right. The Thane didn’t have any use for Jorir, Soggvar just wanted him under his thumb. Please don’t let Einarr have done anything stupid.

When he got back to Brandir’s, the door was open. Jorir heard the officious tone of a royal messenger through the open door. Instinctively, he put his back to the wall and stood out of sight, listening.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know where he went.” Brandir’s voice was carefully neutral.

“And yet, he is your responsibility. His Lordship the Thane would speak with the exile: if the exile cannot be found, I suppose that means you intend to explain yourself? Perhaps he will be merciful.” The messenger’s voice was sneering and nasal, and didn’t even attempt to veil the threat behind those words.

Jorir is a friend, not my prisoner.” Brandir bristled audibly.

Jorir chose that moment to reveal himself. “And it is quite true he did not know where I was going. I did not know it myself.”

The supercilious dvergr turned. He was shorter than Jorir, and showed an alarming lack of muscle, and yet he still managed to look down his nose at them both. “His Lordship, Thane Soggvar, and his Holiness Thalkham, High Priest of Malúnion, have decided to reward your patience, exile. Present yourself before your Thane at midday tomorrow.” His piece said, the dvergr turned and strode out, brushing past Jorir as though he were inanimate.

Jorir looked at Brandir.

Brandir looked back levelly. “You don’t actually intend to go, do you?”

“I’m not sure I have much choice.”

“You know he only intends to humiliate you.”

“I’ve put myself in service to a human, Brandir. For the century before that, I was a jotun’s thrall. I’m not sure what shame he could heap on me that I haven’t already inflicted on myself. …And it’s my only chance to ask leave to bring the Cursebreaker.”

Brandir sighed. “Have it your way. I’m still not convinced a Cursebreaker is going to do us any good. Our problem is foolish old men, not Black Arts.”

For the first time in what felt like a long time, Jorir smiled. “I think… you might find it more relevant than it first appears.”

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.

 

Fighting a Kraken was a losing proposition, ordinarily, even in a longship with a full crew. Einarr didn’t want to think about what their chances were in the Villgås, with only the six of them. Five, really: Runa’s queasiness had not been helped by their abrupt maneuvers. That also meant, of course, that they could not count on her to bolster their stamina for the flight.

All of this ran through Einarr’s mind in the split second after the odor of rotting fish assaulted his nose. The last time he had encountered a kraken, Hrug had devised a clever ritual to destroy the beast’s corruption. This one, at least, seemed to be of the ordinary variety. If they could run quickly enough, they might be able to dodge its grasping tentacles.

“Kaldr! Trade me!”

Wordlessly, Kaldr scrambled back to the stern to take control of the rudder. He probably had the instincts to dodge the hungry beast, but the man’s true strength was in forethought. Einarr, though, had outlived all but one of the Cursebreakers he had ever heard of. More than once he had spotted a way through and taken it without realizing that’s what he was doing. If he was going to gamble on someone’s instincts, it would be his own.

Ahead of them, the sea still churned. Behind them, the whirling maelstrom still grabbed at the Villgås, threatening to turn them back and suck them into the maw of the beast.

“Vali! Up high. Tell me what you see.”

“Aye-aye!”

The water off their starboard bow bubbled as though something big were moving just beneath it. “Port twenty-five!”

The ship groaned as her course was abruptly changed, but there could be no faulting her alacrity. The blue-grey tentacle burst up out of the water as they were rowing past it and crashed back into the roiling water, sluicing their deck with foul-smelling water once more.

“Ease off, Kaldr.” They had a clear path forward now.

“No!” Vali’s shout rang across the water as his translucent figure zipped back towards the deck. “Turn about!”

Einarr lowered his brows. “You want me to go back towards the maelstrom’s heart?”

“Better than rowing straight into the maw of the beast. We’re dead-center over the body right now.”

That didn’t make any sense. “Then what’s causing the maelstrom?”

“Not the kraken!”

Einarr swore. “You heard him! Bring us around!”

Another tentacle burst out from under the water’s surface just ahead of the Villgås’s original path. It, too, crashed down into the water, and the waves of its fall rocked the boat precipitously.

“Runa!”

“Y-yes?” She sounded miserable – not that he was surprised under the circumstances.

“My bow, and some arrows. Unless you want to be squid food, I need them now, and you’re the only one who can get them.”

He heard a noise that could have been a groan and could have been agreement. It took far longer than he liked, as he called instructions back to Kaldr for their heading, but as they neared the narrow strait Vali said would be safe to sail through she stumbled up beside him. She held out his bow in one hand and the quiver in the other and offered a wan smile.

“Thank you,” he said even as he strung the bow. “Get back amidships. We’ll get through.”

She nodded and stumbled back the way she’d come, clutching her stomach. He sincerely hoped this would not last.

Then began the tense work of breaking free. Einarr stood at the prow, an arrow nocked, and called out directions to Kaldr on the steering oar and Naudrek and Thjofgrir on the oars. Vali provided him eyes in the sky, which was invaluable for getting them through the ever-changing narrow strait between the maw of the beast and the maw of the sea. Occasionally a tentacle would come too close to the Villgås. Einarr only shot if they were in imminent danger of being capsized, but those shots let the kraken know there was something there. The more he shot, the more often he had to shoot.

After what felt like an eternity, when he was down to a single arrow in his quiver, he saw calm waters ahead. A quick glance around confirmed it: one more push should get them past hunting kraken and maelstrom alike. “Lash her steady, Kaldr!” He called over his shoulder. “Lash her steady, and take an oar!”

Einarr dropped his arrow back in its quiver, tossed the bow over his shoulder, and rushed to the oar that would be opposite Kaldr’s. A moment later, he was joined by his Mate for the voyage.

“Hang on, Runa. Double-quick time, men! One last push will see us free!”
Einarr and Kaldr put their backs into it, rowing as hard as they could for the open waters ahead of this impossible strait.

A shadow dimmed the light of the sun: Einarr risked a glance over his shoulder.
The kraken had not given up yet. A tentacle rose high above them, and was about to come plunging down on their deck.

“Faster!”

He had not been certain it was actually possible, but somehow they managed to coax just a little more speed out of the Villgås. The tentacle crashed into the roiling water behind them, and the waves of its fall sent them airborn, just for a moment. They landed with a splash that doused all of them once more, washing away most of the fish smell from the deck, and the wind caught their sail once more. The Villgås sailed on.

Naudrek pulled his oar in and sat down with a thump, catching his breath. Thjofgrir also looked winded. Einarr went straight to where Runa leaned against the mast. Her color was already better, and he smiled at her. “Anyone care to venture a guess as to where that came from?”

Runa sat up. “I couldn’t say for certain, but I think that was a guardian. I think we’re getting close.”

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.

 

Author’s note: This marks the end of Book 11, if you hadn’t already guessed. Book 12 will pick up near the end of the honeymoon on 3/23/2021. (Fun fact: this is literally where the term ‘honeymoon’ comes from. The newlyweds were expected to drink mead all through their first month of marriage, as it was thought to increase fertility.)

Einarr stood impatiently behind his father as Stigander took possession of Runa’s dowry. Hroaldr already had the bride price – the Isinntog had been at Kjell since Einarr recovered it, held in surety against the day Einarr proved his merit. He tried not to bounce on his toes with impatience as first Hroaldr and then Stigander spoke at length before what appeared to be half the court and no small number of the Vidofnings.

When, at last, they sealed the bargain with a handshake, the two old friends also clapped each other on the shoulder with a grin. Hroaldr, it seemed, had relaxed considerably since the Usurper had been deposed. Einarr was just as glad: the idea of constantly being at odds with his father-in-law was unappealing, to say the least. Then he shook Hroaldr’s hand, and finally it was time for the procession to the altar.

The ceremony was to be held in the very same field where the Weavings had been destroyed last summer. Only now, in place of a bonfire, they had erected an altar. In the center of the table at the back was Thor’s hammer, cast in silver. On the front corner in the right was Freya’s chariot, worked in gold filigree, and in the left-hand corner the golden boar of Freyr. It seemed like everyone in Breidelstein must have come up the cliff, and that wasn’t even counting the guests who had come from Kjell.

They, however, were little more than a blurred mass in Einarr’s consciousness. He scanned up the aisle until his eyes reached the only person in attendance he actually cared about. There, standing next to the priest, was Runa.

His breath caught in his throat. She was wearing scarlet, with a gold tabard that matched exactly the gold of her hair and a belt of green and gold that hinted at her soft curves. Her hair hung loose down past her hips, and the bridal crown on her head was garlanded with red campion and holly. He blinked, and a slow smile spread over his face as he approached his bride. When he took her hands in his, she smiled back sweetly – almost shyly.

Then the priest began to speak. Einarr paid very little attention: he knew what he was supposed to say, and when, and at this moment he wanted little so much as to drink in the beauty before him. Hesitantly, he put up a hand to tuck her hair behind an ear, just for an excuse to touch it.

After they were all anointed with the blood of the triple sacrifice – Thor’s goat, Freya’s sow, and Freyr’s boar – and the carcasses had been carted off to be butchered and roasted, Einarr drew Ragnar’s sword from its sheath on his baldric and offered the hilt to Runa.

Her eyes moved up the blade from the hilt to the tip, seeking imperfection and finding none. Jorir had seen to its physical perfection, and he as a rune seithir and the Cursebreaker could feel no lingering malevolence. Almost reverently she accepted the sword.

Then it was her turn. The sword she had just accepted from Einarr was rested, momentarily, against the altar in exchange for the sword that probably would have been presented to her mother, once upon a time. He palmed the ring, waiting.

“In the exchange of blades, each of you has accepted that you hold power over one another,” the priest intoned. “But the power to wound cannot make or maintain a marriage. You need also the bonds of honor, of commitment, and of good regard. Hold forth your swords, both of you, and if you accept these bonds place your rings on the other’s blade.”

Smoothly, as though it were a motion she’d practiced a hundred times, Runa once again lifted the longsword before her, the flat of the blade level with the ground. Almost as one, they each reached forward with one hand to rest a ring on the other’s sword. Hers was a delicate band of intertwining gold and silver, set with flakes of ruby. Jorir really outdid himself. His was thicker gold, bearing the patina of age and engraved, inside, with the runes for ‘enduring.’

“Swear now upon the rings you have presented one another, that you will honor one another in all things, that you will strive for harmony, and that each of you will care for and protect the other for so long as you both shall live.”

His hand resting on the ring on the blade of the sword, Einarr looked straight into Runa’s eyes. “I swear it.”

“I swear it,” she echoed.

“Then, in the presence of witnesses and before the gods, I pronounce you man and wife. Don your rings and sheathe your swords and let the bride-running commence!”

Einarr could hear laughter in the priest’s voice as he slipped the ring on Runa’s finger. Ordinarily he would not be the one to announce that, but it seemed as though even the priest was looking forward to the feast. He smiled but otherwise took his time. “If it feels too loose, we can take it back to Jorir.”

“It’s lovely. …This was my grandfather’s ring, which he gave to Mother on his death-bed, and she gave to me for this very day.”

Einarr grunted his understanding. Tearing his gaze away from her face to sheathe her sword was almost physically painful: he made up for it by planting a kiss on her mouth afterwards, to the sound of much cheering from the crowd. Then, while she stood still surprised, he grinned out at the audience. “Loser’s party serves the ale!”

As he bolted down the aisle, he heard her indignant cry of “Wait!”

Einarr laughed and ran harder. It was tradition, after all: he had to beat her there, or who would carry her over the threshold?


Jorir sat on the edges of the feast, watching his lord – and new lady – at the head of the room with a wistful look. They, of course, only had eyes for each other, and after the first cups of mead Jorir couldn’t tell if they were drunk or besotted. Or both, he supposed.

After the hallingdanse, where Sivid once again handily outshone all competitors – although Einarr strutted about some for Runa’s amusement, he could hardly be called a competitor tonight – a red-faced Einarr and a rather giggly Runa fell into a whispered conversation. Very soon, she was also red-faced. Well: that was his cue. Jorir rose and whispered in the ears of the six witnesses – Naudrek, Hrug, Irding, Reki, Aema, and the priestess of Freya – that it was time. Eydri, he noticed, was sitting in the darkest corner of the hall, looking even more wistful than he felt. None of my business.

Runa left first, while he was still signaling the witnesses to the bridal chamber. Not that anyone really doubted, of course, but there were always formalities to fulfill. Once Einarr had left the hall, Jorir waited another handful of minutes and slipped out himself. His pack was ready and waiting, and down in the harbor was a ship that would take him the one place he least wished to go.

Home.


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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.

Dawn came far too quickly for Einarr’s liking. He almost wished he hadn’t bothered to sleep. And yet, he and Hrug had come up against a blank wall. There simply didn’t seem to be anything else to learn from the ruby. So far as either of them could tell, the only magic about it was the rune that glowed in its center, promising misfortune to whoever saw it.

He sat up with a groan and looked about their camp: Finn had sat up for the watch after the battle the night before. He looked haggard, but there was no reason he couldn’t sleep later that morning. Naudrek, on the other hand, had been sensible. When it was plain there would be no further attack by the accursed dead, he had curled up to catch what sleep he could. He, too, sat up from his blanket near the fire, looking somewhat more alert than Einarr felt.

“Morning,” Einarr yawned.

“Morning. Ready to face your great-grandfather?”

“Do I have a choice? Anyone know if draugr sleep during the day, or do they just lurk?”

No-one answered. Eydri and Hrug were still asleep. Troa, who seemed to know more about them than some of the others, shrugged.

“Right. So, we’d best get moving. Troa, I want you to stay here and help protect the seithir. Naudrek and I should be more than enough to get the door open, and I have to go in alone anyway.”

Today, at least, he didn’t argue. The attack last night must worry him, too. “Yes, sir.”

Einarr and Naudrek shared out some jerky and set out on the same path they had followed the morning before. When they arrived, all was as it had been when they left, save that the soil above the doorpost had been freshly churned. For a long moment, Einarr stared at the stone which sealed the entrance to Ragnar’s barrow. Finally he took a long breath.

“Ready?” Naudrek asked.

“Would I be this nervous if I wasn’t the Cursebreaker?”

“On this island? More, or you’d be a fool.”

Einarr gave his friend a wan smile. “Thanks. I’m as ready as I can be, I think.”

They crouched and put their shoulders to the massive marker stone. With a heave and a groan they pushed, and the entryway slowly inched open. Finally, when both men were winded and sweat dripped down their brows in the cool morning, the door stood open into darkness like a gaping maw.

“Good luck. I will watch out here.”

Einarr clapped his shoulder. “My thanks.”

He gave himself no further time to deliberate. Einarr pivoted on the balls of his feet and stepped across the threshold into the darkness of the barrow.

The difference was absolute. The – admittedly wan – morning light of Thorndjupr penetrated as though through a thick curtain. Einarr paused a moment, blinking, and slowly his eyes adjusted to the gloom.

To his right and his left, he saw what looked like piles of armor resting against the wall. Just past that were urns with staves sticking out like bristles – likely spear shafts, actually. Einarr took another step forward, and then another. The hall of treasure went on far further than Einarr had thought possible, based on the size of the mound.

Up ahead, something shifted. A metallic clinking, as of coins sliding across each other, followed the movement. Einarr froze and squinted, trying to make out forms deeper in the darkness.

“So, finally you come.” The voice was dry and raspy as sand.

“It took me a great deal of trouble to find you.”

“So what business does the get of my worthless son have in my home? Come to finish the job?”

“Raen Ragnarsson is a hero to our clan. Is, note: your son still lives, in spite of everything.”

A sound like rustling leaves carried through the darkness, and it took Einarr a moment to realize the creature was laughing. “Hero. Bah. That sounds just like him. Heroism doesn’t keep the coffers full.”

“And yet. Here I stand, your great-grandson, to claim your sword as a bridegift as the tradition requires. If I must fight you for it, I have prepared.”

The creature that had been Ragnar stood and walked forward. Its eyes seemed to shine in the darkness, far higher than the eyes of any man should be. The deeper darkness that was its body was massive, its broad shoulders half again as tall as Einarr, with thick-sinewed legs to match. “Have you, now, my boy? Have you really?”

The creature stopped just in front of Einarr. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but it seemed as though its flesh were actually black. Even still, Einarr met its gaze unflinchingly.

“Your bride would not thank you for the gift of that sword, get of Raen, nor would your own get when he grew to claim it. Mind you, I am not over-fond of the thing either after all these years.”

Einarr let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “If you tell me it is cursed, I will tell you I expected that as well.”

The creature laughed again. “And why, praytell, would you expect such a thing?”

“I have met the people of the town, and seen the state of your island, and read the records in your hold. I am still not entirely clear what happened to cause Raen to be driven off, but I know you were a faithless host.”

The creature snorted and turned around. “I did nothing out of the ordinary. But even if that were the case, what did you expect to do about such a curse?”

“For nearly three years now, I have been known as the Cursebreaker. Either I will cleanse the blade, or I will die.”


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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.

The serving boy – who, if Einarr guessed aright, couldn’t be more than 12, hugged his tray against himself and backed away from Einarr and his party.

“Now, now. We’re not angry about anything.” Although some would be about biting down on a rock, especially with as uninspired as the broth was.

“D-d-d- Da!” He shouted over his shoulder, in the direction of the kitchen. Einarr sighed. He hated dealing with insular islands. They always made things harder than they needed to be.

A little later, after Einarr, Eydri, and Naudrek had sipped silently at their thin soup for a while, a middle-aged man came blustering out behind the serving boy. He was broad-shouldered: in any other land, he would have been large. Here, the shoulders looked outsized on his too-thin chest. His greasy black hair was tied back in a ponytail, and anger roiled on his sallow brow like an uncertain thunderstorm.

“What is the meaning of this?” the man spluttered. “My boy has done nothing to cause offense.”

“Never said he had,” Einarr answered smoothly. “Although you might want to speak to your miller. I nearly broke a tooth on that bread.”

The man drew himself up straighter. “Made from the finest flour on island.”

Einarr quirked an eyebrow. “I’m sorry to hear that. But I stopped your boy to ask some questions: we just landed, you see, and we don’t know our way around.”

The man immediately slumped back down. “If you’ve just landed, then the only thing you need to know is when the tide will turn so you can leave. There’s nothing here for you.”

Einarr shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I have reason to believe my great-grandfather’s barrow is somewhere on this island. I am to be married soon, and since my father and my grandfather still live I require his sword.”

The man shook his head. “It’s not worth it. Probably already rusted away, anyhow.”

“You don’t even know who’s grave I’m looking for.”

“No, but you said it was your great-grandfather. That means his blade has been in the ground for at least fifty years. You’re better off having one forged.”

“I’m afraid there is no time after making this trip. Please. I am Einarr, son of Stigander, son of Raen, son of Ragnar. Do you know anything? Or know anyone who might?”

“Ragnar?” The anger was back on the man’s brow again, and he peered piercingly down his aquiline nose at the three strangers in his hall. Then he spat on the floor by Einarr’s foot. “Get out of here, the lot of you. The sons of Ragnar aren’t welcome here.”

“But…”

“Out!”

Surprised by the man’s fury, the three Heidrunings allowed themselves to be run out of the hall. Out in the street, Einarr turned to Eydri.

“Well that was unexpected. I don’t suppose you know of any Singers on the island?”

She shook her head. “Not that are part of the Matrons’ circle. There’s sure to be a wise woman or a priest or a monk somewhere around, though.”

Naudrek wasn’t much happier about that than Einarr. With a grumbling round of sighs, though, they set out across the town in search of whoever served as the town lore-keeper. Once or twice Einarr was compelled to identify himself, and each time he mentioned Ragnar the locals grew hostile.

“I’d really like to know what happened back then,” Eydri muttered.

“You and me both,” Einarr agreed.

“I think we might find out soon. There’s the signboard for the old herb-witch.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Einarr and Eydri both strode past where Naudrek stood pointing, and he took up his place flanking the Singer.

Eydri knocked at the door frame, and an old woman’s voice invited them in.

Inside, the herb-witch’s hut was close but clean-smelling. An old woman, at least as old as Grandfather Raen, stood at a table pouring hot water into a tea pot. “Not very often strangers come here. How can this old woman help you?”

Einarr took a deep breath. “I seek the barrow of Ragnar.”

The old woman turned half-blind eyes their direction and raised an eyebrow. “And what would you want with that?”

“I am to wed soon, but I require my ancestor’s sword for the ceremony.”

The old woman hummed thoughtfully. “Everyone on this island knows the location of Ragnar’s hold. Not one of them will go within a mile of it. You are here, I presume, because no-one would tell you?”

“That is correct.”

“I am not so kind as the townsfolk. I will tell you where it is.”

“Th—”

“Don’t thank me, boy. This island has devoured warriors a thousand times stronger than you. If you value your lives, you will turn around and leave before nightfall. This island belongs to Hel.”

Eydri took a deep breath. “Grandmother… what happened here?”

“If you live to reach the hold, you will learn.”

“This man—” she gestured at Einarr. “Is the Cursebreaker.”

“Tcheh. Poor fool.”

“He was named Cursebreaker two years ago, and yet he still lives.”

“Eydri.” Einarr put a hand on her shoulder. He was well aware that he tempted fate with every journey. “That doesn’t help.”

The old woman looked at him shrewdly and nodded, but did not explain. “Do not attempt to take your whole crew. Those who remain behind will not be welcomed, but it will ensure you have the men to leave again. Ragnar’s hold is far north of here, deep within the forest. You will know you are close by the standing stones. Touch them not: they belong to Hel herself…”

Einarr swallowed and nodded, committing the old woman’s directions to memory. A small, cowardly corner of his mind wondered if it was too late to send a pigeon to Jorir, instructing him to forge a blade.


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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.

A week after their encounter with the accursed ship of the demon cult, a small, dark island appeared on the horizon. According to all the charts, it had to be Thorndjupr.

The sense of gloom hanging over the island only grew more intense as they approached. It wasn’t just that the trees were black pine: it was almost as though the color had been leached from the world around that island. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, but it was grey and so was the water below. The surface of the island looked to be as smooth as a hilltop on the plains save for one tall pillar of a mountain in the very center. It was as though a giant had stood still on the seafloor long enough that an island had grown up over his helmet.

As the harbor town began to become clear on the shore, Einarr stood and looked at the island his grandfather had once called home. “Well,” he said, half to himself. “I guess this is it. At least we aren’t going to have to scale any cliffs – not immediately, anyway.”

He could tell the exact moment when the people in the harbor spotted their incoming ship: it was when the men moving around the docks put down their loads and jogged for shore to cluster in the shadows. Such was the hazard, sometimes, of traveling in a longship. As they drew closer, however, and the men ashore heard no battle chanting, and saw no helmeted heads, they emerged from the shadows to stare sullenly at the incoming ship.

A hollow pit formed in Einarr’s stomach as he stared back, getting a good look at the people that used to be his grandfather’s… or perhaps his great-grandfather’s. He saw no women about whatsoever, and very few children. These were all older, on the cusp of adolescence, and had none of the vigor of childhood about them. To a head, the people of the town were thin, sallow, and as beaten-down as the people of Breidelstein before their liberation.

Einarr drew his shoulders back as they drew in by the pier, even as he shared a wary look with Naudrek. The island was already as ill-favored as the name suggested, and they hadn’t even landed yet. Instead, as the Heidrun slowed to a stop by the pier, he stepped forward and called out to a passing dockworker. “Hail, sir! Is the harbormaster about?”

The man stopped and looked up at him from dark, hooded eyes. “Ain’t no Harbormaster. Ain’t no-one stoppin’ you, either. Come ashore if’n you must, but you’ll find neither treasure nor glory here.”

“My thanks. I seek no glory, nor treasure of the ordinary sort. I seek a sword of my fathers’.”

The dockworker snorted and went about his way.

“That… didn’t go badly,” Einarr muttered to Naudrek and Eydri, who flanked him.

“It didn’t go well, either,” Naudrek said.

“I mislike the looks of this place, Einarr,” Eydri answered, her voice low but urgent. “I know I wanted to come, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is no shame in having a new sword forged.”

“No shame, perhaps, but no time once we return either. No: we are here, and we will see this through. This… seems to be what it means to be a Cursebreaker.”

Eydri snorted, but said no more. At Naudrek’s order, Svarek hopped from the bulwark to the pier and caught the ropes to moor the Heidrun.

Einarr turned to address his crew. “Alright, everyone. We all know why we’re here. We need to find out where the barrow of Grandfather Raen’s father Ragnar is. I assume, although I don’t know, that they were once the lords of this island. Given the …quality of the people we’ve seen thus far, however, it might pay to be a little circumspect in your questions.”

A rumble of agreement moved across the crew of the Heidrun.

“We still need to act quickly, however. We only have a little more than a month before we need to be back in Breidelstein, and most of that time needs to be on the water. So, Hrug, pick two to help you guard the ship. Everyone else, into town. Let’s find out what’s going on.”

Before long, there were only four people aboard ship: Hrug and his two guards, and Einarr. Eydri and Naudrek waited on the pier.

“You brought your rune sticks, right, Hrug?”

When the mute sorcerer nodded, Einarr went on. “Good. Will you see what you can divine about this place? Something gives me the shivers, and I want to know what.”

Hrug nodded again, and Einarr started down the plank with a wave. “Thanks, Hrug. We’ll be back.”


The lack of women out and about in town disturbed Einarr on some level. They weren’t even out working in the yards of houses, or serving in the local public hall. He could not afford to leave Eydri on the ship however, even if he was willing to offend her by suggesting it. Thus, as they moved into the town to ask their questions, she was flanked by himself and Naudrek.

The men in the streets, however, were as uninterested in talking as the dockworker had been. Finally, the three companions made their way back into the public hall and put down some coin for a bit of supper and some information.

The food that came back to them was a thin seafood soup, more broth than anything, and hard dark bread. Gamely, Einarr dunked his bread in the broth and tried to take a bite: for his trouble, he bit down on a pebble that should never have made it out of the mill. He set the bread back on the edge of the wooden truncheon and looked at the boy who had served it. “Can I ask you some questions?”


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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.

For more than a fortnight they sailed on, following the charts as best they could as they weathered the ordinary spring storms. While there had been more than a few cold, wet nights, Einarr was just as glad that was all they had faced so far: an island that could drive Grandfather out, and that had earned the name of “Thorn Deep,” was sure to have something unpleasant waiting – especially given Einarr’s calling. Thus, he took the blustery weather as a blessing.

Right up until black storm clouds appeared out of a blue sky off to the north and began speeding toward Einarr and the Heidrun.

It was Troa who spotted the clouds first, and announced their presence with a dread-laced “Oh, Helvíti.”

Einarr looked up and understood immediately. “Cult ship approaching! Prepare for battle! Guards to the Singer.”

Captain or not, heir or not, Einarr was in far less danger than Eydri. Not everyone aboard had experienced combat with the svartalfr cult, but they should at least have heard about it by now. There was a jangle of maille as the warriors dressed for battle and an air of grim determination fell over the ship.

Please don’t let them have one of those horrors…

Einarr, too, pulled on his maille and helmet, then stepped up beside Naudrek as the guards formed around Eydri.

“Ready the fire arrows,” he ordered. “We want to avoid boarding as long as we can.”

“Yes, sir… Is it really one of those demon ships you talked about?”

“Probably. Need the arrows ready before we can see that, though.”

“Of course, sir.” Naudrek was a good man, but he was not as practiced a Mate as Jorir. No matter: Jorir was quite right about where he was most needed now.

Damn it, though, why did we have to run into one of these things on this trip? Einarr would have been perfectly happy avoiding them for the rest of his days. Unlikely, of course, considering he was a Cursebreaker.

The black storm cloud that heralded the approach of a demon ship bore down on the Heidrun as they readied themselves. Those who already wore their maille watched the horizon grimly, awaiting the first sight of one of the demon-headed black ships. The wind lashed at their faces. Raindrops had begun to sting Einarr’s skin by the time the shadow of the cult ship appeared in the storm.

“Brace yourselves, men! Not only are we fighting in a storm, even in death the enemy can kill you – or worse. This first volley of fire arrows is critical: you’ll have plenty of time to adjust your aim for the wind. Steady yourselves, now.”

There was a general shifting of feet on the deck, but no-one spoke. Visibility dropped precipitously as the two ships closed. The wind began to howl.

“Light volley!” Einarr shouted to be heard over the wind. “Ready!”

The archers drew back, the tips of their arrows bright spots of light against the black clouds above.

“Aim!”

As promised, he held them at this command for longer than usual, waiting for a steady moment or a break between gusts. At last, one came.

“Fire!” The arrows streaked through the air like shooting stars, all intent on destroying the evil that sailed this sea. One or two of them winked out under the onslaught of the storm carried in the belly of the demon ship, and one or two more missed their mark, but the rest scored their hit. One caught in the sail, which began to smolder darkly.

There would be no time for a second volley – not that Einarr had really expected one. The ships were too close now for anything but boarding – or perhaps a ram or Sea-Fire, if this were a dromon. Some detached corner of Einarr’s mind wondered if an alliance with the Empire would grant them access to that sea-fire of theirs. The rest of his mind was focused on the enemy ahead. “Prepare for boarding!”

Einarr stepped back to join the men who had circled about Eydri. The fanatics hated Song Magic and hunted Singers: that was how Father had lost Astrid. Einarr did not intend to let them have his friend. The rest of the crew scrambled: bows were tossed back toward the command circle, and the archers took up the boarding lines.

Eydri began to Sing, and almost immediately the red Fury began to pulse at the edges of Einarr’s vision. It was easy to ignore after the last year: Einarr hated how used to it he had grown.

The black-painted prow sliced through the water and turned sharply. Boarding lines flew from both decks.

No sooner had the lines drew taught than men from both ships were up, contesting for the right to board the other’s ship.

Einarr’s men were strong. Much stronger than they had been last summer when they stormed the cult’s island to rescue Runa: some few of the cultist helspawn made it across, but most were on the back foot. Einarr harrumphed even as he slid Sinmora from her sheath.

One of the cultists rushed the “command” circle protecting Eydri. Everyone’s weapons were out and ready, but Einarr stepped forward with a growl. This was not a man he faced: it was a mad dog, and he would see it put down. He stepped forward and raised Sinmora high over head, his shield firmly in place. On the second step, as the clamor of battle carried across the deck and over the water, he brought his blade around and separated the cultist’s head from his shoulders. Einarr stepped back quickly: the corrupting black blood dripped from Sinmora, and spatters darkened his glove, but had not touched him.

“No quarter!” He bellowed. A savage yell was the best answer he could have hoped for. Eydri sang louder.

Einarr strode across the deck to peer at the battle on the other ship and frowned. On the one hand, the demon ships must be destroyed with prejudice. On the other hand… “Fall back!” He ordered as he saw the cultists starting to cluster around the mast. “Naudrek – a torch!”

“Aye, Sir.”

The Heidrunings hurried back across the boarding lines, cutting the enemy lines as they went and unhooking (most of) their own. Einarr stood at the bulwark, torch in hand, and waited. When everyone was returned, he tossed the torch on the demon ship’s deck. “Full sail! Get us out of this squall, Naudrek.”

As the Heidrun sliced through the waves away from the demon ship, purifying flames began to lick up the boards of its bulwark, and a thick black smoke rose up to feed the cloud overhead.


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