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.

 

Some of the ambushers carried torches with them: the light in the square was now enough that Einarr could see just how badly Finn had been beaten.

One of his eyes was swollen shut, and the other was crusted with dried blood from a head wound. A rope bound Finn’s wrists too tightly, and he dangled from the stocks like a side of meat. He was all over bruises, although Einarr thought he’d avoided any broken bones, and it was impossible to tell how much of the blood on his maille was his and how much belonged to the League toughs. They had laid his scramasax at his feet, snapped in two. Finn groaned.

Einarr growled. With one swift strike he cut down the scout, who slumped to his knees.

“Can you walk?” Einarr sidestepped to avoid the back of a stumbling fighter.

Finn groaned and tried to rise, but fell back on his haunches. Einarr wasn’t entirely sure he was actually conscious.

“Right then. Heidrunings, to me!” They were, as the ambushers planned, in a bad place. However, thus far his men had had very little trouble keeping the toughs away from him. As his crew formed a defensive wall around him, Einarr sheathed his sword and knelt beside the half-conscious Finn. He slid the man’s arm across his shoulders and rose.

Finn hung like a sack of cabbages. Grumbling a little, and using his other arm to steady the body, Einarr started slowly back towards their ship and the hoped-for safety of the harbor.

As they neared the edge of the square their progress ground nearly to a halt. The League fighters – no few of whom wore the same blue and white as the escort ships’ sails – pressed them hard, and Einarr’s escort had all it could manage not to go under the sheer mass of people that converged against them.

Einarr pressed his lips into a thin line. He could reach Sinmora, but he could not fight and carry Finn at the same time. And, while he was skilled with a blade, he was not sufficiently skilled to make a difference if he handed their wounded friend off to one of the others. But his blade was not his only means of fighting these days.

He glanced down at the ground at his feet. The dirt was hard-packed, but still he could see a thin layer of loose soil, as marked out by footprints. It would be enough. Einarr shifted his weight to the side supporting Finn and drew a Thorn: . He poured his will into the rune, and a wave of force seemed to knock aside the first rank of enemies.

The rest of the League warriors seemed to vanish then, like rats in an alley. Einarr dragged his foot across the rune, obscuring it. His men had come to accept that he could use seithir, but he had no intention of letting their enemies know it.

“Let’s go,” he said as his escort stood, momentarily flummoxed by the sudden lack of battle.


The streets were suspiciously empty as Einarr and his crew rushed back towards the Heidrun. It was, he thought, impossible that the League would give up so easily after they went to the trouble of capturing one of his crew and stringing him up like a side of meat.

“Troa!” He called up as his men formed a wall on the pier and he began dragging the wounded scout up the gangplank.

He leaned over the bulwark, looking positively eager to be rid of the temporary command. “Captain!”

“Is everything ready?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Good! As soon as Finn here is secure, we’re going.” The plank bounced as his company started single-file up after him, Eydri in the lead.

“Now, sir? The tide…”

“Now or never, I’m afraid.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll ready the oars.”

Eydri and Hrug took Finn amidships to lay him near Einarr’s awning – probably the safest place if they met with trouble – while Einarr and Naudrek organized the rest of the crew. Those who did not have an oar were instructed to ready their bows. Arrows they had, of course, but Einarr cursed when he realized that they had expended almost all of their fire arrows on the cult ship. He had plainly been in too much of a hurry as they left: that was an oversight that could have killed them all when they still wandered on the Vidofnir. Burning the Blávíkin ships would have been a last resort anyway, but it would have been nice to have the option.

Finally, though, they were ready. Odvir released their mooring, and the only sounds as they rowed out into the night were the creak of timbers and the gentle splashing of the oars dipping into the water.

All their caution was for naught, though. As the Heidrun neared the mouth of harbor, a ring of fire sprang up around them over the water. Ships, bearing torches. After the first surge of surprise passed, Einarr stood calmly near the mast, studying their situation.

It wasn’t good. The Heidrun glided to a stop, waiting for Einarr’s orders. They were a lone longship, surrounded by local vessels that all appeared to be bristling with warriors. At least half of them bore the blue-and-white that seemed to indicate they were part of the Jarl’s war band. Including, unless Einarr was very much mistaken, the ship he had just presented that cask of ale to.

He strode to the bow, trying to determine which boat was in charge of the fleet. None of the fishing boats: of that he was quite sure. Of the others…

“Einarr son of Stigander son of Raen,” boomed a familiar voice. “Surrender quietly and pledge yourselves to the League.”

Angry mutters rose from the deck of the Heidrun. There was only one possible response.

“Go to Hel.”


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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.

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

“Explain.”

Einarr took a deep breath. Of everything that happened last year, this was the worst. “If these are the islands I think they are, there will be an entrance to a svartalfr fortress under that island.” He gestured, indicating the green-topped island with no apparent beaches. “We chased a ship of cultists here last summer after they kidnapped my bride. They were also responsible for the massacre of Langavik.”

Captain Kormund’s frown turned thoughtful. “It’s true, the svartalfs are unsavory types…”

Einarr shook his head. “No. They’re not… not alfs anymore, the ones who were in the first place. Some of the cultists used to be human, as well, and some were dwarves. But when we fought them, they were all corrupted monsters.”

“Corrupted how?” His eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Black-blooded tentacled horrors wearing men like skinsuits, sir. And if they bled on you, the corruption spread. We dealt them a serious blow in our escape, I think, but… but even the ruins of Langavik would be a more auspicious hiding place.”

“If you had not declared yourself a cursebreaker, I might accuse you of making all this up.”

Einarr shuddered in thinking about the kind of mind that could invent what he had seen. “If anything, sir, I’ve underplayed what we saw here. It was directly responsible for me ending up in the Shrouded Village, half a world away from the Vidofnir.” That was perhaps not strictly true: there was little to do with runes here, after all, but the events led in a straight line.

The Captain paused to think for a moment, then shook his head. “I hear your warning. However, I also hear that the evil creatures which dwelled below were dealt a serious defeat last summer, by your own hand, and that there is an excellent place to hide beneath that island. I have no idea how that Order dromon is matching us knot for knot, but I know that continuing to run as we have will exhaust the men to no effect. Therefore, I believe I will take my chances.” He smiled at Einarr, and it was more the predatory grin of a wolf than anything stag-like.

Einarr straightened up stiffly. “I suppose even telling you that it was our ships that burned Langavik when we found it drenched in blood cannot change your mind?”

“That is correct, sailor. Return to your post.”

“Aye, sir.”

The worst part was not that the captain would not heed his warning. No, under the circumstances that was all too understandable, especially since the Captain hadn’t witnessed the horrors himself. No, the worst part was wondering how much of the cult’s taint still lingered. The storm had broken when they fought last summer – but what did that mean?

The cave waterway was right where Einarr expected it to be. Captain Kormund ordered a stop at the entrance. He hadn’t noticed it before, but on the cliffs outside the cave entrance were grassy ledges. They were small, and probably not terribly comfortable, but a man or maybe two could sit and look out over the ocean. Kormund left two men with a hunting horn and instructions to blow it once an hour if the coast was clear. One of them grabbed a pole and line before he got off the boat. Einarr wasn’t sure he would want to eat the fish from these waters, but ordinarily it would have been a good plan.

Once the lookouts were in place on their perches outside, the Eikthyrnir slipped into the cave where last summer the Vidofnir had once more come face to face with the ship that killed his stepmother.

Einarr fought against holding his breath, but the cave was more or less as they’d left it – at least as far in as Captain Kormund took his ship. The sea anchor was lowered just past where the shadow of the cave wall fell, so that the Eikthyrnir should be all but impossible to spot from the outside. Einarr would not be able to see what became of the city since their battle – but he wasn’t truly sure he wanted to, anyway.

The first time the horn sounded, everyone on board jumped. They hadn’t realized just how tense they were, waiting in the shadows, until it sounded. After that, they relaxed a little and settled in for a long wait. Four times the horn had sounded, then five, and they were beginning to think the dromon had finally turned aside.

At the sixth hour, as counted by Hraerek, there was no horn. The games of dice and other friendly diversions ceased.

Again at the seventh hour they waited for a sound that never came.

At the eighth hour, the dromon appeared in the mouth of the cave and stopped there. Einarr’s breath caught. What had happened to their lookouts? There was no shelter to speak of on their tiny ledges: the Valkyrians could hardly have missed seeing them.

Then he noticed something that almost wiped the thought of their lookouts from his mind: the dromon cast no shadow on the water. Indeed, it almost looked as though it cast its own light. Einarr glanced to his side and saw Vari standing there, also staring at the ship that had chased them all this way. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

“It’s… real, right?”

“Sure looks real.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“So’s a jellyfish, under the right conditions. Doesn’t mean I want anything to do with one.”

“Nah, of course not. Only, why?”

“If we knew that, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Someone shushed them, but the dromon was already backing out of the mouth of the cave to continue on its way.

Once it was gone, it was another few hours before the horn sounded the all-clear again. The Eikthyrnir slipped from its hiding place and reclaimed its watchmen, who even after all these hours still seemed badly shaken.


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.