The two days of waiting dragged out until they felt more like two weeks, but at last Brandir had matters arranged to his satisfaction. The eight of them would be the only ones to venture into the Mount, while a rather sizable number of dvergr caused a distraction in Nilthiad proper.

The path to the Mount from the bathhouse where they hid was long and circuitous, but there was little to be done about that. This area had apparently always been rough, and before the Cult of Malúnion wormed its way into power the Mount had been an especially rich gold mine – on the outskirts, yes, but nearly on the opposite side of the city.

So it was that, as the afternoon began to wear on into evening, the cloaked and hooded figures of four dvergr and four men slipped out of a friendly bathhouse and into one of the narrow footpaths that wound between buildings, carrying little traffic and often well-shielded from view.

Often, however, was by no means entirely. The sun of Myrkheimr – dimmer and redder than the sun of Midgardr, but somehow hotter – was still well above the horizon when their footpath led them to a wide-open field, well-trodden and fallow. They halted, still in the shadow of their alley, while Mornik scanned ahead.

“The proving ground,” Brandir muttered.

Einarr’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Proving ground? What on earth are they proving?”

“Pah.” Gheldram chuckled. “Mettle, mostly. But some of the older smiths – the ones deep in Thane Soggvar’s confidences – have been working on something big the last few decades. Every once in a while they’ll kick the duelists out. Not much after that, there come some rather deafening roars.”

“That sounds… troublesome,” Kaldr mused.

“But also promising.” Einarr’s mind had gone immediately to the Empire’s spigots of sea-fire that had sent many a raider down in an impromptu funeral ship. Were the dvergr developing something similar?

Mornik stood and dusted his knees. “I think we’re clear. Couldn’t see the whole field, though.”

“If your distraction is doing its job,” Naudrek muttered. “There won’t be anyone but us and maybe the odd farmer’s daughter this far out.”

“If.” Brandir started forward again. “We can’t take that for granted, and you know it.”

They all streamed out of the alley single-file, then moved to walk two abreast across the field. After some brief jockeying about, they put all the humans in front. Behind them, the dvergr marched, their axes in hand, in hopes that the men would be taken for prisoners.

It would have worked beautifully if the dvergr who came spilling out of the wood on the far side of the field had been soldiers, or even temple acolytes. Instead, Einarr and Thjofgrir found themselves face-to-face with the (equally surprised) leaders of a gang of thieves.

For a long moment, the two groups stood staring at each other before one of the thieves drew himself up to his full height, bristling.

“Hey now, what’s the meaning of all this? This is our turf. If those thralls are your spoils, you’d best be turning them over to us now.” He looked right past the four humans to the dvergr standing behind. Einarr bristled but bit his lip. Their ruse would not be helped if he protested his status here.

Brandir and Gheldram both blustered forward.

Gheldram puffed up his chest. “Thralls? These are the humans those thrice-cursed apostates freed! I fear the god’s wrath if we do not take them back.”

The thief who had been speaking sized Thjofgrir up like he was a cow. “You expect me to believe that a big lummox like that escaped? You’re no Acolyte – but your crew must be new. Hand them over, or I’ll show you just who’s on top in the back streets.”

With a sigh, Brandir tugged at the heavy chain around his neck. “We haven’t time for this. If we must fight, then let’s get it over with.”

The other dvergr – even Mornik, whom Einarr would not have expected – also made a show of drawing attention to their matching chains. One or two of the thieves ’ gang blanched, but not their leader.

“So that’s how it’s going to be, then. Fine.” He turned back to his men – there were at least twelve of them, but under the circumstances it was difficult to be sure. “Take the humans, kill the rest. Those chains’ll fetch a pretty price.”

With a toothy grin, Einarr drew Sinmora. Kaldr, Thjofgrir, and Naudrek all drew their weapons, as well. That was when the bandit leader seemed to realize he’d miscalculated.

It was too late.

One on one, a dvergr could usually outmatch a human of similar experience. They were stronger, heartier, and despite their short stockiness, they were often faster. Dvergr blacksmiths had an additional advantage: their profession trained their strength, without diminishing the rest, and they were in high demand in Midgard, which meant they often had seen combat.

Twelve thieves against four dvergr smiths, the smiths might have had a rough time. The bandit’s mistake, however, was in discounting the humans.

Five minutes later, the gang of thieves had been given a sound drubbing and sent on their way – hopefully wiser for the experience. Brandir had given them instructions, but Einarr doubted very much if they would carry them out. Then, the group of eight set on its way again.

Once they were out of the exposed field, Einarr chuckled. “Hey, Jorir. Remember the last time we gave a group of would-be thieves a lesson like that?”

Jorir chuckled, too. “That I do. Wonder if these’ll be as helpful.”


Myrkheimr’s moons were a trio of small, rough affairs, as though the real moon had been split into pieces and they were all that remained. Still, though, it provided some light in the night as they drew near the holy place of the cult in Nilthiad.

A wide-open space had been cleared around the path to the Mount’s entrance, and the path was a broad, shallow staircase made of white marble. Glimmers of gold peeked out from the joins. Tall, fluted columns lined the staircase, and at its base – as well as every ten feet of its length – were stationed a pair of guards. Acolytes of the temple, Mornik said. In the distance, Einarr heard the sounds of battle coming from the city.

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!

As was probably to be expected of an island of this size with the number of people it must have had, most of the interior was taken up by farmland – although Einarr would have hesitated to tend any crops there now. It was bad enough hurrying across the abandoned fields, eyes open for anything – man or beast – that might be hostile.

There were, however, significant benefits to traipsing over farmland, namely in open and easy terrain. Even skulking, trying to avoid combat with anything still alive here, it only took them a few hours to cross the handful of miles between Kettleness and Southwaite. Thankfully, they encountered no more of the strangely shimmering curtains. Forced to the choice, he would risk Sinmora against one again rather than sending any of their number through… but the idea of Sinmora becoming tainted disturbed him nearly as much.

Their first sign that they were approaching Southwaite was the rise of walls – far more impressive than the wooden palisade that had served Kettleness, but not, to Einarr’s way of thinking, anything that would slow a ship of Clan raiders more than an hour or two. They drew nearer, and then Einarr caught sight of the fortress within the walls, a great rectangular brick of stone, quarried who knew where, that squatted over the village like some giant toad.

“As expected,” Einarr muttered.

“I beg your pardon?” Liupold’s eyes, too, were on the castle town ahead.

“If this is the seat of whatever petty jarl rules this island, as it appears to be, then they will want the defenses and capacity of that citadel for their own purposes. The captives should be in the citadel prison. At least, that’s where I found Runa.”

Liupold hummed and they continued forward.

Einarr still saw no sign of whatever that strange curtain of energy had been outside Kettleness. Why would they not use it as a defense around their base of operations?

Why had they not seen any in the svartalfr fortress?

He shook his head: they had not. He was not going to assume their absence here, but it made no sense not to worry over their absence, either. “Be cautious,” he whispered as they drew into view of the unguarded gate. “I expect the corrupted will have gathered their forces here, so as to better defend themselves.”

“That’s almost certainly the case,” Liupold agreed. “Follow me. Assuming the old Lord stuck to convention, I know right where the prisoners will be held.”


Sneaking their way through the castle town of Southwaite was almost anticlimactic compared to the circle fortress of the svartalfr city. Not that there weren’t corrupted villagers everywhere – there were – but the villagers seemed less at ease in their corruption than the cultists in the circle fort had been. Did it perhaps take some time for the corruption to take full control of the mind, even after the body succumbed? He did not know, but the only way he could think of to find out would ensure their enemies knew they were there.

True to his word, Liupold led them down the narrowest of village ways to a small servant’s entrance in the side of the castle near the wall. Up until that point, it was easy.

Inside, the fortress was filled with labyrinthine narrow passages, any one of which could hold one of the shambling, half-asleep villagers who grasped pitchforks and javelins alike like walking sticks. More than once Liupold had to duck back behind a corner he had just rounded, or dash across an intersection, to avoid the notice of the strangely lethargic villagers.

They had nearly reached the cells in the bottom of the keep when Einarr noticed something he wished he had not.

One of the villagers in the cross-hall, who he could see without being seen – he thought. The figure turned around, and Einarr saw what appeared to be a mass of dried blood on her neck. A large mass of dried blood. A strong wind gusted down the hallway and the head tilted back at an unnatural angle.

She was already dead.

Einarr’s breath caught in his throat. This wasn’t a regrowth of the cult, like he’d thought, at all. The kraken itself had brought the people around to its rule, and those it could not bend it broke and made into puppets.

When next they had a quiet place, hidden from the view of any of the creature’s flesh-puppets, Einarr warned the others. “Are you sure these captives are still alive?”

“The very existence of the Order of the Valkyrie depends upon it. I only wish I were exaggerating.”

Einarr nodded. “Just so long as you understand, I do not believe there is anyone else alive to save here. We get the captives, and we run before the kraken can figure out where we are.”

“Don’t we need to destroy the kraken, too?” Naudrek asked.

“Yes, but… on our terms. Not its, and definitely not on ground chosen by its flesh-puppets. Are we almost there?”

“Nearly. As soon as I find the next stairwell, we only have two more flights to descend.”

“Assuming the prison is where you think it should be, of course.”

“Of course.”

He shook his head, a little exasperated. “Well, lead on. Hrug, you’re getting all this, right?”

The mute nodded his head and made a gesture Einarr recognized as later.

“All right, then. Down we go, I guess.”

If this was a typical Imperial fortress, Einarr was just as glad they weren’t trying to storm it. The stairs alone would have been murder holes, not to mention the twisty corridors that seemed to make up the bulk of each floor. Still, with a castle defended entirely by the kraken’s puppets, reaching the prison cells in the basement was not so difficult as the designers intended. Ahead of them stood a single straight hallway, bounded on either side by solid wooden doors. The one responsible for guarding the cells, however, stood very alert in the center of the guard room.


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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!

The last time Einarr had been in Eskiborg, he had compared it in size and hustle to Kem. He now thought that might be underselling Eskiborg somewhat. Not only was it a warm water port, at least as the Clans reckoned such matters, it was a major shipbuilding port, and one where longships and knarr far outnumbered the dromon favored by the Coneheads.*

On the first night, they took beds at the Bronze Archer and split up to canvas the docks – Naudrek with Hrug, Eydri with Einarr. In all that bounty, among all those ships, Einarr was certain they could find berths for the four of them. He had not anticipated, however, the difficulty in finding a temporary berth for a Singer – did not, in fact, fully grasp it until no fewer than four captains asked if she was Einarr’s lover.

He was more than a little taken aback by the assumption, in fact, and it did not take long for worry to begin nibbling away at his brain: was Runa going to make that same assumption?

“It’s a matter of protection,” Eydri finally explained. “We run into similar issues as apprentices, actually.”

“You… do.” Einarr’s spirits drooped. Mentally, he began totting up their resources once more. “If you’re saying we should try to buy a boat, tell me now. The longer we wait, the harder it will be.”

She shook her head. “It will be tricky, but not impossible. Most sailors know better than to assault a Singer, even an apprentice one, but no captain wants to risk one of his men turning out to be that idiot. So they want me to be under someone’s protection. And if I’m your paramour, that makes it even less likely for someone to get drunk and do something truly stupid.”

“I…” Einarr thought about it: he knew that his father had always married their Singers, right up until Reki, but there had never been any doubt in his mind why. Now he wondered. “But Father is the only Captain I know who is typically married to his Battle Chanter.”

Eydri frowned at him, then smirked. “Somehow, I suspect that has more to do with your father. At any rate, you will need to give assurances that I am under your protection, and that you can enforce as much. …Perhaps it would be best if we had not split up.”

Einarr thought it over a moment, but shook his head. “Tomorrow, if Naudrek has not found something, we will all four go together. But I suspect if we try to find them now we will waste the rest of the day.”

On the second day in Eskiborg, they also returned to their beds empty-handed, their spirits low. It seemed that those who were sailing in the right direction were more than a little spooked by the idea of taking on both an “unprotected” Singer (despite the presence of not one but three companions) and a male sorceror.

“If we find nothing tomorrow, I will check what might be for sale. With a fishing skiff, the four of us can manage.” With a fishing skiff and a little luck, anyway.

“I thought you said you couldn’t afford one?”

“Not properly, no. But if we can find one that doesn’t take on too much water, and the three of you can pitch in for water barrels and fishing gear, I can honestly say I’ve sailed in worse.”

The other three shared a look, then Hrug shook his head and tapped at the tabletop. The rattle of runesticks followed, but instead of casting them down he began to lay them carefully. Will… Not… Need he spelled out.

“You’ve seen something?”

He hesitated, then nodded.

Remembering the divination Melja had worked that led him to these two in the first place, Einarr sat forward eagerly. “What should I look for?”

Hrug looked to Naudrek, who nodded. “After that first day, when we split up, he did his thing. We need a ship with a stag’s head on the prow.”

“A stag.” Not like that was a common ornament at all. He could think of six he’d seen just that afternoon.

Hrug grunted affirmative, and Naudrek continued. “The sail of the ship is blue and yellow striped, and there was a red-headed man with neat braids in his hair and beard. We think he’s the captain.”

“And according to the vision, this ship will have us?”

“I think so. Hrug says so, anyway, and he’s the expert on these sorts of things.”

“Good enough for me.”


Einarr kept his impatience in check over the third day’s fruitless search, albeit with difficulty. Afternoon was waning on their fourth day of searching when a longship slipped into the harbor, sleek and abviously built for speed. The blue-and-gold sail told Einarr their goal had arrived.

As the ship drew up to the dock, Einarr came close enough to note their berth and confirm what he thought to be true: the figurehead was an ornate stag’s head, carved to look as though water ran down the antlers. Einarr nodded, then slipped back into the crowd. He knew well enough that their captain was unlikely to have time for new sailors before morning.

That night, while the four of them sat at table at the Bronze Archer, Einarr laid out their plan for the morning. “Get a good night’s sleep. We’ll breakfast at a normal hour, but then head straight for the docks. We want to arrive a little before mid-morning, I think. Hrug, how ‘neat’ did this captain look?”

The tongueless man sighed and glanced at Naudrek. Sooner or later Einarr would learn to actually communicate with him, but Elder Melja had kept them both far too busy over the winter.

“You might call him fastidious,” Naudrek answered after conferring with his old friend for a moment.

Einarr nodded. “In that case, make sure you come to breakfast bathed and tidy. Just because the divination said we can get berths doesn’t mean we should take them for granted.”


* Conehead: An inhabitant of the Konneul Empire, which occupies the best land and warmest water in this world.


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.