The wedding was set for three days after Einarr and the Heidrun limped back into port, which meant that they were not, precisely, late. They had, however, called it entirely too close for comfort. The first day, the day they arrived, they were welcomed home with feasting and music, and everyone aboard the Heidrun ended up telling tales of their adventure – everyone, that is, except for Finn, who slipped out of the hall with his bruised face and broken ribs before he could be pestered about what had happened on Blávík. Einarr made a mental note to speak with Stigander about that: it was the sort of thing that might ruin a man, and Finn was a promising scout.

The second day Einarr spent closeted away with his father, Bardr, Kaldr, Uncle Gorgny, and – surprisingly – Jorir. Beyond the repair of the Heidrun there were matters of political import which had made themselves evident over the last two months while he had been at sea, and none of them were good. That the cult was still active, and still possessed storm-riding ships, was troubling on several levels. While the League was a promising development in some ways, in others they seemed more troublesome.

“Truth be told they left a bad taste in my mouth even before they tried to impress us,” Einarr admitted in conference that afternoon.

“What did Eydri think?” Jorir asked.

“Things happened a little quickly for me to get an immediate impression from her, I’m afraid. We should talk with Naudrek about it in more detail: he was out with the group that encountered them first. He didn’t seem terribly impressed, though, even before we realized Finn was missing.”

Stigander grunted his agreement. “That the cult is large enough, and active enough, to inspire such a thing is troubling by itself. That this counter-League is evidently press-ganging whoever it happens across… Well. Something will have to be done.”

“That was my thought, as well.” He put a hand to his chin, considering. “Do you think the Matrons would want to look into it?”

Kaldr looked skeptical. “You want to turn this over to the Singers?”

Jorir, though, shook his head. “No, it’s a good idea. The cultists target them, after all, and there are members of the Circle everywhere.”

“Almost everywhere,” Einarr clarified. “Father, will you take it up with the Singers?”

“I will.”


The day before the wedding was the sauna day. In the morning, Einarr and Jorir took Ragnar’s sword to the dwarf’s forge, where he hemmed and hawed over the blade.

“And you’ve not polished it or sharpened it since you won it?”

“No.”

“And not a speck of rust on it. Remarkable.”

“Could that have something to do with the draugr? It was cursed, I think, and corrupted, but slaying Ragnar did for the first, and some rune fire for the second.”

“It’s possible, I suppose,” Jorir said, still peering closely at the blade. “Well. I’ll sharpen her, and polish her up, and you’ll have a right fine sword to give Runa tomorrow.”

“Good. Good. And… the ring?”

“Hrmph.” The dark-headed dwarf chuckled. “Had that finished weeks ago.” He lapsed into silence, but Einarr did not stand to go. He thought there was more Jorir wanted to say. After taking out a clean cloth and running it along the edge, the dwarf spoke again. “I may not like that lass of yours – she’s spoiled, and too clever for her own good – but I think the two of you will do all right.”

Einarr nodded. “Thanks.”

Jorir glanced up from his inspection of the century-old longsword. “You’re welcome. Don’t you have someplace to be?”

Einarr nodded again and let himself out. He was meant to meet Father, Uncle Gorgny, and Tyr at the sauna with a priest shortly after noon, and they would stay until past supper. He’d had to force himself to eat a big breakfast that morning, knowing no-one would let him eat until the wedding feast the next night: nerves robbed him of his appetite. Runa would be doing the same, he knew, with Reki and Eydri and gods-only-knew who. Maybe Aema and Tyr’s wife? There weren’t many married women in the hold, after all.

Einarr was bathed and switched and baked, and during all that time the older men talked. And talked. And talked. He was sure it was very important advice about keeping a happy household and such, but he just couldn’t focus. He listened, and nodded dutifully, and promptly forgot everything that was said. For three years, now, he’d worked towards this next day. Maybe that was why he was suddenly such a bundle of nerves?

He wasn’t certain if he actually slept that night. Before he knew it, though, the sky was lightening into the pale blue of morning and it was time to rise. He sat up and raked his fingers back through his hair, catching and breaking up a few snags. He could still smell the herbs from yesterday’s rinse.

There, hanging ready on the post of his bed, was his wedding outfit. He couldn’t begin to guess who had decided he required a silk tunic, but they had found a marvelous shade of blue for it – only the waters of Blávík were bluer, he thought. The trim was tasteful, as well, braids of silver and gold and black – although even after a year he found it odd to dress like a prince rather than a freeboater.

“Right,” he said to himself. “I may as well get started. Where did they leave that ewer this time?”

He needed to dress, and then he would be expected to stand with his father while Stigander and Hroaldr dealt with the purely contractual portion of the affair. They said it would be noon before the ceremony itself began, and already he felt as irritably impatient as a boy. Finally, on this day, there would be none to gainsay what had been true since that winter before they tried to elope: I am hers, and she is mine.


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Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

A flurry of motion aboard the Heidrun followed Einarr’s answer. The sail was unfurled and the men at oars began once more to row. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and if Einarr had to meet his end here, he could do so proudly.

He had no desire to actually do so, of course, but this was a particularly tight pinch they were in. Would it have been better to resort to trickery, pretend to surrender? Einarr shook his head. Had he more time to dally here, perhaps, but they would be calling it close already. Thus, the way forward was through, once again.

By the same token, if he turned the hardened warriors of Breidelstein against the green recruits of this League, or if he turned magic against them, he could easily enough destroy them – and plunge Breidelstein into a war it had no stomach for. He had a narrow path to walk, getting them out of this.

“Ready shields! Svarek, steerboard!” Then he turned his attention inward to his core people. “Naudrek, you have the archers. Don’t volley unless we have to. Eydri, I’m counting on you. We need speed and stamina above all.”

“Yes, sir,” Naudrek answered.

“Of course, milord.” Eydri’s voice was strangely breathless, and even in the dark he thought she looked flushed. Is she feeling all right?

He could worry about that after they were free. “Hrug…” He paused, a sudden idea occurring to him. “Hrug, can you give me a light show? We don’t want to hurt them, just frighten them a little.”

The mute sorcerer nodded his agreement.

“Great. Go to it. Have some fun.”

He pursed his lips into a line and nodded, but Einarr could see a question on his brow. Einarr even knew what it was.

“They seem to be organizing to fight that blasted cult with its corrupted monsters. I would have no quarrel at all with them if they weren’t trying to impress us. Probably they assume we’re freeboaters. If we can get out without destroying them, we should.”

The rune seithir nodded his understanding and agreement and trotted off to the bulwarks, already pulling a piece of chalk from the pouch at his belt.

Now then. They were going to have to shoot the gap between two of the encircling boats. There were only a handful of longships, but most of them were between the Heidrun and the break in the sea wall.

There were two fishing boats together just off the port bow, but if he charged between them he would be headed directly for that sea wall. Could he maneuver quickly enough to get around behind the encirclement and race for the exit? Jumping the seawall might be possible, but would definitely be a good way to get them all stranded here.

He took his place on the platform of the mast. It was now or never. Arrows began to rain on their shields and their deck as they drew nearer the spot Einarr had chosen. “Svarek! Hard aport, now! Hrug – show me what you’ve got!”

“Oars, full speed!” Naudrek bellowed after him.

A line of light appeared all along the edge of the bulwark and all the way up to trace the lines of the ramshead on the prow. The line of light seemed to lift its nose to bugle, then lowered its head as though readying for a charge.

That… had not quite been what Einarr had in mind, but it seemed to be effective. The two fishing boats in the Heidrun’s path, scrambled to row out of the way. Meanwhile the enemy arrows faltered, as though none of them could quite believe what they were seeing. Not that Einarr could really fault them.

“Svarek, on my mark, throw us hard to starboard, then even out.”

“Aye, sir.”

Three… two… one… “Mark!”

The mast wobbled over the water as the ship abruptly turned almost in place on the water and the Heidrun shot forward – behind the League ships that had tried to capture her.

Someone onboard whooped – too soon. The League ships were taking up oars to give chase, true, but there was a larger problem to hand.

They weren’t going to clear the seawall.

They had good momentum. If Einarr tried to turn farther he would lose some of that, and some of the distance he had wanted to open up with their enemies. More importantly, though, they would still scrape against the seawall. Or, if they held steady, it might be enough to jump the seawall.

Heidrun, my Heidrun, I’m sorry. “Hold steady, Svarek!”

There was a collective intake of breath as large swaths of the crew realized what was about to happen.

“Brace!”

As one, the oars lifted into the air and the shield men dropped to their knees. Then there was a jolt, and a jump, and a terrible scraping as of rough stone on wood.

Please let us make it.

For a moment it seemed as though the Heidrun hung in midair. Then, with a splash, she skipped twice on the surface of the ocean. Momentum carried her forward at first, and then the wind filled her sail and she was off into the night.

Einarr exhaled loudly, relief flooding his belly as it became plain they’d made it past the difficult part. He could just make out, from the torchlight on their decks, the longships of Blávík leaving the harbor. Now, though, there was a goodly distance between them, and it was unlikely they would pursue too far.

“Shields down, everyone,” he ordered. He frowned, pondering, then decided it was worth the risk. “Get me a light. Naudrek, we need to find a safe harbor – secluded, this time – to check for damage and set ourselves up to fish on our way home.” And then I’ll get you to a proper shipwright, he promised his boat, and let you have a nice long rest for my honeymoon.


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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.

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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.

Einarr spent the first morning after they sailed restless, worrying simultaneously that he had done too much and too little. But, as the grey skies over the grey lands slipped back over the horizon, he turned his attention to more pressing matters. Namely, arriving home in time for his own wedding.

Based on the charts, he and Naudrek had agreed that they should be able to make it to Blávík, resupply, and be back on the water with enough time, barring unforseen circumstances, to get him home with a few days to spare. The fact that they were down to a matter of days was somewhat concerning, however.

As they neared Blávík, the source of the name became plain. Facing the Heidrunings was some of the brightest, bluest water Einarr had ever heard of north of Imperial waters. He whistled, impressed.

Equally plain, however, was the local opinion of interlopers. No fewer than three longships with blue and white sails came slicing across the water towards them as they neared the harbor.

“Run up the flag of peace, men! We want no quarrel.”

The patrol ships still moved to block their way. Einarr had to furl sail rather rapidly to avoid striking the center ship, but he turned the Heidrun in time. He moved to the bulwark and stood with one foot on the side to address the opposing Captain. “I am Einarr, son of Stigander, Thane of Breidelstein. We seek resupply here on our way home.”

The other Captain snorted. “A likely story. No ship comes out of those waters.”

“They’ve a bad infestation of draugr, I’m afraid. Bad water and food, to boot.”

The man squinted across at him. “So how do I know you’re not in league with them? Last anyone knew, Thorndjupr was a den of robbers.”

Einarr sighed. “I suppose you don’t know, although by now news should have reached here that Breidelstein had been reclaimed by its rightful Thane. Even if you hadn’t heard, though, our coin is good – and our own. I’m afraid I’m rather in a hurry, though.”

The Captain, who had not introduced himself, waited expectantly.

“I’m to be married in a little less than a month. At Raenshold.”

That got a reaction. The man spluttered a little. “What in blazes are you doing out here, then?”

“My last bit of preparation. Now, may we land?”

With much grumbling, the Blávíkin Captain gave orders to his other ships to escort the Heidrun into port.

“You have my thanks. We require food and water and ale, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“Hmph.”


Two of the three escort ships docked to either side of the Heidrun. Einarr ground his teeth in annoyance, but did not challenge them. Given what he knew of Thorndjupr, he’d be an uneasy neighbor with them as well. “Naudrek! Get your teams together. The quicker we get out of here, the better.”

“Yes, sir!”

While Naudrek and perhaps half the crew went into Blávík town to haggle, Einarr and the others had the—much duller—task of readying the ship for loading. There were empty casks and crates to be disposed of, and it was always a good idea to check the ship over for damage, even if you hadn’t seen combat since your last port, and a hundred other minor matters. Had their welcoming party been less hostile, Einarr might have traded Naudrek places anyway, but under the circumstances he thought it might be construed as hostile.

Hours passed, and the day wore on. As the sky began to deepen into twilight, the first of the teams returned hauling casks of ale and casks of water. Thank goodness.

All seemed to be going smoothly until, after perhaps half of the casks had been loaded, the second team arrived all-but empty handed. Naudrek approached Einarr, his eyes darting up and down the pier nervously.

Einarr raised an eyebrow. They could always fish, if they had to, but… “What happened?”

Naudrek came up close and spoke lowly in Einarr’s ear even as he thrust a scroll into his hand. “Trouble. Not just for us.”

Unrolling the scroll, Einarr took it in at a glance. Then his brow furrowed: something didn’t make sense. “Explain.”

“They’re forming a league to fight those crazy cultists. The ones who let loose the black kraken, I think. Only this so-called ‘League’ is buying up all the food. More than one townsperson complained they couldn’t even get cabbages.”

“…Odd.”

“Well, it gets worse. Some puffed-up young rooster overheard us trying to get something – anything – from the smokehouse. He swaggers up – you know the type – and tries to get us to join up with the League. ‘This town can only feed one army, but you can get in on it,’ that sort of thing. Only when that doesn’t work he tries threats. Odvir and I are sure as sure that we were tailed back here.”

“So they know what ship you’re on. And odds are solid they’ll think we’re freeboaters.” Einarr nodded unhappily. “Fine. I’ll make sure the watch knows – unless you think we’ll have a good tide tonight?”

“You think our escorts will let us out under cover of darkness?”

Einarr bit back a curse. “No. No, you’re right.” He pursed his lips, thinking. “I’m going to pay a visit to one of our guides. We have any of our own ale still in the hold?”

“A little.”

“Bring me a keg. I’m going to try to make nice. Maybe I can get some information about this ‘league’ out of them.”

“Good luck, Einarr.”

He nodded. “You, too. Be ready: if I think we can slip out before the moon’s up, we will. …Where’s Finn?”

“Finn? He was with us just…” Now Naudrek swore, as his eyes scanned the laboring crew and discovered that the scout was nowhere to be seen.


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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.