Einarr stepped out into the road running past the end of the pier and looked up and down it. Calling it a road may have been generous: he had seen cart paths that were better maintained. Deep muddy ruts scarred the surface, with standing water in several of them.

Board walks lined the sides of the road, but they were so crammed full of stalls it was impossible to actually walk along them. Well: this would hardly be the first time Einarr had gotten his boots dirty. Still, the quality of merchant did not leave him feeling hopeful.

On his left, Kaldr sniffed. “Have they no pride?” he muttered.

Einarr couldn’t quite suppress a smirk. “It might be better for us if that were the case, but I think you’ll find that pride is not what they’re lacking.”

Kaldr only hummed, his eyes scanning the crowd before them. Einarr felt sure he was looking for threats and not leads.

One direction seemed as good as the other. With a mental shrug, Einarr turned to his right. The smells coming from this direction had more to do with grilled meat than with stable muck, at least. Kaldr fell into step on his left. The walks packed with stalls and their patrons continued until the road made a sharp turn inland.

“Wandering the streets won’t do us much good,” Kaldr mused.

“No,” Einarr agreed, pitching his voice for Kaldr’s ears only. “We need a place we can sit and listen for a spell. Keep your eyes open for a public hall.”

“Surely you don’t expect there to be many people in such a place at this hour?”

“In a town like this? You’d be surprised. Besides, it always seemed to work well for Bardr when we needed to go recruiting.”

The signboard over the first hall they found – more of a den, really, Einarr thought – had ‘The Silent Hog’ scrawled across it in Imperial script. With a shared shrug and a nod, they went in.

Inside, the Silent Hog was not particularly quiet, although it made the Pewter Pot in Eskiborg look nice by comparison. The rugs scattered across the floor were nearly as muddy as the road outside, and all across the room men sat at tables dicing and drinking – never mind that it was not yet noon. Without too much trouble, Einarr spotted a place near the far wall that was currently unoccupied and flagged down a barmaid.

Five minutes later, as they sat across a table from each other with bread and ale, Einarr looked at Kaldr and said “And now, we wait.”

“For what?”

“Don’t know yet. Drink slowly, nibble, listen. If nothing interesting happens, we can move on and try again somewhere else.”

Kaldr shook his head. “I’ll admit, this is a little outside my expertise. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have Thjofgrir with you?”

Einarr chuckled. “Little late for cold feet now, isn’t it? But yes, I’m quite sure. It’s mostly a matter of knowing what to listen for.”

He turned his head to survey the room at a surge in the general noise level of the hall – some freeboater winning at dice, he expected, but no-one stood out of the crowd. He had another sip of his truly terrible ale and popped a morsel of bread in his mouth – that, at least, was quite good and fresh.

Kaldr cleared his throat. “Don’t look now, but I think someone is spoiling for a fight.”

Hey!” A rough voice called from over Einarr’s shoulder even as he turned to look.

I been watching you. Y’ain’t here ta drink, an’ y’ain’t here ta dice, so what’re you tryin’ ta pull?” The man was rail thin, but easily as tall as Erik, and his yellow hair twisted into greasy knots. He loomed over their table as he approached, one hand on the hilt of his belt knife.

Einarr put on a friendly smile. “Nothing like that, friend. We’re just looking for a friend of ours. Can we buy you a drink?”

Bah! Pair o’ pretty boys like you won’t find any friends here.”

Kaldr quirked an eyebrow. Einarr clenched his teeth, but only briefly. He couldn’t very well admit to being a prince, though, for the very same reason he hadn’t dared to bring Runa ashore.

I’ll have to let my wife know she has competition from other men, I suppose,” Einarr answered, his voice tight as he looked at Kaldr. He jerked his head toward the door: they weren’t going to learn anything here now.

A likely story!” The ruffian continued his taunts, plainly looking for a brawl that Einarr had no desire to provide. “Run off then. You might ‘ave better luck at the Cocksroost!”

Einarr frowned, sizing the man up. Not weak, plainly, but the fact that no-one else at the hall had come along suggested he might get away with it. While the ruffian laughed, evidently thinking he’d found a coward, Einarr pulled back his fist and let loose. He felt the satisfying crunch of bone as the ruffian’s nose shattered and his eyes rolled up in his head. “Let’s go.”

Silence fell over the room. As expected, when the scraggly man went down no-one came to his assistance. Einarr dropped a pair of coins on the table and left without paying him so much as another glance. Kaldr stalked after.

That was hardly called for,” he murmured.

My honor, and yours, disagree. Sometimes, the best thing to do with a man like that is give him what he’s after, good and hard.”

Word will spread, and it will be harder to lay low.”

Word will spread, and we should dissuade more such… nonsense. Now we need to find another place to listen.”

Might I suggest looking for one near a local foundry?”

Einarr gave that some thought. Not all svartdvergr were blacksmiths, but Jorir was. “Agreed.”

The two men set off down the street in the way that they had come, knowing they would need to go inland eventually – but where there were stables, there would be horses to shoe.

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.

 

Stigander went so far as to provide the karve for their search – one of the benefits, he said, of being back where they belonged – while Einarr and Kaldr assembled their team. Thjofgrir’s presence was as critical for Kaldr as Naudrek’s was for Einarr. After much deliberation, they agreed that Vali was their best choice for a scout, especially in the sorts of places they expected their search to take them.

The trouble came when Runa overheard Einarr speaking to Eydri about going.

“You’re not seriously thinking of leaving me behind?”

Uh-oh. Einarr steeled himself and turned to face his new wife. “I was, actually. We can’t know what sort of circumstances we’ll find ourselves in. It’s sure to be dangerous, and –”

“No ‘ands,’ Einarr. I don’t mind if you also bring along Eydri, but I’m not going to let you leave me behind.”

“But –”

“No buts. Jorir’s gotten me out of a tough scrape or two already: I intend to return the favor.”

Somehow, Einarr wasn’t certain that would be a good thing for Jorir, but he knew very well when Runa wasn’t going to budge on an issue. With a sigh, he turned to Eydri.

“It’s fine,” she said, but she wouldn’t look him in the eye.

“Are you sure? If you still want to go, I can check supplies with Kaldr. Vali doesn’t exactly eat much.”

“No, it’s fine. I haven’t sailed with Jorir all that much, and Kaldr is… Kaldr. Lady Runa has the right of it …If you’ll excuse me.”

Eydri left the room with some haste. Einarr looked after her as she entered the hall, puzzled. “Whatever can have gotten into her?”

Runa smiled, looking for all the world like a cat with cream. “Nothing you need concern yourself over. Just give her a little time and all will be well again.”

“…If you say so. Well, you’ve made it plain I can’t stop you, so you’d best make sure you’re packed.”

“Our things have already been seen to.”

“…I see.” Gods preserve me from willful women… The thought was as fond as his smile, though, as he wrapped an arm around his wife. “In that case, we should check in with Kaldr and Thjofgrir down at the pier.”


Kaldr, as expected, had complained – perhaps more loudly than he would have for Eydri, but his complaints were expected. Even he, however, could not deny the usefulness of someone well-versed in lore for their journey.

That it was Runa, however. That was a bone of contention. He argued long and strongly against her inclusion, and each and every argument against was one which Einarr had expected. Even agreed with, on some level. Finally, however, when Runa’s voice grew haughty and every fiber of her being began to quiver with anger, Einarr stepped in. There was simply nothing to be done, after all – she had as much right to search for Jorir as the two of them, and politics be damned.

Kaldr let loose a heavy sigh. “As my lord wills it, then,” he said with a bow, and left to see to some other matter aboard their karve.

They sailed the next day aboard the boat they had dubbed the Villgås, and after two and a half uneventful weeks on the open water they saw the shores of Mýrarhöfn rise over the horizon. Save for being the only land they’d seen in more than a week, there was not much remarkable about the terrain. The largest portion of what they could see was taken up by the port.

Even from the water Einarr could see that the port city looked run-down. With its reputation for attracting freeboaters of the roughest sort, it was unfortunately what he’d expected. He frowned: here was where he wished Eydri hadn’t bowed out so quickly. He could have used her on the ground in a place like this. Runa, though… well, she was tougher than one would expect, but he still couldn’t bring her ashore, not without a very good reason. She would be eaten alive in a place like this. He turned his gaze away from the approaching harbor and back over the deck to survey his crew and snorted, his decision made.

“All right, everyone. Once we make land, here’s how this will work. Thjofgrir, Naudrek, and Runa will stay aboard to guard the ship. No, Runa, that’s not optional. There’s very few Singers I’ve met I wouldn’t order to stay aboard in a place like this.” Runa huffed. Einarr found, for once, he didn’t care. “Vali, you can get into places the rest of us simply can’t. I expect you to be doing the heavy lifting on this search. Trust your instincts… and try not to scare anyone to death.”

As expected, Runa glared daggers at Einarr, but kept her mouth shut. At least for now. Vali smirked. “Aye, sir,” was all he said.

“Kaldr, you and I are going to go asking questions in all the wrong sorts of places.”

“Of course, my lord.”

He paused. He had half-expected Kaldr to suggest Thjofgrir or Naudrek in his place: truth be told, he wasn’t certain one or both of them might be better for the job. Well, whatever the reason, Einarr wanted a cool head at his back if he got into trouble. “Good. We’re going armed. If you’ve got a sturdy leather coat it’s probably better than maille here.”

Kaldr nodded, evidently in agreement. “The less attention we draw to ourselves, the better. Keep in mind, everyone, that Finn hit a stone wall every time it came out he was searching for a svartdvergr.”

“Hm. That could make things more interesting.” Einarr shrugged. “Not like there’s much we can do about it until we’re out there. Is everyone ready?”

Runa still looked cross, but her two bodyguards nodded easily.

“As ready as we can be, then,” Kaldr answered. It looked like Vali was already gone.

“Then I’ll see you all tonight.”

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 was far gladder than he cared to admit – especially to Runa – to see Breidelstein harbor as it hove into view. Captain Tormud of the Thorfridr had been more than gracious, and had pushed his ship beyond all limits so that they could pay the calls they had to in the allotted time. Nor could he fault the company: what he and Runa lacked in privacy, they gained in discretion from the crew. Unfortunately, not only was this not his Heidrun, but he’d also spent their time ashore engaged in political maneuvering.

Finally, though, the Thorfridr glided up to the pier and stopped with a gentle tap. Einarr stood and stretched and took a quick glance around their tent in the back of the ship. Everything seemed to be in order. “Ready to go?” he asked Runa with a smile.

Runa had not seemed to mind their political duties at all over the course of their honeymoon. On the contrary, she was in her element the entire time, even when facing the Matrons of the Circle. She stretched languidly in a way that accentuated her curves, deliberately teasing him. “I suppose we must.”

“Come now. Father will be expecting us. There is much to tell, after all.” He still enjoyed the view, however.

She laughed, the sound like tinkling chimes, as she rose gracefully to her feet and wrapped her arm around his. “In that case, let us be off.”

The brief scramble of noise that was a practiced docking was already dying down. Einarr shouldered the most important of their packs – the others would be brought up by porters later – and escorted his wife out and across the gangplank. It was a long walk up the cliff to the Hold, but that was no bad thing: Einarr wrapped his arm around Runa’s waist and they strolled leisurely through the streets of Breidelstein.

When their path eventually took them up to the gates of the Hold, Kaldr was waiting for them, a grim expression on his face.

“Well now,” Einarr said with a lopsided smile. “You’re as cheery as ever. Good to see you, too, Kaldr. Where’s Father?”

“In his study, waiting on the two of you with pastries and the second to last bottle of your wedding mead.” The corner of Kaldr’s mouth actually quirked upwards in amusement. “Walk with me. There’s been an incident since you left: I thought you should know before you spoke with your father.”

“What? What happened? Tell me I don’t have another island to go pacify…”

“No, not at all. Your father managed to smooth the remaining ruffled feathers at your wedding, I think. No… it’s Jorir.”

“Jorir?” He stopped. The dwarf was both loyal and reliable. What sort of trouble could he have gotten into in a month? Runa bit her lower lip, evidently worried.

“He’s missing. Ever since your wedding night.” Kaldr did not stop walking, forcing the other two to jog in order to catch up.

“What?” Einarr was caught between shock and outrage. “Why did no-one tell me?”

“You would have gone haring off after him, rather than attending to your wife and the other duties of your honeymoon.”

He glanced down at Runa, knowing it was true. “But he’s my liege man, and my friend.”

He could feel Runa glaring at him even without looking.

Leaving aside the happiness of your marriage – which would suffer greatly in those circumstances – and the necessity of you producing an heir before one of your misadventures gets you killed, that still could not have been allowed. For nearly twenty years, now, Breidelstein had been completely isolated from the rest of the world. That little cruise we arranged for you was to show the other clans that era is over, and things have changed. …And here we are. Lord Stigander awaits, milord. And now that you are briefed, you can intelligently discuss your next steps.” Kaldr rapped loudly on the door to Stigander’s study.

Enter,” came the answer.

Kaldr pushed open the door and gestured for Einarr and Runa to enter first.

You’re back!” Stigander grinned as he stood and opened his arms wide. Kaldr quietly stepped inside and closed the door behind himself.

Home at last,” Einarr smiled, embracing his father. “Anything interesting happen while we were away?”

Stigander hesitated. “No, of course not. As usual, all the excitement followed you around.”

All of it? Then what’s this I hear about Jorir disappearing into the night?”

His father sighed, seeming to deflate a little, and glanced at Kaldr. “Have a seat, all of you. …Honey cakes?”

Einarr and Runa each accepted one, but Einarr did not bite into his immediately. “Kaldr tells me Jorir has been gone since my wedding night. Surely someone has gone in search of him, at least?”

Aye. Finn returned two days ago. He managed to track your man to Mýrarhöfn, but he lost the trail there.”

Mýrarhöfn?”

Kaldr cleared his throat. “A free isle a good ways east of Kem, not far north of Imperial waters. As I understand it, it’s rather rough and lawless.”

Quite right,” Stigander agreed. “I expect, now that you know, you want to head out after him?”

Of course.” Einarr answered absently, rubbing his chin with his forefinger. “Kem’s not exactly close by . Is the Heidrun seaworthy?”

Not yet -”

We’ll be taking my boat,” Kaldr put in. When Einarr raised a questioning eyebrow at him, he quirked one in turn. “I’ve grown rather fond of him myself, you know.”

Stigander harrumphed. “You have my leave to go, but I recommend a karve or a small knarr rather than a longship. It will be a long journey, and we can’t send a lot of people, not with the League active. Choose your men, and good fortune go with you.”

You have my thanks, Father.”

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.