The sound of a great bell reverberated around the temple of Malùnion, loud enough that Einarr would have covered his ears if he hadn’t been holding on to Sinmora’s hilt for dear life.

Einarr had no idea what this was going to do, but he already knew Sinmora was not going to devour the working on the ground: the vines still bound Malùnion’s meat-puppet after all.

The vines beneath Einarr’s feet bucked wildly as their captive reeled. Sinmora had done something, anyway: the dark blood that slicked her blade as Einarr pulled it free no longer hissed and steamed, and the meat-puppet’s struggles had much of the wounded beast about them. Once more he fell to, hacking at the octopus arm in front of him, Sinmora’s power was unique, and it was powerful – powerful enough to destroy an artifact of Muspelheim, even – but he very much doubted that it was powerful enough to unravel a demigod.

Arring, too, had made it up to the body of their foe finally, and Kaldr. All three of them chopped at the body of their enemy as it flailed about. They were inside its guard – one of the most dangerous places for your enemy to be – and either it needed to protect the body of its meat puppet or it simply could not see them.

Jorir, however, was not yet inside its guard, nor was Naudrek or Troa, which meant those three received the brunt of its attack. Please let Hrug have fallen back from the edge of the circle. Between the vines and the writhing black presence of Malùnion, Einarr could not see the Rune Master. If Hrug fell, so did their working, and Einarr very much doubted there would be a chance to draw a second one.

Jorir approached from Einarr’s left, using that same slow, dogged advance that he had been before. The resonance had done what it could: Einarr side-stepped and plunged Sinmora towards the tentacle that was beating at his liege man. Once, long ago when they first discovered the existence of this cult, they had freed the Vidofnir from a cursed kraken by hacking off a tentacle, much as one would fell a large tree. Now he tried to do the same here. He chopped wildly at the tentacle, but it was so large, and its flesh so strange, it was hard to tell if he was actually making progress.

The next thing he was aware of, a second sword was swinging in rhythm with his own. Einarr glanced to the side, only to see Kaldr’s normally stoic face twisted in unaccustomed emotion as he, too, tried to spare Jorir Thjofgrir’s fate. There was nothing to be said: Einarr simply kept chopping.

The arm they chopped at raised high overhead, well out of reach. Einarr rolled to come up on the other side of it. In so doing, he got a better look at the battlefield.

Hrug stood well back of the circle that bound their foe. Naudrek, faster and nimbler than the dvergr, was chopping at an arm on the other side opposite the enraged Arring while Troa took advantage of the distraction to close the distance. Then the arm came crashing down again, and Jorir rolled to the right in order to avoid being crushed by its weight – if a mass of energy like Malùnion actually had weight. Two steps more and the dvergr was at Einarr’s side, his own axes digging into the arm that had been giving him so much trouble before.

“Glad you could make it,” Einarr managed to say.

Jorir merely grunted and chopped again.

An idea occurred to Einarr. “Buy me some time.”

With his shield hand he drew forth his chalk once more and sat to carefully draw a on the sole of each boot – Gār, the spear rune. Then he willed the runes to life, and a tiny blade extended from the center of each rune. Einarr got unsteadily back to his feet and resettled his shield and his grip on Sinmora. “Jorir – sidestep!”

Jorir threw himself two steps closer to the body of the beast, and Einarr charged straight at the tentacle that still lay on the vines that held them all up to battle it. When he reached the arm, he did not stop. Instead, he raised one foot and plunged the blade on its sole into the flesh before him like a piton. A heartbeat later, he slammed Sinmora’s blade into the arm and brought his other bladed shoe up.

His momentum was not so great that it was akin to running – more like climbing a cliff with no good handholds. Still, he kept on, dragging Sinmora through the flesh as he went and carving a line through the massive arm that went all the way across the top.

They were making decent progress and cutting the damn thing off, but not fast enough. They were all exhausted: the only reason they could fight so well was that Eydri’s magic masked their fatigue.

As he neared the top of the arm, Malùnion jerked it back up into the air. Even with his blades it was all Einarr could do not to be thrown the way Arring and Kaldr had been earlier.

Something else caught his eye, though. Just as they had before, the vines were trailing the line of blood all the way up, and into the deeper cuts that Kaldr and Jorir were working at. In fact, the area around Malùnion’s wounds seemed to be stiffening.

As the shaking stopped, Einarr rose to his feet again. “Hrug! The vines can end this!”
Then he continued on down the other side, raking Sinmora down into the wound he and Kaldr had been working on before.

Einarr once again could not see to know if it was Hrug’s doing, but a thick tendril of vine could be seen crawling along the deepest part of the incision.

Kaldr still hacked away, and his face was still raw. Einarr watched as the vines began to tighten in the wound he had cut and nodded. “We’re all inside. Make for the body of the priest,” he ordered.

Kaldr spared him a glance and a nod. “As you wish.”

Einarr didn’t wait to see what he would do: Kaldr knew his job, just as all the rest of them did. They would see to Thjofgrir once Malùnion had fallen.

 

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

This is 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 e-book 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 set his mouth as he watched the vines twine over Thjofgrir’s still form. How long had he been Kaldr’s Mate? Likely not as long as Bardr had served Father, but certainly many years more than Jorir had served Einarr. That would be a hard blow for Kaldr and for their ship. He had no room to hesitate, though, and even in the man’s death Thjofgrir had spat in their foe’s eye: until his blood watered them, the vines had not grown.

His sacrifice will not be in vain. Sinmora practically leapt out of her sheath as Einarr, too, rushed to join the fray now. As the vines grew, changing in the blink of an eye from tiny sprouts into creeping tendrils and then to prize beans and on, until they were as thick as rigging ropes, and still they grew. They quested inwards, towards the thing which should not be in their midst, and plucked at the meat-puppet’s robes and twined about its feet. Malùnion pulled it’s feet away in a strange sort of dance, trying to keep from being entwined. Einarr was abruptly reminded of the leshy, whom they had fought on the Isle of the Forgotten.

The working seemed to be taking on a life of its own, but with Hrug’s look of intense concentration Einarr was sure they would not have to worry about the vines deciding they, too, were a threat. He rushed in, and the vines he stepped on actually seemed to speed him towards the dark vortex at the center of the circle.

To his right, he saw Jorir also riding the wave of plants, looking as fiercely determined as when they’d fought back on Svartlauf, and across from him was Arring, his face contorted with the battle fury. Well, such was life.

A moment later, Kaldr leapt over the edge of the formation, his own sword held low and back to slash upwards at the beast that had just killed his best friend.

Malùnion, in spite of his best efforts, struggled against the binding of the vines now, and the face of the flesh puppet twisted even as the vines gripped his limbs more tightly.

An arrow flew past Kaldr, and this time one of the energy tendrils grew a spine. Thick black energy began dripping from the wound like blood, and the vines reached for it hungrily.

This was working, but Einarr hoped never to have to use this formation again. But his surmise had been right: evil cannot create, but it can be destroyed by creation. Now I just hope Hrug can keep control of our working. Especially since, while they still bent their wills to it, it was feeding on the blood that was shed within.

Then followed a time where everything was flailing tentacles and chopping blades. Jorir hacked the sucker off one arm. Arring nearly cleaved a second in twain. When the blood spattered on his skin, it hissed and smoked like an ember – and the vines reached for that, as well, so that Arring’s flesh underneath was pink and new. For a wonder, even then they did not try to capture Arring. Einarr could no longer see Hrug’s face to know if that was his doing.

Whether it was or not, it needed to keep happening or none of them were going to come out of this uncorrupted. Einarr, too, felt the burn of the black blood’s source – such a difference from what flowed in the veins of the cursed. This, though, was what they had gathered their fleet to do, and if they could not end the scourge here it would be a thousand years of torment on Midgardr.

Troa had rushed up to join the fray as well, his bow slung over his shoulder and his quiver empty.

Einarr felt a sudden drawing in, as though all the air had abruptly been sucked towards Malùnion. He froze. So did everyone else.

A soundless boom hit Einarr like a yardarm swinging in a storm. It knocked him off his feet and sent him flying backwards into the wall of the temple. The others, too, all went flying.

It took Einarr a moment to be able to see straight again, and when he finally blinked away the swimming picture before him he saw that the octopus arms all stood straight out from the body, as though forming some sort of perverse halo around the meat-puppet.

It had thrown them off, and it had snapped countless vines, but it had not extricated itself from the circle. Indeed, the vines that remained were growing more aggressive. I sure hope we don’t have to fight the formation in order to destroy it.

Arring loosed another battle yell and charged forward into the fray once more. One by one, the others all followed. It was visibly weakened, but not enough. Arring was batted aside once more when he came within reach. His back curled around the edge of one of the stone benches, but again the man rose to his feet.

Kaldr and Jorir dashed in at the same moment, now, and both of them nearly made it back into the fight. Kaldr dodged the flailing arms quite nimbly until he had nearly reached the circle that held their nemesis. He jumped to the side when one of the arms was coming down from over his head, however, and sprang right into the path of a second arm that knocked him, too, into one of the numerous benches scattered about the room.

Jorir was somewhat more staid in his approach. He tramped forward several steps and then stopped, bracing himself for the inevitable strike. When it came, if it did not look like he could take it and keep his feet, he would sidestep and take a swing at the flailing demigod. That looked to be working, except Einarr was afraid the dvergr would be next to feel the squeeze. That meant it was his turn.

He exhaled through his nose and closed his eyes, just for a moment, focusing on Sinmora’s rhythm. When he could not just hear it, but feel it, he opened his eyes and dashed forward.

He could never afterwards say how he did it, but as he ducked and dodged and whirled and ran, somehow his feet once again found purchase on the swell of vines created by the runes. He leapt.

Einarr plunged Sinmora deep into one of the octopus’ arms and released the resonance. It rang, and for a moment Einarr’s ears rang with it, so loud was the sound of its resonance here.

 

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

This is 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 e-book 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.