Dawn came far too quickly for Einarr’s liking. He almost wished he hadn’t bothered to sleep. And yet, he and Hrug had come up against a blank wall. There simply didn’t seem to be anything else to learn from the ruby. So far as either of them could tell, the only magic about it was the rune that glowed in its center, promising misfortune to whoever saw it.

He sat up with a groan and looked about their camp: Finn had sat up for the watch after the battle the night before. He looked haggard, but there was no reason he couldn’t sleep later that morning. Naudrek, on the other hand, had been sensible. When it was plain there would be no further attack by the accursed dead, he had curled up to catch what sleep he could. He, too, sat up from his blanket near the fire, looking somewhat more alert than Einarr felt.

“Morning,” Einarr yawned.

“Morning. Ready to face your great-grandfather?”

“Do I have a choice? Anyone know if draugr sleep during the day, or do they just lurk?”

No-one answered. Eydri and Hrug were still asleep. Troa, who seemed to know more about them than some of the others, shrugged.

“Right. So, we’d best get moving. Troa, I want you to stay here and help protect the seithir. Naudrek and I should be more than enough to get the door open, and I have to go in alone anyway.”

Today, at least, he didn’t argue. The attack last night must worry him, too. “Yes, sir.”

Einarr and Naudrek shared out some jerky and set out on the same path they had followed the morning before. When they arrived, all was as it had been when they left, save that the soil above the doorpost had been freshly churned. For a long moment, Einarr stared at the stone which sealed the entrance to Ragnar’s barrow. Finally he took a long breath.

“Ready?” Naudrek asked.

“Would I be this nervous if I wasn’t the Cursebreaker?”

“On this island? More, or you’d be a fool.”

Einarr gave his friend a wan smile. “Thanks. I’m as ready as I can be, I think.”

They crouched and put their shoulders to the massive marker stone. With a heave and a groan they pushed, and the entryway slowly inched open. Finally, when both men were winded and sweat dripped down their brows in the cool morning, the door stood open into darkness like a gaping maw.

“Good luck. I will watch out here.”

Einarr clapped his shoulder. “My thanks.”

He gave himself no further time to deliberate. Einarr pivoted on the balls of his feet and stepped across the threshold into the darkness of the barrow.

The difference was absolute. The – admittedly wan – morning light of Thorndjupr penetrated as though through a thick curtain. Einarr paused a moment, blinking, and slowly his eyes adjusted to the gloom.

To his right and his left, he saw what looked like piles of armor resting against the wall. Just past that were urns with staves sticking out like bristles – likely spear shafts, actually. Einarr took another step forward, and then another. The hall of treasure went on far further than Einarr had thought possible, based on the size of the mound.

Up ahead, something shifted. A metallic clinking, as of coins sliding across each other, followed the movement. Einarr froze and squinted, trying to make out forms deeper in the darkness.

“So, finally you come.” The voice was dry and raspy as sand.

“It took me a great deal of trouble to find you.”

“So what business does the get of my worthless son have in my home? Come to finish the job?”

“Raen Ragnarsson is a hero to our clan. Is, note: your son still lives, in spite of everything.”

A sound like rustling leaves carried through the darkness, and it took Einarr a moment to realize the creature was laughing. “Hero. Bah. That sounds just like him. Heroism doesn’t keep the coffers full.”

“And yet. Here I stand, your great-grandson, to claim your sword as a bridegift as the tradition requires. If I must fight you for it, I have prepared.”

The creature that had been Ragnar stood and walked forward. Its eyes seemed to shine in the darkness, far higher than the eyes of any man should be. The deeper darkness that was its body was massive, its broad shoulders half again as tall as Einarr, with thick-sinewed legs to match. “Have you, now, my boy? Have you really?”

The creature stopped just in front of Einarr. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but it seemed as though its flesh were actually black. Even still, Einarr met its gaze unflinchingly.

“Your bride would not thank you for the gift of that sword, get of Raen, nor would your own get when he grew to claim it. Mind you, I am not over-fond of the thing either after all these years.”

Einarr let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “If you tell me it is cursed, I will tell you I expected that as well.”

The creature laughed again. “And why, praytell, would you expect such a thing?”

“I have met the people of the town, and seen the state of your island, and read the records in your hold. I am still not entirely clear what happened to cause Raen to be driven off, but I know you were a faithless host.”

The creature snorted and turned around. “I did nothing out of the ordinary. But even if that were the case, what did you expect to do about such a curse?”

“For nearly three years now, I have been known as the Cursebreaker. Either I will cleanse the blade, or I will die.”


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Eydri’s eyes grew wide and she raised her hands to cover her mouth. “Oh, my.”

That got Finn’s attention. He came to look over their shoulders. “What is it?”

“Oh, no. Oh, my,” she said again. Finn looked at her for a long moment before she answered. “Unless I’m very much mistaken… Hrug, that rune is a Merkstave Fehu, yes?”

Hrug nodded.

Eydri swallowed. “That means… this is the Fehugim.”

“That… doesn’t sound bad, though? Fehu is prosperity, right?”

“No. No it definitely is bad. All the lore claims the gem is in the treasure vault of Wotan, though.” She closed the lid, gently.

Hrug tapped a finger loudly on the bound tablet sitting on the floor by his knee.

“The guests who uniformly attacked their hosts? Hm. You could have a point.”

“Would someone mind explaining this to the man in the room?”

Hrug leapt halfway to his feet, his one hand pulled back to punch the scout, who backpedaled.

“Sorry. Sorry. Old habits, and all.”

Hrug, looking not at all mollified, snorted and sat back down, still glaring at Finn.

Eydri, too, gave him a cold look before she spoke. “Mind your tongue, and remember that your own prince is no slouch with the runes.”

“Yes, my lady.”

Now that Finn appeared suitable cowed, Eydri answered. “Wotan, in his wanderings, will sometimes decide to test the hospitality of some homesteader here in the islands. Surely you’ve heard the stories.”

The newly chastened scout nodded. “Oh, that. But this seems a little extreme even for Wotan, don’t you think?”

Eydri shook her head. “Maybe not. Think about it: when some poor soul gets made an example of in the tales, it’s usually because he turned the traveller away or was rude. But if Ragnar was more bandit than Thane…”

“Then… Oh.”

“Right.”

 

 

Einarr stood at the standing stones blocking the mouth of a hastily constructed barrow. The soil above, on the mound, looked like it had recently been disturbed. He raised his hand to run his fingers over the runic inscription over the door. Who carved that, I wonder? Given what little he knew of the circumstances, he doubted there would be many willing to at the time. Perhaps one of Grandfather Raen’s retainers? There must have been a few men who went with him, or he wouldn’t have had a crew to leave.

Naudrek and Troa stood behind him to either side, flanking what would soon be a door.

“This looks like the one,” Einarr said. “How much daylight do we have left?”

“An hour, maybe two.”

Einarr sighed. Probably, he could get the sword back today. But then he would be leaving an open barrow behind them as they trekked across draugr-infested lands at night. They would be pushing it to get back before sunset as it was. “Fine. First thing in the morning. Troa, find me a long stick. Let’s stick a flag by the door so we can find it quickly.”

Not long after, a lonely scrap of cloth fluttered fitfully in front of the barrow that they were reasonably sure belonged to Ragnar, Raen’s father. Einarr let out a deep breath: it would have to do. “Let’s go. Daylight’s wasting.”

The draugr they had faced the night before had been feeble, wasted things, and even with all of them fighting through to their base camp had been exhausting. Einarr set a hard pace, jogging where they could. That he would have to face what remained of his great-grandfather was a given at this point and Einarr preferred to save his strength for that.

A fire was already burning brightly in the room they had taken for their camp when Einarr and his companions returned, glowing brightly into the dim twilight. They heard the rattle of bones behind them as they crossed the threshold: that had been far too close for comfort.

“Welcome back,” Eydri said as they stood, catching their breaths.

“My thanks,” Einarr answered. “Any luck on your search?”

Eydri and Hrug shared a look, then Eydri turned the question around on him. “Some. What of yours?”

“Oh, I found the one. Looks like something digs through the top at intervals, too. We’ll try to put the stone back over the entrance when I’m done, but…”

“I understand.”

“Now. What was it you found?”

Eydri lifted a box off their makeshift table in the back of the room and straightened. Her movements were both strangely slow and strangely jerky, as though she couldn’t quite convince herself of something. Then she thrust the box across at Einarr.

He recognized it instantly. “From the store-room. The rune-sealed ‘recipe box.’”

She nodded. “I remembered it this morning. Hrug and I worked together on it. You should see what’s inside.”

Einarr raised an eyebrow, but lifted the lid of the box. Inside, a fist-sized ruby rested on a silken pillow. A glowing ᚠ seemed to hang suspended inside.

Behind him, Naudrek whistled. “That’s a mighty valuable gem there. No wonder it was sealed away.”

Einarr wrinkled is brow. “It’s more than that, Naudrek. That rune… the branches usually stick out to the right. It’s backwards.” He shook his head. “But I don’t remember all the divination meanings of the sticks. Sorry, Eydri. You’re going to have to explain a bit more.”

“What if I told you it’s the Fehugim, and its last known location was in the treasure hall of Wotan.”

“More of Wotan’s treasure? I had nothing to do with this one.”

Eydri laughed. Troa, over by the door, cleared his throat. “You might want to close that box.”

Einarr let the box lid fall with a clack as he asked “What’s going on?”

“Whatever it is, it’s drawing attention.”

Einarr scowled. “Guard the doors, everyone. Eydri, keep talking.”

“Yes, sir.” She took the box from him even as he moved to take up a place next to Naudrek. From outside the doors, they could hear groaning and the shuffling of feet.


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Einarr sat crosslegged on the ground, near enough the fire that the heat pressed uncomfortably against his thigh. The tablet page appeared to give an accounting of gifts presented by Ragnar to men of the town. It seemed utterly ordinary, so he turned back to the previous page.

That spoke of a traveler who stopped by these islands and was granted hospitality in the Hold. In the dead of the night, it said, the traveler and his crew attacked the men of the hall, but were vanquished and driven off. This was less than a month before the accounting of gifts. Strange that a traveler would violate the laws of hospitality like that, but honorless dogs did exist.

Before that, there were several pages of ordinary seeming accounts, and then a near repeat of the gifts and tale Einarr had just read. Once was not unheard of. Twice in – if he was not mistaken – less than a year was decidedly odd, and Hrug had been certain this was important. “Hrug, am I right in thinking you saw a pattern here?”

He nodded.

“How many times did you see it repeat?”

He held up his single hand with the thumb across his palm, four fingers extended.

Einarr frowned. “Definitely suspicious… although I’m not sure it proves anything by itself.” He sighed, smoothing the hairs of his beard around his mouth. “Well. We know where to go to look tomorrow. Time to turn in, if you’re not on watch. Good night, and good fortune.”


The next morning they were all up at first light after an uneventful watch. Why the abominations left them alone in their camp, none of them could say, but they were all determined not to have a repeat of the night before. Einarr broke his fast with a strip of jerky gnawed on as they returned to the records chamber.

He’d read more of Hrug’s tablet during his watch. The pattern remained consistent, and he didn’t think the world had changed that much since Ragnar’s day. Freeboaters were an unpredictable lot, but the simplest solution to the pattern suggested they were not the faithless ones.

Eydri frowned. “That’s terrible, and all by itself it might explain why Raen left, but it doesn’t explain why all the townspeople hate the name of Ragnar, nor why this island is like it is.”

“No, it doesn’t. Eydri, I want you and Hrug to concentrate on looking for more accountings like this. The rest of us will concentrate on finding the barrows.”

She nodded her agreement, and then the seven of them split up to search the stacks of records.

Just before midday, Odvir gave a triumphant shout. The entire room seemed to vibrate with the sound and he cleared his throat, suddenly embarrassed. He held up one of the parchment scrolls. “Map.”

“Thank goodness! Bring it over here and let’s have a look.”

Everyone save Eydri and Hrug gathered around Einarr as they rolled out Odvir’s find to have a look. The parchment was badly aged, and even though it hadn’t been unrolled in more than fifty years there were places that were badly obscured by dirt, and others that showed some sort of dark stain.

Once upon a time, before whatever it was that drove out the son – or sons? – of Ragnar, this had been an impressively fortified hold. Especially considering the terrain in this area: grandfather Raen must have looked at the cliff overlooking Breidelstein harbor and called it a boon from the gods themselves. After careful study and much discussion, Einarr pointed to what – on the map – was a large clearing between the hold and the mountain spire. “It looks like this is where we’ll find the barrows.”

“That’s a mighty good hike, considering we need to be back in camp before sunset,” Troa mused.

Einar hummed in agreement as he glanced around at his fellows. “That’s why I should go alone.”

Naudrek barked a laugh. “You’re mad.”

“Your father would have our heads.” Troa added.

“And how, praytell, do you expect to tell the right barrow on your own?” Eydri purred from across the room. That was a dangerous sound coming from her.

“I may not have all the lore of the Singers, but it’s not that hard to reason out. Whatever happened with Ragnar, grandfather was run out of town. He wouldn’t have had time to build an elaborate barrow, but he wouldn’t have wanted to leave his own father for carrion, either. So it’s hastily made, and probably as near to the hold as he could manage. You worry about your own task, Eydri, and let me worry about the ritual that every groom in the Clans undertakes before his wedding.”

Eydri rolled her eyes dramatically and pulled down another tablet. Hrug chuckled.

“You’re still not going out there without at least one of us to watch your back.” Naudrek poked Einarr in the chest, eliciting a raised eyebrow.

“I could order you all to stay behind and guard those two.”

Now Troa laughed. “Could. But we all know you’re smarter than that.”

“We’ll come with you.” Naudrek swung his thumb between himself and Troa. “I know we’ll be watching each other’s backs at least as much as yours, but even if that’s all we manage at least you’ll have two extra pairs of eyes.”

“Fine. You win. We’ll leave first thing in the morning: even if we found the barrow this afternoon, we’d have to come right back to camp afterwards.”

Einarr’s acting Mate and the leader of his scouts nodded their heads decisively. Einarr let the parchment roll back up and secured it with the leather thong Odvir handed him.

“Now that that’s decided, we should all give Eydri and Hrug some help. The more I know going in, the better I’ll be able to deal with whatever this island throws at me.”


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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.

As afternoon faded into evening the last stragglers made it back to the Heidrun. Svarek had managed to acquire some cabbages and fresh fish ashore and was currently boiling them into one of his marvelous soups. Everyone looked discouraged. Everyone, that is, except for Einarr’s team and Hrug. They were merely resigned.

“I’m afraid I gave you some bad advice earlier. Had I known how poorly thought of Ragnar was when Grandfather left, I’d have come up with some other way of asking around.”

He heard a few scattered grumblings, but no-one interrupted.

“The bad news is, the only public hall in town is not a place you can – or should, I think – stay. Anyone who doesn’t come with me will have to stay on the ship.”

Svarek snorted. “Bread’s full of rocks, anyway.”

“Oh, you too?” Einarr chuckled, then sighed. “The good news is, between the herb-witch and the rune sticks I know both where to go and who to bring with me. Hrug and I will ward the ship before we leave—”

The sorcerer held up his hand in mute protest.

“Don’t be so surprised, old man. We talked about this. If we do these wards properly they won’t need you here, and I very well might. I mislike what that old woman said about ‘Hel’s domain.’ I hope she’s just being macabre, but…”

“But we all follow the Cursebreaker,” Eydri finished.

“Yes, that. So I’m only taking a handful of people with me, and the rest of you get to stay put and guard the ship.” Against what, he could not guess, but he wasn’t about to put them off their guard that way. “Now. Coming with me – and no arguments, now, we all talked this over very carefully among ourselves. Hrug, Naudrek, Eydri, Troa, Finn, and Odvir. Ready yourselves for the expedition. Everyone else, you know what to do.”

The sky was shading from pale grey to dark grey. Out over the water, movement caught Einarr’s eye. A lone fishing boat sped across the surface of the water, its oars creating their own wakes in the still surface of the water. Despite the strange, desperate speed of the rowers, however, the boat seemed to be slowing – and sinking. The closer to shore it drew, the lower in the water it sat.

“Hey, that fisher needs help!” Odvir exclaimed.

“…Yeah, you’re right.” Einarr was about to order his men to oars, but then Eydri held out a forestalling arm.

“No, don’t.”

“What?”

“We can’t help.” Eydri looked pale.

The water around the hull of the boat seemed to be writhing, as though grey tendrils reached up and roiled around its sides. They could hear the shouts and pounding of the fishermen aboard as they tried to fight off whatever it was that had now stopped them in the water.

Then a crack like thunder echoed over the surface of the water and the boat broke in two. Now the voices of the fishermen turned to cries of fear as skinny black bodies dragged the capsized boat and all its occupants beneath the surface.

“What did we just watch?” Naudrek asked, his voice hollow with sickened wonder.

“I had wondered,” Eydri started. “What the old herb witch meant when she called this island Hel’s domain. I think… I think we know, now.”

Einarr grunted agreement, his eyes glued to the place where the water still roiled from the death-struggles of the fishermen. “Be on your guard, everyone. Hrug, let’s get started.”


The ward Einarr and Hrug laid over the ship was surprisingly similar to the one Elder Melja had maintained over the Crimson Shroud, except that it was set to keep things out rather than in – in this case, things that were not alive. It would draw its power from the entirety of the crew, which would distribute its need to the point that no one should be unduly inconvenienced. This was in place before the midnight watch began.

At dawn, Einarr and his team shouldered their packs and tramped across to the dock. Svarek would take command while they were gone: the young wanderer had proven himself steady and reliable over the course of the last year. And with that, Einarr led the others back through the town.

Even dawn could not bring cheer or color to the streets of this town. Einarr noted with interest, however, that now it was the women who were out and about, sweeping yards and doing the ordinary, day-to-day tasks that keep a town from squalor. Still, though, he saw no children. Perhaps, given what they knew about the island, this was rational on the part of the people. It did not make it less unnerving, however.

The townsfolk, for their part, shied away from the travelers as they passed, and it was plain they did not intend to speak to the strangers. Thus it was that Einarr and his companions passed through the town in silence.

The forest pressed hard against the edge of the town to the north and fell into the gloom of twilight. Eydri and Finn lit torches.

The forest was not, in fact, black pine – or at least not entirely – but a mix of hard and soft wood. But, like everything else on the island, the colors were dulled and greyed, only reinforcing the feeling of death and decay that seemed to hang over everything.

“According to the herb witch,” Einarr reminded them. “We need to follow the old road north until we reach the standing stones. After that things get trickier.”

“Tricky – how?” Odvir asked, his eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Ghost-light, lost in the mist tricky, I’m afraid. That’s why you and Troa are with me, frankly.” They were two of the only ones on board who had faced the Althane two years ago.

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Troa groaned.

“Let’s keep going, though. The sooner we get to the ruins of the old hold, the better.”


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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.

A week after their encounter with the accursed ship of the demon cult, a small, dark island appeared on the horizon. According to all the charts, it had to be Thorndjupr.

The sense of gloom hanging over the island only grew more intense as they approached. It wasn’t just that the trees were black pine: it was almost as though the color had been leached from the world around that island. There was hardly a cloud in the sky, but it was grey and so was the water below. The surface of the island looked to be as smooth as a hilltop on the plains save for one tall pillar of a mountain in the very center. It was as though a giant had stood still on the seafloor long enough that an island had grown up over his helmet.

As the harbor town began to become clear on the shore, Einarr stood and looked at the island his grandfather had once called home. “Well,” he said, half to himself. “I guess this is it. At least we aren’t going to have to scale any cliffs – not immediately, anyway.”

He could tell the exact moment when the people in the harbor spotted their incoming ship: it was when the men moving around the docks put down their loads and jogged for shore to cluster in the shadows. Such was the hazard, sometimes, of traveling in a longship. As they drew closer, however, and the men ashore heard no battle chanting, and saw no helmeted heads, they emerged from the shadows to stare sullenly at the incoming ship.

A hollow pit formed in Einarr’s stomach as he stared back, getting a good look at the people that used to be his grandfather’s… or perhaps his great-grandfather’s. He saw no women about whatsoever, and very few children. These were all older, on the cusp of adolescence, and had none of the vigor of childhood about them. To a head, the people of the town were thin, sallow, and as beaten-down as the people of Breidelstein before their liberation.

Einarr drew his shoulders back as they drew in by the pier, even as he shared a wary look with Naudrek. The island was already as ill-favored as the name suggested, and they hadn’t even landed yet. Instead, as the Heidrun slowed to a stop by the pier, he stepped forward and called out to a passing dockworker. “Hail, sir! Is the harbormaster about?”

The man stopped and looked up at him from dark, hooded eyes. “Ain’t no Harbormaster. Ain’t no-one stoppin’ you, either. Come ashore if’n you must, but you’ll find neither treasure nor glory here.”

“My thanks. I seek no glory, nor treasure of the ordinary sort. I seek a sword of my fathers’.”

The dockworker snorted and went about his way.

“That… didn’t go badly,” Einarr muttered to Naudrek and Eydri, who flanked him.

“It didn’t go well, either,” Naudrek said.

“I mislike the looks of this place, Einarr,” Eydri answered, her voice low but urgent. “I know I wanted to come, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is no shame in having a new sword forged.”

“No shame, perhaps, but no time once we return either. No: we are here, and we will see this through. This… seems to be what it means to be a Cursebreaker.”

Eydri snorted, but said no more. At Naudrek’s order, Svarek hopped from the bulwark to the pier and caught the ropes to moor the Heidrun.

Einarr turned to address his crew. “Alright, everyone. We all know why we’re here. We need to find out where the barrow of Grandfather Raen’s father Ragnar is. I assume, although I don’t know, that they were once the lords of this island. Given the …quality of the people we’ve seen thus far, however, it might pay to be a little circumspect in your questions.”

A rumble of agreement moved across the crew of the Heidrun.

“We still need to act quickly, however. We only have a little more than a month before we need to be back in Breidelstein, and most of that time needs to be on the water. So, Hrug, pick two to help you guard the ship. Everyone else, into town. Let’s find out what’s going on.”

Before long, there were only four people aboard ship: Hrug and his two guards, and Einarr. Eydri and Naudrek waited on the pier.

“You brought your rune sticks, right, Hrug?”

When the mute sorcerer nodded, Einarr went on. “Good. Will you see what you can divine about this place? Something gives me the shivers, and I want to know what.”

Hrug nodded again, and Einarr started down the plank with a wave. “Thanks, Hrug. We’ll be back.”


The lack of women out and about in town disturbed Einarr on some level. They weren’t even out working in the yards of houses, or serving in the local public hall. He could not afford to leave Eydri on the ship however, even if he was willing to offend her by suggesting it. Thus, as they moved into the town to ask their questions, she was flanked by himself and Naudrek.

The men in the streets, however, were as uninterested in talking as the dockworker had been. Finally, the three companions made their way back into the public hall and put down some coin for a bit of supper and some information.

The food that came back to them was a thin seafood soup, more broth than anything, and hard dark bread. Gamely, Einarr dunked his bread in the broth and tried to take a bite: for his trouble, he bit down on a pebble that should never have made it out of the mill. He set the bread back on the edge of the wooden truncheon and looked at the boy who had served it. “Can I ask you some questions?”


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That night, Raenshold feasted in celebration of the victorious return of the Vidofnir and the Heidrun. From his seat by Father’s side, Einarr grinned across the table at the unflappable Kaldr and took a deep draught. He was mostly glad to be home, but it was hard to pass up a chance to nettle the man. “What you need,” he said, wiping the foam from his beard with the back of his hand, “Is to relax a little. Isn’t that right, Jorir?”

The dwarf, at Einarr’s side, chuckled.

Kaldr gave one of his trademark placid looks to the heir apparent. “I fail to see what is so relaxing about playing the fool.”

“Ease up, Einarr. That is relaxed.”

Einarr rolled his eyes in mock exasperation and picked up a joint of rabbit from his truncheon. “You, too?”

Jorir’s eyes twinkled with mirth. Plainly the dwarf knew something Einarr did not, but he had no chance to press. Stigander nudged his right shoulder and motioned with his head to come off to the side. Einarr stood immediately and followed, taking his meat with him.

“What is it, Father?”

“While you were out, we finally managed to learn where the ancestral barrows are.”

“You have?” Einarr’s eyebrows climbed with surprise – and relief.

Stigander nodded. Getting anything out of Grandfather Raen was difficult these days, but even before the witch got her claws in him he’d never spoken of where he’d come from originally. “I got a name, yes, and Reki’s confirmed it’s a real place.”

“Thank goodness. Now all I have to do is get the sword.”

“All is right. You’ve got two months before the wedding. With a fast ship and no delays, you’ll spend six weeks on the water. And we still don’t know anything about the place.”

“How is that different from any of our adventures these last few years? It seems like everything went crazy after they got Astrid.”

His father grunted in agreement.

“So where am I going? I’ll need a day or two to resupply the Heidrun, but I can leave right after.”

“Thorndjupr.”

Einarr grimaced. “Well there’s an ill-favored name.”

“You’re not wrong. Take whoever you please for your crew: you’ve fought among the men more than I have, recently.”

“Thank you, Father.” Einarr gave one last, regretful look towards the feast-table with his truncheon still half-filled with food and then turned away from the hall, tearing the last of the meat from the rabbit joint as he left. It seemed his rest would be brief: he now had an expedition to plan, and the first thing to do was consult the sea charts.

Finally, an ancestral sword was attainable. The wedding could go on.

And this might actually be fun.


At dawn the following day, a messenger was sent to the harbor with instructions to resupply the Heidrun with all haste.

Over breakfast, Einarr called together Jorir, Reki, and Eydri in conference. “I have a location.”

Reki nodded: she had helped Father find it, after all.

“Day after tomorrow, I sail on the Heidrun for some place called Thorndjupr, with no idea what I’ll find there save my great-grandfather’s barrow, and as of yet no clear idea about my crew. If Reki’s willing to come along, though, I thought you might like a break, Eydri.”

Eydri drew herself up as though she were somehow offended. “Is my lord the prince dissatisfied?”

Einarr rolled his eyes. “Not at all. I only thought that, since you’ve been out for most of these thrice-cursed pacification ventures, you might like to rest a little. And as much as you’ve been out, Reki has been land-bound.”

Reki shook her head, chuckling a little. “I appreciate the thought, Einarr, but I think I will decline. I have my own matters to attend to here.”

Einarr nodded at both of them. “As you wish. I wanted to lay the option before you both.”

Eydri snorted. “We’re going to retrieve an ancestral sword from your family barrow, the sword your bride will hold in safekeeping for your heir, on an island your grandfather left for unknown reasons. And you expected me to pass this up? I signed on to follow the Cursebreaker. This is the most interesting thing you’ve done all year.”

Einarr sighed. He wished she hadn’t put it quite so bluntly, but she was right. Given his usually fatal Calling, and the name of the island, a quest that was supposed to be straightforward almost certainly wouldn’t be. “And now that we’ve been cursed to peril,” he said, turning to Jorir. “What of you?”

“Nay, Lord,” the dwarf grumbled. “Take Naudrek, though. He’ll watch your back in my stead.”

“Oh? And what, praytell, conspires to keep you here?”

Jorir gave a wan laugh. “You do. Or, rather, your wedding does. I’ll be surprised if you return much before time: someone has to see to your interests.”

Einarr nodded. It was true: there were few he could trust half so well as Jorir to see it done properly. “Thank you, my friend.”

The dwarf snorted. “Thank me when you come back in one piece.”

“I’m sure I will. But that still leaves the rest of the crew.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Reki said, standing smoothly.

Einarr gave the albino Singer a smile and a nod as she took her morning bread and glided across the Hall to where Stigander sat in a conference very similar to Einarr’s.

“So if Naudrek is acting as Mate, I’ve at least got to give Hrug a chance to come… He’s seemed a bit restless lately, anyway.”

Eydri nodded agreement, and the three fell to discussing who was fresh, and who had reason to stay and to go. All three agreed that Vali should stay: there was no sense stirring up the dead by bringing a ghost into their midst. Likewise Tyr, who was as old as Uncle Gorgny, and Erik, Irding, and Arring. This was not a quest to take berserkers on.


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Einarr staggered a little under the weight of the unconscious Jarl slung over his shoulder as he returned to camp. The smell of smoke hung heavy over the meadow: here and there, someone had set a rabbit or some fish to roast, but the fires from the battle nearly overwhelmed the smell of meat.

That men were cooking at all surprised Einarr, especially given the blaze during the battle. He paused just inside the ring of their tents and looked about. There should be, somewhere nearby, a prisoner’s picket… and there it was, with Jorir standing stern guard over someone on the line.

“There you are,” Einarr said as he approached. He set the Jarl down near the end of the prisoner’s picket, and despite his efforts the unconscious man still flopped about like a sack of cabbages. “How went battle’s end?”

“Back already, are you? Usually takes longer to hunt a hare than that.”

“I think this hare got himself turned around in his flight. Turned wolf at the last moment.”

Jorir grunted, pleased but not surprised to see that Einarr had still managed to return unharmed. “Once you took off after Rosta it was all but over, really. Some of his men tried to keep us occupied, but their strength was just about spent by then. …Faugh! What made Rosta think he had a chance to keep his holdings without Breidelstein. From what I’ve seen, the Vidofnir could have taken them alone, before the curse was broken.”

Einarr shook his head. It had been like this everywhere he’d gone, this past year. Jarls who were dissatisfied with the Usurper and thought that meant they could do without a Thane at all. Not one of them had the strength of arms to protect his own holdings, though. “Can you really fault those who chafed under Ulfr’s thumb wanting to be free? A foolish impulse, perhaps, but an understandable one.”

Jorir harrumphed. “Perhaps. You’d think they’d be happy changing a bad master for a good, though.”

“We know Father is a good man. They don’t. But that’s not important right now. Make sure Rosta is ‘comfortable’ for the trip back to Raenshold. The others can be loosed once we’re ready to sail.” He paused. “Let’s leave Arring behind to keep an eye on things, just in case. Between that and holding their Jarl, we should get good behavior.”

“Yes, my Lord!”


When the two ships under Einarr’s command returned to Breidelstein harbor, They were met at the docks by only a small throng, mostly of the sailors’ families or those with families in Jarl Rosta’s territory. It wasn’t that Stigander did not have the support of his people in this – he did. It was that, over the last year, not one of the isles trying to break away had put up a fight. The usurper thane had left his holdings weak, and those who chafed under the rule of another underestimated the true-born sons of Raen.

Jarl Rosta was marched through the streets of the port to much disinterest. Every time he started to puff himself up, though, and look smugly at his captors, someone along the road would take notice – and, invariably, would congratulate Einarr on another successful mission.

When they arrived at the long, steep climb of the cliff road, he quailed. At the top waited the Thane he had scorned, and whatever punishment the man who had lived as a freeboater half his life deigned to mete out. A man who had already proved himself unconventional in that regard.

Einarr himself gave the Jarl a nudge from behind to continue on. With his hands bound behind his back, Rosta stumbled a little, but then they began the long trudge up to Raenshold.

The gate of Raenshold stood open, and on the far side of the gate house stood the actual welcoming committee. A line of warriors who had not elected to go on this mission lined the path. Standing at the end of this, his arms folded across his broad chest, Stigander waited.

A cheer went up for the returning warriors as they crested the rise. Einarr took the lead as one of his men took the arm of the captured Jarl. He smiled and waved as he strode towards his father, but much more perfunctorily than he had last fall in similar circumstances. Finally he reached the end of the gauntlet and knelt before his father.

“My Lord.”

“Welcome home, Einarr. I see you have brought home another prodigal.”

“That I have, Father.” He stood and turned to stand beside Stigander. “The matter with Urdr has them spooked, Father.”

Stigander sighed, although he kept his face bright and welcoming for the men who marched the Jarl forward. “They chafed under Ulfr’s rule, and can’t imagine I’ll be better. The matter with Urdr is an excuse.”

“Of course, Father.”

Stigander turned his attention to the prisoner who was now made to kneel before him. “Rosta, of Búethold. Welcome to Raenshold.”

The captive Jarl spat on the ground.

Stigander sighed. “I see you intend to make this difficult. I will be plain: I mean to mend my father’s holdings, not see them rent further. If you will swear to me, as your father swore to mine, I will send you back to your own holdings with a handful of my own men. You may count the damages to Búethold, whatever they may be, as your fine. Or, if you still don’t believe me, you can stay here and observe, while some of my men administer your lands for you. And pay for rebuilding out of your own treasure. Your choice.”

Rosta blanched a little. It was, Einarr thought, so far from what he’d expected he couldn’t quite believe it yet.

“Take your time. Búethold remains a part of Breidelstein, either way, and the men my son left behind will be capable in your absence.” Stigander turned his attention to the men flanking the prisoner. “Make sure he has a place to sleep. He will join us for the feasting tonight, as well.”

“Yes, my lord.”


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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.

Over the course of the next three weeks, something more than half of all the jarls who once swore allegiance to Raen arrived in port at Breidelstein or sent pigeons explaining why they couldn’t. Stigander made a point of greeting each and every Jarl personally, after which they would spend some time in hushed conversation while their crews unloaded barrels of ale and mead and other contributions to the coming festival.

Tyr, Kaldr, and Jorir had disagreed with Einarr’s thoughts on taking oaths, and in the end their thinking won. The renewal of vows would take place after the trial of Urdr.

Thus, at the end of three weeks, when careful note had been made of those Jarls who had not arrived for the Thing – excuse or no – a true Thing was held in Breidelstein for the first time in more than a decade. When the Jarls assembled in a circle around the courtyard, they stared at the figures in the center with grim solemnity.

A wooden seat had been brought out for Raen. The old man sat, stooped and feeble but alert, and he stared about himself with childlike wonder. Many was the man who winced to see their former Thane in such a reduced state – and winced again when Urdr was brought forth in chains, led once more by Arring and Erik and Thjofgrir. Raen physically shrank away from the crone. Gorgny, who attended him on the stage, comforted him like he would a child.

Einarr, from his place at Stigander’s side, fought to keep a straight face at the sight of his grandfather. He could see from the corner of his eye the knotting of muscles in his father’s jaw. But the two of them had to remain neutral, despite being among the aggrieved.

“This Thing is assembled,” Stigander intoned. “Before you are Raen, your former Thane, and the Weavess Urdr, who is accused. Gorgny, you may state your case.”

Raen’s oldest and most loyal liege-man straightened, leaving a comforting hand on Raen’s shoulder. “Men of the Thing, this woman and her son are solely responsible for the current state of these islands. She used her Weaving to bind the fates of all Breidelstein and unseat Lord Raen. In his place, she installed her son Ulfr, and the two of them have taxed the citizens beyond all measure. She has imprisoned and tortured Lord Raen, whom she claimed was her husband, as well as countless others who have passed through the dungeon here. She has practiced Black Arts in order to hold power for herself and her son. Free men of the Thing, I lay all these things at the feet of this woman.”

A low rumble passed around the assembled Jarls. Then Stigander stepped forward. “Weavess Urdr. You stand accused before the Thing of high treason, treason against your Thane, practicing the black arts, murder by means of magic, and of practicing the torturer’s arts. Among your accusers, your victims, are members of this Thing. Have you any defense?”

The crone straightened, haughty and defiant even now. “You dare to try me here, with my accusers among the judges?”

“I see none in this circle who have added to the weight of charges laid out by Gorgny.”

“And yet you yourself are a son of Raen. Does that not make your judgment invalid?”

“It is not my judgement you have to fear. You will offer no defense, then?”

A cold stare was his only answer. Stigander shrugged. “Are there any present who would stand in her defense?”

No-one stepped forward. On its face, Einarr thought Urdr’s claim had merit. Unfortunately for her, that was the nature of crimes against a Thane, and there was no way to call an Althing. Her tricks would find no purchase here.

“Very well,” Stigander boomed. “The penalty for any one of these crimes is death, and so I put the question before this Thing. Did this woman conspire to overthrow the rightful Thane of Breidelstein?”

A chorus of “Ayes” rang around the circle.

“In the overthrow of the Thane Raen, by whom she bore a son, did she practice the black art of curse-weaving?”

Once again each man in the circle answered aye.

“Was the rightful Thane, a man she has called her husband, tortured by her hand?”

There were fewer ‘ayes’ this time, likely because the Jarls hesitated to confirm a charge that was not so self-evident.

“Very well. Based on the determination of this Thing, who have witnessed the actions of the accused, the weavess Urdr is guilty. You shall be stripped of all you posess and chained to a rock in the harbor, where you may look upon the lands you so desired until your bones fall into the sea.”

“Arring. Erik. Thjofgrir. See to it.”

The three men named snapped off an “Aye,sir,” as though they were still aboard ships before leading the crone out of the circle of the Thing. If there was one thing that could be said to her credit, it was that her pride did not desert her as she was led to her death. She held her head high and stared defiantly forward.

“Now that the unpleasantness is concluded, there is one more bit of formality to handle before the festivities begin. Kaldr Kerasson, step forward.”

Kaldr moved with the calm grace that everyone who knew him was accustomed to and knelt before Stigander.

“Earlier, during the fighting, you laid your life before me. Now I will have your oath.” Stigander drew Grjóthrun from the scabbard on his baldric and held the hilt out toward the man called the Ice Wolf.


The reswearing of those whose bonds had been severed, first by the witch and then by Einarr, took until it was full dark. A bonfire – a real one, this time – was lit in the field, and the feast table laid near it. Musicians from the town had offered their services for a place at the table and been welcomed.

It was a night of celebration and the reforging of bonds long tested. Finally, Breidelstein could begin the long road toward rebuilding its former glory.


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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.

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.

A light like golden dawn shone from the grass behind Einarr, illuminating the faces before him. Those who were bound most loosely by the curse – Stigander, Kormund, most of their crews, Kaldr – watched in respectful silence, as they would a grave ship. Among the townsfolk, some looked pained. Others, nauseous. That was a result of the dissonance, and would pass in time.

Those who had fought under Ulfr had, in general, stronger reactions. Some vomited. Others dropped to their knees, clutching their heads. A bare handful had been bound so tightly their minds could not accept the dissonance and they fled into the forest. Einarr watched calmly, hiding his surprise that there were any of those here to witness the ritual.

Urdr had aged a century in a little over ten minutes. Einarr had called her a crone before, but the destruction of her work sapped her of vitality. Once again he stifled a pang of pity: for what she and her son had worked on Breidelstein, this was only a partial measure of justice. Arring stood behind her, holding her on her feet to witness the undoing of her schemes.

Eventually, those with homes in the city below began to drift towards the gate house and rest. Of the warriors who remained, those who were less affected aided those in greater distress towards rooms where they might rest. Arring, Erik, and Thjofgrir led Urdr to the dungeon, where she would await the convenience of the Thing.

The bonfire of tapestries continued in the center of the circle. Stigander’s eyes did not rest, searching over the faces that remained, plainly looking for someone, although Einarr could not guess who.

He was not needed here. Einarr drove the end of the distaff into the rune circle. For just a moment, the ivory inlay flashed with the same light as the working below. He was not entirely certain what that meant, but now that it was there he did not think he should move it – at least not until the working was finished.

The Örlögnir stood on its own. With a sigh and a mental shrug, Einarr left the bonfire of light to join the rest of his crewmates.


When dawn broke, Einarr rose from his sleeping couch not quite able to accept that it was his. The odd sense of displacement, though, he knew was temporary. More urgently, there was work to be done.

Einarr followed the smell of wood smoke to a cookfire outside the hall, where he found his father and an older man crouched near the fire, speaking in hushed tones. Einarr thought he recognized the man, but with the haze of long years he couldn’t be certain.

“His Lordship is resting in town, under the care of an herb-witch,” the old man was saying.

Stigander nodded in understanding. “I only saw him for a moment. He looked weak. How is he, really?”

The old man looked up and straight at Einarr, his eyes suddenly hooded. Stigander turned around and waved for him to join them.

“Uncle Gorgny, you remember Einarr, don’t you?”

Uncle Gorgny! So that’s why he looked familiar. Einarr smiled.

Gorgny looked poleaxed. He finally stammered out “The Cursebreaker is your very own son?”

“My very own.”

“It’s not that surprising that he wouldn’t recognize me, Father. Last time I saw Uncle Gorgny, I was just a small boy.”

Stigander turned his attention back to Raen’s closest advisor. “Well? How is my father?”

“…Weak, as you say, Lord. I have reason to believe much of the blood in those tapestries was his. But that was not the only way in which she tortured him. Now that she is gone, and he is free, I hope he will recover.”

Stigander set his mouth grimly. “I understand.”

“You are not surprised.” Gorgny watched Stigander for confirmation.

“I suspected. Last spring we paid a visit to an Oracle: she left me virtually certain.” He sighed, then shook his head. “We will need to visit him, sooner rather than later, and not just because he’s family.”

“Then…” Einarr couldn’t finish the thought.

“Trying to give your grandfather back his seat is likely to be impossible, based on everything I’ve heard.”

“Unfortunately true,” Gorgny agreed. “Even if Raen were as hale as you, the years under the usurper cost him a great deal of support, and even more honor.”

“That should be mitigated once the Jarls realize Ulfr didn’t actually have Grandfather’s support.” That his grandfather was still alive was nothing short of miraculous. Unfortunately, it also made what came next complicated.

“Not enough, I’m afraid,” Stigander rumbled. “But it’s moot anyway. Be thankfull, Einarr, that your sorcery in the harbor brought Kaldr to his senses. You are no more prepared to be a Thane than your uncle was. How long before the Thing can be assembled?”

Gorgny sighed. “At least a week. More likely two.”

“Good. I want careful count kept of who comes and who doesn’t. Clans have fractured over less than this.”

“Of course, my Prince.” Gorgny pressed his hands against his knees and rose, allowing himself the luxury of a groan. He, too, was getting on in years, but he had not been subjected to the witch’s tender ministrations. “There is much yet to do before the Jarls begin to arrive. If you will excuse me.”

“Of course. And, Uncle Gorgny, it’s good to see you again.”

The old retainer offered Stigander a tight smile. “It’s good you came back.”

Einarr furrowed his brow. Once Gorgny had crossed half the courtyard, he turned his attention back to his father. “What’s wrong with him?”

Stigander sighed. “You heard it too, then. I have never questioned his loyalty to your grandfather, not once. I suspect he just has some soul-searching to do. He may blame himself. He may be worried about Father. Maybe it’s all of the above.”

“You should start taking men’s oaths, Father. The sooner the better.”

“You’re not wrong. But that won’t help him.”


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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.

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.

Lord Ulfr relaxed back in his seat as though the response bored him. “Your place is defending the Hold, Captain Kaldr. Or have you already forgotten how tenuous your position here is?”

“Not at all, my lord.” Kaldr tasted bile as he realized he could feel nothing but loathing for his Thane. He dares call himself a wolf? Kaldr cleared his throat, trying to ensure his voice was steady. “My Lord, I fear the day is lost. Our men are losing their will to fight.”

“Then remind them what my displeasure feels like!”

“My lord, the lash can only take you so far. Sooner or later, the lashed man will take hold of the whip and turn it against his master. Already word has reached me that your warriors are beginning to question whether or not the Hold is worth defending.”

“What are you saying?”

“I am saying that, whether or not you are Lord Raen’s true-born son, whether or not he acknowledged you as heir, you have not been behaving as a Thane should. Tell me, Lord, what your father said when named you heir?”

“My father is an old, senile fool. What does it matter?”

“It matters, Lord, because I suddenly cannot remember the event. Granted I was young and inexperienced at the time, but such an event would have echoed throughout the Clan. Especially since the rebel leader had been well-liked, as I recall. I, who have counted myself among your most loyal servants, cannot think of a single reason we would have acclaimed you as Thane. —Wait, that’s not quite true. I can think of one. The Lady Witch.”

Lord Ulfr actually rolled his eyes. Kaldr had to be mistaken, but for a moment it seemed as though there was amusement glinting over that petulant face. Amusement, where he had expected anger at the aspersion cast against the witch. “Sixteen years is a long time, Kaldr. Are you certain your sudden anger is not twisting your memory?”

“Quite the opposite, I assure you. In the time since you have taken power and driven off the rebels who now assault our shores, you have driven Breidelstein – the prosperous city your father made – into penury. You have rewarded the boot-lickers and the stupid while driving the competent and the honorable to seek their fortunes elsewhere. You have stripped your father’s hall of all its comfort and its warmth – and for the life of me, I cannot fathom why.”

Lord Ulfr had sat up straight while Kaldr was talking, and now sat smirking down at his subject, a wicked light gleaming in his eye. “You call yourself loyal and yet you question me now, of all times? Fine. I will answer your questions, Kaldr. I am the Thane, and all of you, my Captains, exist to obey me.”

“You have always thought of my mother as a chain about my neck, Kaldr, but you’re wrong. Mother is my sword and my shield, and the reason I sit here on this throne before you. It was Mother’s plan that made everyone on Breidelstein acknowledge me, the eldest son, as the true heir of Raen. It was her masterpiece: the tapestry that brought all of these islands under my thumb and bound everyone to my service. You say I should fear my own lash? Hardly. Not one person living here has the wherewithal to challenge me, because we have bound their fates in a tapestry. I am well aware that Mother has let no small amount of your blood. Think of it as medicine, to rid the land of Breidelstein of its imperfections. You should be proud: your own body has been used to perfect this country under my rule.”

Kaldr rocked back on his heels involuntarily. Did Ulfr know what he was confessing to?

“Sixteen years ago, Mother and I sailed to these islands, determined to make my father acknowledge me. We had been poor, before, but through her Weaving Mother had managed to save up enough to buy us passage here. While we sailed, she began work on her masterpiece. By the time we arrived, all that was left to do was one single, finishing touch. We walked openly into this very hall and stood before my father and declared ourselves. The man had the audacity to claim he had no son besides Stigander! So when we returned to our room, Mother finished the piece. Oh, there was some fighting at first, and then some more after the Vidofnir came back with my baby brother, all unawares. But Breidelstein is mine, and it always will be. Fate binds it to me.”

That’s madness. “Ulfr,” — no ‘Lord’ for him now, nor ever again — “…do you understand what you are confessing? This witchcraft, this madness, goes beyond mere treason! Even if you drive off Stigander, you’ll be pulled down by your own Captains and people — myself among them — once I share the truth.” Even weakened, he was more of a warrior than Ulfr – younger, stronger, faster. The Usurper could not stop him.

The madman on the throne laughed as though bored. “Kaldr, Kaldr, Kaldr. My ever-loyal Ice Wolf. We have danced this dance before, you and I, so very many times. When Falkenjorg shook free after a long raid and rebelled — do you not remember your first hunt? Of returning to confront me after your victory with the words pledged by a dying man? Or your doubts after I ordered the waste of Aldvik? Truly, you are so quick to doubt that I would have had you executed long before had Mother not insisted that your talents were of use to me …and were you not so amusing.”

“Why —”

“— Would I tell you? It’s almost tiresome how you always ask the same questions. I tell you because, even knowing, you cannot escape. What will happen is what has always happened.” Ulfr’s eyes blazed with merriment. “You will storm out in your righteous fury, swearing to rally the Captains and the people, to overthrow me for the good of Breidelstein. I surely cannot stop you from doing so, alone. Within ten paces, you will forget why you are angry. Within twenty, our words. Within thirty, all your anger, and you will return to ask and serve my will, as you always have. After all, it is your Fate to be a loyal captain in the service of Breidelstein’s Thane. So go, Ice-Wolf, go and know the hopelessness of your defiance, and that you serve at my pleasure.”

Kaldr stiffened, staring at the indolent figure on the throne. He could not remember, not truly, but he did not doubt the madman’s words. But here, now, at the Fall of Breidelstein, he could feel the bonds that held him unraveling. He clenched his jaw and raised his face to the Usurper, expression clear and proud. “No, Ulfr. I will not go. Let us end it, Thane.”


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