Einarr ignored the throbbing in his temples as the last of his men gathered together around the now-silent tower. They had lost two or three handfulls of men out of the crews of two ships – more than Einarr liked, after his years wandering, but acceptable under the circumstances.

The arrows had ceased to fall some time ago: Einarr guessed that the captain of the archers had given it up for futile. That was good, because the quaking earth had begun to cause problems for Einarr’s men, as well. It was also bad, though, because those archers would almost certainly be waiting on the other side of the tower door. Because he expected an ambush inside, Einarr had inscribed a on the door, and another on the flagstones below it.

Irding took the fore, flanked by Arkja and Troa. Jorir stayed at the back with Einarr: he had made it plain his intention was to guard his liege lord. For his part, Einarr was grateful. He could not see the wound in his leg well enough to heal it properly, and healed poorly was often worse than not healed at all.

“Shields up, on my mark,” Einarr said. He took a deep breath. “Three, two one — now.”

His men brought their shields up into a wall. A heartbeat after the last rattle, he used his configuration to blast open the door ahead of them. Irding led the charge through the haze of the blast and into the tower.

The door opened into an empty antechamber. One set of stairs followed the wall up to the next floor, and across the room another led down – into what horrors, Einarr did not care to speculate.

Empty was unexpected, but the men knew what to do. About half split off to take the heights of the tower, while Einarr and Jorir went with the rest down into the depths. Probably the men heading up would get the glory of taking the leader’s head, but practically speaking Einarr would more likely be needed to deal with whatever horrors they had called into being.

As soon as the door to the second floor was opened the fighting began again, but the defenders had missed an opportunity: they hadn’t been holding the stairs here. Irding bowled over the lone archer in the door while he was still sighting his shot, and the upstairs team began pouring through.

The door heading down was barred from below. Jorir hefted his axe to begin chopping at it, but Einarr raised a hand to stop him. “The longer this takes, the more time they have to prepare a trap. Let me.”

Drawing a pair of thorns took almost no time at all, and though the thrumming in his head spiked it did not remain high after he had blown away this second door, and the front runners rushed once more through the gap.

Below, the stairway was lined with torches burning in a familiar blue flame. If Einarr had needed any further confirmation that this was the same cult that had killed Astrid and kidnapped Runa just a few short years ago, this was it.

They were vulnerable going down the stairs: there was no barrier separating the outside of the stair from the open air and the long drop to the next floor, and they were perhaps halfway down it when that floor lit up in the poisonous blue of the torchlight. “Shields up and keep moving!”

The order was likely unnecessary, but Einarr intended to spend the lives of his men dearly if he had to at all.

A moment later and the volley of arrows from below flew across empty space, burying their heads in shields and the cracks of stone. He did not hear anyone cry out: he hoped that meant no-one else had been taken in a leg.

The lighting in here was dim, and the footing on the stairway was bad, but all they had to do was weather the arrows until they reached the bottom – except that from the top of the stairs Einarr could already see that the base of the stairs was mobbed with cursed warriors. They would get in each other’s way, certainly, but they would also prevent the invaders from breaching the floor.

This time, though, he would let his men push through. He could think of nothing he could do that would not also risk them, and he was well aware that he was pushing his magic in ways he never had before. Not since Elder Melja’s winter training, and probably not then. For the moment, he slipped his chalk back into his pouch and limbered the bow he had acquired on the field above.


Serk of Sweindalr, aboard his own Björtstag, had hacked his way across to the enemy ship. As Captain, ordinarily he would hang back, but after what had happened at Kaldreik he knew he could not. It was not merely atrocities the Björtstag had witnessed there, after all – otherwise, Halla would still be with them, and still require his protection.

A gang of cursed warriors was clustering around the mast: that didn’t look good. With a roar of borrowed fury, he charged into them and struck about with his sword. The cursed warriors, with their sickly gray skin and their mad eyes, scattered under the onslaught. Einarr of Breidelstein had alluded to monsters aboard these ships, and Serk intended to see that they had no chance to free such a creature.

A screech sounded from the deck behind him, and one of the mad-eyed warriors ceased even to appear human. In place of his arms he grew squid tentacles, and his head became a massive beak still somehow covered in eyes. Serk’s mouth curled into a rictus grin: had it been one of those, then, that did for his Halla? He charged again, and in one mighty blow he severed its transformed head from its once-human body.

He would have vengeance for his bride on the cultists of Malúnion.

 

 

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.

 

Stigander smiled approvingly at Einarr, but held his peace for the moment. This, too, was as they had agreed. Nor did Bollinn speak up immediately, although Jarl Hroaldr and Thane Thorgnyr had already, privately, committed to the venture. They were forgoing the honor of being “first” to join in order to better gauge the reactions of the other clans.

There was a long pause following the end of his speech. Einarr scanned the room. As his eyes passed over Tore, he saw the Captain glance at his own lord, the Jarl Grimwald – a man with a stony face and hair as steely as his eyes. Grimwald ducked his chin, a motion so quick and slight that Einarr nearly missed it.

Tore rose. “The Sterkerbjorn of Hrafnhaugr will sail.”

If Hrafnhaugr was anything like Kjell, they might only have two or three ships to their name. It was interesting that Jarl Grimwald looked to no man before agreeing, though: unaffiliated jarls were unusual.

Two or three others added their ships to the fleet: Einarr watched Serk. He had actually taken less persuading than Tore had, but Thane Olaf still seemed reluctant. Or, rather, stubborn: Einarr knew a mulish look when he saw one.

Now Bollinn stood. “The Skudbrun sails. We, too, have fought these monsters before – and I assure you, that is not an overstatement. Even the ones who look like men are not: the moment they feel threatened, they may sprout tentacles anywhere on their body, and their blood is as black as night and as poisonous as Loki’s serpent.”

Thane Thorgnyr inclined his head. “Aye. And the Skudbrun of Kjell will not be alone. I was accompanied here by five ships of Geittoft. Word has reached us of these villains from places other than Kjell, and we will gladly throw our strength behind the Cursebreaker and his quest.”

More men threw their lot with Einarr, now – some of them without ships of their own, and still Serk watched for a sign from his Thane.

At last, as the flurry was dying down, Serk practically leapt to his feet. His hands were clenched into fists, and even so, Einarr thought he could see those fists quivering. “Whether or no Sweindalr sails with you, the Björtstag does!”

Thane Olaf whirled on his Captain, fury writ large in every muscle, but before he could speak Serk went on.

“Perhaps you did not see, milord. You stayed aboard when we stopped at Kaldreik… but the things that had been done, there. You are my Thane. You may forbid my crew, or my ship, but should you attempt to forbid me I will be forsworn. I cannot let this rest.”

“You would throw your weight behind one bunch of fools, who merely rush off to clean the mess begun by another group of fools? Not one of the cities we have spoken of would have fallen if it weren’t for that thrice-cursed League and their insanity.”

Serk’s voice dropped, although it was still plainly audible across the Althing. “Not so, my lord. Do I go alone, on a personal quest, or will you allow the Björtstag to bring a portion of the glory home to Sweindalr?

Thane Olaf spat. “Have it your way. But know this: should Sweindalr fall, ‘twill be on your own head!”

Serk bowed to his Thane.

Stigander cleared his throat, amused. “You have my thanks, all of you. To the already assembled fleet, Breidelstein will add five ships above the Heidrun, including my very own Vidofnir. We have no reason to believe the church of Malùnion knows we’re coming, but we should still assume that time is not on our side. The sheer number of settlements which have been massacred since the fall of Kem is proof enough of that. The longer we take, the more clans will fall. The fleet will assemble at Blávík in one month’s time. Two weeks later, we will sail for the stronghold of Malùnion.”

Thane Geirleif took a moment to scan the assembled crowd. “Does anyone care to object to this course of action?”

No-one spoke.

“Very well then. May the gods go with you all.”


All told, more than fifty ships arrived at Blávík, representing more than fifteen clans. Several groups of freeboaters arrived, as well, having heard of what was happening and willing to help for coin or glory or both. Thrand, when they entered his home port, went ashore under heavy guard and led the crew of the Heidrun to the place where he had always met with the League.

It was empty.

Thrand stood, agape, at the warehouse that he claimed had once housed the League’s operations. “I don’t understand.”

Einarr shook his head. “Kaldr was here while the Heidrun was in Kem. He said they were still in the city then. Let’s have a look around. Maybe we’ll learn something that way.”

When Einarr had been here before, the League had been a major force within the city – major enough that they were able to use the local lord’s resources to attempt to press-gang himself and all of his crew. Now, though? At some point between when Kaldr left and when the fleet arrived, they had apparently vanished into thin air. Einarr pressed his lips together, thinking.

“I’ll ask Father to pay a visit to lord Illugi – that was his name, wasn’t it? Surely, if this is his settlement, he would know what happened to such a large company of freeboaters.”

Thrand blanched. “Perhaps. But… but our Prince always seemed to have a hold on the jarl. He might know something… or he might be gone, too.”

Einarr stood studying Thrand for a long moment. “The men who crewed your ships for your raids. Did they… have anything in common?”

“Of course! We were the best sailors, and the most earnest. Why?”

“Oh, no reason.” He couldn’t exactly tell Thrand that they’d been sent away to die, to get them out of their leader’s way. “Nevertheless, we’ll have Father try, and Hrug and I will see what we can find out with the bones. I’d hoped to bring your fellows along with us, so they could help clean up their own mess, but if that’s not possible then I suppose we’ll have to make do without.” Einarr patted Thrand on the shoulder and started the walk back towards the docks and the Heidrun’s berth.

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

So begins 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 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.

 

The Heidrun ran up the white flag as they approached the freehold Gabriel led them to. Even so, as he waited at the top of the gangplank, while Gabriel approached up the beach, they were greeted by a sturdy older woman wielding a massive axe in one hand and a proper shield in the other. She scowled fiercely at the approaching boat, and Einarr thought she would likely give a good accounting of herself, just on sheer determination.

Then she saw Gabriel and let the axe head drop. “You’re alive? Then, is…?”
Gabriel nodded. “He’s in Breidelstein: they say we can start over there. Kem is gone.”

Relief and fury warred on the woman’s face – relief, he was sure, for the safety of her husband. Fury, he didn’t have to guess at.

“Leave Flatey? Start over? Are you mad?”

“What else are we supposed to do? With Kem gone, we’ve no-one to trade with between here and Breidelstein. No apothecary, no herb witch. One bad winter would kill us all.”

“The lad is right,” Einarr chimed in, still standing on the deck. “It might not even take a bad winter: there are monsters at sea now. Raenshold has men who have fought them before, and a good harbor, and lots of unworked land to boot. I’m afraid the Heidrun isn’t equipped to carry much livestock, but we’ve enough cargo space for anything else you care to bring.”

The woman stood there, staring at both of them, her mouth working soundlessly, for a long time. As the quiet dragged on, the fury faded from her face and her shoulders began to sag.

“You may as well come ashore. We’ll need some time to pack.”


Einarr’s Heidrunings were still gripped with a solemn urgency when they docked once more in Breidelstein. Gabriel’s master waited at the docks for his family – which plainly included Gabriel, no matter what his technical status was. Einarr was pleased that had worked out as well as it had, even with everything else weighing on his mind.

Gorgny also greeted their return at the docks: Einarr was always a little surprised the man was willing to walk down to the port for this sort of thing: he was at least as old as Tyr, and hadn’t spent most of the last twenty years at sea – and that wasn’t accounting for his duties towards Grandfather Raen. Still, if it was Gorgny here and not Father or Kaldr, that meant they were absorbed in other important matters.

Einarr and his commanders disembarked to join him, escorting the former Captain of the League, Thrand, and the seven of them set off at a quick pace for the cliff road. “What’s happened while we’ve been out?” Einarr asked Gorgny.

“I see you’ve returned with another new face, milord?” The old advisor raised an eyebrow.

The meaning was plain. “He’s our captive, but also a refugee. Lone survivor of the massacre of Kem.”

Gorgny nodded. “Representatives have been arriving since not long after you left, milord. I’m sure they are all waiting to learn what you have found out.”

Fair enough. Einarr wasn’t entirely certain how trustworthy Thrand was at this point, either, and that was after traveling with the man. “So long as they allow us enough time to wash the salt off – and maybe for the rest of my crew to finish unloading and do the same. Any other reports of razed settlements?”

“I’m afraid so, milord. The Kjellings ran into one on their way, as did one or two other representatives. The Captain of the Skudbrun seemed particularly disturbed by what he saw.”

“Understandably so. He’s seen it before, too. … Let those who found the massacres know that, should they wish to compare notes, I intend to sweat out the ashes of Kem in the sauna tonight. I would like a chance to speak with them privately. Probably for the best if Father does not attend: I will let him know what I intend.”

“Yes, milord.”

“By that same token, before dinner I will be in my chambers with Runa and Alfvin. We are not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.”

“Of course, milord.”


Einarr sat in the sauna, a towel wrapped about his waist, his elbows on his knees and his eyes closed. He was glad Bollinn was here: that would make matters easier, even accounting for the close ties between their clans. He still didn’t know who the other two were: he hoped he could count on them to see what was necessary.

Einarr heard a rap on the door. “Enter.”

A blast of cool air reminded Einarr of just how hot it was in here: he stood and dipped some water over the coals. When he returned to the bench, Bollinn sat across from him.

“Einarr.”

“Good to see you. How’re the Brunnings holding up?”

Bollinn shrugged. “Langavik wasn’t necessarily worse, but everything that followed was. We’ll hold up just fine.”

Einarr nodded. “Where was it?”

“Kliftorp.”

Einarr blinked. He had to think a long time to remember anything about them. “Hard to make an example out of a tiny place like that, I’d think.”

“Lots of cloth coming out of Kliftorp in the last five or ten years, and a lot of skillful Weavers.”

“Ah.” Now it made sense.

Another rap came on the door, followed by an unfamiliar, although not unpleasant, voice. “We were told we should visit the sauna tonight?”

“Yes. Please, enter, join us.”

The two who entered were built like Einarr’s father, but much closer to his own age, and bore the scars of many battles. One of them had hair almost as red as Einarr’s – and a nose that had been broken more than once. The other was as blond as Stigander and as paunchy as Erik.

“Tore, Captain of the Sterkerbjorn out of Hrafnhaugr,” the redhead introduced himself.

“A pleasure. Not sure I ever had the pleasure of seeing Hrafnhaugr.”

Tore smirked. “Not much reason for a ship of freeboaters to head that way.”

Einarr nodded his acknowledgment, then turned to the man who looked shockingly like a younger version of his father.

“Serk, of the Björtstag. From Sweindalr.”

Bollinn waved silently: evidently, they’d all been here long enough to become acquainted already.

“Good to meet you both, and I’m glad you came. I’m certain you can guess why I called you all here tonight.”

“Oh, aye, that’s not hard to figure.” Tore settled himself on a bench and fixed a level eye at Einarr. “What I want to know is why?”

Serk, too, took a seat on a bench and settled himself leaning against a wall. “I’d like to know that, myself. I’m not sure there’s really much to talk about, is there?”

“A couple years ago, I might have thought the same. Then the worshipers of a dark demigod named Malùnion kidnapped my wife…”

Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

So begins 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 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.