Movement caught Einarr’s eye from down below. Something was headed his way, and it bore only a vague resemblance to a man. It wasn’t going to make it in time to keep him from testing his stone, though.

He gripped the carved bit of shale and willed lightning to strike the two figures standing atop the standing stone.

Sure enough, lightning crackled down out of the clear sky. But, at the last moment, it arced away, and the crimson flesh of the monstrosity glowed and steamed. It hissed and turned its eyeless head to look directly at Einarr.

That… could have gone better. With a shrug, Einarr shoved the shale back into his pouch and gripped Sinmora’s hilt in both hands. If the only way to end this fight was to end the monstrosity on the ground, then he supposed that was what he would have to do.

The smaller abomination was close enough now that he could see nauseatingly familiar details: whatever the corruption turned people into, it seemed to have no particular need for a head. Once again, there were tentacles sprouting out of its neck, and even the fingers that gripped its axe haft looked black and rubbery and boneless.

This was going to be a slaughter – and this time, there would be no Örlögnir to claim to save them all. Thank the gods Runa isn’t here.

He charged the approaching abomination and chopped down into what was once a shoulder. The bonelessness was real: his blade sheared through flesh and muscle with no real resistance. Now on the ground before him were two halves of what had once been a dvergr, twitching but apparently out of the fight. Einarr vaulted over the remains without slowing. His test had taken him out of the melee, which could easily turn into a costly mistake.

As he approached he discovered that it wasn’t just steam radiating off the beast’s body: he could smell charred flesh, although he could not see any. Had even that wound on the monster, absorbed on behalf of its master, rebounded on the priest?

He was just outside the creature’s reach when a thought occurred to him. Why should he keep his runestones in his pouch? He could use them at need if he simply tucked them into the wrapping about his wrists. Abruptly he sprang back. Taking cover for a moment, he tucked ᛉ and ᛊ into the bindings around his right wrist.

He was about to add ᚨ when something large and heavy crashed into the bench he sheltered behind. He threw himself out of the way, clutching the mouth of his pouch closed with one hand while the other kept its hold on Sinmora.

The bench shattered. Chunks of stone flew in all directions, some large enough to crack skulls. Einarr felt two of the smaller ones bounce off the back of his maille – that was going to leave a bruise. In one swift motion, he tied his pouch closed again.

One of the giant red claws was pulling back from where it had landed. A shadow flew across the ground, about the same size as the withdrawing claw. Einarr dived again, coming out on the other side of the shadow. Once again the creature narrowly missed him.

Einarr threw his will into holding up an Yr shield even as he raced in towards the gigantic red tail on the sodden ground. The smell of salt and rotting fish assailed his nose.

More tentacles beat at him as he ran, but bounced harmlessly off the shield. The more he was hit, however, the harder he found it to focus on the shield.

When Einarr was within ten paces of the crimson horror, he let his Yr shield drop and instead willed the Sol stone to life. This time, however, he didn’t bother targeting the priest. Once again lightning crackled, and the creature hissed under the onslaught.

Einarr had almost managed to tune out the priest’s shrieks as its pet stole its vitality. That one, however, echoed across the field. Einarr wasn’t certain what would happen when the monster finished devouring its master’s life, but he was certain they would find out soon.

The plate-sized scales on its fish-like tail flared after the lightning had faded. Einarr was just in range: he lunged forward and thrust Sinmora into the exposed flesh. From the corner of his eye, it looked like the others had taken advantage of the exposure, as well. Black blood spurted out towards them and muddied the water at their feet.

A crab-clawed tentacle struck down towards Einarr’s position. Before he could react, Jorir had launched himself into the air. With an aerial somersault that Einarr honestly envied, Jorir brought the blade of his axe down on the tentacle.

The writhing arm was sheared in two. The half that was still attached to the monster flailed about in midair, spraying blood everywhere, while the other half dropped, headed right for Einarr’s head.

There was nowhere to dodge. Mentally, he was beginning to feel drained, but there was no other way. He threw his arms up over his head and willed the Yr shield back to life.

The still-writhing severed claw impacted the shield and slid down, smearing the shield with the corrupted blood and obscuring Einarr’s vision.

That blood was going to be troublesome… but maybe not as bad as it could have been. The ground at his feet was soft and wet, after all. Einarr got down on one knee and traced another rune – Lögr.

Perhaps it was a measure of his fatigue, or perhaps it was because he stood right next to an abomination from the deeps, but that didn’t quite have the effect he expected. He had wanted to sluice off the top of his shield, so he could drop it without worry. Instead, he called forth a gout of water from the rift that still hovered in midair, blasting off not only his shield but also hitting the monster itself with enough strength to push it back.

As the water pressure fell, Einarr shrugged and let his shield drop as well. That was unexpected, but helpful at least.

Only, the creature’s tentacled arm seemed to have grown back. Worse, the claw which had been lopped off seemed to be trying to grow a new body, like some bizarre relative of a starfish.

Well, Hel. Now what?

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.

 

Once the door closed and Runa had joined them over in the hot, cleansing bath, Einarr turned his attention to Jorir. “You said you think you know where we will find the high priest. Explain.”

Jorir sighed and sunk back so that his head was resting on the stone edge of the hot spring. “It goes back to the Oracle’s visions. You see, in what she showed me, I didn’t manage to rescue you – not from the prison. Instead, everyone gathered at an outdoor shrine on the mountain. A shrine that wasn’t there when I left, by the way. The only way I got you out of it was by offering myself in exchange. Needless to say, we’ve already deviated from that.”

“Quite.” Einarr paused, thoughtfully. “But if, as you say, the final confrontation must take place at this altar you do not know, then I suppose the question becomes where is it – and when?”

Brandir raised an eyebrow. “So that’s why you were so insistent. The where is the easy part. When, since the sacrifice was interrupted, that’s a little more difficult.”

Jorir raised his head and turned a bleak look on Brandir. “Have they sacrificed dvergr there? Or men? Or merely animals?”

Although he was looking at Brandir, it was Gheldram who answered. “Animals, yes. Men, yes. Dvergr rarely.”

“Rarely?”

“Yes, and criminals all. That’s the only way they get away with it.”

“Criminals, you say?” Put in Kaldr.

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Quite unfortunate. I think, after tonight, they will have a great many of those with an excuse to sacrifice.”

“I cannot deny it,” Brandir answered. “That is why the instructions they were given were quite adamant that they lay low afterward. Very low. While we had not intended to move just yet, this plan has been in the works for a very long time.”

“Even still,” Gheldram continued, “Now that we’ve begun we must needs act quickly.”

“Quite,” Einarr agreed. He paused, thoughtful. “How would it be if one of us turned ourselves in? They would presumably need to choose an auspicious day for the ceremony, yes?”

“Quite right,” Jorir answered.

“Then, if one of us turned ourselves in, as an architect of the chaos of this night, might it forestall the capture of your allies? And could we not then be well aware of the timing for the next half of our strike?”

A knock came on the door. Runa excused herself and went to answer the door. She received some packets of herbs from outside and closed the door again directly. After she had tested each packet, she sprinkled the water with its contents. “Here. This should help with the corruption we were all exposed to tonight.”

They spent the rest of the night planning.


Runa insisted that they, too, take several days to lay low and rest and recuperate after their daring rescue of her in the Holy Mount. Mornik, at a minimum, would not be ready for action for at least a week, and none of them were quite sure what would constitute an auspicious occasion, under the circumstances.

At last, though, news reached their ears that the Thane’s men and the temple enforcers had begun going door-to-door through the city, searching for those who had taken part in the riots, and that they had already captured several with ties to Brandir and Gheldram.

“I was exiled for daring to disagree with the Thane over this, and that was two hundred years ago. I doubt they will be so gentle now,” Jorir rumbled.

Einarr nodded in agreement. “Indeed. It is time.”

“It’s still too early. Mornik’s injuries are still grave.”

“Runa, my darling, you’ve been against this plan from the beginning. No amount of stalling is going to give us a better one: we’ve all tried.” She never used to be this anxious: Einarr was inclined to blame the babe she still carried – not that there was much blame to assign. He could admit to his own anxiety on that front. How long had she been a prisoner there, exposed to their dark magics, before they fought their way through the corrupted? Einarr shook his head: now was not the time to worry over that.

“That doesn’t change that you’re not ready yet.” She set her jaw, but this was one argument she couldn’t win.

“My Lady,” Jorir rumbled. “While I appreciate your concern, the longer we delay the more of my kin will become fodder for Malúnion. If Mornik cannot fight when the day comes, then he cannot fight and we will manage.”

It looked like she was going to protest again, but Kaldr forestalled her. “My Lady. They are right. To delay further would be folly. However, I cannot say that I am easy about you being the bait, my Lord.”

“The only one they want more than me is Jorir, Kaldr. We’ve talked about this, too.” He finished checking over the bundle of belongings he was leaving behind, ensuring that his brokkrsteel maille and Sinmora were easily accessible. The others would carry those hidden in their own things. Better that than having them confiscated and useless in a storeroom somewhere. “And now I must be off. Fortune’s favor, everyone.”

Jorir, sounding a little husky, answered for them all. “And to you.”

Then, with one last embrace from Runa, he slipped out into the streets of Nilthiad.

Three streets down, he tossed back the hood on his cloak and straightened his stance. Now that he was away from the bathhouse, he wanted to be seen.

He didn’t have to go much farther before he spotted what had to be one of the cult’s posses. He put on a lopsided grin, smoothed his mustache, and swaggered up to the heavily armed dvergr with the unhealthy color of the grave. “Leave these poor people alone. I’m the one you’re looking for.”

He got a scornful look from one of the former dvergr before he turned back and pounded once more on the door of some poor fool’s house.

“Hey.” He dropped the false smile and grabbed the dvergr’s wrist. “I said, I’m the one you’re looking for. None of that would have happened except for me.”

The dvergr gave a violent twist to his arm – one which Einarr was reasonably sure should have been impossible – and pounded once more on the door. “We have orders to bring in every treasonous rat who took to the streets that night. Since you’re here, I presume you’ll go quietly. Magnyl, take him in. I’m sure His Lordship will be pleased to see one of his humans returned to the dungeons. And don’t worry: your friends are sure to join you soon enough.”

One of the dvergr – certainly Magnyl, all things considered, reached out and tried to take him by the elbow. Einarr wrested it away almost effortlessly. “Is that so. You’ll regret that. I’m the Cursebreaker. You really think any of this would have happened if I weren’t here? You want to take me in, first you have to take me seriously.”

Einarr was unarmed, but he wasn’t about to let this posse go about their business. A quick sweep with his leg brought the unsuspecting Magnyl ignominiously to the ground.

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.

 

The five humans only made it as far as the hallway filled with priestly quarters before they ran into trouble. Halfway down stood a pair of dvergr dressed like priests. The white robes with their gold trim made their complexions look ghastly and grey.

The one in the front shrieked and pointed directly at Runa. “The vessel!”

Einarr wasted no time waiting for an explanation: he drew Sinmora.

“That’s the one who kept examining me,” Runa said, then cleared her throat.

“No! Don’t Sing here.”

Runa looked askance at Einarr’s order, but an order it was.

“Remember how the svartalfrs reacted to Song magic.”

Now she nodded. Thjofgrir and Naudrek had already taken the lead, and while the two priests up ahead were more durable than your average dvergr, they were still subdued easily.

“You want ‘em alive?” Thjofgrir asked, a knee in the back of the one who had spoken.

Einarr frowned, thinking. Could someone be redeemed when they were as… corrupted as these two appeared to be? He didn’t know, but they might be worth questioning later. “Throw them in the cage. I’ll improvise a new lock.”

“Why bother?” Runa’s voice was cold. At Einarr’s raised eyebrow, she continued. “Even the Matrons don’t know how to undo this. You’re the Cursebreaker, but these dvergr took the corruption into themselves – and willingly, as near as I’ve been able to gather. You’re better off killing them than leaving an enemy like this at our backs.”

Einarr shook his head. She wasn’t wrong, but… “Do it, Thjofgrir. We have no good way to shield ourselves from the corrupted blood, so I’d rather not expose you to any more of it than I can avoid.”

Runa grumbled, but evidently didn’t have a good counterargument for that. As well she shouldn’t: last time they’d fought this cult, the Matrons had sent him off after an artifact that belonged to Wotan’s wife – and that had disappeared after they destroyed Urdr’s Weavings over Breidelstein. (Einarr was not looking forward to explaining that to Ystävä, if the alfr ever decided to collect.) Somehow, he doubted Wotan would let him “borrow” it a second time.

They locked them in the cage, only it was not so much a lock. Einarr traced a series of runes along the edge of the door, and when they began to glow the bars became red-hot. When they cooled, moments later, the runes were gone and the bars had fused together entirely.

Einarr gave his wife half a smile. “You were worried about them being left behind us? I think, somehow, we’ll be okay.”


Jorir was pleased to discover that the smoke had not spread to the floor above. As they climbed out of the choking miasma, they all began to regain their strength. He hoped that meant they had made it out in time. “Once we’ve destroyed the Squiddies,” he muttered. “I’m dragging all of you with me to a priestess of Frigg.”

Mornik coughed. He seemed to have taken the worst of it. “Suits me fine.”

“We need to keep moving.” Brandir looked nervously up and down the hall. It was odd that they hadn’t seen more acolytes: were they perhaps down in the streets, dealing with the bigger distraction?

Jorir moved up next to Brandir and took a look around as well. This would be a level for the next level of initiate, Jorir suspected, but there were only three more levels between where they were and where they had left the humans. “Well, come on. This way. We kill anything that moves, and break anything that looks like it might keep them busy, just like below.”

Gheldram chuckled drily. “Perhaps not just like below.”

“Hrmph. Perhaps.”

Unfortunately for Jorir’s team, the second level was lined with initiate quarters along the outside edges, but the features in the more spacious interior seemed largely recreational. There was a mess, and a training hall, and not much of anything else. Furthermore, this floor, too, seemed to be deserted.

Less than halfway through the floor, as Jorir judged it, he stopped. “Something’s not right here. Where is everyone?”

Gheldram, too, frowned. “You’re right. The distraction in the streets wouldn’t account for this.”

“We head back up. We’ll meet Lord Einarr’s team in the designated spot and keep it clear.”


The four dvergr found themselves crouching in the middle of the stairway up to the final floor, the one they had entered through the hidden passage, and cursing their fortunes. They could just see the floor above, and it appeared to be packed with squiddies.

“More or less what we feared,” he whispered.

“Rather. But, the more we can clear out, the fewer your human friends have to deal with, right?” Brandir looked grim, and Jorir didn’t blame him at all. That was a lot of squiddies: their best hope was that they were clustered together in groups, rather than packed that full the whole way through. He nodded in response and took a firmer grip on his axe handle. Then, without a word, he held up three fingers.

Two.

One.

When the last finger became part of Jorir’s fist, all four dvergr charged the high ground.

It never would have worked if the squiddies had been expecting it. Thankfully for Jorir and his team, none of the acolytes near the door were paying any attention to the stairway behind them – almost as if they didn’t think there could be any other groups of enemies in the Mount. Not for the first time, Jorir was glad that the corruption changed the way people functioned in some rather predictable – and stupid – ways.

The first rank of four, those closest to the door, fell without a fight, and suddenly Jorir and his team were standing where they had been, laying about themselves and destroying the corrupted dvergr as quickly as they could manage. They were halfway back to the secret passage when Jorir felt his strength beginning to flag. He supposed, after that cursed snake and all the smoke down below, that he shouldn’t be surprised, but it still rankled.

That was when some of the squiddies began to stand back up. One of them, quite nearby, had been disemboweled. When those bowels began to twist and writhe on their own, their color getting darker and darker until it was nearly black, Jorir concluded they were entirely too close. “Gheldram!”

He hardly needed to catch the man’s attention. Even as the word left his mouth, the massive hammer came down on the writhing tentacles on the floor, pulverizing them. Now Jorir felt queasy for an entirely legitimate reason.

“Quickly! We must secure the passage!”

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.

 

The patrolling guards never saw what hit them. Einarr blinked to realize there were only two who came to investigate, and those two were already down.  They continued on their way.

The passage Mornik led them down showed every sign of having been long forgotten. They passed truly massive spider’s nests and other signs of vermin as they crept down into the mountain and towards whatever horrors might lurk beneath on their way to reclaim Runa. Still, though, they moved cautiously and kept their speech to a minimum: voices carry in caves, after all, and there was no telling who might be listening on the other end.

They had not gone very far, though, before Einarr decided to risk a light. He claimed a loose stone from the ground and inscribed it with a sun rune, willing it to life very dimly – much as he had with his shield in the Paths of Stone.

From time to time they passed small branch passages, some of them no bigger than a crack in the wall, all of which appeared to have been claimed by vermin. When they heard a skitter or a squeak, it almost invariably came from down one of these passages. Little wonder they had been claimed by vermin after something like two hundred years – Jorir had never said when in the upheaval he was exiled, and now was not the time to ask.

At long last, their path led up against a stone door which did not look to have been disturbed for a very long while – although, since this was the route Mornik said he took before, looks were almost certainly deceiving here. The sneakiest of their dvergr companions, Mornik pressed his ear against the blocks that appeared to seal up the passage and listened. The others held their breath. After that seemingly breathless eternity, when Mornik was satisfied that the passage outside was clear, he put his back to the stone just off-center and pushed. Shockingly, the door swung open silently, as though it had been perfectly balanced for just such a circumstance.

Inside the habitable portion, the passages of the cult’s holy place were shockingly bright when compared with the stronghold of the svartalfrs. The walls were done in white limestone, and the fire that burned in the sconces was of the ordinary color. Einarr glanced to Jorir for an explanation, but the dvergr merely shook his head and shrugged.

It was Brandir who had the answer. “They’ve positioned themselves as the path to eternity and a way of ensuring survival through Ragnarok. They promised long-life, and cheating death, and for that their colors are white and gold,” he whispered. The fact that the same cult could have two such different faces was a puzzle to Einarr, but not a puzzle whose answer presented itself just yet.

Now that they were inside, it was time to part ways. Jorir and Brandir, and Gheldram and Mornik, were to split off and head for the outer reaches of the temple to cause yet more chaos. Meanwhile, Einarr and the other men were to seek out the priestly offices where they held their female captives.

As they parted ways, Jorir knelt before Einarr and hung his head. “My lord… forgive me. If it were not for me… for my conflicted loyalties, and my foolish obedience to a summons by a Thane no longer my own, none of you would have been captured, and Runa would not be in danger.”

Einarr smirked. “What are you bowing your head for? Rise. I knew we would have to come here someday, and you warned me what insanity we would face when we fought the svartalfrs. I knew that you were as loyal to your dvergr kith and kin as you were to me.” He offered Jorir a hand and pulled him to his feet. “As much as you are my liegeman, you are also my friend. We’ll save Runa and the babe, both. Good luck out there.”

“And to you.”

The two clasped hands, and then the party split – Einarr and his company heading off to the left, Jorir and his to the right.

There would be no hiding for their group: if they encountered cultists, the only thing they could do would be to kill them quickly. For that reason, Einarr was very glad to see that the ceilings had been built far taller here than in most dvergr architecture, to the point that they could actually all stand up straight. He preferred not to think too closely on why they might have done that, however: the only answer he got was of a she-troll, dead on the ground, and suddenly no longer a troll but a human woman. He shuddered as they rounded a corner.

“What is it?” Kaldr kept his voice low.

“Just… if the squiddies here are as… creative as the svartalfr ones, know that the creature you’re fighting may not be the creature you think you’re fighting.”

He glanced over long enough to see a troubled look on Kaldr’s face: just as well. It had been a terrible thing to be surprised by.

Mornik had given them a general idea of which way to go: after this passage, there would be another to their right, which would bring them into a long hallway lined with widely-spaced doors. Behind these doors were their female captives.

Around that third corner they practically collided with the first patrol they had seen since they entered the secret passage. Einarr didn’t think: he reacted. Without a moment’s hesitation, Sinmora was out of her sheathe and embedded in the dvergr’s belly. Black blood oozed around the crossguard. He gave the blade a twist to free it and sprang back before the corrupted blood could reach his hands.

As quickly as he dispatched that one, the other members of the patrol had not been caught quite so off-guard. One of them was occupied in holding off Thjofgrir’s powerful blows, while the last was dancing circles around Kaldr and Naudrek. Well. I can probably do something about that. He may have been preternaturally quick, but he still didn’t have eyes in the back of his head. Einarr swung Sinmora at the back of his legs, and while Sinmora bit deep it did not go down.

That was when eyes did, in fact, open on the back of its head.

“Aah!” Einarr turned his shout of horror into strength for his attack as he stabbed at the dvergr guardsman’s head. In the same moment, Kaldr and Naudrek buried their blades in its sides and it collapsed to the floor. Now all that was left was the one Thjofgrir fought.

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.

 

The two days of waiting dragged out until they felt more like two weeks, but at last Brandir had matters arranged to his satisfaction. The eight of them would be the only ones to venture into the Mount, while a rather sizable number of dvergr caused a distraction in Nilthiad proper.

The path to the Mount from the bathhouse where they hid was long and circuitous, but there was little to be done about that. This area had apparently always been rough, and before the Cult of Malúnion wormed its way into power the Mount had been an especially rich gold mine – on the outskirts, yes, but nearly on the opposite side of the city.

So it was that, as the afternoon began to wear on into evening, the cloaked and hooded figures of four dvergr and four men slipped out of a friendly bathhouse and into one of the narrow footpaths that wound between buildings, carrying little traffic and often well-shielded from view.

Often, however, was by no means entirely. The sun of Myrkheimr – dimmer and redder than the sun of Midgardr, but somehow hotter – was still well above the horizon when their footpath led them to a wide-open field, well-trodden and fallow. They halted, still in the shadow of their alley, while Mornik scanned ahead.

“The proving ground,” Brandir muttered.

Einarr’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Proving ground? What on earth are they proving?”

“Pah.” Gheldram chuckled. “Mettle, mostly. But some of the older smiths – the ones deep in Thane Soggvar’s confidences – have been working on something big the last few decades. Every once in a while they’ll kick the duelists out. Not much after that, there come some rather deafening roars.”

“That sounds… troublesome,” Kaldr mused.

“But also promising.” Einarr’s mind had gone immediately to the Empire’s spigots of sea-fire that had sent many a raider down in an impromptu funeral ship. Were the dvergr developing something similar?

Mornik stood and dusted his knees. “I think we’re clear. Couldn’t see the whole field, though.”

“If your distraction is doing its job,” Naudrek muttered. “There won’t be anyone but us and maybe the odd farmer’s daughter this far out.”

“If.” Brandir started forward again. “We can’t take that for granted, and you know it.”

They all streamed out of the alley single-file, then moved to walk two abreast across the field. After some brief jockeying about, they put all the humans in front. Behind them, the dvergr marched, their axes in hand, in hopes that the men would be taken for prisoners.

It would have worked beautifully if the dvergr who came spilling out of the wood on the far side of the field had been soldiers, or even temple acolytes. Instead, Einarr and Thjofgrir found themselves face-to-face with the (equally surprised) leaders of a gang of thieves.

For a long moment, the two groups stood staring at each other before one of the thieves drew himself up to his full height, bristling.

“Hey now, what’s the meaning of all this? This is our turf. If those thralls are your spoils, you’d best be turning them over to us now.” He looked right past the four humans to the dvergr standing behind. Einarr bristled but bit his lip. Their ruse would not be helped if he protested his status here.

Brandir and Gheldram both blustered forward.

Gheldram puffed up his chest. “Thralls? These are the humans those thrice-cursed apostates freed! I fear the god’s wrath if we do not take them back.”

The thief who had been speaking sized Thjofgrir up like he was a cow. “You expect me to believe that a big lummox like that escaped? You’re no Acolyte – but your crew must be new. Hand them over, or I’ll show you just who’s on top in the back streets.”

With a sigh, Brandir tugged at the heavy chain around his neck. “We haven’t time for this. If we must fight, then let’s get it over with.”

The other dvergr – even Mornik, whom Einarr would not have expected – also made a show of drawing attention to their matching chains. One or two of the thieves ’ gang blanched, but not their leader.

“So that’s how it’s going to be, then. Fine.” He turned back to his men – there were at least twelve of them, but under the circumstances it was difficult to be sure. “Take the humans, kill the rest. Those chains’ll fetch a pretty price.”

With a toothy grin, Einarr drew Sinmora. Kaldr, Thjofgrir, and Naudrek all drew their weapons, as well. That was when the bandit leader seemed to realize he’d miscalculated.

It was too late.

One on one, a dvergr could usually outmatch a human of similar experience. They were stronger, heartier, and despite their short stockiness, they were often faster. Dvergr blacksmiths had an additional advantage: their profession trained their strength, without diminishing the rest, and they were in high demand in Midgard, which meant they often had seen combat.

Twelve thieves against four dvergr smiths, the smiths might have had a rough time. The bandit’s mistake, however, was in discounting the humans.

Five minutes later, the gang of thieves had been given a sound drubbing and sent on their way – hopefully wiser for the experience. Brandir had given them instructions, but Einarr doubted very much if they would carry them out. Then, the group of eight set on its way again.

Once they were out of the exposed field, Einarr chuckled. “Hey, Jorir. Remember the last time we gave a group of would-be thieves a lesson like that?”

Jorir chuckled, too. “That I do. Wonder if these’ll be as helpful.”


Myrkheimr’s moons were a trio of small, rough affairs, as though the real moon had been split into pieces and they were all that remained. Still, though, it provided some light in the night as they drew near the holy place of the cult in Nilthiad.

A wide-open space had been cleared around the path to the Mount’s entrance, and the path was a broad, shallow staircase made of white marble. Glimmers of gold peeked out from the joins. Tall, fluted columns lined the staircase, and at its base – as well as every ten feet of its length – were stationed a pair of guards. Acolytes of the temple, Mornik said. In the distance, Einarr heard the sounds of battle coming from the city.

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.

 

There was, on the outskirts of Nilthiad as on the outskirts of most cities, a rough part of town, where most people weren’t going to ask too many questions so long as you didn’t go making a big deal out of yourself. It was to a small, apparently abandoned house in a neighborhood such as this that Brandir led them all. Not one of them breathed easily until the doors and window had been covered with furs and a single oil lamp lit.

Once they were as secure as they could be, though, Einarr and Jorir both breathed a rather noisy sigh of relief. As the other dvergr dusted off seats and settled around the room a grin spread slowly over Jorir’s face, cutting a thick white gash of teeth through his black beard.

“By the gods, it’s good to see you. …But what in Valhalla’s name possessed you to follow me here?”

Einarr cleared his throat. “The way you vanished, we were all pretty sure you were in trouble. What else could we have done, then?”

The other humans in the room nodded, and Jorir sighed. “So it always is: in trying to avoid a vision, I brought it about.”

Einarr sat up straighter: everyone else just looked puzzled. “Wait, you saw –”

“Everything that happened in the Hall, almost down to the word. That’s why we made that raid tonight.”

“Let me tell you, it took some real convincing. That was more than a decade’s worth of planning we used tonight, not to mention exposing the three of us.” Brandir gestured to himself and the two other dvergr in the room.

“If we hadn’t, though, we’d have left Nilthiad to the mercies of Malúnion and his priests. The next thing in the vision was at an altar where one of us – at least – was going to die.”

“…Are you sure we’ve forestalled that?”

Jorir shook his head ruefully and shrugged. “She said there was more time left than I thought, and they weren’t true visions, but…”

“I understand. As for you three… you have my thanks. Our thanks. But now, I have one more thing I must ask of you.”

Brandir nodded knowingly. “The lass you mentioned.”

“My wife. They have her, and if women are set apart then I shudder to think might be happening to her.”

“Lady Runa always was headstrong. Still, I’m surprised you let her come along.”

“Tell me, Jorir, when was the last time she couldn’t talk her way into anything she wanted? Besides, she said she’s also in your debt.”

“She… did? Whatever for?”

Einarr only shrugged. Brandir, over by the door, chuckled.

“Never thought I’d see the day. You didn’t just swear to this human, Jorir. But. The lass in question is your wife.”

“Yes. Runa…” He had to clear his throat to stop himself waxing poetic about her: that was unlikely to be appreciated or helpful. “Long golden hair, fair skin, brilliant eyes. Has a rather… impish disposition, I would say.”

Thjofgrir snorted. “I believe the word you’re looking for is tart.”

Einarr gave him a sour look. “And she’s a Singer. That’s what really has me worried, honestly, given what I know about the cult.”

Brandir frowned and shared a look with Gheldram and Mornik. “And that’s something any Acolyte would be able to tell. Mornik, do you still…?”

“I know someone who can get in, yeah. I’ll be back.” Without another word, the stealthy dwarf slipped out through the furs.

“Now.” Einarr crossed his arms and turned his attention to Brandir – who really did look like he could be Jorir’s cousin, the more he looked. “A couple of Seasons ago, we fought against a stronghold of Malúnion’s cult. What can you tell me about its hold here?”


The six men stayed holed up in that rathole – as Brandir called it – for the rest of that night and all the next day. Late in the evening there was a commotion outside and Gheldram, as the least recognizable of their number, poked his head out to see what was the matter.

A moment later he came back in. “It’s Mornik! He’s being chased – by the Thane’s men!”

There was no longer any way around it: they were going to have to set themselves against the Thane by fighting his men. Einarr already had his maille halfway on, as did the other humans. Jorir and Brandir were not far behind.

Einarr grabbed Sinmora and dashed out into the street, just as Mornik’s momentum carried him by the door. The street was oddly deserted, other than the two of them and their enemies. Mornik skidded to a halt behind him.

“You found them?” Einarr barked.

“Yes,” Mornik panted, turning to face his pursuers as well.

The men of the hall didn’t seem to know or care that Einarr was there: he charged past after his quarry and took a slash across the arm for his trouble. Black blood welled up from the wound.

Einarr’s eyes fixed on the sight and he swore, loudly.

Jorir was next out the door, and he, too, swore at the sight of the black blood. There was only one thing black blood could mean.

Einarr barked an order over his shoulder. “Don’t let them bleed on you! We haven’t the means to cure the corruption here.”

Jorir and Kaldr took up positions to either side of Einarr. Kaldr cuffed one on the back of the head with the pommel of his sword – to no effect. “And how,” he asked, “Are we supposed to do that?”

“Just do your best!” Jorir roared, embedding his axe in the belly of one of the corrupted. “We’ll figure something out.”

Mornik vanished briefly into their rathole even as Brandir and Gheldram exited to join the fray.

Einarr wished he had his shield: it, at least, could have been used to block some of the gore. Nothing for it. He swung Sinmora again and decapitated one of the corrupted warriors. “You knew about this?”

“No,” Jorir answered, his voice grim, as he deprived another of its sword-arm. He cut his axe sideways, then, and into its side. “But these are no longer kin.”

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.

 

The creature laughed again, this time with what sounded like real mirth. “A Cursebreaker? In my line? Oh ho, that’s rich.” The sound of feet scraping against the stone signaled that he’d turned again, even though Einarr couldn’t see his eyes. “Very well then, Cursebreaker. Face me. It’s the only way to get the sword.”

“How did I know that’s what you were going to say?” Einarr sighed and settled into a wrestler’s crouch. “Before we begin,I don’t suppose you could be persuaded to tell me what happened?”

“Ah-ah-ah. That, too, you’ll only get out of me if you defeat me. If you win, you get the sword and my head, and you can demand information then. If I win… I get a meal.” Einarr could practically hear it grin.

“So be it, then. We may begin whenever.”

A low growl, as of a wolf or a mountain cat, reverberated out of the darkness. Einarr closed his eyes, listening for the approaching scrape of feet or claws against the floor of the barrow.

At the last moment he pivoted, catching the huge, muscular hands with their wickedly sharp claws as the draugr attempted to drop on him from the ceiling. Einarr wouldn’t have thought a creature so large could move so nimbly, and yet it had almost got past his guard. Because of that, he now strained against the weight of the beast. He didn’t dare let Ragnar force him to the floor, and so he shifted to the side.

The massive form of the draugr stumbled past Einarr. The knife-like claws dug in to the back of his wrists, and the pair went spinning through the darkness, neither willing to release his grip on the other.

“Not bad, for meat,” the draugr hissed in his ear, and laughed. “But you’ll have to do better than that.”

Einarr felt the creature tense, and even still it was all he could do to jump out of the way of the kick that flew for his knees. Its toes were as sharp as its hands, and the claws sliced across the flesh of his thighs: the wounds felt like fire.

At the top of his jump, Einarr swung his own feet forward into an aerial kick. They connected, and the shock of the impact rattled his bones, but the draugr hardly moved. He landed, dodging another brutal kick. He was going to be at a disadvantage until he could get the thing flat on the ground.

“You may as well just lie down. I’m far too strong.”

He had the beast by the forearms, barely keeping its claws from him as it pressed ever closer. “You have the strength of the grave, nothing more.”

“More than enough for a boy like you.”

The light from outside seemed to be fading: he didn’t know if that was because he was so deep in the barrow or because time was passing too fast, but he didn’t have space to ponder the question. It lunged.

At the last second, Einarr dodged to the left, still without letting go of its arms. Off-balance, the creature stumbled, and Einarr swept its legs out from under it.

It worked – sort of. Ragnar’s corpse turned its fall into a roll and grabbed at Einarr’s waist. Not even its claws, however, were sharp enough to pierce the Brokkrsteel maille Einarr wore. Thank you, Jorir.

The two rolled across the floor until they finally came to rest with Einarr sitting on his chest even as the corpse continued to prod at Einarr’s armor with its talons. It was pinned, but it was not done yet.

“Oh, dear, whatever shall I do,” the creature mocked. “There’s an insect on my chest, who thinks he has me pinned.”

Einarr frowned, staring down at the cold flesh beneath him. He didn’t know if it would work, but maybe it would at least get the thing to stop talking: he punched, with all his weight and all force of his superior height, at the draugr’s throat.

For a wonder, it seemed the undead still needed to breathe. It choked on the impact.

Einarr punched it again. Already it was struggling to rise under his weight. He drew Sinmora and plunged it between the creature’s ribs, pinning it to the floor.

That wasn’t going to hold it for long. Einarr drew his knife, then. Leaning into Sinmora, he stabbed down into the breastbone. Once and twice before he had to duck a swinging claw, then two more times. He poured his will into the sigil he had just drawn – more will than a single rune had ever before called for.

There was a small fwoosh as the dead flesh caught and illuminated the fire rune he had inscribed there. Einarr sprang back before the flames could catch him, as well.

The creature chuckled, utterly unperturbed by the fire that now spread rapidly over its body. “You thought to stop me with flames of this level?”

Einarr ignored the taunt. He was already searching for Ragnar’s sword – the very blade he had come in search of.

“You’ve lost, Ragnar. Why don’t you go ahead and tell me what killed you?”

“Lost? Hardly. You didn’t overpower me, you merely pinned me to the ground like a bug and set a rather pleasant fire. Can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been warm. …Well, I suppose that’s worth something. Fine.” It chuckled again. Einarr was growing truly sick of that sound.

“I’m afraid Wotan had some rather strong feelings about my hospitality. As consideration, he left me quite a wondrous gem. You can have it, if you want.”

Einarr glanced over his shoulder. Sure enough, the draugr was wriggling on the floor, slowly working Sinmora out of the earth. Once he was free, Einarr would be faced with an unbent, powerful, flaming draugr. I have to find that sword.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

The skeletal draugr milled about outside their door, in numbers like they had seen during their panicked flight the night before – only this time, their interest had been caught by the people in the room.

“Do you they want the gem?”

“Almost certainly.” Eydri’s voice echoed Troa’s just a heartbeat behind.

“They were just milling about, like we’ve seen before, until right after you opened that box,” Troa explained.

“The only thing draugr seek more than wealth is flesh,” Eydri added. “Even if I hadn’t named the thing, one of them could have seen it.”

They were starting to press at the door, now. Further back, Einarr thought he saw the large, fleshy bodies of stronger draugr. “Fine. This still doesn’t fit with their behavior last night.”

“This is Hel’s domain.” Eydri’s voice was low and flat. “Care to lay odds that she wants it?”

“Or us?” Troa asked, his face grim. He stood ready not to strike but to grapple with the creatures.

Einarr drew his blade and frowned. “No bet. So what does it actually do?”

“I’m not sure. You’ll have to work on that with Hrug.”

The other seithir grunted, and bones rattled from the far door.

A somewhat fleshier draugr came within reach of Einarr and he kicked out with one foot, sending it reeling back. “Little busy now.”

Behind the first ranks of the largely skeletal draugr – the men who looked like they may have starved to death, given what Einarr had seen of the island, or who were starved in death – he could see the shadowy shambling forms of larger, fleshier abominations. Did that mean they were stronger, or just more recently dead?

Troa had one by the shoulders now, and Einarr thought it would soon be pinned. He caved in the skull of another that pressed in towards them and the bones clattered to the ground. It would reform soon enough, though.

“Einarr!” Troa grunted as he forced the abomination slowly to its knees. “Take its head.”

“Huh?”

The scout gave an exasperated shout. “It’s the only way to kill them! Didn’t you pay attention to the stories?”

Einarr only hesitated a moment, as a memory of his duel against the reventant of the Althane flashed in his mind. Then he raised Sinmora and swung. “Duck!”

Troa ducked, and Sinmora slashed through the air where his head had been and severed the skeletal neck of the draugr. It clattered to the ground and the bones lay still.

Troa, panting a little from the grapple, set himself to face the next one. “We have to destroy them, or we will all fall.”

He was right, of course. “So we just have to take their heads?”

Troa shook his head even as he entered the clutch with the next one in line – the one whos head Einarr had caved in. “You have to wrestle… them… into submission first. There’s a… reason glíma… is so important.”

The broken skull didn’t seem to be slowing that one down, at any rate. But if that was what it took… Einarr kicked out at the draugr’s knees. Troa saw what he was doing and followed up with a sweep that took the creature down. When Troa had it pinned, Einarr took its head.

They had a moment’s respite. Einarr sheathed Sinmora. “Draw. I’ll get the next one.”

Troa rose mutely and nodded. A moment later, his sword hissed from its scabbard.

“This is what you were thinking of when we fought the Althane, wasn’t it?” Einarr didn’t look at his comrade as he sized up the apparent next target. Suddenly he was very glad that so many of the draugr on this island were weirdly emaciated.

“Yeah.”

The draugr came within reach. Einarr gave it no time to prepare itself: as soon as it was within arm’s reach, he swept his arm around the back of its head and pulled it off balance. It stumbled forward, and he followed up with a vicious kick to the kneecap.

The full moon climbed over the horizon, and slowly the press of draugr slackened, until finally the seven stood catching their breaths and scanning the darkness outside for further threats.

Einarr looked around at his crewmen. Finn clutched at a shoulder. “Is anyone hurt?”

“Not seriously,” the young scout answered. Einarr frowned.

“Eydri, will you see what you can do?”

As she moved to tend to the man, he went on. “Seems like we have yet another reason for me to deal with my great-grandfather tomorrow. The way things are going, I’m not sure I trust our camp to be safe for a third night.”

There were murmurs of agreement all around.

“Now. Without opening the box or naming the thing, what do we know about it?”

“It’s deceptively named,” Finn started. His shoulder did not appear to be bleeding, at least.

“It belongs—or at least belonged—to Wotan.” Odvir added, seated near his door.

“The draugr, or perhaps their mistress, want it.” Troa still watched out the door he had defended.

“But we do not know what it does, if it does anything, or how it came to be in one of the storerooms here.” Einarr finished. It had not felt magical, the way some things did, when he touched it – but neither did Sinmora. “Join me by the fire, Hrug, and let’s see if we can work out anything regarding its nature.”

By the time the moon set and the light failed them, they were fairly certain of only one thing: the Fehugim was not, in itself, magical save for the internally glowing rune. With a sigh, Einarr rubbed his brow and pulled his cloak over himself like a blanket and lay down. Dawn would come all too soon, and he needed at least a little rest before he dared the grave of Ragnar’s draugr.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

Sinmora slashed down and a draugr collapsed into a pile of bones, only to begin reassembling itself almost immediately. Troa stomped on the pile of bones and moved into the hole it left even as he took out the legs of the one behind it. Then Finn stepped forward as Troa had before.

They fought, and as they fought they crept their way forward, keeping the two most vulnerable in the center of their circle. Even as they moved forward, though, the walking dead reassembled themselves in their wake.

A bony claw clutched at Einarr’s wrist. He kicked, the sole of his boot striking the skeletal form in what would have been its nose, had it still possessed one. It stumbled backward anyway, knocked off balance by the blow. “Hrug! Tell me you have something you can do!”

The mute sorcerer grunted.

“He’s trying,” Eydri hollered, her voice sounding less raspy now. “Runes also… resist.”

Shit. “Fine,” he growled. “That means its up to the rest of us. Forward! Defend the center.”

On they pressed, knocking aside or trampling the abominations of Hel on their way back to their defensible camp. Finally, panting, Einarr and Naudrek stood shoulder to shoulder in the doorway of their camp, holding back the pursuing soldiers of the dead. Troa and Finn took up a post in the other door while Odvir set about building up their fire.

At last Odvir sat back from the fire pit with a groan and the warm orange glow of a wood fire pressed against the darkness all around. Slowly, as the firelight shone on the backs of the defenders and slipped past them to illuminate the draugr, the enemy fell back into the night as quietly as they had appeared.

Minutes passed. Einarr and Naudrek scanned the darkness outside the chamber they had all mentally designated as ‘home’ for the duration of this quest, and the draugr did not reappear. Finally Einarr took a deep breath and turned back to the rest of his team.

Eydri was looking over Finn. Odvir sported a bandage around his wrist and several visible bruises. Hrug was looking through the tablet he had brought from the records room, his brow creased in concentration.

“What happened out there?” Einarr demanded.

Eydri shook her head. Einarr waited. Finally, she answered. “I don’t know. When I tried to Sing, it was like my throat was suddenly dry and sore. Water hasn’t helped – not that the water on this cursed island is any better than the bread in town was.”

Einarr frowned. “Dry throats happen. I’m not going to worry unless it happens again… but all the same, men, let’s not count on the Song Magic. What about Hrug?”

The question was still addressed to Eydri, who had seen, and Hrug didn’t even look up from his tablet. “That’s a little harder to explain. He traced a rune on the ground, and stared at it like he always does, but nothing happened. Then he pulled out one of his runestones, and the lines on it flickered like wet kindling and went out.”

Einarr blinked, wide-eyed, and turned a questioning look on Hrug, who nodded. “That is troubling. And neither of you have any idea what could cause such a thing?”

Hrug shook his head and turned his attention back to the tablet he was searching. He must have seen something important in there, earlier: Einarr wasn’t about to begrudge him his reading this night.

Eydri also shook her head and gave a deep sigh. “This being Hel’s domain by itself doesn’t explain it. I need to know more before I could do anything more than take a shot in the dark.”

Einarr nodded. “Fine. Double watches tonight, everyone. There’s no telling if they’ll try to take us again when we’re off our guard.” An idea occurred to him. “Eydri… as a test, try to sing us a lullaby.”

“A… you want me to try to put you all to sleep?”

“Sure. If it works, we can wake up the first watch ourselves. If it doesn’t we know.”

“As you wish.” Eydri closed her eyes and centered herself.

“You’re throat’s not dry right now, is it?”

“No.”

He waved her to go ahead, and her nostrils flared as she took a deep breath in. Then she opened her mouth to sing. The lovely, sweet notes of a lullaby drifted out across their camp, and for the space of a few heartbeats Einarr thought it would work. Then, as before, Eydri seemed to choke on the words and dissolved into a hacking cough. Einarr handed her his water skin as she rasped out “No good.”

He nodded. “Right. So, gents, it’s time to prove Kaldr wrong. We can’t depend on magic here, in spite of having three seithir along. It sounds like our runestones might work, if we’re lucky, but best to assume they won’t. Once we find Ragnar’s barrow I want you five to figure out what is going on here, and if it’s something I’ll need to deal with before we can leave.”

“Surely you’re not going to leave yourself unguarded in the barrow?”

“What sort of man needs help retrieving the sword for his own wedding? The draugr left us alone all day, and went away when we got the fire going. So long as I’m careful about my timing, I’ll be fine. I’m more worried about those two.” He pointed to Eydri and Hrug.

Hrug was staring at him intently, one finger tapping at a place on the tablet in his lap.

“What do you have for me, Hrug?”

The mute sorcerer stood up and crossed the room in two strides to thrust the page before Einarr. He looked down and sighed, then took the seat by the fire Hrug had just vacated. He would need it to be able to read the old birchbark.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.

Much to Naudrek’s annoyance, Einarr insisted on taking the midnight watch that night. “This is your quest, Einarr. You owe it to yourself to be fresh for it in the morning.”

“You’re right. This is my quest. But I deeply mislike the situation I’ve brought you all into, and of all of us there are three who are best equipped to deal with the minions of Hel. Me, Hrug, and Eydri. And I’m the only one who can keep my own watch.”

“But—” Naudrek tried to protest again.

“But what? Don’t tell me you’re worried I’ll try to handle too much alone?”

The other man clapped his mouth shut. Einarr shook his head, chuckling. “Go to sleep. I’ll wake you first if anything happens. There will be nights enough when I’m the one sleeping the whole night.”

“…As you say.”

Now Einarr sat by the fire, polishing Sinmora’s blade while he waited to see what, if anything, the denizens of this place were going to throw at them this night. When he had relieved Troa’s watch, the man had seen nothing – which under ordinary circumstances meant there was nothing to see, and so far, neither had he.

A wisp of mist floated past outside the door of the chamber where they had made camp, glowing white. Einarr followed it with one eye: it was interesting, but after dealing with the Althane’s court he was not about to go wandering off after ghost light if he didn’t have to, alone or not.

From the other direction, a rattling noise caught his attention, but when he turned to look there was nothing there. That might bear investigating. Einarr stood, keeping hold of Sinmora’s hilt in a loose grip, and stepped softly over to the door. When he got there, though, there was nothing to see. With a sigh, he returned to his spot on the wall and polishing his sword.

Either someone – or something – is watching us, or they’re trying to lure me out. Well, they can watch us sleep if they must, but I won’t be lured. Einarr snorted, and kept a frequent eye turned in either direction.


When Finn, on the dawn watch, woke everyone come morning he reported with some puzzlement that he had seen nothing unusual. Einarr pressed his lips together and knitted his brow, then sighed. “So that means someone was after me, specifically, last night.”

Eydri perked up. “Why? What did you see?”

“Not much. The occasional wisp of ghost light, and once or twice I heard bones rattling. The sorts of things you might do if you deliberately wanted to draw someone out alone.”

Now it was Eydri’s turn to knit her brow. “And if they wanted to draw you out, specifically, was it fair or foul?”

Einarr shrugged. “Don’t know. Doesn’t matter, really. When we’re searching today, though, everyone stays in pairs. I don’t care if you’re just going out to shit, you take someone to watch your back.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now. As soon as we’re all ready, we need to start searching this place, top to bottom. There’s got to be some record of where Grandfather buried Ragnar. We need to stay focused here.” And not get wrapped up in some curse that doesn’t truly have anything to do with you. Get the sword and get home, don’t get wrapped up trying to fix whatever happened here a hundred years ago. The last time he’d done that was on the Althane’s island, and he’d cost the lives of far too many of Father’s crew.

Finn started pulling wooden truncheons from his pack, and it was only then that Einarr realized the other man had spent a good portion of his watch cooking breakfast. He chuckled. “Three cheers for Finn! What have you boiled for us?”

Not long after, with the fire thoroughly doused, they split into three teams. Naudrek and Hrug went southeast, Finn and Odvir went west, and Einarr took Eydri and Troa to the northeast. “Eyes open, blades limber. Good hunting,” he told them all in the courtyard as they parted ways.

“Good hunting,” came the murmured response.

For hours the three of them combed through forgotten guest chambers, store rooms and workshops. Occasionally they would find a bound scroll of birch bark, or a carved slate, but these all appeared to be inventories of what had once been stored within.

The sky overhead was still a flat, overcast grey, such that nothing seemed to cast its shadow. Einarr tried not to focus on it as he searched: it sent shivers down his spine. Anyone could be hiding in a place like this: hiding, and watching, as someone clearly had been the night before. He was, he could admit to himself, just as glad to have a third person along – even if he had argued with Naudrek that morning that the scouts were the ones in most danger.

With a sigh, he blew dust off the top of a moss-covered wooden box that sat, still unopened, in the corner of the current store room. A large tuft of dead moss tumbled down to the ground, revealing the remains of a carving on the lid. He raised an eyebrow: curious, Einarr started brushing away the moss.

The central image was simple enough: it was a longship – not, so far as he could tell, Hel’s – with a dragon’s head on the prow. He’d seen more than one like it already, and all of them had been worthless to him. This one, however, showed the remnants of runework around the edges of the box. Unfortunately, between the light and the age of the work, he couldn’t make it out. “Eydri? What do you make of this?”

The Singer, much smudged by the grime of ages, gave him a frustrated look. “Just another recipe box, isn’t it?”

“Who protects their recipes with rune wards?”

She furrowed her brow and stood to come look. That, however, was when they heard desperate shouts from the west. Einarr and Troa shared a look and a nod, and took off at a dead run towards the commotion.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


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.