Einarr could hear the sound of the draugr wriggling, trying to work Sinmora loose, over the crackle of flames that burned slowly, like wet logs.

It smelled an awful lot like wet, rotting wood in here, too, now that his focus was slightly removed from the abomination that wanted nothing so much as to devour him. Ragnar’s sword. It has to be close.

The number of weapons in the barrow was significant. It seemed like everywhere Einarr turned he saw spears – in some cases, just spearheads – axes, bows and arrowheads. Nowhere did he see a sword. He moved further in, taking advantage of the light to find the actual bier on which Ragnar had been lain. It would be there, if it was anywhere.

Now he heard the characteristic dry, rustling laugh of the creature. It must be nearly free by now. Then a truly horrific thought occurred to Einarr: if it got free, it would have Sinmora. Where is it… ah!

The light of the fire burning on the draugr glinted off a piece of well-polished metal, straight and beveled. He lunghed forward and found himself standing before a half-rotted wooden bier. That was not usual, but perhaps under the circumstances of Raen’s flight the best he could manage. There, resting across the top of the bier, was the blade of a sword remarkably untouched by time. Einarr grabbed its hilt.

He froze. A wave of nausea passed through him as his hand closed on the grip of the sword, very similar to the corruption he had felt from the black-blooded beasts of the Svartalfr cultists.

“Hello. Of course you’re cursed. Not sure why I expected anything different,” Einarr muttered to himself. He quashed the sense of sickness that radiated from the sword, turned on his heel, and sprinted back across the barrow.

Miraculously, Sinmora still held the draugr pinned to the ground – mostly. It currently lay propped on one elbow, scrabbling at the hilt of Einarr’s blade with its long claws but seemingly unable to get a grip. It seemed Sinmora’s magic-eating ability was having some sort of effect on the creature: the flesh around the wound seemed somehow shriveled, and more charred, than the rest of it, and every time its claws started to close around the hilt they fell open again.

“Ragnar!” Einarr boomed.

Startled, the draugr turned to look at his great-grandson.

Einarr held the blade in a two-handed grip over one shoulder. “You were honorless in life. Your place is with the dishonored dead. I swear to you, you will torment the people you were meant to rule no longer!”

There was very little credit Einarr was willing to extend to this creature, but there was this: it did not flinch from its impending doom. Instead he heard the dry-leaves rustle of its laughter one last time. “It is not I who torments the descendants of those who willingly aided me.”

Einarr took one more stride towards the creature and brought its blade down in a powerful arc. As the fire of Einarr’s rune licked the blade the steel itself began to smoke.

The cut was clean. The draugr’s head, still alight with the purifying essence of flame, tumbled to the floor. Its flesh began to shrivel, and as Einarr yanked Sinmora free of its chest it turned to ash, leaving only blackened bones where the deadly creature had once lain.

Before the flames from his runes could go out, Einarr held the blade of Ragnar’s sword in them. As before, the steel began to smoke. And, it could have been his imagination, but it seemed as though the color of the steel grew lighter.

Finally the flames flickered out of existence, having consumed everything save the old thane’s bones, and Einarr rose. He put the sword back in its sheath and stumbled for the door, the fatigue of his fight suddenly weighing heavily on his legs and his back.

Outside, Naudrek waited anxiously under the same wan grey sky that he had left. After so long inside the barrow, it seemed almost painfully bright.

“There you are! Are you hurt?”

Einarr shook his head, blinking to let his eyes adjust to the light. “How long was I in there?”

“The afternoon wanes. We’d left by this point yesterday.”

“Pah. Water.”

Wordlessly, Naudrek thrust a waterskin into Einarr’s hand.

Einarr took a long drink, capped the skin, and thrust it back at his friend. “Then let’s go.”

Sure that Naudrek was only awaiting the word, he set off at a lope towards the ruined hold and the rest of their companions. He only hoped Finn would have something good cooking when they got back.


It was far darker than either of them was comfortable with when the light of Finn’s cookfire finally illuminated a doorway ahead of them, but for whatever reason the draugr had been quiet so far this evening. Possibly, he thought, there was enough of Ragnar’s essence still in the old sword that the draugr could not sense them. Einarr did not know, and did not care to guess.

Once inside, Einarr rested Ragnar’s blade against one of the walls and sat down heavily in front of the fire. “Evening.”

Eydri arched an eyebrow at him. “Welcome back. How did it go?”

“I’m alive, aren’t I? And I have the sword.”

“Wonderful. But I sense there’s more?”

He nodded. “Before we sleep tonight, I want to set up a purification circle for the blade. I think ending its former master broke the curse itself, but it still feels corrupted a little, I think.”

“And what about the island?”

Einarr shook his head: he’d had nothing to eat since the jerky that morning. “Food first. Eat, then talk. I’m famished.”

Midway through his first bowl, Einarr looked up. “Just exactly what we thought. Wotan’s test of hospitality. Never heard of someone failing that badly, though.”

“So what are we going to do about it?” Eydri asked.

“Nothing.” The surprised look on her face was a rare treat.


 

 

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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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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.


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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.

At first light the next day, Einarr set off for the barrow field with Naudrek and Troa, leaving the others to continue their search for answers in the ruins. As they stepped out of the crumbling stone walls, Einarr saw movement off towards the horizon: one of the draugr, shambling into the forest to rest – if the abominations truly rested – for the day.

Half-starved wolves. Draugr, attacking relentlessly any foolish enough to be out after dark. Surely they had already devoured all the game animals and the livestock. The plants all seemed as sickly grey as the sky. What amazed Einarr under these circumstances was that anyone still lived here at all. “Everything about this island seems strange,” he said aloud.

Naudrek snorted. “You’re not wrong. But why do you say it now?”

“Just thinking. Everything we’ve seen here leads almost inevitably to this place being part of Hel’s domain. But she is the keeper of the dishonored dead. So then why is there anyone living here at all? And how are they still alive?”

“Fish,” Troa answered. “And even sickly vegetables are better than none at all. Cabbage grows everywhere.”

Einarr grunted. “Okay. So there’s how. But still, it’s been more than two generations since they ran Grandfather out, and there are children.”

Naudrek frowned. “What was it you and Hrug thought was so interesting the other night?”

“Ragnar… was not a good Thane.”

“The townspeople made that eminently clear.”

“I don’t mean to his people. He was, so far as we could tell, very generous with other peoples’ things.”

“Come again?”

“The tablet Hrug brought out was a basic accounting of stores. Every once in a while, a traveler would stop by Thorndjupr and be granted hospitality at the Hold. And every one of them would turn around and attack the men of the Hold at some point during their stay.”

“Ragnar had that many enemies?”

Einarr shook his head. “Possible, I suppose, but there was only one thing in common among the incidents, and that was Ragnar. And not long after each of them, the leaders of the town would all receive generous gifts from the Thane.” He gave Naudrek a moment for that to sink in. “I think my great-grandfather was a faithless host. And even if he is not draugr himself, I expect his haugbui labors under a curse.”

Silence ruled over their hike for quite a while following that. Around noon, they crested a small rise and found themselves facing gentle, rolling hills and new-growth forest, although the trees looked stunted.

“I think this is it,” Troa said, his mouth curling wryly.

“Wishing you’d brought Eydri yet?”

Einarr snorted. “Only a little. Come on: nothing for it but to start searching. No reason to expect the inscription’s worn away.”


Eydri raised her head from the scroll she was skimming and blew some stray hairs out of her face. It looked like it was about noon, and it felt distinctly like they were getting nowhere here. Inexplicably, she thought again of the rune-covered box Einarr had found the other morning. Did she remember where that store room was?

It was the runes, of course. Einarr was right: no-one sealed their recipe box with runes, and precious few would inscribe them on a jewelry box. She frowned: Finn and Odvir had tried to help, earlier on, but now sat a sullen guard at the doorway. Then she nodded: that was the ticket. These records were getting her nowhere. “Finn. Come with me a minute, will you? I’ve just remembered something important.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The scout stood up eagerly. Hrug glanced up from his tablet and grunted before returning to his reading.

Eydri led the young man through the old ruined hold saying little, trying to remember just which store room they had been in when Finn and Odvir had been attacked the other morning.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what are we looking for?”

She spared him a glance and a half-smile. “Einarr found a rune-worked box the other morning, right before you two were attacked by the wolves. It could be important… but I have to find it again, first.”

Finn nodded, his reddish hair flopping over his ears. “You three had the northeast, right? So I think we need to bear more to the right.”

“Ah, of course. Thank you.”

Working together with the almost comically eager to please Finn, Eydri finally found herself back in the storeroom they had raced out of so quickly the other day. The room looked as though it had been ransacked, and not by them: boxes that Eydri remembered setting carefully back on the shelf were overturned and thrown about the room, as though the stymied draugr had taken out their wrath here.

They had not destroyed the rune box, however. Eydri finally found it cast into a corner – likely where Einarr had dropped it as he raced to the rescue – and half-buried by other forlorn “treasures.” She blew off the surface of the box: in spite of everything, dust flew into the air. There was still moss stuck to the surface in places, as well. Carefully, Eydri lifted the box in both hands. “I’ve found it. We can go back now.”

“Yes’m.” If Finn was perplexed that she did not open the box immediately, he did not show it. Part of her wanted to, but she was too well versed in things of magic. She needed light, and a place to examine the box first.

When they returned to the records room, Hrug came over to examine the box as well. The runic inscription was greatly weathered and hard to decipher, but between the two of them they managed to decipher a vague message relating to fortune and fate. Eydri looked at Hrug, who nodded. There was nothing more to do but to open it.

Carefully, Eydri opened the lid of the box with both thumbs. Inside, on a fine silken pillow, lay an exquisite – and gigantic – ruby. Within the ruby glowed a single rune.


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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.

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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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.

With the morning light came the sound of metal striking metal from deep within the cave, rousing Einarr from his uneasy rest. The glow of fire lit the walls, even though Einarr’s had long since burnt itself to ash.

The noise became more distinct as he crept down the narrow, winding passageway. I wonder what sort of smith would set up in such a place?

Several minutes passed, and Einarr knit his brows. The tunnel had already continued on far longer than he had expected, but still he heard the rhythmic clinking sound of a distant forge hammer from up ahead.

The tunnel jogged sharply left, and then directly back in the other direction before opening out into a broad cavern. Like the tunnel behind him, the walls of the cavern did not appear to be man-hewn, and yet the sheer scope of the room suggested that very fact.

He pressed on, stepping softly over the smooth stone floor and moving from stalactite pillar to stalagmite as he crept across the room toward the source of fire at the center of the cavern. The clanging sound never faltered.

As he crept ever closer, the source of the noise resolved itself into a sensible form. The fire burned hot, and next to the fire was an unusually short anvil. Working at this anvil, on some project Einarr could not determine, was a black-haired dwarf. Unless Einarr missed his guess, not all of the dwarf’s visible scars were from his forge.

“You may as well come the rest of the way in,” the dwarf growled. “I already know you’re there.”

Einarr blinked, a little nonplussed. The dwarf shouldn’t have been able to hear him over the noise of his anvil. He stepped out from behind the stone pillar he had sheltered behind. “Yes, of course. My apologies, sir dwarf, but I did not expect to find anyone smaller than a tree on the island.”

The dwarf laughed, but was no mirth in it. “Sit down. Have a drink, rest a bit by the fire.”

“Am I to understand that you’re extending hospitality to me? That, according to the dictates of the gods, you will see to it that I come to no further harm on the island?” He could not keep the disbelief from his voice.

The dwarf snorted. “Fine. Don’t, then. Why are you here.”

“I don’t suppose you’d be able to tell me how to get to Fraener’s Hall, would you?”

“You want to go to the jotün’s hall, do you? Can’t see why anyone would want to do that.”

“Even still, I fear I must go. Do you know the way?”

“Oh, aye, I can take you there. But it won’t be for free. And you probably won’t thank me for it if I do.”

“Of course it won’t.” He sighed: all he had on him was the rope and the sack with Runa’s gift. “I’m afraid I haven’t anything of value on me. Perhaps some sort of a contest? A… game of wits, perhaps?”

“You would riddle with me?” The dwarf sounded unnaturally gleeful at the prospect. “If you win, I will take you there. If you lose, I will give you to the master for dinner.”

Einarr suppressed a groan. Why is it always riddles? I hate riddling. “Come now, are we barbarians? What think you of tafl?”

The dwarf’s face took on a crafty look. “Unfortunately, my board is missing a piece.”

“Is it the king?” Bless you, Runa. How did you ever guess?

The dwarf nodded sagely. Einarr pulled the king from out of the sack where it rested.

“Let’s play. My king, my defense.”

“As you like.”

The dwarf moved away from the fire and spread his board out on the ground of the cave. He set out the game pieces in an unfamiliar pattern. No matter, though; the layout determined tactics, not strategy, and the key to this game was fluid tactics. Einarr studied the board as the dwarf worked, mentally trying and discarding several opening moves.

The dwarf played cautiously at the outset – too cautiously, Einarr thought. Within five moves he’d nearly opened his path to the edge of the board. He was just starting to get cocky when he noticed the smirk his opponent wore. In the next move he was cut off from escape.

By his tenth move, Einarr was beginning to sweat. He hadn’t lost yet, but the dwarf was making him work for it harder than anyone other than Runa had in a long time.

Five more turns passed, with Einarr’s guards getting picked off slowly but surely. As he sat, contemplating his next move, a feeling of deja vu struck. I’ve seen this pattern before. …That’s right. A slow smile spread across his face, despite his attempts to quash it. I tried to corner Runa with this once. Tried, and failed miserably. In three turns she’d crushed the offense, with no more pieces left than he had now.

“Not really sure you have anything to be smiling about,” the dwarf said.

“Mm? Oh, I’m just thinking about the bragging rights I’ll have when I escape your master’s pot and poison the soup on my way out.”

“Are you now.”

Einarr didn’t think the dwarf believed him, but he looked up from under his eyebrows at his opponent and made the first move. “I am. It’s not what I came here for, but how many people can say they slew a jotün in his own hall?”

The dwarf continued on as he had been, apparently not recognizing the shift in tactics. “Not all that many, I’d wager.”

Einarr made his next move. “Now, now, one wager at a time. Raichi, by the way.” Einarr knew he looked smug as he signalled his impending victory, and right now he didn’t care.

The dwarf looked confused, still not seeing the same hole in his line that Einarr had missed those few months ago. He moved to block what he thought Einarr was doing, which left exactly the path free that Einarr had left for Runa.

“Tuichu. I win.”

“So you do.” The dwarf blinked, poleaxed.

“So now you will take me to the jotünhall, as we agreed, and I will not have to figure out how to poison your master.”

“Of course, my young sir. If you will just follow me?” The crafty note was back in the dwarf’s voice. Einarr would have to watch him.


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