As dawn broke the Heidrun limped into a tiny cove on an equally tiny island not far from the treacherous Blávík so that she could be properly inspected for damage after their rather hasty departure.

A cursory inspection under the deck boards confirmed that she was not taking on water – even slowly. It was as dry as when they’d loaded her, although a number of the water casks had been tumbled about by the jolt and had to be reset while Finn went for a swim.

By midmorning the crew had hauled him out of the water. “Got a nasty-looking gouge running along next to the keel, but she’ll hold.”

Einarr sighed. “Is it bad enough the wood will swell?”

“Very likely. Six inches to the left, though, and it could have split the keel.”

That was small comfort. It merely meant that the repairs would be expensive, rather than impossible. Still, it wasn’t something they could fix with the Heidrun in the water. On the other hand, the odds that they could make it home with that wound were pretty good. Einarr nodded. “Very well. Get yourself warmed up. Oar team, get us back out on the open ocean. We have a wedding to attend.”


Thanks be to all the gods, the remainder of their journey was uneventful. By the time the Heidrun entered port she had been reinforced from within twice to prevent her taking on water, and the swelling of the klinker was bad enough that she listed uncomfortably to starboard.

By the time they moored themselves at the pier, a large crowd had gathered, including no small number from the Hold. Einarr smiled to see Jorir, Kaldr, and Father all near the front of the crowd. They must have started down the cliff as he sailed past the weaver-witch’s rock. He took up Ragnar’s sword and slung its baldric over his shoulder.

With a nod to Naudrek, Einarr vaulted over the bulwark to land on the pier. Stigander was waiting.

“Welcome home, my boy.”

“Thanks.”

“Aye, welcome back, milord.” Jorir stood just behind Stigander, looking pleased if not entirely happy. But then, sometimes it was hard to tell behind the dwarven beard.

“You’ve got it, then?”

By way of an answer, Einarr held up the extra blade he carried. “There is much to tell, but we’ve had nothing but fish to eat for weeks now.”

“Of course, of course.” His father clapped him on the shoulder, and they started up the pier even as the crew still aboard set the gangplank in place. “What happened to your ship?”

“That’s part of what there is to tell. But, how is Grandfather?”

“Much the same, I’m afraid. A thousand deaths were not enough for that woman.”

Einarr hummed his agreement. “I feel like we ought to thank him, though, for leaving Thorndjupr.”

“That bad?”

“Worse.”

As they wound their way through town and up the cliff road to the hold Einarr began telling what they had learned of the place Raen had left in his youth to establish his Hold on Breidelstein, and of the cult and of the League that had tried to press-gang his crew in Blávík.

“That is troubling.”

“Quite. Best to assume that they didn’t believe me when I said I was a prince, rather than a freeboater. At least for now.”

“What, you don’t want to have to go beat some sense into them for your honeymoon?”

“Not remotely. And if we went to war Blávík is even farther away than Kjell. We’ve only just finished pacifying our own holdings – it is finished, right?”

“We haven’t had to put out any fires while you were gone, at least.”

Einarr grumbled, and then his stomach grumbled. Stigander laughed.

“Dinner will be waiting when we get there, never fear. So that’s when your ship took damage?”

“Aye, and that will be a tale to tell of an evening.” Einarr chuckled. That was exactly the sort of fireside tale that warriors loved, and it would certainly be more fun to tell than to experience. “Have the Kjellings arrived yet?”

“Last week.” Now Stigander chuckled. “Your Runa was not the only one disappointed you were gone.”

“Oh?” Probably Bollinn, maybe some of the other warriors.

“I don’t know what you did for Hroaldr, but he’s been almost as anxious about you as she has.”

Einarr stopped in his tracks and blinked at his father in surprise. “Maybe it has something to do with destroying the Weavings?”

“Maybe so, maybe so.” Stigander looked amused.

Einarr stepped more lightly now, knowing that his bride waited in the hold at the top of the cliff.

As they rounded the last switchback and the gate came into view, Einarr could see a small crowd gathered there, as well. Einarr thought he saw a figure with long golden hair in a pale dress near the front: he stepped more quickly. When he drew near enough to make out the face, he grinned. Sure enough, it was Runa.

He did not feel the intervening ground. The next thing he knew his arms were around her waist and they spun, the ground still sloping under his feet. He didn’t care. She laughed, brilliantly, joyously, and her hair was like a halo around them. She smelled of spices. Cheers went up from the others gathered to greet them as they straggled up the road. Even Hroaldr, also standing near the front of the crowd, looked pleased. Even with his father’s warning, Einarr had not expected his future father-in-law to be anything more than an enemy.

Reluctantly, he set Runa’s feet back on earth and they moved forward, arm in arm, for Einarr to greet the others.

Hroaldr clasped his hand, a tight smile showing beneath his neatly-trimmed beard. “You’re late.”


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Einarr spent the first morning after they sailed restless, worrying simultaneously that he had done too much and too little. But, as the grey skies over the grey lands slipped back over the horizon, he turned his attention to more pressing matters. Namely, arriving home in time for his own wedding.

Based on the charts, he and Naudrek had agreed that they should be able to make it to Blávík, resupply, and be back on the water with enough time, barring unforseen circumstances, to get him home with a few days to spare. The fact that they were down to a matter of days was somewhat concerning, however.

As they neared Blávík, the source of the name became plain. Facing the Heidrunings was some of the brightest, bluest water Einarr had ever heard of north of Imperial waters. He whistled, impressed.

Equally plain, however, was the local opinion of interlopers. No fewer than three longships with blue and white sails came slicing across the water towards them as they neared the harbor.

“Run up the flag of peace, men! We want no quarrel.”

The patrol ships still moved to block their way. Einarr had to furl sail rather rapidly to avoid striking the center ship, but he turned the Heidrun in time. He moved to the bulwark and stood with one foot on the side to address the opposing Captain. “I am Einarr, son of Stigander, Thane of Breidelstein. We seek resupply here on our way home.”

The other Captain snorted. “A likely story. No ship comes out of those waters.”

“They’ve a bad infestation of draugr, I’m afraid. Bad water and food, to boot.”

The man squinted across at him. “So how do I know you’re not in league with them? Last anyone knew, Thorndjupr was a den of robbers.”

Einarr sighed. “I suppose you don’t know, although by now news should have reached here that Breidelstein had been reclaimed by its rightful Thane. Even if you hadn’t heard, though, our coin is good – and our own. I’m afraid I’m rather in a hurry, though.”

The Captain, who had not introduced himself, waited expectantly.

“I’m to be married in a little less than a month. At Raenshold.”

That got a reaction. The man spluttered a little. “What in blazes are you doing out here, then?”

“My last bit of preparation. Now, may we land?”

With much grumbling, the Blávíkin Captain gave orders to his other ships to escort the Heidrun into port.

“You have my thanks. We require food and water and ale, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“Hmph.”


Two of the three escort ships docked to either side of the Heidrun. Einarr ground his teeth in annoyance, but did not challenge them. Given what he knew of Thorndjupr, he’d be an uneasy neighbor with them as well. “Naudrek! Get your teams together. The quicker we get out of here, the better.”

“Yes, sir!”

While Naudrek and perhaps half the crew went into Blávík town to haggle, Einarr and the others had the—much duller—task of readying the ship for loading. There were empty casks and crates to be disposed of, and it was always a good idea to check the ship over for damage, even if you hadn’t seen combat since your last port, and a hundred other minor matters. Had their welcoming party been less hostile, Einarr might have traded Naudrek places anyway, but under the circumstances he thought it might be construed as hostile.

Hours passed, and the day wore on. As the sky began to deepen into twilight, the first of the teams returned hauling casks of ale and casks of water. Thank goodness.

All seemed to be going smoothly until, after perhaps half of the casks had been loaded, the second team arrived all-but empty handed. Naudrek approached Einarr, his eyes darting up and down the pier nervously.

Einarr raised an eyebrow. They could always fish, if they had to, but… “What happened?”

Naudrek came up close and spoke lowly in Einarr’s ear even as he thrust a scroll into his hand. “Trouble. Not just for us.”

Unrolling the scroll, Einarr took it in at a glance. Then his brow furrowed: something didn’t make sense. “Explain.”

“They’re forming a league to fight those crazy cultists. The ones who let loose the black kraken, I think. Only this so-called ‘League’ is buying up all the food. More than one townsperson complained they couldn’t even get cabbages.”

“…Odd.”

“Well, it gets worse. Some puffed-up young rooster overheard us trying to get something – anything – from the smokehouse. He swaggers up – you know the type – and tries to get us to join up with the League. ‘This town can only feed one army, but you can get in on it,’ that sort of thing. Only when that doesn’t work he tries threats. Odvir and I are sure as sure that we were tailed back here.”

“So they know what ship you’re on. And odds are solid they’ll think we’re freeboaters.” Einarr nodded unhappily. “Fine. I’ll make sure the watch knows – unless you think we’ll have a good tide tonight?”

“You think our escorts will let us out under cover of darkness?”

Einarr bit back a curse. “No. No, you’re right.” He pursed his lips, thinking. “I’m going to pay a visit to one of our guides. We have any of our own ale still in the hold?”

“A little.”

“Bring me a keg. I’m going to try to make nice. Maybe I can get some information about this ‘league’ out of them.”

“Good luck, Einarr.”

He nodded. “You, too. Be ready: if I think we can slip out before the moon’s up, we will. …Where’s Finn?”

“Finn? He was with us just…” Now Naudrek swore, as his eyes scanned the laboring crew and discovered that the scout was nowhere to be seen.


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More than a little unnerved, Einarr and his companions stepped up their pace. Not one of them wanted to be anywhere other than the deck of the Heidrun when the sun set that evening. The only thing that stopped any of them from thinking of sailing that very night was the memory of the fishing boat caught out in the harbor.

Einarr breathed a small sigh of relief when they stepped into the village proper and saw the sun sitting still a good hour above the horizon.

As they hurried through the town towards the docks and the safety of their ship, they drew quite a crowd of the villagers: those who, before, had averted their eyes from strangers venturing into the woods now followed with some strange mixture of curiosity, hope, and expectancy. Perhaps the herb-witch had spread the word that Einarr was a Cursebreaker. Not one of them said anything, though, until they were all aboard ship, and all continued to ignore the townspeople.

The herb-witch opened a path to the front with her cane. “You live. All of you.”

“We do.”

“And?”

“I have acquired and purified my wedding sword. We will sail with the morning tide.” There were matters to attend to before any boat could sail, even on a return journey.

“And what of the island?”

“What of it?”

“The Singer said you were the Cursebreaker. Are we…”

“Free? Not hardly.”

“But…”

Einarr sighed noisily. “It is not a curse that holds you in thrall to Hel, lady.” He gave a hard stare at the crowd gathered on the docks. What he had to say would throw them into chaos: would they try to storm his boat, if he announced it to the crowd? It wasn’t worth the risk. “You, and only you, may come aboard in return for the information you provided us when we landed.”

“The evening grows long, Cursebreaker.”

Einarr just looked at her. Finally, she sighed.

“Very well. The rest of you, get home.”

A sense of sullen disappointment hung in the air as, with a low mumble, the villagers dispersed up the pier toward the roads of the town. Even as they did so, the old herb-witch’s boots clunked as she climbed the gangplank.

Einarr turned to face her and crossed his arms, waiting until she stood on the deck before him.

“So just how bad is it?” she asked, weary resignation depressing her voice more than they had heard before.

“Bad. Have you any Singers at all on the island?”

She shook her head. “As the island slipped into Hel’s clutches, those who did not flee took sick and died.”

Einarr grunted: he had expected as much. “I’ll be blunt, then. So far as we can tell, Ragnar failed one of Wotan’s tests of hospitality rather spectacularly. It was plain, from the records we found, that the people of the village were complicit in the robberies, and so the gods simply… left. It is not just that this is Hel’s domain, it’s that none of the other gods will lift a finger for Thorndjupr.”

She blinked in surprise. “But none of us were a part of what went on then. Even I was just a girl…”

“And yet, you would have benefited. Nevertheless, I believe that Thorndjupr and its people have been made Outlaw by the gods themselves. What you choose to do about that is on you, of course. Perhaps when the last of your generation dies, the rest will be free… but I’m not certain I would bank your children’s future on that.”

The old woman looked pale now.

“In your shoes, I might send some intrepid youths out to contact a priest. Perhaps, with sufficient rites and sacrifices, the gods will have mercy.”

She nodded, but even that nod seemed to carry despair. “When we drove out the prince, your grandfather, he said something about a gem. I don’t suppose?”

“The Fehugim? That, I’m afraid, is in the hands of the Lady of the island again. We left it with her sentries in the standing stones, but I don’t recommend trying to get it back. You’ll have to look elsewhere for your sacrifices.”

“I see.” The old herb-witch’s voice was quiet and dark. “I hope you’ll pardon me, but I can’t quite bring myself to thank you for all that you’ve told me.”

Just as well. Einarr shrugged. “Make of it what you will. Can you make it back to your house before dark?”

The herb-witch glanced up at the sky and nodded even as she gripped a small pendant Einarr had not before realized she wore. “I will manage. Safe journey to you, then.”

She turned and clumped slowly back down the gangplank and up the pier towards the town. Einarr watched her go, his lips pressed into a tight line.

“Bah!” He muttered once she was out of earshot. “I probably told her too much.”

Eydri, looking thoughtful, shook her head. “I don’t think so. We come away owing outlaws nothing, and being owed nothing by them.”

“Maybe.” But, done was done, and there was work still ahead before they could sail free and brush the dust of this land from their boots. “Naudrek! The charts. We can’t resupply here.”

“Yes, sir!”

He followed his Mate over to where the charts were stored and they fell to planning. He had very little slack in their course, but the men couldn’t sail without water, either.

All of that evening, Einarr felt as though he were being watched. When he looked back over the land he saw nothing. He turned, once, to look out over the harbor.

There, just under the surface of the water, he saw hundreds of pairs of flashing red eyes. The cruel Queen of the Damned was watching them, although he did not sense any bloodlust coming from beneath the waves.

Einarr set a triple watch that night. Once the sky lightened, the Heidrun set sail with the dawn tide.


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

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

“Morning,” Einarr yawned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ready?” Naudrek asked.

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

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

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

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

“Good luck. I will watch out here.”

Einarr clapped his shoulder. “My thanks.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.

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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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dockworker snorted and went about his way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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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.

For more than a fortnight they sailed on, following the charts as best they could as they weathered the ordinary spring storms. While there had been more than a few cold, wet nights, Einarr was just as glad that was all they had faced so far: an island that could drive Grandfather out, and that had earned the name of “Thorn Deep,” was sure to have something unpleasant waiting – especially given Einarr’s calling. Thus, he took the blustery weather as a blessing.

Right up until black storm clouds appeared out of a blue sky off to the north and began speeding toward Einarr and the Heidrun.

It was Troa who spotted the clouds first, and announced their presence with a dread-laced “Oh, Helvíti.”

Einarr looked up and understood immediately. “Cult ship approaching! Prepare for battle! Guards to the Singer.”

Captain or not, heir or not, Einarr was in far less danger than Eydri. Not everyone aboard had experienced combat with the svartalfr cult, but they should at least have heard about it by now. There was a jangle of maille as the warriors dressed for battle and an air of grim determination fell over the ship.

Please don’t let them have one of those horrors…

Einarr, too, pulled on his maille and helmet, then stepped up beside Naudrek as the guards formed around Eydri.

“Ready the fire arrows,” he ordered. “We want to avoid boarding as long as we can.”

“Yes, sir… Is it really one of those demon ships you talked about?”

“Probably. Need the arrows ready before we can see that, though.”

“Of course, sir.” Naudrek was a good man, but he was not as practiced a Mate as Jorir. No matter: Jorir was quite right about where he was most needed now.

Damn it, though, why did we have to run into one of these things on this trip? Einarr would have been perfectly happy avoiding them for the rest of his days. Unlikely, of course, considering he was a Cursebreaker.

The black storm cloud that heralded the approach of a demon ship bore down on the Heidrun as they readied themselves. Those who already wore their maille watched the horizon grimly, awaiting the first sight of one of the demon-headed black ships. The wind lashed at their faces. Raindrops had begun to sting Einarr’s skin by the time the shadow of the cult ship appeared in the storm.

“Brace yourselves, men! Not only are we fighting in a storm, even in death the enemy can kill you – or worse. This first volley of fire arrows is critical: you’ll have plenty of time to adjust your aim for the wind. Steady yourselves, now.”

There was a general shifting of feet on the deck, but no-one spoke. Visibility dropped precipitously as the two ships closed. The wind began to howl.

“Light volley!” Einarr shouted to be heard over the wind. “Ready!”

The archers drew back, the tips of their arrows bright spots of light against the black clouds above.

“Aim!”

As promised, he held them at this command for longer than usual, waiting for a steady moment or a break between gusts. At last, one came.

“Fire!” The arrows streaked through the air like shooting stars, all intent on destroying the evil that sailed this sea. One or two of them winked out under the onslaught of the storm carried in the belly of the demon ship, and one or two more missed their mark, but the rest scored their hit. One caught in the sail, which began to smolder darkly.

There would be no time for a second volley – not that Einarr had really expected one. The ships were too close now for anything but boarding – or perhaps a ram or Sea-Fire, if this were a dromon. Some detached corner of Einarr’s mind wondered if an alliance with the Empire would grant them access to that sea-fire of theirs. The rest of his mind was focused on the enemy ahead. “Prepare for boarding!”

Einarr stepped back to join the men who had circled about Eydri. The fanatics hated Song Magic and hunted Singers: that was how Father had lost Astrid. Einarr did not intend to let them have his friend. The rest of the crew scrambled: bows were tossed back toward the command circle, and the archers took up the boarding lines.

Eydri began to Sing, and almost immediately the red Fury began to pulse at the edges of Einarr’s vision. It was easy to ignore after the last year: Einarr hated how used to it he had grown.

The black-painted prow sliced through the water and turned sharply. Boarding lines flew from both decks.

No sooner had the lines drew taught than men from both ships were up, contesting for the right to board the other’s ship.

Einarr’s men were strong. Much stronger than they had been last summer when they stormed the cult’s island to rescue Runa: some few of the cultist helspawn made it across, but most were on the back foot. Einarr harrumphed even as he slid Sinmora from her sheath.

One of the cultists rushed the “command” circle protecting Eydri. Everyone’s weapons were out and ready, but Einarr stepped forward with a growl. This was not a man he faced: it was a mad dog, and he would see it put down. He stepped forward and raised Sinmora high over head, his shield firmly in place. On the second step, as the clamor of battle carried across the deck and over the water, he brought his blade around and separated the cultist’s head from his shoulders. Einarr stepped back quickly: the corrupting black blood dripped from Sinmora, and spatters darkened his glove, but had not touched him.

“No quarter!” He bellowed. A savage yell was the best answer he could have hoped for. Eydri sang louder.

Einarr strode across the deck to peer at the battle on the other ship and frowned. On the one hand, the demon ships must be destroyed with prejudice. On the other hand… “Fall back!” He ordered as he saw the cultists starting to cluster around the mast. “Naudrek – a torch!”

“Aye, Sir.”

The Heidrunings hurried back across the boarding lines, cutting the enemy lines as they went and unhooking (most of) their own. Einarr stood at the bulwark, torch in hand, and waited. When everyone was returned, he tossed the torch on the demon ship’s deck. “Full sail! Get us out of this squall, Naudrek.”

As the Heidrun sliced through the waves away from the demon ship, purifying flames began to lick up the boards of its bulwark, and a thick black smoke rose up to feed the cloud overhead.


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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.

Two days after his conference, at dawn as he was preparing to launch the Heidrun, Einarr looked up and blinked in surprise. There, coming down the pier in her full armor, her spear across her back, was Beatrix.

“Good morning! I didn’t expect to see you here.”

The Imperial Princess offered Einarr a friendly smile. “I’m sailing for Kem this morning. I’ve stayed too long already, I’m afraid. Who knows what my siblings have been up to while I’ve been gone…”

Einarr nodded. “Good luck, then. And safe travels.”

Einarr hadn’t minded having Bea around, really, and if her work with Father went as well as they thought it had the friendship with the Imperials would be valuable. On the other hand, it was for the best she left before the wedding. The last time she and Runa had been in the same room together, you could have cut the tension with a knife.

“My thanks. Same to you: I hear you’re sailing off for parts unknown after some sort of relic?”

“Ah… sort of.” He had no desire to explain what he was after to an Imperial – even Bea – or why the groom should present a sword to his bride at the altar. “Does the name Thorndjupr mean anything to you?”

She frowned, thinking. Finally, Bea shook her head. “I’m afraid not, although the sound of it makes me shiver for some reason.”

“Heh. You and me both.”

“Captain!” Naudrek called from on deck.

“Yes?”

“We’re all ready over here!”

“Understood. I’ll be right there.”


A karve, almost surely bound for Kem, and almost surely with Bea aboard, sailed away from the pier while the crew of the Heidrun made its final checks. It was less than halfway across the harbor, though, when Einarr gave the order to sail out. Naudrek suggested they “race” the merchant vessel, and with a grin Einarr agreed.

Once she was away from the docks, the Heidrun fairly leapt through the water, and the longship overtook the deeper, heavier karve. The ramshead vessel came alongside the merchantman, and Einarr called a greeting across to the other Captain.

“A safe journey to you, and a profitable!”

“Aye, and to you, my lord!”

Then the Heidrun surged forward once again, and before long they passed the rock which was the eternal resting place of the Weavess’ bones. Einarr couldn’t quite resist making a rude gesture at the ghastly sight: she would see exactly what the rightful heirs of Raen would make of the country she had nearly ruined. Naudrek laughed, but Hrug shook his head. Mocking the dead was not often wise.

“Perhaps you’re right, Hrug. And yet, does the witch not deserve all our scorn?”

The mute continued shaking his head, but did not attempt to press the matter. Einarr put it from his mind. Ahead was nothing but open ocean and blue skies, and the salt breeze at their backs.

“Make all sail, lads! Weather’s in our favor, we’d best enjoy it while we can!”

A general shout of agreement carried over the deck of the Heidrun. It felt good to be back aboard his ship and not headed to pacify some overconfident Jarl. Last summer he thought he’d had his fill of adventures, but something about this one had his spirits high.

“You seem awfully happy for such an ill-planned run.” Eydri’s voice was amused, and when he turned he was not surprised to see a half-smile of enjoyment on her face as well.

“How could I not be happy with weather like this? This is a perfect day to set out a-viking. We’ll deal with Thorndjupr when we get there. Right now, let’s enjoy our sail.”

“As you say.” Eydri offered him a slight bow, amusement still plain in her voice.

An idea struck Einarr then, and a memory of another boat with a much smaller crew. This crew hadn’t sailed together much recently: perhaps it would be a good idea to put the boat through it’s paces.

“Take oars, men!”

Grumblings of surprise floated back to him this time.

“You’ve proved to me we’re faster than a merchant karve. Now prove to me you haven’t grown fat and lazy sitting at home all winter! Show me what you can make her do!”

Now the enthusiasm was back.

“That’s more like it!”

Over the course of the morning, the crew of the Heidrun played at sailing, racing ahead to skid into a turn as sharp as they could make her go, pirouetting and slaloming across the waves. A pod of dolphins came to investigate, later in the morning, and thus was born a sailor’s game of tag.

Those dolphins followed them long after their game ended, and past the noonday meal, finally bidding them farewell in the mid-afternoon when a school of fish crossed their path. All in all, an auspicious start to their journey… although he didn’t care for the look of those clouds off on the western horizon.

Well. It certainly wouldn’t be their first cold, wet night aboard ship, and it just as certainly wouldn’t be their last. Still, though, the wind was taking them directly into that bank. Perhaps he could steer them around the worst of it with a little care. “Eydri, the chart if you would.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Naudrek?”

“Of course, sir.”

The three moved to Einarr’s awning astern of the mast and fell to planning.


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If you like what you read, it would really mean a lot to me if you clicked through to Top Web Fiction and voted for Einarr there. It’s a visibility boost in the ever-growing genre of web fiction, and that helps me out a lot. There’s no sign-up, and votes refresh every 7 days.

If you’re all caught up and looking for something a little longer to read, I also have other works available on Amazon.Or, if you happen to not like Amazon you can also get the Einarr ebook through Draft2Digital, B&N, Apple, Kobo… you get the idea. Direct links are available here.

Lastly, if you really like what I’m doing, I also have a Patreon account running with some fun bonuses available.

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

The dwarf, at Einarr’s side, chuckled.

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

“Ease up, Einarr. That is relaxed.”

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

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

“What is it, Father?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

His father grunted in agreement.

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

“Thorndjupr.”

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

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

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

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

And this might actually be fun.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.