The three of them stood in front of what was very plainly a magical gateway, wondering how they’d missed it until they were right on top of it. Each stone of the arch was carved with a single rune, which glowed faintly. Beside the door, written in Imperial script, was a small plaque, with a plainly magical chisel hanging beside it. “Draw here the Thorn rune and state your intention,” he read.

From behind them, Kaldr cursed loudly. Einarr spun on his heel, startled, but the light did not reach far enough to show what the matter was. The question was answered momentarily, however. As Kaldr walked into the ring of the rune-light on Einarr’s shield, he was still rubbing his forehead even as he scowled at his companions.

“That was truly a wonderful experience, my lord. Thank you for calling me down a dark ice tunnel with no light of my own so that I could bash my head on the ceiling.”

“Sorry, Kaldr. My fault,” Einarr said, stifling a laugh at himself. He wasn’t usually that stupid, but Kaldr would assume he was the one being laughed at. His Mate just hummed.

“At any rate,” he went on. “I think we’ve finally found our entrance.”

“So we have.” Kaldr grunted, rubbing again at the red welt on his forehead. “I don’t like how low that doorway is.”

“That descent’s going to be mighty uncomfortable if that’s all the taller the passage is,” Thjofgrir agreed. He was taller than any of them.

Einarr sighed. “I can’t disagree. But what choice do we have? Come on. Let’s build a cairn outside the cave entrance and go get the others. We’ll pack up the camp and move it right outside in the morning, and start down after that.”

“You wouldn’t rather wait for morning?” Vali asked.

Thjofgrir shrugged. “Once we’re underground, what difference will it make?”


Runa insisted it was important that they start fresh in the morning, so that they could more easily tell one day from the next. Even though she was the one who recommended the delay, however, she,too, chafed at it. Thus, the sun was newly risen on the day after they moved their camp when all six of them together stepped from the barren wasteland under the ice, creeping through the crevice and into the cavern that held the entrance to Myrkheim.

Much as Einarr had, Runa peered at the inscription on the stones of the arch. “Draw here the thorn rune and state your intention,” she read aloud in a thoughtful tone. “It’s plainly after a password.”

“I’m not so sure.” Einarr quickly stepped between Runa and the plinth. “The Thorn rune invokes defense, true… but it also signals danger. The dwarves don’t want humans on their roads, remember? This is probably a trap.”

“You think there’s another entrance in here?” Kaldr asked.

“It can’t hurt to look. If one of us does have to inscribe a Thorn, at the very least I should be able to ward us against it, though.”

Runa raised her eyebrows. “Even while maintaining the light and the ward on the Villgås?”

Einarr smiled. “Of course. The light requires almost no thought at all, and the ward on the ship is tied to all of us.” He did not think he would be able to maintain such a shield for long, but he somehow doubted that would be an issue.

After a careful search, they did find one other door. It, too, was trapped – and somehow Einarr did not think that the svartdvergr had to navigate such traps every time they came to the surface or returned to Myrkheim. Try as they might, however, what remained were two doors. On the first, in order to even open the door, one had to inscribe a rune likely to do significant damage to themselves. In front of the second, the floor rang hollowly under Naudrek’s boots. Probably, if the door was opened incautiously, a trap door would drop open beneath the feet of whoever was standing there. If it weren’t for Runa, Einarr would have preferred to take his chances with the trap door.

With a sigh, they all returned toe the obviously magical, obviously trapped door. For a long moment, they all stood staring at it, and then Einarr drew out a stick of chalk to begin his simple shield ward – one that would simply absorb the impact of an attack, much like his physical shield would.

“Wait a moment.” Thjofgrir held up a hand. “Not one of us has actually tried to open this door without carving anything, have we?”

Einarr shook his head.

“Vali, can you pop through to see if it’s actually locked?”

The ghost shook his head. “The door is sealed to me, as it is now. I suspect something to do with the runes on the arch.”

The big man shrugged and, before anyone could call out a warning, reached out a hand. Lightning arced from the wood of the door to Thjofgrir’s fingers and he pulled the hand back with a yelp.

“That went better than it could have.” Runa’s voice was downright tart, but Einarr nodded in agreement.

“Sorry, Thjofgrir. It was worth a shot, but that would have been a careless mistake for the dvergr to make. Come join us: this shouldn’t take me more than a few minutes to draw.”

By the light from his glowing shield, the ward he provided wound up not only simple but rather crude. Elder Melja would not approve, but it was the best he could manage. “Stand inside the circle, everyone. I’ll carve the thorn.”

“My lord —” Kaldr objected.

“Inscribing a rune in a permanent way like this can drain a man’s vitality – I expect that chisel will ensure that it does. If any of us is going to bear that burden, it should be me. I, after all, have a much better idea of my own limits than any of the rest of you.”

“As you say, my lord.”

With no little hesitation, Einarr lifted the chisel from where it hung on the plinth. This was no Muspel Shroud in terms of power, but it felt just as malign. “I will begin.”

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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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It was just past noon when Einarr and his companions arrived at the wall of ice that marked the glacier. If they had thought to find relief from the heat, they were disappointed. Waves of cold air sloughed off the side of the glacier and left their skin feeling clammy in the heat of the wasteland. They stood for a long moment, taking in the sight before them. The ice sheet stretched as far as the eye could see to their left and their right, its base as red as their boots from the surrounding dirt.

It was Naudrek who broke the silence. “Well? Now what?”

Einarr stared at the dirty ice in front of them, pondering. They had continued east from their camp, and the wall ran from north to south. But it was the svartdvergr they sought, not the foldvergr. “We go north,” he declared.

Everyone but Runa looked perplexed.

“The pale dwarves mostly live in Imperial territory, right?”

Kaldr blinked, nonplussed. “I… suppose?”

“Then it stands to reason the entrance to svartdvergr territory would be farther north.”

Runa stifled laughter.

Naudrek knit his brows. “Why is that funny?”

“He’s right, but for the silliest reason. The svartdvergr live to the north because the north is darker and colder. If, for some unknown reason, you needed to travel to Hel’s domain you’d seek out your entrance in the farthest reaches of the north, and Svartalfheim should be reachable by going north on the High Roads.”

Einarr rolled his eyes. “So I was right. Anyway. We go north, and we’re burning daylight…” Now he frowned. It was already past noon: he turned to face Kaldr, but spoke generally. “If we continue our search, we will not make it back to camp before nightfall. Likely we’ll need to sup on what we brought with us. As far away from camp as the glacier is, I think it might be a good idea to return to camp for the night and move it forward in the morning. …Yes, I believe that is what we must do, unless anyone objects?”

There were some groans, but no-one voiced any compelling objections.

“Good. We’ll mark our trail back to the Villgås as we go.”

And thus began their long trek back to their camp. In the morning, the camp would travel with them as far as the glacier wall.


Their camp, which had thrust up from the plain like a Thane’s hold just the night before, seemed small and insignificant in the shadow of the glacier wall. Runa and Naudrek remained in camp that afternoon to finish setting it up and ensure there was supper to hand while the others began their search in earnest. They covered very little ground that afternoon: Thjofgrir quickly discovered the ground so close to the glacier was treacherous, a thin layer of slippery mud over rock.

They went on like this for three days, moving camp again early on the third. By afternoon of the fourth day, even Einarr had begun to despair of finding the path they sought. And so it was that four of them set out with heavy hearts on the morning of the fifth day, as they had no other options. It was Naudrek’s turn at camp again, to attend to Runa’s (still sparse) needs and guard their provisions.

Around mid-afternoon, they came across another of the numerous cracks leading into the wall. Usually, they sent Vali in to see how deep it went and if there was anything promising about it, and inevitably Vali returned shaking his incorporeal head. This one, however, was far larger than anything they had yet come across – more of a cave than a crack. With a wordless nod, Kaldr stationed himself on guard outside the cave entrance while Einarr and Thjofgrir followed Vali into the ice.

The dampness which had radiated off the glacier walls outside was, inside, as cold as the depths of winter. Einarr’s nose quickly grew red with cold, but he paid it little mind. Five paces in and the light itself turned blue. Fifteen paces in, Einarr paused to trace the sun rune on his shield boss for light. He granted it only a little power, so they would not blind themselves. There were strange black blobs frozen in the ice around them – likely rocks, he thought, but it was impossible to truly tell under the circumstances.

The floor of the cave was covered with a shallow stream of water that flowed under the glacier, so that their every step splashed, and the splashing noise echoed up and down the passage that did not seem to end.

The ice cave narrowed down around their heads, forcing them to crawl on their hands and knees. Just as Einarr was beginning to believe this was just another dead end, though, the cave opened up around them until the light from his shield could not fill the space. Above them in the darkness, crystals glittered like stars. Thjofgrir whistled.

A whisper echoed down the passage behind them. Kaldr must be wondering what happened.

“Come down here!” Einarr called back, hoping the other man could hear him. “We found something!”

Picking randomly, Einarr started off along the left-hand wall. He was surprised to discover that the walls here were stone. “Wouldn’t the glacier destroy this place, then?” he mused aloud.

“Shouldn’t the plains have been cold as we marched for the glacier?” Thjofgrir tossed back.

Einarr barked a laugh. “You’re right. There I go again, expecting this place to behave reasonably, when we’re plainly dealing with magic at a horrendous scale.”

“Exactly!” Kaldr’s Mate grinned back at him. “Glad we’re on the same page.”

Einarr felt a chill – which was surprising, given their surroundings, as he nearly walked through Vali. “What is it?”

The ghost pointed just ahead of himself, where he stared up dumbly at an ornate, rune-carved arch in the wall of the room. “This looks promising.”

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.

 

“A guardian? What do you mean?” Kaldr’s brows lowered.

“Just that.” Runa sighed. “The High Roads of Ljosalfheim require magical knowledge particular to the alfs to even find, let alone enter. The dvergr will be no more keen to allow mortals into their realms: if the entrance to the paths is a physical place, it stands to reason that there would be gates or guardians or such, if only to keep treasure-hunters at bay.”

Einarr hummed. “Given that Ystava took me along the High Roads, the dwarves – especially the svartdvergr – may well be less welcoming of outsiders.”

Kaldr nodded. “Then we must be even more on our guard.”

“Agreed. Vali, we’ll be counting on your sharp eyes.”

“I haven’t got any eyes, though?”

Einarr rolled his own. “However it works for you, then. We couldn’t have got past that kraken without you.”

The ghost smirked even as he started up into the air. “Sure couldn’t.”

As Vali rose up to hover, almost invisible, in the air above the deck, Kaldr cleared his throat. “I was actually hoping you could give us some idea what else we might be facing.”

She offered a chuckle, but looked as though she regretted it immediately. “I’m afraid I haven’t the foggiest… Einarr, be a dear and get the waterproof satchel from my things? There should be some peppermint in there.”

“Peppermint?”

“To settle my stomach.”

Einarr was halfway across the deck to their awning when Vali called down. “You’re all looking for a barren island, right?”

“That’s right”

“I found one. Bearing northeast from here, just past the horizon.”


The island Vali found was massive – easily as large as the stories told of some of the larger Imperial lands. As they approached, it became plain what the next gate to pass was: they had to find the entrance first. There may have been some mosses and lichens that called the island home, but from the sea this was land that appeared to support nothing. Dry, reddish-brown dirt spread over its entire surface, broken only by the rocks that lay strewn across the plain. They had to sail for an hour just to find a beach where the Villgås could land.

Around them, everything was eerily quiet. There did not even appear to be shore birds, which put Einarr on edge. He could think of two reasons, now, why the island would be uninhabited: the kraken, and whatever it was that kept the birds away. When he vaulted over the bulwark to help beach their boat, the splash of their boots in the water and the gentle rushing of the waves were the only noises he heard.

Even the scraping of the gangplank as Thjofgrir slid it into place seemed unnaturally loud. Einarr gave Runa his hand as she descended the plank, but his attention was on the land around them.

Vali was already ashore. Naudrek carried his jar: if they didn’t intend to leave the ghost behind, they would need it.

“Did you see anything when you were up above?” Einarr asked him, but Vali shook his head.

“Afraid not. Nothing but rock and dirt and glacier.”

Einarr grunted. While it was entirely possible that there was magic keeping creatures away from this place, it still stood his hair on end. He looked up, checking the path of the sun through the sky. Mid-afternoon. Fine. “All right, everyone. Unload everything – and I do mean everything – off the Villgås and make camp. I’m going to set up a ward. It should mean nothing bothers the boat while we’re exploring, but it’ll keep us out too in the interim. And be cautious. This place could just be warded, or it could be that something nasty lives here we just haven’t seen yet.” He hummed, considering. “Vali, I’m going to be relying on you again. While we’re setting up here, scout around. Make sure there’s nothing hiding nearby that will try to sneak out and bite us in our sleep.”

The ghost smirked. “What, and miss all the fun of unloading water casks? How will I ever bear up?”

“You mean miss the chance to taunt the rest of us, don’t you?” Einarr half-chuckled at the thought of Vali popping up out of the lid of one of the casks, then shook his head. Vali was a joker, which was good, but losing precious supplies to a joke would not be. “There’ll be time enough for your japes once we’re settled in for the night.”

“Aye, sir.” Vali’s amused chortle carried back over the empty ground as he floated off on his mission.

Once he was safely out of earshot,Kaldr leveled a flat look at Einarr. “You make the most interesting friends, my lord.”

“Indeed. A cursed blacksmith, a ghost in a jar, a magic-hating strategist… makes life more fun, doesn’t it?”

Kaldr’s only reaction to hearing himself included on that list was a slight widening of the eyes before his normally calm expression returned. “Indeed.”

Runa took Vali’s jar from Naudrek and placed it firmly on the ground while the other four climbed back aboard the ship and began unloading. Einarr, meanwhile, took a sharp-edged rock from the ground and used it to begin drawing a ward very similar to the one he had used on the Heidrun at Thorndjupr. While he worked, he was dimly aware of the tramp of boots up and down the gangplank. After a while, as he was nearly finished, he heard Runa’s sweet voice begin to sing – nothing in particular, that he could tell, although the cheerful tune still lifted his spirits.

He would give them the afternoon and evening to rest and recover from their narrow escape the day before. Tomorrow would bring hard travel of a different sort, and unknown dangers besides. For tonight they could be merry, and he could finally celebrate Runa’s good news.

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.

 

Fighting a Kraken was a losing proposition, ordinarily, even in a longship with a full crew. Einarr didn’t want to think about what their chances were in the Villgås, with only the six of them. Five, really: Runa’s queasiness had not been helped by their abrupt maneuvers. That also meant, of course, that they could not count on her to bolster their stamina for the flight.

All of this ran through Einarr’s mind in the split second after the odor of rotting fish assaulted his nose. The last time he had encountered a kraken, Hrug had devised a clever ritual to destroy the beast’s corruption. This one, at least, seemed to be of the ordinary variety. If they could run quickly enough, they might be able to dodge its grasping tentacles.

“Kaldr! Trade me!”

Wordlessly, Kaldr scrambled back to the stern to take control of the rudder. He probably had the instincts to dodge the hungry beast, but the man’s true strength was in forethought. Einarr, though, had outlived all but one of the Cursebreakers he had ever heard of. More than once he had spotted a way through and taken it without realizing that’s what he was doing. If he was going to gamble on someone’s instincts, it would be his own.

Ahead of them, the sea still churned. Behind them, the whirling maelstrom still grabbed at the Villgås, threatening to turn them back and suck them into the maw of the beast.

“Vali! Up high. Tell me what you see.”

“Aye-aye!”

The water off their starboard bow bubbled as though something big were moving just beneath it. “Port twenty-five!”

The ship groaned as her course was abruptly changed, but there could be no faulting her alacrity. The blue-grey tentacle burst up out of the water as they were rowing past it and crashed back into the roiling water, sluicing their deck with foul-smelling water once more.

“Ease off, Kaldr.” They had a clear path forward now.

“No!” Vali’s shout rang across the water as his translucent figure zipped back towards the deck. “Turn about!”

Einarr lowered his brows. “You want me to go back towards the maelstrom’s heart?”

“Better than rowing straight into the maw of the beast. We’re dead-center over the body right now.”

That didn’t make any sense. “Then what’s causing the maelstrom?”

“Not the kraken!”

Einarr swore. “You heard him! Bring us around!”

Another tentacle burst out from under the water’s surface just ahead of the Villgås’s original path. It, too, crashed down into the water, and the waves of its fall rocked the boat precipitously.

“Runa!”

“Y-yes?” She sounded miserable – not that he was surprised under the circumstances.

“My bow, and some arrows. Unless you want to be squid food, I need them now, and you’re the only one who can get them.”

He heard a noise that could have been a groan and could have been agreement. It took far longer than he liked, as he called instructions back to Kaldr for their heading, but as they neared the narrow strait Vali said would be safe to sail through she stumbled up beside him. She held out his bow in one hand and the quiver in the other and offered a wan smile.

“Thank you,” he said even as he strung the bow. “Get back amidships. We’ll get through.”

She nodded and stumbled back the way she’d come, clutching her stomach. He sincerely hoped this would not last.

Then began the tense work of breaking free. Einarr stood at the prow, an arrow nocked, and called out directions to Kaldr on the steering oar and Naudrek and Thjofgrir on the oars. Vali provided him eyes in the sky, which was invaluable for getting them through the ever-changing narrow strait between the maw of the beast and the maw of the sea. Occasionally a tentacle would come too close to the Villgås. Einarr only shot if they were in imminent danger of being capsized, but those shots let the kraken know there was something there. The more he shot, the more often he had to shoot.

After what felt like an eternity, when he was down to a single arrow in his quiver, he saw calm waters ahead. A quick glance around confirmed it: one more push should get them past hunting kraken and maelstrom alike. “Lash her steady, Kaldr!” He called over his shoulder. “Lash her steady, and take an oar!”

Einarr dropped his arrow back in its quiver, tossed the bow over his shoulder, and rushed to the oar that would be opposite Kaldr’s. A moment later, he was joined by his Mate for the voyage.

“Hang on, Runa. Double-quick time, men! One last push will see us free!”
Einarr and Kaldr put their backs into it, rowing as hard as they could for the open waters ahead of this impossible strait.

A shadow dimmed the light of the sun: Einarr risked a glance over his shoulder.
The kraken had not given up yet. A tentacle rose high above them, and was about to come plunging down on their deck.

“Faster!”

He had not been certain it was actually possible, but somehow they managed to coax just a little more speed out of the Villgås. The tentacle crashed into the roiling water behind them, and the waves of its fall sent them airborn, just for a moment. They landed with a splash that doused all of them once more, washing away most of the fish smell from the deck, and the wind caught their sail once more. The Villgås sailed on.

Naudrek pulled his oar in and sat down with a thump, catching his breath. Thjofgrir also looked winded. Einarr went straight to where Runa leaned against the mast. Her color was already better, and he smiled at her. “Anyone care to venture a guess as to where that came from?”

Runa sat up. “I couldn’t say for certain, but I think that was a guardian. I think we’re getting close.”

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.

 

They waited in silence until they were sure Kharmor was out of earshot and off the docks – with the way sound carried over water, the second was required for the first. Then Kaldr turned to Runa.

“What do you know about these Paths of Stone?”

She shook her head, her hair tickling Einarr’s nose. “Little enough. I’d have said they were as much a legend as the High Roads a few years ago.” Runa frowned, scrunching up her nose as she tried to recall. “There was something from my time with the Matrons, though…”

She started to hum, very quietly. Over the last month, Einarr had seen her do that whenever she gave a matter serious thought. “Once, when Loki journeyed to Myrkheimr to claim gifts of appeasement for the gods from the craftsmen of the dvergr…

East, and east he went, to

Wasteland, rock and ice. There

Sought he the entrance, mark’d

By dvergr pride…

She opened her eyes. “There’s more, but I don’t know that it really helps us. At least not yet.”

Thjofgrir scratched at the back of his neck. “Not sure how much that really helps us. East of what? And what in the world does it mean by ‘dvergr pride’?”

Vali laughed, sending a shiver down everyone’s spine. Thjofgrir looked annoyed.

Einarr looked at the transparent face of their resident ghost. “Why is that funny?”

Your pretty little wife should know the answer to that. Even before I was bound to the jar, skalds could never tell you anything straight.”

Runa settled back against Einarr’s chest, and he could hear the smile in her voice. “He’s right, really. That only sounds straightforward. Oh, East is true enough, and probably the line about the wasteland is literal. But there are four great houses of dwarves, one in each direction, for the four original sons of Ymir who held up the heavens.”

Kaldr blinked at that. “Excuse me, what?”

That’s the story, anyway. Probably the truth of it is buried under yet more layers of metaphor. But when Loki went to ask the dvergr for Sif’s golden hair, he traveled to the house in the east. And Mýrarhöfn is already in the eastern seas, and near the warm Imperial waters. If we head east from here, there should be a barren island that holds an entrance to the Paths of Stone.”

Kaldr looked straight at Einarr. “Once it’s light we can consult the charts, but I can think of a couple of likely options if we continue east from here.”

Einarr nodded. “Let’s do it, then. Naudrek, Thjofgrir, I don’t care how you do it, but get us fresh water. …Kaldr, you go with them. Vali, you’re on watch.”

Yes, sir!” came the answering chorus.

As for himself, he had a new wife to see to.


Ten days out of Mýrarhöfn, with land nowhere in sight, Runa found that the rocking of the Villgås no longer agreed with her stomach. That evening, her face still a little green, she admitted to Einarr that her monthlies had been significantly delayed.

Einarr’s cheer echoed across the waves.

Not so loud, my love,” she said, wincing. “I think an alf on the High Roads heard you.”

Let them!” Einarr laughed.

This is joyous news indeed,” Kaldr drawled. He didn’t sound particularly joyous, however. “Tell me, my lord, what happens if we’re attacked with the Lady Runa in this state?”

We protect our Singer, of course. Just as always.”

I see.” Kaldr pursed his lips, evidently still displeased, but said no more.

Runa tisked. “Come now, Kaldr. It’s not like I’m going to suddenly forget all the training I had from the Matrons. Nor does pregnancy typically interfere with Song Magic – if anything, it enhances it.”

Kaldr hummed. Einarr, though, blinked in surprise. “Truly?”

Truly. It’s based on resonance and emotional states, after all.”

Would that not also make your witchcraft less stable, my lady?”

Runa hesitated. “Sometimes,” she finally answered. “Although if I might make a recommendation? Referring to your prince’s wife as a witch is not particularly wise even under ordinary circumstances.”

I will keep that in mind, my lady.” Kaldr offered her a slight bow and moved to the prow, where he stood looking out over the sea.

He is right about one thing, though, Runa.”

She raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue.

You can’t let yourself be reckless now. Let us handle that part, okay?”

Now she smirked, evidently pleased that he’d evaded some trap in the topic. “I will do my best.”

Einarr?” Kaldr called from the prow. There was an unusual urgency to his voice.

Einarr was on his feet in a moment, already moving forward. “Yes, what is it?”

Evasive action!” Kaldr cried. Without thinking, Thjofgrir and Naudrek picked up oars.

A moment later, Einarr had reached the prow and saw for himself. There, in the middle of the open ocean, was the gaping maw of a huge maelstrom.

He was at the rudder in two strides. “Where did that even come from?”

I don’t know! Does it matter?”

Kaldr, direct me! Skip us off the edge!”

Yes, sir!”

Oars, stand by!”

Yes, sir!”

Port side, row with all your might! Hard starboard!”

Slowly, the Villgås turned. Einarr could feel the sucking of the maelstrom pulling at the rudder already.

Einarr – steady out! Starboard oar, jump in!”

Einarr relaxed his grip on the rudder at the same time Thjofgrir threw his back into rowing. Runa started to look green again as the ship pitched over the swirling waves. With a creak, the prow started to turn back toward the ocean’s maw.

Einarr! Starboard again, now!”

Even as Kaldr’s words reached his ears, Einarr was leaning his weight into the steering oar. It fought him, hard.

A wave washed over the deck and Einarr caught the strong odor of fish in the water. He swore: every sailor knew what that meant. “Kraken!”

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.

 

Stigander went so far as to provide the karve for their search – one of the benefits, he said, of being back where they belonged – while Einarr and Kaldr assembled their team. Thjofgrir’s presence was as critical for Kaldr as Naudrek’s was for Einarr. After much deliberation, they agreed that Vali was their best choice for a scout, especially in the sorts of places they expected their search to take them.

The trouble came when Runa overheard Einarr speaking to Eydri about going.

“You’re not seriously thinking of leaving me behind?”

Uh-oh. Einarr steeled himself and turned to face his new wife. “I was, actually. We can’t know what sort of circumstances we’ll find ourselves in. It’s sure to be dangerous, and –”

“No ‘ands,’ Einarr. I don’t mind if you also bring along Eydri, but I’m not going to let you leave me behind.”

“But –”

“No buts. Jorir’s gotten me out of a tough scrape or two already: I intend to return the favor.”

Somehow, Einarr wasn’t certain that would be a good thing for Jorir, but he knew very well when Runa wasn’t going to budge on an issue. With a sigh, he turned to Eydri.

“It’s fine,” she said, but she wouldn’t look him in the eye.

“Are you sure? If you still want to go, I can check supplies with Kaldr. Vali doesn’t exactly eat much.”

“No, it’s fine. I haven’t sailed with Jorir all that much, and Kaldr is… Kaldr. Lady Runa has the right of it …If you’ll excuse me.”

Eydri left the room with some haste. Einarr looked after her as she entered the hall, puzzled. “Whatever can have gotten into her?”

Runa smiled, looking for all the world like a cat with cream. “Nothing you need concern yourself over. Just give her a little time and all will be well again.”

“…If you say so. Well, you’ve made it plain I can’t stop you, so you’d best make sure you’re packed.”

“Our things have already been seen to.”

“…I see.” Gods preserve me from willful women… The thought was as fond as his smile, though, as he wrapped an arm around his wife. “In that case, we should check in with Kaldr and Thjofgrir down at the pier.”


Kaldr, as expected, had complained – perhaps more loudly than he would have for Eydri, but his complaints were expected. Even he, however, could not deny the usefulness of someone well-versed in lore for their journey.

That it was Runa, however. That was a bone of contention. He argued long and strongly against her inclusion, and each and every argument against was one which Einarr had expected. Even agreed with, on some level. Finally, however, when Runa’s voice grew haughty and every fiber of her being began to quiver with anger, Einarr stepped in. There was simply nothing to be done, after all – she had as much right to search for Jorir as the two of them, and politics be damned.

Kaldr let loose a heavy sigh. “As my lord wills it, then,” he said with a bow, and left to see to some other matter aboard their karve.

They sailed the next day aboard the boat they had dubbed the Villgås, and after two and a half uneventful weeks on the open water they saw the shores of Mýrarhöfn rise over the horizon. Save for being the only land they’d seen in more than a week, there was not much remarkable about the terrain. The largest portion of what they could see was taken up by the port.

Even from the water Einarr could see that the port city looked run-down. With its reputation for attracting freeboaters of the roughest sort, it was unfortunately what he’d expected. He frowned: here was where he wished Eydri hadn’t bowed out so quickly. He could have used her on the ground in a place like this. Runa, though… well, she was tougher than one would expect, but he still couldn’t bring her ashore, not without a very good reason. She would be eaten alive in a place like this. He turned his gaze away from the approaching harbor and back over the deck to survey his crew and snorted, his decision made.

“All right, everyone. Once we make land, here’s how this will work. Thjofgrir, Naudrek, and Runa will stay aboard to guard the ship. No, Runa, that’s not optional. There’s very few Singers I’ve met I wouldn’t order to stay aboard in a place like this.” Runa huffed. Einarr found, for once, he didn’t care. “Vali, you can get into places the rest of us simply can’t. I expect you to be doing the heavy lifting on this search. Trust your instincts… and try not to scare anyone to death.”

As expected, Runa glared daggers at Einarr, but kept her mouth shut. At least for now. Vali smirked. “Aye, sir,” was all he said.

“Kaldr, you and I are going to go asking questions in all the wrong sorts of places.”

“Of course, my lord.”

He paused. He had half-expected Kaldr to suggest Thjofgrir or Naudrek in his place: truth be told, he wasn’t certain one or both of them might be better for the job. Well, whatever the reason, Einarr wanted a cool head at his back if he got into trouble. “Good. We’re going armed. If you’ve got a sturdy leather coat it’s probably better than maille here.”

Kaldr nodded, evidently in agreement. “The less attention we draw to ourselves, the better. Keep in mind, everyone, that Finn hit a stone wall every time it came out he was searching for a svartdvergr.”

“Hm. That could make things more interesting.” Einarr shrugged. “Not like there’s much we can do about it until we’re out there. Is everyone ready?”

Runa still looked cross, but her two bodyguards nodded easily.

“As ready as we can be, then,” Kaldr answered. It looked like Vali was already gone.

“Then I’ll see you all tonight.”

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.