Einarr and Troa were out of the room before they heard Eydri’s footsteps start to catch up. Her complaints registered a moment later.

“Warn a girl before you take off like that! Whatever happened to sticking together for everything?”

Einarr and Troa muttered apologies but did not slow. The sound of fighting grew closer, but still Einarr worried they would not reach the two scouts in time. When, not much later, the ruins once again grew quiet, Einarr ran faster.

When he saw the two, though, in an open space near the edge of the ruins, they were apparently unharmed. Finn stood leaning on the hilt of his blade, and Odvir rested on a tumbled-down section of wall, both catching their breath and staring into the forest.

“What happened?” Einarr demanded just as Naudrek and Hrug pounded up behind them.

Finn, straightening as he wiped a forearm across his brow, turned to face his Captain. “Wolves, sir.”

Naudrek knitted his brow. “Wolves? At this time of day?”

Odvir nodded and turned to face them as well, evidently deciding they weren’t likely to come back. “Yes, sir. Wolves — half-starved, by the look of them.”

Troa nodded in understanding. “That makes sense, actually. Not like we saw any sign of game yesterday. They probably survive on squirrels and the odd villager.”

Einarr sighed. “I don’t like this. Let’s hurry: I don’t want to stay on this island a minute longer than I have to.”

With noises of agreement all around, they returned to their search quarters with new urgency.


It was nearly evening, and the light had begun to take on the same sullen red of sunset as they had seen the night before, when Naudrek’s excited whoop echoed through the ruined walls of the old hold.

Einarr sat back on his heels and breathed a sigh of relief, glad that he didn’t have to pry open another rotting chest.

Eydri stood up and dusted off her hands. “Shall we go see what he’s found?”

“With pleasure.”

Troa stood with a groan. “How can one hold have so many storehouses?”

Einarr chuckled. “This place must have been rich, once. Which makes the fall into this all the more troublesome.”

“According to the herb-witch, we can find out what happened now that we’re here.” She was already gliding toward the exit. Einarr and Troa took up positions to either side of her as they made their way across the ruins. By the time they arrived, the light was outright dim.

The room where they found Naudrek and Hrug still somehow had part of its stone roof, and its walls were filled with chests and scroll cases. Hrug was reading over a curling page of birch bark when they arrived, but looked up briefly to offer Einarr a pleased smile. Naudrek was scanning one of the scrolls.

“If this isn’t it,” he said as they entered. “Then it’s long gone. Come take a look at this!”

Troa cleared his throat, a little nervously, and took up a post at the door. Not much later he clasped hands with Finn and Odvir as they arrived.

“All things considered, my lord,” Odvir ventured. “But shouldn’t we be getting back to camp soon?”

Einarr looked up and blinked. “It is getting a bit dim for reading.”

Troa cleared his throat again. “And wasn’t it about this time of day that the drowned draugr caught that fishing boat?”

Naudrek blinked, stunned. Einarr understood: he could hardly believe he’d forgotten it, even with the excitement of finally finding the hold records. “Of course. If you think you’ve got something useful, bring it. Otherwise we can keep looking in the morning.”

Without a moment’s hesitation Hrug tucked the tablet under the stump of his other arm even as Naudrek let his scroll roll up and left it on the table. Then they were out, darting across the open spaces of the ruined courtyard as though they were deep into enemy waters – which, Einarr supposed, was entirely too accurate.

A light mist appeared around them, although the day had been dry. Einarr moved his hand to rest on Sinmora’s hilt and did not slow. It was not ghost light – not yet, anyway – but it did not have to be. They should have gone back to camp ages ago, even before Naudrek and Hrug had made their find. Now…

Shapes moved in the mist. Their outlines were human, but that was impossible. Briefly the idea of his Wisdom runestone crossed his mind, but he put it aside. Seeing too well could be just as much an issue as seeing too poorly, after all. “Blades out, everyone. Seithir in the middle. Hrug, can you do anything about this mist?”

The mute runemaster grunted: Einarr hoped that was an affirmative. He heard the rasp of blades leaving their sheathes as they formed a defensive circle.

“Eydri, be ready. I think we’re going to have to fight our way back to camp.”

“Of course, my lord.”

Sometimes Einarr really wished he didn’t know she was attracted to him. It made moments like this awkward. But, in the end, it didn’t matter. What mattered was surviving the night.

The first of the figures solidified out of the mist: a stumbling, shambling skeletal figure, still clothed in the tattered, rotting remnants of the clothes it had died in.

“Draugr,” he said aloud, unnecessarily. He slashed downward across its neck with Sinmora, but if the rattling bones did more than pause he could not see it. “Eydri?”

The Singer drew in a deep breath to Sing, but before she got more than a few notes out she choked and coughed as though the mist were smoke in her lungs.

“Eydri?” He asked again, more alarmed this time. Before she answered he heard the gurgle of water from her skin.

“Run,” she rasped, still sounding raspy and half-choked.

They ran, striking with blade and foot alike as they tried to clear a path back to the presumptive safety of their camp.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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

The serving boy – who, if Einarr guessed aright, couldn’t be more than 12, hugged his tray against himself and backed away from Einarr and his party.

“Now, now. We’re not angry about anything.” Although some would be about biting down on a rock, especially with as uninspired as the broth was.

“D-d-d- Da!” He shouted over his shoulder, in the direction of the kitchen. Einarr sighed. He hated dealing with insular islands. They always made things harder than they needed to be.

A little later, after Einarr, Eydri, and Naudrek had sipped silently at their thin soup for a while, a middle-aged man came blustering out behind the serving boy. He was broad-shouldered: in any other land, he would have been large. Here, the shoulders looked outsized on his too-thin chest. His greasy black hair was tied back in a ponytail, and anger roiled on his sallow brow like an uncertain thunderstorm.

“What is the meaning of this?” the man spluttered. “My boy has done nothing to cause offense.”

“Never said he had,” Einarr answered smoothly. “Although you might want to speak to your miller. I nearly broke a tooth on that bread.”

The man drew himself up straighter. “Made from the finest flour on island.”

Einarr quirked an eyebrow. “I’m sorry to hear that. But I stopped your boy to ask some questions: we just landed, you see, and we don’t know our way around.”

The man immediately slumped back down. “If you’ve just landed, then the only thing you need to know is when the tide will turn so you can leave. There’s nothing here for you.”

Einarr shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I have reason to believe my great-grandfather’s barrow is somewhere on this island. I am to be married soon, and since my father and my grandfather still live I require his sword.”

The man shook his head. “It’s not worth it. Probably already rusted away, anyhow.”

“You don’t even know who’s grave I’m looking for.”

“No, but you said it was your great-grandfather. That means his blade has been in the ground for at least fifty years. You’re better off having one forged.”

“I’m afraid there is no time after making this trip. Please. I am Einarr, son of Stigander, son of Raen, son of Ragnar. Do you know anything? Or know anyone who might?”

“Ragnar?” The anger was back on the man’s brow again, and he peered piercingly down his aquiline nose at the three strangers in his hall. Then he spat on the floor by Einarr’s foot. “Get out of here, the lot of you. The sons of Ragnar aren’t welcome here.”

“But…”

“Out!”

Surprised by the man’s fury, the three Heidrunings allowed themselves to be run out of the hall. Out in the street, Einarr turned to Eydri.

“Well that was unexpected. I don’t suppose you know of any Singers on the island?”

She shook her head. “Not that are part of the Matrons’ circle. There’s sure to be a wise woman or a priest or a monk somewhere around, though.”

Naudrek wasn’t much happier about that than Einarr. With a grumbling round of sighs, though, they set out across the town in search of whoever served as the town lore-keeper. Once or twice Einarr was compelled to identify himself, and each time he mentioned Ragnar the locals grew hostile.

“I’d really like to know what happened back then,” Eydri muttered.

“You and me both,” Einarr agreed.

“I think we might find out soon. There’s the signboard for the old herb-witch.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Einarr and Eydri both strode past where Naudrek stood pointing, and he took up his place flanking the Singer.

Eydri knocked at the door frame, and an old woman’s voice invited them in.

Inside, the herb-witch’s hut was close but clean-smelling. An old woman, at least as old as Grandfather Raen, stood at a table pouring hot water into a tea pot. “Not very often strangers come here. How can this old woman help you?”

Einarr took a deep breath. “I seek the barrow of Ragnar.”

The old woman turned half-blind eyes their direction and raised an eyebrow. “And what would you want with that?”

“I am to wed soon, but I require my ancestor’s sword for the ceremony.”

The old woman hummed thoughtfully. “Everyone on this island knows the location of Ragnar’s hold. Not one of them will go within a mile of it. You are here, I presume, because no-one would tell you?”

“That is correct.”

“I am not so kind as the townsfolk. I will tell you where it is.”

“Th—”

“Don’t thank me, boy. This island has devoured warriors a thousand times stronger than you. If you value your lives, you will turn around and leave before nightfall. This island belongs to Hel.”

Eydri took a deep breath. “Grandmother… what happened here?”

“If you live to reach the hold, you will learn.”

“This man—” she gestured at Einarr. “Is the Cursebreaker.”

“Tcheh. Poor fool.”

“He was named Cursebreaker two years ago, and yet he still lives.”

“Eydri.” Einarr put a hand on her shoulder. He was well aware that he tempted fate with every journey. “That doesn’t help.”

The old woman looked at him shrewdly and nodded, but did not explain. “Do not attempt to take your whole crew. Those who remain behind will not be welcomed, but it will ensure you have the men to leave again. Ragnar’s hold is far north of here, deep within the forest. You will know you are close by the standing stones. Touch them not: they belong to Hel herself…”

Einarr swallowed and nodded, committing the old woman’s directions to memory. A small, cowardly corner of his mind wondered if it was too late to send a pigeon to Jorir, instructing him to forge a blade.


Vote for Vikings on Top Web Fiction!

Table of Contents


Hi everyone. Thanks for reading! 

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

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

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