9.14 – Breidelstein

Tangled Threads Publishing

The captain of the wolf-headed boat they rode on finally deigned to introduce himself to the circle of Singers he had aboard when the noon sun hung high in the sky. The man wore a wolf pelt over his shoulders, pinned to the cloth of his tunic with gold-and-ivory pins. Reki raised an eyebrow: somehow, given how long she had been left to bake in the sun, she had not expected the Captain to be wealthy enough for such ostentation. Her eyes ached from the brightness, and she had accepted hours ago that she would have a painful sunburn to deal with.

Still, even beyond the rich pins, the Captain was not the sort of man she would have expected. He seemed almost bloodless, of the sort who is nearly impossible to rattle, as he actually looked down his nose at his distinguished ‘guests’ standing before him, encircled by their…

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9.13 – Reki

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Reki awoke with a groan, laying on bare wood planks. She pressed a hand to her head as she raised herself up on one arm, only to realize two things. First, her cloak was gone, her delicate skin exposed to the sun it could ill tolerate. Second, she was not aboard the Vidofnir any longer. A circle of armored men carrying spears stood in a circle about where she lay. No, not she – they. She was not alone: laying near her were Runa, Beatrix, Eydri, Aema, and Svana. None of them appeared to have been harmed: at least this ‘Usurper’ had that much good sense.

Aema was beginning to stir, as well, as was Eydri. Reki had hoped to put off dealing with Eydri a little longer: she had not missed the woman’s reaction when they were introduced, although she did not think she had ever met the other…

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9.12 – Runic Ward

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Over all three ships, flaming arrows arced their way down towards the decks. Einarr’s breath caught in his throat as they began their descent. Then, as though they were passing through a bubble that surrounded the boats, the pinpricks of light winked out. If Einarr looked very closely, he could see a shimmering blue energy rippling along as the fires extinguished.

This was not over, though. The leader of the self-styled “wolf pack” may have abandoned the decks of the ships, but it was too much to hope that they would just leave after this display. “To arms!” he bellowed.

Most of the crew was ahead of him, as it happened. The chink of maille being tossed about had begun even as the first volley of arrows launched. The wolfling ships, not to be deterred, were lighting a second round already.

“Keep it up, Hrug! Everyone else, prepare to return…

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9.11 – Parley

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The Heidrun sat, dead in the water, like a wheelspoke guarding the prows of the Vidofnir and the Eikthyrnir, just as they guarded his prow. Surrounding them, and most of the cluster of rocks where they had sheltered for the day, he counted no fewer than nine ships that were bound to his uncle the usurper. Half of them bore wolf heads on their prow, making Einarr think Ulfr used that not to identify a ship but a member of his fleet.

Their watchmen were bound and gagged, thrown together in a pile in the center of the deck. On the bulwarks, arrows trained against the men just rising from their day’s sleep, stood the warriors who were responsible. Confirming Einarr’s thought, about one in three of them wore a wolf pelt tied to his shoulders. A mark of rank? He shook his head: it hardly mattered.

“Who are…

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9.10 – Stealth

Tangled Threads Publishing

“Wait,” Stigander rumbled.

Everyone froze, looking at him expectantly.

“There is still one order of business. You two.”

The two men who had brought Runa to them stiffened, although they did not – quite – yelp.

“You are sworn to Ulfr, the son of the Weaver, are you not?”

“Y-y-yes, sir,” stammered the one who had done most of the talking thus far.

“You now stand before Stigander, son of Raen, rightful ruler of these lands. Will you forswear your false lord and swear to me?”

They stood staring at him, the muscles in their jaws working, but no sound came forth.

“I would be willing to overlook much, were you to renounce the usurper and join us in our fight.”

One of them looked like he was about to choke on his tongue. Finally, he exhaled loudly. “We cannot, your lordship. We are compelled.”

Stigander nodded brusquely. “Bind them…

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9.9 – Refugees

Tangled Threads Publishing

Silent as ghosts, the three ships slipped through the night towards Breidelsteinn and Raenshold. The air of anticipation was almost palpable on the Heidrun: Einarr could only imagine what it must be like on the Vidofnir.

Hrug busied himself about the ship inscribing runes based on what they had discussed with the Matrons on Breidhaugr and his own knowledge of runes from the Shrouded Village. So far as that went, Einarr could only trust he would know what to do when the time came.

A low whistle rolled across the water from the Vidofnir, the signal that another boat approached. The men of the Heidrun, having put on their maille before they sailed from the fjord, limbered their bows. Einarr moved forward, peering over the water to see what they were likely to be dealing with.

Only a fishing boat. For no reason that Einarr could fathom…

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9.8 – Nightfall

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“Do you have a problem with the way we do things?”

“No, not at all.” The Imperial Princess seemed taken aback. “Just you’re a lot more… civilized than I’d been led to believe was common among the Clans.”

Einarr felt rage building in the back of his brain that had nothing to do with any Song magic. He wasn’t the only one, apparently: several of the men nearby had turned to stare incredulously at her. “What, you think because we raid your settlements and take thralls we’re nothing more than beasts? Kin is kin, and we care for our own. Don’t you? Or are you the animals you make us out to be?”

“No, that’s not…”

“You are a guest upon this boat. Don’t make me regret bringing you along.”

Bea’s voice tempered almost to meekness now. “I only wondered why your father does not pursue.”

“Because he’s not a…

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9.7 – Ocean Skirmish

Tangled Threads Publishing

“Draken, dead ahead!”

Sailing into view ahead of them, almost like a mirror image, came three draken bearing sails in the red and yellow of Ulfr’s Breidelstein.

“Make ready!” Stigander’s voice rose over the water from the Vidofnir, echoed moments later by Kormund and Einarr. Einarr’s heart pounded in his chest like it hadn’t since he was still a deckhand, and suddenly he wondered if he was really ready to be Captain. Or ready to retake their homeland, for that matter. Fifteen years is a long time…

“To arms!” He ordered again, this time breaking free of the paralysis that threatened to grip his legs. He didn’t have to be sure, he just had to do. Just like everything else since the Oracle had named him Cursebreaker. The chainmail slid over his head as easily as it ever did.

Easier, in some ways. Runa was ahead, captive and bound…

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