8.24 – Bait

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

Bea was looking at him expectantly. What she’d told him before? …Oh. Einarr shook his head no.

“You really should. Talent like yours is wasted as a raider, and if power is what you’re after Father can grant you more than you could ever hope to gain as thane over some tiny island.”

“That’s not – ”

“Not power? Is it wealth, then, or a beautiful bride? Not all of my Father’s daughters are married, after all, or even promised…” She trailed off, as though expecting him to take some sort of a hint from that.

“I’m sorry… Bea. I just… haven’t had time to think about it.” It was at least a partial lie. He had dismissed it out of hand when she first mentioned it and moved on to the task at hand. But what was she trying to get at with the nonsense about brides? “Perhaps we should focus on destroying the black kraken?”

She looked at him like he had somehow grown horns and puffed air towards her hairline. Women were strange.

“You’re right, of course,” she said. “I just wanted to remind you of the possibilities.”

“Of course…” A thought occurred to him. Improbable, of course, but not impossible. “While we’re speaking of possibilities… is Hrist your mother?”

Her face fell. “Would it make a difference if she were?”

“Not really. You just look like her, so I wondered.”

Bea nodded, then rose. “Well. I suppose I will leave you to your thoughts, since you don’t seem to want sleep tonight.”

Einarr snorted, but did not retort as she walked away. Let her think what she would. He pulled his blanket over his shoulders and rolled over.

Come morning, it was as though their conversation never happened. This was good: it meant Einarr could focus on the task at hand. And that task was cutting down the monster that had come closest to destroying the Vidofnir and her crew. Einarr wanted no distractions.

The landing boats were already in the water, seeding chum in hopes of drawing the kraken. No-one was really sure what the beast ate, though, only that it had to eat a lot. So they put out chum, and if the black kraken didn’t come for that perhaps it would come for the sharks that did.

Before long the water they had chummed was churning, frothy and red with the blood of the bait – and, probably, some of the sharks caught up in the feeding frenzy. The harpoon boats lay in wait some distance back from the chaos they had sown, thinking that if this did not work at least they could have fresh fish, for a change, that night.

The feeding frenzy was beginning to slow as the bait was consumed. The white and red froth calmed, and while there was still blood in the water it seemed the beasts were growing sated. One of the boats cast its harpoon at a fleeing shark and caught it, based on the way they jerked into motion after. Well, Einarr wouldn’t complain about something fresh for dinner for once, either.

Einarr started to turn away from the baited area: today, they had failed, and tomorrow they would try something different. Then he saw movement out of the corner of his eye and his blood ran cold. A single black tentacle appeared out of the water and wrapped around the harpoon boat that was fighting the shark.

“Look out!” The words were out of Einarr’s mouth before the knowledge he could do nothing reached his brain.

“It’s here!” Walter bellowed, hard on the heels of Einarr’s useless warning.

“Signal the fire ship,” Liupold ordered. “Ready the assault!”

And so it began. Burkhart had won the honor of piloting the fire ship in the initial assault: said he wanted to strike the first blow against the monster that took his brother when the priests fell. After that, no-one tried to gainsay him.

A second tentacle rose above the water and began reaching for the same ill-fated harpoon boat. Silence descended upon the Arkona, and Einarr had to remind himself to breathe.

A long black shape appeared below the water and surfaced like a whale coming up for air. Soon they could see its great red eyes. More tentacles surfaced – somehow too many, even for as large as it was.

The shark boat stopped jerking around on the surface of the water as its crew deployed oars. They were trying to run: so was the shark, still attached to the boat by the harpoon line.

The harpoon boat picked up a sudden burst of speed as the rowers added their power to the panicked shark beneath the water. The black kraken had not expected that. Its first tentacle curled around open air.

Einarr clenched his fist, nails digging into his palm.

The boat scudded along through where the shark chum had been, its course as unpredictable as a panicked animal’s. Time after time a great black tentacle as big around as a tree trunk reached out to grab it and closed on open air.

Meanwhile, the other harpoon boats cast their lines for the black mantle or one of the glowing red eyes of the massive squid. This was not the distraction they had expected, but it was one they had the guts and good sense to take advantage of. Some of their lines drew taut. Others hit the rubbery flesh and bounced harmlessly off into the water, to be pulled back and thrown again.

The running boat turned hard around – far harder than the boat itself was capable of. From the Arkona Einarr could see its deck tilting at a precarious angle as the shark below turned to run away from the underwater grasping arms.

Another tentacle rose up from below the surface of the water and the swell it caused pushed the scudding harpoon boat all the way over. That same tentacle wrapped about the hull of the boat, and Einarr could only pray to Eira that the sailors aboard could all swim.


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