The beat of Hàkon’s drum changed, subtly, from the rower’s cadence to a battle drum as the men hastily donned their maille. Eydri caught Einarr’s eye as he approached and inclined her head in acknowledgement. Good: it seemed she knew exactly what he had in mind. Einarr took up a position just forward of the mast and looked out over the water, studying their enemies.
It was a blockade, like the wolves had tried to keep them in Breidelsteinn harbor. There, though, they had used a runic trick and who knows how much of their store of good luck to confuse the wolves. Einarr still couldn’t believe how well that worked: the fleet Captain must have been incompetent as well as unlucky to botch things that badly. He was not willing to assume that of Kaldr.
They could scatter, and try to meet back up after losing their tails. Dangerous, but possible, if either he or Kormund knew where Stigander was headed next. Einarr didn’t, which meant probably Kormund didn’t either, so that was out. He frowned.
“Naudrek. Keep your eyes on the Vidofnir. Let me know the moment you see a signal.”
“How’s Hrug holding up?” Getting past that previous blockade had taken a lot out of both of them, but the one-armed sorcer had been overextending himself for a lot longer than that.
Jorir cleared his throat as he held up Einarr’s maille shirt. “Bored, near as I can tell. You’ll have to ask him if he’s up for another miracle.”
Einarr grunted and pulled the shirt over his arms. “I’d best go do that, then.”
The fact that he didn’t know already was irksome, but there hadn’t been a great deal of time for discussion since Hrug’s last ‘miracle.’ Things had been moving entirely too quickly on this expedition for niceties such as making sure your sorcerer wasn’t working himself to death.
The lookout on board the Eikthyrnir spotted what looked like a gap in the wolfling’s line. There was a tense moment aboard the Heidrun while Einarr and Jorir considered whether it was a trap, and whether or not such a trap was worth trying anyway. Einarr didn’t see much choice in the matter: either they made a break for it or they settled on the island behind them. Jorir urged caution.
Eventually, though, they agreed to spring the trap. There was no more time to dither. Stigander pulled the Vidofnir forward to be the point of their spear. Einarr took the right flank, while Kormund came up on the left.
Every third man aboard the Heidrun stood guarding the rowers with shields and axes. Another third had their bows limbered and a few of their scant remaining arrows to hand. They could not afford more than one, maybe two volleys here. The idea, though, was to move quickly enough they would not need more than that.
Stigander’s hunting horn echoed over the water and the Vidofnir began its rush.
Kormund’s horn joined Stigander’s as the Eikthyrnir also surged forward.
With a long breath, Einarr brought his own horn up to his mouth and joined his voice to theirs. Hàkon’s cadence shifted slightly as the oarsmen began to row with all speed. The voices of all five Singers lifted over the waves in the wake of the hunting horns call, and they were committed.
Behind Einarr, seated on the deck near Eydri and Runa, Hrug traced the now-familiar runes of a ward at his knees. He had insisted he had the wherewithal to fight, and Einarr was in no position to argue. Let Kaldr sneer all he wants: I’ll not scorn a tool at my disposal.
The three ships surged through the water for the gap in Kaldr’s line. It should be sufficient, barely, for their wedge to slip through with a little luck and a lot of speed.
A cloud of arrows in the sky showed when they had entered bow range. Einarr set his mouth and watched, waiting.
A second volley flew their way. More of these landed on the deck or planted themselves in shields, but still most flew wide. The wind was excellent for sailing, but evidently giving their archers trouble. Einarr glanced down at Hrug, but his one-armed friend showed no sign of having toyed with the wind.
Finally the people on the deck of the wolfling ships looked recognizably human to Einarr. A third flock of arrows rose into the sky. “Archers! Fire!”
The answering volleys from the Vidofnir, the Heidrun, and the Eikthyrnir were striking home even as the three ships came into boarding line range – of one ship. Einarr groaned to see that one of the ships on the edge of the gap was pulling back and firing again. If they weren’t careful, they would be encircled. Maybe even if they were careful.
He signalled for Hàkon to speed his cadence. Some of the slower oarsmen might have trouble keeping up if they held it for a long time, but for a short sprint they should be able to manage.
The ship ahead of them was still falling back, although even from here Einarr could see boarding lines being readied. He caught himself settling into a fighting stance and shrugged his shoulders: it was far too early for the Captain to be preparing to fight – not hand to hand, anyway. He glanced behind them.
Sure enough, another of the wolfling ships – Einarr thought it was Kaldr’s, although he couldn’t say for certain – was trying to sneak behind them. This was about to get very, very messy.
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