In the pale light of a wintry morning seven men saddled their ship across bucking white waves. A girl stood alone on the shore. Stiff and silent, with her fingers clenched into fists and her eyes creased into flashing slivers of blue ice, she watched them go. The others of her clan, those that still lived at least, had long since shouted their fare-you-wells. But they’d left their crumbs of hope at the ocean’s edge to shuffle back to the village, slump-shouldered and spiritless. The girl remained, staring rigidly at the horizon.
As dawn edged across the ponderous gray sky, the ship grew smaller and smaller....
Frost still rimed the wood planks of the byre door as Asa looped her fingers into the knothole. She threw her weight back in a succession of short jerks and it gradually came open, its cold hinges shrieking complaint.
A sour odor wrinkled her nose as she led Rune down the earthen ramp and into the dark, windowless shelter. None of the animals there greeted them; the cow merely flicked an ear, while her father’s two horses swung their heads round for just a moment’s dull gaze. Such a difference in a matter of months.
At summer’s end, as was the custom, all of the clan’s livestock had...
Jorgen held the smile on his face because she was looking at him and because it masked his real feelings. They were irritatingly strong feelings, feelings he couldn’t quite control, and so he made himself smile while he sat thinking. And listening, always listening. And rocking.
She didn’t fear him. That’s what annoyed him the most. The others, even her pigeon-chested father, the clan’s chieftain, could be made to move aside with a dark glance. It was a precious art, one he’d been polishing for many years now, and he wasn’t about to let some child—a girl, no...