“Think back to the oldest era your mind can fathom, back beyond everything we can remember, when gods were still men who had not yet lived the deeds that would deify them.” Gudrun’s aged gold eyes peered from behind her curtain of long, silver hair. “Think back before the time when the Aesir and the Vanir were still men who had settled here on ancient Earth, ages before their war.”
She mustn’t know. She needs to forget. If she forgets, her grief will end. Not all her memories, Aaric decided. Only some. And her Sight. Surely her Sight must go. If she Sees, then she’ll know. And if she’s anything like her mother…
Aaric continued to rock Kallan back and forth.
There are things she can not know. She already knows enough to figure things out when she gets older. If she remembers. She can not remember.
Aaric placed a hand to her forehead. Threads of gold, like sand, flowed from his hand and encompassed Kallan’s head. Through her body, he reached with his Seidr until he located and linked the golden strands within that harbored her power. One by one, he tugged on the strands, and pushed his own Seidr inside them until his Seidr bound hers and pulled and changed its direction.He withdrew his Seidr, leaving hers alone to flow in the new direction. Already, the child slept. Carefully, he laid her back on his bed, pulled his furs up around her neck, and kissed her brow.
“Goodnight, Princess,” he muttered.
The room was dark, save for the moonlight that stretched across the stone floor of Kallan’s chambers. Still dressed in ceremonial gowns of white and silver, with faceted blue gems, Kallan stared across her room and out her window, to the north and Gunir. Her blackened wall of ice was complete, allowing her to think again without having to feel anything beyond the heavy numbness pulling down on her body.
She took a step. Her shoulders were stiff, her feet like weights. She could still feel her father’s kiss on her brow from that morning. An invisible blade impaled her and twisted its way into her chest. Kallan closed her eyes and amassed her pain, her hurt, her grief. With it, she built a vast, black wall around memories that would be the death of her. Higher, thicker, colder, she secured the wall until she was numb and hate alone remained on the outside.
Bury the memory. Bury it all.
She pulled in a deep breath, filling her mind with simpler thoughts, safe thoughts, and forced the slew of memories behind the wall where, one by one, time would erase them. Opening her eyes, Kallan took a second step toward the window.
Numbed to the grief she refused to feel, she was free to think again, and replayed recent events.
The reports are always consistent. Rune always reports to the Southern Keep…on every moon. Father—
Her insides screamed and tightened. Her eyes burned as she gulped down a hot ball in her throat. Her hand curled into a fist as she crammed the memories deeper beneath the wall.
“All of them,” she breathed and stifled a sob. “Everything.”
She forgot her father’s goodnight kiss. She forgot his morning hug. She forgot the gleam in his eye that followed her every question. She forgot the warmth of his voice, until the blade in her chest had dulled and the agony eased.
Kallan opened her eyes and took another step toward the window.
After every inspection, Rune meets the Dark One at Swann Dalr in the Alfheim wood.
She absorbed the cold that numbed her grief and slowed her pain to a silent standstill. Kallan built her wall higher.
That is where we’ll strike, she decided as her thoughts finally flowed free of pain.
A chill webbed through Kallan’s spine, but she did not shudder. Her iridescent eyes sparkled as she raised them to the moon’s light and knew exactly how to proceed.
A cold, dark smile spread across Kallan’s face.
With the pieces aligned, the plan was perfect, and, this time, King Rune would die.
From Alfheim, to Jotunheim, and then lost in the world of Men, these two must form an alliance to make their way home, and try to solve the lies of the past and of the Shadow that hunts them all.
“I’ll not go to Gunir,” she said before Rune could cringe. “I promised the children. They need me. Gudrun and Eilif are alone. And Aaric—”
“You can argue the details once we’re in Alfheim!” Rune’s voice boomed over hers, forcing her to swallow her tongue as he spoke.
“I want to go home!”
The waves washed upon the shore as Kallan huffed, near tears. Rearing up for the battle, Rune raised his voice to match the sea.
“We have a raging king on our tails with an eye for your head. The Dvergar are adamant to have you and avenge their kin. We’re a fortnight away from home and the only company you have to look forward to until then…” Rune exhaled. “…is me!”
“What do you propose?” Kallan asked, glaring at her new comrade.
“Peace talks! Right now!”
Kallan scoffed, ignoring the rage that flared in Rune’s eyes. “All that matters is that we get to Alfheim at all. Once we are there, we can haggle, bicker, and bitch all you want over which city to go to, but for now, the only chance of survival we have is to stick together. Now you can come along quietly…” Rune huffed. “Or I can fashion up some rope before we leave.”
Kallan glanced to the orange light over the distant houses where the Mead Hall’s lights glowed. The muted laughter carried over the village, filling everyone with a merriment that matched their warmth.
“I’ll go with you,” she said at last, gazing back to Rune. “I’ll travel and hunt and follow the river to Viken.”
“That’s all I ask,” Rune said with a nod. “We leave at dawn. We can’t afford to sit still for too long, and while we’re on the road, try…try not to draw any attention to yourself.”
Still obviously seething, he turned leaving Kallan alone on the beach.
With the same spitfire she reserved for him, Kallan called to his back.
“But my blade will pierce your gut with the first foot fall that touches down on Alfheim!”
Rune flashed her grin. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said and marched back to the village.