Runes of Fate by Lena North
Date of Publication: June 24, 2016
It’s the annual midwinter gathering, and Sissa Raudulfsdatter is locked into a shed – bound, gagged and waiting to be led out to the altar where she will be sacrificed.
There has never been any human sacrifice in the village before, but this year Jarl Ingolf decided that the gods require one to give their good graces back.
Sissa is determined to face her fate with dignity and courage but as she waits for them to bring her out to the altar, the herbs her mother has put in her final meal makes her dizzy and finally, she faints.
The morning after the sacrifice she wakes up, still alive and still in the shed. After shouting for help, Sissa’s brother opens the door, but he’s shocked to see her because they all thought Sissa was killed the evening before. It’s soon discovered that another girl was sacrificed instead. The village is in uproar and Jarl Ingolf, who performed the sacrifice himself, is devastated.
The Jarl’s brother, Einarr, is given the task to find out what has happened and because of her ability to figure things out, and since she’s the only one clearly innocent, he asks Sissa to help him. One of the suspects is Einarr’s only son Josteinn, the boy Sissa has had her eyes on her whole life, but there are others who could be guilty, and as Sissa and Einarr learn more, things start to become dangerous.
When Josteinn starts to pay her attention, Sissa has to decide how she wants to live her life. Can she be content living her life in the village as Josteinn’s thrall, his property? Or have the gods carved different runes of fate into the roots of Yggdrasil for her?
“Things have changed, in a way I never expected, but now I have to plan for what to do. It can not come as a surprise to you that I want my son to be the next Jarl under the current circumstances. I never wished for Heidrun’s death, and Steinar is a good man, but Josteinn is too.”
Einarr stopped talking and I looked down at the snow on the ground. I didn’t know what to say, and I didn’t want to hear about his plans and ambitions. He was a hard man, and I knew that he could be as ruthless as Jarl Ingolf but in a different way. When he spoke next, he surprised me.
“I am not without honor, Sissa. I want my son to be Jarl but he needs to become Jarl the right way. It should be because he’s strong and clever, not because he arranged to have his cousin killed. If you find that Joss was involved, then all I ask is that you tell me first. Let me deal with my son myself.”
I turned toward him, too astonished to even speak, and I felt my eyes widen slowly as we looked at one another. He had a soft look on his face that I wondered if he ever showed anyone.
Special Guest Post: Dinner in a small town in Italy by Lena North
In a small town in northern Italy, there’s this place that I love. It’s just a small restaurant, not fancy at all – but just like anywhere you go in that region, the food is amazing.
I’m usually the first one to sit down at a table. They open at 7 pm, which to a Swede is well past dinner time, and when I walk in five minutes past the hour, the staff always smile widely. The waitress sweeps her arm out in a wide arc to indicate that I can indeed sit anywhere I like. I usually pick a small table in a corner, with my back against the wall.
The pizza baker always shouts a friendly ‘Buonasera’ from behind his counter and wiggles the wooden spatula he uses to shuffle the pies in and out from the huge oven. Then the waitress comes with the menu, and pours me a complimentary small glass of Prosecco, sparkling white wine. The first time I was there I protested, saying in my limited Italian that I’d prefer Lambrusco, the sparkling red from the area. She looked at me and replied gently that yes, of course I did. For dinner. This was Prosecco, to start with.
So I sit there, inhaling deeply. My nostrils slowly fill with the smell of garlic and tomato, mushroom and whatever vegetables they’re cooking in the kitchen. It’s quiet and peaceful, and I sip my Prosecco wondering what to have for dinner, knowing that I’ll end up having a pizza. Nothing tastes like the pizza at that place. It’s thin, with just a splash of tomato and a thin layer of Mozzarella. On top of the cheese is the ham, from Parma, of course, and perhaps a few cherry tomatoes. Finishing it off is a handful of Arugula, and if you feel just a little bit crazy, you can sprinkle it with the chili flavored oil that always has its place on the table.
Then people start to fill the restaurant. Slowly the sounds are increasing, people are talking and laughing, glasses are clinked, and there are soft sounds from cutlery scraping across the plates. The smells from the kitchen intensify, the staff walks faster but they still never seem to rush. Once the kids are fed, they walk around freely, and they never disturb anyone. They don’t run and don’t shout, they just blend into the crowd somehow.
Sometimes people come up to me to talk, and I try to reply but my Italian is mostly a mix of French with a few words of Spanish so unless they speak English (and they normally don’t) we end up smiling and nodding before they move on.
I can stay there the whole night, and I never get any dirty looks from the staff for lingering. They offer me espresso and Nocino, a sweet walnut liqueur, and let me sit there for as long as I like. Sometimes I write, and sometimes I draw, but most of the time I end up with my pen in my hand, head leaned back against the wall behind me, just watching.
I haven’t included this place in a story yet. Somehow it’s too precious, and I haven’t found the words to describe it just right, but one day I will. When one of my heroines finds herself desperately needing peace of mind, I’ll take her to my special place. Until then, I’ll just keep it to myself.
About Lena North
The proper way to put it here would probably be to describe how I love to play with our two big dogs, adore my fantastic daughters and how much I love to read.
Another way would be to use my imagination and then I would be a super powerful warrior woman, think Xena the warrior princess (though with less tacky clothes). Or when I think of it, maybe I’m actually more of a Hercule Poirot (sans the suit and moustache). Or maybe I’m like Aragorn, strong and cool and then I might get to meet Gandalf! Or I could be Bella’s pretty cousin and snap Jacob up in a second (yeah, I’m so not team Edward), or wait, maybe I could be like one of them heroines in historical novels who swoon all the time. I’ve always wanted to swoon…
Well, I guess you get how my mind is working (or not working, some say). Anyways, I like to write. Stories, adventures, romantic and happy stuff mixed up with sorrow and hardship, and bit of laughter here and there because the way I see it – life is way too short to go around feeling grumpy.
Find Lena North Online