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?
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
EXCERPT # 1
My mind had become a bit fuzzy, and it felt like my head was spinning slowly. I wondered if my mother had put something in my last meal to make this easier for me. It wasn’t allowed, and it was a risk I hadn’t expected her to take, but I was grateful. The chanting from the area around the hastily erected altar was increasing in strength, and I’d promised myself that I would be strong. I would hold my head up, and since I had no choice, I might as well finish my life with dignity. That had been my plan.
As it turned out, this was easy to plan, but when it actually happened, I was scared out of my mind. I sat with my back pressed against the wall and my knees bent so I could lean my forehead on them. I had pulled my arms up so that they covered my ears. I whimpered softly and I refused to look at the hood they would put over my head before bringing me out to the altar.
EXCERPT # 2
“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.
EXCERPT # 3
“Mother…” I started and trailed off until she looked at me. “I worry about how Disa died.”
I had decided to not even try to hide what I suspected from her because I knew that it would anyway not have worked. Mother had always been able to see right through me.
“Sissa,” she sighed but I interrupted her.
“The marks on her cheek and neck, Mother. I looked at them when I had washed her, brought light over to see better. Three marks,” I whispered.
I put my thumb and little finger together and raised my hand with my palm facing her. She stared at me as I slowly turned the hand and moved it so that my three fingers were in the same spots as Disa’s bruises. Then I unfolded my thumb, twisted it slowly around my chin and pushed my mouth open, pretending to use force to do it. I watched as she understood and her mouth fell open.
“What herbs could have been used?” I whispered, and I had leaned forward so that I spoke directly into her ear. Our walls were thin and I didn’t want anyone to overhear, not even my father or brothers.
“Sissa,” she said again and then she clenched her jaws together, but I could see that she was thinking it through. We sat in silence for a while and then she raised her eyes to me. There were tears in them, and she looked utterly and completely undone.
A cheerful lady, three flights, and a granola bar.
A while ago, I got stuck traveling between our home in the Rockies and our home in southern Scandinavia. Delays aren’t unusual, but this time, I ended up spending almost three extra hours at Denver International Airport, which of course made me miss my connection, the last direct flight of the day from London to Copenhagen. A cheerful lady in customer service sorted it all out for me, though unfortunately it meant that I got an unexpected /and incredibly unwelcome/ three-hour-long visit to Amsterdam on my way home. I tried my best to thank her in a manner that matched her friendly cheerfulness, but honestly? I am not entirely sure that I succeeded.
Luckily there’s a Starbucks at Schiphol Airport, and since a double tall latte does for me what yoga seems to do for most others, I eventually relaxed and started thinking about the situation I was in, and the many other times I’ve been delayed somewhere in the world. I remembered how many times I’d run through Chicago-O’Hare, three hours at a small airport in rural Zimbabwe – and that time there was a hurricane, so I had to spend the night on the floor at Copenhagen-Kastrup, an hour away from my home. Sometimes it became a deal the size of Montana, with me peeved beyond belief, literally growling at anyone approaching. Then at other times, I’d simply shrugged it off. Sitting there, alone at an airport in Amsterdam on a Saturday evening, after 20 hours on the road and knowing well that my family was waiting for me at home, I just smiled. Then I calmly picked up my sketch pad, a tiny pencil that I found at the bottom of my bag, and tried valiantly to figure out how to draw Celtic knots.
As I sat there, I suddenly realized what made the difference, and it was not just the coffee. It was that chirpy lady in customer service at Heathrow Airport, who just smiled at my tired, grumpy face, as she calmly and efficiently managed to get me the last available spot from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, all the while making some silly jokes about this and that. If anyone reading this works with any kind of customer service – kudos to you and thank you for taking care of the rest of us!
Ironically, the delay that started the whole chain of events was due to /among other things/ problems loading the catering. Breakfast on that flight was a granola bar, so hard I had to lick it like an ice lolly to get some sustenance. Honestly? I can’t help but wonder why they even bothered loading that thing.