Snow-Walker
evening, sewing a tear in her sleeve, Jessa said quietly, “How did you know we were coming?”
    Brochael looked up from the fire, his face flushed with heat. “My business.” He stirred the oatmeal calmly.
    â€œSomeone came before us?” Thorkil ventured.
    Brochael grinned. “If you say so. I just knew, that’s all. Ragnar sent you here because of your fathers. His idea of a pleasant exile. And to deliver his guilty little message.”
    â€œDid you know,” Jessa said, biting the thread, “that Gudrun wanted us to come as well?”
    That startled him. “She wanted it?”
    â€œWe overheard,” Jessa explained. She looked up at him closely. “She not only knew we were coming, she said to the old man that it was her idea—that she’d made the Jarl send us.”
    Brochael stared back. “Did she say why?”
    â€œNot really … it was hard to hear. She said she would have her hand on us.... I don’t know what that meant.”
    â€œDon’t you?” His face darkened; he looked older and grimmer. “Did she give you anything to eat or drink?”
    â€œYes, but she drank it too.”
    He shook his head. “She’s a sorceress, Jessa. That means nothing at all.”
    She looked at Thorkil. “And when can we see Kari?” she asked, trying to sound calm.
    Brochael went back to stirring the porridge. “When you’re ready. When I think you’re ready.” He gave them a strange, sidelong look. “And if you really want to.”

Ten
It’s safe to tell a secret to one,
Risky to tell it to two.
To tell it to three is thoughtless folly,
Everyone else will know.
    Time at Thrasirshall passed slowly. Despite the mysterious supplies, food was short and Jessa often felt hungry. After a while she got used to it. The cold was still intense; they were so far north the snow had not begun to melt. The weather made it difficult to get outside, but sometimes she and Thorkil scrambled up the fell and wandered into the silent woods. On one afternoon of pale sunshine they climbed a higher crag and gazed out at the desolate miles of land carved by slow glaciers. Brochael had told them there was nothing more to the north but ice, until the sky came down and touched the earth. Even the road ended here, at the world’s end.
    They ran all the way back to keep warm, floundering and giggling through the snow, Jessa in front, so that she struggled across the courtyard and burst into the room without warning. Then she stopped instantly, letting Thorkil thud into her back.
    The opposite door was closing; soft footsteps shuffled on the other side, fading to an echo in empty spaces. One chair was pushed back; a knife and a piece of carven wood had been flung on the table.
    Brochael leaned back and watched them, as if he was waiting for the questions. After a moment Jessa went to the fire, warming the sudden cold from her back. She watched Thorkil pick up the wood and run his fingers over the skillful carving.
    â€œIs he afraid of us?” he said at last.
    Brochael took the wood from him. “In a way. Remember, he’s seen few folk besides me. But it’s more than that. You’re afraid of him.”
    And they were. They knew it. They kept together most of the time, never went alone into the dim corridors. They spent time playing chess, mending their clothes, snaring hares, or at the unending task of fetching wood and kindling. Brochael watched them, as if he was biding his time. Some days he would vanish for hours at a time and come back without any explanation, and every night he locked the door with the iron key.
    Once late at night, hauling water from the well, they thought they saw candlelight flickering in one window high in the tower, and the two black birds that had startled Helgi always seemed to be flapping and karking up there, wheeling against the greens and golds of the aurora that flickered here every

Similar Books

An Infamous Army

Georgette Heyer

183 Times a Year

Eva Jordan

Aquaterros

Mac Park

SurviRal

Ken Benton

Wishful Thinking

Amanda Ashby