Chapter One . . . 

 

 

I will not flee, though death-fated you know I am. I was not conceived as a coward. I will have all of your loving advice as long as I live. - The Saga of the Völsungs

 

 

Night gave way to a new day. The sun glided over the land, bringing light and life to the harbor of Gullhyrndr. Seabirds called from the shore, and ravens took wing from the wildwood. An old woman stood at the parapet of Torten’s tower, highest point of Gullhyrndr stronghold. She wrapped her arms around her chest and narrowed her eyes, seeking beyond the sea mists to a far island where women gathered to give thanks for the child born that night. Child of prophecy, child of dreams, child of hope . . .

“Faeoia!” 

 

The old woman turned to answer the call, to tend the newborn babe as she had tended the mother twenty-five cycles ago and the mother’s mother before that. Daughters born to serve, born to suffer, born to save the Land from darkness.

The blood rich smell of birth led Faeoia back to the Queen’s rooms, where the child of prophecy snuffled at her mother’s breast like any newborn creature.

 

“She was calling for you.” Bera pulled Faeoia closer to the bed where the Queen lay, pale and beautiful.

 

“Something’s wrong.” The blood smell filled the room.

 

Faeoia smoothed the damp hair from Ronja’s brow and said what must be said. “The price is paid. The child is the one.” She gently closed Ronja’s eyes, eased the nipple from the baby’s mouth, and lifted the girl child into her arms.

 

“Blessings on this day

This day of your birth

Child of Golden Light

Child to heal the earth

 

Blessings on this hour

This hour of your birth

Born of love’s pure light

Child of strength and might

 

Blessings on this moment

This moment of your birth

Child of golden light

Child to heal the earth.”

 

Faeoia might have cried then - Ronja deserved her tears - but what use were tears, even tears of amber and gold? The Norns would have their way with or without an old woman’s tears, and now there was a child to raise and a beloved one to lay on her pyre atop the cliffs of Gullhyrndr.