Snow-Walker

Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher Read Free Book Online

Book: Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Catherine Fisher
Tags: Science-Fiction, adventure, Fantasy, Childrens, Young Adult
“what do you want from us?” There was a change in his voice; Helgi heard it too, and gave a wry smile. “Your hospitality, chieftain, for a few nights. Also safe haven for the ship and the men left with her. Most important, sleds, dogs, and if you have them, horses for those of us going on to the hall. This will all be paid for on our return.”
    â€œYour return!” The man raised an eyebrow. “Master, you’ll pay for it before you go. No one takes that road and returns.”
    Suddenly he turned and shouted. Men seemed to spring up, a silent crop from the rocks. There were some young lads, but most were older like their leader; hard, coarse-looking men, but strong, and probably handy, Jessa thought, with those axs and spears. They came down and stared at the strangers, especially Jessa and Thorkil. A few women leaned in the doors of the houses.
    â€œCome with me.” The tall man led Jessa, Thorkil, and Helgi to a small hall, warm and dark inside, with a good fire blazing in the hearth.
    â€œNow,” he said, sitting down. “Dogs and sleds we have aplenty, but the way you wish to take is far too treacherous for sleds. You’ll need horses. And those are precious, this far north.”
    â€œBut you have them?”
    â€œFor the right price.” As he spoke, a few other men came in. Warmed wine was served out by a thin woman with untidy hair. Jessa sipped hers thankfully.
    â€œMy name is Sigmund—they call me Graycloak,” the man added.
    â€œYou are the chieftain?”
    The man looked at him over his cup. “Indeed no. We have no chieftains here, master; no one man better than the others. I am elected to speak. We still do that here.”
    Helgi frowned. “The Jarl—”
    â€œDid I mention the Jarl?” Sigmund said at once, looking around with pretended surprise. The other men laughed.
    Helgi looked uneasy. “What price, then, for these horses?”
    â€œFirst, my duty as a host. This young lady must be looked after.”
    He called one of the girls over and spoke to her quietly. Then she came up to Jessa. “Come with me,” she said with a shy smile.
    As she followed, Jessa saw Helgi’s anxious look and grinned at him. Then the door closed between them.
    Warm water was wonderful after so long without it, and clean clothes made her feel ten times better. The girl looked on curiously, fingering a brooch.
    â€œThis is nice. Did you get it at the Jarlshold?”
    â€œNo.”
    â€œIs the Jarlshold splendid? And the Snow-walker, Gudrun, is she as evil as they say?”
    â€œYes, she is,” Jessa said absently as she laced her boots. “She’s also very powerful. I’d be careful what you say, even here.”
    â€œOh, we are protected from her here.”
    Jessa looked up. “Protected?”
    â€œYes.” The girl came and sat on a bright tapestry stool next to her. Her fingers picked absently at the stitches. “We knew you were coming.”
    Jessa was astonished. Then she thought of the peddler.
    â€œHow did you know?”
    â€œThrough the runes. And my father has given me a message for you. If you are really prisoners of those men, you and the boy, then you must tell me. We will release you.”
    Jessa’s mind was working quickly. “Has the peddler arranged this?”
    The girl looked puzzled. “What peddler?”
    â€œNever mind.... How could you release us?”
    â€œThe crew would be killed. No one would be surprised if they never went back. Longships are often lost in storms. And no news ever comes out of Thrasirshall. The Jarl would never know if you’d got there or not.”
    It was all so sudden. Jessa thought for a while. The peddler could never have gotten here before them. And if these people knew “by the runes,” that meant sorcery.
    â€œHow do we know it’s not a trap?” she said at last. “Why help us?”
    The girl

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