West of the Moon

West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish Read Free Book Online

Book: West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish Read Free Book Online
Authors: Katherine Langrish
Baldur sneered in his high voice, “that Daddy’s gone away. The great Ralf Eiriksson, who thinks he’s so important. Is that right? Eh?”
    â€œOnly for the summer,” said Hilde icily. “He’ll be back before winter with a bunch of his Viking friends, so don’t give me any trouble, Baldur Grimsson.”
    â€œVikings!” said Baldur. “I don’t give that for Vikings.” He spat. “Besides, what with storms and whirlpools and sea serpents, he’ll never come back.”
    â€œIs that all you have to say?” snapped Hilde.
    â€œNo!” Baldur snarled. He came up close and grabbed the pony by the bridle. “Tell your mother – and your grandpa –” he emphasised the words with a stab of his thick forefinger, “to keep off that land on Troll Fell that belongs to us. You ask your mother which she’d prefer. Those fields – or that golden cup? The land is ours. And so are the sheep you’ve been grazing on it. You and your family keep off the Stonemeadow!”
    He let go of the bridle and whistled. Grendel came hurtling out of the mill.
    â€œSee ’em off!” shouted Grim.
    Hilde grabbed the mane. The terrified pony whirled out of the yard and bolted over the bridge and up the hill. Clinging to her bouncing basket, she hauled on the reins and slithered off sideways as the pony came to a snorting halt. “It’s all right! It’s all right.” She patted its steaming neck. “The dog’s not after you now…”
    But the pony rolled a wild eye as a little brown dog burst out of the bushes. There was a crackling, crashing noise as someone tackled the steep and brambly shortcut up the side of the hill. Hilde shook back her hair. “Who’s there?” she challenged.
    Peer’s pale and dirty face became visible as he parted some branches. “Are you all right?” he puffed.
    â€œNo thanks to you!” Hilde scowled at him. “Was it you who told those – those oafs – that my father has gone away?”
    â€œYes, it was,” said Peer miserably. “I didn’t mean any harm – I didn’t know it was important. I’m sorry, Hilde.”
    â€œOh, don’t worry.” Hilde recovered her temper. “Stop apologising. You haven’t done anything. They’d have heard soon enough. Everybody knows everything in a little place like this.” She gave him a sharp look. “Why are you hiding in the bushes, Peer? Are you scared of the millers? Or are you scared of me?”
    Peer flushed. He didn’t answer.
    â€œWell,” Hilde went on, “I expect there’s going to be trouble. I’m sorry, Peer, but I absolutely detest your uncles.”
    â€œSo do I,” said Peer in a low, savage voice. “I don’t know why they want me. There’s something going on that I don’t understand. Some strange plan. They stole my father’s money. I heard them counting it and talking about someone called the Gaffer – and a wedding. And if I don’t do everything they say, they’ll set their dog on Loki. He’ll be killed.”
    â€œThat’s terrible!” Hilde cried. She patted Loki, who collapsed on to his back and folded up his paws to let her rub his tummy. She scratched his chest. “Money, and a wedding?” she repeated, frowning. “I can’t imagine. Of course, old Grim, their father, was always poking about looking for the trolls’ treasure.”
    â€œ Was he? Why?”
    â€œIt’s a long story. Have you got time? And anyway, whose side are you on?”
    â€œOn your side,” said Peer with determination. “Even if they are my uncles. But I can’t help living with them. I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
    Hilde patted the ground beside her. “Sit down and I’ll tell you about the trolls. It’s a good story, and it’s true. Years ago, my father was

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