The Continuing Adventures of Sif No. 23

Which brought her back to history. The grand arc of the Norrman people began three hundred years earlier, when Halfdan King (at the time, just Halfdan, Sif recalled) freed them from the clutches of the ælfr. Though den Holm proper dated to the early days of Halfdan’s reign, and the villages it had been founded from were much older than even that, the jötnar held the rest of the Northlands through the reign of Halfdan and his son. It wasn’t until Joar King, Halfdan’s grandson, took the throne that the whole weight of the Norrmannrike turned to taking back its ancestral home.

Joar King died a year into the war, fighting over the Solskenheimdalsvad—the only good ford west of the city, very near the Heimdal’s headwaters in the mountains. Sif cast about for the name of the range. She’d seen it on a map earlier—that was it. Hieran’s Wall. She recalled it was named for a particularly cowardly ælf-lord, who fled to the Crystal Desert beyond the mountains rather than face the wrath of the Norrman armies.

That was a tangent, though. Though Joar fell in battle, the war continued, and now two of the prominent towns in the Northlands bore the old king’s name: Joarsgard, the fort and walled city which protected the crossing now, and Kungssorge, a market town whose name meant, more or less, King’s Lament. Together with den Holm, they formed a line: den Holm at the east end, by the sea, Joarsgard eighty leagues away at the west end, in the foothills of Hieran’s Wall, and Kungssorge in the middle.

A shadow fell across Sif’s book. She started, then looked up. A woman stood there. She was tall, and hair the color of a raven’s wing hung straight down to her shoulder. Her eyes were dark, glittering in a pale, chiseled face. “What has you awake at this hour, child?”

Sif blinked. She didn’t know the woman, but her voice— that was it. She’d heard it before, from under a hood in the Septumvirate’s chambers, speaking to the Seven on her behalf. She had not met the woman again, but she knew her by reputation: Annike Sigvardsdottir. “Nightmares, Kvinna,” Sif replied, dipping her head respectfully.

“No need for ceremony here,” Annike admonished. “May I pull up a chair?”

Sif nodded.

“What do you dream about that drives you from your bed?”

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