Chapter I: Prophecy
Thovalon Kingdom, May 2, 991 AD
My last breath of air is taken in a big gulp, and I feel the top of my head being pushed down and my entire body is submerged under water.
My eyes are clenched shut, and I hear the faint sound of a man’s garbled voice speaking loudly to the crowd that has gathered to watch.
I wait until the pressure holding me under water is gone, then I resurface gasping for air, and I see the old and rugged priest smile gently down at me.
Then he speaks, his voice also warm and kind. “Welcome to the Christian world, young Ellie.”
His smile is contagious, and my lips also tug up into one and everyone around us claps.
My mother, who also stands to the side, smiles warmly. Her hands clap together and the jewelry on her wrists clank together noisily.
Her hair is done up into a perfect bun yet a few white silver curls frame her round face. She wears a simple white silk dress with long sleeves, and a golden crown sits on top of her head.
I step out of the water, excess from my dress dripping on to the church’s floors, creating puddles, and I feel a blanket get put around my body by the priest behind me.
I tug it around my small body before sliding on the slip-on shoes I wore to the ceremony. I then eagerly go up to my mother, the queen of this land, feeling like an entirely new person, as they say.
I feel her put her arm around me, pulling me close to her as she walks.
She asks as we move towards the exit, “Ready to go home and get dressed in some nice dry clothes?”
I frown suddenly, thinking of going back to the castle. The only children around to play with are my two older brothers who are both bullies. However, that mattered very little because for the rest of the day, I wouldn’t be able to play anyway.
I would most likely be forced to learn more embroidery, music, or etiquette. Days were boring such as these, and I found my brothers’ day-to-day lives were much more interesting.
I then stop in our tracks as we exit the church, the ceremony ending long ago. I see that everyone has gathered to talk and enjoy one another’s company.
The last thing I hear before the church doors swing closed behind us is the low hum of chatter coming from the people. How the young princess, being me, was now a true Christian.
I whine looking up at my mother with pleading eyes as we enter the loud and busy streets of the kingdom. “Mother, I want to play with the other children, not go back to the castle.”
She stares down at me, her eyebrows knitting as she stops. “Ellie...” she mutters. “I understand where you are coming from, but your father will not allow such behavior to stand.”
She reaches down, gently stroking my cheek with her thumb as she continues. “Perhaps I can talk your father into letting you get in some free time to play with your brothers.”
I pull away from her touch, backing away from her and glaring before spitting angrily, “You know that will never happen! Father hardly ever grants me free time to myself! Anyway, I don’t want to play with my stupid brothers. All they do is make fun of me.”
“Ellie!” My mother hushes me in a scolding tone, her pouty and small lips pursed. “Stop with your tantrum at once. We are going back to the castle. You are not allowed to play with those children. Your father and I already talked about this.”
She then tries to reach out to me, and I pull back again, despising how mother and father tried to control who I was to play with and when.
“I do not care! I will do what I want when I want! If I want to play with Samuel and Margaret, I will!” I hiss out.
With this, I start running down the busy streets, and I hear my mother calling out to me and telling me to stop.
I had to be fast because once mother gets back on her horse, it won’t be long until she finds me. Somehow, she always knew where I was going to be at and what time I would be there. She knew how to track me.
Somehow, I think I knew the answer. She was not only a queen, but she was once a princess to a kingdom up north.
The kingdom had women as warriors which were unheard of here, and from what I knew, she hunted.
She told of it in her bedtime stories, and she had hunted well. But all that had ended when my grandfather gave her up for marriage with my father, to create an alliance between the two kingdoms.
I quickly cut into an alley before zigzagging into another. ‘But unlucky for her, I have the same blood running through my veins,’ I think smugly as I run back into another and new street, the people on the other side getting startled from my fast appearance, making a woman yelp.
I ignore them, the blankets around my shoulders long gone and discarded in the alley as I continue running forward, trying to outrun and outsmart my quick mother. She would probably be really mad when she finds me...
I didn’t want to be punished and not allowed anywhere without guards following me. I refused for the last bit of my freedom to be taken away from me.
The sun kisses my pale skin, and the air whips against my ears from the speed I was traveling, making me barely hear the noises and voices of the town. I smile as I look over my shoulder, seeing no one behind me.
I think I have gotten away from her...for now.
“I can’t believe you ran away to play with us again,” said Margaret, after I had dressed into an outfit she had, in return for my silk dress.
The outfit was just a worn plain cotton dress, but I did not care for the clothing I wore. I would be playing outside anyway and most likely get dirty.
Margaret, the young girl that was a little younger than me by two years, had brown hair and eyes, with dirt caked on her like a second skin. You could barely tell her actual skin tone which was gold due to her tan from being out in the sun all the time.
Margaret was far from royalty—she was poor, just like her older brother Samuel that was my age, but that hasn’t stopped me from playing and socializing with them against my parents’ wishes. They were my true friends, unlike the snobby children near the castle or the ones looking to use me in the future.
“Whatever, I don’t even care if they punish me anymore. What’s the worst they can do?” I ask, my lips pulling down in a frown as we exit her small home and into the streets of the poor. I then asked curiously, not hearing or seeing him in the house when we were in it, “But where is Samuel?”
Her brown eyes cast down before looking forward. “Recently, he’s been with Elizabeth, the girl who we played with before. It seems he likes her. They were out by the ocean playing last time I knew. I didn’t want to get in the way, so I stayed home with mother today.”
I smirk mischievously, and I ask giggling, “Then why don’t we see what they are doing? Maybe interrupt a little bonding time.” I then make kissy sounds, mocking what Samuel and Elizabeth could be doing and his sister makes a disgusted face.
“Eww. I don’t want to think about them kissing. That’s gross. Kissing is for a husband and wife only,” she says as we walk down the street, side by side, our steps moving at the same pace as each other.
As I gossip with Margaret, I bump into an adult wearing a black cape, coming to a forced stop. It was my fault as I was not paying attention. I look up to see an old woman with eyes whiter than any ghost.
I swallow as I stare at the scar over her left eye and I mutter to her nervously, “Sorry...” I then go to walk forward again until the old woman snatches my wrist making my heart come to a temporary stop before it thumps wildly in my chest.
She begins to cackle as she pulls me back to her and my eyes are wide and so are Margaret’s. “You little girl.... have quite the future ahead of you. You’re one that I would like to call special.” She smiles, showing her missing teeth, and the few teeth she has left in her mouth are rotting and turning black.
“You shall be taken by a big bad wolf, or should I say wolves.” She cackles before continuing her story, and she turns my arm around, so my palm is faced upwards. She takes one finger with a long and dirty nail and traces it along the lines of my palm. “You capture the beast’s attention with an act that would only come from a brave warrior. Then, you will become his in the act of one single and ferocious bite.”
“What?” I ask, confused about what the old woman was rambling about while Margaret looks concerned. Her lips pulled in a frown and she sticks by me even though the old woman was indeed scary.
“You heard me,” the old woman hums out. “You will become his...his wife,” before she coughs a dry cough.
I then hear Margaret say, her tone nervous, “Ignore her. She’s a pagan and also a seer. A lot of the things she says are just crazy tales to scare us.”
The old woman frowns, tilting her head, her long and strangely white hair falling from underneath her cape, and she asks slightly offended, “Crazy tales? No, no, no, no, what I see is all about the future, little one.” She then laughs before saying, “Just like I can see her future, I can see how jealous you will get of your friend someday little one. Both taken by the wolves, yet one is bound by chains while the other has freedom.”
I pull my hand back from her and glaring at the woman, I state loudly, “That is enough. No more!” I then grab Margaret’s wrist and begin tugging her along with me. The old woman cackles behind us, but then she leaves me with one last final message.
“Once you hear the bell sound, both your fates will be sealed. There will be no turning back...for both of you dearies.” She then laughs again, it growing quieter and quieter as I march forward, holding the wrist of Margaret.
She then asks worriedly, “Do you think she was telling some truth?”
I scoff before retorting back, “No, but weren’t you the one to tell me she was just some crazy woman who claims to be a seer?”
Her eyes look away as I take a sharp corner. “Yes, but papa sometimes says what she speaks of can be the truth. She had foretold the gender of my brother and also me before we were even born.”
I then stop before smirking at her. I let go of her wrist, and I say, “It was a coincidence. Even I could have a chance at foretelling the gender of a baby. It’s either one or the other. Don’t worry about it, Margaret. There are no wolves here anyway and to marry a wolf is impossible—they would eat me first. She was just crazy and thinks highly of herself despite her poor hygiene.”
She smiles slightly and giggles before she nods her head, and I also smile before I say, “Come on, let’s find your brother and Elizabeth.” But before we could even continue walking, we see them running towards us. I smile more, and I say, “Or they can come to us.”
I wave to them, and once they see us they run faster before stopping in front of us, out of breath. I then raise an eyebrow before asking, “Are you two alright?”
I first look at Samuel who has a matching appearance with his sister, Margaret, then I look to Elizabeth who has long, curly blonde hair and blue eyes.
They both shake their head no, and Samuel is the first to catch his breath as he grabs Margaret by the shoulder. “We have to run and warn mama and papa. Elizabeth, Ellie, you guys too. Run home and warn your families.”
“Huh, what for?” Margaret asks as Elizabeth nods and also darts in another direction, Margaret and I not getting a chance to even greet the blonde girl. She is the eldest of our small group of friends of whom we have only known for a short time.
“Vikings! We saw their boats when we were playing on the beach. So did a couple of the king’s men,” Samuel exclaims loudly, his voice clearly shaken with fear. He then says, “We don’t have time to talk. We have to go home!”
“O-ok,” Margaret stutters, also shaken up from her brother’s attitude. As her brother tugs her forward, she then looks back at me and over her shoulder before she says, “Go home and find your mother, Ellie. Then we can play after the adults take care of the situation.”
I nod as I watch Samuel tug his sister’s arm more aggressively, and she stumbles forward as they run ahead in the same direction of their home. I am then left by myself, thinking of the situation and just when I turn around to run like the other children did, I stop as I hear the sound of a loud bell and like that, my life flashes before my eyes, I stare towards the direction of the sound.
The sound continues, the bell putting me in a trance-like state, and I think back to that old woman’s words. “Once you hear the bell sound, both your fates will be sealed. There will be no turning back...for both of you dearies.” I then think back to her other words, about the wolves and I can only feel shaken. I had to run and get to mother and father. Perhaps that would change my fate.
I shake my head, dispelling all thoughts about that old woman and start running because my life could depend on it, but I didn’t know at the time, no matter what I did, my fate had already been decided.