RUNA—15 YEARS EARLIER
NEW ENGLAND, USA
As the fire crackles and dances in the fireplace, I hop into my bed and await the telling of my absolute favorite bedtime story.
Grandma Naynay tells the best stories ever, but the one about the Viking Queen is the best.
“Tell me more about the kings and their queen, Grandma!” I bounce excitedly in my bed, grabbing her attention.
With a small laugh and a warm smile, Grandma walks over and sits on the edge of my bed. She smells like cookies and sugar—two of my favorite foods.
Her glasses catch the reflection of the flames, making her look almost scary, but I know it’s still her.
Staying at Grandma’s is my all-time favorite thing to do. She tells me all kinds of stories from her motherland, and I get to sleep in this room. It’s full of books and artifacts from the Viking era.
I told Grandma I was going to study this stuff when I got older. She always chuckled, but I’m telling the truth.
“Where did we leave off?” she asks, tucking me in further as I lie back on my plush pillow.
“You told me about the queen with three dots behind her ear and how her three kings have come to rescue her.”
I think that’s where we left off anyway. I’ve heard this story told in a few different ways; I can’t quite be sure.
Her finger whips up as she nods and chuckles. “Oh, right, right, right. I remember now. The three kings bowed at her feet every single night, giving her everything she’s ever wanted and desired.”
“Oh, how those kings loved her. Their love for one another was the strongest in the entire world. Nobody and nothing could ever come between them. Did I tell you that they’re all soul mates?”
I shake my head, diving back into the story as I picture the queen sitting in her throne, surrounded by the kings looking up at her.
I’ll bet she’s the best queen they’ve ever had. She’s fair and kind, but also strong and fierce. No other village or tribe dare mess with her.
“Oh yes. The three kings always find their queen through each rebirth. But this story is about to turn directions and they will all lose each other.”
“An evil sorcerer has it out for the four of them, cursing them,” Grandma says in a menacing tone, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight.
“No!” I shriek, shaking my head. I picture the evil sorcerer with chicken bones hanging from their neck, covered in black-and-white paint just like the sorcerer I see in my favorite Viking book.
He’s scary and mean—the worst character in the entire thing.
“He did, I swear. He cursed them to an eternity apart. You see, the sorcerer was jealous of the love they all shared for one another.
“He couldn’t stand to see it anymore—wanted to rip their union apart—so he put a curse on the kings and sent the queen away… Far, far away.”
“But they defeated him, right?” I ask, hoping the evil sorcerer didn’t win.
The queen and her kings are stronger, aren’t they?
“I’m afraid not, sweetheart. You see, even though the queen is very powerful, she doesn’t hold all the magical powers as the sorcerer does.”
“And her kings only had their man-made weapons to go up against the magic.”
Fear swims up my spine as I hang onto every single word of the story. “What happened to them, Grandma?”
“Hard to tell exactly, but the stories I’ve heard from my own grandmother say the queen was banished to another time and place entirely. Her kings were left to live forever without her.”
“Some say the kings are alive right now, working and living among us like normal people, but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of the queen.”
My heart hurts for them. They have to live without their queen forever? But they’re soul mates! “Grandma, they have to be able to defeat the sorcerer!”
She smiles, patting my head. “The only way to defeat the sorcerer, I’m afraid, is to have the kings find their queen and the amulet of runes so they can all return home.”
“What will they do when they get there?”
Shrugging, she stands and kisses my forehead. “That’s where the story ends, my sweet child. The kings have never found their queen nor the amulet, so I can’t tell you.”
“But I’ll bet they’d find a way to defeat that mean, evil sorcerer once and for all.” She winks.
I nod then pout, thinking how the sorcerer ruined everything. “Well, that’s not fair. They deserve a happily ever after, Grandma.”
I’m angry. Though this is my favorite story, I’m upset the kings haven’t found their queen yet, and I’m angry the sorcerer is getting away with his evil doings.
“Oh, honey, we all want them to have a happily ever after, but it hasn’t happened for them yet.” She moves to the doorway and shuts off my light. “Get to sleep now.”
But before she goes, I ask, “How will they ever find their queen?”
A warm smile dances across her lips. “Some say it’s all in the legend. Their queen will have hair as white as snow, a heart as big as the oceans, and those three little—”
“Dots behind her ear!” I finish excitedly.
She laughs. “You got it. Now go to sleep, honey.” Grandma disappears from the doorway.
I stare up at the dancing shadows on the ceiling cast by the fireplace and can’t stop thinking about the queen. Where did she get banished to? Maybe I could help find her.
If she’s a powerful queen like the stories say, how hasn’t she been found yet?
Then I think about the kings and how they’ve probably lived a horribly sad and lonely life without her.
Rolling over to face the wall, I let my heavy eyes close, but I don’t stop thinking about the story.
A woman with hair white as snow. I can picture her, dancing in a meadow as her white hair flies freely behind her.
When I get older, I’m going to help the kings find their queen if it’s the last thing I do.
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