Authors: Joan Lennon
|ChapterÂ One||Â ||Woad Rage|
|Chapter Two||Â ||Queue and the Book of the Artificer|
|ChapterÂ Three||Â ||The Arrival|
|Chapter Four||Â ||Testing Times|
|Chapter Five||Â ||The Artificer's Tale|
|Chapter Six||Â ||The Tracks of the Pilfering Pedlar|
|ChapterÂ Seven||Â ||The Flight of the Skite|
|Chapter Eight||Â ||The Pedlar's Story|
|Chapter Nine||Â ||Leif's Cunning Plan|
y name is Frond. Leif Frond. I'm ten years old and I'm a hero. I'm six foot tall, strong as a bear, with a big blond beard down to my waist...
All right, maybe not. Maybe not even five foot tall, and about as strong as a ferret. But just wait. It's going to happen. Any day now... any day...
My granny says things like, “You don't have to be as tall as a troll to make people sit up and take notice â look at your great-great-uncle, the one they called Gory Weaselbeard! Everybody knows about him and he was shorter than me!” I think she mustn't be telling the whole truth there, because my granny is so bent over she can look a sheep in the eye. And it's no secret that my great-greatuncle was the sneakiest trickster anyone has ever heard of and who wants to be known for that? Not me.
For me, it's hero or nothing.
eif! Hurry up â come and help me!” “Hey Twig â get over here. Hold this.” (Yes, my family call me Twig. Very funny.)
“Leif â hey! Where is that boy?”
It's like that all day long. I never get a moment's peace.
If I go into the Hall, one of my sisters will want me to move the trestle tables. If I go down to the beach, one of my brothers will want me to help scrape barnacles off the bottom of the longship or mend the fishing nets. If I go near the fields I get roped into weeding. If I get caught walking past the animal enclosures then I obviously have nothing else to do and would be happy to help catch a cow and hold its head while my father has a look at its lame foot.
It's the price you pay for being the youngest in a very big family.
So (even though it isn't the most heroic thing in the world) I do my best to disappear. I hide in the latrine, or nip up the Weirdly Crag behind Frondfell, or swim out into the fjord and lie on my back until I get all pruney. But those are places you can only really hide in the summertime.
Which is why I was dreading the winter.
Winter closes us right in on ourselves. There is no escape. Frondfell is surrounded by mountains, which are only passable in the summer (and even then there's snow on the high tops). When the ice on the fjord freezes solid, no ships can get through.
It's just us â my family, and the other people who work with us and live in the settlement â all crammed into the Hall for warmth, day in, day out, getting on each other's nerves. And every one of the many members of my family giving me jobs to do that I have no chance of avoiding. Meanwhile who, you might ask, do I get to give jobs to? Nobody.
It's not fair.
But, without doubt, the worst of my family is my sister Thorhalla. No hero in all the Viking sagas ever told by all the bards ever had to deal with a monster as horrifying as her. You probably think I'm exaggerating, but I can see through her disguise. All I have to do is squint my eyes and I can see the troll within. She's probably on the prowl right this minute, gnashing her teeth and drooling, looking for someone to sacrifice to her biggest obsession. That's right, laundry.
She may be my least favourite sister, but one of my most favourite daydreams is about her. It always cheers me up. I can imagine just the way the bards would tell it, if only they could get their hands on such a fabulous taleâ¦
â¦down by the stream, Thorhalla the Merciless belabours laundry, steely-hearted, striking hapless clothing with a stick. She hasn't bothered to disguise herself as a human being, but instead is in her natural state â a terrible troll woman with a twitching tail.
Suddenly the stream begins to flood, grabbing clothes and stick and whisking them all away. Troll Thorhalla is in dire danger of being swept out to sea! Turning, she tries to run but stumbles on the shore and shrieking falls backwards into the torrent.
“Oh save me, brave brother, save me!” she cries.
For one deeply satisfying moment, Leif the hero stands, stroking his big beard and thinking of all the awful things she's done to him over the years. Then, with a sigh, he steels himself to rescue her, for heroes have no choice in situations such as these. As he drags her to safety she has become a changed woman. From then on in, she is always so gentle, so considerate, so grateful, soâ¦