Authors: Margit Sandemo
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The Legend of The Ice People 1 - Spellbound
© Margit Sandemo 1982
© eBook in English: Katrin Agency 2013
Series: The Legend of The Ice People
Title number: 1
Original title: Troldbunden
Translator: Anna Halager
© Translation: Katrin Agency
Illustrator: Ragna Lise Vikre
© Cover and illustration: Katrin Agency
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchase.
All contracts and agreements regarding the work, translation, editing, cover, jacket and illustration and layout are owned by Katrin Agency.
The legend of the Ice People
is dedicated with love and gratitude to the memory of my dear late husband Asbjorn Sandemo, who made my life a fairy tale.
The Ice People - Reviews
‘Margit Sandemo is, simply, quite wonderful.’
- Emine Saner, The Guardian
‘Full of convincing characters, well estabished in time and place, and enlightening ... will get your eyes popping, and quite possibly groins twitching ... these are graphic novels without pictures ... I want to know what happens next.’
- Christina Hardyment, The Times
‘A mixure of myth and legend interwoven with historical events, this is imaginative creation that involves the reader from the first page to the last.’
- Anne Oughton, Historical Novels Review
‘Loved by the masses, the prolific Margit Sandemo has written over 172 novels to date and is Scandinavia s most widely read author...’
- Mia Gahne, Scanorama magazine
The Legend of the Ice People
Once upon a time many centuries ago, Tengel the Evil went into the wilderness because he wanted to sell his soul to the Devil. He became the ancestor of the Ice People.
Tengel had been promised power and wealth on condition that one of his descendants in every generation would serve the Devil and do evil deeds. These descendants would be easy to recognize because of their yellow cats’ eyes and magical powers. And one day a person with the greatest supernatural powers ever would be born. The curse would not be lifted until the spot was found where Tengel had buried the pot which he had used to prepare the magic brew which would summon the Devil.
This is what the legend says. Only nobody knows whether it is true.
But in the 16th century, a cursed child of the Ice People was born. He tried to turn evil into good, which was why they called him Tengel the Good. This legend is about his family. Or perhaps it is mostly about the women in his family.
One evening in the autumn of 1581 when the frost mist mixed with the crimson glow on the sky over Trondheim, two women made their way through the streets. Neither of them knew about the other.
One of them was Silje. She was a girl barely seventeen years old. Her eyes were big and expressionless because she was lonely and famished. She pulled her shoulders above her ears to protect herself from the cold, covering her blue, frozen hands under her clothes, which most of all seemed to be made of old sackcloth. She had twisted old pieces of hide around her worn shoes, and she had covered her beautiful nut-brown hair with the woolen shawl, which she used as a blanket when she managed to find a place in which to sleep.
Silje avoided treading on a corpse in the narrow street. Yet another victim of the plague, she said to herself. This plague – she could no longer remember how many outbreaks there had been in this century – had taken her entire family two or three weeks ago. This had forced her to wander and scavenge for food.
Her father had been a blacksmith on a large farm south of Trondheim but because he and her mother and all her siblings were dead, Silje had been driven out of the small cabin they had lived in. What use could a girl of barely seventeen be in a smithy?
In a way, Silje was relieved at being able to leave the farm. She had had a secret which she had never mentioned to anybody. It was hidden at the very bottom of her heart. To the south-west lay the peculiar mountains which she would call “Shadow Land” or “Evening Land.” Throughout her childhood, this immense massif had terrified as well as held her spellbound. They were so far away that you could barely discern them. But when the bright glow of the evening sun fell on the rugged peaks, they appeared so astonishingly sharp, which triggered Silje’s exceptionally lively imagination.
Then she would gaze at them for ages, full of fear and fascination. Then she would see the nameless creatures that lived there. They would rise from the valleys among the summits, glide silently, searching through the air, closer and closer to her home until their evil eyes found her. Then Silje would run away and hide.
have a name. The people on the farm had always spoken in a low voice about the mountains in the distance, and it was probably their words that had frightened her at first and triggered her imagination.
“You must never go there,”
they would say.
“There you’ll find nothing but witchcraft and evil. The Ice People are not humans. They are the spawn of cold and darkness, and woe betide that person who goes too close to their settlements.”
The Ice People …? Yes, that was what they were called, but Silje was the only one who had seen them glide through the air.
She never knew what to call these creatures. They were certainly not trolls. Absolutely not. And they weren’t ghosts either. Devils weren’t the correct name either. Could they be a kind of miracle-workers or spirits perhaps? Once she had heard the landlord call one of the horses a demon. This was a new word to her, but she felt that it was a suitable word for “them.”
Her fantasies about “Shadow Land” were so strong that she would even dream about it in her restless sleep. So it was only natural that she would turn her back on the mountains as she left the farm. Her primitive instinct led her to Trondheim where she would find people – hoping to find help now that she was lonely and in need.
But she soon realized that nobody would open their door to strangers at a time when the plague followed in the footsteps of those who travelled through the country. What better place for the plague to spread unchecked than in those narrow streets and in the houses that were built close to each other?
It had taken her the whole day just to creep through the city gates. She managed eventually. She had followed a family that lived in the city and that were to return again after a short spell outside the city gates. She had walked over to the other side of the cart and had edged her way past the guards. But once she had entered, she had not found help. Nothing, that is, except a few dry crusts of bread which were thrown at her now and then from a window. Just barely enough to keep her from the grave.
She could hear the sounds of drunkenness and noise from the marketplace by the cathedral. Once, foolishly, she had gone there in order to seek the company of others like herself. But it didn’t take her long to realize the brutal fact that this was not a good place for an attractive, young girl. Seeing the mob had been a shock. She tried to put it out of her mind but she couldn’t quite forget the experience.
She had walked for several days and her feet ached. The long, long way to Trondheim had taxed Silje’s energy – and as she found no comfort in the city, she felt a painful sensation of despondency in her insides.
She heard the rats squeal in the doorway she had begun to walk towards, hoping to get a couple of hours’ sleep. So she turned away and continued her hopeless wandering.
Unconsciously, she was drawn towards the glow of fire by the mountain outside Trondheim. Fire meant warmth even if it also meant that corpses were being cremated. The big pyre had burned for three days and three nights now. And next to it was the – scaffold.
She hurriedly mumbled a prayer: “Lord Jesus, keep me from all the evil of these lost souls! Give me courage and strength so that with Your grace I can rest there safely for a short while! I so desperately need to feel the warmth from the pyre so that my frozen limbs won’t perish.”
Her innocent heart was filled with dread as her gaze became firmly fixed on the rising warmth of the pyre, Silje plodded towards the western gates.
In the meantime, Charlotte Meiden, a young noblewoman, was out on an extremely secret errand of her own. She put her fine silk shoes on the immensely dirty streets where the frost had blocked the gutter so that the horrible dirt remained there. She cradled a tightly wrapped bundle while she sneaked away from her father’s mansion to the city gates while she desperately hummed a dance melody, a pavane, in an attempt to keep her mind off from what she was in the middle of doing.
It wasn’t easy for her to move. Her lips were white. She had beads of perspiration on her forehead and upper lip, and her hair hung to her temples.
How she had managed to hide her condition in these anxious and dreadful months was still a mystery to her. But she had always been small and slender and nothing had really shown. The current fashion had also been helpful, with corsets and flowing crinolines and a dress that was draped straight down from the shoulders, covering everything. Besides, she had always been very careful to pull her corset painfully tight. Nobody, least of all her chambermaid, had any idea at all.
She had hated the life that grew inside her with a fierce intensity! The result of a casual meeting with an incredibly debonair Dane at King Frederik’s Court. It was only later that she learned he was married. One evening of blind passion had resulted in all this misery that had now become her punishment. And all
did was flutter on to make new conquests.
She had done everything to get rid of this intruder in her life: Strong medicine, jumping from high places, warm baths. She had even gone as far as visiting the churchyard one Thursday night last summer. There she had carried out such secretive and horrible things which she had totally and completely suppressed. But nothing had helped. The disgusting being inside her body had clung to life with the persistence of a devil.
And she had been ever so scared for all these months! She still was. But strangely enough, right now she didn’t feel the burning hatred against the unwanted being. Instead she felt something different in her heart: A warm glow, an intense sorrow and an unexpected yearning …
No, she couldn’t allow herself to think like that! Just keep on walking, walking, quickly. Avoid the people that walked and avoid the few people who were out on a night like this.
It was ever so cold. The poor, little …
She caught a glimpse of a young girl, scarcely more than a child, in a side street and quickly slipped into a doorway. The girl walked past without catching sight of her. She seemed so lonely! Charlotte was filled with heartfelt compassion and she straightened her back. Compassion was a feeling which she just
to avoid. She must not be weak!
Above all, she had to hurry. She needed to be back and in through the gates before they closed at nine. She was not afraid of the guards. She had an explanation ready – if he were to ask her. The cloak she had thrown over her shoulders belonged to one of the servants. Nobody would be able to recognize the elegant mistress, Charlotte Meiden, in it.
At long last, she was at the gates. The guards stopped her. She held the bundle for a moment and mumbled: “Another corpse. I’m on my way out to …”
The guards waved her on without looking at her any further.
She could see the forest in front of her now, the jagged tops of the pines in silhouette against the glow from the pyre. Bright moonlight shone on this frosty evening landscape so it wasn’t difficult to find one’s way. If only she hadn’t been so exhausted! She was also in pain and now and then she felt to her horror how something warm, sticky and moist soaked into the towel she had used to stop the bleeding.
The child had been born in the hayloft above the stables. She had had a piece of wood in her mouth to stop herself from screaming. Afterwards, exhausted from her ordeal, she had laid there for a long, long time before she had wrapped the child without looking at it and risen unsteadily, her legs shaking. She hadn’t done anything about the cord. She didn’t want anything to do with that child. She had smothered the child’s low, pitiful cries with a blanket.
The child was still alive. She could feel its tiny movements now and then. Thank goodness it hadn’t cried at the city gates!
She knew that she had removed all traces from the hayloft. If only she could be rid of this burden of shame and return unseen back to the mansion. Then she would be free, free! At last!
Now she was deep enough into the forest. Over there, under the big pine tree, far from the path …
Charlotte Meiden’s hands trembled as she placed the bundle on the bare, frozen ground. Her chest tightened and her eyes brimmed with tears as she carefully tucked a woolen blanket and a shawl around the small spark of life. Then she placed a mug of milk she had brought with her next to the child’s cheek. Deep down, she knew only too well that the child couldn’t possibly reach the milk. But this was something she didn’t want to dwell on at all.
She stood there for a moment while a sudden, tremendous feeling of loss and despair raced within her until finally she staggered on her frozen legs towards Trondheim once more.
Inside the city walls, Silje continued walking. She was grateful for the moonlight which cast its grey aura over the street. This made it easier for her to watch each step. Step by step, each foot followed after the other – half asleep, without thinking about it. Because if she did, she would feel the cold, hunger and fatigue. She would realize that she had no goal, no future.
Something was crying near her.
She stopped. She was in a small alley, making her way towards the western city gates.
It was very dark in the alley. The moonlight didn’t reach beyond its entrance. The crying came from a backyard. She caught sight of a door which was half open.
It was the sound of a child that cried. Heartrending sobs. Hesitantly, Silje stepped inside. Moonlight filled the small, open yard, which was surrounded by low houses.
A little girl, perhaps two years old, lay on her knees next to a dead woman. The child was pulling and shaking her mother, trying to make her wake up.
Although Silje was little more than a child herself, she was nevertheless a young woman. She was moved at the sight of the small child but the sight of the dead woman held her back. The face and the froth around the mouth were horrible signs that the plague had struck again.
Trondelag, as this part of the country was called, had been badly affected by this plague, which actually consisted of two different illnesses. All kinds of illnesses were said to be the plague, and this time the virus had come from Denmark. It was dubbed “the Spanish flu” or a fever with headache and chest pains. At the same time another type of plague had been brought from Sweden causing boils and a headache which made people mad, causing their temples to ache. Silje knew the symptoms. She had seen them far too often.
The girl had not yet caught sight of her. Silje was so exhausted that she couldn’t think quickly, but she certainly knew this much: She was the only one who had survived the plague in the cabin. She had walked about among the dead bodies in the town without being infected. So Silje didn’t fear for her own life. But what about the little child?
There wasn’t much of a chance that the child would survive the illness. And if she stayed here all on her own with the mother, she would not have a chance at all.
Silje kneeled next to the girl, who had turned her tearful face towards Silje. She was a beautiful little girl, but strongly built, with dark curly hair, dark eyes and strong hands.
“Your mother’s died,” Silje said in a gentle tone of voice. “She can’t talk to you anymore. You must come with me now.”
The girl’s lips trembled and the shock had stopped her from crying. Silje rose to her feet and pushed at the doors that opened onto the yard. All three of them were locked. The dead woman probably didn’t live here. Perhaps she had decided that this was a fitting place in which to die? And Silje had already experienced that it was pointless to knock on doors because people just wouldn’t open them.
With a few swift movements, she tore off a strip from the hem of her tattered skirt. She turned it into something that resembled a rag doll. She placed it in the dead woman’s hands so that she wouldn’t return from the grave and look for her child. Then she said a silent prayer for the poor woman’s soul.
“Come with me,” she said to the girl. “We must leave now.”