Chapter 2 – Rune Rise
Hanna stumbled backward, trying to put as much distance between her and the rectangular stones rising up into the air. Each glowed with one or more symbols carved into its side. The soft orange lines shone brightly even in the daylight. The young girl didn’t know what the runes meant, but they seemed familiar.
Her mother used runes around the house when she was working. She had taught them to Hanna over the years, but these weren’t the same symbols. One looked like it could possibly mean danger. Another might have said protection. But other than that, Hanna had no clue what they meant.
Who had put them here? What did they represent?
Hanna took another step backward and walked from one side to the other. She still kept an ear out for the sound of her tormentors behind her, but all she heard was the wind. Even the birds seemed to have fallen silent. A strange earthy scent wafted toward her in the breeze from the direction of the floating stones.
As the highest stone seemed to reach its zenith, the runes glowed brightly, and a faint humming ground through her. Hanna clenched her teeth together and could feel them vibrating. It grew stronger in her core, just below her ribs in the center of her belly.
She took another step back, but realized that something seemed to materialize in the air between the rune cubes. At first, it seemed to be only a long bit of hazy, silvery mist gathering before her.
The mist began to solidify and darken. Thinner at the top. Then widening a short way down, it seemed to remain the same width for a while until finally, widening even more at the very bottom. Hanna could make out the faint glow of runes running horizontally down the center. It almost looked like the blade of a sword.
Hanna was familiar with the weapon. Her father was a warrior. He had even taught her some basic techniques. She didn’t seem to take well to the blade, as her three brothers had. Even her sister handled the blade well. Baldur always told her it was important that she learn how to defend herself.
Her face burned slightly as she reflected on the memory of his words. As if somehow, he had known that Hanna would be chased around the woods by bigger, meaner bullies like the Jokull and Jakob, the Bragi brothers. Hanna wished she had listened to him back then and paid more attention to his lessons.
Baldur said that Hanna had developed her footwork and defensive techniques well. Yet he found her lacking in her offensive maneuvers. He finally let her drop her training with him so she could follow her mother around the woods. She always stayed close to Ingum, so no one ever bothered her like they did now.
But after her mother’s accident several months earlier, Ingum had been restricted in her movements. She had improved and could walk again, but only for a short distance. That meant that Hanna had to collect the herbs and plants that her mother needed around the house.
When the Bragi brothers found Hanna alone in the woods, they made life miserable for her. They were younger than her, but physically, they were bigger and stronger. But almost everyone her age was, since Hanna had always been small and slim for her age. She had been born premature and her parents hadn’t thought she would survive.