A fantasy romance mixed with Viking mythology novel. Think Lord of the Rings 'light' meets Princess and the Pauper, with a soul mate love story - an epic saga with two strong female heroines.
I do not want to do this, Lucia thought as she led the snaking burial procession down the dark, fog-filled streets of autumnal Bergendal. Many who grieved the death of her mother, Queen Maud, reverently followed her in the midnight light parade, their hushed voices sounding like ghost whispers behind her. Others showed their respect by lining up on the sides of the streets, watching as she passed with her torch held high. Her blond hair gleamed in the light of the flames and unmercifully lit up her tear-streaked face. Why did my mother have to die? She felt utterly alone..
Lucia's father, King Olav, had forced her to lead the town's people through the city's filthy, narrow streets, and now Lucia was doing her best to ignore the looks--unadulterated glances of pity--whenever her eyes met one of her subordinates. All she really wanted was to be left alone, not have everyone see her in this state of raw mourning.
She shivered as the biting wind gusted against her all too thin, white silk tunic. It was not the traditional dress usually worn during such a procession, but since her mother had converted to Christianity, where white symbolized purity, Lucia wanted to honor her in this way. Lucia's father had forbidden her to wear the dress, just like he had forbidden her to wear the wreath on her head. But evergreens represented everlasting life in Christianity, and even though Lucia did not share her mother's beliefs in this new, white god, or in his glorious heaven, she did believe her mother would forever live in Valhalla with the Norse deities.
Wearing this outfit also sent a strong message to her father, and the message was this: I am the only living being with sacred Aesira blood running through my veins, and when I am crowned queen on my eighteenth birthday come December, I will bow to no one's rules.
As Lucia climbed the long road toward the castle, citizens whispered sorrowfully about the tragic news they had heard earlier that day from the town crier's lips. "The Queen of The Northlandic Kingdom is dead!" he had said, weeping as he had broadcast the tragedy from farm to farm, house to house, door to door. "The Sun Queen is dead!"
Finally, at the top of the hill, Lucia stopped in the castle courtyard in front of the unlit kindling and log pyramid structure. Lifting her gaze, she saw her father standing in the southern tower's window, looking down on her. He nodded once.
She squeezed her torch in through one of the openings between the stacked wood, causing it to catch fire. Watching as it came to life, the flames crackling wild and free, the heat felt like a blanket of fire on her freezing skin. She wanted to lose herself in the blaze, let it burn away all the pain on the inside. And maybe that was the solution: throwing herself into it. Ending her life. If she died, too, she would be with her mother again and all the hurt would instantly go away. All the sorrow would be swallowed up in joy.
Without really thinking, she reached her arm out to touch the flames. The blaze soon turned hot against her palm and she winced. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder, pulling her back.
"Let us retire," Nora, her mother's old handmaiden, said with a curtsy, her kind eyes lowering to the ground. Nora had been Queen Maud's handmaiden since before Lucia was born, and Lucia could not imagine a life without her. Nora was like a nurturing grandmother, always caring, always loving Lucia, even when she deserved it least. Her nearly silver hair was usually kept in a loose braid, and the deep grooves in her face stood as proof of all the happy and sad moments she had experienced in her lifetime.
The pull of the fire vanished, and Lucia nodded. Taking Nora's arm in hers, she pressed back the tears that were threatening to well up again, and headed inside.
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