“Mom,” I whispered, blinking away the tears and even doing that, I saw her eyes narrow in annoyance over dark, elegant, arched brows that snapped together.
“I’ll countenance none of this nonsense, Sjofn,” she snapped with cold irritation. “We should have left fifteen minutes ago. The Drakkar awaits and all know he is impatient and doesn’t want to be where he’s standing right this very minute in the first place.”
She turned, lifted a hand at four young women who were hanging about, all wearing gowns made of soft wool, nowhere near as grand as Mom and mine and all in dark colors, navy, burgundy, forest green and dark gray (to be precise) and all, weirdly, staring at me intently. I didn’t get a chance to wonder about that because Mom flicked her wrist and then started down a wide, wood paneled hall with more carving and intermittent pieces of glossy, dark furniture.
She kept talking as she floated down the hall, not looking like she was walking but drifting.
But doing it quickly.
I rushed out behind her, the girls rushed behind me.
“It took some doing for your father to talk The Drakkar into this, as you well know. You give him reason, he’ll be gone. We can only hope he already hasn’t mounted his horse and rode away. Then what would we do?”
She turned and disappeared down a flight of steps and I followed.
“I should have known you would try something like this. Your father did know. He warned me. If you anger The Drakkar…” she trailed off, her tone dire, making it to the bottom of the stairs that had a banister the entirety of which was an elaborately carved hunt scene.
I made it to the bottom too to see Mom turn to me on a whirl of heavy skirts, another woman already with her, throwing over her shoulders a long, lustrous cloak made of dark brown pelts of some fur.
“Well!” she snapped. “If you anger The Drakkar, who knows what will happen to the realm?”
“Uh –” I started.
“I’ll have none of it!” she retorted sharply, having closed a frog at her throat, she tore a pair of gloves out of a hovering woman’s hand and whirled again, gliding quickly to the door while pulling them on. “To the sleigh!” she ordered.
I felt something heavy settle on my shoulders and looked down.
The four girls were encasing me in a cloak of dazzling white, furry pelts that was so long, the bottom, which was a hem of what looked like tails tipped with dove gray fur, skimmed the floor. One girl stood in front of me and shoved the furred, tall collar of the cloak up my neck and it went so high, it covered my earlobes. She deftly and swiftly closed the frogs that went from chin to just below my breasts as two girls at either side of her reached through some slits in the fur and pulled out my hands. Then they shoved a pair of elegant, winter white suede gloves on them, the inside of which was a soft, plush fur that felt like rabbit.
Then they started pushing me to the door.
“Sjofn,” one whispered to me as we went, “if that is you or if it isn’t, I must tell you that your trunks have been packed. They’ve been loaded on your sleigh. We did the best we could.” She stopped me for just a moment, looked up at me with what appeared to be sad but searching eyes then she whispered, “If you are our Sjofn, or not, but mostly if you are ours, please try, at least, to be happy. And if you are not, we wish you the best of luck on your adventure.”
I blinked at her then opened my mouth to ask a question but she shoved me out the door into the freezing cold air. I saw a deep red sleigh with a coat of arms painted on the back sides and curlicue trim. It had two black horses at the front. Mom was sitting in the back against a high, button-backed seat covered in what looked like black suede and a man in a cloak and furry hat was sitting on an elevated seat some ways in front of her.
Before I knew it, I was rushed down the steps of the building I was in and up the steps of the sleigh, the small door closed behind me and I hadn’t gotten my bearings yet when Mom’s hand snaked out, grabbed mine, she yanked me to sitting and threw a heavy, fur blanket over our laps.
“Go!” she snapped at the driver and off we went and we didn’t do it slowly.
I turned to her, taking in her beloved profile, gripping her hand in mine and opening my mouth to call to her name when she snatched her hand from mine and turned her head to look to the side.
“Atticus is likely livid,” she noted then, “Would that I’d given him a son.”
I blinked at the back of her head.
“Mom,” I whispered.
“Quiet, Sjofn, I must prepare in case The Drakkar has stormed out. I must try to plan what I will do to stop your father from throttling you.” Her head turned slowly to me and she pierced me with her ice blue eyes which were, even in the torchlight, icy. “Or, perhaps, this time I won’t bother,” she remarked frostily.