“Happy Birthday, Sophia!” from A.J.’s Nordic Nine Worlds: Niflheim
“Happy Birthday, Sophia!” from A.J.’s Nordic Nine Worlds: Niflheim
Good Morning, Everyone!
Celebrating the birthday of my wife, Sophia, and here’s an excerpt from one of her favorite scenes in my book, The Codex Lacrimae!
This scene takes place near the end of Book 2’s “The Roots of Yggdrassil,” where Clarinda and Aurelius ride with newfound friends to a haven in Niflheim (the borderlands to the lands of Hel).
[Begin excerpt: A.J. Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1: The Mariner’s Daughter & Doomed Knight (Argo-Navis, 2012), pp. 298-301 http://Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1]
Clarinda and Aurelius sat astride Fenris, the Hospitaller holding onto the nape of the wolf’s neck while the Norn held tightly onto him with her arms around his waist. She felt a gratefulness for the entire journey — astonishment at his physicality vied with excited disbelief that they were finally together. After seeing each other so many times in her dreams, she was surprised that the reality of his presence was even better than what she’d expected from the visions.
Even at eighteen, Santini was simply the largest warrior she’d ever seen. He stood a full head taller and broader than Alex, with so many heavily layered and toned muscles that it made her feel protected just being near him. A quiet strength flowed from the knight that she needed in the inhospitable wastes through which they rode. Was it the way he made reassuring squeezes on her arms when they were threatened by a particularly harsh period of pelting hail? She found herself squeezing back at those times to let him know she was fine. What was happening to her? Why couldn’t she think straight when she was close to him?
As they rode, the youths were able to share information about their respective adventures since they’d parted in Hela’s Hall, but Clarinda found that she had to omit much from her own account because she didn’t feel as if riding on the back of a magical creature through a nightmarish land near Hel was the time nor place for discussing the Codex Lacrimae.
She did relay an important bit of information, though. When the howling winds had diminished to a dull roar, she leaned forward until her lips were near his right ear and said, “I was able to retrieve Hav’s coral!”
“Really?” he said, but his voice sounded strange. Clarinda wasn’t certain if it was the news, or the fact that she was very close to him and practically breathing down his neck. Neither youth moved away, however, and she replied “yes, really,” to him, before adding, “That was quite the stab at Old Nick. I thought you were going to cut his throat.”
“Luck,” he said. “I just brought the sword up and cut the leather strap — but, I don’t think a normal blade would kill him, do you?”
“No, but at least we’ll be able to surprise Hav the next time we see him” she said, reluctantly backing away to her position. She was glad, at least, that she still got to hold onto the young man as the wild ride through Niflheim continued.
“-ust…until…him!” Aurelius shouted back as the winds picked up again.
“What?” She shouted, leaning forward again, and this time their cheeks brushed each other as he turned to shout again.
“Oh, sorry!” he muttered, then, louder, repeated: “I said, you can just hold onto it until we see him!”
“D’accordo,” she said, smiling at his embarrassment as she returned to her former position. Perhaps he was feeling something toward her, too, if he could get flustered by such things?
They kept riding. As hours passed and Fenris bounded at a fantastic pace through the eerie landscape and frozen, white-gilded trees, Clarinda found herself repeatedly giving silent thanks to Grimnir’s gift of the heavy cloak she wore over Santini’s Hospitaller robes, and for the winter clothing provided by the Norns.
“We’re almost there!” Skade shouted as the group reached a part of the forest densely wooded enough to blunt the slanting snowfall. “I can hear the waterfalls, Fenris!”
“We need to walk from here, my friends,” Fenris ordered, diminishing his proportions at a gradual enough rate that they leapt lightly off him onto the snow-covered escarpment when he’d almost returned to their sizes. Clarinda reluctantly released her hold on Aurelius, realizing that she’d been clinging to his back with arms wrapped around his waist for the better part of three hours.
Light sprang from a glowing orb in Skade’s hand, illuminating the area with the color and intensity of a miniature sun. Fenris was again clad only in soaked garments, and Aurelius returned the wolf pelts. The wolf-man looked Promethean in the blazing radiance of the globe as he took the fireball from Skade and led the way into the woods, clots of snow and ice clinging to his beard and thick mane of hair.
“Here, Codex Wielder, take this for the short distance to the baude. It’s called a s’lantar, and is of elvish make.” He handed the globe of fire to Aurelius.
Daunted, the knight nevertheless took the magical sphere and grunted in appreciation at its light weight. Flames raged within, pressing against the confines of the glass with a scorching intensity that seemed as if it should sizzle into Aurelius’s hand, but he felt only a comfortable coolness radiating from it. Strange but beautiful magic was at work there.
The s’lantar’s light revealed a thinly populated stand of trees at the base of a mountain, where at least three waterfalls plunged over the sides of a steeply inclined, granite-walled descent. Moss and lichen covered the boulders that framed the great falls and, as Fenris began wending his way up a thin trail, it became obvious that the entire group was going to get very wet from the spray coming off the plunging waters.
Clarinda took Aurelius’s hand when he reached down for her at the first level of boulders, and a thrill of excitement rushed through her body at his touch. She only let go of him a few times during the ascent, thankful for the assistance, as well as the concern on his face when he seemed to recognize the fear of heights she usually tried to conceal.
A vast chalet stood suddenly before them, its great pine decks rising from the cliff face and providing a view from the house over the falls that must be spectacular even in the grey and depressing light of a Niflheimian day. Fenris strode toward a mound of snow that lay banked against the front door and kicked it away until the area before the entrance was flattened. He pushed against a door that opened to a darkened hallway.
“Come in,” Fenris urged, letting Skade walk past him after she’d brushed the snow off her shoulders. Skade lit sconces and passed from sight. “Just a bit more,” he continued, “and then we’ll be in more comfortable surroundings.”
The wolf pack dashed off to a lower deck that seemed to go into the falls themselves, heading toward another entrance into the home.
Geri and Freki waited for Aurelius and Clarinda to move inside the doorway, and then followed as they went after Fenris to the base of a stairwell hewn from logs. He and Clarinda threw back their hoods, shut the door, and joined Fenris at the bottom of the steps.
“Welcome to our home,” the man said upon reaching the landing at the top, pushing against the thick-timbered wood of the door that swung noiselessly on well-oiled hinges. A warm, amber light that vied with the glowing orb in the knight’s hand spilled onto the granite entryway, and Aurelius and Clarinda gasped in surprise at what they saw in the great chamber beyond…
[End excerpt, A.J. Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1: The Mariner’s Daughter & Doomed Knight (2012), pp. 298-301 http://Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae, Part 1]
Happy Birthday, Sophia — Let’s hope that the next 22 years are just as fantastic as the last! Love, A.J.