Prologue

In the year of our Lord 818, Kirsten was born on a night that saw a heavy western storm raging over the lands by the sea. The winds howled around Oldendonk keep’s walls, wailed through the chimney and blew the fireplace’s ashes and acrid smoke into the room. It raged so heavily that nobody outside of the chamber could hear the pained cries of Kirsten’s mother, nor the first fearful cries of Kirsten herself. In the morning, when the storm had abated and the people were outside measuring the damages to the walls and roof, the midwife Berthe bent over the newborn. Berthe came from a family that had brought forth many druids in the past, but for centuries now, everybody had been baptized into the faith of the one and only God so that only the family itself remembered its past. Still, some secrets were passed down from mother to daughter and a few of these women possessed the second sight and could read the future.

Berthe looked down upon the child that was lying eyes closed and with red, clutched hands in the crib. She recoiled in shock; for never before had she seen such gruesome forebodings as with this new-born girl. 

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In that same night, a gentle night filled with sparkling stars and the sound of snow creaking in the icy cold, Halvdan was born in a land far north. By his crib stood a woman who could read the future as well, and she, similarly, turned her face away in horror. 

“You would do best to abandon him,” she told the young mother, “because he will only bring misfortune to all who love him, and to himself most of all.”

Halvdan’s mother wrapped her arms around the child protectively, but after the woman had left, she lay there for a long time with her eyes wide open, staring fearfully into the night.

| Chapter 1

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