THE BARD’S GIFT is about a girl who must change her world just by telling stories.
By the nature of the story, THE BARD’S GIFT contains several stories told by Astrid. Where possible, I used stories from the sagas or actual Icelandic tales, like those of the water horse and the laughing merman. Sometimes, to find a story that would fit what I needed, I had to go further afield–to Grimm (Jorinda and Joringel), or Aesop, among others.
In two places, I used stories of my own. Here’s one from Chapter 13 of THE BARD’S GIFT. Astrid and Torolf are about to separated, for a while at least.
A wedge of snow geese flew over. A stray feather drifted past Astrid’s nose and a story drifted into her brain as if the feather had carried it.
She pointed upward. “See the snow geese?”
Torolf looked where she pointed. “Of course.”
“Snow geese mate for life. They pair off in their second year, but don’t mate until the third. And in winter they fly west to Markland or Vinland.”
“Yes, I know.”
“Not long ago, maybe only last year, there was a young snow goose, Eisa, in her second year. Like most young geese, she stayed with her family during that nesting season. As the season progressed, Eisa molted, coming into her adult plumage. When she had lost her flight feathers and was confined to the ground, an arctic fox found its way onto the nesting ground. Birds that could still fly burst into the air in all directions, but Eisa was forced to run for her life. She was a strong runner and kept running until she came to a boulder on which a snowy owl had her nest.
“Eisa was wise enough to know that the owls would defend their nest against the fox and so she hunkered down to rest. As she caught her breath, she realized that there were more snow goose nests in the vicinity of the owls’ nest and near one of these another young snow goose, Alf, was watching her.
“Eisa watched Alf right back. He was an exceptionally large and handsome young goose.”
Torolf smiled. “I think I like this story.”
“Before long he waddled over to talk to her. And soon they were fast friends. Through that nesting season, they spent a great deal of time together and when it was time for them to fly to their wintering grounds, they had bonded as mates and they promised that next year they would build a nest of their own together.”
Torolf’s smile widened to a grin and his eyes glowed. “I know I like this story.”
Astrid suppressed a smile, trying hard not to blush. “Eisa’s family flew off first, and Alf watched, sorry to see her go but eager to be reunited with her at the wintering grounds. But when Alf’s family flew off, a gale came up and blew them off course to the east. Alf and his family ended up wintering in a strange place, mixed in with a flock of strange gray geese with black heads. And every day, Alf thought of Eisa and wondered what she thought when he didn’t arrive at the wintering grounds.
“Eisa looked for Alf in every flock that arrived at the wintering grounds. When it was too late and too cold for any more flocks to turn up, she worried about the things that might have happened to him. A full-grown snow goose, able to fly, doesn’t have to worry about many predators, but eagles and bears take a few every season. It made her unhappy to think of that and Eisa grew thin. So thin that her parents worried that she wouldn’t be able to fly back to Greenland in the spring.
“Alf worried, too. Not that anything had happened to Eisa, but that she would think he was dead and some other gander would catch her eye and she would form a new pair bond. He ate only to keep his strength up so that he could fight off any rival for his Eisa.
“When spring finally came, Alf and his family flew back to Greenland and Alf waited for Eisa by the snowy owls’ nest. Flock after flock arrived at the nesting ground and many of the best nesting sites were taken. Still Eisa didn’t arrive and Alf began to worry in his turn about the kinds of things that could have happened to her.
“Finally, a small flock–just Eisa’s family–flew in to the nesting grounds last of all. They had been forced to fly more slowly than the others so Eisa, in her weakened condition, could keep up. When Alf saw her, his heart leaped and he flew up to meet her before she even reached the ground, flying in joyous circles around her.
“Eisa honked in delight at seeing Alf safe after all the dire things she had imagined happening to him. They built their nest right beside the snowy owls’ nest, where Alf had stood and waited for Eisa. Alf flew far and brought back all the best grasses for her so that Eisa grew strong again. And they were never separated again.” Astrid bowed her head, blushing furiously.
Torolf brushed a strand of hair back from her face. “I will be like Alf and stay strong so I can return to you in Markland.”
Astrid looked up into his eyes. “Like Eisa, I’ll watch for you on every tide.”