The Land of the Silver Apples, стр. 1

Nancy Farmer

THE LAND OF THE SILVER APPLES

For Ruth Farmer

1916-2006

May the life force hold you

in the hollow of its hand

CAST OF CHARACTERS

HUMANS (SAXONS)

Jack: Age thirteen; an apprentice bard

Lucy: Jack’s sister; age seven

Mother: Alditha; Jack and Lucy’s mother; a wise woman

Father: Giles Crookleg; Jack and Lucy’s father

The Bard: A druid from Ireland; also known as Dragon Tongue

Pega: A slave girl; age fourteen

Brother Aiden: A monk from the Holy Isle

Father Sivein: The abbot of St. Filian’s Well

Brutus: A slave at St. Filian’s Well

Father Severus: A prisoner of the elves

Hazel: A child stolen by hobgoblins

HUMANS (NORTHMEN)

Thorgil Olaf’s Daughter: An ex-berserker; age thirteen

Olaf One-Brow: A famous warrior and Thorgil’s adoptive father; deceased

Skakki: Olaf’s son; shipmate of Thorgil

Rune: A skald

Eric the Rash: Shipmate of Thorgil

Eric Pretty-Face: Shipmate of Thorgil

Heimlich the Heinous: Nephew of King Ivar the Boneless

PICTS

Brude: Leader of the Old Ones

HOBGOBLINS

The Bugaboo: King of the hobgoblins

The Nemesis: The Bugaboo’s second-in-command

Mumsie: The Bugaboo’s mother

Mr. and Mrs. Blewit: Adoptive parents of Hazel

ELVES

Partholis: Queen of Elfland

Partholon: Partholis’ consort

Ethne: An elf lady; daughter of Partholis and an unknown human

Gowrie: An elf lord

Nimue: The Lady of the Lake; a water elf

UNCLASSIFIABLE

King Yffi: Ruler of Din Guardi and Bebba’s Town; half-kelpie

Man in the Moon: An old god; exiled to the moon

Forest Lord: An old god; ruler of the Green World

The Hedge: Aspect of the Forest Lord

Knuckers: They look like your worst nightmare.

Yarthkins: Also known as landv?ttir;spirits of the land. You really don’t want to meddle with them.

The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor,
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name.
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
—William Butler Yeats

Chapter One

THE NECKLACE

It was the middle of the night when the rooster crowed. The sun had disappeared hours ago into a mass of clouds over the western hills. From the wind buffeting the walls of the house, Jack knew a storm had rolled off the North Sea. The sky would be black as a lead mine, and even the earth, covered with snow as it was, would be invisible. The sun when it rose— ifit rose—would be masked in gloom.

The rooster crowed again. Jack heard his claws scratching the bottom of his basket as if he was wondering where his soft nest had gone. And where his warm companions had hidden themselves. The rooster was alone in his little pen.

“It’s only for a while,” Jack told the bird, who grumbled briefly and settled down. He would crow again later, and again, until the sun really appeared. That was how roosters were. They made noise all night, to be certain of getting it right.

Jack threw back the heap of sheepskins covering him. The coals in the hearth still gleamed, but not for long, Jack thought with a twinge of fear. It was the Little Yule, the longest night of the year, and the Bard had commanded they put out all the fires in the village. The past year had been too dangerous. Berserkers had appeared from across the water, and only merest chance had kept them from slaughtering the villagers.

The Northmen had destroyed the Holy Isle. Those who had not been drowned or burned or chopped to bits had been hauled off into slavery.

It was time for new beginnings, the Bard said. Not one spark of fire was to remain in the little gathering of farms Jack knew as home. New fire had to be kindled from the earth. The Bard called it a “need-fire.” Without it, the evils of the past would linger into the new year.

If the flame did notkindle, if the earth refused to give up its fire, the frost giants would know their time had come. They would descend from their icy fortresses in the far north. The great wolf of winter would devour the sun and light would never return.

Of course, that was the belief in the old days, Jack thought as he pulled on his calfskin boots. Now, with Brother Aiden in the village, people knew that the old beliefs should be cast away. The little monk sat outside his beehive-shaped hut and spoke to anyone who would listen. He gently corrected people’s errors and spoke to them of the goodness of God. He was an excellent storyteller, almost as fine as the Bard. People were willing to listen to him.

Still, in the dark of the longest night of the year, it was hard to believe in such goodness. God had not protected the Holy Isle. The wolf of winter was abroad. You could hear his voice on the wind, and the very air rang with the shouts of frost giants. Surely it was wise to follow the old ways.

Jack climbed the ladder to the loft. “Mother, Father,” he called. “Lucy.”

“We’re awake,” his father replied. He was already bundled up for the long walk. Mother was ready too, but Lucy stubbornly clung to her covers.

“Leave me alone!” she wailed.

“It’s St. Lucy’s Day,” Father coaxed. “You’ll be the most important person in the village.”

“I’m already the most important person in the village.”

“The very idea!” Mother said. “More important than the Bard or Brother Aiden or the chief? You need a lesson in humility.”

“Ah, but she’s really a lost princess,” Father said fondly. “She’ll look so pretty in her new dress.”

×