High Hopes

Querying is hard. That’s kind of a no-brainer–crafting a business letter to basically say “I promise my story is good, please give me a chance!” is as bad as writing a cover letter for a job (I mean, essentially, it’s the same thing). For me, it’s been disheartening and nerve-wracking and left me wanting to pull my hair out. I wrote a freaking novel–please don’t make me condense the plot into a single-page synopsis!

Sending out queries is terrifying, too, because I don’t know if the base of my letter is any good. I’ve poured over blogs and revised, revised, revised, and I *think* I’ve got a decent hook and capture the stakes and introduce the conflict in three short paragraphs, but I won’t know if it’s enough until the requests start rolling in. And when they *don’t* roll in, I can’t be sure if it’s that my query letter isn’t strong, or my writing isn’t good, or my story isn’t appealing, or if it just doesn’t fit on that specific agent’s list at this point in time.

Guys, requests have NOT been rolling in.

Out of 23 agents queried thus far, I’ve received 10 rejections. That’s flirting dangerously close to 50%–and those other 13 aren’t guaranteed requests by any means. To make it harder, I received 5 of those rejections in the space of a few days.

And it’s fine–I understand that it only takes one “yes”, that Stephen King had hundreds of rejections nailed to his bedroom wall and Harry Potter was rejected over 30 times, that a pass doesn’t mean my writing is poor or my story not good enough…I know all that. It doesn’t make it suck any less, though, so I just want to wallow a bit.

But.

Last night, after two more “thanks but no thanks” emails, I was telling my husband I’m thinking of switching gears and returning to a WWII story I’ve been working on when it happened. An email notification was sitting on my phone’s home screen, and I recognized the name of another agent. My heart sank, even as I read the preview saying I provided a great writing sample. I expected to see the “but” as I clicked it open.

But nothing, baby! The agent requested 50 pages to keep reading.

This isn’t any more of a guarantee than any other step in the process, but it *is* the next step. And it feels amazing to know a professional read a snippet of my story and said “more, please!” Even if they end up passing, my confidence has been boosted enough to face down the next 10 rejections with minimal sulking.

B&W Playlists: The Couple

I’ve re-written this opening to avoid some minor spoilers surrounding Solvi and her love interest(s) in Blood and Water (and beyond). As the author, it was obvious from the start which character would capture her heart, but in my critique circles people have come to shipping them (or not) at varying paces, so I’ll refrain from confirmations and just provide you with the top songs I’ve listened to while writing the main couple’s love story (or lack thereof…dun dun dun…) across 2 books.

  1. You’re the One That I Want – Chadwick Stokes
  2. Hideaway (Acoustic) – Dan Owens
  3. The Few Things – JP Saxe
  4. Head Above Water – Avril Lavigne ft. We The Kings
  5. Whole Heart – Taylor Berrett
  6. A Grave Mistake – Ice Nine Kills (Live from Sirius XM version preferred, though the original fits the overall book/scene better)
  7. Better Than the Pain (Acoustic) – The Woodlands
  8. May I – Trading Yesterdays
  9. Tired – Alan Walker ft. Gavin James
  10. Little Do You Know – Alex & Sierra
  11. Please Don’t Leave Me Like This – Edward + Jane
  12. Resurrect Me – Skrizzly Adams
  13. Fade* – Lewis Capaldi (the F-bomb is dropped so painfully toward the end that it might be the most beautiful swear I’ve ever heard)
  14. Forever – Lewis Capaldi (okay, I’m borderline obsessed with him, and these songs have been on repeat for some book 2 scenes)
  15. Already Gone – Sleeping At Last
  16. All I Want – Gardiner Sisters
  17. Hear You Me – Alex Goot
  18. Hurricane – The Likes of Us

As always, you can find the entire playlist on YouTube.

Solvi – Leika’s Bonfire (Pt. II)

As the midnight sun paints the world gray, I make my way toward the temple and the evening’s festivities. Gunda waits for me outside her longhouse. My best friend has always been one of the prettiest girls in Torblirost, and tonight is no exception. Her silver-blonde hair is twisted into a braided crown around her head and threaded through with blue cornflowers that match her eyes. Dark sweeps of kohl point into her temples, giving her the appearance of elongated cat-eyes.

She smiles when she spots me walking toward her.

“I’d started to think you weren’t coming.” She takes my hand then steps back, her gaze sweeping over my braids—woven like a net over the rest of my loose blonde hair—the kohl smudged over my eyelids and along my lower lashes, my best linen dress cinched tightly with the braided leather belt Papa made me last jultide. “You look lovely, Solvi.”

“Nothing compared to your beauty, havdel sjel.” I hook my arm through hers as we make our way to the temple.

Most of the eligible young women from our village are already inside, clumped in groups of twos and threes. Several young men mill about, too. The chief’s sons are not among them.

Bendt is, though, and he makes his way over. His face is free of any kohl and his hair is thrown up in its usual topknot, but at least he wears a clean tunic and trousers.

“Vöder take me now if you two aren’t the prettiest girls in the whole village tonight.” He takes one of our hands in each of his to twirl us. With a shared eye-roll, Gunda and I oblige him, spinning so our skirts swish around our legs. “What do you say we three skip the matching and go off on our own?”

Gunda laughs.

“That would rather defeat the point,” I say.

“Ah, but Leika’s Bonfire is about celebrating the Lover of the gods. I can promise you, we would be doing that.” He taps my nose and throws a wink at Gunda.

She and I share another look from the corner of our eyes. I’m surprised to see a flush creeping into Gunda’s cheeks; she’s not usually so easy to tease.

“Are you drunk?” I ask Bendt.

His smile creases his cheeks. “It’s Eostre—of course I am.”

“In that case, I think we’d rather take our chances with the choosing stones.”

Bendt gapes at me in mock anger. “Who could possibly be a better choice than me?”

One of my eyebrows cocks upward. “Anyone, really.”

As if to punctuate my point, a commotion near the temple entrance brings us all around. A string of giggles floats around the space as Aksel leads his brother through the growing crowd. Behind them, my brother weaves towards us.

Tarben’s eyes are bright and his brown hair is barely held together with a loose braid—one that was a lot tighter when I tied it for him not an hour ago.

“What have you been up to?” I ask.

A smirk toys with his lips. “The business of the gods.” He gives my hair a quick tug and claps Bendt on the shoulder as he passes to the far side of the temple, where the young men congregate.

“If your brother’s here,” Bendt says, his eyes scanning the female side of the temple, “does that mean Sanne is choosing a stone as well?”

I shrug and join his search for the petite blonde. It’s no secret Tarben and Sanne have been spending more time together than is necessary for a healthy young man and the village healer. Tarben hasn’t made any indication it’s something serious, though.

Sanne enters a few moments later. Her hair is carefully smoothed in a single, golden braid down the back of her head. Her dress is immaculate and her expression casually interested in the proceedings, but her lips are very red, the skin around them flushed as well. I glance at Tarben again, but his eyes follow Brita, the shepherd’s daughter, as she makes her way past.

“I’ll see you ladies tomorrow,” Bendt says. His eyes are still on Sanne. “Wish me luck!”

“May Leika bless you this night.” I have to call it at his back, as he’s already scrambling for a place near the front of the boy’s side.

I shake my head and look at Gunda. Her gaze is focused across the room as well.

“They keep looking over here,” she mutters. “Do you think they’re talking about us?”

When I follow her gaze, it’s apparent Aksel has just turned away. Beside him, Jannik smiles at us.

“I’ve never seen a shadow smile before,” Gunda says and I laugh.

Jannik is our age, hardly more than a year younger than Aksel, but they’re so close it truly is as if Jannik is a shadow of his brother.

“Perhaps they’re scheming how best to pick your matching stone,” I say.

Gunda smirks. “Or it could be you they’re hoping for.”

That makes me laugh again. “Fortunately, only Leika knows who we’re meant for this night.”

Asta the priestess takes her place at the front of the temple and a hush falls over the crowd. As she begins the opening ceremony with a prayer to the goddess Leika, Gunda slips her hand into mine once more.

“I hope only for the best for you, havdel sjel,” she whispers.

I give her hand a squeeze. “And you, havdel sjel.”

Half of my soul.

When it comes time to choose, I glance over the young men gathered once more. Aksel hovers near the back of the men’s line while his shadow uncharacteristically surges to the front. Jannik’s eyes are closed and his lips move, as if with a last minute prayer. Bendt is behind him; he raises his eyebrows at me when our eyes meet.

I catch Tarben looking at Sanne, then Gunda nudges me forward. I take my stone from the women’s urn and move off to the side to wait for the choosing to finish.

“What are you waiting for?” A yell draws our attention to the male urn, where Bendt elbows Jannik. “It’s easy; you just stick your hand in and take one.”

Bendt waves the stone he’s pulled under Jannik’s nose with a grin. Jannik looks like he could murder Bendt as he fishes his own stone from the urn.

“There,” Gunda murmurs. “That face is much more fitting of the shadow.”

Once everyone has a stone, Asta returns to the front.

“Well, now that you have selected your destiny for the evening…” She spreads her hands wide. “May Leika bless you this night.”

Our two sides converge in the middle of the temple, each stone seeking out its mate. Voices rise over one another, filling the space with deafening chatter. Gunda and I hold tight to each other as we push through the crowd, glancing at upheld stones as we go.

“Which of you has only one line carved on your stone?” A voice calls over the chaos. I glance toward the front, where a boy stands in Asta’s place.

My eyes widen as he holds up his stone. Gunda is carried along by the crowd, but I’m rooted in place. My thumb traces the single hatch mark along the surface of my own stone as a nervous laugh bubbles in my gut. Leika certainly has a strange sense of humor.

His eyes fall on me as I make my way toward him, holding up my stone. His head tilts to the side and he blinks as if seeing me for the first time.

When I arrive in front of him, I sigh. “At least you don’t smell like fish guts tonight.”

I put my stone in Bendt’s hand.

Solvi – Leika’s Bonfire (Pt. I)

Tonight is my first visit to Leika’s Bonfire. I was eligible last year, but we had just lost Ulf. It didn’t feel right to celebrate love when my heart was broken. This year, I’m excited by the prospect of matching with one of the village boys I don’t know very well. Whether or not the connection lasts, I’m looking forward to interacting with someone other than my brothers or one of the fishermen who share their vessels with me each summer. 

Maiken has taken time out of her busy day to help me prepare for the big night. She gives the brush a vicious tug through a snarl in my hair, ripping me from my thoughts and jerking my head back in the process.

“Ow!”

“I can’t help that you let rats build nests in your hair!” 

I slap at her hands. “It’s funny, Mam never seems to have trouble brushing my hair.”

Maiken gives an impatient snort and drags the brush over my head again. “If you prefer our mother’s braids, I have plenty of other things to do with my time.”

I scowl at her reflection over my shoulder in the hammered-iron mirror. Maiken is an artist when it comes to braided hair, and she knows it. Especially tonight—the most important night of the Eostre festival—I need to look my best.

Once she’s finished attacking me with the brush, I breath a quick sigh of short-lived relief before her warrior’s-fingers twist into my hair. My teeth grind together and I remind myself—as I must every time she does my hair—the end result is worth the pain. 

“Thank Gull you’ll never have a daughter,” I tell her reflection. It earns me an extra tug on my scalp, but Maiken smirks.

“What would I even need a daughter for, when I have my sweet Solvi to doll up when I feel like it?”

My smile is a half-grimace. I watch her fingers fly through my hair. I may be an expert at tying knots for the fishing nets, but it doesn’t translate into the braids I attempt on myself.

“So,” she says after a moment, “any boy in particular you’re hoping blessed Leika matches you with?”

I shrug. Between the fishing vessels and the training yard, Bendt is the only boy other than my brothers I spend any amount of prolonged time with. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to talk with one of the other unattached young men in our village.

“Not even Aksel?” Maiken’s voice has taken on a teasing edge. I roll my eyes.

Everyone hopes to draw the stone that will match the chief’s eldest son. He’s handsome—if a little too pretty in my opinion—but I know very little of substance about him. In the training yard, he only ever spars with his brother Jannik. He mans his own fishing vessel and prefers to hunt alone rather than join our hunting parties. 

“I wouldn’t mind someone a little more interesting,” I say. 

Maiken laughs. “More interesting than the future chief?”

“It just seems like that’s all he is. I’d like a man with a lot of different skills and interests.”

“And how do you know Aksel doesn’t have these?”

“Fine, I don’t. But all the other girls will be clamoring for him. I don’t need to join in all the fuss.”

I think through the other boys of the village: Mogen, Carr, Mads, Halstein…. Young men I know more by sight or from sharing a longboat on the occasional expedition. None make my heart pound at the very idea of them, but isn’t that what Leika’s Bonfire is for? To open up a possibility with someone I wouldn’t have otherwise spoken with?

“Well, whatever happens, little sister, try to make the most of it. I found Dag through Leika’s Bonfire, after all.”

My eyes narrow at her over my shoulder. “Not because you were matched together.”

My sister had famously punched her match after only a few minutes with him and struck up a conversation with the armorer’s son—a difficult feat, since Dag is the quietest person I’ve ever met. Even six years later, their story is still brought up during Eostre. It’s become as much a tradition of the summer festival as Leika’s Bonfire or the celebrations of the midnight sun.

Maiken shrugs and tosses her long, blonde braid over her shoulder. 

“If not for the bonfire, we both wouldn’t have ended up on that dock, on that night.” She smiles at me. “I have as much a say in my fate as the gods do. You should learn to live the same way.”

When we were younger, I’d hoped I’d be as fierce and brave as Maiken once I reached her age. But every year that I got older, so did she—her confidence growing with her. Mine remains static. I’m the same age now that she was when she sat down with Dag that night, but I’m not even sure if I want to commit to a life with someone else, much less who that might be. 

For tonight, I’ll cast my lot in with the other unattached members of our village and let the gods determine my fate one more time.

Querying

Well, I did it! I sent out a query letter to a handful of agents! I’ve got to polish my synopsis and try to ease off tweaking my manuscript because it is time, baby!

Or maybe not–I’ve got another list of agents to query next week. I’m hedging my bets a little bit and leaving myself options if my query or first few pages don’t seem to hook anyone in this first round. There’s always room for improvement, so if I’m being completely honest, I’m not going to stop tweaking my query letter or my story until I start getting requests to read the full manuscript. I’m just really excited because that first step has been taken and, request or rejection, I’ve at least put my story out there.

Pantheon of Blood and Water

There are a lot of gods in my book Blood and Water. Most of them are based in some way on Norse mythology, but I’ve pulled inspiration from other religions and mythologies as well. I’ve compiled my pantheon here:

  • Vöderaka the Allfather, ruler of the gods and overseer of Fallne Hallen
  • Gull: aka the Divine Mother, protector of home, families, and small children
  • Hel (former): sister to the Allfather, goddess of life and death, darkness and light, and overseer of the afterlife. After a dispute with Gull, Hel was split into two entities:
    • Alfra: goddess of light, life, summer, sun
    • Audhild: goddess of darkness, death, winter, moon/stars. Overseer of Hel, the afterlife for traitors, rapists, vicious murderers, and cowards. (Revered above all other gods by the Night Raiders.)
  • Tore: god of mankind and war
  • Leika: goddess of prosperity, passion, love
  • Fiske: god of fish and the seas
  • Jorden: god of land, harvest, and game

There are a number of lessor gods not named in Blood and Water who oversee specifics, but almost any topic needing divine oversight can fall under one of the main gods listed here. Healers call upon Gull to speed recoveries from illnesses or wounds. Chiefs turn to Tore and Vöder to determine justice for committed wrongs. Leika is praised during weddings and blamed for divorces. Audhild represents evil for many–though any one of the gods can act in ways that would seem cruel or devious.

In Solvi’s world, children are dedicated to a specific god a week after they’re born. This dedication is often based on the particular blessing a parent hopes to bestow upon their child: long life, prosperity, good health, strength–or based on the child’s temperament: steady like solid ground, chaotic as a roiling sea, soothing as a summer sunrise.

For fun: Can you figure out which gods would bestow the blessings mentioned above? Which god do you think you’d be dedicated to?

B&W Playlist: Maiken

Due to our recent move halfway across the country, I’ve done a LOT of listening to music while packing/unpacking/relaxing by the pool to recharge after all that packing and unpacking. 😉

I already shared my main playlist for Blood and Water, but there are so many more songs that went into that novel (some I’m still discovering that fit so perfectly with a scene or mood), and even more that encapsulate particular characters. Why not share them??

I figured I’d start things off with my personal favorite (don’t tell the others): Maiken. Solvi’s older sister is brusque and fierce, with a surprisingly tender side she only shows when absolutely necessary (or when she’s alone with her man).

  1. Confidant* – Demi Lovato (because if there’s one pop song that screams “Maiken” for me, it’s this)
  2. Born For Greatness – Papa Roach (or maybe this one)
  3. Beggin for Thread – BANKS
  4. I Am Alive – Stevie McRorie
  5. Hunt You Down* – Kesha
  6. So Pissed – Bohnes
  7. Lion – Saint Mesa (I imagine this is what Maiken would listen to to get pumped up before battle)
  8. Bad Preachers – Saint Claire
  9. Don’t Kill My Vibe – Sigrid
  10. Walk Through the Fire – Klergy (obviously a song for her husband, Dag, but it could fit her relationship with Solvi, too)
  11. The Optimist – Adam French
  12. Religion – Colton Avery

*denotes songs with explicit content.

The entire playlist (with possibly a few extras) can be found here

Never-Ending Edits

I’m currently on draft number who-even-knows-anymore of my work in progress, Blood and Water. The cool thing is, every time I finish a draft, I feel really confident in it, like it’s the best I could ever accomplish. (To be fair, it really is my best work at that point in my life.) Then I get to see how much I’ve grown as a writer when I return to that draft a few weeks later and think “this is actually kind of garbage.” So I revise and rewrite and get a new draft I love so much.

The thing is, after submitting it to my writing groups for feedback, I’m still getting tons of suggestions for re-wording things, clarifying sentences and plot points, and rearranging paragraphs for better flow. A lot of this, I’m slowly recognizing, is due to personal preference and the writing styles of those lovely people offering the feedback, since they, too, are writers. It’s getting easier for me to disregard some suggestions, because they don’t fit my style. Also, I’m coming to terms with the fact that they’re *looking* for issues–a casual reader likely wouldn’t notice that “I struggle not to cry” fits better than “I refuse to cry,” or that I just used “I” to start the last three sentences of that section, a big repetitive no-no.

Still, some comments are really great. People are still catching plot holes and subtext that’s too subtle or foreshadowing that’s too obvious. I’m endlessly grateful to these friends who are taking the time out of their busy schedules to read my work and offer constructive feedback.

It doesn’t stop me from yelling LEAVE ME ALONE at the screen a few times once I’m several hours into the critique-review process. That’s when I take a break to post pics to Instagram or work on a blog post. 🙂

Blood and Water: Playlist

I’ve got a few hundred “inspirational” songs that have gone into writing Blood and Water. I’ve narrowed them down and compiled a list of 21 songs that I think best represent most of the novel, and/or were the most influential for some scenes. The entire playlist can be found on YouTube. Enjoy!

  1. Please Don’t Say You Love Me – Gabrielle Aplin
  2. Kvervandi – Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik (one of the “Viking”-esque songs I listened to on repeat for the fight scenes–Plus this one’s by Einar, I mean, come on!)
  3. Wolves – Sam Tinnesz, Silverberg
  4. Hunter – Adam French
  5. The Pines – Roses & Revolutions (this one makes me think of Solvi and Maiken)
  6. Blood and Bones – Kodaline
  7. Long Way Down – Matthew Mayfield
  8. The Hunter – Adam Jensen
  9. Dark Times – The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran
  10. Dangerous Man – Little Dume
  11. World Gone Mad – Bastille
  12. Wicked Game – Matthew Mayfield, Emma Hewitt
  13. Fire – Saint Mesa
  14. Dawn – Von Grey (Maiken/Solvi song)
  15. A Grave Mistake – Ice Nine Kills
  16. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now – Neoni
  17. World Gone Mad – The Phantoms
  18. Stone – Sawyer Fredericks
  19. Smoked Out of Heaven – Saint Claire
  20. Better Than the Pain (Acoustic) – The Woodlands
  21. Unspoken – Welshly Arms
  22. New Kings – Sleeping Wolf

As always, if you prefer a Spotify option you can check out the list here!

The First Raid

Solvi:

Mam is buried beneath her blankets again. It’s been two days, but still she refuses to rise. Maiken burned the stew she reheated for breakfast—again. Now, it’s nearing dinnertime, and Mam doesn’t stir. Papa, Ulf, and Tarben will return soon, but the longhouse is empty of the scents that usually greet them.

No one seems to be very hungry, which is good because Mam isn’t cooking.

I wonder what’s wrong with me, then, that my stomach won’t stop growling. Why doesn’t my body understand like the others’ that now is not the time for petty things like food or comfort?

Kennet will never eat another meal.

That should be enough to strip me of my appetite. We lit his pyre yesterday, and all I could think as the smoke carried his soul to Fallne Hallen was how much the air smelled like roasting pork, and how hungry I am. It’s the time of year when the leaves turn vibrant and the animals are fat and sleepy, but not yet hidden away. Normally, we eat best this time of year.

Except no one seems to be very hungry but me.

The men take their time returning tonight. Maiken keeps glaring at the door as she slices vegetables at the rough-carved table. Usually, she makes me help—and I offered two times already—but tonight she just stands and slices and glares, not doing anything worthwhile with the growing mountain of carrots and onions piling up beside her.

The baby starts to cry. Ib is always crying. There’s a rustle from the blankets; Mam adjusts her hold on him and he quiets. At least one of us is feeding.

I reach for a carrot and—quick as a viper—Maiken raps my knuckles with the flat of her knife. A thin line of blood wells up on the back of my middle finger. I pop it into my mouth with a glare of my own directed straight at her.

She ignores me.

That’s nothing new.

A sudden cry in the village brings both our heads around toward the door. My eyes drift to Maiken, but she remains alert, like a forest cat who has sensed a barn mouse. If she had a tail, it would twitch behind her.

Finally, she blinks and returns to her task. “Must’ve lost another one.”

As if Torblirost is a forgetful child spilling its toys in the forest. As if the plague that has gripped us these past weeks is not stealing lives it has no rights to.

The door bursts open. I jump. Maiken already has her knife in a warrior’s hold, the vegetables forgotten.

Mam doesn’t move.

Tarben pants in the doorway. “Maiken! Papa sent me…” He gasps for air, his eyes wild with terror, and my stomach goes hot. “Night Raiders.”

Maiken moves from behind the table before I’ve registered our brother’s words. She shoves a spear in Tarben’s hands and reaches for her sword. I follow them to the door, but Maiken spins on me.

“Stay here, Solvi.”

“I want to help!”

I’m ten, for Vöder’s sake. It’s time she sees me as a warrior.

Perhaps she reads defiance in my eyes. Her jaw works but her tone is confident when she wraps my fingers around her knife. “You need to protect this house. If anyone but us comes in, you know where to stick this.”

“Between his legs if I can’t reach his throat.” It’s one of the first lessons she taught me.

One side of her lips lifts and she claps her hand against my cheek. Then she’s gone, chasing Tarben and glory into the sinking sun.

From the door of our longhouse, I can hear a shriek here and there. Half-hearted and bitter. Torblirost has lost so many to the plague, what more damage can a band of mythical terrors do?

This logic doesn’t stop my heart from drumming like an execution song. What’ll I do if one of those demons shows up here? I know what I’ve told Maiken, but it’s another matter entirely to actually stab a man. My hand is hot and slimy around the knife. I switch my grip and wipe my palm against my thigh, but it doesn’t seem to help.

“Mam?” I whisper, backing away from the door. “Mam, did you hear?”

She must not know we’re under attack. I don’t want to take my eyes from the door, as if by watching it will keep anyone from entering. I back up until my legs bump the bench where Mam sleeps.

With a deep breath, I rip my gaze from the entry to Mam. She lies on her side facing me, Ib wriggling in her arms, her eyes open but as unseeing as Kennet’s were. My stomach lurches.

She blinks. Focuses on me.

“Solvi,” she says. I wait, but she doesn’t rise. She doesn’t demand a weapon or take charge.

“Mam.” Horrifying tears crowd my eyes. I blink them furiously away. I’m too old to cry, no matter how helpless I feel. “Mam, you need to get up now. We’re under attack.”

Her eyes slide closed. I want to shake her. I’m terrified to touch her.

“Take your brother,” she says, her voice little more than a breath. “Take your brother and hide.”

My heart still thrums that killing beat, but my breaths come easier. If she’s telling me to hide, it’s because she’ll protect us. I offer her the knife, but she shakes her head.

“Take your brother. Then let them come.”

My body flashes hot then frozen and I take a step back. “But Mam…”

“Solvi.” Her voice is broken, like the rest of her. “Solvi, I can’t…”

The knife is still slick in my palm, but my fingers tighten around the handle.

“Someone has to.” I don’t know if I say it for her or myself, but I know it is truth. I move back to the door to wait.

I am a warrior of Torblirost, and I will not let anyone harm my family.