Name: Danielle Simonelli (@dmsimone99)
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Title: The Blood of Runes
In ninth century Scotland, a sixteen-year-old Viking girl, Pippa, vows to rescue her brother from a vengeful Norse witch. She must embrace ancient blood magic to find him before the witch captures Pippa herself.
Pippa rolled the dice and winked.
She slid a tafl pawn three spaces across the checkered board, eyeing the prize knife. Scrollwork snaked around its handle and a curious rune decorated its blade. Her brother, Jamie, would love to add it to his collection. He always sought weapons with character.
The ruffian sitting across from her scratched the faded scars puckering his nose. He leaned over the game board and rolled the dice. Six marks. Sailors trying to earn some quick coin exchanged bets and told him to move this piece or that. They shouted drunken suggestions at Pippa too, but she already had a strategy to capture the King-piece. Her opponent moved a white pawn by six squares and muttered something in Norse. His sharp gaze met hers with a look that said “That’ll show you!”
“Tricky move,” Pippa said. She bowed her head to hide an impish smile. Jamie had taught her how to master tafl, which her opponent foolishly agreed to play. He originally suggested a test of riddles, but the last time Pippa attempted a riddle contest she lost a silver bracelet.
She scanned the mead hall, making sure Jamie wasn't around, because she wanted to surprise him with the weapon.
Her father would have been furious at her for gambling. Furious, but proud when she won the knife. Longing for his smile made her chest ache, so Pippa lifted a cup of frothy ale. The faint scent of aged oak conjured images of summertime mischief with her brother, when they had snuck a taste of ale from the brewer’s barrels. She drank it with a single swallow and banged the emptied cup next to the game board. Everyone cheered as she reached for a nearby flagon and refilled her cup. Pippa could enjoy two drinks, maybe three, without muddling her senses.
She tapped her foot to the warbled rhythm of a panpipe, relishing her imminent win. With her turn came a squall of suggestions from the crowd, yet one spectator remained aloof. The figure stood near the fire, fussing with voluminous robes until they lay just right. By the look of his unscathed leather boots and the flashing gold rings on his fingers, he wasn’t a farmer or seafarer. She squirmed under his stare. A heavy hood framed his face, but his eyes glimmered as he watched the game…and her.
She turned back to the board and rolled the dice. Seven marks. The ruffian was an idiot, but he needs to think he has a chance. Otherwise, he might end the game. Pippa started to reach for a red pawn, hesitated, made a show of sighing and tugging on her bottom lip, and then reached for another. She moved it seven squares, diagonally.
The ruffian cracked his fat knuckles. “I need a break.” His voice sounded harsh, like the jagged edges of raw, unforged steel scraping against stone. A raider, no doubt. He clearly didn’t expect to lose to a sixteen-year-old girl.