Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Many Faces of Rune

Rune, with his sister and mother, live on an island in the Arctic. Settled in the 15th Century by witches fleeing the inquisitions in Europe, Galdorheim--Witches’ Home--is a very unattractive piece of real estate. To any intrepid explorers or walrus hunters who happen to pass by, it’s a lump of ice with nothing to recommend even a brief stop.

This is a perfect situation for the witches. They use their combined magic, borrowing just a bit from every witch and warlock, to maintain a protective bubble around the village where they live. Unseen, they live in peace, occasionally visiting the northern shores of Norway to trade their magical trinkets to Wiccan wannabes in exchange for items not easily obtained through magic. Flat screen TVs, Blu Ray players, DVDs, and Satphones are far too expensive in terms of magic to bother with spelling up. Besides they wouldn't get the latest movies and news reports without letting a little of the outside world into theirs.

Rune’s sister Katrina (Kat) is the one witch on the island who can’t perform magic spells. True, every young witch needs to learn the tools of the magical trade: how to cast a spell properly being the main requirement. Kat, however, can’t cast a spell without it going horribly wrong.

The story of Bad Spelling, the first book in the Witches of Galdorheim series, deals with Kat’s ineptitude and her determination to leave Galdorheim to find her father’s family, a tribe of Siberian fisher/hunters.

Unlike Kat, her younger brother Rune is a natural magician. He masters spells quickly, but like extra smart kids everywhere, idle hands can lead to mischief. At the opening of Bad Spelling, we see Rune as:

A SMART ALEC (Bad Spelling)

Kat ran up the steps of the schoolhouse as a flash of red light pulsed from the space beneath the front door. A screech of girlish laughter followed by shouts of “yes!” and “whoa!” got louder when she pulled the door open. Her heart sank. Dang it. Late again.

A muffled bang accompanied by puffs of red and violet smoke billowing out from the back of the room gave her cover to rush to the last available seat. When the smoke cleared, Kat rolled her eyes, barely controlling a snort. Her brother Rune’s used-to-be vampire bat now clung to his finger chirping angrily while his best friend’s was-a-rat now stared with hungry eyes at it in the temporary form of a scruffy gray cat.

Unfazed, Miss Mariah cleared her throat and glared at the boys. “Would you please wait for everyone else?” Rune and Dalton grinned at each other and transformed their respective familiars back to their original forms.

Grow up, bro. Really! Kat thought, but a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. She was proud of Rune’s mad skills, since she couldn’t spell herself out of a beanbag chair. She knew she had the power; everybody knew it. What she lacked was control. Every spell she tried to cast went wrong in the most disastrous way.

Rune’s bat flapped to the rafters and hung upside down, glaring down at his owner. Rune dodged a drop of guano, picked up his wand, and tapped it on the desktop. With a high-pitched squeak, the bat dropped to the desk and folded its wings, but it didn’t look happy.

Miss Mariah muttered, “Fiksu aasi noita.”* She watched Kat as she hunched over and dropped her book bag on the floor. “Nice of you to join us, Katrina. See me after class about your tardiness.”

She faced the class. “Now then, please take out your chalk and wands for today’s lesson, which is,” she shot a semi-annoyed look at Rune and Dalton, “transformation.” The Wiccan students rustled bags and whispered to each other while they did as told.

* Fiksu aasi noita is Icelandic for smart-ass kid.

But he’s not just a troublemaker, Rune is close to his sister and does his best to protect her since her own magic sucks. Rune is:

A WARRIOR (Midnight Oil)

Thordis hurried toward the glade. Rune and Ivansi ran after her. She glanced at Rune to her right, then in front, and to her left. He was running in circles around her. She scowled at the boy’s anxious urging for her to move faster. Picking her feet up from the ground, she darted forward in a smooth glide. Rune and Ivansi hurried to keep up with her.

Thordis stopped dead when the howling wind and dragon’s scream split the air. “Hurry! The game is on,” Thordis yelled over the deafening noise. The three rescuers surged onward toward the clearing. The gap in the hedge of thorns was still open, and they rushed through.

“That’s the tree,” Thordis exclaimed, pointing to the most massive tree on the glade’s edge.

The three hurried to the foot of the tree, searching for an opening. His lips pressed tight with worry, Rune dropped to one knee and ripped back a chunk of bark, flinging it behind him. “Here! Here it is!” he shouted.

“Stand back, Rune.” Thordis raised her wand. Rune grabbed his own firewood wand from an inner pocket. As one, two beams shot toward the crack in the tree. A scorching violet from the combined purple and red sent smoke curling up. Ivansi stood helpless behind them, staring intently at the deepening hole. Ringed with glowing embers, the gap widened, while flames climbed up the trunk.

A tremendous explosion slammed bursting bark and wood outward. Ivansi flew backward twenty feet. Thordis and Rune leaned toward the flame, intensifying the searing light from their wands.

The hole in the tree grew wider and deeper. Snakes slithered out of the hole. The small ones scurried away into the underbrush. A python, slower and more massive, writhed to free itself from the flaming maw. Ivansi leaped forward and grabbed the snake behind its head. The scaly reptile twisted, its mouth gaping. Grasping the snake further down its long body, Ivansi grunted as he picked it up and threw it into the undergrowth. Another huge snake emerged, this time an anaconda. Thicker and stronger than the python, it took longer for Ivansi to overpower it.

The witch and the warlock never wavered from burning away the tree. The roaring above their heads continued. Thordis risked a quick glance upward. Two monstrous creatures grappled in the sky. Ajatar’s dragon avatar battled a new form—a pure white roc. Another creature of air and flight, Ilmatar had become a giant bird, the largest ever known in reality or legend. The roc’s wingspan matched that of Ilmatar’s dragon, but the snowy body was smaller. Her feathers, although pure white, flashed sparks of gold and silver looking like minute explosions of fireworks bursting all around.

“We’re through! Kat! Kat! Can you hear me?” Rune screamed, daring to step into the flaming hole.

Yes, Rune is brave and jumps right into the fray to rescue his sister. But Rune isn’t all sweet and strong. For much of the time, like younger brothers everywhere, he’s just:


Shouldering the pack, she went out on the streets of Thurso and made her way back to the train station. The ticket master could give her directions to the city limits. Thordis told her to walk south of Thurso until she reached the wilds. Only then could she use the message packets to guide her the rest of the way. She took the short steps up to the platform and stopped dead still.

There, on the train side of the platform looking down the rails stood a familiar figure. His back was to her but without a doubt, she knew exactly who it was.

“Rune,” she whispered in disgust. Her mouth tightened, and she planted her hands on her hips. She seriously contemplated shoving him onto the tracks, but one look told her no train was coming. “What’re you doing here?” she hissed as she approached him.

He whipped around and plastered a big grin on his face. “Hey, Kat! What a coincidence finding you here. Small country, eh?”

“Don’t give me that. Why are you here, and does Mom know it?” Kat dropped her bag at her feet and clenched her fists. She couldn’t remember ever being so ticked off at Rune.

“Well, maybe not. Hey, Kat, she was sending me to Transylvania! That sucks...literally.”

“Just because you didn’t want...Transylvania? Why in the world was she sending you there?” Kat frowned, anger flooding away as curiosity rolled in.

“To visit my biological father, Drakos. Seems Mom told him to take some interest in me. Result: I get schlepped off to Transylvania to spend the winter with some guy I’ve never even met!”

“Still, I don’t want you here. Just go back home and leave me alone!”

“Hey! If I’d left you alone when you just had to go to Siberia to find Boris’ family, you’d be giant-meat now.”

Kat’s face burned. She ground her teeth. “Shove it in my face all the time, don’t you? It wasn’t my fault I didn’t have any magic.”

“No, but since you didn’t, it was your dear little brother who saved your butt again, and again, and again!”

Kat raised her fist; her arm twitched with the effort of not socking him one. She whirled away just in time to notice the other people standing on the platform staring at them. She turned back to Rune and snarled at him. “Just. Go. Home.”

Rune crossed his arms and stuck his chin out. “You’re not my boss!”


Where you can find Bad Spelling, Midnight Oil, and Scotch Broom:

MuseItUp Bookstore:


And many other on-line stores.


Pat McDermott said...

So much mischief and excitement! I love how you've presented Rune's many faces. Nicely done, with vivid magic, which, as we know, is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology.

Cellophane Queen said...

Thanks, Pat. I see you've been reading the comments.

Unknown said...

I like that you highlighting Rune. He's such a great character. I liked the short story you wrote about him too.
Keep the series going, You've done all the deep, deep research, don't let it go to waste. I want more adventures of Kat. I've read the series. Loved the books.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Wonderful glimpses into Rune's character. What delightfully recognisable personalities. They already feel like real people.

Wendy said...

I like how you used the excerpt to show the contrasting characters of Rune and Kat. Nicely done! :) Good choice of names too.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

How have l missed these? Putting you at the head of my summer reading list, Marva, and looking forward to catchi8ng up with the series.

J.Q. Rose said...

What a fun, imaginative series. Yes, we want more!!