Northern Frights #1


"The dead know who killed them...and if they hate enough, they'll find a way back."

This is a young adult horror novel that was just released. It's scary. It's fun. And it's full of Icelandic folklore. Draugr, by the way is an Icelandic word for someone who comes back from the dead.

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Released By Orca Books in the Fall of 1997

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     Grandpa was going to murder us.
     Not with an axe.  Not with a shovel.  But with words.
     "Sarah sit down," Grandpa said softly to me, "I
haven't even started my story."
     "But I'm scared already."  I'm young, I'm fourteen,
and I have my limits.  His last tale ended with a headless
woman searching through the streets for her head every
Halloween.  I wasn't going to sleep tonight.  Why did Mom
and Dad send me here every summer?
     Grandpa rubbed his big, rough hands together.  He was
tall and even though he was in his late seventies, he had
the energy of a man half his age.  "This is my last yarn
for tonight.  I promise.  And it's my best one."
     I sat down.  At the bottom of my beating heart, I 
really did like his stories.  So did Michael, my twin
brother, and my cousin Angie, who were both hugging
pillows, waiting for Grandpa to begin.  Michael and I
looked nearly the same, with blue eyes and dark hair. 
Except, of course, he was a boy.  Angie was our opposite,
with bright red hair and green eyes.
     Grandpa smiled and his face creased into a thousand
wrinkles.  "The difference between this story and the
others is this one is true.  Every word of it.  I do want
to ask youa question before I begin though...are you
afraid of death?"
     "Well..." I started.  "Uh...I haven't really thought
about it."
     "That's alright," Grandpa said softly.  In the dim
light he looked suddenly older and tired as if just
voicing that question had taken years from his life.  He
cleared his throat.  "I have an even more important thing
to ask you.  Are you afraid of the dead?"
     How do you answer something like that?  What do you
say?  "No," I lied.  Michael and Angie shook their heads.
This was becoming a little too weird, even for me.
     Grandpa stared, those blue haunted eyes of his
looking right through me.  He seemed to be in a trance.
     "Yoo hoo, Grampa!" Michael called.  He snapped his
fingers.  Once.  Twice. No reaction. 
     "Are you okay?" I whispered.  "Grampa?"
     Grandpa shook his head.  "Draugr,"  he whispered
as he crossed himself.  The name echoed through the room
and though I didn't know its meaning, I felt it.  There
in the quivering of my stomach, in the dryness of my
throat.  The name.
     Grandpa was still staring.  I whispered to him, but
he didn't seem to hear me.  Finally he looked directly
into my eyes.  "Long ago," he said, his voice even and
controlled, "when I was quite young and I still lived
in Iceland, I had an evil cousin, evil in the way only
men can be evil.  He respected no one, not his parents,
not his kinsmen.  No one. He complained about the work
he had to do, about the way others did their work.  He
had venom in his blood and his tongue was like a
serpent's--he spit only insults at the world and defied
everything.  His name was Borth."
     Grandpa paused.  He closed his eyes and I imagined
him looking back in time, seeing his cousin standing
amidst snow covered hills in Iceland.  Grandpa opened
his eyes again, still staring into the distance.  "Borth
was a strong youth, he could out wrestle many of the men
in the valley and he loved fighting. His mother died
giving birth to him and from that day forward he carried
harmathr--bad luck.  If he walked by your house your cows
would run loose, your food would burn in the oven; women
would prick their thumbs if he entered a room as they
were sewing.  He used to hit me as if I were nothing more
than a bag of flour.  No one had any love for Borth."
     "One day in December I murdered him.  Not by myself,
I had help, but I murdered  him.  I know I am old and
harmless now, but then I was beaten, a beast, a dog.  I
had been kicked by my cousin too often and finally a time
came when I could take my revenge.  A group of us, my
kinsmen and friends who had all been violated in one way
or another by Borth, made a pact to teach him a lesson.
We were just children, that's all.  Children, hardly even
as old as you three.  I was the eldest though and they all
followed me."
     "You see we hid in the pass at Ogen's valley, all six
or seven of us, on a night when there was a full moon.  We
knew Borth would cut through the valley on his way into
the village.  We had dressed in rags and made masks of wood
and feathers, so that we looked like mound dwellers.  Some
of us had even caught snakes to throw at him.  Just to
scare Borth, that's all we wanted, to run around and poke
him with sticks, to yell his name, and then run away.  It
was supposed to be a trick, a warning, nothing more."
     "Borth rode up a little after dark, the clomping of
his horse, a beast as huge and evil as him, echoed in our
ears.  I glanced and saw that my companions were frozen
with fright, hypnotized by that sound and the sight of
Borth.  He looked so big in the saddle, his shoulders as
gigantic as a troll's, his long cloak flowing down behind
     "I knew nobody would move unless I did, that we would
 sit there and he would pass.  Our moment would pass.  So
right before he arrived I threw myself onto the path in
front of him and screamed, waving my arms and launching a
handful of dirt.  Everyone else followed me, yelling and
hooting around the horse, slapping its legs with their
sticks.  We were like little dwarves up from out of the
ground,  finally getting our revenge.  His mount reared up,
its giant hooves sliced the air above us.  It neighed in
anger,  nostrils flaring.  But we weren't frightened; we
felt strong then, all of us, powerful with vengeance.  We
continued our attacks.  The horse reared again and Borth
shouted in anger, yanking with all his strength on the
reins.  One rein snapped and he tumbled from the saddle,
still yelling."
     "The path was very rocky.  I heard a soft thud when
his head struck a stone.  His horse bolted and we
surrounded Borth, poking him with sticks and kicking at
him, screaming his name in our lust for vengeance.  Then
as one, realizing something was wrong, we stopped.  Borth
didn't move.  We all looked at each other, but no one
said anything.  We knew he was dead."
        "I don't know who ran first, one of us did, and
then we all followed, just running and running down the
pass and across the fields, away from Borth's body."
     "One of the villagers found him the next morning in
a pool of frozen blood.  We buried him three days later
in the family cemetery.  It was a strange funeral.  No one
cried.  No one could."
        "I returned to my daily work, not able to tell
anyone my story.  And I prayed nobody would discover what
we had done.  Then one morning, about two weeks after his
death, I went into my hen house and found one of my chickens
dead on the floor.  It had been strangled and there were no
tooth marks, so I knew it hadn't been killed by an animal. 
I figured one of the children from the village was just
playing games and I forgot about it.  But when I came back
the next morning another chicken was dead except this time
its legs and head had been severed and placed beside its
body.  It made me sick to see, sick and very angry that
someone would do this to my livestock.  So I decided to
catch whoever it was."
     "That night I took my pitch fork with me and I stayed
in the coop.  I leaned up against the far wall.  The coop
was small, I could almost reach the door from where I was
standing.   It was warm too and I was dressed in a thick
coat so I soon sat down in the hay on the floor and fell
asleep.  I dreamed of a river filled with acid and blood
that was slowly overflowing its banks.  There were snakes
in that river, huge snakes; the sons of Jormungand.  Fire
burned along the far bank.  It was a strange, powerful
dream; a dream from the old times."
     "Then a noise woke me.  The hens were moving
around restlessly in the same way they do on the day I
take them to the block.  I stood up, still tired, the dream
making my thoughts slow.  I could sense the same thing as
the chickens.  The feeling that Death was floating through
the air, searching.  I wanted to get in a corner, to hide,
but there was nowhere to go.  I waited."
     "At first nothing happened, then I heard a noise like
something being slowly dragged across the ground outside
the coop.  The sound would stop then start again.  There
was this growling  too.  The noises ended before I could
really be sure I heard them.  I breathed in, relieved, then
the door to the coop creaked inwards against the wooden
bolt.  A scratching filled my ears, as if a huge nail were
being slowly drawn from the top of the door to the bottom.
I froze, my breath caught in my mouth.  The chickens had
stopped moving.  Everything was completely silent."
     "Then again came the scratching, this time louder,
harder so it seemed a groove was being dug into the wood. 
The door began to rattle, the whole coop creaked as if a
giant hand were pushing on its side.  I felt suddenly cold.
The scratching started for a third time, one of the planks
on the door snapped and splinters and wood fell in on me."
     "I could wait no longer.  I grabbed my pitchfork,
stepped forward, and yanked the shaking door open.  An icy
wind swept straight into my eyes and I had to squint
against it.  Before me, with one arm raised, was a huge
shadowy man, misshapen in the moonlight.  He took a
shambling step towards me and became clearer so that I saw
he was covered with dirt. Grass was stuck in hisfrozen
messy hair.  He stepped again, moving as if his legs were
made of wood.  I realized his head was not frozen with
water but with black blood.  His eyes glowed."
     `Cousin,'  he rasped.  He stepped again.  `I hate
     "A huge white hand reached towards me.  I stepped
back, slipped and struck my head on the hen's loft.  I fell
unconscious to the floor.  There I slept as if dead."
     "When I awoke, hours later, I was sore and stiff and
there was a dirty palm print on my jacket."
     "I knew what had happened to Borth.  He was a Draugr,
a revenant.  My cousin was so full of hate he had become
the walking dead.  I did not know what I should do.  The
next time he returned he would drag me to his lair and
tear me limb from limb.  So I went home, took the silver
cross my mother had given me and I walked to the cemetery
and buried that holy symbol in the soft dirt of his
     "He has not come back, but he is not gone.  He waits
underneath that earth.  The dead know who killed them,
they know and if they hate enough...if they hate enough,
they'll find a way back.  Sometimes, I can hear him
screaming in the wind.  And I wonder what will happen if
someone goes to his grave and removes the cross?"
     Grandpa leaned back in his chair.  He looked very
serious.  Once or twice I caught him staring at the door
as if he thought something might be lurking outside.
     We sat there silently for a few minutes.
     Grandpa clapped his hands, startling all of us. 
"Bed time," he said.  "Hope you have a great sleep."
     We slowly got up and prepared for bed.  When I came
out of the washroom most of the lights were off and
Michael and Angie had went to their rooms.  Grandpa was
sitting in his reading chair, squinting at an old book. 
A full moon shone through the window, giving him a pale
eerie look.
     "Grandpa," I whispered, "how come the moon's so
bright tonight?"
     He looked up, seemed a little surprised to see me.
"Oh," he said, "it's just a full moon--the Hagalaz  moon.
The kind of moon that makes hair grow on werewolves." 
     He winked.  "I'm kidding.  It's just your everyday
normal moon. Nighty-night."
     I went to bed.  It took me quite a while to fall asleep.
****You'll have to buy the book to find out how it ends. Sorry.****