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It had started snowing again, a perfect way for me to sneak out. I tiptoed across the floorboards of my attic bedroom, doubled over so that I wouldn’t hit my head on the ceiling. I threw some bread and dried meat I had been hording from meals and some clothes, a knife, and a map of Scandinavia in my rucksack. I put on my coat and my fur boots and slung my rucksack over my shoulder. I passed Far on the way out.
“Where are you going?” he asked me.
“On a walk,” I lied. “I’ll be back by dinner.”
“As long as you are back in time,” he said, turning back to his carving. I shut the door behind me and skipped out to the woods, laughing and twirling around in the snow. I was going to find my Polar bear prince and prove Far wrong. Far said that the Polar Bear prince was just a fairytale, but it can’t be. It must be true, why else do so many people know of it? I walked through the spruce trees, losing my mind with excitement. I was going on an adventure that would result in me finding my true love. I crossed the creek: it was frozen from the winter frost. While I crossed, I put my foot down a little too hard in one spot and the ice cracked like broken glass. I hurried across, not wanting to become an ice statue because of my clumsy feet. I stepped down in deep, powdery snow that had been building up since it had started snowing a week ago. On the other side of the creek where people don’t live, the snow was deep, smooth, and uncorrupted. I took much pleasure in stomping through it, making tracks and dropping on my back to make snow angels. I had not played in the snow since I was a kid, and I had forgotten how much fun it was.
I walked onward, the sun getting low on the horizon. The sky turned pink and then blue as the sun disappeared completely and it was night. I had forgotten candles and a lantern, so I had to continue onward in the dark with only my memory of the woods to help me. A few times I walked right into a tree which smarted, but I kept walking. I was determined to make good time with this journey. Off in the distance, I heard Far calling my name.
“Sigrid! Sigrid!” He called sternly. I didn’t answer him, instead I kept walking. He will miss me, but he will be so happy when I come back with my fortune. I reassured myself. I shivered as I noticed that the temperature had dropped. I opened my rucksack and took out a blanket, which I wrapped around myself. Then, I slipped on my mittens and pulled my scarf tighter around my nose and mouth. I wished I had some goggles like the skiers use, because the wind had started to pick up and stinging cold snow, sleet, and air kept blowing into my eyes. It was becoming quite hard to continue as the wind picked up. But I had to continue, just until I reached the valley, then I would stop and rest and maybe nibble on a little bit of dried meat. To raise my spirits, I started picturing my Polar bear prince. In polar bear form, he shall be big and white as a snowball untouched by dirt or mud. He would be as soft as the bear skin rug in my Far-Mor and Far-Far’s home. Only, their bear skin rug is brown, which is for the best because I couldn’t stand the thought of a polar bear being killed. They are my favorite animals, mostly because some of them are actually princes under the spell of Troll Queens from far away lands which humans cannot set foot on. When I find my bear, he will lead me to his enchanted ice palace and I’ll live there a year, enduring all of the strange occurrences in silence for a year so that when the day comes, he is broken free from his spell and we will be married and live together happily ever after.
In human form, he will have icy blue eyes and reddish blond hair like the prince I once saw when Far and Mor took me to the capital city, Oslo, back before Mor had been taken by the Plague of 1349. I was only nine-years-old then, but I knew just by his manner that he was an important person. He will be Swedish and descended from the Swedish Queen Sigrid, whom I am the namesake of, who refused to marry King Olaf because he slapped her when she stood up for her pagan beliefs instead of conforming to his Christian ones. We will live together in Akershus, so that we will be close to Sweden, close to Oslo, and close to Lillehammer, where my parents live. Then, when it is time for him to be king, we shall move to Sweden and live in the capital city, whatever the capital of Sweden is. I am sure that he will know though.
I reached the valley, which was lit up by a full, glowing moon. It shone through the trees and over the mountains in the distance. I wasn’t sure where to go next to find a polar bear prince, perhaps north? I wished that I had a compass. Then, I looked up and spotted the North Star shining bright in the sky. I decided that I would need to travel at night so that I could see the North Star. So I kept going, despite how tired I was feeling. Plus, it wouldn’t have been a good idea to stop and rest so near my home anyway. Far had probably rounded up a search team by now and they were probably on my trail. I shouldn’t have made all those ridiculous snow angels and tracks, because now all they had to do was follow my trail. I kept walking across the valley until I reached more forest. The moon shone through the trees and brush, and I hoped that Odin would bless me with a full moon for the rest of my journey, or maybe some matches and a lantern. I walked two miles through the woods, the sun starting to rise above me in an explosion of orange and yellow. It was beautiful, but now I couldn’t see the North Star. So I stopped to rest, climbing a tree in case there were brown bears about. I set my rucksack in front of me on the branch and pulled out a piece of bread, which I picked at. I was too excited to be hungry, but I knew that I had to eat to keep my strength up for the journey. Then, I laid my head down on the branch, still wrapped in my blanket and all my warm clothes and fell asleep, clutching the branch in case I rolled off. But, it was a pretty big branch and I was a still sleeper. I slept and dreamed of my Polar Bear Prince and the enchanted castle I would soon live in.
I awoke to scurrying overhead and the falling of snow and ice upon my head. I looked up to find a squirrel running frantically across the branch above me and into his warm, little home for winter. I decided that now would be a good time to start walking again. I figured that north would probably still be the same direction as it was the night before, so I continued in that direction at a slower pace than before because I was probably at least ten miles away from my village by now. I heard many things going on around me. There was a woodpecker pecking off in the distance; an owl hooting, probably too cold to sleep; and then I heard voices. Voices? I was so afraid that I had been found, but then they got closer and I realized that they weren’t speaking Norsk. They were speaking some other language which I had never heard before in guttural voices which sent shivers down my spine. I stooped behind a spruce and hid, hoping that they wouldn’t find me. Then, the voices stopped. I waited in my hiding place, not thinking to look behind me until I felt someone breathing on me. I turned around and the most awful sight awaited me. A stone gray creature with hair on its head the hue of moss and primitive-looking furs for clothes was looking down on me. He had a lazy eye and drool dripping out of his mouth, which was filled with sharp, predator-like teeth. I only thought of one word: troll. I had never seen anything like it. Then, I screamed and ran out of my hiding place. I ran all the way back to my village, all day and all night until I was back at my front door, panting and sweating. I could see Far sitting at the fireplace looking glum. I opened the door and burst in. Far looked up from the fire, startled, then he realized it was me and he gathered me up in his arms.
“Pika, don’t ever leave me like that again,” he scolded me, setting me back down.
“Troll,” I cried, the only word I could say and think, and then I fell to my knees and started sobbing. “Troll! Troll! Troll!”
“Trolls aren’t real, pika,” Far said, patting me on the head and helping me to bed. “It was probably just a brown bear.”