is the second GRIM GRUESOME story.
Grim Gruesome is on his way to the Viking town of Jorvik!
Dalla and her older brothers Aki and Frodi are terrified. Should they trust the fierce ‘berserk’ warrior who offers them protection? Or seek help from the Queen of Jorvik – even though everyone says she’s a witch?
The Queen poured the liquid from the dish into the bottle, taking great care not to spill it. The sound of it trickling seemed to fill the deserted courtyard. When it was done, she sealed the bottle with a wooden stopper. She held it out tantalisingly to Dalla, as if it contained something delicious.
The moon shone through the glass. The strange liquid seethed and frothed.
‘What is it?’ whispered Dalla.
‘Oh come now, Dalla, work it out yourself,’ said the Queen.
She’s not a witch, Dalla told herself firmly. So it can’t be a magic brew. But what else could it be? – Oh!
‘Is it…?’ she said fearfully, ‘Is it...poison?’
What will Dalla do with the Queen’s poison?
Is she brave enough to use it
destroy Grim Gruesome and rescue her brothers?
The Queen’s Poison is vividly set
in the English town of Jorvik - Viking Age York.
Look out for dramatic chases through the narrow
streets, shape-shifting magic, riddles, surprises -
and of course plenty of thrilling sword fights!
THE QUEEN’S POISON
© Rosalind Kerven
From Chapter 9
Aki asks the berserk to protect them from Grim Gruesome - and gets an exciting surprise!
‘Are you completely alone?’ said the berserk.
Dalla was good at making people feel sorry for her. So she dabbed at her eyes with the corner of her apron and nodded earnestly.
‘But you must have kinsfolk in town?’ said the berserk.
Dalla shook her head sadly. She peered up at the berserk, trying to see under his bear’s-head hood. But all she could make out was a dark, spiky beard and deep-set eyes flecked with blood.
‘What?’ said the berserk. ‘No one to look out for you?’
‘It’s all right, we’re fine,’ said Aki quickly. ‘Well, my brother and I are, anyway. But we’re a bit bothered about our little sister Dalla here. She’s always running off, you see, and getting herself into trouble. We’re worried she might attract Grim Gruesome’s attention.’
A farmer hurried by, carrying a crate of leeks on his shoulder. After him came the little old English nun, weighed down by her bag of unsold honeycombs – the last stallholder to leave. She smiled at Dalla as she went past.
The berserk turned his grotesque bear’s-head hood and stooped down to peer at Dalla.
‘What a fine girl,’ he said. ‘Just the sort of child that Grim Gruesome has a taste for. You’re right. She could be in serious danger without my protection. I’ll be happy to keep a special eye on her.’
‘Oh, thank you, sir!’ said Dalla proudly.
‘But I can’t protect her for nothing,’ said the berserk to Aki. ‘That would be unfair to all those who have paid me. Besides, as Odin All-Father said: A gift always looks for a return. So if you can’t pay me, young man, you’ll have to work for me instead.’
Aki didn’t hesitate. ‘Oh ya, I’ll be honoured to do that, sir!’ he said eagerly. ‘I’ve always wanted to work for a great warrior like you. Especially to help you defeat a villain as evil as Grim Gruesome! What do you want me to do?’
‘Come to me at first light tomorrow,’ said the berserk.
‘Right,’ said Aki. ‘Where will I find you?’
‘You must all swear on Odin’s name to tell no one else,’ said the berserk. ‘It would be disastrous if Grim Gruesome found out where I am staying.’
From Chapter 29
Grim Gruesome chases Dalla through the narrow streets of Jorvik!
She ducked, dodged him and ran out into the street. Grim Gruesome came after her.
There was a clear sky and a full moon. Dalla raced through the cold dawn.
Get to the palace square! she thought. The King’s soldiers will save me!
But Grim Gruesome strode straight past her. Halfway along Cupmakers’ Street, he stopped and held his monstrous arms wide open, blocking her way.
Dalla had never thought or acted so quickly before. She skidded to a halt, turned back on herself, squeezed between the fences of two house-yards and came out onto Ouse Street. You could reach the palace that way too. But Grim Gruesome was already there to stop her.
Dalla turned on her heels again and ran frantically, hopelessly, down the slope towards the river.
As she ran, she screamed. But there were no houses along the riverbank, only warehouses, deserted at this time. Besides, people were always screaming in the night in Jorvik and nobody ever took any notice. Her side was knotted up with a painful stitch, but she didn’t dare stop.
Not onto the bridge! she thought. Not to the gate that leads to his hideout!
She swerved onto King Street. Round the block… Get to the palace that secret way...
In the dark, her eyes were skinned for an alley she knew. But Grim Gruesome was just a breath behind her, huge in his billowing cloak.
‘I see you, Dalla!’ he roared. His voice was deep as a grave, melting into a wolf-howl.
From Chapter 32
Aki and Frodi come face to face with Grim Gruesome in a sword fight!
Aki and Frodi glanced at each other. They’d both done plenty of mock fighting, but neither had ever fought a real battle. And the weapons they held were huge and cumbersome, meant for full-grown men, not boys. They peered hopelessly into the impenetrable shadows of Grim’s hood, but as always, it was impossible to see the villain’s face or where his eyes were looking.
Suddenly Grim Gruesome came rushing at them. One sword waved wildly around at Aki. The other pointed straight at Frodi’s heart!
Frodi raised his own sword and struck back with it, falteringly but bravely. Then he darted out of the way. Grim Gruesome swung round and lunged at him again...
Aki ducked under Grim’s other sword, came up behind Grim and smashed the axe hard against the villain’s right boot.
For a brief moment Grim lost his footing. But his boots were tough as whale skin, and the blow scarcely hurt him at all. He twisted back and thwacked a sword-blade into Aki’s forearm.
Aki gave a yelp of pain. Blood spurted from the wound and he dropped the axe. Grim Gruesome kicked it away with a pitiless bellow of laughter and tensed to strike Aki again.
But now Frodi had run behind him. He struck his sword at Grim’s back with all his might. Grim jolted awkwardly – then at once swung round and hit back at him with his own double-handed sword blows. Frodi fought with incredible strength for such a young boy, but Grim was tall and strong as a frost-giant. And one sword against two was impossible.