In the dark, cold reaches of the north lives a storyteller and his daughter…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Joanna Ruth Meyer’s Wind Daughter, the Echo North companion novel out from Page Street Kids on May 17.
In the dark, cold reaches of the north lives a storyteller and his daughter. He told his daughter, Satu, many stories—romances like the girl who loved a star and changed herself into a nightingale so she could always see him shining—but the most important story he told her was his own. This storyteller was once the formidable North Wind, but he lost his power by trading it away in exchange for mortality—he loved her mother too much to live without her. The loss of his magic impacted more than just their family, however, and now the world is unraveling in the wake of this imbalance.
To save the North, Satu embarks on a perilous journey to reclaim her father’s magic, but she isn’t the only one searching for it. In the snow-laden mountains, she finds herself in a deadly race with the Winter Lord who wants the North Wind’s destructive powers for himself.
Satu has the chance to be the heroine of her own fairy tale, only this one has an ending she never could have imagined.
I collapse on the floor of the weaving room, my head wheeling, my skin buzzing. I hug my knees to my chest as tight as I can, gulping ragged, desperate mouthfuls of air. I shake and shake. I can’t stop.
My parents are gone. They vanished before my eyes and they’re gone.
Long minutes pass while I feel I am no longer attached to my body but outside of it, looking down impassively at the girl who fractures to pieces on the floor.
Then it feels as if a breath of wind coils around my shoulders, even though that’s impossible in this still, close room. It’s enough to make me raise my head, to take slow, even breaths. My heart is not calm, but I find I am inside myself once more.
My eyes are drawn to the tapestry on my mother’s loom. It is half-finished, the shuttle loose on the floor. Ordinarily, my mother weaves patterned cloth in beautiful, repeating designs. But this weaving depicts an intricate scene of a young woman dressed in furs, one hand on a reindeer’s bridle, the sky white with snow. There is a man beside her, and he’s silver and strange, curls of wind at his shoulders. I realize that this is my father’s original form: how he looked when he was the North Wind. How he looked when my mother fell in love with him, and he traded away his power and immortality to be with her.
The weaving stops abruptly just below the figures’ shoulders—the warp threads have snapped. The half-finished tapestry ripples in that impossible wind and I catch the scent of magic: sharp as ice, sharp as briars.
Horror weighs deep inside me, but there is something else there, too: an ember of anger, flaring fierce and hot. That’s what makes me drag myself up off the floor, through the house, and back into the swirling snow. That’s what makes my feet pound up the mountain path, heedless of the cold even without my coat. I am several strides from the top when great shards of jagged ice burst suddenly from the ground, blocking my path.
I wheel to find the winter demon standing there, his eyes cold and hard, his face impassive.
Panic sears through me, and I can hardly think around the pounding in my chest, the buzzing in my skin, the feeling that I can’t breathe can’t breathe can’t breathe.
“That way is not safe,” he says, in the same awful, cold voice I remember from my childhood. “Not anymore.”
In my mind I scream at myself not to shake, not to cry. I fight to keep control, to stay present, to not let my mind float away from my body. “Where are they?” The words come out softer than I intend, making me sound fragile and small.
The demon raises both his pale eyebrows. “Where are who?”
Breathe, Satu. Breathe. “My parents. Where are my parents?”
The snow comes faster, thicker, filling the narrow space between us.
“I have nothing to do with your parents.” There is danger in his eyes, in his frame, in his very being.
The ice blocking my path shimmers eerily in the gray light.
I’m shaking again. I can’t stop. Tears blur my vision. “WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?” I scream. A wild wind whips up, shattering the jagged ice wall like so much glass.
I take my chance. I fling myself across the broken ice.
For a moment there is darkness, a searing, sucking emptiness that winds into my bones. I fracture into a thousand pieces, and every fragment spins out and out, into the void. I am lost. I am unwritten.
And then I’m yanked violently backward, into the gray light of the snowy mountain, and the hand that’s locked around my wrist is colder than iron in winter.
“That way,” says the demon, “is not safe.”
I rip my hand from his and shake before him, gulping and gulping and gulping for air. I cannot find my voice to ask him: Is that what happened to my parents? Are they, even now, spinning out into nothingness, drowning in pain? My mother’s scream echoes in my ears and I can’t bear it. “What is that?” I look wildly across the line of fractured ice. The words choke me. “What is that?”
The winter demon brushes cool fingers over my eyelids.
The world shifts before me. I see, as I have never seen before: shimmering cords of magic, some shining, some pale, some dark. They wind through the demon and through me, through the mountain and the sky and even the falling snow.
But across the shattered ice there is a gaping emptiness, the magic torn and hanging loose, like my mother’s unfinished tapestry. And I know that this is the old magic gone horribly, horribly wrong.
I jerk to face the winter demon, the vision of magic threads winking out of my sight. I try to hold on to my anger, try to make it fiercer than my fear. But the horror of it overwhelms me; I can’t shut out the echo of my mother’s scream, the feeling of being fractured into a thousand spinning shards. “Who are you?” I demand. “What have you done to the mountain? What have you done to my parents?”
“I thought you would thank me.”
I blink at him, confused.
He nods across the shattered ice barricade. “For saving your life.”
A shudder rips through me. I can’t think of that wheeling void. I won’t think of it. “Who are you?”
“I am the Jökull. The Winter Lord.”
“Where are my parents, Winter Lord?”
His mouth twists in annoyance, like he expected his title to impress me.
“WHERE ARE MY PARENTS?” I furiously blink away a fresh wave of tears.
His glance oozes contempt. “There is always a price for magic. This is the price of your father’s.”
Wind and snow tangle in the tails of his long coat. “The Unraveling world.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t. How could you?” His eyes bore into mine. “You are only a child.”
My face floods with heat. “I’m not a child!”
“Indeed? It is only a child, I think, who weeps over spilled honey and scorns help when it’s offered.”
The anger in my belly flares hot, but I cannot voice it. If I try, it will only make the tears come again. Emotion leaks out of me in salt water, no matter what kind it is—if I’m happy or sad, pensive or wistful, I cry. The only way to stop it is to shove my feelings deep down, frost them over with layers of ice. Hope the ice doesn’t crack. That is what I try to do with my anger. I grit my teeth, dig my nails into my palms, and stare at the Winter Lord as impassively as I can.
“No more riddles,” I say tightly. “Tell me what’s happening.”
His pale brows quirk up. “Can’t you feel it?”
“The ragged remnants of the North Wind’s power, seeking to tear the world apart at the seams.”
My mother’s voice haunts me: I thought it couldn’t reach us here.
“Old magic,” I say.
“Loose old magic, with no one to wield it for far too long. It has gone wild, Satu North, slipped out into the world untethered, unharnessed. There is nothing for it to do but destroy. Like it almost destroyed you when you crossed my barrier.”
I shudder involuntarily. “How do you know my name?”
“I am the Jökull. I know many things. And in any case, names are inconsequential.”
“Names are the most important things of all.”
He laughs. Laughs. “In a story, perhaps. But this is not a story, for all your sentimental parents named you after one.”
I clench my jaw. “What happened to them? What did you do to them?”
“Do you lack intelligence or simply comprehension? I did nothing to your parents.”
“My father called you a demon. He said you were hers. The Wolf Queen’s. You tried to lure me up to her when I was a child, and now some strange magic takes both my parents away the very hour you make it snow in June, and you expect me to believe it wasn’t you?” My voice shakes. I bite my lip hard enough to taste blood, but even that doesn’t convince my body to be still. They’re gone they’re gone they’re gone.
“I have done nothing to them,” he repeats. “And I am not a demon.” His eyes bore into mine as he plucks snowflakes from the air, one by one. They crystalize at his touch, falling to the ground like bits of broken glass. “Your parents have been Unraveled, just as the mountain has been, as you saw, as you felt. The loose magic—the magic set loose by your father’s neglect—has destroyed them. Unwritten them from the world.”
My heart thuds against my breastbone. I see the black lines crawling over my parents, feel again the awful, hungry darkness, taking every piece of me. They are in pain, then. They always will be. The tears come yet again; I think I will drown in tears.
“There is a way to save them,” says the Jökull. His glance is one of pity, of revulsion.
“Tell me,” I beg. “I will do anything.”
“Anything?” He smirks. “A reckless claim.”
“Tell me,” I grind out. “I will pay any price.”
“Even your magic?”
“I don’t have any magic.”
He shakes his head. “What a little fool you are.”
I bristle. I have the sudden urge to smack him.
He grabs my hand again, brushes his fingers over my eyelids. The threads dance back into view.
“Look,” he says. “Closely.”
I peer at him, at the silver-black threads that twist through him. There are hundreds, thousands, never still. I glance down at myself. I don’t have nearly as many threads as the Jökull but they’re still there, rippling yellow as sunlight in the center of my chest.
I look up the mountain, where the Unraveled threads hang loose; I look down the mountain, where fragments of threads blow about in the snow; I look back at my house, which glimmers with bits of magenta and cerulean. These are my parents’ threads, I realize, the only pieces of them that are left.
The Jökull lets go of my hand, and my vision once more pulses with snow. “The Unraveling claimed your parents, first, because they are tangled tightest in the magic that ran wild. It is taking the mountain, now, and the villagers, too. It won’t stop until it swallows every human soul, and when they are gone it will take the animals. On it will go, down and down, until it touches the fault lines of the earth below the mountain. It will splinter out and out. It will fracture the world, until there is nothing, nothing left. And there is only one thing in the universe that can stop it.”
I try to think around the panic, the feeling that the sky is pressing down on me and the mountain rising up, flattening me between them. “And what is that?”
“I don’t understand.
“To save your parents—and the world—you must collect the loose threads of your father’s magic and claim them for your own.”
“How—how do I do that?”
“Easy.” He snaps his fingers, and the snow between us coils into an elaborate depiction of a mountain, my mountain, with the land spread out below. “Your father had no magic when he lived here, and so there are no threads here for you to collect. You must leave your village and go and search for them.”
I shake my head and back away from him, slipping and stumbling down the path. “No. No, I can’t do that. How could I do that? And even if I could, how does that help my parents?” I collapse into the snow, shaking and crying. I’ve lost all hold over myself. I am not sure I can ever get it back.
But some moments later, I lift my head to find the Winter Lord still there, looking down at me with an expression I can’t read.
“Satu,” he says. “You are the only one who can collect your father’s magic.”
I gulp some desperate, damp mouthfuls of air. “Why?”
“Because you are his blood. His kin. There is Wind magic in your very bones. And it could be that with enough magic, you can undo what your father’s power has done—even bring your parents back. But you have forgotten the price of my information.
I at last begin to feel the cold, seeping into every part of me.
There are no tears left; I am hollowed out. Empty. “What price?” I whisper.
He smiles with thin lips and frigid eyes. “Your magic, of course. When you have collected it—I want it all.”
I stare at the Jökull, shock and fear and anger tangling inside of me.
“But there’s no need to worry about that at the moment,” he goes on conversationally, as if we’re sitting together over a cup of tea. “Right now, you ought to worry about getting off the mountain before it’s too late.”
I glance uneasily across the broken ice barrier. Even without the Winter Lord’s sight, the top of the mountain is an empty, ragged nothing now. My heart cries out for my bees, frozen, Unraveled, gone. As I watch, the nothingness creeps toward me, swallowing the ice entirely. I take an involuntary step backward—I know what it will do, if it touches me, and I don’t think the Winter Lord would save me a second time.
He laughs, snow dancing around him. “Run, North’s daughter.”
And I turn, and I run.
Excerpted from Wind Daughter, copyright © 2022 by Joanna Ruth Meyer.