Home > Brynna (Stone Society)

Brynna (Stone Society)
Author: Faith Gibson


Prologue

 


Norway, 1889

 

“I’m bored,” Brynhild complained into the mirror.

“You are a princess. You are supposed to be bored,” Vanda, her handmaiden, responded to her reflection as she plaited Bryn’s long, blonde hair in an intricate design just so she could sit around their home looking pretty for the help.

“No, I am supposed to be mated to a handsome Gargoyle and have a life outside these four walls,” Bryn whined. She knew she was too old to be carrying on like a petulant child, but Bryn was beyond caring. Her father, Asmund Holgersen, King of the Norse Gargoyles, refused to allow Bryn to roam the village and meet possible suitors. She couldn’t find a mate if she was never around any of the males. Rarely did any of their Clan come calling. If they did, the King met with them in private. “It’s like Faðir doesn’t want any grandchildren.”

“That is exactly what he is trying to prevent,” Vanda muttered under her breath.

Being Gargoyle, Bryn heard her easily. “That’s not going to work for me much longer, Vanda. Faðir sent Banyan away to have adventures while I sit here and turn into an old maid.”

Vanda secured the last pin in place before setting her hands upon Bryn’s shoulders. The older woman sighed. “Your faðir sent your brother away to keep him safe. Banyan will come back when it is time to take his rightful place on the throne.”

Bryn stood and faced her best friend – her only true friend. “By the time that happens, too many years will have passed, and I will still be sitting here. I don’t even know what he looks like. I doubt he would even know me now.”

“Nonsense. You are the spitting image of Banyan, just in female form. There is no denying the two of you are brother and sister. You could easily pass for twins.”

Bryn narrowed her eyes at her handmaiden as an idea swirled in her brain. “You are the best,” Bryn said as she kissed Vanda on the cheek and rushed out of her room. Banyan had been sent away as a small boy, so she couldn’t scavenge his room for clothes. That didn’t mean there weren’t other males who lived on the estate.

Being left alone for hours on end had given Bryn too much time to get into trouble. To teach herself the art of sneaking around the large house, spying on others. Listening. Learning. She knew the schedules of every male and female. When they would be out of their rooms and for how long. Sneaking into one of the gardener’s rooms, Bryn dug through his clothing and grabbed what she needed. She didn’t take too many from him, lest he discover them missing. Instead, she took a few items from each of the males. Taking the pieces back to her room was too risky. Vanda was loyal to Bryn, but Bryn wouldn’t burden the female with keeping her secrets. So, she took the clothes to Banyan’s old room, which nobody entered. Ever. It was the same as it had been when he’d been sent away.

Bryn returned to her wing where she gathered the items she needed. It would take a while to bring her plan to fruition, but that was something she had plenty of. Every morning, she met her parents downstairs for breakfast, and after, she returned to her brother’s room where she altered the helps’ clothing to fit her smaller frame. After a couple weeks of sneaking around, Bryn was confident she could put her plan into motion.

Her parents kept to their wing of the monstrosity they called home, and Bryn was able to leave without either of them being the wiser. Getting past the help was another story, but after spending weeks watching and making note of everyone’s schedules, she managed to leave via a side door, disappearing behind the gardener’s shed. If only horses weren’t scared of Gargoyles. It would have been much easier to ride into town atop one of the beasts. Since her family owned none, Bryn took off on foot one early fall morning.

Autumn was Brynhild’s favorite time of year. Too bad she didn’t have anyone other than Vanda to share it with. The red moss drew Bryn’s eye to the ground as she made her way through the early morning fog. By the time she reached the middle of town, the fog had lifted, and Bryn was as giddy as a child on Christmas morn. At least how she assumed children would feel. Being the daughter of King Asmund Holgersen, Bryn wasn’t treated like a normal child. She was raised with a handmaiden to cater to her every whim. She was schooled by tutors, both human and Gargoyle. Christmas and other human holidays weren’t celebrated in their home. Presents weren’t given except on her birthday, and those were usually things her mother had chosen according to her own tastes. Tastes Bryn didn’t share.

As she took in the sights and people, Bryn had to remember who she was. Or wasn’t. Dressed as a man, with her breasts bound and her hair tucked under a cap, she was no longer royalty. The towns surrounding Åsmundnes were filled with mostly other Gargoyles, but Bryn had been hidden away for so long no one would have recognized her except for her likeness to her mother. Today, however, she was just another peasant. No one special. Using her shifter hearing, Bryn listened in on conversations as she strolled past the various shops and eateries.

A French accent caught her attention, and Bryn sidled closer for a better listen. She knew it was French because her last tutor had spoken the language, teaching Bryn without her parents knowing. Brynhild had grown bored with numbers early on, but languages – now there was something intriguing to her. Never before had Brynhild appreciated her Parisian tutor as much as she did in that moment.

Exposition Universelle. Bryn knew of the world’s fair, but she’d never been allowed to attend. The more she listened to the two foreign women speak of the fair, the more she wanted to go. All she had to do was sneak into her father’s office and grab some of the money he kept hidden in a safe. A safe she wasn’t supposed to know about. But Bryn had always been restless, and restless meant nosy. She remained hidden as the women talked about their friends in France. Bryn wanted that desperately. Not necessarily a home there, but somewhere she belonged where she had friends to do things with. As much as she loved Vanda, the woman was ultimately loyal to Bryn’s parents, considering they were the ones who paid her salary. Bryn made her way back to the house and put her next plan into place.

Two weeks and an ocean liner cruise later, Brynhild found herself at the Exposition Universelle. It was unlike anything she could have ever imagined. People from around the world had constructed buildings and expositions that boggled her mind. The newly built Eiffel Tower was amazing all on its own. The Rue de Caire, or The Streets of Cairo, was filled with belly dancers, artists, and all sorts of Egyptian foods and delicacies. The Grand Pavilions depicted countries from all over, but Bryn’s favorites were those from Latin America. The fountains and reflecting pools were also a favorite, but the most fascinating of all the sites was Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. A short woman named Annie Oakley was what Buffalo Bill called a sharpshooter, and Bryn was in awe. She watched every show the woman participated in, and Bryn knew she had to meet her.

“Mademoiselle! You can’t go back there!”

Bryn put on her fiercest face, planted her hands on her hips, and growled. The man took a step back, and Bryn pushed through the slit in the heavy curtain. Annie Oakley was sitting off to the side eating an apple when Bryn burst through the tent. Annie crunched the fruit, her eyes full of mirth. Bryn smiled and said, “That was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. Can you teach me to shoot a rifle?”

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