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Many innocent human babies were murdered during that time too. Babies with Down’s syndrome or colic would be killed. If a child demonstrated any kind of abnormal behavior, it could be suspected of being a troll or evil, and it was killed.

It was a very dark time for humankind and trollkind alike.

“Had we made a deal with the devil?” Linus asked cautiously.

I shook my head. “No, of course not. We’re no more satanic than rabbits or chameleons. Just because we’re different than humans doesn’t make us evil.”

“So we were all one big happy family of trolls, until the Crusades happened. They drove us out of our homes, and I’m assuming that’s what led us to migrate to North America,” Linus filled in.

“Correct. Most of the troll population migrated here with early human settlers, mostly Vikings, and that’s why so much of our culture is still based in our Scandinavian ancestry.”

His brow scrunched up as he seemed to consider this for a moment, then he asked, “Okay, I get that, but if we’re Scandinavian, how come so many of us have darker skin and brown hair? Not to sound racist here, but aren’t people from Sweden blond and blue-eyed? You’re the only one I’ve seen that looks like that.”

“Our coloration has to do with how we lived,” I explained. “Originally, we lived very close to nature. The Omte lived in trees, building their homes in trunks or high in the branches. The Trylle, the Vittra, and the Kanin lived in the ground. The Kanin especially lived much the way rabbits do now, with burrows in the dirt and tunnels connecting them.”

“What does that have to do with having brown hair?” he asked.

“It was about blending into our surroundings.” I pointed to the picture again, pointing to where a rabbit was sitting in the long grass. “The Kanin lived in the dirt and grass, and those that matched the dirt and grass had a higher survival rate.”

“What about you, then?”

“I’m half Skojare,” I told him, and just like every other time I’d said it, the very words left a bitter taste in my mouth.

“Skojare? That’s the aquatic one?”

I nodded. “They lived in the water or near it, and they are pale with blond hair and blue eyes.”

“Make sense, I guess.” He didn’t sound completely convinced, but he continued anyway. “So what happened after we came to North America?”

“We’d already divided into groups. Those with certain skills and aptitudes tended to band together. But we hadn’t officially broken off,” I said. “Then when we came here, we all kind of spread out and started doing our own thing.”

“That’s when you became the Kanin and the Skojare, et cetera?”

“Sort of.” I wagged my head. “We’d split off in different groups, but we hadn’t officially named ourselves yet. Some tribes did better than others. The Trylle and the Kanin, in particular, flourished. I don’t know if it was just that they were lucky in establishing their settlements or they worked smarter. But whatever the reason, they thrived, while others suffered. And that’s really what the story is about.”

“What?” Linus glanced down at the book, then back up at me. “I feel like you skipped a step there.”

“Each animal in the story represents a different tribe.” I tapped the picture of a cougar, his eyes red and fangs sharp. “The cougar is the Vittra, who were starving and suffering. So they began attacking and stealing from the other tribes, and soon the Omte, who are the birds, joined in. And it wasn’t long until everyone was fighting everyone, and we’d completely broken off from each other.”

“Which one are the Kanin?” Linus asked as he stared down at the page.

“We’re the rabbits. That’s literally what kanin translates into.”

“Really?” Linus questioned in surprise. “Why rabbits? Shouldn’t we be, like, chameleons or something?”

“Probably, but when the trolls named themselves, they didn’t know what chameleons were. Not a lot of reptiles in northern Canada. So we went with rabbits because they burrowed deep, ran fast, and they did a good job of blending in with their surroundings.”

Linus stared sadly at the books in front of him. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to remember all this stuff, especially not with all the different tribes.”

“Here.” I grabbed a thick book from the bottom of the pile and flipped through its yellowing pages until I found the one I was looking for.

It had a symbol for each of the tribes, the actual emblems that we used on flags when we bothered to use flags—a white rabbit for the Kanin, a green flowering vine for the Trylle, a red cougar for the Vittra, a blue fish for the Skojare, and a brown-bearded vulture for the Omte.

Next to each emblem were a few short facts about each of the tribes. Not enough to make anyone an expert, but enough for now.

He grimaced and stared down at the page. “Great.”

“It won’t be that bad,” I assured him.

As Linus studied the page in front of him, his brown hair fell across his forehead, and his lips moved as he silently read the pages. The freckles on his cheeks darkened the harder he concentrated—an unconscious reaction brought on by his Kanin abilities.

“Bryn Aven.” A sharp voice pulled me from watching Linus, and I looked up to see Astrid Eckwell. “What on earth are you doing here?”

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