Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author
Presentation > Books > Fantasy tales > The Mira Chronicles

The Mira Chronicles

Høst & Søn, 2005/2006

This is an epic work by Josefine Ottesen, one which both tells an exciting story AND incorporates considerations of what it means to be human. It can remind the reader of works such as Ursula K. Leguin's "The Wizard of Earthsea". 

Link to The Mira Chronicles website (Danish)

Extract from The Whisper of Demons
Extract from The Queen's Tear
Extract from The Crystal Heart
Author's comments

Part 1 - The Whisper of Demons :

As the daughter of the king's librarian, Mira was born into the ruling class of the country of Dakya. Her father's family belongs to the despised Truva people but her mother's line is much more powerful. Mira's maternal grandfather is none other than the Grand Master of the Order of Vargas.
Peace has reigned for many years but, when the old king dies, his son wants to settle accounts with the Truva and restore the country to its earlier glory. Rumours and slander flourish while ancient demonic powers, which all believed had been laid to rest long ago, begin to stir themselves.
With her mixed blood, Mira finds herself at the centre of the erupting conflict. At the same time, she becomes aware that her father's mother was one of The Five Sages, who were guardians of the old knowledge that is kept secret from most people.

Part 2 - The Queen's Tear :

Mira has fled to the impenetrable delta where more and more of the Truva people have sought refuge to avoid being sent into the mines by the country's new rulers. Here she once more meets old Zaddi One-Eye, who challenges her to accept responsibility for her inherited powers. Mira is taught how to be a demon master so that she can protect her people and take up the fight against the forces that Gidaric, the new Master of the Knowledge, lets loose over Dakya. But how can one choose the right path for oneself and for others when life itself is at stake? And how can a young girl do battle against a mighty sorcerer?

Part 3 - The Crystal Heart :

Mira has lost the Queen's Tear, the magical jewel which she has inherited from her grandmother, and she is being held prisoner in the mines where she experiences the worst aspects of human beings. But even in the midst of her fear, she is reminded of the fact that she has a task to complete, namely that her help is essential in combating the demons that have possessed the inhabitants of Dakya. But how can Mira hold on to the belief that good can overcome evil when she no longer feels that she herself has a right to live?

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Extract from The Whisper of Demons :

"A maiden wandered under limes so green, with cheeks more blooming than ever was seen," hummed Mira and continued the old song about the Maiden Rosenkind and her beloved Valamir. They were joined together first in death, because her father had given her away to the Demon King in exchange for power and wealth. Zaddi mumbled along with her and, when Mira was finished, the old woman asked, "Do you know the story behind the song?"
Mira shook her head. "It's just an old song like so many others."
"No song or tale comes out of nowhere. Maiden Rosenkind was a favoured young woman, blessed by Raza, but she was overcome by a magus who had sold his soul to the Demon King, Amorbos. He demanded Rosenkind's heart in payment for helping the magician to learn the most powerful incantations. Valamir, her beloved, offered himself for her and made arrangements to ensure it was his heart that was brought to the magician. When Rosenkind realised what Valamir had done for her, she no longer wished to live and followed him quickly up to Raza and the Shining Three."
"So there was no point in Valamir offering himself."
"There you are wrong," Zaddi said directly to Mira. "If Valamir hadn't offered himself, Amorbos would have become stronger. He wanted to stop Rosenkind, because her goodness gave strength to Raza and the Shining Three. But Valamir's love, which was even stronger than death, prevented Amorbos from touching his heart." Zaddi looked closely at Mira, momentarily giving her a sense that the one-eyed old crone was bathed in a radiant light. She blinked fearfully, so when the woman continued her tale, all was as before. "Every time us people here on Earth give in to evil, it gets stronger. Every time we chose goodness, we strengthen Raza Ravenqueen and the Shining Three."
"But I've often left gifts for the hill demons and I saw myself how you scattered crumbs in the spring for the water maidens the first day we were walking."
"Zaddi laid a gnarled hand on Mira's shoulder and said, "Lovinia was right when she said you knew nothing. How on earth has your otherwise so intelligent father managed to keep you in such ignorance?"
Mira pulled free. "Don't you dare say anything bad about my father. I heard very well how you belittled my sister. I won't stand for it!" She stamped her foot hard, but could at the same time hear how childishly she was behaving. Clearly it only encouraged Zaddi even more.
"That's good, my girl. Get angry, but remember to use your anger for something. It's not me who's kept you in the dark."

The old crone was right. Mira took a deep breath and brought her anger under control.
"What is it you think I have to learn?"
"First and foremost, you must understand that there is a big difference between the small devils and demons that dwell in the mountain tops, by springs and such like. They take care of the place and demand respect and offerings for that. And if they don't get it, they make a nuisance of themselves. They're not dangerous, maybe a little irritating at the most. But the real demons are the ones you must beware of coming in contact with, if you don't know the protective spells, the guardian spirits and the magic rings. They have previously laid the country waste, caused brother to kill brother, divided families and brought hate and cruelty to our world. They are possessed of a mighty strength and, if called by people who desire power and wealth, then everyone should fear them." She began walking again as she continued, "Demons can be a fateful acquaintance if you don't know how to control them. On the other hand, they are good servants if you understand how to dance with them."
"Dance with them?"
"Dancing with the immortals is a way of holding them in check." Zaddi gave a brief chuckle. "Most people believe however, that you can control the demons solely through the aid of magic litanies, charms and holy signs. You can too for a limited time. But every time they call them, their mind will be affected by the superhuman power and soon they will no longer be able to distinguish between good and evil and neither suffering nor love will find a place in their frozen hearts."

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Extract from The Queen's Tear :

The sandbank where Zaddi grounded the boat was unusually big, but so low that it could be expected to be flooded at high tide. Mira helped with lifting the light craft completely up on the sand, after which the old woman set her the task of drawing the large five-pointed star with the circle around, which she herself should stand in.
When she was finished, the sorceress meticulously examined all her lines. There must not be any weak spots where the demon could break into her space and get power over her instead of the opposite. A little way away, Mira now drew another circle, but without the five-pointed star in it. This also was thoroughly inspected. Here the spirit would manifest, and here it would also be a catastrophe if the line were broken. It would give the demon the opportunity to force its way into the human sphere, after which it would be out of control.
Zaddi kept a close watch on her apprentice while she went through her protection rituals and called down her protector and guide. She was practically in a trance and it was only with difficulty that the old woman's final injunctions forced their way into her consciousness.
"Mira, don't forget you're on your own now. You'll be going beyond the knowledge I have and what I've experienced. It's dangerous for me to be in the vicinity so I'll be sailing off, but I'll return later in the day. Remember that you first and foremost require Etzarim's strength and energy. Don't call down other domains no matter what happens."
Mira nodded listlessly. Her attention had already turned to other realms. Within herself, she repeated the invocation that would call down the powerful demon. She had studied the picture of him many times and she knew that his power was immeasurable. Should it be used for evil, it could create terror and boundless fear, but if she was able to harness it, she could get it to transfer some of its power to her.
Chanting out loud, she began to intone the long magical invocation that would call down the demon. She continued repeating it at the same volume while she swayed back and forth with her arms held high. A long time passed without anything happening, but then the morning mist began to gather in a more material form in the other circle.
Slowly, a strange, round being began to unfold itself before her. In a way, she recognised it from the book, but it seemed so much more terrifying in this context.

Hundreds of heinous arms wound themselves around a putrid, green, shapeless body, each one of them bearing a bloodshot eye that stared angrily at her. Underneath the eye was a mouth with sharp teeth and a purple tongue that flickered in and out like a snake's. Terrible cries and groans enveloped her, along with as a stench which made her head swim. The many eyes stared at her and their gaze felt like jabs of a knife. An overwhelming scream rushed through her and threw her down on the ground, where she curled herself up. Searing fear filled her consciousness. She gasped and sobbed for air, and even though she had her eyes shut fast, she knew that Etzarim's many tentacles reached out for her, but she was paralysed with fear and couldn't move.
In between the demon's sharp screams of pain, she faintly heard Lovinia's voice, "You must be brave, Mirale. Etzarim has the power to strike blind fear into people and just because of that, he can be the most dangerous of all Amorbus' servants, but his power can be turned into vision and energy if you harness him. You must pull yourself together so you can withstand his gaze. Otherwise you are lost."

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Extract from The Crystal Heart :

"Get a move on!"
The guard's harsh voice was followed by yet another stinging blow across her back. Mira cowered and worked even faster.
The captive Truva women in the mining camp were kept watch over at every moment. A careful record was kept of how many baskets each of them carried up to the three barracks, where other women sat sorting the extracted stone chunks. If one of them didn't do their share, it wasn't only taken out on her, but also on the other women who slept in the same freezing shed.
Mira quickly gathered the stones with her numb fingers. They were already red and swollen with cold but she hardly noticed. It was important not to think but just do what one was told. In front of her were Bez and Dea who she lived together with in one of the ramshackle, draughty sheds which were their only protection from wind and cold. The others worked two to a basket and Mira had to work fast to keep pace with them.
While she went around with bowed back and gathered the sharp-edged stones into her basket, she tried to work out how long she'd been in the camp. She had lost her sense of time. It had taken several days for Rainer to move her from Citta to up here on the high plateau. Her brother had treated her worse than an animal as he dragged her through the mountains. When she had stumbled, he had just continued riding unconcerned, even though in the beginning she had asked him to stop. The rope around her neck was tied to the pommel on his saddle and had almost throttled her, but he hadn't even bothered to turn round.
The only time he'd responded was to tell her that he had been chosen to take her away because he was the only one who could resist her sorcery.
His task was to break her will, so that she could no longer damage others - and if she

died on the way he would merely regard it as favourable.
If it had been down to him, she would have died when it had become clear that she had bewitched Gidaric with her sorcery, but the Master of the Knowledge was clearly still so much under her demonic influence that he had spared her.
When she heard him say that, she realised that his mind was so possessed by Malakim's soul-eaters that she would never be able to talk him round. He would never help her in the slightest - more likely the opposite. She would have to concentrate her efforts on survival.

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Author's comments:

In The Mira Chronicles, which my collected new novel series is called, the first part is called A Whisper of Demons. The book is about Mira, a nobleman's daughter, whose world suddenly crumbles because ancient demonic forces are released.
For me, it has been, and continues to be, very challenging to write this novel series because it forces me to take a position on evil, where it originates and how it spreads.
I would prefer it if we were all good towards each other and that the world was a lovely place to be, but with my own dual cultural background, I've always been familiar with how fear of the unknown can open doors for words and actions which are so callous and evil, that it can seem as if the whole of our society is possessed by demonic forces.
Of course, it doesn't happen overnight but it's not long before gossip and rumour become stories which, for every time that they are told, become stronger and stronger, until in the end they are accepted as inviolable truth, because "I've also heard that story…" and "There's no smoke without fire…." etc.
It is clear that it is a risky business to allow a fantasy novel to take its starting point in an overriding philosophical formulation of a problem and in order to dive into the material and let it take form and life, I chose to go an untraditional way.
In connection with several other books of mine, it has been of great benefit to me to make use of different meditation and fantasy journey techniques. When I wrote my prize-winning fantasy series Krigeren(The Warrior), I learned for example to make drum-journeys like the old shamans. In writing The Mira Chronicles, I have had great pleasure in working with Tarot cards. In fact, the whole of the main character's development throughout the three parts is governed by Tarot spreads.
Of course, one can ask oneself whether it is a bit risky to abandon oneself to such unproven methods, but for me there is no great difference between creating the inner pictures that are the starting point for a new story myself, and using Tarot cards which are highly picturesque and saturated with symbolism.
It has been, and still is, an unbelievably magical process to use the cards as collaborator in the complicated, exciting and painful process of depicting Mira's journey from being a spoilt nobleman's daughter without consideration for much more than herself, to having to take responsibility for not only her own life, but perhaps many other people's lives as well.