Valkyrie Chapter 13
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Eadra’s legs felt heavy as she trudged through the snow. She felt its pull threatening to drag her down. The cold stung her cheeks and fingers. She pulled her cloak tighter, thankful her armor was well insulated.
Her body ached, pain stabbing at her sides and back with each breath. The cold didn’t help her lungs either. “Frey,” she wheezed. “I’ll find you.”
It was getting harder to stay awake. Eadra had had no idea how long she had been wandering but knew she would need to build a fire for warmth, and soon.
Laughter echoed in her ears. “You didn’t die after all.” It was her younger self taunting her.
“Shut up!” She had been hallucinating for a while now. Part of it was from the pain wracking her body, the rest was the snows.
Sokoras was a cursed land. She remembered reading about the war between the Dak’ren and the Aethar. The evil elves had done something to the land, making it colder and harder to survive here. Hallucinations were common when you were close to death in the snows.
The Dak’ren were cruel and merciless. Their only goal during the war was genocide. They didn’t care for the land or its people. Eventually, according to the tomes she read, the Aethar were defeated, and the remaining survivors had to escaped to Dae’shal.
Eadra leaned against a nearby tree, trying to catch her breath. She looked up to see her younger self sitting comfortably on the snow packed ground. There was fire and a snow rabbit roasting over it.
“Want some?” she asked.
“You’re not real!”
Her younger self smiled wickedly. “Am I? If it’s true then we’ve, rather you’ve gone mad.”
“I don’t have time for this!” It hurt to even speak.
Her younger self simply shrugged. “It’s a shame really,” she said cutting away a piece of the rabbit, “this is quite good.”
Eadra pushed off from the tree and kept going. She looked up trying to get her bearings. The moon was out, the clouds parted enough to let its light slip passed them. There were pines all around her. She saw her tracks behind her, but there wasn’t enough light to see how far she had come.
There were a few stars visible against the cloud cover. She thought of the books her father had shown her and the names of the constellations. Eadra cursed herself when she realized she was heading east.
“What are you doing?” she asked herself. “Wandering aimlessly, letting the pain dull you.” Her first instinct had been to get away from the village, to put distance between herself and Bodvar’s Blades. She was angry at herself for letting it push her too far.
“So, is this where we die?”
Eadra looked up. Her younger self was standing a few paces away. She closed her eyes.
She opened them and the girl was gone. Shelter and a fire. I need to focus so I can retrace my steps.
A haunting howl sounded in the distance and a soft wind blew. Some of the clouds passed over the moon, robbing her of its precious light. Eadra reached for Grimmear. She knew she was in no condition to fight. Wallen was in its scabbard, it still had enough of a blade to fit without falling out.
Wolves would be a problem. She hoped it was only one. No other calls had gone out. Eadra kept moving, her eyes growing heavier. The wind had picked up, it felt like it was getting colder.
After a while she looked up at the moon and checked its position. Judging by the distance it had traveled over an hour had passed. She leaned against on a nearby pine, and rubbed her hands together. It was getting harder to stay awake and hunger pains were stabbing at her.
“How far east are you going to go?”
Eadra ignored her younger self and didn’t even bothering looking in her direction. Another howl echoed through the forest. A lone wolf, it must be tracking me.
Eadra stopped and looked around. With the help of the moonlight, she saw a few sticks and small broken branches. The last thing she wanted to make herself more tired than she already was. Still, a fire might discourage the wolf, if it wasn’t too hungry.
Gathering the loose wood was tiring, some of it was wet. Pine burned easily, but if it was too wet, it might not light. Taking some of the wood, she used Grimmear to shave the wet wood away from the dryer parts inside. She also needed to shave it thin enough to light easily.
Eadra used Wallen to clear away the snow from the ground and placed the broken sword on the spot she had cleared. She then placed the thin shavings of dry wood onto the blade and pulled a smooth flint stone from her belt pouch. She paused and stared at it. Like her armor, she had left a few things in the crate.
With Grimmear in hand she began striking the scramasax against the flint stone. Sparks flew, the shavings smoked, but didn’t light. Eadra struck harder, sliding Grimmear across the stone.
“Please,” she whispered.
It was exhausting, her arms felt heavy but eventually, the shavings ignited. She moved to block the wind adding bits of tinder. Her fingers stung slightly from the bit of warmth provided by the small flame.
As the fire grew, she slowly fed it larger bits of kindling, until it was stable enough to leave in search of more wood. Eadra stumbled and caught herself on one of the pines. She had used too much energy building the fire.
As she managed to pull herself up but managed to glimpse something at the base of the pine. With the poor lighting she hadn’t noticed it before, but there a bud from a winter fruit growing at its base. The bud wouldn’t come close to filling her, but it was still food, even if it had a bitter taste.
Eadra tore the small plant up by it roots and ate it stalk and all. The bitter taste made her gag, but she fought it, forcing herself to swallow. She glanced at the fire, it wouldn’t last long if she didn’t act soon.
Eadra gathered more kindling and began stripping it like before. The warmth the fire provided was helping to fight the fatigue, but she still needed food. The howl sounded again, it was closer this time. A chill on the air followed.
Eadra stood, breaking a one of the longer branches she had collection and fashioned it into a makeshift torch. Once it was lit, she began searching around the other nearby pines for more winter fruit. The plants were parasites, they fed off the pines and used the wind to spread their spores. With any luck, there would be some actual fruit on a few of them.
With the light of her torch, Eadra managed to find a couple of the plants in full bloom and quickly plucked their fruit. She put one winter fruit in her pouch and quickly devoured the other. It tasted was sweet, better than the bud she had eaten before, but she shivered as it went down. The hunger pangs lessened, but Eadra knew she would need more.
As the night went on, her routine of foraging and tending to the fire had began wearing her down. Eadra was still hurting from the beating and she felt weak. Breathing was still difficult, but the warm air from the fire helped.
Eadra looked at the three winter fruits she had recovered and the tarna root she had dug up. The root would help with the pain, but it had to be heated first. She thought about what her father used to say about the root, how sick it would make you if you didn’t prepare it right.
Another howl sounded. Eadra froze, it wasn’t far. She had managed to sharpen one of the branches she found into a short spear, but wielding it was awkward. There was a notable difference between its weight and Wallens.
“I guess you must be starving,” she commented. She took a breath, placing the spear and the scramasax across her lap.
Eadra closed her eyes and began to meditate. There was a mantra used by the Aethar, how your spirit and will were one. They believed that if tempered, it held sway over your soul or emotions and body.
Will over emotion, will over body. Spirit over soul, spirit over body. Desire molded by will, then shaped to body.
She repeated the mantra over and over in her mind. It was more than simply willing and mastering yourself. It was understanding the relationship of your body, soul and spirit. Eadra wasn’t sure it was magic or not. Much about Aethar were still a mystery. But there was a feeling whenever she practiced it, like something was being drawn into her, molded and then spread through her body.
It became easier to breath, the pain dulling. The technique didn’t heal you, but it made your injuries more bearable and rejuvenated the body. Eadra knew she couldn’t afford to push herself and would need to rest eventually. The effect was only temporary.
A cold wind suddenly blew in. It felt unnatural, she could feel it through her armor. Eadra opened her eyes, the fire was going out. She threw more kindling on it, but to no effect. Something was coming.
The howl echoed across the wind, it was near. Eadra stood, keeping a firm grip on her spear and Grimmear, scanning the pines. She looked up, the cloud cover had grown, and snow began to fall.
The fire suddenly went out and even the coals gave no warmth or light. A low growl came from off to her right and she turned to see a large pair of red eyes glowing in the dark. The cold grew, biting beneath her armor. Eadra fought it off, the Aetharian technique giving her the strength to stand her ground.
The creature growled, its eyes were the only thing she could make out. They were full of malice and spite. Whatever it was, it was no wolf, at least it was nothing she had heard of before.
It charged and she planted her feet waiting. The creature leapt and Eadra fell back anchoring the spear, hoping it would connect with its chest. A loud yelp followed, along with the feeling of something connecting with the spear. When Eadra looked up, however, there was nothing on the end of the spear, not even blood. Instead ice crystals had formed on the tip.
The wind suddenly died, and the clouds parted. With the light of the moon illuminating the areas Eadra wolf prints the size of a man’s hand in the snow. The wind began to pick up again.
There wasn’t time wonder about the creature, but Eadra found herself thinking about Sasa. He used to rant about a beast that stalked the snows at night. Most of the villagers laughed at him about it. No one had ever seen it.
Sometimes they would find a dead traveler in the snows, but that was normal. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to found frozen to death. Eadra paused and looked at the end of the spear. She thought about the bodies they would find throughout the year.
Sasa was right.
There was another howl, it wasn’t far. The creature must have retreated for now. The fact it had cried out was confusing, there had been no blood. Either it was wounded somehow, or it wasn’t, and her weapons were useless.
Eadra turned and ran, another howl sounding behind her. The wind was growing stronger. She looked up, the cloud cover was thickening. The moon was still visible, judging from its position, morning was still a few hours away. I need to find a way to survive until then.