Valkyrie Chapter 1
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The screams of the dying echoed around her as soot, smoke, and ash permeated the air. It was stifling, choking her every breath, and brought tears to her eyes. Her armor was coated in blood, her face splattered in it like jester’s makeup. Some of the it had dried in her hair matting it; soaked through to the scalp.
She had lost count in the slaughter, the faces of the men, women and children all blurring together. It was a warrior’s trick, a way to distance yourself from caring who fell to your blade. But amidst the din, a cry went out, one so sharp that it parted the cacophony of violence raging around her.
She turned, focusing on its source, her eyes narrowing on a small hovel just a few steps away. Stepping inside to investigate, the cry was coming from underneath a woman covered in blood.
Carefully, she turned the woman over, her eyes were rolled back in her head, and mouth open in a twisted mask of horror. The source of the sound was a small child laying underneath, covered in its mother’s blood, its birth cord still attached. Somehow the child had survived, at least for the moment.
She gripped the hilt of her sword staring hard at the infant, its cries slowly becoming the only thing in her ears. She knelt, drawing her dagger from its sheath. Their orders were absolute.
The child’s suddenly stopped crying, turning to look at her. It reached out aimlessly, its tiny fingers grazing the dagger that she was holding so close to it. In that moment, something gave, like a dam holding back a flood.
It was overwhelming, rending her heart. She could see the faces of the dead, their accusing stares glaring hatefully at her. The screams of the dying were like the shrill shriek of a night flyer, echoing over the din of the battle in search of its next meal.
The pain grew, like a sword thrust into her gut. Before she realized it, she was running, the sound of the dying growing silent once again. The cool night air bit into her, the snow threatening to pull her down while she cradled the child close to her breast. The night seemed to swallow her as she ran through the wood, the sound of battle slowly fading forever.
Eadra awoke in a cold sweat, her heart pounding furiously. It was the dream again and even awake she could still see the accusatory stares of the dead. Quietly, she slipped from the bed, donning her robe and crept out the bedroom.
She stepped into the hall, stopping at the first door on her right and gently turning the knob, peered inside. Frey was still asleep; she whispered a quick word of thanks to whatever spirits or Immortals that might be listening.
Eadra knew how loud she could get when the nightmares came. Frey had roused her several times because of them. It had taken most of the night to get her daughter back to sleep because of the commotion. A wave of relief set in, Frey hadn’t woken this time.
“Five long years,” she whispered. Five years since she had deserted her commission and the band she served. Five years since she had sworn never to take a life. “That life is long over,” she reminded herself. The two years few years were hard, but they had made it. In the cold wilderness of Sokoras, nothing came easy.
Still, the villagers were kind folk, happily helping through those hard times. Everyone in the community always pulled together, ensuring no one starved. She in turn always grew extra for her neighbors, and they reciprocated; supplying whatever they could.
Unable to sleep, she made her way to the hearth, putting some water to a pot and bringing it to a boil. Tea would help her relax. It was a rare commodity so far north, but she had found a way to make it grow. It became an incentive of sorts for the community. Once she shared her secret with the village, traders began to visit regularly, paying a good sum for just to get their hands on a few pounds of it.
It was one of the few plants she had grown that survived long enough for her to produce a decent yield. The familiar whistle of the pot tore her from her thoughts and carefully taking a cloth in hand she poured herself a cup.
“Momma?” a familiar voice called.
Eadra turned and smiled. “What are you doing up, little one?” she asked. Her heart melted at the way Frey rubbed her eyes as she trudged closer. More so when her daughter wrapped her arms around her.
“I love you, Momma,” she said.
Eadra set her cup down and scooped the little girl in her arms. “Oh, my little sprite, I love you too.”
Eijar vigorously rubbed his hands together by the fire, the bitter cold biting at his fingertips. Arald was late, of course that was no surprise. Anytime he was sent ahead for supplies, there was always a ‘delay’. An inn would have been preferable, but the village was too far out of the way.
Ylva started laughing. “Honestly, Eijar, you couldn’t make it more obvious you aren’t ‘Blooded’”
Eiijar curled his lip. “Forgive me for not having ice water coursing through my veins,” he said. “Or perhaps it was your mother who spread herself for a frost giant?” He shifted his weight, barely avoided her knife as it landed just inches from his inner thigh.
“Care Eijar, or you might find yourself among the list Ylva has robbed of their manhood.”
A dark smile crossed the woman’s face in response. Eijar shuddered, he knew just how cruel she could be. He looked across the campfire’s flames, amusement written on Bodvar’s face.
“You shouldn’t encourage her,” he commented.
“And You should mind your tongue, Eijar,” Bodvar replied. “You’ve only been with us for a year.”
Eijar bit his lip. Bodvar and his rules. The band was very strict on what they considered respectful. In his case, he was an outsider. Neither Blooded or born in Sorkoras.
“Well isn’t this a pleasant sight.” Eijar looked to his left to see Arald step into view from the snowy treeline.
“I hope you didn’t spend all our money on women and drinks,” Bodvar grumbled.
Arald held his hands up defensively. “Take it easy Bodvar,” he replied. “I may have spent some of it, but you should see what I found.” Arald took his pack off, pulling a small pouch from the top pocket and tossing it to Bodvar.
Bodvar opened it, eyes wide in surprise.
“I believe we may have found her,” Arald said.
Eijar felt a chill, one that made the cold air around him seem warm by comparison. Each of his bandmates eyes changed, become almost murderous. “Did you see her?” Bodvar asked.
“No, but who else can grow tea under these conditions?”
“Then perhaps we should pay this village a visit,” Ylva chimed in. Eijar locked his jaw. The smile on her pale face was frightening. It was obvious what she intended to do.
“Eijar, I think this detour will be a good lesson for you,” Bodvar said, turning to look at him. “You get to see what we do to deserters and traitors. Mark it well and remember, you are one of us until you breathe your last.