Valkyrie Chapter 14
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
A cold wind blew across the outer wall forcing Jormund to pull his cloak tighter around himself. He looked at Henrik from the corner of his eye, the old Thran seemed to have the weight of a mountain on his shoulders.
He looks so tired.
Thirty of Henrik’s wolf riders were camped outside the wall below them. Jormund had offered them hospitality and shelter from the cold, but they had politely refused. It seemed their stay wouldn’t be long.
“You can feel it, can’t you?” he asked. “A change is happening in the lands.”
Jormund, looked up at the stars. Henrik wasn’t wrong, he feel something. “Ever since Viktor’s invitation,” he replied, turning to look at the old Thran.
Henrik nodded. “I’m too old for all of this,” he said. “I don’t care for politics or ruling anything, Jormund. That is for young men.”
Jormund laughed. “You think it wise to be telling me, a fellow Thran, that you have grown tired of leadership?”
Henrik grinned, his beard and white hair making him look like someone’s grandfather. In truth, he probably was. As tired as the old Thran looked, Jormund knew better.
“Come to my lands if you’re brave enough,” he replied.
Jormund smiled back. “And have your wolf riders run us down? I’m not completely insane.” The look in Henrik’s eye seemed almost hopeful that he would change his mind.
Of all the Thran, the Henrik was oldest and longest lived. He was crafty and smart, but Jormund could tell he would rather die in battle than in his bed. Henrik’s wolf riders were the reason for his success and longevity.
No one had yet to figure out how he had managed to train dire wolves to be obedient and loyal. They were effective though. Henrik’s territory bordered lands claimed by the frost giants. The giants rarely made incursions and when they did, they brought their dragons with them.
“Why have you come, Henrik?”
The old Thran sighed. “Because I do not trust Viktor and since all of you are going, I cannot afford to not be at the table.”
“A courier could have told me that,” Jormund replied. “What is your real reason?”
“I have no sons, Jormund, not anymore,” he answered. “I have watched you, Jormund, watched you grow as a leader and a warrior. I am here to offer you my lands in exchange for my people’s safety.”
Jormund stared at him, eyes wide. “Hen…”
“No,” the old Thran responded, “You will hear me.” He drew his sword; the blade had been in Henrik’s family for generations. “I have a great deal of respect for you Jormund, we have had peace since you took over from your father many years ago.”
The old Thran took the sword and laid it at Jormund’s feet. He then took the seax sheathed on his belt and cut it across his palm. “I make this pact with you and acknowledge you as my heir,” he said holding the knife out.
Jormund took the knife. He could only stare at it as Henrik’s blood dripped from it. It would be dishonorable to refuse the old Thran after he had gone so far. Jormund took the seax and cut across his hand, he then extended it, making sure his blood dripped from the wound and onto Henrik’s sword.
Henrik took his bloody hand and clasped tightly. “Now as we have both bled over the blade and our blood is mixed, I call you son,” he said. “Jormund Henrikson.”
None of this made sense. “Why?” Jormund asked. “Why would go so far, Henrik?”
“I had a dream, Jormund,” he replied. “I saw myself die and soon after, so did my people. The chieftains serving me are capable, but they aren’t leaders like us, they can’t see beyond their villages.”
Jormund shook his head. “A dream? All of this because of a dream?”
“It was too real to ignore,” Henrik replied. “My people need a strong leader and whatever Viktor has planned makes me nervous. I am leaving Vargron with you as proof of our pact.”
Jormund looked down at the sword and then blood they had spilled over it. He reached down to his belt, undoing the clasp the kept his sword and sheath attached to it. “I will not leave you unarmed,” he said, holding them out.
Henrik smiled. “This is why I chose you,” he replied. “My chieftains already know my plans and have sworn a Blood Oath to uphold my wishes.”
“Then, Father, please accept the hospitality I extended earlier before returning home.”
“Henrikson, I shall indeed accept your generous offer,” the old Thran replied.
Eadra could barely feel her legs. The pace had been grueling and the wolf or whatever this creature was, had been getting closer. It was so cold, the insulation in her armor doing little to keep it from seeping in. The weather had grown worse, the snowfall and wind limited her vision.
How long have I been running?
The pain from her beating was creeping in. A howl echoed across the wind, the creature was nearby. Frantically Eadra pressed on, using the spear she had made like a walking stick to anchor herself against the wind.
Eventually she broke away from the treeline. In the distance, amidst the vast sheet of white extending in front of her, she saw a series of shallow rocky outcroppings piercing the snow. Silently, Eadra prayed for a cave or something to protect her from the weather.
Mustering her strength, Eadra ran toward them. As she drew closer, Eadra noticed something strange about the outcroppings. With the visibility so poor it was hard to see details, but their placement seemed unnatural.
When she reached them, Eadra noticed, they weren’t outcroppings, but the remnants of what appeared to be a wall. She heard a low growl from behind her and turned to see two glowing red eyes greet her a few yards away. From the light, she could barely make out its form.
It was like some kind of spirit, barely tangible. The snow would briefly stick to it before passing through as the creature moved. Eadra looked at the makeshift spear, then the creature. It didn’t appear to be injured.
She backed away, passing by between where the gate to the walls once had been. The creature wasn’t far now, but when it reached the break in the crumbled wall, it stopped and began pacing back and forth. Eadra tilted her head curiously.
The wolf snarled, the wind’s intensity growing as it stared at her. Though she knew better and with the biting cold, Eadra drew closer, coming face to face with the beast. It stopped pacing, the snow slowly accumulating and giving it form while it stood there.
The wolf growled, then suddenly howled, as if frustrated that its prey was out of reach, turned and ran off into the night. The storm quickly subsided shortly after. The clouds began to part allowing the moon’s light to begin filling the area.
“Why?” she whispered. “Why didn’t you come after me?”
Eadra turned away from the wall, surprised to find that she was standing in some kind of ruin. It wasn’t very large, about the size of a small keep, judging by what was left of the wall. Even with the snow, one structure in the middle of it and appeared to be mostly intact.
“I hope there aren’t any other surprises waiting for me inside,” she said.