Valkyrie Chapter 15
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
They had parted ways just before dawn, the old trader and the others had shared some of their provisions before leaving. His quarry wasn’t moving very fast and judging by the placement of their footprints, they were hurt. Wulf frowned and touched the sword shard hanging from his belt. He could feel the connection it shared with its owner.
He could sense they were still alive, but that could change quickly. He continued on, stopping after seeing a set of large wolf tracks in the snow. They appeared to following his quarry. The size of them was concerning.Wulf knelt, placing his hand inside the print.
He sighed. Dire Wolf... I really don’t feel like fighting on of you.
The odd thing about the tracks was that they were sporadic and inconsistent. It was as if the world were jumping or leaping instead of running or walking. He drew his sword. Dire wolf or not, he hoped it still bled.
It was midday when he came across the remains of a campfire. The tracks had been harder to find as if a storm had come through. He looked behind him then at the sky. Something wasn’t right.
Wulf searched the area, the snowfall strangely wasn’t consistent. It made it hard to get a good feel for what had happened. He uncovered some winter fruit buried in the snow by the campfire’s remains and noted more growing on one of the pines close by.
“It must have found you and you ran,” he commented. That didn’t make sense. His quarry was obvious injured and a dire wolf would have overtaken them too quickly. The pawprints ended on the opposite side of the fire.
Unlike his quarry, wolf saw that the dire wolf’s prints weren’t covered over from the storm. “As if the Hungering Ones weren’t bad enough, now I’ve got something else out here.”
He stopped, grabbed the sword shard, closed his eyes and focused. The thread was pulling him east. “I don’t know what you have following you, but I hope the fact you are still alive means it’s dead.”
The tower wasn’t she expected. Eadra wasn’t sure if she could even call it a tower. It was old though, very old. It was still intact, mostly, with four floors, none of which she had dared to explore. The ground floor was barren, except for four stone pedestals in each corner of the chamber. Judging by the large bowls on each, they were probably braziers.
There was a statue sitting on a pedestal at the of the chamber, but except for the eyes the rest of its features were eroded. Eadra could tell it was supposed to be wearing some kind of armor, but the damage was too severe. The sword it held lay at rest against it, was just as eroded, only the carved edges of the pommel were defined. The only other feature were stairs leading up to the next level and another set leading below.
Eadra leaned in closer to the fire taking in its warmth. She had broken her spear into pieces, stripped it, then used it for kindling. It wouldn’t last, even with the strips she had cut from her fur coat. Keeping it going would mean she would have to make the trek back to the forest. Just the thought of it made her body hurt more than it already did.
Eadra stared at the other half of the winter fruit she had eaten. It would spoil soon, the fruit never lasted long after it was plucked. A soft wind blew drawing her attention.
Rays of sunlight shone through the doorway. At least the sun was up, it was a shame the doors had rotted away. Keeping the heat in would have been nice.
Her eyes felt heavy. Even with the warmth she had, Eadra knew sleep could be dangerous. She desperately wanted it, her body screamed for it.
“You could lie down.”
Eadra looked up, her younger self was sitting across the fire from her.
“Just give up, she’s not your daughter, you owe her nothing.”
The look on her younger self’s face was to be expected. Her expression was cold, empty and unfeeling. How many of my victims had seen that face?
“You’re a stranger to me,” Eadra replied. “I was never so cruel.”
Her laughter was like salt to a wound. “You were though,” she replied. “The ‘kindness’ you showed to the Blades was self-serving. You haven’t loved anything since father and mother died.”
She laughed. “Oh, I stand corrected. You did love your books.”
Eadra grabbed the remaining half of the winter fruit and hurled it at her. He gripped her when it splattered across her younger self’s face. The fruit’s juice was red, like blood.
“You can’t be real,” Eadra whispered.
Her younger self stood, a wicked smile creeping across her face. “Can’t I be?” she asked. “For years you tried to bury me. To hide me and forget me.” She knelt, staring Eadra deeply in the eyes. “But you can’t hide from yourself!”
She reached out, grabbing Eadra by the throat. Eadra reached for where Grimmear lay by the fire and plunged the scramasax into her side. Her younger self grunted, then smiled, her eyes turning black.
“Just do us both a favor and die,” she said, laughing.
Eadra twisted Grimmear, stabbing it over and over into her, but to avail. She struggled for breath, her vision blurring and body tingling. Frey, I’m sorry…
Eadra sat up, gasping for breath, and reaching for her throat. Frantically she looked around. The fire was out and she was alone. Grimmear lay just within reach where she had left it.
She took a breath, but her hands were still shaking. “Just a dream,” she mumbled. Something was wrong. It wasn’t like any other dream and it definitely wasn’t a hallucination.
She pulled her legs close, placing her arms on them and resting her head against them. Her body still ached, but the fatigue wasn’t as bad as before. She glanced at the doorway. The shadows were long, meaning the sun would probably set in a couple hours. Eadra thought of the dream, she could still hear her younger self’s laughter clearly.
She felt a chill, but not because of the cold. It was a miracle she had woken up at all. The chill I the air was another reminder that she needed to start rekindle the fire. Eadra picked Grimmear up and stood, her body aching in protest from the effort.
She could feel her stomach clawing its way around on the inside. Eadra thought of the winter fruit, glancing down where she had left it. To her surprise it was gone. Eadra gripped Grimmear tightly and looked around. When her eyes fell on its remains on the other side of the fire’s remains, she nervously took a step back.
“Keep it together,” she told herself.
She stepped through the doorway of the tower and drank in what little warmth the sun had to offer. When she opened her eyes, Eadra relief washed over her. The ruin wasn’t as far from the treeline as she had first thought.
She looked up at the sun’s position. “I had best get started.”
Wulf didn’t like the feel of the night air. With the dire wolf’s tracks and the bond the blade shard shared with its owner as his guide, it was hard not to agree with Lok that something might be out here. He felt like he was being watched.
Even with the moon full and bright, just like the night before, Wulf had opted to make a torch. It’s light might help him spot something he would otherwise miss. Thankfully was no cloud cover which was a blessing.
It was hard to imagine that his quarry had made it this far. Though with whatever it was tracking them, they were probably pushed past the point of exhaustion. He stopped to get his bearings, catching a glimpse of a break in the treeline.
The shard and the tracks all pointing in the same direction. Wulf trudged through the snow toward the break. Once through, he saw what appeared to be some kind of ruin. The walls were broken in several places and there seemed to be some sort of tower at the center.
The top was crumbling from the looks of it, but the rest of it seemed intact. It was a surprising sight. Ruins like this were often stripped for building materials at least by those who brave enough or weren’t superstitious. Then again, not many lived this far north.
“Well, whomever you are, I hope you can give me some answers. A howl sounded in the distance followed by a chill on the air. “That’s my cue,” he commented.
He bolted for the wall, just as a cold wind began to whip up. Clouds began to appear overhead and his torch abruptly went out. He heard another howl, this time it was much closer. Heavy snowfall came next and the wind pick up in intensity.
Wulf check the his distance from the wall. He blinked, somehow it seemed much further than before. Regardless he picked up the pace, the cold clawing at his lungs as he ran. A low growl sounded as he crossed a broken section of the wall.
Wulf stopped, turned and drew his sword. It was hard to know what he was looking it, but against the wind and snow it looked like a large dire wolf. It was only partially visible, the snow clinging to it briefly before passing through.
It’s red eyes caught his attention. Wulf knew animals and this creature had more than an animal's mind. It stared at him, pacing back and forth along the wall.
“Yeah, you stay right there,” he said.
It snarled in response, almost as if it understood and were cursing him. Wulf shivered, realizing that even with the protective layers of fur and his armor, it felt as if he were naked in the cold. Moments later the creature vanished, but the feeling that he was being watched, still lingered.
The sudden storm quickly died and he frowned.“Someone better start giving me answers.”
The warmth was refreshing, though Eadra didn’t like feeling like something was watching. The fire larger than before, stable and fed. The air was sweet thanks to the winter fruit cores she had thrown into the fire. It wouldn’t last, but was preferable to the musty smell of old stonework.
She heard a faint howl as cold wind surged through the doorway buffeting the fire. Eadra winced, quickly moving to shield it. Even if the wolf was back, from what she had seen, it wouldn’t move past the wall.
The fire struggled to stay lit against the assault, despite her efforts. As it slowly dwindled, the wind subsided leaving snow scattered everywhere. The fire quickly regained its strength and grew.
“How long will you hide?”
Eadra froze and turned to see her younger self standing in the doorway. She wore a wicked smile and was holding Wallen in her right hand. Eadra gripped Grimmear tightly. I must be asleep. I have to be.
She stood, pushing her fear away. It was then Eadra noticed something strange. She always wielded Wallen in her left hand and Grimmear in her right. Her younger self should have done the same.
“Just give up, let me solve your problems,” she said.
“No, you aren’t the answer,” Eadra replied. “I will get my daughter back without you!”
Her younger self smiled wickedly, “You can try,” she said, taking a stance and gripping Wallen in both hands.
Her stance was wrong, even the way she held Wallen was wrong. Eadra had trained to wield two weapons all her life. “Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m who you always should have been,” her younger self replied and then came at her.
She must be delirious. The woman looked haggard and tired. Still, she was good with a scramasax. Wulf parried her attacks, but that was all he could, she was much quicker and he was trying not to kill her.
“Who are you?” she screamed. “You’re not me! You don’t even fight like me!”
As confusing at it all was he didn’t have time to wonder what she on about. Even in that moment, between his confusion and next thought, she came in catching him by the wrists and sweeping him to the ground.
By the time the world stopped spinning, Wulf barely had time to move his head enough to avoid getting her blade shoved into his skull. He looked her in the eye, it was like she in a trance or a dream.
She drew her right arm back, holding his wrists with her left, working to keep them and his sword pinned. Wulf could she wasn’t strong enough. She was too weak and worn from her ordeal.
He pulled his wrists free and smashed the pommel of his word across her face. She fell back, stumbling against the statue in the middle of the chamber. Wulf quickly got up, bringing his sword to bear in front of him. She looked up at him, eyes wide, her expression twisted and full anger.
“I won’t become you again!” she screamed. “I will rescue Frey!”
Blood ran down her face from where he hit her as she stood. It was then he noticed something strange. The statue’s position had changed and it was looking at him, its eyes appearing almost alive.
“Bloody magic,” he muttered.
“You won’t hurt her!” the woman screamed and then charged.
Wolf stepped in, catching her scramasax with his sword as she attempted to thrust it into his side. He pushed it away throwing her off balance or so he thought. She shifted her footing, catching herself and bring the blade around I the opposite direction to stab him in the gut.
She was so fast, all he could do was redirect it so it would clip him in the side. The blade slid through his leather armor easily enough. Thankfully the cut wasn't deep.
“Are you trying to make me kill you?” he screamed. He leaned in, slamming his forehead into hers. She cried out and stumbled.
There wasn’t much time. Even fatigued, she was dangerous. He ran toward the statue, putting all his weight behind him as he attempted to push if off the pedestal. It gave only a little and he repositioned himself to keep an eye on the woman.
She was staring him down, blood covering the side of his face. Wulf looked up at the statue, it was looking down at him with eyes that seemed to see through him. “I really hate magic,” he muttered.
“Stay away from Frey!”
“From wh…” A dark smiled crossed his face and he took his sword, placing it against the statue’s neck. “Stand down, and she lives," he said.
Her eyes went wide in fear. “If you hurt her, I’ll kill you!”
Wulf smiled. It was aware of him. He leaned against it keeping his sword close to it’s throat. The statue gave a little. “No,” she screamed. “Don’t hurt my daughter!”
“This thing isn’t your daughter, woman!” he groaned as it budged a bit more.
She charged again, and he backed away, keeping the statue between them. the statue wobbled, but kept its balance. The woman held her scramasax out, but was hesitating as if afraid to accidentally strike it.
He sighed. “Fine, the hard way.” Reaching for his knives, Wulf flicked a pair of them at her. The first caught her in the wrist, forcing her to drop the scramasax. The second, in her shoulder.
She cried out and he rushed her, tackling her to the ground. She fought back, was clearly was too exhausted to stop him. Wulf quickly maneuvered himself behind her and locked his arms around her throat.
“Yak’s scroat, woman” he grumbled. “If I hadn’t learned to do this against Eirik one us would be dead right now.”
It wasn’t long after that she stopped struggling and passed out. Wulf gently set her down and stood. He turned to the statue, narrowing his eyes. “Now, where were we?”