Valkyrie Chapter 16
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
She opened her eyes, a large campfire coming into view. Eadra cautious looked around. The statue at the center of the chamber lay on the floor, smashed to pieces, and near it, was large man. He wore a wolfskin cloak and leather armor. He also seemed to be favoring his right side.
He looked up, a half smile on his face. “Well good, you’re awake,” he said. “Are we going to go back to killing each other or was I right about the statue?”
Eadra glanced at the statue, then pushed herself up. Her arms shook from the strain as her cloak fell from her shoulders. “What happened?”
A cold breeze drifted in from the doorway and Eadra shivered, noticing her armor was laying near him. Grimmear wasn’t far from him either. She looked down, noting that he had wrapped her ribs and tended to her injuries. She was clothed, but they looked as if they were tailored more for him.
“It’s nothing I haven’t seen it before,” he smirked. “But you’ll live.”
Eadra looked up and frowned. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
He sighed. “Well near as I can see, that thing,” he began, “tried to make us kill each other.”
She turned, pulled her cloak tighter and weakly crept up to the statue. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the broken pieces, the ravages of times had ensured that. Eadra turned to the pedestal it once sat on.
There were markings along the base, but they were faded. Eadra closed her eyes, feeling them out with her fingers. There was something familiar about them.
“What are you doing?”
She looked up him, then closed her eyes again. “Shut up and let me think,” she replied. “These markings…they’re Aetharian.” She opened her eyes, strangely he seemed more curious than surprised.
“This place once belonged to them,” she replied. “The Dak’ren wiped most of them out, history did the rest.”
He frowned, looking about the chamber then at the stairs. “There have always been stories about places like this and the relics within them, most I dismissed as superstition,” he replied. “That was until the trader I recently encountered.”
“Items like that sometimes find their way to others, but not often,” she replied. “Just like these ruins, it’s free stonework.”
He nodded. “I’ve heard that some were transformed into the towns we know.”
Eadra looked back at the pedestal. “They were,” she replied. “More to the point, if that statue was here, then it was protecting something.”
He didn’t seem happy with that idea. If Eadra were honest, neither was she. Aetharian magic was powerful, he should consider himself fortunate the statue’s power hadn’t taken him over too.
“So, what kept it from affecting the people who lived here?” he asked.
“The Aetharian’s were arrogant and distrustful of anyone not like them,” she replied. “I doubt it would have affected them. Besides, no one lived here.”
“Well, whatever this place is, I don’t plan on staying long enough to find out,” he replied. “I only came to find out what happened to your village.”
Eadra narrowed her eyes. The faces of her friends coming to mind, but in front of them all stood Frey. “Something I fooled myself into believing I was free of.”
Pressing her weight against the pedestal, Eadra used it to help her up. He moved to help her, but she shook her head. Despite her legs being shaky and weak, she managed to draw nearer to the fire.
“You’re a stubborn woman,” he commented with a smirk on his face. “Obviously too stubborn to die.”
“I have a lot to live for,” she replied.
He nodded. “That I believe,” he said. “I know the Blades were involved, does that mean you’re a deserter?”
Eadra looked up from the fire, “Yes, six years ago.” His expression showed he was impressed.
“I’ve never known anyone to survive that long,” he commented.
“I got careless,” she replied. “I used the knowledge from my books to help us survive.”
“Us?” he said. “You mean Frey.”
She nodded. “Since you seem to know, I assume my dream was something created by the statue.”
The man smiled. “Let’s just say I am thankful for your injuries,” he replied, tapping his right side.
“My name is Wulf, if you were wondering.” Wulf reached for some of kindling to his left and threw it onto the fire. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”
“Eadra,” she replied with smile. “I learned from my books. I once owned a whole library of lost Aetharian knowledge.”
He furrowed in concern. “Where these books now?”
Eadra smiled. “Viktor is probably staring at their pages in frustration,” she replied. “I was the only one able to read them.”
She noted the taught way he drew his upper lip back. Viktor was obviously a sore subject. There was something to his eyes though as if something suddenly appeared to make sense.
“So, I assume they have your daughter,” he said.
He was obviously changing the subject. “Bodvar does and the children from the village.”
“What are you going to do?” he asked. “You’re in no shape you chase after them and by now he probably delivered some of them to the nearest plantation.”
“My condition is irrelevant,” she replied. “Frey, is all that matters.”
Her response wasn’t surprising, neither was the expression on her face. Like her eyes, her face was cold and empty like the snows outside. Revenge was like that and did strange things to people.
While unlike others, Eadra had something to fight for.
Will she be enough to remind you? Or will your heart demand blood?
He reached for his pack, grabbing the pouch attach to and pulled it free. “Here,” he said tossing it to her. “Some dried meats I got from the trader.”
She didn’t hesitate to pick up the pouch and dive in. Wulf was torn, his thoughts turning to Eirik’s desperate plan. As he stared at Eadra, he felt so small. Another village destroyed, more lives had been taken.
The Blades were plague, but truthfully, they were only a symptom of the real disease, Viktor. Shuet’s plan seemed a little less desperate. He paused and looked up at her.
“Six years?” he asked. “So, you were there at that village?”
“I was and I have relived that day in my nightmares since,” she replied. “Frey was the only survivor.”
Wulf turned to the fire and sighed. I came north to get away from the madness. I guess that’s not my fate. He reached for his pack and tossed her his wineskin.
“You want to rescue your daughter from an army of murderers and thieves?” he asked.
“That’s what I plan to do,” she replied, pulling the stopper and taking a drink. “What you decide is your business.”
“Do you think you can?” Wulf looked up at her. It was sad, her expression, her eyes and the way they softened. She didn’t even see it. There was no doubt she loved this, Frey, but it was deeper than that. The girl was nothing more than a desperate attempt at redemption.
“I have to try,” Eadra replied. “She’s all I have.”
Wulf glanced at doorway, the shadows were long, the sun would be setting soon. He stood, grabbing her armor and then stooped to pick up her scramasax. “You’ll need this then,” he said placing them beside her. “Get some rest, Eadra, we will need to move fast in the morning.”
It would be another day to the plantation and for that it was relief. Bodvar looked back the children. There were twenty in all, counting his daughter. Half would stay at the plantation and the other half would train become Blades.
He glanced at Arald almost pitying him. He’d been assigned to look after the kids, and he looked miserable. Ylva had even chided him a bit.
Frey hadn’t said a word and neither had Eijar. The former inquisitor had kept her close, she was riding on his horse with him. In a way, Bodvar couldn’t have thought anyone better to look after her.
“Bodvar this is getting tiresome,” Arald grumbled. “They won’t stop whining.”
Bodvar laughed. “Well, what do you expect from children, Arald?”
Arald frowned. “We should have just…”
“Arald,” Ylva chimed in. “You will not finish that sentence.”
Bodvar smiled. Arald’s face went as pale as the snow. Even Eijar grinned slightly. “Tell, the others to watch the kids Arald, make sure they don’t get frost bitten.”
“Mama will come for me,” Frey said, drawing his attention. “She’ll rescue me, you will see.”
“Are you certain?” Bodvar asked. “Perhaps she’s dead.”
The little girl stared him. Her defiant eyes reminded him of Eadra. “She will come.”
Bodvar smiled, she was trying to hide it, but he could tell Frey was fighting back tears. Good, hate me all you want. That will make you strong. “Believe what you want, little girl,” he replied.
She felt something on her cheek, rousing her from her sleep. Eadra sat up, wincing from the pain of her ribs. There was faint light coming from the stairs leading below. She glanced at Wulf, he was still asleep cradling his blanket for warmth.
The fire had gone out, but it was smoldering enough to provide some heat. Quietly Eadra got to her feet, drew Grimmear and crept toward the light. It began to fade as she approached, as if descending the stairs.
When she reached them, it was fainters, but still descending. When she took her first step, a strange warmth filled her. After the second, the cold seemed nonexistent. Her instincts screamed at her to turn back. She had read how deadly Aetharian magic could be, but curiosity won out and she began her decent.
On her way down, she noted faint traces of what appeared to be murals painted on the walls. Time, however, had not been kind to them. They were far gone to make sense of, but something about them gave off a sense of importance.
The stairs wound their way to match the tower’s perimeter. When she reached the bottom, Eadra was standing in a long corridor. The light she had seen was floating just off the ground at the far end.
There were grooves cut along the walls at four-foot intervals. Eadra remembered reading that the Aethar, like the Shaylin, used sun rods for illumination over torches and candles. She kept Grimmear out defensively and stepped forward.
Eadra jumped when the sun rod to her right, briefly illuminated, then died. It was no surprise; their magic wasn’t meant to last forever. Three other rods, softly lit, but their light was pale and haunting. It didn’t make her feel any comfort about the floating light waiting for her at the end of the corridor.
It began moving, passing through the doorway at the other end, it’s light slowly facing. Cautiously Eadra followed. Two more sun rods briefly lit as if giving one final gasp before slowly dying.
When Eadra reached the end of the corridor, she came into a great chamber. The glow she had seen, floated upward spanning up into the ceiling and vanished. Moments later, sun rods began to light haphazardly, some remaining lit, while others dying out slowly.
Eadra stepped deeper into the chamber, nearly dropped Grimmear after realizing where she was. She had read of this place, but always imagined it had been destroyed. She looked around, eying the sarcophagi lining the walls and the floor in neat rows. There were pathways leading throughout the great chamber with one leading up to series of raised tiers.
She moved to one of the sarcophagi and traced her fingers across the Aetharian script carved into the borders of the lid. It was still clear and untouched by time. It listed a name and rank in the Aetharian military.
“The Tomb of the Honored Dead,” she whispered reverently. Eadra turned her attention to the six-tiered platform, with a single sarcophagi at its pinnacle. “The Vakari.”
There was no real translation for what these warriors represented to the Aetharian people, but they were an honor guard to the king. Unlike other titles and ranks, the Vakari were forbidden to be male and their numbers fixed at twelve.
Some translations often mispronounced their name, calling them the Valkyrie instead. For a female warrior in the Aetharian army, this was most coveted position one could hope to achieve.