Valkyrie Chapter 18
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The cold bit into her, piercing the armor and furs she wore. There was a storm raging, but something told her it wasn’t natural. Eadra looked around her. She was standing on the parapets of a great wall and a large city lay behind her.
Dozens of warriors stood on either side of her, all of them clad in furs, plate and chain armor. Their platinum hair flowed from underneath their helms. She caught a glimpse of their pale, white skin through their visors along with the frosted color of their eyes.
Many of them had bows, their eyes focused on something beyond the wall. Others held long halberds or glaives. Eadra looked at her own armor. It was different, more ornate and showed she had rank. Like some of the others she held a glaive, but at her waist were two swords.
The glaive felt proper in her hands, the haft was well made and easy to grip. Her armor felt lighter too even with the insulation. The chain leggings felt more like cloth against her skin than metal. If these really were Aetharian warriors then it would be made of asinium.
Eadra turned her attention beyond the wall, pausing after hearing a horn sound from somewhere in the storm.
“They come!” someone shouted.
She tensed but whether it was by instinct or some other impulse, Eadra suddenly understood she wasn’t in complete control of herself. “Curse the Dakren for this.”
It was then, she realized that she was the one speaking. From within the storm, she saw movement, followed by a large ball of fire hurtling through the air.
“Take cover!” There was a brilliant flash, followed by a thunderous roar and the screams of the dying. When it cleared, she found herself no longer standing on the parapets, but engaged in a furious skirmish, by the city gates. The Darken had broken through.
She caught sight of their warriors, clad in black chainmail and wielding curved swords. Some wore no helms, their blonde hair and ebony skin drawing her attention. Their azure eyes were fierce and emotionless. There was no pity or remorse in them. They held no emotion save for the promise of destruction, hatred, and murder.
Many of them fell to her blades as she and her warriors waded through their ranks. Eadra wasn’t alone however, others stood with her. Among their ranks stood women dressed in the same armor she. A strange sense of pride welled up within as they fought side by side until she felt a sharp pain.
Eadra looked down to see that a Dakren blade had managed to pierce her side. She looked up, surprise welling up as the Dakren soldier smiled viciously at her.
Another flash followed.
The scene had changed again and Eadra looked around, finding herself standing in a field of full of the dead. They were soldiers, Aethar and Dakren alike. There was no storm, no great wall or city, only the pristine quiet of a snowy landscape and scattered pines. She looked down at herself. She was dressed in her armor and Grimmear was in its sheath on her left hip.
“It was like this all over Osalen.”
Eadra turned around. She saw an Aetharian female dressed like one of the Vakari. She was holding her helm under her arm, the platinum hair softly swaying in the wind.
“We fought to protect our home, but the Dakren had spent centuries preparing,” the woman said. “We had hoped the winter would provide us with an advantage, but that hope was in vain.”
“I was you, wasn’t I?” Eadra asked.
The Vakari nodded. “Yes, that was my last battle before I died.”
She looked so sad and full of regret. Eadra understood that look. Failure was easy to see when you had experienced it yourself so deeply. It was how she felt about Frey.
“We were supposed to be the protectors of our people, a symbol of its strength,” she continued. “Yet, we failed.”
The snowy field and pines faded away, the burial chamber taking their place. The Vakari walked down the steps of the tiered platform and toward a large circular door. There were two statues, similar to the one upstairs, standing on either side of it. These were larger, their features more defined and less worn by the ravages of time. Eadra could tell they had been carved in the likeness of Vakari warriors.
“We failed him, most of all,” she said touching the door.
“You mean your king?”
The Vakari nodded. “As a final stroke, our dark kin cursed us,” she replied. “My people can never know true peace.”
Eadra stared at her. This Vakari deserved so much better. To die for the sake of your people, only to become cursed for it. “What can I do?”
“Only a Vakari can free us,” the woman replied, turning toward the great door. “In time, the seal binding our king to this tomb will erode and in his despair, he will call to us. We will arise to serve him, along with any who have died in this cursed land.”
Eadra looked toward the doors, then the statues. The Vakari strode toward her and stared deeply into her eyes. It was eerie staring into the Aetharian’s frost colored eyes.
“You must become Vakari.”
“How?” she asked. “I’m not one of you.”
“How are you not?” the Vakari asked. She drew her swords and took a stance.
Eadra stepped back and drew Grimmear. “I don’t understand.”
“You deny your past, deny what you were,” the Vakari replied. “Yet, part of you still sees yourself as a monster, a killer and murderer,” she added.
No, that’s not who I am, not anymore. She’s gone. Whether consciously or not, the faces of the people she had killed flashed before her. Eadra felt sick and fought to tune them out.
“Eadra, you are so much more,” she said. “You threw away everything to save one life, to preserve it.”
There was no time to respond. The Vakari came in like a whirlwind, her form and movements showing her mastery of Shaldo. Eadra parried, but the woman was quick, as was expected of an elf. It was difficult to keep up.
To her surprise though, she felt no pain. Her ribs no longer hurt and in truth, nothing hurt. It was as if the beating the blades had given her had never happened.
The Vakari frowned and stepped away, putting space between them. “You are holding back,” she said. “Are you so afraid to kill?”
This is pointless, I can’t do this. Eadra took a defensive stance. She tried keeping Grimmear steady, but her nerves were getting to her. Maybe if Frey were here, she would have the courage and a reason to fight.
The Vakari’s intent was hard to read. Is the elf even trying to kill me? Is it even possible to harm a spirit?
A familiar laugh caught her attention to her left and Eadra glanced in its direction. She saw her younger self sitting, legs crossed, atop the sarcophagus at the pinnacle of the platform.
“Of course she is afraid, she’s always been afraid.”
The Vakari said nothing. Her expression blank.
“You’re not real,” Eadra snapped.
“Oh, but here I am,” her younger self replied. “Here in this place, I am very real.” Her younger self’s eyes changed, becoming black. “Here…I can actually kill you.”
The Vakari stepped further back, sheathing her swords.
The double’s face was full of disgust. “She knows that taking a life means acknowledging me,” she said. “We can’t have that now can we?” The way her younger self smiled, was like a knife to the gut. Eadra could feel the bile rising in her throat. “After all, how could Frey love her mama if she was a murderer?”
Eadra clenched her jaw, her younger self’s tone was riddled with contempt. “Shut up!” She was shaking now, it was getting harder to hold Grimmear steady. Her fear had vanished, leaving cold anger to take its place.
She smiled wider and began descending down the platform’s stairs. “Oh, mama, such murderous eyes you have.” Whether it was the tone in her younger’s self’s voice or the fact that it had changed to mimic Frey’s, Eadra didn’t know. Grimmear was already in motion.
The scramasax was deflected, her younger self had quickly drawn Wallen and stood ready. “Oh, please,” she sneered. “You’ll have to do better than that to silence me.”
“I intend to, only one of us will be leaving here,” Eadra replied.
Her smile widened, insanity showing in her eyes. “Finally, something we agree on.”
Eadra came in but double matched her step for step, parry for parry. The harder she fought the angrier she felt. Her younger self’s eyes shone with delight as their deadly dance played out.
“That’s it, be who you were meant to be, kill me if you can!”
Her laughter was like the sting of a spined caterpillar. Eadra could feel it lighting her chest on fire as she became lost in her frustration and rage. This had to end, there was no other way.
“Mama, why do you look so angry?” her double taunted in Frey’s voice. “Did you really murder all those people?”
“Stop what, mama?” she replied. “It’s true isn’t it?”
Eadra screamed, her strikes growing wilder as tears fell down her cheeks. Instinct began screaming at her, telling her how reckless she was becoming.
“If Father could see you now,” she said. “How disappointed do you think he would be to know his daughter was a monster?”
She could barely see, between the tears, the rage and her younger self’s taunts; Eadra felt herself slipping. She barely heard the clash of steel between Grimmear and Wallen.
How could I have been so selfish? How could I have ever thought myself as anything more than what I was? I’ve been a fool.
Eadra thought of Frey, of her smile, of her hugs and then suddenly remembered what her little girl had told her: “Sigurd says that only bad people never feel sorry for the bad things they do.”
Eadra withdrew, putting distance be herself and her double. Something was different, she seemed annoyed, almost fearful. Eadra dropped Grimmear onto the cold stone and wiped her eyes.
“Giving up?” her younger self asked.
“No, but I’m not going to fight you anymore,” she replied.
Her younger self smiled. “Then, this will make killing you easier.”
“You can try, but you will only be killing yourself,” Eadra replied. “We are part of each other, though you are my past and Frey is my future.”
Her double’s face changed, the confident demeanor she displayed vanished. Instead, her face became a twisted mask of anger. “No! I am everything!” she screamed.
“No, you are just simply a part of myself that I have denied for too long,” Eadra replied.
Her double screamed, raised Wallen high and charged. Eadra didn’t budge. Instead, she simply stood unwaveringly in the sword’s path. Wallen passed harmlessly through her, much to her younger self’s surprise.
Her double swung again and again, but each time Wallen passed through harmlessly. Her younger self stood there, panting heavily, hatred radiating from her face. Eadra reached out, grabbing hold of her double and locking her arms around the woman’s throat.
“You have been something I’ve feared for far too long,” she said. “It’s time it stopped.” Eadra tightened her hold and after a quick jerk, an audible pop followed.
Her younger self fell limp onto the cold stone in a lifeless heap and then faded away. Eadra looked up at the Vakari, the elf’s face was still empty and stoic.
“You have faced your darkness and won,” she said.
“Now what?” Eadra asked.
“Now, you must defeat me,” the elf replied, drawing her swords.