Valkyrie Chapter 19
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
Frey leaned into Eijar. It was hard to keep from shaking. There weren’t any tears left to shed. Mama still hadn’t come, but she knew that it was just a matter of time.
Eijar looked down, his eyes seemed so sad and angry all at once. She wondered why he didn’t seem to care for Bodvar at all. He worked for him, why would anyone work for someone they didn’t like?
“It will be fine, little one,” he said.
Frey turned and stared at the table. It was still hard to believe someone so cruel like Bodvar could be her father. She felt sick to her stomach as she thought of Sasa, her heart tightening in her chest. Her father had killed him like it was nothing. There wasn’t even a hint that he was even sorry for it.
Mama, how can he be my Da?
She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder and looked up at Eijar. She frowned. “Will it really?”
He nodded. “I will keep you safe.”
She reached out and hugging him, Eijar was always so warm. It was comforting, especially after he hugged her back. Frey turned her attention to the hall.
Bodvar had explained that this was where everyone ate. There were dozens of tables, each able to seat fifteen or so. Their table was one of the ones closest to the hall’s hearth. There others here, some of them were cleaning or tending to the fire. A few were carrying laundry and running it to the rooms upstairs.
All of them wore cuffs and chains on their wrists and ankles. They looked so sickly and miserable. Some seemed exhausted. It was horrible to watch as they struggled to keep pace. The guards in the were keeping a close eye on each of them.
“Are they bad people?” she asked pulling away.
Eijar looked up, turning his attention to them. “No,” he replied. “Not all of them.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I was taught to know things about people,” he replied.
Frey turned to look at them. “You hate all of this don’t you?”
“Is it that obvious, little one?”
Frey nodded. “Mama says people say more with how they react or look than by what they speak.”
He sighed. “I suppose it’s true, she is a smart lady.”
“Eijar, is she going to come for me?”
The question was like a hot poker boring into his chest, but the look in her eyes made him feel even worse. “She is a strong woman, Frey, she will come.”
Silently Eijar hoped he hadn’t just lied to her. Everything was up to Eadra at this point, but to what end? What could she possibly do?
She had been beaten, thrown into a burning building and left for dead. Eadra might still be alive if she had made it into the hidden floor under her house. Without supplies and proper clothing against the cold, her chances were slim.
He felt a soft hand touch his on the table. “Mama will make it, Eijar,” Frey said. “You will see.”
It was hard not to smile at the amount of faith radiating in the little girl’s eyes. To believe in something so purely and unconditionally. It filled him with shame. He had only seen such resolute faith in a handful on Inquisitors. He was one of them.
Where has your faith gone, Eijar? What compass guides you now?
“Eijar, what’s wrong?” Frey asked. “Why are you crying?”
Eijar blinked and wiped his cheeks. He nearly jumped when she hugged him. Somehow though, the pain he felt throughout his body numbed.
“You aren’t warm anymore,” she commented, turning her head and looking up curiously at him.
His body seemed to respond on its own as he reached out to hug her, softly touched the top of her head, and stroked her long blonde hair.
Why? After everything that has happened, why is the pain suddenly gone?
He looked down. “What did you do?”
Curiosity on her face gave way to confusion. “You were upset, so I wanted to make you feel better,” she replied. “You aren’t a bad person, Eijar, bad people don’t regret things.”
Eijar smiled. Absolution, how ironic. It was something he had been taught only a Pontiff or Deacon could offer for an Inquisitor who had violated his oath. “Frey, would you like to hear a story?”
She tilted her head curiously. “Is it a bad story?” she asked. “Do people get hurt? I don’t want to hear a story like that.”
“It’s more of a sad story, about a man who lost his purpose.”
She sat back on the bench and leaned against the table, frowning. “I don’t think I want to hear it.”
Eijar smiled. “It’s my story, Frey and you will be the only whom I have told it to,” he replied. “Not even Bodvar has heard it. He will be back soon with the others, but I can tell you the story while we wait.”
She nodded, curiosity shining in her eyes. Eijar took a breath. It was strange he was telling such a sad tale to a girl so young. Eadra, no matter what I will keep this girl safe from them.
The cold bit at his lungs and his eyes felt heavy. Wulf felt himself growing more sluggish, it was getting harder to think, let alone react. He had only just barely managed to dive out of the way of the dragon’s last breath attack. Upon hitting the ground and the nearby sarcophagi, everything the spray touched quickly froze.
It left an acidic smell in the air and Wulf felt himself getting inexplicably tired. The dragon seemed unaffected, though it wasn’t standing near the impact zone. It seemed to be taking its time as if expecting something to happen.
This is insane! He glanced over at bow, it lay frozen to the ground. He’d only managed to fire a single shot and had missed the dragon’s eye by just a few inches.
The dragon came in, jaws wide. Wulf tumbled out of the way, just before it managed to clamp down on his midsection. He came up and slashed at the dragon’s front limbs, his sword bouncing harmlessly off its hard scales.
The dragon seemed amused. “You know,” he said, panting, and backing away. “We don’t have to do this.” A sharp snort was the only response garnered from the beast. Wulf hoped it wasn’t laughing. “You seem like a fairly intelligent guy, wait, are you a guy?” the dragon narrowed its eyes. “Wait, surely we can resolve this by some other means?”
The dragon paused just as Wulf felt himself bump into something. Briefly, he glanced over his shoulder, not realizing he had ascended the stairs by the great door. It was one of the large statues sitting on either side of it that he had bumped into. He quickly repositioned placing it between himself and the dragon.
“Come away from there.” The dragon’s voice was hard and deep, but it sounded nervous.
Wulf peered around the statue. “I’ll pass thank you.”
The dragon roared and breathed in deeply. Wulf ducked behind the statue, just before the area around it became frozen. He shuddered and coughed, growing light-headed as the acidic smell left in its wake assaulted his nose.
“This is the way of things, Human!” the dragon shouted. “I eat you, you die and are reborn as the dung I pass. I believe the Shaylin and druids refer to it as The Cycle.”
“That’s a very strange way of interpreting their views, not that I know much about the Shaylin,” Wulf replied. “Now druids, don’t get me started about them.”
The dragon roared. It was clearly frustrated. “Come. Away. From. There. Now!”
Wulf looked around, from his position, the dragon would have a hard time getting close without breaking the sarcophagi and the statue. What was curious was as he thought about their fight, the dragon has plenty of opportunities to kill him. He grabbed the bridge of his nose and shook his head trying to clear the fog. When a thought occurred to him.
It’s afraid of disturbing the tomb, but why? He then thought about how he felt. The fatigue, how hard it was to think clearly, and the acidic smell. Somehow it must be poisoning me and waiting for me to drop.
“I think that is a definite no, Scales,” Wulf replied. “Do I call you scales? It seems a fitting name for such an ugly beast. I mean it’s no wonder the frost giants eat your kind.”
Whether by magic or just instinct from pissing off an intelligent predator, Wulf felt a sudden surge of fear overcome him. The chamber suddenly became deathly quiet and against reason, he peered around the statue.
He felt even more afraid after seeing the dragon was gone. He turned back, his gaze meeting with a tall human with deep blue eyes. “Yak s…” there was a bright flash across his vision and Wulf suddenly remembered what one of Eirik’s punches felt like.
He felt in hit back pop as he connected with something hard. He shook his head, realizing it was a bad idea, his skull and back feeling every motion. Good idea, Wulf, taunt the dragon, it can obviously shapeshift.
“You have a mouth, Human,” the dragon turned human commented. “I’m going to enjoy ripping off!”
Wulf looked up, his vision clearing. “I suppose we are way past talking,” he replied looking up at the dragon.
The dragon lifted Wulf by the throat, pinning him against the statue he had collided with. “It would seem that way,” the dragon replied, his teeth changing into sharp points.
He quickly drew one of his daggers and thrust it toward the dragon’s stomach. The brute was quicker as a human, catching his wrist and forcing him to drop it. He thrust his leg out, but the dragon only grunted. Wulf kicked again and again, but to avail, he was simply too tired. In desperation, he reached for the knife on his back.
I hope this works. he quickly pulled the blade free and stabbed at the statue. The dragon’s expression changed, his grip loosening as he reached for the knife. Wulf wrestled with him for control, barely managing to strike the statue a second time before losing the knife.
The dragon let go, his attention drawn to the statue. “You Idiot!” he shouted.
Despite the pain, Wulf managed to turn and look at the statue, just as it began to change. Instead of a solid block with a warrior carved into it, it transformed into the warrior. It’s armor, features, sword and now a shield were all clearly defined. Wulf scuttled away from it, wincing as he did.
He remembered reading out in one of the annuals at the Lodge. The Rangers had encountered something similar in a ruin over two hundred years ago. According to the Loremasters of Shyre, it was a golem. Whatever lay behind that door, it was put there so that no one would ever find out.
“I really hate magic.”
Eadra stood over the Vakari holding her at swordpoint as the warrior woman knelt before her. Through the Aetharian’s visor, she could see how tired the woman looked. In a strange way, Eadra could understand.
The Vakari had been fighting to keep her identity and maintain some semblance of who she was. All the while the seal keeping her king locked away from the world weakened. As they fought, Eadra felt a connection forming between them.
“It is time,” the Vakari said. “You have won.”
“It feels like I have been here forever,” Eadra replied.
The Vakari smiled and stood. “Humans and time,” she replied. “I supposed as you measure time, years have passed in this place.”
Eadra felt her heart sink. “But my daughter,” she said.
“I said years have passed in this place,” the Vakari replied. “Beyond here, only minutes have passed.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will, but for now I have one final test,” the Vakari said.
Eadra eyed her suspiciously. “What test?” Something was wrong. The Aetharian seemed to be or rather knew there was. She was trying to hide something.
“First you must swear an oath,” she said.
“Not until you tell me what you’re trying to hide.”
The Vakari stepped closer, her pale eyes meeting with Eadra’s. “There is no time for this, become what you were meant to be. It is the only way.”
The sense of urgency was growing through their bond. “He’s waking up isn’t he.”
The Vakari nodded. “Someone has disturbed the Guardians. Only a Vakari can stop them, if we do not act quickly you will die before that happens.”
“Then tell me what I must do?”
“Give me your scramasax,” she replied.
Eadra reversed Grimmear, handing it to her hilt first.
“Kneel,” the Vakari said. Eadra did as she was told. “What do you call this land of yours Eadra?”
“Who is its king?” she asked.
“Sokoras has no king.” Through their bond, Eadra could sense the Vakari’s shock and dismay. To the Aetharian, a land without no king was no land at all.
“Then, you must find your king,” the Vakari replied. “And you unite your people.”
Eadra watched as the Vakari took Grimmear and placed it on the stone floor between them. The then took the knife from her belt and cut her hand. Blood flowed from the wound and she allowed it to cover the scramasax’s blade.
The Vakari then took her knife and held it out to her. “This is an old covenant. One forged in blood, binding soul and spirit.”
Eadra took the knife and then looked up at the Aetharian. “Speak the words.” Taking the knife, he cut her hand, holding it open as the blood dripped onto Grimmear’s blade.”
“My life for Sokoras, my life for its true king.”
“My life for a Sokoras, my life for its true king,” Eadra repeated.
“My heart for its people for we stand as one.”
“My heart for its people for we stand as one,” Eadra replied.
“For I am their sword. I am their shield. I am their spear. I live for the day I might die and go before the Keeper with honor. I fight so that they may know peace.”
As she spoke the words, Eadra felt their bond deepen. The wall the Aetharian had put up came crashing down and she understood what the elf was hiding. The Vakari had used the last of her power to create this space. While her sisters maintained the seal, she sacrificed herself for this moment.
Eadra looked up at her, tears in her eyes. “Why?”
“My life for my king, my heart for its people,” the elf replied. “I can already feel his corrupting influence reaching out to me.”
Eadra tried to speak, but words failed her. The Aetharian reached out, touching her cheek. She smiled warmly, the sadness in her pale blue eyes fading.
“Cry not for me, sister, for you are one of us,” she said. “Who we were will live on in you.” She reached down picking Grimmear up and turning the sword, hilt first toward Eadra. “You know what to do.”
Eadra smiled, but inside, she felt as if her heart was being torn out. She leaned forward, resting her forehead against the Vakari helm and placing her hand on the back of the woman’s neck. “Forgive me,” she said, the thrust Grimmear into her chest.
“There is nothing to forgive, sister,” the Aetharian replied. “I have dreamt of this moment and now, my task is complete. I am free.”
Eadra could feel her becoming like a vapor between her fingers and then vanish, leaving her in the chamber alone. A bright light shone from the entrance and she could vaguely hear Wulf shouting at someone.
“This is your fault, dragon!”
“My fault? If you hadn’t woken me…”
The rest faded, the sound of stone shattered drowning them out. Eadra walked toward the doorway, stopping just before crossing the threshold and looking behind her.
“Hellana, I’ll make it right, I promise.”