Valkyrie Chapter 32
Even after two weeks, it was still hard to fully understand. Eijar was patient, which was comforting. Frey winced as she tried to sit comfortably on the floor with her legs crossed. Bodvar’s lessons were harsh. It was hard not to want to hate him, but with Eijar’s help, the best she managed to feel was pity for him and not hate.
Two men were always watching them whenever he came to train her. The warpaint on their face was painted in such a way that it reminded Frey of a bear. It was like they were wearing it as a mask.
Whenever Bodvar grew too harsh, they would step forward, weapons at the ready. His face would get so red. He would utter a string of curses but eventually relent. Still, there were moments when she wanted to cry and had to fight to keep the tears at bay. The longing for home was ever constant on her heart.
It was strange, but whenever she found herself thinking of Eijar, it was almost what she had imagined having a father would be like. He was kind, protective and above all else, Frey felt like he was the only person she could trust.
“Solus,” she said.
“Shh,” he replied. “You cannot use my real name, Frey. I’m not that man anymore. It’s one of Bodvar’s rules. Being a Blade means we leave the past behind.”
She opened her eyes and looked up at him. Even though he was focused on meditating, she could still read that sadness radiating from him. It was hard to resist reaching out to hug him tight.
“Eijar, I’ve never had a da, but if I were to choose, I think I would want him to be like you.”
The surprise on his face when he opened his eyes made her giggle. He looked so caught off guard and uncomfortable. It was different from the hard wall he always kept up.
“I don’t deserve to be such a thing, little one,” he replied. “I’m not that good of a person.”
Frey smiled. “Mama always said good people are found in the harshest of places.”
His eyes watered, which was confusing, but Frey grabbed his hand. It seemed like the thing to do. “You are a good person, Solus.”
He smiled briefly. “We should continue.”
Frey nodded and closed her eyes. She focusing on her breathing, allowing the air to fill her lungs, then slowly force it out her nostrils. Eijar said that she should feel the moment between, to focus on the transition and contemplate it.
Before the breathing exercises, they had used a fire. Eijar had said that the fire symbolized of purity. It was neutral, emotionless and indiscriminate. Frey wasn’t sure what indiscriminate meant, but it sounded important. Eijar also said that the fire had the power to burn away deceit.
It was still hard to understand everything or what he wanted her to ‘contemplate’. Sometimes she would sit in front of the fire, stare into it and drink in its warmth. But with the breathing exercises, there were moments when she could feel something inside her chest. It was as if she were drawing the flames into herself.
Eijar had said that in the moment between breaths, a stillness exists. It was supposed to be a place of clarity. It was here that the warmth was the strongest as if the fire was meant to fill the stillness.
It was here that if one listened, you could hear another’s heart. With each breath, everything about a person is taken in. The fire would burn away the chaff and on release, it was all blown away. Only the truth of a person was left.
Before her meetings with Bodvar, Frey had tried to learn about the people around her. She would focus on the stillness and fire she sometimes felt inside. The embers were small, but she would get a feeling, then it would quickly fade.
There was always a feeling about Bodvar and over the last few days, it was becoming stronger. Sometimes she would feel sick to her stomach and the cold in the air seemed less bothersome. She wanted to ask Eijar about it but decided to keep it to herself for now.
“In time, Frey, the fire will become part of you. It will always be with you, in that place connecting your spirit to your soul.”
Frey opened her eyes. “Is that why you’re always warm?”
He nodded. “My fire rages,” he said. “There is so much wrong around me that its hunger is unquenchable.”
She reached out, taking his hand in hers. “Is that why you Purge people? Because it becomes too much to bear.”
He nodded. “Things are different in Absion. Purging is a punishment for the worst kind of person. While Bodvar seems to collect and command such people, not all of them would be Purged in my homeland.”
“What happens to them?”
“They are sent to a place called Draeshin Isle. It’s a prison and most die in within their first year of incarceration. The warden is Sauraten, a lizardman.”
Whenever he spoke of home, Frey felt part of herself crying inside for him. It was a longing she understood. Everyone needs a place to call their own. She squeezed his hand. “Eijar, when mama comes for me, I want you to come live with us. You can have a home with me.”
He opened his eyes and smiled. His eyes were watering. “It’s that simple is it?” he asked.
Frey nodded. “Mama will fix everything. It’s what she does.”
He simply nodded. “I hope she does, little one.”
Frey closed her eyes and breathed in deep. She could feel the warmth of the flames filling her lungs. In her mind, she imagined a blacksmith’s furnace and her lungs were the bellows. She could almost see the intensity of the firelight growing with each breath.
Mama, I want to be strong like you. So when you come, you won’t have to fight alone.
The grove was beautiful and serene. It made it easy to forget how harsh the snows outside were. Eadra watched the children as they played. She felt a slight twinge as thoughts of Frey came to mind.
“Not a care in the world.”
Eadra glanced over her shoulder to see Kala walking up. “Good morning, Elder.”
The Elder Druid smiled. “Kala,” she replied. “We haven’t spoken much these past few days.”
“You have your responsibilities,” Eadra replied.
Kala nodded. “As do we all.”
She seemed troubled. Her expression, contemplative. “Is there something you want to ask me, Kala?”
“I have been discussing things with the other Elders,” she replied. “We will help you in whatever way we can.”
That’s one. “You were reluctant just days ago. What’s changed?”
“Just a few miles from here is an old ruin of an ancient city,” Kala answered. “I have often found myself there to think. I like to think it represents the symmetry within the cycle as the forest has overtakes more each year.”
Eadra nodded. “Time marches on or so the saying goes.”
The Elder druid turned her attention toward the children. “It does.” She softly sighed. “I found a tomb underneath the ruins. There is a strong aura of necromancy around what’s left of the ancient city.”
It wasn’t surprising. Eadra could feel her sisters’ strength waning. They had been fighting to keep the seal and forestall the curse for so long. Soon, the burden would fall solely on herself.
“Kala, we won’t have much time,” she said. “It’s is difficult to explain, but we need to rally the other Thran soon.”
“I am still waiting to hear from all my messengers,” Kala replied. “Savar is already making his move, however.”
“Wulf spoke of him. He says Savar and Viktor are similar.”
“More like Savar is similar to a serpent,” Kala said. “He has his own ambitions. Dealing with him is often tedious and painful. The man often asks for more grain than is his proper share.”
“Survival of the fittest,” Eadra commented. “Bodvar often would make such a remark.”
“I have heard of him, but only in whispers,” Kala said. “None of them have led me to believe the Blade’s leader has any shred of humanity in him.”
“Some monsters don’t need to be hideous or inhuman to be what they are,” Eadra commented. “After what he did to my village, it seems he’s only grown worse over the years.”
“Sokoras has a way of doing that to others,” Kala replied. “I owe you an apology, Eadra.”
Eadra tilted her head curiously for a moment. “I think it should be I apologizing you to.”
Kala shook her head and Eadra turned to see where she was staring. Issfang was off to the side playing with Naya. They were too far away to hear, but the way he carried himself showed he was trying to teach her something in his own typical fashion.
“I spoke with Mrina,” she said. “I feel like she carried more blame than your dragon.”
“So she did manipulate him in a way.”
“She is young, as Shaylin go and the young are often impulsive when they think they are doing the right thing.”
“Still, she had no idea he would react so drastically.” Eadra felt a little silly to sound so surprised. In hindsight, Issfang had always given her the impression that he would charge headlong as a problem.
“It’s true, we had no idea what kind of magic he was capable of,” she responded. “Still, Mrina is being disciplined for instigating the affair.”
“The details of the Blood Oath are known only to the two of us,” she replied. “All anyone needs to know is that he will protect the grove.”
Eadra studied the dragon and Naya as they walked together away from where the other children were playing. Naya suddenly reached down and threw a clump of snow at him, then ran. She giggled as he turned, a large smile on his face and ran after her.
Eadra glanced back at Kala. “He has a purpose now.”
The elder studied the two of them for a moment, then nodded.
Eadra opened her mouth to speak, but her words fell short as a sharp pain shot through her abdomen and chest. Kala grabbed Eadra and helped her to the ground after her legs gave.
Eadra couldn’t even form words, the pain was too much. It felt like she was being torn apart from the inside as if someone were rending her soul and spirit.
“I need…Mrina.” There wasn’t time to explain. Eadra could only trust her instincts and hope. Vala didn’t have much time.