Home > Fiction > Valkyrie, pt. 3

Valkyrie, pt. 3

 

            Hjørdis took a long, slow swig of honey mead and gazed at the pile of her armor in the corner of the chamber. It glistened and shimmered in the torchlight like sunlight on water, and she smiled to herself. “You are mine, now,” she said aloud. “You are really, really mine.”

            She had unbound her long hair after her training session, cast off her heavy armor, and stood in her room wearing only a light shift. Her legs were bare—pillars of sculpted muscle—and she wiggled her toes at the pleasure of that bareness.

            “Sister,” someone knocked at her door.

            “Come in, Sif,” Hjørdis said softly.

            Sif smiled broadly at her new companion as she quietly closed the door behind her. She still wore her armor and helmet, with her golden hair wrapped into two tight, braided buns. “A Valkyrie is never caught unawares, little Sister, and she is especially never caught without her armor,” she grinned.

            Hjørdis glanced down at her bare legs and feet and then over to the pile of armor. “Exactly. My armor is right here. And you should know, big Sister, that I still possess two very important things: here is my sword in my right hand, and here is my mead in my left hand.”

            Sif bellowed with laughter. “Good answer, Hjørdis, good answer! And Odin knows you’d never be caught without your sword, little sword maiden.”

            Hjørdis set the flask of mead down on a table and idly hefted her sword between her hands. “You know, I’ve been working at fighting with my left hand. I figure it’ll serve me well should I ever come across a left-handed swordsman.”

            “I see. Care to show me your progress?” Sif asked, suddenly back in the role of teacher.

            Hjørdis gave reply by dropping into a fighting stance. “Jeg ville være glad til,” she grinned. “But, big Sister, try not to spill my mead.”

            Sif unsheathed her sword as she lowered her stance. “I shall try my best not to,” she laughed.

            Their swords met with a tremendous clash, and the two sprang back from each other. Hjørdis charged again, and Sif bared her teeth as she fought back.

            “Hey, that’s not fair,” Hjørdis called out as Sif switched her sword from her left hand to her right.

            “It’s not?”

            “Absolutely not,” she grunted as she rolled across the stone floor to avoid Sif’s blade.

            “Why not? If I was your enemy, I wouldn’t play by the rules, would I?” Sif breathed heavily as she sliced through the air.

            Their swords met again, and the two pressed into each other. Once face to face, Hjørdis whispered, “Then I’m extra glad that we are now sisters,” and backed away.

            Sif laughed and slid her sword back into its sheath. “Me, too, little Sister, me too. Now, for goodness’ sake, at least pull a gown on before we leave here to dine in Odin’s Hall. The men will never leave you alone otherwise.”

            Hjørdis scowled, retrieved a tunic from her trunk and pulled it over her head.  

            “And the rest,” Sif instructed.

            “But I’m sore and tired.”

            “You are a Valkyrie…”

            “…and I am never without my armor. I know, I know.”

            “Exactly.” Sif nodded in approval as her student picked up her breastplate and helmet.

            “Even the helmet?” Hjørdis asked.

            “Yes. Especially the helmet. Your soul dwells in the crown of your head, and it must always be protected. All the knowledge, experience and wisdom you’ve gained thus far lives there.”

            Hjørdis brought her hand to her head and thoughtfully combed her fingers through her hair. She felt Sif’s piercing eyes upon her as she put her helmet on and looked to her teacher for reassurance.

            Sif smiled warmly in return. “Come, little Sister, it’s dinner time. We must go join the others.”

            Hjørdis dutifully followed Sif from the chamber and into the long hallway leading to Odin’s Hall. Though several weeks had passed since she’d first arrived in Valhalla, dining with the gods still made her nervous, especially when they broke bread in Odin’s Hall. She much preferred Freya’s Hall, since there were usually only other women and the occasional plaything-man of Freya’s. Freya’s Hall was also smaller and quieter, which she always found more relaxing after hours of swordplay and practice.

            Sif had told her that she’d been selected to be a Valkyrie because of how bravely she’d fought for her village and her own life before she’d perished. She said the gods had smiled upon her bravery and boldness, and so she’d been rewarded with the wings of a hawk and the golden armor and weapons of a goddess.

            Hjørdis stretched her wings out to their full span as they walked through an indoor garden. She rolled her shoulders, and the wings settled back down along her spine. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever get used to them—Sif hadn’t even taught her how to fly yet, saying she would learn when the time was right—but she was grateful for them nonetheless. If nothing else, they were warm against her usually cool skin.

            “I always feel like I’m walking through a dream when we dine here,” she whispered to Sif as they came upon the entrance to Odin’s Hall.

            “Me too, but you’ll get used to it,” Sif shrugged.

            “Døtre! Velkommen!” Odin called from the head of the table. His one eye fixed upon them as they approached the great table, and he smiled broadly. “Little Valkyrie, how goes your tutelage?”

            Hjørdis bowed first to Sif and then to Odin. “Sif is an excellent teacher, my Lord. My training goes well.”

            “Good, good. When will we see you on the battlefield?”

            Hjørdis froze with sudden, unexpected fear at the thought of battle.

            “My Lord,” Sif interjected, “our little Valkyrie will join us when she is ready, and no sooner than that. Even you know that.” She reached out and found Hjørdis’ hand and gently squeezed it.

            “Indeed, you are right, Sif. You will of course join us when you’re ready, little one. Please, Daughters, join us now at the table.”

            “Are you still having the nightmares?” Sif whispered as they seated themselves on one of the benches.

            “Yes.” Hjørdis’ eyes brimmed with tears, and her hands shook.

            Sif gently dabbed at her student’s cheeks with the sleeve of her own tunic and gazed deeply into Hjørdis’ eyes.

            “It’s alright, little Sister. There’s no need to cry. I know you are afraid, but I promise you will eventually learn that there’s no reason to fear anymore.”

            “Thank you,” Hjørdis whispered.

            Though the dining hall boomed with conversation and the clanking of goblets against toasting goblets (the men, Hjørdis had noticed, liked to toast to just about anything), the two women ate in silence. Hjørdis found herself pondering once again how she would ever overcome her fear of battle. Swordplay and training with Sif was one thing, but to actually be on the battlefield again, retrieving fallen heroes, was a completely different monster. She knew mortals could no longer hurt her, but she was still terrified of battle nonetheless.

            “Little Sister,” Sif squeezed her hand. “Let’s go. I have something to show you.”

            She nodded and rose from the table with her mentor. Sif led her from Odin’s Hall to a narrow stairwell. Before descending, she lit a torch and put her finger to her lips to signal Hjørdis to be quiet.

            Hjørdis nodded again and silently followed Sif down the passage. A cool draft caressed her cheeks, and she shuddered as an innate instinct took hold of her.

            “There are ice demons down here, aren’t there?” she whispered.

            “Yes, Little Sister. As a mortal, you only ever saw them as shadows and snow storms, but now as a Valkyrie, you must know the true face of your greatest enemy. Your armor will protect you from them—it was cast from pure sunlight, something that I’m sure you well know destroys ice. Still, do not go too near to them.”

            A wailing scream echoed up the passage, and Hjørdis’ hand instinctively found the hilt of her sword. Chills ran up and down her spine, and her breath was suddenly visible on the air.

            “Will they attack us?”

            “Given the chance, they would. Odin has them locked up down here, but still, don’t go too near their enclosures.” Sif unlocked a door at the bottom of the stairwell and pushed it open. A rush of icy air hit them like a slap in the face.

            In the chamber were two cells, an ice demon locked within each.

            “Sif, hvorfor har du kommet hit,” the larger of the two hissed. It rose from the bench in its cell and wrapped its grey, claw-like fingers around the cell bars.

            “Silence, demon!” Sif bellowed and waved her torch in front of it. The creature retreated to the back of its cell and curled into the far corner.

            Hjørdis, though she shook with fear and cold, was mortified. “Sif, why are these creatures down here? This is cruelty!”

            The demon, though still curled in on itself in submission, grinned evilly from the corner of its cell. Its black eyes flashed with delight.

            Sif scowled at the creature. “These two broke into our palace in an attempt to start a war between our two peoples. We captured them and offered them back to their leaders, but they would not take them back. They cannot walk among us in the palace—the sunlight would kill them—and we cannot trust them to remain peaceably down here. The only way to ensure everyone’s safety was to detain them,” she explained.

            “Why are you showing me this?”

            “Because you need to see them. They are dangerous, and they will not hesitate to kill you if given the chance. No one is truly immortal—not Odin, not Freya, and especially not us. The weapons of men can no longer harm you, but these creatures absolutely can, and they lurk on the edges of mortal battlefields.”

            “Lies! Hun forteller løgner!” the smaller demon screamed and clawed at the bars holding it back. An icy wind swirled around it and blasted the two women.

            “Sister,” Hjørdis shivered, “I think I’ve seen enough.”

            “Very well. But I want you to remember their faces and the ice you feel in your heart when you look at them. When heroes fall in battle, we have only a small amount of time to save them before the demons get them. And once a Viking has been taken by them, there’s no getting them back.”

            Sif’s words echoed through Hjørdis’ mind as she crawled into bed that night. She shivered at the thought of being touched by one of those grey, frozen hands.

            She slept fitfully, her dreams haunted by the demons and visions of blood and battle.

 

 

 

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Categories: Fiction
  1. September 7, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Oooh! The plot thickens…. More, more, MORE!!

  2. September 7, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    😀

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