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  • Writer's pictureDom Whit

Valkyrie Fallen, Chapter 19

Once again, as soon as the household was asleep I snuck out, donned my armor, and took to the sky. I allowed my mind to wander as I floated in and out of the clouds, just enjoying the wholeness once more.

The warm, complete feeling stayed with me for most of the day, fortifying my body as well as my heart and mind. All of my struggles, the demons I faced for so long, were nothing now. I was no broken person, subject to the incredibly low lows of a depression for which there was no cure. My armor fixed what no bottle could. There was no liquid in the world that could substitute for a missing soul.

But as the day turned into evening, I still felt the chill creep in. The dark, bitter sadness at the edges of my mind, picking at my peace and happiness, eroding my calm.

On Valkyr, we only removed our armor for bathing and sleep. We wore it for thirty-six of the forty-nine hours that made up Valkyrian days. There was never a point where my cup was empty. I wore the armor more than I was without it.

Here the days were shorter, and it appeared an hour was what I required to sustain me for a twenty-four-hour period. More would probably be better, and perhaps I would do even better if I could sneak out in the morning instead.

However, Bjorn’s habits were still too unpredictable. I was risking a good deal by sneaking out directly after bedtime, but I also needed to sleep at some point. I didn’t have any way to wake myself without disturbing everyone else in the single-room house.

No, for now, my best option was to stay up and take advantage of the quiet night to steal my peace.

My thoughts turned to Bjorn’s companions, Soren and Leif. Apparently, Leif was only three years younger than Bjorn, although I would have guessed it was more like a decade. Soren was only two years older than Bjorn, although even at twenty-five he seemed to have lived a lifetime longer than the other two. It was sometimes difficult for me to see age differences for people so young, but perhaps the harsh living of the vikings emphasized these differences more than the softer life of the youth that surrounded me in the future.

Because even to me, Leif was so fresh, his heart and demeanor so pure and unassuming. His cornflower blue eyes always filled with optimism and goodness that seemed to surround him like an aura. Boho girls in Venice Beach would have doted on him… I could just picture him running through the waves with a giant surf board and unassumingly setting hearts ablaze all along the beach.

Bjorn watched me carefully all day. I knew the change between what he saw last night to today was stark. He didn’t ask me for an explanation, and I didn’t offer one; I hoped he would simply draw his own conclusions. If he wanted to blame it on woman’s troubles, that was fine with me.

Valkyries don’t have those issues, but I could pretend for his sake.

I should have tried to ease into it somehow, acted less joyful or more withdrawn. But I simply couldn’t… I wanted to celebrate my reunion with that missing piece of me as loudly and flagrantly as I could. I settled for humming and working cheerfully. 

It would likely take Bjorn, as stubborn as the oxen that pulled his plow, more time to accept my new, sunnier personality. And that was fine. He shouldn’t take it for granted.

In the back of my mind, I was working on a plan, and I needed time to bring it to fruition.

But I needed to bring Soren on board. Leif was clearly already a fan, and Bjorn begrudgingly appreciated me, if nothing else, for my strength and swordsmanship.

Soren was a different story—the one time I’d seen him in daylight, he was impossible to read. I got zero feedback from him during our terse conversation; I couldn’t tell if he was impressed, or interested, or even repulsed. His features were completely neutral, like the best poker professionals in Vegas.

Perhaps Bjorn thought me ignorant, but I knew the secret they still weren’t telling.

There was no way the three of them could pilot that ship alone.

They needed at least one more person, if not three. Especially once laden down with treasures, it would be a heavy, unwieldy craft to steer through the rough landscape of the open water.

Larger craft weren’t just convenient for holding more men; there was a balance to be struck between being nimble and being sturdy. Bjorn’s boat was toeing the line—with enough men inside, enough weight, but also enough oars, they could be heavy enough and fast.

Too few of either and they would get tossed at the first rogue wave.

Either they hadn’t calculated correctly, or they were planning on bringing in more crew.

I didn’t believe it was the former. Soren was too clever for that, too careful. So I could only conclude they were weighing their options and trying to pick who would join their raiding party.

Obviously, I intended to claim one of those spots.

It would take some planning. Signe had asked Bjorn about his trip over dinner. Apparently, they were required to attend a planning meeting with the Jarl next week. Bjorn would be gone for seven days, which could be enough time, if everything worked according to my plan.

But first, we had to finish their ship.

And I had to show them I was an excellent candidate for their raiding party.

Which started with impressing Soren.

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