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  • Writer's pictureLaurel Knight

Valkyrie Fallen - Chapter 2



I heard the second burst of a bubble, and internally I cringed. I didn’t know for certain who it was, but I had a fairly good guess.

Turning, I verified my suspicion was correct.

Odin had disguised himself as the main thug, his piercing grey eyes a trick of magic. Now, his single blue eye glared at me in victory, the empty socket on the other side concealed behind a dented metal patch.

“I told you I’d find you.” Odin grinned ferociously, his long waves of silvery hair blowing in the light breeze. He also spoke in perfect, modern English. “It doesn’t matter that you hid for a thousand years, here we are as if no time had passed at all.”

“Why can’t you just leave me be?” I hissed back at him. “You’ve already stripped me of my armor and my powers, and banished me to Midgard. What else can you possibly want from me?”

“Tsk tsk, Brenna,” Odin chuckled darkly. “You pledged to serve me until Ragnarok. Just because you decided you no longer wanted to serve your purpose, it doesn’t mean you get out of that obligation. Since you refuse to send the Victorious Fallen to Valhalla, you serve me by being subject to my whims. When I want something, you heel. When I snap my fingers, you obey. Heimdall!”

Odin lifted his face to the heavens when he shouted the last bit, and my knees began to tremble. Within seconds the rainbow descended out of the pure black night, surrounding us in glittering light, and I felt the distinct pull behind my navel as it whisked us off to Asgard.

I never thought Odin would come for me himself. As he dragged me back to his magical home between realms, I cursed the trap he’d laid. Maybe if I’d walked another direction, or…

No, it was pointless to go over the ‘what if’s’ now. Odin had me; he must have known it was me, to come with so much backup. The feeling of flying while also remaining completely still as glowing rainbow colors whooshed by was enough to churn my stomach… it had been quite a while since I’d traveled the Bifrost. My body had become accustomed to the weight of Earth’s gravity. Biting back the urge to gag, I waited for the moment when we’d stop, and my doom would be sealed.

It was an eternal moment and yet happened in a blink of the eye. One second I was on Midgard, the next riding a glittering rainbow, and then the next, I was back in the storied halls of Asgard. My pulse began to race, heat flooding my system as I desperately tried to convince myself there was a way out of whatever Odin had planned to punish me.

It was completely hopeless, of course, but I couldn’t fault my subconscious for trying.

We were met by a host of guardians, who eyed first me, then the sword still in my tight grasp, with barely restrained curiosity. It wasn’t common for Odin to bring a human—as I appeared to be—to Asgard, let alone one bearing a Valkyrian sword.

But it wasn’t their place to question him, just to do his bidding. They surrounded Odin, Loki, and myself, along with the two guards, who had now shed their disguises as street thugs. With our escort, we marched toward the great hall.

Truthfully, Asgard was beautiful; nearly as beautiful as Valhalla. I’d only been here a handful of times, and it always impressed a sense of power upon me. Tall, gleaming buildings, cream-colored bricks and everywhere gold that sparkled in the sunlight. Lush trees and flowing brooks lined the neatly curving paths, everything rounded and smooth and majestic, as if it had grown organically from pure might. Long eggshell silks flowed from open window arches painted in gold with the names of Asgardian residents. Óðinn, Þórr, Loki, Frigg, Baldr, Heimdallr, and more, all decorated the residences in classic old Norse script.

We passed through several decorative arches laced with creeping ivy, and finally approached the massive pale wooden door where my fate awaited me.

Never one to draw out the excitement, Odin marched ahead as the guard opened the massive doors before him, and I followed. Ahead were several of the gods whose names I’d seen painted on silk just moments before. Bathed in beams of natural light, Frigg lounged on a chaise, her long pale blonde hair artfully plaited and draped over one shoulder. She wasn’t surprised at our arrival, and it occurred to me she might have used her talent with seidr to weave this happenstance into my fate.

Heimdall had abandoned his spot at the entrance to the Bifrost in order to be present here, although his eyes were still turned toward his charge. Just as I remembered, his copper beard was thick and full, his shoulders wide and imposing, with muscular forearms and a grim expression. Heimdall had never been much of a conversationalist.

Thor, clutching Mjöllnir, appeared as if he would rather be anywhere else than waiting here. His brows, so blonde they were nearly invisible, were low over stormy eyes, with both arms crossed over his massive chest.

The only person whose presence was notably missing was Baldur, but I had a feeling if I inquired, they wouldn’t be apt to tell me where he was.

When we reached the dais, I was unsurprised to see that Loki had given us the slip in the course of our little walk. Typical Loki, shows up when it suits him but doesn’t stick around to face the music. I wondered what Odin had offered him in exchange for trapping me.

The most startling feeling came when I stepped up to the dais and waited for Odin to take his seat in the gaudy chair he preferred.

Of course I couldn’t see them; Odin’s curse held strong.

But I could feel them, and I could hear the air move as they landed delicately in the gallery of the great hall, passing easily through the roof like wisps of smoke and solidifying once inside, their wings carrying them to the ground.

The Valkyries.

Long ago, so long it wasn’t even a memory so much as a legend, Odin had stolen us. Enchanted with our power, not to mention the legendary beauty of the two hundred Maidens of Valkyr, he destroyed every stone of our home. He rent a giant hole in the cosmos and reduced his power from ten realms to nine. One by one, he captured us like wild birds in nets, stripping us of the armor and swords in which we poured our power. He planned, perhaps, to surround himself with servants of a haunting, ethereal beauty. Clear, light grey eyes, perfectly symmetrical faces with full lips and delicately arched brows, and manes of wild hair like spun silver and gold. My sisters and I knew the differences between us, but outsiders could scarcely tell us apart. Odin thought he had found himself an eternal, immortal source of service and entertainment for his own pleasure.

However, he vastly underestimated the Valkyrje.

Without our swords, without our armor and our freedom, we could not, would not, do a single thing he wanted. We lay in heaps, spread out on the paths and floors of Asgard, lifeless.

Odin tried to use threats, violence, and anger to move us. Eventually, he discovered that torturing one valkyrie would not motivate her to act, but it would motivate another to end her torment.

But he swiftly discovered that was even more dangerous to his health than our inaction.

If he asked a valkyrie to scrub the floors, she would position herself in his path, attempting to trip him as he passed.

If he ordered a valkyrie to serve him food, chances were she poisoned it.

If he demanded a valkyrie help him dress, she likely would attempt to strangle him with the garment.

None of these things killed him, but Odin eventually learned that it was impossible to tame the Valkyrie. They would not serve him like slaves. Without our armor, without our weapons, we lacked the heart and soul that provided our legendary goodness and valor. Our hair dulled, our eyes lost the shine of vitality, and our hearts hardened.

Eventually, Odin came to his senses. Because our home was destroyed, he could not send us back, but he offered us a trade: We would become residents of Valhalla, a beautiful place, with as much space and freedom as we could want. Odin would return our armor and our swords. In exchange, we would help him select the Victorious Fallen to join his host for Ragnarok.

And we agreed.

Reunited with our armor, with our souls, we were once again the creatures of heart and beauty we’d been before. The relief from the torturous emptiness was immediate; I still remembered how it felt when I buckled on my breastplate and the armor buzzed with recognition. My heart ached to remember it after all this time. It’d been so long since I’d worn it.

And we were happy to perform this one task in exchange for being whole once again. It wasn’t as if we were killing the men; they did that very well on their own. However, we still had to walk among the dead and dying for eternity, and search their minds, sip their souls with our swords, to test their worth.

Their fear, their confusion, their agony wore on me. But I toughed it out; I survived, and performed my task again and again, sending more and more souls to Valhalla.

But soon, the reality of Valhalla wore on me as well. Because they weren’t happy, the Chosen. They were miserable, locked in this never-ending fight and feast, and it was my duty to bring ever more and more people to this misery.

As eternity wore on, I grew tired of it. I knew I wasn’t the only one who disliked the task, but when I put my foot down, none of my sisters stood beside me. I thought it would be a second revolution against the tyrant, but as it turned out, they were all satisfied with the bargain they’d struck and apparently didn’t mind the suffering of the human souls as much as I did.

And so they had banished me, stripped me of my armor—but thankfully not my sword—and sent me to live among the humans on Midgard. Odin thought I ought to know what they were truly like, because I sympathized with them over him. Since I still had my sword, I kept a small amount of my power and just enough of my heart that I didn’t fade away to nothingness.

But I was not nearly whole. I was hardened, calloused toward men and everyone I had cared about. Including my sisters, who now occupied the gallery, looking down on me with what I imagined was pity. Perhaps they thought Odin brought me here to give me a second chance, or to punish me for hiding from him. I didn’t know what he told them, and had no way to ask them if I wanted to.

I stood before the ‘gods’ on the dais and regarded them with the same level of derision they aimed in my direction.

And I waited.

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