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  • Writer's pictureLaurel Knight

Valkyrie Fallen - Chapter 5




Brenna

*

Clambering out of the hay pile, I paused a moment to pluck bits of straw from my person before hefting my sword and running in search of the fight.


It was a small, muddy village. The slick wet path squelched around my basic leather shoes, threatening to keep them forever and leave me barefoot, forcing my pace to slow. A few of the hovels had fires within, light leaking around the wooden doors. In the distance, I saw flashes of reflected moonlight and I knew that was my destination.


I still didn’t know if I wanted to prove something or end my misery, but something pulled me toward this fight either way. Perhaps it was my valkyrie instinct, driving me to test the one who was bound to die for his place in Valhalla. All I had was my sword and my instincts, and I’d just have to see what came of them.


A chill wind blew from my right, and sparing a quick glance, I saw the reflected moonlight on water. The village was close to the fjord; I could just make out a few small boats and one ship pulled up on the rocky shore.


Good. At least Odin had dumped me off in a village with actual fighters, instead of just boys who played at swords.


My feet continued toward the smash-clang noises of fighting. To my left the ground was mostly level for a short way, then the hills rose dramatically, cupping the valley in rocky protection. Low grasses grew along the muddy path, and I racked my brain to figure out what season we were in. There was no visible ice: if it was spring, they’d be planning their raids for the summer already. If it were autumn, they’d be preparing to huddle down for the winter and there would be no more raids until the next year.


Obviously, the best-case scenario for me would be spring; it would give me an immediate opportunity to earn a place, if that’s what I chose. Autumn would be much harder to eek out a position in the village with no raids to prove myself on. I might have to consider wedding some unwashed meathead just for a place to stay warm.


Perhaps I should let fate decide for me. If it was autumn, I could let some moron end my misery. If it was actually spring, I would keep fighting.


As I drew closer to the fighting, I slowed down to observe. Now I could make out the combatants and hear their grunts and taunts as they fought.


Three men surrounded one and definitely appeared to be the aggressors. There was one giant of a man, who growled like a bear when he struck; A shorter man, but powerful, who made calculated strikes; and a third, leaner, with sharp features that made him appear almost as pretty as a woman in the moonlight.


The man in the middle was bleeding, and his eyes were wild; he was under no delusion that he would survive this fight.


That is until I intervened.


Darting into the center of the circle and inserting myself between the biggest man and their victim, I dug through my knowledge of languages, searching for ancient Norse.


“Kolme yhtä vastaan ​​on tuskin reilua.” Wait, was that Finnish?


The men paused, glancing at each other in confusion.


Hmm, maybe I got that wrong.


“Tre mot en er neppe rettferdig.” As soon as I said it, I realized it was modern Norwegian, not Old Norse.


One actually reached up to scratch his head. Jesus.


“Þrír á einn er eigi… fair?” I couldn’t remember the right word for fair, but that was as close as I could get to saying three on one wasn’t fair.


Their heads tilted back with recognition. Got it!


"Hann's bastardr, andlát er too góð fyrir hann. En þat's allr vér haftilr gøra.” The shorter one, the more clever-looking one, answered. “He’s a bastard. Death is too good for him. But it’s all we have to offer.”


The ancient language came more readily to my tongue. “Why is he a bastard?”


The clever one pointed at the youngest, easily the prettiest of the three. “He killed Leif’s brother.”

I glanced behind me at the bleeding mass of man, who shrugged. “He challenged me and lost.”

“He challenged you because you stole from him!” The youngest shouted, his voice a fine line between anger and pain. Clearly, this was a raw nerve.


“I still fail to see why that justifies three on one,” I commented carefully.


This time, the largest man spoke, his voice deep. “Because Skarde is a cheat. It is the only way he could have beaten Leif’s brother. Therefore we decided not to allow him-”


“What, not to allow him a fighting chance? It seems to me you all are the cheaters here. Leave now, or I will be forced to teach you a lesson.” I glared at all three of them in turn, wielding my sword at the ready.


They burst out laughing. “Skarde, I had no idea you needed a smár mær to defend you,” chuckled the biggest. 


It took me a minute to translate those words, even though I knew it was an insult. Then it clicked into place. “A little girl, am I? Well perhaps to you I am small, but that is only because you are so fat.” Truthfully he looked like a solid wall of muscle under his rough spun clothes and armor, but it was difficult to tell in the darkness. And it didn’t matter if he was actually fat, only that the comment pissed him off.


Which it did.


He charged at me, and then the battle resumed. The injured man and I instantly positioned back to back, and I faced down the giant while he fought off the two smaller men.


My opponent was unbelievably strong, his attacks sending shock waves up my arm as I deflected the blows. If I held an ordinary sword, it would dent under the force of his hits. Fortunately, my Valkyrian blade was far stronger than viking iron.


I allowed him to press his attack, learning more about him and his fighting style, while I encouraged my body to remember sword fighting. It had been centuries since I’d actually wielded my sword as a weapon; mostly I had concealed it on my person or near me somehow, like in the guitar case. I could not be parted from it again; I would die first. But it was far too conspicuous to walk down a modern street carrying it.


My attacker grew tired of being unable to gain ground on me, and tired of fighting in general. He was a big man, who wielded a heavy sword and wore thick plated armor. He wasn’t prepared for an extended battle; I was wearing him down.


I listened for the status of the fight behind me. My partner appeared to be in a good mood, issuing taunts to the other two, so I assumed it was going well for him.


It was time.


Pressing my attack, I beat back the giant of a man, setting him on defense under the fury of my swings. It helped to have the ball of frustration in my chest from my circumstances; I used the limitless anger and took my hatred for Odin out on the unsuspecting viking.


He was completely unprepared; in less than a minute I was kneeling on his chest with my blade to his throat.


In the black of night, all I could make out was that his eyes were dark and his hair light. A thick beard covered his chin, and he gazed up at me without fear. “Do it, then. I will see my brother in Valhalla.”

That brought me up short. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the legacy of the valkyries, and the last thing I wanted was to be the reason another good man spent eternity in Valhalla.


And he was a good man; my sword took sips of his soul and judged him worthy.


“Call off your friends, go on your way, and I will spare your life.”


“I am not afraid of death!” His eyes were angry now, and he bellowed the challenge even though I was mere inches from his face.


“Who will look after your sisters, Björn?” The voice came from my side, where the other two attackers stood, watching somberly. It was the older of the two, the clever one.


“I will watch over them from Valhalla,” the man beneath my blade insisted, but his voice trembled.

“Who will take care of them here, Björn? Who will protect them? You are all they have. Take the offer, our attempt has failed.”


My gaze remained focused on the man beneath me, but his darted up to the faces of his friends. Sighing, he closed his eyes.


“Fine. I concede. Release me, and we will go in peace.”


I stood and offered him a hand up, but he ignored it in favor of the arm offered by his friend. The three of them cast curious glances at me, but the one that pierced my withered heart was the gaze of the youngest, the pretty one. His eyes were wounded: the aching soul of someone grieving shone through his gaze. I may have saved a life, but I still didn’t know if it was a life worth saving. This man clearly didn’t believe so.


The largest man lay a heavy hand on the youngest’s shoulder, and they walked off into the shadows together.


“Thank you,” the bleeding man said in a humble tone. “I would be dead if you hadn’t intervened. Can I offer you anything to show my gratitude?”


“I could use a place to sleep,” I admitted.


“That I am happy to offer,” he grinned. “My name is Skarde. May I have yours?”


“Brenna,” I answered, accepting the hand he offered for a shake. 


“My house is this way,” he gestured back toward the collection of hovels I had passed, the opposite direction the other three had traveled.


As we walked along the squelching mud path, the thirst hit me. “Skarde, do you have any beer?”

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