THE FIRST NIGHT IN ASGARD
The sight of the orgy made Ryan forget his footing.
He tripped over his feet.
To his surprise, Eira caught him lightning-fast by the elbow, looking at him with those same curious eyes that fell upon him when he refused her body.
The two regarded one another a moment, before a shriek coming from the distance tore Ryan back towards the bonfire.
The towering inferno lit up the clearing around it, painting the people celebrating – celebrating what, Ryan thought, around it.
People whooped and hollered, moaned and groaned, a mix of noises all contorting together around the fire.
Ryan had never seen anything like it in his entire life.
He’d never been to a strip club, wasn’t interested in a dance or watching, it felt impersonal.
And orgies wasn’t something he’d ever thought about joining in on, he was more a one-on-one interaction.
As if reading his mind, Eira piped up.
She was walking in front of him, raising her voice so he could hear from behind her.
“As I mentioned earlier, the Valkyries, every so often, like to hold a celebration for the new souls.”
Something to Ryan’s right caught his eye and he looked to see a raven-haired woman sitting on the ground nude, with her back against a plank of wood and her legs raised above her head, held in place by rope tied back to the plank itself.
Upon closer inspection, Ryan saw the raven haired beauty was wearing a necklace featuring what appeared to silver decorated in the shape of wings.
Her body was decorated in tribal tattoos, black flames curled up her arms and across her stomach.
Between her legs was another woman, her legs stretched out on the ground beneath her, her head buried into the raven woman’s crotch.
Eira saw Ryan had stopped and walked back to see what he was looking at.
“Oh. Would you like to watch?” She asked him, matter-of-factly. Not a hint of a tone in her voice suggested she was excited or jealous the women had Ryan’s eye. To Eira, it was another day.
Ryan instinctively covered his crotch.
“No” came out of him, and the raven-haired woman looked over at him.
He felt his cheeks burning, his stomach sinking. What on earth is this place, he wondered.
Eira continued onwards and Ryan followed, passing a man engaging a woman in doggy-style to his right, his groans echoing out amongst the crowd.
A woman passed by him to his right, naked and wearing an ornament on her head that appeared to be made out of wood. It was ablaze, trailing smoke into the night sky.
The woman, her body painted in tribal tattoos, danced around the fire, holding her arms high in the air.
How many people were here, wondered Ryan.
He began to count, dotting the people with a wave of his finger in the air.
He gave up when he counted fourteen.
“Eira?” He asked when they came to a stop at an empty spot by the bonfire.
“I told you. Valkyrie’s are slaves. We, according to the All-Father, live to serve as slaves.”
“Is that just sexually?”
Ryan could feel the heat of the bonfire on his face, could smell that smoky wood-burning smell that he could associate with his youth, hanging around the bonfire with his mates and drinking.
The thought hit him hard. Mates.
He had lost touch with his mates from high school, hadn’t really made closer ones in the jobs he had been in. But still…would they mourn him?
“It is sexually, it is anything the new soul desires.”
“And this is something you’ve done, as well?”
As soon as Ryan said it, he braced himself for ridicule. He knew it sounded stupid, had felt it sounded stupid, but just had to ask, was curious to ask.
Eira just regarded him with a blank face. “Of course”
“What if I wanted, just wanted I mean, a guide..?”
Something flickered in Eira’s eyes. A moment of doubt, Ryan thought he saw, but couldn’t tell, for it was gone a second later.
“Do you wish to request a different Valkyrie? I can suggest-“
“No no, not necessary”
“I just..I’m not a fan of the casual sex thing in general”
“Casual? Hm. Are you interested in…males?”
Ryan felt his cheeks burning. “No, I just…I mean, straight up sex is…I’m not really a fan, you know. I’d like to get to know a person first, I…”
Eira was watching him closely.
“It’s not that this isn’t…all attractive, and you..I mean…this isn’t not a turn on, it is..I just…don’t…right now…”
Eira’s face and eyes relaxed. She smiled, seemingly satisfied with his answer.
A voice, low and commanding, came from their right.
Ryan looked over to see a fellow Valkyrie, tall and dark-haired, walking over to them. She wore the same necklace as the raven-haired woman Ryan saw earlier, her arms were covered with the same tattooed black flames twisting up the length of her lightly tanned arms.
Eira bowed and the woman bowed back, and then regarded Ryan with a half-smirk, her deep blue eyes glistening in the light of the bonfire.
“Your new soul?”
Eira nodded, staying silent.
“Why aren’t you naked?”
“Furthermore, why aren’t you wearing your collar? You know the All-Father’s rules.”
Ryan looked to Eira, whose eyes seemed suddenly hurt.
One hand was raised to her neck, feeling for the collar that wasn’t there. Ryan hadn’t even noticed.
“I…I must have left it at my station.”
The dark-haired woman tilted her head at the response, her eyes moving to Ryan, still with that half-smirk.
“We carry that collar everywhere. Everywhere. It represents the All-Father.”
The dark-haired woman bowed with her left hand balled into a fist resting on her chest, while her right hand came outstretched, palm open, and Eira returned the gesture.
Ryan watched on as the two women faced each other.
The dark-haired woman was taller than Eira, with Eira coming to rest at the dark-haired woman’s shoulders.
“Don’t forget next time you go beyond, alright?”
Eira nodded. “Yes, sister”
The woman Eira named ‘sister’ nodded. “Oh, and a word away from your soul? I’m sure he won’t mind a look around.”
Eira nodded and turned to face Ryan.
“This shouldn’t take long” She said and offered a little gesture somewhere between a curtsy and a bow.
With that, Eira and the dark-haired woman stepped away from him and Ryan was left alone.
He was suddenly uneasy, unwilling to look up in case he made eye contact with any one in the midst of an intimate encounter.
From across the bonfire, there came the sound of a woman orgasming, her cries echoed across from the other side of the bonfire, sounding, to Ryan’s ears, oh so delightful.
“You’re new” Came a voice, gruff and low.
Ryan looked to his right and saw a dark-skinned creature approach him.
It had the appearance of a dwarf, short and big-bellied. Its curious black eyes regarded Ryan as it sat down beside him, tucking its navy kilt underneath its bottom as it sat.
Ryan could barely hold back his scream. It came out like a hiccup.
The dwarf-like creature seemed to smile, revealing a crooked line of yellow teeth.
Along with the smile, Ryan’s eyes were drawn to its thick light-brown ears twitching on the creature’s head.
“It’s obvious by the bewildered look on your face”
The dwarf-like creature chuckled, deep and throaty.
Ryan stammered – but couldn’t find the words.
Suddenly the world seemed smaller, more dream-like.
He almost wanted to reach out and touch the tuft of fur on the dwarf-like creature’s chin, just to make sure what he was seeing was real and not the sort of characters he had read about in fantasy novels.
The dwarf-like creature’s eyes sharpened. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that it’s rude to stare?”
Ryan averted his eyes, looked back down at his feet.
The dwarf-like creature threw back his head and laughed uproariously.
It smacked Ryan fair and square on the back, knocking Ryan off balance.
“I’m just joshing with you, lad! I’d expect a human to stare. It’s only natural to be curious.”
Ryan tried to force a smile but he just felt stupid.
“I am Mort, son of Martin. I hail from Niðavellir, home of the Dwarves!”
“Ryan” Was all Ryan could say weakly.
Mort laughed. “Ryan eh? I have not met a ‘Ryan’ yet. I shall journal this on the ‘morrow”
All Ryan could do was nod and avert his eyes. He suddenly felt a bit dizzy.
Home of the Dwarves? Is this really happening?
“My first time was the same, I do admit! Looking around and seeing all…this….there are no words, eh?”
Mort moved closer to Ryan. He was now shoulder-to-shoulder with him.
Not knowing whether to make eye contact or not, Ryan forced another smile, keeping his eyes pinned to the ground.
“It is a big honor, yes? Being chosen for the battle?”
Ryan brushed the smoke out of his eyes, making eye contact with Mort for the first time.
“Aye, the looming battle! Has your slave not told you about what’s to come? Why we’re here?”
All Ryan could do was shake his head.
Then the curious creature named Mort told him everything.
After Kára had finished going over the details for the passage to Valhalla, Eira made her way back to the bonfire.
Her mood was soured. Kára always had that effect on her, had always seemed to enjoy teasing her. Eira never understood why.
Kára was older than Eira and had arrived to Asgard well before Eira had.
She had been assigned to Eira to train her in combat, as well as slave training, and though the two became polite with one another, and Eira followed every training order and stayed out of trouble, Kára seemed to relish in being a strict teacher.
Other Valkyrie’s voiced their opinion about Kára to Eira. They had done so often as they bathed together in the spring outside the walls of Valhalla.
Everyone had decided that while Kára could be a bit of a strict leader, her heart was in the right place, especially when it came to her role as a slave.
As Eira drew closer to the bonfire, she recalled Kára’s ferocious dedication to being a slave, having walked in on her whipping her back while reciting the All-Father’s slave mantra with precise clarity.
Eira admired her.
When Eira arrived to the spot she was standing with Ryan when Kára first walked over, she saw he was nowhere to be seen.
The thought crossed her mind that maybe he chose a different Valkyrie after all, so she walked around the perimeter of the bonfire, side stepping between Valkyries pleasing their men and women.
Ryan was nowhere to be seen.
At least around the bonfire.
This isn’t good, Eira thought. Walking Asgard unsupervised at night isn’t particularly dangerous, but the forest was a labyrinth, one a new soul was surely to get lost in.
Eira walked around the bonfire again, scanning the area more carefully. And that’s when she spotted him, leaning against the tree at the edge of the clearing.
As she approached him, she saw that his face was darkened.
At the sheer sight of it, a chill swept over her bare arms.
Ryan looked up, his face never changing from its darkened state.
Eira’s stomach sank.
Ryan, as if reading her thoughts, spoke again.
“Oh a Dwarf told me by the bonfire.”
He laughed bitterly.
“I was chosen for that? Plucked from my family when I could’ve been saving them when it happens. W-when you could’ve saved them. What’s that about, I mean, life as you know it, as I know it – it’s all going to end right?”
The hurt Eira could see in Ryan’s eyes made her feel uneasy.
“So the All-Father’s dreams have said, yes.”
“And it’s actually happening? I mean, this isn’t some misdirection?”
“Yes, soon The Giants will attack, according to the All-Father’s dreams…”
Ryan scoffed and fell to the ground. Eira couldn’t read his expression from where she stood.
She knelt down beside him and spoke gently and carefully.
“I’m sorry…I was waiting to tell you after the bonfire, after your mind adjusted. It’s why we’re here. It’s why any of us besides the gods themselves are here. We are training for war.”
Ryan buried his face in his knees, which were pulled up to meet his face.
“I already knew. I just needed to remember it from my…previous life”
Ryan choked out the last two words; Eira could hear the strain on his voice.
Without really knowing if she could or should, she rested a hand on his knee.
“You were dying, Ryan. And I had a choice in that moment to let you die and go to Freyja or come to Asgard”
Ryan looked up from his knee, his eyes fierce. “To fight your fight”
The words stung but Eira couldn’t relent. It was important, even in his grief, that he understood. “To fight the fight of the cosmos…”
She went on.
“I saw your strength in that moment, a fighter choosing to stick up for something so little. The passion I felt from you, it was my duty then and there to decide – and I do not regret my choice..”
“Choice? I’m not a fighter. I know nothing of battle!”
Ryan rose to his feet. “And what is all this…this nonsense? People being happy, dancing around? Does no one care about the life they left behind”
Eira rose too. Now Ryan was raising his voice at her and she could feel something burning up within her as well. What was it? Rage? Hurt?
“People are here because they care about the nine realms, about your world. Yes, they grieve but that grief drives them for the moment ahead when everything, everything we know, faces its end. So I am sorry, Ryan Kennedy, that your life came to an end but you are not the only one here grieving. Each one of us lost our lives, just as each one of us has a duty now to save the lives of the nine realms”
Eira could see Ryan’s eyes drift down. She trailed their line of sight down to the thin white lines craved into her fleshed.
The mysterious scars on the insides of her arms, the mystery of her previous life still forgotten to her, suddenly made her put her arms behind her back.
“We need people like you, whether you believe that or not.”
His eyes met hers then and once again, she spoke gently and slowly.
“And I promise you, you will always be able to see your family”
To be continued…