Valhalla, Ch. 11 – Past Lives

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

PAST LIVES

 

 

 

Ryan came to.
His chest felt heavy and his vision was a blur.
He could make out the table across from his room; he could definitely make out the light that flooded in through the open window
Did you open that, mum?
And he could feel the breeze on his exposed feet that stuck out the side of the bed.
Had someone woke me? He wondered, rolling on his back to face his bedroom door, expecting to see Eira.
No one came.
As he sat up in bed, he felt a dull pain crisscross against his chest. As if someone had held the handle of a…knife…against his chest tightly.
That’s when his eyes fell upon the item resting on the bedside table. It was a piece of parchment, faded yellow.
Ryan swung his legs out of bed and scooped up the parchment, his eyes scanning the jet-black ink.
The writing seemed feminine, he noted, as he began the first line.

Ryan,
I have been summoned by my All-Father to
Seek out a new soul.

Please forgive my absence, I

Shall return shortly.

 

In the meantime, training

Resumes as normal. Do see

Battle Mistress Mist if you require

Any assistance.

 

Eira

 

 

Rubbing his chest where it still felt constricted, Ryan re-reads the letter.
A new soul.
Does that mean her loyalty now belongs to this newcomer? Or do we share? Or…
Ryan dismissed the thought. He had to get dressed.

 

***

 

Ryan found Mist standing to the sides of the large empty field. Around them, men and women sparred, their grunts echoing across the field.
Ryan looked to his left, then to his right.
The field he was standing on was as large, if not larger, than the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne.
In the distance he could see another group of gathered warriors, their cries echoing back down to him.
As he stood in the shadow of Valhalla, still stretching inward from the morning sun, he watched the woman and man spar. The woman, a fellow warrior Ryan noted, swerved to the right and out of the man’s swing, meeting the attack with a fierce jab of her elbow.
With a cry, the man fell back on his ass. The woman laughed and cracked her neck.
All Ryan could think of was that he could never fight like that, like her.
“You are the one Eira brought recently.” Came the stern voice beside him.
Ryan turned in the direction of the voice, only seeing Mist, her back straight, hands behind her back rigidly, as she regarded the field.
“I am. Uh, Ryan. Ryan K-“
“You look concerned.”
Mist’s head moved in his direction, her body staying perfectly still.
“Well, I’m not a fighter, I guess. The last fight I was in was when I was eight. I…”
“All this can be taught. What matters…is the spirit. Which is why you are here…”
Ryan wasn’t a fighter. He had avoided any of that. The only fights he had been in was any high school jock picking on him as a teen, in which they did most of the punching. Ryan always took it. He didn’t know how else to react.
Anything after high school were verbal confrontations, defused with words or separation.
The last fight, his fourth physical fight in his lifetime, ended his life.

“Remember the past. Acknowledge it, even. But move forward, strengthen yourself.”
“Do you re….”
Mist was watching him closely, her deep blue eyes intense and focused.
“I do.”
She remained stiff, never faltering, never relaxed.
“Not every fighter, not every Valkyrie recalls their life. Some have fragments, some grow consumed by it, and some choose to forget. I choose to remember what we are fighting for. What I am fighting for.”
Mist turned her gaze from him and bowed as warriors approached Mist and bowed themselves, before beginning their duel.
“In another life, I was took part in the Marines. My squad featured some of the fiercest warriors I have ever met, some of them were even chosen to serve the All-Father along with me.”
There was a ghost of her smile on her face.
“Líf was one of them. “
Líf stood thirty metres away on the field, fighting against another Valkyrie. From where Ryan stood, she was a blur.
“My life would come to end earlier than hers, however. Amidst liberating Kuwait, something searing hot-“
Mist’s face drew into a scowl as she spat out the word hot. Her eyes became fierce.
“Clipped my neck. I woke up her. Before the All-Father and Mother themselves.”
“And you remembered?”
Ryan asked, his mind racing with thoughts.
“Not at first. The All-Mother spent some time guiding me on what they were trying to achieve. After the first few months, the dreams came. And after a while, so did the memories. Now…”
Mist turned to face Ryan once more. “I choose to remember. I just do not let it control me…”
She turned back to face the field, raising her hand in the air.
Líf, who had beaten her opponent in the spar, saw the signal and headed towards the two of them.
“Ragnarök is coming, Ryan. We need all you can give to us.”
Ryan felt a lump lodge in his throat as Líf approached. She fell on one knee.
“Battle Mistress…”
“No need of formalities, Líf. Care to spar with this gentlemen here?”
Líf’s golden eyes fell upon Ryan and her face lit up in a smirk that was strangely charming.
“Gladly, old friend.”
As Líf cracked her neck, Ryan gulped.

 

***

 

Líf beat Ryan, to be sure. By the time they broke for lunch, his buttocks were sore from falling over and his legs were aching from practicing the stiff defensive stance.
Yet through all that, Líf never grew impatient. She encouraged him, helped him up where he fell. Gave him pointers on reacting to her blows.
Despite all this, she did not hold back her blows, landing several hits that Ryan could tell would welt by the morning.
By the evening, Líf left Ryan at the entrance to his bedroom with a formal bow. She had asked if she would be needed for the evening, but Ryan politely decline, causing her eyes to darken and her brow to frown. Regardless, she bowed again and continued on down the hall.
When Ryan collapsed on his bedroom, he could feel the familiar dull ache of his chest. It was still tight from the morning, hanging around with that familiar dull ache.
It didn’t take long for sleep to find him.

 

***

The following morning, Ryan sat by himself in the great hall, around a table that smelled of mead. It was too early in the morning for him for mead, however, so he settled on a coffee, hoping for a caffeinated boost to the system.
Eira was still absent. Kára too, he noticed. Both must’ve been given the task of accompanying a new soul (or souls) on their journey to Valhalla.
When the doors to Valhalla creaked open, silencing the music and the hall itself, Ryan joined everyone’s head in turning to see who was arriving.
A group of Valkyries stepped forward, their soul either standing beside them, or behind them. Ryan tried to count as they stepped forward and got as far as ten before he saw Eira emerge, walking beside another woman outfitted in a pale grey dress. The woman brushed the dirty blonde hair out of her eyes as she looked around the room, her eyes widening.
Eira searched the room, her face in a frown.
It was only a matter of time before her eyes found Ryan, sending chills up his spine for reasons unknown.
Was it that she found him amongst the crowd? Or that he was thinking that this new woman might be Eira’s new focus?
Ryan hoped the coffee had the answer and would provide him with it shortly after the caffeine boost.
Eira didn’t make her way over to him, Ryan noticed. Rather, she stood in a line amongst the Valkyries, bowing her head.
Ryan’s eyes moved to the front of the great hall, where Odin sat, his piercing grey eye looking out amongst the newly arrived warriors.
In stepped more warriors and Valkyries, and more still. Ryan stood watching, cradling his coffee, thinking on what Eira said about the size of Valhalla and how many warriors it can hold.
Amongst the crowd, Ryan spotted Kára step through the doors, walking with a posture as perfect as Mist.
Beside her was a man.
The man who had ended Ryan’s life.
Ryan’s chest began to ache.

 

The End of the Chosen arc.

 

 

And now, some notes:

For some reason, I have designed Valhalla like a comic book, divided up amongst several arcs – with one leading into the next and continuing little plot points that I had been building to.

This chapter acts as the end to the introductory saga (as a draft anyway!) with more to come in the near future.

I don’t know what to do with this series just yet. I have, as of March 2018, 25 chapters planned of this story, characters and their relationships and I am considering a novel, or just putting all this away in a box in my house because maybe it’s not good enough.

 I mean, maybe it isn’t? Maybe it just needed to be written. It is still a draft, one I will no doubt be rewriting to the end of time, but being the perfectionist anxious bugger I am, I don’t know how skilled or entertaining I am of a writer.

 

In any case, this is going on hiatus for now.

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Valhalla, Ch. 10 – Adjustments, Part II

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

Adjustments, Part II

 

“I like to come here when I have the time.”
Eira and Ryan stood in a patch of tall grass that overlooked a waterfall.
The noise was thunderous – so much so that Eira had to raise her normally quiet voice.
Ryan could not see Valhalla anymore. In each direction, grandfather trees shot up into the sky, their pale aged bark obstructing the view to the world outside.
Eira had taken him beyond Valhalla, deep into the Fensalir forest.
It wasn’t far; Ryan noted to himself, the walk only lasted five minutes.

It was where they currently stood that they had their breakfast – a plate of fruit, the likes of Ryan had never tried before. As he bit into it, sweet and sour sensations flooded his mind and tingled his tongue. Eira watched amused, of course.
Now they stood in silence, listening to nothing but the crash of water into the lake below.
Just watching the water flow and fall, flow and fall, made him sleepy.
Movement caught his eye and he looked to see Eira wriggling out of her pale grey dress. It fell to the ground in a clump, revealing her bare body.
The light was caught behind her, setting her form alight as if she were a performer on the stage.
He noticed Goosebumps on her arms, goose bumps that travelled across her breasts, stiffening her nipple as they went.
The word beautiful hit Ryan’s mind and left just as instantly, a fleeting thought.
Her ass bore the mark where he had struck her the day before. A reminder of the darkness that possessed him.
And how it felt to indulge such darkness.
Looking back at him, a crooked appeared across Eira’s face, before she turned to face the waterfall below – and leapt off.
Ryan jumped into action, his heart suddenly kicking into overdrive. Something warm and hot slithered across his back and down his legs – adrenaline working overtime.
When he peered over the edge, she was already into the lake below, the splash spraying upwards.
How far down was that drop? Ryan wondered, but mathematics was never his strong suit. A long way down came the answer in his head.
A moment later, Eira resurfaced. Her giggle echoed up the Cliffside.
“What were you thinking? Are you okay?”
“I am fine Ryan K-…I am fine.”
“What??”
It was as if Ryan had no control over his words. Out of his mouth they stumbled, ignoring proper pronunciation.
He couldn’t tell what Eira was thinking, let alone what her expression was like as he stood on the edge of the Cliffside. He could only guess she was smiling though, judging from the slight giggle he could hear.
Is this some sort of ritual..?

“Come join me!”
“What?! Oh no – no no no.”
Ryan wasn’t one for heights.
The plane seemed to scream as it leapt into the sky. Below, the city disappeared, as if fading out of existence.
Ryan wanted to scream.
“No I think I’ll stay up here. Or, you know, watch from up here.”
“I can guarantee your safety.”
“What if I die? Again?!”
“Then you’ll become one with the cosmos.”
Ryan began to tremble; he looked down at the sight of Eira, who was just a blur.
“Wait a minute, are you serious? I don’t come back or anything?”
“Jump, Ryan!”
More giggling.
Ryan let out a shaky sigh and looked down at the lake below. At his feet, a small pebble, scuffed by his shoe, rolled off and fell from view.
“New beginnings, right?”
Three.
“Might as well try something new…”
Two.
Ryan took a deep breath.
One.
Ryan jumped.

Wind. Drumming on his ears. All around him. A vortex. Ryan was falling. Endlessly.
Crashing into the artic. Freezing. Screaming. The world spinning by.
He emerges, his hair everywhere, over his eyes. He needs a cut.
Eira.
Eira is looking back at him. Her eyes don’t look grey anymore, they look golden.

***

 

Ryan was drying his hair with a soft towel Eira provided.
The two were sitting on the banks of the lake, looking out at the area where they just swam.
“Do you still have your appetite?” Eira asked, reaching into her satchel. Ryan couldn’t help but notice that her breasts swayed along with her movement.
“I don’t know, do you have time to have that breakfast with me? Or will someone summon you?”
“The only person who has requested me has been you.”
She pulled out a golden apple and handed it to Ryan. “Here. Eat.”
“Are we training again?”
“When we get back. For now, eat.”
Somewhere beyond the trees, a bird cried out shrilly.
The morning forest stirred with life Ryan could not see.
He took the apple and rubbed it on his chest. Eira, catching the movement, looked at him with a bemused expression across her face.
From the satchel, she pulled forth her own apple and bit into it.
What if I die? Again?!
Then you’ll become one with the cosmos.
“Eira?”
“Mm?”
She looked to Ryan, mid bite.
“What do you mean by ‘You’ll become one with the cosmos’.”
Eira thought the question over, turning the apple over and over in her hands.
“Your energy, all that you are here, fades.”
Ryan felt his face crease.
All that I am…just vanishes. What of my memory?
The emptiness, the finality of it, terrified him. He couldn’t process it.
“But…I’m already dead.”
“As are the Valkyries, yet we have died before. And will die in the battle to come.”
Her face grew solemn as she spoke. She put the apple down on the grass on which they sat.
“Valkyries have lived before?”
Eira, who had been sitting cross-legged, her wings out behind her, shifted her position so that she faced Ryan.
“Oh indeed. Each Valkyrie has lived before – a mortal life! In death, we are brought before Freya, lady of Folkvangr, or the All-Father.”
“So…you were like me?”
He instantly felt stupid for asking that, but Eira did not seem to mind, she nodded and smiled.
“Some retain a memory of their former selves, others struggle to. I cannot.”
“Nothing?”
Eira shook her head, extending her arms to look at the scarring on her wrist. “The only thing I recall is waking up on the shores of Asgard, naked as the tide washed over me.”
Ryan looked down at her scar and flinched at the memory that came to mind –
Eira winced beneath his touch.
His palms stung but he couldn’t stop. He was addicted.
He was addicted.
“I’m sorry I hurt you…”
Eira looked up from her outstretched arm and into his eyes.
“That is not hurt. You do not have anything to apologise for.”
Something strange occurred then, in that little space away from the riotous celebrations of Valhalla. Eira lent in and kissed Ryan softly on the cheek.
Her lips were soft and cool on his skin.
While Ryan’s body tensed at the pleasant feeling, Eira began to feel something else deep within her, a pang of guilt.

***

 

When the two arrived back in the great hall of Valhalla, they were met with the stench of mead and sweat and loud joyous music.
Some men cheered, linking their arms to a Valkyrie as they danced around happily. Other men took their slaves over the table from behind aggressively, tweaking their slaves’ nipples.
Ryan was still getting used to the sight of the party that never seemed to end. But between the dancing nude men and women and the sound of a flute striking a melody alongside the rhythmic beating of the drum, his mind wandered to the idea of a dance.
He turned beside him to where Eira was standing, watching the people dance with that sweet smile, and extended his arm.
“I don’t know how to dance but I figure we’ll just go with it?”
Eira didn’t know what he meant by ‘just go with it’ but she linked her arm with his all the same.
With their arms interlocked, the two began to dance.

 

To be Continued…

 

 

 

 

Valhalla, Ch. 8 – Rituals

Previously on VALHALLA

Ryan and the new souls arrive in the great hall of Valhalla, where
they become accustomed to the strange and erotic rituals of the Valkyries
and the fighters awaiting Ragnarök. 

Meanwhile, Eira has to obey an order from the All-Father, one that might
prove to unsettle her new friendship with Ryan.

Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven |

CHAPTER EIGHT

RITUALS

 

There was something comforting about falling through the darkness…
Ryan came to, bolting upright. Cool air rushed down his lungs and chilled his body.
He realised he was panting as he came back into the world of Asgard, free-falling from the depths of his subconscious.
His vision was blurry with sleep, his mind foggy from the fall.
“You’ll be here for Dad’s birthday, right?”
The voice made Ryan freeze from where he sat. It came from behind him, barely audible. But he knew that voice anywhere.
Ryan turned to look over his shoulder. His mother stood there, wearing her old turquoise sundress she wore around the house to relax in. Her eyes, marked with crow’s feet, lit up at the recognition that he could see her.
“We haven’t seen you in so long, son.” His mother said, with a slight hint of eagerness to it.
“Mum?”
Ryan’s heart kicked into overdrive.
“Is that really you?”
“If you can’t come, I understand. Your father and I know that money can be tight. Travel is expensive.”
Ryan felt his head shake ever so slightly. “No. No I manage…”
There came a knock at Ryan’s door, causing Ryan to whip his head back in its direction.
Ryan Kennedy? A voice on the other side said quietly.
Eira, Ryan thought. He looked from the door to the corner of his room. His mum wasn’t there anymore.

As Eira stepped into the room, chills slithered up Ryan’s spine.
What the actual hell?
“Do I disturb?” Eira said, catching Ryan’s face drained of colour.
Ryan waved his hand in the air. “No No. Not at all.”
In Eira’s hands was a large plate consisting of crisp sausages, salty bacon, scrambled eggs, grilled mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Beside the mushrooms, a glass of orange was balanced carefully.
“Prima normally does her breakfast rounds to those who wish their breakfast to be in bed, but I thought I would deliver yours myself.”
Eira put the plate down beside Ryan carefully. He could instantly smell the food, causing his stomach to rumble.
“Does that mean you like to watch me eat…?”
Ryan delivered this in a manner that would’ve – should’ve – indicated he was being dry in a humorous way, but Eira looked at him with those large grey eyes blankly.
Instead of laughing, she stood there, wings and arms tucked behind her.
“Uh, never-mind. Thank you”.
“Are you feeling alright, Ryan Kennedy?”
“Please, uh, just Ryan. I keep telling you that.”
“I am sorry. Have I offended?”
Eira cast her eyes down. Ryan’s stomach sank further. “No no, not at all. It’s just…casual, yeah? I mean, I’d prefer it..”
Eira nodded, still keeping her eyes cast down.
Ryan cleared his throat as he cut a piece off his sausage. He wasn’t sure if he was hungry after seeing his mum
(It was just a dream)
but he knew he needed to eat something.

Ryan looked at Eira as she moved her gaze to the ground, her eyes darting as she went deep into thought – but what was she thinking about?
When he couldn’t find the answer, he put the bit of sausage in his mouth. It was still hot, and the taste of grease and meat flooded his mouth at once. He was careful, in the presence of Eira, not to look like a complete slob and let the meat juices fall from his mouth.
In fact, the mere presence of Eira standing in front of him as he ate, coupled with the appearance of his mother in the corner of his bedroom, create an anxious ache in his stomach that wouldn’t leave him alone.
If you can’t come, I understand.
His mum seemed so real, as if he could have reached out and touched her.
And I would never be able to come to another birthday again came a thought that brought with it a pang of sadness.
He didn’t feel like eating then, and pushed his food onto the bed, much to the curiosity of Eira, whose eyes moved from the full plate to Ryan.
Eat” Eira said. “You need your strength.”
“Why? What are we doing today?”
What was life in Valhalla like? Surely, they didn’t train or day and party all night. And where are the books or televisions? What do people do here?
“Eira? What is there to do in Asgard anyway?”
Eira’s face lit up in a smile at the question.
The sight stumped Ryan momentarily. Eira, though certainly passionate, had been a quiet one so far in their time together. This moment was one of few times he had seen her smile.
“Why there’s the Fensalir forest behind the walls of Valhalla, that’s to our south. To the east of Valhalla, there is the Djúpr Valley. There’s something so magnificent about those canyons. I like to go there and meditate sometimes.”
Eira had sat herself on the bed on Ryan’s right. The morning sun that filtered in through the bedroom windows lighted her grey eyes.
“You meditate?” Ryan found himself asking.
Eira nodded. “Mhm! I recite my prayer and then listen to the cosmos. I can feel the energy all around us.”

The notion seemed beautiful to Ryan. He had never thought much of meditation, his life consisted of getting up, working, coming home, eating. Did he lose part of himself along the way.
Noticing Eira was looking at him, he filed the thought away in his mind and set the plate of breakfast aside.
“Give me a tour of this place?” He asked.
Eira led the way.

***

Eira led and Ryan followed.
Valhalla was an enormous structure that Ryan was starting to believe was just a labyrinth of stone and rooms belonging to warriors from all parts of history and from all over the world.
Eira told Ryan what she knew of the place – Valhalla consists of 540 rooms and was originally designed by the two tribes of Gods and Goddesses – the Aesir and Vanir – for a place to come to rest. Soon, conflict arose between the two groups – a conflict that sparked the Aesir-Vanir war.
Eira would not go into the specifics about the war, except to say that ultimately the peace treaty between the two groups has lasted to this day.
Ryan walked beside Eira mystified by the stories but also feeling out of his element. At one point, during Valhalla’s gardens, he had to stop because he was feeling lightheaded.
Something from his past life – that was what it was now, a past life, he is dead. Gone. Finito. – came back to him. A childhood pet, the smell of coffee, his mother with her warm eyes.
With all this came one alarming thought – what did your life amount to? What did it accomplish? And will whatever role he plays in Ragnarök make up for whatever he didn’t amount to in his other life.
He wanted to ask Eira these questions, if only just to get her opinion, but she was in her element leading him on a tour.
Only…
How many of these has she done before? How many people has she led through these halls?Walking back through the halls of Valhalla, chanting began to light up the room. As the two took a few more steps, the chanting grew louder.
It came from a room to their right and, as Ryan drew near, he could make out several voices all at once, speaking in the old language.
He stood at the edges of the doorway and peeked his head in, so as not to disturb whatever ritual was taking place.
Ten Valkyries knelt in the nude, their bodies forming a U shape that curved around a sole nude Valkyrie that stood before them, her arms held up outstretched and her legs parted.
The sole nude Valkyrie, hair kissed by fire, deep blue eyes – stood before an altar lit with candles from one side to another.
Her face was blank, her eyes focusing ahead. Not once did she glance at Ryan.
Standing behind the red-haired Valkyrie was another Valkyrie, with silver hair.
This Valkyrie held her hands behind her back and observed quietly.
Ryan watched the interaction, his mouth agape in fascination while his mind jumped to the nearest logical point – that he was watching a documentary about old tribes he found on YouTube late at night.
“This one is reciting her intiation” Eire said in a hushed whisper.
Ryan looked from Eira back to the red-haired Valkyrie in the centre of the room.
“Initiation?”
“Upon arrival into Asgard, each Valkyrie, should they consent to the role, begins her initiation, followed by her training.”
“Wait – everyone trains?”
“Of course! A Valkyrie must understand not only come to completely understand herself but her place in the cosmos. Awareness, control of pain, discipline. These are things we are trained in.”
A beat passed, then Eira went on. “Each Valkyrie negotiates her contract and terms of her collar to the All-Father. But…there are similarities to each of our training. In the end, this ritual is only the beginning..”
The chanting died down and the room fell silent.
Now, only the redhead Valkyrie spoke, in a shaky, barely audible voice. Ryan couldn’t understand what was being said in the old tongue, but the redhead seemed to grow more confident with each word she uttered.
“Come” Eira said to Ryan. “We have more to see today.”
Eira led and Ryan followed.

***

 

For his first day after arriving at Valhalla, Ryan observed the training process, along with a handful of souls.
These souls sat on the side lines as Eira led a demonstration into training, sparring with another Valkyrie named Líf, whose eyes were golden and who seemed to have a prickly attitude.
Back and forth Líf and Eira danced, their wooden swords smacking against each other amidst their grunts.
The two Valkyries moved gracefully, matching each other blow for blow. Eira was the quicker Valkyrie, by the time Líf had finished her move, Eira was onto her next attack.
Ryan watched in awe, his mind stumped at how this quiet, soft spoken woman that had led him through the forest was now darting and twisting and bending backwards to avoid the Valkyrie named Líf’s moves.

When Eira swung the legs out from under Líf and pinned her wooden sword to her throat, Mist cleared her throat.
“A fine demonstration, Valkyries.”
Eira and Líf found their feet, bowed at each other and then at Mist.
“Fighters as well as lovers!” Mist barked. “The best of the best are here among you, warriors! Soon you too will learn from them!”
Learn to do that? Ryan thought. That would take years to learn all that.
He watched as Eira and Líf stood by either side of Mist.
There, in that line of Valkyries, Ryan saw Kára.
If Valkyries had a special sense of knowing when someone was looking at them, Ryan didn’t know about it. But when Kára looked his way instantly and smiled, something in his stomach twisted.

Training broke for lunch, where grilled chicken and vegetables were served, as well as creamy mead and dessert, the likes of which Ryan has never tasted before – not in his over lifetime anyway.
Training would resume after lunch again until dinner, in which a three-course meal of the finest meats and vegetables were served to the point Ryan was feeling exhausted and stuffed.
Eira was there with him all through the day, answering his questions, helping him practice his fighting stance and swings.
Occasionally, with a glint of shyness to her eye, she’d ask if he would like to engage in intercourse.
Still feeling embarrassed after losing control and smacking her, Ryan found the words to politely decline the offer – and stressed his gratitude all the while.
When the hour grew late, Eira escorted him back to his chambers.
Part worried what Eira would get up to in his absence (though he didn’t understand why), part worried an apparition of his mother would appear in his room, her warm eyes acting as tiny lights that would peer at him in the darkness from the corner of his room, it took Ryan a while to find sleep. He tossed and turned and turned and tossed.
Tomorrow, he would have to observe fighting, maybe even spar himself. The thought curdled the food in his stomach.
For now, he had to try and sleep.

To be continued…

 

Valhalla, Ch. 6 – “Valhalla”

CHAPTER SIX

 

VALHALLA

 

Valhalla feast-booya.jpg

When Ryan stepped off the longship and onto the beach, he paid no attention to the sand beneath his feet or to the scorching hot sun that bore down upon him. His attention was drawn upwards to the majestic structure known as Valhalla that stood high above him.
The enormous hall towered over the longship and its band of new souls and guiding Valkyries, a beacon for those once lost.
Eira walked beside Ryan as they approached, a sullen expression upon her face.
She had been sullen since the morning, Ryan had noticed.
Though he wanted to ask why, he thought it best not to interfere. He didn’t know if he would step on the hierarchy of the Valkyries and cause strife.

A dirt path coiled ahead of them and disappeared behind a hill of luscious flowers, each one a different colour – Lavender, Crimson, Yellow, Deep Blue. Every one just as dazzling as the one before it.
As Ryan moved past the small patch of vibrant flowers, something bright stunned his eyes and forced him to look away, shielding his face.
A group of Valkyries, donned in their silver-gold armour, giggled at him as did so.
“The first time glancing upon Glasir is always hard” Eira said, her voice taking on the same flatness it had when Ryan first met her.
“Look again, Ryan Kennedy.”
“Please…just Ryan.”
Ryan lowered his hands from his face and relaxed his eyes, which were scrunched shut.
“Ryan Kennedy…open your eyes.”
Ignoring the fact that Eira had spoken his name in full again, Ryan opened his eyes.
The shimmering colour of the red-gold leaves of Glasir caught his eye first. In all his years, he had never seen anything quite as breath-taking. The trees he saw in the city back on Earth weren’t anything like this. Even the bark of Glasir took on a grey-white colour that suggested it’s age. How long had it been here?
“Come along, newcomers.” Came a voice from behind Ryan.
Mist, the tall African-American Valkyrie, strode past Ryan without even battering any eyelid in his direction.
Eira looked from Mist back to Ryan and a faint smile appeared on the corners of her mouth.
“Come. The All-Father awaits.”
Ryan’s heart skipped a beat. “Wait – All-Father. You mean, Odin?”

Ryan looked ahead. The Valkyrie known as Mist stood before two gigantic iron doors. The doors themselves were marked in the language of Old Norse and depicted some sort of beast slithering around the borders of the door, weaving in and out of the leaves that blossomed around it. In the middle of all of this….
“Ragnarök.” Eira whispered. “It is foretold there will be a great battle, and before it ends, the world will be submerged in water…”
Ryan looked from one door to the next, looking at the figures he didn’t recognise, their stone depictions set in anguish amidst a great storm.
Before he could process anything further, the great doors opened, letting loose the riotous laughter from its halls within.
As the crowd of new souls and Valkyries stepped in, Ryan felt another heartbeat slip from regulation.

Before him was an enormous hall, with giant tables spread from one side of the room to the other, each one surrounded by men, Dwarves, Elves and other creatures Ryan didn’t recognise.
Around the tables were Valkyries – nude, tattooed and pierced – walking around, serving tables, sitting on the laps of Men.
An Elf and a Valkyrie sat off to the corner of the great hall, the Valkyrie riding the Elf and barely able to contain her moans while a group of Elves cheered them on.
The scene was chaos to Ryan, something out of the weirdest porno you’d find on the dark corners of the Internet.
At the far end of the great hall was a stage and on that stage another table, running from one corner of the stage to the other.
In the centre of the table and stage sat Odin, the All-Father. He looked eagerly down the room at the new arrivals as he stroked his grey beard that ran down to the table itself. Ryan noted that over his right eye was a silver eye patch.
His left eye scanned the newcomers as a smile spread across his lips.
In the chair beside Odin sat a woman with sunset-kissed hair, dressed in a dazzling silver-white gown.
As Ryan’s eyes travelled over her, her eyes met his. Ryan didn’t know how that was possible that she could see him, out of the twenty other warriors beside him, but somehow, he just knew. He knew she was looking at him.
“The All-Mother.” Eira whispered from beside him. “She’s seen you now..”
“Wait, what does that mean?” Ryan asked, turning to Eira.
“Warriors! Welcome to Valhalla!” Odin boomed, rising from his seat.
The Valkyries behind Ryan, Eira among them, knelt down at the sound of his voice.
The talking in the hall that buzzed deafeningly as Ryan and the newcomers entered, died down, as did the sexual activity.

Odin spoke in a deep voice, low and smooth and commanding.
“You must be weary after such a travel, after such a change. I trust your assigned Valkyrie will see you to your chambers, should you choose rest. However, a feast has been prepared for your arrival should you starve!”
“Now…” Odin Began. “Each of you know why you are here. Ragnarök is coming. It is foretold. And I…I need each and every one of you to fight when the time comes.”
The great hall was eerily quiet.
Odin cleared his throat. “Do not fret though, you have been chosen. The best of the best in all of the nine realms! I have every bit of confidence in each and every one of you, fighters and my Valkyries.”
Odin scanned the room once more. “Mist! Rise!”
Ryan turned to look behind. The Valkyrie known as Mist rose to her feet. Kneeling beside her was Kára, her head bowed down.
“Warriors, I trust you’ve met Mist but if you have not, as the BattleMistress of the Valkyries, she will be the one to train you, should you feel….weak.”
Odin cleared his throat again, raised his hands and clapped loudly.
“Come! Let us feast!”

The great hall was met with cheers from all around.
Odin laughed then raised his hand to silence the room, which fell quiet instantly.
“Eira.”
Ryan frowned. Every Valkyrie knelt just at the entrance to the great hall turned and looked in her direction.
Kára looked at Eira, a frown forming across her face, her mind beginning to race.
Eira rose to her feet. “Yes, All-Father?”
Her voice was shaky.
“Come to me, child.”
Eira looked at her fellow Valkyries with an expression Ryan could tell was uneasiness.
Quietly, she made her way through the rows of dinner tables, followed by a quiet murmuring from the crowd.
Ryan watched as Eira made her to the stage and stood next to Odin. When she began to kneel again, Odin stopped her.
“There’s no need for that, child. Stand, and lose your armour.”
When Eira looked out across the crowd, the sea of faces, Odin spoke again.
“There is no reason to fear. I merely wish to show people your exquisite beauty.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Eira began to unclasp her armour.
Ryan’s stomach started to twist as her breast plate hit the stage floor with a clang that shot out across the room.
Now that the breastplate was off, Eira, standing in a padded white t-shirt, pulled the fabric up over her head, revealing her small breasts.
Some people in the crowd chuckled, others whistled. Odin silenced both with a raised hand.
“Why is she looking so sad?” Kára hissed through gritted teeth somewhere behind Ryan. “Meeting this request for the All-Father should be an honour!”
“And you were never shy your first time being bare in the great hall?” Shot back another Valkyrie with raven-black hair and violet eyes that was kneeling beside her.
Kára scoffed at this, but fell silent.

When Ryan looked from that exchange back to the stage at the end of the hall, Eira was taking off the clothing beneath her armour, revealing her long pale and slender legs.
This is normal? Thought Ryan. This is what the Valkyries sign up for? This is their destiny? Are they happy? Or is Eira just nervous?
“Now…” Odin began. “Climax.”

Eira looked out amongst the crowd, hesitant.
Ryan could hear Kára from behind scoffing, but movement from the stage caught his eye. Eira had begun to masturbate.
Acid rose up in Ryan’s throat as he watched, but there was something else lingering below the surface. Arousal.
At first, Eira’s hands danced along the shape of her cunt, tracing shapes along her slit. As she traced though, she started to moan.
It was softer at first, then it became louder, ringing out across the hall.
Her knees shook as one hand traced her slit slowly, down…then upwards again, slowly, hypnotically, while the other hand reached up across her stomach to squeeze her right breast.
Ryan watched, conflicted, confused, unable to process if this was alluring or appalling.
All of a sudden he felt a strange sensation in his gut. He felt someone looking at him, and looked across from Eira, where the red-haired woman sat.
This time there was no mistaking it. The woman was looking right at Ryan, all the way down the hall and into his eyes.
When he looked into her eyes, he felt something stir from within.
What is it you fear, Ryan? Came a voice, gentle and sweet.
Ryan could hear it in his head clear as day. It frightened him so much, he fell backwards against the wall of Valhalla, causing the souls and Valkyries to look in his direction, some sniggering at his clumsiness.
They probably thought this is over Eira but….Was that the lady’s voice in my head?
Ryan’s thoughts were interrupted by Eira’s moans. She stumbled from where she stood on stage, her whole body shaking.
As she looked across the great hall, a faint smile formed across her lips.

The great hall applauded thunderously, every creature and Valkyrie, bar two people, Kára and Ryan.
Kára knelt, her head bowed, anger clouding her thoughts, while Ryan stood with his back against the wall, his mind reeling.
As he looked up, his eyes caught Eira’s, and for the briefest of moments, Ryan saw her smile falter.

To be Continued…

 

Valhalla, Ch. Five – ‘The Passage’

Previously on VALHALLA:

Heading home after work one night, Ryan Kennedy intervenes in a mugging-in-progress and is killed. He wakes up in Asgard, realm of the Norse Gods, and befriends a quiet Valkyrie by the name of Eira, who introduces him to rituals and customs of the Valkyries, the Gods and the souls on their way to Valhalla.

Together, they board a longship that will take them straight to the shores of Valhalla.

CHAPTER FIVE

 

THE PASSAGE

 

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Ryan could smell the ocean as the longship made its voyage to Valhalla. The salt that drifted up to him from below tickled his nostrils. He stood on the side of the longship, resting his hand on wood of the railing that was smooth and polished.
The dizzying aspect that screeched this was all a dream did not leave his mind; rather he looked upon the sunset of his second day in Asgard and felt a daze drift over him.
It came back to him then.
His first kiss as a sixteen year old with Susie Parker from Religion. They kissed in the bedroom she shared with her little sister, while they were alone. Nervousness slithered its way through his stomach.

“It never ends” Came a voice, knocking Ryan back into Asgard, all these years later.
He turned to see her approach, just as her silver wings faded out of view, tucking themselves back behind her.
“What does?”
“The ocean. There is no end to it.”
“How can that be?”
Eira’s matter-of-fact face, calm and serene, regarded him for a moment, before her eyes left him to look upon the water.
“It is not like that in Miðgarðr, is it?”
Ryan shook his head and turned to look at her. Suddenly that serene expression of hers gave way to something sad and unspoken.
“Do you remember anything about your life, Eira?” Ryan found him asking.
A frown formed across Eira’s face as she stood glancing at the ocean.
“I…remember….ice. Everywhere.”
“You mean snow?”
This time Eira glanced from the ocean up to Ryan, her eyes slipping back into that quizzical look.
“Snow.” Eira said flatly. “Snow….is that the word? We don’t get that here.”
“Is Ice all you remember?”
Eira frowned and looked out across the ocean again, only nodding silently.
Silence fell between them, giving way to the sound of the longship cruising against the water beneath it.

Ryan looked ahead of him and shielded the rays of sunset from his eyes as he gazed upon something in the distance.
When Eira saw him squinting ahead, she followed his line of sight to what loomed far beyond in the distance – Valhalla.
“What happens to me when we get there?” Ryan found himself asking.
“You train with the rest of the souls, as best you can.”
“And you? What happens to you and I? Does that mean our….courtship….ends?”
Eira opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
Did Valkyries shrug? Ryan wondered. Did she even know the answer to his question?
“You should get some rest, Ryan Kennedy. There is a long effort waiting for you on the ‘morrow.”
The sadness that Ryan thought he saw earlier crept back over his face. He wanted to ask why and what was on her mind, but the sheer suggestion that he should sleep brought fatigue to the forefront of his mind.
Eira extended her arms across to the railing and stood silently watching Valhalla in the distance. As she did so, Ryan once again caught a glimpse of the pale scarring on her upper arms – thin white slits that seemed to stretch up to the palms of her hand.
He remembered he had seen these markings before, shortly before his arrival to this realm, but what had happened to her?
He stood for a moment, hoping she’d turn and say something, maybe even reveal she was telepathic and answer his question – but nothing happened. To her, it was almost like he was already gone.

Mulling over this behaviour, he said his goodnights to her and made his way to the cabin Eira had directed him to upon arriving on the ship.
Around him, creatures of all shapes and sizes he didn’t recognise sang in a song he couldn’t understand.
Mead splashed on his tunic as he passed, turning on the side to move between two Elves, skin as pale as the moon and eyes blood red, and pardoning himself as he went.
The wooden hallway ahead of him was empty, dimly lit by the lanterns on the wall above him, evenly spread apart from one another.
He moved quietly through the corridor, ignoring a creeping sense of sudden dread and ignoring the sudden urge to break the silence by clearing his throat.
From a few doors ahead of him came the sound of voices, low and hushed.
As Ryan crept closer, he could hear it was a woman. No – not one woman, a few. They were chanting, in time, again and again, as if in prayer.
Stopping just at the door from he room, he glanced inside.
The room within was low lit with the lanterns that sat above the doors in this corridor. Nine Valkyries, nude and head bowed, knelt in the centre of the room, gathered in lines of three in front of a shrine made of wood.
The shrine itself was surrounded by candles and bore a resemblance to three triangles, interlocking with one another.
“The Valknut” Came an equally hushed voice from behind Ryan.
Ryan turned around to see Kára leaning against the doorway, her dark eyes looking back and forth at him.

“It is the prayer given to us by The All-Father, meant to remind us that we are always with him and He with us.”
Ryan looked from Kára back to the room full of Valkyries chanting alongside one another.
“As we are His, we are to recite it in the nude morning, noon and evening. Though some, as you see, choose to do it together”
Ryan turned back to Kára and kept his voice. “You don’t?”
“I choose to keep to myself” Said Kára, a smirk forming across her lips.
“Say, walk me to my cabin?”

 

 

***

 

“How are you enjoying my baby sister?” Kára asked Ryan, as they walked along the corridors.
“I don’t…I mean, the whole sex thing is…”
“Not for you?”
“It is! I just…would rather…getting to know someone before, you know?”
Kára grinned. “I get it. You wouldn’t be the first man or woman in all these years to feel queer about it. But my sister is treating you well, right?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Good. Valkyries – they can be reassigned should you desire. No fault of theirs or yours.”
Ryan shifted uncomfortably as they walked, hoping Kára wouldn’t notice. Her eyes were ahead.
Kára was dressed in grey silk dress, her silver wings tucked behind to avoid dragging on each side of the walls.
“I do have a question though.” Ryan asked, breaking the lull in conversation.
“Yes, Ryan Kennedy?”
Is she your sister?”
Kára giggled at the answer. She bowed her head and held her hand to her mouth to suppress the giggle.
When she was done, she flashed Ryan a charming smile.
Enchanting was the word that instantly came to his mind.
“Why, we’re all sisters, Ryan.” Kára replied. “I just call Eira my baby sister because she’s the newest to our ranks – Ah! Here we are!”

Kára stopped in front of the door that led to her chambers. She opened wide the door, revealing within a room covered in the light of the moon.
Against the wall to the right of the room, facing horizontally was a feather bed, wrapped in the finest fabrics. To the left was a wooden table and chairs.
“For reflection” Kára replied, catching Ryan’s glance. “Speaking of…”
Kára stood in the doorway and reached behind her, smirking as she did.
With a gentle tug from behind, her grey silk dress fell to the floor, revealing her nude body.
Her body was covered in ink that slinked up her arms and across her torso, while piercings covered each nipple, her belly button and her clitoris.
Kára’s eyes did not leave Ryan. Instead, they watched him carefully for any kind of reaction. Even the smirk from her lips was spreading to her eyes. They glistened with mischief.

“Are you sure I can’t be of service to you, Mister Ryan?” She said, her hands brushing the curves of her breasts on their way down to the thin strip of dark hair that covered her mound.
Ryan felt his face burn. “You don’t have a soul of your own to look after?”
“I do! She has found herself into a drunken stupor in her own quarters – typical of a Dwarf, if you’ll allow me to be outspoken..”
She bowed her head at this.
Ryan didn’t know what to say, so he nodded.
“So again I ask you – Are you sure I can’t be of service to you?”
When Ryan nodded, sensing discomfort pierce his stomach, Kara’s eyes seemed to lose her mischief in a heartbeat.
“As you wish. Good Evening.”
Kára closed the door gently, leaving Ryan standing in the corridor alone.

 

***

 

Despite feeling tired when he rested his head on his own feather quilt bed, he did not find sleep quickly. Rather, he tossed and turned, unable to adjust to the rhythm of the ship rocking.

He laid in bed, staring up at the wooden ceiling, and wondered how his family were, if time moved the same on Earth as it did in Asgard.

When he thought of his mother and his father despairing at his death, his stomach churned.

And he began to cry.

 

To be continued…

Valhalla, Ch. 3 – The First Night In Asgard

Need to catch up? Here’s Chapter One and Two!

CHAPTER THREE

 

THE FIRST NIGHT IN ASGARD

 

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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.

 

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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.
“Perhaps join?”
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.
“Very well.”
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.
“Mm?”
“What….what…”
“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”
Idiot.
“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.
“Eira”
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?”
“I…”
“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”
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.
“Battle?”
“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?”
Ryan looked up, his face never changing from its darkened state.
“Ragnarok?”
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…

Valhalla, Ch. 1 – Chosen

Walhalla_(1896)_by_Max_Brückner.jpg

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

CHOSEN

 

 

 

Ryan let out a sigh of relief as he closed the door to work.
The time was 6:50pm on a Thursday evening and the February weather was the coldest it had been in Melbourne in five whole years.
Since Ryan’s boss asked nicely Ryan agreed to stay behind.
He didn’t mind that. He embraced the stillness of the empty space of the office.
As he locked the office doors and started to move up the pavement, an ache in his forehead started to make it known to him, almost as if it were waiting for him to leave before announcing its throbbing presence.
Ryan ran his thumb and his index finger along his eyes, squeezing gently as he walked along the path.
Home, the place he was currently renting by himself was a ten-minute walk from his choice of work, the local newspaper The West Weekly.
He was looking forward to sinking into a bath and soaking the increasingly annoying headache away. Maybe catch up on some reading.
Bachelor life, it seemed, had suited Ryan. He had lived a quiet life of minimal friends; quiet nights in with Netflix, for the past two years, ever since he had split with his girlfriend of three years amicably.
She wanted to move to London, he knew his place was in Melbourne, with his family, his minimal friends and the city he had lived in his whole life – Geelong.
The split was hard at first but time worked with him to heal, work too. And now that that was behind him, he had settled into something of a life writing for the town he grew up in.
Ryan turned the corner, passing by the local estate of houses, all carbon copies of each other in neat little rows.

That was when he heard it.
It was manic. Female. Coming from the park before him that separated the rows of house cloning.
Before he could process, he found himself running in the direction of the scream.
He hopped over the log fences that acted as some sort of park decoration – and the scream became louder.
Up ahead he could see two figures, one a lighter colour and one shrouded in the darkness.
“What did I say about making noise, hm?”
It was a male’s voice. Deep. Gruff. Angry.
There was a smacking noise, skin against skin, as Ryan arrived towards the source of the scream.
The woman, dressed in a light blue dress, the lighter colour Ryan saw, was sobbing hysterically, straining to keep her voice quiet so there was no more noise for the man to punish her for.
Ryan felt the man turn to him in the darkness of the evening.
“This doesn’t concern you, mate. Get out of here”
Ryan came to a stop before the man. He couldn’t tell if the man had a weapon in the poor light of the park.
“Easy now.”
“I said back off, are you fuckin’ deaf?”
It all happened in an instant.
Instincts, you see, are fickle instruments. As Ryan found himself stepping forward in an attempt to calm the man, the man found himself also stepping forward, his blade in his hand.
The effect here was that the reaction, the instinct of the man, was that he felt he was being attacked. His instinct was to attack back.
The knife slid into Ryan’s stomach with ease.
Ryan let out a drawn out wheeze as he felt his stomach was on fire.
Somewhere very far away he heard an agitated voice curse out loud repeatedly.
He felt his legs betray him as he fell to the ground.
There was sobbing in the distance as well, echoing back all around him.
It was deafening.
Something was running down his leg, it felt unpleasant and warm.
Ryan made a mental note to –

 

***

There was something comforting about floating through the darkness.

 

 

***

 

 

“Ryan?”
A voice was calling out to him through the darkness.
It was female, sweet and soothing.
“Ryan Kennedy?”
Ryan opened his eyes weakly, to the blinding light of his surroundings.
It took him a few seconds for his eyes to adjust. He found himself blinking repeatedly as the voice continued to call his name.
His ears were ringing. They were adjusting to the sound of his surroundings just as his eyes were adjusting to the light.
“You’re okay now. It’s alright but I need you…”
The ringing in his ears drowned out the voice.
Ryan sat up, still blinking. He could sense the light through his closed eyes.
“Easy now” The muffled voice said gently.
“There’s…”
Ryan begin to speak but he felt his mouth give way to the delicious idea of sleep.
“You’re disoriented.” The voice answered to him through the darkness. “Can you open your eyes?”
Ryan opened his eyes; feeling like it took all of his strength to do so.
Kneeling before him was a kind face, with soft features. The smile upon it was warm, curved into a half smile.
When Ryan blinked, he saw that the reason why the woman glistened was because she was in a magnificent suit of armour.
The armour covered the woman’s arms, chest and legs in a dazzling mix of the colours silver and gold, with not a scratch to be seen on any part of it.
The woman was bent over Ryan, looking down at him with a look that Ryan perceived to be curiosity.
Her eyes, which darted back and forth to meet Ryan’s gaze, were a faded grey.
She wasn’t wearing a helmet, Ryan noticed as he looked at her, for her light auburn hair was free flowing in the wind.
That was when he noticed the object towering behind her.
Her wings, pure white and stretched out beyond her, from the left side of her body to the right.
They seemed to expand further as he laid eyes upon them.
The woman saw his eyes go wide and went to speak, went to say that everything was okay, that she wasn’t going to hurt him.

Ryan screamed, loud and long.
The woman winced at the noise, a terrible feeling of guilt built up within her as she saw the panic behind Ryan’s eyes.
Ryan finished his scream, sucking in air in huge gasps. Then he fell back, fainting.
The woman sighed, a sigh that was borne out of sadness at frightening him.
“They always scream the first time,” She said to no one in particular.

 

The first thing that Ryan saw when he came to was the blade of grass scratching against his forehead.
Panic seized him and he jumped upwards, brushing the grass away from him.
He was lying in a field of it, stretching miles out before him.
Ryan’s mind was in a stutter, like a record skipping on the one note. It was trying to make sense of where he was, what happened to him.
He went to feel for his wound and that’s when he realised he was shirtless.
The realisation swept over him like warm water from a shower – he was completely naked. No work uniform, no socks with holes in it that he had to replace.
With a racing mind, he went to sit up but that was a mistake.
His legs wobbled uncontrollably and he fell back on the soft grass below him.
“Don’t move, you’re in shock” Came a voice from behind.
He flinched at the voice, scrambling backwards, his hands clawing at the dirt.
“It’s okay! It’s okay!”
“Get away from me” Ryan found himself saying, as his hands gave way to the ground. He fell backwards, craning his neck.
“I’m not going to hurt you…I’m not..”
The woman came to a kneel in front of him, her face was dirty and glistening with sweat, her eyes fixed on him.
Ryan couldn’t take his eyes off her wings, which to his wonder retracted back under her arms.
“Where…am…I?”
His voice, which was low, wavered as he spoke.

The woman’s armour glistened in the sunlight as she watched him for an expression, all the while thinking and hoping that he wouldn’t pass out again.
The thought made something within her stomach knot up.
To her surprise, Ryan laughed. It was strange and unstable to the both of them.
“I’m dreaming. This is…no, I’m dreaming…”
“There’s no easy way to tell you this, Ryan Kennedy, but you’re dead”
The woman, who spoke to Ryan with a voice as smooth as honey, spoke directly, matter-of-factly. And with a straight face.

She didn’t smile. Her face didn’t even threaten to smile, she just watched him closely, unblinking.
Ryan stared at her for a moment, his grin vanishing in light of what she said.
He mulled it over. He thought he must’ve dreamt everything – leaving the store, finding the woman being harassed. He’s probably still back in the backroom, on his break.
Someone’s bound to wake him up for his shift. Jeffery, probably.
He found himself repeating what she was saying to him.
“I’m dead?”
The woman nodded, still looking at him unblinking.

Behind her, her wings expanded outwards again, darkening the two of them in its shadow. They seemed to have a mind of their own, contracting and retracting as if alive.
“Yes.”
Chills travelled up Ryan’s arms leaving behind Goosebumps and in that moment, Ryan remembered.
He remembered the taste of blood, the warm uncomfortable feeling.
There was a sinking sensation, like falling into the depths of the Earth.
Like falling asleep.
He looked into the eyes of the woman kneeling before him, her wings blowing gently in the wind.
Her eyes told him everything.

The woman explained everything; answering all of his questions in the same matter-of-factly way she had used to say that he was dead.
His sudden death at the hands of the mugger drove him away from the young woman and into hiding.
The police found him the next day at sunrise, holed up in an abandoned farmhouse just out of town.
The young woman, who was just on a jog that evening, would require months of therapy, the woman had said, but in time she would come to feel normal again, though her jogs now took place during the day and not a night.

Ryan had listened to her tale of how she had witnessed the whole exchanged quietly, feeling as if he wasn’t really; as if none of this was real.
He had died, she had said. So where was he now?
The woman smiled and without saying another word, turned from him and moved through the tree line behind her, disappearing.
Ryan’s legs moved for him and he followed, as if there were a greater force pulling him with her.
He pushed through the trees, ducking under and weaving out of the way of the leaves that threatened to smack back into his face.
After a moment of pushing through the heavy trees, that’s when he saw it.
The woman was standing on the Cliffside, overlooking a vast forest that stretched on for as far as Ryan could see.
The woman explained the reason why she knew all about the events around his death was because she is a Valkyrie, watcher of the battlefield, and minder of the souls.
“You see, Ryan Kennedy, you are in…”
She moved beside him and raised her hand and pointed to the space before her.
“Asgard”
Ryan followed where her arm was pointing, coming to rest his upon something that made me stumble backwards in disbelief.
There it was, off in the distance, resting on a Cliffside and surrounded by shimmering bonfires: Valhalla.
Ryan had to squint to get a better look, but it wasn’t good enough. It was too far away.
His legs were shaking, his chest tightening.

Valhalla was surrounded on either side by a forest, richly green, that stretched out far from view.
Valhalla itself looked like something out of a dream – an ancient temple, grey, lit by brilliant fires, stretching against the length of the cliff on either side.
Standing tall before the ancient structure were what looked like from where Ryan stood, for it was hard for him to make out, two statues.
Ryan looked down past Valhalla, past the Cliffside, and into the pit between him and the Valkyrie and ancient structure. He saw the great darkness looking back into him. How far it went, he did not know.
He gazed back at Valhalla and for the longest time, his mind was skipping over the concept again and again, trying to process it.

“But…I don’t…”
“You have been chosen, Ryan Kennedy…”
Ryan turned to the woman beside him. “Chosen?”
The woman nodded, smiling.
Ryan found that the smile was enchanting. He hadn’t taken her appearance in too deeply, he suppose that had something to do with the idea that he was dead! But now as the two stood by the cliff side looking at each other, he seemed to see her first time.
She had short auburn hair, styled in the form of an undercut.
Her face, which was regarding Ryan, was twisted into the same crooked smile he woke up to, her light steely eyes searching his for a reaction.
As they stood there in that moment, Ryan noticed markings on her upper arms – little slits where she had been cut that had now scarred.

“Yes. You have been chosen for this place, like the others.”
“Others? You mean my friends and family? They’re here?”
The woman’s smile was gone in an instant.
“I only take those All-father selects himself, as I am his slave.”
She bowed her head and knelt down, extending one out and pointed to the ground with the other arm against her chest, her fist on her chest closed tightly.
“I am sorry.”
Ryan watched the gesture feeling lightheaded. His mind kept coming back to the idea that he was dead, that he could never see his family or friends again.

Not until they died themselves, a thought came out loud and clear.
The idea made him feel sick to the stomach. He fell back against the tree trunk behind him, feeling nauseous.
When the woman rose back to her feet, she smiled at him that same enchanting smile.
“Ryan Kennedy…”
“Please…uh..just Ryan..”
The woman bowed her head. “My name is Eira.”
The woman named Eira was still smiling as she extended her hand past him back the way they came.
“Come. There is a spring past the field we arrived in. A bath will do you good. I have some new clothes for you”
This caused Ryan to look down. He had been so caught up in the idea that he was here; in Valhalla – dead – that he completely forgot he was completely naked.

Eira couldn’t hide her smile as she began to walk past him, causing Ryan to duck out of the way of her wings.
Ryan had no choice but to follow her. He still had more questions about his death, about his family, about her.

To Be Continued…

Chapter Two (Or #2) is out April 19th. So if you enjoyed this, know there’s more coming!


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