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.
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.
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.
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.
“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…