Tales of the Valkyrie [ Chapter 3 ]

Tales of the Valkyrie

Vanishing the way she had from the Salty Flagon was called ‘stepping out of the world’ among the Angel Saxons. It was somewhat unreliable direction-wise and required a very special pair of boots as well as a steady stomach. The Valkyrie had an exceptionally special pair of boots, and a stomach to feast with the gods. Of course she had also tried to drink herself into a stupor for half a day before stepping out, so as she was sitting in the back of the wagon, she carefully scrubbed dried vomit from her beautiful plated boots, which she had taken off to tend to.
“Now Ah hear you shining that metal back there,” came the voice of the fur trader at the front, “Be sure not to get any of that stuff on the merchandise, you hear me?”
“Yes, I hear you,” she replied sickly. She felt like she was ready to turn into a waterspout again. Or an alespout to be more precise. Her head was pounding. Of course no amount of liquor would ever be enough to make her forget the past or keep her from dreading the future. Not for the horrible things that would happen, but for those that wouldn’t. She was immortal as far as she could tell, forever bound to the world by the fragment of Wyrd implanted into her by the all-father. And for the past thousand years or so she had walked the lands from the northernmost tip of the world to its southernmost, from one Wall of Weltenend to the other.
But besides small disputes here and there, there had been no wars worthy of mention and barely a mad magus of renown to speak of. The closest she had come to blowing the Horn of the Last Winter was during the whole Balsibart affair - now there had been some real entertainment. And that for as much as a year or two! Just until she had fought him alongside the Lord of Water and a few assorted dunces, sealing him below the Saltplains.
She scrubbed furiously at what looked like a dried piece of carrot. <What in Helgard is that?> she wondered not without some anxiety, <I didn’t eat shit for two days!>
At the thought of that she gagged suddenly, her stomach revolting in more than one way. “Hey now! Please retch over the back side if you must. If the furs smell bad, Ah’ll get a really bad price on them.” She held up her hand in what she hoped looked like reassurance. “Got any food?” she asked in her nauseous voice. “I can pay,” she thought to add.
“Pay? More importantly, do you really reckon you should eat anything solid? Seems to me like you might do better with a break.”
“No… Not eating anything is the problem…” She exhaled and sank against a soft ball of bundled sheep furs. Something flew towards her and she caught it with barely a glimpse. It was an apple.
“There’s also a piece of bread in it for you, if you’ve got an interesting story to tell. Ma wife baked it fresh this morning, might even still be warm. Might.”
She took a bite. “The apple will do fine. I’d only depress you if I started to tell stories.”
The man didn’t give up that easily: “So, you some kind of mercenary? That’s some pretty armor and Ah assume a pretty sword.”
“I’d say ‘knight’ describes it better, seeing how I am under the employ of… someone,” she noted.
“A knight? Now isn’t that something, ol’ Sharyl?” he said to his horse, an aged but pretty bay. Though the horses of the Saltplains tended to be beauteous beasts, even the lowest among them were stoic like kings for the grass here was lush and salty, made strong by the secret ocean that flooded the plains from below every now and then. “Strange for a knight to travel around alone without horse or squire. Ah don’t mean to pry of course, just curious.”
“You know, I should have a squire!” she exclaimed, seriously considering the thought the man had just planted in her mind. Perhaps she might find a wide-eyed Kaltani girl to take under her wing, maybe even a Gallian. No Skôts though, she was surly enough for two people and then some. “And maybe a horse… yes… that’d be nice.” She suddenly felt strangely heavy, and her head began to lull to the side. Perhaps all the binge drinking had been a less than suitable replacement for sleep. And as she blinked her heavy eyelids once, twice, everything went black briefly, before a sudden yank forced her wide awake, with a far clearer head than before.
She looked around quickly and noticed that she must have had fallen asleep since the landscape had changed, and the sun that had stood almost at its highest before was much lower now. The yank had come from the carriage stopping, and the man was speaking to someone else up front: “Come now, surely you can’t expect me to just turn around! A man’s gotta make a living!”
“A man’s gotta live to make a living, and there is naught but death ahead,” said another voice, deep and kindly.
A third chimed in: “Let him complain, Kêhlon, it is the least you can do. Can’t you see he has already decided to turn back?”
To that Kêhlon replied incredulously: “The least indeed! If I wasn’t here, he might actually forge ahead and get himself killed!”
“Now, now, no need to bicker on ma account,” the man now apologized. “Your friend is right, Ah’ll turn around. You’re good to warn people away, Ah did not know the Midas Men were so honorable.” “I bet you didn’t,” Kêhlon said as surly as a Skôt, “so don’t be shy to tell your friends. I could do with an image improvement.”
“Ah’ll do that. And feel free to grab an apple from the bag. Ah’m just sorry for ma passenger.” The man gestured back towards the Valkyrie, which jumped out of the cart, noticed she had left her boot inside, got back in, put it on, then jumped out again.
“Sorry for what? I’m glad you took me as far as you did,” she thanked him, brushing back her hair, which she felt might be a bit out of order on account of the whole ‘drunken stupor and dozing off’-business. Looking around, she noticed that the sky was lightly clouded and inviting, up until her gaze turned towards the north where the great city of Aquaris should lie in the distance. She expected to see the tip of the Spire of Rahn, or at least of Mount Toke since the rolling hills of the northern Saltplains didn’t impose much of an obstruction to anyone looking into the distance, but her eyes were greeted by a foreboding wall of grayish white that quite oddly went from ground to sky, creating a visual barrier towards the north. “Is that a snowstorm or am I still piss drunk?” she inquired, eyeing the cloud-like mass.
“It’s a snowstorm,” said the left of the two Midas Men. Judging by his voice, the right one had to be Kêhlon. “And you should move away from it and the Middle Lands in general. They are under attack right now and absolutely not safe for travel.”
“Hm, I have seen that black armor before… Did you guys’ boss kick me across a battlefield like forty years back?” She rubbed her sternum, which still hurt sometimes when the weather changed too quickly because of that particular encounter.
The two men looked at each other. “That depends, did he figuratively kick you across the battle field, or literally?” inquired Kêhlon.
And the other one added: “Literally also implying only a single kick, not some sort of sick ball game.”
“Yes, by Odin! Clear across the entire battlefield! I couldn’t see the damn battle anymore! I’m pretty sure he broke my sternum! And the landing cracked my ass bone. It was very unpleasant.”
They both exchanged meaningful looks again and not-Kêhlon replied, “Well, then yes, that was our boss. And since you survived that, you are… a Valkyrie I assume?”
“I mean… yes. Why does everyone always guess that right away?” she asked even surlier than before.
“The armor,” both of them said.
Kêhlon added: “Also calling on Odin is kind of a give-away, given the situation.”
“Well Ah had no idea!” the man said in surprise, “Ain’t that something, Sharyl, eh? We had a Valkyrie in our wagon.”
“Thank you!” the Valkyrie said to him. “And you two,” she turned back to the Midas Men, “let me pass.”
“Sure, pass away. But be aware that the water mages over there are pulling out all the stops against whoever is hitting them. We are just here because our boss told us to try and keep people out of the Middle Lands for as long as possible,” Kêhlon explained, his voice tensing up slightly. She noticed how he nervously glanced back at the storm.
“I should hope so,” she replied drily and made to move on, but Kêhlon held out his hand.
“Good luck,” he said. The other man too held his hand out.
The Valkyrie shook them both. No sense refusing a fellow warrior’s well wishes before battle. They were a superstitious bunch after all. She, and all the rest of them.
With that she checked if sword and armor were fitted properly and went towards the wall of gray-white, half-mumbling an old song of her forefathers:
Fly, we fly on wings of steel
And strike the ground with iron feet
Let arms sing bloody, blades let meet
And ‘fore us foes will fall or kneel



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