Arrival of the nine.
They arrived with the wind, their horse’s hooves soundless as all nine rode onto the square. Cloaks whipped and swirled about their shoulders in the growing storm as they swung down as one from their saddles and approached.
All nine wore masked golden helmets and were fully armoured and armed as men, but their garb did little to hide their femininity.
The horses nervously pawed the earth, unaccustomed as they were to the firm soil of Midgard below their hooves.
They strode silently into the wreckage of humanity which had been strewn by the battle and began the selection. The nine fanned out across the square as they progressed, stopping occasionally to reach out a hand to a fallen warrior.
As they did so the chosen warrior arose, leaving his broken body behind, an empty shell discarded on the ground. Without a word the chosen then slipped like wraiths back past fallen comrade and foe to wait by the nervous horses, while the Valkyrie continued their task.
Their passing went un-noticed; the only mortal eyes witness to their presence were the poor souls close to death, nearing the thin veil between this world and the next.
The first of the nine stopped once more and looked down at the two mortals lying in the mud at her feet. The poor girl was holding the fallen boy tight in her arms, rocking back and forth on her knees, keening as if soothing a babe in arms to sleep. Her tears fell freely running from her face and spattering his tunic, as she stared down at the expressionless mask of the dead boy’s face.
She stopped to ponder the scene before her, staying her hand for a moment. The emotions of the mortal world were not lost on her. To her eyes mortal love seemed fragile; all the more beautiful because of its briefness. These mortals lived and loved with death an ever-present spectre at their shoulder. They filled their short lives with friends, families and children, knowing that at any moment they must leave them all behind.
Was there ever a more pitiful sight than these two children of men lying before her? She sighed, the weight of her task heavy on her shoulders and held out a hand to welcome the fallen boy to Valhalla.
“Stop sister! Please!”
She looked up, shocked that anyone would dare interrupt her task. The woman stood before her barefoot and bloodied, her wet hair and clothing plastered to her pale shivering body. “Who are you, who dares address me so?”
The woman took a step towards her holding her hands out in front of her palms uppermost “It’s me dear sister, Thordys. Has it been so long that you have forgotten me?”
The valkyrie peered through the mask of her helm, her memory struggling to see through the years and the bruises decorating the woman’s face.
Yes it was indeed her, “It has been an age sister. But rest assured you may be gone but you are quite surely not forgotten. Your folly is held up as an example to our younger sisters. Here once again we find you meddling in matters which are none of your concern.” She turned away from Thordys, dismissing her to return to her task.
“Agata, this boy is very much my concern; I brought him kicking and screaming into this world and have stayed by his side ever since. He is dear to me sister, he is as near as is possible to be my own son. I ask again for the love you once bore me, leave this boy behind?”
The valkyrie turned away from the dying boy once more. “So once again you place the needs of a mortal, above our duty to the all-father. Has your exile taught you nothing? Would you have me throw down my duty and join you living with these mortals, aimlessly wandering the lands of Midgard for eternity?”
Thordys sighed. “No sweet sister I would not share my fate with you, my path has been long and often lonely. The lives of men are all too short and what few friends I have made are taken away from me all too soon. This boy is good sister, his life has been far too brief, allow him a little longer before you take him to the halls. Many have fallen this day, take another in his place. I will bear the blame, tell father I forced you, tell him what you like, what can he do to me now?”
Agata removed her helmet and cradled it under her arm, the briefest of smiles flickered across her beautiful face “I have missed you dear sister. Tell me was he worth it, the mortal you spared? Did his love make up for all that you lost?”
“If you’re asking would I do it again? The answer is yes, my heart would not be denied, the years I spent with him were my best and my worst.” She laid a hand on the valkyrie’s shoulder “Let me take this poor boy?”
“Very well, but be quick, do not let the others see!”
The valkyrie bent down and laid her hand on the boys injured abdomen, there was the briefest glow as the warmth of her fingertips spread into his body. His eyes flickered, blinking in the soft rain which had started to fall; there was a slight wheeze as his lungs lurched back into life. The girl holding him was so lost in her grief that she barely noticed the change.
Thordys turned to her sister “Thank you Agata. I am forever in your debt.”
“I know, now hurry, get him away from this place before you are seen!” And with that the valkyrie replaced her helmet and returned to her duty.
Thordys tapped the young girl on the shoulder and she raised her head looking blankly up at the old woman. “We’d better get him somewhere warm and dry before he catches his death!”
“Leave me alone old woman, can’t you see he’s gone?”
“No, look girl, he breathes still. Help me get him up and we’ll get him inside out of this rain.” Thordys knelt down and pulled Finn’s arm over her shoulder, urging Merryn to do the same. He hung limp like a rag-doll as they dragged him across the square his feet trailing behind him in the mud.
Thordys turned back as they reached the edge of the square; her sisters had completed their task and were mounting their horses. She fought the urge to wave one last time, how she longed to see Valhalla once more. “Farewell dear sisters” she whispered to the wind.