Svava picked her way through what seemed to be an endless field of dead. She kept her black wings folded tightly to her back, allowing them to envelop her in their comforting embrace.
She had chosen these men to die today in the service of her Queen. Freya had declared that these men would be welcomed into the gates of Valhalla, and Svava was here to escort them.
The souls of the enemy cried out for a peace that would never come. They would be cursed to wander this earth as specters, unable to slake their insatiable thirst and crippling hunger. Svava brushed them off with a flick of her finger. They shrank away from her, cowering like the fools they were.
Svava was searching for one soul in particular. She had felt the reverberations of his battle cry as he fought his enemies ferociously. His was not a soul that had been chosen, but she felt that it should have been and she sought him out now to invite him to the halls of Valhalla if he would have her.
Svava searched the battlefield, her black hair flying behind her in the wind. The neighing and snorting of the warhorses spoke to her soul, whispering their approval of Svava and her companions’ choices here today.
Sigrun and Hildan rode their great black wolves through the fields of the dead, laughing and racing each other as they collected the souls of the fallen warriors who would join them this night at Odin’s table, but Svava’s mood remained subdued. She would normally have ridden her own beloved wolf, Solen, onto the battlefield today, but had left her before the roaring fire in her own home in Valhalla. Today she wanted to walk the fields alone so that she could better see the faces of the fallen warriors.
Swords and shields littered the battlefield; the silver and black of the warriors’ breastplates stained red with blood spilled in the name of their king. However misguided their battles may be, Svava admired their spirit and conviction.
“You will feast at Odin’s table tonight young warrior,” Svava said, distracted as she clasped arms with one of the chosen. She barely registered his youthful face, already deeply battle-scarred. Barely able to grow a beard and already dead for a cause he probably knew nothing about.
She was growing frustrated as she failed to locate the man she was searching for. She knew him to be tall — much taller than his comrades in arms. She had seen in her mind’s eye that he had hair as black as coal and eyes of a deep brown; his bronze skin stretched taught over broad shoulders and large muscles. He wore a breastplate of black and gold that depicted a wolf mid-sprint, teeth bared, ears pulled back in a fierce battle cry of his own. This was not an insignia that was well known in these parts. These were the tribes of Odovar and Basilicus; their emblems were the lion and the serpent respectively. The wolf belonged to the Vargul of the north. Svava had visited them many times and had found a great number of them to be worthy of a place in Valhalla. For this man to be fighting a battle that was not his own this far south was deeply troubling. To not have been chosen by Freya was troubling as well. What had this man done to have earned exile from both his tribe and the fields of Valhalla?
Svava could choose to welcome this man regardless of Freya’s wishes; she had done it before on many occasions. Freya rarely spent time in the world of men and had overlooked many worthy souls throughout the eons. Svava relished the opportunity to lord the selection of these souls over Freya. Having fallen out of Odin’s favor centuries ago, Freya’s Valkyrie knew she was no longer the Queen she once was, but they continued to follow her regardless. Freya was still as fierce a warrior as she ever was, she was simply as fallible as the rest of her Valkyrie now and Svava preferred her that way.
“You will feast at Odin’s table tonight brave warrior,” Svava echoed again, clasping the arm of yet another worthy soul. She had watched this man’s final moments and he had proved worthy many times over, defeating his enemies in countless battles throughout his lifetime. The graying in his beard and braided hair lent credence to his successful brutality in the name of his king. This man would enter the fields of Valhalla with his head held high. Svava was honored to welcome him, but he was not the man she still searched for.
“Perhaps he is not yet dead,” Sigrun mused from her perch atop her wolf’s back.
“I watched his final moments. His soul cried out. Surely he is dead,” Svava said, petting the head of Sigrun’s wolf.
“I’ve heard the legends of the Vargul. If this man is truly one of their ranks, they are not so easily killed. Though, why he is here, fighting for the Basilicus, I’ve no clue.”
“I wondered that myself,” Svava said. “I do not see his past, nor his future. He is a mystery to me and I wish to know more.”
Sigrun’s wolf growled deep in her throat, eager for the taste of the flesh of the damned. “Hush, my beautiful Onyxa. Our task here is almost done, then you may feast.” The wolf’s ears perked up and she raised her head to howl with her companions. Sigrun whispered to her wolf and they shot off to join Hildan once more.
Perhaps Sigrun was right. Perhaps her warrior was not yet dead. She began searching the faces of the men strewn around the battlefield, kicking their corpses in frustration.
“No respect for the dead?” Hildan shouted with a dark laugh, her red hair flying behind her as she rode her she-wolf Redfure through the souls of the dead, the chosen spirits roaring in triumph as they raced to keep pace.
“Send them to their place at the table of Odin, and I’ll feast with you tonight, Hildan.” Svava touched her fist to her breast and held it out to her in solidarity.
Hildan nodded and rode away, taking the final souls with her. When they had cleared the fields, she spread her black wings and rose into the air.
“You have fought a fierce battle here today!” Hildan shouted to the waiting warriors. Sigrun rose to take her place next to Hildan’s side, her own black wings beating in time. Their wolves watched from below with rapt attention; the loyalty plain in their eyes. These wolves obeyed none but the Valkyrie who rode them. “Join us, warriors! Valhalla waits for you!”
The souls of the fallen roared and beat their chests. Svava watched with a bloodthirsty smile on her face. This was what she was made for. This was why she existed. These men, covered in the blood of their enemies, made her heart beat a fierce rhythm in her chest and she raised her fist in the air in solidarity. She had one more soul to find, then she would feast with them until the sun came up over the fields of Valhalla.
“Where are you, warrior?” she murmured as she watched them all disappear from this earth as one. Only she and the souls of the damned remained. True to Viking tradition, the bodies of their warriors would be collected and burned; the smoke serving to help carry their souls to the afterlife. Svava had little time left to find her warrior; the drum beats of the survivors were already sounding in the distance.