When we entered the kitchen, Tyra greeted us with a smile and a pan of freshly cooked bacon. My stomach grumbled, smelling the combination of bacon, eggs, and brewed coffee.
She placed the pan on the table and pulled me into a hug. “It’s good to see you.”
I awkwardly patted her back. “Thank you.”
She released me and gestured for me to sit down. “Let’s eat before it gets cold. The kids should come downstairs soon, too.”
I sat down and Gunnar settled down across from me. I still couldn’t look at him without a fuzzy feeling spreading through my body.
Tyra placed a can of tea on the table and sat down. “What do you think about showing you around after we are done eating?”
I smiled. “As long as I can take a shower beforehand.”
Her eyes widened as she nodded. “Of course! You can also rest for a bit. We put your belongings in the guest room upstairs.”
I appreciated they cared for me so much. The only person who gave me the feeling of being important was George. Finding two more people who seemed to care about me was as if a warm blanket wrapped around me.
She smiled and patted my hand. “Don’t mention it. If you need anything else, just ask.”
Only a few minutes after we started eating, the children rushed down the stairs and stumbled into the kitchen, still in their pajamas.
“Mom! Why didn’t you wake us up?” The boy asked as he put his hands on his hips, one brow arched in question.
“Freyr, I tried to wake you up, but you kept saying you wanted to sleep longer.”
He pouted and dropped on one of the empty chairs. Freya followed him with Svea cuddled into her arms, still sleeping. Tyra pulled Svea onto her lap without waking her up, brushing through her fur calmly.
Freya leaned forward and pressed a kiss on her mother’s cheek. “Good morning.”
Tyra smiled and brushed the long hair out of her daughter’s face. “I hope you slept well.”
She nodded and sat down next to her brother, who glared at her. Freya stuck out her tongue at him.
I smiled and pushed another big bite of bacon and egg into my mouth. I loved watching them. Freya knew how to tease her brother in a way it wasn’t too obvious, but struck the right nerve. Back then, I always wished to have a sibling, too. But my parents never wanted more children, sadly.
After breakfast, I offered to help Tyra clean up, but she pushed me out of the room, refusing my help. “Gunnar will show you your room, and when you are ready, I will give you the promised tour.”
I sighed and turned to Gunnar. “Since your sister refused my help, can you show me the bathroom? I’m in desperate need of a shower.”
He smiled and stood up, leading me out of the room and up the stairs. Photos decorated the wall all the way up the second floor. I stopped in front of a family group picture, spotting Tyra. She had her arms wrapped around a tall man, who had his arm around her waist and another around Gunnar’s shoulder. They were all beaming into the camera, eyes shining.
I pointed at the man. “Is that Aloysius?”
Gunnar turned around and looked at the person I pointed at. He smiled. “Yes, that’s him.”
Aloysius was even taller than Gunnar and the shoulders seemed slightly broader, too. He looked powerful and slightly intimidating, but his smile was warm and genuine.
“You all look so happy.”
“It was an amazing time. Not long after we shot the photo, he died.”
I gasped, regretting my comment. Gunnar’s eyes were teary as he stared at the photo, and I touched his arm carefully. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
He shook his head. “I only wish I could have helped him. Done something.”
I understood where he was coming from, as I told myself the same thing several times after my pack died. “I doubt there was anything you could have done.”
Gunnar sighed and continued to walk up the stairs. “There is always something that could have been done differently. But we can’t change the past. As much as I wish I could have helped him, I couldn’t, and that won’t ever change. We believe he is in a better place now.”
He stopped and looked at me over his shoulder. “Have you heard of Folkvangr or Valhalla before?”
“It rings a bell, maybe from movies or history lessons at school. Why?”
Gunnar leaned against the wall, arms crossed. “Our ancestors come from Sweden, so we have a strong relationship with Norse mythology. Our general belief in our community is hard to categorize into one religion or belief. We have our little world we live in and seek guidance from plenty of different traditions. It’s passed down by generations. But we don’t like to label it a certain religion because it’s not. We live every day with the traditions our ancestors taught us, and we continue doing it because it feels right.”
I nodded. “I heard from other packs in the past that they also don’t like to say they are religious or follow one certain belief. My pack wasn’t religious at all or followed any traditions.”
“In the end, it all depends on where the pack originated from, and how the generations continue to develop and change. My grandparents used to tell me about Valhalla or Folkvangr whenever death was a topic. They said that back in the day, the fallen Vikings would either go to Valhalla or Folkvangr after their death. There was also Helheim, which was supposedly the place for the people who didn’t die in battle. But those slain in battle would either go to Valhalla or Folkvangr.”
“You believe Aloysious also went to one of those places?”
He shrugged and smiled at me sheepishly. “Yes.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the entire thing. While it was reassuring that we wouldn’t disappear after we die, how would I know I see my family again? What if they are in different places? What if there is only blackness, after all?
“We don’t know what happens after we take our last breaths, but that is business for the dead, anyway. Right now, we have to make sure we live our life to the fullest.”
Gunnar pushed off the wall, took the last steps, and turned left. I hurried after him and saw him stopping in front of a door. “This is the guest room and right across from it is the bathroom.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
He patted my shoulder. “I will go back hitting some metal if you need me.”
I nodded and watched him leave before I stepped into the guest room. The room was pretty. The walls had a light orange tone, and the floor had the same light wooden floor the rest of the house had. Plenty of paintings covered the walls, but it didn’t feel overbearing.
I spotted my things on the bed and opened the suitcase to grab some fresh clothes, a towel, and my toiletries.
After a long shower and blow-drying my hair, I considered taking a quick nap, but I couldn’t calm my mind and searched for Tyra instead.
I walked back to the kitchen, but Tyra wasn’t here anymore. I wandered around the house, calling her name.
“Back here!” I heard from somewhere in the back of the house. It took me a while to find her, but eventually, after looking into several rooms, I finally found her.
She stood in the middle of a big, light-filled room. In front of her was an easel with a large canvas. She had white paint on her cheek, and the apron she wore was full of different colors.
Plenty of paintings stood around the room, reminding me of all the paintings I had seen around the house. Most of them were landscapes, but with fantasy elements added to them. Some showed fairies, others unicorns.
“So, you are the artist of all these paintings.”
She chuckled. “Yes, indeed. It’s my hobby and profession.”
“I see. Gunnar and you both work from home then. I didn’t imagine that both of you would be this creative.”
“It must be a family thing. Our parents were very into sculpting. Gunnar and I run an online store to sell our work, and sometimes we offer them at fantasy fairs or medieval markets.”
My mother used to do something similar. She created many knitted things and sold them, but she was more traditional and sold them only at local markets.
“Do you have a brand?”
She nodded. “We call us: G&T Artistry. And yes, Gunnar’s work is art.”
I laughed. “Sounds like you heard that kind of thing often.”
She rolled her eyes. “Too often to count. It should be our slogan at this point. They think just because he is slamming on a piece of metal, it doesn’t involve creativity and can’t be called art.”
“You two seem to be successful, though.”
Considering their massive property and modern interior, I doubted they had money issues.
She shrugged. “We are living a comfortable life, I would say. It can be stressful, but it’s worth it. People like our work, and they appreciate that it’s handmade. They are ready to wait for a long time, too, as long as the quality is right.” Tyra dropped the pencil on the table next to her and cleaned her hands with a small towel. “I also love what I do, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
“Can I see what you are working on currently?”
She beamed at me. “Of course!”
I hurried over to her and stared at the beautiful scenery she drew. A deer with wide eyes stared at me, with wings on its back. In the distance were snowy mountains and plenty of trees.
“It looks wonderful.”
“Thank you! It’s not done yet, but I love this kind of work. A bit out of the ordinary, mixed with nature,” she said, removing her apron and dropping it on the chair. “Are you ready to see the rest of the property?”
I nodded. “I am.”
“Let’s go then,” she said, leading me out of the room.