Chapter Four: Sacred Secrets: *Draft Two*
It felt strange walking next to Frigg through fields of wild flowers heading for the nearby fountain in a little woodland close. Not because I was struck silent by her godly aura but by its absence. There was no aura of power, no glowing halo, not one sign of anything. It was like simply walking along with a stranger who felt entirely normal and appeared entirely mortal. At the fountain side she gestured for me to sit on a nearby stone bench. She joined me shortly after casually playing her fingers through the pouring water with a small, pleasant smile upon her face as if hiding some exciting news.
“What is your name Valkyrie?” She asked staring directly at me with that motherly gaze which all mothers have that subtly informs you that you can hide nothing from her.
“And how long have you been with us?”
“About nine years now.”
“During that time did Katharine teach you about the role you perform?”
“Yes, Kate taught me all she knew. How we guide and guard souls that have been selected to join us.”
“Did she teach you anything else?”
“How to defend against Hel’s minions, how to contact other entities if aid is requested, where all the nearest portals are, the methods of soul collection…”
“What I mean is did she teach you anything about the other tasks Valkyries do?”
“Erm, other than that no. As far as I’m aware our main task is gathering souls for Odin’s army.”
She smirked. “Did Katharine ever tell you that Valkyries don’t just guard the dead?”
“No. Our main purpose is the exact opposite. We are forbidden to interfere with mortals lives.” Her questions made me feel like I was sitting my Valkyrian exam all over again accept this time every right answer I gave seemed to be wrong. It wasn’t making any sense. “Why are you asking me all this? Have I done something wrong?”
She let out a small warm laugh; her blue eyes twinkled at me in the glorious sunshine of Asgard. “No, not at all Jennifer. I merely wanted to find out how knowledgeable you are on your position.” She paused and got up towards the fountain, playing with its waters again with her back turned towards me. “You saved a mortal from a Werewolf last night.”
I was surprised she knew anything about it. “Yes, he had intentions to mate with her and he needed reminding that cross breeding is forbidden.”
“Very correct Jennifer and you were right in your actions. The Werewolf problem is one that is complicated to solve.” She returned to sit beside me. “The reason I am asking all this is that Kate didn’t teach you everything. Which leaves you a bit lacking for the task this is now required of you.” She saw me open my mouth to protest. “No Jennifer, it is not your fault, neither I nor Kate thought she would ever be absent from us, but sadly she is.”
Remembering that night made me feel hot anger yet cold sadness. I swallowed hard, trying not to let that awful memory overwhelm my resolve.
“But I am not going to let her spirit fade in vain, I am prepared to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to at least give you a good chance of succeeding. Only if you are willing to commit to my request whole heartedly for in this there will be no option to back out.”
“I will do whatever is required of me if that is indeed what Kate had planned for me.” I replied feeling my heart become coated in steel from the strength and perseverance I was willing to put in to honour Kate’s wishes.
“Excellent, now why don’t you ask me what the task is?”
I laughed. “Ok what is it?”
“Open your jar and I will bring out the person who will help explain.”
This made me even more curious as to how much she knew. To find out that she knew of my Werewolf encounter was puzzling enough but now it seemed it like she had been watching my whole nightshift, right down to which souls I had been collecting. I brought out the large pearl white jar from my cloak and placed it on the ground between us. Opening the jar lid with a simple triple tap of my fingers. Inside was a maelstrom of lights, accompanied by the whisperings of those trapped inside.
“Erik, you can come out now.” Frigg spoke to the jar in a soft voice, like she was coaxing a scared kitten from behind the sofa.
A wisp of light began to wander out of the jar, like a snake weary of its surroundings. It drifted outwards and up before a figure began to form. Once it had finished unravelling from the masses within a man stood before us. It was the old man from the hospital. Glaring at me quickly he then collapsed upon his knees at Frigg’s feet.
“We have failed Frigg. This fool has brought me back and now...”
“Hush Erik, things will be settled; the matter has just taken an unexpected turn that is all. Jennifer has agreed to put things to right.”
“But the children? They’re on their own. Who’s going to protect them?”
“Jennifer will, once she has completed her training. She was selected for the task long ago but sadly Katherine was taken from us before her training began.”
“What if we are too late? What if they have been...”
“Erik enough of this. The children are fine and well protected, for the time being. Jennifer saw to that when she left them the other night.”
“You mean, she’s met them, already? Without knowing they’re at risk?”
“Yes and she in fact saved Chloe from a Werewolf, didn’t you Jennifer?”
The grin Frigg gave me was a kin to Loki’s, full of mischief and secrets. Except it wasn’t her grin that silenced me but that Chloe and Nathan were involved in this mysterious matter. Their mention proved Frigg had been watching me all night. To top things off Erik Fergusson turned out to be the Grandfather Chloe mentioned briefly when we met. When she described him as ‘away’ she actually meant he was in hospital seriously ill and now definitely dead. I felt like I had stumbled into a Shakespearian play full of different characters with ranging agendas and an ever twisting plot. All I could do is nod in answer trying to conceal my smug smile at the surprise on Erik’s face.
“I guess I can thank you for that at least.”
“The Norn’s have already woven her destiny even though she didn’t know it.” Frigg added.
“Why are they in danger? Who would want to harm them? They’re mortals.”
Frigg sighed, the sound of a summer breeze in the last days before autumn takes over. “I’m sure Katharine made you aware of the many offspring my husband has sired?”
I nodded. The tales of many of Odin’s step-children are as famous as Loki’s pranks.
“Well, he is not the only one, to find attraction in other realms.”
“Chloe and Nathan are your children?” My mind was struggling to take all these new revelations in.
“No, no, not directly but they are the descendants of my original son. Erik is the descendant on his father’s family side and together we have been watching the family tree extend into the centuries. Making sure their true heritage was never discovered. It is that which would harm them if Loki or his minions ever discovered the truth.”
“But I am the last remaining relative that is aware of the truth. That is why I asked you to send me back. Katharine had not told me about her new apprentice yet. I am sad to hear she is no longer with us.”
“We all are.” I muttered.
“Now we have spent enough time talking, it is time you began your training now that you know the importance of the task before you. Go to the Hall of Freedom and restore the rest of the souls. Then head to the Valkryan Sanctum where you will meet Freya to begin.”
I’m meeting Freya, I heard my mind scream. Freya herself. The first original Valkyrie. The leader of all Valkyries. Not only that but she also embodied all sexual love and female independence. A strong fighter and a whimsical lover.
I got up and left with Frigg’s blessing in my efforts, leaving her and Erik to talk more about the siblings and other matters I presumed. I felt numb as I walked through the beauty of Asgard. I hadn’t felt this numb since I learned the truth about reality on my death bed. All these new truths whirling inside my mind was too much to give strength enough to face Freya for the first since my naming ceremony when I officially joined her ranks. I needed some space to think.
I casually released the souls, ignoring their stampede of questions and pointed to them to group of people who helped new comers accept and understand their situation. I turned around and strode away to my quarters seeking privacy.
As a Valkyrie we were housed separately from the other souls, next to the Valkryan Sanctum and Freya’s own silver hall Sessrúmnir. The Shield Maiden Halls are as mixed and diverse in design, living conditions and facilities as the rest of Asgard with a population from so many different time periods. All with different needs to be catered for. It is in essence a very large dorm with just over a thousand rooms for each Valkyrie. My dorm number was one thousand and eight, two more digits than 007 and we both had licences to kill.
After spending twenty minutes being patient and silent in the open lift, the wind in my face had calmed me down enough not to scream out loud once I got inside. I slung off my cloak and collapsed into the glorious softness of the sofa.
“Kate why didn’t you tell me.” I muttered lifting myself up again and wandering into the kitchen seeking comfort food. My hand went straight to the cookie jar. As I munched and crumbs began to gather down my top I went over what I had learnt.
So Chloe and Nathan were the descendants of an ancient affair Frigg had and Erik their grandfather was a mortal descendant of their father. That I could understand easily enough, the Aesir after all are just mortals with access to life prolonging fruit. It was the fact that Kate had this big plan for me from the moment she chose to be my mentor. If the Norns did indeed weave my destiny then they were laughing at me now as they reminded me by situation that Kate was no longer around to turn to.
The Valkyran Sanctum was modelled on a large open air arena. It is there that we learn to fight against both mortal enemies and the spiritual enemies such as werewolves, vampires, ghouls, ghosts and more importantly dark elves. All these dark forces attribute some kind of problem to our work because some entity is usually after the same soul we have ordained as ours; even if they are not part of the same faith. I walked without a word through the entrance, passing several training rooms which emitted the grunts and groans of duels and the flashes and sparks of runic magic.
“So what kept you up last night then?” A voice asked as a hand grabbed my shoulder making me spin round with a hiss. “Whoa! Calm down Jenny it’s only me.”
Martha looked as shocked as I was at my reaction when I recognised her in the hallway.
“Tough night eh?”
“Something like that.”
“You didn’t run into Jake did you?” Worry shimmered in her eyes.
“Fat chance. He’s probably scuttling around the underworld keeping low after what happened.”
“He’ll have to come up eventually and when he does we’ll all be there waiting Jenny. None of us want him to get away with what he did to Kate.”
“Jennifer Wallace!” A sharp voice rang out down the corridor behind me making both of us wince. I turned round and was met with the hawk eye glare of Göll staring me down amongst the other nervous glances in my direction. “Freya is waiting.”
“What’s Freya want with you? Are you in trouble Jenny?”
“I wish it was that simple. See you later Martha.” I quickly turned and marched after Göll who was already stomping her way through a mass of curious trainees. I kept my gaze on the back of Göll’s armoured back, with as many scratches as there were runes embossed into its surface. The corridors we went down seemed to go on forever but once we went up some stairs I knew where we were going. The Observation Stand, where Göll and the rest of the nine commanding Elder Valkyrie’s watched battle practise in the arena. It is also where Freya is based in a room with a view that looks north, to the Old Asgard quarter and the dominating citadel where the rest of her godly family reside. As we go higher and the windows turned into open arches looking down into the arena centre the sounds of practise were replaced with the true sounds of battle. Metal biting into shields or flesh as hinted by the screams of anger and pain as some poor soul let her guard slip. I cast a quick glance through the arches to the arena and felt a growing sense of pride as a group of six battle maidens swooped down upon three suspended targets, their white cloaks trailing wide behind them like wings. It was over in a flash but I knew they had all struck correctly when the dummies limbs and soon head began dropping to the sandy floor. We finally reached a large marble door with a ‘V’ spread across it in amber droplets. Göll knocked three times causing the door and the floor to tremble. Her name didn’t mean tumult for nothing.
“Bring Jennifer in.” A smooth almost slightly drowsy voice responded behind the shimmering door.
Göll twisted the huge amber doorknob and swung the door wide revealing a large oval chamber. Sat directly before my vision was Freya, it was unmistakably her even though I hadn’t met all the nine Elder Valkyrie’s yet some of them were present. All were sat around this large slab of amber which rested upon legs of silver forming a dazzling table.
I stepped forward my gaze felt instantaneously locked with Freya’s. For these were no mortal eyes but eyes of a goddess, a Vanir goddess no less, only part of the Aesir household when Odin did a hostage swap to end the family feud eons ago. To look into Freya’s eyes was like looking at a butterfly wing which was a mosaic of every colour imaginable. Her eyes defined the word hypnotic. Yet as quickly as I was hypnotised my eyes were shunned for within less than a second they transformed to a hazel brown iris making my senses confused. As if I walked into a bright light which was suddenly turned off. Other than her eyes her appearance was regular yet impressive. She has long brown hair plaited behind her ears with colourful beads mixed with amber threaded within. Her face was stern yet when she gave me that first smile it seemed to become the face of every friendly feeling, of joy, of happiness and of pleasure. She wore an armless chest plate with a large silver and gold studded ‘v’ line from her shoulders to her chest. Thin chainmail in mother of pearl colours covered her arms, another piece crafted by the dwarves of Niflhiem I was sure.
“Welcome back to the Valkryan Sanctum Jennifer.” She stood up as I walked to the end of the table. “This is Elder Mist; you may remember her from your rune training?” Indicating the thinner and more relaxed looking woman beside her.
I looked across with a bow towards Mist recalling how hippy like I once presumed her to be but like Freya her care-free persona hid well the strength and magical power beneath. Göll came along beside me and saluted her superior.
“Please sit down both of you. We have much to discuss before we take this matter further.” Elder Geirölul gestured to the six chairs around the table.
“I am sure Jennifer is well aware of that.” We all took our places upon Freya’s nod. “I trust Frigg explained the situation to you?”
“Yes.” I replied simply still feeling a bit overwhelmed with such a high status attention focusing on me.
“And you are prepared to do what is necessary to protect her bastards?”
I was shocked at that remark and Freya knew it giving a sharp laugh of delight upon the look on my face.
“I am correct in my speech Jennifer. All of Odin’s and Freya’s children are bastards. I meant it as no offence just making clear to you that the only precious thing about them is the Aesir strand that flows through their veins. Frigg care’s for them as much as she cares for the pigeons that feed on her doorstep. We only protect them to prevent the Aesir being the cause of their own downfall.”
What she said seemed brutal and to contradict the impression I got from Frigg herself when she spoke to Erik and about Chloe and Nathan. But I daren’t speak out against any of what Freya was saying after all Freya has obviously been doing this caretaker role for a lot longer than I can imagine.
“It is such a shame Katherine had to fall before she could induct you into this new training. At least this way however you will learn from the best.” Geirölul added making me wince at the thought that Katherine couldn’t train me properly compared to them.
“Yes, it is always a great pity when one of our own falls to the darkness but do not fear Jennifer, that dark elf Jake will pay for her demise eventually. The longer he stays in hiding the sweeter his death shall be as our blood lust grows. But you must leave the task of revenge to others now, as this new challenge will require all of your strength, endurance and skill.” Mist continued giving my spirit some peace and hope in that prospect.
“Now, to begin your training you must first be equipped with the correct gear. Unfortunately as this is a rather impromptu beginning we have not had time to prepare your own set of armour but we have Katherine’s and I believe she would be more than happy if we allowed you to use her set for the time being.” Göll clapped her hands three times and from a small door the back of the room three girls about twelve wheeled in a battle dummy coated in the most dazzling armour.
It was similar to Freya’s own armour in that there were no plates of armour strapped around the arms just chainmail but this was clearly no ordinary chainmail. It shone and shimmered with the colour of a perfect unstained pearl yet subtle lights shifted as if runic energy itself flowed from link to link. The chest plate had silver runes of strength, endurance; power and defence engraved along each seam and edge of metal. It too had a ‘V’ shape feature but it came from the middle of the breast area and reached up towards the neck line like outstretched arms. I stood up to marvel closely at its fine form and detail. Freya joined me at its side, pride shining in her eyes.
“Will you accept this gift we offer you? I would understand if you did not choose to wear it because it belonged to Katherine but I am sure it will serve you just as well as it did her the few times she had to wear it.”
“It would be an honour.” I whispered in reply. “Who made this?”
“Dwarves. Who else has such skill? Yet this design requires such effort and resources that only a handful were ever made for us. We Elders each have one plus the few individual Valkyrie’s who have special tasks to perform, such as Katherine and now you.”
Then I realised something.
“If I need to wear this particular armour and not my own rather mundane set then does this mean there are worse threats than the ones I’ve been trained against?”
Geirölul nodded when I glanced around their faces.
“The threats upon Chloe’s and Nathan’s lives are far worse than mere competition for ownership of their souls. Although that would be a bonus for the dark side as well. The enemy is after their blood and its special properties due to having an Aesir ancestor. If they were able to withdraw the energy in that strain then they would be arming themselves with weapons equal to our own. Due to this opportunity and the delicateness of getting the blood, the darkness does not send Vampires who would take the blood for themselves, neither Werewolves who would make far too much of a mess and probably let most of it end up on walls and the floor. They don’t even send Ghouls to petrify the children to submission as at their worst they make the blood freeze. No. This matter requires their best and worst. The Worthless Einherjar.”
Everyone in the room shivered slightly at the mention of the unworthy dead. The souls deemed as unworthy, undeserving and too corrupt to join our own Glorious Einherjar ranks under Odin’s banner. Those souls are left to the darkness, to be claimed by Hel to keep her fed or recruited under the dominion of the Frost Giants. All to wait for the final day. Ragnarok. The darkness’s strongest warriors were one thing none of us younger Valkyries have ever been trained for combat against.
“Now you see why we are providing you with our finest armour so you can survive against such deadly foes. But there is one more thing we can provide you with besides further extensive training. One thing which will aid you in battle as well as retreat.”
“What?” I asked thinking of the most awesome weapons my mind could conjour up.
Freya grinned like a wolf about to pounce on a weak sheep. Then uttered one word quietly. “Hildrhrafn.”
She bowed her head low as a white glow formed at her shoulder blades and grew outwards making everyone turn away from the now blinding light.
“Wings. We shall give you wings.”
I sat back down in my chair speechless, as I stared at the most fantastical sight.
Freya, the Goddess of Love and Desire and the leader of all Valkyries stood proud, tall, regal and splendid posing her pair of eagle wings that stretched at least a metre either way out of her back. This was the sight all Valkyries longed to become. Apparently I now was going to fulfil that dream.