A Storm with Skin

So as this month continues I thought I would share another passion of mine which is fiction writing. I started this novel a few years ago and it has been pushed to the wayside a bit which is a shame as I really enjoyed writing it, but who knows maybe I will learn to find better uses of my time and get back into it especially as the plan and timeline (and map!) had been written out before I even started writing. So here is the first chapter of “A Storm with Skin”.

The last moon of Tvimanuthr was barely a slither in the dark night sky. You would have thought the two shapes that flew across the sky were just a trick of the tired eye and no one would think any less. But little did the lonely old shepherd know. His eyes had seen true and right, as he sat guarding his goats whilst hunkered down in his furs, watching his breath swirl in the rapidly cooling air.

The copse quickly became a wood and then a forest as the trees grew thicker, denser and even darker the closer Brynhildr and Hrist got to the long house in the sudden clearing. There was only one tell that Hrist had noticed that the building wasn’t abandoned and that was the distinct wisp of smoke leaving the roof. Brynhildr landed first with ease, her soft white feathered wings quietly folded behind her. Her hands moved like a blur and her windswept black hair had been twisted back into place, the white streak however, stubbornly fell back down over her olive skin. She turned to watch her companion gently land beside her, her blue eyes sparkled as she saw the look of annoyance on Hrist’s face.

“I really don’t see why I had to come too Bryn, so many of the other girls would have jumped at this chance,” Brynhildr chuckled at her friend. “I’m serious Bryn these wings have seen too much action these last few days,” Hrist said whilst smoothing down her speckled brown feathers.

“You know fine well that it is always better to have two sets of senses when visiting the Völva,” Brynhildr said flatly. “Besides you know I value your opinion, especially when dealing with witches.”

Hrist sighed, she knew she was never going to say no to her, not just because the flattery got her every time but you don’t say no to your best friend especially when she was Queen of the Valkryies.

“You really know how to work me don’t you?!” they laughed at each other warmly, then grasped each other’s hand and entered the long wooden hut.

They blinked hard as their eyes adjusted to the sudden harsh glow from the fire in the middle of the room.  Hrist chanced a glance round the large room; by the raging unnaturally white fire, there was a woman sat in a throne like wooden chair staring intently into the fire. Hrist believed her to be the main witch in this region.

The room seemed oddly furnished; a few bulky trunks here and there and mismatched chairs round the fire pit. She decided the trunks must hold the payment from the villagers that can’t be eaten or drunk. A few chickens and a lone goat were watching the defensive Valkyrie from the byre.

As the friends walked towards the woman, their boots sounded like thunder against the quiet crackle of the fire; Hrist could see that the woman had obviously seen many winters but she had an unnerving feeling that this old crone was still as spry as ever. The old woman’s eyes glistened as she finally took her eyes away from the fire as if that held some portal to another witches pit, to look at Brynhildr and Hrist. A wry smile enhanced all of the deep crevices on her face.

“You are late,” she croaked as if it had been a long time since she used her voice. Brynhildr bowed deeply and tugged at her companion’s emerald green cloak to signal her to do the same. Hrist did so but not nearly as elegantly as she didn’t want to take her eyes away from the witch.

“Yes seeress, but it was not an easy flight from,”

Brynhildr was stopped mid-apology by the crone.

“Yes I also know that too, but back to the matter at hand,” the Völva continued rather abruptly, “there is an important juncture, coming which can either strengthen your clan, like you had never thought possible or hinder you all and bring forth the impending eventuality of Ragnarök. Which as you both know could spell the end of the nine realms as we know them to be.”

Hrist gasped then quickly composed herself as Brynhildr shot her an ice cold glare, before returning to look at the seeress. Brynhildr noticed the fire had died down somewhat since they arrived and she was aware that the woman had chosen to pull her faded linen cloak round tighter rather than stoke the fire. At that moment the woman sat up and smiled.

“Oh dear where are my manners? Please sit down.” She gestured at the chairs that were slowly sliding across the floor towards the fire. “I am Gudfinna, seeress of the Villrskogr. There is a young girl in the region of Falskeld. She has been named Reginleif.” Gudfinna paused waiting for the Valkryies to realise what she implied.

Brynhildr was the first to make the connection, “the daughter of Gods,” she whispered. “I didn’t think that this would be in my season before Odin lets me stay forever with those Einherjar I have carried onto Valhalla.”

“Yes Brynhildr but her path is not yet clear. Her path is clouded until great sadness befalls her. This sadness can potentially cause her heart to harden and her soul to blacken. If Fenrir finds her once this darkness has encapsulated her and filled her thoughts only with revenge, nothing can stop his whispers from becoming growls and she will follow him to the ends of the realm.” Gudfinna watched Hrist as she said all this, as if staring into her memories.

Hrist began to shift in her seat; her hand involuntarily slipped from her lap and started to stroke the feathers at the tip of her left wing. Yes Fenrir I remember you, she thought to herself.  She had been sent out on her first scout mission since becoming Brynhildr’s official Hersir; Hrist knelt outside a Jarls long house as she listened in on their battle plans towards a rival tribe.

She was completely unaware of the giant wolf that lurked in the tangled roots of an old tree, until a young thrall walked past and she saw the glint of the canine’s large teeth in the Vikings helmet. Within seconds her legs thrust upwards and her powerful wings beat to lift her from the ground into the night sky. But the wolf Fenrir had already pounced and clawed at her wing deeply as he started to lose height.

As silver blood oozed from the open wound she unwillingly screamed and soon the area was filled with men and women alike; who brandished their swords and held shields close to their bodies. But all they saw was a glimpse of the giant wolf’s tail as he chose uncharacteristically to go back into the woods, a small pool of silver liquid and some feathers. Little did those brave Vikings know that they nearly had a brush with death in the form of the trickster Loki’s son.

“Hris! Hris! Are you alright?” Hrist was suddenly aware that she was extremely close to the now blazing fire and Gudfinna had leant back in her chair with a smile on her face.

“Wha? Huh oh yeah Bryn I’m fine sorry I was just….remembering.” She trailed off shakily, coughed and turned to Gudfinna, “what will need to happen for her to join us?”

“That is not clear, you would have to seek out Verdhandi as her hands weave the girls present, that or it all lies with what you choose to do with this information.”

The two winged women stood up and bowed to Gudfinna in appreciation of her knowledge. As Brynhildr stood up a large muslin sack emerged from inside her deep violet cloak and she passed it to the Völva. Hrist hadn’t been aware of Brynhildr bringing anything along with her before they left Giltoft. Gudfinna opened the sack and beamed a near toothless grin at the unidentifiable hunk of meat. They bade each other farewell and the two friends left. Their minds reeled from the prophecy and they felt so unsure about what their next move was to be.

Neither spoke as they flew over the sea of Eyjara, the noise of its waves crashed against the rocks of Kirkgata and seemed to surround them. As they neared the snow capped mountains of the Eyrrbjorg Pass that led the way to Giltoft, Hrist looked at her friend and as she broke the silence it felt as if she bellowed.

“So are we going to tell the others?”

“No, not until I have thought about it some more,” and with that the silence surrounded them once again.

Hrist took comfort in the silence which she often did. I know that Bryn will do what’s best but Fenrir! Why out of all of Loki’s children did it have to be Fenrir? He is the epitome of sneakiness and treachery. She shuddered as she remembered him once again.

Soon the lights of Giltoft, home of the Valkyries were in view and for now things could carry on as they once were. Rather than enter through the main door, they flew up to the turret that housed the chamber they shared. Hrist gently seated herself on the wall of their stone balcony and faced Brynhildr. A chill took to the air as they sat and watched the stars slowly twinkle in the sky. Hrist pulled her hood up over her stubborn auburn curls and noticed her friend was deep in thought.

“Go on then, what are you going to do about the young one?”

Brynhildr sighed deeply, “I’m not quite sure to be honest. I mean we can’t just bring her here.”

“That’s true there are rules after all, she would need to prove her worth through Eyrrbjorg,” agreed Hrist. “Although if she is the daughter of the Gods, surely she is worthy?”

“We have some time before we need to decide; right now her soul is completely innocent and neutral.”

Unknown to them, a pair of ears lurked in the darkness of the doorway, twitching with each word. A pair of grey eyes widened with curiosity. Kára the youngest of the eleven Valkryies of Giltoft was crouched down as she waited to hear the rest of the conversation. Kára was forever trying to better herself to gain her wings permanently, not just on the battlefield. Her mind raced with ideas on how she could potentially help the leaders of her clan.

“Fenrir may also know of the prophecy. He seems to be where we least expect him and there are those that help him.”

“That is true but as Gudfinna said; only once the great tragedy has befallen her. So right now there isn’t any threat as she is still, like I said before, neutral.”

“Yes Bryn, I guess as usual you are right. It may be a good idea, to have the ravens listen out for the whispers around Falskeld.”

“That isn’t a bad idea Hrist. In the morning I will ask Skögul to talk to her ravens and instruct them to listen for anything to do with Reginleif and Fenrir.”

Kára slowly crept back on her tiptoes through the archway, before she seamlessly jumped up into the air turning as she did so. She landed and quietly ran to her chambers to hatch her own little plan. Róta was already asleep in her bed under the window; she snored gently from across the room. Kára sat on her bed and ran her fingers through her silver hair, plaiting as she parted her hair absentmindedly.

So we may have someone new, how fantastic! She thought excitedly to herself. I wonder what the prophecy is that involves this Reginleif and Fenrir of all demons. I know I can’t ask Brynhildr or Hrist because then they will know I was eavesdropping once again. I so really want to help. Maybe if I travel to Falskeld and have a look around, maybe meet her, befriend her. Then I can guide her in the ways of the Valkyrie without being too full on. Gah! Even that will take time though, especially if I have to travel by horse. Hopefully the Gods will bless my dreams with an answer or at least a way to leave Giltoft without raising suspicion. With that she asked the Gods to impart some wisdom to her dreams to help with this task.

In Asgard, Týr and Thor were sat at the feasting table deep in an ale drinking contest. Týr’s wrist began to tingle and as if by some kind of magic he heard Kára’s plea, as he placed his hand on his arm. He felt his stomach churn with resentment as he remembered how in his last encounter with Fenrir he left without his hand. Yes Kára, you may be young and inexperienced but I feel that might just be what is needed for this task. Your intentions may stem from personal gain but are still pure. I bless you with the answers you seek. Just as he finished granting Kára her answers, Thor slammed down his drinking horn and cheered with drunken enthusiasm whilst Týr slammed his fist in annoyance.

“Lost again there Týr!” Thor bellowed with laughter as he slammed his large palm against Týr’s shoulder blades he grimaced.

“Not this time!” he grabbed his horn and filled it from the large tankard.

Please let me know what you thought of my first chapter of A Storm with Skin and if I should post any more of the chapters (just not the whole thing of course!)

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