by LaVerne Thompson
Alarr, the blond warrior, arose from his bed of furs, as he’d done every morning for more than a millennia. He washed himself with the now cold water left in the urn from last evetide, before entering the great hall of Asgard. Why he still made such absolutions was a mystery to all, and one more thing to set him apart from everyone else there.
Because he had been granted his own room, most thought him one of the favored ones. There were only a handful of rooms and not all were occupied, yet Asgard teemed with bodies. There were warriors spread in disarray throughout the hall. Most still slept on pallets, some were stretched out on benches, there were even more outside on the killing fields. Those were the ones who had lost and died during the battle last eve. They would be the last to rise and come in to break their fast. Alarr hoped this would be the day he would be vanquished, and at last find peace.
Unlike the men and women here, he did not fall in battle. He never had, not even against some of the lesser Gods who he often fought. He was the only mortal there who had not died, who had not been escorted to the Great Hall by a Battlemaiden. And many of the newly fallen resented it, but they soon learned; he could not be bested. The resentment turned to respect, though at times grudgingly. The warriors of the Ragnarok expected him to be their general, their leader, second only to Odin, in the final battle they all prepared for.
Alarr pushed aside one of the great hounds as he made his way toward a table. Admitting only to himself, he would have preferred not to be so favored by Odin, perhaps then he would be less hated by Fricka his wife.
Though she didn’t see it that way when she granted him eternal life, and took him to Asgard, until the time was right as she put it. So between Odin, who admired his skills as a warrior and took pleasure in sparing with him, and Fricka making sure he would not die before he’d served her purposes, he had no life. His only aim in life had been to train in all known fighting techniques and train even more. As the ages on Earth turned, either Odin or Fricka would bring men or women from current ruling lands with weapons and skills from their time to teach him, and broaden his skills. Until he was that perfect instrument of death. As modern humans would say, their ace in the hole. In all ways he became the man who could not die. Yet, even he knew in order to fulfill the destiny set by the Gods for him, he had to die to return to Earth.
“Alarr, come join us, brother.”
Alarr glanced up to see Bjorn beckoning him over. He had been in Asgard even longer than Alarr. He made his way over to his friends table, grinning as Bjorn pushed aside the man next to him who sat slumped over the table.
“Here have a seat.”
No sooner was he seated when one of the Valyerie’s approached him with a tall cold bottle of dark Guinness beer, and a platter of half a dozen pancakes, sausages and scrambled eggs. There would have been a time when it was a tankard of ale and a bit of mutton, but as time progressed so did they, yet so much remained the same.
He had been half-way through his meal when, the oak doors of the hall were pushed open by a wild gust of cold air that touched him to the marrow. If both Odin and his wife hadn’t just been seated at the dais, Alarr would have attributed the gust to the old Father. A hush permeated the hall; he wasn’t the only one to feel a sense of power coming toward them, even the great hounds sat as quite sententials. For this was not the type of power they had grown accustomed to, it felt different.
For the first time in long memory, the fine blond hairs all over Alarr’s body rose in anticipate. His time had come. I meet my death, this eve.
The figure that stepped through the open door was not what Alarr had expected, and at first thought he had been mistaken. But the woman of amber skin glanced around the hall until her eyes collided his. He never saw her move. One minute she stood framed in the doorway, a good twenty feet away from him. The next she stood on the other side the table directly in front of him.
“I come to lay you to rest this night, but alas I fear it will not be the rest that you seek.”
He had to struggle to understand her words, not because she had an odd accent, like what he sometimes heard coming from what the Valyries called the ‘idiot box’, but because it like the woman, was a thing of beauty. If the last sound he heard was her voice, or the last thing he saw her face, he would give up immortality with a smile on his. She was no Valyrie, yet she was a Battlemaiden. From her six foot height, to her toned sculptured body, and the handle of the sword strapped across her back, to the black leather outfit she wore like a second skin. A skin he immediately resented and envied.
When had he last had a woman? Even if he could remember he never had one like this.
Her hair was thick. Like a dark curly cloud that spread out from her head and framed a heart-shaped face, sitting softly down to lay around her shoulders. He wanted her to turn around so he could see how far down her back it hung. Even more he wanted to touch it. His hand started to rise; the need to feel it, to feel her was overwhelming. But he had not trained for millennia, to be the Gods champion, to lose control over his emotions by the mere sight of a woman. Even this one, and yet… His gaze returned to hers, eyes the color of coal with a touch of ash peered back at him.
He knew then, she was like him. She had not died to gain entrance to Asgard.
“I am Alarr.”
“I know who you are.”
“Then I would know the name of the beautiful instrument of my death.”
She smiled. It was as if the sun shined down on him from heaven. “It is good, you think I am beautiful. I do not bring you death, Alarr, but a chance at life. You are ready.”
She did not wait for his reply but turned around. He had no choice but to follow, he must. In truth he would follow this woman anywhere, even unto his death. His sword was already strapped across his back, it always lay within his reach. He stood up on the bench and leaped across the table striding purposely behind her. Her hair hung in a cloud to the center of her back, and the leather pants she wore cupped her rounded behind the way he longed to. Now was no time to think such things, and he knew it. Forcing his gaze upward he noticed the hilt of her sword on her back. It was ivory, unlike the gold of his, but it seemed to have matching runes to his. The same runes that were also carved onto the gold band he wore around his arm were carved into the skin of her biceps. He knew not what they meant.
The Gods present silently watched the exchange but there were whispers amongst the warriors. He heard movement around him and knew everyone in the hall was now wide awake. They would have an audience this day.
She stood in the middle of the courtyard, the warriors who had died the night before and had remained outside formed a half ring around her. When he stopped before her the warriors at his back closed the ring. They remained facing each other inside. Only one of them would leave alive. There would be no reawakening in Asgard for both.
He took his battle stance. Feet spread wide, weight on the balls of his feet, and removed his sword from its sheath. The glide of the metal out of the leather seamless, but for the sound of the disturbance of air, noiseless. Sword in one hand he raised the other, flexing his fingers, beckoning her forth. Slowly, she removed the sword at her back, and mimicked his stance.
“Come,” she said, with a casual flick of her wrist. “It is a good day to die.”
As before, one minute she was standing still the next she was a blurred motion. Only his training and battle hardened reflexes saved him. Before his eyes could even register her movement, his sword arm instinctively rose to deflect the blow. Immediately he twisted away from her continuing in his turn of a full circle, while bringing his blade down and low. Secretly proud and glad when she sprang backwards away from the deadly slice. Finally, an opponent worthy of his skills. He did not hold back. It would have dishonored them both if he had.
They spoke not with words, but with the dance of swords. And it was a dance of courtship. He could have her no other way than to show her how much she meant to him but to fight her with all of his strength. And blessed Gods she met him and matched him stroke for stroke. The Goddess of the night had come out and litered the heavens above them with diamonds from her hair, and still they fought. Neither had drawn blood.
But then something happened, they nolonger danced in sync. The sound of their clashes, while oddly harmonious and soothing before got off rhythm. It was as if he began to move in slow motion out of sync, while she moved faster. He spun, but as he pivoted away from her, somehow she moved even faster than he and appeared directly in front of him, her arm raised. He looked down at the metal imbedded in his heart and followed it to back her anguished blackened gaze. To eyes brimming with tears. He barely felt her grab the end of his sword, even near death he hadn’t let it go. She lifted it higher, his hazed mind finally registered what she was about to do, he released his hold on the sword hilt, but too late. The deed was done. She had plunged his sword through her own heart.
The roar of pain that rushed out of his mouth from the nether regions of his soul shook the halls of Asgard. Joined by steel, they dropped to their knees in a deadly embrace.
“No! No!” he cried. “Why die?”
“But I must. I wait for you.”
“Wait? Wait where? You will not be reborn. You die!”
“Remember. Find me.” She placed her lips over his, and with his last breath he inhaled her kiss, confirming as he died, as she was his death, she was also the love of his life.