Valkyrie Online - Kate O'Hearn

CHAPTER ONE

The first rays of dawn swept over the distant horizon and drove away the long night. But Freya did not welcome the rising sun. It was her mortal enemy, that would bring only sorrow. She tilted her wings and flew headlong into the fading darkness, hoping to follow the night, praying day would not find her.

But darkness betrayed her and allowed in the light. She had been flying all night, soaring high above Asgard, dreading her upcoming First Day Ceremony.

Orus, her raven companion, flew at her side and tried his best to keep up. But his wings were much smaller than hers, and despite his best efforts he lagged behind. After the long flight, he was too tired to beg her to go back. All he could do was try to stay with her and help guide her through First Day.

‘Freya!’ a voice called from behind her.

Freya looked back and saw her older sister Maya soaring confidently behind them. Her own raven was flying closely at her side.

‘Freya, stop!’ Maya called. ‘Please land; we must speak.’

Orus forced more speed and caught up with Freya. ‘Stop!’ he gasped. ‘I can’t fly much longer, and your sister is calling.’

Freya looked over to her raven and saw how exhausted he was. She hadn’t been fair, forcing him to fly all night. Pulling in her wings, she descended and gracefully touched down in a field of golden grain. As she folded and settled her midnight-black wings on her back, Orus landed on her shoulder. ‘Don’t lose your temper with your sister,’ he panted softly.

‘Thank Odin I found you!’ Maya cried as she also landed and charged towards Freya. ‘Mother’s in a state. Everyone is searching for you. Where have you been all night?’

Freya used her sleeve to wipe away the beads of sweat from her brow. Now that she had stopped, she felt exhausted from the long flight. The muscles in her wings warned of the stiffness to come. ‘I needed a bit of fresh air.’

‘I can see that,’ Maya cried. ‘But why didn’t you tell anyone you were going? You could have at least told me!’

‘I saw you dancing at Valhalla with some of the warriors. I didn’t want to disturb you.’

‘You know I would much rather spend time with you than dance.’ Maya softened her tone. ‘Especially on the eve of your First Day.’

‘I don’t want to do this.’

Her sister’s pale brows knitted together in a frown. ‘Do what?’

‘This! Today!’ Freya shot back. ‘My First Day Ceremony and then going to the battlefield.’

‘What do you mean? You’ve been to the battlefields thousands of times. You have spent all of your life there. Only today you will reap your first dying warrior.’

Freya sighed heavily. ‘But I hate it. I hate the warriors and I hate all the killing and wounding. Humans are bloodthirsty monsters. I don’t want to touch them or be part of bringing more of them here. Asgard would be much better off without Valhalla and its dead warriors.’

Maya looked shocked. ‘How can you say that? Valhalla is a wondrous place and a home to all the valiant warriors who have fallen in battle since the dawn of time! Those men have earned the right to be here. It is a great honour that we are the ones chosen to escort them. You should celebrate them and what they have achieved.’

‘All they have achieved is being good killers!’ Freya challenged. ‘And what does that make us when we reap them? We’re even better killers!’

‘We do not kill!’ her sister said indignantly. ‘We are Valkyries. We bring an end to their suffering and escort them home.’

‘It’s still killing,’ Freya insisted, and her wings fluttered in annoyance. ‘If we didn’t touch them, they would live.’

‘No they wouldn’t. It is their time to die, whether we touch them or not,’ Maya insisted.

‘But I don’t want to do it,’ Freya responded as she turned and walked away from her sister. ‘I don’t want to touch a human or even talk to them. I have seen the warriors at Valhalla. All they want to do is kill and destroy.’

Her sister started to preen the black feathers on Freya’s folded wings. ‘Freya, how can I make you see that you’re wrong? The soldiers of today are nothing like the warriors of the past. Most do not remain in Asgard and choose to ascend to be with their families. You’ll see today when you reap your first. Talk to them. You will soon find they are nothing like