Standing on the hill looking down at the army, I was amazed at how far we had come in just a year. From a few thousand men to legions flying banners. We had fought hard and won. Men seemed to flock to the winners it seemed. Especially if the winning army was fighting for something they believed in. But tomorrow's battle would be the culmination of a dream for many of these men if Odin granted us victory. Yet it will not be easy. Just a few leagues away the scouts had reported 20 legions of Rome's finest preparing to meet us head on. Our 15 to their 20.
Looking to the heavens, I gripped my sword and prayed to Odin for strength and bravery in the coming battle. Feeling the cool wind lick my face I lowered my head to stare in the direction of the Romans. They were not far away. Waiting and preparing as we were. Tomorrow would give us freedom or death.
"What are you praying for husband? You know we will win tomorrow."
Jumping at the sound of Kara's voice, I turn to face the woman who had changed my life. Her long blonde hair glistened in the light of the stars. Her muscular body moved with the grace of a wolf as she came closer. Smiling as she approached, I couldn't help but feel my heart reach out to her.
"So is that your prediction or have you seen the raven banner of the Valkyrie?"
Tilting her head, Kara's lip curves into a smile that reaches her blue eyes.
"I don't need to see the banner. I've been told we shall win. You forget Erik, I was a Valkyrie before I was disgraced."
Nodding my head, I remember the day Kara appeared in our village. A fallen Valkyrie. Her armor dented, her fair skin exhibiting the wounds of battle. From immortal to mortal she'd been tossed. Odin was strict on his rules. Kara had broken them. Now she aged like the rest of mankind.
"So we shall win. Shall you and I die tomorrow my love or shall we celebrate the victory?"
Turning to follow my gaze over the camp, Kara shakes her head.
"That is not known. But if we die, we shall see the halls of Valhalla my love. Our souls have been chosen. You've fought bravely Erik. I'll be proud to fight by your side at Ragnarok"
Reaching for Kara's hand, calloused from the spear she wields so well, I pull her close to my firm body.
"You know the ways of the Gods my love. Not I. I've done enough fighting in this life for any man. To fight each day until the final battle, Ragnarok, is too much for me. I don't enjoy the fight as some do. I do this for our freedom from the Romans. Not so my soul shall fight in Valhalla and wait until the final battle of the world."
Wrapping her arms around me, Kara moves her strong body against mine. The smell of jasmine drifts through her hair as the wind caresses her body. Feeling Kara pressing against me, my arms envelope her sinewy body.
"That is not our choice Erik. As you say, that is the way of the Gods. The Valkyrie choose the brave souls who will fight the final battle. We've been chosen. Be proud my husband. You shall stand beside Odin himself when the time comes."
Moving from Kara's grasp, I stare into her passion filled eyes.
"Who will you stand beside wife? Me or the man who cost you your immortality?"
Watching the anger flare in Kara's eyes, I stepped back and waited for the fire to rage. Straightening her back, her firm breast pointing at me proudly, I am surprised to notice her shoulders slump.
"I will be with you Erik. Sigurd will fight with his comrades. He's just one of the souls I had chosen for the final battle. I don't regret choosing him husband. He'll fight well. I do regret giving him my virginity. That was my mistake. Even God's and Goddess's make them Erik. But I am yours. Now and into the next world after Ragnarok. I'll leave you to think of the oncoming battle. I'll see you in our tent my love."
Watching Kara move down the hill towards the encampment, I feel like a snail under the boots of a common Roman soldier. Angry at myself I turn and stare into the mountains. In that direction the Romans will advance. We shall win. Kara said so. She'd spoken with an old friend I'm sure. A Valkyrie. The raven banner was active. It's beak was open, it's wings were flying. We'll win.
But will Kara survive? That's what eats into my soul. Since coming to the village she's no longer immortal. Now, she can die as well as the rest of us. She lost herself to the passion of the battle and gave herself to him. Valkyrie are to be virgins, Odin's strict rule. Dedicated to the battle and the search for the warriors to fight Ragnarok. Break the rules and you become a mortal. That's what happened to Kara.
Looking over the encampment, I remember how Kara stole my heart. No one would talk to her. They were all afraid of Odin's wrath. Sliding off her white horse, she brushed the dust from her armor. Everyone knew she was a warrior. But the fair skin, blue eyes, blonde hair and white horse gave her away as a Valkyrie. Only her horse had lost it's wings, and Kara her life.
When she entered the inn, everyone moved away. Perhaps it was fear of the warrior and the blood dripping off her loins. Perhaps they feared talking with the survivor of a battle that took place not so far away. Either way, no one spoke. She sat at her table eating the soup and bread. Not looking at anyone. Not until I sat down across from her.
Times were tough. No one was calling for the use of a blacksmith to make plows and harnesses when the Romans were at their doorstep. My fires had grown cold and the money from a border looked inviting. Kara accepted.
For the next year and a half Kara rented out the extra room. In the meantime, she paid by giving me lessons on the sword and spear. Times were getting tougher. The Romans were taxing the population heavily and committing our men to the far corners of the world. As Kara taught me the ways of the world and of the Gods, I fell in love.
WIth Kara's urging I spoke out. No longer being the quiet blacksmith struggling to make a living, I concentrated on making swords for those who felt as I did. Slowly, over time, we formed an army. Kara was at my side. Our love had grown. The lessons in swordsmanship, the nights sitting around the table eating and talking, all led to knowing each other's past and dreams.
Kara had loved before she met me. When she was a Valkyrie. A soul she had chosen touched her heart for his bravery in battle. Before he died, they had made love. To the God Odin, that was not allowed. All Valkyrie must be virgins. Kara was lost. But not to me. She taught me politics, swordsmanship and combat. Everything she could remember was passed on for me to form an army for freedom.
When Kara and I were married before the army, the celebration rivaled that of any Roman holiday. The fallen Valkyrie was marrying a village blacksmith. Since meeting Kara, I had spoken out against the tyranny of the Romans, had men supporting me and worked my sword like a warrior. Times had changed with the thought of freedom. Now we were on the edge of victory. All thanks to Kara.
Moving down the hill towards our tent, I noticed the men standing as I approached. Crossing their right arm across their chest in a mock salute of the Romans I smiled. Looking at a familar face I walk over to the fire.
"So Grun. We shall have victory tomorrow. Kara has seen the banner. Tell the men so they will fight proudly."
Grun smiles as he slaps his arm across his chest.
"That I shall my Lord. Tomorrow the men will fight bravely behind you and Kara. Our freedom is guaranteed."
Watching Grun turn and run among the fires, I head for the tent that Kara and I have called home for the last year.
As I entered the tent, the smell of incense wafts across my senses. Kara is lying in the bed. The linen outlines Kara's curves. Removing my sword, I watch the candles flicker on the walls of the tent.
Throwing the scented water over my lean body, I slip the loin cloth off. Standing their naked in the candles, I stare at Kara lying in our bed. The linens move with each breath she takes. Her blonde hair drifts across her back.
Slipping under the cotton linen, I pull Kara close to my naked body. I feel her muscles relax as she turns to face me.
"Erik, I'm sorry I got upset tonight. You have every right to ask me that. I just want you to know I love you and that you have my heart forever."
Wiping the tears form Kara's eyes, I pull her closer against me. Smelling the jasmine in Kara's hair, I wrap my arms around her soft shoulders.
"I understand Kara. I'm sorry also. I'm just worried about you tomorrow."
Moving her head back from mine, Kara looks into my brown eyes.
"I'll be fine my husband. I spoke with Svafa as the sun set."
Running my hand through Kara's hair I smile.
"Svafa, one of the Valkyrie. That's how you know we'll win tomorrow. Odin blesses us my love. So she knows you will survive the battle tomorrow?"
Staring into my eyes, I watch Kara blink away the forming tears.
"Yes, I will survive. At sunrise I'm a Valkyrie again. Odin has let Brunhilde marry. Freya argued that our marriage is bound by love and that I should be allowed the same priviledges as Brunhilde. Odin smiles on us honey. I'll ride Dagr and lead the battle for the men. He'll be proud to have his wings back."
Staring at Kara, I am lost in confusion. The woman I love, once immortal then mortal, is about to be immortal again. I can feel the wind whipping through my mind. My thoughts of growing old together erased in one moment. I lay there staring at Kara. My eyes the size of gold coins.
Wrapping me in her arms, Kara kisses me softly as she presses against me.
.... There is more of this story ...