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We of the Valkyrie
 Part 2 - Black Sun
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We of the Valkyrie - Part 2 - Black Sun

By Dagny Chalice (alternately known as Danika, Valkyrie Chieftess)
As told at Valkyrie Campfire Meeting 6-25-17

Previously in "We of the Valkyrie" - Part 1 - Childhood's End, a storm is brewing close to the shores of the original village the Valkyrie came from, along with the sudden and tragic death of Dagny's older brother at the hands of the Wends led by Kruto, the Terrible. He is a man of giant stature bringing destruction in his wake. Dagny is captured. Her captor defects and takes her home with him where she will meet Mist. She returns with Dagny to her village and a confrontation erupts between the earl and his men and Mist, Reginleif, and Dagny. They were very close to being attacked and killed in the longhall. Here now is the Part 2 installment:

Black Sun

With the chatter in the longhall now eerily grown quiet, I hear the "ssh" sounds of swords being drawn from the leather scabbards of Hakon and his men as they move toward me from the opposite side of the longhall. Mist and Reginleif close ranks with me, our backs to the wall. Some of the other shieldmaidens rise from the long tables, moving quickly to join our side, pivoting to face the men approaching from across the room. Herja on one end, Skuld on the other, Kara, and then our village healer, Eir.

Seven of us standing side to side with feet shoulder width apart, we nervously draw our swords, the light from the lanterns dripping amber off steel edges, each of us placing our leading foot slightly forward, square on to their approach and ready to fight. Except Eir who holds up a small dagger and shrugs to us. At least she has a weapon. With our backs to the wall, and the broad door far to the right, there is not time enough to escape.

Seeing us there, a few more women seem to understand what we are standing for, and rise from the tables, grabbing knives and forks to join us. Two produce small axes from their belts. Three more pick up spears but from where, I do not know. Under the table? Most of us could not afford to own swords, and those of us that had them, took them from brothers and fathers killed in the last raid. Swords were expensive and often given as heirlooms from father to son. For women, it was nearly impossible to own these.

What a scrappy bunch of women we are. But this is what we have against growing numbers, Hakon and his men presently joined by other men rising from the tables. "Well, there are at least fourteen of us now," I whisper hopefully to Mist who nods weakly and swallows.

Most of the other villagers sit quietly watching us, perhaps pitying us and our impending doom. Some villagers move back to the other side of the room to remain clear of the slaughter. The shieldmaidens look to me. My mouth is dry, heart racing, as I nod readiness to everyone, keeping steady, trying to convince myself we have some chance. And then I see him.

He moves from a dark corner and into the light. Tall, slender, handsome, blonde. Gauti steps forward and squeezes in between Reginleif and myself drawing his sword offering me an anxious smile.

I remember the first time I saw him across the distance, his sleek form shimmering behind heat waves and trails of rising smoke, standing on a mound near the blacksmith forge glowing orange. I had just returned home from the land of the Wends and stepped off the ship. I glanced at him a few more times as I walked off the dock with Mist. He quickly looked away and began hammering on a piece of heated metal, then again nimbly raised his head giving me another quick glance, averting his eyes when I glanced back over my shoulder, and pretended to be focused on his work.

Somehow it amused me. And I could not stop thinking about him over the next few days as I tried to settle in with Mist. But there was so much to do upon returning home, find a place to stay, food, the basics, so I tried to forget about him.

I saw him again three days later. When I rounded the corner of the blacksmith house on my way to the longhall, he came from the other side and we bumped into each other. He awkwardly caught me from falling backwards and held his hands to my shoulders steadying me before withdrawing them. My eyes wandered to his and we gazed at each other for several moments. He was magnificent. But I quickly realized so very shy. Even I was nervous.

He motioned me to come to the forge. We sat quietly while he worked. At last, he seemed to work up the mettle to ask me questions, my name, which I quickly told him and where was I from? I told him of my life growing up in the village. Offhandedly to be polite, he asked, "Who is your other friend?"

I smiled. "Mist," I said. "She is like a close sister." I explained how she brought me back from the dead, and what happened before meeting her that led me to that horrible state, the raid, loss of my older brother and family. He genuinely listened to me and was very compassionate.

I learned his name and how Gauti's family came from Gotland Island many weeks travel further southeast from us. Like myself, he was an outsider struggling to find home and acceptance, becoming apprenticed at the forge. He was only a year older than I. It felt so natural talking with him and we opened up to one another.

"Watched you and Mist practicing with sticks," he said.

I corrected him and said, "Spears… those are, umm, spears."

He chuckled. "If you say so." What he lifted up from behind the forge was a glorious sword he had forged and he told me to raise my palms as he laid it down into my open hands. He gave me this as a gift. For no reason. He simply said, "Now you will practice with something more than sticks - er, spears." We both laughed as I admired my new sword. It was light enough, yet sturdy and well balanced, and I had the keen notion he had custom made it for me. I was beyond flattered, but a bit wary of his motive at first. Why me and what did he want in return?

"A man does not gift a sword to a woman," I teased with a tone of suspicion. "Jewelry, perhaps. But a sword is nearly priceless. How could you make a sword so quickly for me?" He looked perplexed and explained he did not make it for me. There was extra scrap from left over materials to make one more smaller one, telling me I seemed like the type of woman that could use this. He stammered on about wanting me to have this, but as I continued to stare down at it, he forlornly offered to take it back. "No, no!" I exclaimed. He was so serious. "I like it. Thank you, I will keep this."

I gave my late uncle's sword, the one I had worn, to Mist that same day, and every afternoon, we practiced with our new found swords and shields. This seemed to catch the disapproving stares of villagers we passed daily, but I tried to convince myself I did not care. Many of the villagers were less than friendly and some seemed suspicious of Mist and I. What more could I do? This was no longer the  same friendly village I grew up in. Everyone lived in fear ruled by an outsider.

Now, in this moment, I brace myself thinking, I will at last put this gift to the test. And yet, too many are advancing on us, bigger, stronger men. I realize now with terrifying clarity how many more there are against us, and remember how Groa had said Hakon viewed me as a threat and would rejoice in seeing me dead and out of his way.

Groa had also warned me the Wends had spies in our village and that Hakon made a pact with the Wends to conquer all the villages along the coastline to the north of us and share in the spoils. But it was a trick and the Wends would return to destroy us with our defenses lowered comforted in the belief of this truce. In truth, they did not need us; only our village, resources, and harbor. "And just as surely, one of them will come for you seeking your compass while bringing death from the shadows of the hall. Do not stray too many steps from your friends," she had said three days before.

I do not know where my voice comes from, but I hear myself shouting with strength and conviction, "Stop! We should talk." I step forward a few paces motioning to the others behind me to remain standing where they are. Hakon moves closer toward me. As I step forward, I abruptly remember Groa's words and stop dead. And just as suddenly, from the corner of my right eye, I catch movement.

From behind a pillar leaps a short, bald headed man in a coarse, brown robe swinging an axe. It happens so fast. He grabs and tugs at my amulet just as he brings his axe down over my head. Gaudi still near enough bounds forward and pushes the man away from me causing him to fall to the floor before his axe strikes my skull. And just as quickly, Reginleif springs forward as the man attempts to grab his axe again and jump back up. With one swing of her sword, Reginleif cuts the attacker's head off. It rolls across the floor leaving a bloody trail. The hall is again very still. I realize my friends have just saved my life and I am shaking all over.

Reginleif picks up the head by the ears, blood dripping down from the severed neck and nonplussed, examines a curious tattoo on his forehead. I regain my composure, draw closer, feeling a wave of revulsion at the grimacing head, but recognizing the tattoo symbol, a wheel with six spokes and a dragon's head at the center.

Taking the head from her, I hold it high to the lantern lights by the ears like a two handled chalice for everyone in the longhall to see, shouting with renewed conviction, "I know this marking on his forehead. He is of the Wends. A spy. Some are hidden among you. Your earl has been conspiring with the Wends to conquer villages to the north. But they will betray us. The Wends will destroy the pact and us once they have what they want, our village, our port."

People look to me, then to Hakon, and there is confusion in their faces. Some get up and come to stand on our side. Others stand with Hakon. A large Norseman warrior comes over to my side and tells the hall, it is true, there was never a fair vote for a chieftain, and by rights, Dagny was in line for consideration. Her father was our earl. Other warriors in the hall hearing the large Norseman speak for me, come over to our side. There is clearly division in the longhall. And so too will there be division in the village I imagine.

Seeing people standing confused or choosing sides, Hakon wisely signals his men to back away from us. He and his men sheath their swords. I am sure he realizes he cannot afford a civil war among the villagers. It would be bad business for him and endanger his rule. He bellows, angrily, "You have caused us enough trouble since your return, Dagny. You are banned from this village. Leave within the week. Get out." He looks around at the people gathered near us. "And those of you that want to leave with this… this child, then go with her. You will be facing hardship, starvation, death. Perhaps some of you have money enough to pay for your passage by ship?" He shakes his head and laughs.

As I walk through the broad door out into the chill night, boots scrunching on snow, I mutter to Mist and Reginleif, "Growing up in this village, people were so different, so much friendlier. Everyone trusted and helped each other. Strangers were welcomed and given food and clothes. Hakon has destroyed our home and robbed us of trust. Everyone is now afraid and suspicious."

Reginleif places a consoling hand on my shoulder. "I know, sister."

So it seems seven other longship owners have had enough of our earl as well and agree to leave with us and provide passage for other villagers wishing to join our exodus. But where to go? I visit the volva for any clues. She has been gazing at the sky for days, then going inside, scribbling on parchment. I follow Groa into her hut from yet another sky gazing session, and stand behind her patiently waiting and watching her moving smooth stone globes around on wooden track rings, peering closely at them and scribbling more notes.

"What are you doing?" I ask. She looks up, and reaching into a leather bag, draws out two polished stones, placing the larger stone in my left hand, the smaller stone in my right. She tugs at my arms, guiding my left hand close to my face, the bigger stone nearly touching my nose. She stretches my right arm out holding the smaller stone.

"You see the lantern light just beyond, yes?" she says close to my ear. I nod, staring up at the flickering light of the lantern. "Good," she whispers low and guttural, moving my right hand up and around till the smaller stone blocks the lantern. "Now you do not." I nod agreeably. "What do you see now?" she hisses.

"Shadow," I say. "Darkness."

"Yes. Darkness," Groa says with a cackle. "No lantern. In three days time, the sky wolves will come."

I stand there blinking, completely bewildered as she removes the stones from my hands and deposits them back into her bag. "So what? Groa, I came to you for help finding my way. Where will I go? What do stones, a lantern, shadows matter?"

"In three days time, they will matter," she says, circling behind me, pulling the map from my pack. "Light is the way. Shadow points the way." She clears her table and unfurls the map, spreading it out on the table. It is crudely drawn, but the best I have from my father. Her fingers trace the western coastline from our village, traveling northward, following a small inlet behind the village, leading out to sea, moving her fingers past islands and peninsulas till she stops and points to a far northern point nearly at the top edge of the map. She taps that point on the map several times with deliberation.

"There. You will find an abandoned village," says Groa. "I remember it ages ago when I was young. It was called Grenvik. Starvation drove my family and clan out. You will find refuge. A place to hide for a time. There is deep forest there. We called it the forest of ravens. You will need to hide from what is coming. You will find cover there. But it will not be an easy journey."

I roll up and pack away the map, then stare at her quizzically. Groa extends her hand to me. I nod, understanding our session is over for the evening, kneel respectfully and lick her palm. "Now, go," she says. "Not much time remains. Stock your ships."

And so over the next few days, we ready and prepare our ships with supply stocks. Early morning on the third day, standing on the stern, I look up at the sky. "What are you looking at, Danika?" Mist asks, dropping a sack of grains onto the deck.

"Do you see any sky wolves?" I ask.

Mist looks up at the sky, shielding her eyes from the sun. "No," she says, shaking her head, "You are making another one of your jests?" I only laugh and shrug.

Reginleif is running to the docks. I wave to her, but she does not wave back. Instead, she blows the raid horn. And then I see them. Ships are fast approaching.

Mist and I run to Reginleif but we see Hakon in the distance waving his arms while shouting at us to stop. Several of his guards arrive and shove us away from the horn. One of them tells us the approaching Wends are paying a friendly visit. As the ships reach dock, Hakon arrives with more of his men to greet them. They embrace and exchange pleasantries as they walk back to the village. We follow keeping some distance. I feel uneasy. More ships, more Wends, are landing and going into the village. I feel as if I am slowly walking in a dream, my feet becoming stuck in mud, making movement a very difficult effort, as if I cannot do much more than struggle to follow along, helpless, unable to change what I sense is an impending disaster.

"Watch them," I whisper to Mist and Reginleif turning to go to the forge. They nod and continue to follow Hakon's landing party. I go inside the blacksmith house and find Gauti working. I quickly take his hand into mine. "We should prepare to leave the village. Today," I say. He looks at me surprised.

"Why today? I still have work to complete," Gauti waves a hand around his shop. And did you not hear the news? We have guests arriving."

"I do not trust those guests! Those are not guests! There is an entire fleet out there coming into our docks with fully armed men," I shriek, surprising myself with the shrill, desperate urgency in my own voice. "Please. Come away with me," I plead to him, gazing earnestly into his eyes, tugging then caressing his hand, "please."

Gauti nods to me, taking my hand into his, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I was planning to go with you. I did not expect it today," he says, looking again around the room with all his tools and supplies. "I still need some time to gather some of my things." Placing his large hands on my cheeks, holding my head between his hands, he leans over and kisses me. We kiss slowly, warmly and for a timeless moment, all my cares and worries are on a faraway shore. "I will go with you. Give me a few moments and I will catch up with you."

I get up and quickly go to leave, stopping to turn round in the doorway and face him. I lean against the frame trembling in the cold light. "Bring swords. Bring all your finished swords. As many weapons as you can carry in sacks. And food and water," I say. Then I turn again and run into the village. Groa swiftly passes me by with a thrall and two bondmaids in tow carrying sacks of her things toward the docks. This is not a good sign and my worst convictions must be true seeing her making an exit. I feel a sick sense of dread.

Villagers and newly arrived Wends mingle in the village. The light shifts barely perceptible, but I sense a darkening. My hands tremble. I feel sick to my stomach. Time slows down. Something is wrong and I want to cry out. Hakon's guards lead the initial landing party toward the longhall; the commanders of the fleet I assume. And just as the Wends follow the village guards to the door, they draw their axes and swords and with no warning chop and hack the guards to death behind their backs. One of them gives out a piercing, staccato war cry and all the other Wends draw their weapons and attack the villagers.

Hakon emerges from the longhall doorway, unarmed. A large Wend raises his axe high, ready to strike him down. Hakon's eyes widen with shock and horror.

Suddenly my feet no longer feel stuck in mud and I move like lightening, unsheathing my bow as I run toward Hakon and nock an arrow on the bow, aim and shoot. My arrow flies across the open square past all the chaos and fighting and slices through the back of the large Wend's neck and partly out through his throat before he can swing his axe down on Hakon. The axe tumbles from his hand as the large attacker crumbles to the ground. I say a quick, silent prayer. This is the first human I have killed. I will forgive myself later. Hakon nods gratitude to me and I nod back.

Reginleif and Mist are upon me now. "What do we do, Danika?" cries Mist.

I scan the fierce fighting and realize it is too late to retreat now. "We are boxed in. We stay and fight. Protect the village," I shout. "Tell the others to meet me here. We will try to cut off their arriving reinforcements."

In nearly no time, the other shieldmaidens and I are swinging swords and killing as many invaders as we can. When I see opportunity, I draw my bow and kill a few more raiders from a distance. The other villagers see us fighting and it appears to rally their spirits, emboldening them to fight harder. Our own village guards and warriors fight more fiercely bringing down many Wends. I can hear the slicing and screams of pain as we fight. Confusion. Buildings on fire. Smoke everywhere. So many people fighting. Many are falling and dying. My round shield is already banged up, splintered along the edges. I am driven by rage. I swing and stab at anyone I do not recognize.

Then after a time, I notice silence and for a brief moment, wonder if I am walking in the world of the dead. Am I dead or alive? A few ravens drift soundlessly high overhead, wings outstretched. All the world a silent stillness holds. There is blood everywhere. The village shimmers in the rising smoke and ash from ships and houses on fire.

My arm hurts. I realize my shoulder is badly slashed and bleeding, my clothes are torn, there is another ugly gash above my stomach, and blood is dripping from my nose and a corner of my mouth. Three of our shieldmaidens lay dead. It seems more than half of our village has been slaughtered. But the fighting has stopped, and among the field of dead, I see there are no more Wends standing. Some of our Norsemen are going around and axing to death the remaining wounded Wends writhing on the ground in pain. Somehow, thank Odin, we won the battle. We killed all the raiders.

But at what cost? I search for survivors. I find and hug Mist and Reginleif holding them close, whispering a prayer of thanks through my tears. We walk together among the dead warriors searching for our friends and sisters. I see Kara, then Herja, walking among the field of dead, waving to us. And there is Skuld and Eir waving back in the yawning mouth of death, all very much alive. Others from our inner circle of shieldmaidens emerge from the ruins, walking among the dead, Olrun, Sigrun, Hildr, Svipul, Geiravor, Rota, Sigrdrifa, Gondul, Skogul, waving, hugging and kissing one another with sweet sorrow and gratitude.

"Where is Gauti?" I cry out. "We must find him. Find Gauti!" And so all of us, shieldmaiden sisters, search among the field of dead warriors, our very own Norsemen who bravely embarked on long vikingr journeys out to sea to explore, trade, and conquer distant shores bringing home treasures and supplies, for they were still our brothers and our fathers and despite differences, we shared respect for one another. Gauti could be among the fallen.

Each fallen warrior we find, we hunch down, examine carefully and caress his face, putting his fallen sword back into his hand, and say a prayer over him to go to Valhalla. I find the one dying Norseman who had been especially kind and protective toward me, the same large man that stood up for me in the longhall three days ago. I stoop down and lightly run my fingers across his cheeks and forehead as I pray over him whispering soothingly close to his ear, "You fought bravely warrior and you are chosen. Today, you will meet Odin in Valhalla and drink mead with your brothers." I place my hand over his heart, then raise it to the heavens, and blow across my palm to the high flying ravens. Looking back down at his face, I whisper in a broken voice, "That is my promise to you." His eyes tear up and he smiles at me nodding. And then his eyes glaze as he passes over into eternity.

I am weeping uncontrollably as I walk back and collapse into Mist's arms who holds me close. She rocks me gently as we stand among the fallen dead, smoke rising up around us from burning embers and ash from so many destroyed buildings. In disbelief, I hear her laughing in my ear. What - what trick is this?

"Look behind you, Danika," giggles Mist. Someone taps my shoulder. "No sweet embrace for me?" says Gauti standing tall behind me, his face covered in blood, but the whites of his eye very clearly pleased to see me, a great row of white teeth grinning behind the red painted face - Gauti, very much alive!

"You bastard!" I cry, flinging myself into his open arms. He lifts me up laughing, swinging me around, embracing me tightly. "I was so afraid you were dead! Can you not imagine how worried, scared I was for you?"

"As if you are the only one that worried? I was searching for you! And I found you," he says. He kisses me, then glances sidelong. I follow his gaze and we break from the kiss. Reginleif is pointing out to sea. There is an even larger fleet of ships coming than the first wave that arrived this morning. There could be another hundred ships out there.

"Second wave, Dagny. And they are blockading the harbor," says Reginleif. I peer out to sea and know she is right. There is a long line of ships further back, motionless, forming a wall at the mouth of the bay. An inner fleet of ships moving quickly toward us.

"We cannot stand and fight them all again, not this time," says Mist, forlornly. "We cannot sail past them to escape. They'll burn our ships. If we are blocked in, how do we escape, Danika?"

"I know a back way out," I say. "Come, everyone, call the others and any surviving villagers, warriors. We will follow that inlet north," I point to a narrow, nearly frozen river.

Groa and her thrall and bonds are sitting patiently in the lead ship waiting for us. Other thralls and bonds are throwing the remaining sacks of dried fruit and grains sitting on the dock into the longships. People are jumping into the ships. Some of our poorest villagers and farmers board, decent, hard working men and women, some with children huddled in their arms. Our own shieldmaidens board. A few warriors jump into our boats.

But most of the remaining warriors are boarding ships on our docks further south of us, joining the surviving members of Hakon's guards, and sailing out to confront and fight the raiding fleet. "This is madness," I say. "They will be cut down, their ships burned and destroyed if they try to fight them all. Too many raiders."

"It is too late, Dagny," says Reginleif. "Let them go." I give a nod to our crew, blue and red square sails unfurl and billow in the wind, all of us with strength rowing hard and fast as we cut loose and sail for the inlet away from the raiding fleet. But we soon realize some of the raiders noticed us leaving and are following us. They are chasing after us.

A large, very decorated ship appears ahead of us, coming around from behind the peninsula along the seaward side. The peninsula embraces the inlet we are aimed for. My lead ship and our other six longships enter the narrow inlet. I look west across the narrow finger of land of the peninsula watching the large ship traveling south on the other side. We cross paths and I see the giant nightmare brute that attacked me when I was a young girl. Kruto, the terrible voivode, war-lord and ruthless leader of the Rani tribe uniting other tribes under his rule over the Wends. Standing on the deck, leaning against the mast staring at me across the narrow finger of land with a grin.

I draw my bow, nock an arrow, and aim for his head. Just as I release my arrow, our longship hits the ice banks along the shoreline of the inlet, rocking us, shaking me and disrupting my aim. My arrow flies across the frozen peninsula seaward striking the mast a finger's breadth from his face and beard.

Kruto's heavy vessel sweeps past us, then slowly turns around the southern finger of the peninsula entering the inlet channel directly behind us. Ten other ships from his fleet that have been chasing us have also now caught up to the mouth of the inlet.

Some of our shieldmaidens point to his ship and laugh. It is too big to enter the narrow waterway and some of its crew are jumping out and shoving Kruto's command ship back out to sea. Our seven longships are smaller class and narrow, and even we are scraping the ice banks on either side, barely squeezing through. The ten ships pursuing us seem narrow enough to enter and continue the chase. At least for a time. Kruto no longer follows us, but the second lead ship is still close behind until it, too, runs aground blocking the ships behind it. The crew jumps out and hacks at the ice, opening up the narrow waterway.

They continue to chase us as we enter a much more narrow and winding gorge, glacier walls rising high above us on either side of the inlet. Our sides are scraping the walls of ice, slowing us down. The ships pursuing us again are stopped by the narrow banks and their crews jump out with axes to chop away the ice and clear a path for sailing. This gives us a little more time and distance to get ahead and away from them.

But that barely perceptible darkening sense I had experienced moments before the fighting in the village began is becoming more discernible. I look up beyond towering walls of ice on either side of us, to the clear blue winter sky, not a cloud to be seen, and yet it seems to be losing some light. Could it be the shadows of the glaciers? I look at Groa who is staring ahead impassive.

Our longship rocks and makes a sharp crack, grinding to a halt. The rest of our ships close behind us coming to a full stop. We are trapped between the tight ice walls. "We have to cut our way out. Not much time," I shout. We all jump out with axes and begin to chip away. As we do, I hear howling above us. A  pack of wolves on an ice shelf above us are circling around and staring down at us. "They must be curious about us," I say to Mist. One of them bounds over a chunk of ice, shaking it loose. The ice chunk slides down the steep cliff, bouncing and shattering as it hits the side of our ship. The ship owner checks for damage, finds some splintering, but hull integrity appears intact. We clear the broken ice from the side of our ship, but we are still stuck. We are frantically chipping away at the ice walls to break free. That is when I blink and say to everyone, "I have an idea!"

The ice shelves are unstable up there, but I see a clear path. I send four strong men up there with a plan. At first they are reluctant, but not after I explain my plan. I follow the men up a short distance to one of the high ice shelves to get a better sight on the pursuing ships. The Wends ships seem to be steadily breaking free. Time is slipping away for us.

Some of the wolves circle around me, curious. But they do nothing more than watch me. And as I watched them pace and circle, I remember Groa's prophecy about the sky wolves. Standing there high on the ice shelf, I can see the sky getting darker but do not know why. I still do not understand the link and meaning behind her prediction. What I do see is very clear from my vantage point on the crumbling ice shelf, the enemy ships have broken free and are again sailing toward us, rounding the bend directly behind us.

I bound up the narrow pathway to our four men and signal to them. Each of them are positioned short distances from one another. One of the warriors whistles to the other three and they begin pushing and shoving boulders and large ice chunks down the side of the cliff. I join one of the men and together we push and shove some boulders over the side struggling not to slip and slide over the edge ourselves.

Boulders and shelves of ice tumble and come crashing down against the enemy ships, bouncing back up and landing on the decks crushing some of the crew. We have started an avalanche. Snow and ice and boulders pouring down the side of the cliff closing up the narrow channel stopping the ships in their paths. We laugh and nod and hurry down the path to our ships. We have nearly broken free. We see the enemy ships behind us now landlocked and unable to move. The entire right side of the inlet behind us is a wall of snow, ice, and rock covering the ships' port sides.

I go over to Groa and hunker down next to her. "I do not know the meaning of your prophecy, the sky wolves. But it helped us," I say.

"It is not over," she grumbles. "They are still coming. When they come, tell them you are a Valkyrie and will bring down the fury of Thor upon their heads. You will call out the sky wolves to devour the sun and bring eternal darkness to the world. Unless they release you all and leave."

"Groa, I respect you, but have you lost your mind? You really think they would believe such a story?" As I say this, several of our crew are hit by arrows and fall off the starboard side. I jump down and see more of our passengers, villagers, being struck down by arrows. Arrows are whistling down on all of us. "Shields up," I shout. We all group together under our shields. We can hear them raining down, zipping and thumping into our shields. I peek from behind my shield and see the pursuing Wends have abandoned their landlocked ships and are running toward us with swords drawn.

"Swords," shouts Reginleif, and now there is the clank of steel on steel, slicing, thuds, a desperate fight  in the snow. Many of our villagers are falling dead into the snow. We are overwhelmed and our ships are still trapped in the ice.

We are losing. The wolves howl from above. The Wends surround us with spears, axes and swords drawn, archers aiming at us from behind. What appears to be a commander shouts at us in the broken Norse of my tongue to drop all weapons and surrender or the last of us will be slaughtered where we stand. We drop our weapons, swords, bows, axes, knives, into the snow and wait. Groa stands on the deck and tosses her staff to me. Her wand! I catch it with my right hand and place my trust into divine providence, holding the staff high. I will say what she asked me to say and hope her magic works.

I fully expect an arrow to pierce my heart at any moment as I shout for all to hear, "I am a Valkyrie and will bring down the fury of Thor upon your heads. Capture us, kill us, and I will call upon the sky wolves to devour the sun and bring eternal darkness into the world. Unless you release us all and leave!"

Their commander turns to look at his men and bursts out laughing. His men look to each other and laugh. He is not believing me. "I warn you, they are a hungry pack! There will be no more sun in the sky!" The leader translates what I am saying to the men, and this brings on much more laughter. He takes out a dagger and moves to me holding it to my throat. "If you kill me, there will be no way to return darkness to light. You all will live in hell for eternity." Again the leader turns to his men to translate. Everyone is howling with laughter.

Their leader sticks out and waggles his tongue lewdly at me, cutting away the leather of my vest. He removes my amulet and places it inside his coat. Then grabs at my exposed breasts, fondling them. He makes lusty, groaning and grunting sounds, pushing and grinding his crotch against me like he is having sex, and his men echo back his lusty groans and grunts, whooping and encouraging him on. He waggles his tongue over my breasts, then tries to kiss me. "Let me alone!" I scream just as I knee him into his crotch and swing Groa's staff across the side of his face. He holds his hand over the welt I left on his face, then slaps me violently, and knocks the staff out of my hands.  He grabs me again and tries to kiss me. I know he intends to rape me in front of his own crew. We struggle and I kick and fight him, spitting in his face.

Gauti grabs an axe out of the hand of one of the Wend guards smashing the blade into his throat, then runs toward us, throwing the axe into the back of the leader's head splitting his skull. He falls like a dead bear on top of me. Gauti pushes their leader off of me, lifting me up from the snow, and stands protectively in front of me. The Wends run toward us. I step out from behind Gauti and point to the sky.

"Look up!" I shout in their native tongue. "Look at the sun. With Thor's help, I have commanded the hungry sky wolves to attack. The sun will be eaten and the world thrown into darkness. Look how it is being devoured!" I look up at the sun as I say this, truly not expecting to see it vanishing, but feel faint seeing only the left edge of the sun as a sliver of light as if it were really being eaten away. In moments, the sun is black as sack cloth. We are becoming cloaked in darkness. The Wends look up at the sun and stop in their tracks. They are speaking anxiously among themselves. In moments, it is as if the world has fallen inside a deep shadow. The sun is a black disk, vanishing into a black sky. The wolves on the pitch-black ice shelf are howling above us.

One of the Wends fearfully approaches me with clasped hands like a beggar. He bows low begging for mercy, falling to his knees shaking. "Please, we wish not to hurt you. We go away. You free to go. Please. Bring back sun. Please" The Wend still on his knees picks up Groa's staff and offers it up to me, bowing low as I take back the wand. I hold it high over my head and he prostrates himself face down into the snow in terror, apologizing and begging for mercy with praying hands folded. The Wends are watching, kneeling, bowing, and talking fearfully. Some are crying in dread.

"Then go," I shout, "Get out of my sight. And then I will bring the sun back." The one on the ground gets up, bows low as he walks backwards away from me. The Wends turn and run in retreat past their grounded ships leaving us free and alone again. But I am so confused by what just happened. This is the most incredible magic I have never expected to witness. Moments later, the right edge of the sun reappears as a sliver of light. Soon the darkness lifts and daylight is returning. More of the sun is emerging.

Groa retrieves my amulet from the dead Wend leader and places it back around my neck. I return the staff to Groa. Mist wraps her cloak around me, covering me up.

By the time we have chipped our way free from our ice trap, the shadow passes and the sun is whole again. We are back in light.

We collect our dead and board our ships. We are underway again, leaving the inlet channel and emerging out into open sea. We say prayers for the dead, then cast their bodies to the sea. Eir tends to my wounds, and Mist provides me with another leather vest she stowed in one of her bags. The one I wore from Groa was thick and durable and perhaps saved me in battle. I remove my vest and hold it out  saying, "It was a useful vest and served its purpose." Then quickly dress.

Gauti holds my hand for a long while as I gaze out to sea. As we sail past islands, I give his hand a squeeze and thank him again for saving me. But now I am so curious about what happened with the sun. I slide down next to Groa. "Did I really darken the sun or was it you?"

The volva laughs and says, "No child, neither you or I have that kind of control over the gods and the heavens. This was a natural event. It is day and you do not see the face of the moon staring down at you. The moon blocked the sun."

At once, I remembered the time Groa spent staring at the sky, scribbling notes, working with her globes. Like a precise clock maker. Or a sky map maker. Or both. It became clear to me she understood the timing of the moon and stars and it now made sense why she spent so much time gazing at the sky.

"Will this happen again?" I ask her.

"Yes," she replies, "but not here any time soon, not in your mortal lifetime." She looks past me to the vest she gave me lying next to other heaps of cloth scraps on the deck. With a wry smile, she says quietly, "It was a useful event and served its purpose."

For nearly a week, our journey north following the coastline is largely uneventful. At night, I wrestle with fitful sleep, hovering between disturbing dreams and twilight wakefulness, bolting upright from the deck when our boat rocks and creaks. I am unable to sleep more than a few hours at a stretch, so I take up the late night watch. I watch the south for any sign of trackers, but no one seems to follow us. So I relax more, bundle up and listen to the gentle slap of water against the hull, and gaze ahead. The land shifts northeast and I can watch the northern lights flash over snow-clad glaciers rising out of blue and red and purple ice fields, watch northern pole stars rise up out of the sea on their tracks into the heavens. It is peaceful. Until one night I see ahead what I think at first are northern lights but realize they are something else.

I see ships on fire beneath star fields and I blow the horn waking everyone. We close in on one of the burning longships and see the Torva banners. "What are they doing so far North?" asks Mist. I shrug. Another Torva ship drifts along side us filled with women screaming for help. We take them aboard our ships just as the Torva ship sinks. We quickly learn they have been attacked. And at that moment, we see fire lighting up the dim forested shoreline. Fire arrows rising up in steep arcs raining down on our ships. We, too, are now under attack.

Go to Part 3 - Prophecy >>>

Watch a real life total solar eclipse over Svalbard, Norway, like the one described in the story. On March 20th, 2015 day turned to night in Longyearbyen on the archipelago of Svalbard, Norway. Watch the total solar eclipse here:

Copyright Danika Meyers
In the beginning, the Valkyrie came from the far north, many as free women and shieldmaidens from the lands of Vikings and Torvaldsland. Journeying south, settling in the forests of ravens, a place called Valkyrie Forest, they took the name Valkyrie Panthers for their band. They and their bonds and thralls carried with them some of the rich cultural heritage and influences of the  northern customs. The Valkyrie were led by Danika Stenvaag.

One day, the Torva Panthers, journeying from the forests of Tharna in search of a new home, came upon the Valkyrie in their forests, soon joining them. The Torva were led by Robin Dancer. Together, they became the Valkyrie Torva Panthers.

Entering Valkyrie Forest, you are in a world shrouded in spires of jade-hued pine... a  place of snow-clad, glacier peaks and waterfalls, clear cold  meandering streams, and long forgotten standing Runestones. You  have journeyed far north into the Northern Forest and are close  to the border of Torvaldsland... This is Valkyrie Forest, an  upper region of the Northern Forest.

Take a few moments to stop and enjoy the peace of the forest.  While you are in meditation, take note of the Valkyrie Ravens flying overhead; they are always watching over the lands. They may even be watching you. It is magical.

While the site is down, view some of our photos...
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Valkyrie Torva Panthers Photos on Flickr

This site is under reconstruction. Now be a good surfer and come visit our new site again soon. Thanks for your patience!
The Valkyrie Panthers have become a treatment and story concept (Warner Bros.) but are years away from production. In the meantime, story concepts are played out on controlled gaming platforms and virtual reality. The original platform was developed in Second Life by a young female college student during her freshman year at UCLA with two other female friends and continues today as a live action roleplay game in a virtual Valkyrie Forest found here:
Below are some sample albums of the Valkyrie Torva in Valkyrie Forest from their Valkyrie Flickr web site. The photo albums are not current, going back years to 2011, and as such are in desperate need of updating. The photo samples presented here were taken during the flexi era, before mesh builds became mainstream. Expect them to be updated with many more photos coming soon. For now, some of the albums presented here reflect the seasons in Valkyrie Forest. A recurring theme are the Valkyrie feathers, blue for the air color of the Valkyrie, red for the fire passion of the Torva that joined them. Together, they are elemental like air and fire, found in the seaons... One sisterhood... Click the photo links to take you to the albums.
Valkyrie Winter
Valkyrie Summer
Valkyrie Main Site Flickr
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