By Andreé Robinson-Neal.
Váli fanned himself and looked down at the destruction. Bodies were strewn everywhere in the unbearable pre-dawn heat, and he mourned his hasty actions. He had not lifted a finger in battle but had killed Höðr before it had begun. The old blind fool, Váli thought. He squinted into the waves of heat that wafted off the stinking ground below but did not turn as the sound of shuffling reached his burning ears. “Who goes there?”
“Watch your tone, boy.” Búri ordered. “And give me that.” He snatched the fan from Váli’s grip and tried to cool himself. With a shout he shook his fist at the sky. “Is this what was foretold? Are we all that remain of the great battle of Ragnarok?” His delirium was evident, as his anger gave way to insane laughter. “The seers said the battle would destroy the worlds, yet Váli and I remain!”
Váli removed his cloak and threw it over Búri’s head. “You must conserve your energies! This solves nothing.” He gripped the father of all gods and pulled him to the ground. “If we are the last, we must figure out what to do next!”
Búri frowned. “What do you speak? It is already known what we are to do next. We must battle one another! I am to meet my end at Ragnarok!”
Váli shook his head. “No – this is not how it ends. Ragnarok is not the end.”
Búri smirked. “Oh? What is the end then, boy?”
“The end has already come. It came when I killed Höðr.” Váli looked for understanding in Búri’s face, but there was none. “Don’t you understand? By killing Höðr, I killed winter. I took away our hunting grounds. I took away our ancestral treasure. The lands of the Norsemen are no more! Don’t you see? It is not Ragnarok that ends the worlds as we know them – it was Höðr’s death: the death of winter that cleanses the realm in preparation of Ēostre’s spring and the renewal it brings. Without Höðr there can be no cleansing.”
Búri put out his arms and as Váli collapsed into them he lifted his chin toward the still-rising sun. “Then let us await the heat of dawn and pray that Skaði survived. As goddess of winter, she may have the power to protect the great tree Yggdrasil and the life that flows within it.” He patted Váli and smiled. “Have no regrets, young one. It will take more than this to end the reign of the Norsemen.”
Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug in the 1970s and despite a career in education has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find her at starvingactivist.com. She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.