Originally appeared October 17th, 2013 on Camelotunchained.com
“My children, please gather around me to hear the Fornaldarsag of our race’s birth,” said the aged Valkyrie, her wings now clearly showing signs of decay. The group of youngsters then quickly surrounded her. “You have come of age and are now old enough to know this tale, as gruesome as it is. Do not be embarrassed to shed tears. Tears are not a sign of weaknesses but one of empathy, which all true Valkyries consider a virtue. If your strength fails you, recall our code and the oath you have all taken.” Shaken a little by the elder Valkyrie’s serious tone, the children sat and prepared for her tale.
It is true that the Piercing of the Veil brought many unknown terrors into this world, yet we cannot ignore the awful truth that the old world had its share of twisted souls who readily perpetrated abominable acts in absence of any Veilstorm influence. One especially disturbing example occurred on a small island in one of our mighty fjords. Here chaos reigned supreme. Survivors were struggling to make sense of a world turned inside out. Unimaginable alterations swept through the land, yet a tiny village, on this remote island, had somehow managed to weather the storms. The village consisted mostly of young folk and a few persevering elders. Life was hard for these villagers as they were cut off from the mainland, the storms having destroyed their boats. During one of the rare breaks in the storms, they perceived salvation in the form of a ship heading toward them from the mainland. The villagers rejoiced and rushed down to the shore, waving their arms excitedly to welcome their rescuers, overawed at their good fortune. They couldn’t have been more terribly mistaken.
As the ship neared the shore, they saw that it was full of men and a few women, all geared for battle but smiling and waving to the villagers on shore as if they were long-lost relatives. Being young and trusting, the children cheered their arrival and some of the older girls even commented on the more comely men. The presence of female warriors, coupled with their friendly bearing, served to assuage the fears of some of the village elders who eyed the boat warily when it was first spotted. Eagerly anticipating the ship’s arrival, one of the boys ran down to greet the first warrior as he came ashore. The boy barely reached the warrior’s knee and beaming up at him, the lad happily offered to carry some of the warrior’s gear ashore. The man grinned in return, tousled the boy’s auburn hair, and in one swift motion drew and swept his sword below the boy’s chin, cleanly separating his head from his shoulders. It happened in an instant, the smile permanently etched on the boy’s face as his lifeless body collapsed onto the sand. The remaining warriors then heaved themselves ashore and carved out a day of brutality that even now is spoken of in only the faintest of whispers outside our race.
The invaders ran amuck, murdering villagers in ways that would have sickened even the most hardened warrior. The village became a stage on which insane brutality was a play with three acts and this was the first, and kindest of the acts. Some of the villagers were harried and used for target practice. Several young men were castrated and used by some of the invaders in the most unmentionable and unpardonable ways. For these beasts, it was solely the desire for power, control and cruelty that drove them to these despicable acts, nothing more. It was not about bodily desire; it was about causing their victims to suffer in the cruelest way they could conceive, at least so far.
The village elders were treated as pack animals. The invaders competed with each other to devise ever-crueler ways to humiliate and demoralize them. Contests were held to see who could come up with the most novel way to break an elder through sheer exertion. When the last of this group died, the tormentors turned their attention to the dozens of imprisoned villagers.
Commencing a drunken feast, they separated the survivors into two groups. One group was immediately forced to serve their new masters. They were made to posture like dogs and beg for what little food they were given. This first evening was filled with many additional cruelties and tortures that are too vile to repeat. No matter how awful their abuse, the invaders laughed and celebrated their own imagined bravery and strength and forced the villagers to thank them for the “honor” that each of them had bestowed on the “lucky” survivors. It was a vile feast and as the beasts drank themselves into a stupor the surviving villagers certainly did not truly count themselves lucky.
The new dawn did not deliver pure daylight to the village. The sun’s glow was a faint red that day, perhaps tinted by the atrocities committed under its rays. They second group of captives had been dressed in their finest garments and told to wait until their “kindly new masters” summoned them to that night’s feast. The minutes turned to hours, and their apprehension mounted as they recalled the terrified screams and desperate sobs of their friends, mingled with the derisive laughter of the warriors. They prayed to all of the old Gods to save them, they cried out for their lost loved ones and for anyone who could save them. Unfortunately, when the summons to the feast finally came, there was no response from the heavens.
Led into the room by one of the warriors, each captive was told to stand on a table. They were then measured and assessed in every degrading way possible. Some of the females were newly able to conceive life, but that didn’t matter to these demons. Each warrior, according to rank, was allowed to choose one villager. Those not selected were told to be ready in case any of the others didn’t “care to see the new morning.” To assuage what passed for these animals’ conscience, a “priest” was called forth and each of the captives was wed to the warrior who had chosen him or her. In the villagers’ tear-filled eyes, these invaders appeared as nothing more than a slavering mass of horrid monsters, yet they were simply dark and evil souls. The things that they did in the privacy of their own rooms confirmed that they were indeed, subhuman. Those that did not survive the night were considered fortunate as they were spared the recollection of what had passed as well as further tortures.
As time passed, the terrors eventually became predictable and some sufferers grew numb and walked around as shells of themselves, though there were exceptions. The villager’s benumbed state began to irritate the invaders. After all, they fed on the fear and terror of their victims, so the warriors devised new and unthinkable ways to torture their captives. Some they abused with spears, some they startled repeatedly using loud noises, and others were made to beg each night for their survival.
One of the exceptions was a young lady named Brynhildr. She wasn’t so easily cowed. She had always been a willful child, much more interested in the aggressive games that the village boys played, rather than coddling dolls like her sisters. Like many young girls, she was more physically skilled than the boys during her early youth. When, as is usually the case, the boys caught up and surpassed her in size and strength, she simply worked harder and adapted her combat style accordingly. As a result, she was still a match for any male her age in martial skills. She had made her parents proud, for in her chest beat the heart of a true warrior. She was an indomitable spirit with a fierce protective streak for her younger siblings and other children not fortunate enough in their physical gifts.
After this madness had continued for several weeks, a particularly fierce Malevolence descended upon the village. Undaunted, the invaders carried out their atrocities as the storm raged outside. One torture involved setting the survivors against each other in humiliating competitions. Tonight, the winner would be given a fine necklace by the leader. Brynhildr noticed that the prize was her deceased mother’s most cherished possession; a piece of jewelry that while not particularly valuable had been passed down through many generations of her family. She began to sob uncontrollably for the first time in her life. Hearing her sobs the monsters approached, drawn like sharks to the scent of blood. Her tears turned to rage then and she screamed and howled with all her might. She fought them, using whatever was at hand for a weapon, refusing to be subjected to their tortures any longer. This enraged these dark souls, for no one yet had dared to defy them. She had endured much in the past few days and while she was a true warrior, she was only human. Fighting fiercely, and to her last breath, she died cursing them and prayed to Odin to grant her revenge. Upon her death, the remaining villagers broke down and wept. The tormentors considered that they might have been too brutal this time, and they attempted to console their captives, yet their cries would not be staunched. The survivors were sent back to a guarded hut where their weeping at least would be at least less audible.
As the Malevolence continued to swirl around the island, it did something never witnessed before in any other part of the country. It seemed to mass in one small area, the captive’s prison. Hearing the storm rage just outside their door, the survivors wept even louder, wailing the name of their newly dead sister and pleading for help. While the gods might not have heard their plaintive calls, the storm seemed to, for a wisp of its energy passed into the feasting room and entered Brynhildr’s corpse through her blood and tear soaked face. If this were another time, the death of this innocent youth would have been just another terrible statistic in the unbalanced ledger of humanity’s cruelty to itself. Mourned by her parents and friends, her name would be replaced by other, newer names in people’s minds. However, this is the Age of Becoming and though Brynhildr’s body was indeed dead, the Veilstorm influence on humanity served to complicate such formerly straightforward things as life and death. Brynhildr’s body began to glow with an undulating light and a circle of blinding white fire surrounded her. As the flames grew and touched her still form, Brynhildr was reborn. She arose, having assumed the visual aspect of a female warrior, clad in shining armor with glossy crimson-black wings, wielding a vibrantly flaming spear. There were blood-red tears etched into her skin. Reawakened, she strode into the sleeping chambers of the torturers and pointed her spear at several of them. Those selected were burned to death instantly, while others she simply hamstrung and left to writhe in agony.
Dripping now with black blood, Brynhildr freed the remaining captives and asked who would stand beside her to be cleansed by the storm. Eir, Hildr, Gondul, and others joined her and stood fully exposed and vulnerable to the violence of the storm. All were transformed. Their physical wounds vanished and their eyes began to glow with a hatred that burned like the sun on a clear summer’s day. These beings then visited each of their tormenters, slaying them viciously. Each of these invaders died at the hands of their victims and in a manner that was dictated by the crimes committed against them. This night, it can truly be said that those who lived by the sword, died by the sword. When the night was over, only one invader was left alive, the leader, the one who had offered Brynhildr her own mother’s necklace. Brynhildr grabbed the necklace from his hands and was about to strangle him with it when one of the formerly castrated young men stepped forward. Without a word he freed the necklace from her clenched fist, shook his head and placed the necklace gently around her neck. He smiled sweetly, just as his brother had when the leader had slain him on the shore. He looked at the warrior, shook his head sadly and went to stand beside Brynhildr. Staring deeply into the brute’s vacant eyes, Brynhildr’s gaze firmly locked his and though her soul cried out for a final act of vengeance, she simply hissed “Never again” the cost of each word burning in her eyes. She then pointed her spear toward the thatched ceiling as another spout of flame flared from the tip, searing the roof to ash. Their crimson-black wings then shone in the pure sunlight as they flew out of the scorched roof to search for any villagers who remained alive.
Left standing in the ruins of the feasting hall, the leader of the fallen marauders sat back down and marveled at his good luck. There were always other warriors; other villages and he’d had his fun these past few weeks. Not a bad ending all things considered; he was quite lucky. While this village didn’t have much in the way of gold and spoils, everything that remained was his alone.
Several years later, the leader arrived in an undisturbed village with a new band of warriors at his side. A wolfish grin spread across his face. ‘Never again, hah! I proved to that bitch who thereal master is,’ he mused to himself. That is, until he heard the beating of wings, saw a familiar female figure standing before him, and felt an acute stab of pain in his groin.
When the elder Valkyrie finished her tale there were indeed a lot of deep red tears streaming down the cheeks of some of the younger Valkyries (as well as a few of the older ones who had come over to hear the recitation). What she saw in almost all of them though, beyond the tears, was a look of steely determination, coupled with purpose and pride. She knew it well, for she too was proud to be a Valkyrie, she always had been. That pride was an ever-present flame burning within her, whether she was reciting their tale or fighting their Realm’s enemies on the battlefield.
Thus ends the tale of the Valkyries. It is said that of all the races in the Viking Realm, their tale was the most tragic. We can only hope that this was and remains so. Born out of suffering and horror was a race whose dedication to their Realm, and especially to those too weak to defend themselves, is truly worthy of being called legendary. The embodiment of their spirit is the Valkyric Code. The creation of that great document and the contents therein, are a tale for another day.