Gunnr dipped her hand into the icy lake and hated it for the cold. She hated many things these days. Every sensation assaulted her, offended her. Her mind was a sweater with dangling thread, and the physical world pulled every loose cord. She held her hand under the water until her fingers numbed and throbbed. Better. That was how it used to be. A peaceful absence.
She glanced around her meager prison. There were no guards or walls, save the shimmering curtain of lingering magic by the entrance. Even in her current form, she needed no sustenance. Despite being chained to a mortal form, Gunnr would live forever. The thought of it bent her mind further.
Every morning brought the same horror. She would wake, hovering a few feet in the air, and scream. For a moment, she forgot her surroundings. She dreamed of Valhalla, of her former body, of her former life. Arriving in this world came as a shock, every single day. It was Odin's perfect punishment. A hell she could not escape.
Today she fluttered around her cell, whispering the words of the Queen in a manic mantra. She called out the names of her twenty-six sisters and heard her own voice echo back. If she forgot them, she would be truly lost. Then there would be no return, no Valhalla, no future. With that exercise complete, she drew her blade.
The long, straight sword was a prize from Sigarsholm. Gunnr had walked through that city ages before, back when Heilmar swung the hammer and forged the armor of the gods. He had personally crafted the weapon just for her. "Fieror, she is called. The Blade of Chaos."
Noises in the distance. Gunnr froze, her wings snapping out to her sides. She tracked the sounds, cocking her head and listening carefully. Voices. An old man and a young boy. They bickered as they approached, musing over riddles. Gunnr's body trembled in a rage. These interlopers came to kill her, she knew. They came to take what little she had left. To steal the voice of the Valkyrie.
Well she was no maiden. If they came for war, they she would deliver it upon them. She quickly leapt into the air, wrapping her wings around her in a protective shell. There she hovered, waiting for her enemies to arrive.
"Father, what's that?"
Gunnr felt their presence. Their aura was vile and hot. And something more. The boy was native-born, with something else mixed into him. The father was a demon from afar, a heretic god from the South. She tasted his powers, finding them bitter in her mouth. More than anything, she wanted these creatures to leave. But she knew that would only come with blood.
Her wings unfolded, bladed feathers scraping together in a display of dominance and power. The ebony and gold armor she wore caught the trickling light. With a flourish, Gunnr drew Fieror and pointed it toward the old god.
"Kringlaugd wierd, ein spadi for qvoki ne skeifr drpr munni ne svinhqfdi!"
She saw them clearly now. The boy was dressed in furs and leathers, carrying a wooden bow and quiver. His blue eyes bulged at the sight of her. The man was a another matter. He was swollen with muscle, aged but not slow. His face seemed designed for the perfect grimace, capped by a thick black beard. A swirling red tattoo crawled across his pale white body. Gunnr's heart fluttered. She recognized him.
The Ghost of Sparta.
The fell god drew two short swords from his back, readying them for battle. Heavy chains wrapped around his forearms, connected to each hilt. Embers glowed on the black metal, fueled by the rage of foreign gods.
Gunnr shrieked, her mind flooded with rage and hope and regret all at once. She pulled all of her energy into her chest, readied her sword, and charged.
Today, if she were very lucky, she would finally taste death.