Choosers of the Slain

Stephanie J. Kerkow

The wanderer sat atop his mount on a small hill overlooking a vast field. Hiscloak was heavy with moisture as the rain came down and bathed the landscape indismal shades of gray. The clouds loomed overhead shifting around nervously inthe sky and blocked off the warmth of the sun.

The trees sagged under the weight of the rain, puddles of mud swirled aroundthe drowning blades of grass, and animals cowered under ferns and bushes. Evenflowers that were in full bloom lost their brightness and color upon thishill.

On his gray horse, the traveler looked down upon the plain and orchestrated thewar below. A small predator bird flew over and perched itself on a dead treenear the man and suddenly changed into a beautiful dark haired woman wearing acloak of beautiful brown feathers. They exchanged glances of recognition, butnothing more passed between them.

On the field, men were lying face down in the red mud. Others were caught inthe grip of death until finally they released their last breath praying to theGods. Some of the dying warriors were clutching at broken spear shafts thatwere planted between their ribs, and were desperately trying to close theirwounds before the life blood spilled onto the field. Still other warriors laythere with clenched teeth praying to Odhinn that the end would come swiftly andthey would join kinsmen in Valhalla.

The stranger and the woman watched the battle continue until the victorcollected the remaining pieces of his army and slowly wandered off. Then theman and woman turned their eyes up to the sky.

The clouds opened up and streams of light lit a path for the descending flockof birds. The glimmer of their white bodies casting shadows on the bloody fieldbelow. Once they alighted in the midst of the battlefield, their form seemed toshimmer, and in their place, stood a host of beautiful women dressed infinitelycrafted silver armor. These women, these Valkyrja, choose the strongest, best,and bravest to reside in Odhinn's hall. The dark-haired woman walked out tojoin them for she was promised half the slain.

Finally, when their task was done, the women again took the forms of birds androse up to Asgard; to Valhalla and Folkvang. There, there is much drinking andsport as the warriors pass the days preparing for Ragnarok, the final battlewhere a new world will form from the ashes of this one...