Old and New: A tale of the old ways surviving in the New world of Today: specially for Viking Lovers such as myself
Old Ways in A New World:
My line of work took me to the age old city of the north, York. I had been there many times before and each time I always struggled to decide whether it was better or worse. Yet in the warm summer sunshine my mind didn’t have time to dwell on such decisions. I sipped my cappuccino in Starbucks and crossed off another name on my quota. I heard the radio announce in the corner that a serious crash had occurred on the A64 east of York; and the road would be closed for at least four hours. I paused to wonder which of my colleagues had performed well this time.
I gazed out the open door and into the street. I grinned privately noticing all the tourists, teenagers and families, who passed by going left, carried no bags but the necessaries; and how the rest of the crowd going right, held several bags from a variety of stores. York was always good at selling; it was a renowned trading centre in the old days and I am pleased it still was.
A shadow crossed over me as Geirölul finally joined me for our usual coffee break. Today she wore a silk blue dress, with a pearl white bag and the custom silver bracelet, the trade mark of our group. She took off her large yet oddly stylish hat as she sat down, revealing her always shimmering blonde hair.
“What a glorious summer day.” She remarked openly, placing hat and bag under the table.
“It is indeed. How many have you got left to visit today?” I enquired, with a wry smirk at the humour of how we all pitted against each other to finish the quota first.
“Have about fifteen maybe twenty left. How about you?”
“Same more or less. Would you like a coffee?” I offered, my hand already reaching into my own bag for my purse, causing my wavy brown hair to fall across my face.
“Oh no thanks Mist maybe once today is done. Where are the rest of the girls?”
I paused to recall our briefing at sunrise. “I think Göll is somewhere along the A64 towards Scarborough, Hlökk is travelling with her as she has some to collect there anyway. Herfjötur is around Monks Cross shopping centre. Can’t remember where the others are but I am sure they are somewhere in the area.”
“I still can’t believe the boss chose Hild and Thrúd to go to Iraq of all places.” She muttered bitterly.
I raised an eyebrow ironically. “Are you saying you would like to go there?”
She looked at me with her face downcast, a small sheepish smile appearing across her delicate lips. “Well, it would be nice to do a job abroad for a change. I’m getting bored of Europe that’s all.”
“Yeah sure you are G; you just want to visit Constantinople again for a tan boost.” I used her short nick name as we were in a public place but also because she was my best friend.
“Can you blame me though Mist? My skin’s going pale again because the sun here is too weak. Besides I prefer a natural tan; unlike all the women these days who use paint or bright light to burn themselves silly shades. A delicate gold brings out my hair more don’t you think?” She twisted some golden strands around her fingers against her cheek as if it to prove a point.
I merely nodded, always amazed at how vain she could be despite her warm heart. She sighed dramatically. “So where is your next visit of the day?”
“The hospital.” I answered.
“Great I have a child to visit there as well.”
I glanced through the windows, turning in my chair so I could see the now familiar towers of York Minster. “I can still remember the time when that great building wasn’t there G. Even when Clifford’s Tower was made of wood and not stone. That night in March, 1190 I think it was, when all those Jews were strapped inside and the tower was set alight. That was my first task as a Valkyrie.” My voice drifted off as memories flooded my heart.
“We had a very busy time that night. What with children and women crying and the men, well they weren’t being much help.”
“Oh G, have you truly forgotten how you felt when you discovered you were dead? And the uncertainty of knowing what happens next? I understood, that’s why I was able to calm half of them down before they passed on.”
“True and I admit if you weren’t there we wouldn’t have been able to escort so many to Valhalla safely. Although half the men were in the end sent to Hel to keep her well fed. She has as large an appetite for souls as her father Loki does for causing mischief.”
“Yes, our methods of selection have changed a lot since then. Now we have to copy what the Christian angels do, base our decision on their good and bad qualities.”
“I still miss the good days when it as all decided by the way you died not by the way you lived. If you died bravely or by the sword you go up, if you die of illness or old age you go down. It was so much simpler back then. The Bitfrost test can only tell us if they deserved to die, nothing of the qualities of a warrior which is what the boss is truly looking for.” She glanced at her watch. “Anyway as much as I would enjoy chatting all day we have still got work to do.”
I nodded seriously finishing the last of my drink. “Ok let’s go.”
With that we left the coffee shop and made our way through the throbbing streets towards the district hospital.
Once at the hospital car park we casually walked to a shady corner away from curious eyes. Where we both unfolded our white bags into our luscious white swan feather cloaks. She tied mine around my neck and fastened with a silver brooch whilst I did the same for hers.
“Mine is on the second floor where is yours?” Geirölul asked. She no longer wore a dress under her cloak but a slinky outfit made from tanned leather delicately sewn together with silver thread. My own outfit was more colourful, a mixture of silver and blue embroidery shimmered in the frozen sunlight.
“Fourth floor I think. Wait for me here when you are done, I don’t know how long I am going to be with this one.”
With a final nod to each other we strode purposefully back round the corner across the car park and into the building. No one gave us a glance and no one got in our way.
I found the man I sought in the ward filled with other cancer sufferers. He lay in his bed as if sleeping. A woman sat beside him holding one hand yet she sat distantly as if afraid to get too close. She did not look up when I arrived. She would seem to be around my age but no one is near my age anymore. I walked silently to the end of his bed.
I lifted up one side of my cloak and pulled out smoothly my tall ash wood spear tipped with silver. My name in old futhark runes glowed upon its hand grip. All the women in the team received these spears, specially made and blessed by the boss as we called him but our real leader was his adoptive daughter Freya.
I banged the butt of my spear upon the cold plastic floor.
“Arise soul of the dead. Arise and answer my summons!”
At those words a silhouette of sparkling mist began to form over the man in the bed. After a minute it became a solid double that sat up and stared at me with blank eyes and an empty expression.
“Are you or are you not David Garret?”
The soul merely nodded slowly.
“Good. Awake David Garret. Your time has ended upon this earth and a new life will soon begin.” I stomped my staff once more. The eyes began to blink and gaze around curiously with fear.
“Who…who are you?” He managed to ask clearly shaken.
“I am your guide to the next life David.” I announced in a cool calm voice.
He looked me up and down. “You look like a strange kind of angel.”
That line had been said to me so many times it no longer made me laugh.
“I am not the angel of your God David. Your God has decided to pass your soul to my Lord’s care; but the decision still remains whether you deserve an afterlife of happiness or pain.”
“So your Lord isn’t my Lord?”
“No David. My Lord is a god of eternal ancient power despite the Christian numbers. It is he whom you will serve if you pass the test if not you will be sent to Hel’s Underworld.”
“Does your lord have a name?” I paused, not many of the deceased have been so curious as to ask about names; they usually worry about where they will go in the next life.
“Yes. His name is Wodan, Odin, All-father, Father-of-All, and Lord of the Glorious Dead, Masked One and the Wanderer. He has many more titles.” I walked towards the window and threw it open; no breeze blew through just still rays of sunshine. “Now, are you prepared to take the challenge?”
That was when something was clearly wrong. David began to laugh. Not the laugh of fear or even joy but of malice and hatred. He suddenly leaped off his bed and ran for the open window and out into the sky. He did not fall, or even scream but merely glide out over the surrounding area. I spat upon the floor muttering a foul curse, my hand grasped my spear tight with anger.
“Bláin!” I yelled into the air, knowing Geirölul would hear me despite being several floors below. “You scum of darkness! That soul is rightfully mine!”
He pivoted in the air to face me, an evil smile upon his face. “He is mine now and Hel will feast gladly on his soul.”
Bláin was a renowned trouble maker to all soul guides. He had the unfortunate magical talent of possessing a corpse upon their last breath then taking control of their souls directly.
I heard a gasp of breath as Geirölul finally joined me. Her eyes lit with fire when she spotted the cursed being flying lazily around in the air.
“Did you manage to send the child away safely?” I asked eager for some good news.
“Yes, I heard your cry just as she passed through the rainbow bridge to Asgard.”
“Good. Shall we put this dark elf back into the earth G?”
“Oh yes it’s about time I had a target to practise on.” She nodded face stern and serious. We spread out the sides of our swan feather cloaks and flew after Bláin.
As we approached he quickly flew away out towards the bridge connection to Museum Street.
“Face us you coward!” Geirölul cried out gliding in front of me over the time frozen city.
“You have to catch me first.” He taunted flying further away heading lower towards the river.
“G you go under, I will fly above. Snap trap.” I suggested one of the many catching techniques we as a team practise when we come across such situations.
As predicted Bláin flew straight under the bridge with Geirölul in close pursuit, shrieking her war cry to intimidate. Luckily he did not look back to see if we were both behind him. So as he started to climb back up again I threw my spear from up high piercing him straight in the stomach, giving Geirölul a chance to grasp and banish him.
He let out a long groan of pain before his appearance evaporated in black plumes of smoke. Our spears remained frozen in the point of impact. Beside them a wispy figure of David stood, his eyes wide and shocked at being so high yet not falling. I wasted no more time upon retrieving my spear. I scored an invisible line in the air and then using the flattened blade drew it in a long, tall arch over the line. Rainbow colours marked my magic drawing.
“Now David, no soul that deserves to go to Hel would be snatched by a dark elf so eagerly. It seems Hel likes the taste of good souls. Therefore I grant you access to Asgard. Pass under Bitfrost, our rainbow bridge and be welcomed into the next life.”
He stepped forward in the air cautiously, taking one last glance around the world he once lived in, smiled at me and walked happily through the rainbow arch doorway. His last words were thank you.
“Right I fancy another coffee after all that exercise, how about you?” Geirölul said her chest heaving for air.
“Ha!” I laughed loudly. “You know as well as I that a Valkyrie’s work is never done.”