A war of the Soul

Chapter 1: A story to tell

I overlook the valley that I once soaked in as one of the treasures of my heart. I can’t help but hold my neck in my hands from the pain; I can’t help but feel my aching bones. My arms, and legs lay bandaged, and my cloak lay torn. It was once so white, so gleaming with beauty; now it is a sheet full of the blood of men, and kings. It holds the sweat of regret, suffering, and disgust within its fur. When I look into my hands I still hear the screaming. I still bear the marks; the marks of the ancient ones; the ones who had no limits, no boundaries, and no fear. The ones who cast their long shadow onto me, and since, have forced me to be seen as a monster in their memory. This is not prideful; this is not just. I had lost everyone I had ever loved. I had failed everyone I had ever vowed to protect. I had turned my back on the woman I had vowed never to leave… My pride now sits under the tide of the deepest sea. My soul is now bleak, dark, and broken. It has been polluted by the revenge of men, and betrayal of my kin. I was once meant for great things. If only I could reach my hand out one more time to brush the hair from your face, hold you in my arms. I would do anything for that. I would do it all over again so I could hold you in my arms, once more.

Here I am though, alone, and like a dwindling flame; I wait for my death. My feet dangle over the end of the cliff before me; my eyes are now free of worry, but have never been so weak. My wounds refuse to heal; my sword remains broken. “It is fitting that I die alone for I’ve chosen the path of a monster. Odin, collect my soul, and take me to your hall if you’re willing to accept me… I can no longer bear this place; I can no longer sit here, and see that I was the cause for all of this death, pain, and grief. Odin, do you hear me?”

My eyes grow cold, and tears form around my eyelids. “Of course you don’t. I am not one of yours, am I? I do not have your rules, nor have your aid. That’s fine!” I wiped the tears that had gathered and shouted, “Come have your chance, those of you who wish me dead. Come kill the last remaining wolf!”

I heard the scurrying of someone behind me. I did not move, nor reach for my sword. A faint smile appeared on my face as I had hoped it would be so simple to let go of this world. There had been so many ghosts around me; so many standing in darkness. Sometimes, it was hard to tell whether it was the sound of the living I heard, or the sound of the dead. I looked around the Valley one more time. I took the sight in. It was so green, so covered in woodland, and buried in the centre of the valley was a small village that had once brought me hope, a chance to walk away from our sinful past. Now, it stands as a wicked reminder that it doesn’t matter how far you run, death will always follow.

That village, was the place where I decided to become the monster that I am. It seems strange to me, that I find comfort sitting here, observing this place like it is my home when I have never been to a place so dark, so reaped of hope. I could have listened to you; we could have run. I hope wherever you are that you have found your happiness. I am sorry it could not be with me.

“Have you really sunk so low that you beckon people to kill you? You’re not the man I was hoping you’d be.”

I felt the touch of a cold steel blade stick in my back. It did not cut me, but pressed against my skin. The voice was familiar to me.

“Alessandra, is that you?” I asked as I turned my head.

The weapon moved away, and I was met with a set of glaring eyes. They were intelligent, observant, and had aged much since I had last met them. “Don’t move. I will kill you if you do.”

“Put down the weapon, child. What kind of demand is that? I just howled for death.”

“Why? Why is the strongest person left in this Kingdom longing for death? Why is the great Devil of the North giving up? I was hoping to challenge you, and offer you a good death.”

“You just don’t understand do you, child?” I sighed, and it caused me pain to hear her words, “I became this monster, to defeat another… I lost control, and now have no reason to fight. Why have you followed this path? The last time we met, you had such innocent eyes, and such a bright mind.”

Alessandra gulped, clenched her sword tight, and tilted her head, closing her left eye; she was stopping the tears “My parents died because of you. You weren’t the one who saved me, Reinhardt was… and you killed him, too. You had taken everything away from me, and you had taken my hope twice; I doubt you even noticed. So, yes… I ended up this way because I vowed to stop monsters like you from destroying other peoples’ lives.”

I couldn’t help but smile. In fact, it had been the funniest thing I had heard for the thirty-seven moons I had walked this world for. “You’re a fool.”

She dug her sword into my back once more, and with tears rolling down her face she beckoned, “How can you be so calm when I have a sword to your back? Why are you so calm when I’ve come to kill you? You’re a monster. Act like one so I can end the revenge killings here.”

“Revenge killing? Ah… the men who still chase me, the way Ragnar chased the legend of a Kingdom to the west.”

Alessandra sighed. She wiped her tears once again, and said, “You don’t seem at all like the man I’ve been told stories about.”

“Do you believe every whisper?”

“No, but they are usually half-truths, which is a start.”

“Believe it or not child, I started out very much like you. Innocent eyes, and a curious mind.”

“I don’t believe you, you’ve killed hundreds of people, and two kings with that sword of yours!”

“You’re wrong.” I sighed, and turned back to face the Valley, “It was only one King, and he usurped the throne. I could hardly call him a King, and you’re mixing my story with my father’s.”

“Wait, what do you mean?”

“You didn’t find it strange that I’ve not got a single white hair on my head, yet this legend has been around for two life times? Old men whispering tales of the bloodied white wolf?”

“Explain yourself, what do you mean it wasn’t you?”

“Aren’t you listening to me? I stole this cloak when I was fifteen years old from the man you have half of your legend from. This sword, is my family sword. The markings on the hilt are the markings of my family house. The crest on my cloak is the crest of house Vargr. A bridge, connecting one land to another.”

Alessandra sat back on the roots of a tree that towered above us. “The legends people have been gossiping were about you killing villagers and storming through towns massacring everyone. The king came to stop you but was too weak, and died. Then you disappeared.”

“You’re wrong. For most of my life I did not erase another’s life unless it was in the name of protecting another. We were hunted relentlessly…” My hands drew my attention and I clenched my fist. They started shaking, and Alessandra could see it.

“Then tell me your story. Tell me the story of whether you are the Devil of the North, the bloodied white wolf, or something else entirely.”

“Very well…” I turned to face her, tears rolling down my eyes, “Will you then make your decision?”