“To Valhalla I Go” by Marshall Miller

   I am a meager old man to one’s eye. Haven’t held a sword in the better part of ten years, but if it came down to it, I could kill. I was still strong. Odin still favored me. Sometimes I see Odin’s ravens, Huggin and Munnin flying over me, their calls reassuring me that Odin is still keeping his eye on me. I am 52 years old on this snowy Thorstag. I want to fight again with the men of my village. I live in Kallekot, a small village of no more than 200 men, women, and children. The men raid with King Svein Forkbeard Cnut’s men. They always bring back the riches taken from the ignorant Englishmen and women. These Englishmen dare to worship one god and claim he is the victorious, righteous god. This is one reason why we slay them. Slit their throats and cut off their hands, this way they cannot pray to their god. May Thor strike them down. I feel today will finally be the day I will be granted to sail and fight once again with my kin.

   “What brings you to me today, Gunnar?” asked Björn the Selfless.

   “Björn I wish to fight again. I wish to bring back the spoils of England. Most of all I wish to kill every Englishman who stands before me and claims he is stronger. For my arms are still strong! My swing still accurate! And my chop still big enough to cut the head of any man right off!” I proclaimed. While Björn sat thinking of his decision I saw a flicker of light out of the corner of my eye. Odin is watching me. His raven sat on the sill, heard everything I proudly claimed for all in the hall to hear.

   “Gunnar I will grant you permission to raid with us, you crazy old man. Your persistence paid off, I suppose. Get your axe sharpened and pray to the gods. We set sail tomorrow.” With his permission my ride to Valhalla, to home, was finally in motion.

   We left at dawn. The winds were in our favor as we set sail to what we only know as Wessex. We read this name on one of the maps the men brought back from their last journey. Our skin was pricked by the cool air and the sea spat at us every so often, but nothing we weren’t used to by now. The nerves of all were tight, but no ounce of fear was seen in our eyes. We all knew that the gods will have their way with us. We were all ready to see where this journey will go.

   We finally arrived to the shore of Wessex, unnoticed by any Englishmen. “Damn!” I thought as I hopped off the ship, “I was hoping for a good fight to stretch myself to.” It was noon judging by the height of the sun and the air was still. Shieldbrothers and Shieldmaidens alike all walked together and I could not have felt more proud to know these will be the people I die alongside with in this journey. We decided to set camp for the afternoon, in case we were spotted without our knowledge. The night passed and I could not stop thinking about the fight that will surely be ahead of us. “Will I die?” I kept asking myself. I decided to finally ask Ulf, a good friend of mine.

   “Ulf I want this to be my last raid, I want to go to Valhalla and dine with the gods. I want to die honorably,” I whispered to him as the camp lays quiet.

   “Gunnar you are old and have killed more than anyone that I have sailed with. I have seen both the weak and strong die, but I know that Odin will mark you soon enough. Whether it is on the battlefield or the wheat field you will dine in Valhalla my friend. Now get some sleep, Björn said we will more than likely fight tomorrow.”

   We awoke while it was still dark, this way we can make haste to the nearby town and ambush them as they are waking. We moved swiftly, silently in the darkness of the wood. Though this is new territory we are traversing, we moved through it all like we knew it better than the Englishmen. Björn halted us and we set our trained eyes on the wood around us. We heard movement. Our hands tightened on our shields and axes, swords and spears. The sun peaked up through the line and we saw the heads of a hundred or so Englishmen. Their eyes fixed on us. We could all see the fear they had as they gazed in amazement at us.

   “No matter what happens today, whether we live or die, it does not matter for the gods have their idea set upon what will become of us already. Our fates await us. Now stand fast!” I boldly proclaimed to my brothers and sisters.

   “Shield Wall!” Björn shouted and with that the clanks of shields could be heard miles away. The Englishmen charged and with a giant whoosh we knocked them down and slayed some. Once again another wave of men came upon us like a wave of a hurricane.

   “Open shields!” Björn shouted just before they hit us.

   As we opened our shields the Englishmen fell into the middle of us and we slaughtered them all. Slaughtered them like the pigs they are. After we were finished with them we charged down the remaining Englishmen into an open field. We cut them down, but knew that there was going to be more fighting ahead of us. We could see the Englishmen trying to flank us so we swiftly moved along the field, the wheat obstructing their view of us. We came behind them without their knowledge. Charging at them, they tried to muster a feeble wall only to be plowed through, blood raining upon our faces as we beheaded and amputated limbs from their bodies. They wore thin armor they thought their armor could block the steel that was blessed by the gods. We noticed more coming behind causing us to fight two fronts. It was a massacre. I slayed many men. As the fighting continued I faced an opponent noticeably different from the rest. He was strong and wore much heavier armor. This was my fight. This was my moment to prove to the gods I was ready for Valhalla. I lunged at him, but he blocked and slashed, his sword nicking my back. I could feel a little blood flowing from my wound, but I pressed on. He swung his sword down and I moved swiftly right. I slashed at his ankle only for my axe to be blocked by his thick armor, so I quickly reset myself. I noticed that more Englishmen had surrounded me. I was now surrounded, but nowhere close to giving up. They all charged at once, luckily Ulf saw I was in danger. I went from being on the ground to being back to back with my brother. We fought most of them off, but a last there were still too many.

   After killing five I noticed my back was no longer defended by Ulf. I swung around and noticed a bloody body impaled with a spear, an English spear. Ulf had been killed. My friend beat me to Valhalla. I was now left with too many Englishmen once again, but that did not stop me. I fought as fierce as an alpha wolf protecting his pack. They hit me several times. My leg had a gash along the tendon behind my knee. The wound on my back from earlier is now bleeding profusely as I kneel from my knee injury. I looked up into the sky and breathed my final breath. “Odin here I come,” I whispered to myself. “Tonight we shall feast and drink.” The heavily armored Englishman drew his sword high above him and with one swing took my head off. My fight was over. I was free of my physical life in Midgard and now am able to dine in Valhalla, which resides in the realm of Asgard.

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