Dagaz : day
"Hearing I ask from the holy races,
From Heimdall's sons, both high and low;
Thou wilt, Valfather, that well I relate,
Old tales I remember of men long ago."
— Voluspa, verse 1
If you think being a normal teenager is hard, try being the descendant of a Norse warrior goddess.
I know, being a teenager is complicated. There are tests you have to study for, friendship complications, mean teachers and guy issues.
I had to go through all of that, plus be a kick-butt ninja and monster-destroyer-extraordinaire.
And then there's a pesky little thing called saving the freaking world. But it was all for you, in the end. The normal, unaffected people of this beloved planet who probably didn't even realise the world was ending until it actually happened.
You won't know my name, but I'll tell you anyway.
I am Kara Williams.
I am a descendant of Brynhild, the bright battle Valkyrie who served Odin himself. The gods may have died long ago, but their descendants live on, and this is their story.
And as my friend Mia would say - listen up kid.
I have a hell of a lot of explaining to do.
It all turned weird when the librarian showed up in the middle of class.
It wasn't that it was unusual. She had often walked into lessons to shoot lasers out of her eyes at any person who dared to return their book late or to yell at a student who had been chewing gum in the nonfiction section. Visits weren't uncommon in our school.
It was that she had dead for three weeks.
I was looking absent-mindedly out the window at the grey clouds when the librarian walked into the classroom.
I looked over at my best friend Theo and then back at the librarian. Theo's mouth was wide open and his eyes could have been bulging out of his head. There was a loud crash and twenty five heads swivelled to see our teacher, who had dropped her coffee mug in surprise. She didn't bother to pick the pieces up, and stepped over them to walk over to the grumpy librarian, whose mouth was drawn in a straight line. Her eyes wandered around the classroom, searching for any victims.
"Marie," our teacher, Miss Blanchard, said, "Are you okay?"
"There's no way that possible!" A boy sneered. Some people turned around to see who had spoken. They didn't need to. Even though I usually steered clear of the school's popular crew, even I knew that voice. Brad Stevens, the star football player and every girl's worst nightmare and dream guy at the same time. With his blonde hair and green eyes, Brad was irresistible.
"Must be prosthetics!" The girl next to him agreed. A quick look at her confirmed my guess - Jennifer Steiner, the tall, dark haired track star, and Brad's latest girlfriend.
I glanced back at Theo. His blue eyes flicked to the old woman's clothes. They were were her Sunday best: an old, worn dress, flat polished shoes and a cross around her neck like a noose.
The clothes she had been buried in.
Slowly, she lifted a wrinkled arm and pointed to a boy sitting at the back of the room. He had warm brown eyes and chocolate coloured hair.
"You," she said.
There was no denying it now. There was the unmistakable sneer in her voice, the taunting, bitter edge and the added sarcasm to top it all off. I looked at the boy again. He looked like his worst nightmare had come true. Probably had, too. The librarian of Raganburg High school lurked in everyone's nightmares.
"You borrowed a book at the start of the year. Do you know how long ago that was?"
She stalked forward and placed both hands on his desk. The poor kid was terrified.
"Marie," Miss Blanchard pleaded, "Please."
The librarian leaned closer.
"Four months!" she yelled, and then walked out of the classroom where she promptly fell over and convulsed on the ground.
"Well," I said as Theo and I walked out of class, "That was...surprising."
Theo just stared at me, blue eyes standing still behind black glasses. He groaned and ran a hand through his thick brown hair.
"I...I don't even know what just happened." he said.
"What just happened?"
We turned around to see my other best friend, Mia Hostermann. Mia and I had been friends for thirteen years, since I was three and she stole my sandwich. Being two years older than me, she was insanely tall and relished in the height and age gap. Mia was a free spirit and had her own distinct style: a rainbow in a sea of grey, rushing through the school hallways. Today her brown hair was curled and done up in a ponytail, the tips of her hair dyed her trademark bright yellow.
"So, are you guys going to tell me or what?" she said, throwing her arms around our shoulders, her charm bracelets tickling my ear.
"You haven't heard?" Theo asked her, craning his neck to see her face.
"Or course not. That's why I'm asking you."
I took a deep breath.
"Mrs Richardson walked into our classroom today."
"What?" Mia exclaimed, "That old hag? I thought she had kicked the buc — oh."
She looked down at us skeptically.
"You sure it was her?"
"Yup," Theo said, "Even wearing her burial clothes."
Mia shot him a look and he nodded.
"Did she say anything?" Mia inquired.
"Yeah, but just to the new kid," I told her, "James, I think his name was."
"James Lake," Theo supplied, "She just yelled at him for not returning a book."
"She's in the first stage." Mia muttered.
"In the what?" I asked.
Mia shook her head, dismissing the thought.
And that was when the screaming started.
The hallways were empty as we raced through them towards the sound. I had thought everyone had gone home — but now it was evident that we weren't the only ones in the school. Mia called to me as we ran.
"Kara, you trust me, right?"
I nodded. Of course I did. But why did this matter now?
"I need you to go with Theo. I need you to stay calm, and do everything he says without hesitation." She instructed.
"I can handle a draugr, Mia!" Theo protested, "She's of your order, not mine."
"What the hell is going on?" I asked.
Mia ignored me.
"I know, Theo. Killing the draugr means that Kara is safe."
"What are you going to use, your runestaff?" Theo argued. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I had no time to ask as Mia stopped suddenly.
We were at the cafeteria, the doors thrown off their hinges. The tables were overturned and there was something trickling from underneath one table that was resting on its side. My stomach seemed to leap into my throat.
"Is that..." I gagged.
Mia nodded slowly.
"We were too late to save her," Theo whispered sadly.
"To save who?" I asked.
There was a guttural cry and from behind the table, Mrs Richardson rose up.
Theo clamped his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming.
The librarian's skin had turned a pale white, and her eyes had sunk into her skull. There was a smear of bright red blood on her mouth, a startling comparison to the bone white complexion of her papery skin. She had grown to an enormous height; if she stretched an arm up, she would touch the high cafeteria ceiling. Her clothes were ripped and covered in blood, and through the shreds I could see the thick muscles that hadn't been there three weeks ago.
"Our..." I started, "Our librarian is a zombie!"
Her eyes sharpened to see where the noise was coming from and with an animal like cry, she ran towards us at an inhuman speed.
"Theo!" Mia yelled. Theo grabbed my hand and pulled me sharply towards the kitchen. He awkwardly put his arm around me as we huddled behind a bench.
"Kara," he whispered, "It's going to be okay."
It was not going to be okay. My best friend was out there, risking her life and fighting a zombie.
"Mia," I whispered. Theo placed his finger on my lips.
"Mia," he reassured, "Is going to be okay."
I could hear Mia's grunts and the zombie's moans, and somewhere in-between a sort of ringing noise. Theo noticed my confusion.
"It's called a runestaff. But, anyway, Mia needs all the help she can get. That thing is a draugr. Mrs Richardson was a particularly mean person, and she died sitting up. She wanted revenge for some reason, and so she came back as a flesh eating, super strong monster."
Very slowly, he stood up. This wasn't like Theo, to be confident and outgoing. He had always been awkward around me, even though we had been friends for three years.
"Theo," I hissed, "What are you doing?" He helped me up.
"The draugr's occupied." he said. I caught a glimpse of Mia. One of her arms had a deep cut on it, and she was limping. In her hands she carried a long wooden staff, and on it was carved symbols and letters that gave off a slight glow.
Theo grabbed my hand and dragged me to the stove. "We're all going to need to work together in order to kill this thing," Theo whispered, "So as quietly as you can, I want you to turn on the stove. Grab something wooden, like a cooking spoon and then a piece of cloth. Wrap the cloth around the top of the wood and then light it with the gas from the stove. Keep it lit. Draugrs can only be killed when they are beheaded, their body's burnt and the ashes thrown in salt water. I'll take care of the salt water."
He squeezed my hand, and then we both got to work. I lit the stove as quietly as possible and slowly opened a cupboard door to search for a spoon. I found a wooden spoon and retrieved it before placing it on the bench. My hands were shaking. Looking over at Theo for reassurance, I saw a towel hanging on the oven.
"Theo," I whispered. He looked up and I pointed to the towel. By that point I had drowned out the sounds of the battle behind me. Theo threw the towel to me and I wrapped it around the spoon before lowering it into the flames. It caught fire quickly and I eyed the flames before blowing on it softly to keep the fire going.
The makeshift torch started shaking as my hands did. Keep it together, I thought, Mia's life is in the balance.
I looked over at Theo again. He did better under pressure than I did, and somehow looking at him being so confident made me feel calm.
Unfortunately, while Theo's confidence made me relax, a second pot balancing precariously on the bench top did not.
"Kara," he whispered, "Are you almost —" Theo turned around and accidentally bumped the steel pot. I watched in horror as it fell to the floor and collided with a terrible crash.
The draugr swivelled its head to find the source of the noise.
It ran and bolted towards us.
Even from so far away I could smell the death, the rotting flesh, the tang of blood.
I closed my eyes and held the flames in front of me, hoping that they would deter the beast.
Instead, I felt a burning sensation in my wrist and for a moment I thought that the flames had flickered down and burnt me, right before I was going to be eaten alive.
The draugr was leaning over me now. I could almost see its teeth tearing into my skull...
But then there was a bright light, and then — nothing.
Cautiously, I opened my eyes. Mia stood a few feet away, her mouth open, but the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She quickly composed herself.
"Quick! The salty water!" she yelled to Theo. He slid over the kitchen bench with the pot of water and ran towards Mia. I glanced down and saw that the fire was extinguished. A few inches away was a huge pile of ashes. It was my turn to gape.
"How - what - what just..." I spluttered as Theo and Mia scooped up the ashes and dumped them in Theo's pot of salty water. There was a fizzing sound, almost like a wailing, and then was silent. I looked up at Mia.
"You're hurt," I stated, hauling myself up and walking over to her.
"Hey, I'm okay, kid." she said affectionately.
On silent agreement, Theo and I escorted Mia to her car to take her to the hospital. Before we left the cafeteria, I noticed something.
"Hey, what's that?" I wondered aloud and I left Mia's side to investigate. It was lying in the pool of blood that we saw when we first came in. I had through that the blood was the librarian at first, but now I wasn't too sure.
It was a laminated card and I wiped off the blood with my sleeve. On it I could just see a picture of a woman's face. A teacher, with a warm smile, green eyes and short brown hair. I knew that teacher. Something clicked in my head and I couldn't hold in the emotions anymore. I started sobbing into my hands.
"Kara," Mia called, "You okay, kiddo?"
"That...that thing. The draugr. It killed Miss Blanchard because of an overdue library book."
My nightmares were coming true.