One choice can end life... The gods of the Vikings lived once - glorious beings of immense power. But where there are gods, there are monsters. And while the gods are long gone, the monsters live on. And so do the gods' descendants. Kara Williams thought nothing of the Norse gods until the school librarian rose from the dead and her sister was taken by the goddess of Hell. In order to prevent a second apocalypse - and to save her sister - she'll have to embrace her ancestry and battle Death herself. But when you take on Death, someone has to lose.


3. Verse Three

The Dead

Eihwaz : yew

"Of old was the age when Ymir lived,
Sea nor cool waves nor sand there were,
Earth had not been not heaven above,
But a yawning gap and grass nowhere."
— Voluspa, verse 3

I blacked out when the car hit the ground. 
All I remembered was the dark shape near the car, the wolves howling and then car tumbling over and then — nothing.
And then I was dreaming. There were flashes of a meadow, with Lottie dancing through the grass and flowers. Mia was eating lunch on a picnic blanket. Theo was reading a book on a tree stump. 
"Kara," Mia looked up suddenly. Though her face was calm, she sounded scared. 
"Kara come back. Wake up. We're all going to die," Dream Mia laughed, but it sounded nothing like her real laugh.
"We're all going to die!"
There was a sudden jolt and the meadow and everything in it disappeared. 

I opened my eyes to a bleeding Lottie. Her forehead had a large gash on it and her arms were covered in bruises. 
"Kara," she sobbed, hugging me. A sharp pain blazed through my chest and I bit my lip to stop myself from screaming. 
"Lottie, let her go," Mia appeared behind Lottie. She too had large gashes everywhere. Glass was sticking out of one of them on her arm. Her other arm hung limp,hat an odd angle. Part of her t-shirt was wrapped around it. 
"You have broken a couple of ribs and have a couple of cuts but you're all right," she said. 
I sat up slowly and winced when I breathed in and out. 
"What happened?" I asked, leaning against something. I then realised it was the the car door, and the seats were near my head. The car was upside down. 
"The vargr happened," Mia whispered. I had never seen her so scared, not even when she had faced the draugr.
"Vargr?" I asked.  Mia nodded. 
"Norse wolves with human intellect. Incredibly smart, incredibly strong. One attacked the car from the side. You blacked out when we hit the ground. We rolled until we stopped here."
Lottie cowered into my side and I wiped the blood off her forehead. 
"So where is it now? Did it just leave us to die?" I asked. Tears streamed down Mia's face, washing away the blood and dirt. 
"Vargr's are relentless hunters. They don't hunt humans," she swallowed, "Unless someone had ordered them too. They never give up. Ever. We're dead. We're going to die."
Using her good arm, she crawled over to us and sat next to Lottie. My sister curled up between us. 
"I'm so sorry," I whispered. My eyes started to water. 
 The car suddenly jolted to the left. 
"It's here," Mia whispered. 
The glass near the dashboard was crushed as a massive black paw stepped down on it. My foot was right near the glass. The vargr was right there...
The big foot lifted and three others followed, each one crunching the glass like it was nothing. Lottie opened her mouth to scream, but I clamped my hand over her mouth. Mia put a finger to her lips. 
The car was pushed forward a tiny bit and the vargr sniffed the back of the car. It sounded just like a dog, but ten times as loud.
I could feel the vibrations as it padded towards us and sniffed the top of the van. And the it was silent. I shot a confused look at Mia. What was it doing?
Then something wet and slimy hit my head and all three of us looked up the vargr's nose was peeking through a hole in the car right above our heads. Snot was dripping from it as the vargr sniffed and the drew its nose out of the car. 
Then it pounced. 
The back of the car was completely crushed as the vargr jumped on it, using all its body weight to demolish the metal. Lottie whimpered as she jumped away from the squashed area. If she had been a few inches over, she would have been crushed. 
The vargr walked around to the back of the car and it lifted up slightly. There was a crunching noise and I realised that the vargr was holding the flattened end of the car in its mouth. 
We had no time to scream as the vargr lifted the car off the ground. 
I couldn't help it: I screamed as we fell towards the smashed front window of the car, sharp glass pieces still embedded in the metal. The ground seemed so far away. The vargr was not the size of an overgrown wolf as I had expected — it was at least ten feet tall. 
I crashed into the glass shreds, which felt like being stabbed a thousand times, over and over again. My ribs killed and every breath hurt. And to make it worse, the glass wasn't holding my weight. I started cracking under pressure and I started to fall, down down done where the vargr would eat me and the Mia and then Lottie. 
Something warm grabbed my hand there was a sharp tug. Looking up, I saw that Lottie and Mia had grabbed my arm to stop me from falling, their seat belts wrapped around their arms. 
Suddenly the ground vibrated again. Mia looked at me, confused. Wasn't the vargr holding us up? And then I saw it. The black shape below us, the open mouth, the rows of sharp teeth which could bite through flesh in an instant. 
There was another vargr. A smaller one. A pup. 
We were the baby vargr's dinner. 
"I thought you said they don't eat people!" I yelled to Mia. But she was frozen, frozen with fear and my words didn't get to her. 
The small vargr jumped up and I could feel its breath on my feet.
"I love you Kara," Lottie sobbed, struggling to hold onto my arm. 
"I love you too, Lottie," I said. My voice was cracking. Mia opened her moth to say something but then closed it immediately. 
The vargr jumped again. This time its razor sharp teeth grazed my leg. I could feel them in my skin, feel the blood trickling down my leg into the vargr's mouth.
I looked down and saw it on its haunches, muscles tight under its skin, ready to jump. It sprung upward and I waited for the jaw to close over my legs and rip them off.
But they never came. 
Something whizzed past my ear and an arrow embedded itself into the young vargr's neck. And then another, and then another. A whole volley of arrows launched itself into the air and the vargr got hit again and again and again. The older one didn't notice until the young vargr fell to the ground, dead.
The car shuddered as more arrows flew through the air, piercing the surviving vargr. I couldn't bear to hear the cries of pain as each arrow entered its body. The arrows kept coming, but without its mouth free, the vargr was defenceless. It shuddered one more time, and then went limp, dead. 
Unfortunately, that also meant we went plummeting to the ground. 
My hand slipped out of Lottie and Mia's as the ground came up to reach us. 
Just before I blacked out again, I saw a boy's face, a raven, and a figure in black haul Lottie away from the car wreck. 

I figured that the whole ordeal was a dream, because I woke up on the couch in my living room. I gave a sigh of relief. 
And then my chest felt like it was on fire and the cuts on my arms started to open again and the memory of the attack came rushing back to me and hurt me more than any vargr. My vision was blurred by the tears as I sobbed on the sofa. 
Someone appeared, and I knew from the voice that it was Theo. 
"Do you remember anything?" He sat down next to me and checked my cuts. 
"Everything," I said, my voice cracking, "Everything."
He adjusted his glasses as Mia and Mom walked into the room. Mia had her arm in a sling and her cuts had smiley face bandaids on them. 
Mom smiled, although I could tell that she was worried. There were dried tears on her cheeks and her eyes were puffy. 
"How are you feeling?" she asked, sniffing slightly. 
"Like hell," I said, "Breathing feels like my chest is on burning."
Mom nodded and patted my head.
"Looks like I fixed you up pretty good, kiddo," Mia said. She forced a smile. 
"Mia dragged you out of the car, sweetie," Mom said, "She fixed your cuts, but we'll have to deal with your ribs later."
"Theo," I said, looking up at him. 
"What are you doing here?" I asked. He looked around nervously. 
 "I'm visit you. Isn't that what friends do?" He was lying. He always looked at the nearest door when he was lying. 
"Who killed it, Theo?" I asked him, though even speaking made my chest hurt. 
"Who killed what?" he asked innocently. Mia looked like she was going to strangle him. I closed my eyes again and tried to stop the pain in my chest. 
"Theodore Sidman, tell her the truth. She deserves to know the truth. About everything." Mia said angrily. 
"She needs to be kept safe!" he argued. 
"Mia, Theo, please," Mom said. She sighed. 
"I want to protect her more than both of you. The Orders were responsible for her near death all those years ago, and they were responsible today. Use a berkana rune, Mia," Mom ordered. I'd never heard her use that tone before. And what near death experience? What were the Orders?
Mia stepped back, looking horrified at my mother. 
"Alice, no! She needs to embrace her heritage. Hel will find her regardless, you know that. You've seen it but at least she can be prepared for it!"
I was beginning to think that this was a dream, that I had slipped into a coma and it was all my imagination. 
Theo sighed and got up off the couch.
"Mia is right for once. We need to get her to the Orders. The Valkyries will take care of her." There was that name again, that weird name that I was drawn to. 
"Mia can explain all...that when she gets there. We have to tell her about Lottie."
I opened my eyes quickly. 
"What about Lottie?" I whispered. Mom started crying again. 
And that was when I noticed it. Of all the people that I cared about, two were missing. My father wasn't here, but he worked late in Fridays. That was normal. 
But I hadn't seen Lottie since the attack. 
"Where is she?" I demanded, ignoring the blazing pain that speaking caused, "Where is Lottie?"
Mia and Theo looked at each other. 
"Kara," Mia said in a soft voice, "Lottie is gone. She was taken."


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