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.


2. Verse Two

The Attack

Thurisaz : giant

"I remember yet the giants of yore,
Who gave me bread in times gone by;
Nine worlds I knew, the nine in the tree,
With mighty roots beneath the mold."
— Voluspa, verse 2

My mother was a furious as a draugr when I got home. 
"Where have you been?" she demanded as I dumped my bag on the kitchen floor. I opened my mouth to explain, but then the phone rang. Mom hurried to get it and glared pointedly at me while she held the phone. 
My mother, Alice, was actually the nicest person ever, her smile only dampened when something seriously bad happened. 
I figured my best friend getting attacked by a mythical creature was bad enough.
She had blonde hair, like me, only lighter — the colour of the sun, while mine looked like a golden retriever had gone for a mud bath in super humid weather. I also shared her grey - blue eyes and the almost unfortunate trait of worrying way too much about things. I slid onto a stool and watched as Mom's expression went from I'm - going - to - murder - you - Kara - Williams to my - poor - little - baby. 
I guessed that it was Mia's dad on the line. 
Mom was a sucker for sob stories. Her childhood best friend had lost her parents when they were my age and Mom had done everything she could to comfort her. So when Mia's mother died ten years ago, she practically became an extended part of the Hostermann family — a sort of second Mom to Mia and a best friend to her dad, Richard. 

A couple of nods later, Mom put the phone down and pulled me into a hug. 
"That was Richard. He's at the hospital with Mia. He said there was an accident at school and that Mia got injured," Mom said. She ran a hand over my hair. 
"Are you hurt?" 
I shook my head. 
"Only Mia got hurt. She was really brave, Mom," I told her. And Mia definitely was brave. Mom pulled back and smiled. 
"I'm glad you're okay. I heard something about Miss Blanchard hallucinating about the librarian?" She studied my face. 
"Yeah," I cleared my throat, "There was water on the floor of the cafeteria...and, um, Miss Blanchard slipped and hurt her head. Really hurt it. We couldn't save her, Mom," I couldn't help it. I choked up. I couldn't unseen what had happened today. Miss Blanchard's blood on the floor would forever be burned into my mind. 
Mom rested her head on top of mine. 
"It's going to be okay, Kara, it's going to be okay." she said reassuringly. 
I didn't know if I could believe her. 

Dad and Lottie came home an hour later. 
My dad, Henry Williams was possibly the smartest man I had ever met. He worked at a university, teaching a class on the Norse myths, a tribute to Mom's heritage. Her ancestors had moved to America hundreds of years ago from Norway. Dad's family was from Chicago. 
He had the warmest brown eyes ever, which were surrounded by small wrinkles and guarded by a lanky fringe of brown hair. I'd never seen him without a book in his hand or a pen behind his ear. 
Mom had called him about the accident at school and after picking up Lottie from a friend's house, he had rushed home straight away. 
"Kara - belle," he said, hugging me as he walked into the door, "Are you sure you're not hurt?" 
I gave him a smile, and he returned it. 
"I'm not hurt, Daddy, I'm fine. It's Mia that's hurt. She's in the hospital," I told him. He dropped his bag in the kitchen next to mine and kissed Mom's forehead. 
"And what about Theo?" he asked. I was surprised Dad had brought him up and even more surprised Mom had forgotten. She adored Theo, though I was pretty sure she terrified him. 
"He's —" I started to reply but then a bundle of curls smacked into my side and sent me colliding into the kitchen wall.
"Lottie!" Mom reprimanded. But even underneath her worried expression I could see her smile. 
Charlotte was my adopted sister and the person I loved most in the whole world. After my parents discovered that they couldn't have children when I was eight, they decided to adopt the tiny baby with chocolate coloured skin who completely stole their hearts. At first I didn't like Lottie, but she was a baby and didn't satisfy my need for a sister who I could play with. But eventually I warned up to her and we became best friends. 
"Kara," Lottie cried, hugging my legs, "Are you okay?" 
That was something different about Lottie. I had been asked numerous times that day whether I had been hurt, but it was by eight year old sister who asked if I was okay. And I needed that. 
I patted Lottie's soft brown hair. 
"No," I whispered. She looked up sadly at me. 
"C'mon," I said, detaching her arms from my leg and holding her hand, "I have to tell you something."

I figured that telling Lottie about the draugr would be easy. After all, kids have the best imagination of them all. 
Apparently even a kid has to question things sometimes. 
"Your teacher...was a zombie?" she asked for the hundredth time. Lottie still believed in the Easter Bunny. How hard was it to get her to believe me?
"No," I sighed, "Not a zombie. A draugr." How Lottie knew about zombies, I had no clue. I suspected that Mia had something to do with it. Mia adored Lottie. 
"A what?" she asked. She swung her legs back and forth on the bottom bed. I laid down on the top bunk staring at the ceiling of our shared bedroom. 
"Draugr. Like draw as in when you draw with your pencils,  and gar, it rhymes with car."
Lottie tried it out. 
"Draw-gar," she said slowly. 
"Yeah! Now you got it." I was the worst sister ever. I was teaching an eight year old how to pronounce the name of a mythical creature and then telling her it was real. 
"And it attacked Mia?" Lottie asked. 
"Yeah, but she's okay. She's getting fixed up."
Suddenly Lottie laughed. 
"This is one of your stories, isn't it?" Lottie stood up other bed and held onto the railing so she could peek through and look at me. 
"Is it?" she asked. 
I must be going insane. If an eight year old can't believe me, then no one would. I was doomed. I smiled at Lottie. 
"Yeah, it's just one of my stories."
Lottie smiled. 
"Good, because there's no way zombies can be real. The Easter Bunny would kill them anyway."
I groaned in defeat as she walked out of the door. 

Later that night, when Lottie was asleep, I crept into my dad's study. As quietly as I could, I sat down in the large chair near the desk and opened up google. 
"Draugr," I whispered as I typed it in. 
The first website I clicked had a whole chunk of information so I skimmed through and found the basics. 
"The draugr is the Norse version of a zombie," I read aloud, "Men who died on boats had their head cut off and burnt and were then thrown into the sea. This way they could not come back to cause harm to the rest of the crew."
I jumped as thunder rumbled outside. A storm was brewing. Shaking my head, I continued reading.
"Another legend suggests that if the person was particularly evil during their life, and died in a position where they could stand up again, they would come back to life as a draugr. 
Draugr's were known for their incredible strength."
The first streaks of lightning rushed across the sky, illuminating the study. 
"Most draugr's don't remember their past, unless they had a powerful reason for living again." The librarian didn't have a very powerful reason, but it could have been enough for her to want to come back. The page ended and there were a couple of links at the bottom. One was the Aesir, and I had spent enough time with my dad to recognise that they were the gods of Asgard. I clicked the link and a list of the gods appeared, a small description beneath each one. 
"Baldr, Freya, Freyja," I said as I scrolled down, "Hod, Loki, Sif, Thor —"
Lightning course across the sky again, stronger, faster, brighter. Swallowing, I looked at the list again, scrolling until something caught my eye. 
"Odin," I read, "The one eyed King of Asgard who invented the runes and was in charge of..." There was a strange word, not because of its spelling, because I had never seen it before, in all of my Dad's textbooks. And I felt like it meant something important. 
"Valkyrie," I said, "What's a Valkyrie?"
The light switched on and Dad stood in the doorway, blinking in the light. 
"What are you doing up so late?" he asked. Before I could close the screen he noticed the Norse website. 
"What's this?" he asked, intrigued. I had to come up with something, fast. 
"Um...I'm doing a project," I said, "For school." I cleared my throat. 
"Yeah, um, for school."
Dad looked at me skeptically, but clapped my shoulder with his hand. 
"I'm so glad you're into this stuff, Kara - belle. Maybe I can help you!" He looked so enthusiastic that I couldn't say no 
"Okay," I said simply, wondering how on Earth I was going to get out of this one.
"Maybe tomorrow," he suggested. I nodded, faking a yawn. 
"See you in the morning, Daddy," I said as I hurried down the hall and climbed into my bed, Lottie snoring below me. 
Outside, the storm raged on. 

Two weeks later, Mia was back to normal. 
"I hate these stupid bandages," she said as we walked to school Friday morning. I smiled. Yup, Mia was back. 
"Hey," I said, elbowing her in the ribs, "Cheer up. You can just get some permanent markers and draw all over them."
Mia grinned mischievously. It was that look again. Mia was planning something. 
"I don't have any, so I'll just have to steal some from the art room," she said as we walked into the school hallway. 
"The art room's locked on Friday's..." I said, confused. The I realised what she was going to do. 
Mia picked up speed 
"Mia!" I called after her, "Don't you dare pick the art room lock!" 
I ran after her. 

That afternoon, Mom insisted that I take Lottie to the movies. 
"It would be good for both of you," she said, "She really wants to see it," 
It was true, Lottie wanted to see the new Disney movie, but I knew that Mom really needed sometime to herself. 
"Okay," I said, plonking myself down on the couch, "I'll give Mia a call. She can give us a lift," 
Turned out that Mia wanted to see the movie as much as Lottie. 
"What?" she said, grinning as we walked into the cinema car park after the movie, "It was good!"
I rolled my eyes as I opened the door to her old kombi van — her baby. The blue paint was faded and peeling and the seats had stuffing coming out the edges but Mia loved it. 
I checked that Lottie had her seatbelt on and then we set off. 

We were singing along to the radio when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I had to blink twice to make sure I was to seeing things. 
And then the dark shape came back, a flicker of movement out in the woods. 
"Did you see that?" I asked, grabbing Mia's arm. 
"See what?" she asked. She kept her eyes on the road.
"It was a dark shape, just out of the corner of my eye." I said. Mia's eyes flicked to me, then to the road and then out the window at the woods. She laughed nervously. 
"Are you sure you aren't seeing things, kid? We're out in the middle of nowhere. This road's deserted." Mia was lying. Her hands were clenched onto the steering wheel. 
A wolf howled in the distance and Mia shot a worried look at me. Mia had a phobia of wolves. 
"It's okay, Mia," I said, trying to comfort her, "We don't have wolves around here."
Lottie, who had been insanely quiet for an eight year old, spoke up. 
"That was a wolf howl," she said, "And if there's no wolves, then what's that?"
I had just enough time to grab Lottie's hand before the car was sent flying off the road and the world went dark. 

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