A Viking’s Nightmare

The ax crushed a man’s skull as the blood inside the man’s head exploded over a nameless Berserker’s nose. Unblinkingly, he removed the ax and hit him several more times so that he would never stand again. Using the man’s torch, he set him on fire, paying no mind to the heat that crept ever close to him as he continued his rampage. Not feeling anything, he moved quickly, setting tents on fire as he reached into his holder strapped to his back and pulled out his next weapon. The smell of burning flesh permeated the air on top of the mountain. The dead were fresh as he killed anyone that would try to escape without a thought or a glance. Fire, ax, sword, or arrow death would come to those that betrayed the Gods. Moving quickly at top speed, he pulled a bow and arrow, shooting arrows through the chest of the men and women trying to escape with their lives as the stranger moved in a fury of rage and impatience.  Everything must die!

Children of the camp were all dead, and the soldiers who came to a stop to these Norse invaders’ rage were all getting the same treatment they deserved. There was nothing but traitors who had betrayed a king by attacking his Viking people as they slept. Eye for an eye. Show no mercy.

Berserkers, tall and overwhelming, the others stood taking their place as merciless mechanical machines full of unwavering vengeance.

He was a nameless man, and he had not heard it uttered since he was a small boy living with his Norseman family- a group of farming people until the King came and asked them to fight for him. They put down their farming equipment by taking up arms and shields instead. That was only a memory now. That was many battles and kings ago now.

 Fighting in a field of grass, so tall that the eye could not see the sights of the Berserker, he Crouched down in between the blades of grass. He watched the enemy of his people. It had happened so quickly that he overlooked the poisonous bite that hit his chest. He didn’t even feel an arrow as it came so close to entering his heart.

Rage blinded him as he stood running toward what looked like a toy soldier. He was just a man in a fine suit of armor, but this man was his enemy, and all rational thought was forever lost as he took his ax and smashed into his opponent’s head. He hit the man so many times his skull burst like water hitting the rocks at sea.

When he saw the enemy of his people, he looked around and could see two remaining soldiers running up a hill, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the Berserker. 

The night fell all around until the sky grew darker, and he followed the soldier’s blind ambition encompassed his every thought.  Kill or be killed.  He would do it for his gods, and he would do it for his people but do it he must. 

The Berserker barely noticed that the others were now dead, and he was the only one left. Standing six feet tall, he was built like a boulder. He stood proud, huffing, trying to make out his next moves, although every thought was now slowing. He caught his breath as he ran up a snowy hill. 

What was this place? Where had his gods brought him on this cold wintery night? He scanned the hill, and the snow was now falling fiercely down, covering up the footprints of the soldiers who had got a head start while he was beating their friend’s head in with an ax. Find them he must and be done with it.

His feet were bleeding, and so was his chest. He had sustained injuries but felt no pain. Right now, his only goal was to conquer the enemy to please the gods and his King. 

Walking some distance, he managed to smell the camp. He growled like an animal whose fur he wore around his body. The beast inside seemed to seep out as he entered the camp. He was armed, and he yelled when he saw the fires. 

It was then that his rage now muted for the moment. He saw the soldiers who had shields covering their bodies. He cautiously walked towards them, thinking it could be a trap, but then he saw the faces of the men who had run from him. They were utterly ripped off. His eyes moved on a swivel, wondering if another fellow berserker had gotten to the camp before he had.

He noticed then how quiet the camp was. Not one person was still alive, from what he could see. There was blood everywhere, and the fires were all put out by bodies that had been slung into them. There was only one fire still burning at the front of the campsite. The strange Berserker stood now all alone. Something was off, but he could not put his finger on it. It was weird that he now felt fear for the first time.

It was a strange feeling. Suddenly his life mattered to him, and he had no desire to die. Most battles he had fought he won with a strong chance of knowing he could lose and with it his life.

He looked down at the fire and put his rough hand over the heated flame. He looked up then, and above the fire were two red eyes from something that pierced his through the blue flames. He focused his eyes as best he could, wondering what was staring at him from across the fire.

Then the eyes began to move, rising slowly above the flame and towering over the six-foot flame and himself. It seemed to keep rising above him, and when it finally stopped, it was ten feet into the air. It was black and shadowed the twilight sky and blocked the snow from hitting him as it slowly leaned over the fire to meet his eyes.

He suddenly recalled his name for the first time, asking himself why he had never thought of it in so long.  Torsten, Torsten, Torsten, hearing his name, but now he could listen to it outwardly. It was a whisper.

The shadow beast began to creep inside of him, and as it did, it came closer to his face until the beast, extinguishing the flame as his body leaned into it, caused a chill to run through Torsten’s very soul.

What are you?  He asked with his mind until he felt a vibration rush through his bones. He felt his legs nearly shatter from the beast’s vibration with his mind. 

Raising his ax in an act of courage, he felt the bones of his hands shattering until he dropped the ax. 

Torsten fell to the snow as fear buried his bones into the snow. He closed his eyes, expecting to die, almost pleading internally that it would be quick.

He passed out, hitting his head on the ice and snow.

###

Torsten dreamt strange dreams of walking through a gate and seeing Odin welcoming him. He saw Odin coming toward him, and opening his hands, Torsten went closer, and soon he shot up in agony. Where was he?

Waking from the dream felt like falling out of a tall tree. Torsten’s soul hit his body with a thunderous thud. He tried to blink his eyes open but felt something holding them down. He moved his hands towards his chest and managed to roll over. 

When he managed to open his eyes, he realized he was on a cliff. One more inch and he would have fallen into the vast black sea. 

He moved slowly, inching his body inward away from the cliff’s edge. When he was at a safe distance, he managed to stand up. Slowly he inched his way toward the sky as he looked down – his eyes revealing how close he had come to dying.

In the distance, the Northern Lights glistened over the snow. He squinted, trying to focus on the world around him. His beard was nearly frozen, long and thick around his chest and neck. The fur he wore was covered now in blood, but he had no idea if it was his or of his enemies.

Forgetting the possibility that something had brought him to the place he now found himself in, he strolled into the night. The snow was thick, but there was a dwelling where he could take shelter and rest for the rest of the night in the distance.

When he got closer to the small stone shelter, he noticed there was wood for fire stacked up outside, and he could at least start a fire once inside to warm himself.

The wooden door to the cabin was slightly ajar. Torsten tried to move it with his upper body and hands, but his left hand was still crushed, so he was at a disadvantage. Finally, his patience wore thin, and he used brute force to push in the door. He heard something snap behind the door. 

He went inside and could now see a leg bent backward, frozen in the cold. It was a man’s body completely frozen through to his bones. He had been there for who knew how long. His eyes were still bulging from their bodies, frozen there forever in fear. 

Torsten pulled the man’s body away from the door using all of his might. He pushed the man out into the snow, looking for anything to cover up the man’s body. He found an old sheet made of silk, placed it around the man, dragged him outside, and grabbed firewood. Lighting a large piece of wood on fire, he put the man on the silk sheet taking him back to the cliff’s edge. He lit the silk on fire and pushed the man’s body into the sea. He watched as the body seemed to break apart, hitting the ocean with the force of a stick. 

He wished him a safe passage to Valhalla and then returned to the cabin. This time he shut the door and lit a fire in the center of the stone room. The rafters used as the roof for the cabin had openings, he could use to allow the smoke to seep out. He took off his bear fur and laid it upon the dirt floor, and using another piece of fur, he covered himself up and tried to rest.

He would return to where the ships had docked, returning to his people and camp. Tonight, he would forget the day’s strangeness and chalk it up to Odin, saving him from whatever was in his enemy’s camp.

###

The night wore on, and the small shelter did not keep all the coldness of the night out. He felt it in his bones, and he felt it in his heart. He was alone and being alone here would not be as easy as he hoped.

Shortly before sunrise, he heard something outside the stone walls. He could hear something dragging in the snow, and at first, he thought it was the hay and the wind playing havoc with his mind. Torsten opened his eyes when he heard a growl. As if he were struck by lightning, he sat up quickly and looked around. He was worried a bear had sniffed him out. He grabbed a weapon and stood up, inching away from the door to the stone cabin. 

Once he was within an inch of the door, something hit the door with force so intense it nearly knocked the door in. A crack appeared down the middle of the thick wooden door. Thinking perhaps one of the trees by the stone cabin had fallen against the door, Torsten opened the door an inch to peer outside. He could not see anything at first, and then he saw two cold blue eyes. Backing away in shock, he wondered if it were another like himself, so he stood for a moment collecting his thoughts and then opened the door.

When he did, the man’s body he had thrown into the sea lay before him.  How was this possible?  Then he saw an extended tentacle release the man’s body and snap back over the cliff that he had nearly fallen over. 

Torsten stood in shock, and then his surprise turned to intense fear as he thought about what could have possibly done it. He had to know what the gods wanted of him. He ran out into the cold morning, barely able to drag his feet through the snow, which had grown abundant now. Torsten moved like a predator as he approached the cliff’s edge and looked over.

A long tan and green tentacle pulled itself back into the sea. Torsten watched as what he could only make out was the Kraken. He watched for it to rise above the sea and pull him back in, but to his amazement, it did not.

He heard it then. As the creature of the black sea pulled itself deeper and further away, he listened to the sounds of music in the distance. Could it be of his camp? It sounded like a battle cry in the distance. Torsten ran back to the cabin, stepped over the man, and grabbed his things. He followed the music and the singing, hoping to find food and ale. Soon forgetting that the woods he entered were dark and the light of day still would not find him, he kept going. The forest was darker, but still, he ran onward. The snow was less heavy in the woods, where the pins kept the snow at bay like a canopy of evergreen.

Following the sound of the music, he heard laughter now too. There had to be ale if there was laughter. Torsten bundled himself in the furs of a giant bear he had once killed with his bare hands. He took the spirits of the animals very seriously; they had given themselves as an offering so he could be warm. Now he felt the warmth of the once fierce bear as he tried not to think of the cold. It felt like every emotion he ever had begun to overwhelm him. The singing seemed further away now as though it were a dream.

Torsten followed the songs. The music blended in the wind and the cold as together all hit his ears, tickling them. He noticed some of the ice from the trees’ needles were melting.

Torsten moved on, slowing down only a little. He heard a man’s voice whispering in the wind calling out to him.

Torsten stopped in his tracks and turned around. There were shadows between the trees that looked like they were watching him. Men, women, and children watched from the forest’s darkness.

A horn blew in the distance, and then there was more singing. This time Torsten knew he was close. As he walked on, he noticed a clearing in the woods. He could see tents, so he knew he had found a camp. There were symbols of his people painted on the flags that waved in the wind.

He ran now, hoping to find anyone who even spoke his language. He stopped as a sinking feeling rose inside him when he reached the camp. The camp was old, and things were left as if a fire-scorched it, leaving it as it was the day, they were all burnt alive. There were skeletons of women and children all standing in a circle. There were men still where they were cups in hand sitting around a fire pit. There were tents in shreds blowing in the wind. He bent down to pick up a necklace with a Christian cross. He heard the singing now, only this time it was within feet of where he stood.

He saw the skeletons of children singing songs and holding hands; only they were not moving. It was as if someone had posed them this way after they died. Torsten felt terror but not from the killing and pillaging; it was the fact that whoever killed them came back to pose them. 

He heard his name clear as day now.

“Torsten, the bear warrior, look at what you have done to us,”

“NOO!” he screamed.

He felt a hand tap him on the shoulder. Turning quickly, he saw three women with black coals for eyes. Their skin burnt off, hanging off their bodies, and their dresses hung in burnt shreds.

Their ghosts seemed to mock him as their faces cracked into broad toothless smiles.

He chopped at them using his ax, and all three crumbled to the ground.

Barely breathing from fear, he ran from the camp and towards the woods. He could still feel their eyes on him. Torsten turned to look at the campsite for a moment, and all the skeletons now stood poised. They all stood facing him and appeared to be moving slowly towards him. 

Torsten ran toward the woods, entering an even darker portion of the forest. He tripped over a root of a tall tree as he tried to run up the hillside into the mountains and caves. He ran until his legs decided to fail him, and he had no choice but to take refuge in one of the vast caves. Luckily there was fresh water running through it, and he drank as though he had never seen or tasted water in his life.

He threw the water into his face, rinsing some dried blood from his eyes. He sat panting now, trying to understand what the last day had meant to him. What was this strange place filled with ghosts of the dead? Was this a test from the Gods to teach him a lesson? Had the sacrifices meant nothing to them? 

Closing his eyes, he rested for a while. Now time held possession over him; it was as if it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except his strength. How long had he been running? It mattered not he would find his people how he longed for a hot bath, ale, and the caress of a fine woman.

He smelled it first before he saw it. The smell of wet dog was almost welcoming to him. He wore pelts from wolves on his feet. They were harder to kill because they were more elusive unless hungry or provoked. He opened his eyes, and that same shadow from the day before seemed to be following him now. Torsten sat up, his senses on high alert after everything he’d been through recently. 

He couldn’t see a shape but the smell and the shadow were all it took. He stood up as he heard a crow in the distance. A beating of a drum came from deeper inside the cave where he had taken up shelter. 

A light appeared in the deep end of the cave, and shadows danced along the cave walls. They began to move in a strange hypnotic way causing him to feel dizzy just watching them as if he were drunk. Torsten’s eyes got weaker by the second, and soon they closed. He felt his body being carried into the cave as a chant of a man’s voice began to echo inside of his head.

Weary from his travels, he fell into a deep trance. 

The voices now were many, chanting the same songs inside his head as the drums vibrated inside the cave walls. It began to get very loud again, and that same feeling of nausea mingled with a tingling sensation of every bone in his body wanting to break from the sounds. 

His chest began to burn, and he felt a hand rubbing over it. Water or fire, he knew not which as every feeling in his body was now one. He felt something go inside his chest, and he woke up with a scream. All around him were creatures with those same red eyes he had seen the day before. The beast that stood ten feet in front of him now stood above him again as it held a knife in its claw-like hands. Dangling the knife over the fire, it used the heat to dig inside his chest. It explored and dug until Torsten could feel nothing but the pain. That is when he felt arms all around him holding him down. The fire and the pain of the knife digging into his chest brought back memories of the serpent that had bitten him. 

He felt a cold rush of air fall around him, but he could not open his eyes. Instead, he fell once more into a deep sleep. 

“You there, you!”

It was a woman’s voice. Torsten did not recognize it.

“You are the man from the hills. Wake now, please.”

Torsten opened his eyes and now could see an older woman with long gray hair in a mass of curls around her head and one eye. The other was sewn closed. 

“Where am I?” He asked.

The woman only smiled at him.

“You are at the beginning and the end,”

Torsten did not understand her. He only knew that she must have been the one to cure him of the serpent’s poison.

“Who are you?”

She only stood, and when she did, he realized she was very tiny. She couldn’t have been more than two feet tall. He still had to be under the effects of the poison.

“Loki’s serpent child bit you. You will live, but you must be careful not to make Fenrir angry,”

“You didn’t say who you were,” Torsten retorted.

The small woman only smiled and walked away from him.

Torsten closed his eyes again and slept again.

###

When Torsten woke again, the cave was cold and dark once more, and the wound on his chest was no longer there. The only thing that remained was a slight cut. He stood up, determined more than ever to get back to his camp.

He left the cave and walked onward towards his destination. Home seemed further away and yet, for the first time in two days, more likely that he would find it.

Being bitten by a serpent had to explain his visions. He wasn’t sure if he had dreamt the night’s events or if it was a message from the Gods.

Torsten walked for miles in the direction his army had come from because now he was lost. He walked until he had to sit and rest. He was no longer sure of where he was. Nothing looked like it did before. Now the trees in the forest were smaller or dead. He searched with his eyes looking for familiar markers. He pulled out some fruit he had stored in his pouch and bit at it. The sweetness was bitter now. It tasted spoiled, and maggots were crawling on it when he looked down. 

He tossed the fruit and looked inside his bag for other food that may not be as ruined. There was nothing except a piece of meat. There were no maggots on this, so he bit into it. He finished it and then instantly regurgitated it. 

Now he could no longer eat how he longed for a piece of fish. He was so far from camp now he wasn’t sure he would ever find his way back. Strangely, he never saw any buildings or people along the trail he was following.

Torsten heard a strange sound in the distance. It sounded like a cry of an infant. Soon the crying got louder, and he wondered what it could be.

Torsten sauntered towards the sound. He wasn’t rushing to see in case it was another deadly encounter he had nearly become accustomed to by now. He saw a large shadow behind a white and gray stone in the far-off distance. He pulled his ax from his holder and slowly inched towards the shadow. He wasn’t sure what it was, but by its size, it would make a great meal and coat to keep warm until he found his camp.

The crying was now more of a screeching rather than a baby. As Torsten approached this creature, the skies seemed darker with every step. There was something unnatural about this thing as he noticed it was a mass of black fur. It suddenly shifted onto its side from what he could see, and then when Torsten was within a few feet, he saw the creature rise to its feet, if you could call them that.

They cracked, and the sound echoed through the forest of stones as Torsten now got an entire look at what he was seeing. It was a beast, nothing from this natural land. It had long ears that sat atop its head, and its rounded body seemed to stand on stick-like legs with long claws jetting out from its toes. Its chest was covered in leathery black skin with less hair than the rest of its body. The beast’s arms were longer than the rest of its body, and they reached towards Torsten as he looked into the eyes of this beast. At first, he thought it was a Kveldulf, the evening wolf. But its face was too curved, and something was about those eyes. He could see flames in the large eyes of this creature. He heard crying again; only it was the cries of men in agony. This creature had tried to get him over the fire from the camp. 

Torsten was no longer hungry, and he wasn’t sure he had the strength to attempt a fight. Instead, he ran from the creature. The bearskin on Torsten’s back acted like battle armor as the beast pulled at his back. It was as tall as long as it scratched and gripped at him while he ran. Soon it pulled the bearskin from Torsten’s back, and now it had full access to his skin. 

Ripping at his back, it pulled as he continued to run. The fear inside him ignited his strength as though he were in a battle. Torsten screamed as he nearly ran into a tall rock sticking up from the ground. He jumped over the stone in a fit of supernatural ability. The pain that should have stopped him in his tracks was muted in the one-on-one battle he was now fighting.

When Torsten landed on his feet, he began to feel raindrops falling all around him. Then he made the mistake of looking up to see that it was not raining, but blood dripping from the skin off his back the creature now held in its hands.

Torsten had always been a fierce machine on the battlefield, but now he was reduced to nothing. This creature of darkness ripped at him, sinking its claws inside his back repeatedly.

Finally, Torsten hit a river that seemed to flow down rapidly; he threw all caution to the wind jumping into the water and allowing his body to be carried away from the demon. When the water began to move him faster and faster, he no longer saw the creature. 

He sighed in relief when he realized he was free. Unfortunately, there was more to be frightened of now as he saw the water rushing over a fall, and before he knew it, he was going over the edge with water and rocks that he had hit on the way.

Luckily, the fall ended in the deep end near a small cavern where a pool of water stood still. Once he caught his breath, he swam to shore and exited the water. He felt it now, the pain in his back from where flesh used to be. When he touched his back, it was gushing blood. He nearly passed out, but he recalled the strength of his people and that of Thor. He had to keep going.

Tired and useless now, he looked for his weapons. His holder had been ripped away from his shoulder in the battle with this creature. 

He looked around for anything to help him stop the bleeding. Finally, he ripped off the sleeve of his shirt and made a bandage wrapping it around his waist. He stood for a moment, still feeling the blood dripping down his backside, but it was less, so he was content for now. 

Torsten tried to think of what had chased him, but he could think of nothing so large as that creature, nothing so menacing and quick. By the love of the Gods, he had survived so far, and so he must have a purpose.

He struggled to move now, so he made slow movements up from the cavern. He did so with precision. Every step could be his last as he made his way up. He stepped on the rocks one by one as he made his way out of the cavern and back to what looked like a forest of black trees. He crawled in pain as he made his way to the top, finally settling near a large tree root he held onto for balance. 

Torsten carried his body away from the cavern, and soon he was back on another trail. Only he was bareback now with no protection from the elements. He hoped soon he would find a camp to get help.

He walked for a while as every movement caused him great pain. He thought to himself, it would heal quickly, like all good warriors that were a part of the battle. Granted, he had never had this sort of injury before. Holding on to his hopes and dreams of escaping this strange land, he would find it eventually.

He heard birds in the distance that sounded like Gulls. He knew then he was close to the sea. He moved quickly now, almost giddily. Then there was something beneath his feet. The ground seemed to move.

It shook as though an earthquake were causing everything to crumble. Torsten tried to hold on to a tree as the ground rose and fell like a beast breathing. He held on tighter still when he realized that he was falling over the hills. How was this possible?

He saw the ground tip over, and then it moved to cause the trees in the ground to sway violently. Torsten soon lost his grip on the tree that he was holding onto and rolled until he hit the edge of a cliff. Only it wasn’t a cliff.

Torsten always believed he was a fine Berserker, a fantastic soldier in his King’s army. But this only took every belief he held and tossed it aside. The water was close now, and off in the distance, he could see the remainder of Viking ships. He knew he was close now; he was so damn close!

The ships would carry him home, but now he had to get off this island. That is when he realized it was indeed no island. 

A giant tentacle came from beneath the sea and over the cliffs and reached for him. He darted out of the way but soon, he rolled again as this thing moved. He realized with trepidation that he was on the body of a Kraken. It was so large that it had used its strength to move landmass like a barnacle growing from its body.

Soon he felt a shift, and then he saw more tentacles the size of large trees all seeming to search for him. They moved around and finally tripped him until he rolled into the sea.

He landed in the water with a great crash. At least he could swim his way back to the ships. He moved as quickly as he could. But he was no match as he now saw two eyes the size of homes looking at him from under the water. They began to rise and, with one smash, created waves to drown him with now as he bobbed in the water. Torsten battled the water and waves until he found himself at the top of the water. Once his head hit the air, he looked around for anything to save him. He was closer to one of the ships now, but to his dismay, there was no one operating them.

The ships were all empty, and the flags were shredded like the camp he had come across the day before with the skeleton people. Another tentacle pushed past him as he managed to avoid its wrath.  Torsten swam as fast as his body could carry him toward the ships.

He finally found himself close enough to grab hold of a rope scaling the bottom of one of the ships, and he grabbed hold of that to pull himself up onto the boat.

Once he got up, he crashed to the deck of the ship. Laying there for a few moments to catch his breath, he finally sat up. He looked around the boat and then stood up to see if the Kraken was still close. The sea seemed to calm, and the island he was on seemed far off in the distance. Torsten took a sigh of relief. He would not be able to find his way back home. He searched around for water or food that may be on the ship. 

He lifted a box, and inside there was food and other supplies. Torsten bit into his food and closed his eyes. It was the first thing he had that had taste to it. He began to laugh maniacally. 

When he was satisfied, he closed his eyes smiling, happy to be going home. At that moment, one of the lids to the boxes on the ship opened by itself and then closed again. He stared at it for a moment, trying to figure out why. Then it lifted again; he saw two small amber eyes glowing inside the box. Was it a rat? He could eat the rats if he had to.

Then he saw it, it moved from the box slowly, and he realized it was a serpent-like the one that had bitten him. He watched as it began to get bigger by the second, and it stood over him now with its tongue out to smell the air. 

It didn’t move to hurt him; however, instead, it just watched him. It seemed to understand him and know who he was. It said his name telepathically Torsten. Do you know where you are?

Torsten could only shake his head no. 

You are in my body Torsten; you live inside of me so I can carry you to Helheim. You did not die fighting. You did die of a snake bite. I must bring you home now before Fenrir eats us both alive. Don’t be afraid, and don’t fight it. The weight of the world is not yours.

It was impossible! He was dreaming. None of this was real. He had fought the men from the West, and he had torn them to bits. He was not going to go to Helheim! He would never go!

Suddenly the serpent shifted, and this time he grew into a mist, and when Torsten looked out to the sea, he was now back in that forest. The mists rose to where he stood. They were so thick that he could no longer tell where he was. There was a bridge, and he dared not cross it or forever remain. No matter what, he had to fight!

“You will not take me!” he called out to Jormungandr. 

Jormungandr hissed towards him and knocked him into the river. Torsten fought as hard as possible to stop the creature from getting to him. He swam to the opposite end of the bridge, and as he did, he felt the sun for the first time in what seemed like days. He closed his eyes as Jormungandr disappeared.

Torsten opened his eyes, looking around as he was in a large shelter with other men on fur beds all being tended to. They, too, had wounds from battle, and there was a woman came over to him as he slowly sat up.

“You’re awake,” she said, holding up a cup of water. “Here drink you have to be thirsty,”

Torsten took the cup and drank fast, and water fell from his mouth. He gulped it down.

“Where am I?” 

“Shh, don’t speak; you have an injury to your neck,” she said, pointing to what felt like a large gash.

“But I have to know!” he choked.

“You are at the camp. We waited for the other ships to come back, but they did not come for us. So, we are tending to the sick and wounded. You took a nasty shot by an arrow laced with the poison of a snake. Somehow you are better, but we thought you died.”

Torsten looked up at the hut ceiling, and then he pulled himself up. The woman tried to stop him, but he had to know she was telling him the truth.

Torsten strode towards the shelter door, and he could see outside. The sound of birds was now singing. The air smelled like shit, which was all he wanted now. It made him smile.

Just then, the maiden came over to him. 

“Please come lay back down. You will only make yourself worse,” the look of concern gave him cause for concern, so he returned to his bed. 

He closed his eyes again. This time, enjoying the sweetness of the woman who was now helping him. “I am glad to be going home,”

Suddenly, he felt the urge to open his eyes again. When he did, she had serpent eyes and was smiling.

“Torsten, you can never leave us, you swam to the wrong side of the river, and now you belong to us in Helheim forever and ever,”

Torsten found himself back at the edge of the cliff’s edge where he was when this all started. It was as if someone had put him back in time, and he would now repeat what had already happened.

Torsten let out a scream, but his cries were now superficial; they meant nothing. He was dead, not from battle but a snake bite, so he would never reach his Valhalla; he only had this place and his fears.

Torsten was determined not to repeat his previous battles. He was choosing to end them.

 Looking over the cliff, he could see those tentacles rising from the water. He took a deep breath, and this time he plunged himself over the edge and into the arms of the Kraken.

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