You would have killed each other.
The spear crushes through leather armor, and the warrior yells, a grimace of sound swallowed by the battlefield.
I grip the curved rib, still dripping blood from the carcass at my feet. A pig, slashed open from throat to groin, spilling itself into the earth. My sacrifice. I tore the rib free, all my body weight involved. It is my wand.
The warrior I point at does not fall. A gaping hole shows his heart to the battlefield, but he continues to fight.
I flung myself at Father’s feet, gripping the hem of his robe. “It is foolish, Father.”
He leaned over and fisted his hand in my hair. “Adis. I have listened to your counsel, yet blood price must be paid. If he refuses still, there is no choice. Think of your brother.” Drawing me up, he kissed my forehead. His rough beard smelled of smoke.
My rib-bone wand sweeps over the valley. Swords cut into men, and they do not fall. Or if they are pushed to the ground by pain and death, in moments they climb back to their feet. They lose arms. Ears. Intestines like belts, decorating shattered armor. They fight on.
Your hands gripped my face and you kissed me. I tasted the wind in your mouth. “Stop this,” I begged you.
“It cannot be stopped, Adis, wife-of-my-heart.”
“I care not for blood prices. Pay my father the money!”
“We do not have it. You know that.”
I tore the axe from your belt. “You have wealth.”
“Not enough, not for the price of a king’s son.”
“You could find it.” I lifted the axe. The iron strained my arm, but I did not lower it again.
“No. I will not turn my back from this or run away.”
“Not for me.” My arm began to shake with the effort of holding your axe aloft.
You lowered your eyes. I threw your axe to the ground.
This is true war.
Dead coming round again and again to destroy each other. Never lying down. Bleeding and screaming.
From the lee of the hill I watched you. When we met, you said your horse’s name was Grace-in-the-Wind, for she had the finest gait and when she ran she liked to toss her head to make her mane flow.
But now she stood still as stone, and upon her back you looked out over the battlefield. The helm over your eyes glinted dully in the sun and I read the rune-spell painted onto your shield for endurance and strength. Your men waited, too, staring across to Father’s men. And beyond them to Father himself. His horse stomped a foot, ever impatient. I had ridden that horse, and his sire and dam. My first memory was clutching my tiny fingers through coarse red mane.
The battle would end with both of you dead, or I would be forced to return home with the father-who-killed-my-husband, or leave with the husband-who-killed-my-father.
I could not think of it.
I am a daughter of Freya, who dances between death and life. I know the words to open Hel.
I sing the song of the dead.
This battle will never end.
Author’s Note: this is based on a real Nordic myth. *love*
image by Deni, Flickr creative commons license.