A Spirit United
“Morna will lead the wolf.” Freya’s words chilled Morna to the bottom of her soul.
She’d rarely traveled outside the borders of Asgard and had no interest in doing so now. She bit her tongue to keep it still. No matter what her own desire might be, if the goddess ordered her to lead some beast, she would do so. She kept her face tilted downward, allowing her hooded cloak to veil her face. She studied the stranger known as Vali through the sheer white fabric.
He remained kneeling before Odin and Freya, but it was obvious his was a false humility. His back, although lowered, was ramrod straight while his gaze remained locked on Odin.
Odin struck his spear hard against the stone floor. “She may lead a wolf, but not this one. If our bargain is sealed, he belongs to me, and I’ll not have him wandering the land in a quest that does me no good. He may have a champion go in his stead. His get may benefit if a cure to the curse is found, but Vali will never see that cure for himself.”
Morna flinched from Odin’s harsh decree. This man who had come to beg for his children had been cast a foul deal. The look on his face told his surprise and deep anger. Yet the one called Vali did no more than walk proudly to stand before Odin. Both men placed their hands on Odin’s spear, Gungnir, and bid the oath taken. Their sacred words became magical unbreakable oaths.
“Vali, you will lead Morna back to your home, choose a champion and return within one moon. How they fair will be up to them.” Odin spoke as if he cared not at all whether the curse was broken.
She supposed that was the truth. The rumor told was Odin himself had placed the curse on Vali, using him to capture Vali’s father, Loki. The trickster god was caught so at least part of that story must be fact.
Freya held out her elegant hand toward Morna, the signal for attention that none of the handmaidens would ignore. Morna glided to her mistress’s side, brushing her lips over Freya’s knuckles.
Freya spoke quietly. “I will give you a map to the one man who has the ability to break this curse. Odin might wish he were simply unwilling to undo it, but reality is that he cannot.”
“Pardon my doubt, Mistress, but am I the right one to send on a duty such as this? Surely Marin who is strong or Minix who is brave…”
“You will go and you will make your mother proud.”
Morna swallowed back her objections. Freya knew as well as any other how Morna wasn’t likely to fulfill her mother’s expectations any time soon. Her mother, Mist, was a Valkyrie while Morna was too cowardly to ride into battle.
Freya’s fingers tipped Morna’s jaw up, forcing her to meet the satisfied gaze of her goddess. “I have faith in you even when you do not. I will give you the map, but I want you to destroy it before leaving with the wolf. He is feeling cheated and will worry that you are part of the lie.”
“Why cannot this map just be given to the champion?”
“Odin would have that be so, however the wolf young would be at a great disadvantage. I’m certain without a guide to aide them, the quest will fail.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Vali and his kin have only three days within the form of a man. After that they become wolf and will care little for a quest meant to leash the beast. You will be the voice of reason when the human is lost to the animal.” Freya’s fingers tightened. “That does not mean I want you put in danger. You are a guide but the quest belongs to the champion.”
“I understand. You want the bargain to be fair, for the wolves to have an honest chance.”
Morna left at once to prepare. First she would spare a few moments to speak with Eisa and Einmyria. They were Vali’s sisters, the ones Odin had so little respect for. She was friends with both, and knew the sisters would want to know about Vali so he could be made welcome.
She jogged through the garden area of their home. The garden was empty in the pretty moonlight, but the double doors into the house were open, so she hurried that way. “Eisa? Are you home?”
“Over here, Morna.” Eisa’s face peeked out the doorway. “I was tending my miniature roses.” The profuse blooms burst out of the boxes where she grew the tiny beauties.
Morna breathed in the lovely smell. Did Midgard even offer fragrances like these? “I don’t have long, but I wanted to let you know what I heard at Odin’s hall just moments ago.”
“What is it? Nothing bad I hope.” Eisa spoke without lifting her attention from the plant she was pruning.
“That depends on your idea of bad. Did you know your father had mortal children in Midgard?”
Eisa looked up so suddenly that she lost her balance and nearly fell. “He had two sons, though only one lives now.”
“Vali. He’s here! Odin has demanded he serve as a wolfguard. He will be living in Asgard soon. But first he is taking me back to his family.”
“You?” Eisa asked in disbelief. “Whatever for?”
“Freya has this crazy idea I will be able to help Vali’s champion on this quest. I’m so nervous I could just hide.”
“Don’t be. I’m sure she wouldn’t send you if you had no chance to do as she hopes.”
“But don’t you see? I’m not fit to lead a quest. I tried to get her to send Minix or Marin but she says I am to go. What if I can’t do it? From the sound of it, I will be traveling with Vali’s son, who must be a beast of a man.”
Einmyria’s excited voice interrupted, “That sounds positively exciting!”
“Oh, you would think so.” Eisa glared at her sister, who was known for so many wild antics.
It was said Ria even dared to intrude on the Norns themselves. She was one who knew no fear and would do wonderfully roaming through the other realms. If only she could take one or both of the sisters with her on the dreaded quest...
Eisa patted her hand. “Don’t fret so much, Morna. I know you can do whatever you need to, even handle one of Vali’s sons.”
“Freya says they are wolves and barely men at all.”
“I watch over them with the Norns sometimes,” Ria said. “They aren’t so bad. Wolves have a very strict sense of honor. Much better than most men, I would say.”
Despite Ria’s wild opinions, Morna still had doubts. “But they sound dangerous to me.”
“Maybe some, but I’d trust Freya to not send you into something you can’t handle.”
Eisa hugged her tightly and whispered, “Consider this a chance to rise to the challenge. You can do whatever it takes. Just be sure to have backup in case you need help along the way.”
“Of course. If you’d had someone you trusted with you in those failed battles, I bet the outcome would have been much different.” Eisa smiled and patted her back reassuringly. “Why not take Swift? He would be helpful if the wolf gets out of hand.”
“That is a wonderful idea.” She should have thought of it herself. Swift would be good company, and he’d never let anything harm her if he could stop it, or get her to safety. And what better escape route than a winged horse? “Well, I’d better go. We are leaving right away. It seems Vali will be shifting back to wolf form when the sun rises and that only gives us a few hours.”
“You’d better go then. Good luck on your journey!” Ria called while both girls waved.