Chapter 15 pt.2

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By the time the suns rose, Valkyrie arrived. Nar had ridden as fast as his hooves would carry him. Nora had gone back to the wolf den to retrieve their seven pups. Most were old enough to walk behind her except Derik. Fanndis had promised Nora that she could live in the barn if they swore not to eat the horses. Nora quickly agreed. Valkyrie was shocked to see a family of wolves inside the barn when she stabled Nar with the other animals. The matron wolf eyed her with a wary curiosity. Valkyrie frowned and ambled towards the house. She wanted to know exactly what had happened.

When she walked into the kitchen and through to the den, all was quiet, though everyone was wide awake and sitting around the fire. She noted that Arna was absent from the gathering. Also noticed was Olan—the youngest of the Maslyn twins—who sat in a chair covered in blankets. His face was gaunt, nearly hollow, and his eyes were sunken into purple-skinned sockets. He looked terrible.

“What has happened here?” she demanded.

“Valkyrie,” Fanndis muttered.

Valkyrie observed that Stigg, Fanndis, Olan, and Soryn were in great need of sleep, though no one would get any if they continued brooding by the hearth. Using a small bit of magic, she put them all under a sleeping spell that would last until noon or so. Within minutes, everyone in the room, except for Valkyrie, fell into a deep sleep. Valkyrie went into the bedroom—she presumed that Arna was in there.

When Fanndis had contacted her, Valkyrie had guessed snippets of what had happened. Soryn and Arna had performed reversal magic and now Arna was in a coma because of it. Valkyrie had some experience in this area and knew that the girl was in no danger, but she had no idea when Arna would wake. It could be hours, days, weeks, years…it was hard to tell with magic of that sort. Dark magic. If she had been in the body of an animal, it was likely that she would have found her way to the cottage by now, but there really was no way to be sure. The best thing to do would be to watch and wait.

Valkyrie tried every spell she knew of to wake the girl, but her efforts proved fruitless. She even tried the same reversal spell Arna had done. Nothing worked. Heartsick, the old woman went back through the front room and into the kitchen. She knew the people in the middle room would be hungry when they awoke from their enchanted sleep. Taking some of the hanging herbs from the ceiling and vegetables from the root cellar below the kitchen floor, Valkyrie made a stew in the cauldron. She prepared the spices and herbs in the broth in such a way that it would bring comfort to all in the house. Valkyrie, herself, was in need of comfort after Annar’s death, though months had passed since. Her hair had grown a bit since she had chopped it off in her grief.

Many thoughts coursed through Valkyrie’s head in the silence of the morning. Summer birds sang bright songs outside the kitchen windows, but she felt none of their cheer. Still, a strange comfort settled in her old bones. She liked the cottage and the warmth it provided. She enjoyed the company of others. A thought came to her, “You could stay here, Valkyrie.” She knew that Fanndis would most likely need help with all the extra mouths that had accumulated around the cottage and she could be of help with Olan—helping him get back on track with his Seidh training if he still wanted it.

By midday, the others began to wake. Olan was the first and Valkyrie made sure he saw her before any of the others woke up. She drew him into the kitchen for a talk.

“Hello, Olan,” she whispered.

“Valkyrie?” he croaked—not used to his human voice.

“I’m surprised you remember me. You were just a boy when you came to see me last.”

“What are you doing here?” he asked, his voice sounded far away, disinterested.

“I came to help in any way that I can,” Valkyrie replied, smiling.

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