One Man’s Hel*

A fallen Viking prince recounts his life’s deeds in a bid to escape the frozen mists of Hel and secure his eternal reward in the halls of Valhalla.

—EXCERPT—

AlrikAlrik grunted as the spear burst from his chest, piercing fur, chain mail and heart. Searing pain sated his battle lust as he collapsed to the blood-spattered snow, releasing his traitorous shield. The shouts and clangor of combat faded into the mists around him. He climbed to his feet and straightened the tangle of his ice-encrusted hair, listening for the echo of wings in the darkening sky.

The icy crunch of footfalls drew Alrik’s gaze from the cold heavens. A warrior approached—an elder lord—his tall frame arrayed in bright chain and crimson cloak. A raven of onyx body and alabaster wing perched atop his shoulder.

“Hail, son of Odin.” The elder raised a mailed fist. His scraggly beard flailed in the freezing wind. “I am Lord Vilhjálmur Skjeggehåugenssön.”

Alrik removed his helm. “Well met, Lord Skjeggehåugenssön. It is said the raven goes forth in the blood of those fallen in battle.”

“So it is said.”

“I am Alrik Rasktålgaardørnströmsen—Lord Langsvärd among the maidens.” He slid his longsword in and out of its sheath. “We shall ride together to Valhalla, though I claim first pick of the valkyries.” He adjusted his trousers, glancing skyward. “The wingéd wenches are busy this night.”

The raven screeched, flaring its wings.

Lord Vilhjálmur frowned, eyes lifted to the brooding sky. “You are confused, young lord, as to my purpose here. And yours.”

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