A/N: THIS IS A PREVIEW FOR THE SEQUEL COMING OUT THIS AUGUST 1. Hope you all enjoy!
Rain poured, the blood-soaked ground beneath rendered softer than it already was. And to top it all of, it was cold to the extent that he could no longer feel his fingers.
Flat on the ground and body covered in dirt and blood and wounds, Athgar stared up into the grey sky, waiting for his time to come, waiting for the valkyries to take him to Valhalla, to dine and drink for eternity with the Gods. Due to the raindrops getting into his throat, he wanted close his mouth, desperately. Although the blood gathering in his nasal cavity caused him to do otherwise.
With what little strength he had, he raised his arm, which was full of lacerations, and reached towards the sky, yearning to be led to his end. He tried to cry out, to scream but only managed a whimper.
And with that, he felt pathetic, worthless, and useless; the tears rolling down his temples seeped into his rain and blood soaked hair.
His time in this world was unfair. He never felt appreciated for his efforts in combat. He barely made any changes in his community. And this was how he was paid for—being left for dead by the very people he trusted with his life.
Please, let me die, was what he wanted to say.
"Oh dear." Nearby, he heard her voice. The sharp, deep voice a woman caused his muscles to tense.
No...No, please! Get away from me!
Cold fingers traced his jaw, then down his neck. Athgar shuddered and trembled, his hatred mixed with the pain fluctuating with every movement he made.
"Honey, I thought you'd be better." Now her hand was on his chest, firmly feeling the large cut that exposed his ribs. Gods, the pain was enough to tint his vision red. Athgar could only squeeze his hands until his nails dug into his palms. "But look at you. Nothing more than a broken shell."
"The valkyries won't come anymore, boy," Valravna said with a tone of confidence. "Any deal with a demon will severe the very bond that connects your soul to the next world. That was the sacrifice you made."
Athgar closed his eyes, hopelessness all the more real and nauseating. Tears streamed down and mixed with the blood.
"I can save you from Mother's embrace."
Mother. That was what the demons called Hela, the Goddess of death.
"Athgar, you are destined for many things. You are capable of many things. You just don't have the means." She brought herself closer to the dying Prince. Her breath tickled his ear. "I'm here for you. You know that. All you have to do..." She lovingly caressed the side of his face. "Is to give me your son."
"One soul to rule over millions. You'll finally have all the power you've desired. You'll be your own army. The Giants can't do anything else, but kneel before the bane of their existence."
Athgar bared his teeth; he wanted to cry, to break his voice through screaming. His face twisted in utter frustration. Even if he declined her offer, the suffering will continue. His body was in utter pain, and Helheim will be worse. It will be worse than being the pawn of this demon, worse than being left for dead.
In other words, he had no choice.
Athgar had to accept. "Let m...live..."
Valravna grinned. "Well done."
She had her palm on his chest once more.
"Close your eyes, dear." Being the easiest command, Athgar obeyed without hesitation. In an voice full of magic, full of power, she ordered, "Now. Open them."
Athgar did, finding himself in his room as he recognised the familiar soft sheets underneath his body and the thatched roof above that he built with his own two hands.
Holding back a scream to avoid waking up his wife, he summoned all the strength he had in his body to sit up. As he stood, his vision blurred and his whole body burned in agony. With determination, he dragged his feet towards the door that led to the living room. From there, he saw that the door to his wife's room was open by an inch.
She was asleep, to Athgar's relief.
Next, while leaving a trail of blood, he opened the door to his son's room.
And there he was, nestled in a wooden crate filled with hay and covered in cotton sheets. Athgar moved forward, falling on his knees and leaning over to brush the back of his bloodied hand against his son's face.
His touch left a red smudge, immediately feeling regret. He took his time to gaze at his expression which was so deep in slumber, like he had no worry of the current events humanity was facing. Athgar envied that expression and that ability to sleep without a bad conscious.
"I'm...ry..." he croaked.
He was about to do the unthinkable, the most unforgivable sacrifice.
I have to. I have to. I have to! I don't want to burn in hell.
With utmost care, he slipped his hands underneath the soft, small bundle of his own flesh and blood. He was so light that he didn't need to use a lot of muscle in his arms.
You're so fragile. My son. He held back the tears. I'm so sorry that this has to happen. I wish it could have been different. I really do. You don't deserve this!
He struggled out of his house. The sky, as usual, was dim with all its dark clouds awash with a depressing brown tint. The air was cold and soothing against his wounds.
"Follow my voice, dear," said Valravna, her voice echoing from a specific direction.
One step at a time, he followed and made his way through the wet lands. Despite the deep cuts in his arms, he carried Faust in a way that wouldn't discomfort him nor wake him up.
"Keep going straight."
At this point, Athgar would have already lost a ton of blood. He was beginning to feel colder than he should. His consciousness wavered, causing him to accidentally squeeze Faust in his hold.
There was a whimper from the baby. Slightly panicked for waking up his child, he stopped and cradled him softly. He hushed him reassuringly until the baby was silent once more. Relieved, Athgar thought it was safe to move again.
Finally, reaching the edge of the cliff, he saw the tall demoness stand with such posture that any man would kneel to her presence. The very air around her was enough to intimidate even the animals.
"Athgar!" he heard a voice behind him.
No! Athgar walked faster, almost running, approaching Valravna with desperation. No, I won't let my chance be ruined! Not this time!
"Pl—ease!" Athgar stumbled, the harsh movement forced Faust to wake up. "Help m—"
"Athgar, stop!" Mia was getting nearer. "Please, stop! No!"
Athgar fell to his knees, his hands holding Faust were raised and offered to Valravna, who quirked a brow and formed her signature mischievous smile. There were tears, there was sorrow for doing the most inhumane act possible, but it didn't stop his hunger for power. His desire to be above both humans and giants.
"I thought you wouldn't do it," she said. "But you're truly serious."
"Give m— power!" Athgar forced, his consciousness dwindling. "Right fucking now."
Valravna laughed, the power in her voice trembling the grounds and air.
Mia, dressed only in her nightgown, wasn't able to reach Athgar for an invisible barrier kept her at a considerable distance. She was pushed back mercilessly by it, her back touching the ground when she fell.
She wasn't willing to give up, even though it's all pointless. Though a mere human, she used her own body to slam against the barrier, a dull sound was heard with every impact. "Please, don't give him to the demoness! I beg of you! Please, Athgar! Not my son!"
Her words were heard, but didn't pierce his heart. Athgar didn't flinch when Valravna had her hands on the little boy. When she cradled the baby in her arms, the baby dissolved into black smoke.
Mia yelled, her face twisting in defeat.
Who knows what Valravna did to the child. Athgar chose not to question it.
"NO!" She too was on her knees, her tight fists hitting the barrier. "Why would you do this!"
I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Mia. Oh Gods, I'm so sorry! Athgar squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face into his hands.
He felt Valravna's hand on his shoulder, feeling her face close to his as she lowered herself. "You did well, my dear." Next, she reached out and lowered his hands. Her finger traced his jaw, stopping right underneath his chin to lift it.
Their eyes met, but her gaze had nothing good in them. They were devoid of happiness, instead full of what Athgar could only assume of as loneliness and hatred.
"Now," she said in a low voice. "For your reward."
Mia screamed from the top of her lungs, violently sobbing as she hopelessly watched the scene before her unfold.
Valravna gave Athgar the deepest kiss that he never had in a while. Her lips were cold, yet it felt good, almost ecstatic. He felt as though he was melting in pure bliss, all the cuts in his body emitted steam as it closed and his fractured bones fused into its original shape. Before he knew it, all traces of pain and suffering were alleviated.
That wasn't the end of it, however; the kiss continued, and Athgar started feeling something beyond lust. It surged through his body like a violent ocean current. It was so good, he couldn't help himself but moan uncontrollably. He had to cling on to Valravna's neck to keep himself from losing it. His past affairs with his former lovers were completely nothing compared to this.
Once they finally separated, Athgar panted unevenly.
Valravna straightened, licking her lips with delight. "Now, you no longer have to worry about time."
She dispersed into black flames, completely gone from his sight.
Athgar was so lost in his reverie to the extent that he didn't notice Mia charging straight behind him with full force.
"What have you done you fucking MONSTER!" She pushed him with a loud cry of fiery anger.
"Mia—aahh!" He lost his footing, falling backwards into the dark abyss.
Snapped back into reality, Athgar was quick to discover his god-like powers as instinct kicked in and summoned thousands of black shards. They circled around him before forming into large gigantic wings, large enough for him to be caught off-guard by the wind's abrupt resistance.
He pictured a bird flapping its wings, trying desperately to imitate its movements in what little time was forcefully given to him. He did his best to keep his limbs from flailing in panic and avoided thinking of death.
Falling to his very possible death was not how he wanted to discover his powers.
Squeezing his eyes shut, forcefully positioning himself appropriately in mid-air, he placed all faith into his wings.
Then, the air stilled.
Opening his eyes reluctantly, he found out he was roughly five feet above ground when he finally had full control of his wings, both moving evenly, each movement disturbing the dust and dirt underneath him.
Relief filled him along with gradual excitement; his feet was literally not touching the ground, and the sight of it was unbelievable.
He looked up, seeing the place where he lost his footing. Mia was nowhere in sight, but it didn't bother him nor did he care.
He had an idea; gathering strength into his wings, he was about to do what he always dreamed of doing.
"I'm free," he whispered to himself and smiled brightly.
His wings push down the air beneath him with full force, creating a large cloud of dust and rising high beyond the cliff and into the open air like a bird escaping from its cage.