Millions of dead Vikings covered the blood-soaked earth, forming a gruesome landscape that extended as far as the eye could see. Broken shields and snapped swords littered the ground, but only a single survivor was left to clean them up. Covered in wounds from head to toe, he raised his spear and shouted his victory to the sky before falling to his knees, barely conscious.
"Haha! Today's victory goes to me!" Asger exclaimed. "Out of all ten million einherjar, I alone have conquered Valhalla! I am truly blessed by Odin!"
The golden light of the setting sun was reflected brilliantly by Asger's dented armor, giving him an aura of divinity. Even though blood loss forced him to kneel, it was still a glorious sight.
A moment later, the warrior's wounds stopped bleeding, and began to heal at an incredible pace. A few minutes later, his body was as good as new. As Asger watched, the surrounding corpses began to stir. Severed limbs reconnected and broken bones straightened, and shortly afterwards, the dead stood back up. Without a moment of hesitation, he bantered with his immortal comrades.
"Congratulations, Asger!" Audun shouted jovially. "You claimed victory for the second time this week!"
"Odin's blessing is not wasted on you! It's no mean feat to win against a thousand blessed in a row!" Brandt praised.
"O comrades, you honor me!" Asger grinned, enjoying every moment.
The huge crowd of warriors chattered excitedly for over an hour, retelling their intense battle and composing epic poetry on the spot. Eventually, they formed smaller groups and dispersed, leaving the battlefield completely clean, without even a splinter remaining. Soon, they would all meet up again in Valhalla, feasting and sharing their stories.
Audun headed towards his usual group, but stopped partway as he noticed an old comrade slumped listlessly on the ground. Audun sat down facing him, and their gazes met.
"Hey there, old friend. What's up? Did something bad happen during the battle?" Audun asked.
"No, no, it's not that," Ingfred replied glumly. "I've just been thinking about something, but I'm not sure whether I should pursue it or not."
"You can tell me about it, and I'll do what I can to help you out. I don't want to let you brood over whatever it is if there's anything I can do," Audun said.
"Alright," Ingfred replied. "Just a warning though: I'll need to ramble for a while to get all of this out.
"This started way back, even before my second life began here, but I'll begin with my arrival in Valhalla. To tell you the truth, at first I was hesitant to fight to the death. I wasn't scared of the pain; I've gone through a lot while I was alive, so I was ready for that. My issue was that I didn't know if I would really come back to life afterwards. Of course, I was relieved when I woke up safe and sound, and I quickly grew to love the daily fights and nightly feasts. What warrior would shy away from the chance to battle every legendary figure they've ever looked up to? Year after year, I fought and killed, testing myself against excellent warriors. My skills improved dramatically, but I've never been able to defeat any of Odin's favorites."
"Of course you can't, you old fool!" Audun laughed. "You're quite good, as far as einherjar go, but how did you ever think you could reach the same level as those blessed by Odin? His blessing raises top-tier warriors beyond human limits. Not even the best einherjar could hope to attain that level on their own, even after thousands of years."
"I know that now, no need to mock me," Ingfred smiled despite himself. "Einherjar can train until they reach the limits of the human body and mind, but to aspire further is foolish. None of us know who Odin will choose to bless. Simply being allowed to enter Valhalla is honor enough."
"True words, my friend. So what could it be that's eating at you?" Audun asked. "You haven't been enjoying the battles as much as you used to."
"It may sound strange, but after so many centuries spent living like this, I sometimes find myself wishing that I could spend some time in peace, away from all of the slaughter. I feel as if I've had my fill, having already fought all ten million einherjar a hundred times each. The day I arrived in Valhalla, there were only a million. I've been here a long time, you know," Ingfred said.
"The same goes for me," Audun chuckled. "I got here only a century after you. It's already been about five thousand years. Considering that, it's quite strange that only nine million einherjar have arrived since then. Our descendants may be living far more peaceful lives than we did, which is quite disappointing."
"Don't say that, Audun," Ingfred admonished. "We should be glad that none of the new einherjar have brought news of the end of the Norse. If they wish to live without war, we must respect their choices. After all, violence has more fearsome effects in Midgard."
"That's true, now that I think of it," Audun realized. "Living in Valhalla has given me quite a different perspective on things. Even so, I've been here for almost as long as you, so why does your heart waver while mine remains true?"
"In my first life, I wasn't always surrounded by Vikings. Although I raided countless villages in my youth, I spent my later years in a newly-founded settlement. As the hamlet steadily grew to become a village, I found myself enjoying this new way of life. The land that we found was quite fertile, and we had plentiful harvests almost every year.
"Our band of Vikings started fighting off invaders instead of invading others, but we were still more wealthy than we had ever been. We were able to build long-term relationships with people in neighboring villages, and I fully believe that most of us grew to love village life even more than pillaging. We still had battles every so often, of course.
"The reason I ended up in Valhalla instead of somewhere more peaceful is because we bit off more than we could chew. We knew that a lot of people wanted our land, but we fought off every fleet and army that came at us, so we thought we were fine. That hundred-ship raid caught us completely off guard, and we couldn't even flee. Most of us died in battle, but others must have become slaves. I've only seen twenty in all my time in Valhalla, so I can only guess at the fate of the rest."
"I've gotten to know some of them fairly well after you introduced them to me, but they never talked much about that village. I never realized you had fallen in love with peacefulness," Audun said.
"I'm the only one who misses it now," Ingfred sighed. "We've always loved fighting, but I'm the only one who still looks back. If I was given the chance, I'd be glad to spend a few years back in that village again. I have no idea if it even exists anymore, but those memories still call to me."
"Come on, cheer up," Audun patted Ingfred's shoulder. "Good memories can be savored, but they are in the past, and we should dedicate ourselves to the present. Our life is here in Valhalla, performing valorous deeds and creating new legends every day. This glory is ours forever, and we should be proud of that. We have been chosen to fight alongside Odin at the time of Ragnarok. What could be worth more? Let's go, it's time for the feast."
This started with the concept of an einherjar who loves the daily Valhalla routine, but eventually just wants it to end. The settlement thing was a lucky idea that made the ending less dark, and maybe even meaningful. I tried to hint at info about Valhalla, the characters, and Ingfred's past, and I hope you got it. I'm a little proud at being able to write a decent short story that's 95% dialogue, because I've struggled with it before. Any thoughts? Please post a review. I might add to this story in the future.
The meaning of the names used:
Asger = spear of God
Audun = affluent friend
Brandt = sword
Ingfred = peace of Ing (Freyr)