Valhalla | Teen Ink


June 3, 2019
By N GOLD, Eagle, Wisconsin
N GOLD, Eagle, Wisconsin
18 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everything happens for a reason."

Brown-green eyes were limp and dull in the stag’s skull, and its antlers disturbed the moist terrain of the Norse clearing. Its velvet black lips parted for a pale pink tongue; it was livid with death and decay.

Ulrik dragged the stag across the grass. There was a carved bow strapped to his back and a bloodied, iron-tipped arrow in his left hand. He held the beast’s two hind legs in one palm with red-spattered fingers curled around them. Red and mottled maroon migrated down the length of his lower jaw, mingling with the blond braided locks at his ear.

He was a father, a hunter, a warrior. A Viking boy who’d only just been granted the tight beard of manhood. With long hair made of thin strips of rusted gold, white-pink muscles etched by Odin, he stood, an undeniable beauty. A man made by Norse gods.

“Iðunn,” shouted Ulrik, “I have returned.”

His steps slowed as he approached his territory, awaiting his beloved. But his home remained silent and still. And so, Ulrik tread on. The stag’s antlers cut lines in the dirt. They created a mixture of upturned soil and blood in Ulrik’s path–all the way up to the door.

“Iðunn?” Ulrik questioned, draping the stag’s lifeless carcass over the front threshold. He took several cautious strides.  

Inside, Iðunn lay by the bed, weeping over the body of her only son.

Hjǫrt, son of Ulrik, was the root of her grief.

Sweat crowded around the fawn strays of Hjǫrt’s hairline. The choppy locks stuck to a feverish forehead. Thankfully, his brown-green eyes were cracked open and searching for his father’s looming figure. He was conscious.

“Our son,” Iðunn sobbed, “he is ill. His skin is fire.”

“For how long?” asked Ulrik.

“It started in the night. After you left.” She spat bitterly.

“I was on a hunt, Iðunn. Do not worry, my love, meat will make him strong again. The gods bring fresh stag. With health and muscle. Its blood will… it will give him strength.” His beard succeeded in covering the taut, muscular bulge of masseter–an immortal frown.

“He will not keep it down.” The mother’s voice was gentler this time, and her palm cupped her son’s chubby, sweaty cheek. “His innards do not eat. His ears do not hear. His nose does not breathe. He does not speak, Ulrik!”

Coincidently, Hjǫrt coughed. It was like the thunder of a distant, dawning storm. As wet as the spray of saltwater as the winds picked up.

“He is sick with death. I will not have it. Hel–she will not have him, Ulrik.” Iðunn wailed.

Hel, a feminine being of death, was a prominent icon among the Viking village. She received a portion of those who perished, a goddess residing in a realm of the same name. It was a place, far from the sun, filled with death and darkness. Where tales depict a soul-devouring, dragon-like beast living deep in the roots of the universe.

“She will.” Ulrik spoke monotonously, blue eyes swimming with dread–and perhaps fear. “The old and ill will forever fall to Hel.”

“She can not take him from me!”

“It is not your choice, Iðunn! The gods chose over ten years ago. His life was written when your belly was big with baby,” Ulrik yelled.

Iðunn’s head fell, for it was congested with sorrow; silently, she prepared a prayer. She spoke to distant entities, apparitions in the back of her mind–the Norse gods. “Thor… Odin, please. I beg of you. Give my son your strength.” She gasped. “Or may the trickster Loki fool Hel–”

“Silence, Iðunn. Do not bring him into this. Loki has no place here.” The man cursed at his wife. “He has no place with the gods.”

“But his blessing can skew her judgement. Death can take me–or you–instead.” Iðunn insisted. “Our son does not have to die.”

“Hjǫrt’s death was decided long, long ago, my heart.”    

Ulrik looked at his son like glancing at a reflection in a calm pond. Their matching features only amplified Ulrik’s ever so troubling thoughts.

The boy had two delves of dimples in his supple cheeks. Long eyelashes that framed the green orbs like war paint, and a defined nose–one currently red and flushed with sickness. And come summer, Hjǫrt’s fawn, feathered hair lightened with the sun, completely abandoning the brown shade of Iðunn’s dark mane to parallel Ulrik’s dirty blond. In all, Hjǫrt was Ulrik’s son–that had always been clear.

From teaching Hjǫrt the ways of the water, to carving a dragon-shaped bowsprit into a fallen oak. Ulrik’s blood coursed through Hjǫrt’s veins.

Ulrik loved his son. His prodigy–his legacy–that would carry on their Norse, Viking traditions. He loved him so very, very much, and the paternal emotions in his chest led him to a decision.

“Our son will dine with Odin in Valhalla.” Ulrik stated, blinking away the traces of tears as he watched his son let out a pained moan.

“Yes,” cried Iðunn. “When he gets better, he will grow big and mighty, and he will die honorably in battle. When he gets better, Ulrik.”

Battle was the only way to reach Valhalla, Hall of the Slain. It is the only way to feast with the great one-eyed Odin among Norse warriors. Eating roasted boar and earthy vegetables while drinking barrels of honey-sweet mead. Valhalla was heaven.

Ulrik did not respond. Instead, he stood. He turned to the table and extended shaky fingers. His left hand caught an edge for balance, for his mind was far too weak to keep his body strong.

Finally, Ulrik grabbed his sword from the old oak table. It was short and swift, and it carried the souls of several men. It was the sword Ulrik carried into battle.


“Go outside, Iðunn.”

Ulrik shoved his woman, pushing her away from Hjǫrt.

“What are you doing?” The maiden asked, startled. She was reluctant to leave her child’s side, but she was forced to her haunches with one blow.

Regardless, the father knelt, pressing a delicate kiss to Hjǫrt’s forehead. Their eyes met in a silent, pregnant pause. The boy’s brown-green eyes were glazed with pain and helplessness. He was hurting.

“I love you, my son.” Ulrik whispered, and his bloodshot eyes welled with tears. He took Hjǫrt’s chin in his hand–an action of comfort.

Hjǫrt’s frowned. His eyebrows met, forming a crease of confusion.

“There is no need to be afraid,” said Ulrik. “You will see the gates of Valhalla, my boy. Where powerful wolves stand guard. But they bow in your honor. And you will find Odin in the golden halls. Where Valkyrie women will bring wine and sweets. Where you sit atop chairs forged of armor beneath rafters made of spears. It is beautiful. You must not fear death.”

Hjǫrt was too weak to respond.

And so, Ulrik plunged the sword into his son’s chest.

Hjǫrt jolted, letting out a gasp of agony and surprise. His eyes widened indefinitely, and his feeble hands flailed, trying desperately to create distance between them.

Iðunn screamed.

The sick boy let out a strangled shout, clawing at the father he loved dearly. He did not understand.

Ulrik set his weight on the blade, using his strength and size to push the sword deeper. The dented and overused blade punctured the boy’s heart with ease. And after a few laboured breaths, Hjǫrt stilled, and his pain ceased.

Iðunn pounded her fists against Ulrik’s back, tugging at his tunic. She pulled the man away from her son’s lifeless body, falling over the corpse into a mourning heap of ripped fabric and disheveled hair. She pulled the sword from her son’s heart.

Ulrik fell to his haunches, back hitting the wall.

Brown-green eyes were limp and dull in Hjǫrt’s skull. His white lips parted for a pale pink tongue; he was livid with death and decay. A fallen stag slain in battle.

The author's comments:

After writing Red Waters, I yearned to write another work revolving around Scandanavian culture and Norse Mythology. This piece is more heartbreaking, and it deals with father-son love, sacrafice, and Viking religion.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.