I was sick and tired of politicians and weaklings telling me the freedoms so many died for should be given up because some pansy got afraid of a cold. I knew the times called for the courage of our Viking ancestors, and so I sought to get approval for ending this false imprisonment of a lock-down from the holy gods themselves. I went to the witch of our kindred. I asked her to see for me, to see if I would be heard if I sought the High Ones for guidance.
“Tell me seeress, what do the omens say. Will I be heard? Will I see the High Ones, and place my question before them? “ I asked, ready to lead the fight against the lock-down, given the Victory Father’s blessing.
The Seeress stared long and hard into the vastness only she could see, then cast the runes before her almost negligently. She looked upon them as they fell, and laughed. She looked then to me, turning swift as a striking adder, and told me thus.
“When you stand before the High one, thrice will sound the call, ‘A HERO COMES!’, then shall you know your answer, from the gods, and from the lips of the valiant dead, the einherjar!” She cackled, and cackled until a cough took her, that wracked her body like a storm, and caused the scarf she wore over her face to flap like a raven’s wing. I of course, wore no mask, because I am not a coward.
I bowed to her, to thank her for her service, and strode home to prepare myself for the ordeal. Three days I went without sleep or food, only black coffee to keep me awake, and I cast myself loose upon the winds of the soul, to let my spirit ascend up Yggdrasil to Asaheim itself, to the fields where the gods themselves do sport.
There it was I saw two gods playing cards, with a goddess beside them, watching, laughing, and graving notes upon a tablet in her hand.
The Sigfather, Odin himself brooded as he looked at his cards, then pushed a set of golden rings into the center of the table. Loki Laufeyson smirked as he looked at his card, then pushed carelessly two twinkling jewels to match. Saga, goddess of story and song chuckled and shook her head, knowing whose hand was indeed the stronger, and saying naught.
Striding before the three high holy ones, I bowed deeply and waited to be recognized.
Loki glanced at me first, and the fire of his gaze roared through me like every dream I ever had twisted into a single knot of flame, tearing through my mind. I cried out and fell to my knees.
“Aren’t you supposed to locked down or something? I was sure your mortal Jarl said something about that those little talky boxes you use” Loki asked mischievously.
Picking myself up from where only my lack of flesh had kept me from spilling my guts of all the bile in them, such was the ravages of Loki’s casual gaze, I summoned my courage, and rose to face the holy gods and lay my defiance before them as offering of my courage.
“It was a politician who ordered the lock down, my lord, not Odin’s. I seek the will of the gods, and him who is Father of Victory as to the rightness of this lock down.”
I trembled at the audacity of my words, but I saw Odin himself glance up from his cards, before Loki burst into laughter.
“Of course it was not Odin who locked you down. Take my word for this, when Odin locks you down, you stay locked down whether you like it or not. I should know.”
Loki laughed again and shook his head, I turned to make my plea to the Victory Father, when he spoke, and his voice sounded like the death knell of nations, like the fall of hope itself.
“SILENCE, a hero comes” Odin spoke, and his living eye blazed with cold fire that froze me in terror that made me glad I had no flesh to shame me with its reaction.
One came stumbling forward, dressed in blue medical scrubs, a mask hanging from her neck, rough wounds on her face showed where such had rubbed her nose raw, bruised her cheeks like blows of an abusers fist, and her eyes were two dark tunnels into Hel’s own realm.
Loki cast his cloak about her shoulders, as Odin pressed his own horn into her hands. Saga it was who took her by the shoulders, and guided her past the two gods, who bowed as she passed.
“Drink deep, drink deep child of Eir, for your fight is over, and your watch complete. Know that in this place no sickness like you fought, no sickness like felled you at last, may blossom, and all that it stripped from you in life shall be restored. Come to the hall of your mistress, and tell me of your story noble hero, the battle you fought so long and well”
I felt the shame, that I remembered mocking those who called those healers heroes, when they stood weaponless, and faced an enemy too small to even see.
The Sigfather turned his single eye to me, and glared. He seemed to be waiting for me to muster the courage to speak my defiance, my call for his support to break the shameful lock-down. As I screwed up my courage to speak, Loki spoke instead, and his voice was a thousand whispers and screams woven together, causing me to tremble in fear at the hearing.
“Silence! A hero comes” He said.
An old rail thin trucker wandered up, jeans, button down shirt covered by an open vest, an armoured corps ball cap pulled down low over his eyes and a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth.
“Well that could have gone better. I guess I bet wrong again hey?” The old mans grin was unapologetic as he looked at the two looming gods.
Odin spoke, asking him a question in a voice like low rolling thunder.
“Did you know what you were risking, dead man?”
The old man adjusted his hat, then wiggled his hand from side to side as if to say “yes and no”
He dug his work boot toes into the soft grass of the Asgard field almost embarrassed.
“Well its like this,” He said. “When it all started, I figured it was just a flu, don’t be such a baby about it, so I didn’t really pay attention. Someone has to drive truck or nobody is going to have anything anyway right? Then some of the guys from the Veterans group started to get sick, and a few died, and I guess I took it a bit more serious.” He grinned, giving that the lie.
“Thing is,” The old man said, looking suddenly serious. “I got nobody really left. I mean I have a cat, but that old bastard has half the females in the apartment building feeding him on the sly, so I don’t figure he’s going to miss a meal if I croak, but some of the guys, they got families. It’d be a hell of a thing to take this back to your family. I mean, someone’s got to do the damned thing, but I figured it ought to be someone who hasn’t got as much to lose. Besides, not a chance a disease named after a light beer going to kill a drinking man, so I figured I was safe.”
Loki grinned, grabbed the old man by the arm and pointed him towards a hall that rang with loud voices and drunken singing. “Lets see if we can’t wrap you around something a little stronger than a Corona old man, and you can tell me a few more lies”
I felt the shame in me, like their losses made my bold words suddenly taste like dung in my mouth, dung and foolishness. Odin again turned his eye to me, as if daring me to speak. I writhed beneath his gaze like I hung upon the tree with his spear not his gaze through me, until he spoke and freed me.
“Thrice this is, a hero comes” He said in a voice as fell and terrible as the last echo of an sniper’s shot.
I saw who came, and old woman, scarf hanging down around her face, a face drawn and tired in ways I hadn’t allowed myself to see. A face I knew for years, a face I counted as kin to me, and more precious to our community than I realized until I saw her shade approach me.
“One last time do you journey, little mother. In honour of your service all the days of your life, If you can answer one question for me, I will answer one question for you.” Odin spoke now as the Wise Counselor, not the Battle-glad.
My own seeress, my own priestess, she who sent me upon this journey struggled to kneel before Odin as he stood tall as a tree, unmoving as a stone.
“Ask me your question lord” She said, and her eyes held no fear or doubt in their rich brown depths.
Odin asked “How did you come to your wyrd, for did my seeress know not what awaited?”
She looked at me and smiled, then turned to Odin and raised her arms and voice in defiant pride.
“Took my doom where I earned my bread and my worth both. I cleaned at the hospital every week for the last twenty years. I will be dead a hundred times before I will leave that task to another just because it got dangerous. I was careful, I did everything right, and still it got me. What is your wyrd, even the gods must bow to, there is no shame in that, and no victory in running from it.”
Odin laughed, booming thunder that drew answering lighting to split the sky, and the flashing light threw back a shadow of the insolent maiden who found Odin in her heart before I was born. He placed a hand upon her head, in blessing and spoke, still chuckling.
“Well were you asked, and well did you answer seeress. Is there a question you would ask in return?
A second time, she glanced at me before turning to the Victory Father.
“Victory Father, I ask, now that I am fallen, who is left who can serve my community, who can teach those who grow restive that it is not time to venture beyond the walls where arrows they cannot see will leave them only nameless and meaningless corpses for your ravens”
I threw myself to my knees beside her and took both her hands in mine. I turned to face the All Father, to see him extend his own ring that I may join my own hands to the seeress’ on the first of all Oath rings and speak my pledge.
“Upon your soul and my own do I swear, I will teach those who grow as restive as I, who would be as foolish as I, to stay locked down, to keep our distance and take all measures we are bid, that those who died to buy us time will not be dishonoured by our foolishness. I swear before my gods, my ancestors, and before you my seeress, you will not fall in vain.”
Odin drew her to her feet, and I know not where he took her, for I fled back to my flesh as if I had wings greater than his own ravens.
Heroes had fallen to buy us time, heroes would fall in numbers beyond bearing to buy us time, and to keep food on the table, power in the homes, and fighting the desperate fight to save who can be saved on the front lines of the disease.
It fell to us, to the living, to make sure the number who fall are no greater than they must be, that we who survive do the hard necessary things to preserve those the fallen died serving. It is not the courage to beat your chest, and wave your gun, but a far more terrible courage, a far steadier, colder courage like that of our ancestors before we won the great gift of our medical science.