Here’s a teaser scene from my newest release, Valkyrie, when Odin meets Freyja. This is chapter 3:
Copyright (c) 2022, Kitty Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
Not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things…
An old woman sits alone at a table away from the live music, a mug of hot liquid in her frail hands. Her head raises abruptly, and her gaze narrows on mine. Then one shriveled finger beckons me nearer.
I turn to look behind me, even though I know she means me. I consider just walking out. There’s something deeply unnerving about her, but against all my better judgment, I cross the room and sit in the chair she indicates.
“I know what’s coming for you,” she says cryptically. Leaning in she asks, “Do you want to know your fate?”
I just chuckle. “I don’t believe in fate. And I have no gold on me to pay you, witch.”
I start to get up, but she grips my wrist hard. “Sit. Down.” She closes her eyes for a moment as though waiting for information to be dropped into her mind, as though in a trance.
Finally, her eyes open and level on me—an eerie light blue. “Odin.”
Goosebumps prickle out over my arm under the heat of her hand at hearing my name on her lips.
Okay, I’m impressed. It’s not that no one knows who I am, but I wear many guises and can easily fade into any crowd.
“You like power,” she observes. “Power and knowledge. You can never get enough of it. You think knowledge is power, but sometimes it’s just the opposite.”
“Doesn’t everyone want power? Why even live if you only exist to serve the whims or values of others? Most creatures are slaves, and I’ve made great sacrifices to get to where I am.”
“Indeed, you have.”
Her gaze rakes over me. No matter what form I take, I can’t ever hide the lack of one eye or the scar around my throat from the rope that finally snapped after nine days hanging from a tree. I survived that, and in the end, the runes spilled all their secrets to me. What could ever possibly take me out after that?
I can’t imagine the arrogance of a fate that would think to come for me.
As if in answer to my internal question she says, “The wolves are very angry with you, Odin.”
This announcement jars me, but I school my features, revealing nothing. It’s just an old woman peering into a cup. What does she know?
The witch continues, “You will lose all your power to a giant wolf, a wolf larger than even the greatest dragon in all the realms. He is the keeper of all the memories of the wolves. And he knows, Odin. He knows what you did. His name is Fenrir. The great wolf spirit searches for you even now. Someday he will find what he seeks. In that time there will come a great battle. To you, it will seem to be the end of the world. And you’re right… it is the end of the world… for you. Let’s give it a name, shall we? All epic fights must have their own name.”
She looks into her cup, and I wonder if she’s reading tea leaves. I’d thought her to be drinking something stronger, but perhaps not. Every part of me wants to get up and flee this tavern, but I feel compelled to stay and wait and hear the rest of my supposed fate.
Finally she looks up and smiles. “I’ve got it… Ragnarok. It’s got a nice doom ring to it, don’t you think?”
“I never go into fights I can’t win,” I say. And it’s true. Every battle is won before I ever set foot on the battlefield. Every move and countermove laid out. By the time I go into a fight, I know exactly what my enemy will do. They’re always so transparent, their wills and desires, their hopes and fears all laid out before me, like vulnerable infants left in the woods to the wolves.
And I am that wolf.
“You’ll go into this one… and you’ll know you’ll lose.”
“Why would I ever do such a thing? It doesn’t sound anything like me.”
She shrugs. “The norns don’t exist at my beck and call. They tell me what they will, and the cup has now gone dark. I have nothing more to give you.”
“You’re wrong, witch. I never lose. I won’t lose. And I won’t die. Mark my words, I will stand the victor at the end of this supposed Ragnarok.”
“It’s fate. An unbreakable prophesy. It can’t be changed. I would get my affairs in order if I were you.”
“As I said, I don’t believe in fate.”
She rises from the table and levels a hard gaze at me for several seconds as though she’s not sure if she wants to tell me something. Finally, she decides.
“I once knew another king who tried to thwart his death. I was the fate that ended him. And he even had a provision to escape it, which you do not. Count yourself lucky that you don’t have such false hope. Now he’s only a bad memory. You’ll fare no better.”
With that pronouncement, she brushes past me to leave.
“Freyja,” I say, my voice soft.
I think she didn’t hear me, but the tension in her shoulders suggests otherwise. She stops. She heard me. She turns back to face me, the glamour falling off her like sheets of water to reveal her true form.
There’s a sharp intake of breath, and I realize it’s mine. I’d heard of her legendary beauty, but nothing could prepare me to encounter it face-to-face.
Painted over her exquisite loveliness is an expression of wariness. Is someone after her? Who would dare harm the fair Queen of the Vanir? And a volva of so much power? I felt her power at a distance well before I saw her crone form—the mask she draws up to conceal her beauty from the world.
Who else could it be but her?
I’m standing here, staring at her like an idiot, fantasizing about the better things we could be doing right now than discussing my untimely future fated death.
Finally, I break the silence.
“Even more beautiful than the skalds suggest.” I can’t decide if I want to ask her on a date or to help me fight this. Maybe we could discuss battle strategy over dinner.
She rolls her eyes. “How did you know it was me?”
In truth, I didn’t at first. This is the first time we’ve met in person, but she is known. And even her glamour can’t hide who she is for long.
I point to my eye patch. “I gave up a lot to see and know a lot. You’d be shocked by all I’ve learned from inside the well.”
“And yet… you couldn’t see the prophecy of your own demise. I’d get a refund.”
I wink at her, but that move never really comes off right. “Well, I do have the blind spot on this one side, you know.”
But I have her. She smirked a little. She turns to leave, clearly done before the banter has even started.
I grab her arm, and she bristles. My hand immediately falls away. I’m not foolish enough to test a volva’s patience—certainly not one as powerful as this. “Freyja, help me. I know you have the power to save me.”
“I’m not in the business of fighting pointless battles with fate. Get your affairs in order and forget about it. Live your life while you have it. Goodnight, Odin.”
With this final pronouncement, she leaves the tavern. She may have decided that was the end of the discussion, but our conversation has only just begun.
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Also here’s a fun Instagram Reel I made for this book. (sound on!):
Thanks so much for reading!