Plaguenarok Through Malina’s Eyes
Pestilence is my most detested enemy as a mortal. I’ve seen fatal infection take many souls far too early so it was not unreasonable that worry gripped my heart when the first of my friends fell ill with an unknown malady during our pilgrimage to the sacred ritual lands.
Belisama holds the title for being the most beautiful Ceasg I have ever seen. True, Belle is the only Ceasg I have ever seen but I am positive that no others are as beautiful as she. It was very unnatural to see her so sick, Belisama was punctually tidy and always had handy little tricks to keep herself presentable despite the company of brutish vikings. I suspect more precautions must be taken in lue of her scales. Her laughter sounded musical, like water trickling down a stream. Seeing her so pale and emotionless was heartbreaking. Belle was raised by druids for a time, it was abnormal for her not to be well or at least know what to do in case of sickness. I talked to her favored sailor boy Thatch— I knew nothing of Ceasg nature perhaps Belisama needed the ocean? Thatch, concerned as he was, insisted that she would be fine. He was right, naturally, though he shouldered the same unknown illness soon after as if he took it from her so his love would not suffer.
The next to fall ill was not a magical creature so naturally I felt uneasy when I realized this sickness could infect anyone. Dracon Adun, our own Jarl, fell deathly ill very quickly. Luckily he recovered as well but at the time of the outbreak it was not so certain he would survive. I always knew Dracon as being fearless in the face of danger, strong for the defense of his people and jovial in the absence of laughter but he was not any of these things as he sat in his chair motionless with a pained expression affix on his face. I remember watching him apprehensively as Dracon assured me that “Echo” was taking care of him. I of course have never seen Echo the willow nymph but I am not going to disregard the possibility of other magical creatures considering that I am, in a sense, one. Echo must have been at least a little bit real since I returned to camp one day after scavenging in the forest I found most of the Berserkers aiding in packing Dracon’s belongings per Echo’s instruction. His removal from the camp probably saved his life.
Perhaps the worst case of the unknown sickness fell onto Onion. No one really knows where he came from or why he was called Onion, his story gets longer every time he tells it but one thing was certain; this plague that swept across us did not care what kind of background you had. I found a new sense of admiration for the lad that week; even when the poor kid couldn’t bring himself to eat or talk he still put on a happy face as to not worry us, his family. Such a sweet boy, I am glad he survived. Cold and clammy he suffered through the ups and downs as I brought him cup after cup of purified water. I wished the whole time that I could fight the unknown demons that ate at his body like I fought the demons who tried to claim souls on the Eternal Battleground. Onion proved himself a worthy warrior anyway and for that, I was sure to properly congratulate him on his recovery when he was released from the quarantine tent.
Onion might have had it the worst but panic gripped the whole camp in it’s icy clutches when Tava fell to the plague. Tava was tough, smart and stubborn. Nothing could touch her, she always kept a considerable distance between her and her foes and picked them off expertly one by one with carefully aimed arrows. Unfortunately you cannot fight the plague with arrows. I’d scrambled over a snoring Lead when I heard my tent neighbor retching with such violence. Fear ran it’s way up and down my spine like I’ve never felt before as I’d struggled to put something on and open my tent flaps. Xain, ever vigilant, was already tending to his beloved. There is no wonder that man is an archer, his speed to assess dangerous situations is astonishing. Like lightning he bolted from their abode and across the large field to where the communal storage tents housing our medicinal herbs and equipment were located. Before I had even properly processed what was going on he had returned with a wool blanket, scooped Tava up in it and carried her swiftly but without jostling her back to the medical tent. Xain would have made a good Valkyrie if Valkyrie’s were not strictly female.
At first we thought the plague was spreading through improperly prepared meals but our most accomplished cook Tusk quickly disproved that theory. He would not allow such things to happen; he took his craft far too seriously. Even when he too came down with the sickness he refused to allow the food to be cared for improperly. He did not touch anything of course, he kept a safe distance away but yelled instructions across the common like an old man defending his property. I think the sickness got to his brain before the rest of him because far before he dissolved into angry old man yellings he was gaily waddling around camp cradling his friend’s heads in his hands while planting a wet kiss in the middle of their forehead. He was even speaking in tongues. “Pope-ah kees” was what he said. I still do not know what it means. Some people think it was some kind of crazy counter-hex to the sickness. I think it was the plague taking over his brain in order to spread to more people.
A large chunk of the down time in between tending the sick was spent trying to combat the sickness itself. Shamrock was my hero during this time. Shamrock was the one that saved my Lead from starvation when Lead’s village had been sacked so he already had my gratitude. As a child, Shamrock was sold as a slave to some sort of merchant and he’d picked up much in the ways of wisdom from his former master. I was thoroughly impressed with how he kept a cool head through all of this. Shamrock assisted me to lead our people in our Jarl’s absence. I often wonder if Shamrock ever had a family of his own before he joined up with the Berserkers. He has a lot of fatherly tendencies that are quite endearing. Not only that but his thick beard and tall stature certainly portray ‘essence of dad’ if you will. He cared for the females of our camp like wives and the males like sons. He was exactly what the camp needed at any given moment.
Eleven Berserkers fell, but thankfully recovered, to this unknown plague while we were suppose to be celebrating our annual pilgrimage. The list of the victims included humans, dwarves, and elves as well as three unsuspecting patrons that had visited our tavern tent, one of which was the demon Algol. I would not have been too upset if the inexplicable sickness decided to take the demon’s life somehow. I haven’t quite figured out of Algol is a good demon or a band one. Regardless, I was happy our camp as well as it’s guests survived the attempted purge. Maybe we had earned favor with a god of some sort. Whatever the reason, I am glad everyone was safe for now.
I see you lying there in ruin
All broken, torn and beat
Fear not brave warrior of old
Tis not your final defeat
I will not let you fall this day
To steel or iron nor lead
Step off that ghostly dock my friend
I can save you from the dead
So hear my voice, my healing words
And gather now your strength
I’ll mend your bones and wounds of flesh
I’ll be your saving grace
At last, I reach to you upon the edge of mortal earth
You will not slip away this day but revel in rebirth
Your body now is mended far beyond it was before
My words have vitalized your soul
So I’ll send you forth once more
And so it ends, my song of songs
It has served its purpose well
I have done my duty here this day
And saved your soul from Hel
Now rise again brave warrior! Cut down who dare oppose
And heed those very souls who seek our secret to expose
It was a warm summer’s night, far into the established relationship of Lead and Malina. Malina was walking back from her leisurely stroll in the forest with a hand basket full of herbs and flowers she had picked. Suddenly, her shoulder brushed something solid and her fist shot out reflexively. Her closed hand was caught easily by a bigger one. The former Valkyrie relaxed when she realized the thing that brushed her shoulder was in fact her dear friend Cú. Malina regarded him skeptically when he released her. The giant sized grin on the demi-god’s face was off-putting; he must know something she did not. He was also unusually well dressed for so late in the evening.
“How dare you sneak up on me! Your skin is so blue it fades in with the night! Are you just going to stand there and flash your teeth at me or are you going to explain yourself?!” Malina scolded though she couldn’t help the smirk that started to play on her lips. Cú’s smile was contagious.
“I wanted to see how close you could get before you saw me. Apparently it’s very close. Regardless, come with me you’re desperately needed.” He replied, escorting her by the arm into the settlement.
Malina hesitantly obeyed. Her confusion worsened as they got closer to the center of their encampment. No one was around and all the lights were lit. Every single torch, lantern, and candle was crowned with a welcoming flame. The whole settlement was washed in an umber glow. This was highly unusual. Typically the Berserkers of Jomsburg only put out enough light for the inhabitants of their camp to see by at night as to not alert unwelcome visitors to their location. Malina followed Cú, wary but curious to see what had him all excited.
He led her to the center of camp where a large, white canvas, pavilion style tent had been erected. This was also strange. The vikings were spending their early summer undergoing a pilgrimage, this tent was only to be set up once they reached their destination. Malina furrowed her brows in contemplation when Cú stopped her just short of the tent’s entrance. He held up a finger, instructing her to wait, and she rolled her eyes. Cú disappeared between the flaps of the tent’s entrance leaving Malina by herself outside.
Almost immediately, Lead emerged. His smile matched Cú’s though his was more coy. He, unlike Cú, was not as finely dressed. Only adorned with simple brooches and clasps but he did holster a sword that Malina didn’t recognize. Malina took a step back to properly take in her partner’s unusual appearance.
“Good evening my love.” she offered, still confused about what was going on.
“Well met.” Lead quipped with a sparkle in his eye as he closed the gap between them. He gently relieved his partner of her handbasket and took her hands in his. Malina exhaled shortly through her nose, finally fed up with the air of secrecy.
“My darling, what is going on?” she asked in her sweetest voice to try to coax the answer from him.
“A marriage.” he replied simply.
Malina quirked a brow. “Who is marrying?”
Lead saw his opportunity and took it, performing the most romantic thing Malina had ever experienced to date. He fished around in Malina’s basket until he gathered enough long stemmed flowers and herbs to make a fragrant bridal crown. He worked expertly with the precision of a surgeon to weave the plants together in a thick braid. After he was satisfied with his work, he gently placed it upon her head. “We are.”
Normally, Malina would have been offended that Lead kept a secret from her, however they both knew this was the one exception. Her thoughts must have spread across her face because Lead began to grin again. Malina blushed and tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her joy. With a nuzzle of their noses, Lead shooed Malina away to prepare for the wedding.
The preparation was rushed and untraditional since neither Lead nor Malina had families that could take part in the celebration. Most of the ritual of viking marriage involved both the bride’s family and the groom’s. Lead’s was nonexistent as far as he knew and Malina didn’t have parents in the traditional sense since she was born out of the Crucible of Life. Lead had obviously already completed his groom’s task of retrieving the ancestral sword (though Malina wondered whose ancestor the sword belonged to if it were not his) so all that was left was for Malina to ceremonially wash her body, adorn her hair, and bring a gift for the groom.
Traditionally the groom presented his ancestral sword to his bride, which she kept for any future sons they might have. The bride then gifted the groom a sword of her ancestors, symbolizing a transfer of a father’s protection of the wife to the husband. Malina didn’t have such things. Her weapon has a valkyrie was an extension of herself and thus could be summoned upon her will. After Freyja separated her primordial spirit she could not summon her ethereal spear. Malina wracked her brain furiously until finally she decided on the perfect gift.
The bridal procession was large and heartfelt. All of the Berserkers attended. The wedding ceremony had most of the traditional occurrences such as the appraisal of the gods, the blessing of the bride’s womb for the hopes of future offspring, the drinking of wedding mead (it was not considered a successful wedding ceremony if the bride and groom were not drunk) and of course the exchange of gifts. Lead presented his sword and Malina offered a small vial of water from the lake that Lead had rescued her from the night she fell. Lead graciously accepted his wife's sentimental gift without a second thought. Both cried. It was a beautiful ceremony.
After the celebration had ended at noon the next day, the newlyweds were escorted by the attendees to their shared bed where a select few would post watch outside as the marriage was consummated, such is viking way. In an attempt to save any virgin eyes reading this, we will not go into detail about that. Let us instead just say that it went well and the couple then slept for a considerable amount of time in each other's arms. Overall, the marriage of Lead and Malina Rotinn was a whimsical and enchanting event that barely anyone remembers due to the copious amounts of wedding mead consumed.