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The madness had gone on for over a week when a fierce Malevolence descended upon the village. Undaunted, the invaders simply carried out their atrocities indoors, letting the storm rage outside.

One night, the leader of the warriors came into the pen where Brynhildr had been kept. He wore a satisfied smirk as he went from one captive to the next, looking them over as if they were animals for slaughter. When he came to Brynhildr, he lifted her chin roughly and licked his lips. With a grunt, his heavy hand tore the necklace from her throat.

His laugh was harsh and full of raucous glee. “Excellent! Tonight, we shall hold a glorious contest. And now we have a prize!”

For the first time, Brynhildr felt a sob welling up in her throat. Her vision dimmed with tears. Something about the sight of the necklace in his massive grip, or the stinging of her neck where the necklace had been, finally brought it home. That it had been her mother’s most prized possession, that it had been passed down through generations of her family, meant nothing to this monster. There was truly nothing any of them could do. The horror would continue until they were all broken in mind and body. The storm’s thunder shook through her bones.

Seeing her eyes brimming, the warriors gathered around their leader, watching her and licking their lips, drawn like sharks to the scent of blood. The leader’s grin grew wider, and he shook his head with false concern. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have your chance to win it back.”

They were dragged into a building out of the growling Malevolence. In the flickering torchlight, the warriors gathering in a circle, clearing an open space. Stripped and beaten with the butt end of a spear, Brynhildr was thrown in into the ring. A moment later, her opponent was tossed in, stumbling and already bloody. “Fight for your life! Last pig standing gets the necklace!” the leader growled.

Brynhildr looked up. Staring back at her across the opening in the stamping, shouting crowd was her friend, the boy she had defended. His wounds had reopened, trickling red down his leg. He stared at her with a hopeless smile in his eyes. She knew he wouldn’t fight back; she could kill him easily.

Her gaze roved over the circle of jeering warriors. Their faces were no more than the masks of depraved men and women who had burned their souls on a pyre.

The storm shook the walls of the building as Brynhildr screamed and flew into a rage. Instead of her opponent, she charged the warriors standing in a ring. Howling her anger, she grasped a chair for a weapon, then laid about her with the splinters when that broke.

For just a moment, the warriors hesitated. No one in this weak village had dared to defy them. But they were ruthless killers, armed and armored, and Brynhildr had endured much already. Though she fought their clutching hands with frenzied spirit, she was only human. Their blades plunged into her, their armored fists beat her to the ground. Fighting fiercely to her last breath, Brynhildr died cursing them in Odin’s name.

The remaining villagers broke into helpless weeping. The tormentors were delighted at first, but soon grew annoyed. The survivors were sent back to a guarded hut where their mewling would be less audible. There was talk of burning it, to finish their revels with the blaze.

The Malevolence continued to swirl around the island. Those few who looked up from their own misery saw the storm do something strange, something never witnessed before. The clouds gathered into a dark vortex just above the prison. Hearing the storm rage just outside their door, the survivors wept even louder, wailing for Brynhildr, the only one who had dared to fight back.

Whether or not the gods heard their plaintive calls, something in the storm listened. A wisp of its roiling energy passed into the feasting room and brushed the blood and tears that marked the face of Brynhildr’s corpse.

In any other time, she would have been swiftly forgotten, another toll in the unbalanced ledger of human cruelty. The memory of her name would be covered with the ashes of other dead innocents. But this is the Age of Becoming.

Brynhildr’s body began to glow with an undulating light, and a circle of blinding white fire surrounded her. As the flames grew and touched her still form, Brynhildr was reborn. She arose and assumed the aspect of a female warrior, clad in shining armor. A pair of glossy crimson-black wings sprouted from her back, and she lifted a fiery spear. Blood-red tears were etched into her skin.

Her eyes burning with reawakened fury, Brynhildr strode into the sleeping chambers of the torturers. A few warriors rolled to their feet, but she pointed her spear at them, and they burst into flames. Others she simply hamstrung and left to writhe to agonizing death.

Dripping with blood, Brynhildr freed the remaining captives and asked who would stand beside her to be cleansed by the storm. Eir, Hildr, Gondul, and others joined her.
Exposing themselves to the full violence of the storm, they began to hunt the rest of the invaders, who had strayed all over the island. Brynhildr’s followers were transformed as they drove their enemies screaming into the sea. Their open wounds vanished, and their eyes began to glow with a veiled hatred that burned like the sun through stormclouds.

When the night was over, only one of the subhuman invaders was left alive: the leader, the one who had offered Brynhildr her own mother’s necklace. He was caught slinking back through the village in the grey light of dawn after the storm, clutching the piece of jewelry in one hand, his axe in the other.

A blast of blue flame from Brynhildr’s spear dropped the weapon from his hand, and he stumbled into the ruined feasting hall, his cruel face a mask of fear.

Brynhildr followed and snatched the necklace from his hands. She would strangle him with it. But then a hand appeared on her arm, holding her back. One of the castrated young men had stepped forward. As if looking at the memory from far away, she knew it was the boy again, the one she’d saved twice now. Without a word, he freed the necklace from her clenched fist, shook his head and placed the necklace gently around her neck. He smiled helpfully, just as his young brother had when the leader had slain him on the shore.

Over the boy’s shoulder, Brynhildr stared deeply into the vacant eyes of the defeated brute. Though her soul cried out for a final act of vengeance, she simply hissed “Never again.” The cost of each word burned in her eyes, white-hot stars of anger. The man stepped back.

She pointed her spear toward the thatched ceiling. Another spout of flame flared from the tip, searing the roof to ash. Crimson-black wings glimmered and shone in the pure sunlight as Brynhildr and her followers flew out of the hall to search for any villagers who remained alive.

Left standing alone in the ruins of the feasting hall, the leader of the fallen marauders sat back down and marveled at his good luck. There were always other warriors to hire, other villages to have some fun with. His horrible, savage mind began turning, thinking of disgusting horrors he had yet to try.

It took him several years, but eventually he arrived in an undisturbed village with a new band of warriors at his side. As the villagers grew alarmed and began to run, to try and hide from the laughing killers, a wolfish grin spread across his face. He mumbled to himself, “Never again, hah! That bitch will soon learn who the real master is.” He cinched up his belt and drew his sword, licking his lips.

Then he heard the beating of wings overhead. He blinked into fiery sunlight to see a familiar female figure standing before him. Before the brute could react, he felt an acute stab of pain as her spear punctured his groin.

The elder Valkyrie finished her tale and looked around the group gathered in the courtyard. Deep red tears streamed down the cheeks of the various Valkyries, old and young. Behind the tears were eyes of steel, purpose and determination burning in their souls. She cleared her throat.

“Thus ends the Becoming story of the Valkyries. It is said that of all the races in the Realm, our tale carries the most tragedy. We can only hope we continue to carry that terrible distinction, for no creature should suffer as we have. We are born of suffering and horror. We are born to defend the Realm. We are born to defend those too weak to defend themselves. The Valkyries who came before me wrote the embodiment of our spirit in the Valkyric Code, though the creation of that great document is a tale for another day.”

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