Sorry this didn't come out sooner, it got delayed for reasons I'd rather not get into. I also got someone to beta read for me, which is great. Also, since one of the characters speaks Norse, I'll be putting translations at the very bottom.
Beta reading credit: TheManThatWalksTheAbyss115
Robin awoke slowly, her senses numbed. She couldn't move and could barely breathe, but as the time she spent awake increased, so to did her feeling. Unfortunately, her first sensations were that of burning pain spreading from her torso. She grimaced as she tried to move, only being able to wiggle her fingers and toes, now aware of the feeling of soft furs enveloping her, warm and peaceful. She struggled to try and bring her hand up to her face as she tried to remember what had happened, though her arm barely budged. She remembered a raging fire and suffocating smoke, hot tears stinging her face, even hotter fury burning within her heart.
Her eyes opened steadily, trying to discern where she was, but she was met only by a blurry blob of brown illuminated by moving light. She grunted as she once again attempted to move her arm, and this time she was able to get it out from beneath the blanket. As the aching limb rested on top of her chest, she once again felt the furs. They didn't feel like the fake stuff she'd seen during the few trips she and her mother had made to the nearby town. It felt like bear fur, and as she forced her eyes down, she was met by a mass of white. Yep, definitely a bear pelt, but why was it white? It had to have been imported to wherever she was. Where was she?
She forced her eyes open a little more, and now she could make out everything in better detail. The mass of brown was, in fact, the walls and roof of a wood cabin. She rolled her head to the right and saw the source of the flickering light. A candle had been left on the nightstand next to her bed, though the wax had mostly melted away. But next to the burning stick was a small bottle, crafted with opaque glass so she couldn't see the contents. Next to it was a glass cup filled with what she assumed to be water. She licked her lips and realized just how dry her mouth felt.
Mustering what little strength she had, she guided her shaking arm to the cup, the harsh cold against her fingers uninviting when compared to the warmth of the bed. Struggling, she brought the cup to her lips and drank, feeling the ice-cold liquid flow down her throat. When Robin had drained the glass of its contents and her mouth no longer felt like the deserts of Vacuo mid-summer, she set it back down on the nightstand.
Feeling better now that she had some water in her, she was finally able to rub the sleep out of her eyes, though her joints still ached, likely from lack of use. And that's when she noticed something that made her brow furrow in confusion. Etched into the wooden door leading to the rest of the building was a strange rune she'd never seen before. It glowed a pleasant blue and looking at it made her feel almost at peace.
Deciding to try and get up, she moved the warm furs off her, exposing her body to the room. It was surprisingly warm, though not on the same level as the bed. Looking down, her eyes widened when she saw the rest of her body. While her legs looked fine, clad in a pair of short-shorts that left the majority of her legs exposed, but her entire torso from her waist to just below her collarbone was wrapped in heavy bandages, a large blood-stain visible where she'd been stabbed. Whoever had patched her up had done a fantastic job, as the size of the wound should've killed her.
Propping her arms below herself, she was able to turn herself, so her legs dangled over the side of the bed. They briefly recoiled when they touched the cold floor, but she forced them down. Sitting up, she was hit by a wave of vertigo that almost sent her back down, but she fought through it. Once it had passed, she looked at the door, determined to see where she was.
"Alright, let's do this," Robin said, trying to motivate herself into getting up. Her first attempt didn't go so well, as she was only up for a few seconds before falling back onto the bed. The second wasn't much better, but for the third, she pushed what little Aura she had into her legs, giving them the boost they needed to stay up.
Her victory was short-lived as she began to wobble and struggle to stay up. She was able to reach the opposite wall, leaning against it for support. After taking a moment to catch her breath, she made her way to the door, feeling slightly stronger the closer she got to the mysterious rune. Once she was at the door, she took hold of the knob and twisted, fully expecting it to be locked. Surprisingly, it popped right open without a sound. She looked out into a hallway, her room being at the very end of it. The rest of the house looked to be lit by torches mounted on the walls, but she could see natural light coming in from what looked to be the main room at the end of the hall.
There were three other doors, two on her left, one on her right. None of them had locks on them except the one on her right. She made her way down, again using the wall for support, and entered what was definitely the main area. To her right was the door leading outside, a bench nearby with whittling supplies and a few wooden figures on a shelf behind it. The figures had extreme detail to them, indicating their creator was highly skilled. They were of various creatures and people. Some were Grimm like Beowolves, Ursa and Creeps, but others she didn't recognize. A creature resembling a lesser form of a Grimmclaw roaring to the sky, a strange crab-like creature with a large shell on its back and dangerous-looking pincers, and an actual Grimmclaw double the size of the other figures standing watch from the top of the shelf, its face stoic.
There were also figures of people, though she recognized none. A man in heavy plate armor raising a one-handed hammer over his head, his face locked in a battle cry. A woman in lighter armor wielding a spear and shield, a pair of heavenly wings sprouting from her back, and many others.
Those weren't the only decorations, as several paintings adorned the walls, depicting battles featuring the men and women from the wooden figures. The largest of which showed an old man with a long gray beard draped in old black robes, his face partially obscured by a hood. He was in a dark forest, the moon shining behind him. He had a large metal spear that was largely unadorned, a pair of ravens perched on his shoulders. It stood out due to how ordinary it was compared to the others, yet it looked to be the most important.
The leftmost half of the room contained the kitchen, a simple stone oven, and a red-stained table with a large knife lodged near the edge for chopping up meat. A wooden table sat in the center of the room, flanked by four chairs. There was one window in each wall, but they were all covered by black drapes, though most of the natural light still crept in. A large stone fireplace had been built into the far left wall, a cobblestone chimney leading up to the sky. A roaring fire was currently raging within, being the source of the pleasant heat throughout the home. Mounted above the mantlepiece was a large two-handed ax, more strange runes etched into the wooden shaft and pommel, though these didn't glow. Engravings were carved into the otherwise smooth axhead, giving it a mythical look.
She was interrupted when the door suddenly opened, her ears being met with someone humming, and she panicked. She didn't know what this person's intentions for her were, and if they were malicious, she wouldn't go down without a fight. Knowing she was currently too weak to wield the ax effectively, she instead went for the large knife in the blood-stained table. Using all her strength, she wrenched it out of its place and spun around, holding the tool in a threatening manner.
The man didn't notice her right away, as his eyes were aimed down at the floor, but when he looked up and saw her, one of his eyebrows cocked in a way that expressed mild surprise.
He was massive, easily as big as Cainen, if not bigger. He wore a pair of blue jeans and heavy work boots but no shirt, exposing his muscles and tattoos. The tattoos were a mixture of more runes and patterns similar to the engravings on the ax. He was also covered in scars, some bigger and older than others. His hair was long and dark brown, braided with leather straps, a metal ring woven into the end of his beard. He was carrying a small log under each arm, but he set them down slowly while keeping his eyes on her.
"Who are you?" She demanded, the knife shaking in her hand almost as much as her voice shook. This beast of a man could easily take her, especially while she was in this condition, but she planned on taking him with her should it come to that. Once the logs were down, he raised his rough and calloused hands in a placating manner before slowly walking towards her, the floorboards creaking beneath him.
"Easy there, lass." He said with a heavy accent, his voice deep but smooth. "You've been out for a good while, but it would seem Eir's blessing is with you." He finished with a relieved smile.
"You still haven't answered my question." She persisted, and he nodded.
"My name is Horst. As you can probably guess, I'm the one that saved you when you were tossed off that cliff. And yours?" He asked in return. After a moment of hesitation, she answered.
"Robin. Just Robin." His smile turned from relieved to warm as he continued to approach.
"Aye, Robin. A good name. Put the knife down, I mean you no harm. If I'd wanted you dead, I would have let you hit the ground instead of dragging you back here and nursing you back to health." He chuckled. She lowered the improvised weapon slightly but still kept it up.
"How do I know I can trust you? For all I know, you plan on locking me up and using me." At that, he laughed loudly, startling her.
"If that were what I'd wanted, I wouldn't have left you in a room I couldn't even lock in the first place." His laughter died down as he stopped a few steps from her. She had to admit, he had a point. Her room hadn't even had a lock installed in the door, and there was no bar for him to barricade it shut. Convinced he truly meant her no harm, she set the knife back down on the table.
"Sorry for that, I didn't know what you wanted with me." He waved it off as he passed her, picking up the knife and putting it back into the spot of the table it'd been stabbed into previously.
"Ah, no worries. I should've left you a note explaining what'd happened." He stretched, his back audibly popping, before going back to retrieve the logs he'd set down. Now that she'd taken a better look at him, she noticed the pendant hanging around his neck. It was a metal token depicting a tree with large branches spreading above and thick roots climbing below, though she could see the ends of neither.
"Where are we? I don't remember there being any water at the bottom of that cliff." She asked, still remembering the splash followed by biting cold. She made to follow him, but her legs were still unsteady, so she opted instead to sit down at the table.
"Might want to sit down for thi- oh, you already are." He said as he turned around. "We're on the northern coast of Atlas." He said casually. At first, Robin was confused. Horst had to have been kidding, right? But then she noticed the snow he'd tracked in from outside. Robin stood up as Horst disappeared around the corner to the hallway, and the warrior staggered over to the kitchen window. She practically threw the drapes to the side and gasped when a dense, snowy forest met her, many tree stumps trickling in from the right.
"What the… how did… what the fuck?" She muttered. She heard a door from the hall, and Horst emerged, the logs missing and replaced with two slabs of raw meat. "Is your Semblance portals or something like that?" He shrugged.
"I suppose you could say that." He vaguely explained before moving over to the chopping table and setting the meat down with a wet slap. Robin moved back to the table and sat down, regretting getting up so suddenly.
"How did you know to catch me? I doubt you were there yourself." He removed the knife from its "slot" and began removing the meat from the bone and cutting it into pieces.
"You're right, I wasn't there. It was purely by the will of the Nornir that I had my raven, Synin, watching Cainen. Through him, I saw your battle with the madman and you getting tossed off the cliff." He slid the meat from the first slab to the side, moving on to the second. "From there, I was able to open a gateway and drop you in the waters off the coast. Nearly froze to death, but you still pulled through." Robin looked at him with confusion, noticing the equal number of scars covering his back as his chest.
"What do you mean you saw me through your bird? I thought your Semblance was portals." Now that both slabs were prepared, he put them on a metal pan before sliding them into the oven, using an unseen method to light the logs beneath.
"I said you could say that. I'll explain more at a different time. In the meantime, your gear is in the first room on your right down the hall. While you get that, I need to grab something from the shack outside." She stood up and started making her way to the room he spoke of, albeit slowly. He opened the door and stepped outside, breathing in the cold air. Despite him living about as far north as you could live without being on a chunk of ice, the cold did little to affect him.
The fresh snow crunched under his boots as he made his way out to the small shed a bit away from the main house. It was less than a quarter the size of his home, but it served its purpose. It was meant to store things that needed to kept cold, like food or, more importantly, mead. But it also housed particular objects he didn't want being held in the house if someone stumbled across him and broke in.
He moved through meat hooks and mead barrels to the back, where he found a small shelf with butchering equipment. Taking hold of the small wooden thing, he easily moved it to the side, revealing a tiny box hidden behind it. Picking it up, he popped the lid open, exposing an ordinary iron key. He stared at it for a second in silence before nodding.
"Vér báðir sjá hon munu leita hefnd." He said as he removed the key and tucked it into his pocket. "Ógagn-vænligrsynja á standa við forlǫg." He exited the foodshed and made his way back to the house, kicking off some of the snow before entering. He was met by Robin seated at the table, her weapons and armor laid out and a picture in her hand. Upon closer inspection, it depicted her and a woman he recognized as Raven Branwen side-by-side, though the girl looked much younger. Behind them was a burning bandit's hideout, and while Robin looked ecstatic, wielding a bloody sword and shield, Raven was much more stoic, though he could see a ghost of a smile on her face. Robin was gripping the picture tightly, faint tear stains being visible.
"He butchered her." She said, her voice slightly uneven from the emotions. "She may not have been the best mother, but she was still my mother. And he murdered her just to get to me." Her grip tightened as she stared intently at the small picture.
"I know what you're after, lass, and I'll be the first person to say it won't make you feel any better."
"What, are you saying I should just leave him be? Is that it?" She turned on him, her eyes red and puffy from tears.
"What I'm saying is you should kill the bacraut, but let that be the end of it."
"It's not enough!" She yelled as she slammed her fist into the table, cracking the wood ever so slightly. "I want to kill everyone who's ever worked for him. Everyone that helped him do all the horrible things he's done. I want to hunt them all down and make them pay." She seethed. It was now clear to him there would be no convincing her otherwise, so he relented.
"I figured you would say that." He grinned as he put his hand on her shoulder. "Just wanted to make sure you had the fire to actually do it. And from what I've seen, your determination burns like the great flames of Muspelheim." He patted her before heading back for the hall.
"So you'll help me?" She asked.
"Aye, that I will." He called back from whatever room he'd entered. "Come here, there's something I'd like to show you." She stood up, no longer feeling wobbly, and walked back to the hall, surprised to see the one locked door now wide open. Looking inside, she was shocked to see a massive suit of armor standing in the center of an otherwise empty room. It was covered head to toe in thick, bulky metal plates that looked like they could withstand nearly anything. All across it were numerous runes painted ceremonially, colored a dark blue. It looked like the Power Armor heavy units in the Iron Wolves' military used, but of a different design.
But despite how strong it looked, it was covered in thick layers of dust, indicating Horst hadn't used it in a very long time. He approached the metal golem, a nostalgic look on his face. He wiped some of the dust that'd built particularly thick on the shoulder pads, revealing a symbol. A sword pointed down, flanked by a pair of ravens.
"Ah, hēdher-līcer, ríkr stál. Worthy of Týr." He spoke with slight glee.
"Where did you get this?" Robin asked, shocked. She'd never even heard of this model of Power Armor. It had to have been custom-made.
"It used to belong to an old friend of mine. At least, until he decided to turn his back on the people of Midgard, the ormstunga." He snarled but shook off whatever memories were running through his mind. He twisted the release valve on the back, allowing the entire rear to open up with a pressurized hiss.
"These things need batteries, I think they're called Fusion Cores." She pointed out, but he only chuckled before holding up his pendant.
"This, lass, is the battery." The metal object then immediately lit up, now bathed in a pleasant blue light. It revealed intricately weaved engravings identical to the ones on so many things within this household. Horst entered the suit of armor, the back closing and encasing him within. Then, after a second, the suit came to life, even more of those glowing engravings suddenly becoming visible on the armor.
Her eyes widened with surprise, her jaw slack. What was that pendant? Was it a Relic, similar to what Cainen wielded? How did Horst come to be its owner? And how had nobody ever heard of it? Ever since Cainen began his rampage, the general population was shown that Relics existed. In response, the world's governments had spun a story that they were powerful, ancient weapons created by highly skilled blacksmiths, locked away for the public's safety, but the secrets to making them had long since been lost. Her mother, however, had told her the truth. The full truth.
"Is that a Relic? How did you find one?" She asked again, but Horst simply shook his head as the energy reached the helmet, causing the eyes to light up blue.
"First, I need to ensure you are strong enough." His voice was slightly distorted by the helmet's speaker, giving his speech a radio effect. Before she could question him, he placed a metal hand on her shoulder, and the energy flowed from him to her, making her veins light up. Immediately, she felt the pain of both her wound and joints begin to disappear. It was as if the power from that symbol on her door was being injected directly into her. After a few seconds, he released her and the energy faded away, leaving her feeling as she had before this whole mess.
"Good, you didn't pass out! You should do well, then." He moved past her and towards the door while beckoning for her to follow.
"Come. It is time for you to learn the truth of your father."
Horst and Robin had been walking through the forest for an hour by this point, but the older man hadn't said a word to her since they'd left, despite the dozens of questions she had. His pendant, whatever it was, kept her safe from the cold, and it was how she assumed he'd been able to go out in nothing but a pair of pants and boots. Robin was garbed in her armor, wielding her sword and shield, while Horst had the ax from above the fireplace, the runes and engravings, predictably, lighting up. But they hadn't been attacked by any Grimm so far, though she could attribute that to the extreme cold.
Right as she was about to stop Horst and demand to know where they were going, they exited the forest.
"We're here." He stated. Within the snow-covered clearing they found themselves in was a ring of tall monolithic stones, covered in runes. They were easily taller than Horst's home and couldn't have been easily moved. In the center of these was, of all things, a small patch of mushrooms. They were red with small white spots along the bottom of the cap. She didn't recognize them, but they seemed of importance.
Horst passed her, leaving deep prints in the snow thanks to the armor, and stopped at the fungi. He stood for a moment, staring at them, before nodding and turning back to her.
"Fly Agaric. Eat one, think of your father, and the Alföðr will give you the answers you seek." She approached the patch, noticing how it was strangely clear of snow. She picked one small enough to eat off the ground, looking at it. She turned her gaze up at Horst, who remained silent, until she looked back down at the small plant. She briefly thought he was trying to poison her, but she quickly banished the thought. Everything he'd done thus far had more than shown her he wanted to help, so she trusted him.
Taking a deep breath, she removed her helmet and popped the thing in her mouth, chewing and swallowing quickly. It tasted strange, not like anything she'd eaten before, but that was no surprise. But what was a surprise was when she felt suddenly lightheaded, and everything started going white.
"Woah. What?" She mumbled as she stumbled with her hand on the side of her head, dropping her helmet in the process. Once the lightheadedness faded, she opened her eyes and gasped at what she saw. She was in the middle of a massive flat plain of ice and snow that stretched out as far as the eye could see. Whistling breezes kicked up snow around her, but not to the point that she couldn't see, though it did make her raven black hair flail in the wind. Looking up, she could see the blackness of space and the light of stars, but there was no moon or sun, despite everything being semi-lit. Turning around, she was once again shocked to see a truly giant tree far off in the distance. Its branches continued upwards until she could no longer see them, and the entire thing pulsed with energy, the blue waves traveling beneath the ice. Whenever they neared her, she could hear a low hum that felt as if it reverberated through her being.
"Val-kyrja." Robin heard someone whisper behind her, making her whip around to face whoever it was. But she was confused to see someone not directly behind her but instead miles away. She squinted to get a look at the figure, not being able to make out anything except a staff and fluttering robes. Then she blinked, and he was suddenly directly in front of her, face inches from her own. She stumbled back in surprise, about to attack when she recognized him. He was the old man from one of Horst's paintings, but his ravens weren't with him, and she noticed his right eye was missing. His old but strong hand came at her quickly, grabbing her head with the palm on her forehead.
"Drekka frān Mímisbrunnr." She was temporarily blinded as his nails dug into her scalp and a flood of sights and sounds overwhelmed her, showing things she could only have dreamt.
Another world separate from Remnant, devastating bombs raining from the sky in a world-ending war and driving humanity to the brink of extinction, a group of people in a small neighborhood being evacuated to a massive shelter that was fated to serve as their frozen tomb. Cainen rising from this crypt, rage and hatred in his eyes and the desire to conquer in his heart.
Everything else went by quickly, but she saw it all regardless. Him tearing a bloody swath across this place, the Commonwealth, trying to find his son and killing all those that stood in his way. Taking whatever he wanted and making those that resisted suffer, discovering the raiders in the abandoned amusement park and forging them into something truly terrifying. And finally, the facility that brought him and his gang to Remnant. That was where the vision ended, but she didn't need to see any more.
She woke up on the ground, gasping for breath and clutching her chest. She'd been propped up against one of the stone monoliths. Horst was kneeling next to her with his helmet removed.
"W-what, what the fuck." She stammered out for what felt like the hundredth time that day. Horst laughed and clapped his hand on her shoulder, the strength added by the Power Armor making it sting slightly.
"Miðgarðsormr niðri, you were out for an hour!" He laughed. "Tell me, what did you see?" Ignoring the fact that she'd apparently been out for a solid hour, she quickly recalled what she saw.
"I-I was on a massive plain of ice and snow, stretching for as far as I could see." Horst nodded, humming in thought.
"Sounds like your hugr was taken to Vígríðr, the great plains destined to be the final battlegrounds of Ragnarök, the end of all things." He humphed in surprise. "Funny. I always imagined it to be a field of grass, not ice and snow. Bah, I'm getting ahead of myself. Continue."
"I turned around and saw this massive tree. It was so big I couldn't see the ends of the branches, but it was letting off pulses of energy that I could see and feel through the ice." As she continued, Horst became more and more fixated on her retelling of the hallucination. He didn't even take the time to explain what the tree was, just wanting to wait until Robin finished the story.
"Then I heard someone whisper something behind me, but when I turned around, all I saw was an old guy miles away. I blinked, and he was right in front of me. Before I know what was happening, he grabbed my head, said something in another language, and showed me so many things." She stopped to compose herself before continuing. "He showed me another world, one baptized by hellish fire and nearly wiped clean of civilization." With that, Horst's look hardened, and she was worried she'd said something wrong when he hefted her up and looked in her in the eye.
"Robin, was the old man missing his right eye?" He asked seriously. She nodded hesitantly, and after a moment of silence, a grin spread across his face.
"Ha! Odin, the King of the Gods himself, spoke to you! It took me years before I so much as caught a glimpse of him, and yet you see him in your first session." He laughed loudly before releasing her, making her stumble in brief surprise. "And it would seem he showed you Earth, the world from which me, Cainen, and the vast majority of the Warborn hail. I'm not sure how many of the Iron Wolves are from that burnt piece of dirt, but it is likely in the majority."
"Wait, you're from this 'Earth' place?" She asked incredulously.
"Aye, that I am, lass. But enough about me, what else did the All-Father show you?" She explained the rest of everything she'd been shown, Horst listening attentively. Once she was done, he picked up her helmet off the ground, shook off the snow, and handed it back to her. She was glad to have it back.
"Come, let's return to my home. I'll explain everything once we're back." She nodded, and he turned around, beginning the trek back. "Oh, but before I forget, what exactly did old Arnhöfði say to you?"
"Well, the first whisper, he said 'Val-kyrja,' and when he grabbed my head, he said 'Kneyfa frān Mímisbrunnr.' It sounded like the language you speak, so I assume you know what he meant?" He nodded in response as they entered the treeline.
"Aye. I speak Norse, though even before the war, it'd grown into a largely dead language. In the whisper, he called you Valkyrie, a warrior woman that guides the souls of the honored dead to the golden halls of Valhalla, among many other things. It's a grand compliment, especially from the All-Father himself. As for the second one, he was telling you to 'drink deep from Mímir's Well,' the font of knowledge beneath Yggdrasil." She didn't ask any more questions, content to wait until they had returned home to ask him more.
What had she gotten herself into?
That's all from me! Next, I'm planning on updating Vanguard's Ax, so keep an eye out for that.
Vér báðir sjá hon munu leita hefnd - We both understand she will seek vengeance
Ógagn-vænligrsynja á standa við forlǫg - Useless to resist destiny
Hēdher-līcer, ríkr stál - Glorious, mighty steel.
Ormstunga - Serpent tongue
Alföðr - All-Father
Val-kyrja - Valkyrie
Drekka frān Mímisbrunnr - Drink from the Well of Mímir
Miðgarðsormr niðri - Midgard Serpent below
Hugr - Mind