This is a story of coming of age, of war, of loss, and of the world's end. --- The gods themselves are tied with humans, their wyrd as weak as man's, man's as powerful as the gods'. --- Jörmundur has come, the Destroyer. --- And with it, Death. Part One: -Brother Against Brother- The Hunt had not been going well. The first snowfalls of winter had begun, laying a crisp, white layer over leaves still leftover from autumn, and the only food Freja had managed to bag had gone to feed herself. Rabbits, more often than not, with the occasional squirrel to complement. Now well into the third day of her excursion, running low upon her stores of salted fish and dried bread, Freja had decided it was time to return, empty-handed though she was. She had awoken early that morning to find that Fraelis, goddess of the seasons, had not granted her bedroll beneath a great pine tree respite from the cold. A fresh covering of snow had greeted Freja, clumps of ice already formed in her ginger hair. As had been the case with the previous morning, and the one before that, the forest was eerily silent. Though wind whistled overhead, buffeting pine needles and shoving at branches, the birds did not so much as chirp in acknowledgement of the orange-hued awakening sky. Freja had wasted no time in packing her bedroll and slinging it over her pack, grabbing her spear from where it leaned against the tree, and donning her leather boots. Fully equipped, the girl had stood and waited for something to stir, to fill the forest with noise, perhaps some elk or fawn she had missed the day before. None did. They do not call these peaks the Crown of Bones for no reason, she supposed as she left her tree. Four days prior, the shieldmaidens had been sent out to hunt what little game they could before the snows of winter could halt the advancing column. For the first time in over two years, the Sisterhood had rallied its banners at its fortress monastery, Heimskringla, and marched to war. Called to defend the Jarl Ingjald to the north from his traitorous brother Sigurd, the Sisterhood had not taken the call to war lightly. And for Freja and the other shieldmaidens, it was their first step into adulthood. Caught in her daydreams of future glory earned, not minding the world around her, Freja snapped back to the present as a snarl sounded behind her. A low, gurgling sound no man in good health could produce. The girl wheeled around and almost gasped as she spotted a wild boar limping along a frozen stream twenty paces away. Her eyes traced the beast as it limped along, noting that no blood trailed behind it. Had it fallen and injured its leg? Freja hunched low and crept to hide behind the nearest tree, observing the boar's path. "Boars aren't to be hunted alone," She had overheard Balder, a woodsman that had frequented Ingrid's inn so many years ago, say once. "Bastards're tough, nearly ripped Eilrik's leg clean off 'en we 'unted 'em last." But this one was wounded. Silently removing her pack and placing it against the tree, Freja stepped from behind the bark and called to the boar. It started, glanced around, and locked its gaze with the girl's. For a brief moment, Freja believed that the beast would flee, for they had no concept of honor: a wounded boar would rather flee and eat another day, but this one was hungry. And meat was meat, whether it walked on two feet or four. It snorted and lowered its head. Elated, Freja braced herself against the tree, slamming the butt of her spear against the wood and pointing it forward. "You need to make 'the first blow 'the killin' one." Squealing, the boar charged straight towards Freja, tusks lowered. As it slammed into Freja's spear point, the girl nearly lost her grip at the shock of the impact, the spear quivering in place as it slashed its head to and fro, attempting to cut at the girl's legs with its jagged tusks. As the boar struggled to gore Freja, it drove the spear deeper and deeper into its body, anger and pain flaring in its dim eye. It did not give up. Frustrated, Freja only thrust harder. For the better part of a minute the boar flailed upon Freja's spear, inching deeper and deeper into its body. Sweat beading down her neck with strain, gasping, the girl still pushed the spear deeper, attempting to rip the brute creature's muscles into bloody ribbon. Then, in a sudden CRACK, the spear split down the middle and sent a shower of splinters flying upwards. The boar lunged forward, Freja felt pain lance through her thigh, and suddenly the beast was atop her! Without thinking, Freja whipped out her knife and thrust up at the boar's throat. With a wet slash, the blade sunk deep into its throat. Using the blade as leverage, Freja thrust up and over, casting the boar, now choking on its blood, on its side where it writhed once, snorted, and gave up. Grabbing for her hunting horn, Freja lay one shaking hand to the gaping hole in her thigh and blew twice upon the horn. With any luck, someone would hear.... Almost one blow, 'eh?