Cassidy could feel four sets of eyes staring through her curtains. They hovered there, in the shade provided by the tall trees surrounding her domain. Ever since she’d found the severed head of Mimir, the last of Odin’s magical artifacts, unlocking Odin’s 18th song, they’d been there—two ravens and two wolves. The severed head was creepy enough with its prediction of death, but now the animals visited her dreams as well, keeping her awake at night.
The only benefit she’d had from collecting Odin’s things was the ninth day appearance of a new ring. Each new ring increased in value, gaining her the reputation of owning the finest rings in the world. Even her own ring, Odin’s original gold band, found in a chest at the bottom of the sea, held high enough value that if she sold it, the money from the sale would provide for her for the rest of her life. She admired the ring once more, twisting it on her finger as she felt the glare of the wolves on her again.
The small chime hanging over the front door of her shop jingled, signaling the arrival of a customer. She shrugged off her lack of sleep and worries over the dreams and planted a smile on her face. She recognized the tan fedora and long coat of the customer.
“Hello, Max,” she purred. “What brings you here today?”
At the sound of his name, he turned, a scowl on his face, dark circles under his eyes. “I wish to make a return,” he said.
Crap, she thought, managing to keep the smile planted on her face. She pointed to a sign in front of her cash register. “No Returns” was etched in black on a white placard attached to the register by a magnet.
“I’m so sorry, Max. What’s wrong with it?”
Max slammed the ring down on the counter. The brilliant blue sapphire flashed in the light. “It’s cursed,” was his simple reply.
Fear iced her heart. “Cursed?”
“Yes! Myra said yes, then no, and told me to return it. It’s worthless to me.”
“Even if I did take returns, Max, buyer’s remorse wouldn’t be a good enough reason to take it back. I’m sorry she turned you down. Perhaps you should let her keep it.”
He lifted his hat and raked his fingers through his jet-black hair. “She doesn’t want it. Please, Cassidy, I beg you, take it back.” His large hands cupped hers. She looked into his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Max, but I can’t. If I took back every broken heart, I’d be out of business. I just can’t do it.” She turned the ring over in her hand, admiring its brilliance, and handed it back to him. Her voice softened, though her heart remained cold. “Good luck.”
Howling followed Max’s departure. Cassidy ran to the window, expecting trouble, and only found the wolves, their noses lifted and mouths slightly parted. A shiver ran through her. She turned the open sign around so it read closed and locked the front door. A glance at her calendar marked eight days since she’d sold the ring to Max; eight days since she’d unlocked Odin’s 18th song.
Without thinking, she opened her safe and pulled out the parchment hidden within it. She unfolded it and caressed the exposed runes as it opened. Her fingers grazed over the ancient markings, allowing the chaos of their disorderliness to cloud her mind. Repeatedly the runes tumbled through her mind, weaving and tangling until they became one.
IS-TYR HAGAL-AR RIT OS-LAF FA-UR-THORN-EH KA-MAN-YR NOD-BAR GIBOR-SIG IS-TYR HAGAL-AR RIT OS-LAF FA-UR-THORN-EH KA-MAN-YR NOD-BAR GIBOR-SIG
Over and over the runes read, chanting non-stop in her head: True ego to sacrifice; Universe to ascend; Ceremonial; To accept cosmic law; To help, to heal, to project cosmic union; Capability, spirituality, roots; Karma to descend; Life, self to win. IS-TYR HAGAL-AR RIT OS-LAF FA-UR-THORN-EH KA-MAN-YR NOD-BAR GIBOR-SIG rose louder and louder in her head, and a ghostly wind whipped through her hair. The severed head’s deep voice muttered behind her, “Beware! Beware!”
The sky beyond her window darkened as dark grey clouds rolled in. The wolves howled louder as the ravens beat their wings on the window panes. She heard the cacophony of eight hooves overhead.
“WHO HAS CALLED ME FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL?” a great voice called out, shaking the entire house. “WHO DARES ROUSE THE GREAT ODIN FROM HIS SLEEP? WHAT DAMNED SOUL BRAVES THE SECRET OF THE 18TH SONG?”
Odin descended from her ceiling, his trusty spear aimed for her throat. Cassidy gathered her courage and stood tall, facing him. “Nine times has the ring reproduced, each time joining two. Eighteen souls in my possession, now I possess YOU!”
Odin roared as his essence merged into her body. She rocked, convulsing to the floor. Her eyes closed and a smile of satisfaction covered her face.
The bright light of the sun woke Cassidy. Two wolf silhouettes cast long shadows across her bedroom floor. The ravens spoke to her from the window.
“Good morning, sire. We’ve missed you.”
“Good morning, Huginn, Muninn. Has it been that long? To me, Geri and Freki, to me!” The wolves turned and faced Cassidy, their tales wagging gently. They moved slowly towards her outstretched hand. She petted them thoughtfully. “Come, my loves, we have work to do. Nine rings I need returned to me, then we will Hunt and the earth will be ours again.”
Eight doors she knocked on, requesting the rings back. Eight times, blood bathed her spear. Only one ring remained to complete the cycle. Max was next. No one answered the door. She knocked on the door again with the tip of her spear, still no one answered. A neighbor tending his lawn nearby spoke up, waving.
“Good morning, Cassidy! I’m afraid you just missed Myra.”
“I’m looking for Max,” she said.
“Oh, I’m afraid Max is gone. He came home earlier, clearly frustrated, threw this ring across the yard, packed a bag, and left. I haven’t seen him since.” He held a ring up for Cassidy’s appraisal.
She grabbed his wrist, stabbing the spear in his side. She looked into his eyes as shock weaved itself across his face. “Yes, thank you, sir. This is exactly what I was looking for.” As the neighbor fell lifeless to the ground, his blood staining the azaleas he’d been tending, she tossed two coins on his body. “For safe passage, my friend. May your journey be peaceful.”
Cassidy looked to the sky, noting the pink tinges creeping from the horizon. Muninn landed on her shoulder. Freki joined her side. “Soon, Muninn, soon,” she said and together they went back to her house.
As the old grandfather clock that stood alone in her hallway struck midnight, ending the 8th day, the wolves took to howling, shaking the very foundation of the house. Cassidy sat up in bed as a great horse crashed through her window. A sinking feeling welled up in the pit of her stomach. The gold ring that started them all burned the flesh of her finger. On the bedside table, she saw a new ring, a gorgeous sparkle of three interlaced triangles. She knew at that moment, she would never touch it.
A great pain started between her thighs, as if she were being torn apart. The pain continued up her body, as if someone were slicing her in half with a knife. She screamed until the pain silenced her throat. Her heart still beat even as her abdomen split in half. It was not until the last of the pain slid through her brain that she knew no more.
Odin rose up from within her. “It’s a pity,” he said, putting his signature ring on his finger, “All her power and she didn’t recognize the 18th for what it was–the end. Come, friends, let us raise the warriors and ride the Wild Hunt. Then, we can start this earth anew.”
This week’s #3WW words were: Feel, Shade, and Tangle.
Trifecta gave us a free write this week, from 33-3,333 words.
This started as a response to my scriptic.org prompt, but I went a different direction and still wanted to share this.
My muse is awake, the ideas are jotted down, and the husband has changed work shifts, so perhaps I will have more time to write again!!
As always, I welcome constructive criticism. Please share your thoughts in a comment.
Thanks for reading!!