Flight through Bastion. Image credit: Jace Afsoon

The Long Night — Valkyrie: Ragnarok

Continue the Valkyrie: Ragnarok story. Can Faya survive the night, perched high above the city, among the spires of Bastion?

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Faya swam in a confusing dreamland, half-waking, half-sleeping. She felt incredibly tired, but it was a comfortable weariness. She was aware of pain, but it was numbed and barely real. Slowly her senses coalesced and she realised she was propped up against the hard granite of a pillar. An ash dwarf—maybe the one she had seen on the bridge below—was rifling through her bag.

“Hey, stop that you!”

“Whaaat? Is not stealing I is doing. I is looking fur summin’.” The ash dwarf held up its empty hands indignantly. “You is lost lots of blood, you is. I is ‘opin’ to mend you wiff summin’.” The small grey man was jumping up and down and gesturing wildly, as if that would somehow make him more trustworthy.

The dwarf had ripped her shirt and shawl to make bandages, and had bandaged her arm and braced her shattered leg with a plank.

“You is need ‘elp girl, if you is want walk again. Lots of people is looking fur you too. What ya is gonna do, girl?”

“I know a little of the healing arts.”

“Is ya now? I ‘ope you is, but is ‘aving a betta plan, I is.”

“Oh yes?”

“You is stay ‘ere, and I is coming back. You gotta do me one favour.”

“Oh?” Faya tried to shift, but the pain was too much.

“Ya rest an’ don’t die. You is wait long, but you is patched up. Just wait an’ keep alive ‘til I come.”

There was a shout from somewhere and the jangle of chain. Faya noticed for the first time that the dwarf was chained at the ankle, and the chain was drawing taught. Without another word the dwarf was off, scuttling across the rooftop and down a ladder.

She could see a trail of blood leading from it to where she lay, though she had no idea of how she’d gotten from there to here. More pillars hid her away from anyone who might peer over the rungs. She needed to find a safer place, but as she tried to move again the pain became unbearable. She wasn’t going anywhere.

Flight through Bastion. Image credit: Jace Afsoon
Image credit: Jace Afsoon

Faya knew she had to do all in her power to keep awake. She was weak from blood loss and pain, and the shakes of shock were starting. She checked the rest of her body for injuries, moving her good hand slowly over her body because of the pain. A fractured rib, a cut across the palm from the whip, the snapped arrow shaft in her arm. Her leg was the worst of all. It was shattered below the knee, and had become an ugly, swollen purple. The ash dwarf had cut her breeches from the ankle up to the knee. She knew there wasn’t much she could do, but raised it carefully up onto her bag.

Her mother had known a great deal of the apothecary’s arts and had spent many hours teaching Faya what she knew. Faya had become an adept apprentice. In the Court of Eight Needles, pain and suffering brought great ecstasy, but all too often a neophyte or guest would take things too far and her mother would have a new patient.

“Healing”, her mother had said “is the bright face of the two-faced moon. The Savonin are despised for their ways with poison and pain, but when it comes to healing, we are without equal. We know the body for we explore it in every way we possibly can.” To suffer and heal in an ongoing cycle of great ecstasy was one of the most sacred tenants of the Lotus Court of Eight Needles.

The Long Night
Image credit: Billy Huynh

Far above her a spire egret wheeled majestically. She’d heard of these great birds before, and now, watching them filled her with a childlike sense of wonder. She had heard they were big enough for men to ride to war on, but they wheeled far too high above for her to discern a rider.

The world of spires above the city was a beautiful one. She’d been in the deep shadows of Bastion for so long she’d forgotten what it felt like to breathe the clean air, to watch the low scudding clouds float by, or to see sunlight.

Oh, how good it would be to feel the sun again. She was a child of Savo, it was true. Her kin, at least the elven line of her mother, had spent their lives in the shadows of the great trees of the Forest, and had little love for the sun. The dwarves had taught her to love the sun, even low below the earth. Their homes were warm and bright, lit by clever devices that brought the sun’s warmth far below the mountains. She had spent days with Gawn wandering the dwarven farms above the surface too. They were great hidden terraced fields of wheat and barley that survived only because of the dwarves’ ingenuity.

It was, she guessed, mid-morning, and the sun was behind her. She sat in the obfuscating shadows and watched. And waited. Slowly the shadows crept from left to right. She could hear people far below, the general hubbub of the city, but not a soul disturbed her.

She had only a few sugar cubes, which she ate, and a small flask of her own concoction of herbs. She fought to keep these down, and kept her eyes on the sky to distract her from the nausea.

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