Two of Silmeria's Einherjar and an important decision. Spoilers for VP Silmeria.
Paths to Glory
Ehrde winced. The boisterous, loud, and damnably cheerful voice grated on his nerves even on the best of days.
"What. Do. You. Want?" he ground out, giving the interloper his best glare. They were ostensibly on the same side now, but old habits were hard to break. Instinctively, his hand went to the quiver slung at his belt.
The wizard in white who walked up to him had his usual cheerful - idiotic - grin plastered all over his face. Farant might have been good-looking, attractive even, if he could just lose the impression that he was about to launch into a self-righteous soliloquy at any given moment. He was the very image of the muscle-brained Hero of Justice that had no business going anywhere near an arcane spellbook. Ehrde tried to not think about what this said about himself and the countless setbacks and embarrassments he'd suffered because of the man.
"So you're still here, huh?"
Captain obvious speaks again. Why me? Keeping a lid on his temper, Ehrde grunted non-committally and continued to examine the skyline somewhere beyond Farant's shoulder. Or maybe closer to his elbow, since their difference in height meant that, standing right in front of him, the wizard blocked an annoying large proportion of his field of vision.
"I mean, the entire Einherjar business, I wasn't expecting you to be, um, here," continued Farant.
"Is that such a surprise?" retorted Ehrde, his patience wearing thin. He just wanted the man to leave him alone so he could get back to . . . to . . . whatever it was that he'd been doing before he was so rudely interrupted.
"But you don't seem like the type---"
"What, not righteous enough to join the ranks of the holy?"
"No, that's not what I mean, you, that is, uh"
"Will you just stop yammering already? We got our pact, we get sent to Valhalla, we get to be gods maybe. Not a bad retirement idea, yeah?"
"So why're you still here?"
Ehrde stared at the wizard for a moment, not understanding. What was the thick-headed fool going on about?
"If you were going to Valhalla, you'd have left with the others already." The day was drawing to a close, orange light spilling over the weeping lilies as the sun sunk beyond the mountains.
That was not part of the contract.
She was kind, this battle maiden. Kinder than any god with her job description should have been. She had offered them a choice, her handpicked warriors, because the pact that she had originally forged didn't look like it was going to be fulfilled anytime soon.
Go to the promised Valhalla, washing their hands of their connection with her and fulfilling the pact that had been offered for generations upon generations, for as long as there had been a Midgard. Go to Valhalla and become soldiers or even gods. Or remain with her in her all-too-futile quest to challenge her betters. It was an obvious choice, really, especially for Ehrde who liked to make sure that all agreements were followed to the letter to ensure no complications.
Somewhere else in the valley, the people who'd considered him a compatriot were readying themselves for a war against the gods. Again.
Ehrde didn't need to ask to know what their answers would be. From the moment they'd met again in this lame excuse for an afterlife, Xehnon and the others had clumped together like some huge, dysfunctional family, with drama and squabbles and in-laws dropping by every so often, noisy and boisterous even in the middle of some god-forsaken ruin. They knew him well enough to not press their company, but made it obvious that he was welcome to join the circus whenever he felt like it.
It wasn't even that he bought into their ridiculous ideals or anything. He just had a job to do, and he prided himself on doing it well. He'd been perfectly confident in his abilities both as a general and as an assassin, and the confidence had been well rewarded, even given the nuisance that was Lassen.
And then the disastrous reports from the Artolia front came. Erlen, killed by ghouls. Crescent missing, the troops scattered from an unexpected bait and ambush trick pulled by the blasted wizard who was responsible---
But he hadn't been. The entire bloody affair had been orchestrated by the very same gods they'd thought to challenge. And that galled him most of all.
Ehrde shook himself out of his thoughts to realize that the wizard was talking at him.
". . . dangerous, and not at all what we signed up for, and I'd wondered, because---"
"You wanna chicken out now, that's your problem." Annoyed beyond belief but unable to find a reasonable cause for it, Ehrde turned his back on the wizard and stalked off down the valley to give the goddess his answer.
Several moments later, Farant chuckled softly to himself and followed, dusky sunlight making an iridescent aurora of his robes.