This wasn’t the first time Kára stretched, bent, or outright broke the rules. As usual, the beings in charge were less than appreciative of her efforts.
“You have betrayed me again!” the voice thunders.
The owner of the voice is a large man with thunder in his eyes and ravens on his shoulders. His anger shakes the pillars of the heavens and earthquakes ravage the world below when he stomps his feet. He is unused to his orders being ignored. To tell the truth, he is unused to not getting his way in all things and usually reacts violently to any transgressions against his authority.
“The man’s wounds would have killed him. Wounds he received in battle. He died in battle,” Kára replies, seemingly unaware or unconcerned of the man’s rising ire.
“Then explain the arrow in his back! An arrow fired from your bow!”
The ravens are agitated now, chittering to themselves nervously. Their tiny avian brains are incapable of any kind of advanced thought but they can remember what happened when the man was angry.
“I was putting him out of his misery. Consider it a mercy from the gods,” Kára says.
“So you admit you killed him?”
“I admit no such thing. He was dead already, he just hadn’t realized it.”
“You are incorrigible. You are ungrateful. You are reckless. You think the rules do not apply to you, do you?”
“The only rule I believe in is the one you imbued me with when you created me; I believe in creating an army to fight the final battle.”
“The rules exist for a reason! We only take those who fought valiantly and died bravely,” the voice says quietly.
The words, and the quiet way he says them, fill Kára’s heart with ice.
“He did fight valiantly, my lord,” she says with her head hung. “He died bravely.”
“He died with your arrow in his back, crawling back to his wife and son. He might have made it, too, had you not decided to intervene.”
“He was the greatest warrior at the battle. He will be a great asset.”
“He will be a great asset, but his son would have been better. Now, his son will grow up without a father to train him in the arts of war and we have potentially lost a hero.”
“The child,” Kára asks. “What will become of him?”
“We’ll do the usual, send a hero to train him, hope the damage done hasn’t been too extreme. His anger might cloud his judgment, though, and a warrior cannot afford outside anger.”
“Who are you sending?”
“Knut or Ivar, I haven’t decided which yet.” The man says.
“Either would be an excellent choice, my Lord, but…”
“Consider sending me instead.” Kára says quietly.
“Knut and Ivar are great warriors, but I’m better.”
“Why should you wish to do this, Kára? It’s not your place to train heroes; it’s your place to choose the dead.”
“Consider it an act of contrition,” Kára says.
“You’ve never shown any sign of being sorry in the past, why start now?”
“Perhaps your wisdom is rubbing off on me.”
The man smiles at that. While his anger is an all-encompassing force, his ego truly knows no bounds. Kára knows this and has no compunction about using it against him. In her mind, he’s a doddering old fool, focused on his power and his control and with no eye for the future.
In some ways, she’s correct. He is an arrogant bastard who has become so focused on his power that he has forgotten the goal.
His goal is now, and always has been, preparing for a fight at the end of time. Over the years, though, his training has fallen off. He hasn’t picked up his spear, save to run through those few that dared piss him off, in years.
Kára knows the enemy trains relentlessly and that’s why she practices constantly. One woman, no matter how tough, might not change the tide of the war, but she’s not going to be the one that loses the final battle.
“Fine then, Kára, you shall train young Einar in my arts. Make me proud.”