CHOOSERS OF THE SLAIN
Based on the Old Norse Sagas of the Nibelungenlied and the Volsungensaga, this is the story of Brynhild who escapes death as a sacrifice in the spring ritual only to become a Valkyrie in service to the war god Odin. She and her sister battlemaidens can turn the tide of any battle--but this, too, calls for sacrifice, more than many can bear.
"An action-packed, troubled weaving of historical fiction and fantasy." --Kirkus
. . .
And then, come fall...
The God came.
I don’t remember what mundane errand I was about when he came, what basket of new wool I was carrying to my aunt in the next hamlet, or what herbs I had just gleaned from the heath for winter drying. But I do remember where I was – on the path of dust that ran along the lower field my ancestors’ ancestors had cut from native woods, where we’d grown, or tried to grow, oats that year.
And I do remember that I had a premonition of his presence before he even appeared. Something in the field made me look up from the path and in that direction. A sudden stillness, perhaps as the birds forgot their usual carefree chatter while gleaning the new-cut field. I stopped to see what this presence might mean and saw only dusty heat waves rising from the denuded field. In the next plot, still uncut, the grain became possessed by the shadow of a single cloud blowing by and shivered the way a dog’s coat does when you scratch his spine – nothing more.
They used to tell us, when we were children, that an old woman in the wheat might steal you away if you ran off in the grain to play. I was old enough to realize that this ruse kept children from trampling and ruining the crop. So might all the Vanir Gods be, simply boggles. So might Odin be.
I turned back to the path. I had learned that keeping my hands full made the time pass quicker, and my time was always spent in waiting. Three more steps ... waiting for what, I knew not. Until he came.
Something made me scan the field again that afternoon and there, feeding at the last sheaf, the sheaf left for Odin, stood a horse. My first thought was, Who dares such sacrilege to eat from Odin’s sheaf? Then I saw it was no ordinary horse, but a monstrosity, a horse with eight legs. Then it became clear this was no monstrosity, but divine – Sleipnir, the magic fleet-footed horse of Odin, the horse for whom the sheaf was left.
And then, there was the God, leaning on his staff before the horse and watching me. He was tall with solid width in proportion, and not the slightest stoop to his shoulders, although his beard lent him age. It hung like a massive clump of grey-blue icicles spun from the house eaves on a day fit only for whittling wood by the fire. His cloak was a blue that matched the sky. I later learned that it always matched the sky, whether lowering grey or smiling like forget-me-nots, as it did this day with one of the last bright skies of autumn. The wide brim of his hat he wore sloping over the right side of his face, but from where I stood I could still see the eye. Or rather, the eye that wasn’t, for the right lid hung slack over an empty socket.
As soon as his one eye – blue, like his cloak, changeable like the sky – met mine, he gave me the closest thing to a smile I ever would see come out of that glacier of a beard.
Would he speak? What would a God sound like? How could I know?
THE LINDEN'S RED PLAGUE
The saga of the Choosers of the Slain continues
Odin the One-Eyes Wanderer has dismissed Brynhild from the sisterhood of the Valkyries for disobedience. Stabbing her with the sleep-thorn, he condemns her to sleep until "sons are sires" and a man comes who will be her equal. But if she loses her maidenhood, she will lose both her magical youth and her strength.
Brynhild opens her eyes in a strange, icy land to see Siegfried, a man who seems half-God himself.
If he is a sending of Odin, does Siegfried's outstretched hand mean a hopeful future?
Or divine revenge?
"Chamberlin, a prolific writer of historical fiction and fantasy novels, succeeds brilliantly in giving context to her mythic tale that brings it vividly to life. . . Especially strong are the episodes of Brynhild’s training in magical techniques, offering one enthralling detail after another, Brynhild’s narrative voice conveys her strength, passion, and pain over the impossible choice she has to make, and she displays appealing resourcefulness throughout the novel. "Immersive, well-researched, and deeply evocative of the doom-tinged world of Norse mythology." --Kirkus Reviews
I opened my eyes on a world that could only be the product of the chilling-fevered imagination of the one-eyed God. Either twilight or predawn cast an unreal half-light. I was lying on a boat-shaped block of red-black rock thrown from the earth in a fit as of nausea at a meal that did not agree with its otherwise solid insides. The block was thrust high above the surrounding landscape and echoed metallically with the slightest movement of the iron plates of my brynie. The rock sheltered under an overhang of sorts but still stood basically out-of-doors. The snow-shawls of a blizzard whirled around me as if they had no knowledge of which way was up and which was down. Its confusion controlled me for a moment or two.
But then I was certain of a handful of things: The sleep-spell was Odin’s doing, the worst thing he could do to me, a Valkyrie, for disobedience. I had rescued women instead of his favored men. I had rescued my best friend Thora’s new-born daughter. I had rescued Signy Volsungsdaughter, great with child, and the pieces of the magical sword Gram with which the God had made her the last of her line.
So I remembered the past. That remained to me. And time, however much time, spent in magical sleep had neither aged nor weakened me. I let a little of my impotent fear of the God turn into anger.
By opening my eyes, somehow, I had overcome the spell. Which meant I might never ride with my sisters on battlefields again. But as long as I kept my maidenhead, I kept the more-than-woman powers that had created me one of Odin’s maids. He might be a God, but some rules of the earth Gods even a sky God had to follow.
I still had life, I had rewon consciousness. Now there remained only to win the best life I could, out of the god’s clutches.
Very few of the snowflakes reached me, though in the sky less than the width of my finger drifted between any two. Those that did reach me were no more than drops of the lightest rain and warm. The simplest explanation for this wonder seemed to be a great cloud of steam that bottomless cracks breathed at body heat from the earth below. Wider cracks held god-made cauldrons of water. Their steam surrounded me, swirling and writhing like a thing alive, and had a thick sulfurous smell that seemed to have turned my lungs to stone.
As it kept off the snow, so the steam had no doubt been capable of keeping off the sun as well for--for the duration of the curse, however long it had been since I first felt the jab of the sleep thorn in my side. What had Odin said? "'Til sons were sires." A generation at least. But it couldn't have been that long, surely.