The taxi let her off in front of the rooming house as the Philadelphia sun was setting. The cabbie, in his brand new 1950 DeSoto Skyview took her five dollars and gave her the change.
It had been expensive using the cab to come home from work, but not having to put up with the crush of the Trolley was not something she wanted to consider after the day she had. Damn Louis, the secretary pool was the best job she had since she came to America after the war, but she was getting tired of having to fend off unwanted advances, and Louis DeLacroix was the worst. He was getting a little to free with his hands and was not taking no for an answer. If he kept up she was going to do something that they both would regret.
The key turned easy, for once the lock wasn’t sticking and the door swung open and her purse landed on the table near the door like usual, the top half opened. As the door swung closed behind her she drew the M1911 from the purse, flipped the safety and swung it towards the corner of the room that had been hidden by the opening of the door.
The flat of the ax hit her hand with enough force that even she was unable to keep the gun in hand. It went flying off under the couch, fortunately not going off. Dodging back she cursed how the damned girdle and mid-length skirt restricted her movements. She ended up behind the couch as the woman with the ax stood in front of the now closed door.
The woman lowered the ax. “Pulling a gun, Ölrun? Is that how you great an old friend?”
She considered her options, the pistol was out of reach, any of the furnishing would quickly become kindling against that ax and the cutlery in the kitchen behind her would be just as useless. “Ölrun is dead, Sigrún, I’ve been Wendy Jacobs for five years now. I was wondering who He would send to arrange the funeral. I suppose I can’t talk you out of it?”
Sigrún let the ax slide to the floor and leaned the handle against the door. “He was upset about your leaving, but you did return all your gear on your steed. He couldn’t claim you’d stolen anything so He did not call for your death. But, why did you do it. You were a Valkyrie for eight hundred years. To walk away from Valhalla after all that time seems insane.”
“Insane Sigrún? I should have done it centuries ago.” Wendy’s eyes burned with tears of rage. “Choosers of the Slain? That’s an incomplete description. Five minutes of deciding which brainless idiot who got his brain bashed out with a club is ‘worthy’ to sit at His table. What do we do the rest of the time? We’re just toys for these brainless oafs pleasures when they’re not training. What we should have been called is His whores. I’m not going to do that anymore. In the mortal world women don’t have to be tied to a man to make a living. I’m done with Valhalla and those undead assholes.’
The look of shock on the other woman’s face caused Wendy to stop her diatribe. It took a moment for Sigún to find her voice. “Is that really how you see it? I never knew you felt that way. I am surprised you didn’t leave before now if you hated it that much.”
Walking around and dropping into the couch Wendy let out a long sigh. “Up until now a woman in the mortal world had no choices that I could live with. You’re either shackled to some man as his drudge or, since the Christians came, you could be locked away in a stone box to stroke the ego of their deity and his flunkies. Even forty years ago a woman had very few legal rights and could only rarely own her own property.” She leaned back further into the couch. “Even now it’s still not perfect. But I can live with it and possibly I can help to make it better.”
“So if One Eye hasn’t sent you here to kill me, why have you come?”
Leaning back on the door Sigrún gave Wendy a level look. “Odin’s decided that the old ways don’t work anymore. Even with the massive death toll in Europe during the war very few new einherjar were inducted. Frankly we don’t have many worshipers and most of the Aesir have retired to the far reaches of the otherworld beyond the nine realms. But he still wants to mold events in the mortal realms and in the realms beyond.”
“Since the mortals seem to worship wealth now he wants us to have wealth that can be used in the mortal world. He’s changing us into a corporation, as the mortals put it and he’s using the einherjar as our capital.”
Wendy raised one eyebrow and smirked. “So, he’s selling them as slaves? I don’t think that’s legal in any country currently, but I think that they deserve it.”
“No, he’s contracting them out as mercenaries and security.” Sigrún glared at Wendy’s flippant tone. “They’re being retrained with modern weaponry and techniques and we’re building a new office in Oslo. Odin’s going by Donar Vadderung now.”
“Fine, Donar is now wandering around in a three piece suite and handing out business cards for Valhalla Inc. So what does this have to do with me?” Folding her hands Wendy looked at her guest expectantly.
“Its Monoc Securities and I thing that our interest in you would be obvious.” Snorting softly Sigrún continued. “We need people who can work in the mortal world. You’ve spent the last five years blending in perfectly and you’ve experience in modern business, all be it, in the lowest position available. We’d like you to head an office for us on this side of the Atlantic. By the way how did you make it over the sea with no money, clothes or paperwork? We’ve had trouble getting mortal paperwork and we had the advantage of gold and the chaotic situation in Norway after the germans pulled out.”
“My last recruit for the einherjar gave me everything I needed. He was a Finnish soldier serving in the Russian army, I took his soul just outside the ruins of Dresden. He and his unit had found a cache of gold that the Nazis had hidden away for when they ran. The head of his squad killed a German girl named Wendy Fiedler who had been hiding in the same building. He and several of his squad-mates objected and the arguing drew the attention of a German patrol. You know how the newly recruited often babble on the trip back.”
Standing and going to the fridge Wendy opened a pair of coke bottles and handed one to Sigrún, who had followed her. “I returned to the location immediately after bringing Luukas to Valhalla. The Germans had taken most of the gold but the girls body, along with her identity papers, was still there. She was blonde and had blue eyes, and her picture on the papers was barely recognizable as a human let alone any specific person. I scrounged her clothes, which fit well enough, two bars of gold the Germans had missed and the papers and loaded all my gear onto my mount. I opened a portal for my mount to get back to its stables, putting the runes I used to make the gate into its saddlebags as it went through. Having heard how the Russians were treating Germans from Luukas I made my way west and joined the refugees heading over the American lines.”
Sitting back down on the couch Wendy chugged the bottle empty and set it on the end table. “Some of the German girls told me some of what they heard about the American refugee camps and the black market there. I managed to meet a serviceman who had black market connections. I traded the gold, probably being robbed blind, for money and a set of papers that said I was a war bride of a dead American soldier, an orphan with no known family. The papers were good enough to get me a ride on a transport to Boston and an easy road to citizenship. I used the last of the money to learn English and typing and I’ve been here ever since.”
“In answer to the reason you’re here, no, I do not want to be connected to Odin or Vadderung or Monoc or anything with my old life. I’m going to live as a mortal on my own terms with no connection to the realms beyond.”
Finishing her bottle Sigrún set it next to Wendy’s. “And what will you do when you don’t age like they do? Not having Odin’s blessing means you cant use magic, fly or use your other powers, you still are immortal and are stronger and faster than humans.”
“I already have plans in the work for that.” Wendy rubbed her eyes. “Changing your identity is easy if you can get a birth certificate, even one from a baby who did not live a week. I can use makeup to age myself sufficiently to get through this decade and then I’ll have the money to show up as a new college student somewhere on the west coast. After that I’ll do it again as necessary. And who knows, if I live enough as a mortal maybe I’ll eventually become one in reality.”
Shaking her head Sigrún picked up the ax and caused it to vanish into its magical hiding space. “I don’t see how you can be happy this way. I’ll take your answer to the boss and explain your reasoning to him. I wish you luck in your path, sister.”
“I wish you luck in your endeavors, Sigrún.”
As the door closed Wendy grabbed the gun from under the couch, checked the safety and returned it to her handbag.