Chapter 1: Hunger
Atreus woke with a gross hunger. The icy air of Fimbulwinter stung always stung his skin, even when he was inside the cabin. Laying down any longer proved to be excruciating; he sat up, hunched over the edge of his cot, and waited for the pain to pass. During the past few weeks, food was incredibly scarce. Fimbulwinter made it hard for wildlife to grow and for animals to graze, so whatever he and his father could catch was savored and cherished. The last thing they caught was a meek deer, not nearly the size of the average buck. Atreus could tell it was underdeveloped and probably starving. He felt it was… wrong… to kill the deer. It was just trying to survive, as they were. His father killed the deer in a single strike. That was… 5 days ago, now. They managed to eat the animal in just under two days, its body weight proved meek, as it alone was barely enough to call a meal. His stomach began to turn over and the pain started to pass.
Atreus couldn't live like this any longer. His mother would never let him. He had remembered her sweet voice, her tenderness, and her loving face. Wanting so dearly to remember her loving light, the blurred sight in his mind became painful and he was quick to brush it away. It had been six months since her ashes were spread, her final wish had been fulfilled and her memory was forever embedded into their thoughts, still tender to look back upon.
Atreus turned his head to Mimir, who rightfully claimed a ruffed blanket on the table where he and his father would eat. The reanimated head’s spot was a result of the boy's expertise of convincing his father that he was still useful. Mimir’s eyes were closed though he could have sworn he could see their yellow glow through his eyelids. He turns his head to his father, snoring. He could very faintly see his frozen breath as it left his beard. Atreus turned his focus back to Mimir, whose breath he could see as well. Could he even still breathe? Could he still eat? Drink? Atreus often pondered about the magic that reawoke their decapitated companion; however, the middle of the night is no time to bombard him with questions. Atreus threw his legs off his bed and stared at the crippled fire pit. The light of the moon beamed down on the snow every night, illuminating the cabin in favor of a fire. It made a beautiful sight outside if it wasn’t so damn cold. He looked back up to Mimir, who looks to have shifted for a second.
“Mimir?” He tried as quiet as he could. Mimir's eyes flickered through the bottom of the closed lids, stuttering open, the golden shine starting at the table, then over to who called his name.
“Something wrong, little brother?” He mutters, a little louder at first, then quietly, realizing that his father was still asleep.
“Can you see any...leftovers? Over there? Anything at all?” Atreus raised his voice only a little, unintentionally sounding desperate. He watched as the shine of Mimir's eyes panned the room, searching on the floor, searching on the table beneath him, and finally, searching on the wall, perhaps for any forgotten animal they had salted and strung up. Atreus looked at the same wall and saw nothing in the darkness.
“None in my peripherals. Sorry, lad.” Mimir's eyeshine rolled to the table beneath him again. Mimir had opted to stay at the cabin while Atreus and his father went hunting in the past few weeks. He could see why. Fimbulwinter had an upset of blizzards just about every other month, this one being the ill-fated. The head just didn't want to be out in the cold. Atreus let out a sigh, then hunched over as the familiar pain returned, he couldn't even think to help the loud groan that left his lips.
“Boy.” His voice made the child stop cold. He heard his father shift and turn his body around to face the fire pit. He propped himself up with one of his elbows and his eyes peered into the boy. Atreus was sure eventually he was going to suffocate by how tense his presence made him.
“Are you alright?” his voice sounding quieter than when he first spoke. A wave of relief washed over the boy. He’s just worried, he thought, trying to calm himself down.
“Yeah. Just...hungry.” Atreus rubbed the back of his neck. Kratos could understand completely, as he was sure the boy’s body needed it, but there were times when he let his own body go weeks without food, he supposed it was a small perk of being a God. But Atreus is only part-God. And a child. “Father?” He looked to his son, who had pushed off the bed and took a step towards the larger bed. “Maybe now...we can hunt in other realms?” His son turned his gaze to meet him.
“No. I told you that is the last resort.” Kratos shot the idea down immediately. They had killed 3 Gods, all of Asgard is probably looking for them right now, it was way too dangerous to realm travel, or even travel around Midgard. Not without a new protection stave, at least. Freya would never serve them again. He was reluctant to ask the dwarves, well really only Sindri, since Brok would probably insult the craft and give no help. Somehow Kratos knew Sindri would drag on about cleanliness, then would probably ask another favor in return. The loud growl of the boy's stomach made Kratos snap from his thoughts. Atreus hunched over and tried to force the air out of himself to ease the pain, but it was already in full force.
Kratos couldn't stand to watch his son in pain. He sighed and stood from his bed. Atreus peered up to the towering God, half expecting him to pick him up and put him back to bed. But instead, he turned and walked to the small shelf in the corner of their home, near the door. Atreus tilted his head as he watched the dark figure of his father start to rummage behind some pots and bowls on the shelf that he himself was too short to reach. Within a few seconds, Kratos turned back to his son, a decent sized clay flask in his hand. Atreus couldn't make out the detail that was painted on it as his father stopped in front of him and presented the flask. He was too tired to read it, but he felt like he knew it was his father's language. Kratos took a knee in front of the boy and started to remove the cork. Once the cork was free, a strong stench of alcohol filled the boy's nostrils, but he made no effort to wince at it.
“Drink.” his father instructed, holding the flask by the neck and holding it out to him.
“What is it?” Atreus was reluctant to grab at the rough, deteriorated clay.
“Spartan Ouzo. From the place of my youth. It is made to combat hunger when there was famine. I made sure there was plenty for my army, at times we would travel weeks without food.” Kratos’ deep voice in a tone that wasn't negative warmed the boy. It wasn't a story, those, however; he loved, but this was enough to sate him. Atreus started for the flask, the gritty feeling of the cold clay bothered him, and he realized there wasn't much left. He brought the rim to his nose and sniffed, only to pull back at the strong scent.
“Is it… safe?” He asked, before bringing it close to his face again, it smells like shit.
“....it will not kill you. I know that.” Kratos let a small smirk cross his lips as he jested with the boy. He watched as Atreus lifted the flask to his lips and tilt his head back. Atreus winced at the sour, potent taste but let the liquor fill him, and warm him. He felt the pain of the hunger strike it's worst, then sighed as the wave of relief of something finally filling his stomach washed over him. He had only drunk half of what was left before bringing his head back to his father. The God looked content on watching him find comfort. Kratos started to shift off his knee and stand but the boy's free hand snapped to his leg and kept him on the ground. Atreus pushed the clay container out from his chest and closer to his father. Staring at the flask for a moment, he realized Atreus was offering him the rest. Kratos pushed it away with his palm brushing the bottom of the clay with his fingertips and declining with a gentle shake of the head.
“You're hungry too, right? You can drink the rest. I'll be fine.” Atreus pushed the flask back. The old God wasn't hungry, but if it would help the boy sleep, knowing his father was well; Kratos took the bottle from the boy in defeat and tilt the rim back to his lips. The warm memories of his army and his glory days ran over his mind, the alcohol, sweet to him, it tasted just as good as it did on the battlefield, even if it was a few hundred years old. Kratos pulled the newly empty flask away from his mouth and put the cork back into its place. Standing back up, he returned to the shelf and placed it where it could easily be seen in the morning, so he may find another use for it later. He looked to his son, who was staring intently at him, at the same time backing up into his bed again.
“Back to bed, boy. Tomorrow. We will see what we can find.” He began to take steps towards the larger bed, watching the child closely.
Atreus shrugged and hopped back onto his cot, as did the old God. Kratos laid his head flat, and forced his eyes closed, preparing himself to inevitably fall back to sleep.
“Goodnight, father.” he heard softly from Atreus. Without a second thought, he warmly replied:
“Goodnight, son.” And the two fell silent.
Chapter 2: Vengeance
WOW. I am SO sorry for the horrible delay here. I don't know what happened. I had horrible writers' block combined with multiple depressive episodes and only recently began writing again. Chapters three and four aren't far behind, I've been writing them at the same time and they're both in about stage 3 of my 5 stage plan before posting. I thank you all so much for your support, I'm getting better and writing more as a way of release. I didn't have a reliable beta reader for this chapter so it feels a little rough to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the first time in months, Brok could feel the familiar sensation of the brass floor trembling beneath his feet. Tyr's bridge had been silent, aimed where the missing J ö tunhiem gate would stand. The rumbling turned into violent shaking as the deafening sound of metal scraping against metal replaced the quiet crackle of the shops forge. The portly dwarf had only just started his break, though it had been quite a time since he had seen a patron. The bridge had never made such a noise since he usurped it from the murky depths of the lake. It wasn’t right by any means, that the blue one did know. Brok pushed his weight forward and off the anvil he sat upon. He waddled towards the gateway and stared at the light bridge that led to the travel room, its doors still shut and still.
“...What'd you do now?!” the taller dwarf’s voice faded in as he faltered to Brok from the back of the workshop, a sack full of heavy materials huddled to his being. The short one was quick to shush him, though his effort was useless against his brother’s nagging. “I look away for five minutes and you’re already trying to break stuff! I swear-”
Brok grabbed Sindri’s golden pauldron and lowered him to his cheek, “Will you shut’cher yap?!” Brok could hear the looming footfalls of whoever or whatever was behind those heavy doors.
Sindri shook the blue hand off his armor and gagged, “Don't you touch me! Especially when I haven't seen where your hands have been today!” Sindri paid no mind to their impending visitor and began to make his own fumbling way to his absolutely spotless side of the shop. Brok was usually easily fed up with his brother’s cleanliness bullshit but now was not the time. That door is going to open, and whatever the hell comes through, he wasn’t going to let his bullheaded brother get himself killed. Brok dove his way into his brother’s back, shoving him into the safety of their workspace behind the wooden worktables. Sindri’s bag clattered as it hit the stone floor, echoing throughout the shop. Whatever Sindri had brought in, it was surely dented and bruised now.
The new silence that overtook as the clattering finally ceased was numbing. The dwarves huddled beneath a table, went stiff; ice cold as the gates of the travel room groaned as they opened slowly. A gruff, stuffy, disembodied voice came into fruition, struggling and heaving to… even pull the door open? No matter what sound the travel room doors made, they were actually pretty light, Brok could even recall Sindri pulling the doors open with rather moderate ease, the delicate fucker. The straining grunts came to near violent vocalizing as though the voice was struggling to simply squeeze itself through the door. Nails screeching on stone joined the confusing mess of sounds, merely adding to the unnecessary suspense. Brok had grown impatient, eager to meet and tear this one's head apart, mostly for being the cause of whatever that terrible sound was earlier, and the rest for making him look like a fool for hiding from such a weakling. Then the noises stopped. The door slammed shut. And he could smell the putrid odor of overpowering fragrances, humongous egos, over-sweetened ale, and rusted gold.
This asshole's from Asgard. Figures, as weak as this ass is . Brok thought, rolling his eyes. I hid like my head was gonna cut off again, all for a fuckin’ Asgard fuckshit?! Fuck. All. He shook his head and prepared to stand up and curse out the weak patron for making such a fuss, but a sudden subtle breeze on the top of his head made him stick to the quiet, stiff and cold state of his that bled nothing but fear. Gently. Slowly. The brothers turned and met their visitor with pale faces.
It was a man. A tall scrawny man, thin as though he had been sick since the day he was birthed. His cheeks were sunken to their core, grey stubble lined his chin to his withered, pale ears. A filthy tan cloth covered his eyes, his silver locks protruded from a dark cocked hat, pinned with a single silver metal button near it's top. His pointed nose bared stains of being bloodied over a hundred times, and his whole body wreaked of sickness. He sported a dark leather cloak, same colored skinned pants, and a ragged belt littered with tears and pouches containing the All-Father knows what. He had no weapon in sight.
“Are you kidding me?!” Sindri barked at his brother. He cleared his throat and stood up tall, barely meeting half their visitors' height. He'd never seen him before, then again he'd really only seen Red and the kid in the shop. “How can I help you-”
“Hello,” The stranger muttered. His voice was raspy, dry, as though he’d never felt a drop of liquid in his life. The stranger kept his head held high, even though the dwarf was well below his eye level. Sindri chuckled awkwardly, his mind throwing that out the window. The pale man slowly leaned in and took a fat sniff. The dwarf stumbled backward into his blue brother, desperately trying to get away from that pointed nose. It scrunched and contorted, the pale man scoffed and huffed at himself, looking to the floor. This isn't the one.
“Can I help you, giblet-head?” the man tilted his head to the dwarf and huffed again at his insult. The man stood up straight with a crack in his back, and forced a smile, again with a crack.
“I'm looking for a… criminal. They killed my brother.”
“Lots a people dyin’ these days, you sure draugr ain't done im’ in?” Brok set his brother's fainted body beside himself and peered into the man's dirty cloth covering his eyes.
“No. I'm certain someone... living did it. If you won't be of use to me then you can…” he cut himself off with a fury of sickly wet coughs. Wincing at the copper taste of blood in his mouth, the pale man put a hand to his lips and coughed once more. Pulling it away, he could feel the very tips of his fingers were covered in liquid.
I shouldn't be wasting my time here.
Wiping his fingers on the lapel of his coat, the man shook his head and turned to leave, heading towards the door that leads to the rest of Midgard.
Brok chuckled to himself, watching the weakling of a man struggle with the door again.
Withering brambles and vines crumbled underneath his feet. Somehow the snow had stopped falling near her home. Instead, lay countless frail plantlife. The grass, brown and sickly, the earth underneath, dry and cracking. He could not see the poor condition of the land surrounding her place but, he could feel her pain, sense it. Vali could only ever follow his nose, his eyes never worked from the moment he was born. His mother, Rindr, tore fabric from her shawl and hid his broken eyes from the world. His father, Odin, blessed the frail child, so that he may grow with senses stronger than any other mortal or God. On that same day, Vali stepped through Tyr's bridge.
Pushing weakened vines and branches out of his way, he could feel the true damage of her grieving. Helheim had long claimed Baldur, and since then, the witch's woods became withered and grey. Frost glazed the forest floor, a crisp layer covering the wildlife's precious food. Vali stepped over a dead, starved buck he almost tripped upon. He urged himself to keep going, knowing he must consult with her. He inched towards a weakening being, and gently put his bony hand out to meet it. His hand connected to dry, wrinkled, scaly skin. A low groan from the creature vibrated in his hand. It was difficult to understand, but the creature radiated the same pain she felt.
“Take me to her, friend.” Vali pushed his head into Chaurli's rough skin, letting his forehead touch his hide, quietly comforting the tortoise. Humming in agreement, Chaurli shifted his resting legs, the earth rumbling beneath him. His muscles seemed to shake, he hadn't stood in so long. Frost and ice crumbled and cracked off his shell, frail tiny roots of the sedir tree atop his back began to break off, crashing to the ground, harder and harder as the tortoise got higher. Finally, as the tortoise ceased his movements, the witch's house appeared from below. It looked as though the very wood that kept it together began to rot, dark marks and clusters of termite holes littered its appearance. Not that Vali could tell. Stepping underneath the old tortoise, he could hear the wooden door that seemed to creak at the very presence of fresh air. Bringing his hand to touch the door, he knew she was still inside. He silently vowed to ease her pain the only way he knew how.
Freya sat in the center of her stave floor, huddled, silent, above his wrapped body. She had lined its folds and creases with the last of her gardens’ surviving fauna, the vibrant flowers and plants reminding her of his youth. She had stopped sobbing, her lack of communication to others made it futile. If no one could hear, who would aid? Now, she sat silent, cradled in a deep pit of her mind. She would sometimes repeat prayers and mantras for hours, pleading for her own death, or wishing and muttering for the endless screams of Hel to curse Kratos for the rest of his days. She would never dare to mention Atreus. None of this needed to involve the poor child. Only the man who robbed her of the last thing she cared about in this horrible world. On other days, she would sit in silence, unmoving. Broken away from reality, wondering If anything was even real anymore. If anything had even happened. If the events that destroyed what was left of her life after being cursed to this realm even occurred. Six long months of solitude only yielded more pain.
Knocking upon her door broke her from her silent state for the first time in what felt like days. Horrified, she stood still, thinking Odin was back to finish her off for letting their cherished son die. Dreading hearing his voice again, she winced at the moment she heard a voice, only it was one she didn't recognize. His raspy voice was barely audible, especially behind the door. Rising from her kneeling position, Freya turned heel to the door and cleared her throat to say.
“Who is there?! What do you want?!”
“Your savior, your majesty.” Never in all her years had she heard such a voice. Though she knew where he came from. Her front door wreaked of Aesir magic. She would regret opening that door for the rest of her life.
Freya gently opened the door and stood face to face with the pitiful, sickly man. Before she could open her mouth to express her disgust towards the man for referring to her as royalty, Vali brushed passed her and seemed to inspect her home. With his nose. “Who. are you. What. do you want.” She repeated, turning to him, watching him point his nose to the air and bob it as if he smelled something putrid.
“My name is Vali,” he took a sniff. “Frigg, I've come to avenge my poor, poor brother.” The lanky bastard knelt down to the wrapped corpse once he found it. Freya burned inside, wanting nothing more than to tear this 'Vali’ away from his burial cloth. She saw his hand going towards where his face would be under the fabric. She refused to allow anyone else to ever touch him again. Dashing behind Vali, she snatched his wrist away,
“Leave. Now. That honor belongs to me.”
Vali turned his head, a sickening crack rupturing from his neck, his teeth, born, spit flying from his lip from the pure rage. Freya's blood ran cold as he stood to tower over her. “You are denying me of my birthright?! By the Allfather, though he insisted I not kill you, I will not hesitate to maim.” his voice became hearse as his spine unnaturally bent out of shape, leaving his face and figure mangled at her eye level.
Whatever possessed this man, whatever tormented him. It, such was a fate worse than death that she would never wish upon another. Keenly, she watched the man contort back down, out of her grasp and back to Baldur’s side. It seemed as though the man bumped his pointed nose into the cloth in the process. Then he found it. He could detect the scent of the fabled mistletoe, immediately knowing exactly who it belonged to. Kind of. He could only tell their race, but he knew they shouldn't be too hard to find. He could sense that of a Jötunn; a Jötunn bred with... something else. The only one of its kind. Another God. Vali smiled at himself, this would be easier than his first thought. Standing from the cold, wrapped corpse, he turned and began to leave without a word. The woman sighed silently in relief, but it proved to be short-lived when his harsh voice rang up again.
“Where is she?” He muttered. Knowing not what he was speaking of, Freya had enough of this mysterious man, demanding what she could not give.
“I know not of what you speak of-”
“Gërd. The dragon. Baldur's dragon. Where, where… is she.” Now she knew. The creature had taken refuge at the far end of her garden a few months ago. Back then, Freya had immediately noticed its lacerated, infected wing. Doing everything in her power to ease its pain, physical and mental, she allowed it to stay, and mourn as she did. Since then, the beast had been quiet, sometimes there and sometimes not, probably off looking for something to eat. As far as Freya knew, Gërd was one of the last dragons in the realm, and probably one of the only things of this land that cares, alongside Freya herself, about the loss of Baldur. I can't let him take her.
“S-she isn't here-”
“Stop. I can’t stand a liar.” He began to chuckle. “Why-Why do you think the All-Father keeps you alive? Hmm?” Freya choked on a response, instead, he continued, “Because you’re his pet and pets,” he paused, sucking in air. “are meant to obey. Now Frigg, you obeyed when propositioned to marry, and you obeyed when you were to raise Baldur. Then you disobeyed. You abandoned Asgard, you abandoned Father. And you were punished, as pets are. You were forbidden to ever leave this wretched land. You were forbidden to ever place a violent hand, weapon, or even your own magic upon anyone ever again. Now Frigg,” Vali’s spine made a crack, making Freya freeze. “You certainly don’t want to disobey again, do you? It would not end very well for you, at least not as well off as you got when Odin limited you to...This.” he motioned simply in her vicinity, basically insulting her life as it was now.
Freya dared to roll her eyes, she stood still however, there was something about this man that made her fear every moment in his presence, each moment worse than the last. The longer he stayed, the more she just prayed for him to be gone. He smelt of something toxic, something unhealthy, something horrible. Vali scratched his chin and brushed his arm across his face, that nose going wild, then he smiled. “That's alright. I already found her. Well, Frigg. I have a brother to avenge. And a Giant to kill. I was told brother Thor already exterminated their kind, but no matter. Hopefully, you won't be an issue. I may just kill you, the Allfather wouldn't mind too much.” and he turned to leave, slamming open the rotted wooden door and starting to walk into the sunlight. Suddenly, his words came to her, the realization hitting harder than anything has before.
“You will not touch him! It was not his doing! He need not pay for what he has not done! Vali, he is just a-”
“Say. Something. More. And I will destroy what's left of you.” he didn't turn his face to her, merely cocking his head so it may let out a blood-chilling crack. He chuckled, his hearse laugh echoed in the valley. The very setting seemed to react, his vile presence visibly upsetting everything that lived around him. Freya, Charuli, and now Gërd. She was in the garden when Vali arrived, undisturbed. Now, she brought her head up, her huge horned helmet being the most noticeable. Her dull maroon scales were some of the only color left in this place. The rest of her armor clattered together, her giant wings, closed against her torso, opened, revealing the large scar adorning the left wing, then she pulled them closed once more, stretching from a nice long nap. Her eyes looked distressed, exhausted, and overall fearful of this Vali character. And she had every right to be. Vali's head snapped to where the clattering came from. “Ah! Gërd! Come along now, girl. We have work to do.” He sounded so happy as he began to blindly walk off the trail, towards where Gërd was unattended. As Vali came closer to her, curious Gerd stuck her neck out, simply trying to get an identity of this man. Taking a small sniff of this stranger, she immediately recognized him, or at least the scent of Asgard. The dragon wasted no time pushing her head into the small man, coercing him to climb aboard. Vali laughed again, bumping into the scaley mass, knowing the beast accepted him. Gerd opened her wings once more, pushing them down, and kicking up loose snow in the mountainous gust of wind she created beneath her. Freya shielded her face from the free-flying snow and debris as it cleared from the wind. Moving her focus back up at the dragon, Gerd was in flight once more and almost out of her view. Squinting, she could see Vali, perched on the oversized saddle upon the back of her neck. She needed to move. Find the boy, and save him. Now.
I hope you like bloodborne, Father Gascoigne was a major inspiration for Vali as I was writing his character down. it's super obvious in his appearance and I plan to make it a whole lot more obvious later, lmao
EDIT: I FORGOT TO MENTION, we never got a name or anything for the dragon Baldur rode on at the beginning and near the end of the game, so I gave her a bit of a character and named her Gërd. Just to clear that up.