Prompt response: A hero’s death

This story came from a writing prompt on the subreddit r/writingprompts. The prompt was as follows:

“You are a good Christian man who has lived their entire life with God as their leader. After stopping a gunmen from shooting up a market and dying for your trouble, you wake up in the realm of Valhalla.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Victor “Viking” Nelson wasn’t ready for death. No inevitable plans. He hadn’t even written a will. Why would he? He had his whole life ahead of him. Clearly though God had other ideas as the last thing Nelson remembered clearly was collapsing in the street, his head going light from blood loss. Then, a vision from Heaven. A winged figure descending from above as his vision blurred.

“An angel?” Nelson thought. He wasn’t angry. Maybe a little sad but, he only prayed that he had indeed stopped the gunman and he wasn’t just the first victim. He felt himself being lifted by the winged figure and lifted away from his body, heavy with scars and sins. When he could stand, two doors towered in front of him, taller than some buildings. On the doors were carved images of battles. From ancient conflicts of sword and ax, to Naval engagements of cannons and wooden ships, to modern wars with automatic rifles and heavy armor. With the groan of tons of weight, the doors parted and Nelson’s senses were filled with warmth. The roaring of hundreds of bonfires, the smell of cured meat, the sound of roaring laughter. Confused, he entered and stretching for what seemed like miles were tables of men singing and eating. In arenas off to the side, swords clanged, muscle smacked on muscle, and lead ripped from barrels into standing targets. The Einherjar. The honored dead.

“This . . . this can’t be.”

“Afraid it is, Viking.” Nelson’s head whipped to his side, no one had called him that in years, and especially not in that tone of voice. There, leaning against the door was a bearded and muscle man wearing a beige t-shirt, fatigue pants, and combat boots. Nelson could be knocked over with a feather.

“G-Gabriel?” He took an uneasy step toward him before both men closed the distance and embraced each, Nelson could feel his eyes begin to well up. “I never thought I’d be able to say this . . . thank you.” They broke apart and Gabriel looked into his battle buddy’s eyes, nodded, and smiled.

“You’d have done the same for me.”

“Damn straight.” They clapped hands in front of each other. Nelson’s attention returned to what was around him. “But I mean this can’t be-”

“Valhalla. You just had to die a hero didn’t you?”

“No. There’s only one God. Jesus, God the Father, the Holy Spirit. All this is pagan. What if . . . what if we’re in-” Nelson began to loose his footing and Gabe steadied him.

“Whoa there Viking. Take it easy. I think it’s better if the big guy explains things to you.” Gabe lead Nelson along the halls, a couple of the Einherjar cracking jokes about “more Americans,” and if so many of them keep getting picked up by the Valkyries, they’re either the greatest warriors or the worst. The two came to the end of the hall, seeming to cross miles in a few minutes. There at the table on a raised platform was a giant. Although he’d probably take offense to that description, it was apt though as even sitting he was over nine feet tall. His hair was silvered and spilled over his head and face. He wore a relatively simple dark cloak and a black sash tied around his face, covering one eye. At his side rested a spear that by rights could split a man with its tip and would probably take several strong ones to lift at its size. The head was inscribed in glowing runes. Perched atop the giant’s ornately carved chair were two ravens, who eyed the approaching soldiers. He regarded the duo and Gabe saluted him, out of habit, Nelson followed suit. The resting man returned the gesture and the soldier’s dropped the salute.

“Sir. This is Sergeant Victor Nelson. We called him Viking in the Rangers,” Gabe said.

“Viking?” He at last spoke. With an ancient voice that sounded old yet strong. Like if an oak learned to speak. One of the ravens looked him up and down closely, but he didn’t move his own head. “I can see you are of my people’s stock. Welcome Sargent Nelson, to Valhalla.” He lifted a hand and indicated the great hall. “You know who I am.”

” . . . You’re Odin. The so called Allfather.” Odin nodded wearily.

“Yes, the so called.”

“That title isn’t true though. There is only one God. This can’t be Heaven because violence still exists here. For all I know, it’s Hell for my own violence.” A few of the Einherjar turned from their merry making to regard my statement, a few rising from their table. Odin held up his hand and they remained where they were.

“Seargent,” Odin said. “You are not deceived, yet you are correct. This isn’t Heaven.” He gave a weary sigh. “And I am most certainly not the All-Father. The true All-Father sent His son to die so that you may be free of evil, and He made that sacrifice. Now the Son sits at the right hand of the Father. I, on the other hand, in my arrogance, tried to protect my most beloved son from all that would harm him.” He cast his eye over to a seat next to his. “And all it did was make certain he could not be by my side now.”

“Baldur.” Nelson concluded and Odin just nodded solemnly. His remaining eye shown with such wisdom yet more was in his orb. Pain. Regret. The fierce warrior deity of Nelson’s ancestors was a father in mourning of his son. Nelson was humbled and likewise aware that he judged too quickly, even seeming to mock this man. He held his head before snapping back to parade rest. “Sir. I apologize for my behavior, and I’m sorry for your loss.” Odin gave a sad smile.

“The Valkyries are blessed with good judgment, Sergeant Viking. I am merely wise; a virtue forged in error. You have not been spirited to some Heathen Hall,” he rose to his full height, towering above all as he lifted Gungnir from its holding at his side and raise it high. “You have joined the ranks of the Varangian Guard!” Valhalla erupted in thousands of years worth of war cries. Gabriel at Nelson’s side even joining in with the Army “hooah.” Gungnir came down upon the stone. “We shall not know when, so may we keep sharp our blades as Heimdall keeps sharp his watch. Jormundgandr will rise from the sea to do battle with the Shield Maiden Mother of Christ with the sun as her armor. Heimdall’s trumpet will join in the great din of plagues.”

“Sound familiar?” Gabe nudged Nelson.

“It sounds like he’s talking about the Book of Revelation with the names and details changed.”

“On that day, the battle of Armageddon, we shall stand as the vanguard of our Savior. To be worthy of this, we must continue to train and fight. The Christ has defeated death. Each day we’re slain and each day we rise again, purged of yet more of our sin, in this, we exalt the Son of God!”

“Deus Vult! Deus Vult! Deus Vult!” The Einherjar chanted. Odin pointed Gungnir and its runes glowed brighter. The doors of the hall flew open at a speed that shouldn’t be possible because of their weight. Out of each one was every battlefield imaginable, and some unimaginable. The shores of Denmark, the sands of Iraq, the rusty red dust of Mars.

“So go, my brothers. Fight. Fight and feast again. Fight so that come Ragnarok, we shall be worthy as warriors of God!” There was a great scramble, men bounding over tables to get to their weapons. Nelson looked to Odin and saluted him.

“For Baldur.” A single tear fell from his single eye.

“Thank you Sergeant. God bless you.”

“I think He already has.” Nelson ran to a station lead by Gabe to gear up and grab a rifle. His first day, in Valhalla.

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