This is a short story centered around the salvation of a dying soldier. This, however, has the makings of a larger story.
She was imperious. There was no other way to describe her. Ruan stared up from his battlefield grave, hand pressed vainly against the gaping wound in his abdomen. She was his Valkyrie, he supposed, hand slick with his own blood. The woman stood with her back to the setting sun, the dying light creating a ominous, angelic halo from her crimson hair. Imperiously staring down at him with eyes colder then agates and as red as his own blood. That gaze sent a chill down his spine, coupled as it was with an amused smirk that stretched thin lips across a plain oval face. Am I worthy of amusement? he wondered meeting her gaze with a courage born of inevitability. “Yes you are,” she answered his thought tones far sweeter then her appearance. Her hands now rested on the leather amour of her hips. Ruan smiled, growing weakness leaving him little room for offense. A dying mortal, he thought for her benefit, can only bear with the whims of the gods. “You accept your impotence with courage given your circumstances,” the Valkyrie said with the same amused smile. Impotent? Ruan thought with a weak chuckle, I’m lying in a field with a gaping hole in my stomach, surrounded by the corpses of enemies and comrades alike. One can only be ‘impotent’ if they had power in the first place. The Valkyrie crouched down by his side, arms crossed over her knees; Ruan felt like a curiosity under her gaze. “Do you know you are contradicting your soul?” She asked, tracing a finger idly through the grime that encrusted his uniform. Am I? Ruan thought, torn between disbelief and curiousity. “Yes you are,” she replied, flicking the grime of her fingers with a disinterested glance. What is my soul saying? Ruan asked as curiosity won over his doubt. The Valkyrie brushed mattered patches of mud from Ruan’s shortly cropped black hair in a fashion that was benignly gentle. It utterly contradicted her commanding gaze. “You behave as though you have accepted your death, however your soul rings as clear as a bell. The tone is clear. You wish to be saved. Why?” The Valkyrie responded with a question of her own. A wave of confusion swept through Ruan’s resolve. Suddenly he was aware of his own fingernails biting into the flesh of his palm. He felt sharp relief as he released the tension of his fist. He had not even been aware he had made one, but then the wound in his side was a far more pressing nature. I wonder why myself, Ruan queried, perhaps it is to be expected. “I have asked the wrong question,” the Valkyrie said the she traced the wounds of his palm, causing them to sting. “If you weren’t dying what would you be doing?” Ruan stared past the Valkyrie into the growing darkness of the night sky. At that very moment he felt distant and alone. Not many miles from here, he thought, the battle still rages. In that battle someone very dear fights alone. If I have one reason to live, Ruan despaired, it would be to save his life. “And what would you pay to save his life?” The Valkyrie questioned, stroking the bloody wound on his side forcefully, almost shifting his palm from its precarious hold over the gash. Ruan grimaced at the touch. In vastly different circumstances Ruan may have been aroused by the Valkyries hand movements. To save him I would give everything. Again that piercing gaze saw through him. “Even if it cost you your life and your soul?” There was a delicate catch to her sweet tone, as though she were waiting with bated breath. Ruan mustered the energy to weakly catch the hand of the supernatural being, surprised by the firm, warm and distinctly soft flesh. My life is all but spent, and as for my soul, if it means he lives to a grand old age, well then my soul is a cheap price to pay. “Is that so,” the Valkyrie murmured, squeezing the dying man’s hand, “In that case, if I can save you and give you the power to save this dear person, would you give me your soul?” As the words left her lips she released his hand and placed her own atop his other. Ruan weakly clutched at the Valkyrie’s hardened leather shirt. If you can give me that luxury, Ruan thought desperately, all that I am is yours. The Valkyrie’s smile became somewhat triumphant at his words and in two contradictory movements she viciously probed his gash while kissing him with tenderness on the brow. His body responded with fire; a burning sensation radiated from his mortal wound, coursing through his near lifeless body, stealing his awareness.
When his awareness returned, Ruan found himself standing over his corpse in body, that after a quick exploration, proved to be an outward replica of his own. “What is this?” Ruan asked, staring at his palms in stunned amazement. The Valkyrie stood from her crouched position after gently closing ‘his’ eyes, and turned to face him with hands on hips. “A superior shell; your old shell was spent.” She said in way of dismissive explanation. “Who are you?” Ruan asked with incredulity that came far too late. She turned towards the horizon. “I am Esme. Now come, it is time for my end of the bargain.” She commanded, and with a flick of her curls, the battle-tempered Valkyrie lead the deceased soldier on his last mission. And up until his dying breath, Ruan’s friend Carel, swore that he had fought beside Ruan that day, watching in grief stricken horror as his mate was gunned down by bullets meant for Carel. When Ruan’s rotting corpse was found days later Carel was unable to believe that he had had a battlefield hallucination; instead he turned to faith in a greater power.