The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Thirty-eight: The
Odin back to Asgard. He told her, "You must return to your
people. There is much to be done ere dawn."
want you to know, I was serious about what I said back there.
I'm not going to fight. Maybe it's something that has to be
done, but not by me."
your place is with them, Sara," he told her. "To them
you were sent, by them you were raised, with them you have
lived. You have been to their Hell and their Heaven. Their
destiny and yours are entertwined."
stubborn. "I don't care. I won't fight. Not just
because I don't believe in it, but because I know it's between
them and you. If there is a meaning to it, then it's something
they have to accomplish for themselves. I don't even know what
I'm doing here, frankly."
not ask you to fight, Sara -- but they have need of you
nevertheless. They know not what they face and you can give them
vital intelligence. They will need the unity that only you can
give them. If they become fragmented by their inability to
communicate with each other, they will be hard pressed. You
cannot deprive them of that."
you telling me this? If you're so set on having a battle with
humanity, wouldn't you want them to be kept in the dark? It's to
your advantage to keep mankind separated and ignorant."
will try to accomplish that, Sara. It will be your task to
prevent us. It is the reason for your being here, and your being
here is the reason that the time for this struggle is at
"I just don't get it."
Odin smiled at
her, "Please honor my daughters by saying goodnight to them
ere you depart." He slowly disappeared into the shadows of
were waiting for her when she arrived. They were in battle dress
and saluted her as she entered. The sight of the twelve mighty
sisters arrayed in haughty military splendor, long blonde
tresses waving wildly with every ceremonial gesture, was
thrilling and dramatic in spite of Sara's mood.
Sara," they shouted in unison. "Cousin, foewoman,
comrade, companion and most noble adversary. May honor make us
worthy and duty unite us."
this about? thought Sara. "Uh, hail, I guess."
They broke ranks
and clustered about her excitedly, bouncing up and down in
gleeful anticipation, all talking at once.
confused. "Wait a minute. You mind telling me what's going
said Brunhilde. "The battle. You and us..."
on," Sara protested. "I told your father, I'm not
fighting. And if I was, it wouldn't be against the humans. I
couldn't do that."
Sara," Brunhilde said patiently while the others giggled.
"We understand all that. Nevertheless, we shall give you a
Sara shook her
head, "You're gonna fight me? No way. I'm not
fighting anyone, especially not you."
"But you must -- you will. And it will be wonderful,
a sight never before seen, and never after. The very stuff of
said Sara plaintively, "Why?"
Allfather told you, Sara. You must be the eyes, the ears, the
voice of all the sundered bands of humankind, lest they be cast
back into Hell for naught. And we shall put you to the
again in enthusiastic anticipation. Sara was simply dumbfounded.
embrace you, dearest Sara, and bid you swiftly away, for we know
you have your duties to attend to, as we have ours."
took the girl into her powerful arms and kissed her tenderly.
"For when tomorrow we meet again..."
shouted in unison, "We fight!"
Sara flew slowly
through the starless night, her mind in a turmoil. Below her,
stealthy preparations bustled frantically throughout the valley.
All around on the surrounding plain, the campfires of the humans
blazed. There would not be much sleep this Armageddon's Eve on
was one place that showed no particular concern. As she passed
the camp of the hunting god who'd killed the deer, she kreened a
peacefulness that stood out from the surrounding flow of
movement. She dipped lower and saw him sleeping on a deerskin
beside the comfort of his small fire. His simple possessions
surrounded him -- some handmade stone and wooden implements,
the food stores of a hunter-gatherer, a few trophies, little
else. It was all he needed.
untroubled and unconcerned, unashamedly naked to the night sky,
still somehow alert and instinctually aware of his surroundings.
Sara slowed to a feather's pace, wrapped her cape around her
tightly and held her breath so as not to rouse him. His effect
on her was, if anything, more powerful than it had been the
first time she beheld him.
He had no
obvious godly attributes or aspect, but -- as before -- there
was an unseen radiance that surrounded him that she hadn't
noticed in the other gods. He had only animal strength and cunning, and
an undefinable pureness and unity with nature that had
disappeared with the emergence of civilization. His people had
spanned the entire world for uncounted generations before
farming and domestication made everything about human existance
so complicated, and in places had persisted unspoiled until
technology managed to shrink the globe into insignificance,
taming and tainting the last wild places.
essential primitivism he represented had its own problems, and
the simpleness more sophisticated later cultures looked back to
with longing never really existed. After all, his people were on
the plain, too. But their conception of a godly being had a
greatness that had somehow diminished in his successors.
over him as long as she dared, though not as long as she wanted.
He stirred, stretching slightly and shifting subtly. Some sense
long forgotten by modern men made him open his eyes. But Sara
Sara told the
senior commanders at Supreme Headquarters everything she knew,
projecting pictures to support her narrative. She emphasized her
unwillingness to join the fight, but -- as Odin had said --
they didn't ask her to. She would be far more valuable to them
as a vital linkage between armies who otherwise would be
fragmented and alone against a foe that was still largely a
mystery. The generals had no previous relevant experience to
guide them in formulating strategy and tactics and would have to
improvise as they went along. Waging such a war as isolated
units would be catastrophic.
conflicted about assuming any role. Even her support of
their communications was a combat role by extension, but she
couldn't bring herself to turn her back on them.
worried them. Sara explained as best she could about Velorians,
and tried to reassure them that they couldn't harm her. At
least, she told them, if they make good on their promise to try
to engage her, then the rest of the army wouldn't have to worry
about a dozen flying, invulnerable, immensely strong, death-ray
how many other mythological superheroes they would have to face.
Sara finally got
to what was bothering her. "I still don't really understand
why everybody decided to go through with this. I'd think that
putting this off and trying to work something out would be a lot
better idea. Going up against the gods seems to me to be
enough time in this half-existence to figure some things out,
Sara, and I don't mean just among the leadership. I think it's
obvious to everyone in the human armies that this whole
situation isn't right."
not the kind of heaven my people expected."
It can be nothing other than a waystation, a brief stop on the
way to the real afterlife."
"If we are
now experiencing a life after death, then it seems reasonable to
expect that it is something we can look forward to again."
"If we bear
true faith and allegiance to our duty, we have faith that things
will be made right -- the same kind of faith that made us die
for what we believed in in the first place."
"But the city down there -- so what if the gods want
something in return for living there? Believe me, it's as close
to some kind of Heaven as you can imagine. Nobody really knows
what'll happen if you die again. Why take a chance?"
reason there aren't any souls there."
thing -- maybe there's plenty of ice cream, but there aren't
proper employment, no reason for living."
what a Faustian bargain is, Sara. Selling your soul to the devil
is a part of every folklore."
a prettier version of Hell."
having heard from the gods, we no longer trust them."
already betrayed our beliefs."
surprised. "That's quite a leap of faith -- or whatever
you call the opposite."
old Chief spoke up. "The Great Spirit does not talk to me
on the radio. I am a simple man, and this is what I believe --
His home is in the sky, and sometimes I think I see a little bit
of Him in the red sunset or in the early morning mist. When He
wants to tell me something, His voice is the wind and I hear Him
with my heart.
"I do not
think I know what God is really like. Nobody does. These demons
who tempt us have taken the names that we have given to our poor
imaginations. They deserve to be cast down, and we do not
deserve to endure their illusions.
war and hardship to end the reign mankind has given to them, or
ease and comfort to take the coward's way. We are warriors. We
know what path we must take.
have a saying for that time before a battle when the choice is
clear. 'It is a good day to die.' Tomorrow I will say this
again, and then if I die once more, maybe I will truly see the
Happy Hunting Ground."
Sara made the
rounds of a few of the commands around the perimeter of the
valley, attending to last-minute details. Whenever she could,
she had a few brief words with the some of the soldiery, all of
whom had gathered 'round the radios. To a man, they knew the
afterlife they were in was bogus. Those who had expected a
Heaven filled with loved ones felt cheated. Those who had lacked
expectations had their own reasons to be skeptical of voices
that purported to be divine.
probably nothing worse than the betrayal of trust and belief.
Their present situation was a blow to every man on the plain,
and it had the effect of making them angry. Whatever these
creatures were that had robbed them of the rewards of a valiant
death, they would pay dearly for their disrespect and treachery.
One way or another, these men would strike a blow for all
mankind, and their souls would be released from this mockery.
Not that there
was unanimity about risking death again. There were plenty of
men who would just as soon pass this bitter cup and take any way
out that was offered. There was the practical matter of not
having any place else to go, since anyone could see that the
city was not going to be very safe during the battle, and the
desert was no place to hide. The demons who came in the night
made no distinctions concerning conscientious objectors. In any
event, few of them would abandon their more determined comrades.
With the exception of scattered units and even a minor army or
two, a grim consensus had emerged. There were an awful lot of
these particular dead who were the kinds of men who had stood
with Leonidas at Thermopylae. The Theban deserters had not been
As far as
battling the gods was concerned, they'd take their chances. Most
of them didn't have any particular respect for someone else's
gods anyway, and their own had been seen to have feet of clay.
Everything about this afterlife was tangibly physical, including
deities who gave radio addresses. Defeating such 'gods' simply
required a tactical solution.
Kentucky was still bivouacked at the oasis they shared with
other Union troops. They greeted her warmly and with great
respect, offering the best of their victuals, which she accepted
greatfully. For the most part, they almost seemed to be eager to
have a chance to finally bring this whole affair to some kind of
It was late and
she apologized for disturbing whatever sleep they could get.
They would need it, she said, and they settled down as best they
could. Sara rolled herself in her cape and, like everyone else,
pretended to sleep for a while, but finally got up and sat
beside Nate, who had the watch.
He was tense,
simultaneously sweating and shivering. Sara needed no special
senses to see that anxiety poured out of him like a dismal fog.
alright?" she asked him concernedly.
ma'am," he lied. "Guess I been thinkin' too much is
what you mean," Sara sighed, trying to make him feel a
little more comfortable by sharing his burden. "I wish
there was some way to make all of this go away."
a-skeered, are ye, ma'am? From what I heared, ye don't have too
much t' worry 'bout."
Brunhilde and her gang," she replied wryly, "and the
wrath of the gods."
shore am, an' I don't mind ownin' up t' it. I wasn't so 'fraid
b'fo I died, 'cause I guess I reckoned I'd live ferever, like
most young fools. An' I s'pose it ain't 'xactly that I'se
skeered o' dyin' this time. Could be a blessin'."
"I think I
know what you mean. Nobody who's suffered a lingering death
should ever have to face that again. That's been my main
yer pardon, ma'am, but it ain't even that. We all agrees that we
won't none of us allow no sufferin'. They ain't no medics t'
speak of, an' we all don't mean to linger in these here parts
anyhow. If'n I'm hit, my friends'll put me outta m' misery, an'
I'll do th' same fer them."
shocked. This was something she hadn't considered. "You
mean, you'd..." She couldn't say it.
Quick an' merciful. We'll all reserve our last rounds fer
She didn't know
what to say.
what it is," he went on, "is that I hope I don't let
nobody down. I want so bad t' find a hole to bury m'self in. I
don't know if I can stand up with the rest, if'n my fingers will
work, if'n my knees won't buckle, if'n I won't lose m' water --
beggin' yer pardon, ma'am. An' I really don't know if I can do
m' duty by my friends if they go down. How can I face
quietly in the dark as Sara held him. He gradually worked his
way through his agony.
alright," he finally said, with quiet determination.
"I jist wish, by all that's holy -- if there is
anything that's holy anymore -- that I'm the first one t' fall.
And if I am the last, I swear that there will be Hell to
An hour before
what passed for dawn, the demons attacked in force. This time,
the humans were ready for them.
scavenged from thousands of vehicles, great bonfires, star
shells from the ships, phosphorus bombs and flares dropped from
planes launched in the darkness -- every kind of illumination
available to them lit up the onrushing hordes. For the first
time, the faces of their enemies could be seen.
This was no mere
raid. It was a massive assault. Everything that mankind feared
was rushing headlong upon their trenches and barricades: imps,
great scaly things, nightmarish creatures, the undead, trolls,
ice giants, gremlins, monsters, tax collectors, Gestapo goons,
hellish abominations, Klansmen, gargoyles, lawyers, aliens,
shapeless wraiths, avenging angels, dragons, ex-wives, grotesqueries,
serpents, ghouls, goblins, saboteurs, devils, guilty
consciences, and things that went bump in the night.
For a moment,
fear froze the hands of men. The terrifying host was nearly upon
them when they finally got a close enough look at what they had
been dreading to realize how fucking silly they all looked in
the glaring lights. They began to fight. The demons went down,
falling in droves as humans faced up to them.
the enemy exacted a heavy price. It took more than the
realization that these creatures were the products of their own
imaginations to send them back to Hell. Cold steel was needed,
and true aim and a steady trigger finger. They did not
die easily, and some revived when doubts resurfaced.
Nevertheless, the lines held and the attack foundered.
finally came, man's demons had been vanquished. There was loss
and grief and the bloody work of ending the pain of the perhaps
fortunate ones who had suffered grievous wounds, but when it was
over, humans had discovered a newfound confidence. They did not
fear the gods. They were ready to face the hosts of Heaven.
They didn't have
to wait long. At sea, the war had begun in earnest. After a
quick conference by radio through Sara, the humans began to move
out in response.
Valhalla, singing, the Valkyries issued forth to do battle.
© Patrick Hill, 2000