A Gripping Modern Day Norse Mythologyâ¦
By Kevin D. Miller
Title: AWAKENING: BOOK ONE OF THE BERSERKER CHRONICLES
Author: Kevin D. Miller
Publisher: BiFrost Books
Genre: High Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Action and Adventure / Norse Fantasy / Viking Fantasy / Norse Gods and Goddesses
A megalomaniac god is pursuing a millennia-old vendetta, and Leif must learn to wrangle a newly awakened power to either become a hero or a villain. He will leave his old life and run from creatures he believed were reserved for myth and legend. He travels across the realms while struggling to tame the blinding rage that comes with his new demi-god like power. Will Leif survive the intra-realm quest and prevent Ragnarok or will he fail to control his awakening?
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Alexander never thought that he would live long enough to enjoy quiet nights like this. He noted it was a particularly cold night as he stepped onto his back porch. His breath sent out a little fog, and he marveled at how peaceful winter could be in the Icelandic forest. The freshly fallen snow sparkled as the Northern lights flashed through the night sky. Alexander never grew tired of watching their fiery dance. He only wished his wife, Helga, was still around to enjoy the peace and quiet. Sighing contentedly, Alexander reached down, grabbed a bundle of firewood, and turned to head back inside. Suddenly he froze. He felt it, a tingling he hadnât felt in a long time, danger. Scanning the surrounding forest, Alexander couldnât see anything out of place, but the feeling that something was out there, something that didnât belong, still pulled at him like the tide. Alexander stared into the darkness for a few more moments, but the forest remained silent, unwilling to give up its secrets. Alexander shrugged and went back into his house. For the first time in years, he locked the door behind him.
As Alexander sat by the fire, the warmth failed to chase away the feeling that someone or something was out there roaming his forest. A familiar howl rang out from deep within the forest, pulling Alexander out of his thoughts. A second later similar howls answered. Alexander could identify each individual wolf by their howl; he had known this pack for years. Settling back in his chair, he envisioned the wolves in full force. The howls continued to ring across the forest. In all his years living in the forest, Alexander had never heard so many wolves at once. They sounded agitated. They must sense it too, he thought.
Alexander groaned as his knees popped and his old bones protested the sudden movement of getting to his feet. It was as if his body knew what he was planning to do and was voicing its discontent. It had been decades since he had been in a fight, but it seemed he was being called out one last time. Hell, Alexander thought, I may see Helga sooner than I thought. Pulling on his thick wool parka, Alexander grabbed the double-bladed ax he used to chop wood. The weight felt comfortable in his hands. The ax had been his weapon of choice from the time he was strong enough to swing one. His mother had pushed him to branch out and learn to use other weapons, but it wasnât meant to be. The ax was the weapon of his ancestors, and he honored them by using it. The cold hit Alexander like a hammer, clearing his senses and waking him up to the world around him. The Berserker had laid dormant inside of him for decades now, but Alexander could feel the old battle lust stirring within. The forest had gone too quiet, the howls of the wolf pack had died down. Goosebumps speckled Alexanderâs body as the tension in the air thickened. Alexander knew why. A predator not of this realm stalked his forest.
Alexander silently crept through the forest. The snow crunched lightly beneath his weight; his senses screamed at him to turn back, but he ignored them and pressed on. It had been decades since he had felt the thrill of a fight, and he relished the feeling.
A bird pierced the silent forest with a loud squawk. He peered through the tangle of trees and branches; he could barely make out a blotch of darkness that seemed to be darker than the surrounding forest. As he moved closer, the air blew warm breaths on his face with each step. Alexander was within ten feet of the odd black blotch when he noticed that the snow had completely melted away. Steam rose from the freshly uncovered earth in a circle around the object. Thick drops of water splashed down from the tree branches above, puffing into steam upon hitting the forest floor.
Alexander continued to move slowly around the dark object but didnât see anyone or anything. Creeping ever closer, his feeling of unease intensified. As Alexander stepped around the inky darkness, the heat had him sweating through his clothes. He stopped dead in his tracks. His blood ran cold. From the back, the round black object drank in all the available light, but now that Alexander was in front of it, he could see it opened up to a world of fire and lava. Alexander knew what he was looking at; he just couldnât figure out why it was here. The dark blob was a bridge to another realm. However, it differed from any bridge he had used in his youth. This thing was more like a rip in the fabric of reality. Whoever did this was immensely powerful. Peering into the gateway, memories from a lifetime ago came flooding back to him. Muspelheim, the realm of fire and lava. The home to an unimaginable evil. It was a place he had hoped to never see again.
As if in answer to his thoughts, something rose out of the molten river that lay beyond the bridge. Alexanderâs stomach backflipped as he recognized the creature that was steadily stalking towards the bridge. Itâs the beginning of the end, Alexander thought. Ragnarok is here.
As the being stepped through the bridge and into Alexanderâs world, the frigid forest air hissed and steamed in protest to the fiery monsterâs trespass into Midgard. Alexander stared up at the molten giant and thought he looked even taller than he had appeared decades ago. Alexander backed up, making sure he was out of range of the monsterâs hulking sword. He knew a fight was inevitable. Alexander closed his eyes and freed the dormant Berserker, embracing the longforgotten thrill of the fight. Icy fire burned along his veins as his muscles grew and strengthened. Alexander knew, even in his enhanced state, that he was no match for the force of nature that stood before him. He only hoped to fend the giant off long enough to create an opening and run for help. Hopefully, with luck, he could lose the creature in the forest.
Alexander opened his eyes, filling his old frame and flooding his veins with the familiar icy burn of the Berserker. Any thoughts of running vanished as a thin red haze of rage colored the edge of his vision. Fear and doubt evaporated and was replaced with excited determination at the chance to cross blades one last time with a worthy foe. Who gives a damn that Iâm well into my sixties? Alexander thought. âI am the last of an ancient and powerful Berserker clan, bestowed with the power of Thor, chosen to defend Midgard from invaders such as you. How dare you step into my realm, Surtr,â Alexander growled. âYou arenât welcome here. I will say this one time; return to Muspelheim or face my wrath.â
Surtrâs molten eyes studied Alexander. A voice Alexander had hoped to never hear again thundered in the clearing. The fire giantâs voice washed over Alexander like an oncoming forest fire.
âYou arrogant and foolish Midgardian. Do you have any idea who you are speaking too? Face your wrath? Donât think I donât remember you. You are one of the few beings who was lucky enough to escape me the first time we fought. You will not be so lucky this time. By Helâs will, I have been given a second chance to finish the fight you started many years ago.â
âYou think Iâm afraid of you, giant?â Alexander boasted, âI have faced hundreds of enemies and killed them all. Last time we faced, we were in your realm, but now,â Alexander gestured around. âYou are far from Muspelheim. I have the advantage here.â
Surtr laughed and pointed his massive sword at Alexander. âYou truly donât know what I am, do you? I cannot be killed by the likes of you.â
Surtr blurred, moving with a speed no normal human could track. But luckily for Alexander, he wasnât a normal human. This also wasnât his first fight. Alexander had been waiting for Surtr to make the first move and was ready for him. Surtrâs burning blade slashed through the air mere centimeters from Alexanderâs face as he dodged out of range. A blast of scalding air washed over Alexander as Surtrâs blade sliced through the air. Alexander rushed forward, relishing the speed his Berserker state granted him. Alexander hoped to throw Surtr off by attacking him head on. Slashing upward, Alexander attempted to split open Surtrâs unarmored stomach. Before the ax hit, Surtr lashed out, kicking Alexander square in the chest, causing him to fly backward. He slammed into a tree trunk with a bone crunching crack. Alexander felt the ancient pine sway back and forth from the impact. Snow rained down from the branches above, pelting him in wet kisses. Alexander struggled to catch his breath. Damn, that hurt. I canât afford to take too many hits like that, Alexander thought. Struggling to his feet, Alexander felt every cell in his body struggle with the pain. He suspected a few of his ribs cracked, but nothing felt permanently damaged or out of place.
Luckily, years of training had taught Alexander to never let go of his weapon in a fight. Even in his old age, he still had the wherewithal to keep hold of it. Alexander used his ax as a crutch and looked up at Surtr. His enemy hadnât even bothered to follow up his attack; he just stood there studying Alexander.
âYouâve grown old, Berserker. You werenât a match for me decades ago. You certainly arenât one now.â
Alexander eyed the giant, âHa, Iâm just warming up, Surtr. Before long Iâll have you running back through that bridge, crying to whoever sent you here,â Alexander boasted. However, deep down he knew he was finished. That kick had hurt him more than he cared to admit. His back was ablaze with pain and his legs felt like wet noodles. I must have damaged my spine when I hit the tree, Alexander thought. âThis fight will be over before I get a chance to heal,â Alexander grumbled.
Alexander eyed the fiery giant and quietly thanked the gods he had the foresight to leave a letter to his Berserker heir. He had wished he could have had more time with his daughter and grandson. Heâd wanted to introduce them to the idea of realms, gods, and supernatural creatures slowly, but as with all great plans, it fell apart. Alexander could only hope they would find the journals.
There is no way this attack is random, Alexander thought. A being such as Surtr doesnât leave his realm unless provoked, and for a bridge to open right in his backyard, linking Muspelheim to Midgard - it was too much of a coincidence. The gods were moving against each other; he could feel it.
Wincing in pain, Alexander steeled himself.
Whispering reverently, Alexander breathed into the icy wind, âOdin, Allfather, my time on this mortal plain has come to an end. I, one of Thorâs anointed, choose to die with an ax in hand, and can only hope to be welcomed into the halls of Valhalla.â A raven cawed an answer to Alexanderâs prayer somewhere in the trees. Even though Surtr was far stronger than him, Alexander couldnât just roll over and die. That wasnât the Berserker way. Taking a deep breath, Alexander took a two-handed grip on his ax, feeling the smooth grip of the handle form perfectly to his weathered and calloused hands. He charged, bellowing a war cry. Surtr moved in as well, sensing the fight was coming to an end. Surtr brought down his massive sword in an attempt to split Alexander in two, but Alexander saw it coming and blocked the attack with his ax. Sparks flew in all directions as the two blades met. Alexanderâs ax blade chipped and bent along the edge where it met Surtrâs sword, but that didnât faze Alexander.
Quick as lightning, Alexander swung for Surtrâs outstretched forearm. Alexander thought he had scored a hit, but it merely bounced off Surtrâs thick hide. Alexander, unwilling to relent, swung a horizontal slash meant to take the giant in the knee, but Surtrâs burning blade materialized and Alexanderâs ax slammed edge first into the flat of Surtrâs broadsword with a loud clang. The resulting tremor ran up Alexanderâs hand and arm, causing them to momentarily go numb. Dodging to the left, Alexander averted a savage punch aimed for his head.
Alexander ducked and dodged Surtrâs onslaught. He never gave up, always looking for an opening to attack. Spinning the ax between attacks, Alexander continued to duck and dodge, waiting for the giant to make a mistake. Alexander knew he couldnât keep this up for much longer, but he couldnât waste his attack either.
Alexander backed away. Overconfident, Surtr grew bolder with each attack and was swinging wildly. Just as he had hoped, Alexanderâs opportunity came as he ducked under a slash meant to take his head off at the neck. Ducking under the smoldering blade, he stepped in as Surtrâs blade slammed into an ancient pine tree. The force of Surtrâs blow nearly cut the massive tree in half, but luckily for Alexander, the blade stopped three-fourths of the way through.
It only took him a second, but that was all the time Alexander needed. Alexander knew this was his only chance, and he swung with all his might. His blade hit Surtr in the stomach. Sparks fluttered to life as Alexanderâs ax impacted Surtrâs hardened skin. A look of shock crept across Surtrâs face; Alexanderâs blade carved out a shallow cut. Surtr blurred, attacking faster than Alexander thought possible. Not knowing where the attack was coming from, Alexander flung himself backward, but it wasnât fast enough. Surtrâs blade buried itself deep into Alexanderâs right shoulder.
Alexander crumbled, falling to his knees as Surtr pulled the blade free in a spray of blood. Alexanderâs vision blurred. Through the pain, Alexander focused on a thin trickle of molten orange blood seeping out of the cut chiseled into Surtr. Surtr followed Alexanderâs gaze and looked down. He dabbed lightly at the bleeding wound.
In his grave voice, Surtr intoned, âYou are the first to injure me in decades. Be proud as you go to your death.â He heaved the sword above his head, âGive my regards to the Aesir. Their rule over the realms has ended. Ragnarok begins.â Reverently, he brought his sword down for the killing blow.
Alexander, broken and bleeding, moved on reflex, brought up his ax in an overhead block, but it wasnât enough. Knowing that his time had finally come, Alexander hoped he had made his ancestors proud and that his family would be ready for what was to come. The Berserker mantle that he had held for so long would finally pass on.
A flutter of wings and a caw from the onlooking raven were the only sounds in the silent forest as Alexander slumped back, dead. Surtr took a long moment to stare down at his fallen foe before turning and disappearing through the bridge.
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Kevin D. Miller is an attorney in Southern California who spends his two hour commute listening to Science Fiction and Fantasy books on Audible or dreaming up plots for future book ideas. When he isnât working, Kevin can be found spending time with his girlfriend Amy, and their two dogs Pepper and Riley or hiking and kayaking in Big Bear.
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One of the many joys of being a writer is the ability to build expansive worlds that our readers get to explore as they tag along with the storyâs main character. I, myself have loved running along the streets of Chicago with Harry Dresden in Jim Butcherâs, The Dresden Files and watched as Minalan the Spellmonger fought the forces of darkness in The Spellmonger Series by Terry Mancour. These and many other authors skillfully crafted massive and immersive worlds of wonder that we as readers get to experience first hand. It was from these masters of the art that I took my cue when writing Awakening. With the main character Leif needing to traverse many of the nine realms from Norse mythology. I wanted to create awe inspiring realms that my readers, long after they finished Awakening found themselves thinking about the natural splendor of the forest city of Karcoa or the alien beauty of Helheim. I want them to wish they could travel back to the Svartalfar capital city of Mykheim to stare out over the architectural marvel of the city. Because thatâs exactly what I do for those books and movies I love.
It was through a little trick I discovered In the early stages of developing my story that I was able to create the immersive realms that Leif had to travel through. I would close my eyes, turn up my music and just imagine myself as Leif walking through these alien realms. Picturing in my minds eye what it must have been like to see Karcoa and its massive trees for the first time or the untold mysteries of the forest realm of Alfhiem. It was one of my favorite past times in the early days. I would just close my eyes and explore the realms with Leif for hours. It is an easy trick to learn and I would recommend for ever Sci/fi and fantasy author to give it a try for when writing. Who knows what you may find while exploring. And even if you arenât an author but just someone who enjoys reading. I would say give it a try with your favorite story, I promise you will have fun.