Skadi

When he was a boy, Affe heard tales of a man dressed in white. Anyone who was lost to the elements were brought back to their families, their bodies preserved by the frost. Some were more fortunate, and only told in their delirious state of the man in white. Many called him a hunter. Others called him a spirit. Affe called him Skaði.
While the man in white was no woman, and certainly not a giant. Perhaps he had no form. But the first time he ever saw him, was when young Affe fell from the tree during a fierce blizzard.
Hours before that, his brother had brought him along to teach him how to hunt. It was the midst of autumn, under the guise of winter, and it carried with it the fierce storms of winter.
A busted leg, a twisted elbow, and a mild concussion. The child was not long for this world. The brother, who was lost to the hunt, became frantic as he called out for Affe. The sharp screams of the cool wind echoed throughout the land, as the merciless blizzard approached in fast, blinding speed.
Then, he came. His face obscured in a white mask. He could barely make out the skin. Affe wasn’t sure if it was as white as the outfit he bore. Skaði lifted his finger to his lips, shushed him.
The man spoke in Affe’s tongue; “Rest child, let the storms of winter carry you home.” The young boy’s vision blurred as he struggled to keep awake. Then, darkness.

A man made of snow. No, more like the beast of winter. It looked human, but it didn’t act like one. The shards of ice and screaming winds enveloped around it and followed it wherever it went.
To the Finnish that braved its presence, died from the deadly slow chill. The more fortunate were cut short by the blades of wind and the shards of ice. The Red Army were also under its deliberating effects. But the Russians weren’t its enemies.
Winter had come early. Blood caked the soft sheet of fluff. By the stroke of relentless determination, the Finnish continued to fight in defense of their homeland. Though many had died in doing so, and by the might of winter itself.
A bitter struggle ensured for months to come. Territories were pushed, and the Finnish could only push back. A stalemate against a mighty mechanized force and their unknown ally. For a moment, it looked as though the Finnish lines couldn’t hold out for much longer.
Affe and his men were stuck behind the line as the White Guard made yet another retreat. No one had seen the beast in human form ever advance beyond the occupied lines the reds pushed. Everyone, except for Affe and his squad, were safely at a distance.
Their sergeant was dead. Frozen as though a flash freeze caught him in place. There was no one left to keep their people together. How far had they been running? How far had they even gotten? Had they even passed the line yet? Every turn they made in the face of a mighty blizzard only redirected them in a circle. Hiding behind every rock and every tree, the beast was always there, always waiting, and it struck without mercy and without hesitation.
Ballin was crying, holding the cross his mother gave to him tightly to his chest. His tears were like icicles. Beni was screaming for him, unleashing a hail of bullets from his M-31 Suomi. The beast continued its march, its blade unsheathed. One moment, he was just walking. Then, he was but two meters from him, moving his blade at such a blinding speed that resulted in a gash that stretched from Beni’s chest down to his abdomen.
Affe couldn’t even hear him scream. It wasn’t the blizzard that silenced his voice. The attack was swift, precise, and lethal. It was just as terrifying up close as the reports said.
Affe was frozen in fear himself. His grip tightened around the rifle as he poised to take aim. However, he could not find it in him to pull the trigger. Muttering profanities to himself for his cowardice, he could only stand and watch as poor Ballin screamed for his mother. The winter beast disappeared along with Ballin as the atmosphere became thick with the chill.
Nahor pushed for Affe and yelled for him to run. Something in him clicked. There was this assurance now and that was all he needed. Nahor charged in, firing several rounds from his rifle. Each shot echoed throughout the forest. Affe turned and ran.
He ran and he ran, and he ran. He ran as far as his legs could take him. Even the injury he sustained from so long ago did not deter him. The sounds only grew farther and farther away as he ran. Then, silence.
The blizzard continued to rage. There was no end in sight. There was no border from which he could see. No sign of the White Guard. There was naught a presence of the Red Army in sight either.
Tension gripped his chest. He could feel the presence of winter so close, yet so far. He could feel the breath of death, the encompassing chill, the eldritch face… a mocking representation that could hardly be called humanlike. With eyes as black as the void and pupils as white as snow. It was a demon.
And it had finally caught up with him.
The beast was but three meters from him now. With a scream, Affe pulled his Suomi and proceeded to shoot at him.
“Die! Die! Die you fucking demon!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. Yet the bullets had no affect on him.
Shards of ice circled around its body at a dangerous pace that at this distance, the shards were cutting at the young man’s flesh, as though thousands of needles had struck. Affe screamed and backed away, firing his gun until the last round in his mag died.
He turned to run but found himself caught in the midst of the beast’s attack as the blade pierced at his bad leg. Another sharp cry of pain. His footing was lost as he tumbled down. Caught on a slope, he fell onto his side and rolled several meters away.

The war was costly for Affe’s family. It had already taken not only the life of his father, but of his brother. Grief had put his dear mother into a coma. Several dozen miles from home, with only his aunt to look after her. Affe wanted to go home. But he couldn’t leave.
There wouldn’t be a home to go to if the reds had one. Everything was by a thread. With the good grace of the White Death, perhaps they had a chance. Simo Häyhä was his name. Though some people say the sniper was in two places at once. It was hard to tell if they were accurate.
Affe remembered the carpet bombings though. The furious might of the Red Army was about as terrifying as the winter beast itself. Yet somehow, the White Death always prevailed. He’d disappear into the snow as though at will, only to appear in another location, atop another tree. Such were rumors and Affe didn’t believe in them. Though it was appreciated that there was someone looking out for them.
Sometimes Affe believed that it wouldn’t matter for naught. The blizzards grew bolder and deadlier. Only the preservation of the Finnish spirit fought on, even with this mysterious ice devil.
It was the same process repeatedly. Wake up, get into position, brave the artillery bombardment that continued to shell them. There was so much blood. The majority of it belonged to the enemy. The Fins were nothing but farmers, hunters, loggers. Undisciplined and untrained. Thus, they were a force to be reckoned with.
Deaths were unwittingly self-afflicted. Men died from ruptured eardrums, wielding heavy guns they were not used to. For every hundreds of reds that died, a Finnish man would take their place.
That day when the spirit started to fade was the day the beast came. The indiscriminate deaths caused by just the harsh presence of winter had caused the reds to lose many of their own. Albeit not of the whim so the winter beast. But it always came for the Fins.
A whole month. It had been a whole month and by the grace of god he was still alive.
The cold.
The anger.
The fury.
Affe began to grow delirious. The cold was intense.
He could see her sitting silently by the window, staring out the window. Eyes quiet, deep, silent.
The room was cold. The beds were empty. Nothing was left. Just dust and echoes.
Looking to the right, he saw his father. His face burned from the cold and marred by tiny cuts. His eyes red from the damage of frost and cuts.
He turned away, only to see a headless corpse standing and pointing out the door.
Affe walked out.
He could see the moon’s core. Half of it was gone. It was dark, but there were no stars. Bodies littered the landscape. Everything was dead. Everyone was gone. The Fimbulwinter has come.
Mother, I hope this letter reaches you in time.
It started to snow. The sky turned a sickly grey red like color. The flakes were as red as the color of blood.
I promised you I’d come home. But I don’t think I’ll be able to keep that promise.
Affe woke up. He wasn’t in the same place as before.
There was a hall.
The beast was there.
It was at the other end, waiting.
I tried. God, I tried. I tried to fight, tried to last for as long as I could. I am so alone.
Everyone was there. Nahor was laughing. He had a bottle of brandy. He was talking about some girl back home waiting for him.
He was going to be a father.
I do not know what it was that attacked us. The reds were formidable, but they never had anything like what we saw.
Affe and his brother were running away after accidentally setting fire to Mr. Dol’s barn. They were scared about the kind of trouble they would be in. But his brother said he’d take care of it for him.
What was his brother’s name?
What was his father’s name?
He opened his eyes again. The beast was standing above him. It gripped its blade tightly and raised it up, poised to strike.
Our sergeant is dead. There’s only four of us now. But god… I could still see his face. That cold, frozen, dead face. There was so much pain in his eyes. So much fear.
The hall was filled with snow. It was coming from the beast. It filled up to his knees. His movements were slow.
He was bleeding. The cuts were small, but they were deep enough. His leg took the worst of it.
It was like a demon, slaughtering everyone and everything in its path.
Fuck this demon. Fuck this war. Fuck the soviets.
He wanted to kill, to maim, to scream and cry.
Let winter take him.
It is following us. I don’t know for how long, but I can still feel its presence. We couldn’t catch up to the guard when the Red Army pushed inland. I’m afraid I might not make.
Remember…
The moon began to crumble.
I love you mother. I wish I could take care of you.
The snow turned into rain. The land filled with blood. Affe screamed into the now dark void of the rainy, bloody night.
A knife appeared before Affe, stopping the beast’s attack. A man dressed in pure white garbs stood before him and certain death. They dispersed at such ferocious speed that it became alien to him.
The beast rushed to strike, only for the white garbed being to disappear in the wall of ice and wind surrounding them.
Then again, it popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. Machine gun in hand, the figure emptied its entire magazine into the beast. Like before, it only flinched. But it shrugged the rounds off as it turned to strike at the figure again.
Once more, nothing.
Ten seconds passed. There was naught a sight of it anywhere.
It was so familiar to Affe.
Ballin confided in Affe that he was scared. He wanted to go home. Everyone wanted to go home. Even Affe himself.
It appeared before the winter beast, striking at him from behind. It dodged the beast’s attacks when he threw his arm back to counter him. It was goading the demon.
Affe promised him he was going to get him back home safely. So many promises he knew he shouldn’t have made. Because he knew he wouldn’t keep them.
The demon and the man were locked in hand to hand combat. Each one exchanging blows, pushing one back only for them to return with another fierce strike.
Ice shards erupted from the demon, phasing through its opponent. Another beast of winter? No. It was like some sort of angel.
Affe remembered now.
Skaði.
His savior disappeared into the blizzard once more. Now there was only him, and the beast. The roar of the winds and the scorching burn of the blizzard was as much a protective coat for the man in white as it was for the demon.
A sharp crack from a rifle echoed from the distance.
Affe became sick.
Beni was full of anger. He and Nohar got into another fight again.
The moon turned to dust.
The demon was struck in the head by the bullet. He saw it go down. The blizzard raged louder, harder, tearing at the trees from which the sound of gunfire came.
Another shot echoed from the distance. Again, the demon was struck in the head. It stopped the demon for only a moment. Then, it stood back up. It disappeared.
Affe was left alone. The cold was killing him. Everything was growing dark around him.
He blinked once… twice… thrice… and he was lost.
The air was warmer now. Though he was still shivering. This wasn’t the same place as before. Everything was different. His mind colored with fear. He was safe, but at what cost?
Skaði appeared before him again. His face obscured behind the mask. His outfit was torn, he was bruised and scarred. But he was alive.
“Skaði…” Affe spoke in a weak and tired voice. Skaði lifted his finger to his lips, shushed him.
“Rest child, let the storms of winter carry you home.” The young boy’s vision blurred as he struggled to keep awake. Affe closed his eyes finally. With one last breath, he finally stopped shivering. The world was calm. But the storm did not come yet.

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