The children told Ingrid that old women died in bed. That was balderdash. She was the daughter of a warrior, the wife of another, and the mother of yet four more. Standing beside her men over the years, she, like they, fought for every beat of her heart. Now, her heart began to fail, grown weary through time and grief. Lie down, they said. Be comforted, they said. Ingrid refused. Summoning her remaining strength, she set out on one last adventure, perhaps the greatest of them all. She set out to find Death.

“Grandmother, you will die if you leave,” the children said.

“I will die if I do not leave,” Ingrid snapped. “I would rather end like shattered steel than rusted iron.”

Up into the mountains she climbed, far beyond the reach of summer, where men quailed. Up into the realm of ice trolls, snow eels, and foolish old women with defiance on their lips. The ache of age crept into her joints, made more stark by the icy winds. The ache in her heart for her father, husband, and sons, flown these many years to Valhalla, grew stronger in the silence, broken only by her breath. Soon, she would face Death. She would make him blink before he took her. The sun would never rise on another spring for Ingrid, but she would face this final winter on her terms.



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