A few minutes later, Siri directed me to the barracks. The barracks apparently were divided between men and women – Valkyries in one section, and Einherjar in another, and each section had a smaller area of private apartments for officers and leaders – the higher your rank, the better your accommodations. Since there were far more Einherjar than there were Valkyries, the ladies barracks was considerably smaller than the men’s – in all likelihood there were a dozen men’s barracks in the Citadel, and maybe only one or two other women’s barracks.
This barracks looked like a mixture of large communal housing, which looked like it held perhaps 30 Valkyries at most – along with perhaps 6 apartments for senior Valkyries – one of which I assumed was Sigrid’s quarters. Again, like everything in Asgard so far, it was made of, or panelled in gorgeous wood tones of brown, and limned with gold – and every square inch was covered in tapestries or carvings and artistry to make the building look more appealing and beautiful. It didn’t look at all like a barracks of a people at war, at least to me.
In the common room, it looked as if about a half-dozen Valkyries of indeterminate rank were hanging out – some playing an unfamiliar dice game, while others were watching a vid screen that seemed to be showing a news report – something about the fields of Gladsheim. I didn’t quite hear what it was all about, before three of the ladies saw me enter the room, and called out.
“Who’s the new girl?” One of them called out – she was a statuesque brunette with long raven hair, and long slender legs. “Our condolences, sister!” With that, the other Valkyries nodded, and rose to greet me.
“Hi.” I replied. “I am... was... Sigrid. I’m between names – I haven’t picked a name for me yet.”
“Sigrid! Oh my gods! I heard about your mission! Jana and Kira are sick with worry!” One of them – Jhaele, Siri’s whisper told me. Jhaele was a short curvy red head that had a super cheerful smile that drew your attention away from her other attributes, which were just as striking as all the other Valkyries in the room.
“Siri tells me we’ll comm. them soon. I’m still getting used to talking for both of us.” I said.
“Aye,” another one answered... this one Siri said was Grunne – a tall, lanky woman with long blonde hair and sparkling green eyes. She looked athletic and muscular, stronger than many of the other Valkyries. “It takes a while for younglings to adjust. Give it a week or so and you’ll be fine.”
“Aye.” The others agreed.
Jhaele motioned to the other Valkyries, mostly for my benefit, and gave introductions. “The raven haired beauty over there is called Dargun, and I’m Jhaele. The blondes are Grunne, Hilde, and Kaitlin, and the quiet redhead that’s considerably taller than myself is Lashawna.”
“It’s nice to meet you, and Siri says ‘Well met’ to those of you she already knows. Which room is mine?” I asked.
“The third – the one next to the tapestry of the stag.” Hilde replied. “I’m sorry for your loss, Siri. Sheryl will be missed.”
“Aye.” I said for Siri, allowing her to take my voice for a moment. “She was with me a long time. Midgard has changed a great deal since I took her as a host. I would have liked to explore it with her.”
The other Valkryies made compassionate murmurs, and clasped Siri and I into hugs of condolences. It felt kinda nice – but it was also somber and sad too – I could feel Siri’s loss, and I also felt like enjoying the hugs was kind of inappropriate, so I tried to behave.
“If it’s all right with you, I’ll comm. Jana and Kira and let them know you’re back – and that you’ve found a new host.” Hilde said. “If not, it can wait until later.”
“It’s fine.” Siri replied, through me. “And go easy on Jason – my host. He’s having difficulty with the change.”
Several of the Valkyries nodded, understanding. One of them – I think it was Grunne – said “I have some experience with cross-gender bonding, Jason. If you’d like to talk about it, I can be available. I’ve had three cross-gender hosts in the past, and I might be able to offer you some insights as to how to deal with all this.”
Siri gave me control of my voice back, and I nodded in thanks. “Thank you, Grunne. I’ve been getting some advice from Sigrid too, but any advice you can give me would be awesome. Right now I can’t even begin to explain how uncomfortable I feel in my Valkyrie body.
“I think I know.” Lashawna replied... She was the dark skinned, red haired Valkyrie that was taller than Jhaele. “It’s like your body is the wrong size, and it feels wrong – there’s bits where there shouldn’t be – and there aren’t bits where there should be. It’s like you’re wearing a costume that doesn’t fit, and you feel shitty and miserable all the time – and you can’t ever take it off? Is that close?”
I looked surprised. “That’s it, exactly. Exactly.”
“Honey, that’s gender dysphoria. Transgender people back on Earth have that all the time.” She replied, sadly.
“So I’m trans? Something tells me hormones won’t fix this.”
“No, honey. This is something that drugs won’t change – our metabolism filters them out. Like it or not, this is you now.” Lashawna replied. “But there is hope. Has Siri told you about the blending that occurs, when a Valkyrie bonds with her host fully?”
“She’s told me a bit about it. We haven’t had a lot of time to talk. There’s been a lot of drama and some fighting, and not a lot of quiet time.”
The others nodded, as Lashawna continued. “Well, I’ll let Siri tell you more about that, then – but I want you to know there is hope. You might never be completely comfortable in your skin – some cross gender hosts never feel fully comfortable – but many learn to accept themselves, and live normal lives with little or no discomfort. A few even go as far to embrace the change – once they get used to it, but that is less common.”
Lashawna smiled. “Me, I wanted the bond. I was murdered – well, mortally wounded – by someone I thought I could trust, and I was brought to Asgard where I bonded with Kinde – and she helped me become the woman I always wished I could be. I was born a man, and was trans, and I couldn’t be happier – but I know exactly what you’re going through because that was me before I met Kinde. If you want to talk about it, I’m here.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Lashawna. I’ll probably take you up on that, sometime soon. I’m glad you’re the woman you want to be. I don’t think anyone should have to live in pain.”
“Thank you, Jason. I’m sorry I can’t help you, myself.”
“It’s allright. I’ll either get better or I won’t.” I replied sadly. “Either way, I’m here for the long haul. No one’s sending my soul to Hel.”
The other Valkyries nodded in agreement, and a few clapped me on the back. “Welcome back to Asgard, sister. We’ve got your back.” Dargun replied. “If you’re hurting, please talk to us. We’ll try to ease your pain, if we can.”
I felt myself getting a bit teary-eyed. “Thanks. I just need some time alone.”
The girls nodded, and left me be.
Siri, do you have any idea why I’m so damn emotional about all this? I asked, quietly in my mind.
*I do... but you’re probably not going to want to hear it. You’re chock full of female hormones, and they tend to make you a bit more emotional than you might be used to, Jason. We ladies get emotional a lot – and I’m honestly not surprised you’re feeling that way – they way those girls circled the wagons for you and I.*
I nodded, a bit frustrated, and feeling more than a little trapped by my physical reactions. I turned, and headed to our room, and let myself in. Sheryl / Sigrid’s room was nice, I guess – large enough to have some room to relax, with a private bathroom, and a sitting room off the bedroom. There were some devices I assumed Siri would explain to me soon enough – and a screen on the wall of the sitting room that immediately made me think ‘TV or something like it.’ There was a plush rug on the floor, that made me want to take my Miss Adventure Nikes off and walk on with my naked feet, it looked so soft, and I could see the bedroom had a very soft, enticing bed with large fluffy comforters. It looked homey and lived in – there were even some books partially read with bookmarks left in them on the night stand – and some clothes left in a laundry basket in the bedroom.
I took a seat on the couch – a soft, leather bound couch about six to eight feet long, sitting directly across from the view screen – prime ‘relax and watch the TV position’ if I was in the mood to, but I wasn’t – not really. “Hey, Siri... what’s going to happen to me? Am I going to start liking this girl body, or gods help me, like the idea of being with men?”
*To be honest, Jason, I don’t know. The bond affects everyone differently – and the parts of me and my past hosts you make part of you might encompass some or all of that – or they might not. I don’t have answers on that front for you – every host is different. It’s a ‘wait and see’ sort of situation, I’m afraid.*
“Crap. Okay, so it’s going to be a surprise, whenever it hits me. What kind of time scale are we talking for this blending?”
*It depends. We should be able to join enough that in a week or two we don’t stumble and pause and look vacant to others when we talk to each other – and in a month or two, we’ll probably move and fight as one – and communicate quickly enough in our minds that we can have the equivalent of a minute long conversation between sentences, so I’ll have time to advise you before you speak, on most situations.*
*As for adopting my habits – or me adopting yours - that can take longer. You might become comfortable with our body in a month or a few months – or years, or never. In some cases, a few hosts were initially hostile to the idea, but adapted very quickly and within a week or two were completely fine with it. I don’t think that’s what you’re going to experience. I’ve also seen cross gender hosts go from finding women attractive, to being bisexual, to being completely straight. It’s all up to the person in question, Jason – I literally cannot tell until I see how you begin to react.*
I sighed. No answers there, I guess. So what do you think Loki has planned for us?
*I’m not sure... But I know I’m worried. He’s probably got some secret plan he wants us to pull off – like a mission within a mission, or something sneaky we probably won’t like.*
“Yeah, you and he seemed to have some history there? What’s up with that?”
I could feel Siri’s embarrassment like it was my own... and I felt an uncomfortable warmth in places I did not want to think about. “Siri?”
*Well... Loki and I were dating, maybe... a little.*
Oh fuck me.
*Oh trust me, that happened too.*
Oh shit! Oh no!
*Jason! Please! It’ll be fine! He knows you’re not the same as I was before. Nothing will happen, unless you want it to.*
Want it to? You mean, ‘never,’ right? He’s the frikking god of Mischief! What the fuck were you thinking!? What possessed you to start dating Loki?
*Well, for one thing, men aren’t the only ones who sometimes think with their hormones, Jason – and please remember he’s smart, powerful, wealthy, charming, the adopted son of a king, and oh – he’s pretty fucking hot too. I like bad boys... what can I say?*
Gods help me. I thought to myself.
Siri wisely kept any replies to herself, and left me to think.