They are combing each other’s hair when the end comes.
A raven’s poised to land in their linen standard
and they do not jump when the horn sounds the finish.
Instead, they make mazes of fierce braid and plait,
or smooth out thin sheaves of gold hair, before armoring.

One by one, they take up shields, strap on swords — warrior maidens.
A ruffling of unseen wings follows them as they ready,
feather wishes and glories sounding somewhat in their mail.
But it is not a flight, yet a fall down to the wasted world;
they come there as light as dreams slip in the mind.

Their strength from wielding swords serves them differently
as they pick through a crow’s feast of slain men, lying.
Each takes up a dead warrior, slipping hands under limp shoulders,
choosing them to bring to The Last Home, to their own hall —
to welcome them as warriors among warriors.

The hall is a long, low place, hearth warming it fully,
a store of good things to eat and treasure of the ages
for the warriors to compare and, on long nights, gamble away.
Long nights while they wait for new brethren, as now.
For every war finished is the end of a world.

On other nights, the women drink with their fellows —
practicing battle, and great deeds over beers, with them.
They laugh at puns, and recite saga poems.
But these nights, they disappear to their own chambers,
making themselves beautiful to bring the dead home in honor.
Bethany lives in Oklahoma, where she plays waitress in an old mansion’s tea-room. In her copious free time she creates geek-themed yarns, writes young adult fantasy novels, and writes some poetry when she absolutely can’t avoid it. She takes all of this very seriously, since she knows no one else will. You can learn more about Bethany at her website:


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