Night Witch Reborn: Natalya
A Night Witch battles for a second chance at life. A Resistance Soldier fights for humanity. Are they strong enough to change the course of war?
Natalya Volkov’s dream is to fly, but when she’s killed in a plane crash defending Mother Russia, the Norse goddess Freyja gives her a second chance at life—for a price. For immortality, she must hunt down the most powerful man in Europe or give up the man she loves.
Romani-Jew Mikhail Abramovich has known hardship. He escaped a Nazi camp, became a Resistance soldier, and the love of his life died in his arms. Yet, when Natalya miraculously returns to life, he is plunged into a world that is no longer black and white.
Is the hunt for Hitler and immortality worth giving up everything they have ever known and loved?
“What valor!” Freyja exclaimed, her gaze riveted on the battle scene playing out in the Gods’ Glass. Millennia ago, Óðinn had stolen the looking glass from a Greek oracle to see anywhere in the nine worlds, and Freyja had stolen it from him. Her hand gripped the edge of the huge glass disc suspended from the ceiling by thick, black metal chains. “Look at how the pilots maneuver the nimble planes to avoid the German cannon and machine gun fire. I believe these planes are called U-2s, but there are several models, so I could be wrong. The differences are slight, and in the Glass, they are too small for me to be certain. I do know they are called PO2s near the end of the war.”
Idunn stepped up beside her, a frown marring her beautiful face. “Why do you insist on watching the humans battle each other? Nothing good will come of their war. They will continue to kill each other until no one’s left.” She leaned forward and stared hard at the unfolding air battle. “Who’s flying the planes anyway?”
“Women. Russian women.”
Idunn’s frown deepened as she followed the two-winged planes. “There are how many—forty? Why are half of them veering off like that?”
Freyja leaned closer to her best friend. “Watch as the lead planes maneuver away from the others, drawing the German spotlights.” She pointed with a purple-tipped fingernail. “There. Did you see that?”
Idunn peered closer, her face almost touching the glass. “What? What am I looking for? They’re all moving too fast!” Idunn’s gaze followed Freyja’s purple fingernail to another lead plane. A flash of light dropped from the back of the plane. “Did the pilot drop a flare?”
“I think they’re marking the targets for the second planes to hit.” Freyja shook her head, a look of wonder on her face. “Truly amazing. And the Germans can’t seem to hit the target planes.” She grabbed Idunn’s arm and pulled her around to the back of the Gods’ Glass.
“What are you doing?”
“Shush.” Freyja closed her eyes and concentrated, trying to remember the words to the ancient spell. Raising her hands, she laid them in the center of the glass. Opening her mind, she let the power of seidr, or fate, flow through the fire opal amulet hanging from her neck as she searched for the hidden passageway through the Well of Urd.
The bronze backing swirled, turning darker in the center then swirling out, blending the colors together. The farther out it expanded, the lighter it became. Suddenly, a bright burst of white light exploded outward like a million crystal shards.
“Freyja, this isn’t allowed—I’m not allowed to go through the glass!”
“Hold onto me—wrap your arms around my waist and don’t let go, no matter who or what you see,” Freyja commanded. Her necklace glowed, and the magic swirled around them, siphoning the air from the room and pulling them into the back of the glass.
Freyja held Idunn as they flew through the center of Yggdrasil. The tree of life opened up around them as they sped through the cosmos. Cosmic dust clouds of vibrant golds and purples billowed in a giant rolling fog and blended into larger gas bursts as they became massive nebulas. These ethereal wonders contained every color imaginable, as if the artist’s color palette was unlimited.
“Why are the nebulae and galaxies always named after Greek or Roman pantheons and none of them our pantheon?” Idunn whispered.
Freyja smiled, her gaze scanning over the galaxy the humans had named Andromeda. The magnificent white center swirled outward and faded to a beautiful shade of blue. “I guess we’re not exciting or romantic enough for them.”
Idunn made a coughing noise in her throat. “What hogwash. We have Vikings and berserkers for goodness’ sakes! What more do people want?”
“Handsome Scottish men in kilts with muscles and a sexy accent?”
“Oh, well, there is that. I’ve read some of those books too. Hard to beat Scottish muscles. Now focus, Freyja. Where are you taking us?”
Freyja wrapped her free hand around the amulet hanging from her neck and centered her magic, letting it flow through her mind as she pictured the pathway through the center of the tree to Midheim—Earth in the ancient Norse language. “Hold tight and brace yourself. This may be a hard landing for both of us.”
As she said the words, their acceleration slowed. Freyja didn’t flinch, her smile widening as she stared at the expanding Milky Way galaxy. She focused her magic on the small blue planet, and they found themselves traveling through the outer Oort Cloud. They sped through the thousands of comets, then traveled inward through the Kuiper belt and its icy rocks. Closer to Earth, they came perilously close to being pummeled by several hundred of the millions of rocks speeding through the asteroid belt orbiting between Jupiter and Mars.
“Hold tight to me, Idunn!” Freyja screamed, her words pulled away as the force of the magic drew them toward the planet. Idunn did as she was told and squeezed her eyes together. Together, with the force of several large bombs, they hit the ground, sending large chunks of dirt, trees, and rocks skyward.
The two women lay at the bottom of the crater while all around them, bombs fell, their bright yellow-orange blasts lighting up the night sky.
“The next time you tell me to hang on tight, remind me of this so I’ll walk away. I don’t think I have a single bone in my body that isn’t shattered,” Idunn complained. “Heimdahl guards the bridges between worlds and is bound to know what we’ve done—and what’s wrong with traveling by the Rainbow Bridge? It comes directly here without us being beaten to death by asteroids or landing with the force of a bomb.”
“Don’t you dare say a word to anyone about this. Heimdahl won’t know. If he knows, then Óðinn knows and my plan will be for naught.” Freyja sat up, gingerly patting her sides and legs then slowly stood, peeking her head out over the top of the crater to see where they’d landed. “Oh good, we’re hidden from the armies. We’ll be able to see everything from here just fine.”
“Did you even hear what I said?” Idunn asked.
Freyja turned and held out her hand, puzzled by the scowl on Idunn’s face as she stared at her long blonde hair. “If it bothers you that much, just braid it like I did mine.” She patted the thick, auburn braid hanging over one shoulder. “Now, come on, get up. If I’m fine, then so are you.”
Her friend glared from her prone position then slowly put her hand in Freyja’s and stood, wiping the dirt off her pretty light blue gown, perfectly matching the color of her eyes. “I’ll never get the stains out.”
Freyja flicked her wrist, and their clothes changed from their usual Asgardian court dresses to military-styled clothes the humans favored. She ran her hands down the fur-lined leather bomber jacket then adjusted the fur-lined cap she’d seen a pilot wearing, her ears no longer cold. “This is nice, don’t you think? And, it takes care of your hair issue.”
Idunn gave her a droll glare. “At least I’m not as cold, but the style leaves a lot to be desired. I feel like a man in this.” She plucked at the jacket with her finger and thumb, her lips forming a distasteful moue. “Now, please explain why we are here?”
An explosion sounded directly above them, and the two women dropped to their knees, their arms above their heads, both forgetting they were immortal and, thus, couldn’t die. However, being hit by a bomb would definitely cause extreme pain. A low whine grew louder until their bodies vibrated and their ears swelled as if they could burst at any moment. Just when they couldn’t take the agony any longer, the whining abruptly stopped. Half a second later, a brilliant explosion lit up the sky behind them.
“That was a bit close,” Freyja muttered, trying to pop her ears. “I brought us here to see the war up close, so it is more meaningful. You will understand better why defeating the Nazis is so important to me.” She pulled Idunn toward the edge of the crater, hefted her to the rim, and pushed her out. Sticking the toe of her boot on an exposed root, she half-climbed, half-jumped over the edge of the pit. Idunn grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her the rest of the way out.
The two women hurried toward the trees in front of them. German soldiers shouted orders to hurry and prepare more cannons. The Nachthexen, Night Witches, were coming around again!
Freyja smiled. “This is why we are here, Idunn. Look at the chaos surrounding us. Feel how it energizes our power? Without Earth’s wars to fuel our powers, Asgard and the Nine Realms will fall and Ragnarök will begin. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our current world to end. I rather like it; however, if Hitler wins this war and his Third Reich comes to fruition, there will be no more wars on Earth. He will kill all those who oppose him. I have seen the future, Idunn. The power Asgard and the other worlds use will be gone. There’s no turning back once Ragnarök starts. Our world and everything and everyone we know within it will be forever changed—if not lost altogether.”
“What do we have to do?”
Freyja glanced at the incoming planes as the small engines roared overhead. The flares dropped to their strategic targets then scattered as the phut-phut-phut of German anti-aircraft guns filled the air. “Look and listen, Idunn. What don’t you hear?”
Idunn glanced toward the incoming U-2 planes and frowned. The flames from the burning trees in front of them reflected in her eyes. “Why can’t I hear the incoming planes? The only sound is a strange whooshing noise…like a broom?” She gave Freyja a confused glance then turned back to the planes. As the aircraft flew in front of them, dropping their bombs, the explosions were deafening. Making it past their targets, the quiet engines started up again.
Idunn smiled. “Amazing. They idled the engines to go silent.” She glanced at Freyja but quickly turned her gaze back to the exciting events unfolding before them. “Have you used the God’s Glass to watch all the worlds?”
“Of course. What good would I be as a goddess if I didn’t? We have the ability to see throughout the universe and learn what other worlds do…or create. Such as these humans and their tanks, automobiles, and planes.”
“I admit, I’m fascinated by their planes and have studied them—learning how they work is so interesting.”
Freyja chuckled. “And here I thought your only interest was flowers.”
They continued to watch as another wave of planes came through. Large spotlights highlighted the front planes, darting back and forth as they attempted to draw the gunfire away from the second wave of planes. The German units spread out, not paying attention to anything but the attacking planes. The anti-aircraft fire was deafening in the small area of trees as they shot at the canvas biplanes. The plane closest to the women banked a hard right to avoid gunfire. A spray of bullets cut across the tail, leaving the canvas material shredded and flapping in the wind.
“Magnificent,” Freyja breathed, her fingers digging into Idunn’s arm as she hung on to her friend for support. Standing on her tiptoes, she tried to follow the plane’s trajectory. The damaged aircraft turned around, heading straight for the Germans. Another plane flew overhead and dropped its two bombs. Both planes banked and headed back in the direction they’d come. Two seconds later, the damaged plane sputtered. Freyja held her breath. The Germans quickly repositioned their anti-aircraft guns and began firing. The damaged U-2 exploded from a direct hit to its already damaged tail as Idunn let out a horrified gasp. The distinct whine pulled at Freyja’s heart as the plane disappeared into the thick forest not too far from where they stood.
“Where did it go?” Idunn asked.
Freyja turned and jogged through the trees until she came upon the downed plane. She jerked to a stop, unable to keep the horrified gasp from slipping out. The plane was nothing more than splinters. The only thing left recognizable were the wings, which stuck up into the air like massive tombstones above the wreckage. Smoke billowed from the midsection where she could barely make out the top of the pilot’s brown helmet. One arm was hanging out through the canvas skin of the plane. Red blood ran along the top of her hand and down her finger, only to pool in the snow beneath the tip of her nail.
She shook her head, sorrow running through her for the loss of such a valiant warrior. Crossing her arms over her slim torso, she wrapped her hands around the sleeves of her jacket with a shiver. “I want others just like this woman.”
“What do you mean?”
Freyja spun around. “It is too late for this poor soul, but there are many others out there who deserve to be honored for their bravery. She is my reason for helping. These Night Witches are as valiant a warrior as any Valkyrie…and worthy of life. They can help change the tide of this war and stop Hitler along with his Third Reich. My idea is this…I will create my own race of warriors, like Óðinn’s Valkyries, to stamp out the heinous crimes this führer and his SS commit.”
“Freyja, you can’t be serious! These pilots are Russians and know nothing of us. We cannot just pluck them out of their world on a whim. It simply is not done! Besides, Óðinn would never approve.”
Freyja smiled. “Óðinn will not know anything until after my plan is already in motion. As far as the Russians not knowing who we are, they used to know us long ago. Vikings settled the land centered between the three seas: the Baltic, Caspian, and Black Seas, using the waterways for trade. They are the ancestors of the people who live there now. We are in their legends and songs whether they realize it or not.”
Freyja moved closer to the dead pilot, her gaze never moving from the slowing drips of blood. “It’s sad, really. As gods, we have magic, immortality, and power over others, yet we lack the most important thing of all.”
Idunn wrapped her arm around Freyja and hugged her friend close. “What do we lack, Freyja?”
Idunn stared at the body of the Russian pilot and sighed. “I’m afraid your pilots won’t help us there. We’ve been on this path too long. Maybe Ragnarök would be a good thing. It is, after all, a sort of startup. Perhaps it’s what we need to rediscover basic emotions again. Like Thor and his human?”
Freyja nodded. “Jane was good for him, wasn’t she? Of course, after the Aether corrupted her…but that will happen in the future, and we need to focus on the now.”
Idunn grabbed Freyja’s arm. “The Aether is nothing more than a parasite that must be eradicated now or it will turn all matter dark within all realms. If it’s free, we must concentrate on it, not the human’s war.”
She patted Idunn’s hand, which still gripped her arm. “Óðinn has our own scientists working on a plan for that very thing. Let’s go home, my friend. We have lots to talk about if we’re going to get this plan in motion before the month’s end. The next battle will be fierce, and the Russians must win. Hitler cannot gain access to Stalingrad. I will need your help if we are going to succeed. In order to pull this off, I will take a few fallen pilots from the field of battle and offer them a second chance at life—and love—if that is their heart’s desire. To do this, your apple of immortality will come in handy.”
Idunn shook her head. “You’ve been drinking too much of Thor’s mead, that’s what you’ve been doing. You aren’t thinking straight. This plan of yours will never work and will get you into nothing but trouble. Besides, my apple won’t give them immortality. Actually, I’m not sure what it will do to humans.”
Freyja’s smile widened. “Then you’ll help me?”