Sláine — The 4th Warrior-Priestess

Background: Sláine is the 4th Warrior-Priestess in the story Sapience. I was working on her story when my father suffered his heart attack. The emergency responders worked on him for 15 minutes before they got a shockable pulse. Against all odds, he came back and was flown to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where cutting edge life saving technologies and practices were implemented by highly trained medical staff whom I came to know and respect so deeply for everything they did brought dad back to us for 9 precious days. And, we almost got him all the way back for he was so close to recovery two days before he died, but fate took a terrible turn. In those hours and minutes wrapped inside those 9 precious days, tragic and miraculous things happened. Things I am still reckoning with to this day, but this cluster of short stories about Sláine I am ready to share now for this is also the story I was reading to him the day he died.

What follows are just thumbnails of who this Warrior-Priestess is. One day, I hope I will be able to get the full story made available for readers who would like to meet her, and perhaps you will come to know her like I have come to know her for she is incredible. But, she is also an accident—someone who was never meant to have existed. But here fate interfered as well (and as it usually does in reality and in fiction), thus bringing her from nothing into the world of the mid-800s—a time when the Vikings plundered and raided much of Europe alongside the growing strength and influence of the Catholic church.

Sláine grows up as an orphan at a convent in Ireland with Sister Theresa, Sister Charlotte, Sister Margret, Mother Superior, and the other nuns. There is so much more to her early story, but I will write only about the part I was working on when my father died. At this part of the story, Sláine is being guided across a glacier spanning between Odda to Rosendal in Norway. Her guide, Thorsten, has fallen into a deep glacial crevasse after being distracted by an extraordinary vision created by a phenomenon called a Fata Morgana, which creates fantastic mirages over great spans of water or ice. When Sláine and Thorsten see this phenomenon, they are sure they are seeing god and goddess Ullr and Skaði. Then, Thorsten vanishes into the crevasse. Thanks to the precautions Thorsten took by creating a long gap between them, Sláine has a few seconds to understand what has happened and react, but they were connected by a rope, and so Sláine is quickly pulled towards the crevasse after him. Had it not been for a boulder perched at the edge of this crevasse, Sláine would have gone in too. Somehow she manages to steer herself into it, breaking her ski and a bone in her hand. But, she stops herself and Thorsten from falling to their death. This moment is a transformation for her she is leaving the child she has been behind and turning into the woman she is becoming—a woman of many faces and realms, a woman who will learn how to wield wisdom like a sword to save the ones she loves.

Story Clip: Sláine drags Thorsten next to the rock she used to pull him out of the crevasse. She works quickly to unpack the things she needs to make a place for him to rest and warm up. Moving as quickly as she can, she uses her left hand, ignoring the pain shooting through her fingers, up her arm, and into her head to construct a shelter from the wind made out of her ski poles, Sister Sodoma’s arm and staff, and the horse’s hide. She pulls Thorsten into it. He is so cold, so she takes off her bear cloak, wraps it around him, then crawls in beside him using his cloak as a barrier underneath them from the ice. She pulls his knees close to his chest and surround as much of his body with her body as she can. At first, his coldness saps all her warmth, and she shivers uncontrollably. Little by little, Thorsten’s body begins to generate its own warmth, but he remain unconscious. Soon their bodies generate enough heat to create a place of safety and warmth. Exhausted, Sláine doesn’t even remember falling asleep, but when she does, she dreams of home—a home that is so far away now—the beautiful cliffs of Ireland; a land she may never see again, but a place her soul will never forget.

In her sleep, she dreams about ravens who showed her the cave in the cliff when she was quite young before the other girls came to the convent. She relives the day she came upon the tree filled with ravens and how they took flight and surrounded her. But, she was not afraid for she knew they were talking to her, and she knew she could talk to them. They lead her to the cave, which became a sanctuary she escaped to often everafter after. When the other girls came to take their vows to become brides of Christ along with her, she finally found a friend to share her adventures over the moors. She and Nell would skip afternoon prayers, escaping to the cave where they would stare out over the ocean for hours dreaming of fantastic adventures and voyages. One day, they came upon the ravens in the tree just like the day the ravens showed her the cave. Immediately, she wanted to show Nell how she could talk to the ravens. But, Nell ran in terror and never talked to her again until the day the Norsemen came, which hurt so much. But oh, those green, green moors of her beloved Ireland and the blue, blue sky and sea—if only she could go back to this place where she knows her mother’s beautiful soul resides looking out upon the land from her final resting place with such peace and love waiting for her beloved daughter to return.