This began life as ‘Search for Meaning’; a 500-word piece submitted to A J Dalton‘s Metaphysical Fantasy Writing Competition. This is the edited version following feedback from that competition.

~ Seeking ~

In one hundred and fifty years, even people who aren’t yet born will be dead.

Thankfully, dragons live five times as long, even hitting eight hundred on occasion. He would have the information.

Pulling her hood over her red hair, Freyja stepped through the doorway into the Dragon’s Soul Tavern. The smell of smoke hit her first, then the scent of fresh earth. In the silence, a low whine emanated as the door swung shut behind her. Only her informant sat this side of the bar, settled in the far corner.

She shouldn’t have been surprised by the human behind the bar; this was Midgard, after all. But she squinted through the semi-darkness as if he were a rare species. She needed to get out more often.

He was just like the others in this realm. Beneath a blond fringe that covered his eyes, there was loss, and there was damage. At just twenty, he had seen so much suffering, and now he was here, failing to make ends meet in a tavern south of the bay. She stepped forward slowly, not yet greeting her companion. This boy would never amount to anything but a landlord here. The goddess sought any inkling of passion, some curiosity about this child settling in her mind. How did these humans get up each morning; knowing they had nothing really to live for? He may make something through his small-holding out back, but if his father died of this disease; he would be stuck here. And yet, he was here — and he was wearing a smile.

Freyja sighed as she settled down on the stool at the bar.

“An ale, please.”

He smiled at her in the way of the young and hopeful. She smiled back politely. He didn’t need to get his hopes up any further. She was often frequenting these little inns now, taking her taste of freedom as Odin did his rounds in the other realms. But today, she came in search of the dragon.

The ale placed in front of her, she put a handful of gold on the stained oak. “Keep the change,” she murmured, sliding from her seat and retreating to sit by the cloaked man in the corner.

“You’re seeking Níðhöggr.” It didn’t sound like a question, so she didn’t answer. “Good luck with his temper.”

She smiled. “I’m not too concerned. We go way back.”

“Ahh, but will he remember that?”

She gave the mage a firm look, downing the first half of her tankard. She couldn’t see his face, but his heart sped up. She concentrated on her magic, masking herself in a mental shield. At least if he looked, he’d find her fearless. Freyja kept her trembling hand under the table, glancing once more at the bar-boy. He couldn’t know he had a goddess and a necromancer in his bar. Else he’d be more careful in his eavesdropping.

What would he do, if he knew a dragon lay in these woods? What would happen if she involved him? Would his life hold greater meaning? Would he think it luck or fate? She was the goddess, and at this moment, she had the power to change his path.

And yet, he’d be dead before the dragon was half-grown; and she had so much more to do in the next millennium. Was a glimpse that small worth it?

Her mind made up, she frowned at him drying the bar, and turned back to her quest, eyes set on the cloaked man’s finger resting on the map in front of her.

(595 words)