Title: Loki’s Curse
Author: Cameron Lawton
Length: 8,000 words
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m historical fantasy horror
Set in ninth century Ireland, when Haakon’s son, the finest warrior in the village, dies in his bed and so is excluded from Valhalla, a blood oath is made. Nobody but the village witch, the Gytha, can foresee the catastrophic consequences. Even she is not sure how they will resolve it.
This historical fantasy horror short, set in the time of the Vikings, managed to strike a good balance between a solid setting and chills. It tells of Thorkell, a bard in a Viking village. His best friend and protector, Ivar, contracted a disease/virus and died in agony. Unfortunately, because Ivar didn’t die in battle his soul would not be taken to Valhalla. Ivar’s Father is stricken with grief about this and forces the village witch to bring Ivar back – a spell which has terrible consequences for Thorkell.
The story pulls you in immediately through Thorkell’s grief. He is distraught over the death of his friend, who he secretly loved, and willing to do anything to bring him back. During these first few pages the author does a good job of showing us snippets of life in the Viking village – the superstitions, religion, hierarchy and beliefs which make up their lives – but this never felt forced. Instead a clear picture is built up within a few paragraphs of why Ivar’s father would want to bring back his son, and the hidden feelings of Thorkell.
I also liked that the issue of Thorkell’s homosexuality is dealt with in a realistic way from the start. He knows he can never tell anyone and when Ivar returns and discovers Thorkell’s feelings, Ivar uses that to manipulate Thorkell, exchanging brutal sex for Thorkell’s blood. This is no romance, despite Thorkell’s devotion, instead it’s a chilling horror. It does have a happy ending, but not before poor Thorkell is forced to see his friend turned into a monster.
Overall, this was a clever story with a strong setting and characters. If you like horror and stories set within Viking times, then this one will be for you and I would recommend it.