Winter Solstice, December 21, 2022

It was a dreary and cold midnight in the forests north of Uppsala in Sweden. The frigid wind howled at the US Navy V-22 Osprey that flew above the trees.

There were 24 operators on board sourced from DEVGRU, more commonly known as SEAL Team Six.

The youngest of them was named Erik, who had served in the Marines for a few years before attempting BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/ SEAL) and graduating from Seal Qualification Training with distinction.

The red-haired 21-year-old Caucasian man was experiencing his first official mission after a months break from the final Task Group Training that familiarized him with operating out of an Osprey.

Erik was a bit anxious and remained silent until one of the senior operators, Jester, called out to him over the noise of the engines and wind, jokingly saying, ”Hey, Gamer, How are you liking Sweden? ”

Another SEAL, Anchor, interjected the banter and said, ”When we asked you what video games you played, you shouldve just said Call of Duty or something, instead of those nerdy games like Crusader Kings. Well be calling you Gamer for a long time. ”

The pair laughed at the new guys expense, and Erik tolerated the bit of hazing until their team captain appeared from the cockpit.

Jester continued the banter and asked, ”Cap, why the ** are we in Sweden during the holidays? I can already hear my wife complaining, and Im freezing my ass off. ”

Anchor commented, ”Bad guys don have schedules, Jester. But I agree we don have much info to go on even after the briefing. So what gives, Cap? ”

The other SEALs in the Osprey, including Erik, waited attentively for an answer, then the captain explained, ”This mission is top-secret because the higher-ups don know what we
e really up against. Numerous civilians have been reported missing and dead around this region for almost a month now. The Swedish government had kept the lid on the issue, but they
e scared shitless. Theyve already sent a small army worth of men deep in the forest, yet none of them have returned. ”

Jester interjected the captain and proudly stated, ”So they got the best team to bring home the bacon! ”

The other SEALs hollered in agreement as modern warriors themselves, but the Captain retorted by saying, ”Our mission tonight is one of unknowns. Well have computer and logistics support from the US Carrier Group in the Baltic Sea but be ready for anything. ”

Its been more than ten years since SEAL Team Six killed Osama Bin Laden, so it was natural for them to accept the opportunity to pursue their glory in battle.

Erik relaxed after feeling the camaraderie shared by everyone on his team but mentally prepared himself for whatever was to come.


Half an hour later, the Osprey hovered over a clearing in the vast forest with enough space to allow the SEALs to exit the vehicle via rappel.

The Team Captain rallied the men and said, ”Night vision on, and for gods sake, do not miss the rope. ”

Their only visibility in the pitch darkness was their equipment, but it was still up to the operator to utilize their kit effectively.

Erik instinctively double-checked his MK-16 SCAR Rifle was on safety before lining up to wait his turn to rappel down the Osprey.

It wasn too difficult for Erik to perform the routine action, but rappelling with an 80-pound rucksack was typically challenging on its own.

The Joint Special Operations Command couldn estimate the length of their mission accurately, so the team was equipped to spend a week gathering information on the missing Swedish soldiers.

The Captain waited for his men to successfully land on the ground before ordering, ”Gamer, youll be on point. The last known location of their forces should be two klicks due west of our LZ. ”

Erik had no qualms in accepting responsibility from his senior and professionally obliged by using hand signs to direct his compatriots.

Light noises of snapping twigs and crunching leaves echoed through the forest while Eriks team systematically made its way through the vegetation.

They had made good progress after forty minutes of traveling, yet there was no sign of any military forces in the surrounding area.

Erik kept his wits about him as he led the team and traversed the rough terrain, but then he suddenly heard soft unclear murmurs.

”Stop. ”

”Bad. ”

”Leave. ”

He immediately raised his hand and took a knee, resulting in all 24 SEALs doing the same, before Erik seriously asked through his comm systems, ”Cap, do you hear anything? ”

The team leader replied, ”Only the wind. Tell me what you hear. ”

Erik honestly answered, ”I hear a womans whisper warning us from moving any closer to the target location. ”

Jester overheard the conversation on the radio and jokingly said, ”Gamer, don go chicken on us all of a sudden. ”

The operators shared a short chuckle, but not too loud to attract much attention, but Anchor disagreed and said, ”Im with Gamer on this one. I feel some very bad juju from this part of the forest. ”

Erik dutifully inquired, ”What are your orders, Captain? ”

The Captain ordered his men to hold while he contacted headquarters for a situation report. He procured the newly issued and upgraded 5G Field Radio and said, ”This is Task Force Blue. Does anyone read me? Over. ”

It took a few seconds until he heard a reply, ”HQ can read you, but the reception and quality are waning. Wheres your team? We can find it on any of our GPS systems. Over. ”

The Captain was dumbfounded as the weather wasn too bad to affect coordinates, then he said, ”My team is within a klick of our target. Weve seen no signs of civilian or military presence in the area. Over. ”

A few moments later, the captain ordered his men, ”HQ wants us to continue until weve found traces of any survivors. Theyll send a Global Hawk to get some eyes on us, but it will take an hour or two. ”

Erik steeled himself and followed orders despite the cautionary whispers flowing through his mind.

They finally found Swedish military gear scattered near their last known location, but it was eerily empty, with not one person in sight.

The Captain ordered his team to take a knee while contacting HQ, but his every attempt at establishing communications had failed.

Special units within modern militaries train their soldiers to notice small environmental changes to gain an edge over their enemies.

Erik glimpsed branches moving and hand-signaled to notify his teammates of a potential combatant.

The young SEAL observed the targets unusual and seemingly unnatural movements as it steadily approached where the team was hiding and holding fire.

When it reached ten meters from Erik, it noticed the pack of operators and immediately charged at them with reckless abandon.

The Captain gave the authorization, then Erik instantly downed the assailant with a suppressed shot on the head.

Erik went ahead and identified the body while the rest of the team secured the area against any other suicidal individual hanging around in the forest.

Erik examined the body and noted the cult-like robe and the extremely old axe that the assailant wielded.

The Captain approached Erik and the body, then asked, ”Did you find any clues to what the hell is going on here, Gamer? ”

Erik carefully retrieved the axe from the ground and showed it to his captain and comrades. Upon closer inspection, they could clearly see elaborate engravings on its wooden hilt.

The Captain examined it for a moment before handing it back to Erik and saying, ”Gamer, I remember you were at the top of your class in foreign studies. What can you make of these engravings? ”

Erik carefully analyzed the hilt and said, ”Its difficult to be sure looking through my night vision, but the styling should be Old Norse from the 8th Century. Why someone would attack us with it in the middle of the night, I don know. ”

The Captain remained on one knee and told his men, ”We can contact HQ to update

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