No one, had ever cared enough before to forbid him to do something, unless of course it had been General Swift; but even then, they’d been orders. While this particular moment made him feel all warm and cozy inside, it also troubled him deeply. He’d never had anyone to call his own, and now having two, he wasn’t sure how to deal with the emotions he was receiving.
He’d thought about it all morning and had finally decided he needed to talk to Rob. If anyone could help him navigate a Valkyrie, it would be him.
“Do you tire?” Tomoe inquired, brushing her waist-length, black hair from her shoulder.
“I won’t lie, I’ve felt better.” He sighed, rubbing the sweat from his brow.
“Then we will break!” She replied with a smile and holding her sword up in front of her, she bowed to him with eyes closed.
Okay, so he had lied. His muscles hurt, his mind was spinning and he longed for a good stiff drink. That would have to wait until later, for he had to find Rob; and find him, he did, atop the outer wall with Kara. He’d been teaching Kara how to use their own, secret sign language and from what Gil could tell, the lass was a quick study.
Gil waited but a moment, wondering if there might be an easier way to show them. Could they not just pluck the thoughts from his mind? He couldn’t see why not, for Mist and Sif could read his thoughts. He’d have to make it a point to ask.
“Good morning, all.” Gil chuckled upon approach, drawing Robert’s attention away from the young female. “Can I borrow your teacher for a moment?” He asked her, catching a glimpse of the blush that accompanied her smile.
“Certainly, Gil.” They both let out at once. “I have things to do anyway.” Kara added, jumping down from her seat upon the wall and with a quick kiss on Rob’s cheek, she made for the guard tower. “See you later, my sweet!” She called to him, receiving a kiss blown in her direction as her voluptuous figure disappeared behind the closed door.
“Walk?” Rob inquired, pulling a small, silver flask from his vest pocket.
Gil nodded, accepted the flask and took a swig. “How’d you know?” He chuckled, handing it back to his friend.
“How many times have we walked the line? And how many nights have I spent with you and that face, sitting in wet trenches while your mind spins in circles?”
“Too many!” Gil shook his head and laughed. “And you can still read me better than any woman ever could.”
“Maybe we’re soul mates?” Rob teased, easing the tension that surrounded them.
“Who else would put up with my sarcastic self?” Gil roared as he and Robert continued their walk along the wall.
“See, you get me, too?” Robert choked out, before wrapping his arms around Gil. “We should get married!”
To those who’d just past them by, it must have looked as if the two of them were about to run off with each other. The things they must have thought as Rob nestled in close to Gil’s chest and grinned real wide; damn near purring like a bloody kitten.
“Easy there, Tiger. They couldn’t care less whether we we’re laughing or fucking. They don’t see sex the way we do; I mean, did.” Rob was going fifty shades of red, right before Gil’s eyes.
“You tellin me…”
“I’m telling you, they are the freakiest little minions of sin that even I, a master in the art of love, have ever encountered before.”
“You, a master of love?” Gil burst out laughing, having to reach for the wall to steady himself.
“I didn’t see you putting any rings on any fingers.” Rob eyed him with one brow raised. “Is that what you’re worried about now? Which one you’ll marry?” He paused, a hint of confusion in his eyes. “I mean, I’d take them both, but that’s just me!”
“No, nothing like that at all.” The excitement left Gil’s face and he stared off towards Ghost Mountain.
“What’s up partner?” Rob sighed, joining him at the outer wall.
Clearly, Rob could tell how serious this was, and no amount of joking around was going to solve whatever issue Gil faced. Rob was a good friend, an even better soldier, but he was also Einherjar.
“This going to sound odd…” Gil paused a moment, mustering the courage to let the words spill out. “…but, what is it like to die?”
Rob stood there a moment, before finally letting his mouth drop open in shock. “That’s uh, one loaded question, my friend!”
“I mean, what is it like to be chosen by a Valkyrie, after you die? Do you know what’s involved in the process? Do you get anything out of it? Does it hurt?” The words fell from his mouth before he could stop them, sounding more like an annoying first-grader than a general.
Rob looked around to make sure no one was nearby. Who knew how many would flee, should they hear their icon speaking in such a manner? He was as important to them as Freya was. Gods or not, the people needed them. Nonetheless, Robert drew closer and lowered his voice to a whisper, if only to help his friend.
“I don’t know much about dying, hell, you should know as much as I do, you were there!” Robert shook his head as the memories rushed back to him.
“But you, pardon my saying, but it was you who got shot. You, were the one that died that night, and you, were the one she chose. I need to know why, and how. I must understand their ways if I am to continue down this path. There are too many uncertainties already. I just, want to know what would happen, you know, if it happened.”
“Yeah, you sure Tomoe didn’t hit you a little? In the head, perhaps?” Rob frowned, but he could see Gil’s anguish. “Look, I took a bullet to the heart, and yeah, there was a lot of bloody pain. I died, Gil.” Robert was still shaking his head, but he continued on. “There was pain, then there was nothing. Just a dark, endless void.”
“And after, when she chose you?” Gil urged him on, but Rob had to stop him.
“What’s this about, Gil? You’re not planning on doing something stupid, are you? Suicide, is not the way to go.”
“No!” Gil shook his head, but his friend did not look convinced. “Come on, you know me, I’m always thinking of the worst-case scenario. I just want to prepare for whatever comes at us.”
“Good, because those who take their own lives, cannot be chosen from the battlefield, and as far as the choosing goes, I don’t know how it’s done.” Robert sighed and turned to rest his back against the battlement. “I do know it’s done quickly, and right at the moment of death.”
“So, if you die and there is no Valkyrie to choose you, you really die?” Gil inquired, crossing his arms over his chest. “Like, for good?”
“All I remember is your face, then darkness. I woke up here, in Rihmsjalier, with Senna and Kara standing over me.” He shrugged his shoulders and laughed. “As for benefits, there are a few, number one being that you can’t die again. We’re practically immortal, my friend. The regenerative properties in our blood are far superior to even those of a Valkyrie.”
“Wow!” Gil muttered. “You, can heal faster than Mist?”
“Yes, but one of your special, purple orbs, would see you ending the healing process, altogether and…” He stopped short. “Why are we having this conversation again? Shouldn’t you and Mist be discussing this? She holds your bond; didn’t she tell you?”
“Bond? What bond? She mentioned she had first claim, but never mentioned any bond.”
Rob fell silent as he thought of what to say next. He’d never lied to his partner before and he damn sure wasn’t about to start now.
“What I do know is this…When the time comes to choose, they create a link with the intended chosen. This could happen at any time during one’s life, providing said life lay close to death. Mine, apparently happened in that car accident I had, remember? During advanced infantry training?”
“I was in that coma for three days, everyone thought I was done for, even Senna thought so, or she wouldn’t have come for me.” Rob chuckled.
“You survived that crash though?” Gil was more than a little confused.
“I did, but the bond had already been created. Senna had to wait a little longer to claim me, but she says it was well worth it.” He smiled at his friend, though the topic didn’t leave room for any sugar-coated, happy moods.
“I wasn’t near death when Mist found me. I was very much still alive and perfectly healthy, I mean, I’d just finished a routine physical and apart for my mind, I was in tip-top shape.” He tried and he tried, but no matter how many times Robert explained it, Gil couldn’t seem to figure it out. “It doesn’t make sense!”
“Relax, Gil.” Rob chuckled as they continued on with their walk atop the wall. “No need to get angry about it.”
“I’m not angry at all.” Gil blurted out. “Just, confused.”
“All of it. My head is doing summersaults trying to piece this puzzle together.” Gil sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “They can choose at any time?”
“Providing the individual is near death.” Robert nodded.
“But, you don’t actually have to die?”
“Not necessarily.” Rob laughed. “When a Valkyrie links with you, they create a bond that acts like a sort of, homing beacon. Your Valkyrie will always know where you are from that moment on”
“Uh-huh!” Gil mumbled, and waited for more.
“She can feel your essence, as if it were part of her own, and when that essence begins to fade, she knows the time is drawing near.” Rob smiled. “When my time came, Senna was there to bring me into the fold. She felt the pull, as I do, whenever our emotions rise.”
“Is that why I can always tell when she’s near?” Gil choked out, feeling the pull that very moment. “Like now?” Mist was close by, so close, he could almost hear the beating of her heart.
“The only difference between you and I, my friend, is that my life ended, yours has not. We are both bonded to our females, but you can return to Earth, I can’t, unless ordered to do so...” Robert’s voice carried on, but Gil was too focused on the tightness in his chest and the beats his heart was skipping.
Gil turned towards the arched doorway just in time to see both Mist and Sif exiting the guard tower a few yards away; and obviously looking for him, with grins on their faces and determination in their eyes.
“My bond with Senna and Kara isn’t that strong!” Robert chuckled and slapped Gil on the back. “For you to be able to sense Mist’s presence, is bloody amazing.” He added as he bowed to Mist and then Sif, before turning on his heels with one final wink to Gil.
A wink? A bloody wink? After all the bastard had told him, he was leaving him in their clutches?
‘They are, your females!’ Robert’s voice lingered in his mind and Gil couldn’t help but chuckle as he turned to Mist and Sif.
‘I need to speak with the both of you, somewhere the others can’t hear us.’ His mind opened and found Mist’s.
“You have done something, Loki!” She scolded him. “The child would not be in such distress if you had not.”
“Distress? I did nothing but speak with her.” He shot back, his blood churning in his veins as he fought the confusion.
What did she mean? What had he done? Why was Tisiphone acting as if he was the enemy? He’d done nothing but serve the Guild since her birth. He was her watcher, her secret guardian, the child he could have shared with Malice, had that bloody Demon not reared his ugly head. Like, what the fuck? He had his own female, and Euphamia was indeed, quite the catch; so, what did he need Malice for? Everything would have been perfect, had he just stayed in the Null.
“Traitor!” Tisiphone shouted again. “Betrayer. Monster.”
“Seriously, Navina….” He managed to get out before Tisiphone shouted again.
“Lock him in a cell and let the fire mage have him…”
The fire mage? Vanessa? He was so confused. They were but friends, lovers even. He’d done nothing to anger her or the bard, Morgan. Not recently, anyhow…
“And now you begin to see the bigger picture.” Navina chuckled as she rose to her feet and made for the hearth across the room.
“Let him see the error in his ways as he rots in that cell.” Tisiphone spoke up, but it was not her voice. “He won’t be telling his dark mistress anything after tonight…”
It wasn’t so much the voice anymore, but the words spoken. He remembered them as if it were yesterday and his body flooded with fear. “Rihmsjalier will be better off without him!” He replied in kind, finishing the sentence. “By the Gods…” He gasped as Navina brought the drink forward in a rather, odd looking goblet.
“Drink and know that she will soon see your treasons at an end.” Navina bowed her head with goblet in hand.
“Where did you get that?” Loki inquired, remembering another moment, in which he’d seen that very goblet on a silver platter.
The more he thought about it, the more his curiosity grew. He knew what that was, and he knew what it was used for. There was no way he was touching it, let alone drinking its contents; but where had she found it? Why, was it here?
“Traitor.” Tisiphone growled again as Loki began pacing back and forth. “You will pay for each life she has taken, being that it was you, who schemed with the heathen…”
“Where did you find that cup?” He asked again and Navina raised her eyes to his.
“Does it scare you?” “She smiled, those emerald green eyes searching deep into his soul. “You clearly know what it is.”
“I was told it had been destroyed.” Loki replied.
“It was.” She grinned back at him.
Loki shook his head and cleared his throat. “It holds the essence of all evil and should never have been brought back.”
“There were six of them at first, all carefully constructed in the depths of Enote. One Queen was born of the essence within that first goblet, and to her, twelve daughters that would see the thing destroyed. Their fear that it would create others who would in turn challenge their rule…”
“So, there are five now?”
“Correct.” She smiled at him. “It is said that those five goblets, harbored the essence that created the five great houses that would help the Council of Queens rule over their domain; but in time, they too seemed to vanish.”
“Not all of them. One, just like that, sat on a podium in the throne room of Ghost Mountain.” Loki was remembering a little more.
“Correct.” Navina bowed her head once more, the cup still out for him to take. “It stood as a warning, a reminder, that his power was the greatest of all. No one would dare challenge him with it in his possession; or so he thought.”
“But the Shak’Morikai were supposed to destroy it. That was part of your sister’s plan. How did you… No, never mind. I don’t even want to know.” He shook his head.
“They did destroy it, but in Malice’s travels she came upon another, one which she entrusted to the lady of this keep.”
“So they didn’t all disappear?”
“No one knows what happened to them. The whispers of their existence ended soon after the birth of their regime.”
“Pathen ended up with one, and Malice found another, that leaves three unaccounted for.” Loki pointed out.
“The traitor will not suspect a thing, if his eyes are set upon something else.” That voice returned and Tisiphone tossed and turned in the bed.
“Did you use that thing on her?” Loki growled.
“I must admit, having a thing and knowing how to control it, are two very different things and I for one do not know how it works.” She sighed and turned away from him. “It is something, not even my sister remembers.”
“But one of those things was used on Malice. She drank from it and felt the poisons rush through her veins.”
“Correct, but not this one.” Navina smiled and making a fist with her hand, the goblet disappeared. “We have no way of telling which goblet it is, there-for, it must be kept hidden. We cannot risk the heathens within to take Hosts.”
“You’re telling me that those goblets are filled with Eno?”
“Eno’tai.” Navina corrected him. “And yes, there are hundreds inside that one goblet alone. Without them, the Eno’tai race cannot reproduce.”
“That is beyond fucked up, pardon my language.” Loki wasn’t sure how much of this little speech was the truth, but it sort of made sense.
“It was their way.” Navina bowed her head. “And by keeping the goblet hidden, we can ensure that none of its inhabitants can ever unleash their chaos on our Verse.”
“One down, three more to go!” Loki grumbled, turning back to Tisiphone. “But that doesn’t explain Tisiphone, or the visions she is witnessing without the power of a mirror.”
“She does not need the mirror.” Navina laughed. “Your meddling, though completely dangerous, was a success.”
“She’s broken and you call that success?”
“She is not broken, I assure you! In fact, her gifts far supersede my own. She can see things, and in time, do things that others cannot.”
“Then what’s wrong with her? Why won’t she wake up?”
“She must finish the story, Loki. Only through the visions will she learn how to control what she has been given…” She paused a moment. “… and there is much for her to see before her real journey begins.”
That made no sense at all. Tisiphone was already on a journey, as was he, if only to ensure her survival. How could he do that when he was barred from her thoughts? He couldn’t even feel her, no emotion, no nothing… Where was Khor? And Lithia? What the hell was he even going to say to them when he did find them? And Malice, if she returned to find Tisiphone in a state like this…
“Let the story unfold, Loki. She will see you for what you were, and what you have become.” Navina smiled and took to the stairs that lined the far wall. “We have all done things we are not proud of, but those are the moments that define us. We learn from them, like just now when I offered you the goblet, you knew what it was, because you had seen it before. Had you not, you would have taken it and things would have ended rather badly.”
“You would have let me drink it?”
“We will never know, because you chose not to accept it.” She laughed as she made her way up the stone steps. “You have seen what was, you lived it. Now it is her turn and there is nothing we can do but let the story run its course.”
“What about the moon pool? Can’t it help her?” He called after the female.
“The moon pool has been purified, but Tisiphone must be ready to enter it.”
“I thought the pools were meant to heal the body and mind?”
“One’s mind is an easy thing to lose in such a pool. She must be ready…” Her voice was but a whisper and before Loki knew it, he was alone with Tisiphone and her random bouts of shouting out madness.
If she was watching the story, and he was in a cell with Vanessa and Morgan standing guard…
“Traitor!” She shouted out again, then nothing but silence, in which Loki found himself surrounded in guilt.