Gil led the way up the grand old stairs and didn’t stop until he reached the top and was well inside his study. He wasn’t angry, per say, but Mist and Sif knew that something was wrong.
“Sit down, please? This might take a while.” He offered a half-assed smile and pulled out a chair for each of them. “First of all, let me say that I’m not mad at either of you.” He pointed out, ushering for them to have a seat. “A little disappointed, but not angry.” He added, taking a seat in the chair across from them, his hands folded on the desk before them.
It was rather intimidating, being that it had been him in their places as General Swift laid down the what have yous, followed by a chorus of bloody hells. He remembered how it felt to sit there and listen, twiddling his thumbs as the lecture rolled out. It was the principal’s office all over again, except the football he’d tossed through the school window had been a grenade; and the school had been an old ammunition dump that exploded and killed four men. Enemy soldiers, of course, but that was supposed to have been a silent operation and General Swift had made damn sure Gil knew he’d fucked up.
He didn’t want Mist and Sif to feel the guilt the way he had, but they had something rather important to discuss, and he couldn’t risk the chance of getting sidetracked by wandering hands and hungering lips. He knew his Valkyries, and their sneaky tactics that often swayed his mind.
“Now, what I’m going to say was supposed to be a secret, and the only person that I have discussed it with, is Rob.” The puzzled looks were to be expected, but the silence was deafening as neither female uttered a word. “We don’t keep secrets from each other.” Gil added, feeling the need to justify his actions, if only to himself.
“Secrets ruin friendships.” Sif mumbled, though she had a hard time looking at him.
“No truer words were ever spoken.” Gil sighed and let out a chuckle. “So, I have two questions for the both of you…”
“And you wish to know nothing but the truth?” Mist cut in with a smile of her own. “Then know that the truth is all you have ever heard, and will continue to hear.”
“Then, it is not a matter of why, but when; as in, when where you going to tell me about the bond?” He felt his face tighten and his vision narrowed.
He’d told them he wasn’t angry, and it was the truth, but the longer he sat their waiting for their reply, the higher the frustration grew. He loved these females and they claimed to love him; so why had they not spoken of something as important as this bond? The thing practically linked a Valkyrie to their Einherjar, yet he was not Einherjar. He was alive and breathing, carrying all the gifts of one, without actually…
“Why have you said nothing?” He asked again.
“We thought you knew.” Mist finally replied. “You have all of these gifts; can you really not tell we are linked?”
Gil had to think about that one. First, there was the fact that he had not one bond, but two, to worry about. Second, there’d been damn near twenty years between his mission to Sarajevo and the one in Gettysburg; and for the first time ever, Gil’s mind triumphed over the fog.
“Good Goddess…” He mumbled as his eyes rolled into the back of his head; the visions just kept coming.
She had been there all along; in fact, there hadn’t been a day gone by where he hadn’t thought about her in some form or another. Gil’s mind raced even faster. So many places, so many times he’d been captivated by her voice or the subtle image of her on the horizon. He’d thought her to be an Angel, his Angel…
“I have thought about you, every day for damn near two decades, but this started long before that.” His eyes widened and she bowed her head. “You were at my dad’s memorial service; I was eight years old and thought the world was ending. You came over to stand beside me, dressed in a short, pleated skirt and shall; both a deep, forest green that seemed to glimmer in what little sunlight we had that day. I remember thinking how it matched the leaves in the trees above us, dark and dreary, yet so full of life when the wind pushed the darkness away and made room for the light to shine down on all of us.” He paused a moment and took a deep breath.
“It was a beautiful day, despite the circumstances.” Mist could not look at him, for fear the tears would fall down her cheek.
She too, remembered that day quite well. “You held my hand when my mother approached the General to receive his flag.” He went on and those tears broke free. “I didn’t cry, for I knew that my dad wanted me to be brave, it was his way of telling me that one day, I’d have to take care of my mother.”
“Your father’s men were quite impressed that day, to see a child so young, face the horrors of death with such...” She had to stop, reaching into her tunic for a tissue to wipe away the flood of tears. “It reminded them that their commander would live on in his son.” She laughed, hoping to ease the tension in the room. “And you sealed the deal with that little salute.”
That was it, the gates had opened and there was no way in hell he could hold it all back. His emotions were soaring, and with them, was his mind. He cared not to ward them off, for he wanted to examine each one, for the females who cried along with him. It had been Mist he’d seen when the sun was rising over yet, another battlefield. It was her voice he listened to when the wind whipped past him, her scent he followed when danger was near. She was his Angel, no, his Valkyrie, and she’d been watching over him for as long as he could remember. There was only one thing that baffled him, why couldn’t he remember this, before?
It mattered not as he looked up from his desk and found Mist and Sif with tear streaked cheeks. Had his heart not been weeping already, it surely would have erupted in grief that very moment. With eyes rimmed in glistening droplets and sniffles and whimpers escaping them both, how could he not rise from his seat and go to them?
“I’ve seen pictures of both of you…” He let out, coming around the desk to wrap his arms around them. “I don’t know why I didn’t see it before, but the pictures are real. I grew up admiring them, wanting so much to follow in my father’s footsteps. He was a collector of sorts, but the eighteen-sixties was his favorite year.”
“Eighteen hundred and sixty was a good year, indeed!” Sif sniffled against his chest. “It was the year I ranked head of my class at the academy.”
“Oh?” Gil chuckled, though the tension still lingered a little above crazy.
“And what did you study?” He inquired, wondering where this academy might have been and what sort of lessons they taught.
They were Valkyrie, there was no telling how extensive the classes were, or what sort of dangers they were subjected to in order to increase their abilities. There was just so much he didn’t know.
“It was my fourth year and had only two classes that rotation.” She grinned. “Advanced Tactical Warfare and Historical Scribing.”
“I see!” Gil chuckled, surprised at the choices, or rather, the vast differences between them. “So, Mondays and Thursdays were assault rifles and ballistics testing, and Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays were reserved for dusty old scrolls and feather quills?” He had to admit, it was rather comical.
“More like, Monday through Friday was spent examining and transcribing the ancient texts, while Saturday and Sunday were devoted to testing out the theories of old, with a few, minor adjustments.” Sif grinned, the tears having finally ceased from spilling down her cheek.
“To which she would spend the next week taking notes and making even more adjustments…” Mist teased.
“I wanted to write it all into a book.” Sif ruffled her skirting and scrunched her nose as she stuck out her tongue.
“The Trial and Error of Historical Studies!” Mist teased some more.
“My father was writing a book about our family’s military history.” Gil smiled and the memory of the old, leather bound book that sat atop his father’s old desk, washed back into his mind; complete with withered leather scent. “I was doing some research at Gettysburg when you found me.” He sighed. “I’d been lost for a while, hoping a trip to the past would help straighten out my head.”
“I watched you, as I did your father.” Mist hung her head and closed her eyes.
“You called me a sneak and played the ’we don’t know each other card.”
“I’m sorry about your father, Gil.” Mist went on, “He’d stepped on a mine, there was nothing left of him to save, but I swore to protect you and I’ve watched you grow, every day since. I was a friend to your mother; she knew that Sif had sent me. She was so proud of you. I couldn’t let you die in that cesspool of an alley in the same way he did. That’s why I couldn’t let you do anything with this plan of yours. That’s why I asked for time because I knew you would think of something else.”
“You know me better than I do sometimes.” He admitted then he turned to Sif. “How old are you guys, anyway? Being that you’ve been watching us for a long time.”
The two women exchanged glances then puzzled looks. “You know, we’ve never actually tried to figure that out.” Sif grinned, her tear streaked cheeks puffing up as joy banished the gloom in her eyes. “Tell you what, if we live through this, we’ll all go back to Galveston and explore that house of yours. See if we can’t figure it out.”
“Sounds like a date.” Gil chuckled, happy to see their spark return. “Now all I have to do is live through this madness and not lose my mind. I’d hate to stand you both up.” He was grinning now from ear to ear. “That might make you mad, and the last man that did that almost got his head handed to him; or so I’ve been told.”
“Speaking of Loki…” Mist cut in, but Gil was quick to counter with his own plan first.
“I do have another plan.” He told them both and watched as they scowled, but neither said a word until he was done. “It still involves Ashe impersonating Malice, but this time no poison…” His words drifted off as he drew them in closer and whispered so no one else could hear.
As he did so, their eyes grew wider and for a split-second, Gil thought Sif would jump out of her skin as she shook her head fiercely; but by the time he was finished explaining his new plan, both females were nodding their heads in agreement. Who could say no to giving the fool his just reward?
“I can’t wait.” Sif added with a delighted grin and placed a kiss on Gil’s stubble-covered cheek. “Loki’s going to get a taste of his own medicine, and it’s high time, too!” She giggled, but stopped short with a tilt of her head. “Yet, what if Ashe doesn’t want to play along?” She inquired softly, as if speaking the words too loud would see them come to pass. “We can’t force her to do this.”
“Are you kidding me? She’s an assassin. One of their primary skills is impersonation, to get close to their target.” Gil assured them. “I’ve done similar things myself, to help me blend in. It’s all about the reconnaissance, learning the targets habits so you can plan your attack. I’m sure she’d jump at the chance to pay Malice back in a big way.”
“Has he ever seen Ashe before? Won’t he be able to tell the difference?” Sif asked, nuzzling into Gil’s neck.
“She is quite skilled in the art of illusion.” Mist sighed, having given in to the persuasion at hand. “I have seen it for myself.”
“And if he doesn’t follow Ashe’s illusion of Malice and spill all he knows?” Sif cut in again. “I mean, knowing she was here would surely light a candle beneath him…”
“You mean, light a fire under his ass!” Gil chuckled, itching for a drink as his females rested against him.
“Yes, a fire under his ass.” Sif grinned and nipped at his ear.
He knew where this was going and if he had any hope in all the hells that were of seeing this through, he couldn’t give in to their wiles. “We will be prepared for all actions he might take.” He explained, pulling away from them and making for the desk, he poured himself a drink.
“How can we prepare, if we don’t know what he will do?” Mist asked, taking a seat across from him once more.
“I may be able to help answer that.” Came a voice from the doorway and all three of them turned to find a young, dark haired female waiting for permission to enter.
“Oh?” Mist let out, rising from her chair to usher the female in.
“You have information for us regarding the prisoner?” Gil inquired, taking a seat in his own chair with drink in hand. “Do you know why he’s come? Other than killing me, that is.”
“He made no mention of killing anyone, save for someone called Zander.” The female replied, her head still hung as she stood with hands clasped before her. “He’s looking for something.”
“Would explain why he was in the Hall in the first place.” Mist looked to Sif and then Gil. “There is much in that room to cause harm…”
“A weapon of sorts.” Gil nodded in agreement.
“And if he needed a weapon, to kill you?” She added, giving Gil reason to consider the question for a moment.
“We must take an inventory of the Hall; in case this isn’t the first time he’s been here.” Sif cut in, but Mist shook her head.
“How do you know this?” She let out, eyeing the female. “What is your name?”
“Morgan, my lady.” The female replied. “I was asked to speak with the prisoner, in hopes I could, tame him.”
“Tame him?” Sif blurted out.
“How?” Gil added, taking another drink.
“You are the Bard that Vanessa speaks of, and very fondly I might add.” Mist’s suspicion diminished and she smiled. “The two of you are, close?”
“As close as we can be!” The female smiled back.
“Well, if you can tame that one, then perhaps you could tame Loki, if you had about five-thousand years.” Sif rolled her eyes and let out a giggle. “Fire mages are temperamental at the best of times.”
“They do play with fire!” Morgan reminded her.
“Indeed!” Mist laughed. “But what about Loki? What did he say?”
“It was more of what he wouldn’t say, or do, for that matter. Even Vanessa tried, but he would have none of her seductive ways.” Morgan explained. “He loves her.”
“Who?” Gil choked out, placing his drink on the desk before him.
“Loki loves Malice. It’s clear as day on face when you say her name. Were he ice, she would be the flame that melts him.” Morgan grinned. “She says jump, he asks not only how high but also where he’s to land.”
“Are you serious?” Mist narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms before her.
“His only wish is to find, it, and return to her, to please her. My guess, is that he’s in the doghouse for something and he’s trying to make it up to her.”
“And he said nothing of what, it, was?” Gil inquired, scratching at the stubble on his chin.
“No, he did not.”
“And if Malice appears to him before he’s gotten what he came for…”
“He was searching the Hall, and who knows what the legions have stored in there.” Sif cut in.
“There could be a nuclear weapon in there for all we know.” Gil muttered, then poured another drink. “Get the Elves to inventory every weapon in Rihmsjalier. The repairs on the gate are almost complete and when they’re done, it’s to remain locked at all costs. We can’t risk anyone else popping in to raid the armories.”
“We need to know what his plans are.” Mist looked to Morgan. “Ask Vanessa to step up her attempts, perhaps even mention the Hall itself as a place she’d love to, take him.”
Morgan grinned back at her and turned on her heels, making for the door. Gil sat in his chair, rubbing at his eyes, and Sif waited patiently for Mist to stop pacing back and forth.
“You’ll wear a whole in the carpet.” She sighed, letting her chin rest in her hand.
“Sif, can you handle the inventory?” Mist stopped short and eyed their lover. “I will go with Gil and speak with Ashe. The sooner we find out what’s going on, the better.”
Sif rose from her chair and stretched her arms up, over her head. “Finally.” She grinned, blowing a kiss in Gil’s direction. “I will see the two of you, at evening meal.’
With nothing but her scent lingering in the room, Gil turned to Mist, expecting to find a frown on her face. Instead, he felt her arms around his neck and her lips pressed up against his.
“I may not agree with your plan, but only because it is dangerous. There is no telling what sort of mischief Loki has gotten wound up in.” She sighed, staring into his eyes as if she meant to search his very soul.
“I know it’s dangerous, but if it gives us any insight into what Malice is up to, or has planned…” His words trailed off, remembering the vision on Mist and Sif in the clearing, then boom, nothing but darkness.