Loki could no longer watch as Tisiphone’s mind carried her closer and closer to the truth. He had been a bad ass with a bad attitude and he’d needed her mother something fierce back then. Malice had been the only thing to keep him sane. He knew he’d fucked up, he knew it was partially his fault for her ending up the way she had, but he was damn certain he wasn’t letting Tisiphone get caught up in any of it.
Whatever was happening with Malice was tragic, no one knew where she was or what she was doing, they knew only that she was alive. Half the damn verse was out searching for her and here he was, babysitting a teenager on an acid trip through the past. Nonetheless, seeing both Vanessa and Morgan again, hadn’t been too bad. He preferred them now, as opposed to the first time they’d met, here in this very cell. It was a lot less painful, being that he was no longer their prisoner; but their lover.
“He will tell us something.” Vanessa grinned, a flame flickering in the palm of her hand and Loki felt the sizzle in the burn she’d left him.
As if the sight of that flame wasn’t enough to remind him of what would come next, the scar above his left nipple began to throb. Lost in his own memories. The pain and the pleasure. The things they had done to make him speak, and the things he’d told them to make them stop. He hoped like hell that Tisiphone was watching for he wasn’t reliving this for the fun of it. He needed her to see that she could trust him. He wasn’t a traitor.
“Would you like to tell us why you were here?” Vanessa started in on him again.
“Be welcome, Son of the Valkyries.” Ashlyn smiled at him as he ran his hands through his new do. “And be assured that we will talk later, my son.”
This couldn’t be happening. He wasn’t a Valkyrie. He’d just gotten used to the fact that they’d made him a commander. Sorry, Lord Commander, for those keeping score; for he sure as hell couldn’t keep up. From Human to Valkyrie, just like that.
“You are the one the prophecy has said shall bring about the fall of the dark ones.” She went on, but he refused to believe it.
He was just a man. A war veteran who’d fallen in love with a Valkyrie. Now, he was the First Son of Almaren. A son of the bloody Elves and protector of… okay, he could see where this was going.
“So…” But the words would not come out.
If he was a Valkyrie, then, who was his mother? Where had she met his father? How long had she pretended to be Human? Why had she left Gil behind? Why was he just finding this all out now? What was next, King of the Asgard? At some point, a man had to put his hand up and say stop, but it was damn hard when his females were right there, their arms open and ready to wrap around him…
He’d been called down here to what? Find out he was one of them? He’d already submitted to the fact that he would be with them forever; but this was a little insane. What was that about a prophecy?
“Easy now, we would not want people worried about your mental health there, my friend.” Robert chuckled as he came up behind him, and Gil turned to find many more, clapping their hands at the news of his surprise. “Better keep a lock on those thoughts.”
“Now that’s what I call an ‘oh wow’ moment.” Gil chuckled when he was finally able to catch his breath.
“You were so surprised.” Morant teased, scrunching his face in a goofy manner and making Gil laugh out loud.
“Will I ever get any respect from you, Staff Sergeant Morant?”
“No, sir, someone has to keep you humble.”
With another round of laughter, the two men hugged. “Those were the first words we said to each other, damn near twenty years ago.” Gil explained as he put his arm over his oldest friend’s shoulders.
“And the bugger still needs me.” Robert chuckled and slapped Gil’s shoulder.
“This poor bugger needs a drink, and Valkyrie or not, I’ll get it myself.” Gil sighed, making for the stairs.
It was the great hall which held all the joy, with the mead running strong from the barrels. News of his lineage had spread, beckoning all to come and pay their respects. Before he knew it, the night had turned into a real party; problem was, Gil wasn’t too sure what he was supposed to be celebrating. It seemed with every turn, a thousand questions awaited him and every answer he received led to a thousand more. How was he supposed to lead them, when they knew more about what was happening than he did? Some leader he was, didn’t even know who he was.
He was feeling pretty down and out, his mind lost in old times fighting old battles, when Robin approached him looking more chipper than ever. Without hesitation he came forward and gave Gil a huge hug; and as he did so his, Gil’s eyes turned from a deep, worrisome grey to peaceful, sky blue. It had taken one hug from a child to remind him of the good he’d already done and he knelt down beside the young male, digging in his pocket for a butterscotch flavored candy.
“Thank you, my lord.” The boy smiled with glee, his rosy cheeks lighting up as he popped the thing in his mouth.
“No, thank you, sweet Robin.” Gil chuckled, patting the boy on the shoulder. “Would you do something for me, lad?” He inquired with a wink and in response the boy shook his head.
“Of course, my lord.”
“I want you to remember something for me. Something special. You will have to lock it in your heart and never let it go.”
“Okay. I can do that. Momma says my heart is still growing, so there will be lots of room.” He grinned, his little brown eyes sparkling in anticipation.
“Be careful of what you say and do in life, you never know who’s watching.” He smiled, but the boy looked at him with a confused frown.
“I am always careful, my lord.” Little Robin giggled, a sound so merry, it enticed the crowd into smiles and laughter of their own.
“Indeed.” Mist said with a grin as she took hold of Gil’s hand. “You remembered that after all this time?
“It sounded like good advice at the time, and considering it led me to this moment, albeit kicking and screaming at times, those words helped me through some of the toughest moments of my life.”
“Oh, really?” She narrowed her eyes his way, but that grin never left her face.
“Yes, really. Like the time when I was ten, you walked into that church in a ‘I’m the specter of death’ outfit.” He blurted out. “I thought the preacher was going to faint when you lowered your guard for him. I remember telling my mother, whispering as loud as I could that you were there. She would not, for the life of her, believe me.”
“So, your mother knew she was there?” Robert cut in.
“I didn’t know what was going on with my mother that day, but she wasn’t having any part of Mist, or the congregation. Outright told the preacher and what was left of the parishioners to sit down and shut up, for she wasn’t listening to it.”
“You whispered as loud as you could?” Sif chortled.
“Hey now, I was maybe nine, ten tops.” He laughed. “How would you feel, being me, and sitting in church on a crisp, Sunday morning with your folks. Then Mist shows up, does her thing and the entire congregation just evaporates.”
“She made them all disappear?” Robert’s curiosity was getting the better of him.
“No, I mean they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. At first it was all whispers and gasps, then…”
“It would be kind of disconcerting to have an Angel of Death enter the church during Sunday mass, then sit down in the pew at the front.” Rob howled, making sure not to spill his drink.
“Hell, when you’re nine or ten, that is bloody amazing. A church cleared by one person. I mean, it was jam packed, in the middle of the summer. You know how the summers get in Galveston, Rob?”
When his partner nodded, he pointed at Mist. “No air conditioning in a small, stuffy church, mid-July. She wasn’t even sweating in all that armor and dark leather, but that preacher was.” Everyone by this time was laughing so hard they were crying and Gil leaned in for a kiss from his females. “You, called me a troublemaker, and yet here you are, just as bad. Mischievous? Oh, by the Gods, Mist…”
“He was a mean-spirited old sod.” Mist replied with a laugh, remembering the old male with his long black robes on. “You were nine and he’d told you that you were going to hell. He meant it too.” She growled. “I could see the hurt in your eyes and I decided he needed to learn a lesson.”
Gil was recovering from the latest bout of laughing when Alara, Alura, and Orinald, found their way before him. Gil knelt down and kissed their outstretched hands. Alura blushed like a sunset as he rose to his feet, but he dared not look back into those bashful, doe eyes. Instead he turned towards her mother, waiting to shower her in praise, as was custom.
“What’s all this?” He asked with a gentle smile as Queen Alara gave him the first box.
“Open it, my child.” She replied, her eyes glistening with tears.
“I cannot accept this.” He muttered, gazing down at the sword, crafted in Valkyrie tradition. “It’s too much.”
“You must take it, for you are the First Sword of Almaren, and it was made, just for you.” The Queen eyed him up and down, then narrowed her eyes as if to reject her gift would come with penalties.
“I am humbled once again, your grace.” He smiled and bowed his head, before holding the sword up high for all to see. “I am coming for you, Malice!” He shouted, and all around him cheered, his war cry echoing through the night.
In the bowels of Rihmsjalier, Loki heard those very words, and knowing well what would come next, he surrendered himself to the whims of his captors. He felt the sting now as he had then, failing to follow through with the orders his beloved had set down. He knew how she had hissed and cursed his name; even then, he’d imagined her rage. Perhaps, that was what had caused him to let slip the words that had started him on a new journey, with a new outlook on life.
He’d spent so long trying to please the darkness within her, that now, against all odds, he had to find a way to remove that darkness so she would finally find the peace she’d searched for. They had lied to her, hurt her in way he couldn’t imagine, and as he watched himself with the fire mage, he knew he’d made the right choice.
“She wanted him dead. She wanted all of you dead.” He caved, the feel of the flame against his skin, the burn… “I only wanted to please her.”
High above the cell of Rihmsjalier, in the wee hours of the morning, Orinald presented his gift to Gil. “I told you so, laddie. Be careful what you wish for, for destiny has a way of granting those wishes.”
Gil opened the lid and found inside a replica of his FAL. Covered in the same eye wrenching pattern as the others, he had to wonder how many of the bloody things the male had made. Still, running his hands down the barrel and over the grip…
“I know this pattern.” Gil choked out, “I’ve seen it on the walls and written in scrolls.” He admired the intricate work. “It isn’t just for decoration, is it? Tell me, what does it do?” Like a child in a sweet shop, this had to be one of the best gifts all night.
“Try it out, laddie, this one is all yours.” Orinald grinned as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Made it special.”
As Gil raised it to his shoulder, the rifle let out a violet-colored pulse. Gil aimed at a decorative pillar along the outer wall, clicked the safety off and squeezed the trigger. Instead of firing a round, the rifle emitted a brilliant pulse of directed energy that left Gil, and the weapon, slamming into the wall behind him.
“My word.” He muttered, getting a good look at what was left of his target.
“It fires bullets too, when you do not want to go all flashy.” Orinald added with a hearty grin.
Gil enveloped the gruff looking Dwarf in a hug. Orin, being a little surprised, patted Gil on the back. “Uh, you’re welcome, laddie.”
“Flashy!” He chuckled, holding it up for the onlookers to see. “This has to be the best, almost birthday party I’ve ever had. Thank you, everyone. It truly means a lot to know I have so many friends.”
“Almost birthday party?” Sif inquired.
“Yes, you see, I was born on…” He started, but it was Ashlyn who cut in, and he wasn’t about to stop her.
“Humans celebrate the day of their birth, whereas Valkyries, celebrate the day their gifts manifest themselves.” She smiled. “We celebrate the day on which our true powers are known.”
“A sort of, coming of age celebration.” Mist joined in, slipping her arm around Gil’s waist.
Oh, she looked lovely, draped in a sheer, silver gown that tied at the side with intricate chains. All that long, dark hair, cascading down her bare back in thick braids with more chains woven in. When she moved, her body shimmered, her crystal blue eyes, dazzling in the candlelight. It was hard to stop from growling, his mind turning to more pleasurable events, but Mist and Sif merely giggled as his thoughts were shared with only them, and bowed their heads as yet more people arrived to celebrate with them.
“The gifting is far from over, my brother.” Came a voice he remembered well, as sharp and true as the blade she carried.
He smiled at Tomoe as she and Ashe approached, a small, blue box in her hand. Inside was a circlet fashioned like the one that adorned his chest, a perfect match to the sigil declaring him the First Sword of Almaren; the only difference being the ceremonial wings of the Valkyrie. It was absolutely beautiful, shimmering like Mist as he showed it about the room.
Tomoe took the circlet from the box as Gil knelt down, placing the token against his forehead and an orange glow enveloped him. It was warm and fuzzy, and for the first time in his life he felt complete. He had his females, holding them close. He had his family, eyeing his grandfather with his mug of ale held high, and he had a purpose; one that would see his people out of the darkness and into the light.
The cheers were deafening, but he allowed Mist and Sif to take hold of his hands and raise them above his head. ‘Is this what glory feels like?’ Gil inquired, a smile slipping across his face.
‘I do not know about glory, but it is definitely love.’ Mist replied, the pride in her voice filling him with glee.
“Just, wow. I can actually say that my brother is a Valkyrie.” Alura chimed in as she swooped in and gave Gil a great hug.
He kissed her cheek and she brushed a lock of his hair from his face. “You can say whatever you want, my Princess.” He blushed, but the next to appear before him set her lips upon his.
“This, my daughter, is how you greet a great and noble warrior.” Alara groaned, pushing Gil back into a wall and doing her best to keep him there.
For two whole minutes she kissed him, with no one to pull her away. Gil was sure she’d kiss the life right out of him and there was nothing motherly about it. Mist and Sif stood behind him, laughing with the rest, not a care as to whether the Queen of Almaren would make off with their mate.
“Should we rescue him” Mist asked nudging Sif, having read Gil’s mind.
“We can’t let her have all the fun.” Sif replied, as she approached them.
They decided then and there it was time to take over, tapping Alara on the shoulder and moving in fast.
“If I knew this was to be my prize, I would have prepared a speech.” Gil teased.
“Oh no, my love, the prize comes later tonight, if, we survive the rest of the party.” Sif smiled and escorted Gil back to a waiting throng of Valkyries.
Mist picked him up like a sack of potatoes and carried him up the stairs on her shoulders. It was said there was to be a feast waiting for them in the courtyard. He couldn’t lie, he loved food, and just as before, there was a bonfire. He loved bonfires too, sitting around them in good company, reminiscing on the days of old.
“The calm before the storm.” Gil mused to Sif and Mist, as he did just that, with a mug of ale in one hand and a hunk of roast beast hanging off a skewer in the other. “I just, didn’t think it would be so…”
“Grand?” Sif grinned, nibbling on her own hunk of roast beast.
“Not the word I was looking for exactly.” He chuckled. “More like, mind boggling.”
“There was no other choice for us.” Mist smiled back at him, toying with a lock of hair that had fallen from one of her many braids. “The entire Valkyrie council was present to vote on your enrollment, and that, has never happened before.” She winked at him.
“Mist and I were convinced you were one of us after your gifts began manifesting themselves, but the council had to be sure and so they had your lineage tested.” Sif let out with a smile from ear to pointy ear.
“And what did it say? The testing, I mean.” Gil asked anxiously, but it was Ashlyn who would reveal the final results, calling him over to a table on the balcony outside.
“That you are half Valkyrie, as the two of them suspected.” Ashlyn chuckled, lifting a glass of Shimmer Wine to her lips.
“I know that, but didn’t it tell you who my mother was?”
“It did.” Ashlyn smiled from behind her glass.
“Who is she? What is her name? And what’s all this prophecy business about?” He’d been dying to ask since the word was dropped hours ago.
Now here, on the private balcony with curtains drawn tight, he would finally find some answers; he hoped.
“Three centuries ago our Hilda had a dream. In that dream, an ancient enemy had returned to try and destroy us once more, but that a man would be the key to ending her.”
“And how do you know that man is me?” He managed to choke out, taking a seat before he heard the answer and fell over.
It was a long way down from that balcony, straight down, into a chasm of rocks and rushing rivers. The last thing he wanted to do was die mere seconds after finding out the truth.
“You are half Valkyrie and never before had a pure-blooded Valkyrie given birth to a male.” Mist explained. “Your mother did and we have been watching you since that day I found you in the church. It was why I had to save you then and will always keep you safe in the now.”
“Malice was looking for me even then, I take it?” Gil grumbled. “A child, and she had a mind to end me.”
“Yes, but we hid you so well, not even her spies could find you.” Ashlyn grinned. “We had no way of knowing who your mother was, our temple and archives, lost in the heat of war. It would have been easier if your grandfather had been a little more, forthcoming.”
“My grandfather? Jack?” Gil tried to eye his Grandfather through the closed curtains, but the male seemed to be avoiding all contact what so ever for the time being. “Did he confirm whatever it was you need him to confirm?”
“Oh, he did, and I could not believe it. This whole time, she had kept quiet to keep you safe.” Ashlyn was laughing now, but Gil still hadn’t heard his mother’s name.
“Come, we have one more surprise for you.” Mist took him by the hand and led him towards another set of balcony doors.
“What, an atomic whoopee cushion?” He groaned, not wanting yet another distraction, but answers.
If they knew who his mother was, they needed to tell him. Now.
“In here.” Ashlyn pulled the curtain back and Gil reluctantly followed her instructions.
“I’m in no mood for games.”
“Neither am I.” Came a voice, and out of the darkness stepped a female much taller than him.
“Gil, may I introduce, Brunhilde, of the mountain ridge. Your mother.” Mist’s voice began to fade as shock set in.
Tawny haired, like Gil, she walked closer to give him a good luck, he replied in kind, though stunned in disbelief. The music stopped, the voices stopped, nothing seemed to matter anymore as the two of them eyed each other up and down. He’d seen pictures, heard stories, but he’d never imagined he’d actually meet her.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked, the tears already dripping down his cheeks. “Why didn’t you come for me?”
“Because it was safer for you not to know. I knew that Malice would be watching for any sign of you.” The female replied, holding Gil close to her chest. “It had to be this way, and you are stronger for it. There are no doubts in my mind after speaking with my sisters, you are the one Hilda prophesized about in the ancient texts.”
“Aye, but it is one thing to prophesize something, it is quite another to see that prophecy fulfilled.” Came a new voice, one that brought a smile upon his mother’s face.
“Hilda?” Ashlyn called out and Gil got the feeling this was more of a family reunion than a birthday party. “I am so glad you could come.”
“You think I would miss this?” She laughed, silver hair dangling about her face in perfect coils.
“The darkness shall fall.” Brunhilde chimed in, embracing her old friend.
Gil was a little stunned. His mother, the prophecy, Malice…
“You worry too much, my love!” Mist smiled and kissed his cheek. “My sister will see the truth in what she is doing, and we will have peace in the realm once more.”
“But first…” Sif cut in, having just come from the hall where the guard had dropped some pretty interesting news. “…we need to neutralize the threat that a certain foul-mouthed cretin represents.”
“True.” Mist agreed.
All four Valkyries nodded. “The original plan is still the best, so let’s do the inventory. Where’s Ashe?”
“She is down in the cells with the fire mage, Vanessa, and one of her friends.” Sif cut in. “They thought they could get him to talk.”
“And?” Gil blurted out.
“And all he keeps saying is that he did it to please her. No idea what the, it, is though.” Sif shook her head. “The male is a bumbling idiot.”
“Then it is time to scare the story out of him.” Ashlyn chuckled, making for the door. “I will speak with Ashe, you lot can catch up. The party seems to be winding down so there should be some peace and quiet for a time.”
“Thank you, Mother.” Mist surprised them all, leaning in to lay a kiss upon her cheek.