“So, you had sex with a Petal, in a cell beneath Rihmsjalier?” Khor looked a lot better than the last time Loki had set eyes on him, there was a slight green tinge to his skin but his eyes had lost the red and he no longer glowed in the dark.
Yes, the walking-talking asshole was back, too bad all that toxic plasma he’d taken a swim in hadn’t done a number on that ego of his. “A few times, haven’t you?” Loki replied with a smile on his face.
“Being in a cell, period, is not exactly my goal in life.” Khor shook his head and rose from the chair beside his sister’s bed. “How is she?”
“The same.” Loki sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “At least we can watch now…”
“You couldn’t before?” Khor inquired beneath a raised brow. “What really happened after you two got, lost?”
“We walked.” Loki let out.
“And?” Khor urged him to try again, and perhaps remember a little more this time. “That, is my sister. My blood. She is the reason I’m here and if she wakes and tells me…”
“For fucks sake, I told you, she called me a traitor. Spent most of the time trying to kill me, or screaming her face off at the ceiling.” Loki growled, “She seen something…”
“Like what?” Khor cut in.
“What did she see, Loki?” Khor came at him again, pushing his shoulder. “What did you do to my sister?”
“I swear, you may be the son of Euphamia and Nyx, but I’d suffer their wrath as I explained how much of a dick their son was, right before I snuffed his lights out.” Loki felt the surge rush through his veins and heard the pitter-patter of little feet behind him.
“You wills do no such things in the Lady’s keeps.” The little voice dug in deep and rattled through Loki’s mind.
“We haves orders to lets her sleeps, so outs, boths of yous.” The little beastie shook his head, the browns and grays in his fur melding together in a familiar pattern, but Loki couldn’t remember for the life of him, the little bastard’s name.
“Names matter nots, only that yous follows the laws of the Lady’s keep.” The Shoohk growled back, an orb forming in his hand.
Great, just what he needed, a teddy-bear with a fire-ball. “Fine, whatever, we’ll go.”
“No, we won’t. You will go, but I’m not leaving her side.” Khor growled, eyeing down the two-foot nothing, fur covered beast.
“As yous wishes.” The Shoohk let out with a sigh and a moment later, Khor was gone and the critter was staring up at Loki.
“Alright. Alright. I’m going.” He replied, nodding his head and making for the door, on the other side of which, sat a dazed Khor, holding his head.
“What the hell just happened?” He grumbled, trying to rise to his feet.
“You got your ass handed to you by a cute, cuddly, teddy-bear.” Loki laughed, offering the male a hand up. “He, sort of, guards the place.”
“This was Ashlyn’s keep and rumor had it she had all sorts of help to keep the place intact.” Khor let out, rubbing his eyes as he stood with one hand against the wall. “Lithia was hoping to find her here.”
“I fear she has gone with the others to find Malice.” Loki growled.
“And where was that, exactly?”
“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t know everything.” He sighed and closed his eyes. “She went hunting, like she always did. A normal, run of the mill hunt.”
“Is that what she told my father?” Khor laughed.
“I don’t know what she told your father, but clearly, he hasn’t caught on to what’s happening. If he had, he’d be out there looking for her, instead of waiting for word on you.”
“I know, I know, he was on the ship, saw me in that room, all glowing and shit.” Khor shook his head. “Embarrassing, to say the least.”
“It’s been three years, and he gets to see me lying in a heap, radiating plasma and looking half-dead…”
“At least it wasn’t your mother.”
“He wouldn’t dare tell her. She’d kill him, and then me, and then probably come after you.”
Loki felt the knot form in his throat and he knew the male wasn’t lying. Euphamia didn’t like chaos, or secrets, or lies; all of which surrounded her step-daughter, Tisiphone. By the Gods, she had to wake up, and quick. He just hoped she woke up, not, wanting to rip his head off.
They searched throughout the morning, the halls and residences in the upper gallery; finding enough weapons lining each wall to equip a battalion, and then some. They may not have had the time to train every Elf, but he was determined to see the Einherjar armed to the teeth. If they were going to survive this raid on Ghost Mountain, they were going to need all the help they could get.
Gil found the ammunition for an MG-Forty-Two, setting it and the gun by the door to give to Rob. He had a birthday coming up in three days and it was high time for him to get a surprise. And what a surprise it would be…
Breaking through his thoughts, a voice called from the back of the armory. “Gil, come up here! There are some strange backpacks lining the wall.” It was Alura and she sounded quite miffed.
As he made for her, he found Mist standing next to her, and beside them was a dusty old blanket; underneath which, sat a device that Gil hoped he’d never lay eyes on again. He didn’t have to move the camouflage tarp to know what they were, he’d seen enough pictures of them in a declassified file and had been told they’d been decommissioned and destroyed.
“You have got to be kidding me.” He growled, shaking his head. “Mist get everybody out of this room, now!” Gil’s mouth went dry as he thought about Malice with a tactical nuke.
She was more than crazy enough to waltz into Rihmsjalier with linens piled high atop a clothing chest, concealing the monstrosity inside. Boom, no more Rihmsjalier. The fortress and everyone in it would be vaporized, not to mention the forest of Aclara...
Valkyries and Elves alike, scurried fast to remove themselves from the danger zone. None wanted to be responsible for setting those bad boys off. He slowly turned the backpacks around, careful not to jostle the contents within, and laying them on their backs, he started to undo the straps. Rob burst through the doors at a dead run, he was by Gil’s side in seconds.
“How did you…?” Gil started, but Rob was quick to finish.
“Know you needed me? You’re a Valkyrie, Gil, they know what you know, my friend. Mist summoned me through her bond with Senna and Kara, and you scared Kara so bad she fainted.”
“Sorry, Rob, I’ll apologize to both of them later; if, we live through this. Let’s hope they’re not booby trapped or armed.”
Both of them worked on the backpacks, carefully cutting away the canvas sides. Then they checked to see if they were wired and revealed clearly marked, block letters: MK-Fifty-Four S.A.D.M.
“A nuclear suitcase, damn, Malice must be desperate. She’d never survive the fallout.” Morant dead panned.
Rob Morant had been a damn good weapons expert back in the day. Not only could he shoot, he could tell you how the bloody thing was made, the country it came from, the caliber, and the disastrous effects they could produce. He could arm, disarm and disassemble just about anything, but a nuke? That was iffy.
“Before we panic, let’s check something first. Turn them around, slowly, see if their sealed and locked.” Robert chuckled, his fingers dancing delicately across the outer casing.
Both men gave a sigh of relief that was echoed by the Valkyries as the all-clear was given. The locks were still protected by the plastic seals that and the case seemed locked and intact. Where the keys were, was anyone’s guess. If they were lucky, they’d been buried with the commander who wore them about his neck.
“Mist? Take Sif and strip search that bastard if you have to. Make sure that son of a bitch didn’t swallow any damn keys. If he refuses to cooperate, cut him open.”
“Wait…” A guard called out from across the room, in his hand, a small gray case. “There are six slots, but only two keys.” He added, handing the case over.
“Find the others keys.” Gil looked to Mist and Sif.
As they both took off towards the door, Senna and Kara entered the room, eyeing the pair as they fled past, and a very worrisome Gil. Before he could say anything, they’d pulled him into a warm embrace, squeezing him tight as they littered his cheeks with kisses.
“Are you alright? We felt your fear…” They asked together, such soft voices laced in concern. “Is it safe?”
“It is now. Everything has been checked and re-checked. A few missing keys, but nothing serious.” He lied, closing the small gray case. “Here, take these to the strong room in the treasury.” He smiled, holding it out for her. “Lock them in and bring me the keys.” He added with a nod of his head in the direction of the door. “I don’t want anyone having access, until we get rid of those suit case nukes.” He paused, biting at his bottom lip. “No, wait! On second thought, let’s both take one. I don’t want to take any chances.” He sighed, opening the small case to reveal the two, small silver keys attached to chains.
He put one around his neck and tucked it beneath his shirt before handing the other to Senna; worried that the bastard did in fact have the other four keys.
“Now find me Vanessa and her friend, I would have words with them again.” He eyed the guards before heading towards a large, frumpy looking chair.
He needed to sit down before he fell down, the blood rushing from his face at the thought of the trickster in possession of those keys; or Malice for that matter.
Khor sat down at the bottom of the stone steps that wound up the side of the large tower. He’d had means to climb them, but the lack of energy was more than enough to find him lounging in the warm breeze at the base of the tower. The scent of lavender filled the air, mixed with the clear, crisp sounds of fresh spring water trickling down over the rocks above. He knew fine well what waited up those steps, the trick was in getting there, for mixed in with those delicate violet-colored petals, where the wisps of white and red. The lush, large petals poked out here and there, the aroma they released creating a nice, peaceful aura in which the target would find sleep.
Native to the lands of Malibor and Malaness, it wasn’t often one found them hidden deep within the Forest of Aclara, positioned perfectly at the base of a great lady’s tower. In fact, it never happened, unless that lady’s name was Ashlyn, and this was in fact the secret keep she’d held for so long. Atop those stairs sat her own private moon pool, the waters of which he could still hear rushing down over the rocks; getting to the top, again was the tricky part. Those petals were both a bringer of peace and the harbinger of death. No one could escape their grasp, ending their lives in a deep, peaceful sleep; no one but Khor that is, and all El’Terrans like him.
For Khor, it was more like a drug, one he had learned to use having watched Lithia over the years. A hallucinogenic effect, when taken in small doses, and Khor’s blood was enough to ensure that it never fully took him over. Sure, he was all but paralyzed, and his mind was lost in some fantasy involving his long-haired lover, but he could pull himself out if he wanted to. The problem was getting him to want to. Lately, he’d rather take a dip into heaven than deal with the insanity.
Somewhere out there, was a world that no one had touched. A world left alone by the ravages of war. He wanted to find it so badly, a place without stupid laws and traditions…
“That shit is no good for you, you know that, right?” Markhon’s voice echoed through his mind, shaking back to reality and killing his high.
“Neither was the plasma bath, but I’m still here.” Khor sighed, collecting his naughty thoughts and locking them away deep inside his mental inventory. “What do you want?”
“What? I’m not allowed to visit with my cousin?”
Khor stared at him for a moment, then tilted his head to the side. “On whether you’ll be reporting my words back to my mother?”
Markhon was loyal to a fault and Khor was well aware of the little snitch’s previous encounters with Lady Euphamia. There had been a time when not even Lithia had been able to control the anger within him and the chains bit in as he struggled to get his hands around his cousin’s neck.
“I have not spoken to your mother in months.” Markhon let out with a sigh. “Not too keen on the idea of my innards becoming my outtards.” He shook his head, referring to the words Khor had used the last time the bastard had outed him.
‘One more word about me to the council, your father or anyone within ear shot of my parents…’
He’d been serious then and he was more than serious now. Markhon was kin, but that didn’t mean that Khor had to like him. In a way, the only thing keeping the air from escaping his body through holes in his chest, was a promise Khor had made to Nan. ‘We need them, all of them, Khor. Even a sniveling weasel like Markhon. He may just save your life one day.’
And look at that, he sort of had; not that Khor was going to willingly admit it. The bastard had lied and kept quiet, best he could, and had managed to keep Khor from well, joining his kin in the Void, for real. It was one thing to live in the Void, but it was quite another to be sentenced there for crimes committed while you were alive; and one thing was for sure, Khor wasn’t worthy enough for Sanctuary. Not in a million years.
He’d sinned against his family name and bore thoughts of strangling various kin. He hated his parents, who also happened to rule over everything he held dear, and his grandparents more-so, for leaving him behind when they left. He had dabbled in the dark arts and lay with numerous males and females, and that alone would get him an eternity of damnation on most worlds.
No, he’d never feel the warmth of Sanctuary’s suns, or bask in the emerald waters of the moon pools within the sacred temples; and he was okay with this. There was no place for him in his grandmother’s most holy place, she had ruled over all that was touched by the light and he bore the shadows of guilt and doubt.
“I told you that shit wasn’t good for you.” Markhon shook his head and took a seat on the step next to him.
Khor wanted to hit him, but alas the bloody fool was right. The high may have been wondrous, but the low was ten time worse. He shook and he shivered, his eyes wept as did his pores leaving a thin film of sweat across his brow.
“I’ll be fine.” Khor lied, feeling the weakness creep into his veins.
“I’ll be fine, he whispers, as death lingers above him like a veil.” Markhon choked out. “Does she know?”
“Of course she knows.” Khor laughed. “It was she who showed me how to control the anger with the essence of the flower. You wouldn’t understand.” Khor growled and rose to his feet. “All you care about is science. You have no time for the realm, nor it, you.”
“Does she know you’ve lost yourself to the mirror?” Markhon hung his head. “There are far worse things than running into a few Petals, my friend.”
“Clearly, you’ve never met a Petal.” Khor laughed and slapped his cousin on the back.
“I mean it, Khor. You could end up like Tisiphone.”
“Tisiphone is fine.” He called back as he made to climb the steps.
“Is she? Really?” His words were like whispers as Khor made his ascent, but he heard them nonetheless.
Tisiphone was strong and she needed to see what lay inside Gil’s story; as did he. There were too many unanswered questions and Khor, like Tisiphone needed answers.