The God of Mischief hadn’t gone very far, back then, or now. Sitting atop a tree with a clear view of Seldan, he remembered looking down upon Rihmsjalier and all it had to offer. He had always grudgingly admired them for their honesty and their purity of spirit. No matter what obstacles were put in their way they found a way to overcome them; even Malice. Then this male appeared out of the blue, one who seemed to embrace all of those qualities; and better yet, he was realistic, blunt, and to the point. If anyone could have saved Malice, it would have been Gil. Loki shook his head as the memories rolled on, past the cell and the mountain top he’d sat upon, to the night they all rescued her from the darkness. All of them, working together…
Many had tried and many had failed; but here was this Human male, part Valkyrie no less, and the determination inside him would leave Loki in awe on many occasions to come. It didn’t hurt that Gil was polite, knowing his place in the order of things, unlike Loki, who still believed he would rule over all of Asgard one day. It was his destiny...
“You still believe that?” Her voice floated in like a leaf on the wind leaving Loki shuddering as she appeared before him.
“I have no time for riddles, Lithia.”
“And I have no riddles to tell.” Her lips parted in a smile. “We all want the same thing, Loki.”
“You want to rule the world too?” He laughed, trying not to gawk at how she floated about amidst the tree tops.
“To be loved, you fool. We all have a need to be loved, to be recognized by someone special.” She laughed. “You wished for it to be Malice, but the darkness in her heart would never allow her to love the light in your own.”
“You have no idea what you are talking about.” Loki grumbled and shook his head, dropping from his tree branch to the forest floor below. “There is no light left in these old bones.”
“Do you know why they love him?” Lithia inquired, causing an image of Gil in his Valkyrie armor to flash before Loki’s eyes.
“Because he helped return Malice from the dark ones?” Loki sighed and closed his eyes.
“He was a simple man with strong ambitions and a caring heart, not unlike yourself. The only difference is he had joined the Valkyries, and you despised them.”
“They despised me.” Loki shouted as he wove through the trees. “I lived with them, dined with them, but I was never allowed to be one of them.”
“Perhaps if they had, it would have been you who brought life to such an elaborate deception?”
“No!” Loki hung his head. “It is because I lived with them, because I trained with them, that I did not fit in. I was too much like them to be special in their eyes. Not like Gil Swanson anyway. He was their kind of special with his keen intellect, which differed in a way due to his Human upbringing. His mind was, I mean is, unique. It made him a dangerous man to cross then, and I can only imagine what it is like now, having lived with...”
“You miss her.” Lithia inquired as Loki turned away. “But, do you miss the old Malice, or the new?”
“The night I watched her slaughter that pig, thinking it was me, was the night I decided that the best course of action would be to help Gil and his companions rid the world of the darkness inside her. I didn’t know then that it had been a rouse, but, Asgard was always meant to be mine. It’s why Malice took Odin and the others, so that the people would fall under my rule. She was to stand at my side and life would be perfect, but not with darkness ruling over her and my name at the top her list. If she had not come for me that night, it would have been another.”
“Because you stopped them.” Lithia smiled. “You helped Marena and the Shak’Morikai bring Shadows in to replace them.”
“How did you know about that?” Loki eyed her up and down.
True, Lithia was said to harbor great gifts, but that was a memory even he hadn’t dared to dredge up. He’d lost Malice because of that. With the darkness gone, she’d gone back to her old life, which didn’t include basking in Loki’s lap of luxury. She’d barely remembered who he was at first…
“There is a lot that you do not know about me and I for one would prefer to keep my past where it is, but I can tell you, that your help was just as important in freeing Malice, as Gil’s was.”
“Hardly.” Loki huffed and slouched his shoulders as he slid down a nearby trunk.
’I need to go see Alberich. He’ll have something that I can use.’ His own voice filled the air around him. “Was it not you who made for the forge? Was it not you who delivered the locket to Marena?”
Loki laughed hard as he thought about that night. It had been so diabolically simple and he’d had to admit, he’d been impressed. Using Ashe to spur the mistrust within him had been smart. He’d left Rihmsjalier for Misthaven that night, in hopes of talking an old friend into making him one last trinket…
“You see? Without that locket, Marena never would have believed Malice would be safe with us. With that locket came the promise she needed; a promise forged by your mind.”
“I just hope Tisiphone sees it that way when she wakes up.” Loki grumbled and closed his eyes.
Gil, Sif, Ashe, and Mist were sharing a bottle of Shimmer wine when Rob and General Swift knocked on the door.
“Looks like everyone survived.” Freya smiled.
“Is it too much to hope for, that Loki and Malice will kill each other?” Gil mused, which caused a silence amongst the Valkyries.
“In an indirect confrontation, my money would be on Loki. He is craftier. In a direct, physical, one on one confrontation, it would be too close to call.” Mist replied in a thoughtful tone.
From the expressions on everyone’s faces, it appeared that they all agreed with Mist. It had seemed a good strategy at first, getting their enemies focused on fighting each other, but now he wasn’t so sure. At least for the time being Loki was gone and they could focus on their true enemy.
They had a mountain fortress to storm. It was time to start the most perilous part of their journey and Gil looked around. Would they survive? All of these people had played a part in recent events and he couldn’t imagine going on without them. If even one of them fell to the darkened madness of Malice…
The Valkyries sensed his unease as he went to the window, even though he tried to mask his thoughts, the dream he’d had of the firefight, the one in which Mist and Sif… it had all been so very real, and still remained a possibility. Gil was so deep in thought; he was startled by his mother’s sudden presence.
“Do not worry so much about the future, my son. You have done such a great job of leading these people already, even Mist is impressed.” She smiled at him and kissed his forehead.
“I have been through many battles, and yet I can’t help but be concerned over this one. I have gained so much more than I ever dreamed possible. I don’t want to lose any of them, but the soldier in me knows that some are going to die. I don’t know what I would do if the unthinkable happened.” Gil tried to smile, but in his mind’s eye could see blood on each of their faces.
Brunhilde thought it best to change the subject or risk losing Gil in the moment. “If you love them so much why have you not asked to be bonded with Sif and Mist?”
Blunt and to the point. A bonding was of two souls, the Valkyrie equivalent to marriage; although it was far more intimate than any ceremony. In all honesty, he’d never thought about it, and in all reality, he was just learning of such things. How could she expect him to know everything? Did the others also think him wiser than the rest?
“So, you have not asked them.” She smiled and shook her head. “My son, you are a strange one.”
He had not thought about it before, but he was now. “What if they said no?” He let out, his heart on his sleeve as his mother sighed.
“Then they would have to be the greatest fools in creation. You have a point about the future, you never know what will happen. So, I suggest you live for today, and let the future take care of itself.”
“I couldn’t….” He paused a moment and looked across the room.
Or perhaps he could? Look at all that had happened so far, meeting Mist and finding out he was Valkyrie, leading troops across the lands and making ready for war. Who was to say he couldn’t have a little romance on the side; but was this the time, or the place to be thinking those things?
“If not now, then when?” His mother frowned and nodded her head towards the pair who stood planning their attack. “Look at them. Look at what you have done for them. They were lost and without guidance. They wanted so badly to fight, but they lacked someone to lead them. That someone was you, my son. Mist went out and she found, you. She knew what she wanted, what she needed, are you so blind, you cannot do the same?”
Well, when he looked at it like that…
“And what if they think it wrong at a time like this?”
“What if you waste all your time worrying, instead of doing?” She laughed and kissed him again. “You are their leader, but you are also their lover and a Valkyrie must be prepared on all fronts, including that which holds the key to keeping her heart beating.”
Gil nodded in agreement, not knowing much else he could do. She was right, plain and simple. They had already announced their love, all that was left was to make it official; but he had never, not once imagined himself a married man, let alone to two magnificent females. With a quick smiled to his mother, he left her at the window and finding his females, he took both of them by the hands. There was a collective gasp as he knelt before the pair and Sif could not contain herself.
“What is this now?” She looked at Gil, and then at Mist. “We have no time for chivalry.” She added then looked at Brunhilde, “Do we?”
“I humbly do ask to be bound, both body and soul to you, Mist and Sif. Time is short and the future uncertain. If nothing else, I wish to spend the rest of my days with you both at my side.” He bowed his head and conjured a set of rings, woven from silver strands, to sit upon their fingers.
That didn’t sound like him at all. More like something out of a bad romance novel. He took a deep breath and looked up to find the whole room was dead silent and every eye was transfixed on the three of them. Mist smiled and bowed her head, accepting his trinket, and Sif jumped into his lap, knocking them both over onto the floor.
“I guess I can take that as a yes?”
“We would be honored.” Mist replied for both of them and Sif covered his face in kisses.
“Oh Gods, forever yes.” She giggled and nuzzled into his neck before offering a hand to rise. “I mean, what she said. Together, we can take on any challenge, it’s time to bend fate and make it give us what we desire.” Sif tried to compose herself, but her grin could be seen a mile away. “But, when?”
“There is no time like the present, if you are sure.” Freya’s voice was heard above all and she bowed her head to offer her blessing.
“Wait, isn’t there supposed to be some big shindig?” Gil let out in a moment of disbelief; this was happening now?
“Would you like a big ceremony? We could arrange…”
“Later.” He grinned as Mist leaned in for a kiss.
“Very well.” Freya beamed and a nimbus of light surrounded the trio.
A great surge of magic went through him as their souls intertwined. The melody played on in his thoughts as their bodies embraced and the warmth took over. He opened his eyes for but a second, hoping to catch a glimpse of their beauty and in that moment, he found paradise.
“My bards are going to enjoy writing about this epic tale.” Alara could be heard in the background. “We will need a large enough venue for all the wedding guests.”
“We would be honored if you joined the wedding party.” Mist smiled at the Elven beauty.
“I shall set out word, right away. It will be the grandest party Rihmsjalier has seen yet.” Vanessa giggled and made for the stairs with Morgan in tow.
“Or we could party now.” Gil mumbled as the city lit up in a stir.
“What ever happened to the guy who told me that, and I quote, I don’t want to marry because there is a good chance that I won’t come back?” Morant teased as he approached and hugged Gil close.
“Things change” Gil sighed as his friend pulled away. “Everyone, deep down inside, needs to be loved.” He teased back. “But no really, I learned more coming here than I ever thought possible. The wonder of this day will never be forgotten, nor the wisdom received.”
“She married him of course.” Her voice was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard, and the closer he got the sweeter it sounded.
“Tell me more.” Another let out and Khor’s mind turned sour.
What the hell was he doing in there? What did he think he could accomplish? When was he…
“Khor?” She let out in surprise. “Oh, I am so glad you’re alright.”
“Me? You’re glad I’m alright?” He choked out. “I wasn’t the one who was konked out for a week.”
“Uh, you kind of, were…” Markhon added as he rose from a chair across the room.
“Shut it.” Khor growled at him, but never took his eyes off his sister. “Are you alright?”
“I am fine, thanks to Navina.” Tisiphone smiled and Khor scanned the room, but did not find the female.
“Navina was here?”
“More like, she was in there.” Tisiphone nodded to the moon pool. “She helped me find my way back.”
“She is an Oracle.” Loki chuckled. “I’m just glad she got you out, after, you witnessed my innocence unveiled.”
“You call it innocent, I call it something else.” Tisiphone glared at him. “And why did it take so long for you to create that amulet?”
“How do you know about the amulet?” Loki eyed her hard. “That does not happen for a while yet.”
“I have seen things you can’t imagine, Loki.” She paused as his jaw dropped open. “I know, it’s hard to believe, but there are things I know, that you do not.”
“Your mother had red hair.”
“Wait, what?” Loki muttered.
It was common knowledge that Loki was a Demi-God, but which God had sired him and who his mother had been was a mystery even to him. “I saw her face. She held you in her arms and cried the day your world fell, then she sent you on your way, to a safer place…”
“Enough, I don’t care about my mother.”
“But you do.” Tisiphone grinned. “Another thing I know that you will not accept.”
“Okay, so when did normal Tisi turn into psycho Tisi?” He let out and turned to Khor. “Oh right, just as you walked in.”
“I don’t know, I kind of like her this way.” Khor laughed and crossed his arms over his chest.
“That is enough, Tisiphone.” Lithia called out as she entered the room, and Tisiphone closed her eyes and shook her head. “It is dangerous to linger in the fade.”
“I was only watching the story.” Tisiphone sighed.
“You must stick to Gil’s story for now.” Lithia warned, “If you wander off the path laid out for you, not even Navina can bring you back.”
“Fine.” Tisiphone grumbled and rose from the bed. “I’m hungry.”
As she roamed about the room, Khor turned to Lithia. “What is the fade?”
“The space between space, a time between time when one can watch both then and now at once.” Lithia shook her head. “She had drawn too close to the fade and Navina was lucky to have found her. She has set out a path for Tisiphone to follow, in hopes she will not get sucked in again.”
“Why let her see the story at all?”
“We have passed the time in which we can ignore this matter. Malice and the others have not yet returned and even Sanctuary and the Null begin to stir in their absence.” Lithia tried to explain. “We will not be able to hold them off for long. Your mother and father will demand answers.”
“We do not have answers to give them.” Khor growled.
“Which is why Tisiphone must continue her search, if only to provide those answers.” Lithia hung her head, but Khor was quick to lift her chin.
“You have done so much for me and mine, what can I do to ease your worries?” He inquired with a smile.
“Just, be safe. We tread into darkness.” She smiled back as he kissed her, leaving all in the room speechless.
“I knew it.” Loki chuckled. “You two are doing the nasty.”
“I will…” Khor started to pull away but Lithia stopped him, her lips against his once more coaxing him into surrender.
“Oh, I love parties.” Tisiphone grinned, hey eyes fogging over as she returned to the story…