Valkyrie II: Darkness Rising

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Chapter One

“How is he feeling this morning?” Tisiphone inquired as Lithia stood watch over Khor.
Her long, black locks hung down about her face and her eyes swirled with flecks of gold and gray. She looked sad, but Tisiphone felt the madness slipping away, replaced by a calm only the love for another could bring. She did love Khor, that big old brute that he was. Dark haired with a goatee to match and one hell of an attitude, now laying in a bed, flat on his back, and surrounded by all sorts of machines. Nothing at all like he’d once been, before he’d toasted himself in radioactive whatever it was.
“He will live!” She replied, leaving Tisiphone a little anxious.
“The idiot says we dock in the morning!” She grumbled and rolled her eyes, then brushed a tendril of hair from her face; noting how it had somehow lost its golden luster.
“And then a two-day trek into the forest.” Lithia looked up from Khor and smiled at her. “There have been rumors, some of which speak of an Elven clan, whose minds were lost to madness.”
“A whole clan?” Tisiphone gulped back hard, she couldn’t image there being more of them.
“They are only rumors, but there is always some truth to them.” She smiled again and returned her gaze to Khor. “Loki told me of your encounter the day before last.”
“Oh, I bet he did!” Tisiphone laughed and shook her head. “You should have seen what he made me wear.”
“White hair is common in these parts. Your black and violet streaks would have stood out in a crowd and though madness has spread, these are still, Isles of the Guild.” Lithia laughed back, but her tone took on a more serious note. “He who attacked you was lost to this madness.”
“Who?” Tisiphone replied, drawn back to the conversation at hand.
“The Elven male behind the tavern.” Lithia replied. “He wanted something from you.”
“Yeah, my body!”
“No, something more than that.” Lithia shook her head. “So many females, and to use them like that. No, I do not believe he was not looking for love.”
“Okay, so, now you’re getting all weird and creepy…” Tisiphone started, but the arrival of Markhon had them both looking over Khor in silence as he approached the bed.
“How much longer do we have to stay on this bloody ship?” He cursed and mumbled about as he moved each monitor back to where he wanted it. “Every damn wave sets these instruments off balance…”
“Hello, to you too!” Tisiphone chuckled and the male turned about fast, as if he’d not seen either of them when he’d come in.
Tall, shoulder-length black hair, stern jaw and a scowl that could knock you on your ass, the half Vampire, half, whatever his mother was…
“You should really put a cap on those thoughts!” He shook his head and she growled at him. “I’m sorry, did you want to continue on about how crazy and annoying I am?”
“You’re not crazy!” She laughed back, shaking her head.
“Well, I feel like I’m going crazy. There is nothing to do on this ship.” He groaned and flopped down on the bed across from them.
Markhon was going mad, so far away from his norm. Instead of a battleship orbiting the Null, complete with thirty-nine holo-labs, he was stuck here with her, on an old wooden frigate. He wasn’t used to being confined and spent more time on deck that anyone else.
“You should try and read something!” Tisiphone offered.
“Says the one who actually got to leave the damn boat!” He spat back and brought a pillow up over his face.
“Yes, and I had, oh, so much fun!” She shook her head and looked to Lithia. “I’ll be back later!” She smiled and made for the door.
The last thing she wanted was to deal with his mopey ass. They’d be docking soon enough and then it was on the moon pools. Khor would get better and actually be able to get up off that bed and she could get back to finding her mother. With or without the mirror, she was determined to figure this shit out.
Down one corridor and up a set of stairs, she came to her own cabin and slipped inside. It was smaller than Khor’s and didn’t have any portholes, but she cared not, for it was hers and she could try and relax for a while in silence.
“You want to talk about it?” His voice filled the room and echoed through her ears. “It’s been days, Tisiphone, you have to tell me what happened!”
“Nothing happened!” She shouted, throwing a pillow in the direction of his voice. “The Elf went mad and tried to get in my pants and the male made him stop.”
Loki was shaking his head when he came into view, then ran one hand through his dark-brown hair. “Tisk, tisk, Tisiphone. You should know better than to lie to me.”
“He saved me.”
“No he didn’t, you saved yourself.” Loki snapped back. “You used your own mind to defend yourself.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, that’s a good thing!”
“If you already knew, then why did you keep asking?”
“I wanted to hear you say it. Take some pride in your gifts, child.” The trickster chuckled. “So, tell me, was it a fireball? No, we would have seen the flames. An orb perhaps?”
“No, and no!” She shook her head and made for her bed.
“You conjured a dagger and put him out of his misery?”
“Cast a spell on him and set him to stone?”
“Holy fuck, no! Would you stop?” She pleaded with him. “I choked him for a while.” She let out with a yawn and climbed beneath the sheets. “I choked him, with my mind.” She sighed and closed her eyes.
“Wait, you what?” He inquired. “Tisiphone, what did you do to him?” He went on, but she wasn’t listening. “Tisiphone?”
“Fuck off, Loki!” She growled, growing rather impatient and annoyed with his lack of respect towards her personal space. “Go pester someone else.”
“No one else has spoken with a ranger in a hundred years, but I take you to one tiny village and you…”
“What’s a ranger?”
“Only one of the Realm’s elite. Think Ninjas, but Elven style. They’re so secretive and so selective of those they reveal themselves too….”
“Can you go, please?” She shook her head and put it back down on the pillow, though sleep was far from claiming her now.
Who was that ranger? What had he been doing there? Why had he revealed himself to her? And when was Loki going to fuck off?
“If he spoke to you, I would listen to whatever he said.” Loki frowned at her and then turned for the door. “I will be above, find me when you wish to talk some more.” He added and disappeared out into the hall.
Talk some more? She didn’t even want to talk at all, but there was something in Loki’s eyes as he spoke about the ranger, as if he almost admired them. Perhaps she would inquire more about this male, if only to thank him for saving her life. She giggled to herself as she thought about him, standing there in that long, black coat.

Morning had come sooner than she’d thought and that ranger had accomplished many incredible tasks, according to her wandering mind. She’d imagined him doing everything from rescuing children from a Nightflyer, to conquering an army with one massive blow; and in all of them, he reigned supreme. She couldn’t, of course, tell Loki this. The male was bad enough as it was, giving him any sort of ammo led to bad news.
“Did you collect your pack from the hangar bay?” Markhon called to her as she came down the walkway and took her first step of Vashian soil.
For some reason, she thought it would make her feel different, being the home of the Valkyries and all, she figured there’d be a buzz, or a tingle at least; something to tell her she was home.
“Tisiphone, did you grab your pack?” He called again and she shook her head.
“No!” She let out as her eyes set on the mountains in the distance.
So vast and covered in snow, she wondered which one harbored the Ghost Keep. If she could get there, she might be able to find things that her mother had left behind. Malice was always hiding things for later use.
“You’ll need it.” Her cousin spoke up. “There is no telling what’s hiding in that forest!” He pointed to the murky look woods with a nod of his head.
“There is nothing in there to worry about.” Lithia laughed as she passed them by and made for a path off to one side. “She is Valkyrie, this is her home.”
“Yeah, what she said!” Tisiphone added as Khor came up behind them.
“Fuck, it’s bright!”
“Well, you have been a zombie for the last little while.” Tisiphone teased, but her half-brother was a color of green that made her stomach turn.
He wasn’t doing well at all. Held together by Lithia’s charms, he was able to walk about for short periods of time. It was going to take forever to get him to the moon pools, and having to cross a good length of forest along the way meant having to make lots of stops to help him rest.
“If it’s going to be such a problem, you could carry me!” Khor grumbled and then growled at Markhon as he moved to assist him. “I got it!” He added, reaching for his pack.
“You don’t have to be such an ass!” She rolled her eyes and grabbed a pack of her own.
“Just, lead the way, okay? Sooner I get out of this sun, the better.” Khor let out and sauntered down the ramp after Lithia.
She couldn’t blame him. The shit he’d been through was more than enough to turn any normal person into a stark-raving lunatic. Khor was far from normal, being half Demon and half El’Terran, his strength, speed and stamina were already way above average, but add in the fact that he’d spent a good chunk of his life with Lithia, Tisiphone was sure there were some secret gifts hidden away for future use.
“You coming?” Markhon called to her, drawing her back to reality.
“Uh, yeah!” She replied, swinging her pack onto her back. “You got everything?” She added, noting the added luggage he sported as he accompanied her down the ramp.
“Most of it.” He chuckled, setting his over-sized pack on the ground while he tied his shoulder-length, dark-brown hair, back from his face.
He looked so much like his father, Markus, there was no hiding the fact that he was Vampire. His demeanor, and those eyes, blacker than night and shimmering with space-dust, were the only things to speak of his maternal side.
“Just don’t get lost!”

“I know, I know. You think I want Malona gloating over some rescue mission, because of me?” He shook his head. “Just glad she’s on a whole other planet.” He added with a grin.
“Aw, does your sister pick on you?” She teased, following the trail that both Lithia and Khor had disappeared down.
“Does Khor pick on you?”
“When I let him!” She laughed, holding a branch out of the way for him. “Come on, we should catch up!”

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