And now the male had Dragon minis, was there anything the son of the Valkyries didn’t have? Loki grumbled as the other sat there, entranced by the story at hand, but not once did it speak of his quest towards Misthaven, or the trouble he would have once inside. Mist’s home had not been lightly guarded and the way in to the forge was ripe with peril. The traps, the cliffs, the hidden entrances, it had been years since he’d wandered the great halls beneath Misthaven…
“Are you going to wallow in your own self-pity all night?” She asked, sitting up in her chair as the others remained locked in to the tale.
“How…” He paused. “How are you doing that?” He pointed to Khor and Markhon. “Where is Lithia?”
“She too had a vision to seek out, though not here.” Tisiphone replied.
“Can you not talk like that, please?” Loki shuddered.
“I’m sorry, it’s hard to remember where I am…”
“Then stop, right now. Don’t lose yourself to the madness a second time.” Loki pleaded with her.
“Relax, I am well aware of the complications, but Navina has helped me.” Tisiphone smiled. “She understands how important this is to me, to all of us.”
“Important or not…” He paused again, “It scares me.”
“Good, that means you’re alive, Loki. The threat is very real and there is no running from it anymore. I have to do this.”
“No, we have to do this.” He corrected her. “All of us.”
“I am glad you think so.” Lithia’s voice echoed in his mind as she entered the room. “For there is something I must ask you to do.”
“And what is that?” Loki cocked a brow as he turned to face her.
“You must go to Ghost Mountain and find Ashe….”
“Whoa, whoa, wait just a minute. The last time I had anything to do with her, she pretended to gut me like a pig; and that’s no joke.” Loki shook his head and crossed his arms. “She took great pride in doing so, too. Not happening.”
“I remember a time in which you cared for her.”
“That was a long time ago.”
“I do not think she will not harm you, Loki. She knows the lengths you went to…”
“You’re serious about this? You want me to go see Ashe?”
“How else are we to get into Ghost Mountain without alerting my father?” Tisiphone inquired with a grin.
“Why not just tell him what the hell is going on?” Loki grumbled.
“The Verse is not ready for such a wrath.” Lithia hung her head.
“Nyx is a puppy…” Loki started, but Tisiphone shook her head.
“She means Euphamia.” She laughed. “My mother was not a replacement for my step-mother, or vice-versa, they were as one, with or without my father. She would rip the Verse to shreds if she knew what was happening.”
“Let us hope that does not happen. For now, Loki, you must go to Ghost Mountain and speak with Ashe. Tell her that we seek passage to Malaness.” Lithia bowed her head. “No one must know.”
“And I am to do this alone?”
“I will go with you.” Markhon cut in, no longer entranced by the story.
“Anyone else?” Loki called out, but whether Khor was still stuck in play mode, or he was just ignoring the trickster, he remained quiet.
“I can talk to Ashe, if the pansy is too afraid.” Markhon chuckled, only to receive a look from Loki.
“This, pansy, just wants some legitimate back-up, in case Ashe decides to replay old games.”
“And you think Khor will back you up?” Markhon howled, “Seriously now, I can hold my own. I did partake in battle simulations with the others at the academy.”
“Then it is settled. You and Loki will make for Ghost Mountain, send word when it is safe to follow.” Tisiphone smiled. “We, shall continue watching the story, perhaps we will find something useful.”
“It should not be long now, a few months perhaps, before they finally coax your mother from the darkness.” Lithia assured her, or tried to.
“There is far more than just her return to the light, I want to know it all, right up to my earliest memory, sitting on my grandfather’s lap as he listened to the issues of the Null.”
“That is a long time to be tied to the fade, Tisiphone.” Lithia warned her.
“Something happened to my mother and if it takes me an eternity in the fade to figure it out, then so be it. How am I supposed to lead the people, if I can’t…” Her voice gave way to grief. “I must learn all I can.”
“You will find her, Tisiphone.” Lithia held her close. “Of this, I am sure.”
Tamar and Celen led the Valkyries across the glade to a cave, just big enough for them to stand in. There must have been over a hundred of the small Dragons flying in and out in circular patterns and Gil nearly gave himself whiplash trying to watch them all. Near the back wall in a nest of straw and down, lay a larger creature, her dark color fading to silver and the irises of her eyes clouded over with fog.
“Hello, old friend.” Brunhilde called out. “I have someone I want you to meet.”
The silver tinged head came up, looked towards the ceiling and then launched herself into the air, using Brunhilde’s voice as a guide. She homed in on the tones and made for her shoulder, nestling gently beneath his mother’s hair.
“Mariah, this is my son.” Brunhilde smiled and Gil realized this garden had been named for her.
Mariah’s head turned towards Gil, sensing him for what seemed like the first time. She reached out with her forepaws running them over his face, memorizing each wrinkle, each curve.
“So, the Gods have been kind enough to let me see the Son returned and the prophecy fulfilled.” She chuckled. “He has a strong face, a good face; he even has your nose, Brunhilde.”
“He may bear my nose, but he is the spitting image of his father.” His mother replied. “He too, was both strong and handsome.”
“What is this?” Mariah let out with a gasp, her hands covering his eyes.
Gil felt a small trickle of power ripple through him, from the bottoms of his feet to the backs of his very eyes, the eyes she covered with her hands. From his eyes to her fingers, the soft blue glow emanated up her arms and enveloped her whole body. She cried out once and threw her head back, only to return her gaze upon Gil; her irises clear and shining with a fierce blue glaze.
“By the Gods…” She mumbled, standing in surprise for a moment as she saw his smile for the first time. “Thank you, great sir, for lifting the darkness from both my eyes, and this precious land.” She was grinning from ear to ear. “Brunhild, you said nothing about his ability to heal.” She mentioned in jest.
“There are many things we do not know about him, that which we do, continues to amaze me, daily.” His mother chimed in, a very proud smile upon her face.
“Thank you, oh, thank you!” Mariah cried out again, and was joined by hundreds of others like herself, amassing a rainbow of color beneath a darkened ceiling.
“You’re most welcome, Mariah, though don’t ask me how I did it. I thought it unkind for such a gentle soul to go without the beauty that surrounded her.” He smiled and bowed his head. “As for the lands, I haven’t even started yet.”
“Oh poo, I have heard of what you have done already, from the first moment you arrived you have been nothing but a pain in the collective asses of darkness.”
“Really, it was nothing.” He tried to assure her, but the female Dragon was having none of it and continued to list off his achievements.
“So far, you have dropped rocks from the heavens to quash her minions and defend Rihmsjalier. My personal favorite, I might add. You have blown holes in her Trolls, fried a field full of Goblins and returned an egg to its rightful owner. That alone, my good sir, is worth its weight in gold.” She laughed, motioning towards the door to her cave. “You remember Cybelle?”
“Of course.” He chuckled and bowed his head, only to watch as she unfolded her cloak to reveal a child covered in scales.
“Gil, come, meet your namesake.” Cybelle smiled and his mouth all but hit the floor.
“That, is the egg?” He mumbled.
“That, was in the egg.” Mist laughed.
“But that, that was mere weeks ago…” He was still in shock as Cybelle brought the child forward.
“He is just now remembering the art of transformation.” Cybelle told him as she held the young male up for him to see.
“Dragons are born with the genetic memories of their ancestors, which is why we are hunted, or used as weapons.” She wrapped her cloak about the child to keep him warm, though left his face and arms free.
Gil’s stared at the child for a moment, watching the scales fade away to reveal the pink little face of a human male child. “Hey, you. Welcome to the big, wild world, little fella.”
Hearing an unfamiliar voice, the child opened his eyes and Gil was amazed at the copper-colored irises set against a blanket of black. He smiled and rubbed at his eyes, changing them from copper to blue, then smiled again and giggled. The sound filled Gil’s heart and set all those in the cave to oohs and awes.
“Now, old Gil, that’s me, and your mom here, we got some work to do.” He chuckled as the child grabbed hold of his finger. “Yes, we do, but I promise to bring her back in the same condition I found her; if not better.” He chuckled again. “That’s right. We’re going to save the world.” With that said, he kissed his index finger, wiped a tear of joy off his cheek, and pressed his fingertip to the child’s forehead. “You will be safe here. Yes you will, and when I am done, the whole Verse will be a safe place for you to play.”
He couldn’t believe it. The egg had become a child, in just weeks, and that child had completely stolen his heart, making it ache for one of his own. No, he couldn’t think of that now, though he longed to see Mist and Sif carrying his sons and daughters in their arms as Cybelle did now with little Gil.
“So, you have done nothing yet, hmmm?” Mariah teased, landing soflty on his shoulder. “With you leading us to victory, we know we have a future to look forward to. With the Dark Queen came despair. In you, lies our hope of finally having more than this garden, but a real home. Kill the darkness and heal the land, Gil, son of the Valkyries, then your saga will be ready for that which you seek most to claim.” Mariah said softly as she kissed the baby’s forehead in the same place Gil had touched. “Blessed by a Dragon and a Valkyrie, this child is destined for greatness.” She laughed and Cybelle held him up high.
“Hopefully, Mariah, the child will never know warfare. At least that’s my dream.” Gil replied, finger still held in the child’s grasp.
It was a good feeling, knowing that there was a chance for a peaceful life for not only this child, but all the children of the Realms, but off in the distance, outside the cave, came another voice, feminine and filled with arrogance.
“If there is to be no more war, then what is the First of the Einherjar to do?”
“Hippolyte? What troubles you so?” Mist called out to the figure who now stepped out of the shadows.
White hair that hung in thick, long braids and armor to rival Mist’s own, but none of that mattered when compared to the set of piecing blue eyes that screamed of rage. Hippolyte was said to have the fastest hands the Valkyries had ever known. She’d face many battles and had turned down the rite of ascension, twice, she wanted nothing more than to lead the Einherjar to the fields and fill the ranks with the worthiest of souls. What would she, and others like her do, when nothing but peace surrounded them?
She moved quickly, reaching Gil’s side and pulling a single, razor-sharp blade from her hair in a blink of an eye, she lay it against his throat.
The sound of a gun cocking could be heard. “Put it down, now!” Rob pointed his FAL at the female’s head.
Gil never moved, not even a flinch, though he dared not swallow either for fear the blade would pierce his skin if he did. The female moved closer, whispering in his ear.
“Very good, you do not frighten easily.” She purred, then turned her baleful gaze on his partner. “Do you really think that bullet will hit me, before my blade drains him dry?”
“Stand down, Hippolyte, now!” Mist ordered as she swept in between the warrior and Gil.
“Why do they always have to ruin my fun.” Hippolyte purred and gave Gil a wink, grinning lecherously, as she turned away.
Fun? She’d just about sliced his throat. If that was her idea of fun, he’d stay home that day, thank you and good-bye. He was out. That, was just insane. She was insane. Why was she an Einherjar, and the First of them, too?
Gil muttered away, his attention split between the feisty female, and the trail before him. This was supposed to be a party, right?
“You know I had to test him. I would not have hurt him…much.” She continued in a frosty voice that left him with shivers. “You will do, young one. You will do quite well.”
Mist, Sif and Rob were immediately at his side, glaring at the female who laughed as she returned the blade to her hair. “That was not necessary, Hippolyte.” Sif sneered at her.
“She is not going to just hand over her head.” The female continued to laugh. “This is Malice we are talking about; he will need to be ready on all fronts, even those that seem pleasant and full of joy. Malice could attack at any moment, posing as any one of us.”
“Not in here. The gardens are protected.” Mist shook her head, but it got Gil to thinking again.
“And, uh, my lady, would you care to help us?” He asked softly, for it was better to keep her kind close.
Hippolyte stopped, then turned slowly, searching his eyes. Under her intense scrutiny he couldn’t help but feel a bit awed, and yet he stood his ground. Like the Dragon on Alura’s shoulder, she too was ancient, and being the first usually meant something special.
“I think I could be persuaded to help, but today is not the day, enjoy their company as I would, were they not so upset with me.” She looked behind him and took her hand from his shoulder. “Good-bye for now.” She smiled.
Gil watched as she stalked away and his Valkyrie memory kicked in. Hippolyte was the first of the Einherjar. One of the greatest warriors of her age. She had terrorized the Greek World for ten years before the cowards had sent one of their mightiest armies against her. She had survived the massacre of her people, her home in ruins; all she had left was her vengeance. She was a true Angel of Death.