Dressed in Elven fashion, that left little to the imagination, Mist and Sif stood before him, ready to greet their guests as the feast began. They led him to the head of their table, covered in Sprites that danced among the petals, and once he was seated, he looked out over them all; a gasp escaping his lips at the sight. It seemed all of Rihmsjalier had arrived to celebrate this special occasion and not one seemed to care that the warrior, Hippolyte, walked among them. They ruckus she had caused had been blown away by the winds, but he hated to admit it, she made him nervous.
She stood off to his left, talking with and General Swift. All seemed impressed with this legendary female, as if she hadn’t held a blade to his throat. Hippolyte caught him looking, raised her glass to him and smiled slowly, to which he replied in kind.
‘I can see the attraction.’ Mist’s voice was in his mind. ‘I rather like her, in her more lucid moments.’ She added and motioned her over.
Sif laughed at his wide-eyed reaction. ‘She will not eat you; I hope.’
Hippolyte glided over, eyes moving constantly as if looking for threats. Rob stiffened slightly as she approached and Senna smiled slightly as she put a warning hand on his arm, shaking her head.
“Your friend does not like me, but then, a lot of the younger Einherjar do not care for my ways.” She smiled as she took a seat beside them.
“That might have something to do with that arrogant swagger that you project.” Gil replied, in the nicest way possible.
“Arrogant?” She started chuckling. “Artemis be praised, an honest soul!”
“Did you expect anything less?” Sif asked with a crook of her right eyebrow.
“Well, when you have lived as long as I have, you learn to expect things from certain people. After the Valkyrie Wars, it has become tiresome to say the least, but this was a pleasant surprise.” Hippolyte laughed. “Not all can be so, forgiving.”
Mist’s eyes narrowed, she was angry now. She hid it well, but Gil had felt the momentary spike of emotion, and apparently, so too had Sif. Unbidden, his mind linked to what he liked to call the Valkyrie memory bank, and he started looking for a reference to this conflict. All he found were mentions of a war that pre-dated even Rihmsjalier, a time before the Valkyries had come to Asgard.
How many of them had existed at that time, a handful, maybe? This had been something big and it predated the Aesir? Whatever had happened, it was clear that Mist still remembered it, and it made her very angry. Gil wanted to know more, but here and now, was not the place to discuss it.
The female’s gaze was on the Valkyrie. She knew she had stepped out of line, and back pedaled quickly.
“It was a very long time ago, so long ago, that almost no one remembers.” She smiled and bowed her head, lifting her drink to her lips.
“Let us keep it that way. We need their focus to stay on Malice, not fighting amongst ourselves.”
“Of course.” She bowed her head again.
“See, that wasn’t so hard.” Gil replied which brought forced chuckles from everyone at the table. “Now, this here is a party and I’m told the feasting should last all day, so please, enjoy yourselves.”
From then on, as the day progressed, those that weren’t resting went out in the courtyard to participate in the festivities. There was a diving competition going on in the pond, a wrestling match which held the attention of many, a few boxing events and even some quarterstaff fighting. Since the falls of the Goblins had been announced, many of the small landowners had come back and had brought produce, even livestock to sell. It had become quite the faire in Gil’s eyes, but there was something missing.
He wanted to partake in the fun and games, but his lower region wanted some fun and games of its own. He wouldn’t mind some R and R, if he could only escape all the preying eyes. Unfortunately, the party had not yet ended and Gil was approached by even more well-wishers; one of which was Alura.
She brought with her a bow, along with the one her mother had had made for Gil. Of Elven design and light as a feather, he was quite proud of that bow, and handing it to him, he conjured two quivers filled with arrows. If he could not fuck his females, he would take his frustrations out elsewhere, perhaps win himself some coin with his bow.
Gil stared at the target and stepped off three hundred paces, where he drew a line in the dirt for everyone to shoot from. The air was calm so this contest was all about aim. If he calculated it all properly, he would win this for sure. There were twenty contestants and the lineup included some very interesting people. The Druidess, Azaloune, had a compound bow similar to the one he held in his hand. Hippolyte held a bow made out of an animal’s horn and the bloody thing stood damn near to her shoulder. Even Mist and Sif had bows in their hands and he motioned to Alura to take her place. This was going to be fun.
“Ladies first.” Gil smiled. “I’ll be over here, with my own ladies.” He grinned and moved to the side.
“We are your wives now and you may address us as such.” Mist smiled back and kissed his cheek. “In fact, I would prefer it.” She added with a grin, then turned her focus back to Alura. “You know, husband, that Alura has been shooting a bow since she first started walking.” Mist observed his surprise and awe in her handling of the bow.
Alura drew the arrow from the quiver, knocked it, and let loose without any pause. The arrow whined as it flew across the distance hitting the target just off center.
“Bloody hell.” She grumbled as she stepped back to make room for the next contestant, scolding herself for dropping her elbow too soon.
“After you, my wife.” Gil replied as he beckoned her to move forward. “I will admire the view.”
And so he did as Mist approached the line he’d etched in the dirt and raised her bow to her cheek. Mist’s shot hit the target, dead center, then bowed her head in appreciation of the cheers and applause.
“Nice shootin, Tiger.” He teased and felt the sting of her hand as she slapped his butt. “Owe!” He grumbled rubbing his cheek as she stood next to Alura.
It was his turn, and when he got to the line his entire focus was on a single point in space, that being the end of Mist’s arrow. Taking a deep breath, he pulled an arrow from his quiver, nocked it, drew the arrow back to his cheek and let it fly. The arrow hit the target less than a heartbeat later, splitting Mist’s arrow down the middle.
He turned with a grin and bowed to Sif. “Your turn, wife.”
“Oh, shut up. How am I going to beat that?” She groaned. “You are serious?”
The crowd roared with laughter at their antics. “But of course, my love.” He replied, then mouthed to Rob, no way, no way.
“You might be sleeping alone on your wedding night after that, buster.” Robert teased and raised his mug of ale high above is head.
“Don’t give them any ideas, Rob.”
“We have enough of our own.” Mist smirked, which caused a riot of laughter, the loudest of all being Gil.
Once the crowd quieted Sif took her turn, the shot hit right beside his and Mist’s, and there were now four arrows in a cluster that one could cover with a single hand.
“Nice shot, Sif.” Gil beamed proudly as Azaloune stood forth to take her turn. She frowned at the target, eyeing at the four arrows.
“You do not make things easy, do you?” She sighed and drew the arrow to her cheek and loosed.
Her arrow split Alura’s as Gil’s had done to Mists, making the next shooters task almost impossible and filling the garden with an uproar of cheers and whistles.
The next archer was none other than Hippolyte, and without any preamble, she walked up to the line, turned around and walked another hundred paces back, twisted her body and shot backwards. No sooner had she let loose, the arrow hit the target with such an impact that it blew the hay bale apart. Everyone covered their heads as bits of wood, small rocks and hay rained down around them. It was bloody magnificent and led Gil to wondering again about the Valkyrie Wars.
“I guess she won.” He grinned at Hippolyte and received several disgruntled looks; but in the end, no one said a word as he declared her the victor.
It seemed a good enough solution to him as Mist and Sif laughed, though Alura looked a little disappointed. “You’ll get them next time, champ.” He gave the young Elf a hug and felt her arms wrap around his waist.
“Hippolyte sounds like a total bitch.” Tisiphone grumbled, sitting back in her chair in front of the fire. “I’m surprised Aunt Mist didn’t nail her to a wall.”
“Despite what the Valkyries thought of her, she was a mighty warrior. Even now, she fights beyond the outer rim and will hopefully bring an end to the empire in the outer galaxies.” Lithia smiled.
“In which universe?” Tisiphone laughed. “I know there are at least three and the empire tries to claim them all.”
“In whichever one she is needed.” Khor shook his head, stretching out on the lounger before her. “I’ve heard the stories too.” He snickered and pulled a flask from his jacket pocket.
“And which one is it, smartass?”
“You’re setting your sights a little high. First Marena and the Shak’Morikai, and now Hippolyte?” Khor shrugged, “Don’t you think these people would already know your mother was in trouble?”
“The Shak’Morikai answer only to Marwolaeth.” Lithia reminded her. “You, are not Marwolaeth, nor are you Malice.”
“I am well aware of their moods, and their thoughts on the permanent joining of their mistress to my mother, but she is my mother and they cannot deny my blood.”
“No, they cannot, nor would they deny themselves a chance for vengeance.” Lithia laughed. “It is said when they learned of their Lord’s reason, that they helped Marena free Malice and departed to a world away from worlds.” Lithia sighed. “Not even your mother dared call them out of their hiding.”
“They had been betrayed by a master she bid them to call their own. I remember that story.” Tisiphone sighed. She felt at fault for his actions, and her own. She’d left them there to rejoin their kin.”
“So, you see, Tisiphone, searching out the Shak’Morikai may not be as wise, or as easy as you think.”
“They were her assassins, Lithia.”
“They were Marwolaeth’s, and before that, they were T’syphony’s…” Lithia drew back in fear, her hand covering her mouth as if shed said too much.
“There was another Tisiphone?” She let out.
“No, there was not.” Khor cut in, but Tisiphone glared at him.
“You knew about her?”
“I knew of her, but I didn’t know she was their original leader.” He eyed Lithia as Tisiphone did.
“She did not lead them, she trained them, but that is beside the point. She is gone from this Verse and because of it, so to, I fear, are the Shak’Morikai.”
“If you know more, then you must tell us.” Tisiphone eyed the female.
“What I know is rumor, and therefor nothing at all. It is best you continue to watch the story, for only then will we learn the truth.” Lithia smiled. “You are not the only one who needs to learn from the past, to prepare for the future.”
A thirsty Gil made his way back to the ale tent, and then to the pond to watch the latest round of diving for gold coins. Whoever collected the most before surfacing for air was the winner, and so far, it had been three minutes and forty-two seconds since they’d gone under.
As he watched, he heard the flutter of wings and turned to find Mariah and Celen landing on his shoulders. “Well now, how can I help you two?”
“We want to help you in your struggle against Malice. We want to lessen the debt that we owe, though the Valkyries have done so much, I do not think it possible. Still, we must try.” Mariah wound her tail around his neck.
“I’m not aware that you owe the Valkyries, or myself, anything.” He smiled and thought for a moment. “I could use a few of you to scout ahead of the rescue? But, do you understand the risks?”
Mariah looked thoughtful for a moment, then replied. “She destroyed our homes. That creature, and the darkness within her, is a menace to everyone.”
“And you, Celen?” He turned to her now. “What say you?”
“ Life is a risk; without it, you have nothing.”
“Well, I promise to do what I can, but everywhere I look, there seems to be more to this story than I ever could’ve imagined.” He sighed, he had to be honest.
“There has been much pain caused by this tragedy, and yet, good things have come from the horrors, too. Remember that Mist loves you, she did what she thought was right at the time, and again, when she set out to find you, we now stand a chance, my boy.”
“You’re speaking of the Valkyrie Wars?” He asked with a raised brow. “Do you know what happened?”
“Oh, now that is not my story to tell. Mist will speak of it when she is ready. Worry not, for all will be set right, I can feel it.”
Gil nodded as he saw Mariah’s face fall and the rise again, and he kissed the dear old beast on the forehead which caused her to giggle. Mist and Sif came to collect him, the ceremonial dinner feast was about to begin.
Seated between his two wives, he forgot about the troubles of the outside world. He with them, danced with them, drank from the same cups and enjoyed himself immensely as they spoke of their triumphs; and as he did so, another long-suppressed memory came back to haunt him.
‘Where am I?’
‘You’re in my uncle’s cabin, you were left here by an how do I say this, anđeo smrti.’
He looked over at the owner of the voice. A young woman, with dark hair and pale skin which did nothing to mask her dark eyes. She was dressed in a riot of colors and looked like a gypsy, but the eyes didn’t lie. She was clearly frightened of the apparition he too had seen; his mind slowly translating the words she’d whispered.
‘Angel of Death?’
The girl shook her head affirmatively.
‘Where did it go?’
‘She said, to go punish those who had ambushed you.’
When the girl had said she this time, Gil instinctively knew who she’d meant and he looked at his wives. Mist noticed the smile and cocked her head to the side.
“What is it, Gil? Another memory?”
“Yeah, and Mist? I never thanked you for rescuing me after the ambush in Yugoslavia.” He smiled back at her. “I never saw you again, but a patrol came looking for me a couple of days later, and uh, we found what was left of the insurgents. One was still alive and muttering a single word in German, Walküre. The rest looked like they had been cut to pieces by an extremely sharp blade. All the weapon magazines were empty, spent shell casings everywhere….
’What’s this piece of shit saying sir?’ One of my soldiers asked. I answered with a single word, Valkyrie. I knew then that my world would never be the same, but this... Thank you, for this!”
His wives took turns kissing him gently, intuitively knowing how painful some of these memories were. He looked over at Rob with Senna and Kara, maybe that mission had turned out for the best. Just looking at Rob, he’d never seen his partner so happy.
“You’re welcome Gil.” Mist replied. “I rescued you, but I did not kill those animals, Senna did. We are judge, jury, and executioner. That is why we keep our emotions in check, but those men had justice coming.”
Gil nodded, and after taking a drink, he got Senna’s attention. “Thank you for taking care of Rob and I, especially after the ambush.”
“I told you that he would remember. Gil never forgets anything, except for maybe his shoes.” Robert laughed and slapped Gil on the shoulder.
“Yeah, Rob, but that was after you moved them what, ten or twelve times?”
Both Senna and he embraced as the laughter subsided. “You are welcome, Gil. I have watched you two as long as Mist has. As you suspected, long ago, we were never far away. We protect and guide mankind, even though to most people we are nothing more than a myth.” Gil hugged her again and when he finished, she pointed at his partner. “How you put up with that maniac is anyone’s guess. Then again, I put up with him for eighteen years, so I guess I cannot talk.
Everyone laughed, and at that, Rob embraced Gil. “I could never tell who was crazier, you or me. Then again, we are still a great team.” Gil raised his mug to propose a toast and everyone nearby did the same. “To friendship! May it never fade.”
“Friendship!” Everyone responded.