“How do we get in there?” Markhon inquired, eyeing the hundred-foot cliffs at the base of the mountain fortress.
“We don’t.” Loki chuckled.
“What?” He mumbled, but the trickster was already making his way around the mighty towers and towards a small gathering of shrubs.
“We go in here.” He waved his hand over the boulder and it vanished, revealing small entrance behind it.
“Isn’t this forbidden?”
“It is on Earth. I think they call it breaking and entering, though, we haven’t broken anything, so I guess it’s just entering.”
“You’re insane.” Markhon shook his head and lifted his hood from his shoulder to protect his hair from cobwebs and dirt.
“You’re the doctor so I guess you would know!” Loki laughed back, his voice echoing through the small passageway.
“There is one thing I don’t know.”
“What’s that?” Loki replied with a pep in his step.
“Where you really going to blow up Rihmsjalier?”
“Love makes you do strange things, the thought of losing it, more so.” Loki sighed as he turned a corner. “It was blow up Rihmsjalier and kill Gil, or lose Malice.”
“So, what happened?”
“Gil gave me a third option, one I didn’t think possible until I saw the determination in his eyes. He may have wanted to kill Malice at first, but when he learned the truth, he saw a different path; one that I too, agreed with. Saving Malice was all that mattered.”
“And now, here we are again.”
“Yes, here we are.” He stopped in front of a door. “And this time, I am not the enemy.”
“You weren’t the first time, I thought.” Markhon blurted out, following Loki through the door and into a bright lit cavern.
“Well, in certain eyes, I was the Devil and will always be…” He grinned, but another spoke up and the mood in the cavern shifted.
“I would agree.” She laughed and Loki stopped short of a large pool of shimmering gray water.
“Ashe, you sinfully divine creature.” Loki took a step towards the dark-skinned female.
“Loki, you repulsive, little mongrel.” She replied and a moment later, Loki and Markhon were surrounded by swords.
“I thought you said you weren’t the enemy?” Markhon growled at him as the blade drew closer.
“Ashe, my lady, I come to you with my heart on my sleeve…”
“Which one?” She asked.
“Both!” He laughed, holding them up.
“Good!” She smiled, then turned to her guards. “Take his hands.”
“No, wait!” Loki shouted out. “Ashe, please…”
“My lady, please allow me a moment to explain.” Markhon stepped forward.
“And what is the son of Markus doing here, in my Ghost Keep?” She turned towards him, her scepter glowing an eerie blue. “And with him?”
“We come seeking passage.” Markhon replied. “Nothing more.”
“And where does the trickster wish to hide this time? Who hunts for this pathetic excuse for a male?” Another entered the room and Ashe laughed.
“Our daughter finds you about as desirable as I do.”
“Please, mother, desire has nothing to do with it.” The young female glared at Loki.
“Whoa, our, daughter?” He choked out. “But you… and we…” He muttered in disbelief. “Our, daughter?”
Ashe laughed louder and her daughter shook her head. “Are you happy now?”
“What, are you broken?” The young one snarled at him.
“Listen, if I am your father, there is an aura of respect that I…”
“What, will put me over your lap and spank me if I misbehave?” She laughed as he tried to pull away from the guards. “Relax, you fool, my mother merely wanted to see the look on your face. I can assure you, my father was a male of worth and nothing, like you.”
“Ouch!” Ashe chuckled.
“You, are a bonified bitch.” Loki growled.
“That is not what you said when you crept into my bed under the illusion of my husband.” She hissed back at him.
“You enjoyed it.”
“Oh, I did, but not as much as I am enjoying this. Guards, set him in the moon pool and let us see what he is really here for.” Ashe looked to the males as they shoved Loki forward. “Vasha, lock the doors.”
“Of course, mother.”
“Now, let us see what would drive you mad enough to return here…”
Gil kissed Mist on the brow before he got up from their bed. When he turned to Sif, he found he found his second wife lost in thought, but soon enough she turned with a smile.
‘Should we wake her?’ He asked, giving her another kiss upon her forehead for good measure.
He felt as if he were sneaking behind Mist’s back, not letting her know what was going on; but he needed to know what was going on. If he was going to try and save Malice now, he had to be sure it could be done. If anyone knew, it would be Hippolyte, and she was bound by her vow to answer his questions; he was after all a Valkyrie.
‘No let her sleep, it’s probably the first real rest she’s had in ages. I will stay with her to make sure she does not wake alone.’ Sif smiled and curled in next to her. ‘You will find Kat in the library, she can help find the texts you require, but make sure you remember where the exit is. Even I have gotten lost in there, trapped in the wonder of all those books.’
‘Kat?’ Gil furrowed his brow.
‘If anyone knows about the Valkyrie Wars, it will be her. You will want to know more before seeking out Hippolyte’
Out of bed and dressed with one thought. Being a Valkyrie had its little perks, like thinking about clothing, and poof, you were dressed. He took one last look at his wives, blew Sif a kiss which she returned, and out the door he went.
The library was on the far opposite side of the fortress, down several long and quiet corridors. It seemed everyone was still at rest leaving him feeling a sense of emptiness.
He reminded himself to stay alert. Just because it looks like it hasn’t been used in centuries didn’t mean he could let his guard down.
“I’ll make this visit as fast as I can.” He told the lively twins, who also appeared as if the silence were disturbing them. “This place is spooky. If anything looks suspicious just yell, I’ll be leaving the door open.”
“Thank you, Lord Gil.” They said together, then Allyson continued for both of them. “You are the first person we have tender to that actually cares about our welfare. It has been a pleasure to serve you, Lord Gil.”
“Thank you for helping me.” He bowed his head. “If I’m not back in an hour, one of you will stay at her post and the other will go get reinforcements.”
“It is a library, my lord.”
“Yes, it is, and I’m told it’s a rather vast library.” He chuckled.
“Of course, my lord.” Both women replied in unison.
The young twins posted themselves on either side of the twenty-five-foot-tall, solid-oak doors that marked the entrance to the library. Opening the doors with the barrel of his FAL, he stepped back, pushing the door opened wide to reveal a middle-aged female with dark brown eyes that studied him carefully beneath silver and auburn streaked hair.
“You must be Gil? I do apologize for not coming to your ascension...” She paused and waited for him to catch up. “Sometimes, I just get so involved in a project and lose touch with, well, reality.” She giggled. “I am Katherine, but you may call me Kat, everyone else does.”
“Well Kat, what can you tell me about the Valkyrie Wars? I am told they occurred long before the Valkyries came to Asgard.”
“I, uh, well…” She cocked a brow and eyed him hard. “Does Mist know you have come here?”
“We spoke for a time about it last night, but the memories seemed to painful to continue.” He replied truthfully. “I only wish to understand what happened, I have no need to place blame.”
“Alright, but I must warn you that most of our records from before we came to Asgard, were lost with the Temple Celestus.” She frowned. “That was a dark day for us all.”
“You were there?”
“Oh, no, not I, but to lose so much of one’s history, it is surely a brutal blow.” Kat smiled, toying with a locket she wore around her neck.
“Can you tell me what you know of the Valkyrie Wars?” Gil asked, straight up, before he had to go digging into the dusty old scrolls.
“I really should get these back to the shelves…” She turned to the cart, but then hesitated.
“If I am to lead you all out of the darkness, I need to know who was there and what happened.” Gil shook his head. “I can’t take any chances.”
“I had yet to be born, but while growing up as the daughter of an archivist, I was privy to some of the more, personal entries made by other Valkyries.” She stopped again, eyeing the doors and then the isles that seemed empty. “Come with me, in here, even the scrolls have ears.”
Gil followed her along the back wall to a small study set aside for Katherine. The moment he entered he felt the wall go up, a magical wall that he knew was designed to keep eyes and ears wanting.
“What do you know of Malice and Mist?” She inquired, closing the curtains and locking the door.
“I know they are sisters, and at one point, Malice was taken by darkness.” Gil replied, taking a seat in a nearby chair.
“They were more than sisters, some would say they were bonded, their lives entwined. Where one went, the other was sure to follow, this was the case as Malice began her descent. She became aggressive, impatient. No matter what the council decided, she found fault in it…”
“The council decided what, exactly?”
“Some say Malice fell into darkness, others say it did nothing but open her eyes. She could see what was happening in the Asgardian Realms and yet, the council was still set to go ahead with the treaty. Slavery. Lies. Deceit. Not from all who dwell in the realms, but enough. This was what awaited them, and Malice, some would say, just snapped.”
“So, she was pissed off before she lost her lover?”
“You know of him too?” Kat seemed surprised. “Then you must know that is was the sale of his very person that drove Malice to madness?”
For someone who hadn’t even been born yet, she sure knew a hell of a lot. “I know he went missing and Malice lost her mind, and her soul, trying to find him.”
“She did try and find him, but it was the council who pulled the final straw when they denied her request to rescue him.” Kat hung her head. “They had known where he was the whole time, and did nothing.”
“I’m sure they had their reasons.”
“They did, though no one is quite sure what they were. It was mentioned briefly that they did not trust the male, but as to why…”
“Okay, so lover boy goes missing, Malice finds out the council won’t help her, and then what?”
“The darkness stepped in. They sent a female to ease her suffering and sink her claws in deep. This female promised her everything, the moons, the stars, her lover returned. Malice turned against her people, letting the darkness consume her day by horrible day; all the while dragging her poor sister into madness with her.”
“Because Valkyries are empathic.” Gil cut in, he was beginning to understand why Mist had mentioned it. “Negative emotions.”
“Hate breeds hate, and everywhere Malice went, the hatred festered. Mist would not admit that her sister was lost, and her quest to save Malice would bring a start to the Valkyrie Wars as the factions split. Those who would help Mist find her sister, and those who feared her quest would bring about the end times for all Valkyrie.”
Gil had to think for a minute, and the more he thought, the more it all made sense. “Erasing the memory of Malice wasn’t about saving Mist, but saving them all.”
“Yes. With each sighting, the factions grew restless. Some wanted to kill her, some wanted to free her, others just wanted it all to end.”
“Exactly, and there are those who remember the horrors of the wars, yet they cannot remember who started them, or why.”
The veil had yet to be lifted for many of them and Gil was unsure if dropping it would be such a good idea. They had to figure out who that female was and what she did to Malice, if they were ever going to figure out how to undo it.
“Is there any information on the female, the one who promised to help Malice? She had to have had something to do with Malice’s change.”
“As I said, not much survived the destruction of the temple, but there are a few scrolls that speak of Malice’s time with a group of assassins known as the Red Hand. Perhaps one of them mentions her dark-haired friend?”