Tisiphone was well aware of the Red Hand, in fact, she’d tried to join the band of mercenaries a few times. Problem was, they all knew who she was and what allowing her to join would mean for them. Just like the mirrors and the scrolls, her association with any faction save the Petals, was forbidden. Her mother had made sure she would never follow in her darkened footsteps.
Khor, on the other hand, didn’t care for rules and traditions. He went where he wanted, when he wanted, if only to spite his forever faithful and law-abiding twin, Dorghan. The male was always trying to out-do everyone, his nose stuck up in the air so high, Khor swore his head was full of clouds. Tisiphone laughed, but there was no one to laugh with her…
“Dammit!” She looked around the empty room.
Was this how her aunt Mist had felt, knowing Malice was alive, but not? So alone and confused…
“You are not alone, and neither was Mist.” The light started from the small moonpool across the room, and Tisiphone moved towards it.
“Navina?” Tisiphone inquired, “Is that you?”
“Who else would it be?” She laughed, her reflection rippling across the pool’s surface.
“I keep getting told there are hundreds of unclaimed mirrors, so, it could have been anyone, really.” Tisiphone sighed and sat on the stones near the edge of the moonpool. “But I’m glad it’s you. I could use the company.”
“Have you tired of the story already?” Navina smiled, her emerald-green eyes shimmering through the water.
“It’s hard to watch while they live their lives, with each other.” Tisiphone blushed and Navina laughed.
“You will find your love soon enough.”
“You mean, she hasn’t planned that too?” Tisiphone rolled her eyes. “Cause, well, she’s gone to great lengths to mess with my life so far.”
“Even our elders make mistakes.” Navina reminded her. “And there is more to Gil’s story than meets the eye. He too had much to learn, we all did.”
“Even your sister?” Tisiphone let the ball drop.
“Have we gotten to that part?” Navina laughed. “Yes, Marena most of all, though it took her much longer than your Uncle Gil.”
“I know she was the one who brought my mother into darkness, but I need to know how.”
“Your mother did not bring the darkness upon us.” Navina’s voice changed and those emerald eyes began to glow. “It was our lord.” She hung her head.
“To’llan?” Tisiphone gasped, realizing she now spoke to a Host.
If she remembered right, her mother had been taken by a darkness named Marwoleath, and her lover, Marena, had been Hosted to To’llan. How To’llan ended up inside Navina was a secret her mother never shared, but at one time, To’llan and Marwolaeth were names to be feared by all.
“Not even our Hosts could deny his power.” Navina returned, her eyes no longer glowing. “We were but pawns in his game, all of us.”
By him, she meant Pathen, Lord of the Shadows. “He lost his game, and his head.”
“A day we still celebrate among The Order.” Navina laughed, “But for five-thousand years his word was law. Your mother and my sister were the tools he used to shape his vile new empire.”
“Can’t you just show me your side of the story?” Tisiphone pleaded with her. “You hold To’llan inside you. Her memories are your…”
“Her memories, like your mother’s, were scattered to the winds across time. There are emotions that To’llan cannot control, but they emanate from voids I cannot access.” Navina sighed. “I wish I could tell you more, but carrying my sister’s Host has not been an easy task. There are voices in languages I cannot for the life of me understand, visions I cannot decipher…”
“But you’re an Oracle, Navina, you’re, the, Oracle.” Tisiphone laughed. “There has to be more, hidden in the fade, perhaps?”
“I am what he made me, but whatever he did to Malice and Marena…” A single tear fell down her cheek. “Pathen played with not only minds and emotions, but with time and life itself, Tisiphone. Even now, as his body rots and his memory fades away, we are faced with the horrors he created.”
“My mother spent five-thousands years in darkness…”
“We all did.” Navina reminded her. “Five-thousands years of terror and war; and I am afraid the darkness has returned to reclaim its champion.” She hung her head as her image began to fade. “You are not the only one seeking answers, sweet child. We too, have been watching and we would like to know what happened to our love.” The Host flashed across the surface once more, and then the pool was still.
Those words hit hard, almost confirming what Tisiphone had thought all along. Her mother had fallen into their clutches once more, and this time she didn’t have Marwoleath to guide her. She had to finish her uncle’s story…
There were books and manuscripts everywhere. As Gil’s eyes traveled upward the stacks seemed to go on forever. Dozens of large display cases with small blue white cubes about the size of dice, lined many of the shelves and scattered in every open space was a multitude of scrolls. The sheer magnitude of the library hit him as he passed by doors and plaques, etched in an ancient dialect that he actually understood. Hall of Dreams. Hall of Souls. Hall of Historic Figures. Hall of Justice… they just kept going and going. Amazed and speechless he followed her along the passageway to what he assumed was the back wall. To his surprise, one pass of her hand over the lamp and one book case pulled away, reveling another massive collection.
“This is the Hall of Echoes. In here, you will find stories too mad to have been true.” She laughed.
In that room alone, there had to be a thousand years of accumulated knowledge and that was just what he could see. Who knew if there was another hidden panel that would fall away to reveal a zoo or laboratory.
“Now I know why Sif said to remember where the door was.” He chuckled. “This library is incredible.”
“People have gotten lost amongst the stacks, that is why I limit the access to rooms like these. Now, let me do some research, this might take a while to straighten out but I should have some answers for you by noon, tomorrow. The collection is vast and what you seek is very old.”
“Can I look around? I might even be able to help.”
Kat considered it for a moment, then smiled. She led the way to the back of the large room, past cases that were stacked from floor to ceiling, all of them covered in arcane symbols and ancient runes.
“How far back does the archive go, Kat?”
“Fifteen-thousand years or so, I have even found catalogs and scrolls that were recorded during the Atlan Era.” She stopped short. “Sorry, according to Midgard’s time-line, that would be Earth, eighteen-thousand years ago.”
“Do you know that on Midgard, recorded history only goes back about half that? I can only imagine the knowledge that mankind has lost.” He shook his head.
What a waste, to have come so far only to not be able to remember the journey. Humans were, for lack of a better word, rather slow. “Hey, I have guards at the door, can I bring them inside? At least to get them out of that creepy hallway?” He smiled wide. “They too can help, if you would permit it?”
“Of course, I know how it feels to walk the halls alone, in silence that is both peaceful and deafening.”
“Thank you.” He nodded and sent a mental note to the twins, Alisa and Allyson.
“Have you added your own story to the archive? I am told that your history and your knowledge of military tactics are quite unique.” Kat smiled back at him as his guard’s voices could be heard in the other room.
Gil reflected on the offer for a moment, a grim and grizzly tale by far, but she was only interested in the historical value. It was her job to record, and he wouldn’t want them slacking as man had done on Earth.
“Tell you what, Kat, after Malice is dealt with, I will come back here and spend the entire day telling you all of my stories.” He grinned. “I’ll even bring Rob and General Swift.”
Kat giggled before she answered. “You have brought so many changes for the good. Young Robin and his friends come here every day, their want to learn reminds me of yours. Could it be you have rubbed off on the child?”
“Perhaps!” Gil chuckled.
“It is good to teach those with an actual interested in learning. I do love watching their eyes light up…” She paused a moment and looked past Gil. “Speaking of Robin, here he comes along now.” She clapped her hands together.
Gil smiled at Robin as he and three of his friends approached Kat.
Robin ran to him, hugging him. “I did not know Valkyries had to go to school.” Robin questioned curiously, a sparkle in his eye.
The rest of the children gathered around him as he passed out his famous, butterscotch candies, even giving Kat one. Soon enough they all sat around a large, rectangular, wooden table with Kat at one end and Gil at the other. Silence ensued, a few slurps here, a crunch there, smiles all around as they devoured their treat.
“Now, I might be old, but I too had to go to school, and I’ll let you in on a little secret, one should never stop learning. There is always more to learn, especially when you’re a Valkyrie.” He grinned, chomping down on the last of his candy.
He looked up to find even more children sitting around them, most of the groaning over the mention of school.
“Hello, I am called Til.” An older child called out, with chestnut colored hair, cropped short like a boy’s, and freckles galore covering her cheeks.
“Hello, Till!” Gil smiled in reply, then bowed his head.
“My mother said that you were raised a commoner like us.” She went on, all matter-of-factly.
“Yes, that is true, though where I came from, there are but a few nobles, their rank really doesn’t mean anything. Everyone is pretty much equal, or is supposed to be.” He rolled his eyes. “Someone comes up with an idea, we discuss it, then we vote on it. It’s called a democracy.”
“Democracy?” She repeated him.
“You have one here, too. You call it the council and that is where you all share ideas and vote on them.” He explained.
Since when had he turned into the teacher? Wasn’t Kat supposed to be teaching them? Nonetheless, Gil answered question after question. Like typical children their curiosity was endless.
When Mist and Sif found him, more than an hour later, he was sitting on the floor with a gathering of children, and adults, in a semi-circle around him. Not wanting to interrupt their husband Mist and Sif embraced Kat and giggled as they stood in the corner.
Mist spoke in a soft voice, so as not to disturb Gil’s moment. “What is he teaching them?”
“Medicine, and at the moment, how to survive a snake bite.” Kat whispered back. “Is there anything your Gil does not know?”
“And you are recording it?” Sif chimed in.
“Of course, with his permission. He has already transferred some of what he knows and let me tell you, there are some very interesting things in that brain of his.”
“Gil is not omnipotent, but he tries to learn every piece of information that he can.” Mist grinned. “His race has a rather large brain and the capacity to fill it with knowledge is endless; they just have to want to.”
“Like we want him, or rather, we need him.” Sif whispered, then made her way to the crowd. “Can we borrow your new teacher, for just a little while? We will bring him back.” Sif smiled at the children, but their faces fell in frowns, disappointed that he was leaving. “Just a little while.”
“I will keep looking for that information.” Kat whispered in his ear as he rose to his feet.
“Thank you.” He nodded and made for his wives. “I’ll be back!” He winked back at the children and received a storm of giggles and laughter.