Valkyrie II: Darkness Rising

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Chapter Thirty-Two

Ghost Mountain. One hell of a journey from the caverns of Vash, unless of course, one was able to blink. Though it was not possible within the walls of the keep, he knew that if he got far enough away, he’d be able track them. It was his job; it was what he was born to do, like his mother and father before him. Problem was, he was so bloody bent out of shape, he wasn’t sure he could pull off a blink.
One had to focus to produce the means necessary to travel through space and time, and despite all of Lithia’s teachings, he was still a little weary of his destination. He’d been there only once before, and even then, he’d found no joy within its walls, only contempt and hatred. Lady Ashe was a warrior like Malice herself and at times had left others guessing which side she was really on.
Nonetheless, he knew that was where they had gone, but whether it had been willingly or not, remained to be answered. His thoughts turned to Loki as he stormed down the hall, leaving everything behind as he began his search. He would not need it, not where he was going. With fists of steel and a sense of direction like no other, he would find his mate and his sister, and deal with Loki if the need saw fit.
He could already sense Lithia’s presence as he neared a small pond, though not enough to keep him there for long. She had been here, yes, but she too had left soon after. From the pond to the river’s edge, across to the rocky shores and to the top of the great hill, he followed her scent as if it was his only goal.

***

This journey was taking far longer than Tisiphone had anticipated, and though the voices of her companions remained to assure her that she wasn’t alone, the sudden change in tone left her a little uneasy. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she was stuck in this bubble, or suffering from her need, but now there was this presence that lingered in the back of her mind.
Unsure of when it had first manifested itself in her thoughts, and unable to fully concentrate on the story, she fought to stop the hatred and anger from consuming her. Nonetheless, it seemed to be winning. What was more alarming, was the fact that the presence felt so natural, so, becoming…
“I must rest again.” She heard Navina call out and listened to the groans and bickering that followed.
“We must keep going.” Lithia sighed.
“I know not where to go.” Navina cried out. “She will not speak with me; the memories are too great.”
“You mean to tell me we are lost?”
“I mean, she has retreated into her own mind, I cannot reach her.” Navina hung her head. “Bad things, happened here.”
“What sort of bad things?” Lithia knelt down beside her.
“Terrible things.” Navina shuddered. “Things she does not want to remember.”
“She has to remember, or we will be stuck down here, forever.” Lithia shouted. “Do you want that? To be lost in a labyrinth of darkness for all time?”
“No, of course not, but I have no idea where to go next.” Navina grumbled. “She will not speak to me.”
“Perfect. So we are lost.”
“Are you not supposed to be some supreme being of darkness? Can you not figure out a simple case of direction?”
“And you are an Oracle, did you not see this in your beloved mirrors?” Lithia snapped back. “You knew she was unreasonable, you knew she was broken, but you trusted her regardless.”
“She is not, our enemy.”
“She was, and now she believes if she hides, she will not have to face the repercussions of her actions.” Lithia glared at her. “She is afraid.”
“Yes, she is, and your words are not helping.” Navina rose to her feet. “Come, this way.” She snarled as she passed Lithia.
“Are you sure?”
“No, but it is better than sitting here, listening to you complain about everything.”
Once again Tisiphone was a third, and silent component, to this little trio. Oh, how she wished she could escape her little ball and set them both straight. Arguing was not helping their situation at all…
‘She is afraid.’ The words repeated in her mind.
‘She does not remember the whole truth.’ Okay, now that had not been said during their little spat.
‘She needs to feel safe.’ Well, Tisiphone could add bat-shit crazy to her list of attributes.
‘Listen, child, for she needs you!’ Yup, crazy!
‘I swear, you, are as bad as your mother.’ Wait, what?
As if answering her question, her mind began to spin and the scenery took on a darker hue. Warriors of old gathered beneath a dark tower, from which a female stood, watching from the highest window. She knew who it was though she could not see her face, and her heart soared like never before.
‘Marena…’ She heard the name and the sudden jolt of pain that followed sent her flying through a thick fog, the tower so distant and the heartache so real…

***

“Really now, you have to keep your thoughts to yourself.” Loki chuckled as he and Markhon sat in the small tavern, surrounded by those who whispered in dark corners of the room.
“And you should learn to stay out of my head.” Markhon growled back.
“I don’t even have to go near your head, I can pluck those fuckers from the air above my own…” He paused, eyeing the male. “Which means, so can everyone else here.”
Elves. Dark and sinister, at least, that’s what the texts had called them. Loyal to Ghost Mountain and no other, they were warriors indeed, but you would never find one inside the royal courts of Misthaven, or the forests of Almaren. They had been, not shunned, but happily forgotten, left amiss in the bowels of the beast and considered unclean by some, for residing in such a place of darkness.
It hadn’t been the Valkyries fault, they had tried to include them in all, but there were too many secrets, not enough trust; and now Loki knew why. Hippolyte, and Skuld. Two of the most infamous characters to ever grace a battlefield, their names and stories were spoken of, even now, and yet no one had truly known what had befallen them. Some claimed they’d been taken by darkness, just as Malice had, and that the darkness had kept them far from prying eyes. Others, believed them dead, their bodies lost on some distant world.
“There.” Markhon noted. “Can you smell it?”
“Smell what?” Loki turned up his nose and shook his head, for all he could smell was the stale stench of ale and poor hygiene. “Someone, needs a bath.” He sneezed, wiping his nose on his sleeve.
“Do you have any idea how many germs now live on your sleeve?” Markhon sat back in disgust. “And you say they need a bath.” He shook his head, only to cock it one side. “There it is again.”
“There is what again?”
“You honestly can’t smell the cologne? He’s only been wearing it for like, the past seven years.” Markhon rolled his eyes, then focused on those within the tavern. “He’s here, somewhere.”
“Who’s here?”
“Excuse me?” A young female approached, draped in a dark cloak that covered all but her pretty little face and few, dark blue ringlets that hung down around deep, amber-colored eyes. “You wouldn’t happen to know anyone interested in a good time, would you?” She went on, batting her eyelashes at Loki.
“Normally, I would say me. Take me into your arms and show me all the love you have to offer.” Loki sighed.
“Normally?” She replied, with one brow cocked. “And right now?”
“Right now, I am looking for a pair of females, both with dark hair, about your height.” He smiled back at her.
“I could, find a friend? If that’s what you’re into?” She smiled again, trying her best to slide into his lap.
“No. No, that will not do.” He shook his head. “I must continue my search.” He added, trying to rise from his seat.
“What he means, my lady, is that we are searching for some friends that may or may not have passed through here in recent days.” Markhon smiled, but the female only laughed and undid her robe as she stood.
“I, am no lady, my good sir, but for the price, I could pretend…”
Loki couldn’t hold back the laughter as Markhon clued in to who, or rather, what the female was. He was also pretty damn sure that the male had never seen one before in his life; let alone spoken to one.
“No, thank you!” He muttered, lowering his eyes to the table. “I will be fine.”
“My friend here, is still very much so, untouched. I doubt he’d even know where to begin.” Loki chuckled and Markhon shot him a look.
“We need to find them, and we’re not going to do it in here.” He replied, rising from his chair.
“The gardens.” The female sighed, shaking her head. “I know not why I help such fools as you are, but, check by the gardens. I may, or may not, have witnessed them in there during one of my, encounters.” She smiled, and re-tied the laces of her robe. “Now, if you will excuse me.” She bid them farewell and turned to find another willing morsel to satisfy her pocket.
“Did we just get advice from a whore?” Markhon managed to let out as they left the tavern.
“You said he was here? Who were you talking about?” Loki let out as a barell crashed to the ground before him. “Whoa now….”
“Him!” Markhon let out, pointing to the male who now held an Elf by the scruff of his tunic.
“Where, is she?” The male hissed. “I can smell her, I know she is here.”
“Oh, him.” Loki sighed, shaking his head. “I guess we know where Khor is now. And what is with you people and smells?”

***

Deep within the darkened walls of the fortress, she could hear the screams of those less fortunate and smell their fear as it overpowered them. She had finally been allowed to return, in only to catch sight of a face like no other; one that had haunter her to no end. High above, in a tower meant to confine her, her beloved awaited; but how was she to get there without being seen?
She sighed as she closed her eyes, letting the darkness take hold as she fought to focus on the here and now. Their love had been born out of fear, tempered by hatred and sealed with a promise that one day, everything would be set right. It had been centuries since that promise had been made and even now, she vowed to make it right; but how was she to do so, from within the mind of a child?
Memories of old plagued her mind and that scent was enough to drive her wild. She had no idea how it could be so, but she felt that heart shuddering, nonetheless.
‘To’llan?’ She called out into the endless void before her, hoping there would come a reply, but that void seemed to swallow her words and silence her voice, just as he had so long ago. ‘Please, To’llan, speak to your Marwolaeth?’
‘Your tricks will not work on us.’
The voice replied, hindered and full of sadness. ‘I know that what we wish for, will never be.’
It was heartbreaking to think, that in all the turmoil she had suffered, To’llan had willed herself into thinking there could never be another day filled with their love. She was broken, all but alone, with no one but her Hosted’s sister to keep her sane.
‘We can feel the fear within you, but you must not let it consume you.’
‘All we wanted, was for them to be free…’
To’llan’s words lingered in the shadows, haunted by days of old.
She was sinking deeper into her stupor and taking Navina with her. Marwolaeth feared that time was running out. Oh, why had she waited so long to come forth? Why had she hidden away so deep? Just look at the mess that had come of it all.
Tisiphone, suffered. Navina, suffered. To’llan, suffered. Regardless of promises made, they needed help. They would not survive this alone. She had to act now, and may the Gods forgive her later.
‘Tisiphone, you must pay attention…’ She broke the silence once more, only to find the young female lost in the story of her Uncle Gil.
How would the child react? What did she even know of Marwolaeth, the Host who had consumed her mother? She had to earn her trust.

***

Mist didn’t stop again until they stood before a tall, three story building made of white marble. A large sign, posted out front, stated it was an Academy, and Gil couldn’t wait to see what it held inside. The students continued to come and go as they pleased, some bowing their heads as Mist passed by, while others took to small circles to giggle and point at the awe-inspiring Lady of the Misthaven.
-They’re a bunch of kids, the seniors don’t look any older than some of the recruits we used to get.- Gil secretly signed to Rob and the male chuckled.
-If there anything like Vanessa they’ll be fine. I don’t know if Mist has planned on taking any of them. – His friend signed back, though something had caught his eye.
Off to one side, Gil noticed little Robin and Til, as well as a handful of others who had journeyed ahead to Misthaven for her arrival, and they too stood in front of the academy with smiles on their faces. There was one among them, a young lady with sand-colored hair, whose face had gone white as a sheet as she wobbled about around them. Where she’d come from, he had no clue, but none of the others seemed to be aware of her presence, or her condition, and as Gil moved closer, he could see the eyes roll into the back of her head. She was going down.
He reached her just in time, catching her in his arms as she keeled over. “Mist, she needs help.” Gil called back to his wife, and in turn, collected the attention of the healer who stood a few paces behind her.
She ushered to the male and Gil lay the young female on the ground and got out of his way. He checked her forehead and then the glands beneath her ears, but it was when he pulled back the cloak about her chest to check her heart, that Mist’s eyes narrowed as she saw a brand on the young girls shoulder.
‘Sif, look at this.’ Mist’s voice swirled in Gil’s mind and he turned to look at his wives.
‘What is it?’ He inquired in kind, so as not to drawn any unwanted attention.
‘That is a Nasiri slave brand.’ Sif hissed. ‘More than likely, she has slavers after her.’ She went on with a tone of disgust filling her words.
‘Slavers? Here?’ Gil was shocked, and yet…
‘They once chased Sif for a whole year, before they finally got the message, she was not a slave.’
Mist growled. ‘She looks like she has been running for days, at least.’ She sighed and knelt down beside the young female. “See her inside.” Mist rose again to her feet, tucking a lock of chestnut brown hair, back into the braid that hung down her back.
“That slave, belongs to Caliph Yousef.” A new voice cut in and even Gil put his hand to the blade at his side.
He turned to see a slender figure with her head covered in a dark sash, so that only her eyes were shown; eyes of royal blue, surrounded by darkened skin. She too, stood with her hand on her weapon, though it was no sword, but a spear with jeweled grip.
“The Caliph of Nasiri has no authority here in Misthaven, so, go back to your lord and tell him that Mist is in no mood for his games.”
“He will not like that.” The female replied. “The Caliph is a very powerful man, and his slaves are worth more than their weight in gold.”
Quiet suddenly, as if sensing danger, Gil’s eyes focused on one male in particular, standing two feet to her left; and in his hand he held a bow. A moment later, Gil spied him reaching for an arrow and everything seemed to slow down around him. He bypassed his sword and drew out the replica Orinald had delivered, aiming the FAL in his direction and daring the male to make another move. He did just that, raising the bow to take aim, and Gil squeezed the trigger. The weapon went off and a round found its target at the archer’s feet.
“Drop that bow, or the next one will be between your eyes!” The male looked to the female and with a nod, did as Gil commanded.
Sif was quick to collect the bow, and any other weapon she could find on the new-comers. “How many more of you, are there?” She asked, nodding to the city walls. “How did you get in here?”
There came no reply.
“Slavery, is a crime in Misthaven. Tell the Caliph, if he takes anyone from my lands, it will be considered an act of war.” Mist hissed and narrowed her eyes at the male, which made even Gil, gulp.
One of the slavers laughed, and Gil stood forward.
“She means it, as do I. Any slavers, found in the lands of the nine realms will be executed!” Gil’s armor changed color and his wings appeared behind him.
Masked in black and silver with a frown, the likes that could make an army tremble, he stood before them and listened to the gasps and whispers from the crowd. He had not meant to reveal his nature in this way, but by the Gods, this group of madmen had gotten on his last nerve.
“He’s a Valkyrie?” Another of the slavers let out, but his leader, with her face hidden from view, silenced him with a wave of her hand, and Gil took the opportunity given. “She, will remain here, until word has reached us that you have crossed back into your own lands.” He growled, ripping the scarf from her face, revealing one black eyebrow, and one painted in blue.
“You know not what you do!” She smirked at him. “The Caliph will never rest until he gets what he wants.”
“Take her.” Mist shook her head, turning back to the female’s guards as Gil wrestled with their leader up the steps towards the academy. “Go, tell your Caliph he is not welcome here.” With that, she too turned towards the academy, following closely behind her husband.
Once inside and safe behind the closed doors of the main study, Gil shoved the female into a chair and conjured a rope to bind her.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” She inquired, eyeing him in a most provocative manner. “I may need those hands to soothe your wounds tonight.” She smiled, watching as Gil stood back.
“I have hands of plenty to soothe my wounds, thank you very much.” He growled and waited for Mist to begin her questioning of this pitiful excuse for a female.
He felt terrible about the fight with Hippolyte, but he had to admit, all this female had said and done in the last few moments had him wanting a one on one with her, something fierce; and not in any romantic way at that. She was a slaver, and he had no time for the likes of her.
“Honestly, Mist, you know how to pick them.” The female laughed and the mood in the room began to shift.
“Wait, you two know each other?” He turned to Mist, again, in a state of shock that she’d not said a word.
“Ayesha Kahlid, meet my husband, Gil!” Mist laughed and made for the female he’d bound to the chair.
“Uh, what are you doing there, Mist?” He muttered with a half-cocked smile.
“Relax, husband, she is one of my spies.” Mist grinned.
“She’s what?” He blurted out as Mist left a kiss of the female’s cheek.
“How do you think I got in and found Sif?” She laughed again and made for a small table lined with decanters of colored-liquids.
“If you’re pouring drinks for this, make mine a double.” He grumbled and took a seat in a lounge chair across the way.
Sif giggled as the female stood and approached her, a gentle hand to push the lock of golden hair from her face. “Oh, I should have bid on you myself, for you are indeed, still a fine beauty.” Ayesha mused causing Sif to flush like a sunset.
“This is still time to make that bid.” Sif replied, kissing the female hard. “I do remember our time well and had hoped to rekindle the fire that burned between us.”
Gil was floored. This female, this spy in the ranks of slavers, was getting hot and heavy with his wife. Rekindle the fire? What fire? When? Why did Gil not know of these truly sinful things? But then, was he surprised? Not at all, and his mind went back to his night with Shadow in the maid’s chamber.
‘He is a fierce one, Mist.’ The female spoke to his wife, her mind-voice just loud enough for him to hear.
‘That he is!’ Mist replied. ‘And he is mated, to the both of us.’
‘Oh, and how has that turned out for you? Does he offer all that the mind desires?’
“He offers enough.” Gil spat out, shaking his head, to which all three burst into laughter.
‘Please, let him question me?’ Ayesha grinned his way.
“I can hear you.” He pointed out, and grabbed his drink from the tray.
‘I know!’ Her grin grew wider and Gil’s heart began to pound as she kissed Mist again. ‘Is there not somewhere, more secluded, that we may go? I have been following that girl for days now and finding time to myself, has been hard with so many watching. I feel the Caliph’s eyes, all around.’
‘In time, but for now, we need your help.’
Mist smiled, looking at her husband. ‘There is an intruder in Misthaven, one who would not hesitate to run if he saw us coming.’
‘You need me to find him?’
‘I need you to help us earn his trust.’
Mist’s smile turned to a sly grin and Gil the idea he knew what she was up to.

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