It had felt like days when Gil’s head finally hit the pillow and, in his dreams, he traversed the lands at the far edges of Rihmsjalier. From a peaceful walk to the sudden, deafening echoes of cannon fire, his dreams turned to nightmares and his heart began to race. Surrounded on all sides, with explosions, automatic weapons, fire, and magic, whipping past him; there was no escaping the chaos.
‘For the love of the Goddess.’ Gil let out as he dove into a nearby foxhole to hide from the murderous exchange of fire.
He’d been here before, but not like this, and not with so many green bastards out for a taste of his blood. Waves and waves of them crept over the hills, their battle cries ringing through his ears. He knew not where they’d come from, or when the Valkyrie had called their legions to arms, but here he was, right smack dab in the middle of it.
Mist appeared a moment later, looking a little worse for wear.
The Valkyrie was covered from head to toe in a thick, brownish ooze, her face and arms bearing minor nicks and her long, chocolate locks, dripping with the blood of her enemies. She was a sight for sore eyes. Such elegance masked in the horrors of war…
‘We have been betrayed!’ She shouted to the masses, before tossing the severed head of her latest kill at their feet. ‘These Goblins where waiting for us.’ Mist’s face took on a frown and the questions began to rise.
‘How? The only ones in the Hall were Valkyrie. It couldn’t have been one of them.’ Sif replied, obviously shaken.
No one spoke. No answer came. They were at a standstill, the need to move, rising, but the fear of another ambush…
‘It won’t matter who betrayed us, if we don’t figure out a way to get out of this kill zone.’ Gil cut in, climbing from the foxhole with his FAL in one hand and a dagger in the other. ‘Concentrate on the task at hand. We make for the falls and don’t look back.’
‘And if we are ambushed again?’ Came a hoarse voice from the back of the small crowd.
’Focus, dammit!” Gil shouted at the male who stood frozen behind the others.
‘He said, move!’ Mist’s voice was louder than his, carrying with it an authority he’d yet to master.
One by one, the small group disbursed, zig-zagging their way up and over the hill and into the safety of the trees beyond. With FAL in hand, Gil followed Mist and Sif, blinking from one crater to another. Three shots here, two there, a hole clip for the Troll who came up from the ground at his feet. He was almost to the trees when the blast hit the boulder to his right and the darkness enveloped him….
The ex-soldier awoke with a start, holding his head and shaking like a leaf. Mist sat up in bed and took note of the panic that surrounded him. She sent Sif for a drink and put her arms around her male. He held on tight and shook uncontrollably, unable to hold the glass Sif offered him.
“Hush now, my sweet. It was only a nightmare.” Mist whispered, though her words did nothing to soothe him.
“Pretty nasty nightmare.” He managed to get out as Mist ran her hands through his hair.
“Tell us about it, and see the troubles disappear like the moon when the sun rises.” Sif purred as she too, climbed back into bed and lay her head in his lap.
Gil thought about it, but he wasn’t too sure they’d want to hear about their utter defeat. What if it was a sign? What if they were all meant to die on the path to Ghost Mountain? What did the fates have in store for them?
“Come on now, do not hold this burden in. Let us share in your joys, and your fears.” Mist smiled, then kissed the top of his head.
Gil felt the weight holding him down and yearned for the release they spoke of, but was it possible? Could talking about it, truly stop it from happening? Or would it only ignite the flames that would render them to ash in the end?
“Your mind is shrouded, my love.” Mist sighed.
“There are some things, that even you, would shy away from…” He shook his head and closed his eyes.
That last hit had sent pieces of stone and shrapnel flying in all directions, the smoke that followed was enough to leave him gasping for air as the world turned dark; but none of that compared to the fact that Mist and Sif had been standing right in front of that boulder when it exploded. How was he supposed to let them see that? What would they say when they saw themselves die?
Something must have slipped through, for Mist’s hold on him grew tighter and he felt her shudder. It was not the chill in the room that had caused the sudden goosepimples to rise on her arms, but fear. His Valkyrie was afraid, for him. Oh Goddess, how much had she seen?
“We were ambushed on the way to Ghost Mountain.” He started, “We were in a firefight from hell.” He stopped again, burying his face into Mist’s chest.
“It’s okay, go on!” Sif’s voice was soft and sweet, her hold on his hand, just what he needed to keep himself grounded.
“I was running from one crater to another. The enemy was washing over the hills in waves, like they knew we were coming. So many of them, there were hardly any of us left.” He shook as he explained what happened, trying his hardest to conceal the tears that threatened to spill down his cheek. “We pushed on towards the mountain, so close to the trees I could taste them…” He paused and looked up at Mist. “Then, darkness.”
Mist and Sif exchanged glances, as if speaking amongst themselves, then Mist spoke up. “What else do you remember, Gil? Tell me, exactly, what you saw.”
Gil blinked several times, but answered nonetheless. “You had just told us we’d had been betrayed. You said the Goblins had been waiting for us, then, boom.”
Mist’s eyes turned a dark, steely gray as they narrowed, and again she and Sif communed in silence with one another.
Gil knew that look and his heart sank. “We’re in deep shit, aren’t we?” He sighed and pulled away from his Valkyries.
In reply, Mist nodded as she spoke. “I’m afraid so, Gil, it’s the future you see.” Mist replied with iron in her voice.
Gil’s face went pale. “The future? How can I see the future?”
The panic had gone from moderate to massive and his heart skipped a beat as he awaited their reply. Seriously, how could he have seen the future?
“It is said that some mages have the ability to see what lies ahead, and it appears as if you, are one of them. I knew you were special, but your gifts are far beyond what was expected.” She smiled at him. “You are telepathic, you can teleport, and now we can add the farsight to that list. Your ability to control the orbs is comparable only to one other and your loyalty knows no bounds.”
“I’ve never met anyone with all the abilities that you have. It is rare for one to possess more than two gifts from the Gods, and magic aside, it is almost impossible when it comes to a male. You are like that Dragon’s egg, unique and incredibly valuable. There are many who will spite you out of pure jealousy.” She warned, letting go of his hand as he rose from the bed, naked as the day he was born, and began pacing about the room.
He’d only found out about his magic a few days ago, and now, he was said to be stronger than even the fire mage? The very same mage who’d been instructing him? This couldn’t be real. He was still in the dream. A bloody superhero on the verge of a mental collapse, and a battle for the universe playing out before him. Sounded more like a movie than reality.
Magical purple orbs. Blinking from one place to another. The ability to speak with Mist and the others in his mind; and now, the future…
“What the hell is happening to me?” Gil cried out in desperation, sinking to the floor to the floor with his head in his hands; a teary excuse for a man.
“I wish I knew, my love.” She replied, rising from the bed to comfort him. “But I can promise you, that I fully intend figure it out with you.” She cooed and wrapped her arms around him.
“What if it’s true? What if… you both die?” He blubbered, finding his head against her chest once more. “Who would betray us like that?”
“Again, I do not know, but we will uncover the identity of the traitorous vermin.” She replied, looking out the window towards Ghost Mountain. “And when we do, it will be by your hand that his treasonous ways come to an end.”
That promise was enough to see Gil’s nerves settled down, but he wasn’t too sure he’d be able to go back to sleep. “I need to see a map of the mountain again.” He sighed, but neither of his females answered.
He could see it in her eyes, Mist had decided right then and there that the search for the traitor would begin as soon as she had time to dress. “Sif, summon my mother.” She let out. “I will see her in the Hall of Judgments in one quarter of an hour.”
Or perhaps, she would start her search before adorning any garments to cover that sweet, porcelain skin. Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t see Sif rise, but he sure as hell caught the site of her armor enveloping her taught behind as she sailed out the door.
“We too, should get ready.” Mist urged him to hurry, he only wished he could don his attire as easily as his females could.
Mist wasted no time, her sheer leggings and tunic soon covered by that shimmering silver armor that matched his own. “I will meet you there.” She smiled at him and kissed his cheek as he balanced on one foot with his slacks in his hands.
“I’ll be there!” He smiled back, nearly falling on his side as he wrestled with the darn things. “Eventually.” He added as the door shut behind her.
Seriously, what he wouldn’t give to be able to slip in and out of his armor at will; and with that thought in mind he finished getting ready and took his fingers to his hair like a comb. Nothing like meeting the mother with bed-head. That would give her a few ideas and cause a lot of unwanted questions. Just look at what happened with Alura. One minute he and Mist are enjoying themselves with the sweet, young female, the next, he’s getting vicious looks of jealousy from the girl’s mother; the Queen no less.
Ashlyn was far more powerful, and though she resembled a female of say, thirty-five, he knew there were a few zeroes missing. It was one thing to sleep with Alura and possibly, her mother, Queen Alara. It was quite another to fall into a sinful tousle with your mother-in-law. Gil shuddered at the thought and took one last look in the mirror. Lady Ashlyn would see him as both responsible and respectable, in all manners pertaining to her daughter, or she wouldn’t see him at all. He had no urge to face her wrath, should he accidentally piss her off.
“Not happening!” He muttered as he exited his room, only to find that Alara had assigned two, female Elves, to guard him.
They looked at him in confusion, both with shoulder-length, black hair and eyes the color of gray stone. “Pardon, my lord?” One of them inquired, her head tilted slightly to the side.
“Oh, uh, hello? I’m Gil!” He blurted out, like a boy talking to his crush in the halls at school.
He’d forgotten about Alisa and Allyson, both exceptionally intelligent, and among the elite of the Elven warriors. Rangers, they were called, and as a ranger, they answered only to royal blood.
“Are you prepared for the meeting?” Allyson asked as he started off down the hall.
“In fact, I have something to ask!” He turned with a grin. “I need for you to rouse all the Rangers.”
“My lord, only the royals can command the Rangers.” Alisa replied and hung her head.
“Am I not the first son of Almaren?” He eyed them. “Does that not make me your prince?”
“Of course!” Allyson bowed her head. “What shall we tell them?”
“They will be looking for a traitor, and they are to search everywhere, everything, and everyone. If they give you any trouble arrest them. If they resist or try to fight, subdue them if possible, kill them if necessary. Bring anyone found, directly to me. Anything you find that looks out of place, come to me.”
“Of course!” She replied, and a second later they were gone.
He knew the rangers would search out and apprehend the traitor and as he strode down the hallway with the FAL locked and loaded, he wondered who could have betrayed them. Who would benefit the most from an alliance with the heathens? What were they to gain from their treasonous acts? There was no end to the questions. He’d find the answers to one and another four would manifest themselves.
Rounding the corner, Gil ran into Rob. “Gil, my friend, what’s wrong?” He eyed his old comrade and lifted a hand to his shoulder.
“I had a dream.” Gil replied, though kept on walking towards the grand staircase.
“Dreams are good!” Robert laughed, “But you don’t look like you’re good!”
“I saw the future, Rob, and we have a traitor in our midst.”
“I knew something was off, but I didn’t want to believe it.” Robert sighed and shook his head. “Are you sure it was the future?”
“Someone was in the Hall last night. Someone, that didn’t belong there.” Gil muttered as he took the steps, two at a time. “How else would they know of our plans to take the northern ridge?”
“They?” Rob raised a brow at his friend. “I thought it was the mirrors?
“We were ambushed, Rob, not far from the base of Ghost Mountain where our final advance was to commence. Scouts had reported back that the cost was clear, but the enemy waited for us, less than a hundred feet from the tree line…” Gil was shaking as the memories flashed past his eyes. “Someone was there, they heard our plans and they’re going to report back to Malice.”
“You can’t know that for sure. The future is never set in stone.”
“They die, Rob. Mist, Sif, Senna. All of them die, two days from now and there isn’t a thing I could do to stop it.” Gil glared at Rob, speaking through gritted teeth. “I just found them, I can’t lose them.”
“I know, my friend. I know.” Robert hung his head and patted Gil on the shoulder. “But we know now that they will be waiting, we can use it to our advantage.”
“Until the bastard reveals more of our plans. We have to find him.” Gil shook his head.
“Him? You’re sure it’s a man?”
“I’m not sure of anything anymore. I came here to defend her against the darkness, now I’m a general in charge of an Elven armada; complete with a fleet of Pegasus.” Gil laughed, then his face grew serious. “Tell me the truth, Rob, am I losing my mind?”
“Your mind, your heart, and probably your soul!” Rob laughed in kind as they reached the bottom of the stairs.
“We can’t take any chances. Rouse the Einherjar.” Gil called out his orders to all who were listening. “Seal the gates, best you can and search everything. No one in or out. Look for anyone or anything out of place. If any resist or try to flee, subdue them if possible, kill them if necessary. There will be no exceptions.”
Morant saluted as Senna and Kara appeared in the great hall, both of whom, were looking for Mist. “She’s summoned us to the Hall of Judgments.” Senna bowed her head. “Anyone care to shed some light on the matter?”
“We have been betrayed.” He replied and hung his head. “As we speak, the heathen is hearing news of my abilities and setting her traps. We will never take the northern ridge.”
At his words, Senna’s face grew grim and large, orange tinted wings sprouted from her back as if to carry her away at the very moment. “You cannot be serious?” She let out, looking first at Gil, then Rob.
“I sure hope I’m wrong.” Gil sighed. “But the vision I had, the places, the people, the death…” He shook his head again, unable to concentrate.
He hadn’t seen Mist die, but the force of that explosion had left a giant crater of doubt in his gut. Valkyrie or not, no one could have withstood that much power.
“The future is not fixed, Gil, and with this search, you may have already changed it.” Kara remarked, a smile of her face as she held her hand up towards the door. “Shall we see what Mist has planned?”
“Robert?” Gil looked to his friend.
“I’m on it!” The male chuckled and turned on his heels. “Five hundred Einherjar, coming up!” His voice echoed off the walls and let Gil feeling a little calmer than before.
“Senna, if you would lead the way please?” Gil inquired; his mind more concerned with the vision than the path ahead of him.
“Of course.” She smiled back at him and took Kara by the arm. “My lady!” She giggled. “Shall we?”
“Council now, hunting later!” Kara giggled back. “I do love a good interrogation!” She added as she and Senna walked ahead.