There was a clearing, not too far ahead and Loki couldn’t wait to sit down and have a rest. Not a long one, but enough to rest his feet and figure out how far they’d come. Well, how far he’d come. He’d been walking for hours with no sign of Lithia, Khor or Markhon. They had to be worried, and if he didn’t meet up with them soon, who knew what they’d do.
Tisiphone was still out cold and he was kicking himself for thinking he could boost her abilities on his own. He hated to admit it, but he should have listened to his own speech instead of lecturing Khor. Had he just left well enough alone and stuck to the original plan, he wouldn’t have to explain to Malice and her half-blood Demon that he may or may not have broken their daughter and heir to the throne of Valkyr; and by that, he meant he had broken her.
She wouldn’t wake up and he couldn’t see into her mind. To him, she was an empty shell and a signed death warrant.
“Fuck!” He shouted as the clearing gave way to a lake he knew rather well, from the other side.
This was the Lake of Whispers, known to hold many secrets within its great depths. People feared it, and for good reason. It was said the lake was haunted, with visitors often hearing the wails of the poor souls lost beneath the surface. In truth, it was a peaceful place with a horrible name, and those who lived upon its shores relished in the tranquility of its beautiful green waters.
Unfortunately, that meant Loki was even more off course that he’d thought. The moonpools Lithia was heading for, were on the opposite side of the lake, hidden deep within the caverns of Rhodan. Sister city to Seldan, and the home of more than a few Guild chapterhouses. The moon pools were secluded and offered themes of all kinds. No one cared who visited them and there were no rituals involved. Just plain old fun.
He remembered many a fun night, locked away in the private grottos; even Malice had accompanied him on occasion. They’d made some memories, that was for sure.
“Come on, Tisi!” He pleaded with her as he lay her down against a log and ruffled through her pack for a blanket.
The sun was setting and soon the forest would come alive with the creatures of the night. It was best to travel during the day, but if Rodahn was on the other side of the lake, that meant he wasn’t too far from, her, keep.
His mind started to swarm with flashbacks. It had been a while since last he’d graced the halls of her keep and he had to wonder what he’d find there. It had a moonpool, one of the first ever created on Vash, but getting into the keep would be tricky. No doubt, the lady had set her guards to watch over the place, so he’d have to be extra sneaky. He couldn’t risk them seeing Tisiphone, not like this.
“By the Gods, Tisiphone, if you wake up, I will never meddle again. The tricks and teasing will stop, I swear it.” He knelt down and tucked the blanket around her. “Fuck!” He hung his head and leaned back against the log.
This was going to be a long night.
Gil stood in the Hall of Judgments with a legion of Einherjar, hands at their backs and eyes forward as they awaited his orders. There were over a thousand of them now, with more arriving every day, coming to them from all over the realm. Everyone wanted in on the fight against the dark mistress and who was he to argue. They needed all the help they could get.
They had Gods to rescue and a heathen to put in her place; not to mention the whopping tale that Ashlyn had laid down on him. The enemy was vile, it was evil, and apparently, it was ancient. These guys were supposed to be the meanest of the mean, manipulating and slaughtering men, women and children alike. A vast army of darkened souls, their only goal, to convert the Verse to their sinister ways destroy any who would stand in their way.
“You alright, boyo?” The voice drew him back to reality. “You look a little lost.”
Black Jack Swanson, a male with more medals than anyone Gil knew, stood front and center alongside his Goddess, Freya, and their lover, Jasmine. The male held his hand up in salute to his younger, yet superior officer, then spoke.
“Not lost, just, mind blown.” Gil sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “To think, there is a traitor among us!”
“Was, among us, Sir!” Jack corrected him. “Sections nine and ten were clear with nothing to report.”
Gil looked at the assembled Einherjar, the commanding officers of each unit, all of them waiting for orders to relay to the troops who stood outside in courtyard amidst the downpour.
“Well, Jack, it looks like this was a wild goose chase. Either this traitor has escaped or their so well hidden, not even the Valkyries can find them. Damn it!”
“What about them, the assholes?” Jack chuckled, staring down the line at the blonde haired, blue eyed pretty boys. “You could always take one and beat the truth out of him. That’s the only thing the bastards are good for.” Jack subsided with a little help from Freya’s disapproving stare. “It was just a thought.” He grumbled under his breath.
“You need to let the hate go, Jack. You’re better than that, and so are you, Gil.” Freya said with concern in her voice.
“Dismiss them, Gunny.”
“Sir?” Jack called back.
Gil lifted his eyebrow at his Great-Grandfather. He loved the man dearly, but sometimes, he was a royal pain in the ass.
“Just do it Jack, if we find anything that’s incriminating against them, you’ll be the first to know.” Gil replied, careful not to start a fight.
“Sir!” Jack grumbled and saluted, did a precise about face, and then gave the command as only he could. “Listen up, you fancy-ass widgets. We got ourselves a traitor to find.”
The assembled warriors looked at Gil darkly as he made his way to the balcony doors and then out into the rain. Lightning flashed overhead, lighting the courtyard below as the troops dispersed. He stood by himself for a time, his eyes set on Ghost Mountain in the distance.
“What are you up to now, you conniving bitch?” He let out with a growl, only to turn suddenly at the sound of the commotion behind him.
Four Valkyries wrestled with a staff they carried between them, to which they’d tied a figure dressed in black; and behind them, an angry mob with the vilest of things escaping their mouths. Things were getting ugly fast and Gil nodded for his guards to intervene, the threats reminding him of a mission in Sarajevo. Find the bastard responsible for the mass genocide, and keep him alive. It sounded easy, but when the people found out what was happening, they began demanding blood. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of them, with weapons of all kinds, they were damn well ready to lynch the man; and those who now protected him.
It sucked the big one, but orders were orders. He’d turned that son of a bitch over to the civil authorities, though the thought of letting the people have him, had crossed his mind, many a time. They’d lost two men that week. One to the horde and the metal rods they carried in the streets, and another to a festering wound that Gil swore was dealt by poison. A long, horrifying week, and they were only Human.
Gil didn’t know if he could stop a mass of Einherjar, Elves and Valkyries, all dead serious about a summary execution. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to as he took the steps two at a time in a hurry to get down to the courtyard. Mist appeared in front of him, moving through the mass of bodies like a snake through grass. It was then he caught sight of those carrying the staff, shielding the traitor from the punches and rotten fruit that was thrown his way.
Sif marched at the head of the convoy, one end of the staff upon her shoulder and a grin running across her face from ear to ear. She stopped a few feet from Mist and let the staff slide from her shoulder, not a care as the body hit the ground with a sodden thud.
He could feel the anger of the Valkyries around him, then his own as he lay his eyes on the bruises covering Sif’s face and arms; and approached the foul heathen. He knelt down and pulled off the hood that covered his head and took a good hard look at the bastard’s face, covered in more bruises than Sif and her party, combined. The idiot may have started the fight, but his Valkyries had finished it; a true testament to the Valkyrie’s control of emotions, had it been anyone else, the fool may not have been breathing.
“Who do we have here, Mist? Could this moron be our spy?”
Mist took a moment, glaring at the insolent wretch before her. “I’m afraid it’s much worse than that, my love. Much, much worse.”
“Anyone else, and there would have been a chance for them to plea for mercy and mend their ways.” She hung her head and then laughed. “But this one is a traitor whose name is as tarnished as the mistress he follows.”
“And does the traitor have a name?” Gil inquired, crossing his arms over his chest as the male sputtered and coughed at his feet.
“You, do not, know me?” He laughed and Gil returned with a swift kick in the ribs. “Shit, that, stings!”
“His name, is Loki.” Sif cut in and Gil’s eyed went wide.
Loki, the Norse God of Treachery, Mischief and the Goddess only knew what else… Of all the Gods to take after, it had to be that one? They couldn’t just pretend to be the good guys, no, someone had to come in a level the playing field; but Loki?
Gil knelt down and grabbed Loki by his dark hair, looking him in the one eye that still opened while he spoke. “Well, well, Loki, it looks like you got the short end of the stick this time.”
Tisiphone felt the cool waters on her skin, but it did nothing to quench the rage that filled her chest. Had she seen that right? Was that, Loki? If her eyes were deceiving her, then so too were her ears… ’Loki, the Norse God of Treachery, Mischief and the Goddess only knew what else…’
He’d been there. He’d been helping her mother, but there’d been no mention of a slug hosting him; and that meant…
“You fucking traitor!” She splashed about in the waters, attempting to reach the bottom so she could stand and face the bastard.
“Tisiphone?” He let out in surprise, watching her nakedness emerge from the small pool. “You’re alright?”
“You sound so surprised.” She laughed at him. “Were you hoping to turn me, like you did my mother?”
“What are you talking about?” Loki spat back, rising from the pools edge as she came closer with her accusations.
She splashed the water at him, dousing him good as he tried to cover himself. “Afraid you’ll melt?” She laughed again, before her eyes turned an eerie purple. “You know who else can produce a purple orb?”
“Wait, what are you talking about?” He tried again, the confusion written all over his face; but she cared not.
“I saw you, bound and gagged for your treasons. Why they didn’t end it there, I have no clue, but I will not let you change me the way you changed her.” She shouted, raising her hand before her, complete with a violet colored orb that pulsed at her finger tips.
“I’m not lying, I didn’t change, anyone.”
“Then why were you branded a traitor? Why does everyone call you a traitor?” She hissed at him, her eyes still aglow to match her orb.
“How do you know all this?” He asked, shielding his eyes from the light. “What’s happened to you?”
“That is the question I keep asking, but no one seems to have an answer for me.” She sighed, twirling the orb in her hand like a ball. “It’s hard, not knowing who you are, where you come from, what happened in the past so you could prepare for the future…”
“I really, don’t know what you’re talking about.” Loki tried to plead with her but nothing seemed to work, something was wrong.
The moon pools were supposed to heal her wounds and rejuvenate her senses, but this, all the hatred…
“This, is what happens when you play with people, Loki. They learn your secrets and prepare for your tricks.” She smiled at him then raised her hand again. “But you will never play tricks on anyone, ever again. No one else will suffer the fate you imposed on my mother, or the betrayal against my people.”
“I didn’t do it. It wasn’t me.” Loki cried out, but his voice was silenced by another.
“Tisiphone, enough!” The words acted like a barrier, surrounding her in yet another orb and snuffing the lights out inside it.
“Why did you do that?” Tisiphone shouted, only to feel the energy drain from within her and her body sank back into the waters.
“Quickly, get her out of there.” The voice commanded, but Tisiphone’s mind was already drifting back to the story, unable to escape the pull.