“My Lady, you are needed!”
Those words had left Jack in the care of both Ashlyn and Brunhilde, while Gil and his wives made for the throne room. Standing now between Mist and Sif, they listened to the urgent petitions of Mist’s people. Ruling over a kingdom sounded like a grand idea, but like everything else, it took a lot of hard work.
One after another they piled in, A whole village it seemed, the lot of them with complaints of the same. Astraea led in the young, dark-haired female, said to have been rescued from the slavers the day before. Torn and tattered clothing, the need for a bath apparent in the air, Gil was astonished at her description of her captors.
“I wanted to express my gratitude for the rescue.” The young female announced and bowed her head.
All three of them smiled at the girl, though she seemed to hesitate before speaking further. “I, I thank you, Valkyries, for rescuing me...”
“There’s no reason to be frightened, Halima. It was our pleasure to help you.” Mist replied as she tried to calm the girl’s fear.
Sif was quick, but then most Elves were. The moment the young female’s cheeks started to flush and her eyes filled with tears, she knew the wobbles would follow, sending Halima into her arms.
“I’m sorry, great lady. It’s hard, to go from living my life, on the run. Once a slave who’d turned from their master, now a lady...” She paused, taking in the mighty stone pillars and stained glass works of art. “My father used to tell me of Misthaven and all the wonders it held.” She paused again, steadying herself enough to turn around. “I’m sorry. I’m still a little overwhelmed at the reception I’ve received...”
Sif, Mist and Gil exchanged glances. It was beginning to look like the three of them were picking up every escaped slave they encountered. Wasn’t a bad thing. They were saving people, but it also gave the enemy a vantage point. Slip in a helpless spy…
“There have been many gracing our doors, all facing the same horrors as you have, so I’ll tell you what I told them…” He chuckled. “You’re a free female. None can have your mind, body or soul, lest you give it to them. If at any time you need help, you are welcome to call upon us. Your life is exactly that, yours. So, tell me what you plan to do with it?”
“I’d like to learn everything your teachers here can teach me, then I’d go back to the Nasiri and set the Caliph’s turban ablaze.”
“What about friends?” Gil smiled, hoping to see more than revenge in the young female’s heart.
“Most importantly, I need to make friends. You’re less vulnerable in a group, and I miss laughing with others.”
While Gil and Halima were talking, Astraea was giving her ladies the information she had gleaned from Halima’s intake interview. He didn’t normally eavesdrop on Mist or Sif, but Mist was clearly angry and he wanted to know why.
“Yousef must not remember the last lesson we taught him…” She growled to her consorts.
Gil growled too, catching a few more words. According to Astraea, she and Morgan had been told that the slavers were targeting a specific group of individuals now, avoiding any unnecessary attention with random raids. Upon further inquiry, Halima had confirmed that those hunting her, did so because she was a mage, or would have been with proper training.
The Nasiri used mages for many things, and those without a proper mage, had resorted to slaving to obtain any that would, in the off chance, give birth to a mage. Mist was furious. Sif was livid. Both, felt incredibly betrayed.
Gil couldn’t help but listen in, his gut churning over tales of scandal and lies. Didn’t hurt, that Halima too, had been drawn towards their conversation; but made him wonder if she could hear their thoughts as he could.
“I for one cannot believe that Yousef would condone such atrocities? The nobles…” Sif paused, looking pale as a notion crossed her mind. “Could the nobles beneath him be providing the financial aid to fund their raids, without his knowing about it?”
“Your Yousef is a king, right?” Gil cut in and watched as both his wives nodded. “Well, kings have enemies, don’t they? Could it not be an enemy agent or a rival seeking vengeance on the Caliph?”
Wow! Now that had been rather impressive; at least that’s what Gil thought by the looks on his wives faces. Halima, however, frowned for a moment when Gil asked his next question. “Has he insulted someone recently?”
The ruling business was growing on him. It was still only his first day, but he could feel the eyes on him as they lingered over the matter. People were watching him, waiting to here what his opinions were. Yup, this wasn’t Earth, and most of them weren’t even Human. A totally different atmosphere, and he liked it. He could solve some real problems from his new position, after he dealt with Malice.
“Does Yousef have enemies, Halima?” Mist asked again, drawing Gil back to reality.
“I know not! I was in my home one minute, and in the belly of a ship the next. I served for quite a long while before I seen the armor gleaming in the mid-day sun and the face of he who loosened my bonds.”
“There has to be a reason for this. A land dispute, lost livestock, anything you can think of, no matter how small.” Gil cut in.
Poor Halima just shrugged her shoulders causing Gil to look at Sif for answers.
“If your boy can’t do a better job of defending himself than she did, he dies. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt.” He sighed.
“Then there is only one question remaining. Do we go to the Caliph? Or have the Valkyrie bring him to us?” Mist added, raising a brow as the crowd began to chatter in whispers.
“Let’s go to him, I want to hear for myself, what he has to say.” Sif replied, her voice tight and her eyes aglow with anger.
“Then it is settled, we march for the Caliph, and answers!” Brunhilde chimed in, raising a glass and starting a round of cheers.
“Alright then, when?” Gil smirked, lifting his own glass.
“There’s no time like the present!” Mist smiled back at him. “I haven’t had to execute anyone in a long time. I might be a little rusty.” Mist delivered her vote in a grim voice but giggled when she took in Gil’s expression.
“Now?” He managed to get out. “But you and me, and her, we just got… and we’re mid-war…”
“Oh, it’ll be the perfect, what did you call it? A honeymoon?” Sif teased, running her hand through his hair.
“This is not, what I had in mind though!” He shook his head with a groan.
“Sure it is! You were planning an op, weren’t you? North Korea, wasn’t it?” Mist grinned. “Same thing, just a change in location.”
“Oh, Lordy!” Gil sank back into his chair.
Was she serious? She wanted to march on the Nasiri? Now? What about Malice? What about Misthaven? The Elves? His grandfather and the Cat?