Prologue : Of Darkness and Light
Loki worked the bellows as he watched the ancient Dwarven smith work with a pair of tongs to remove a crucible from the forge.When he arrived a week ago Alberech had been glad to help. Malice had made an enemy of him too. In doing so she had made a big mistake. He had told the smith what he wanted his oldest allie set to work immediately making Loki’s instrument of vengeance. The God of Treachery had tried to pay the Dwarf, Alberech told him to keep his money.
Loki’s thoughts were interrupted by the ancient dwarf gravelly whisper.
“Move swiftly Asgardian, cast your spell into the crucible before the metal cools.”
Loki walked over as he concentrated, a stream of emerald energy left the Aesirs left hand bathing the mold with green fire. When the flow stopped the glow was absorbed by the molten gold making the magic part of the metal.
Alberech used the tongs to place the crucible in the forge one last time before he poured the liquid into a mold he had on the workbench.
They had several hours ahead of them before the Dwarf could remove the mold. Alberech led him to a table with a couple of chairs were mead waited.
“I thought you and the shewolves of Odin hated each other. You surprised me with the request Loki. Since when did you decide to help the Valkyries? You’re not known for doing anything without a price or is this just a part of a larger scheme?”
“The less you know the better old friend.” Loki replied. Let’s just say that my relationship with the Riders has changed since the arrival of the Son of the Valkyries.”
The elderly dwarf nodded, he rarely left the forge but he had heard the rumors about the Riders prophecy coming true.
“A bunch of superstitious drivel if you ask me or has Sif wrapped you around her finger again?”
The God of Treachery eyes narrowed as his irises went black with anger.
“Choose your next words with care Dwarf. No one influences me.
“Do your work and keep silent or your life is forfeit. Let’s just say that myself and the Valkyries goals coincide for the moment.”
Alberech shied back at the gods words. What the Dark God’s motives where did not bode well for Asgard.
Loki sipped his mead as he calmed down, just the mention of Sifs name still brought out feelings that he thought he had suppressed. When they were young he loved the Goddess from afar. His half brother Thor was the one she had lusted after.
Now she has married Gil Swanson, well good luck keeping her. He thought, life was just so unfair.
“So what’s this Son of the Valkyries like, do I have anything to be concerned about?” Albrecht asked he had his own run in’s with the Riders.
“He’s a man of the world, respectful, intelligent and driven as all of the Valkyries are. He’ll leave you alone as long as you don’t provoke him.”
The dwarf had no intention of doing something that would attract his attention. Loki obviously had a grudging admiration for the male Valkyrie. That in itself was a reason to keep an eye on him. The whole idea of a male Rider was going to take some time to get used to.
The Dark Queens command still echoed in his head as he stormed though Ghost Mountain. He used a fist, a boot or the whip to get the rest of his clan moving. The whip wined as it cut through the air. As he flicked his wrist the bull whip cracked like thunder
“Move you slugs, form up in the courtyard. We have a Valkyrie to kill.”
It took the Warleader an hour to get everyone together. Once outside he looked over his fellow goblins with disdain. In the back stood seven black figures that seemed to absorb the light around them. Nightflyers were useful tools as long as you never turned your back on them.
Zander approached their leader with caution, he had no intention of ending up as a snack. Skar wasn’t known for his gentleness. When he got close the creature opened his eyes that looked the entrance to the abyss.
“Find the accursed male Valkyrie, Malice commands his death!” Zander barked. In response to the goblin chiefs order the leader chucked, it sounded like the grating of metal on metal.
“Feeling brave today worm?” Skar asked as he looked down his nose at the goblin.
“Hela has already given us our orders, they don’t include taking orders from you. Get your rabble moving, time is short.”
Wisely Zander sniff as he moves off, now wasn’t time to die. His dream was about to come true the greatest Goblin Warlord in the history of Asgard.
Or so he thought when he looked out over a sea of goblins that blackened the ground
Then looked down to see the steel beasts on what the dishonored called tracks “Panzers.”
He breathed in then let out a roar, “Death to the Valkyries!”
“DEATH TO THE VALKYRIES!” His host replied, their roar making the heavens shake.
Gil, Mist, Sif, and Shadow.
As Gil recovered from his wound the newest of the Valkyries go to know more about his Valkyrie powers and his oldest friend. The remark about Machiavelli opening a new set of memories from his childhood. Mist telling him stories of her life. As the two of them lay there she now told him of his wives adventures in Victorian London.
‘Victorian London. As in Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian London.’ Gil said with humor in his mindvoice. He could see the two of them prowling through the gas lit streets.
Hey why not, everything else has been there even Dr.Who. He thought as his wife spoke of meeting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He could see Holmes famous creator using Mist as the inspiration for Sherlock’s perfect woman.
‘Yes. It’s one of Sif and my personal favorite eras in human history. It was all so decadently civilized.’
Gils imagination went into overdrive as she almost purred the word decadently. He looked around at the huge four poster bed they currently occupied.
‘Exactly, where did you think I got the idea to tell the furniture maker?’ Mist breathed into his ear as she licked the tip.
How many stories of Victorian Erotica did those two inspire? Gil thought as his blood heated. Giving his skin a rather rosey hue, attracting his wife’s attention. Mists head lowered to his neck as she snickered.
‘Stories of Victorian Erotica, eh. At least one or two, I think and a painting.’
‘A painting? Let me guess a nude, did both of you pose or just you?’ Gil asked, he’d seen a photograph taken after the Battle of Shiloh. Both of his wives were standing together tending to the wounded as nurses.
During lulls in the conflict he could see them getting as far from the fighting as possible. London or Paris would have been his choice to go for rest and relaxation.
‘Yes Sif and I posed nude for Sir John Poytner. He was always telling us to stay still, we had other ideas.’
‘I’ll bet you did, leaving a trail of broken hearts behind you.’ Gil replied with a mental chuckle as he kissed her.
In the midst of her kiss he felt a hand on his shoulder. Sif was blinking the sleep out of her eyes with her blonde tresses all askew.
‘Victorian Erotica?’ The Goddess said in a sleepy mind voice then she came fully awake as she realized what she said.
‘No, you didn’t tell him about Paris!’ Sif cried urgently, the look of alarm on her face causing the two to almost fall over from laughing so hard.
‘Paris? What did you do in Paris love?’ Gil murmured in her ear as he kissed the spot were her neck and shoulder joined. He moved up her neck to whisper in her ear.
“Tell me.”Gil insisted.
The newest of the Valkyrie now understood the reason for his sisters hedonistic behavior. It was all due to the sensations of sex and warfare. The Valkyries drew power from the emotional energy.
Those two acts created energy and as long as mankind fucked or killed each other the Wolves of Odin would endure. The two women who held Gil were the living proof.
‘Well let’s see, I wanted to go see the Eiffel Tower. It had just been built you see. We always enjoy the places you humans create so effortlessly, Exposition Universelle in 1889.’
Gil smiled as he listened to Sif tell her story of high society in France. The secret liaison’s of the rich and powerful. In his minds eye he could see the three of them walking through the crowds down Oxford street in London or the Avenue des Champs-Elysee.
‘Just being there would be enough for me. I’ve never spent time in modern Paris or London.’ Gil replied when he finally got a word in.
Both of his wives looked surprised at that, Gil just shrugged. “There aren’t any visible bad guys in the middle of Paris.”
“You would be alarmed husband, civilization breeds an evil that can’t always be seen. Hitler being the current example of that. He tried to bind us to his will years before he started world war two.”
“There something else about Hitler, how did he know enough to “call” you in the first place?” Calling, according to Valkyrie lore was a special event. Done for precise reasons. Gil suspected that none of his sister Valkyries had never thought about that.
For a moment Mist who knew everything about everything looked perplexed.
“Mist looks like she swallowed a bug.” A young voice said with a giggle. Shadow looking sleepily at the rest of them. “Is this something that I get to look forward to?”
“What, A brain fart? anybody can have those. Gil teased. He felt Mists mood shift to deep suspicion as the little thief’s chuckled faded away.
“Is there a problem Mist?” Gil asked anxiously he trusted Mists hunches completely. She had the uncanny ability to put events together, coming up with theories on less information than he did.
“When he called us Hitler didn’t specify who he wanted. There was a woman with him, he called her a Vrill.”
The word Vrill set off alarm bells with Gil. They were closely associated with Nazi’s. They were women who claimed that they had been given access to extraterrestrial powers and technology through occult means. The only name that was associated with that cult was Sigrun.
“Does the name Sigrun mean anything Mist? The Valkyries eyes narrowed as she remembered.
“When we first walked the earth, the land was covered in ice. The first being we “met” was Sigrun the Winterwolf. I thought I recognized her, she looked as she had all along. Why would she work with the Nazis? I had quite forgotten about her with everything else that went on. Did the history you read say what happened to her?”
“Only that she disappeared in nineteen forty five at the same time Hitler killed himself. Gil answered as he filed the information away for later.
“From what I can remember about her she was always a bit of a rebel. Sigrun always spoke about taking her forest back from those useless bags of water. That’s how she described humankind.” Sif said as she caressed Shadow.
Gil scratched his head as he thought about what it to took to summon a Valkyrie. Controlling one seemed impossible, trying to force a Valkyrie to do anything bordered on the suicidal. It was something that he almost couldn’t comprehend. They didn’t have time to do anything about it now.
Morgan tended to the still unconscious girl that Gil and the Valkyries had saved from the slavers. The young bard gently traced the design branded on the young woman’s left shoulder. When she realized what she was doing she stopped.
This could have been me. It still can. She thought as she considered her brash request to join the Valkyries on the Quest to rescue the hostages.
The word had speed through the Academy like wildfire that she had been accepted into the party. Morgan was the envy of every student.
The soft knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.
“Come in its unlocked,”
Morgan said as Astraea silently entered the box of a room. Sparsely furnished with desk, dresser, wardrobe, and bed the room was what every student started out with.
“She’s not any better?” The Headmistress queried as she joined the bard at the girls bedside.
“No the poor woman was so exhausted by the ordeal she went through to get here that she just collapsed as soon as her head hit the pillows.” Morgan answered as they heard a groan.
“God’s preserve me.”
The dark skinned young woman looked at the other two with fear in her eyes. She gathered the blanket up around herself as if to hide.
“It’s alright you’re safe here, your in Misthaven.” Morgan told the young woman who was maybe a year younger than she.
“Misthaven, the city of the White Lady. So it does exist, father’s stories were not just a tale.”
“Is he a storyteller or a minstrel?” Astraea asked the young woman.
The young woman smiled shyly before she answered.
“No lady he is a merchant who has traveled all over the known world. Before the slavers came my father told us stories of the northlands. He spoke often of the fortress cut from the heart of a mountain, were magicians are trained to help the people’s of the land.
“I ran away because the slaves who are tested for magic bring high prices in the slave markets of Nasiri, often taking the gifted ones before they are trained. The great lords will often buy such girls to be concubines on the chance they can pass the magic on to the children they have.”
When I was far enough away I turned north to the lands of the Aesir. I knew from my father’s stories that Misthaven is also called the City of the Northern Star. My father also taught me the lore of the sky. All I did was follow the northern most star. It lead me here.”
Both women looked at each other then back at the girl.
“Let me understand this correctly your lords are buying these girls because they “have” magic. To pass it on to their heirs.”
“Judging by Lord Gils reaction to the slavers at the greeting is any indication. The Caliph may be getting a very unwelcome visitor.” Morgan said in a rather cautious tone.
“I doubt even an army of mages can stop an enraged Valkyrie.” Astraea said speculating. “It would be an interesting problem for our magical mechanics class. Let’s tell Mist first, so he doesn’t level the entire town when he finds out.”
The young woman crawled back to the headboard in fear as the other women discussed this Lord Gil.
“Will he be angry with me, Lady?” She said with tears in her eyes.
“No child no, he won’t be angry with you. What is your name child?” The Headmistress said gently.
“Well Halima Lord Gil or Gil as he likes to be called is the one of the two Valkyries that kept the slavers from retaking you.”
“He’s a Rider? But I’m a slave.”
“Lord Gil is different, I’ll let him explain it someday. As of your arrival in Misthaven your free. I’m Astraea, the Headmistress of the Academy. Well let you get some more rest after we get you something to eat.”
“My name is Morgan Sullivan, I’m a bard. Nice to meet you Halima.” The bard said as she shook the younger woman’s hand.
“I’ll keep an eye on her headmistress while you find us some food.” Morgan offered.
The other woman nodded as she rang for a servant. After the servant left to get their meal Astraea turned her attention once more to their guest.
“You said Halima that they tested you for magic, did anyone tell you what kind of mage you are?”
“Yes!” Halima replied excited, the testing had been fun. “Fire and Storm.”
Astraea looked puzzled then looked at Morgan who looked surprised.
“We have male students with that combination there have only been three female students in the history of the Academy. Let me double check.”
Astraea closed her eyes then focused. Sure enough her magic was intense blue white and violet sunlet. Centered in the middle her chest as it swirled and spun. The headmistress blinked several times to get the spots out her vision.
“Fire and Storm just like she said. Welcome to Misthaven Academy, would you like to stay here and learn?”
Halima jumped up and down in joy the other women smiled remembering the day they were asked.
“Yes, yes, yes!” The young woman cried with joy.
She hugged both Astraea and Morgan, then she reverted to back her shy persona. Both women embraced her again as someone knocked on the rooms door. When Morgan opened the door to reveal Vanessa with a tray heaped with food.
Morgan waived the other woman in Vanessa entered smiling as she set the tray down on the table next to the bed in front of Halima. The flame haired young woman looked at the newcomer with a smile her violet eyes sparkling.
“So you’re our new student welcome I’m Vanessa Stormshadow.”
Halima smiled back immediately feeling a kinship with this pixie like young woman.
“This is one of the other three young women who has the same gifts you have Vanessa’s schools of magic are fire and storm also. She sometimes teaches whenever I can get her to stand still.”
“Who’s the one that told us on day one that we needed to be out in the world taking care of those who can’t defend themselves. The Valkyries can’t be everywhere. Some of us did pay attention in class.” The flame haired young woman said tartly as she sat beside the bewildered Halima wearing a fortune in variegated shades of red velvet.
“You like my dress? Morgan’s mother made it for my birthday last year.”
“Your mother made this?” Halima said excitedly. “The cloth alone would cost enough for a lords ransom!”
“Halima your Narisi, right?” Vanessa asked as she passed out the dinner rolls. When she handed the young woman her roll she nodded affirmatively.
“Narisi silk is expensive here, We use what ever’s available.”
The next several minutes were taken up with food. When she finished the first roll she asked a question.
“May I write my father a letter to tell him that I’m safe?”
“Of course you can Halima as many as you want.” Astraea reassured the young woman. You can do that in the morning.”
, Senna, Kara, and Rob.
Robert Morant looked out the window of his room in the Tower of the White Lady. It seemed that death had missed Gil once again. He always seemed to have luck on his side. He smiled as he felt a hand on his back. Senna and Kara always sensed his moods.
“Hey you.” He said softly as he bathed in the comfort of Senna’s presence. He turned to see her sister still in the bed they shared. Barely coming to his shoulder Senna rested her flame colored tresses against his arm as snow started to fall.
“Snow always reminds me of Stalingrad.” Senna said as she took his hand and led him back to bed.
“I was with the Soviet forces inside the city when the predator turned into the prey. I was a sniper, deadlier than the male. Every round I fired was justice, swift, sure and final.”
Rob was reminded once again of just what Senna was. She rarely let him see this side herself. The creature of legend, the Angel of Death. Thousands of years old, she had walked battlefields almost since the creation of man.
“I reminded the Germans that there are terrors that live in the darkness. I taught them why they fear the night.”
She was remembering those days as a single tear made its way down her cheek. The tear as he wiped it away reminded him that he was not the only one with ghosts who haunted his memories. He folded Senna his embrace holding her close as Kara joined them feeling her sisters pain.
“What happened love?” Morant said gently as he kissed the top of her head.
“I met a young woman one day who had pinned down an entire German patrol. She exposed herself to enemy fire without fear. Her name was Ivana Polenchenko, born in Stalingrad, she was barely more than a child. She reminded me of when the Valkyries were young.”
Senna pulled from Morants embrace as she sniffed.
“I loved Ivana from that first moment when she appeared covered in blood and dirt. Her clothes were rags, the poor child didn’t even have a pair of shoes. A kindred spirit, she was kept warm by the fires of her vengeance. Her enemies vanquished she moved amongst the corpses taking her spoils. Right then it was a pair of boots.”
“She almost tried to shoot me before she recognized the uniform. She clutched a pair of boots like they were her favorite doll. A child who had everything she had known stolen from her.”
“Come with me and live, we need to go.” I told her. We were together almost until the end of the siege until a German artillery shell took her away from me. She knew it was the end as I screamed at her to take cover. She just spread her arms as the shell came in, just before it detonated she looked at me with a smile.”
“Goodbye Senna.” Were her last words.”
Kara went to the table that had wine set aside for them. She poured a glass for all three of them. Handing one first to Senna the elder Valkyrie proposed a toast.
“To the ones we have lost.” She said simply with her voice shaking with emotion.
She placed her glass on the table a moment before the flame haired woman buried her head in Morants chest once more. Rob and Kara held her as tears uncounted fell throughout the long night.