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Old 09-09-2015, 05:59 AM   #1
msmcq2005
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Default Valkyrie: Darkness Awaits Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Rihmsjalier

The next morning Gil was up early. He had his bodyguards locate every map of the Valkyrie’s fortress and surrounding countryside they could find or steal. That's where Mist, Alura, and the Queen found him, studying the maps spread out over the floor of the Alara's audience chamber.

He was so engrossed in his study that he didn't even look up until Mist kissed the top of his ear.

"Morning, my love," Mist whispered in his ear.

Gil, in response, kissed her before returning his attention back to the map.

"What are you looking for?" she asked as she looked at the maps with him.

Gil ran his hands through his sandy hair as he sighed.

"A backdoor, almost every fortress in my world has some kind of rear entrance to escape through in case the castle is taken. I cannot believe that whoever built your stronghold didn't do that too. Who built it anyway?”

"We did," said a familiar gravelly voice. The Dwarf he’d seen at the party walked in and peered at the map.

"Orinald Swift Axe at your service," Orin said as he shook Gil's hand after he stood.

"Gil Swanson. So Master Dwarf is there a back door?"

"Aye lad, there is. It's here," the Dwarf replied to the question. He was pointing at a spot on southeastern side of the mountain in a box canyon. Gil looked at it as he formulated his plans.

"How does it open?" came the next question. That one seemed to stump the dwarf as he scratched his head with a stubby finger.

"Don't know. That’s why I'm coming with you. I'll figure it out when we get there, Orin said confidently. Gil looked at Mist's grin and that decided him.

"Okay you can come; be ready tomorrow morning. We leave at first light. Pack light we are moving fast."

Then he turned his attention to the Queen of Almaren.

"Gather all the gear that you need, break into groups to move at fifteen minute intervals, spread them out. When we get the door open we'll move the resupply, especially food through the doorway. With a little luck we might pull this off without you know who being any the wiser until it's too late," Gil said as he verified his plans. Through the Elves he thought he had an additional three to four thousand troops to bolster the defense.

"Malice is in for another nasty surprise. If we can pull this off we can relieve the siege without firing a shot," he said as he rolled up the maps.

Alara did something that stunned Gil as she kissed him on the lips gently.

"You have done more for me than anyone else has since my husband passed. You saved my daughter and have given us victory. Consider this your home, your name will be remembered as long as the clan lives. Now as is customary, we will prepare a farewell feast for you and Mist. May the Gods protect you."

With that said she kissed him again as a mother would with tears in her eyes. Gil took a knee and kissed the ring on her left hand. "My sword is yours, Great Lady," He vowed but she waved him off.

"Your sword is not the only thing I need." The way she said it was enough to let him know that she knew what had gone on between him and Alura. Gil looked at the ceiling as she left with her daughter, until Mist patted his rear end.

*Does everyone know?* He mentally asked Mist. As Alura, the little scamp leered at him.
The Valkyrie just laughed.

*Just Alara, she's looking forward to having some time with you. I can't blame her. I find you irresistible.*

*Oh Goddess. There aren't any secrets.*

*Not here at any rate.* The Valkyrie continued as she took his arm to get ready for the feast.

When they returned to his chamber, the pile of thank you gifts had grown. A suit of armor like Mist's only in greys, blacks, and greens with a scabbard for his samurai and a holster for the Browning. A matching set of boots of soft leather sat beside the armor.
Under the armor was a thin circlet of a silvery metal etched with oak leaves. He held it in his hand.

"Mist, what's this?"

"Oh wow, it's your badge of office. You're the First Sword of Almaren, Protector of the Realm. Technically, second in line to the throne. Alara didn't only adopt you into the clan, she adopted you into her family."

"This is too much for me. I can't accept this. I'm not worthy," he said with a hitch in his voice. The Valkyrie took the circlet from him.

You are more than worthy, Gil. I've watched you cry for your lost comrades. I've seen children run to you in the middle of a battle. Am I wrong for loving you? I always have since that day in the alley when you almost died trying to save a young woman in which you had never met."

Mist then helped him put on the armor; it fit perfectly and shockingly light.
"Now, go down to the feast. I'll crown you with the circlet then. In circumstances such as this, ceremony is important. I need to get dressed and I want it to be a surprise."

When he got down to the feast, everyone was dressed in their finest. Alura looked ravishing in a gown of pale green. Her mother had a matching dress of red. Alara rose to indicate Gil to sit at her right hand, which led to several raised eyebrows from the attendees

"Your Lords don't seem to be happy with the seating arrangements."

"My lords don't rule here. I do, and I do what is good for the realm. You have proven yourself worthy of being my First Sword. According to Lady Mist you have seen more warfare than these fools have read about."

Anything else she was going to say was stopped by Mist's entrance to the room. Complete silence fell as she glided across the floor. She was dressed in the most intricately made armor Gil had ever seen. It flowed over her muscled body Iike water. The under-tunic was transparent; she looked every inch the legendary being she was and breathtakingly beautiful.

As she crossed the floor, she held the circlet in both hands parallel to the floor. When she got to the center both Alara and Alura joined her.

"Gil Swanson, come forward," Mist commanded her eyes glowing.

"Kneel"

Mist held the circlet over his head as she spoke in her voice ringing with power.

"I name thee First Sword of Almaren, Lord Protector of the Realm, may your sword never know defeat as long as the realm of the Aesir endures!"

Then she laid the circlet on his brow, it fit perfectly. As she did so a wave of warmth went through him as all in the room cheered. All except one, whose lips turned up in a sneer. Gil turned to face him. They locked gazes for a moment before he and his retainers left.

He and Mist looked at each other as the male elf turned Alura stuck her tongue out at his retreating back.

"Envious toady. He's been trying for my hand. All he thinks of is himself," Alura whispered fiercely.

"Lord Anselon is a problem; his father was bad. He treated his small holder's like slaves for his pleasures. Most of them are humans like yourself. I've had to threaten them with execution several times. When the elder Anselon died Stefan took over. He's craftier he is able to hide his excesses."

"I can see that dude is going to be a problem," Gil said as he considered the ones involved.

"Then arrest him or have him executed. Those are both your rights now. Your primary duty is the safety of the realm," the Queen said in an offhand manner.

Alara had a ruthless streak, most good leaders did, absolutely no one questioned her authority, and if they did they didn't do it twice. She reminded him of General Swift.

"I think we'd better have some proof before we schedule a trip to the headsman. Though arresting him would probably not be a bad idea. Might teach him something about respect," Gil suggested. The Queen nodded.

Mist gave her a look that said I told you so.

He felt something pass between them; they were talking mind to mind. His attention wandered to the people in the room. He felt out of place here amongst these immortal beings. The stories he had read about Elves said that they lived so long that humankind couldn't relate to them. Those stories proved to be wrong.

He was sitting next to another couple who were deep into a conversation about their children. They just lived longer than anything else but they weren't so different after all. In the midst of his musings Orinald made his way over.

After he bowed he smiled at all of them.

"Congratulations laddie, I couldn't have made a better choice," Orinald said with a grin. "How did you like Lady Mist's and your new armor? I made it myself."

"It's great, thank you," Both Mist and Gil said.

As he thought about the armor an idea formed one that would maybe give them an advantage.

Gil reached out and drew the Browning cleared the chamber pulled the clip out and handed the weapon to the dwarf pistol grip first.

"Could you copy this?"

"Copy? Hell, I can probably make it better, boyo given enough time," Orin said as he worked with the slide.

"What is it?” the dwarf said looking down the barrel of the weapon.

"It's called a handgun or pistol. It's a weapon from Midgard. More importantly I need something else." Looking down, he picked the clip full of nine-millimeter ammunition and extracted all of bullets. He put one of the rounds in the dwarf’s hand, "I need more of these as many as you can make. lt's the projectile that the handgun expels called a bullet. The lower part is filled with a small charge of gunpowder and the cartridge is made of brass."

As Gil explained what he needed the Dwarfs grin got wider. Mist smiled at both of them, watching Gil work his brand of magic on Orin.

"I think Lord Gil has made a friend for life. Dwarves love challenges," Alara remarked as she watched the two men converse.

"He engenders trust, loyal to a fault, painfully polite at times. Gil is just a typical example of the warriors of Midgard. They have sacrificed themselves for centuries for just causes. That is why the Valkyrie choose them," Mist replied as she walked over and took Gil arm.

"Dance with me," the Valkyrie said with her little smile. There already were other couples dancing in a wide circle. She dragged Gil out before he could protest.

He wasn't good at it but he did his best. Then for the next song, he got Alara to dance with. He switched throughout the evening with the Queen, the Princess, and the Valkyrie. When it was over he was a bit winded. Sometime around midnight, the party ended. He and Mist along with the rest had an early start ahead of them. Rihmsjalier waited.

Before dawn the next morning, the elven host of Almaren was making final preparations. Almost all of the lords were preparing to set out to save the future of their world. When Gil and Mist arrived there was a debate going on.

"I'm not going to follow this human anywhere! What do we know of him? He could be in league with the dark ones for all we know." The speaker was Lord Anselon.

"I think it's time to set an example," Mist said to Gil quietly.

As for Gil, he had quite enough of the man. Moving quickly the ex-soldier spun the elven male around and punched him with a mailed fist squarely in the nose. He flew backwards, hitting the ground in heap. Steel rasped against steel as he and the Valkyrie drew their swords at the same time. Lord Anselon wiped his hand across his nose to find it bloody. No one else moved to intervene. When he looked up, he found Gil's sword in his face.

"Do you have anything else to say?" Gil said quietly. He let the man get to his feet. A young looking elven woman rushed to his side trying to stem the flow of blood. He pushed her away.

"Anselon, no he'll kill you," she screamed as the Lord pulled the sword that hung at his waist. Gil backed away.

"I'd listen to her," Gil said as he met the enraged Lord’s rush. Bringing the samurai up and across he parried his opponent's sword. Then as he dropped to let the next enraged swing pass over him. He went into a leg sweep that hooked an ankle and sent Anselon and his sword flying.

"You’re under arrest for sedition. I'll let the Queen decide what she wants to do with you," he said as he turned away. The enraged lord pulled a dagger as he got up, Gil spun, driving his katana through the elven lord’s chest. Anselon was dead before he hit the ground. Gil wiped his sword off the dead elf’s cloak and sheathed it before turning away in disgust.

"Anyone else have anything to say?" He challenged. Complete silence met his challenge. Gil looked at the elven woman who had tried to stop the now dead lord. She was pregnant.

"Teach your child to respect others, even those who aren't elves."
To his surprise the woman looked at him with a respect in her eyes. She looked down at Anselon's body then kicked him in the head.

"I owe this fool no allegiance, my lord. My father arranged this marriage thinking it would be advantageous." The woman was a tall blonde with grey eyes. Gil picked up the dead lord's sword and placed it in her hand.

"You will be the child's reagent until he or she comes of age." Then he turned to Anselon retainers,

"She's your leader. If her commands are not obeyed, I'll find out why."

The Elves bowed as he stalked away back to join Mist. She said nothing but the Dwarf whispered, "Well done."

Gil didn't say anything just grunted in response. When he walked over to Alara and her daughter he turned to watch the body get dragged off to be buried.

"I didn't want to kill him, Great Lady," he muttered.

The Queen just patted him on the shoulder.

"You gave him a choice, which was more than I would have. He made the wrong choice. You cannot protect a fool from himself."

Gil just looked at her, as she moved off to get the resupply columns moving. Alara moved off with the main force following Gil and Mist.

When they camped that night. Gil took one of the sentry posts himself. He sat with the FAL across his knees on a rock silhouetted by the moon not far from the main camp. Alara looked up at Gil sitting alone in the cold. Mist walked up beside her and looked up herself.

"He takes a life very seriously. Killing upsets him," Alara said wondering what kind of man Gil was.

"Killing without reason upsets him. He gave Anselon a choice; he doesn't understand why he didn't take it. Surrender and arrest would have been acceptable, sensible to Gil. He hates waste and never enjoys killing at least in most cases."

"Then tell him to get down off that rock and come inside out of the cold. If he becomes ill, where will we be then? Tell him his mother said so."

Mist chuckled as she left to get Gil. At the bottom of the rock she called to Gil. "Your mother said to come down off the rock before you catch cold.” Gil responded by sliding down right beside her.

"She does, huh? Well she's right; that rock is bloody cold."

"Well come in and get the rest of you warm. I'll get your backside warm later," Mist teased as she opened the tent flap for him.
"You promise?" he asked in a high-pitched little boy voice.

Mist gave a full-hearted laugh as she pushed him inside. Both Alara and Alura were already seated when Gil approached the table he looked at Alara.

"Mom, after dinner can I go back outside and play?" he asked in the same little boy voice, which made the Queen and Alura convulse with laughter. When they stopped laughing the conversation took a more serious turn.

"All of the resupply groups have made it here. The scouts have reported they haven't seen anything between us and the back door,” Alara said with some relief.

Then Alura had a question.

"What do we do if we can't get the door open?"

Gil had to think about that before he answered. "It depends on if there is another way around the mountain. Orinald is certain he knows how. If it happens then we'll come up with something. No sense in worrying about it before it happens."

They had gotten through the meal and had settled in for some more planning when something like a shadow passed over his mind. Gil reacted immediately looking out the door. On the edge of his hearing he heard a scream, which cut off abruptly. The ex-soldier had laid his assault rifle on the floor beside himself. He reached down, shouldered the weapon, and eased the safety off.

"Gil what is it?" Mist whispered having felt it too. Not taking his focus off the darkness outside, he moved silently not looking to see if they followed or not. The watch fires were lit bathing the area in light but just outside there was a shadow cast by the moonlight from above. The shadow started moving toward the tent where Alara and Alura stood in doorway guarded by the Valkyrie.

As the shadow moved, he clicked the weapon into full-auto aimed in the center of the mass and pulled the trigger. From years of practice he shot three, five round bursts in quick succession. The automatic weapon’s fire brought everyone streaming from the tents as Gil stood with his weapon out in front of him.

Someone brought him a torch and on the ground where he had aimed looked like a cross between a bat and what looked almost human covered in black scales. It had seven holes in it, one through the head.

"What the hell is this?"

"Nightflyer, Shadowspawn, if Malice set one of these on your tail, she's more worried about you than I thought. They are assassin's, dark Elves that volunteer for the change to show their devotion to the goddess of death," Mist said her voice grim.

"Okay everyone, let's search the camp. Let's make sure that there aren't any more of these things prowling around. Stay together but check everything," Gil ordered.

Just as they started to move, one of the sentries came in shaking, as white as a sheet.

"Lord Gil, you need to come see this. It’s Thon; that thing tore him apart," he said on the edge of tears.

Gil told the sentry to lead them to what he had found. The Queen, Princess, Mist, and himself walked out to the area where the ex-soldier had heard the scream. There was blood on the ground and then body parts. Mist looked up.

"May the Aesir protect us," she breathed.

Gil followed her gaze and in the notch of a tree was a head lips pulled back in pain underneath was a note written in a flowing hand.

"You’re next."

Behind him, he heard sobbing; it was Alura as he pulled the note down crushing it in his hand.

"Great Lady, go back to the tent, both of you. You don't need to see anymore. I'll take care of him."

At his words, the Queen led the still sobbing Alura away as Gil looked at Mist.

"As if I needed any more incentive to end Malice's reign of terror."

Gil himself pulled the head down grimacing at the touch. Once down, he handed it off to another of the Elves who took off with it to be buried. When he arrived back at the camp he gave the order to keep guard in pairs. This was going to be a long night.

When morning came at last the weary group moved from forest to the hills. They moved through hills with the Valkyrie’s mountain, Rihmsjalier, in front of them. Finally entering the canyon where the door was located. Orinald came up to look at the expanse of vertical rock.

The Dwarf walked up waving his hands over the surface of the rock. Slowly writing appeared along with a sword shaped indentation in the middle. Gil looked at the Valkyrie as she pulled out her sword pressing it the stone. When the sword came into contact with the stone, there was a sharp click and the doors opened.

When they came to the first corner, a petite young woman with flaming red hair like fall leaves met them. She barely came to Gil's shoulder but she embraced Mist warmly.

"Did you find him?" She asked with excitement in her voice as she looked around.

"Gil, come here and meet my sister, Senna," the Valkyrie said as she waved him forward.

The soldier bowed as he came face to face with the other woman. The other Valkyrie looked him over just like Mist had. She wasn't shy as she pulled him into a kiss of welcome. Mist chuckled as the kiss went on leaving the ex-soldier a little stunned.

"Be welcome to Rihmsjalier, Gil Swanson," Senna said with a smile. The man behind her then occupied Gil’s attention.

"Rob?" The ex-soldier said in wonder. The Elves streamed past them the world fell away, as the two of them embraced oblivious to the others.

Robert Morant looked over his friend and partner as he teased him.

"You got old and fat."

"It looks like you haven't missed a meal either," Gil countered as the two Valkyries chuckled.

"I have something for you, Rob," Gil said as he called to one of the Elves carrying the baggage. Gil pulled out the FAL, placing it in his friend's hands.

"Oh how I have missed this. I can't believe you kept it!"

Then Gil called Alara and Alura over to introduce them. Both of them were very formal, Rob to them was a much a being of legend as the Valkyrie.

"So your my son's oldest friend," Alara said with a smile. Alura just smiled shyly as they embraced.

"Son? It looks like you've been causing trouble without me. Your timing is perfect as usual," Morant said as he looked at his partner.

"How so?" Gil queried.

"The dark ones are preparing for another assault. They’re not expecting that we have been reinforced and resupplied. They think we're about to crumble. Freya and Sif are going to be thrilled to see you all. Let's go upstairs."

Senna and Morant led them through the labyrinthine corridors to the middle of the fortress. Carved from the bedrock was a huge room with enormous pillars that marched down the sides. On the dais at the end of the room, sat two women one fair and one dark haired both with blue eyes filled with an inner light.

"Be welcome to Rihmsjalier, Gil Swanson. I have waited and watched you from afar. There are few of my worshipers left. You and your family have been loyal to your oath in spite of the pressures of the outside world. I am Sif; this is my sister Freya. We lead the Valkyries," Sif said as she approached.

All of them knelt. It wasn't even everyday that you met goddesses.

"Arise all, we have work to do. The situation is dire. The dark ones have a dragon at their call. They mean to have him destroy us," Freya said her voice grim.

"It's time to earn our pay then," Gil said with a grin. "I need a new pair of boots."
"And a cheap wallet," Morant finished.
"Foolishly brave words warriors but with luck, true," Sif said as she chuckled. "Let's go upstairs to see what can be done."

This part of my first book Valkyrie: Darkness Awaits. It is on sale for 2.99 for the Kindle Edition or 5.95 for the paperback. Both are aavailable at Amazon.
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