In these silences something may rise. – Stephen King
Silent . Is not a word that many people would associate with the small country town of Bellane. Though quiet, the town on a normal day would be bustling with people, visiting the many open venders and shops. Children could always be heard laughing and playing in the creek that ran right down middle near the town square. The constant ping of hammers hitting an anvil was always in the air as blacksmiths made everything from swords to farm equipment. Quiet is the word that people might use as the town did not have the size or population of a full city, but never silent. However though this was not a normal day.
The ominous silence was interrupted by a low hum, followed by a single brilliant bead of light that descended from the sky that slowed as it touched down in Bellane's market district. A brightened flash put everything in a violet hue for a moment as a shimmering Valkyrie materialized. Long flowing black hair and dark armor that was trimmed with gold glimmered in the sunlight. She rose from her kneeling position, as a set of black ethereal wings spanned a full 15 feet before vanishing in a flurry of sparks and feathers. Through her helmet Hrist Valkyrie took survey of her surroundings. She instantly took note of the silence that hung in the air that accompanied by the smell of death. Bodies lay strewn about on sidewalks and on the streets. Trash was everywhere. Everything was covered with a light coating of soot from various fires that had been left to burn out of control, and have long since burned out. The entire town was in ruins. The goddess walked up to one of the bloated bodies, and saw the dark red splotches covering the exposed parts of his skin.
Hrist opened her eyes and saw chunks of crystal on the floor quickly evaporating like ice on the desert sand. Knowing instantly she had been awakened, she felt the life force from the tree of Yggdrasil flowing freely through her. As always it was empowering and warm. She tilted her head to look up and saw lady Freya standing along side to...Rufus? Why?
Then it hit her all at once. Memories of Alicia, her sisters, Lezard, Arngrim. Everything came rushing back like a wave. The victorious fight and impending death of Alicia and her sisters. She raised her head to allow her summoners to see her face under the visor of her helmet. From what she could see, they each had an expression of concern in their eyes. Did they still see her as a threat? She did not blame them though, they each had their reasons. Freya was the first to speak. "You may rise Hrist." She stood and soon found herself in the warm and loving embrace of Freya. Evidently all transgressions had been forgiven for using the dragon orb against her. Freya broke the embrace and Hrist turned to face Rufus who was rubbing the back of his head looking sheepish. "It's good to see you again Hrist. Can you tell me what you remember?"
"I..." Hrist paused for a second, considering her answer. "Remember everything... And I am sorry for your loss. Alicia gave everything to save us." She was a little surprised that she could still remember everything. But then again she didn't just come from a full cycle of rebirth. She had spent her time in a crystal, healing her damaged soul. Reassembling the Goddess Valkyrie had cost them greatly. Rufus was caught off guard by her response. Knowing that unlike herself or the other Valkyries Alicia wouldn't remember anything beyond rebirth. The easy going smile vanished for only the briefest of moments before returning. "Thank you."
Hrist had another question on her mind. "I do not see Odin… Are you…?" Rufus gave a sort of wistful sigh and Freya turned her head away.
"Well uh, I'm sort of the one in charge around here. There's been a lot changes around here. The first is allowing you to keep your memories" It was strange to feel the aura of Gungir on someone so unimposing as Rufus, she looked to Freya who would not meet her gaze, but didn't fail to notice the saddened look she had on her face. If Freya herself said nothing to the contrary then it must be true. Hrist had no other desire to continue this line of conversation, so she decided that it was best to get down to business. She turned to Rufus again. "Are we in need of Einherjar?" Nobody seemed to mind the change in subject, but Rufus bore a grim look. Hrist figured that the situation was not good. Perhaps Rognorok was upon them?
"We'll never say no to some extra Einherjar but that is not your primary mission this time." Hrist's interest was piqued. When she said nothing Rufus continued.
"There is a pretty big problem in Midgard. There is some sort of... Uh sickness going around. We need you to go down and sorta fix it." Sickness? What? What the hel could she do about that? She knew a few basic healing spells but she was a battle maiden, not a doctor. Freya took to the air in a mock sitting position, crossing her powerful legs. " Really, my lord? This is how you intend to brief a goddess of fate?" Though she was clearly irritated, it was better than the somber look she had a minute ago.
"What my lord is trying to say. Is that there is a corruption in the form of a plague ravaging the lands of Midgard. We do not know the source of it, but we know that it is not natural. Someone is using the dark arts."Freya spoke with an air of authority. Rufus need to work on his communication skills as the all father. But at least he had till the end of time to work on them.
"We think that if you can find the source, you might be able to halt this from continuing any further. Your mission is to infiltrate, investigate, and eliminate. Do you understand?"
Hrist nodded and turned to Rufus "I shall find those responsible, and they shall reap your vengeance my lord." Before the last part left her mouth before she realized that she had made some sort of error. With a mental kick to herself, she remembered that this was not the vengeful Odin she was dealing with. This was Rufus and he was nothing like her former master. Sensing her discomfort he held up his hands. "Its alright, granted I want you to use your best judgment, but things are pretty bad down there. We need this stopped soon... So pretty much I'm authorizing an 'any means necessary'" Hrist nodded then lowered herself to one knee. "I understand my lord."
Rufus instantly looked uncomfortable "Er, uh. You may rise… again. And please call me Rufus." Hrist rose to her feet and gave him an acknowledging nod "of course lord Rufus" He shrugged. "Close enough."
As a Valkyrie, Hrist had pretty much seen every creepy thing in all of Midgard, from dark caves to crypts used for mass graves in her hunt for Brahms. But nothing says 'ominous' quite like a Ghost Town. There wasn't even a single bird in the sky as they and every other animal were not immune to the red death. While staring at sunburned bloated corpse that somehow found itself on the slanted roof of a nearby inn, she raised a hand and called forth her Einherjar.
With a small dance of light 3 figures took a sudden corporeal existence from thin air. Two of them large and one was of average height. The smallest of them was an archer named Roderick, found north of Bellane and was no older than 20. Very handsome with his messy mop of brown hair and easy smile. He was an instant hit with most of the female population, something he never took advantage of because of the wedding ring he wore with pride. He was found in full battle dress amongst a company of troops that were leading an evacuation from the plauge riddled city of Elsweyr. Unfortunately some of the evacuees were hiding symptoms of the plague. Unaware that some of the citizens were infected they all died within a day.
Then there's Cromm the largest of the three. Big and burly, he had bright red hair that wrapped around his bald head like a tiny island. His face was almost hidden behind the massive beard that was braided all the way to his chest. He was a good old fashion, strait off the boat, Viking. He was also found in Elsweyr, in the shipyards by the docks. He and the rest of his crewmates had arrived to do what Vikings do best. Pillage the docks and burn down the shipyards to prevent pursuit. But the joke was on them! The docks and pretty much that whole part town had been placed under emergency quarantine. And the Vikings arrived just in time to join the citizens on a very short and painful end at the hands of Red Death. Normaly Hrist did not condone such actions, but in the end the pasts of the Einherjar will not matter when Rognorok comes. Then last but not least there was Arngrim.
Hrist wandered the halls of Valhalla. Rumors that the Valkyrie had been awoken had traveled fast. So she was not at all surprised and a little hurt that that all of the Einherjar seemed to be avoiding her. Einherjar would most of the time jump at an opportunity to join a Valkyrie on a mission. If even just for a reason to go do something other than sit around and do nothing. She did not actually ask or even order them to come with her. But she could see it in their eyes. Some looked at her with hatred while others just seemed nervous around her. All of them whispered to each other when they thought she wasn't looking or couldn't hear.
She felt like a monster.
Hrist supposed that it didn't really matter since she was only looking for one Einherjar in particular. Valhalla had no clocks to speak of but she knew it was after dinnertime, so she knew he would probably be napping. But rather than heading into the dormitories on the lower levels, the Valkyrie started poking around the various stairways. After what seemed like forever, she finally found what she was looking for.
The large man in heavy armor lies still near the bottom of a long flight of stairs. She wondered how someone could possibly be comfortable on something as unsmooth and as hard as stairs.
She hesitated to approach him.
Though she had stood before her sisters as an enemy, the three Valkyrie sisters had reconciled their differences in a way that only family could. But things between her and Arngrim were different. Though Arngrim and she may have found themselves on the same side at the end, they didn't have time to work out their differences like her sisters and herself. She would never voice it, but she feared what he might think of her. She was tired of having to be alone and keep a straight face. Hrist's loyalty her Einherjar was absolute. But it always seemed like her duty made her out to be the bad guy. The fact that the staircase wasn't filled with the impressive noise of Arngrim's snoring meant that he was awake.
"Arngrim, I have been awakened, and have been assigned a mission on Midgard." She said. She waited patiently, gauging his reaction.
"So?" Hrists heart sank a little, feeling that what she feared may in fact be true. She mulled over her next words carefully and decided that she may as well just lay her cards out on the table. She always preferred a direct assault anyway.
"Arngrim please listen to me...I…I am sorry." He snapped his head up with a "huh?" He looked at Hrist at the bottom of the stairs. Her head was faced down so her visor was hiding most of her face. She looked like a child awaiting her punishment. "I was a fool to not have realized that Odin was truly wrong. I am sorry that I did not I did not listen to what everyone was telling me…especially you and Silmeria."
Arngrim sat up from his resting spot, unsure of what he was hearing. He remained quiet as Hrist Valkyrie went on with her apology. "You…are the closed thing that I have ever had to a real friend. And I am sorry for taking your life from you." Arngrim stared at her with an astonished look on his face. Like at any moment he was going to wake up and find that he DID fall asleep on the stairs.
"I will not order you to come to Midgard with me." The battle maiden let out a regretful sigh. "Just…please, do not hate me like everyone else." There. She had bared her soul to him and now the next move was his and his alone to make. She never looked up, but she could hear the rustle of clothing and heavy armor as Arngrim lumbered himself to his feet and made his way down the stairs to her, stopping only a few feet away, she awaited his answer.
"What the hel are you talking about!?" Hrist looked up to see an amazed look on his face on his face. "Hrist the things we did down there, we did together. Hell I was the one who executed the poor kid's dad. What happened to you is the same thing that happened to me. We saw what she was fighting for and we realized that we were wrong." He studied the somewhat hopeful expression on her face and continued. "I'm just a mercenary Hrist, I was promised OTH and treasure. When I was down there, I was just doing my job. You're a Valkyrie… why the hel am I gonna blame you for doing yours?" The goddess cleared her throat and put a neutral look on her face. "I see… So will you come with me to midgard then?"
Arngrim stretched with a cocksure smile on his face. "Hel ya ill come with you. This place sucks; I'm ready to go out and kick something's ass." Hrist Valkyrie turned away from him so that he wouldn't see the light smile that graced her features. "Very well Arngrim. I shall explain the mission on the way to the water mirror." After a couple of seconds Arngrim caught up with her and was walking at her side.
"So we're like best buds then huh?" he teased
"It would be ill-advised that you push it." The goddess deadpanned.
Hrist watched as her Einherjar looked around. Roderick brought his hands to his nose. They had seen many places with this level of devastation, but the archer still couldn't used to the smell. Not even Hrist knew if Einherjar could hurl. The sickly pale color seemed to indicate yes. Rod was kind of irritated that Cromm was so unaffected by this. But then again he spent months at a time on a ship, with a bunch of other sweaty, unbathed Vikings. So maybe this wasn't so bad.
Hrist turned her back to them and surveyed the streets "Arngrim I want you to move south along this main road, and see if you can find something out of the ordinary." Arngrim nodded obedienty. "You two. I want you to head south, but not too far. You have not been Einherjar long and will weaken the farther you stray from me. Am i understood?" They each nodded a response and Roderick gave a salute. "Good we shall meet back here in a couple of hours. I sense a worthy soul nearby." Now that everyone understood their parts they separated, but they did not make it far. "Hrist!" She heard Roderick cry out. The mighty valkyrie whirled around, ready to defend her Einherjar, only to find the archer pointing like a grade school-er, tattling on someone to his teacher. Cromm was bent over trying to work a gold ring off a corpse. "He's looting again!"
Hrist slapped a hand to her face in frustration. "What have i told you about that!" she stormed over, stopping a only a few feet away. Even in her armor, His sheer bulk dwarfed her body in comparison. "I will not tolerate my Einherjar going around stealing from the dead!" The massive Viking put his hands up in a calm-down-crazy-lady manner. Arngrim crossed his arms and leaned against a tattered building with a smirk of amusement. This was going to be good. But even he dropped his jaw at what Cromm said next.
"Look just calm down missy, he's not gonna be using it anytime soon. There's no need to get yer skirt in a bunch now is-" Cromm never got to finish as Hrist swung a massive halberd that she definitely was not holding a second ago. The blade came so close that he actually heard it whistle by and felt the breeze it left in its wake. The sound of something soft hitting the ground, made him look down. To his horror he saw his beloved braided beard lying on the ground. He would have killed any man on the spot for such an offense. But before he knew it, he found himself staring down the shaft of her mighty weapon. The pike so close that he had to cross his eyes to see the point.
"Do you have any thing else to add?" Hrist asked with deadly calm in her voice. She took the 'uuuuhhhh' and the sweating of his forehead as an answer. "No? Then take this as your last warning to show the dead your respect. Furthermore you shall refer to me as Lady Valkyrie or Hrist from now on. Do you understand?" Cromm nodded nervously. It's amazing what you'll agree to when you have a pike in your face.
"And finally, if you ever mention my skirt or any other part of my body in a manner that I disapprove I will send you back to the cycle of rebirth, and I will not make it pleasant." She unsummoned her weapon uncaring if Cromm had gotten the message or not. He has been warned, if he crosses the line again Hrist very much intended to make good on her promise. She turned her head to Roderick who was being a little too smug for her taste.
"You! Nobody likes a tattle-tale." Hrist scolded "As your valkyrie I will always guard your back as if you are my own. And as my Einherjar I expect nothing less from you. But you must always help each other, and nothing will be accomplished if you are out here bickering like children." Roderick gave a sharp salute, with a 'yes ma'am'. Rod didn't have a beard, so he was pretty sure that what ever Hrist cut off would be sorely missed. Arngrim whistled to himself. One lesson that all Einherjar learned very quickly was that you never back-talked your Valkyrie, especially if your Valkyrie was Hrist.
Then her head whipped to the last one. "Arngrim! Just what the hel are you smiling about!" He jumped knowing he had been caught. "Uh nothin boss. Just happy to be out here." She scowled, not buying it for a second but willing to let it go. "Then go be happy where I told you to be!" 'Scurry' is the word that many people would use to describe the departure of her men. Finally alone she could get to her own duties as a Valkyrie. She closed her eyes and began to hone in on the soul.
Roderick walked with Cromm down the street taking great care to not step on any of the bodies that were strewn about like a like a proverbial mine field. It made the horror of what he was seeing easier if he tried to imagine they were something else. Rod pictured them as horse crap from Elswyre's Cavalry division. Those horses dropped bombs that he swore were as big as him sometimes. So here Rod was walking down the street dodging huge horse crap. Well, at least Roderick was. Cromm was more focused on the impossible task of re-attaching his braided beard.
Realizing that his plan was just simply unfeasible he dropped it in defeat. He kind of wanted to give it a tiny Viking funeral with its own little boat and everything, but this was neither the time nor place. With a sigh he looked around, then leaned in close with hand near his mouth like he was conspiring something.
"Did you see what that crazy she devil did to ma beard?" he whispered "I've been growing that since I was nothing more but a wee lad!" The fact that he was whispering even though no one was around didn't dawn on Roderick. "Ya I saw it. I was there remember?" Rod whispered back "You can't just go back-talking a.... Why are we whispering?"
Cromm looked like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You saw it. The lass pulled a friggen halberd out of mid-air! She has superpowers!" Cromm offered as if it explained everything.
"Superpowers sounds stupid. She's a Valkyrie: a god." Rod continued whispering. Though he wasn't sure why.
"See? How do you know she's not using her godly hearing to listen in on everything we're saying right now?" There was a moment where they just sat there and stared at each other. Then they both shot up bolt straight, simultaneously.
"Well i'm sure that milady Valkyrie has many abilities. And I can only say that i'm glad to have the honor of fighting alongside such a noble goddess." Rod said in an unnaturally loud and forced voice.
"Aye, I too am truly honored. To be allowed to be given the chance to stand by such a lovely vision of beauty." Cromm spoke just as loud and equally awkward.
"But surely not as honored as I. She is like the sunrise that shines over the hillside at dawn."
"Pah! Is that all lad? To me she's like the sunset that settles over the sparkling sea!"
"Booooring. To me she's like the rainbow that graces the sky after a storm!"
"Oh please, the lass even more beautifuler than the Aurora lights in the frozen north!"
"Beautifuler is not even a word Cromm!"
"See? Words can't be used to describe her beauty!"
Completely unaware that that a contest of stupidity was quickly reaching the levels of epic. Arngrim was doing some investgating of his own... at the towns local pub of course. It wasn't that he wasn't taking the mission seriously. He wanted to stop the plague as much as anyone else, more so than others in fact. Its just that he and Hrist have been at this for a couple of weeks now, and they have nothing to show for it. When they came down from Asgard they were expecting to find some giant plague spreading monster. To which they would kick its ass, save the day, and a very grateful Hrist would make out with him, while holding a giant mug of ale just for him. At least that's the way it worked in the special directors cut of his fantasy. (The unrated version couldn't be mentioned in this T rated fanfic) But It didn't work that way at all. They found the plague. It was friggen everywhere, but what they needed was a starting point, some lead to point in the right direction. So as of two towns ago he was trying a completely new tactic. He was going to let the answer come to him. They searched and searched with no results, mostly because they had no idea what they were looking for. So he was going to rely on his seemingly endless supply of dumb luck.
This was not to be scoffed at folks. Dumb luck was one of the corner stones of being a mercenary. Most tombs were death traps. Literally, as in they were actual traps for the purpose of death. As it turns out, all the training in the world didn't mean a damned thing when you step on some randomly placed pressure plate, and got an ass full of poisoned darts. You see it all the time too. Walk up to some cave or tomb and you see a buncha heads on some pikes or some dusty skeletons at the bottom of a spike pit, and all you can think is 'poor unlucky bastard'. Arngrim felt the welcoming crash of the beer buzz settle in. Turning his head and he stared at one of the town folks that had died, propped up against bar with its head down.
"What do you think? Got an opinion?" The corpse didn't say anything. "You either huh? Well if me or Hrist could get our foot in the door, we might be able to stop this." He poured a second mug and pushed it down the bar. It slid to a halt right in front of him (or her. They were pretty rotted at this point so it was kind of hard to tell). He raised his glass to his new friend.
"Here's to dumb luck" Arngrim tipped his glass. He managed to down the whole mug when he saw it. A tiny glint in the window that overlooked the street to the east. He set his hlass down and watched... There it was again there was something shiny out there. It was probably nothing, but his gut told him to go check it out. His gut has never steered him wrong before.
Except of course that one time when it got him on the wrong side of a Valkyrie's halberd. But even a good gut can have off day right?
Hrist let herself be guided by feeling alone. This was her process of finding Einherjar. She sought out battlefields where thousands of solders had died in their wake. The trick was to let yourself be drawn in by the strongest. Only the worthy could be felt above the others. She followed her institutions till she found herself standing above a single body amongst the hundreds that lay strewn about the street. He looked no different from the rest of the dead. Images of this man raining fire, ice, and lightning upon his enemies raced before her. Mylan, A Mage. She soon realized. Hrist valkyrie leaned down to whisper to the decrepit form.
"Rise chosen of the fallen."
With a slight humming noise a 40 year old man stood above his own body. He was handsome for a man of his age. Salt and peppered hair covered his head. His face was weathered, a trait that only came with age and years of experience. He saw the armored woman before him. He took in his surroundings, and of course took note of the corpse before him.
"Are you a Valkyrie milady?" he asked though he already knew the answer. One of the first things they taught in the mage academies were who the gods were.
"Yes mortal, I am Hrist Valkyrie, chooser of the slain, Goddess of fate." Hrist allowed the words to sink in. Knowing already the next question that was coming.
"I've been chosen haven't I?" He was answered with a warm smile from her before she spoke.
"Yes. You have been chosen. The gods are in needed of your service... Will you come with me to Vallhala?" This was a necessary process for mortals to become Einherjar. A mortal has to give up all ties. They no longer served king or country. They couldn't be allowed to see a loved one. It was actually a pretty hard decision to make.
"Can anything be done for the townspeople..." he gestured around "Or my wife?" He turned his head to a modest sized home on the corner of his street. The goddess nodded slowly "No, the only thing I can offer is that their deaths will be avenged." Hrist offered solemnly.
This shook Mylan out of the trance he was in as he stared at the destruction of the streets "vengeance? Was this plague intentional?" Hrist nodded then explained "Yes this plague was indeed the work of someone using the dark arts. My mission is to halt its progress and reap judgment on those responsible." And just like that his choice was made. He dropped to knee as he spoke.
"The answer is yes, battle maiden. I shall rain down the elements on all those who choose to step in your path." there was a flash of light as his body took a corpereal form. Suddenly solid he took a step foreword. Hrist took a moment to note the position of the sun. It was almost time to rendezvous with Arngrim and the others.
"Come Mylan, I will take you to meet your fellow Einherjar." The old man offered an elbow with a fatherly smile. "You'll not see me decline an offer of escorting a young lady." Hrist raised an eyebrow before she casually accepted. The old man was a charmer at heart. They both started down toward the town square together and Mylan began to speak. "So is there anything I should know before I meet them?"
Hrist seemed to mull over her response. "I have only the most honorable of Einherjar. Two of them have only recently joined me, but Arngrim has been with me for a while…" as they walked she continued to tell stories of their achievements.
"I don't really know what im looking for." Roderick said as he overlooked the destruction. Cromm was busy using what was ironically a barber shop window as a mirror and was fussing with the remanents of his ruined beard.
"Are you even listening to me?" Rod groused. Cromm responded, though without turning away from his task. "Aye lad, the lass said we we're looking for something that probably didn't belong." Rod sort of shrugged. Nothing actually belonged here. These bodies belonged in a grave, all the trash wasn't supposed to be on the street, hell even they didn't belong here. He was supposed to be alive and enjoying his wife's dinner and warm embrace. And Cromm was supposed to be… doing whatever it was Cromm does when he's by himself.
"Well she's going to have to be more specific. Because this is pretty much what I expect in a town ravaged by death."
Cromm paused for a second and looked at him through the reflection of the window "Now now lad, there's no need to be like that." He said like he was consoling a younger brother. "At least better than the last place we were at. We couldn't even walk around without getting our shoes stuck on one of those plague fliers."
Roderick was about to respond when something dawned on him. He didn't see a single poster or flier warning about the threat of plague. When he was a guard for Elsweyr, part of his duty was to update the fliers throughout the city as the courier brought them weekly. It was a tedious task and they mostly contained just updates about new laws and taxes, and names of fugitives on the run. But when the plague hit Midgard they brought warnings everywhere. Mostly just to warn the population of what symptoms to look for.
"Hey Cromm, I think you're on to something..." Cromm turned to face him from the window. Rod nearly fell over in shock.
"You think so? It was pretty bad, but I think I managed to salvage ma beard into somthin decent." Cromm looked absolutely ridiculous. He puffed the edges out as much as he could. it looked like a big red puff ball that got sliced off at the bottom. And since he bald on the top, this made his head look like a big red church bell.
"uh... No that's not what I meant." Roderick couldn't take his eyes off the Vikings chin. That little bit of pink looked like the dangly thing that hung in church bells. What was it called, a clapper? Gods he looked ridiculous. "I mean the lack of plague warnings." Cromm looked a little confused for a moment.
"Really? What do you think it means?"
"I'm not sure, but it's something right?" They both began searching random parchments that littered the sidewalks for something with a date on it. Not easy since they all had been left in the rain and blazing heat of the sun. It was Cromm who came up victorious with a shred of paper that was left in the hallow shell of a wagon.
"this one has a date on it lad" he squinted "It looks like the end of spring." Rod dropped his own and came over to the hulking Viking.
"That's like what? Five months ago? My garrison began getting those fliers for no more than three weeks ago. Cromm I think this town was hit long before that!" The Viking gave it some thought and tilted his head. Rod was half expecting to hear his head ring. "You know lad, that might be the clue she was lookin for. Lets get back to the meeting point before we're late." They both nodded in agreement. "So lad, what do ya think of ma beard, its not bad right?"
On the bright side Cromm never had to worry about ever getting another STD, nor any illegitimate children. The facial hair would enforce sort of an involuntary abstinence.
"Oh It looks great! Its too bad I can't grow a beard, I'm totally envious." Roderick lied through his teeth.
"Really lad!? Well your face is like a babies ass. Not a hair on ya. To bad, we could'v been beard buddies!"
The archer shook his head solemnly "Life is just so unfair. "
Hrist walked with her new Einherjar to the meeting spot, not 30 feet from where they first arrived. Arngrim had already set a few stones in a small circle, intent on staring a fire. Rod and Cromm were chumming it up nearby. The sun was already taking an orange hue, and would soon be setting. This to was also part of the routine Arngrim and herself were getting used to. Soon one would go and forage the town for any food. The wooded areas hit by the plague would leave them devoid anything worth eating. And finally they would gather around a fire to discuss what they found and where to go from there, and then they would all get some sleep and head out in the morning.
Hrist made her presence known and brought Mylan around to meet everyone. Starting with Roderick and Cromm.
"These two are my most recent aside from yourself." She told him on the way over. Her eyes suddenly squinted in suspicion at the behavior of the two. Cromm was suddenly very interested in the ground and Rod was trying (and failing spectacularly) to fake nonchalance by whistling a tune. He was now very quickly remembering that he had no idea how to whistle.
Mylan studied the young archers face. "It helps if you pucker your lips more." he said, trying to be helpful. "I'm Mylan by the way."
"Hi,... I... Uh" While the two were massacring the english language. Hrist was genuinely concerned. Did something happen out there? Did they meet some sort of enemy that cursed her Einherjar?
On the way back to the camp, they got to talking about what other godly abilities Hrist probably had. Sometime after heat vision, but way before they got to frost breathe. They had convinced themselves that the Valkyrie could read minds. So without either of them actually saying it, they both vowed not to think of Hrist valkyrie in any way that might be deemed inappropriate. A stupid move on their part because the second they did that, their minds did exactly the opposite. It didn't even help that Roderick had a wife. Every time he tried to think of her in their most romantic moments a 'certain someone' would make a sudden guest appearence. And Cromm? Well, Hrist was a good foot taller and 60 pounds heavier… we're not going to go there.
"You may speak if something is wrong. You both look like you have a lot on your minds"
"I love my wife!" Roderick screamed, fainted, then fell backwards. Cromm sort of snuck off in the confusion.
"I'm unsure of what has just happened." Hrist declared. "But we shall move on." Turning their attention to the big man who had just started a small fire in the pit, they strolled over.
"Arngrim meet Mylan, he shall be joining us from now on." Hrist turned back to the mage. "He is the one that I was telling you about." She glanced back to where Roderick still lay, Cromm was nowhere to be seen. She was kind of surprised that a man so large could hide so effectively well.
"When you get a chance. Figure out what is ailing those two. I find that I do not have the patience nor the the energy." Arngrim stood and gave Mylan a nod. The standard greeting of manly mercenaries. This was also common amongst others with similarly manly job titles, such as lumber jacks, pirates, and ninjas. Unfortunately mages don't fall in the 'nod' column. So Mylan merely returned the gesture with a shy wave. He never liked fighters; they were always all brawn and no brain. He would have said something witty and demeaning but Arngrim was probably about two and a half times his weight. And was carrying a sword that was as long as he was tall, he decided to leave it be.
"No problem boss," Arngrim said to the Valkyrie, but both Hrist and Mylan were blasted by the smell of ale.
"Arngrim, have you been drinking?" She asked point blank. He opened his mouth as if to protest, but then decided against it.
"Ya, I'm a little sloshed." He admitted. Hrist clenched her fists and took in a deep breath. Keeping ones voice at high volumes was a test of fortitude, but Hrist was a woman who was up to the task.
"Arngrim you ingrate! What in the Gods has posses you to go out and get drunk while on a mission!"
As he watched the berating of the mercenary, Mylan could only shrug to himself. At least he joined the winning team, he thought.
One time while out in Midgard Hrist had seen a giant flying demon called a Wyvern, pick a screaming man up off the ground and devour him whole. It was like watching a dog with an oversized table scrap, as it didn't really chew him so much as it used its massive jaw to work him down its throat. She remembered watching this with a mixed feeling of fear and disgust, the sound alone will probably haunt her for the rest of eternity.
"Can ya tell me what's in that jar in the corner there?" Cromm asked as he pointed to the corner of a small wooden crate that was closest to Roderick. He nodded and picked up a small glass jar that held something that was kind of yellowish red, and held it at an awkward angle so he could use the light of the fire to read it. "Uh… its peaches." The large Viking's eyes lit up, as he extended his arm. "Toss that over here will ya lad?"
Another nod and he tossed it to him, and he caught it gracefully in his large hands. Arngrim perked up and inquired if there were anymore, Rod discovered that there were several. "Give me one too." Another toss and he caught it just as gracefully as Cromm.
There was a small Fwop as they twisted off the tops and breaking the vacuum seal. Hrist stared dumbly as both heavy warriors poured the contents strait into their mouth. They weren't even chewing. They were just kind of working it down their throats…
"There's another jar here if you want Lady Valkyrie." She snapped her head to Mylan who was holding another jar of peaches and a spoon. (There was plenty of silverware available since half of the team wasn't using any.) He evidently had evidently caught her staring. "No thank you" she said with a small wave of her hand "The tree of Yggdrasil provides my body with everything it needs." No one in the history of Valhalla would ever tell you that they have ever seen any of the three Valkyrie's ever eat anything, ever. But if you're lucky and there was a big reason to celebrate, like the victory of a major war. You might actually see a Valkyrie sipping at a glass of wine, but even that was kind of pointless because Valkyries were immune to all poisons, which meant that alcohol didn't affect them in anyway.
Hrist waited for them all to finish eating, and soon there was the sound of spoons (that only Roderick and Mylan were using) hitting the bottoms of empty jars. Hrist cleared her throat, sending a very clear message to her Einherjar that it was her turn to speak and they were now getting down to business. When she saw that she had their attention she spoke. "We must decide what it is that we are going to do tomorrow. But first am I to understand that you men may have found something?" Arngrim, Cromm and Roderick nodded. For the first time since she came out here Hrist felt a surge of hope course through her, and a sense of pride for her Einherjar. "I am pleased to hear this." She pointed to Cromm and Rod "You two go first."
They nodded and Cromm spoke first. "Aye Lass, what we noticed is what we didn't find. We looked and there's not a single flyer for the plague to be found in this hell hole." Hrist looked a little deflated and hoped that they had more than this. Roderick continued "Ya, there's also a lot of things that are not right about this town. The front gate's are wide open, not even any guards posted up. We were hearing rumors about the plague for a good two weeks before the flyers were distributed through the courier. The first thing my garrison did was lockdown the entrances and keep a lookout for any travelers who looked sick. Before we knew what we were looking for, anyone who so much as sneezed was immediately arrested." The Valkyrie considered this for a moment, and decided that this was a good point. "Is it not possible that the courier does not come this way? Or that they did not hear of this?" Hrist asked as Roderick shook his head. "Unlikely" he looked to Mylan "I've seen merchant stands here. Merchants are always on the move, and are great place to for rumors or news on whats going on in the rest of Midgard. Plus these guys pay taxes here so that courier has gatta come here" Hrist smiled at the two "You both have done very well today. I am impressed." She turned her attention to Arngrim, who was pulling out what looked like an expensive looking thermos. He handed it to Hrist who began her own examination. It was some sort of container but it was opened and empty, the inside was very shiny. "I found that lying out on the street. Check out the inside, I can't confirm it, but I think its lined with pure mythril." Hrist was shocked, mythil was a very valuable metal. Impossible to corrode, it was often used to make fine jewelry. Her own armor was made of the metal.
"That thing is probably the single most valuable item in this town." Hrist fingered the heavy latches and seals. "What do you think it was used for?" Arngrim shrugged "I dunno, I doubt anyone's using it to keep soup warm though."
Mylan moved in to get a closer look. "May I see that?" Hrist glanced at her newly acquired mage for a second, then handed him the cylinder. "I know what this is." He said after a few seconds of examination. "This is an Exigency Container… a damn good one too" The blank stares and the thoughtful nod that Cromm was totally faking indicated that he needed to explain. "These are used mostly by alchemists. Sometimes they make or need something that's too dangerous to be carried in something like a wooden barrel. They're extremely tough, and are pretty much guaranteed not to open if you drop it"
"Do you think it was used to carry the plague?" Arngrim asked and gestured toward the the corpses littering the street. Under the moonlight they looked like nothing more than dark lumps on the ground. Mylan gave it some thought, "There's no way to tell, but nobody commissions one lined in mythril unless they have something really dangerous." He handed it back to Arngrim. "But if I had to carry something like this plague this is what I would use." With renewed sense of vigor at the actual progress, Hrist inquired if there was anyway to tell who owned it or where it was made.
Mylan nodded "I'm afraid not milady, this container is a complete custom job and I don't see a stamp anywhere."
"What about the mythril?" Everyone turned to Arngrim and he continued. "That stuff is expensive, and its hard to mold. Jewelers are pretty much the only ones who know how work that crap." He paused with a rare thoughtful look. "Villnore is a good place to start, they have a lot of places that could maybe make something like that." Everyone nodded in agreement.
"Then it is decided" Hrist announced "We shall head to Villnore in the morning."
Hrist stroked the burning embers with a stick to keep the flames going. She didn't need the heat, (her celestial body did registered hot and cold, but wasn't really affected by it) nor was she interested in the light. Hrist was merely bored.
All but one of her Einherjar was slumbering peacefully within her soul. Arngrim was on the ground using his pack as a pillow and a thin blanket, that he kept for just such a purpose, draped over him. He had his back to her and she could see his chest rise and fall slowly. The night was three quarters of the way through and dawn would come in a few hours.
Hrist never knew why he always preferred to sleep outside, but she didn't mind it one bit. Whenever he was around, even if all he was doing was just sleeping, she never felt alone.
She could just as easily be flying to Villinore, but the Einherjar within her soul always slept better when she stayed on the ground. She was willing to wait eight hours if it meant her Einherjar would be well rested. One trait that almost all immortals shared was patience. If you didn't have it, then an eternity would drive you mad. Hrist sighed and watched the small specs of light that reflected off her armors gold trimming. They looked like fireflies that she used to chase in the grassy fields of…
Hrist frowned, those weren't her memories. They belonged to a former life that was long forgotten, erased by Odin. Sometimes she would get little feelings of déjà-vu or a sudden feeling of nostalgia. Erased memories were funny like that, impossible to completely purge.
That was her name, and really that was all she had. Rufus promised her that he would never erase her memories like Odin did. He told her he will seal them for the purpose of not interrupting rebirth as a human. But when she returned to her duties as a Valkyrie she would be allowed to have all of them back.
She stroked the fire again. One of the logs split, causing a small glowing red cloud of embers to rise into the air. "Are you unable to sleep?" She said without looking away looking away from the fire.
Arngrim remained still; the only movement was the slow rhythmic breathing. But this only lasted for a moment before he turned around and sat up. "How did you know I was awake?"
Hrist continued to poke at the burning log, amusing herself with the shapes the embers made in the night air. "I was able to hear myself think." She answered, and then finally turned her head to look at him. Her armor glinted under the orange light of the fire. Arngrim smirked, "Are you saying I snore?" He asked with playful indignation in his voice.
Hrist suddenly found herself smirking. "Once I thought a Dragon had snuck up on me." She said, with a light tone in her voice. Arngrim laughed to himself as he rose to his feet and headed over to take a seat near the goddess. The night suddenly felt propitious as Arngrim took his seat on the same log that she sat on. She was getting ready to poke some more fun at him when a thought suddenly crossed her mind.
"Did you ever find out what was ailing Cromm and Roderick?" she said with a mild look of seriousness in her face. Arngrim crossed his arms and leaned back, his smile growing wide with amusement.
"Ya about that, from what they told me, they thought that you could read their minds" He paused for effect "and I guess they were thinking some pretty dirty thoughts about you."
In his opinion the sheer look of disbelief on the Valkyrie's face was absolutely priceless. She groaned and placed her face into hands in a frustrated gesture. But it was made benign by the humored smile that reasserted itself on her face.
"I am unsure if I should be flattered, or horrified that I have managed to find such dimwitted Einherjar." She turned back to Arngrim. "I used to be envious of Silmeria's mind reading capabilities. But if that is what she has to put up with, then she can keep it." Arngrim tilted his head back in laughter, while Hrist kept a very amused smile on her face.
They sat together for sometime in a comfortable silence, watching the fire until Hrist spoke up.
"Do you have any good stories?" Arngrim was in his own right, one of the most experienced people she has ever known. In effect he was one of the highest graduates in the School of Hard Knocks. Personal experience made him a self made man, and one of the best mercenaries in the market. Everything he has ever done be it good or bad, crazy or just plain stupid, taught him something that he took with him everywhere. And as a by-product he had some of the best stories she had has ever heard. Maybe Leone had good stories too. But that was something that she would never know.
Arngrim rubbed his chin for a moment as he went through his mental archives. "Did I ever tell you about the time someone hired me to babysit the statue of King Septum?"
Hrist pursed her lips. "Sounds boring"
He responded with a thoughtful smile, like he was reminiscing something. "Boring? Ha! I wish, nobody hires a mercenary for an easy mission, and this was no exception." Seeing that she was listening he continued. "Turns out it had some map hidden inside of it, lead to some long lost treasure room. The first night I was ambushed by a bunch of assassins who belonged to some order… or some bullshit like that."
Hrist raised her eyebrows. "What did you do?"
"What else?" he said with a shrug "I did what I was paid to do. I tracked them down and kicked their asses. It wouldn't have been so bad either, but I wasn't the only one after it. I had to try and stay one step ahead of this group of land locked pirates the whole friggen way."
"Really?" The Valkyrie paused her stroking of the fire. He could tell she was slightly impressed.
"Yup, they weren't even the worst of it. I also had to deal with this ass of a Constable who seemed bent on making my life a living hell." Arngrim said with a nod.
The Goddess crossed her legs and turned to give him her full attention. "Well I take it back then. I would love to hear this story." Arngrim smiled. "No problem, I'll start from the beginning, but I'll tell you though it was one of the craziest weeks of my life…"
The rest of the night was passed before Hrist knew it as Arngrim told his story. As the other Einherjar awoke in the morning they all left in the same way they came, in a flash of violet light.
Here it goes. Its kind of hard to find info on things like maps and the towns, plus its been a long time since i've even played Valkyrie Profile 2, so i hope you guys done mind me taking some artistic liberties... also, if you guys are wondering, this is taking place a few years after the events of VP2. Also i'm doing this whole story on a PDA phone, in my spare time. so please don't hate me if i take a while to update :O
Reviews and suggestions are welcome, but please be gentle, my ego bruises easily.
I don't own anything, if i did VP3 Hrist would be out already.