I found myself in a Realm, on any of the many worlds. For all I knew, I was in a sub-Realm. I was disorientated and it took a moment to gain my bearings. The air was crisp, and it reminded me of home during the autumn season. I thought of the harvests and how the greens would be brought into the homes to prepare for the long winter. Yet, my instincts told me that I was not on Miðgarðr.
Hooding my eyes with a hand, I looked about for any identifiable, familiar, or unique landscape or a sign of civilization. I saw red rocks jutting up into the sky far in the distance. I felt my heart begin to pound, for those red rocks were distinct and very familiar. There was only one place I knew that had those red rocks: Kaer Castle, on Caselien.
I rose into the air and flew as fast as I could, something like joy lifting my spirits. So blind was I at the sight of something familiar that I neglected tell tale signs that something was amiss. As I came upon the familiar formations, all that was within the natural circular defenses was a lake leading out to the ocean and an island with a natural land bridge. I felt the breath leave me as if I had been hit. I faltered until I remembered that I was airborne. Landing quickly on the inside of the rocks, I cast about, hoping that it was an illusion.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I was reminded of Diahnee’s words: the Aevum exists outside of Time. Leaving Lyonesse could bring you anywhere along the known timeline. I was in fervent denial of this. I was supposed to rescue a man. There had to be civilization. The castle had to be here. Every spell I sent out to dispel an illusion revealed nothing. I wasn’t sure when in time I was. Had I the ability to, I would have felt despair. I sank to my knees and stared at the island that once held – or may one day hold – Kaer Castle.
It was close to sunset when I heard singing. I thought I was imagining things, my desperate mind conjuring up signs of life to combat my loneliness. To my relief, they were real. They were a group of people from various lands, I would later discover that they were a mix of Serens, Elans, Alfar, and Svartalfar. There were a few fae, Aevum, Laskandians, and dragons in human form. Not for the first time, I thanked Kára for encouraging me to learn what ever language I wanted to and then some. I recognized quite a few that I could hear.
I made sure to let them see me close to the shore of the bay and made it look as though I were about to set up camp. I told them that I was a lost traveller and was drawn to this place. I omitted the fact that I was Valkyrie, unsure if some would understand the concept or not. Some of them cast me suspicious glances, but I was unsurprised that a few of the fae vouched for me. They always did have an uncanny sense of who were gods and mortals.
I was given shelter and food for the night by a Seren couple. I learned that their names were Kieran and Rhys, and they made the pilgrimage to this holy site after learning of it. They were hoping for guidance on some matter or other that they were reluctant to go into depth. It was just as well. Each person or group had their own reason, but the consensus was that this was the place where the Seven Fallen Gods had descended to and made their first home. All of their knowledge was stored in a secret vault beneath the island to protect it from those that would misuse it. In short, each group was hoping to gain some form of knowledge.
Kieran suggested that perhaps I was drawn here because I felt the power of this knowledge as well as the holiness of the place. I let her think that, nodding silently. I then asked her what the day was, but refrained from asking the year. She gave the day, but I could find no clue as to what year it was. Giving up, I let the conversation drift where it may until it was time to sleep.
The next day I wracked my brain for what the year could be. I knew this place was a holy site long before it became the site of Kaer Castle. It had always been known as a place to seek knowledge. Supposedly, even Yggdrasil touched this place. It wasn’t until Kieran mentioned that they were all waiting for the full moon that allowed me to narrow down the time frame. Rites for knowledge here by light of the full moon in the lake hadn’t been performed in thousands of years by my original time. It wasn’t that it fell out of practice, but something happened that deterred people form performing the Rites. I asked how many times they had been here, and Rhys told me that it was their first time.
I’m sure they thought me strange. Strange was fine. I didn’t want them to think that I was deranged.
As we waited for the moon to reach its peak, I could feel excitement building in the air. Every day I grew more certain that I would somehow be involved in the upcoming events. I made myself as useful as possible, trying hard not to think of how my actions would impact the future. Still, the thoughts circled in my head: what sort of future will my actions create? Will everything I have ever known be erased? Will I stay in this time or will I be thrust into the future? Will there be a home for me to return to?
I shoved those thoughts as far away as possible and tried my best to blend in. When the time came, I would know what to do. Diahnee said as much, and some part of me trusted her implicitly for reasons I cannot begin to explain.
When the full moon arrived, everyone gathered on the island in their best clothes. Even children attended. I could almost see the energy coursing through the earth, filling the air, and racing in the water to one spot. We gathered in a circle and called on the spirits and the gods, careful that the circle was made on land in the lake.
One by one, each person made a request of their god and carefully bathed in the lake. When they returned to their spot in the circle, I could see the energy, the magic radiating from them. The children, when their turn came, were gently guided through the ritual. A boy came forward, and something changed. Everyone felt it and shifted uneasily. I knew, without explanation, without any good reason, that this boy – not a man – was the reason why I was here. I had focused so much on the men that I hadn’t thought that Diahnee had meant Man.
The boy had gone rigid, staring up at the moon. His parents tried calling him back, all to no avail. He seemed to be listening to another voice, his head tilted to one side. I realized that if I didn’t act now, the moment would be lost. I broke from the circle and the energies created by those present began to run rampant.
It wasn’t my turn and it threw everything present off. I pulled them to me to prevent a vicious feedback going back into the circle. I summoned my halberd to me and immediately the defensive runes lit up on the shaft of the weapon. Swinging Gunnhildr, I easily broke through the first few protective barriers, but more effort was required for the rest.
A noise was beginning to build up that I tuned out. From the corner of my eye, I could tell the others could hear it as well and didn’t know what to make of it. What they were hearing were the sounds of spells being used, created, and destroyed; a common enough sound to me that my mind automatically shuffled it to background noise.
A defensive rune lit up and I knew that whatever was coming for the boy – it was Lyrac, wasn’t it? It had to be! – was not only aware of my presence but threatened by it. I forged ahead, undeterred. I began to mutter the spells that I was taught, and the being’s efforts against me were renewed.
As I drew closer, I could see the vague outline of a man towering over the boy. The presence I felt was powerful – immense, even – but not evil. Emotions that I hadn’t felt in centuries welled up within me: desperation, determination, hate. I felt its need for the boy as a vessel to carry it through this age for a purpose I didn’t understand. Each barrier I shredded brought me closer to the boy and an understanding from the being that if I stopped it now, it could not bring about the change that it wanted.
I could feel the spells on Gunnhildr being to deteriorate and my strength begin to wane. My mind grew sluggish as I searched for one more spell to fend of this alien being. I turned my gaze from the man to the boy. Seeing him trapped in this vortex of power, aware of his innocence, set my own determination. I paused just long enough to calm myself and the spell came to me.
I shouted the Words at him, the Words of Power; an act of defiance than one of strength. I could feel the tide begin to turn. I recited the spell in full, intending to banish the creature and lock him out of this point of time. The noise that I had tuned out before was increasing to a roar that could no longer be ignored.
It was the strangest battle I had ever been in. I wasn’t locking blades with a foe or parrying a thrust or cutting down a demon. I wasn’t avoiding the deathly touch of the frost giants or the sting of the fire giants. There were no battle cries or the sounds of steel against steel, of voices casting spells and their potentially devastating effects. My body was riddled with pain caused by no determinable external force. This was a battle of wills as I fought for every step toward the boy.
The area was slowly getting brighter and the roaring in my ears was replaced with deafening silence as the words were whipped away. I felt rage being directed at me as I finally placed myself between the boy and the creature. Moving my arm with great effort, I brought Gunnhildr between us lengthwise, the runes ablaze with their own ancient magic.
I heard a scream of rage, and the noise was welcoming compared to the silence. And then the creature was gone. The last thing I did was touch the boy on the head while the light surrounded us, and then my body finally gave out.