Truly Musing

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Hi and welcome to my site!  If this is your first visit, you can go here for the first installment of The Samhain Gate, which is the first novel in the series.  If you're back for more, enjoy the latest installment of Valkyrion below.  I'd love to know if anyone is actually reading this, so feel free to contact me at




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Final update and news post below!



People continued to filter into Valhalla for over two hours.

            With each group Mina, from her seat beside Iris near the door, jumped.  Iris looked over at her.  Mina looked fine, a little tired, a little dirty, but overall okay.  They’d been swapping stores for the past hour.  The necklace was still around Mina’s neck and Iris was reminded they needed to talk to the Allfather about getting it off.  She was holding up better than Iris was.  Her leg didn’t hurt at all, but the rest of her body did.  There was the start of the deep muscle ache she was used to, along with various other aches and pains, and her stomach was starting to complain.

            “This guy must be pretty special.”

            Mina glanced at her, “I like him.”  Her voice was neutral but Iris was worried.  She didn’t want Mina getting attached so some elf from another dimension.  They were supposed to be going home.  She wanted to go home.  She wanted to go home and sleep in her own bed.  For a week.  The Allfather said the danger was over, but Iris was having a hard time letting go of the tension.  She still didn’t know what was happening to Jason.  He was probably fine.  The asteroid hadn’t hit and Yellowstone hadn’t erupted, but she wasn’t sure.  Loki said he was with an old girlfriend.  What if he decided he wanted someone who was normal?  She sipped at a cup of mead that had materialized at her elbow. 

            “Do you think I could take home a couple kegs of this stuff?”  Mina was downing her own drink.

            “Careful with that.  You might end up dancing on the tables.”

            “Wouldn’t be the first time.  Cheers.”  They tapped cups.  For a tiny guilty instant Iris wished this Gunnar, whoever he was, was gone, so there wouldn’t be any reason for Mina to stay.  She reminded herself that this was Mina; she went through men the way other women went through makeup, switching and discarding to suit her mood.

            “There he is!  C’mon, you got to meet this guy.”  She grabbed Iris’ arm and pulled her towards the doors.  “You’re alive!”  Iris was surprised when Mina bypassed a group of young men and planted a kiss on a gray-haired elf in battered armor.

            “Nice to see you too.”  He grinned, tired but pleased, “The Overlord is going to have kittens when he finds out I’m still alive.”

            “I think you’re going to live forever.  This is Iris, the Aesir’s champion.  Iris this is Gunnar Sarode; he helped me bring a bunch of elves to the party.”

            Sarode inclined his head, “Pleased to meet you, Mistress.”

            “Likewise.”  She tried to mean it, but couldn’t quite suppress the jealousy as she watched Mina attach herself to him.

            “How many did you lose?”

            “Fifty-seven.  Not as many as I expected.”

            “That’s still too many.  Come and sit down.”

            He collapsed onto a bench and Iris could see how tired he was.  She handed him a cup, “Here, drink this.  Are you hurt?”

            “Not badly, Mistress.  Just a few bumps and cuts.”  Iris found it more amazing that Mina was completely unhurt.  They’d agreed it probably had something to do with the stick she was carrying.

            “Where are the rest of your men?”

            “Outside.  There’s a medical tent sent up for them.  It seems like we’re the only ones who need it.”

            “That’s the nice thing about already being dead, I guess.”  Iris wasn’t sure how all of that worked.  Hela had come to claim a share of the combatants, but those she’d left didn’t seem to stay hurt.  “You should go there and get patched up.”

            “I had to try and find Mina first.”

            Mina stood up, “Come on.  I don’t want you bleeding to death because of me.”

            “Don’t take too long.  The Allfather’s going to make a speech or something and I don’t want to be the only ‘hero’ standing next to him.”

            Mina snorted, “Heroes?  I just wanted to have a home to go back to.”

            “Just get your butt up to the high table.  I’ll meet you there.”

*          *          *

            Mina watched Gunnar move; he was tired but not badly hurt.  She had to allow her eyes to refocus to allow for the blur of atoms.  Everything else looked solid.  She touched the necklace and wondered if anyone here would be able to take it off her.  She wondered if she wanted them to.  It was a thought that had been growing in her mind for days.  Did she really want to go back to normal?  Without the necklace she wouldn’t have been able to command respect from the elves.  She might not have even been able to get to them.  Would Mimir have given her the staff if she hadn’t already had the necklace?  The tension in her gut was already evaporating and in her mind’s eye she could see the young tree growing and bringing stability.  She remembered the power the necklace gave her in the caves, making the iron in the rocks obey her command.  Maybe she didn’t want to give that up.

            The tent was orderly, with most of the elves sitting around comparing bandages and stories.  The worst of the injured were lying down, but they were quiet.  Mina wasn’t sure if they were sedated or only sleeping.  A young man sat Gunnar down and began removing armor.  Stripped to a shirt and shorts, she could see the worst injury was a deep cut in the muscle of his shoulder.  She hadn’t realized it was so bad.  The armor kept most of the bleeding contained and he’d been able to sit around with them exchanging pleasantries.

            “Why didn’t you tell me it was so bad?”

            He winced as the armor was lifted off, but smiled at her, “It’s not.  An inch to the left and this would have been my head.”

            “Just one more scar, Commander?”

            “I have to keep my collection current, you know.”

            Mina realized she was still wearing her own armor and began to pull it off.  She didn’t realize how heavy it was until the weight was gone.  She sat down and began to unbuckle the greaves while the doctor stitched up Sarode’s shoulder.

            “You look rough.”

            “You should talk.”  Mina leaned her head back, “I should get back to Iris.  All I want to do is go to bed.”

            “Give me a couple of hours first.”

            She smiled at him, “Dirty old man.”

            “You should know.  Go on; I’m not going to be much good for anything tonight.”

            Mina didn’t want to abandon Iris, and everyone here seemed to be in good hands.  Standing up was a real effort.  He reached out and put his good arm around her waist.  Mina leaned down and kissed him, “I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow.  Or sooner if I get bored.”

            “Don’t fuss.”  He smacked her backside and Mina went out.

            She walked back to Valhalla, letting herself get lost in the stream of people returning.  She liked Sarode.  He was easy to be with.  She wasn’t about to go running off to have his children, but for the moment things were good.  She touched the necklace absently, running her finger around the smooth bezel of the center stone.  If they took it off it would mean she couldn’t see him anymore.  Iris wanted to go home and stay there, but Mina wasn’t sure if she was ready to go back to reality just yet.  She’d seen too much to be content going back to doing the accounting.  Besides, it might be nice to travel through the elfish countryside at something besides breakneck speed.  She entered the hall, still rubbing the stone.  What had Vera said?  If she wore the necklace she had obligations in Alfheim.

            Mina worked her way up through the building towards the dais; she could see Iris sitting at the head table talking to Tyr.  She saw Mina and motioned her up to the empty seat beside her.

            “How is he?”

            “Hell of a slice on his shoulder, but he’ll live.  Thanks.”  Mina nodded to the girl setting another drink in front of her, “Keep ‘em coming.”

            “No one’s really sure what to do with themselves tonight.  The Allfather’s disappeared.  Tyr says we can stay with him.  We need to stick around long enough to get that thing off of you.”

            Mina didn’t say that she’d been having second thought about taking it off at all.  Iris probably wouldn’t take it well and she wasn’t in the mood for a fight.  “Drinks first.  Lots of drinks.”

            “Careful, that stuff gives a hell of a hangover.”

            “I’ve probably had worse.”

            “My kind of woman!”  Thor sat down next to Mina, “Where have you been hiding this one, girl?”

            Iris rolled her eyes and turned back to Tyr.  Mina could fit in anywhere; it was what she envied most about her.

            Tyr smiled, “It’s good to see you again, girl.  I wasn’t expecting to.”

            “You too.”  It was wonderful to see him again.  There was something comfortable and familiar about him.  He was family.  Fenrir’s corpse had been skinned and the bloody fur was going up on posts in the center of the room.  “Are you okay?”  She nodded towards the hide.

            “I hated him for years.”  His voice was soft, almost lost among the noise of the hall and Thor’s laughter beside them, “Now he’s dead and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.”

            “This might sound weird,” she hoped he wouldn’t take it the wrong way, “but what about your hand?”  The last time she’d seen it, it looked perfect, not a sign that it had been bitten off hundreds of years before.  “Is there any way to reattach it?”

            “Unfortunately not.  We can do some amazing things, but some things we can’t.”

            “I’m sorry.”

            “Don’t be.  I got used to that a long, long time ago.”

*          *          *

            Iris leaped out of bed with an enthusiasm her aching muscles did nothing to suppress.

            Her surroundings were beautiful and familiar.  The open window, the bed and chest made of dark carved wood, even the rug on the floor were all right where they should be.  Even the ache in her muscles was welcome; it proved she was still alive.  For a moment she never wanted to leave.  She could just stay with Tyr forever.

            The ache in her head helped bring Iris back to reality.  She’d had at least one more drink than she should have, or was it two?  It was hard to remember.  She remembered Mina looking a little green after her fifth or sixth drink and going off to sleep in the elves’ medical tent.  She and Tyr had walked back under the stars.  He’d sung her a ballad, but Iris couldn’t remember what it was about   She gave up on trying to remember and headed for the bath.

            Tyr was waiting for her, eating bread and bacon at the head table.  She smiled at him.  It really was like coming home.  The only thing that was missing was Jason.

            “There you are.  Come and get something to eat.”

            She sat down next to him, “I hope I didn’t make an idiot of myself last night.”

            “Not at all.  You have an interesting friend, though.”

            Iris shook her head and reached for the bacon, “I don’t want to know.  Can we go home today?”  The idea of lingering in Tyr’s Hall was appealing, but she had to find out what happened to Jason, even if she didn’t like what she found.

            “Father wants to speak with the two of you as soon as you’re ready.”

            Her appetite vanished, “Let’s go.”

            “Settle down.  I’m not done yet.  Besides, your friend is probably still sleeping it off.”

            “So, does this mean I don’t get to see you anymore?”  The thought was depressing.  Tyr was like a second brother.

            “Of course not.  I can go where I please.”

            “Really?  You might come and visit sometimes?”

            “Naturally.  Although, I thought you’d never want to see any of us again after all the trouble we put you through.”

            “You’ve grown on me.”  She paused, “Thor, not so much.”

*          *          *

            They collected Mina from the hospital tent and walked past Valhalla.

            “Where are we going and why haven’t they invented coffee?”

            “We’re going to see the Allfather and you brought it on yourself.  I warned you about the mead.”

            She’d washed up and managed to find some clean clothes, but Mina still looked rough.  Tyr pulled a bone comb out of his pouch and handed it to her.  She picked the tangles out of her auburn hair as they walked.  She finished and shook out the curls as they were walking up the drive to Valaskialf.

            Tyr paused in front of the massive doors, “Mina, the Allfather is likely to be in a good mood towards you, but don’t push your luck.”  He opened the door and led them in.

            The Hall was as massively huge as Iris remembered from her first day in Asgard.  It was also just as cold and empty.  They walked past row after row of clean scrubbed benches and firepits and stopped in front of the dais.  Odin was sitting in the throne, looking like nothing more than a tired old man with long gray hair and a gray beard.  Iris smiled and inclined her head.  She’d been through too much to be afraid of him now.  She glanced at Mina.  The other woman was subdued, but didn’t look afraid.

            “Mina, come here.”

            Iris squeezed her hand as she walked forward.  She stopped on the bottom step of the platform.

            “You were unexpected, girl.  I thought the champion might be mad enough to try something, but not you.”  Mina glanced down, not sure if an answer was required.  “Still, it is traditional to offer a gift, when service is rendered.”

            Her mind went blank.  A gift, what sort of gift?  Obscene wealth was her first idea, but she dismissed it and realized she was running her finger around the stone of her necklace.  She should ask for him to take it off, but was that really what she wanted?  The hangover was making it hard to think.  “The elves I brought with me, can you send them home?”

            “Of course,” he dismissed it with an impatient motion, “that’s a simple courtesy, nothing to be concerned about.”  She paused again and he went on, “That is a very beautiful necklace.  I understand it’s been causing you some discomfort.”

            Her hand closed around the stone and the thought of him or anyone else touching it made adrenaline shoot through her veins.

            The Allfather laughed softly, “I see.  May you use it well.  That is my gift to you.”

            Mina bowed her head and went back to Iris, not quite sure what just happened.

            Iris was about to explode.  Why hadn’t Mina gotten him to take it off?  That was the whole reason she’d come along.


            She looked up and saw the Allfather beckoning her.  “Don’t take it too hard.  If I offered to relieve you of your axes would you be happy of it?”  She sighed and he smiled, “That’s a good girl.  Now, what reward can I give my champion?”

            She knew what she wanted, but now that it was time to put it into words she hesitated.  Was it too much to ask?  “I would like a house of my own.”

            “That’s a small thing.”

            “A house in Asgard.”

            “I see.  Done.  You cannot travel between the realms on your own however.  It will wait empty for you until you come to stay with us permanently.”

            She bowed her head, hiding her smile, “Yes sir.”

            He waved them off, “Go on.  Tyr will deal with your elves.”

*          *          *

            As they walked back towards Valhalla Iris rounded on Mina, “What is wrong with you!?  You were supposed to be getting him to take that stupid thing off.”

            She shrugged, “I think I’d rather keep it.”

            Iris wanted to beat her head against a wall, “Why?”

            “It’s interesting.  Look, you’ve already had your fun, now it’s my turn.”

            “Fun.  You think this is fun?”

            “More fun than doing the accounting, that’s for sure.”

            Iris wasn’t sure how to deal with her Zen-like acceptance, “You’re out of your mind.”

            Mina shrugged again, “Like the Allfather said, what if someone tried to take your stuff away?”

            She opened her mouth, then closed it.

            “I think she’s got you there.”

            Iris glared at Tyr, “You stay out of this.  Is this because of that elf?”

            “You mean Gunnar?  No.  This is just something I have to do.”

            “What’s something you have to do?”

            “You’re not going to like this—”

            “I hate it already.”

            “But, I’m going back to Alfheim.”


            “Look, I met this woman, another magician, and she says I’m obligated to come back and train so I won’t be as dangerous.”

            “Or you could have just had him take it off like a sane person.”

            Mina laughed, “There hasn’t been a sane thing in my life since you came to work wearing axes on your head.”  She sobered, “Look, you know me.  Do you really think I’m going to just go home after all this?  If I don’t find out what’s next I’ll regret it forever.”

            “I should have left your butt sitting on the curb.”

            Mina put her arm around her, “Yeah, but then where would you be?”

Iris sighed; she wasn’t Mina’s mother and couldn’t tell her what to do.  She’d always envied Mina’s breezy freedom.  “Do you have any plans on getting home again?”

            “Mimir owes be a major favor.  I’m sure I can work something out.”

            “Do you want me to tell your parents anything?”  Iris hated the tone of her voice; she made it sound like Mina was dying.

            “Don’t bother.  They’re used to be dropping off the face of the planet for weeks on end.”

            This time it was literal.  Although, in a small way, Iris was jealous.  At least Mina was choosing her path.  She’d come to accept and even revel in her role as Champion,  but it had steel been forced on her.

            Mina squeezed Iris’ waist and stepped away, “I hate long goodbyes.  Let’s get this party started.”

            Tyr glanced at Iris, “Is she always like this?”

            “Pretty much.  Try not to get yourself killed, or blow anything up, okay.”

            Mina waved at hand at her, “If I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me…” She turned to Sarode, “Everything packed up, Commander?”

            “Just waiting on your friend there.”

            Tyr looked at Iris again, “You okay?”

            “Fine.”  With a start, she realized it was true.  Mina had always been like this, it was dumb to think she would change.  “Take care of yourself.”

            “You too.  Tell your geologist I say ‘hi’ and if he isn’t nice to you I’m going to kick his ass”

            Iris looked meaningfully at Sarode, “Likewise.”

            She never saw Tyr move, but in the time it took her to blink the entire group of elves, along with Mina, were gone.  Tyr was still standing next to her.  She looked up at him, “You’ve been holding out on me.  Why didn’t you tell me you could do that?”

            “You never asked.  Are you ready to go home?”

            “Yes.”  Before she’d finished speaking the world began to shimmer, like the skin on a soap bubble.  It popped and she was standing in her own apartment.  Nothing had changed.  Her laptop was still sitting open on the coffee table, and the stack of unwashed dishes was still in the sink.  On the floor the bag of raw diamonds was still there.  She turned to Tyr, “Thank you.”

            “Thank you.  It’s going to be different at Valhalla, since we aren’t waiting for the world to end anymore.  Where will you go?”

            “Colorado to start.  I have to find out what happened to Jason.”  Her stomach twisted, “I’m not sure where after that.  It depends.  You’ll still visit me sometimes?”  If Jason had decided to dump her for a normal girl, at least she could still see Tyr occasionally.

            “Of course.  I’ll find you once you’ve settled down.”

            He scooped her into his arms and Iris hugged him back, “Take care of yourself.”

            He released her, “You too.  Your house will be waiting whenever you’re ready to come home.”  With a flash of sunshine on his blonde hair, he was gone.

            Iris slumped onto the couch.  She couldn’t believe it was over.  She eyed the door, expecting some sort of mythical creature to break through.  Nothing happened.  A car alarm started going off outside.  She slipped the axes off her ears and sized them up, flipping them through the air and catching them.  Her helmet was still in the front of her armor, and the silver pin was still holding her hair.  She put the axes away and picked up her laptop.  She didn’t know what she’d missed.  She didn’t even know what day it was.

            It was Wednesday, the 6th, and the asteroid was all over the news.  They were allowing evacuees back into the Yellowstone area after it disintegrated in the atmosphere.  She leaned back and put her knees on the table.  There was no mention of Jason, and only one tiny story about the four new fault lines with a few quotes from Dr. Griggory.  She pulled up another site and began plotting a route to Colorado.

*          *          *

            It took her two days to get on the road, and another two days to get to Colorado.  The Jeep 4x4 was unfamiliar, but Iris hadn’t been willing to try back roads with her old piece of junk.  The dealership had been very generous when they’d found out she was an ‘heiress’.  The broker she’d found to handle her ‘inheritance’ of raw gems had almost fainted when she’d poured them out in front of him.  It was amazing how quickly things could be accomplished with money.  The stones she’d brought him were worth over six million dollars.  The second half of the stones, the ones she considered the best, were tucked safely behind her seat.  Packed with them was the hide of a Saezian, the feathers of a sun bird, and the rest of her trophies.  As the altitude increased so did her unease.  What if Jason wasn’t there?  What if it was locked and she couldn’t get in? The supplies stocked in the back of her jeep suddenly seemed presumptuous.  What if he was there with someone else?

            She stopped at a gas station to fill up and ask for directions.  The entire town consisted of a single street with two gas stations, a diner, and a tired-looking motel.  She pulled her jacked closed against the chill in the air.  The only sounds were the hum of the fuel as it pumped and the gas station radio playing country music.  She went inside to pay and get directions.

            “You’re looking for the old Brenner place?”  The kid behind the counter looked about fifteen, with shaggy hair and glasses with black plastic frames.

            Iris’ heart sank, Brenner?  Had she messed up the address?  Loki burned the paper it was written on, but she thought she’d remembered it.

            “Marlin Brenner died six or seven years ago.  I didn’t think anyone lived there.”

            Jason’s uncle’s name was Marlin; he’d never mentioned his last name.  Maybe she was going in the right direction, “His nephew is supposed to meet me.”

            The kid shrugged, “Six miles up the mountain, turn left.  There’s a gate with a bunch of ‘no trespassing’ signs.  You can’t miss it.”

*          *          *

            The gate was closed but not locked.  Iris left the engine idling as she opened it.  There were five ‘no trespassing’ signs plastered on the gate, in various states of rust and fading.  Apparently Jason’s uncle hadn’t wanted company.  She hoped this was the right place; otherwise things might get awkward with the owners.  She couldn’t see any sign of a house.  The dirt road wound through the spruce and birch and aspen, making a sharp right turn before opening up into a clearing.  Iris stopped the jeep and go out, taking a deep breath and filling her lungs with the smell of pine.  The house was just as small as Jason described, a modest A-frame built on the bedrock.  There was a truck parked to one side of the building, next to a pile of wood and a chopping block, with more logs in the bed.  She took another deep breath and could smell a hint of smoke in the air.  Someone was here.

            Iris’ stomach was fluttering as she walked across clearing towards the house.  This was what she’d been fighting for.  The whole world might have been saved, but Iris only wanted this spot, this splendid isolation.  There were two steps and a small covered porch with another pile of wood, split logs this time.  Her hand was shaking as she knocked on the door.

            It opened and she barely had time to register Jason in a flannel shirt before his arms were around her.  She tangled her hands in his hair as his lips devoured hers.  He pulled her against his chest, “You’re here.”  His arms tightened around her, “You’re really here.  Are you hurt?”

            Iris shook her head.  His shirt smelled of soap and wood smoke with a hint of bright hot sunshine underneath.  She’d forgotten how good it felt to touch his skin.  The absolute rightness of the way they fitted together.  “I’m not hurt.  Are you alright?  Loki said…”  She trailed off and burrowed deeper into his chest.

            “What did Loki say?” He brushed her hair and the tip of one ear.

            Iris backed up enough so she could see his face, “He said you were with another woman, an old girlfriend.”  Iris hated herself for bringing this up now, but she had to know.

            He kissed her, “We were working together, but I was always with you.”  He wiped a stray tear off her cheek, “Now come inside.  It’s cold out.”  He took her hand and led her in.

            Iris followed, unable to keep the smile off her face, “So, do you want to know what really happened at Tunguska?”


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News Post:  Okay, this is it.  It's finally finished!.  Many thanks to a certain fan.  Without your encouragement I wouldn't have finished.  I do have plans for another book featuring Mina's adventures among the elves, but no definite plans on when to start it.  There are other things I need to focus on right now.  I will post the first installment on the first of the month, but can't say what month or what year.  Thank you so much for reading.


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