Welcome back to Assassin's Retirement. This chapter gave me a bit of a problem. Starting from Zane's POV, things just didn't happen... well, things did happen. Saja was picking a fight with Zane and it was out of character with how she'd treated him in the previous chapters. So I skipped to another POV, trying to find the right perspective. After one week of fruitless writing and a half dozen false starts, I rolled through character POVs until I ended with Cord. His felt right and the chapter took off. The reason for Saja's anger is clearer. I also had a slew of issues that needed to be addressed. Delivery of the mantles, ION character cross over, what to do with the chupacabra (who is still tied to the bed, poor guy), and of course, the killer. Plus it feels as if the guys need some downtime which unfortunately, they aren't going to get until their day is over. This touches on none of that. Cord will tell you why.
Waking up on a hardwood floor… Well, perhaps it wasn't the first time Cord had woken on a hard surface where he'd passed, but this time it was without imbibing in even one a sip of alcohol. Unlike a night of hard partying, being so close to a goddess's wrath had been far from fun. His mouth was bone-dry and his head pounded, the threat of a migraine making him cover his eyes for a moment. It was barely early afternoon and already he wished the day was over with. If he was done, he could only imagine how Zane felt. Zane's life had been turned upside down and the fault could be laid at Cord's feet. If he had attempted to go to different I.O.N. office when his request of help went unanswered, if he had been more persistent, then Ella wouldn't have had the opportunity to lure him in with her lies. She'd claimed I.O.N. was failing to catch the person hunting the Grendels and now him. If he had simply doubled checked and verified her information… Zane wouldn't have been dragged into the world of the Others.
"We're doing all we can to apprehend this person," Ella had told him. He could still hear the sympathy in her voice, see the sorrow in her brown eyes, and he had fallen for it. Fear and despair had clouded his rationale. He had been eager for a solution, to find someone who could keep not only him but the band safe. They were his life, his cobbled together precious family, and the thought of one of them accidentally stepping in front of a bullet meant for him… that paralyzing terror was what Ella had poked and prodded. Then she suggested he hire security or his own hunter, perhaps an assassin who would keep Cord and the band safe.
The 'no' had been on the tip of his tongue until Ella slipped him the large photo of Zane. Cord's world had stopped, time suspended as Cord was ensnared, his mostly dormant Valkyrie side flaring to life at the sight of the nondescript man staring back at him with hard, unforgiving eyes. He vaguely recalled Ella's triumphant expression, and at the time, that peculiarity had been shoved aside by Cord's need to know more about the person.
Cord's need to possess, to hold, to call his own, men of exceptional talent, fighters who had no equal was something that Cord chalked up to his warped Valkyrie half. Valkyries rarely birthed male children, and most times, the male-child died within the first two years of life. Unlike the females, they were born without the protections that shielded Valkyrie from the primordial beings inhabiting the realm of Asgard, home of the Aesir gods. He lived because his mother, Saja, refused to give up on him and made him spend grueling hours, year after year, learning how to shield himself until he was no longer tormented by the jealous shades who had once been men before the Valkyrie gleaned them from fields of battle. Yes, he lived today because of her ruthlessness, but that same relentlessness allowed no room for a mother-son bond. Even now, she treated him as a teacher would a student.
Besides his gender, another thing that separated Cord from his mother's people was he did not push death on the warriors he collected. Valkyrie sought out the best fighters and were often known for creating an accident that would usher the man toward crossing over. Sometimes the Valkyrie took the man as a lover once he was in Asgard. That was until she found a new warrior brought over for Odin's table. Cord, on the other hand, he gathered warriors of unparalleled skill, keeping them to himself, taking them as lovers, and creating a family on this plane.
He often wondered if collecting warriors was a part of his dragon half. He had never met a dragon, not that he knew of, and his mother refused to tell him who his father was. Dragons were secretive and what Cord thought he knew of them was unsubstantiated rumors, so it wasn't as if he could track down someone to ask if dragons truly horded.
Next to him, Skyld groaned, and Cord agreed with the pained sound. He uncovered his eyes to see Skyld attempting to sit up.
"What the fuck?" Skyld flopped back down. "I don't ever want to experience that again."
On the other side of Cord, Raine laughed hoarsely. "A hangover without booze."
Cord didn't want to get up just yet either, but hearing his mother speak in a soft tone to someone reminded him that he was responsible for her being there. He couldn't leave Zane to deal with the Valkyries or I.O.N. on his own. Zane knew nothing about the rules the Others followed. Though Cord didn't think Saja could force Zane to do something he didn't want to do, the least Cord could do was stand by him and Alonzo.
His head pounded relentlessly as he rose to sit up. He was relieved to see that neither Zane or Alonzo were in the room. His mother was speaking to Myranda Anatha. He shivered, his skin crawling as he remembered the sensation of her goddess riding so close to the surface. The hair-raising sensation had forcefully compelled him, and all the men in the room, to turn away. He had no idea how Zane or Alonzo had endured standing near her while she had leaked so much raging energy.
"We should position Valkyrie throughout the Valley," Saja said, not noticing that Cord was awake. "This person murdering Grendals can't be far. We can flush him out in no time."
He was a bit surprised upon hearing their plans to capture the killer, but then again, he shouldn't have been. I.O.N. was responsible for bringing in rogues, but that task wasn't usually handled by Valkyrie.
"There is a team already on its way here. You can take the captured chupacabra back to headquarters." Myranda's voice was soft, but there was an inflexibility that Cord wouldn't have argued with. But Saja seemed to be more obstinate than prudent when dealing powerful beings, known for pushing and pushing in the person gave in or exploded with rage.
"My Valkyrie are more than capable of capturing —"
"I did not say they weren't, but your responsibilities lie with the oracles and not running down criminals. One of our best teams is already in the area."
"I —" Saja would have argued more, Cord knew her too well, but she saw him sitting up. A determined glint entered her eye. She turned from Myranda and charged across the room. "Cord get up. I am taking you to Asgard."
He sensed her power building, wrapping around her and causing his head throb all the more. The other members of the band roused, and Cord half suspected it was his mother's forceful tone that woke them. There were a couple of reasons he had never introduced his mother to his lovers. She wouldn't accept them, not because they were males, but for the fact they were alive.
Table of Contents
Chapter Two - Normal is not supposed to be this hard
Chapter Three - Caught
Chapter Four - Crimson Comet
Chapter Five - Mountain Magic
Chapter Six, Part 1 - Harbinger of a Nightmare
Chapter Six, Part 2 -
Chapter Seven, Part 1 - Stolen Answers
Chapter Seven, Part 2 -
Chapter Eight, Part 1 - No such thing as heroes
Chapter Eight, Part 2 -
Chapter Nine, Part 1 - Dead is supposed to be... dead
Chapter Nine, Part 2 -
Chapter Ten, Part 1 - Gathering Allies
Chapter Ten, Part 2
Chapter Eleven - Combustible
Chapter Twelve - Standing His Ground
Chapter Thirteen - Choices
Chapter Fourteen, Part 1
Chapter Fourteen, Part 2
Chapter Fifteen, Part 1 - To kill, or not to kill
Chapter Fifteen, Part 2
Chapter Sixteen - Maricoxi Guardians
Chapter Seventeen - Coincidence?
Chapter Eighteen, Part One - Guns Ablazin'
Chapter Eighteen, Part Two
Chapter Nineteen, Part One - Reckoning
Chapter Nineteen, Part Two
Chapter Twenty - Mercy
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part One
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Two
Chapter Twenty-Two, Part Three
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part 1