Welcome back! Last week was the first half of the chapter. We learned a little bit about Cord and what it meant to be a rare, male Valkyrie. The reason I was having problems with Saja before I settled on Cord's POV becomes clear. But she is fixing to have some problems as Zane interjects himself into the conversation...
Copyright Lexi Ander
"I can't —" he began, but as always, she talked over him. It was something he didn't miss after he left Asgard at the age of sixteen. She was his teacher and always knew what was 'best' for him regardless of what he wanted… or needed. If he wasn't careful, she would bulldoze over him and strong arm him into doing what she wanted.
"You will be safer there until they catch the killer. I can't believe you did not come to me before now."
He refused to flinch at her hurt expression. He wasn't close to his mother, but he did love her.
"And what about my family?" he asked, not trying to challenge her, but hoping that she would see him as he was—not as she wanted him to be.
Saja stopped, staring down at him with eyes the same blue as his own. He had to crane his neck to keep eye contact. She looked confused. Behind her, Myranda's eyes held a type of pity that Cord was glad his mother could not see.
"You don't have a family. I would know if you did." Her confidence never wavered, her mouth pressed into lines of annoyance.
Surprisingly, Raine sat up and practically flopped onto Cord's lap. "We are his family." Cord stroked Raine's back, attempting to soothe the most volatile member of his household.
Saja's expression turned disapproving, her gaze taking in Prince, Midnight, Anson, and Xander. "This is not the Valkyrie way."
He held Raine closer as Raine settled more fully onto his lap. Raine's lounging nonchalance was faked, something he did to misdirect foes before he attacked. Of all them, Raine was the most possessive, the most protective, and he would not be left behind. If any one of them was taken, Raine would tear down worlds to get them back. The last thing Cord needed was Raine going after his mother and garnering the attention of Asgard. Just as a precaution, he wrapped his arm securely around Raine's waist.
"No, this is my way. I am only half Valkyrie."
"I have not forgotten," she snapped. "You have reminded me often enough. But that has nothing to do with the fact that you would be safer with me…" She waved a hand at her sister Valkyrie. "With us in Asgard. They—" Her narrowed gaze dropped to where Raine pressed against him. "They can always join you if they are lucky enough to die in battle."
"And if the killer targets one of them in an attempt to flush me out of hiding?" Cord could not leave them. He needed her to understand why.
"Then they die. That is the life of those not of our realm."
Cord's frustration rose. They'd had this conversation more than once before he left Asgard behind. When she took Cord on his first reaping flight, he had done the opposite of what he was imstructed. Instead of gleaning the most ferocious and talented fighters from the battlefield, his compulsion caused him to save lives. He empowered those he was commanded to gather for Odin's table. He was not compelled the same way the other Valkyrie were, and never would be. As such, he was a great disappointment to his mother.
"I can't—won't leave them. I know you don't understand, and I don't expect you to. But I refuse to be responsible for the killer taking his anger out on one of them."
"No, you are correct, I certainly don't understand. You won't come home with me where you know you are safe, but will stay with five warriors who have failed to eliminate this threat to you." She sneered at Cord's family, the loves of his life, and he lost his temper.
"You expect them to fight a scion? Only those with god's blood can go toe to toe with the scion and survive. Even dragons have failed to bring a scion down without considerable help, you know this as well as I. Your disdain for my family is uncalled for and has no place in this conversation."
"Who is going to protect you while I.O.N. brings this crazed killer down! Him?" Saja stabbed a finger in Skyld's direction and Skyld stiffened, eyes narrowing. Cord would apologize later, but he had to find a way to rein in his mother. Saja continued her scolding. "Skyld has only ever looked after himself and takes jobs from humans instead of doing his duty as a scion. He isn't going to lift a finger for you. You are better off—"
"I already told Cord I would help," Zane's voice boomed in the room, startling everyone except Myranda.
Zane and Alonzo stood in the mouth of the shadowed hallway. Valkyrie stepped away from Saja when they saw Zane. Cord wondered at this new fearful respect the Valkyrie gave him. Saja turned, her expression more displeased by the second. Both Zane and Alonzo appeared refreshed, not hungover like everyone else.
"A baby scion who doesn't have a mantle or know how to use his abilities," Saja scoffed.
Cord wanted to literally kick her in the shin. Zane and Alonzo wouldn't consider joining his family if they thought they would have to endure Saja on a regular basis. Nowadays, he rarely saw her, but they didn't know that.
Zane made a rude noise and crossed his arms over his chest. Behind him, Alonzo placed a hand on Zane's shoulder. Was Alonzo getting bigger? "Only juveniles insult others instead of speaking personal truths," Zane chastised. "Your anger at the killer is being directed at everyone but the killer, and you are making an ass of yourself. Myranda's right to send you away if this is how you act under stress."
Cord's heart beat hard against his rib cage. No one dared to scold the leader of the Valkyrie—ever. He wanted to make some motion to warn Zane to stop, until Cord took a good look at him. Zane's normally genial—well, it wasn't quite genial, but neither did he usually look foreboding—expression was gone, replaced with a cold mask. Deadly brown eyes assessed Saja as if ticking off a list of vulnerabilities of an opponent. Surely his mother hadn't forgotten how Skyld, Zane, and Alonzo had taken down her Valkyrie protection detail—Zane, without the use of a mantle or scion abilities.
Cord glanced behind Zane's deceptively still form to Alonzo and hurriedly scooted back a couple of feet, smacking into a piece of furniture. Last night when he and the band had arrived, Alonzo met them out front, his form that of a giant hairy being. Midnight had later explained that Alonzo was one of the fabled Maricoxi. His people stayed hidden away, but throughout history when they had mixed with humanity, they were called by many different names with either fear and reverence or malice: the first people, the tribes of the Jaguar, agogwe, mapinguary, Mono Grande, curupira, sasquatch, The Boraro, yeti, and sometimes cruelly called muan. Since the Maricoxi lived in isolation, very little was known about them, other than the folktales and hearsay… except for Midnight, son of Colombia's la Madremonte, knew more than most.
As a guardian, Alonzo protected his clan's patrón with extreme prejudice. But Alonzo didn't live in a clan or have a patrón… or did he? Hadn't Myranda Anatha said something to Zane about him being a patrón not in hiding? Was he Alonzo's patrón? The way they were with each other, Cord would have to say yes.
That Alonzo now stood a head taller than Zane, his hair thicker, his clothes pulling tight over bulging muscles was not what had caused Cord's startled reaction. Nor was it the sphere of power he sensed rolling off Alonzo, the type of power that only the best warriors exuded, serenading Cord like a siren's call, and neither was he reacting to Alonzo's expression that dared Saja to lay a hand on Zane.
No, as part Valkyrie, Cord could see shades. He easily saw the billowing cloud of black smoke weaving around Zane and Alonzo's legs. A huge, dark mass rose behind Alonzo, golden predator eyes blinking within the veil of smoke. The creature slowly scanned the room, taking in everyone occupying it. Its gauzy wisps clung possessively to Zane and Alonzo until they were both covered from the waist down. Neither man seemed to know something was hanging onto them. When those piercing eyes landed on Cord and narrowed, he forgot to breathe as something brushed the edges of his mind.
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