Welcome back to Assassin's Retirement. I think that this might be one of my favorite chapters. It's an in-depth look at Cord and who he is. Oh, yeah, there is a shade poking at his mind.
Distantly, Cord heard his name called, could feel that he still held Raine. When he'd scooted back, he'd taken Raine with him and he was sure he had startled his lover. But he didn't have time to reassure Raine or anyone else as the shade pressed against his mind.
He threw up his mental barriers just as he'd been taught. Shielding hadn't come naturally to him as it had with other Valkyrie. When he was first learning, building mental walls was like trying to sculped water. He had a hard time grasping the intangible, that was until he reversed his perspective. Instead of shaping water, he was the water. Fluid. Clear or cloudy, he was the one who decided, his walls bending around what attempted to penetrate his mind. The waters darkening, always between him and this intruder. The last time his mother had tested him before he left Asgard, she tried to muscle through his liquid veil. His shield had flowed around her, causing her confusion until Cord had ejected her. Since then, no one had penetrated his shields.
The shade ran feelers over the veil Cord hastily put up. There was so much power in that fleeting touch that he gasped, trembling. The sensation was similar to when Myranda's goddess was near the surface, but where that primal power had repelled him, this beckoned to him, tempting him to allow the shade in, to bear himself to be sacrificed and devoured. Cord squirmed as his body shivered and dick hardened.
A soft, dark chuckle rumbled in his ear. "You would love that wouldn't you?" The shade's words were accented and thick, almost like he'd woken from a deep sleep but wasn't quiet awake. Pressing more firmly against Cords shields, the shade didn't attempt to penetrate, testing yet playful. His body reacted as if he was underneath a lover, lightly restrained, submissive and waiting for a command. Lust swamped him, knotting his stomach, making him tremble and his mouth water.
He dropped his head back until it rested on the furniture behind him, mouth open. Cool fingers pushed past his lips and he moaned as he sucked on them.
"You may bear the blood of the woman warriors from the north, but your heart craves something different." The shade settled heavily on Cord. He couldn't tell if his actual body was covered or if the sensation was all in his mind. He struggled to pull his attention from the being, back to his veil. He found it had thinned but still held even though it was now clear instead of dark. Had he unconsciously allowed the shade to see him? The lusty haze cleared slightly as his heart rate picked up pace, the blood pounding in his ears.
"So young. So naive." A physical weight settled over him and he noticed Raine had quieted but hadn't release him. Cord suspected that if he opened his eyes, both he and Raine would be covered by the shade. "You couldn't keep me out if I truly wanted to take over your mind. You covet what belongs to me but before I make you mine, I would know your resolve, your loyalties. I have heard of these Valkyries, fetchers of souls, devourers of men. Their devotion to Odin is unbreakable, but it leaves no room for their own need. They slake their desires but hold none close, not even their children."
The noises from the room penetrated and Cord just barely discerned raised voices, the words of demand meaning nothing to him. The shade's fingers left Cord's mouth, a sharpness trailing lines over his chin where fingers wrapped around his throat and gently squeezed. He could still breathe but the hold telegraphed that could changed in a second. He didn't fight the shade but lay still, waiting.
"Let me in, halfling. I would rather not break your mind. My new son likes you and I would rather not damage what he is considering on claiming." The soft rumble that followed the request seemed to grip Cord's balls.
In a part of his mind where his consciousness watched with shock and alarm, that part of himself demanded Cord resist. But there was an equally noticeable part of him that rolled in its slumber under his skin, filling his nose with the scent of ash and molten metal, soft rumbles of approval. As far back as Cord could remember, he was always aware of his dragon-self, though it had slumbered since the day he was born. He feared this part of himself, suspecting that when the dragon awakened, it would steal his mind and drive him insane. Now it strained towards the shade and Cord didn't know what to make of that. His dragon-self never reacted to anything. Instead of retreating to the recesses of his mind, Cord lent an ear to this scary part of himself, ignoring his fear… and let down his shields. If he was to die, this would be a better way to go than becoming a rampaging monster and hurting his family.
The shade prowled forward, wrapping around Cord's mind, sinking into him. The being overturned his deepest secrets, pulling to the fore his unbridled fears and rifling through Cord's memoirs. Something quite like a purr, but not, soothed him. The shade lingered over his memories of his lovers, his family, stroking them almost fondly, approvingly. Something in Cord relaxed and loosened simply because finally, someone understood. He'd spent years with the constant guilt that he wasn't like other Valkyrie, enduring the disapproving stares over something that came as naturally to him as breathing.
"You have built a strong and mighty house." Cord wanted to bask in that approval. "I have not claimed any not of my blood for eons and yet your house temps me. I need a tribe for my most trusted and his new patron for the will they will need the security as well as the stability. Trouble brews and they must be secured before the storm breaks. What do you say, halfling? Open your eyes and tell me what you see."
He obeyed. His vision tunneled and he stared directly at Zane and Alonzo. Everything to the right and left was blurred, making it so he was unable to see what caused the commotion to his left… though he assumed it was his mother. As he'd suspected, the shade had not only covered Zane and Alonzo from the waist down but stretched across the floor to Cord. Only topmost of Raine's head laying against Cord's chest could be seen, the dark gray shadow covering both them. Was Skyld and the band enveloped as well? A sixth sense told him, yes.
Looking back to Zane and Alonzo, the yearning Cord felt when he first saw Zane's picture swelled within him, but this time he didn't attempt to squelch his need, nor did he allow himself to feel guilty over how he wanted Zane, and now Alonzo, in his life. In the long years he'd lived earthside, he had passed by many warriors of great renown. There were very few who had been irresistible, and those Cord had pursued with a passion until they became his. He treasured each and every one of them, valued their uniqueness, and was thankful every day they were a part of his family. He wasn't sure why he had to have only them and not all the warriors who pulsed with great power. What had drawn him to collect Prince, Xander, Midnight, Anson, and Raine?
Neither Zane or Alonzo looked at him. The shade patiently waited for Cord to answer the question. Yet, he didn't know how to answer. He'd never put into words what he saw. The Valkyrie and his mother had long ago quit listening when he'd tried to explain. They didn't understand, and if he was honest, they didn't want to… even his mother. He wasn't conforming to the other Valkyrie, so they didn't waste their attention on him.
Now this shade… this being wanted what his people did not. For several long moments, Cord's vision blurred and when he blinked, the tears spilled over the corners, making salty tracks into his beard. Why did that knowledge affect him so?
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
Chapter Twenty-Five, Part 2