Sunday, 5 November 2017

Jenny the Rescue Dog

Jenny the rescue Dog

Before I go any further I should tell you that instead of getting my new dog from some nasty puppy farm in the UK I went to a dog rescue site.    https://www.facebook.com/groups/ Help Pozega Dogs/

I now have a three almost four year old Golden Labrador that is named Jenny, and she arrived all the way from Bucharest. Yes you read that correct she traveled all the way from certain death in Romania with her three pups.   Although there has been no problems of bonding between her and me she still has memories of her past abandonment on the streets.

I am under the belief that these rescued dogs don’t recover from the traumatic experience of being left to fend for themselves. Jenny has her huge doggy cushion next to the wall, but near my desk in my room. She is well fed and always has plenty of water, but that is not good enough for her. Now and again my daughter brings me a KFC, Big Mac, or a Burger King meal when she returns from shopping.

Like all normal people I eat the meal and put the rapper in the bin, and it is there where the old Jenny lives her old days on the streets. I have walked outside doing work, and on my return the waste-bin full of mostly papers is tipped up and scattered about the floor. This inconvenience of forcing me to clean up an unwanted mess is all down to her searching for the empty Big Mac bag, KFC box, or the Burger King wrapper. Either one of these items is likely to be found near her cushion.


I used to be annoyed at first, but quickly realised that the way she is only picking out the bag, box wrapper. It was her way of sustaining her life and those of her pups for only God knows how many months or maybe even years on the streets of Bucharest. If I am going to be out of the room for more than ten minutes now I remove the waste-bin. I do this even if there is none of her desired waste there, because her search is never ending.

These dogs do not just need the permanent home with a loving family. They need a great amount of understanding to not just help them feel safe but also secure in knowing they will never be abandoned again. I am surprised that in Europe there are dogs like Jenny that are still alive to be taken off the streets by anyone.


In 1979 while serving with the army in Germany I was taking a short cut through the park in Detmold on my way to the Bank. A police officer shouted, “British Soldier stop,” while he ran towards me taking out his pistol. I cannot tell you the words I was saying under my breath when seeing this. He stopped near me, and studied the lone Alsatian to my front before without warning shot the dog in the head.


I looked at him as if to ask explain and he said, “No collar and no name tag possible rabies.” Up until that point I had never given stray dogs or rabies a thought, but after it gave me a whole new outlook on life. I am very happy that Jenny was saved from the mouth of death not once but maybe twice, and so too were her pups. She is a very good companion to me and adopting her was the best decision I have made.


Be Well Ian.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

MARINA [The Eye of the Fallen Angel]

Synopsis

Evil is heading to earth, in a form that has never been seen before. In itself, it may not be a problem, but its power will be used by those that are already evil’ it will magnify their wicked forces, enabling them to draw evil beings from the underworld, and even threaten to take over the Realm of the Gods.


This threat may be too much for the Last Warrior, Champion to the Gods, to handle. Powerful as he may be, there is a need for someone with different talents, someone capable of effectively handling power from the Creators that goes far beyond anything ever seen on the surface of the earth or in the hidden worlds above and below. It is hardly surprising that the Gods of Asgard are worried and fearful of this person and their hidden powers.

****
The Higher Realms

The Gods in the realms look after the earth. The creators are the divine powers and they created the world before they created the gods to look after it.  The Last Warrior is a powerful warrior there to keep the status quo between evil forces in mortal forms that are attacking earth for world domination. The only god allowed to walk the earth is the Goddess Jord the earth goddess. The Queen of the fairies is the White Which Breeze. Merlin is the universal wizard and is only called by the creators to help if needed.

The outer world is the magic place of dreams between middle earth and the realm of the gods. Children go there when sleeping and the elves and fairies that are the size of mortals look after them. In the Outer World are all the mythical creatures that are never seen now. In the Outer World are the Unicorn, Pegasus, the mighty Griffin, Fairies, Elves, and all kinds of dragons that time has forgotten. They were placed in the Outer World for their safety by the creators. The leader of the Fairies is Sand Piper, the Queen of the elves is Queen Amelia and her top general is Villias. Oberon is the king of Fairies and leader of the bad Elves his home is in the underworld, he only appears when there is an evil master calling him. there is plenty of time to read this story as it will be published on my blog Changed to no limit.



The Eye Of The Fallen Angel
by Ian Johnstone

Copyright 2014 Ian Johnstone
Published by Strict Publishing International





CHAPTER ONE

At the edge of our universe is a void.  There are no planets, stars, comets, meteors or even dust – at least, not more than a few scattered grains accelerated in one direction or another by dark energy.  Otherwise, it is a great nothingness.
And far beyond this void at the edge of our universe are other universes, separated from us only by the vast distance, so great that by the time we could possibly become aware of their existence, by the time the light from them has reached us from their very beginnings, our universe will have ceased to exist and our suns no more than glowing embers or black holes.
Of course, with an infinite number of possibilities on perhaps an infinite number of worlds, there are inevitably other beings.  Unsurprisingly then, somewhere there are remarkable similarities to our own world, and somewhere there are remarkable similarities to some of our myths and legends.  Perhaps, for us, our myths and legends are from partially lost memories of actual events on our world; perhaps they are from a world around us in our own universe that we cannot see or feel, or perhaps we have some connection to life in other universes and it is events and beings on their worlds that sometimes intrude into our dreams and imaginations.  And perhaps we will never know for sure.
That said, as we travel through the medium of fiction towards and then into a distant universe, we find gods, both good and evil, and Creators who are the ultimate force on these worlds, who make the ultimate decisions and yet who are sometimes reluctant to take a hand in the battles between good and evil.  In this distant universe, there is a warrior they call Enforcer, much as the Creators on Earth, in the dimensions usually hidden from human senses, have their Last Warrior, who is not of them yet still part of them.  It is said that the Enforcer, like Warrior, was selected after drifting into the Mists of Time and meeting his own Creators.

* * * * *

“Tell us the news as you see it, Enforcer.”
“My Lords, it is as bad, if not worse, than you could ever have imagined.  There is not one smidgen of goodness to be found on the surface.  Even the newborn are filled with the evil, passed down to them by their parents, and that evil surfaces long before they come of age.  Even the priests are evil and greedy.  They steal and they cheat their own just to survive.  Their gods let them down by not calling on the Creators for help.  I searched the surface to find, perhaps, just one redeemable mortal, and yet I found none.  My disappointment is absolute, my Lords, but I did not visit the gods for fear of showing favour, my Lords.  I cannot answer any questions to which they do not already know the answer.  Was I wrong, my Lord?”
“Your actions were correct, Enforcer.  Go about your business, and our blessings are with you.”
As Enforcer travelled through the Mists of Time, he sensed that a great evil had abruptly been removed from the universe, and he knew that the Creators had given their verdict and executed the ultimate punishment.

* * * * *

Several million light years away, Warrior was standing outside the tigers’ cave on the mountains, looking outward toward space.  His eyes were alert, as if he was looking for something approaching.  While he was there the Creators appeared and Warrior bowed.
“You are troubled, Warrior.  Is there a reason?”
“My Lords, I sense an evil approaching.  This evil is unlike any I have ever sensed before, and I feel that it is alien to our universe.”
“We also sense this evil, and we too feel that it is alien to this universe.  It is powerful, and we think it would be wise to find its origin and evaluate its power.  Use your senses to take you to its source, and our blessings go with you, Warrior.”
Warrior bowed, and faded into the Mists of Time.

* * * * *

When Warrior reappeared, he was on the surface of rock formation no bigger than a meteorite.  He found it difficult to work out why he had ended up there, because he had followed his sense of the evil’s source through the Mists of Time and yet arrived alone on this rock that was clearly too small to be hiding anything or anyone, and he could feel the evil moving away from him.
Even when using all the powers of perception allowed to him, he still could not see anything.  Warrior knew that whatever the evil was, by the direction it was taking it was now on a collision course with Earth.  It had to be some sort of entity, a being of sorts, but that it would be a waste of time to chase it.  His only option was to return to Earth to wait for it to arrive.  He did, however, sense that whatever this evil was, it was losing strength as it moved silently through space.  He hoped that by the time it reached Earth it would be less powerful.
Using the Mists of Time, Warrior appeared back on the mountains, just outside the cave, to resume his vigil.  He did not need to report to the Creators; he knew they could see his thoughts and they would know he had found out nothing new and so had returned.  The evil would take several days to reach the surface of Midgard, so whatever mayhem it intended to create would not happen until then.
Warrior decided that it was time he went and informed the gods.  It was in their interests to know what was happening.
“Valkyrie, we are going to meet with the gods in Asgard,” he announced, and faded, reappearing almost instantly outside the Well of Urd where he waited to be summoned by the gods.
Odin saw him first and beckoned him inside.  “Enter, Warrior, and speak with the gods.  I sense you have something on your mind.”
Warrior came to where Odin was standing beside a plinth, and then he addressed the Council of Gods.
“I am once again the carrier of bad news.  There is something evil travelling through our universe, and it is now heading towards Midgard.  I have been far out into the universe, near to it, but as yet I have not seen it.  It is invisible to the naked eye, yet I can sense that it is real and it is a threat to us.  I do not know where it has come from or what it will do.  I only know that it is a powerful evil and it appears to be moving towards us with a sense of purpose.  It is not from our universe.”
Lord Forsetti stood up.  “I suppose it is far more evil than the last evil that was here?”
Several gods laughed.  Warrior took no notice of the offensive remark.  He had expected it.
“Well?  Are you not going to answer me, Warrior?”
“Sorry, my Lord.  I had no idea that you intended that as a genuine question.  I thought you were having a joke with the other gods.”
Lord Forsetti looked as though he was about to explode with rage.  “How dare you make a joke at my expense.  I demand an apology.”
“My Lord, the gods did not laugh at my remark, but they were laughing at yours.  I naturally assumed that it was a joke between them and you.  You should also note that I will not apologise for informing you of the facts, and that is what I have done.  Those are the facts as the Creators and I see them.  I tire of being ridiculed every time I enter the Well of Urd to inform you of impending danger, and it is always you or one of the other key gods who seems to take a great deal of pleasure in doing it.  Is it, perhaps, some sort of competition between you to see who can come up with the most effective ridicule for whatever I say?  You continually disrespect me, my Lords, for no reason that I can see other than to amuse yourselves.  It seems I have no alternative other than to leave it to my Creators to inform you of Midgard’s fate.  I shall not waste my time standing here to become the focus of your scorn and the source of your amusement.”
Warrior faded back into the Mists of Time, and he was joined by the Creators.
Warrior bowed, and asked, “Why do the gods continually ridicule me?  Have I done something wrong that they must treat me less than a serf?”
“We know of your direction, Warrior, and go with the Creators’ blessing.  All the Creators are aware of this childish friction, and we are going to nip it in the bud.”
As Warrior and the Creators were speaking to each other in the Mists of Time, no time passed, so to the gods the appearance of the Creators at the Well of Urd happened the moment that Warrior left.  Before any of the gods had a chance to speak, the Creators said, “Lord Forsetti, we are now informing you personally that there is an evil heading towards Midgard and its source is unknown.  We the Creators believe this evil to be more powerful than Midgard has felt before.”  They said no more, and the silence felt as though it could be cut with a knife.  “Well?  We are waiting, Lord Forsetti.”
“For what, my Lords?”
“We are waiting for your joke.  We know you like to share your humour with other gods that think it good to laugh at your remarks.  We are also waiting for you and those same gods to show us the disrespect that you showed our envoy.  After all this time, Gods of Asgard, you still have not realised that Warrior speaks for us and will not lie to make you feel safer.  I know which of gods laughed at your comments.  You, and they, are now on probation.  The path you are treading is the same path taken when the child of the gods was in front of you.  Do you wish to have another lesson in respect?  You have been officially warned, and there will be no more disrespect of the Creators’ envoy.  Warrior tells you what the Creators wish him tell you in times of duress.  I will leave you, Lord Odin, to bring your Council of Gods into line.  Our blessings are with you.”
The Creators faded into the Mists of Time.
Lord Forsetti sat down with his face in his hands.
Lord Odin gazed at him for a few minutes.  “My Lord Forsetti, and all you other gods that think it is funny to ridicule and disrespect Warrior, you have all heard the word of the Creators and you know the likely consequences.  I will not delve any further into this mess, except to say that whatever you suffer is of your own making, but you will not be allowed to drag the other gods down with you.  I also think it fair to assume that once Warrior gains knowledge of this evil he will be back to inform us.  I believe that right now we ought to step up our guard and secure the Realm, at least until we know what exactly is threatening us and where it is coming from.”

* * * * *

Warrior travelled the Mists of Time once more with the three Valkyrie, appearing on the surface of a new world.
“Valkyrie, we must go onto the mountains.  I have a meeting, and I must not be late.”
The mountains were only a short distance away, and they rode like the wind.  At the bottom of the mountains, just inside the foothills, Warrior slowed his horse to a walk and then stopped and dismounted by an overhanging piece of rock.
“Wait here, Valkyrie.  This will take a short while.”  As he spoke, there was a sudden displacement of the air in from of him, and Warrior walked forward into a shimmering bubble.  The bubble disappeared, just as the Valkyrie expected it to.  They had seen this phenomenon several times before.
Warrior walked to the light at the end of the darkness and then stepped into a large open space, around which were walls lined with books.  To the young woman sitting at the table, he said, “Greetings, Oracle, and I wish the blessing of the Creators be with you.”
“Greetings to you also, Warrior.  We meet once more in trying times.  If you will be seated, I will relate to you the missing Pages of Time.”  She waited until Warrior was seated, and then she closed her eyes and spoke:
“There is an evil force coming towards Midgard, as you know.  You also know that as it travels through the universe it is decreasing in power.  It will still be strong when it reaches the mountains, and then it will sink to the depths of the Underworld.  However, this is not important.  The evil will be absorbed into the evil gods, never to surface again.
“The danger comes not from the evil that penetrates the ground.  There is no danger from that, but the essence it leaves on the surface is the essence of evil.  It is not as powerful as the Creator that you are part of, but all the same it is powerful.  It is the essence of millions of evil souls that perished on another world.  This world was far beyond the edges of the known cosmos, but the essence will search for a lonely soul already powerful with evil and on the surface.  It will cling like a magnet until it too loses its strength.  How long this will take is not written; it can only be measured by the world it left.  My best estimate is that each quarter of the essence of evil will be absorbed every six weeks, but I cannot be certain.  The evil essence will touch many and you must fight many, but only the already strong and evil that it touches will be endowed with its power.
“If you follow the line of Jupiter and Mars in our Solar System, past the outer limits of the universe and into the open space beyond, there is a green planet totally devoid of life.  It is the safety marker for this universe and the one beyond.  Go to that planet and wait, but under no circumstances must you go any further.  You will be met by Creators of the next universe, and they will decide how long you must wait before they see you.
“Your own Creators know of your journey and give you their blessing.  You must not take your Valkyrie with you.  The sisters know of the evil ones that you must destroy, but until these evil ones are tainted with the essence, the sisters are as blind as you.  That is all I can tell you, Warrior.  If there is anything more that is relevant to your task, then I will be in contact.  Good hunting, Warrior.  I pray that your Creators stay at your side.”
“Thank you, Oracle, and may your Creators guide you.”  Warrior turned and walked towards the light.
Once out of the haze and into the warmth of the sun, he told the Valkyrie, “You must go back to Asgard, as I have to go alone on the Creators’ business.”  They did not complain or argue.  Warrior’s word was as good as a command from the Creators, and their loyalty to him was absolute.
Once the Valkyrie had faded, Warrior did the same and appeared on the planet that the Oracle had described.  There seemed to be no sun or moon, but there was light all around him.  He dismounted, and walked over to a rock and sat down, knowing that this meeting might well be more important than any other.  He sat for what felt like an age, probably two full days by the time of Midgard.  All at once he stood up, alert without knowing the reason and feeling a presence close by without it appearing to any of his usual senses, and not knowing how he could feel it.
In front of him, twelve Creators appeared.  Warrior bowed his head, and then lifted it to look at them.  He said nothing.
“Warrior, you have travelled a long way with questions for us.  We read of your coming in the Pages of Time and we know your questions.  What we do not understand is why the answers are relevant to you and to your universe.”
“My Lords, a cloud of evil has descended onto one of the worlds in my universe.  The evil is not the problem, as it will be soaked up by the evil Underworld gods, never to be seen again.  The problem is the essence that it leaves behind.  We estimate its power to be close to that of the Creators I serve.  This evil has travelled from your universe, and it comes from a world several million light years from my own world.  I have to know of the world that produced this evil, so that I might know its strength and what I will need to fight it, my Lords.”
“We know of the world, Warrior, and we fear you have a hard task ahead.  This is a whole world of evil you face, complete and without exception.  The essence of evil cannot be destroyed, yet you may destroy those that gain and use its power.  The essence will, in time, weaken and fade away, but you must not become complacent.  That is all we can tell you, so go and take charge of your destiny.  The blessings of the Creators go with you.”
Warrior bowed, and the Creators faded into the Mists of Time.  Warrior took one last look at the vast void separating his universe from the next, and then he faded to return to his universe and his Creators.  As he travelled through the Mists of Time, he considered the immense power of the Creators and the power they had placed under his control to do their will.  He shuddered, momentarily overawed by his responsibilities.
Warrior reappeared in the cave with the tigers, and as he did so the Valkyrie appeared behind him.  He was thinking about what the Creators from the other universe told him, and considered the power that would have been contained on a planet that was totally evil.  If unleashed, such power could create havoc, and he wondered for a moment if even the powers of all the Creators, let alone the power they had bestowed on him, would be able to contain it.
He stood for a while as though listening, and sensed that the evil had arrived and the essence was, even now, finding one or more hosts to start propagating its wickedness.  Straining his senses, he tried to establish how many hosts the essence had touched, how powerful each would be and what form that power would take.  He was unable to feel any of it.  The evil was the aggregate of a whole world of evil, a force that might be impossible to destroy, yet its power had diminished over its long journey and he was far from certain how much of the power the essence would be able to pass on to its new hosts.
Warrior knew that the essence itself could not be destroyed.  The host or hosts could, and yet any hosts the essence found would already have evil of their own.  Indeed, it was their existing evil that enabled the essence to latch onto them, clinging as fiercely as two magnets pulling towards each other and making an unbreakable bond.
This might be a long battle, and the forces of the enemy remained unknown.  Worse, for Warrior, without knowing what shape and form the evil would take and what tactics it might use, Warrior had no idea what evil thoughts and ideas the essence might have brought with it.
He looked out into the falling snow as if looking for guidance.  He felt that his thoughts and questions might be answered when the Creators appeared.
“Warrior, we read and understand your thoughts, but at this moment you can do nothing but wait.  We the Creators know, as you know, that the evil has been swallowed into the interior, leaving only the essence of evil to roam.  We also know that this essence, although strong, is not as strong as the Creators you serve.  This means that once again you are more powerful and that it can be defeated.  As before, the entire Council of Creators is there beside you if you should need help or guidance.  We will always be but a thought away.”
“My Lords, by calling you away from your tasks so often, does this not hinder your work?  I always sense that I am pulling you away from your important tasks of overseeing the universe.”
“Warrior, stopping to converse with our most obedient servant whose job is to police the universe is very much part of our work.  We have told you on many occasions that you are an extension of the Creators that guide you.  Where we go, so too do you, and in your battles against the evil we will always be at your side.  This unity of great forces cannot be matched by anything in this universe.  Never feel that when you need guidance or just want to hold counsel we will be annoyed, because that moment will never arise.  Trust your instincts because they will never let you down.  You have extreme powers and you use them well.  You have never let down the Creators and your character is without blemish.  As the evil powers become strong, so too will yours, because you have the capacity to wield the power of the Creators, and they will never leave you wanting.  We will depart now, Warrior, and before we leave we are pleased to be able to tell you that Lord Odin has his Council of Gods back in line.  Once again, they too are there for you to converse with, and we give you our blessings.”
“Thank you, my Lords.  Your words have not fallen on deaf ears.”  Warrior bowed as the Creators faded.
Once the Creators had left, Warrior and the Valkyrie faded and reappeared in Asgard.  Warrior was seated in the great hall in his own seat, and his eyes closed and he fell into sleep.  This was the first time ever that he had slept in Asgard.  He knew that he was potentially vulnerable while he was asleep, but Gunn and Geirahod were on the alert, while Hild went to report to the gods.
At the Well of Urd, Odin beckoned her to enter and she informed him of everything that had happened.
“Where is Warrior now?” Odin asked?
“He is asleep in the great hall, my Lord.  Gunn and Geirahod are at his side for his protection.”
Odin dismissed Hild, and he looked to the gods, asking, “Your comments, please.”
Thor stood up and addressed the gods.  “Warrior has great knowledge of the evil about to strike, yet he sees fit to go to the great hall and sleep.  Does he not think?  The wise thing to do would be to announce his presence in Asgard to his gods.  I have heard what the Valkyrie has told the gods, and so we know what the Creators told Warrior.  I can only say that I think that he again considers himself better than us.  He is getting above his station.”
“My Lord, you seem to forget that Warrior is an envoy to the Creators.  He is also an extension of them, and where he walks so too do they.  Warrior has had very little sleep, and I know that his sleep is frequently disturbed by the weight of information his mind has to absorb, hold and process, and in a potential crisis like this, that information increases hour by hour.  I would advise, my Lord Thor, to think on what the Creators spoke about when they were last here.
“Warrior announced his presence by allowing, and yes, I do mean allowing, a Valkyrie to come here.  I believe that when Warrior comes here to the Well he will personally tell us everything that the gods need to know and not what they think they should know.  If there were an immediate threat to the Realms and Midgard, I believe that Warrior would not be where he is now, as he would never leave his beloved Midgard wanting.  We the gods must allow him a little rest when he needs it.  Also, we must remember that over a hundred year has passed since Warrior was made immortal by the Creators and arrived in Asgard.  He has been fighting the evil for all that time, and watching over the universe constantly, even when there was no threat and nothing to fight.”
The Goddess Jord sat down, and Odin said, “Well said, my Lady.  We have no need to give Warrior more stress than he already has in doing his job.”

* * * * *

Warrior had fallen asleep but, as always, he started to dream.  However, this dream was unusual, in that it was about his mortal life.  It was the middle of winter, and he was on the mountains.  The snow was heavy and he was injured, with his left arm hurting and giving him a lot of pain.  He knew that he was on his own because the rest of his command had fallen in the last battle with the white guard.  He was on the lower part of the mountain, walking higher and trying to escape the small groups of white guard that were following.  The wind was becoming stronger, and he had to find shelter and fast.  It pleased him to know that the group behind, trying to track him, would be thinking the same.  The battle between the reds and the white guard had drained his strength, and now he felt that every skirmish was taking away another small piece of his life until eventually he would have nothing left.  He found himself on a small plateau between the higher mountains, about a hundred and fifty metres higher than the lower hills.
Nicolai could feel the cold biting into his chest as he breathed it into his lungs.  It was hard to breathe up here because the air was so thin.  He could hear the sound of the men’s gasping voices not far behind him, and knew they would chase him until he dropped.  He turned to face them, drew his sword and dropped onto one knee.  He shouted above the noise of the howling wind: “My Lord Odin, it is I, Nicolai Kandinsky.  Behind me I see the freezing cold and the hunger that will be followed by a slow death.  In front I see the charging white army who are allowing me no rest.  I respect the power of both but I fear neither.  I ask of you and the gods of battle to look down on me and give me your blessing, although I know that your hands are tied and to change the Pages of Time would be reckless.
“To my own goddess, the Goddess Jord, I am sorry, my Lady, that once again I will turn the white snow red with the blood of others.  These are your mountains and your land to look after.  As long as I live, I will fight for the right for beings to roam free here.  I know too, my Lady, that you will be keeping vigil over my battles this day.  If I die, I will die the death of a warrior, so that I may serve the gods in Valhalla.”
The white guard were as tired as he was, and the first one that came at him was dispatched with a clinical stroke of Nicolai’s sword.  These were but poor peasants, and they had no idea how to fight with the sword.  They had rifles, but their firing mechanisms had frozen and failed long ago in the damp and cold.  They had bayonets on their rifles, and some presented these before them as they charged at him, stepping over the headless body as it rolled towards them.  Two came at once.  Nicolai avoided the first thrust and took hold of the rifle of the man to his left, pulling him past and throwing him to the ground.  As the white guard on Nicolai’s right pulled his rifle back to stab again, Nicolai thrust his sword deep into the man’s chest.
As if in slow motion, the man fell backwards, freeing Nicolai’s sword.  He turned sharply before the man on the ground could react, and he thrust his sword through that man’s chest as well, before turning to face the other oncoming soldiers of the white guard.  None were close enough to pose an immediate threat to him.  He could see two more, further down the mountain, but after seeing their friends die at his hands they seemed reluctant to move forward.  One shouted out, “Freeze to death, you red scum.  We will be waiting for you down below.”
As the two men turned and walked away, Nicolai fell on his knees, exhausted but alive, although he felt that his life was ebbing away.  He was hungry and tired, and he knew that if he sat down now he would never get up again.  The cold and fatigue would take over, and then he would die of exposure.
Nicolai pointed his sword to the sky.  “My Lady, once again I have defaced your blanket of white, but I am still alive to fight.  My Lord Odin, I thank you and the gods of battle and war for giving me your blessings.  I am tired and weak, and I must find shelter, so until we talk again I salute you.”
Nicolai turned and walked forward to find shelter.  The snow was falling heavily, but the wind had stopped and it did not feel so cold.  He picked up his fur gloves and put them over the top of the leather ones he wore for the fight.  With his fur coat and fur hat, he looked like a brown bear from the back.  It was pointless walking back down the mountain, as he knew the other two groups of white guard would be waiting.  He had to move forward to find a cave or some sort of shelter.  If he could rest and gain strength, then he had a chance.  It was his only hope of survival, but without nourishment as well, he would still not last long.
How long he walked he had no idea, but eventually he saw a small hole no bigger than a metre high.  Perhaps this would be what he so desperately needed, and he slipped easily through the entrance.  Inside was a little bigger; three metres by three, and Nicolai stumbled to the back wall.  He pulled out his pistol, checked its movement, and found it to be working, and then he lay down with his back to the wall of the cave, feeling the warmth slowly return to his body.
He fell asleep, although he had no idea how long he had been asleep when he was woken by a gust of warm air on his face.  He feared the worst, and opened his eyes to find he was right to fear it.  Two huge eyes were fixed on him from no more than a metre away and he could see the thick, furry head of a Siberian tiger.  The large cat stepped back as Nicolai pointed his pistol at the beast, and he could also see in the failing light that the tiger was heavy with cubs inside her.  They stared at each other for several, and then Nicolai lowered the pistol and said out loud, “You have as much right to live as I do.”
The big cat came towards him again, and Nicolai closed his eyes and waited for the worst to happen.  To his surprise, she simply lay down in front of him and closed her eyes.




CHAPTER TWO

Warrior opened his eyes, and looked around the great hall.  He then shook his head and thought, ‘what a strange dream.’  Hild was now at his side, and she said, “You have been sleeping, Warrior, but we could see that it was a disturbed sleep.  Your body was resting but your mind was still awake.”
“Yes, it was a strange sleep I had.  It was like nothing I have ever known since I was a child.  We must go and see the gods, as they will be wondering where I have got to.”
As soon as Warrior showed his face outside the Gates, Odin called him in.  He went in and stood by the centre plinth again.  He turned to face Odin, and saw him nod to let him know that the floor was his.
“My Lords and Ladies, I am sorry and I do hope you will forgive me for keeping you waiting.  I did not come here as soon as I arrived because a sudden sense of tiredness came over me.  I did fall asleep but, as the Valkyrie has informed me, my sleep was disturbed.  Since I came here recently I have travelled the entire length of the universe for answers, but they are still few and slow in coming.  The evil has touched Midgard and has been absorbed into the surface.  Although it will have little or no effect on the evil and dark gods, they will know there has been an imbalance.
“The essence of evil is still traversing the world below, searching for a host or perhaps multiple hosts.  When the host or hosts become one with the essence we shall begin to see evidence of their evil, but I bring good news as well.  The lifespan of the essence is short, at least by the time of the universe.  On Midgard this will be perhaps six months and maybe longer, but much damage and perhaps total destruction could be wrought in that time if nothing is done.  I have asked questions of many Creators but their answers fall short.  This is beyond their experience and its origins are not of our universe, so they must learn by experience, as must we.  I have many more questions unanswered before I can hope to destroy the evil that we know will appear.  I shall have to assess the strength and the strength of the threat when it appears, and I will need to see in what form it manifests itself before I can work out tactics to fight it.”
Lord Heimdall asked, “Where did this evil come from, Warrior?  Do you know?”
“Yes, my Lord, but that is not important to the future of Midgard.  The problem is not where it was formed, but where and in what form it will attempt to wreak its destruction.  I know all the wheres and whys, but they were told me in confidence.  The most important question we should be asking ourselves is what is it doing now.
“I do know that I have the full backing of all the Creators, and I also know that this evil essence is not as powerful as the combined forces of the Creators.  The gods may take comfort from that fact, but this essence can do a lot of damage before it is finally defeated and my job is to keep the damage to a minimum and to defeat it as soon as possible.  It would be wise to tighten security of the Realms, as I am sure my Lords already know.  Evil is not predictable, and every creature that is evil or is touched by evil is insecure in its thoughts and volatile in its actions.  This evil has not put any stain on the watchman of the gods, because it is not in any the Pages of Time that may be read.”
“I thank you for your remarks, Warrior.”
“There is no reason to thank me, my Lord Heimdall.  My observations are what the Creators wish me to point out.”
Lord Forsetti stood up, and started saying, “Warrior…” but Warrior cut him short.
“My Lord, over wine this evening we must talk of the burning fires of battles ahead, and not of the cold embers of the past.”
“I hear you, Warrior, and it will be my pleasure to do that.”  Lord Forsetti knew why Warrior had said that to him.  Warrior would never let any god apologise to him, as he felt it was not appropriate.
“My Lord Odin, while you talk to the Council of Gods, I must go to the far reaches of the universe.  I must go to a new world to collect more answers about the threat we are facing.  I ask for your leave, my Lord,” and Warrior bowed.
“Yes, Warrior, and the blessings of the gods go with you.”
“One thing more before I go, my Lord.  It is on another matter that has no importance to anyone but me.  I would ask for a private audience with my Lady, the Goddess Jord at a later date.”
The goddess stood up and smiled.  “There is no need to ask, Warrior.  I will always be available to you when you are not busy fighting.”
He faced her and bowed.  “Thank you, my Lady,” and then he faded into the Mists of Time.

* * * * *

Warrior appeared on the lower hills of a mountain range and looked about him.  Instinct told him that this was a fresh, new world.  There were no smells of factory chimneys and the air was sweet and clean.  The mountains in front of him had tips of white snow, and he caught the smell of a small fire burning, with just the faintest aroma of roasting meat.  The sisters had been doing their work, helping evolution by educating the ignorant.  He also knew that they were still here, because he always followed his senses, and he also knew that it was almost time for them to leave.
Warrior rode into the mountains, following a path made by animals over the many years before human life was introduced.  All worlds had their prehistoric men and beasts, and this world was no different.  It was still in its early stages, and this was the age of the stone axe and spear.  The animals were owned by all and yet owned by no one.  The sisters would go away, and then after a few hundred years they would come back and educate the world further by magically instilling some basic ideas into the heads of the primitives.  What the people did with these ideas was up to them, and it would be the last time that world would be visited by the sisters.  Warrior was in awe at the simplicity of it all, and how his own Midgard had developed through the same stages.  Even now he knew there was evil about, but it was in its early stages and would not cause distress to anyone.
He could hear the birds singing, their trilling carried on the light breeze.  This was Warrior’s favourite country, the mountains defiantly standing proud, challenging all to try to pass their solid wall of rock, but these mountains were hiding the valuable stones and gems that people in their greed would kill for or die for in years to come.
Warrior and his companions were now halfway around the mountain, going higher all the time.  He knew that he had not much further to go, and around the next bend he saw the entrance to the cave.  There was the thin wisp of smoke drifting from the top of the entrance.  Warrior dismounted, as did the Valkyrie, and he called, “Hello in the cave.  It is I, the Last Warrior.”  He heard the answer called back, “Well don’t stand out there shouting!”  He smiled, and then he and the Valkyrie walked towards the entrance and stepped inside.
“You are here because of the essence of evil, and the power it holds.  To be truthful, it holds an immense power within it.  The power is not the evil in itself, but it has the capacity to multiply evil and power by a thousand times in any host it finds.  Midgard is not the first world that the essence touched, but previously it wrought its destruction many light years away.
“Zelda was touched first, and there is much trouble on that world.  The Creators have only just been told.  You will be called there shortly to assess the damage done.  We the sisters have a word of caution for you, Warrior.  The trouble on Zelda could be far too powerful for you to fight, and would be in your best interests to leave well alone.  The force of evil is strong there and will be for another warrior to fight.  We have no idea who this other warrior is, but power needed will be almost as strong as the most powerful Creator.”
On hearing this, Warrior was a little shaken up.  He knew he would have to take a back seat in dealing with the problems on Zelda, but his immediate responsibility was to handle what was going to happen on Earth.
The sister could see that he was in thought at what she had said, and she waited to give him a chance to absorb the implications.  When he nodded towards her, she said, “On Midgard, there will be several evil ones on the surface but they will be disorganised.  That will be to your advantage, Warrior.  Warrior’s Battlefield will once again be used in the battle for Midgard.  This time an army of evil will use it, their leader being a Sorcerer.
“His powers are strong but they are not unbeatable.  However, his ability to draw on the Underworld is second to none.  He is the holder of the Eye of the Fallen Angel, which is called the Doomsday Stone by the gods that know of it.  The Stone was thought to be mythical, because since the beginning of time only a few have ever set eyes on it.  It holds powers of its own, but the extent and nature of the powers is unknown.  According to the writings about the Stone, no one except the one who holds it knows much about it, if anything.  However, the Sorcerer is mentioned in the writings whenever the Stone is also mentioned, and both disappeared at the same time many years ago, shortly before the Romanovs were executed.”
“So, this Eye of the Fallen Angel, Doomsday Stone, or whatever it’s called.  What, actually, is it?”
“It is a large gemstone, half diamond and half ruby fused together by the evil in the cosmos and blessed in the fires of Hell.  The fused gems are melded to a small, smooth rock taken from the heart of the mountains, and there is an inscription into it that can only be read by the followers of the evil gods who inscribed it many, many years ago in the depths of the Underworld.  There is no doubt that the Stone holds immense power, and the holder of the Stone would be virtually impossible to defeat.
“Sister, throw the runes for Warrior.”
Stones, bones and strange dice were thrown onto the table.  “I see death on a large scale, most of it occurring on Warrior’s Battlefield.  You will need the power of topaz to neutralise the power of the Eye.  The child of the gods will once more be abducted, but to what end is not shown in the runes.  The future is not clear, Warrior, but we shall meet again on Zelda.  A new warrior is born with powers that dwarf the Last Warrior.  Her powers are immense, although her mentor was your worst enemy.  The evil will be taught to fear her.”
Knowing that the audience was over, Warrior thanked the sisters and stepped out of the cave.  He stopped there to consider what he had been told.  Who was this new warrior?  Where did she come from?  Warrior knew that his worst enemy had not long left the surface of Midgard to his prison in the stars.  Palendrake was dead and would never appear again.  Warrior wondered whether this Sorcerer with the power of the Stone could bring him back to life.  He then dismissed that idea because Palendrake was found to be wanting when it came to powers from the Warlock.  “Come, Valkyrie.  We have to see Zelda before we go further with our own Midgard.”

* * * * *

1910.  Siberia.

In a small cottage far from any towns and villages, two men were drinking wine that one of them Grigory Rasputin, had brought from the Winter Palace with him.  The other was a true mystic, a sorcerer named Nebulas, from whom Rasputin had learned much of the mystic arts he had used so successfully to influence people in positions of power, not least the Tsarina, Alexandra.
On the floor near Nebulas’s chair was a wooden chest containing books of mystical drawings and spells, and on the table in front of him was a smaller box decorated with ornate carvings.  Both men were staring at it as they sipped their wine, but at that moment neither dared to open it.  Rasputin glanced up at the sorcerer who still looked to be a young man, although Rasputin new that in fact he was more than fifty years old.
Rasputin asked, “Have you found the answer to your problem, Master?”
“No, Grigory.  It is not to be found until the gods of evil decide to offer it to me.  It will happen, but I will have moved far from here by then.  As I have told you, there is to be unrest on a large scale over all of Russia, and I cannot risk remaining here.  You already know that the Stone in this box holds power.  You felt it, which is why you brought it to me.  I know some of the powers it holds and I can use them sparingly, but I cannot unleash its true power without knowing its nature and the consequences.  This stone came from the centre of the Earth, yet the writing on it is alien to this world and this time.  That old fool Nicolas had no idea what he was holding in his coffers.  You would be wise to get out of his service, Grigory, as the Romanovs will not be where they are for much longer.  If you do not leave now, then I fear that you will perish before they do.”
“Nonsense, Master.  I am comfortable, and they are enthralled by my teachings.  They listen to me as babies listen to their mothers, never questioning anything I tell them.  Where will you go, Master?  Is it far from here?”
“I must go into the mountains where this unrest cannot disturb me.  I have read in the stars that it is my destiny, and I will be there for many years.  It will be a long time before my face is seen by mankind, but I will not age as others age.  In another hundred years the world will feel the wrath of the Sorcerer, and by then I will have been able to study the secrets of the Stone and I will be too powerful to defeat.  I need ten peasants to carry my belongings up to the place I have found, which must be done before the winter comes.  Find them, and tell them I will pay them well.”
Rasputin stood up, and replied, “I will send you your men, and they will be here at first light tomorrow.  Will I see you again, Master?”
“No, Grigory.  When we part company, it will be for the last time.  Remember, I have warned you to get away from the Romanovs.  There is much bloodshed ahead.”
The following morning when there was a knock on the door and Nebulas opened it.  “I am taking this up the mountain and I need your help to carry my belongings.  Enter, and I will show you what there is to take.”
As soon as the men walked into the dark room, the sorcerer pulled a large, translucent stone from his pocket.  As he held in his palm and pointed it at the men, he said, “You are now under my influence.”
The Stone shone bright, and the men were hypnotised by its beauty.
“You will do my bidding.  You will not feel tired, hungry or weak, and when you arrive back here at the cottage you will remember nothing.  Now pick up the boxes and follow me to my new abode.”
As if dazed, the men quietly picked up the boxes and walked out.

* * * * *

Warrior and the Valkyrie appeared on top of a hill above a wide valley where a battle was about to take place.  There were at least a thousand mounted knights, all dressed in light coloured armour and carrying swords, lances and ball and chains.  At the other end of the valley there were about the same number of knights but these were dressed in black.  There was a shout, and with flags flying and swords drawn the light coloured ones charged down the valley.  Before they reached the black knights, hundreds more black knights appeared on the hill on their left flank.  It was an ambush, and the inevitable happened.  They were slaughtered, and the few that survived retreated as rapidly as they could.
Warrior was appalled at what he had seen.  The light coloured knights had had no idea about the basic art of fighting a battle.
Warrior decided to take a look around, and he headed in what he thought was a northern direction.  After about three miles they came across the little village.  Warrior and his companions rode through the village slowly, taking in the destruction that had been done to it.  The thatch on some of the houses had been burned off, and the villagers were repairing them.  The reeds they were using were still green and far from ideal for thatching, but Warrior knew that they had to do it before winter came and could not wait to dry out the reeds.  A horse and cart was taking four bodies away.  It was like a scene out of Dark Ages England.
“I have seen enough,” Warrior said to his companions.  “We must go and make our presence known.”

* * * * *

In the Realm of Izall, the gods were in Council
“The Warrior that the Creators spoke about is on the surface, my Lady.  He was seen by one of the Heralds, and he was watching the last battle.  Dark Storm’s knights once more beat the Spartan army.  Dark Storm is becoming stronger by the day, and his evil monsters are all over the surface of the planet, leaving no one safe.”
As they were speaking, four people appeared.  The Heralds surrounding the room drew their swords in anticipation of needing to protect the gods and goddesses.
“My Lady, I am The Last Warrior.  The Creators have sent me to survey the damage the evil has done to your world.”
She told the Heralds to put down their swords and she walked forward to meet him.
“Warrior, I thank you for coming to my world.”  She then held out her hand.  Warrior took hold of the hand and lifted it to his lips, saying, “My Lady Grace, the Valkyrie and I are your servants.”  Then he kissed the hand.
He lifted his head and she said, “Come, Warrior.  You and your companions must eat, and while we are eating I will inform you of the situation.”  They were led into an area where there were trays of fruit, similar to those they were familiar with.  The Heralds circled the room, and while they were seated the Goddess spoke.
“On the surface there is an evil man.  No, I will amend that because there are several, but there is one in particular that leads and influences them all.  His name is Dark Storm, and he has a direct link with the evil Lord Bodus.  Bodus lives in the Underworld where the Creators put him, and his role is to supervise the evil dead souls.  However, in the past two hundred years, Bodus has been recruiting followers on the surface.  It was all done in secrecy, and it went unnoticed until it was too late.
“The first we knew of the problem was when Dark Storm started attacking other mortals, without any warning.  Dark Storm is the most powerful of all the beings here, and in the last few years he has built up large armies.  He can also conjure monsters directly from the Underworld, and although they are more frightening than destructive, they still do a lot of damage.
“There are two great landmasses on this world.  One is called Aton, and the other is called Bradov.  Dark Storm is trying to control Aton, and he has managed to take about two thirds of it.  Much of that area is made up of mountains and vast plains, with many ferocious animals, giant serpents, and now there are the monsters he has conjured from the Underworld as well.  He uses the creatures to subjugate the people who live there.  My followers and servants are no match for his armies, quite apart from the monsters and the demons and spectres that have also appeared.
“Bodus has been trying to reach the surface for over two thousand years but has always been defeated.  If the evil can take full control of Aton then there will be nothing to stop him.  You have seen the devastation on the ground, and you have heard what I have told you.  Can you give me hope?”
“My Lady, I will tell you no lies; the future looks bleak for this world.  This war is going to be bloody, and very many lives will be lost, but I cannot believe that all Dark Storm’s men are evil.  Many of them, perhaps most, will be just doing what they need to do for their own survival.  If it were possible to extract these men from his army, it would make all the difference.  It is a possibility that we must consider, but it will not be easy and the odds of success are against us.”
“My armies on the surface are no match for Dark Storm.  He has the ability to send fireballs towards them, and many souls have come to the great halls from being burned to death.  He has produced evil winged creatures that have the heads of old women and smell terrible to the mortals.”
Warrior thought about what the Goddess Grace had said, and then considered what the sisters had told him.  “I must go and speak to the Creators, my Lady, as there is much to say to them.  I have to say that the Creators indicated they had already made their decision regarding this world, but I will do my best to fight for you.  Although the future may look bleak, I believe I can see just the glimmerings of light at the end of a very long tunnel.”
“Warrior things are, as you say, very bleak, and the gods are at fault.  We have done a poor job overseeing this world.  All you ask for will be yours, and more, if you can right the gods’ failures.  It was a beautiful world until Dark Storm started this evil war.”
“There are also factors that you do not know about, my Lady, and I will bring them to the attention of the Creators.  My companions and I must go now, but whatever the outcome with the Creators, I will return.”
Once more she held out her hand, and Warrior kissed the back of it before he and his companions faded into the Mists of Time.

* * * * *

Once again Warrior was back on the mountain with the Valkyrie.
“You had better go back to Asgard, but for the moment say nothing to Lord Odin.  I will speak with him myself.
“Are you not coming with us, Warrior?” Gun asked.
“No.  I need time to think, but I will be along shortly.”  Then he turned and walked to the cave where the tiger and her cubs were.
The Creators soon appeared, as Warrior knew they would.
“You have seen the problem on Zelta, Warrior.  We assume that you think the same as we do: the world is on self-destruct and beyond help.”
Warrior looked at the Creators, and answered, “No, my Lords.  I believe that something can be done.  It would be a crime to destroy a world you have created, just because there is an imbalance of good and evil.  It would be giving up without trying, and that would also play into the hands of the evil ones.  If they heard just a very small part of what you had in mind, they would have a lot to work with.  It would alter the way they think, in terms of taking over the worlds you have created.
“The only reason that this has happened on Zelta is because the people there have simple minds.  You must remember, on Midgard there have been two world wars, and that was almost self-destruction.  One man with evil and greedy intentions caused these wars, but the good people on Midgard solved the problem and punished the evil ones.”
Warrior stopped talking, and looked at the Creators, but they were saying nothing.  “Have I disappointed you, my Lords?  Was I wrong to presume that this catastrophe can be fixed?”
He looked at the Creators for a few moments, and then he spoke again.  “It would take years to fully defeat the evil ones.  That is time I cannot afford to take, and it really is not my battle.  The gods, along with the people, should be made to clean up the mess, but they are in need of guidance in warfare and tactics.  Their knights have no idea how to fight a battle.
“Might I ask, what were the names of the evil gods on Zelta?”
There was another short silence, and then one of the Creators said, “Lord Bodus and Lord Dark Storm are the two keepers of the evil dead.”
“Are they allowed above ground, my Lord, and what powers do they have?”
“They are not allowed on the surface, and it is impossible for either of them to be on the surface.  They have no powers except the ability to influence evil mortals on the surface.”
“Lord Dark Storm is walking the surface, shooting fireballs and bringing beasts and monsters to the surface.  As you will know, the sisters told me that the evil cloud touched Zelda on its way past as it headed towards Midgard.  They also said that a warrior would be born whose powers would exceed mine.  I have had many powers, my Lords, as I fight my way through the time between time.  I have no knowledge of a new warrior and have seen no evidence that she exists, but it is written in the runes that she will destroy Dark Storm.”
“Warrior, we will see the goddess Grace and tell her that the problems are not her fault.  Their world is safe, but at this moment it is dangerous for the mortals.”
“My Lords, how can the mortals be protected?”
“You are an extension of the Creators and you are privy to our work, and this is for your ears only.  We will slow down time on that world, bringing it almost to a halt.  That will give the Creators time to fix this fault.”

* * * * *

Warrior arrived back in Asgard.  He was standing outside the Well of Urd and was about to knock on the door when it opened before him.  It was evening, and the gods were about to depart for the night.  Odin smiled when he saw Warrior, and walked towards him.
“Walk with me, Warrior.  We can go to Valhalla, and drink wine together.”
They walked off, side by side.
In Valhalla, Warrior sat between Lord Thor and Odin.  He told them stories of battles he had fought against the evil on other worlds.




CHAPTER THREE

Warrior stood outside the cave with the tigers.  He was wondering where and when the evil sorcerer with the Doomsday Stone would appear.  Warrior hated magic, and he hated the people that performed tricks and illusions.  The Doomsday Stone, however, was a problem.  There was not much doubt that it was very powerful, and if touched by the essence its evil would be increased many fold.  Why was it that no one seemed to know what secrets the Stone held or what its true power really was?  The Creators were on this world before anyone else, so why could the Oracle not find any knowledge about it in the lost Pages of Time?  Why was Warrior told that he needed a topaz stone?  How could he use topaz to help him fight against the powers of this Stone?  The Creators had told him that no weapon could harm him except the sword, so was this something that the Creators had overlooked when they gave him his powers?  Should he be in fear of these powers?  No, there was nothing, not anyone in the universe that he was afraid of.  There must be someone that would know the answers, but Warrior had no idea where to go to ask his questions.
His thoughts were broken with the appearance of the Creators.
“You are in deep thought, Warrior?  We know what troubles you, but we are unable to help you solve your problem.”
“My Lords, surely there are some writings somewhere of this Stone; something that tells of its power and of the damage it might do?  I cannot think for one minute that an evil being made this Stone and gave it powers.  There has to be more to this than meets the eye.  You and I know that from the beginning of time the evil ones have had no power, except the power to influence weaker mortals’ minds.  I have searched all the memories I possess, and I cannot find anywhere in the history of the Universe where the Stone is mentioned.  The sisters are unsure of its power, and they are all-knowing.  The Oracle has found nowhere in the lost Pages of Time that mentions the stone.  If I did not know better, I would think that this all has something to do with the Warlock, but he is safe in his prison, my Lords.  He is in his prison, isn’t he, my Lords?”
“Yes, Warrior.  However, you are not far from the truth.  He is, as you say, the most knowledgeable person in the universe on the subject of evil.”
“Then, my Lord, I doubt very much that he would tell me about the Stone.  Also, as he is in prison, there would be no way that I could get close enough to him to ask him.”
“That is not so, Warrior.  The four stars that surround his prison are his places of rest, but he can only leave one for another.  The stars are his invisible bars and he cannot go outside of them, and it is in the dark world at the centre where he dwells.  However, we the Creators cannot allow you to speak to him or get close to him, for fear of what he might be able to do to you.  He could destroy you in his haste to punish his jailers the Creators.”
“My Lords, I must know the power of this stone, no matter what the threat to my life.  If this Stone is called the Doomsday Stone, it probably does have power.  If I fight the Sorcerer without the ability and the knowledge to win, then I would be wasting my time and that of the Creators.  Also, if this were about to take place then it would be written somewhere in the Pages of Time, and the Creators would have known a long time ago.  If it were in the lost pages, then the Oracle would know and I would have been informed.  The worst that has been said to me was by the other Creators who told me that my task would be a hard.  My Lords, I am running out of options and also out of time.  If this Stone is as powerful as we are led to believe, then it is a danger to Midgard.  I would, then, assume it must also be a threat to the universe and to the Warlock himself.”
Warrior had said all there was to say, and he waited for an answer.  He knew that the Creators would answer when they had communicated with the others.  Unexpectedly, they did more than just communicate, and after a short wait all the Creators arrived.  Warrior and the Valkyrie bowed in respect.  There was silence when they arrived, and yet Warrior could hear some of the silent conversation between them.  This was something he had never been able to do before, and he was unsure why he suddenly had the power to overhear their private talk.
Eventually, one of them spoke.
“Warrior, we have taken on board your argument, and as you heard in our debate we do not like the idea of you being so close to the Warlock.  However, we also believe that as we the Creators are at a loss to explain the powers of this Stone, we can find no fault with your argument.  We believe that you should take the two Valkyrie with you, to suppress any ill thoughts that the gods have on your return.
A white flash shot out and touched the Valkyrie, and the same Creator spoke once more.  “All the Valkyrie have closed minds, the same as you have, Warrior.  It is for their safety that no person, not even the Warlock can read their minds or yours, and there is no risk of him managing to take possession of any of you.  It still remains a dangerous task we have agreed that you must do, and our blessings go with you.”
Warrior and the Valkyrie bowed as the Creators faded into the Mists of Time.
Warrior turned to the Valkyrie.  “It is time to go and talk with the Warlock.”
They travelled the Mists of Time.  When they reappeared they were on a dark world that only had a moon for light.  Warrior stayed where he was and stood looking into the distance.  He knew there was no reason to look for the Warlock, because he would already know they were on his world.  It was a short while before they all heard the voice of the Warlock.
“Warrior, why are you here?” and as he spoke he appeared in front of them.
Warrior bowed and, seeing this, so too did the Valkyrie.
I am here to ask advice, my Lord.”
“So Warrior, you defeat me on Midgard and you expect me to help you?  You are either mad or very brave.”
“I am neither, my Lord.  I firmly believe that if you wanted to destroy me then you would have done so.  I believe that you, as a Creator first, are also honourable.  We have a lifetime and beyond to settle our differences in battle, and we have no need for vulgarity.”
“I take your point, Warrior, and you are correct.  How can I help you?  What is the advice that you need that the other Creators cannot give you?”
“My Lord, there is a sorcerer on Midgard, but that in itself is not a problem.  A world was destroyed in another universe, because it was a wholly evil place.  A cloud of evil has now moved from one universe to this one.  It travelled through the cosmos, and it touched Midgard a few days ago, Midgard local time.  The evil cloud was absorbed into the Underworld, but the essence is strong and looking for a host.  The problem that has presented itself to me is the Sorcerer.  This sorcerer has not shown himself to me or to the Creators, but we believe he has acquired a stone.  From the intelligent beings that I have conversed with, other than the Creators, I understand that this Stone has been named the Doomsday Stone, or the Eye of the Fallen Angel.  I need to know what powers this Stone holds?”
“Warrior, you have rather a large problem, but it is not a no-win situation.  The Stone’s powers a strong but limited.  It has the power to make a wish come true, but within limits.  If you point it at a tree and say, “Tree burn,” then it will burn.  It cannot kill or maim, but it will stop a person getting close if told to do so, like an invisible shield.  All spells and tricks this sorcerer conjures up will be increased by three times if he possesses the stone, but the essence will increase that power by a further ten times.  You understand what that can mean?
“The Sorcerer will have the means to enter minds and make them do his bidding.  He can control a whole army, if he needs one.  What would be the Sorcerer’s goal?  I would think that he would want to rule the world, and with the power of the Stone he could do just that.  He will also have the power to transport himself between places, if he thinks of it.  However, he cannot move through the Mists of Time.  Instead, he will move through an evil dimension.  By doing this, he could very easily appear on the Stepping Stones to the Gods, and they should be warned.
“The power of the Stone is a means to an end.  It has no inherent evil of its own.  When used extensively, such as to transport beings or objects through the evil dimension to another place, it will need time to power up once more.  If used many times in one day it may be another whole day before its power returns.  Also, its effects are of limited time.  If he were to ask for personal strength, it would last only as long as the Stone’s power lasts before needing time to recover again.  When the Stone sleeps, so too does all the power it gives.
As for counteracting the powers of the Stone, a beam of Topaz light will weaken it.”
“Where does the Stone come from, my Lord, and what do I do with it once I have it in my hands?”
“It is the Stone of life, Warrior.  Look at your world as a nut, with the Doomsday Stone as the seed.  It was the Stone that gave life to the world, and there is one of these Stones on every world where there is life.  Where they come from is not known, even by the Creators.  I know of its existence because it belongs to the black arts, and I am Creator of the Black Arts.
“To destroy it would be impossible, and to hide it effectively it must be thrown into the fires of Hell.  Hidden anywhere else, it will seek out a new owner.  There will be many entrances to the fires of Hell on your world.  Now, if that is all, I will leave you to save your world, Warrior, and may the blessings of your Creators go with you.”
Warrior and the Valkyrie bowed once more, and Warrior said, “Thank you, my Lord.”
“You are welcome, Warrior.  Until we meet again.”
Warrior and Valkyrie faded back to Midgard and back to the mountains.  Warrior was only there a moment before the Creators appeared, and all in the cave bowed.
“You now have all you need to defeat this evil, Warrior.  All you need is for the battle lines to be drawn.
“Not quite, my Lords.  I have one more place to go before I am ready.  Would it be insulting to the gods if I sent the Valkyrie back to speak with them?”
“No, Warrior.  The gods will know that if you had time you would be there yourself.  On your return, it would be wise to reiterate what the Valkyrie informs them of, and, of course, you should introduce the person you are going to collect.  We know of your destination, Warrior.  Go with the Creators’ blessings.  You too, Valkyrie.  There is nothing that you have been privy to that the gods cannot hear.”
The Creators faded, and so too did Warrior and his companions.

* * * * *

The Valkyrie appeared outside the Well of Urd and was called inside by Odin.
“You have news for the Council, Valkyrie, so the floor is yours.”
Geirahod told the Council everything that happened, and added that Warrior would speak with the Council on his return.
Odin dismissed the Valkyrie and looked to the Council of Gods.  “I’m sure there will be much talk after that revelation, so your remarks, please.”
Lord Heimdall was the first to stand and speak.  “I believe that Warrior was correct in all he did.  If the Creators had no idea and neither did his other sources, then he had, as he said to the Creators, no other option but to ask the Creator of evil cults.  Once again he paid respect to this powerful Warlock by calling him his Lord, and the Valkyrie bowing with him.  There was no danger, because if there were it would have been written in the Pages of Time.  He also received the information he required.  As the Valkyrie said, the whole host of Creators gave their blessing.  For them all to come to hear his argument shows how powerful he is.
“I also think that it would be unwise to make anything bad out of a good and courageous deed.  It would be to our best advantage to double our defences, as I believe that is why Warrior sent the Valkyrie back to the gods immediately.  We have had many disputes with Warrior in the short time he has been in Asgard, and I don’t think this is the time to have another.”
As he sat down, Lord Forsetti stood up, saying; “I agree with all that my Lord stated.  This is a time when we should be all fighting on the same side.”  He looked over at the Goddess Jord, and smiled and added, “Your loyalty to Warrior will not be needed today, my Lady.”
“I have noticed, my Lord, and I’m surprised to say the least.”
“My Lady, I am not all doom and gloom,” and he laughed, and so too did the rest of the Council.
“I would normally say if there is no further business we can close the meeting, but I think it only fair to wait for Warrior’s return,” Odin told them.

* * * * *

Warrior appeared on a green field and looked over to the mountaintops of the outer world.  To his right was a familiar castle, and he heard the trumpets blow as the great doors opened.  He could see some of the gods on the battlements looking at the small army racing down the hill towards him, weapons at the ready.  He remained motionless right where he was, expecting the inevitable, and then as the riders came closer he changed his dress to that of the Creators.  The riders stopped in front of him, and a familiar voice said, “Welcome, Warrior”
“I bring greetings to you the Valkron from my own Lord Odin.  Would you take me to Lord Trogon?  I have business with him.”  He looked at the small army and smiled as he saw the person he was looking for.  “Topaz, the very person I came here to see.”  She slipped in beside him as they rode towards the great doors.  What is your power, Topaz?”
“I am not sure it is a power, as I find that it does nothing when I use it.  Look, I will show you.”
Warrior stopped, and the army of Valkron stopped with him.  Topaz lifted her axe and pushed it out in front of her.  “Beam,” she commanded.  The jewel on the top of the axe glowed bright for a moment, and then a beam of light shot out and spread out in front of them.  As Topaz turned the axe into different positions, the beam either lay flat across the front of them or became like a narrow laser beam.  She then brought the axe upright and the glowing stopped.
“We are all created with our powers for a reason, Topaz, and I know what yours is,” Warrior told her.
They were now at the doors, which opened for them to ride through.  Warrior rode to the steps, dismounted and bowed, saying, “My Lord Trogan, I would like an audience with you, if you will allow it?”
“Come inside the palace, Warrior.  I hope this is just a social call, and the world below is moving on steadily as it should.”
“I am sure it is, my Lord.  I am also happy that things are going the way they should.  No, it is another matter that I am here for.  I have need of one of the celestial army.  To be exact, I need Topaz and her powerful axe, and believe me: it is powerful.”  Warrior then retold all that happened and saw the shocked look on Lord Trogan’s face at the mention of the Warlock.
“You trust him at his word, Warrior?  Is that sound reasoning?”
“My Lord, I will war with him many times in my task of policing the universe, so he has no reason to do me harm without fair play.  I will never defeat him, and I don’t think he would want me to lose.  I just stimulate his mind as you do in a game of chess.  I believe, too, that he won his battle with the dark side, but he has no need to tread where the other Creators tread.  He had no reason not to grant me my wish and answer my questions.  I was not a threat, but for me to come to him with respect was enough.  He answered my questions, and I have no reason to think he would lie to me.”  Warrior stayed a while longer, and once all the formalities were over he and Topaz returned to Asgard.

* * * * *

They appeared outside the Well of Urd, and on seeing them Odin beckoned them both in.  Odin was the first to speak.  “Topaz, Valkron from Betaroid, welcome to Asgard once more.”
She bowed, and answered, “Thank you, my Lord, and Lord Trogan sends his greetings.”
“The floor is yours, Warrior,” Odin told him.
Warrior walked over to the plinth and spoke to the Council.
“My Lords, as the Valkyrie have most probably told you, I have been to see the Warlock, who, I might add, has won his war with his dark side.  However, he wishes to remain in his star formation.  He told me, as you have been told, the secret of the Stone.  It is not very good news, I am afraid.  My task that the Creators have set out is not as simple as it appeared at one time.  This Sorcerer is the major danger here.  When he shows himself I can gain more information about his own simple powers and whether he will be able to build on them.  One other point, my Lord: I hope to end this mess before this mortal gains entry to the outer world.  I have already fought one battle there and I have no need to fight another.
“Be assured that at no time will I leave the world below wanting.  Now, my Lords, if there are no questions I must go to the cave of the Tigers to think.”
No one spoke, and Odin said, “Go with the blessing of the gods.”

* * * * *

Warrior and the Valkron faded into the Mists of Time and reappeared in the cave.  Warrior walked over to the side of the tiger and sat on the large flat stone.  Within moments his eyes closed and on seeing this, the two Valkyrie and Topaz stood with eyes and ears alert in defence stance.
Nicolai woke up.  He was now very weak.  The days walking in the mountain and being chased by the white guard had taken its toll.  Not one piece of food had touched his lips in three days, and although he was warm now, he would probably die of starvation.  He looked at the bundle of fur in front of him and asked himself why the Tiger had let him live.  It was known, of course, that tigers always ripping humans to shreds was not always true.  That happened on very rare occasions.  They usually ate small animals, because there were very few humans on the mountains and lower hills.  It was at that moment he saw two cubs squeezed between him and the Tiger, and he realised that while he had been asleep the tiger had given birth.  The two cubs were suckling.  Nicolai needed food and there was a teat in front of him and he moved his head forward and he too sucked for a moment, then stopped.  He looked up at the tiger and saw that it was looking at him for a moment, and then it turned its head away once more.  Again he took the teat in his mouth and sucked.  The fluid was sweet and strong, but if it was giving nourishment to the cubs then it would do the same for him.  Nicolai was not greedy.  He had quenched his thirst and it had also stopped his hunger after a few minutes, and he pulled his head back and fell asleep once more.
Another day passed, and as Nicolai awoke and opened his eyes he saw that the tiger was still there.  This was the fifth day and he was getting stronger, but he had no idea why the tiger had let him live for so long.  He had been suckling the tiger’s teat once each day but only for a short while.  He knew that he was taking the cubs’ milk and he had no need to be greedy.  He had to make a move, but the question going through his mind was whether the tiger would let him.  He decided that he had a fifty-fifty chance of survival.
It was now or never, and with all the strength and resolve he could muster, he stood up and looked down at the tiger.  She turned her head to look at him and then looked away, as if knowing that he was going to leave the cave.  He had a sudden desire to show the tiger his thanks, and he squatted down next to her.  Putting all his fear aside, he put his fingers out like a claw and gently dragged his hand between the tiger’s ears.  To his surprise, he saw the tiger relax and close her eyes.
For the first time in five days, he spoke.  “It is almost time for me to go, but I will never forget your kindness as long as I live.”  Once again he stood up, and then he cautiously walked out of the cave.  He stood in the cave entrance for a moment and looked at the snow still falling.  He was unsure if he could find his way out of the mountains.
Nicolai decided that if he kept the mountains to his left, he would be going in the right direction.  He had only walked a few hundred yards when he saw a rabbit hopping near a tree.  He pulled his dagger from his belt and threw it, hitting the rabbit in the head and flopping it over onto its side.  Walking over, he picked it up and realised he had no way of cooking it.  “What a waste,” he thought, and he was about to throw it to one side when he thought about the tiger in the cave with her cubs.
The snow was coming down harder now, and he had no idea where he was.  Until the snow stopped he could not go anywhere.  He would have to stay on the mountain, but he would not survive outside and exposed to the elements.  He walked back to the mountainside, putting the rabbit inside his jacket until he found the cave again.  He was terrified of what the tiger might do when he went back in, but he had little choice.
Stepping back inside the cave, the tiger hardly gave him a glance.  He walked over in front of it, pulled the rabbit out of his coat and held it towards her.  At first she sniffed at it, and then she opened her mouth and gently took it from his hand.  He slipped behind her and lay down, shielded again from the cold by this powerful beast.
The days went by quickly, and every day Nicolai left the cave for a while.  On most days he caught a rabbit and gave it to the tiger, but one day the snow stopped falling.  On this day, however, the tiger stood up and walked to the entrance with him.  Nicolai wondered whether, now that she was up and moving, if she would suddenly become less docile.  What she actually did startled him even more.  She picked up a cub and dropped it at his feet, and then she went back, picked up the other cub and walked out of the cave with it.  Before she disappeared over the snow-covered mountains, she dropped the cub in her mouth, roared, and then picked up the cub again.  Nicolai realised that she wanted him to follow with the other cub, so he picked it up and went outside with her.  He followed her for half a day, all the time going lower and lower into the foothills.  Soon, they were in the forest, and it was a little warmer as they were now out of the sharp wind.  The tiger walked south for a while longer until they came to another cave, and she stopped and looked at Nicolai.  He walked past her and into the cave.
The cave was much larger than the last one.  Inside, it turned to the right, and Nicolai followed it until he reached the end wall, and then he lay down with the cub in his hands.  The tiger dropped the other cub in front of him and lay down too, once again shielding him from the cold.  Nicolai put his cub with the other and rested his head on a small, flat stone.  He quickly fell asleep.




CHAPTER FOUR

In Mongolia, on the southern side of the Sayan mountains, a general had just taken control of the national army.  All his higher ranking officers were close, and were very respectful of him.  They all bowed to the same god, but he was not the god of love and the heavens.  The god was “Erlik” the spirit of evil and Lord of the Underworld.  The general was sitting at a long table looking at the senior officers, and they looked back at him with anticipation on their faces.
The general began to speak: “Tomorrow morning we are going to embark on a journey that will decide the fate of the world.  We are going to overrun the Sayan mountains with our forces and destroy any opposition we meet.  The Russian army are in disarray and have lost the will to fight, and the forces that we put in front of their troops will be far superior.  Will someone inform me of how many troops we have ready to attack?”
“Five thousand,” an officer called out.
“Good.  That will be more than enough, but I can call on many thousand more if needed.
“The plan is to take the mountains and then move into southern Siberia, our rightful border.  Heavy weaponry: what is available and when?
“We have a squadron of helicopters, five hundred SAMs and mobile launchers.  We have lighter weapons that can be carried to our troops’ positions: mortars, machine guns, and each section is able to talk with each other via mobile phone link.  The invisible masts for the phones are already in place, as they were put there several months ago.  There are already rations on the mountain that were put in place during the Tang invasion.  They were hidden well, and they are waiting for us when we need them.  We have maps and coordinates of all those and the ammunition caches.  There is enough food for five thousand men to live for six months.  The ammunition will be re-supplied on a daily basis.  There has also been a sword issued to each of the five thousand troops.
“Over the last few weeks we have infiltrated the lower hills to the south of the mountains in preparation for the big march.  We know from our agents in the Russian Intelligence that the Russians suspect nothing and will be caught off guard.  I have been informed by the general in charge of the air force that once we have confirmed the total surrender of the mountains by the Russians, he will then give the order for the planes to attack, but not before.
“We will are ready at oh-nine-hundred hours to take the first step to regain our birthright.  We are Mongolian.  Our empire will be reclaimed from the Russians and it will be their turn to be pushed back into a tiny corner.  We will once more walk the streets of Moscow and say ‘this is our town’.  Then we will burn it to the ground, and this time there will be nothing left standing.”

* * * * *

Warrior opened his eyes and looked around.  He saw that his three Valkyrie and Topaz were at his side.
“Thank you, my friends.  My sleep is restless and it’s tiring me faster.  I cannot think for the life of me why this sorcerer had not yet shown himself, unless he has no idea that he only has his powers for a short while.”
It was morning, and the wind was blowing hard towards the north as Warrior went to the entrance.  He stepped outside and took a deep breath to freshen up, and it was then that he heard the noises coming from the south.  He could hear vehicles coming towards them, and the sound of many voices.  They were still a long way off, but they were coming all the same.  He stepped back into the cave, saying, “I think there is an invading force heading across the mountain passes towards us.  It is autumn and the snow is only light at the moment.  It appears that the essence has found its host.”

* * * * *

The buzzer went on Marina’s desk.
“Yes, Colonel?”
“Have you got the daily reports yet?”
“No, Colonel.  I will get on it right away.  Oh no!  Colonel, you had better come and see what is on the screen of your computer.  Damn!  Yours is down.  Then I had better tell you what I’m reading on mine.  The satellites have picked up troop movement halfway across the Sayan mountains.  Mongolian soldiers and weapons; a rough estimate would be four to six thousand.  I will print off the rest, Colonel, and bring it too you.”
A few minutes later, Marina was in with the Colonel.  “I have alerted the General Staff, Colonel, and they have recommended that you get a photo plane up.”
“Damn it, Major.  Why do they keep invading from that direction?”
Then, looking at Marina, the Colonel answered herself: “As if we don’t know, but what the hell’s going on and why?”
“I will go out and see what I can get from our observation posts on the northern edge of the mountains, unless, of course, you have something other than that for me to do, Colonel?”
“No, go and see what you can find out, and you had better get the section together.  I have the strangest feeling that we might need them.”
Marina walked out to her office and looked at the screen then at the official email.  She took a print of one of the emails before she returned to the Colonel’s office and placed the email on the desk in front of the Colonel.  “That says it all.  It looks like we are at war again.”

“Colonel, by now you will have realised that the Imperial Mongolian army have now invaded the mountains to the south of Siberia.  These mountains belong to the Mongolian empire and we are going to take them back, bringing them once again under our control.  We will also be marching forward and taking back all the territories that you stole from our country during the Ottoman era.
If you withdraw your troops from the southern borders of Siberia, then this can be done without bloodshed.  You have also by now a good estimate of the number of troops that we have placed on the mountain, but I can assure you that is only half of those I can get at a moment’s notice.  We have the right of international law on our side.  We also know that you have an agent called the swordsman and he is wanted by our country for trespassing into our country illegally while fighting the Tang war.  If you hand over this agent, then we can start negotiations for your surrender.
THE SORCERER”

“My God, this man loves himself.  He has five thousand troops and he is asking us to surrender.”

* * * * *

Warrior was still standing outside the cave as the first snow began to fall, knowing that winter had arrived on the mountains.  He could hear voices a long way off, the voices of Mongolians, and that set him thinking.  Was this the sorcerer invading the mountains, or was it something more?  It was time to see the Colonel and find out what was going on.  Warrior appeared in the Colonel’s office, but she was not there.  At that moment, Marina came in.  She was startled to see him there and said so, and told him that the Colonel had gone to see the Generals.
“I can tell you what is happening, if you like, Major?”  She saw him nod and she picked up the email and showed him, and informed him that there was an estimated four to six thousand Mongolians on the mountain.
“So, this sorcerer has visions of grandeur.  He is trying to claim back land that is not his to claim.  He also knows about me and wants my head.  This means that he is very well informed, or that he is very clever.  At the moment, I can do nothing.  It is a matter between your two countries.  Until he shows his real face I am powerless to help, but do not make the mistake of thinking that he will be the only problem there.  The type of evil that has descended on Midgard will have multiple agents, and they will be very aggressive.  I must go, but please tell the Colonel that I will be back before this all gets out of hand.”
“The Colonel has told me to get the section ready for immediate dispersal.  They are now down waiting at the airstrip near number two garrison.”
“Things will start to move very fast from now on, Marina; I would think it might be a good idea for you to get down there as well, if the Colonel permits.  I must have my second in command ready when needed, and a direct link to the Colonel.  There is going to be a lot of powerful evil thrown at several countries in a matter of days.  Now, if you will excuse me, I must go.”
He then faded in front of her and reappeared in Asgard outside the Well of Urd.
Odin called him in, saying, “The floor is yours, Warrior.”
Warrior walked to the centre of the room.  “My Lords and Ladies, the evil has shown its face in the form of a sorcerer.  He is demanding land from the world that he has no right to.  At the moment, it is just a war between two countries and I cannot interfere.  Until he uses the power he holds in his hands, then my hands are tied.  He will not be the only one to deal with, because he will weave an intricate plan.  There are bound to be others, because the essence has touched and contaminated the whole of Midgard.
“I have no idea where or when other evil beings will appear, or in what form they will show their faces.  The Sorcerer has already demanded my head, so it shows that he is well informed.”
“This sorcerer has the means to bypass the evil gods and go it alone.  He might not yet know it, but he has more power in his hands than the evil gods.  When the essence touched Zelta it left only a tiny amount of its power when compared to the amount now on Midgard.  Therefore, I know only too well how serious this is.  I can give you no more information, and neither can I yet assure you that the Realms will be safe.
“I can only say that the gods are once more being tested by evil, and I would judge that is has immense strength.  I am open to questions, of course, but I do not think I can add anything to what I have already told you.  My Lords, the gods are at war with evil again, and the Stepping Stones to the Gods are being threatened.”
Warrior looked at the faces of the gods and goddesses, and he saw their shock as they realised that they were as vulnerable as the mortals below.  “My Lords, if there is nothing further I must go to the mountains and take stock of the situation.”
Odin said, “Yes, Warrior.  Go with the gods’ blessing.”

* * * * *

It was midnight, and a priest was seated at a locked door in the Vatican, in the vast catacombs below the building.  He was awake, and someone or something had just touched him.  He tried to focus his eyes.  Standing in front of him was another priest.  “Who are you, and what do you want here at this time of night?”
The other priest put his hand on the head of the one sitting, and said, “Go to sleep.  You have not seen me.”
The seated priest fell into a deep sleep, and the one standing opened the locked room with the key he had taken from the sleeping priest and walked in.  He was in the room for only a short while and came out carrying a large book that he quickly took away with him.
Some hours later, other priests arrived.  They took the keys, unlocked the door and went into the room.  A scream was heard from inside, and a priest came running out.

* * * * *

A cardinal went into the Pope’s office, bowed and kissed the ring on the Pope’s finger.  “Your Eminence, there has been a breach of our security in the archives.  A book of great importance has been stolen, the Apocalypse Papers.  You know how dangerous that book would be in the wrong hands.  We cannot notify the authorities, as the book does not officially exist, and it would be a serious mistake to reveal how important it is to us.  We must assume that the theft was, as the police would say, an ‘inside job’, and it was specifically taken for some purpose.  We have one of our most senior investigators searching for evidence.  This is the devil’s work, Your Eminence.”
The Pope put up his hand.  “Calm down.  We must think this through.  Have you looked into the prediction papers Thomas?”
“Yes, Your Eminence, but it does not make sense.  They speak of a man whose battleground has no boundaries.  They also state that he will not ask for an audience with Your Eminence.  If that is true, how will he speak with us, and how will we know who he is?”
“Do not fret over unanswerable questions.  You must trust the predictions, because they have never been wrong.  Keep me informed of progress, and we will trust in God.  He will not let us down in our moment of need.”
“There is one more matter, Your Eminence.  There is a second book, similar to the one that was stolen, and it is held in the British Museum.  Should we not inform them that they need to be extra vigilant in their security?”
“Yes, but do it discreetly and through a third party that we trust.  On no account must we show that we are worried.”
“Your Eminence, the prediction papers also speak of a Doomsday Stone that will also be used at this time.  However, it does not say what this Stone is, or its origin, and neither does it say whether its use will be good or bad, but its name points to the latter.  If it is the latter, then we must pray that the two never become one.”
The Pope smiled, and told him, “Keep the faith, Thomas.  Under no circumstances must we fall to pieces.”

* * * * *

Warrior was once more on the mountain, outside the cave and looking to the south.  There was no snow here.  It seemed to only be snowing on the northern side of the mountains.  There was nothing unusual about this, because almost every year the snow coated the northern side of the mountains first, but this was happening earlier than usual.  However, having seen the threat in the email, he was sure that this sorcerer would take advantage of the weather.  The snow was falling so thick and fast that the Russian air force was almost at a standstill.  It was still unknown what heavier weapons the Sorcerer had, and whether he had any sort of air cover.  Was the Mongolian government behind him, or was he like General Zedong and Tang?  Warrior hoped that it was the latter and, if it were, it would mean that the Sorcerer only had limited backup.
It was then that the Creators appeared.  “Warrior, you must seek the sisters, and go with all haste.  Our blessings go with you.”  They faded as fast as they had appeared.
Warrior called the Valkyrie and Topaz, telling them they all had a meeting to attend.  “Hello, the cave,” Warrior shouted when they all appeared on the mountain by another cave.
“Enter, Warrior,” was the reply.
On entering the cave, Warrior noted that it was the same set up as all the other caves where he had seen these two extremely clever women.  “I believe you have news for me, sisters?”
“Warrior, the Sorcerer you are up against is more powerful now than he was in the time of the Romanovs.  He was already a very powerful man before he was even touched by the essence of evil.  Yes, I see by your face that you are startled by his age, but I know that you will be even more startled by his young looks.  He uses the evil works to keep himself young, but his youth is also his weakness.  You know the laws of evil: for every action there is also a reaction, and the reaction in this scenario is immense by any standard.  This Sorcerer reads the stars, and by doing so can read some of the Pages of Time.  He is likened to an astrologer and prophets, and this one is more advanced than the great Nostradamus.”
“You are talking as if Nostradamus was like yourselves?”
“He was, Warrior.  Had he the means that we use, it could have been him here now speaking to you.  The Sorcerer knows all about you and the child of the gods.  He will have already made plans for her capture and imprisonment, but he has no idea of your strength and your connection to the gods.  You are just a warrior swordsman to him, but at the same time he knows you are a threat.  He knew of the evil essence long before the gods, but he had no idea where it was from.  He predicted it in the time of the Romanovs, and unfortunately for your world it has come true.
“He has no fear of the evil Lords and will push them aside as irrelevant bystanders.  You alone cannot destroy the Sorcerer.  The only person that can send him to his fate is in a prison of his own making.  The Sorcerer has conspired with the cosmos for his youth, and he must die the same way as he lived: alone.  Once again, eleven will become twelve and a prison will become a prison.”
“You are talking as if he is more powerful than the gods.”
“He is, Warrior, but not as powerful as you and the Creators.  He is a freak of nature who has been born out of time.  He is probably the most dangerous person who has ever walked on Midgard.  His evil is so strong that he would teach the evil gods much.  He has, unlike the Witch of Egypt, power to control the elements, to produce winds of great speed at the blink of an eye.  It will be the elements that are his monsters: fire, wind, earth and water.  In his time, he will throw all of them at you, thinking that you cannot harm him personally.
“A warrior more powerful than you will be born to the most powerful one.  This warrior’s powers will dwarf yours and the power this warrior has at their fingertips is extreme.  It will be you fighting this battle, although truly it belongs to this other warrior to fight.
“There is more danger, Warrior.  A book has been stolen and another is in danger, and these books are also powerful.  They both give evil spells and formulas to help in the destruction of the gods.  It is secret writing, and only the scribes of the past know its meaning.  The books must be destroyed at the same time as the Doomsday Stone is returned to the earth.  No trace must be left of either.  Seek the highest power in country of the boot.  Good hunting, Warrior, with your task that is set out before you.  You now have all the information that will be needed to bring peace to Midgard once more.”
Knowing that the meeting was over, Warrior said his farewell and stepped out of the cave.
“Valkyrie, you have heard everything the sisters talked about.  Go back to Asgard and relate it to the gods, leaving nothing out.  I must go to see a priest.  Topaz, come with me.”
He faded and reappeared outside a door.  Without knocking, he opened the door and stepped inside.  A cardinal was standing near a desk, and behind it was the Pope.  The cardinal jumped between Warrior and the Pope, but Warrior and Topaz did nothing.  “Keep away from His Eminence.  The guard will be here any moment.”
“Silence,” Warrior told him.  “I have no time for these trivialities.  I am here on important business.  Your Eminence, I believe that you have lost a book, or, to be precise, you have had one stolen.”
“So you dare to come here and demand your blackmail money.”
“I said silence, priest.”
“Be seated, Thomas.  He is not here to do us any harm.  How can we help you?”
“I am the Last Warrior, champion to the gods.  This book that was stolen: what was its name?”
“The book is called The Apocalypse Papers, but is written in an old language.  It is older than Latin and it is almost in coded form.  There were only three persons that could read the papers, and it was one of them that stole it.”
“Yes, Your Eminence.  I know of these papers and what they can unleash on humanity.  The effects would be devastating to Midgard.  The forces that those pages talk about are powers supreme.  In the wrong hands, and I am sure that is a fact now, the threat of the Apocalypse is imminent.  Do you have your investigators looking into this, Your Eminence?”
“Yes, there are five going out this morning, Warrior.”
“Then, as a precaution, I am telling you to recall them and hold the others from leaving.  They will be no match for the priest that has the papers now.”
Thomas glared at Warrior, and shouted, “How dare you tell His Eminence what to do?  The investigators will be sent out.”
Warrior ignored the outburst and carried on speaking as if it never happened.  “This priest is now far beyond the reach of mere mortals.  He is now tampering with the Realms, and it is for me to sort out this mess.  I knew days ago that the evil would raise its head once more, but now I know what form it has taken.  I also understand why the papers and books of evil are still around after all these years.  They are too valuable to destroy and they are too evil to keep.  It would be better if no one read their contents, and then there would not be the risk that temptation to use the evil could be placed in the mind of a weak person.
“I assume that there are other books in your library that may be dangerous.  You need to be sure that they too are safe, and not being looked at by the weak and greedy.  This whole episode stinks of greed, theft and blackmail.  Be assured, Your Eminence, that is what will come next, and it will now lie in the hands of the gods.  The Apocalypse Pages will be found.  Whether they are returned here or burned and turned to ashes, I will decide at a later date.  Be assured once more, Your Eminence, that I will inform you of my decision either way.  I will also return on completion of my task.”
“You come in here uninvited and demand of us things that we will not comply with, and then you tell us that you might destroy an important book.  Who do you think you are, and where do you think you are you, charlatan?”
Warrior turned to face the priest and smiled, and then he spoke calmly and gently.  “Look closely at my colours and call me a charlatan once more,” and then his clothes and the ones Topaz wore changed to those of the Creators.  “I was invited here, and it was at the moment you let an important book in your care be stolen.  I need no invitation to fight the extreme evil in the universe, and it is my right to interfere.  If you cannot contain the evil in the room in the catacombs, then the evil will be destroyed before it gets to be misused.  As you never heard me the first time, I will allow you your moment of deafness.  I am the Last Warrior, champion to the gods, and now I must bid you both a good day, and may your chosen god look down on you with blessings for your well-being.”  Warrior faded, and as he did so the priest crossed himself.

* * * * *

In a room somewhere in Europe, a priest was sitting at a desk and reading a large book.  The room was silent except for the faint rustling as he turned the thick pages of parchment.  There were no windows in the room and only the one door, and that was made of solid oak.  He could see riches and power, and he was now focused on evil intent.  He thought that now the world would soon fall at his feet.  If a person were sitting in front of him they would have noticed the glazed, mad eyes staring intently at the writing.
The priest had read enough.  He closed the book with care and then he stood up.  Once he had stepped over to the door he stopped, closed his eyes, and thought about what he was going to say to the congregation.  Then he smiled and unlocked the door and opened it.  He stopped once more, this time just inside the doorway, and looked at the faces that had turned to see where the noise had come from.  There were men and women sitting side by side, with a sprinkle of priests amongst them.  As the priest stepped into the large room, he turned and inserted the key, once more locking the door.  Still not a sound was heard.  Then turning to the room once more he stepped over to the lectern.  That faithful congregation were all looking at him as if they were all holding their breaths.
“Brothers and sisters,” the priest called to them, “Our time has arrived and the world is now ready to become part of a new order.  I have the means to call on powerful friends.  Their essence will permit us to be the new masters of a master race.  There will be a short time of confusion, and then we will step in as the saviours of the known world.  We will bring with us new rules and laws, by which the world as a whole shall abide, with no exceptions.  The leaders of the old regime will be cast aside as if nonexistent, so that we as the new masters will rule.”
He stopped talking as a great cheer drowned out his voice.  The priest smiled, as he looked back towards the disciples of evil he had just created.  The priest then put his hand up, and all the cheering stopped.  “It is also written that there is a great swordsman.  It is in his power to hold the passage of time that I have just spoken about.  It is our first priority to destroy him and his small army.  His battleground is the mountains, and it is there that the changing of the world as we know it will begin.”

* * * * *

Warrior went back to the Well of Urd, and Odin called him in.
“You have news, Warrior.  I can see by your face that it is not good.  These are bad times, and they seem to be getting worse by the hour.  The floor is yours to speak with the gods.”
“Thank you, my Lord.  My Lords and my Ladies, I have further bad news for the Realms.  A book has been stolen from a high priest’s temple, a book that may be far more damaging than the Doomsday Stone.  It is called the Apocalypse Papers, and it is as old as the gods themselves.  These papers do just what they are named after.  They hold the spell that calls the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  They hold more, but thief that stole the book needs only one of the Horsemen to cause havoc on Midgard.
“The thief that now holds the book in his hands also knows how to read the old scripture writing.  His place in Hvergelmir has been booked.”
A murmur ran through the gods at the mention of such a feared place.  Warrior waited until there was silence.  “At this moment I am unsure where this madman is, and be assured that he is mad.  I foresee destruction on a large scale.  There will be war on Midgard, and the fighting will be fierce.  The Horsemen will be called, but in what order I have no idea.”
“Once again, Warrior, you paint a dark picture of the future,” Odin told him.  “You have a hard task ahead, Warrior.  You must always remember that the blessings of the gods will always be with you.”
“Thank you, my Lord.  I have more bad news, but it will only affect the Goddess Jord.  My Lady, the child of the gods will be once more taken hostage.  I am telling you this now so that you don’t blame yourself for letting her down.  It is impossible to change the Pages of Time in advance.  What will be, will be.”
“Warrior, the Valkyrie has told us of the prediction of a powerful warrior whose powers will dwarf yours.  Is this another warrior belonging to the Warlock?”
“My Lord Odin, I am as wise as you are, and I will not dwell on this news until I think it is a threat to the gods or to me.  Now, with your permission, my Lord, I will return to Midgard.  I must prepare for the inevitable.”
“Yes, Warrior.  You must go about your business, and you do so with the gods’ blessings.”
Warrior bowed, and faded into the Mists of Time.
On entering the cave with the tigers, the Valkyrie and Topaz appeared at his side.




CHAPTER FIVE

A small helicopter landed on a remote part of the mountains, and after dropping a man at a cave entrance it took off again.  The man looked at the small cave entrance and walked over to it.  He had been summoned, but be did not know what to expect.
Reaching the cave entrance, he was about to announce his presence when a voice called out, “Enter, priest.  We have much to talk about.”
Inside, the priest looked about and walked deeper inside.  As he did so, there was a ‘thud’ and the cave went dark.  He turned around rapidly and realised that the entrance had been blocked, and he started to panic.  A dim, flickering light illuminated the cave, and the man looked forward rapidly, seeing a man dressed in ancient clothing and holding a lamp in his hand.
“So, priest, you now have the Apocalypse Papers in your possession, but do you know how to translate the scriptures?”
The priest looked at this man, feeling very uneasy at being here alone with him.  “Yes, I will soon have the book in my possession.  It should be delivered in the next few days.  My agents collected the book two nights ago.  You seem to know me, but I have no idea who you are.  Why have you brought me here, and how do you know about the book?”
The man walked over to a seat that had been carved out of rock and sat down, looking at the priest all the time, scrutinising him carefully.  “I am the Sorcerer, and you and I are linked together by fate.  In time, you will need me to help you carry out your plans of a new world order, just as much as I will need you to carry out my plans.”
“Who told you that I was trying to create a new world order?”
“I am the Sorcerer and I know whatever is taking place around me.  I need no one to tell me what is about to happen.  When I look into the future, everything is laid out in front of me.”  This was not entirely true, as the Sorcerer could only see major events.  He was still blind to the everyday occurrences, so his predictions were limited to things going wrong in between.  He did, however, delve into the black arts, but even the information there was limited and sketchy at best.  The scraps of information he did receive still left him with knowledge that no one else could have gained.
“Have you heard of the swordsman priest?
“No, who is he?  What is he?  Why should I be bothered with the swordsman?  I am not a fighting man and I don’t need weapons to get what I want.”
“Ah, I see you have a negative attitude towards interference from forces unknown.  You are wrong in your thinking.  You might not use a weapon, but I can assure you that he will be on your trail just as much as he will be on mine.  He is already closing in on both of us, but when he gets too close to me then that will be his demise.  Once I have him in my sight I shall I destroy him immediately.  He has to be destroyed, because he is the only one that can mess with the plans we both have.  There is a third person also out to destroy the swordsman, and he will be here shortly.  This person has a game plan of his own, and I will be helping him achieve his desire because he will be helping us achieve ours.”
“What exactly are you doing, Sorcerer, if I might be so bold as to ask?”
“I am going to overthrow the gods so that I can reign in their place.  The world will then bow down to me.  I am so powerful and my magic is so strong that I am invincible.  The Stepping Stones to the Gods are now within my grasp.  I need you and the scriptures to transport me and my chosen army to the outer world.  I have an army of five thousand horse warriors that I will take with me, with more that I can call on.  The world will soon know my power when I go to the heavens and fight for what is mine by stealth.”
“What are you going to do for me, Sorcerer?”
“For your plan to work and the Apocalypse Papers to come true, I have to be on the Stepping Stones to the Gods.  There is a General on these mountains at the moment and he is invading Russia, and by doing this he will be keeping the swordsman busy.  I will be helping him to carry out his task, as the three of us need each other for our plans to work.  He is almost here, so I had better open the door for his arrival.”
‘Thud’, there was the noise behind the priest once more, and he looked round rapidly as daylight once more entered the cave.  The priest watched as the same helicopter arrived again and a short, bulky person stepped out.  He looked at the cave entrance, and as the helicopter lifted off the snow, the man walked over to the cave.  The entrance closed behind him and the Sorcerer greeted him.
“Good day, General.  I trust everything is going to plan?”
“No it is not, Sorcerer,” he said in a grumpy voice, and to the priest he sounded rattled.  “The snow has come down faster than we had anticipated, and my armour is at the bottom of the mountains and all the troops are spread thinly over them.  It is not all bad news because we are still advancing, and we had a few skirmishes and some aircraft bombardment, but none of it caused very much damage to the army.  They have wiped out most of the main roads into the mountains and there are engineers working around the clock to repair them.  However, it will be a slow task, and I fear it will be Spring before the armour will reach the other side of the mountains.  The Russian side of the mountains should be secured by tomorrow morning at the latest.  We still have a lot of hand-held weaponry that will take out aircraft and armour, and having these will no doubt show the Russians that my men are not asleep.  They all carry swords as per your instructions, and they all know how to use them, as they have all been training now for five years.”
The Sorcerer looked straight at the General as he said, “That is a problem, but, as you say, we started late in the autumn so the snow is unavoidable.  No matter though.  The swordsman will come to the mountain and we will be the ones with the advantage.  While you are keeping the swordsman busy on the mountain, the priest and I will be making plans for our own enrichment.”

* * * * *

Warrior could sense that something evil was happening in the mountains and twice he had felt it become stronger while he had been standing in the entrance to the cave.  Then, suddenly, it was as though all the evil had been switched off, and this was confusing Warrior.
The Creators spoke to him without appearing.  “Warrior, go to the high priest and get the agent’s mark.”
“Come with me, my celestial army.  We have to talk to a priest of the highest order.”
They faded from the cave, and appeared in the Pope’s office.  The Pope looked up, and the priest next to him crossed himself.
The Pope spoke to them, smiling as he did so.  “Have you good news, Warrior?  Although, by the look on your face I think you are searching for more answers.”
“You are correct in your assumption, Your Eminence.  I am still asking questions and searching for answers.  Have you found out which of your priests stole the papers, as I have a need to speak with him?”
“He is long gone, Warrior.  You will not find him here in the Vatican.  When he went, he took all his personal belongings, and all that was left was his hat and cloak.”
“Then may I have those items of clothing brought here, please, as they are of importance.”
The Cardinal by the Pope’s side pressed a bell and a young priest came in.  Without saying a word, he bowed, and the Cardinal said, “Go and get the clothing that was left in father Desmond’s room when he departed.”
The priest left, and he was back minutes later with the items of clothing.  Warrior took them from him.  He looked at Warrior and his companions, bowed to all in the room and left.  Warrior held the cloak in his left hand and closed his eyes.  He could see a person in a room with a suitcase at his side and a small piece of paper in his hand.  Warrior opened his eyes and pointed in front of him, saying, “Come, evil one.”
The priest appeared, and the Cardinal crossed himself again.
“What...?  What am I doing here?  How...?
“SILENCE,” Warrior shouted.  “The why and the how is not for you to know.  You are here to be tried for your crimes against humanity.  You have taken a book from this sacred library.  I want it placed back there now.  Where is it?  Tell me all you know and I will show mercy.”
“Look at you standing there dressed like a knight with a sword at your side.  Have you been to a fancy dress party?  I don’t know what book you are talking about; now let me go about my business.”
“I am talking about the Apocalypse Papers, and you like a thief in the night stole them from their rightful place.  Now don’t lie to me any more, priest.  Tell me where they are and where I can recover them.  This is your last chance before you receive punishment.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter any more, because the papers are where they belong and I have been paid.  When the agent took the papers from me, he gave me the banker’s receipt for the money placed in my account.  It does not matter if I go to prison for a time.  My money will still be there for me to spend when I come out.”  On saying this, he waved the piece of paper at Warrior and threw it on the Pope’s desk.
The Cardinal was about to pick it up, but Warrior shouted, “LEAVE IT!” and the man pulled his hand back fast.  “You are a foolish person, priest, to have sold your soul for a few pieces of gold, not realising that where you are going there is no return.  There is no place to spend such wealth as you walk through the poison of others that were there before you.  I offered you mercy but you threw it in my face, and you laughed at the only slice of mercy you could possibly get for your admission of guilt.”
Warrior drew his sword and pointed it at the priest.  “For the theft of a sacred book of evil from a most hallowed place, for misusing your position of trust for your own gain, and for putting into the public domain a most dangerous book, I now sentence you to twenty years in Nostrand, where you will live in the time between time and every day will be one year of Earth time.  Have you anything to say in your defence before I pass judgement?”
“You can’t frighten me with that sword, because I know you will not dare to use it.”
Warrior swiftly thrust his sword forward, and at the same time the Creators appeared behind him, but only the priest could see them.  The priest had a look of fear on his face as he fell to the floor, and as they all watched as he disappeared.  It was the Pope who made the Sign of the Cross this time.
Warrior leaned forward and picked up the cheque.  He could see that it was for ten thousand pounds, but the value was irrelevant.  Warrior held it in his left hand, pointed at it with his right hand and said, “Come.”
A man appeared in front of Warrior, looking startled as he took in his new surroundings.  “Why...?  How...?  What am I doing here?” and then he saw the Pope.  “Your Eminence!  I…?”
“SILENCE, YOU EVIL FILTH!”
The man’s head shot around to look at Warrior.
“You have no rights to talk to His Eminence, because you betrayed the trust given you as a high ranking priest.  I wonder at what sort of corruption is taking place for a priest to be party to such evil deeds.”
“Who are you and what are you talking about?  I have done nothing evil.  I am a man of the cloth.  Why am I here, but more to the point how did I get here...?”
“I told you to be silent, priest.  I will ask the questions.  You, with others, conspired to steal a book of great importance from this library, and I want it back.  Now, help save your miserable soul, thief, and tell me where the book is, and before you claim to have no knowledge of it, here is your marker.”  He handed the priest the cashier’s counterfoil, and added, “The man you gave this to will be unable to spend it, as he has been incarcerated in a prison of his own making.”
“I know nothing about this, and whatever the man told you is lies to save himself.”
“Do you take me for a fool, priest?  Do you think I would bring you here through the Mists of Time to be fed a pack of lies by you?  You are guilty of the charges I have laid out in front of you, and at this moment you are not pleading your guilt or innocence; you have already been found guilty.  You are pleading for mercy, and doing a very poor job of it.  Now, where is the book?”
The priest realised he was in trouble, but he was unsure how deeply.  “I gave the book to an agent yesterday, but it was not a book it was a small parcel wrapped up, and I have no idea what was in the parcel.  I was handed the money by the Bishop of Thorp, along with an address of where to collect the parcel and a bank account number to place the money in.  I am Bishop Thorp’s secretary and I do all his business, but I assure you that I know nothing of a stolen book.  That receipt for banking the cheque has the Bishop’s account number on it.”  He then looked at the Pope, and he was shaking as he fell to his knees.  “Your Eminence, I have done nothing wrong.”
The Pope looked at Warrior, and Warrior put his hand on the priest’s shoulder but all he could feel was purity.  There was no evil essence about him.  “You will remember nothing, and you have not been here.  Go back to where you came from with the blessings of the Creators.”
They watched as the priest faded into the Mists of Time, and Warrior stood motionless, saying nothing.  He was asking himself how high and how far this greed and evil had reached into the religious sects.  It was strange to find out that there was a Bishop involved in this conspiracy.  What did they think they could achieve?  The results of their actions would be anarchy; governments would be in disarray; people would be running to the churches for their salvation…  That was it.  That is what this was all about: a new order with new leaders in charge.  These priests thought that this would lead to a return to religion and the churches, and those who would take charge would be the leaders of the religious orders.  They would be the only winners out of the disruption that would result.
“Is there something wrong, Warrior?” the Pope asked.
He smiled, and answered, “No, everything is as it should be, and I now know what all the questions and answers are.  Everything has become clear.  I bid you good day, Your Eminence, but I will be back if I recover the book.  I am still unsure of what I will do with it, and I will have to seek higher advice.  I have a Bishop to see before I can work on a plan of recovery or destruction.”
Warrior and his companions faded into the Mists of Time.

* * * * *

They appeared back on the mountain in the cave, and Warrior walked over and stood by the entrance, looking out.
“Gun, go to Lord Odin and tell him everything that has happened and what was said.  I have to think this through, and I cannot get complacent.  People are not going to be where we expect them to be, so to go looking for the Bishop would be pointless.  I suspect that his office will be empty and he will have long gone.  Whether he has the book now seems unlikely, but I expect to see or hear from him in the very near future.”
Gun faded, and Warrior looked out at the snow falling on the mountains.  The flakes were getting thicker.  Winter was coming fast.  This would slow down the Mongolian army, but the mountains would once again be overrun with sword-carrying soldiers.
Warrior knew in his heart that the Sorcerer was controlling the three evil ones, because he was the one with all the information and power.  What troubled Warrior was that he did not know the true strength of the Sorcerer, and neither did he know what his ultimate goal was.  Obviously he wanted to dominate the world, but to what end?
The Sorcerer was powerful enough to be able to pull evil back to the surface of the world, and he could take them from the control the evil gods by simply pushing aside the gods.  That, however, could be an advantage to Warrior, because the evil gods would not be happy and they could unintentionally help Warrior achieve the Sorcerer’s destruction.
The Creators appeared.
“You are troubled, Warrior, and you are looking for answers to the questions in your mind.  Yes, there is the possibility that the Sorcerer is immortal, but it is not the same form of immortality as the gods and you.  There are ways that he could acquire immortality through the black arts, but it is very unstable.”
“How is it unstable, my Lords?”
“It needs a lot of work to maintain immortality, and that would need to be done on a daily basis.  He has to go into a period of deep concentration once a day.  Also, to do this he would have to clear his mind of everything else, and it would be done at the same time every day without fail.”
“What if he failed to take this time?  What would happen?”
“If he missed it once, not a great deal would happen.  But if he missed it or varied the timing twice in a few days, his strength would be compromised.  He would be vulnerable to pain and injury, but he would recover as soon as he was back on track.”
“So the Sorcerer has at least one weakness.  According to what I have been told, he is immortal, and now you have confirmed that he needs to work hard to maintain that.  As you already know, my Lords, I have found the reason that the Apocalypse Papers were stolen: it is because some of the priests believe it will give them more power in the world.  They would be getting rich by abusing the faith the people have in the gods.  That is an immense crime against humanity, and it will receive a harsh punishment.
“I cannot see what the point is of the army on the mountains, unless it is to slow me down, but what would be the point in doing that?  The Sorcerer is greedy and he has already stated that he wants my head, but if he is so all knowing, he would realise that I am the champion to the gods.  That’s it, my Lords.  The army is just a distraction.  It is a time waster, and also there to keep me occupied with other things while the Sorcerer does his own evil work.
“My Lords, is it possible for a mortal… no, let me rephrase that, an immortal mortal to get into the outer world and then breach the Realms of the gods?”
Within a split second of asking the question, all eleven Creators were in front of him.  Warrior was shocked that his question had prompted such a reaction from them.
“Do you have a reason for asking such a question, Warrior?”
“Well, my Lords, I have been standing here thinking about what is happening.  I know what the priests are doing and I know why the army is there.  However, I could not work out what possible reason the Sorcerer could have for all this mayhem throughout Midgard.  If the army kept me on the mountain long enough, then it would distract me from noticing the Sorcerer’s move to the Stepping Stones to the Gods.  So, I will ask the question once more, my Lords: is it possible for a mortal with immortality acquired from sorcery and scriptures to enter the outer world with the intention of attacking the Realm of the gods?”
There was a deathly silence as the Creators talked between themselves, but once again Warrior was able to hear their deliberations.
“Warrior, it is our wish that you seek the one who does not exist, and if you wish to ask a confidential question, there is now a cloud of secrecy about us so that your companions cannot hear.”
“My Lords, what are the Missing Pages of Time that it is impossible for you to read them?  I ask with respect, with no insult intended.”
“They are elements that we drop while doing our tasks, and for convenience we call them pages.  They are lost to the cosmos and drift endlessly through space and time.  They are very important, however, in the way that you might not be listening to lost pages of this universe but ones from another.  The Oracle only stores the ones that are relevant to this universe, but the ones that point out dangers in another universe are also kept in her memory.  The books you see in her room are those that she has written over the eons, and her task is never ending.  We are not saying that she has the answer to your question, but there is the possibility that she has.  Follow your thoughts, Warrior, and you will find her.  She is waiting for you.  One other thing we must tell you, Warrior, and that is we know your questions are always asked with respect.  The blessings of the Creators go with you.”
Warrior bowed as the Creators faded.  He called the others and told them that he had to go and find more information.  They all faded into the Mists of Time and appeared on the side of a mountain on a small ledge only just big enough for them all, but a few feet away the path was wider.  The air displacement came and, as the many times before, Warrior stepped inside and disappeared.  He saw the light and walked towards it a few steps.
“Welcome, Warrior.  I know why you are here, and if you sit down I will tell you all.”
“Greetings to you also, Oracle,” and he sat down on the stool.
“The Sorcerer is a powerful wizard, but not as powerful as you or the Creators, and the powers he has are real but limited.  There is a way he could become more powerful, and use that power to his advantage.  The Sorcerer has to go to the Stepping Stones to the Gods and destroy the gods.  He has the means to do this, but it would have to be carried out in conjunction with the reading of the scriptures in the Apocalypse Pages.  He does not need a machine or transporter; he is powerful enough on his own.  You should also remember that he has the ability to take five hundred to a thousand people with him when he transports, but it would be a one-way trip and he would not be able to take them back to Midgard.”
The Oracle stopped speaking, and Warrior realised that it was the end of the meeting.
“Thank you, Oracle.  You have been most helpful, and may your Creators look over you.”
“May your gods look after you, Warrior, as this will be your hardest task yet.  The Fates in Asgard have a message for you, so be sure to remember what they tell you.”
Warrior stepped out of the displacement and it immediately disappeared.
“We are going to see the gods.”

* * * * *

Odin saw Warrior outside the Well of Urd and called him in.
“You have news for the Council, Warrior.  The floor is yours.”
Warrior walked to the centre of the chamber, and said, “I have only more bad news, I am afraid.  I have reliable information that the Sorcerer can enter the outer world, and he is powerful enough to be a threat to the gods.  I also believe that he intends to do this while I am on the mountains fighting the army.  While I am looking for the priest with the book, the Sorcerer will be using some sort of magic to get himself into the outer world with up to a thousand warriors.”
Lord Forsetti stood up and said loudly, “Then the Valkyrie must stay in Asgard to fight this Sorcerer, and you,” he pointed at Warrior, “Should be looking after the gods instead of fighting a mortal army.  That is your problem most of the time; you are fighting others’ battles instead of looking after the gods.  If the Sorcerer gets into the outer world it will be your fault, because you will have failed in your task.”
Warrior did not reply directly, but added, “There are more than enough Einherjar to look after Asgard.  Even if the Sorcerer has a thousand men with him, the Einherjar will easily defeat them.  I am hoping that he does not draw an army from the depths of Hell to fight in the outer world.  The Valkyrie will be with me looking for the book, as it has to be found at all costs.”
Lord Forsetti stood up again, and he shouted angrily, “How dare you ignore me?  I have already told you that the Valkyrie will be staying in Asgard.”
Warrior replied in a soft but firm voice, “My Lord, the Valkyrie are my universal army to lead anywhere at any time.  I would suggest that if you have a problem with this arrangement, I will inform the Creators and they will confirm what I am saying.  I would never leave the gods without protection, and I have never ignored a god.  In answer to your other earlier statement, I will say that if I find the Apocalypse Papers then I find the priest and the Sorcerer.  I can assure you of one thing, my Lord, and that is that the Sorcerer will make sure in some way I am occupied full time and have a need to be on the mountain.
“My Lords and Ladies,” Warrior continued, now addressing all the gods again, “In the next few days it will pay to be vigilant, as this Sorcerer is an unknown quantity.  I believe that this is just the lull before the storm.”
Lord Heimdall stood up.  “Do you think that the Sorcerer can attack the Realms from Midgard?”
“That is a very good question, my Lord, but unfortunately I do not know.  I do know that the magic the Sorcerer has is real, and make no mistake about it.  He is able to tap into the black arts, and he is not the type of person to be sitting idle.  He has had time to plan this for over ninety years, and he is still young enough to carry out all his threats.  He had the knowledge of this cloud of evil all those years ago.  The Sorcerer also had the forethought to get the right people on his side just after he arrived on the surface.  He is also immortal, my Lords and Ladies, and he has done this by himself.  That is the level of his skill, so at no time should you underestimate this man.
“My Lord Odin, I am sure you have already thought of this, but it might be wise to send envoys to the other gods to inform them of the impending danger.  There might be a time in the near future that all the Realms will need to stand side by side and back to back with each other.  It might also be advisable to inform the other Realms of everything I have said and done, and all information prior to this meeting.”
“Thank you, Warrior, for your concern, but as you guessed, I have already informed the other Realms.”
“My Lord Odin, I meant no disrespect, and neither was I trying to tell you how to conduct the business of defending the Realms.  I was just going over all the details in my mind for the security of the gods, which is my responsibility as champion to the gods, and I meant no offence.”
“There was none taken, Warrior.  You were right to say what you did.  If we each check each other, it will avoid the risk of a mistake.”
“My Lords, I must go to the mountains and wait for the Sorcerer to show himself and throw down the gauntlet.  My Lord Forsetti, I did not intend to sound sharp and disrespectful towards you, but these are trying times and our words and actions are not always as calm and considered as we would wish.”
“Warrior, you are of course correct, and I feel that there was no blame on you.  You spoke with respect, and our harsh words are once more cold embers.”
Warrior looked towards Odin, and then bowed and faded from the chamber.




CHAPTER SIX

Warrior was still standing outside the cave entrance when the Creators appeared.
“Warrior, a child has disappeared from the Realm of Zeus.”
“Is it possible, my Lords, for a mortal to have that much magical power?”
“We are not sure, but the Creators in their entirety think that he has not left the Realm but has been placed under some sort of holding spell.  We also think that the Sorcerer has some sort of portal or enchantment device that helped him do this, and it is imperative that you find the device.”
“I will go to Olympian gods, with your blessing.”
“Yes, that would be advisable, Warrior.  It will give them some comfort to know that you are aware of the problem and giving it your attention.”
Warrior bowed as they faded.
Warrior and his companions also faded, reappearing in the Palace of Zeus.  Almost as soon as he appeared, the god approached him.
“Warrior, while you have been on your mountains a child has been stolen from the Realm.  You should have been up here protecting the gods instead of resting on top of a mountain.  How could you have let this happen?  If your Valkyrie had been here protecting the Realms, it would not have happened.”
Warrior’s expression did not change.  He let the God vent his anger, and then asked, “Could I see the place where the child went missing, my Lord?”
“What would be the point of that?  He is missing, and that is all there is to it.  Why would you want to look at an empty room?”
“I have my reasons, my Lord, so if you would humour me.  I would like to see the place where he was snatched.”
“The Herald will take you, as I am displeased with you.”
“My Lord, in the name of the Creators I am asking you to accompany me.”
The whole of the Council of Gods looked shocked at Warriors remark, and the Goddess’s Athena and Aphrodite walked to the front with Zeus.  Warrior and his companions walked behind instead of side by side.  This was a deliberate humiliation by the gods, and Warrior knew it but was not concerned.  At the chamber, Warrior walked in and looked about.  He walked over to a small chair and picked up a gold necklace.  “Does this belong to the young god,” he asked as he held it up.
The Goddess Athena answered, “Yes, Warrior”
“Gunn, stand next to me,” and before the gods’ eyes Warrior and Gun faded, but to Warrior and Gunn it was as if the young boy god appeared.
“Hello, are you all deaf?” the boy asked.  “I have been talking to you as soon as you came into the room, and no one is answering me.”
“No, I am not deaf.  I am the Last Warrior.  The reason the gods will not answer you is because they can neither see you nor hear you.  The Sorcerer has placed you in another dimension, which made you invisible.  I have to go and find this Sorcerer and get his enchantment device to get you back into the right dimension.  I will be leaving Gunn in here with you for company for today, and then every day there will be someone new until it has been sorted out.”
“Do you mean that my parents cannot see me?”
“I mean exactly that.”
“The boy started to laugh, and said, “What fun.”
“I have to leave you now, but you will be fine with the Valkyrie.  Anyone who comes into the room will be able to talk to you and you will hear them, but they cannot hear or see you.”

* * * * *

Zeus looked at the Valkyrie and asked sharply, “Where has Warrior gone?”
Warrior, Gunn and the young god heard him, as did Hild who answered, “We have no idea, my Lord.”
Warrior then reappeared.  “The child is safe, my Lord.  He is still in this room but he is in another dimension.  I have left Gunn my Valkyrie with him for company, and he can hear and see you right now.”
“Why did you not bring him out with you if you have found him?”
“If I had done that, my Lord, the Sorcerer would know straight away that I am not just a swordsman, and he would still have the means to make a god disappear, or worse.  At the moment it is harmless and will not hurt the child.  If I thought otherwise, I would have done what you ask.”
“I am ordering you, Warrior, to release the boy from this spell he is under.”
“No, my Lord.  I will not place the safety of the Realms in jeopardy just to take a boy from where he is perfectly safe.”
“How dare you defy the gods?  I will see that you are punished for this.”
“My Lords and Ladies, I am far too busy for this kind of discussion.  I have work to do on Midgard.”
“Don’t you dare leave Olympus without bringing the boy back to the safety of the gods.  He would be much safer with us than with a Valkyrie.”
There was a gasp from the two goddesses, and Zeus realised what he said but it was too late.
“My Lord, in the entire universe there are no safer hands than the hands of a Valkyrie, and I know that you know this.  I also understand the reason for your anxiety, but I assure you, my Lord, no harm will come to the child.  He is just a pawn in an elaborate game of chess.  I also know that before the day is out the child of the gods will go missing also.  The Sorcerer is just giving you and the other gods a demonstration of his powers.  If the Sorcerer meant the child harm or could have done the child harm, the Sorcerer would have already done it.  Now, with your permission, my Lord, I will be going.”
“Warrior....”  Zeus began, but he was cut short.
“My Lord it is a cold ember you are raking and there is no need.  I will hopefully be back in the next two days with better news.”
“Yes, Warrior.  I understand, and go with our blessings.”
Warrior bowed as he left the palace.
He was met in the Mists of Time by the Creators.
“So, Warrior, the Sorcerer has shown his power.”
“Yes, my Lords, and it falls short of what I expected of him.  It was powerful, I have to admit, but it was a magic trick and nothing more.  I would think there are a lot of people on Midgard that could do the same thing, the only difference being the Sorcerer can sustain the trick.
“I will now have to go to the agents on Midgard to seek the Sorcerer.  I will see the Colonel and get the section ready.  I need to find that device he is using and put it out of action, or next time it could be one of the key gods.  I believe, my Lord, that the child was a lucky snatch and he was not the intended victim.  I don’t think the Sorcerer is clever enough to know who he has in the trap, but I do believe that he knows that someone is there.”

* * * * *

The Sorcerer was in his own cave with the general.
“Right, General, are your men ready to transport my equipment to the other cave?”
“Yes, they are outside waiting, Sorcerer, enough of them to carry all your belongings all over the mountains if you should so wish.”
“That will not be necessary, General, but the only thing that won’t be going is that table with the machine on top.  I will have to leave that here and hope it is never found.  Your men must not touch it, because at this moment it is keeping someone in captivity.  Besides, when we leave here I am going to put two of my guards on the cave entrance.”
“Thud.”  The cave entrance opened and the Sorcerer walked out.  “Be careful with the equipment, as it is very important to what takes place on the mountains,” he told the Guards that were going to carry it.”
“Are my other followers at the new location?”
“Yes, they are all there, twelve in all, and they came in four groups of three.”
“Good, then as soon as I get to the new location we will start my fight for the Realms in earnest.”

* * * * *

Warrior appeared in the Colonel’s office, and she looked up.  “Nicolai, it is good to see you.  I know that Marina brought you up to speed on what’s been happening.  This Mongolian General has his men all over the mountains, and they are in the same positions that Tang’s Army was situated.  I have not sent any agents into the mountains because I don’t know what they can do.”
“That’s probably a good thing, because at the moment I’m not sure what’s going on.  Where is Helena?”
“She is at her new school and doing very well.  She seems determined to come top in all her chosen subjects.  After she has done all her studying each day, she still finds time to fill her head with the occult and all things related to it, and she has become an authority on the subject.  She has a broad knowledge of evil and good that comes from the different sects, and she has been giving mini lectures on the subject.  She has also been swatting up on Mythology in all its forms, and mini lectures on that.  The school has booked her a place at the University of Moscow at the beginning of next year.  The holidays start tomorrow and she will be out of school for three weeks while building works are carried out.”
Warrior smiled.  “There is nothing you can do about it, but she will disappear shortly.  There is no point in taking precautions because it will happen anyway, and she will not come to any harm.  This Sorcerer is a powerful person, and he is far older than you would imagine.  He was here in the time of the Romanovs.”
The Colonel was stunned and exclaimed, “That would make him over a hundred years old.  How has he lasted so long?”
“He is a freak of nature.”  There was no way that Warrior was going to tell her that the Sorcerer was immortal.  “He has an evil potion that he takes, and it keeps him young.”
“The agents that are normally with you are all on standby, waiting, and are ready to leave at a minute’s notice.  Marina is the liaison officer, and she is also a capable agent.”
“That’s good, because I think they will be needed in the next few days, if not sooner.  I have a feeling that the Sorcerer has a powerful transporter, but as yet I am not sure of the details.  If I’m right, he will be showing what he can do with it very soon.  He is already giving demonstrations of his power, but so far it is a little short of what I expected.”
When Warrior said that, the Colonel realised that he had already had dealings with the Sorcerer, but it was none of her business and she let it go.  As the Colonel was talking to Warrior, she glanced at her computer screen.  “Oh no, now what is he going to do?  There is a new email from the Sorcerer, and it reads:
I will show you my power today by placing something belonging to the Americans on your doorstep.  I think my demonstration will show you what kind of person I am.  The Sorcerer.

“I wonder what he is talking about, but I can assure you, Anna, it will be significant because he will want to show you his strength.  I will be back later, as things have started to move already.  The Sorcerer is starting to get the call of greed.”

* * * * *

As you know, gentlemen, I am the Sorcerer and I know that you twelve sitting in front of me are the most powerful magicians on Earth, barring me, of course.  You are in blocks of four, and it was I who placed you with each other because that way you will be at your most powerful.  You each have formulas and plans that make evil illusions of powerful proportions.  You also have the power to call on your evil gods to help you.  You might be in need of using the beings and the armies of the dead to help you carry out your task.”
“The swordsman must be destroyed, as he will only get in the way of our plans to rule as gods.  You will be taken to your destinations on the mountains where you will wait for this swordsman, and then you will destroy him.  Don’t think for one minute that it will be easy, because I believe he has powers of his own.  I am unsure of his strength; however, I doubt that he can be as powerful as your combined forces.  Once you have all gone your separate ways I will get him on the mountain by showing him my power, and it will be awesome.”

* * * * *

The Colonel was in her office when the call came in, and she could hardly believe what she was being told.  “Ok, I will be right there, but first I have to go and see the Generals.”  She had only just replaced the phone when it sounded once more.  Picking it up, she said, “Yes?  How can I help?  Do nothing, as she is being observed as we speak.”  Then putting on her coat the Colonel left her office.
Half an hour later, the Colonel was standing on the tarmac of an air force base, looking at an American fighter-bomber.  There were two of the Generals with her, walking around the aircraft.  “How is this possible, Colonel?” the senior General asked.
“This is all to do with that Sorcerer, General.  He must have developed some kind of matter transporter.  I think it is time to get my best agents into the mountain and find him and his infernal transporter.”
“I think that would be a good idea, Colonel.  If he can do things like this then if he ever got hold of a nuclear bomb and sent that somewhere, the world would be in chaos.”
As they were standing looking at the aircraft, an officer came running out and handed her a piece of paper.  “It seems, General, that the Americans have found one of our aircraft on their runway.  There is also a report of a child missing.  It is Helena, a very good friend of the Major’s, and we all know what that means, General?”
“Yes,” he replied.  “A mountain full of sword-carrying Mongolians.  Well, you can’t say that since the Major has been with us it has not been exciting.  I would, however, rather they all went home and left the world and Russia alone.  I will leave it to you again, Colonel, so just keep me informed and let me know when it is safe to retire,” and the two Generals left the airstrip.
When the Colonel got back to her office, Nicolai was already there, waiting.
“I am glad you are here because I have some bad news.  Helena has been abducted as you said she would be.  The Sorcerer has exchanged an American fighter for one of ours, so I can only assume he has some kind of matter transporter.  I would like to get the section into the mountains, find the Sorcerer and all of his followers, and destroy them.”
“Ok, Anna.  You had better get me some transport laid on, as I had better go up there the normal way.  Once I am there it will not matter.”
Four hours later Nicolai was landing at one of the garrisons and Marina was there to meet him.
“I have all the section here, Nicolai, and they are ready to go once you have briefed them.  I have already informed them of the Sorcerer and what we know of him, and I might add that it’s not very much.  They know we have a threat from the Mongolian army and that they are all over the mountains again.”
“Thank you, Marina.  You have been very efficient, and at least they know what it is all about.  There have been some new developments since you left the Colonel’s office that I will be talking about in the briefing.  I have to go to the weather room and get some reports and predictions, and then we will be on our way.  Give me ten minutes, and then I will talk to them all in the briefing room.”  Warrior walked off to the weather office.
On walking in, he heard Major Groll’s voice.
“Hello, Major.  I thought it would not be long before I saw you here.  I have been expecting you since I arrived here three days ago.  I’m sure you want to know the weather over an area of the mountains.  It is simple, because it will be blanket snow for the next ten days.  Well, all except this little area here,” and he pointed to the map.  “If you are going to parachute onto the mountains then this is the place to do it, and at ten hundred hours tomorrow.  There is a thirty-minute window when a break in the clouds comes down from the north.  It is gradually getting smaller, and by the time it reaches that part of the mountain it will be down to ten minutes.  It could be less, Major, but it will be there, I can assure you of that.  This point on the mountains is a flat area, which I know from when I went there during the summer.  We have a weather relay point there.”
“Once again, Major Groll, you have been very helpful,” and then Nicolai noticed that he was now a Colonel.  “I am so sorry, Colonel.  I keep forgetting about your promotion.”
“Thank you, Major, and think nothing of it.  I am not used to it myself yet.”
Nicolai walked into the briefing room and looked at all the faces, and smiled.  “We all know who we are, so I will get on with the briefing.  On the mountains at the moment is another General, but this time it is a Mongolian General.  He is threatening Russia with destruction if we don’t surrender our forces and land, up to and including Moscow.  Well, let me tell you right now that the Generals and our President are not too happy with this demand.  However, he is not the primary problem.  He presents a threat only in the fact that he is going to be looking over our shoulders while we are looking for the Sorcerer.
“The General that sent the demand mistimed the main assault and his armour is strewn about the southern slopes, unable to move through the thick, soft snow.  They are deemed useless, because they are all in the wrong positions and our airforce is trashing them on a daily basis.
“I think the Sorcerer has duped the General into believing that he will help him achieve his goal of returning Russia to the Mongolian Empire.  He has no intensions of doing that, because I believe it is out of even the Sorcerer’s reach.  The Sorcerer wants the world to bow down to him, and he can only achieve that by being a god, which he will never be.  He has some sort of matter transporter that he uses, and we know it works because we now have an American aircraft sitting on our tarmac and they have one of ours sitting on theirs.  Helena has been abducted and I think that she is on the mountain, but I don’t think they will harm her as she is too valuable.
“There will be magic and mayhem on this mission and all other missions until this Sorcerer has been executed.  It is pointless me telling you to be careful, as you have all been on these missions with me on other occasions.  All that you have to remember is to expect the unexpected.  Make sure that all your equipment is in tiptop condition, as we will be parachuting into the mountains at ten hundred hours.  I have it on reliable information that there will be a window in the clouds to enable us to do that.
“That is all, except to say I am happy to have you all with me on these missions once more, and good luck.”




CHAPTER SEVEN

Nicolai and the section were in the aircraft and the door at the back had just opened.  Nicolai looked out the window at the cloud below and wondered if Col Groll had got his prediction wrong.  It did not make any difference, as they would have to jump into the mountains whether or not there was a break in the weather.  The Load Master beckoned them to the tailgate and then tapped Nicolai on the shoulder and put his thumb up.  Nicolai stepped into space with the others following.  Fortunately, the Colonel’s prediction was correct and the snow had stopped falling.  Nicolai looked around once he was on the ground and could see the other members of the section gathering their chutes in.  Two minutes later they were all standing next to him and the snow had started to fall once more.
“Ok, I think it best if we find shelter and get organised.  We are on the mountain and that is the main thing, but I think we might be in the wrong position.  We are nowhere near the caves or the place where the helicopter was seen landing by the satellite.  We are too far over to the east and we have a long way to the west to go, but I think we will be monitored all the way.  I don’t think the Sorcerer will let us have any peace, and I would think that he knows we have arrived.”
Nicolai took a bearing and they marched westward towards a mountain peak.  It took them a little over an hour to get there, and then it took them another hour of walking before they found a cave that was big enough to take them all.  There had been a smaller one, but Nicolai decided that it was too small for a base camp if they had to stay for any length of time.  As soon as they were all inside, Anton was setting up the radio, and within ten minutes he had a small mast set up outside the cave.  “I have the garrison’s frequency, Nicolai, but I have not made contact.  Do you want to keep radio silence?”
“No, Anton, you might just as well tell them that we are all ok and we will contact them in full at a later time.  Send it in clear because the Sorcerer knows we are on the mountain.”
Nicolai walked to the entrance and looked out at the heavy snow.  It had fallen like this the first year he had been on the mountains when he had still been a mortal.  This was going to be a hard winter, because there was another ten days of this kind of heavy snow forecast.  He turned around to Anton and asked, “Can you hear any of the army’s radios?”
“Yes, Nicolai, but they are at least two thousand meters away.  I have perfect that device and it is now spot on.”
Nicolai turned back to look out into the snow, when suddenly Anton said in an alarmed voice, “Nicolai, there is a section about two hundred meters away, but I have no way of telling you which direction they are in.”
“That’s ok, Anton.  You have told me enough.”
Marina walked to his side and said, “What do you think, Nicolai?  Do they know our whereabouts already?”
“Unless they saw us land, which I very much doubt, then this is just a fighting patrol and knows nothing about our presence in this area.  It will have to be destroyed, though, because it is too close, but by doing that we will give away our position.  I will go out and see what I can do.”
“I cannot let you go out there alone, Nicolai; not until we know what weaponry these patrols are carrying.  We cannot assume they are carrying swords just because you are here.”
Nicolai knew she was correct in what she said, and they would have to find out for sure what weaponry the patrols were carrying.  “Ok, Marina.  Stay close while we stand outside and I will see if we can hear them.”
As soon as the pair walked out of the entrance they heard the noisy patrol.  It was obvious that they had no idea they were not alone on the mountains.  Nicolai walked towards the noise with Marina following, and as soon as the section of five men saw them they all drew their swords.  Then, as if from nowhere, everyone heard the roar as three tigers came into view and the two youngest leaped at the closest two soldiers.  They both screamed as they fell, knocking the radioman over, and within seconds one of the tigers was at his throat too.  The remaining two looked at Warrior and Marina, but as they stepped forward a knife hit each one between the eyes.  The whole scene had only taken a minute at most, and as Warrior and Marina watched, the bodies were being hidden by the falling snow.
The tigers walked over to Warrior and Marina and nudged their legs.
“I wondered when you would turn up.  Better late than never, I suppose,” and as Warrior was speaking he had a smile on his face.  “Well, that has blown it, Marina.  They will be missed soon and a search party will be sent out.  I don’t think we can stay in this area tonight.  We had better get back and tell the section before we move out.”
Inside the cave the section had heard the roar of the tigers, and they were now waiting for Nicolai’s return, and as he walked through the entrance he gave his orders.  “Our position has been compromised, and we need to get out of this area before the search patrol arrives.  If we move now then hopefully our tracks will be hidden by the falling snow.  We have to get away and out of their way.  I was looking at the map earlier, and if we follow this mountain face for a thousand meters south and then head west, we should be well out of their reach for a while.  We will be more central in the mountains, and I know from satellite photos of that area that their army is thin on the ground.”
The section packed up and again they were on the march.  It was a long walk before they reached the end of the mountain face and went west once more.  The wind was now picking up and the snow was hitting them like bullets, but at least it was blowing the same way that they were going.  They found a small cave.  The entrance was only a few feet in height but once inside it expanded into a larger cavern.  There was a hole in the roof where the snow fell through but not very much.  Anton looked at it and decided that the aerial would be good enough if it was long enough to reach through the hole.  He set up and it went through to the open air by several feet.  He put the earphones on, and then said, “I have contacted the base but said nothing, and there are no other broadcasts out there.”
“Ok, I think we are safe enough to have a bite of food.  I have to go out for a while but I won’t be long.  Marina, you are in charge,” and he slipped out of the cave.
Nicolai walked a few feet and said, “Valkyrie.”  When they appeared, Warrior told Gunn to stay with the mortals, and then Warrior, the other Valkyrie and Topaz faded into the Mists of Time.
They appeared outside a cave on another mountain, but here there was no snow, and a voice called, “Enter, Warrior.  Your time is limited.”  They all went into the cave, and one of the sisters said, “The Sorcerer has now got his minions and they are as many as twelve, but split into multiples of three times four.  You know from the power of three that the number can be a powerful evil, but combined with the strength of four and you have strength unequalled on Midgard.
“They have been placed on the mountains to slow you down, and they must be destroyed before you can go after the Sorcerer.  Beware; these groups of four are powerful, but not as powerful as the Masters you serve.  As one entrance closes another will open.  You and Topaz will be separated from your companions, but the three Valkyrie left behind will look after the Mortals.  Another mortal will end her life as an immortal for her life to be saved.
“The warrior with her name the same as the oceans needs to call on the Valkyrie, but when calling only the Valkron can help.  This warrior has hard battles ahead, and it is battles that should be for Warrior and not be hers alone.  A goddess will see her plight and help her with gifts to fight the evil.  The child of the gods is alive and being looked after by the most dangerous of gods, but he will do her no harm.”
The old woman by the fire said, “The fire of the future is looking bleak for the Realms.  The Sorcerer weaves his spells that he is certain will not fail because the Realms are now within his reach.  The Stepping Stones to the Gods are walked on and contaminated by mortal feet that will never tread Midgard again.  There is a flaw in the Sorcerer’s power that is real, but the warrior must find it because only the shadow of this flaw is shown in the flames of life.  The Sorcerer’s power is great, but it is only as great as the flaw that will condemn him.”
Warrior realised that the meeting was over, and he said, “May your gods be with you, sisters.”
“May you, Warrior, always have the blessings of the Creators.”
They all faded and reappeared outside the cave, and Warrior said, “If we should be split as the sisters say, we will look after the mortals, Hild.  There is a lot more to this plan of the Sorcerer than meets the eye.”
Nicolai walked into the cave and was standing just inside the entrance.  Marina walked over to him.
“Nicolai, this mission is more important than looking for Helena, not that that in itself is not important.  I heard you talking to the Valkyrie on the last mission, and I knew a long time before the Colonel sent me on this mission that you were important.  I worked in the files and documents office and I have read of every mission that you have been on.  There were things that happened on those missions that could not be accounted for by our kind of logic.
“Passengers on aircraft that crashed all told their story.  I have been the only one to see all the pieces put together.  You have been in different places far apart almost at the same time.  The General in charge of the unit for intelligence gathering once asked me if there anything that he should know.  It was the only time that I have ever told my superiors lies when I answered no to that question.
“I have even read the secret British and American reports that our country has gathered, and they are even more fascinating than our own.  Demons, spectres, monsters and giants are all there, but I did you one favour before I moved on to the Colonel’s office.  I split the papers up so that they should never be seen together again.  Even on the computer they cannot be connected in any way.”
“Why are you telling me all this information, Marina?”
“To let you know that whoever you are and wherever you come from will be kept secret by me,” and without saying any more to Warrior, she walked to the back of the cave.  Warrior smiled to himself, thinking, ‘as one ally goes, another replaces them’.
At that moment, Warrior felt a great sense of danger, although he had no way of knowing about the Mongolian soldier who was standing at the entrance to the cave with his sword pointed at Nicolai’s back.  As Nicolai turned and the soldier thrust forward with his sword, the soldier stopped dead in his tracks as an axe hit him in the forehead.  Before the soldier touched the ground two more appeared, and as Nicolai parried one soldier’s sword another axe struck his friend in the breastbone and he to fell on his face.  Nicolai disregarded the fallen and thrust with his own sword, watching as the man’s expression turned to fear.  The sword penetrated his clothes and his flesh, piercing his heart, and he was dead before he touched the ground.  Nicolai was still standing with his sword at the ready, but there were no more to be seen, and after looking outside he put away his sword.
Marina came outside and looked at the ground, and then went back in.  “They were the only ones transported here, Nicolai.”
Nicolai looked at her in astonishment, and asked, “Whatever made you say that, Marina?”
“I have just looked outside and seen their footprints on the ground, but there were no tracks leading up to the cave, not even ours.  You said he could transport things, and he was very clever.  Is also seems that he is very sneaky.”
Nicolai was wondering why he had not felt the presence of the men until it was almost too late.  There was no matter transporter; it was all done by Magic and the men were not evil.  They were dangerous assassins.  Marina had been very quick, and she had dispatched the men speedily and silently.
His mind went back to the first time he had met Marina in the Colonel’s office, when she had told him that her father was a sword swallower and knife thrower.  He had been with the Moscow State Circus and had taught her all about throwing knives and axes.
“That was very quick thinking and accurate throwing of the axe, Marina, and I will not forget how you saved my life.  I owe you one for that.”
“You owe me nothing, Nicolai.  A person does not save a life and expect to be paid for it, because saving a life is free.”
Yuri walked over, and said, “I think you are bloody dangerous and I would hate to be the man that marries you, Marina.  I do think you’re right though, because there is no explanation of where they came from, especially in this snow and wind.”
Nicolai smiled, and spoke to them all.  “That was a surprise, and I think it was a warning from the Sorcerer that he knows where we are.  From now on we have to be looking over our shoulders.  He is showing us his powers and his magic, but I am not sure what else he will show us before this patrol is over.  I don’t think that anything we do will be a secret from the Sorcerer, so we may just as well carry on as if he doesn’t know.”
Yuri walked back to his sleeping bag and sat down, as Marina was still standing next to Nicolai.  “I might disappear for a while, Marina, but don’t come looking for me.  Just tell the others that I am scouting ahead, because they are used to me doing that.  You are in charge until my return, but hopefully I will not be gone for long, so try an avoid monsters.”
“Do you think there will be any, Nicolai?”
“I think it is a certainty that we will see something along those lines.  It will be another two days before you reach the area near the caves, and there will be a Valkyrie near you at all times.  Take note of the warnings and avoid trouble.”
“You don’t seem to worry that I know about the Valkyrie, Nicolai.  Is there a reason?”
“Yes, you already know a great deal, and you need to know about them to help you survive.  This is not an Earth-like war, even if it seems that way.  It is a war of the gods, and I cannot allow you to be killed because of the evil ones.  The Valkyrie will know when you need help from them.  Now I must go ahead and look for the Sorcerer.”
Nicolai walked out the cave and Marina set the list for sentries.  He had only walked a few feet before the Valkyrie appeared.
“Hild, Gierahod, Gunn stay with the mortals and keep them from harm.  One of you had better go and inform Lord Odin what has happened.  Topaz, you had better come with me, for we are going to the outer world as it is imperative that they should be forewarned of the Sorcerer.”

* * * * *

Hild was outside the Well of Urd, and as soon as Odin saw her he beckoned her inside.
“You have news of Warrior?  Tell the Council all you know.”
Hild spoke of what had happened and what Warrior said before he went to the outer world, and once she had finished she was told to remain for a while in case the gods wished to say something.
Lord Forsetti was the first to stand up and speak.  “Warrior is now telling the Valkyrie to look after the mortals, and that they are to protect them from being hurt or killed.  The law of Asgard states that this is not allowed and the mortals should be allowed to die in battle as per the Pages of Time.”
Lord Thor was the next to get up.  He shouted, “Warrior is ahead of himself and he now thinks that he has more power than the gods, because even we cannot change what is about to take place in the life and death of a mortal.  We should recall the Valkyrie.  If Warrior is not on Midgard, then there is no reason for them to be there either.”
The Goddess Jord stood up as he sat down.  “I think that if Warrior told them to stay on Midgard and look over the mortals then there has to be a good reason.”
As she sat down, Lord Forsetti stood up once more.  “The law of Asgard states that those of Asgard will abide by the law of Asgard.  We the gods let Warrior have the Valkyrie to help him, but as he had no need of them they must be recalled, and that is the Law.”
“You have heard the gods’ decision, Valkyrie.  Recall the other two,” Odin told her.
Hild used the telepathy the Creators had given all the Valkyrie and the other two appeared.  “Now go to your normal duties,” Odin ordered.

* * * * *

Marina was walking inside the cave almost under the hole in the roof when she thought she saw a shadow, but then she wondered if she had imagined it.
They had just woken up and were having a meal inside the cave.  Valentin had finished his and was packed, and he decided to step outside for some fresh air.  It was as he placed a foot out the door that a giant arm struck him in the side of the head.  The force was so powerful that it threw him back inside the cave, leaving him unconscious on the floor.  Marina and Galina ran over and looked at the gash on his head, and they knew it was bad.  “It seems that there is a monster out there and we are trapped,” Marina said, and she was asking herself, ‘Where are the Valkyrie?’ that Nicolai talked to her about.

* * * * *

As Warrior rode up to Elfdom Castle, a voice shouted down, “Who are you and what do you want?”
“I am the Last Warrior, and I am here seeking entrance to the castle.  I wish to see Queen Amelia.”
“She is not seeing anyone today.  Go away.”
“I will ask one more time and then I will come in under the colours of the Creators and send you to hell.  Now, I wish to see the Queen.”
There was a silence, and then the voice said, “Leave your weapons outside the gate and I will ask Villias to see the Queen tomorrow.”
“I have not time for this stupidity.  Get Villias here now.”
There was the sound of voices behind the gate.  “You stupid fool, get the gate open and let Warrior in.”  Warrior watched the gates open, and he and Topaz rode through them.  An elf stepped over to greet them.  “Warrior, we meet again, but why the sad face?  I hope there is not more bad news.”
“Yes, I am afraid there is.  I have come into the outer world to see the Queen.  Is she here?”
“Yes, Warrior, she is in the great hall with Beezal the white witch.  Follow me, Warrior, and I will take you there.”
“Stay here, Topaz.  I will be safe and so too will you,” and he followed Villias into the building.
Moments later they were walking into the great hall.  As soon as the queen saw him she came over, and before Warrior had time to give his formal greeting she took hold of his arm.  She walked him into another smaller room and Beezal followed.  “What brings you here, Warrior, as I sense bad vibrations?”
“Yes, I am afraid that the outer world is once more threatened by outsiders, and this time the person is powerful.”  He looked at Beezal, and said, “I would like to have you on my side once more.  I think the combined strength of you and Merlin would be able to ward off the Sorcerer.  You cannot defeat him, but you can stop him from entering the castle, and I think he would have upward of five hundred men.”
“Is it certain that he will come to the outer world, Warrior?”
“Yes, I am afraid so, Your Majesty, and he will bring with him a lot of trouble that I believe even the Creators will not be able to repair fully.  I am here as an envoy of the Creators to ask you to send out messengers to inform the beings in the outer world not to resist them or come into contact with the mortal army.  I would like to stay longer, Your Majesty, but I have important business on Midgard.”
“All will be done as you ask, Warrior, and may you have Elf blessings following you.”
“May the blessings of your gods be with you also.”  Warrior bowed and faded into the Mists of Time.
He reappeared on the mountain by the cave and saw the monster beating on the outside.  “Valkyrie,” he called and Hild appeared.  “Why have you left the mortals when I gave orders to stay with them?”
Hild told him of the gods’ orders, and Warrior just said, “I will talk to the gods after I have destroyed the monster.”
He had fought this type of monster on many occasions.  It was the one with the two heads of a snake on a fat body.  The monster turned and came towards Warrior, but before it had moved a few feet he had thrown a knife, striking one of the heads in the eye.  There was a hissing scream and the head started to thrash about, and as it came close to Warrior he cut it off.  There was only one head left, and it was swooping low and trying to catch Warrior off guard, but he was far too fast.  Warrior knew this was not going to take long, because with only one head the monster was half blind.  The eyes of the snake’s head was on the side, meaning it could only come at Warrior from one angle and Warrior was waiting for the next strike.  He did not have to wait long as the snake’s head went down and then up, and it was on its way up that Warrior cut off the remaining head.  The monster flopped to the ground, and Warrior walked into the cave as the monster faded.
He saw Valentin on the floor and went over to him.  “The monster is gone.  What has happened and how long was it here?”
Marina looked up and told him what had happened took place, and then said, “Valentin is unconscious and looks in a bad way.  He needs hospital treatment.”
Nicolai said, “Step aside.  I will take him.”  As they stepped away from Valentin, Nicolai stood next to him, told them he would be back shortly, and faded into the Mists of Time along with Valentin.
He appeared inside the Well of Urd, and as he appeared a murmur from the gods ran through the chamber.  Lord Thor jumped up, shouting and pointing his hammer at Warrior, “What is the meaning of this outrage?”
“I don’t know, my Lord Thor, but no doubt one of you will tell me.  Who were the gods that ordered my army to return to Asgard without my permission?”
Lord Forsetti jumped up, and he shouted, “How dare you come to the gods’ meeting place and ask questions like that?”
“Quiet!” Warrior shouted back.  “It is clear that the two gods concerned have chosen to show themselves.  What right have you got to challenge my orders to my army, please do tell?”
Thor shouted, “We will do as we please...”
“No, you won’t do as you please with my army, my Lord,” Warrior cut him short.  “Both of you are guilty of putting mortals’ lives at risk without good reason.  As far as I can see, you have done this just because you wanted to exert your authority.  You do things with no forethought.  Perhaps you are jealous of my authority over the Valkyrie?  Your incompetent blundering into battles you know nothing about is hindering me up from doing the task the Creators have set me.
“I have just killed a monster down on Midgard that had attacked the mortals that are helping to save Midgard from the Sorcerer.  They are not doing it because I asked them to; they are doing it because it is the right thing to do and Midgard is their home.  They are putting their lives at risk just so the gods can sit safely in their Realms.  How do the gods thank them?  Evidently they thank them by taking away their only protection because it felt good to do it.  It is my army and you will not order them to do anything.  When I give an order to the Valkyrie, it is an order directly from the Creators, or do the gods think that they are getting above themselves by overriding the Creators’ orders?”
Lord Forsetti stood up again, and shouted, “This has gone far enough.  I will find laws to chastise you...”
“Be quiet,” Warrior shouted.  “Sit down, my Lord, because I have not finished talking to you and Lord Thor.”  He waved his hand and Valentin appeared, lying flat in mid air.  “Look at him, Lords Forsetti and Thor, because that is what your meddling has done.  Stay out of the Creators’ business, as it is far too advanced for your brains to comprehend.  This mortal is in a coma, and almost dead.  Both of you will look at him until I find the time to take him back to Midgard for treatment.  Where he is now is where he will stay.  I am going back to Midgard and I will take whatever Valkyrie I wish to take with me.  I will take them all at any time that I might require them.  If I leave them on the surface while I visit another world, then they had better still be there on my return.  If they are not, then the gods responsible for moving them will answer to the Creators and suffer their might.”
Warrior faded, and Thor jumped up and shouted, “Warrior has gone too far.  I will take this mortal back to Midgard”
“Sit down.”  The Creators had appeared.  “You will do nothing, Lord Thor.  Our envoy was right in all he said.  You have endangered the life of a mortal by taking away his protection, protection that the Creators knew was needed.  This is a battle of the gods and for their Realms by the evil gods, and innocent mortals must not be harmed.  Until Warrior finds time to collect the mortal warrior, then either Lord Thor or Lord Forsetti will be at his side at all times.  Perhaps then this jealousy and stupidity will have disappeared from their minds.”
The Creators moved to where Valentin was and a stone plinth appeared below him.  “My Lord Odin, we will leave you to bring your Council to order.  The two gods mentioned are now on probation, with the possibility of losing their high status.  The Creators leave our blessing with the Gods of Asgard.
“One other item before we go, Lord Forsetti.  There is not a law in the universe that would prove Warrior guilty of anything, because he is as pure as we two standing in front of you now.”
The Creators faded, and Odin said, “I think all that needs to be said has been said.  We all know now that Warrior and the Valkyrie are untouchable.  I think also that we should not dwell on this sad episode in the Realm of Asgard, and when Warrior has news he will bring it himself.”



CHAPTER EIGHT

Warrior appeared back at the cave and went in.  To those in the cave, he had only been gone for a split second in time, and when he appeared they were all looking at him.  It was then that he realised he had shown them a secret and was about to try and explain.  He was, however, beaten to it by Marina.
“I see that you have brought the Russian version of the transporter with you.  It worked faster than I thought.”
On hearing this and seeing that Marina was unfazed by Nicolai’s disappearance and reappearance, the section went about their business.  Warrior walked over to her and thanked her, adding, “That was very quick thinking, Marina.  You are more than an asset to the section.”
“We are one short now, Warrior.  It will make things a little harder.”
“Yes, but no matter.  We will manage as we have always done.  Tomorrow we will go in search of the caves, and then we will know more about the sorcerer.”
Warrior was at the mouth of the cave looking out while the section was having breakfast.  He came back in and saw that they still had a full section because Svetlana was with them.  He realised then that for the generals to send their best weapons officer they were unnerved by the threat of the Sorcerer and what might happen if he started moving nuclear weapons in the way he had moved the aircraft.
The time passed rapidly as Warrior sat thinking, and before he realised it the section were ready to move.
“I would like to tell you about what we are going to do, but until we find any sort of cave that resembles somewhere the Sorcerer has used, I am as unsure as you.”
Warrior looked out into the daylight and then back at the section.  The snow was coming down heavy, and Warrior said, “If you are all ready, we will start the mission.”
They all left the cave, with Warrior at the rear.  Once outside, he moved to the front, followed by Marina, then Anton, and then the others.  They all wore their protective glasses as the wind was blowing the snow directly into their faces.
The tiger walked by Marina’s side.  They had been walking for about an hour when Marina turned to look back.  As she did so, she saw movement on her and touched Warrior on the arm.
“Look, Nicolai,” she said, pointing.  Warrior turned sharply to look.  He could see that there were soldiers walking in the same direction as they were.
Warrior stopped the section and went towards the section of Mongolian soldiers who seemed not to have noticed them.  As Warrior came close to them, they turned and saw him, drawing their swords.  Warrior shouted to his own section, “Don’t shoot!  These are mine.”  He drew his own sword and met the first two head on.  They were slow and Warrior thrust his sword in one, withdrew it rapidly and thrust once more to take the man on his left.  Three ran at Warrior and a knife came from somewhere behind him and hit the centre man between the eyes.  Without looking to see where it had come from, Warrior parried a sword blade aimed at his throat, pushing it to one side, and then he withdrew and thrust rapidly.  The soldier on Warriors left fell as Warrior withdrew his sword from the soldier’s heart.  He was dead before his body touched the ground.  The soldier on Warrior’s right ran towards him with his sword flailing all over the place.  Warrior struck hard, cutting the soldier’s sword in two, and as the man stood shocked Warrior pushed his sword through the man’s heart.  The tiger leapt onto another man and at the same time her sharp claws ripped another soldier’s face beyond recognition, he screamed with in and pain.  Warrior showed him mercy with a sword to the heart.  The soldier that the tiger pounced on died with his throat torn to shreds.  As this was happening, one soldier decided that the fight was all too much and started to run away.  He had gone a little more than ten meters before an axe hit him smack in the middle of the neck, and he also was dead before his body touched the snow.
Before anyone spoke, Marina walked over and retrieved her axe, wiping it clean on the soldier’s uniform.  She then walked back and stood behind Warrior.
Yuri asked sarcastically, “Are you not going to retrieve the knife so you can use that again also?”
She smiled a wicked smile, answering, “Yuri, I have many knives but only three axes.”
“Listen to her,” he said mockingly.  “Only three axes!  My God she is inhuman.”
Warrior walked back to Marina and said, “Thank you, Marina.  Your help was invaluable.”  To the others, he added, “Over this ridge there is a large flat area that we must cross.  As long as the snow keeps falling we will not be in too much danger.”
Once more the section walked forward into the wind, and as they were close to the ridge the wind was stronger.  The snow felt as though it was cutting into the flesh where it was exposed, but once over the top and on the way down to the flat area the wind died down.  It was then that a series of strange things happened.  Firstly, the snow stopped falling on them.  It was as if the section had walked into a sheltered area, because they could clearly see the snow falling around them.  Warrior looked up and could still see the snow falling, but it was disappearing thirty meters from the surface.
A voice then spoke, and sounded as if it was coming from all directions at once.  “Swordsman, today you will meet your demise.  Soon, in front of you, there will appear a maze, and right in the centre will be the prize you are not expecting.  I have found your weak spot and at this moment your weak spot is a child called Helena.  She is being cared for by another friend of mine that I have called to help.  However, he has a large appetite, and I am not sure whether she is still in one piece.  If there are any firearms used when you go towards her, then her demise will begin at once, and very slowly.  Helena has now been tied to a pole in the centre of the maze.  There are rats in the maze that eat only living flesh.  They have been drawn from Hell itself, and as you get closer to her the rats will also get closer to her.  Tricky, isn’t it?  You never know, the rats might only nibble instead of biting hard into her flesh.  You and I met once, but I was dressed different.  You really thought I was Satan, you fool.  I will show you what pure Satanism and black witchcraft is all about.  My three friends and I put this maze together and we are part of it.  I, however, will remain here right to the end just to laugh in your face.  You see, I am the master of tricks.”
It all went quiet for a while, and then the maze appeared.  All Warrior and the section could see was a gigantic arch with two open doors.  Inside was dark, and nothing was visible.
Warrior turned to the section.  “We have been in worse positions than this.  Unload your weapons so that there are no accidents.  We have to go in because this is half the answer to the problem.”  He turned to the tiger.  “You stay here, girl.”
“These evil ones, Nicolai, always seem to pick on that girl.  I’ll bet she’s half frightened to death.  If I get my hands on this toad I will make him suffer.  His pain will be heard all over Mongolia.”
“Never under estimate her courage, Yuri.  I know that your heart is in the right place, but his demise will be more painful than anything you could ever dish out.  She will be fine until we get to her.  Nothing will harm a hair on her head.

* * * * *

“Lord Obi, why are you here with me, once more.”
“You have the ability, young lady, to ask me questions where the answer escapes me, but I thank you for calling me Lord.”
“Well, you are a god, and from what I have learned about the Realms I realise that although you are the snake god there is no evidence that you are evil.  However, I think you have an inkling of an idea of what all this is about.”
“You are intelligent as well, and I just wish the evil ones that call me to the surface realised the same thing.  I am not evil, even though I reside in the Underworld.  I just look after the evil dead so that they never again reach the surface.  I think I have been called by an evil one in the hope that I will destroy Warrior, not knowing that it is not in my power to do so.  You are a child of the gods and an innocent, and I cannot touch you.  So it looks as though we are both pawns in the same game of evil chess.”
Obi was in his snake form, but Helena was not perturbed by it.  She was laid out on one of his coils with her hands behind her head as if sun bathing.
A rat run through a doorway and headed towards Helena.  “Now I realise that there is a secondary problem, child, but don’t worry.  I will have to get help.”  With the blink of one of his big eyes, twenty rather large pythons appeared in front of them, and as the rats appeared the snakes ate them.  The first to go was the one heading towards Helena.  “These pythons will not touch you, Helena.  They obey me.  Rest, now, because we could be here a while.”
Helena took one more look at the pythons gobbling up the rats and closed her eyes.

* * * * *

As soon as the section had done as directed by Warrior, they all walked in the same order towards the doors.  Warrior did not even stop at the entrance.  He just boldly walked straight in as if he had no care in the world, and as soon as Warrior and all the section were inside, the great doors closed.  There was a terrible bang that made them all except Warrior cover their ears.  For a few seconds it was dark, but as their eyes became accustomed to the light they were able to see a little.
Warrior looked at the wall in front of them and asked Marina, “Left or right?  The decision is yours.”
Instinctively, she answered, “Left,” and that was the way Warrior turned and led them off.  After a while, the path ran through the middle of a forest.  A long time later, Warrior put his hand up for the section to halt.
“What is it, Nicolai?” Marina asked.
We have just gone full circle, because we have been here before.  There is a fork in the trail ahead and this time we will go left.  Only a few steps down the left fork and they all realised they were now on the right trail.  There were rats running away from them, all heading in one direction.
The trail became narrower, and it seemed that if it became any worse the section would have to cut their way through.  Then, as if the forest had read Warrior’s thoughts, it widened once more.  The trees were higher and the light spilled through, and it now felt as if they were walking through a rainforest.  There were vines hanging down almost touching the floor, and the trees had girths so large that the section was like a small group of ants in comparison.
Warrior stopped the section again and spoke to them.  “Be very careful now, as this is just an illusion.  An evil person created it for an even more evil Lord, so expect the unexpected.”  Then, as Warrior was speaking, a light breeze came from nowhere and the trees rustled and the long downward-spiralling vines began to sway.  Unlike the others in the section, Warrior could sense the intense evil that was surrounding them all, and he added, “Stay close together.  Each person must cover the others around them.”  Then he started to walk forward slowly, looking around him.  On impulse, he looked up and saw that the vines were getting longer, starting to stretch down towards the ground.  “Watch the vines!” he warned.  “They are alive and searching for pray,” and as he spoke, Warrior drew his sword.
The first vine struck.  It curled around Yuri’s feet and pulled him to the ground, and then dragged him backward and up.  Marina was the first to react, taking an axe from her belt and swinging it above her head, narrowly missing Yuri and severing the vine.  Yuri fell to the ground on his back with a thud, winded but unhurt.
Marina dragged Yuri to his feet.
“Thanks, but I did have the situation under control.”
“Of course you did, Yuri.  I could see that, but all I was doing was giving you backup.”
Yuri laughed.
Warrior noted that as Marina cut the vine it shot back up as if it was elastic, so he then walked ahead cutting every vine he could see.  He was making the path safer and wider, although the plants in this fake rainforest were of giant proportions.
After Yuri’s narrow escape, the section kept even closer together than before.  No one knew what to expect, except that nothing nice was likely to happen.
There was a plant two meters to Svetlana’s right.  No one saw the large bud on top of it open into a large, green flower head.  A long tentacle shot out of the centre striking Svetlana on her helmet so violently that it knocked her to the ground.  Warrior saw it happen and cut the flower off at the neck.  Another of the same plants was just ahead of them, still with the flower bud closed but Warrior was not taking any chanced.  He went up to it and chopped through the stem just below the bud.
They all started to move forward once more, and then it suddenly became very noisy and wet as heavy rain started to fall.  In fact, the rain was so heavy that very soon there was at least 10 centimetres of water covering the ground.
Warrior said, “We must move faster. I think the rain has been sent to stall us.”
No doubt he was right, because by the time he finished speaking the water was up to their knees.  It was difficult for any of them to walk quickly, but a minute or two later they reach a rock face.  Warrior saw a line of rats scurrying up a very narrow trail, and he then looked to see where they were going.  “Up is our only way, and I can see a cave entrance.  That is where we will have to climb.”
Galina commented, “Perhaps this is the way we were meant to go and it is a trap.”
“At this very moment, Galina, we have no option.  Follow me.  There are good footholds that I can see.”
There was no need for climbing equipment to reach the cave.  Warrior had been right: there were plenty of handholds and footholds.  A while later they were all up to and in the entrance of the cave.  As the last one of them reached it, the rain stopped – and so did the waterfall.
Yuri was about to look back at the way they had come, when there was a loud thud and Yuri could see only solid rock behind them.  He shouted to Warrior, “We are trapped!”
Marina struck a match, and the flame flickered in one direction.  “No we are not,” she said.  “There is a draught coming from the back of the cave.”  When the match went out, their eyes quickly became accustomed to the darkness and they could see the way they needed to go.  The walls were slightly fluorescent and gave off a little light.
“This way,” Warrior told them, and walked to the rear, following the trail in the only direction they could go.  The fluorescent walls led them into a large chamber where gigantic stalagmites and stalactites reaching from floor to ceiling.  The chamber was massive.  Warrior stopped and the section did the same while Warrior looked around and listened.  Warrior could feel evil, but he could not figure out where it came from.
Cautiously, he started to move forward, and then as they got closer to the centre, a large, shimmering ring appeared and six Mongol soldiers walked through.  The soldiers looked as surprised at seeing Warrior and the section as Warrior and the section were to see them, but all the soldiers drew their swords as soon as they saw Warrior’s sword at his side.  A knife and an axe shot from behind Warrior to his left, the knife striking the leading Mongol between the eyes and the axe striking the one to his left in the chest.  They fell together.  As they hit the floor of the cave, dead, the swords they were carrying flew forward from their outstretched hands.  The next two came forward, circling their swords as if to stick Warrior somewhere in the abdomen.  Warrior stepped forward to meet them, and as he did another axe flew through the air, once more to his left, striking another swordsman that was trying to circle the section.  Warrior struck the sword of the man closest to him and it was cut in two.  The man looked at the bottom end of the sword and stepped back.  Marina saw him drop the hilt of the sword and try to take a pistol from the holster on his side.  She picked up a sword from one of the dead soldiers and, holding it like a spear, threw it at the man.  It struck him in the centre of his chest and he fell forward.  Warrior’s sword and a soldier’s sword clashed, and the soldier stepped back in shock at Warrior’s strength.  He then charged Warrior with his sword, striking towards Warrior’s side, but Warrior’s sword was too fast and stopped it dead.  Then, as both swords clashed once more, Warrior’s superior strength easily pushed the other sword away, and then he pulled back fast and followed it with a swift jab.  Warrior’s sword pierced the heart of the soldier and he fell lifeless to the floor.  The last soldier on a do or die mission also ran at Warrior, but he was met by a heavy blow from Warrior’s sword.  The force was so great that the soldier’s sword was forced out of his hand, and Warrior followed through with a lethal jab to the man’s heart.  The soldier fell to the floor face up, and Warrior watched the life drain out of him.
Warrior stood with his sword at the ready, looking to see if there were going to be any more surprises, but the chamber was quiet.  He then put his sword away and looked at Marina, saying, “You are very quick and accurate.  I thank you for being at my side in my hour of need, and this will not go unnoticed.”  Without saying, anything Marina walked across and retrieved her axes, wiping them clean first on the soldiers’ tunics.
Yuri looked on as Marina walked back to the section, and then he remarked, “You are cold-blooded, Marina, but it will keep you alive for a long time.”
Warrior could feel the Valkyrie close, and was glad he had not yet needed to use them.  “Just as a precaution,” he said to the section, “It may be best if each one of you picks up a sword.  It is better to be armed with a sword than with no weapon at all.  We had better move forward,” he added.  “I can feel evil all about us,” and he then walked towards the other side of the chamber.  Marina was close behind and in the mood for a battle.  She had not felt this good in a long time.  Warrior was fighting with his senses.  He could feel two separate problems, one evil and one of great danger, yet he knew they were not connected.  What was even more disturbing was that he new he had sensed exactly the same danger before.
At the other side of the chamber were two exits, and they were a mirror image of each other.
“Any suggestions?” Warrior asked.
Marina answered, “Left.”
“You seem sure?” Warrior said.
“The footprints of the rats go that way, and we know they are heading towards the centre.”
Warrior had noticed also, but he liked to give the others in the section to show that they also were thinking.  Warrior nodded, saying, “I’ll go with that explanation,” and walked into the left exit.  The section followed, and they all walked for a long time, feeling that they were spiralling downward.  At the bottom there was another chamber, and this time there were three stairways of stone leading to three caves.  The stairways were at least three meters wide.  They all started at the same point but spread out to ten meters apart.  Warrior turned to the section once more and asked, “Would anyone like to pick a stairway?”
Yuri answered, “Rats like it dark, and I notice that two of the caves are light, as if there is something glowing inside.”
“It’s your call, Yuri, so if we are all agreed then follow me,” and Warrior took his first step on the right hand stair.  They were half way up when they felt the earth beneath them shake.  Looking back, Warrior could see that the other two stairways had disappeared and the one they were on was falling away behind them.  “We had better move fast!”  Warrior and the section ran the remainder of the steps, getting into the cave just before the remaining steps fell away.
This was a short tunnel.  They could see the other end a few meters away, a dazzling semicircle of light.  There was a small trickle of water coming from the side of the tunnel.
“Stay here,” Warrior ordered as he walked towards the end of the tunnel alone.  Looking out, he could see nothing but sand dunes, and running through the centre was a path of stone slabs.  There was a small gap between each slab, but the slabs were not regular shapes or sizes.  Warrior looked up, and felt the blast of heat from the sun on his face.  He walked back to the others and told them, “At the end of this tunnel is a desert.  How far we have to walk through it I cannot say.  There is a path running through the middle and that is the way we will go.  There is a rock formation two hundred meters away on the other side.  Just to be on the safe side, I will go first.  I will tie a rope around my waist and the other end will be tied to a piton.  Once I am on the other side of the sand, I will pull it tight and tie the other end to another piton, making it secure.  One at a time you will cross, with your climbing belt attached to the rope to make you secure.  Yuri, I want you to feed the rope through a carabiner while I cross, and you had better keep it tight.”
“This water, Nicolai; do you think it is safe to drink before we go across?” Yuri asked.
Warrior put his hand in and tasted it, then answered, “There is no substance to it.  It is not real, so leave it alone.  It is part of the illusion and its reason for being there is to give you a false sense of thirst.”
As soon as Yuri put the rope in the carabiner attached to the piton, Warrior walked to the end of the tunnel.  As he put his foot on the first slab, things started to move – literally.  The stones in front started to move sideways to the left, then right a third of a meter.  The action produced a shimmering effect and made it difficult to walk on them.  Warrior moved quickly over the stones, the others not realizing that his feet were not actually touching them.  Warrior tied off his end of the rope and called, “Let the first one come across, Yuri.”
Marina walked out onto the first stone and looked at the moving path.  “Yuri, there is something here to look at,” and she waited for him to come to the end of the tunnel.
“What is it?” he asked?
“The stones,” she was pointing as she spoke.  “Every third stone is stationery; the only ones moving are the two in the middle.  There is about a meter and a half to jump, but I think if I can get going then the momentum will carry me.”  Without saying any more, she stepped back into the tunnel then ran out, jumping on each stationary stone in turn like a grasshopper.  She was on the rocks almost as fast as Warrior.
“Right, you two.  You saw what Marina did.  You three will go next, and I will go last.”
Galina was next.  She was doing fine until she was just two steps from the end and she missed the stone.  Her feet went into the sand and it gave way without giving her any support whatsoever.  As she was sinking, her reaction was to grab for the stone she had missed, but the moving stone to her right moved back into position and pushed her away.  Her hands gave way and she was a meter out in the sand.  She was going down, being sucked under and putting a strain on the rope.
Warrior saw what was happening and stepped out with speed.  She had all but disappeared.  Just her hand was showing, so he grabbed it and dragged her to the stone and out.  As he did, he saw what looked exactly like the fin of a shark in the sand, although he hardly believed his eyes at first, and then the head and open mouth of the shark appeared before it submerged once more.
“Did you see that, Yuri?” he asked?
“Yes, we saw it,” Yuri answered.
A short time later, Anton, Svetlana and Yuri were across, and Yuri commented, “Shark-infested sand?  That has to be my worst nightmare.  I will never be able to go to the beach again without wondering what’s beneath me.”
Warrior smiled, and said, “We are almost at the centre.  I can sense it, and there is great danger ahead.  We will have to walk through these rocks, as this is the way the trail is leading us.”
The rocks were not large and it was easy walking, and some considerable time later the section came to an archway where Warrior saw the remainder of the rats run through.  Warrior followed them, fearing the worst, but instead of Helena being swamped by rats there were none.  All that was there was a gigantic serpent and pythons gobbling up the rats.  Helena was wrapped in the giant snakes coils with her hands behind her head and looking completely relaxed.
The serpent spoke in a whispering voice.  “Warrior, you took your time, and I am impatient and tired of watching my followers devouring vermin.  They need substance.”
“Obi!” Warrior spoke loudly, but he did not shout.  “I told you once not to cross me.  Now must I scar you so that you will never forget?”
“No, Major!” called Helena.  “He has been saving me from the rats.  They are from Hell and do not heed the blessing.  I beg you not to harm Lord Obi.  He is a god and not an evil god.  I knew that I would be meeting the snake god once more, and I also knew that I would not be harmed.”
Warrior was stunned at what she said, and he ran his mind through his vast memory of the cults and found Helena to be correct.  “So why did you not devour her, Obi?  You have been called to the surface.”
“Because I am a snake god and not evil, and I must abide by the blessing.  She is also an innocent, and it is not within my power to touch her.  But you know the rules.  I must take a soul with me back to my domain.  Who is it to be?”
“Take the girl, you stupid snake!  We command you,” sounded a voice and four men appeared, at the same time adding, “Take the others as well.”
“Marina,” Warrior said, “Go and give Helena a hand to get down.  The snake god Obi will not harm you, I give you my word.”
“No, it’s ok, Major.  I will get down myself,” and Helena slipped off of his coils and was standing amongst the pythons with no fear.
“Goodbye, Helena, until we meet again, and it is written in the Pages of Time that we shall meet on several occasions.  You are very intelligent and good company when I am bored with fools evoking me to the surface.”
Warrior looked towards Obi, saying, “You could not want more willing and faithful souls than the ones that have just appeared.  Is there anything more?”
“No, Warrior,” Obi answered.  “Now I will do something for you,” and he closed his eyes and said, “Be gone.”  Within an instant, the section was outside the maze once more, and there were horrendous screams that seemed to die as if falling into a hole.  The maze disappeared.
Warrior said, “We must find shelter, or Helena will freeze.  We must go back to the mountain face and the cave.  We must move fast.”  Warrior picked up Helena, knowing that being with him Helena would be warm, and a short time later they were in the cave.
Helena was shivering, and Marina took her sleeping bag out and told Helena to get in it.  The tiger came and lay by her side to give her more warmth.
Warrior was wondering about what to do about Helena.  They could all see the expression on his face, and Yuri spoke to him.  “Nicolai, does that transporter you have take two?  Only, it might be a good idea to use it if it does.”
Warrior looked at him, realised what he had said and knew that it was his only option.  He walked over to Helena and she got out of the sleeping bag, and in an instant they disappeared.
They reappeared in the Colonel’s office, and on seeing them both he smiled.  “I will leave her with you, Anna, as I must get back to the section.”
“Major,” Helena asked, “Was I wrong about Lord Obi?  Only, all the books that are written about him say it is only the evil ones that think he is evil?”
“No, Helena, you were correct.  It was I that was not thinking correctly.  Not all gods in the Underworld are evil.”
He was just about to walk away when Helena stopped him in his tracks.
“Haven’t you forgotten something, Major?”
Warrior smiled and walked back to her.  “Haven’t you grown out of that yet?” and he stood still as she kissed him on the cheek.  He then stepped back, and for the first time he really looked at her.  She had grown up, and she was no longer the young teenager he had always considered her.  She had become a woman before his eyes and he had not noticed, but he also knew that Obi was correct in saying that she was intelligent.  She was fast becoming an authority on the cults, and he knew that Karina would have been very proud of her.  He smiled, and faded into the Mists of Time.
He was met in Mists by the Creators.
“Warrior, it was a mistake to think that Obi was evil, but it was an understandable mistake.  The child of the gods is, as Obi says, intelligent, and we the Creators have been watching her closely.  She is invaluable with her knowledge of the occult and the gods.  She can also predict the future, but you didn’t know that.”
“So that was what she meant when she said, ‘I knew I would see the snake God once more,’ but I was unsure if it was not the ramblings of a child.  I have just looked at her for the first time and realised that she is now a young woman, and very knowledgeable.”
“That is not all, Warrior.  On returning to your section there will be questions, and it might be best if you trust you earthly friends and tell the truth.”
The Creators faded.
Warrior appeared in the cave, and the section was in a group still looking towards where he had left and then re-appeared.  It was Svetlana that spoke for them all, probably because she was the most senior.
“Nicolai we... I have some questions that the section has asked me to ask.  We have all known each other for a long time and we have always given and shown our loyalty without question.  This will never change and your secrets are our secrets, and what is seen or heard during the missions is never spoken about.  It is always omitted from our reports.  It is not because of fear of ridicule, but because we feel it is the correct thing to do.
“We have dealt with evil at its worst, Valkyrie appearing, imps, trolls and other mythological beasts, some of the worst monsters we could ever think of in our wildest nightmares.  I know just about every new invention that has been made by the Russian military, but we don’t have a transporter.  We believe that you have something to do with the gods; we don’t mind, as we all believe in the gods.  We just want you to be a little more open with us and treat us with the same trust and respect that we give you.”
Svetlana stopped talking and there was silence, and now Svetlana was feeling uncomfortable.
“Have a meal.  It has been a long day, and I will explain everything as we eat.”
Nicolai’s words were enough for the section to relax, and go about their business.  It was just before last light when Warrior walked among them and sat down on a rock.
“I am immortal, and I fight on the side of the good gods in the universe.  You all saw Obi today.  Well, as Helena told you, today he is not evil.  He is a god and he looks after the evil dead in the African Underworld.  All our missions together are not just saving Russia from the Chinese but also saving the planet you live on.
“This one is a big one, because this Sorcerer is not just evil but dangerously evil.  He has the ability to transport himself to the Stepping Stones to the Gods.  He must not be allowed to do this, although I am not sure if I can stop him.  There are other evil ones at work with him, and they must be destroyed before I can destroy the Sorcerer.  The Valkyrie is my army and will always be close when I am about, and they will also be here when I am gone.  There was a breakdown in communications when Valentin was hurt, but it will not happen again.  Now you know as much as I do, and you were correct in saying that I should trust and respect you as much as you have shown me your respect.  I think it is time to rest, and tomorrow we must find these other evil ones.”




CHAPTER NINE

Marina spoke to him from behind.  “Will you be in trouble, Nicolai, for telling us what you did?”
He turned and smiled.  “No, Marina.  Remove that thought from your mind.  I had forgotten about it as soon as I told you.”  He knew, though, that the Valkyrie would by now have told the gods in Asgard, and they would have different thoughts on the matter.
“We had better find those other two squads of four evil ones, and they will hopefully be falling over themselves trying to show me how powerful they are.  Once again we will walk the way we went yesterday, because I believe they are only there to slow us down.  They do not enter into the Sorcerer’s plans for a new world order, and I don’t think the priests do either.”
Marina looked alarmed, and asked, “What priests, Nicolai, or did I miss that in the briefing?”
Warrior realised that he had inadvertently told her about the priest.  “No you did not miss a thing, and it might be best if I told you about that too.  Now listen in, everyone.  There is a priest on the mountain with a valuable book, or should I say an evil book.  He has to be found with the book because he is another evil one using fear and magic for financial gain.  The chances of stumbling across him are remote though, because he is more valuable to the Sorcerer than anyone other than himself.  Treat everyone and everything we meet with caution, because whoever or whatever, they should not be here on the mountains at this time of year.”
Warrior walked over to the entrance once more and looked out into the cold.  He had not realised that Marina had followed behind him.
“Warrior, I am just inquisitive, but why is the Sorcerer going to all this trouble?  What could he do once he was on the Stepping Stones to the Gods?”
Warrior was about to answer, and then she exclaimed, “My god, he is trying to overthrow the gods to become one himself.  Could he do that, or, rather more to the point, we cannot allow that to happen, can we?  Do they know about this and shouldn’t they be told, because it would be a hell of a shock for a god to wake up to find a stranger at the end of their bed.”
Warrior smiled, “Put your mind at rest, Marina.  Yes, they know, and they are well defended against attack.  I am sure that Lord Odin and the other gods will be happy to know that you are thinking of their welfare.  I am in no doubt that the Valkyrie will inform them on their next visit.”
“What are the Stepping Stones to the Gods, Nicolai?”
“It is the outer world,, and the elves and fairies live there, but it has one drawback: if a mortal sets foot there, they will die there, because they are not allowed back on Earth.”
“So that means this Sorcerer is really meaning to take over from the gods.  Well, let me tell you this, Nicolai, it will be over my dead body first,” and Warrior watched her walk away.
At that moment, he realised that she truly was a warrior.  The way she had helped him out in the battles was beyond the call of duty.  Her place was safe at the side of the gods, because she was putting their safety before her own.
The section left the cave and headed towards the other peaks in the distance.  At least the wind was in their favour and was driving the snow into their backs rather than in their faces.  There was a more positive feeling running through them after the events in the maze the previous day.  Warrior was in the lead, and he spoke to the Valkyrie knowing that his voice would be carried forward away from the section following.  “If Topaz and I should be cut off from the others in this section, stay with them.  I will have Topaz with me and I can call the other Valkyrie at a moment’s notice.  The mortals must never be left without the protection of the Valkyrie in a war of the Realms.”

* * * * *

The Sorcerer was now in his new cave with the priest.  “You have had time to learn the words; so can you recite the ones that will take me to the Stepping Stones to the Gods?”
“Yes, Sorcerer.  When the time is right I can do these things.”
“It will not be long, because this swordsman is getting closer to a trap that he will never get out of, and then the Realms will be mine to take.  He destroyed a section of ours yesterday, but how I have no idea.  However, this time I will cut him off from his friends and then destroy them all.”  A nasty, wicked smile went across his face, sending shivers down the back of the priest.

* * * * *

They came to the first cave, and Warrior walked in.  He saw a box on the flat, table-like rock, and he went over to it.  It was just a box with a few crystals in the bottom and a large one hanging from a cord in the centre.  “Ingenious.  So simple and so dangerous,” Warrior exclaimed.
Marina was standing beside him.  “What is it, Nicolai?”
“It is a type of machine that moves time and space, but it is very crude.”  He placed his hand inside and removed the hanging crystal, and as he did, he alone heard the Valkyrie say, “The boy is free.”
Warrior threw all the crystals out into the snow.  “I think this cave will be safe for tonight.  Bring the section in, Marina.  “We have done well today, and I can feel that we are close to the Sorcerer.  I can sense the evil.”
They had eaten, and Warrior told Marina, “I have to be somewhere else, but the Valkyrie is here with you still.  Just ask and they will appear, and I promise you that they will remain with you this time.”
Warrior walked out, and as soon as he was out of sight he faded into the Mists of Time.  He appeared outside the Well of Urd with Topaz, and Odin called them in as soon as he saw them.
“You have news, Warrior?”
“Well, of a sort, my Lord.  The Sorcerer is close to where the section of mortals are sleeping in a cave.  I can sense that I am getting close to him, but it seems all too easy.  I can’t help thinking that there is a trap along the way.”
Lord Thor stood up.  “It might be that is your problem, Warrior.  Maybe you are too cautious.”
“My Lord, with respect to what you say, but the person I am chasing over the mountains is not some fool general.  This person knows how to place both feet onto the Stepping Stones to the Gods.  It might have escaped your attention for a moment, but he also has the means to achieve this.  I confirm again that in no way am I verbally chastising you, my Lord.  I am reiterating the point to you and all the Council here now, that this mortal has waged war on the gods.”
Thor stood up, and Warrior and Odin expected a rebuff but it never came.  “You are, of course, correct, Warrior, I was not thinking straight.  I do believe you are quite right to be cautious.  Now, on another subject, while I have the floor, was it right to tell the mortals about your involvement with the gods?”
“A very good question, my Lord, and one I am happy to answer.  The Creators told me that I was about to be questioned by the mortals, and that I was to show them respect by giving them the truth.  Each one of them has fought for the gods each time I have had to defend Midgard, and without any thought of losing their own lives.  They can all keep a secret, and each one of them is as much a warrior as I am, with the one called Marina being exceptional.  She has, with her prowess with the knife and axe, covered my back on many occasions, and she will fight to the death for the right of the gods to rule in their Realm.”
Lord Heimdall stood up.  “Warrior, the child of the gods calling the snake god her Lord was a mistake, and you of course chastised her for it.”
“No, my Lord, because she was right.  He is a god and he is not evil.  He resides in Africa, and also in the Pacific Islands, and although he resides in the Underworld, his role is to stop the evil getting back to the surface.  Obi is dangerous and powerful, but he is not evil.  She was right to give him the respect his rank deserves.  In fact, he was keeping her safe against the wishes of the evil ones.  He has also read in the Pages of Time that they will meet several more times, and no doubt he will be protecting her once again.
“The section is being looked over by the Valkyrie while I am here with you, my Lords.”
Lord Thor stood up again.  “Would you please tell the Council why the Valkyrie is not with you, and why every time you come here you have the warrior Topaz with you?”
“My Lord, Topaz is my secret weapon against the Sorcerer, and her powers will be used many times before this battle is over.  Now, I really must get back to the section, because at some time they will be cut off from me, although they will still have the Valkyrie to call on for help.”  Warrior then looked at Lord Odin, and said, “With your blessings, my Lord I will return to Midgard.  I think it might be best if I take Valentin with me.  I see that the mark on his head has faded and he will wake up soon.  There is one other thing, my Lord Odin: the warrior Marina will call on the help of the Valkyrie at some time in this battle.  I believe that the Valkyrie will not be able to help, but the Valkron can be called by the Valkyrie to aid her.  I believe a Goddess will also aid her with gifts, but I am unsure how.”
As Warrior picked up Valentin, Odin said, “The blessing of the gods in their entirety are with you, your companions, and army, Warrior.  I will also take heed on the words about the mortal of which you have spoken.”
Warrior bowed and faded, appearing in the cave.  As he laid Valentin on the floor among them, he woke up.  “Wow, what the hell hit me?”
“I will leave the section to fill you in on what has taken place, but you have been with some friends of mine who were looking after you.  I could not take you to the base because there would be too many questions.  Marina, you are once more in charge, and I must go out to see what is ahead of us.”
Just before Warrior went out he turned to Marina who had followed him to the cave entrance.  “We might get cut off from each other, which means you will be on your own.  The Valkyrie is there to protect you and the others.  If you are out of your depth then tell them to appear.  It is not showing weakness, it is being clever, Marina.  You will know when you will need them.  May your chosen god look over you.”
As he left the cave he heard her say, “And yours too, Nicolai.”
An hour later, while Yuri was on lookout, the unthinkable took place.  There was a thud and the cave entrance closed, blocked by solid rock.  The sound woke up the whole section.  Marina switched on a torch and then pointing it at the wall of rock.  She could see that they were trapped.  She then turned a hundred and eighty degrees to look at the opening in the inner wall that she had seen earlier.  Svetlana lit a match and saw that the flame was being drawn towards it, and Marina gave a quiet sigh of relief.  “Okay, there is an exit somewhere in that direction, and once we have slept we will go towards it.  She looked at Anton, and asked, “If your mast is still outside, can you pick anything up, Anton?”
He listened for a moment and the switched the set off.  “That rock must have severed the coax cable, Marina.”
“Ok everyone.  We are in the shit, so we might as well get some sleep.  Nicolai said we might be cut off from him at some point, and this must be what he was talking about.”

* * * * *

Warrior and Topaz were looking over green fields and could see houses dotted all over the place.  There were children playing, and Warrior knew that things were going well on Betaroid.  They both faded and appeared once more outside the palace, and as they did the trumpet sounded and the great doors opened.  A small army rode out but not at speed, and once they were close the leader said, “Greetings, Warrior.  Lord Trogan is waiting for you in the great hall.”
They followed the riders back into the palace and dismounted, and moments later they were in the great hall.  “Welcome, Warrior.  You are on a mission.  I can see the gleam in your eyes.”
“Yes, my Lord.  I might need the Valkron to help defend the Realms against a Sorcerer in the outer world.”  He spent a while explaining more about what was happening and then they had a glass of wine together.  It was little over an hour before they left Betaroid, but he had told Lord Trogan that the Valkron would be taken in an instant when they were needed, and that a Valkyrie or Topaz would call them telepathically.
On the mountains once more, Warrior could see that the entrance to the cave had been closed, and his immediate reaction was to want to walk through the rock to the section.  He stopped himself and looked at Topaz, saying nothing.
Topaz asked, “Are you going to go through the rock to them, Warrior?”
“No, Topaz.  The Sorcerer has split the section for a reason, and the sisters told me that it would happen.  They also told me that the Valkyrie would stay with them and not to worry, so that is what we will do.  I can only assume that something will happen to us so that the Sorcerer can make good his escape to the outer world.  I think it is best if we searched for the other evil section, because I think they will be the strongest of them all.”

* * * * *

The section was up and about, and Valentin had been brought up to speed with the rest of the section.  Marina was looking at the back of the cave with Svetlana.
“This is a long shot, but it seems as though it is our only chance of escape from here.  I don’t like the thought of going into the unknown but we don’t have a choice.”
“Marina, whatever you decide I will back you.  The section has been in worse spots than this, but at the moment I can’t think of one.”  Both women started to laugh at the remark, just as Yuri came up to them.
“This is just like the last time, and some strange things took place then,” and he told Marina all that had happened.
“Well, Nicolai is not here with his sword, so you will have to make do with me and my axes and knives.  As soon as we have had breakfast I had better give a briefing.”
Their eyes were accustomed to the half-light, as there was a small amount of florescence on the walls.  Marina was standing where the entrance to the cave had been.  She put her hand against the wall and then picked up the end of the coax cable for the radio and look at it.  Anton saw her do it, and said, “It is ok, Marina.  I have a spare and I can get by without a mast.  It is a little harder but it is just as good.”
Marina looked at them all, and saw they were looking back at her expecting her to say something.
“I believe that the cave is now as it was before the Sorcerer got here.  The reason I say that is because the sealed entrance doesn’t look as though it is a temporary blockage, but I think it has been put back the way it was originally.  I was just looking at the severed end of the coax, and it has been cut as if in a guillotine.  I think that if the rock at the entrance was fake we would still be in contact with the base.  I also believe that because the Sorcerer is so intelligent he would not be in a cave with no escape if things went wrong.
“I think that his entrance to this room in the mountain is the way we are about to walk out, and that is through that doorway at the back.  I would not be at all surprised if there are many traps, and we will have to overcome those to gain our freedom.  Don’t think for one minute that it will be a walk in the park, because I think we are about to meet another section of four evil ones.  We each have a torch with a lifespan of ninety-six hours, so we use one at a time and use the light wisely.  We have not got Nicolai with us, but we do have the Valkyrie to call on if we are out of our depth, and they are here this time, Valentin, so stop trying to head-butt monsters.”  The section laughed at her remark, and her next words were, “Okay, follow me.”
Marina picked up her equipment and walked to the back of the cave, and as she stepped over she saw the shape of a door carved in the rock.  It seemed as though the Sorcerer had plenty of time on his hands, but she did not realise the significance of the door until much later.  She took one more look at the shape and the writing at the top before she took her first step of faith and walked through the doorway.  Her torch shone for a few seconds and she turned it off, as they all noticed that the tunnel was still lit up with the florescence.  Marina had found this out earlier when she first went over and shone her torch down into the darkness.  Every now and again she would flash the torch on and then off, until the tunnel became completely dark once more and she needed the torch on continuously.  They walked for over an hour before they came to where the tunnel opened out into a chamber.  It was not big, but it was a lot bigger than the chamber where they entered the cave.
Marina stopped the section and put her finger to her lips to tell them to stay silent.  Something was making a noise, but Marina could not make it out, and then suddenly she saw two big eyes in the tunnel at the other side of the chamber.  She could feel her heart thumping and wondered if the others could hear it.  She smiled at that thought.  Then out of the tunnel came the biggest snake that she had ever seen other than Obi, and this was not Obi.  The snake had a head the size of a medicine ball and its body was long and at least eighteen inches wide.
It slithered to the wall on the other side of the chamber and looked at the section, and a whispering voice came from its open mouth.  “Who are you, and why are you here in my domain?”
“Never mind who I am.  Who do you think you are?”
“How dare you speak to me like that?  I am the snake god, and I will destroy you and you will remain here in my domain for all time.”
“Yes, well, you would say that because I don’t know any snake gods.  So what is your name, ugly one?”
Yuri was standing behind her and said, “Steady on, Marina.  He looks awful mean, and he might not like you calling him names.”
“I am Obi the snake god, and it is my right to destroy you and keep you in my domain.”
“Well, I am Marina, and in the name of Lord Odin I am going to send you to your own hell.”  Then with a swift throw a knife hit the snake in the eye.  There was a bloodcurdling scream from the bowels of the snake, and then a few seconds later an axe struck the snake between the eyes.  The snake turned into a man and lay on the floor, dead, so Marina walked over and retrieved her axe and stepped back to the section.
They were just about to move forward when there were more sounds in the tunnel and another snake appeared and stared at them all.  Yuri asked, “How many more are going to appear?”
“Shush, Yuri.  This is the real Obi.”
The snake was still looking at the section when it asked, “Who was the evil mortal that used my name in vain, thus evoking me from my sleep?”
Marina answered, “It was the dead mortal on the floor, Lord Obi, and I have killed him in the name of Lord Odin.”
The snake came up close to Marina, its eyes looking into hers, and then it retreated.  Before their eyes he turned into human form and spoke once more.  “You talk to me with respect of my title, and to gain respect you have to give it.  You are a brave warrior and I saw no fear in your eyes, and neither were there any lies.  You are free to pass with your friends, and may your chosen god look over you.  I will take care of the evil one.  Now leave the chamber before I change my mind.”
Marina and the section walked forward, not looking at the dead man or at Obi, and they were soon on their way down the tunnel.  After an hour of more walking they stepped into another chamber.  “Valkyrie, do you think it is safe to stop for a rest here?”
Hild answered, “I can sense no evil about, Marina, and the chamber is safe to rest.”
Marina walked into the chamber and sat down with her back to the wall.  The others followed her in, and Yuri sat at her side while Marina held her hands out.  He could see them shaking and he said, “It is nothing to worry about, Marina.  That is the adrenalin pushing through your body; it will stop soon.”
“I was frightened to near death, Yuri.”
“Yes, Marina, and so were we all, but you never showed it.  That is what bravery is all about.  We have the right person leading us, and I will always watch your back.  I think there will be a lot more serious shit going down before we walk out of this mountain.  Just be yourself and you will be ok, because all of us trust you to lead us out of here.  I do have one question though: how did you know that the first snake was not who he said he was?”
Marina smiled for the first time.  “I remember when he was with Helena the real snake god had snakes eyes, and the one I killed had human eyes.”
It seemed an age before Marina stood up again.  “I think we had better start moving forward, because we will not get any rest until we are out of the mountain.  It looks as though it is going to be a long day.”
The section all stood up at the same time, and on seeing this Marina’s heart began to thump again.  She turned to Yuri and asked quietly, “Yuri, can you hear my heart beating?”
“No, Marina.  I am too busy listening to my own heart trying to get out of my body.”
“Thank the Lord.  I thought it was just me,” she said, and laughed.  Then, taking her first step forward she walked back into the tunnel.  The tunnels were like a maze.  Twice they had to walk back on themselves and go down another, and it was a long time before they found their way to another chamber.  This chamber was large compared to the one they had just left, being at least fifteen metres across.  Then in an instant the room was filled with people… or, as Marina quickly noticed, just two people but duplicated many times.  It was a man and woman in their thirties, and they were holding a crossbow each but there were multiple bolts on the frame.  The bows were pointed at the section, and Marina could see that the ends were explosive.  She also realised that the section would not stand a chance if they were fired, as there were more than enough explosive heads to destroy them all.
The woman spoke first.  “All that trouble getting this far only to be outwitted by a clever woman and two crossbows.”  While the woman was speaking, Marina had her torch on and it was pointing at the floor, but she was staring at the couples looking for a change of pattern to see who was real and who was not.  As the woman was talking, the others too were moving their mouths as if it were they talking.
“I see you looking at the duplicates, trying to decide who is real.  It is impossible to tell.  I will give you a chance to save your lives, as I see axes at your side and I will let you use them.  You never know, you might be able to throw them and make them count, but I doubt you could throw them where they would have any effect.”
Marina gave her torch to Yuri, saying, “Keep pointing it at the floor in the centre of them.”  Once he had hold of the torch, Marina removed her axes.  She watched the duplicates start to lift the bows and then she threw.  Both axes were flying through the air simultaneously, and both hit their marks.  The duplicates disappeared all at the same time as the two real evil ones fell to the floor.  Marina walked forward and turned them both over removing her axes from their foreheads, but when she turned to face the section they could see that she was composed and in control.  She kicked the woman in the shoulder, but not hard, saying, “You should not have talked when you should have been doing.”
“Marina, how on earth did you know which couple to throw at?”
“They were the only two that cast a shadow when the light touched them.  Three down, one more to go.”
“You are doing fine, Marina.  Keep that cool head on your shoulders, as we have not far to go now.”
Marina took the torch from Yuri and stepped into the tunnel again.  The tunnel now turned back on itself and they walked for a long time before Marina told them all to stop.  “Yuri I don’t know how you feel, but I am sure that we are heading back the same way we came in.”
“I think you are right, Marina.  This must lead to one of the other caves in the same valley where we started.  Judging by the amount of walking we have done, I think we should be almost at the exit.”
“Well, if that is the case then we should be in for another mind blowing experience shortly.”
She took another few steps, and they could all see that there was light somewhere ahead, as it was now shining on the walls of the tunnel.  They walked around a corner and sure enough there was the entrance, some thirty metres past the other side of a great chamber.  The only problem was there was a huge being, apparently made entirely of ice, between them and the exit.  Marina stopped and looked at the monster, and said, “Have you ever seen anything like this before, Valkyrie?”
For the first time, Hild, Gunn and Geirahod appeared.  “No, Marina.  It has not been brought from hell.”
On seeing them, the monster shouted, “So, girl, you have magic of your own to conjure up warriors to fight your battle, but they will be no good against my superior might.”
On hearing this, Marina threw one of her axes at the monster’s eyes, but he saw it coming and rapidly turned away.  The axe struck the side of his head, only dislodging a few shards of ice.  “You need to do better than that, girl, because I am going to crush you.”
“I think you had better leave this monster to us, Marina,” and Hild stepped forward, striking the monster with her sword.  This proved fruitless also, and only dislodged a few more shards of ice, and the other two Valkyrie joined in the fight.  The monster had a long sword in its hand, made of the same frozen material as it was, and it was slashing about with no aim other than to get a lucky contact with the Valkyrie.
The battle was raging, and then one of the Valkyrie dislodged the sword from the monster’s hand.  In its haste to pick up the sword, its arm flailed wildly.  By chance, it struck Gunn, knocking her over onto her back.  The monster saw what it had done and momentarily forgot about the sword.  It lifted its foot to stamp on Gunn’s chest.  Marina rushed over and picked up the sword, finding it icy cold to the touch, and with her two arms over her shoulder and the sword pointing at the monster, Marina charged.  The sword went through the monster’s chest and a gurgling scream came from its throat, then before their eyes the monster turned back to a man.  There was a sword sticking through his body still, and he was standing with his mouth open.  Then, as if in slow motion, he fell to his knees and then onto his face, pushing the sword deeper.
Before anyone else had time to react, Marina said, “Yuri and Valentin, throw that garbage outside and we will make camp here for the night.  Anton, see what you can find on the radio, but don’t send any messages.”
The Valkyrie faded, and Marina walked to the door as the evil man was being disposed of.  She took deep breaths and smiled with relief, knowing that she had not let Nicolai down.
Svetlana came up beside her.  “Have you any idea what we are going to do next, Marina?”
“I suppose we had better carry on with the mission, as we are still in the same valley.  However, I have a feeling that Nicolai will be back before morning.”




CHAPTER TEN

Unknown to Warrior, the Sorcerer was now out of the mountains and in a building on the Mongolian side.  There was a blizzard blowing, and the Sorcerer was getting impatient.  “How long is this snow going to last like this, General?”
“This storm will be with us for at least another few days, Sorcerer, and until the roads are cleared, the trucks with the supplies, horses and riders cannot get through.”
“This is all very inconvenient, General.”  He then turned his attention to the priest, who was reading the Apocalypse Papers.  “Priest, those papers talk of changing the weather, so why are you not stopping this snow?”
“Sorcerer you are correct in saying that it can change the weather, but it goes from one extreme to another and will make things worse than they already are.”
“I am being foiled by my own plan, and there is no way that I can change what is now happening.  I have lost two sections of fools to some lucky female officer, and she is now getting ridiculously close to the last section.  This should not be happening.  I had this all worked out and it should be running like clockwork.  For over a hundred years I have been sitting on this plan, perfecting it on a daily basis.”
“Then maybe that is the problem, Sorcerer.  Perhaps you are out of touch with the real world,” the priest commented.
“Are you calling me a fool, Priest?” and the Sorcerer stepped forward as he asked the question.
“On the contrary, Sorcerer.  I am saying that your plan is over a hundred years old, and you have not allowed for the change in climates and the intelligence of man.  Even the fools these days have more intelligence than some of the brightest men a hundred years ago.”
The Sorcerer stopped walking forward, and he played with his moustache as he considered what the priest had said.  “Yes, you do have a point, and it is a small flaw in my plans.  This all means that I will have to draw up others from where we are now.  I was not expecting this snow to come so early in the winter months, and the sheer force of it is overwhelming.”  He then looked at the priest and the General, saying, “Do not disturb me while I go and work out further plans to compensate for my lack of information.”

* * * * *

Marina looked out the door and could see the snow falling heavily, and with the added wind the snow hit her skin like bullets.  She walked back into the cave and told the section, “We will have to wait here for the wind to die down.  At the moment it is so fierce that it would blow us off the mountain.”
While Marina was working out a plan of action, Hild was in Asgard speaking to the gods, and once she had told them everything she was given leave to return to the cave.
Odin smiled as he said, “It seems that Warrior has found another friend with the ability to think for herself and win battles on her own.  She is a great adversary for the evil ones, and she pledged her battles to me.  She did not show fear in the face of a great danger, and showed Obi more respect than most mortals would do.  Has the Council any remarks on this new development?”
Lord Heimdall stood up.  “My Lord Odin, I have been reading the Pages of Time and it seems that the name Marina is mentioned many times.  There is, however, no clear reason for what she has done or is about to do for the gods, but her reward is immense.  We might know more about this warrior when Warrior next visits.”
Once he had sat down, Lord Thor rose to his feet.  “This female warrior can only be an asset to the gods.  To notice small detail to unmask the evil is indeed very clever.”
The Goddess Jord stood up, and on seeing her Thor sat down.  “I wonder, my Lord Odin, if this is the same Marina that Warrior was talking about, why she would be calling for the Valkyrie but only the Valkron can help.  It would seem a very strange thing to do, and I wonder why she would need to call one.  Then there is the point about a gift that Warrior spoke about.  For what reason would any God give a mortal a gift?  No doubt we will realise the reasons when the time comes.”

* * * * *

Warrior was in the cave, sitting down.  His eyes closed.  On seeing this, Topaz held her axe in the alert position, and as she stepped in front of Warrior, two Valkyrie appeared and stood either side.
Nicolai opened his eyes and could hear the wind blowing through the trees.  It was morning, and he decided it was time to get back to the army.  He stepped from the cave, and although there was a wind blowing it was only touching the tops of the trees.  When he saw the rabbit, in a flash his hand threw the knife he had been holding and took the rabbit in the head.  Picking it up, Nicolai walked back to the cave and gave it the tiger.  “Well, old girl, you and I have to part, because I have to get back to this war.  If I am ever this way again I might look you up.  I can never mistake that star on your head and that of your cubs.”  He ran his fingers through the tiger’s hair for the last time, and left the cave.
He could see the tip of the mountain just above the trees and instinctively which way to travel.  He had to find the Red Guard, because they would be looking for him by now.  Everyone had been split up in the last battle and gone their different ways, some being chased and some doing the chasing.
It was slow going, as the snow had drifted in places where the trees had fallen, and he frequently tripped over trunks and large branched that were hidden by the soft snow.  He had been walking for a while when he heard the voices in the distance and could smell wood smoke and roast rabbit.  He started to head towards the voices, hoping it was not more of the White Army, but on approaching the clearing he saw four Red Guard and a dozen or more horses.
Nicolai walked out of the darkness into the clearing and they all jumped up, drawing their swords, and then one of the men shouted, “Nicolai, where the hell have you just come from?”
Nicolai looked at the man who had spoken.  “Maksim, you would not believe me if I told you.  How is the war running?”

* * * * *

Warrior woke up and looked around at the Valkyrie and Topaz.  “Thank you, my friends.  I needed that short rest.  Valkyrie, is there news of the section yet?”
“Yes, Warrior,” and she then told him everything that Hild had told the gods.
“Then I had best get to them, because the final group they will run into will be the most powerful, I would think,” and he and Topaz faded into the Mists of Time.  They appeared outside the cave where the section was sleeping, although Marina was awake and standing in the doorway.
“Nicolai, I am glad to see you back.  I was just working out where to go next.  I think those evil groups are getting stronger each time we meet them, because that last group did some rather bizarre things.  They must have really fancied themselves, taking Obi’s name and using it for themselves.”
“They have been destroyed, Marina.  I am impressed, and so too are the gods.  It is not every day that anyone is placed in such a dangerous situation and lives through it.”
“Nicolai, you say that all mortals who go to the outer world can never return.  What happens to them?”
“They are eventually rounded up and put to death.  It is sad, but they are not allowed to stay on the Stepping Stones to the Gods.”
“Nicolai, if the Sorcerer is so powerful, then why have we not seen him.  Surely he is not frightened of you?  He has caused all this mayhem, yet he has not shown his face.  This valley is where he was residing, so why are there not soldiers everywhere?  It is as though he has ceased to exist.”
“I was wondering the same thing myself, Marina.  I have the feeling that he might have left the mountains altogether.”
The two comrades walked inside, and as soon as they did an apparition appeared in front of them.  The section was asleep, and as soon as it appeared Topaz also appeared at Warriors side.  Marina was by this time over at the other side of the cave.  It was a hologram of the Sorcerer, and he smiled and then spoke quietly to them.
“Well, swordsman, you have led me a merry dance over the mountains.  It seems that at first I underestimated your intelligence.  I see that you have the meddling woman with you also, and she will receive the same fate as you.  Yes, swordsman, I am tired of being chased over my own mountains, and it is time that I showed you my power.”
By now the whole section was awake and looking at what they thought was a madman telling Warrior what he was going to do with him.
“You two will mess with my plans no more,” and he pointed at Warrior and Topaz.  “Chang ping sly cling, be gone to the distorted time.”  There was a thud, and Nicolai and Topaz disappeared.  The Sorcerer then looked at the section, and added, “Now you are without your two leaders, my remaining section will destroy you.”  There was the sound of wicked laughter and the apparition disappeared.
Marina walked over to where Nicolai had been standing and looked at the spot.  “Valkyrie, are you there?”
Hild appeared.  “Yes, Marina?  What is wrong?”
“This place, the distorted time, can Nicolai escape from it?”
“I am unsure, but I will know more when I talk to the gods.”
“Well, this is a mess because now we will have to deal with that section of evil ones without him.”
Yuri walked over.  “Marina, it is just an idea, but I think the Sorcerer is afraid of you.”
Marina looked at him as if he had gone mad, and so too did the Valkyrie.
“Think about it.  He has never seen you, and he has never seen the woman warrior that was with Nicolai.  It was not hard for him to recognise Nicolai, but I would guess that he thought that woman warrior standing next to Nicolai was you.  He knows that you defeated the evil ones inside the mountain, so he thinks he has removed you along with Nicolai.  Therefore, he has miscalculated.  You’re still here, but now he’s going to be a little more complacent, as he thinks the main dangers to his evil ones has gone.”
“We have to simply carry on with the mission,” Marina told him.  “If you’re right, that may give us an advantage, and there is nothing I can do to help Nicolai.  I am afraid to say that he is on his own.  I am not a magician and I cannot bring him back here, and I just hope Lord Odin looks after him.  Get as much rest as you can while you have the chance, because there may not be much rest for any of us until that Sorcerer has been destroyed.
“I have to think, so I will do sentry duty first.  He definitely knows where we are now, so anything might happen.”
Marina walked to the entrance and sat down, looking out into the night.  She had no idea that the three Valkyrie were standing close to her to protect her.  Hild faded and went to inform the gods of where the Sorcerer had sent Warrior.
In the Mists of Time, Warrior’s Creators met Hild, and she told them what had happened.
“There is nothing you can do about Warrior.  We can release him, but it will take at least fourteen days before he is free.  That is the minimum time he must remain there; that is a rule of the universe, not our rules.  Inform the gods, and tell them that we said to be patient.  Then you must return and look after the mortals, especially the leader Marina.  She must not come to any harm.”
Hild was not long with the gods.  She returned to the cave and informed the other Valkyrie of her meeting with the Creators.
Back at the Well of Urd, the Council were on their feet and all trying to talk at the same time.  Odin put his hands in the air and shouted, “Silence!” and once the hall was quiet he said, “There is no point in shouting and running about like headless chickens.  Warrior is compromised through no fault of his own, and all we can do is to be patient and see what takes place over the next few days.  I only hope that the warrior named Marina can pull off a few miracles while he is away.  The Creators seem to think that she is important enough to warrant celestial protection, and I will make it my duty to see that she gets it.  Now, I think that it would be in the interests of Midgard to carry on as normal.”

* * * * *

Warrior and Topaz appeared in a desert with the sun burning down on them.
“Where are we, Warrior?”
“We are in the land of distorted time, which is a bit of a nuisance because there is no escape for fourteen Earth days.  To us, it will seem to be about a day and a half, because we are in the time between time.  We still have our weapons and we still have our horses.  We will need both, as we will be fighting all the way to the exit.”
“Where is the exit, Warrior?”
Warrior pointed to two mountains.  “Between those, and it is a lot further away than it looks.”  They both called their horses and mounted, and they started to ride like the wind.
What Warrior had not told Topaz was that en route to the exit they would meet fierce horsemen known as the Tong Barbarians, and undoubtedly they would be doing their best to kill them.  This was the land to which the gods sent their warriors to be punished, and very few escaped through the exit.  In fact, very few ever came close to reaching the exit
.
* * * * *

The section had just woken up, but Marina had not slept.   Yuri made some food and a hot drink for himself and for Marina with a hot drink, and when he took it over to her he asked, “What are we doing today, Marina?  Are we going after the Sorcerer?”
“To be quite honest, Yuri, I think he might be out of our league, but we might be able to handle those evil ones.  I remember Nicolai said that in order to get to the Sorcerer we had to destroy three sections of evil.  We have to stop the Sorcerer getting to the outer world and to the Stepping Stones to the Gods.”  She saw Yuri looking a little sceptical, and she added, “When I have a little more time today, I will tell you everything Nicolai told me.
“We will follow the route we were going before Nicolai was taken from us.  It has to be in that direction because that is where all the caves are.  Do you think I am doing the right thing, Yuri?”
“Whether you are or not, we have to carry on with the mission.  I have already told you, Marina, I will watch your back.  I have nothing but admiration for the way you are handling this assignment.”
“Ok then, Yuri.  As soon as everyone has eaten we can move out of this cave.  The going should be easier, as the wind stopped last night and the snow is light.”

* * * * *

The Sorcerer was looking out of the window.  “General, I see that the snow is light and the wind is no more.  Have you any idea when my men and horses will arrive?”
“Yes, I have just been on to the depot and they will be here in an hour’s time.”
“Good, because I have a tight schedule to keep.  I have removed the two problems from my way, and today my final section will remove that stupid Russian squad off the mountain.  They are without the girl to lead them now, so they will be easy to deal with.”

* * * * *

The section walked slowly down the valley towards Mongolia, with Marina in the lead.  There was a sharp corner about four hundred meters ahead, and they had to swing to the right and go around the last small peak.  The corner had to be taken because of the six hundred feet sheer drop, and then it would be a long walk down the mountain from there.
Just as they walked over the last false ridge, Marina stopped the section and looked at the map.  It that moment the section heard shouting and banging.  On the edge of the corner four monsters appeared, the same type of ice monster they had seen the previous day.  Marina looked about the valley and realised that it would not be possible to get out of the way or to go back.  They had no choice but to stand and fight.
Yuri looked at Marina and could see that she was thinking, and he watched her as she looked all about their position.  There was a cave to their left just big enough for them all, and on the right was a high cliff face and above that the mountains capped with snow.  “Do you have that mortar Nicolai always asks about, Yuri?”
“Of course I do.  I never go on a mission without one,” he laughed.
“I want everyone in the cave, and you, Yuri, get the mortar out.”
By now the ice monsters were off the edge and walking towards them, but because of their bulk they were slow.  They were also in a position where there was no cover, with cliffs on either side of them.
“Can you put a round on top of that cliff face, Yuri?  If we can cause an avalanche, it should push them over the edge.”
“Your wish is my command,” and within seconds he had the fifty-millimetre mortar aimed at where Marina had wanted it.   There was the loud ‘pop’ of the mortar shell being launched by its explosive charge, and then they both retreated to the cave with the others.  They all heard the explosion, but nothing happened at first.  The ice monsters stopped and looked upwards at the sound, but then started to walk forward again.  Suddenly, the ground began shaking and snow came tumbling down the mountain past the cave entrance.  Marina could just see that opposite them the snow was sliding down in one large lump.  The noise was horrendous and went on for a long time before it was all quiet.”
Cautiously, Marina and Yuri walked out the door of the cave and saw that the valley was empty.
“You did a good job, Yuri, and destroyed them all.  Even in the guise of ice monsters they could not have survived that fall, not with the tons of snow that fell on top of them.”
“No, once again, Marina, it is all down to you.  It was your quick thinking that saved the day.”
“I think we can go forward and find another cave, and then rest up for a while.  I must get a little sleep.  There is only the Sorcerer left, so we will have to keep moving forward to the lower slopes.”
At this point, Marina was unaware that the Sorcerer was not on Earth any more.  He left when he saw his last section defeated, and he was now in the outer world looking at the Stepping Stones to the Gods, but before leaving he had issued orders.

* * * * *

The section rounded a corner and saw in front of them a small building made of metal.  There were no guards, and the building looked deserted, so cautiously they walked towards it.  When they got within twenty metres of the building a door opened and a priest came out with an open book in his hand.  They could not hear what he was saying, but they could see his lips moving.  Marina called out, “Where is the sorcerer?” and the priest laughed out loud.
“He is in the same place that you will be, because he wants to destroy you personally: the Stepping Stones to the Gods.  You personally destroyed all his followers and he is now going to destroy you.”  The priest shouted out something in a foreign tongue and then pointed at Marina.  In a flash she disappeared.
Yuri lunged at the priest and wrestled him to the ground.  A gag was placed in his mouth and his hands were tied together.  Yuri picked up the book and could see that it was some type of religious book, so he placed it in his pack.
“Let’s get him back to base.  They will make him talk once he’s there.”  Just as Yuri was about to stand him up, the priest choked and died.  Yuri picked him up and threw him over the edge of the mountain, but if he had taken the time to look he would have seen that the priest never reached the bottom.
“Cyanide.  He committed suicide, the bastard.  I think this is the right time to go back to base, unless anyone has a better idea?”

* * * * *

Marina appeared in a rock formation, lying on her back.
“This is all I need, my life ending before I have started.”  She spoke aloud to reassure herself that she was still alive.  She checked her equipment and found that her automatic pistol had disappeared but she still had her axes and knives.
It was then she heard talking and the sound of horse’s hooves, and slowly she crept towards the edge of the big rock, peering over.  She saw two Mongolian soldiers on horseback wandering about, looking as though they were searching for something or someone.
“Well, she is not here.  The Sorcerer must have been mistaken and there must be another rock formation.”
Marina realised that they were talking about her, and she pulled out two axes.  She stood there thinking for a moment before she slipped them back into her belt.  She knew that if she used the weapons too early she would be letting the Sorcerer know where she was.  She watched the soldiers for a while and then saw them both ride away towards a forest in the distance.  She knew that she was on her own against more than a thousand troops of the Mongolian army.  She pulled the knives from her pack and counted nine, and, with the three axes, she decided she would be all right for a while.  She needed rest, because she had not slept for two days.

* * * * *

The Valkyrie knew that the section was no longer in danger, and they went back to Asgard.  Hild went to the outer world, remaining invisible, and found Marina.  She saw Marina check her weapons.  Then Marina said quietly to herself, “Tomorrow I will start destroying the army one by one.  How dare the Sorcerer come up here threatening my gods?”  She lay down, hidden by rocks, and fell asleep.
Hild went to report to the gods, and she was standing outside the Well of Urd when Odin called her in.  She told the gods how Marina had destroyed the last section of evil, and also what the priest had done to her.  “I have just been to the outer world and located Marina, my Lord.  I did not speak to her, as communication is not allowed, and she was unaware of my presence.”
The Goddess Jord stood up.  “She is there through no fault of her own.  I expect she is in fear of where she is, but she will not realise that she can never return to Midgard.”
“My Lady,” Hild said, “She does know about the one way only rule and she is not in fear of anything.  When I saw her, she was counting her axes and knives.  She was also talking to herself, and her exact words were, ‘Tomorrow I will start destroying the army one by one.  How dare the Sorcerer come up here threatening my gods?’  I don’t think she cares about herself now, knowing that she cannot return and will die there, but it seems that she has just declared a personal war against the Sorcerer and his army.”
“Stay there, Valkyrie.  There may be more for you to do,” Odin told her.  “Well, there you have it, my Lords’ any remarks?”
Thor was the first to speak.  “What kind of warrior is this Marina, to dare fight a battle with odds of a thousand to one and armed with just nine knives and three axes?”
The Goddess Jord stood up once more.  “My Lord, we should be asking why, if she knows she is on a one way journey, is this warrior bothering to help the gods at all?  She has been told that at the end we will have to take her life prematurely.  With your permission, I will give her my horse and weapons to fight with.  She needs to be better equipped than she is now.”
“Yes, do so, my Lady.  At the moment she is the only one there that cares what happens to the gods.  Place some food with the gifts, as the girl must be hungry.”

* * * * *

Warrior and Topaz were racing across the open plain when they saw dust kicking up in front of them.  They pulled up their horses up, and Warrior told Topaz about the barbarians and why they were there.
“We cannot outrun these as they are coming straight at us and we need to be going that way, but one good thing is that there are never many in a pack.  Usually, we will encounter only five of them at one time.
“We have the advantage of being both fresh and ready for the fight.  These warriors have been fighting non-stop for many years, trying to gain their freedom.”
Warrior and Topaz stood perfectly still, waiting as the dust cloud came nearer.  It was not long before the barbarians were on them, swords thrusting and swiping, and ball and chains swinging above their heads.  Both Warrior and Topaz had their shields out and were striking hit for hit, but these barbarians were seasoned fighters and were not going down easily.  Topaz took the head off one, and as the other looked, trying to avoid the rider-less horse, Warrior run his sword through the barbarian’s heart.  Shortly after that the last one fell, and Warrior and Topaz resumed their gallop towards the mountains.

* * * * *

Marina woke up and saw a horse standing not far from her.  Cautiously she stood up and checked all about her.  There was a note on the saddle. “The horse is yours to ride.”  There was also food in a napkin.  It appeared to be bread, but when Marina took a bite it tasted of whatever she thought of.  In front of the saddle was a sword hanging down, and when she walked around the other side there was another.  It had been a long time since she had ridden a horse, but once learned it was a not a skill that was forgotten, and Marina had been taught by the best riders in the Moscow State Circus.
Marina placed the knives in a bag hanging from the saddle and mounted the horse.  It was a black stallion, a thoroughbred.  Once in the saddle she could feel the power that the horse generated, and it made her feel better.  She looked down on the floor and saw the tracks made by the horsemen the previous day.  She followed them slowly, knowing that as she was on her own she had to be careful.
She rode for a long while before she saw anyone.  Some distance away from her were two Mongolian riders, and as soon as they saw her they turned their horses towards her.  They stopped about fifty yards from her and shouted, “Give yourself up, because you are no match for the Sorcerer.  If you give yourself up now we might have a little fun before we kill you.”
She kicked the horse with both feet, urging it forward. It took off towards the soldiers like a rocket, and as she was moving her hands crossed, pulling out the two swords.  She was on the two riders before they realised it, and within another few seconds she had ridden between them, taking their heads off at the same time.  The horse stopped and she looked at the swords and then at the headless bodies on the ground.  “Wow, the swords are damn sharp,” she said aloud.  Then she shouted, “That’s for the gods.  Only another nine hundred and ninety-eight to go.”
Once again she walked the horse towards the forest, and as she was nearing a bend she heard more voices.  She slipped from the saddle and walked over to the rocks, and then looking through a crack she could see three horses and three Mongolians.  She stepped back to her horse and mounted again, walked forward, and as she came round the rocks the three horsemen turned to look at her.
“Are you looking for me, you scum?”  She was going to curse them, but it suddenly occurred to her that this was the gods’ territory and perhaps it was better to moderate her language.  The Mongolians went for their swords, but two of the horsemen ended up with axes in the forehead.  The third was too close for Marina to throw an axe, and she pulled a sword out of its scabbard.  She was just in time to stop a blow to her head, and then he tried to slice her legs but again she was too fast.  He then made the mistake of lifting his sword up as if he was trying to bring it down straight through the centre of her skull, and she stabbed him in the chest.  As his body slid to the floor, she held the sword in place and watched the life drain out of his body.
Marina stepped back and withdrew the sword, and then realised that this was probably not the best way to go about things.  She replaced the sword and mounted again, turned her horse and walked it back the way she had come.  Once back at the rocks, Marina dismounted.  For the first time, the full implications of being here on her own struck her, and she started to curse herself.  “Damn, damn, damn.  I know nothing of this kind of warfare, and at the rate I am going I won’t last very long.”
An hour later she was still sitting amongst the rocks when she heard what she thought was thunder.  It continued and became louder, and then realised it was galloping horses.  She carefully looked around the rock and saw more than five hundred horsemen ride by.
Marina slipped back down into her safe haven, and asked herself, ‘How does this all work?  I am on the Stepping Stones to the Gods, but it is not the Realms.  So how does he get to the gods?  There must be something in the outer world that the Sorcerer has to defeat before he can gain control.  Now his men have gone in that direction, so there is something important that way.  Well, as I have nothing better to do, I may just as well go in the same direction as them.’
Marina walked over to the horse and mounted once more.  As she was about to ride out she heard the scream, and then the sound of male voices.
Cautiously she stood on the horse’s back and looked over the large rock, and what she saw made her heart beat rapidly.  There were two Mongolian soldiers pushing a very thin girl about, and the girl was holding a baby.  The girl was the same height as Marina, but that was where the resemblance ended.  She had bony legs with a long nose, a sharp face and big eyes.  Also, her ears were pointed.
“Ugly little things, these elves,” one of the soldiers said.
The other replied, “Just kill her and let’s move on.  She is just vermin.  You know the orders of the Sorcerer.”
Marina had heard enough and slipped back into the saddle, and with an axe in each hand she moved the horse around the rock.  When she came into the view of the soldiers they pushed the Elf away.  “It’s the girl!  Get her, and the Sorcerer will reward us for her capture.”
As the soldiers came towards her, Marina’s an axe embedded in the forehead of one of them.  The other soldier by this time was too close to her to use another axe, so she drew the sword and swung it, taking his head off.
The elf was lying on the floor looking at what was happening, but she was injured and she was clutching the baby.  Marina retrieved her axe, and asked, “Where are you from?”  The girl did not answer, and Marina added, “You can’t stay there.  You are injured.”
“Are you one of the mortal invaders?”
“No, I’m not, but I am a mortal and I am here to destroy them, and the Sorcerer.  How, I have no idea.”
“I am from Elfdom Castle, and I think that is where those soldiers were going.”
“You had better come with me, because I don’t think you can do a lot of walking.”  Marina walked towards to her and she tried to push herself into the rocks.  “Don’t be afraid of me.  I won’t hurt you.”  Marina helped her up and onto the front of the horse, and then sat behind in the saddle, and after the Elf pointing out the direction to Elfdom Castle, they moved off.
Marina decided that this was an opportunity to get information, and asked, “If this is the outer world and Stepping Stones to the Gods, how can the Sorcerer get to the gods?  I am assuming that the Stepping Stones is only a symbolic name and it is not an actual jumping off point.”
“You are correct, mortal.  The Sorcerer has to destroy all life in the outer world before he can attack the gods.”
“Your people will fight back though?  You have armies, don’t you?”
“Yes, we have armies, but they have forgotten how to fight.”
They came over a rise and Marina saw the castle in front of them.  There were nearly a hundred Mongolian soldiers waving their swords, while others were trying to climb the walls.  She looked to her right and behind some rocks, and saw there were about thirty elves on horseback, watching.  Marina rode over to them.  On seeing her, the elves looked startled, and drew their swords.
Not the least perturbed, Marina kept riding towards them, and as soon as she was close they surrounded her.  She gave them no time to speak, “Well, you are brave, aren’t you?  You stand and watch like a bunch of cowards while your castle is being attacked, but you can surround one woman.  Well, you don’t intimidate me.  Who is your leader?”
“I am,” a voice said, and an Elf pushed his horse forward.  “You have no right to call us cowards.  We are the Queen’s guard.”
“If you are the Queen’s guard, why are you not at the wall defending her?”
“There are too many of them.  We will all be destroyed.”
“Nonsense, you fool.  If we mounted an attack now they would be taken by surprise and we could defeat them.”
Marina heard one of the elves say, “She is riding one of the gods’ horses.”
The leader asked, “Were you sent here by the gods?”
Marina thought fast.  She did not want to lie to them, but if this was a god’s horse then they must know of her presence in the outer world.  “The gods are helping me to destroy the Sorcerer and his army.”
“What is your name?”
“Marina.”
“I like that name.  It has a nice ring to it, and I am Villias.  Now, what do you have in mind to do?”
The sudden change in attitude was strange, but it was at least positive.
“There are at least thirty of you here.  We just ride out there with our weapons ready and charge.  Seeing you fighting back is something they will not expect, and they will be too shocked to react effectively.”
“Ok.  Form up behind Marina and me, and wait for my signal.”
A moment later, Marina let the girl and baby down, and drew her swords.  She looked at Villias and nodded.  “Forward at a pace,” he shouted, and the small army charged forward.
Villias and Marina led the way, and as she had said the Mongolian soldiers were taken by surprise.  They were cut them down, and those that were trying to scale the walls were being shot with arrows.  The battle did not last very long because the Mongolians were totally overwhelmed.  At the end of the battle there was just one elf injured.
The doors of the castle opened and all the elves rode in.  The doors closed behind them before Marina could do anything.  ‘Well, there’s gratitude!” Marina said to herself when she realised she was alone again.
She decided it was not safe to be out in the open, exposed, and decided that she had better find cover in the rocks.  She turned her horse and headed back to where she had found the elf army.  Marina looked up to the sky and said in a loud voice, “Valkyrie, if you or the gods can hear me, I could do with a little help – but real help.”

* * * * *

Villias was summoned to the great hall, and he walked inside and bowed.  “Your Majesty, the mortals have been slain and there is peace of a sort once more.”
“It was a very brave thing you did and quite unexpected.  It saved the day.”
“We were behind the rocks, your Majesty, when the female mortal came along and led us into battle.”
The Queen jumped up and shouted, “What female mortal?  What was her name?”
Villias was shaking.  “The female mortal riding a horse belonging to the gods.  She was a warrior, and her name was Marina.”
“Where is she now, Villias?”
“I left her outside the castle and locked her out, because we don’t know what she is about, and she could also be dangerous.  I don’t know where she is now, your Majesty.  The elves on the battlement said she was riding slowly towards the hills.”
“You fool, Villias.  She just helped you save the castle and you think she might be a danger to us?  I think it is you that is a danger to us, because she is more danger to the invaders than to us.  Tomorrow, at first light, you will go and find her, and then you will bring her to the safety of the castle.”

* * * * *

Hild watched as Marina rode behind the rocks and dismounted, just as the light was fading, and then tired from the battles she lay down and fell asleep.  Hild returned to the gods to give her report, and while standing in the Well of Urd she informed them of everything that had happened.
“Where is the warrior now, Valkyrie?  In the safety of the castle with the elves?”
“No, my Lord Odin.  The doors were closed, locking her out.  She is once again sleeping in the rock formation.  My Lord, on the way back to the rocks, she said aloud, ‘If the Valkyrie or the gods are listening, I could do with a little help – but real help.’  If I might give an opinion, my Lord…?”  She watched him nod.  “I think she feels that she is being let down by the very people she is helping.”
Odin told her to stay where she was, in case she was needed.  “I think the Valkyrie is correct in her opinion.  I ask the Council your thoughts on the situation, please.”
Lord Forsetti stood up.  “We are letting her down by doing nothing while she is out there destroying the very people that are trying to destroy us.  However, there is the rule that neither the Einherjar nor the Valkyrie can fight in the outer world, so our hands are tied.”
Lord Vi stood up.  “This mortal is showing fighting spirit that I have never heard of in mortals before, but if she has no help then soon her spirit will be broken.  I am not sure, but didn’t Warrior say that if this Marina calls on help from the Valkyrie then the Valkron must be called?  We all know that because they are not of this world they can enter the outer world to fight at her side.”
“Thank you, Lord Vi, for pointing that out.”  Odin turned to the Valkyrie and instructed her to call the Valkron and inform them of the situation.”
“They are in the outer world near the warrior Marina as we speak, my Lord, and they are fully informed of the situation.  There is also one of the other Valkyrie overlooking the outer world.”
“Then that is all until your next report.”




CHAPTER ELEVEN

Marina opened her eyes and saw that there was a group of people sitting all around her.  She sat up rapidly and reached for her axes, and then she realised that if they had wanted to do her any harm they would already have done it.
“Hello, I am Drusilla, Woman of Fire.  We are Valkron, from the world Betaroid.”
“Hello, I am Marina from Earth, but I think my pass will soon expire.  Why are you here?”
Drusilla answered, “We are here to help you defeat the Sorcerer.  The gods heard your plea and have granted you our help.  We have been told of your battles so far, and we are impressed that you hold so much courage.  How can we help you achieve your goal in the outer world?  Have your food and drink, and then we can talk some more.  There is no rush, as we are here as long as you are here.”
On hearing this remark, a tear slipped from Marina’s eye as she realised that it would not be long, and she turned her head and hoped that no one noticed.  They did, but they said nothing.  Once she had eaten, and drunk some wine, she stood up and said, “I know nothing about this outer world, and I am not sure if I can destroy this Sorcerer, but I will give it my best shot.
“I have been told that this place is the Stepping Stones to the Gods and their Realms.  I fail to see how, though, because where are the gods and why can’t you see them?  I believe the reason is that they are not here, and the phrase ‘Stepping Stones’ is symbolic.  I would think that the Realms are in a different dimension, but there is some sort of hidden pass to the gods that is in the outer world.  We might not be able to see it, but I firmly believe that it exists.  I have been having a light sleep, and was thinking of this all night.  I think also that the elves hold some sort of key, or they could even be the key, but that is unimportant.  The important thing is knowing where to find this portal, pass, staircase, or whatever it is.”
“I am Brandon, Far of Sight, and you are very clever to work this out.  The truth of it is a secret that only the Watchman to the Gods knows.”
“Then we have to know where it is, and if you are as close to the gods as you say you are, could you go and ask them?”
Brandon laughed, and then asked, “You’re not serious?”
“I am, and they must already understand the reason I am asking.”  Marina had her hands on her hips, and she was looking at him.  “Well?  What are you waiting for?  I can’t fight a battle without reliable intelligence.”
Brandon disappeared, and instantaneously appeared outside the Well of Urd.  He was immediately called in by Odin.  “You have a question, Valkron?”
“Yes, my Lord.  The warrior Marina says that you know why she asks this question: she needs to know where to find the secret entrance to the Realms.”
Lord Heimdall jumped up and shouted, “Go back and tell her that it will be a cold day in Hell before I let some childish mortal know that secret.”
Thor was the next.  “She is one of the Sorcerer’s soldiers in disguise and should have her life terminated now.”
Odin looked at Brandon, and saw he was shocked by what had just been said.  “You have your answer.  Tell her that we will be seeking her death at midnight tonight.”
Brandon appeared once more with the small army of Valkron, and told Marina what the gods had said.  They saw her look of shock, and then she turned sharply and said, “Then go back and tell the gods that they know where it is, the Sorcerer knows what and where it is, and the only people who don’t know where is it are the people trying to save the gods’ asses.  If they are really too stupid to realise why I am asking, then they all deserve to lose their Realms.”
“I will not go to the gods and say that.”
“Then go back to your Betaroid, whatever and wherever that is, and take a nap, because you are no damn good to me.  You are spineless, and I don’t want anyone near me that is not up to my standards.”  Then she mounted her horse and walked it forward, pushing Brandon aside as she went.
She turned her horse and looked back at them.  “I don’t need your help or the help of the gods.  I will do all the damage I can in my few remaining hours alive.”  Another tear slipped from her eye, and she galloped off.
Hild had heard and seen enough, and went back to the gods.
She was called in immediately.
“Is the mortal still with the Valkron?”
“No, my Lord, she has gone to make war with the Sorcerer’s army.”  Then she told the gods what had been said and what had taken place.
There were gasps from the gods, and Odin smiled.  “She actually called us stupid, and she might have a point.  I am afraid, my Lords, that we have all done the warrior Marina an injustice.  She is, of course, correct.  Another portal can be formed once the troubles are over.”
The Goddess Jord stood up.  “Members of the Council, we are all forgetting that the warrior Marina is here against her will.  She is a mortal, fighting in a war for the gods in the outer world in an environment that she knows nothing about.  She has the sentence of death hanging over her head, but she is still willing to fight for the freedom and security of the gods.  She has more faith in the gods than most of the mortals on Midgard put together.  She is intelligent enough to know that to defend the gods she has to know what to defend and where to do it.  She is willing for her beliefs to face death in the face without an army, and all that we have done is add to her burden.  I would also think that her nerves are most probably on edge, and that we should take no heed of nonsense insults.”
There was a silence until Lord Heimdall stood up.  “I have retrieved the key from the elves already, but if the Sorcerer is as powerful as we are led to believe, then he will know how to open the lock.  The secret place is the Spire of Time, and may my blessings go with this young warrior.”
Odin looked at the Valkyrie and told them to relay the news to the Valkron and to tell the warrior Marina that the death sentence had been put back until the gods’ decision at a later date.  “You had better tell the Valkron to protect the warrior Marina against harm, because the fates have spoken to me.”
Marina was out in the open and she did not like it because she felt too exposed.  Her feeling was proved her right.  There was a false ridge to her front that she had not seen, and over the top rode thirty horsemen.  On seeing her, they stopped, and so too did she.  They stared at each other for a while.  Marina was asking herself if she should turn and run, but answered that there was little point as she would be dead soon anyway.  ‘I might just as well die doing the things I am good at.’  She drew her swords in readiness.  Her horse started to walk slowly forward towards the horsemen, and all of a sudden there was a voice behind her.  “Do you really think we would allow you to fight the battle for the Realms on your own, warrior Marina?”
It was the voice of Brandon, and he rode along one side of her with Drusilla was on her other side.  “The gods have told us all that you need to know, and there will be no death at midnight.  It has been deferred until a later date.  Can I ask what it is you’re about to do?”
Marina relaxed a little and answered, “You see those two big oafs at the front that were laughing at me?  Well, I am going to cut their heads off and send them to hell.”  Then raising her sword in the air, she shouted, “For Lord Odin and the gods.”
Marina kicked her horse and charged at the horsemen in front of her.  She struck the centre of the two horsemen, sticking her sword in one and taking the head of another.  She stopped and turned around, seeing that two soldiers had followed her.  With speed she replaced the swords and the axes flew, striking the horsemen in the chest.  Without waiting, she drew the sword once more and took another down before the Valkron finished the rest off.  She was about to return and collect her axes when she realised they were back hanging from her belt.
They all regrouped, and Drusilla asked, “What now, warrior Marina?”
“The first thing is to stop calling me warrior Marina.  I would like you to call me just Marina.  The second thing is that we cannot fight the Sorcerer without an army, meaning we need more depth.  So, if you have any suggestions they will be gratefully received.”
“When Warrior fought the last war here, he had the help of the elves and the fairies.”
“Who is Warrior, and why isn’t he here now?”
“Warrior is The Last Warrior, and Champion to the Gods.  He was on the mountains of Midgard when the Sorcerer put a spell on him and Topaz, sending them to the land of distorted time.”
“That was Nicolai.  Now I understand and I wish he was here now, because his voice would carry more weight.  Well, he’s not.  So how do we contact the elves?”
“We must go to Elfdom Castle and speak to Queen Amelia.  I know where it is, so if you will follow me.”
They were riding at pace, but not galloping, and they could soon see the castle in the distance.  They slowed down and Marina looked at Brandon, saying, “I am sorry about what I said about you this morning.”
He looked back at her and laughed, and replied, “We are grown up warriors and we don’t take offence at what is said in anger.  It is embers of a cold fire that you are talking about.”  Marina turned to look at Drusilla, who just smiled.
The small army stopped outside the gates of the castle, and a voice shouted down, “Who are you and what do you want?”
“I am Marina, and I wish to have an audience with Queen Amelia.”
“Wait while I check.”  A few minutes went by, and the voice said, “She doesn’t want to speak to you.  Go away.”
“Okay, I will and on my way to speak with the fairies, I will tell the gods that the Queen is too busy to help them.”  Then Marina heard other voices.
“What is going on, and what is all this shouting, Grenfeld?”
“Some mortal called Marina wants to speak with you, your Majesty.”
“Well let her in, you fool.  I am not surprised that I never get any visitors because you never tell me.  Villias I want him off that tower.  He is worse than useless.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
“Well don’t just stand there.  Go and open the gate, or would you like me to go and do it myself?”
Brandon leaned across to speak quietly to Marina.  “It seems that the Queen is quick with her temper.  You should get on well with her, Marina.”
Marina burst out laughing.  “Thank heavens someone has a sense of humour, Brandon.”
The big doors opened, and Marina and the Valkron rode in.  Once inside, they all dismounted, and Villias said, “Follow me and I will take you to the Queen.”
Marina was about to walk forward, but she paused and said, “Would you two come with me?  You know more about this world than I do.”  Drusilla and Brandon were close behind as she followed Villias into a big room.
Queen Amelia stood up from her throne and stepped over to Marina.  She threw her arms around her.  “I am so thankful to you for saving my castle.  My elves had no right in leaving you outside the gates.  You look as though you are on a mission, so how can I help you?”
“I am taking an army to the Spire of Time, as it has to be protected against the Sorcerer getting to the gods.  He has already sent a force ahead of at least four hundred horsemen, but I don’t think he has left the cover of the forest yet.  I believe he thinks now that he is here and Warrior is indisposed that he has all the time in the world.  It was he that transported me here against my wishes, so, yes, I am on a mission of revenge.  I am also trying to stop him stealing the Realms from the gods.”
“I like you.  I would like to be able to do what you’re doing, but the elves won’t let me lead an army again.  I will give you two hundred of my finest elves, and Villias will come with you to help you keep them under control.  We no longer have the key, as it was taken by the gods for their safe keeping, so we have no more fear of them attacking the castle.
“Would you like some food before you go on your trip, Marina?”
“Thank you, Your Majesty, but we really must be on our way.  There is no time to spare.  We must get to the Spire before the Sorcerer.”
“Villias, you heard my orders.  Get two hundred of my finest and go with the warrior Marina.  I hope your chosen god looks after you, Marina, and they send you their blessing.”
A while later, the now large army left the castle and headed for the Spire.  As they were riding along, Marina said, “I believe, Villias, that the fairies were used the last time, and I would like to use them now.  I must have an army that’s adequate for the task ahead of us.  If they were needed by Warrior for his war, then I can only imagine that this battle will need at least the same force.”
“Yes, they were used last time, and no doubt Sand Piper will appear as we go past the Forest of Secrets.”
“It sounds as if you don’t like Sand Piper.  Is there something I should know?”
“The elves and fairies never get along, and no doubt he will try and tell me about everything he thinks should be done differently.”
“Did he do that last time, Villias?”
She was looking at him while he considered the question.  “No he didn’t.”
“Then you are talking nonsense, but if you think you cannot get along with him then I am sure if I sent you back to Elfdom Castle the Queen would send someone else to take your place.”  She said no more about it and let the subject rest for a moment, and then added, “I mean, that Grenfeld looked very efficient.”
“No, I will be fine,” Villias said hurriedly, and he went quiet for a long time, and muttered to himself, “Grenfeld efficient?  Are we talking about the same fool?  He couldn’t walk in my footsteps.”
Marina looked at Drusilla, and they smiled at each other.
It took a long time to reach the Forest of Secrets, and, as Villias said he would, Sand Piper came out to speak to them when they came close.
“You must be Sand Piper.  I have heard so much about you.  Villias says that you and he are old friends.”
Villias was looking at her with his mouth open, and Sand Piper said, “Yes, I’ll bet he did,” and laughed.  “You are taking an army to fight the Sorcerer’s men, am I correct?”
“Yes, Sand Piper, and I was hoping that you would join us.  We are a little short of seasoned fighters.”
“As you seem to know all the magic words, warrior Marina, I would be happy to join your army.”  He lifted his arm and threw it forward, and a hundred riders came out of the forest.  “I have with me fifty airborne and fifty mounted warrior fairies.”
Marina waited until they had assembled behind her, and then she moved on.

* * * * *

Warrior was still riding like the wind towards the mountains.  He and Topaz had encountered another section of Barbarians and left them dead.  Just as another small group came into view, they found themselves in the Mists of Time.  The Creators were there to meet them.
“We have just worked out the formula for getting you out of the Land of Distorted Time.”
“Where is the Sorcerer, my Lord?”
“We are sorry to say that he is already up in the outer world, and has been for three days.”
“I would think that in that time he has been causing chaos on a large scale.  Is it bad there, my Lords?”
“No.  An army has been organised in a very short time and is holding his men at bay.”
“Who organised the Army so fast?  Where is it going, my Lords?”
“It was the mortal Marina, and we think it best if you go straight to Asgard because the Valkyrie Hild will be reporting to the gods in a moment.  She will bring you up to speed on what has been happening.  Before you ask, Warrior, the answer is yes, Marina does know there is no return journey to Midgard.”
Moments after they faded, Warrior and Topaz appeared in the Well of Urd at the same time as Hild.  Odin looked at them all and said, “Good, we can hear the news together.  The floor is yours, Valkyrie.”
Hild told them about the battle Marina was prepared to fight alone, and then all about how she had amassed an army to go to the Spire of Time and that now she had just added Sand Piper and the fairies to the army.
“Thank you, Valkyrie.  You had better stay there, as I am sure that Warrior will wish to talk to you.  Can I have any remarks about what we have just listened to?”
Lord Thor stood up.  “This mortal warrior Marina is a formidable force, even without the army she is now leading.  She shows no fear in the face of great danger, and I feel that that such talent and strength would be wasted in death.”
There were murmurs all about the Council, and Lord Forsetti stood up and said, “If it pleases you, my Lord, I must go and check the laws of the outer world.”
“There you have it, Warrior.  Do you wish to add anything?”
“To be honest, my Lord, I can think of nothing to say.  I must attend to the business of looking after the Realms.  I hope I can add to what has already been achieved.”
Warrior faded, and by the time he reappeared in the outer world he knew everything about how Marina got to where she was.  Topaz stated, “Marina is very brave and knowledgeable to be doing the things she is doing, and even braver for chastising the gods.”
Warrior smiled, and said, “Let’s go and find them.  There is no need to rush.  Marina has it all under control.”
By the time they caught up with the army that Marina had amassed, it was almost dark.  Warrior heard Marina say, “We will rest here the night,” in a weary voice.  As they were all dismounting he saw her still sitting on her horse looking forward.  “Villias, has the Sorcerer’s army been moving at night while you were in the castle?”
“No, Marina.”
“Well, it will not hurt having sentries out at the four points of the compass.”
“I will get them out there right now.”
As she turned, she saw Warrior looking at her.  “Nicolai... I mean Warrior, I have had a hell of a few days, and I am not sure if I am doing the right thing.”
“Do you think you are doing the right thing?”
She thought for a minute, and answered, “There is no other way the Sorcerer can be beaten.  If he can’t get to use his key, then he will not be getting into the Realms, and that is what this is all about: stopping the Sorcerer getting to the Realms.  I have been thinking, Warrior, that if he is as powerful as we believe, can he ever really be destroyed?  If he appeared to have been destroyed, would you always wonder and ask yourself was there any trace of him left that could start again?”
“Then you are waging war against the Sorcerer no differently than I would.”
“I must rest, Warrior.  I feel dead on my feet… well, maybe not quite dead yet.”  She smiled and walked over to where the Valkron were sitting.  She lay down with her head on a rock and her eyes closed almost immediately.
Warrior dismounted and went over to sit next to Brandon.
“She is a remarkable woman, Warrior.  When we came up behind her today I couldn’t believe that she was about to fight them on her own.  I think that when the Sorcerer sent her up here so that he could punish her, he caused more trouble for himself than he could have possibly imagined.  Undoubtedly he underestimated her intelligence and strength, and she will wage war on him right to the end.”
Warrior looked at Brandon and answered, “I don’t think I could have put that better myself.”

* * * * *

The light was filtering through the clouds when Marina opened her eyes and looked around her.  She realised that her head was lying on something soft, and for the first night of being in the outer world she felt warm.  She put her hand out and could feel the tiger, and realised that all three were there.  She stood up and looked around at the faces looking back at her.  “Good morning, everyone.  Well, I suppose there is a morning here.”  There was food on a rock and she asked, “Is this mine or someone else’s?”
Warrior replied, “It is yours, Marina.  I am glad you are awake because I want to give you all a briefing.”
She drank the wine and ate the bread, and then sat down looking at Warrior.
“As you all know, the Sorcerer has invaded the outer world and we are on our way to the Spire of Time to stop the door being breeched.
“There are some things about him that you don’t know, and the main thing is the Stone he has with him.  It is the Eye of the Fallen Angel and it has powerful magic, although limited in some ways.  It has the ability to grant wishes, but because the Sorcerer has been exposed to an essence of evil, it is magnified tenfold.  He is not going to be easy to defeat, but we have Merlin and the White Witch Beezal to help us again.”
Brandon asked, “Do you think this Sorcerer will pull Oberon from the Underworld?”
“I am in no doubt that he will do just that, but he will not be drawing those from the Underworld through Twin Falls this time.  I would like to know where he is at this moment though.  It would be a lot easier to follow his progress.”
“He is in the forest by the lake that looks like a cup.”
Warrior looked at where the answer came from.  “What makes you say that, Marina?”
“The day I arrived was the same day as the Sorcerer, and I was behind the rocks I saw about five hundred riders go past.  They had just left the forest, which I know because the dust had not settled, and I did not see the Sorcerer among them.  He will most probably follow more sedately because he thinks you are still in the Land of Distorted Time.  He is also thinking that I have been either killed by his men or eliminated by the gods.  Either way, he thinks I am out of the equation.  Little does he know that I am now his own worst nightmare and demon, and I am determined to see him punished before I die.  However, if he had the ability to transport himself here, then no doubt he could transport himself to the Spire....”
They could all see that she was thinking.  “What’s up, Marina?” Warrior asked.
“I don’t think he can transport himself.  I don’t think he knows how to do it.  Maybe he can send others by using that Stone, but if he could transport himself then why has he got to go through the door?  Also, it was not the Sorcerer who sent me here; it was that damn priest with the book in his hand.”
“Where is the priest now, Marina?”
“That is a good question, because he was the last thing I saw before I fell off the Earth.”
“Ok, if that is all, there is a long way to go before you get to the Spire of Time.”
They were all standing looking at Marina, and she asked, “What?”
Warrior replied, “It is your army.  They are waiting for you to lead them.”
Marina nodded.  “Mount up and let us get moving.  Time is running short and there is a battle to be won.”
They mounted, and as Marina nudged her horse forward, the whole army moved at the same time.  Warrior was at her side.  “You are doing well, Marina, and I am so proud of you.  I must go and see to things, but I will be back before nightfall.”
“You are not staying to lead the army, Warrior?”
“It is not my army, Marina, and it is not my battle.  You are the one in charge I am just filling in the spaces.  You have a long journey ahead and it will not be easy, and the Valkron, elves and fairies will be looking to you to give them strength.  You alone worked out that the Sorcerer cannot transport himself, and you did it my considering all the facts that no one else was clever enough to put together.  You know that the Sorcerer is powerful, and you know that he may have more power than he actually realises, but you also know that much of his power has no substance and much of what he does will revert back to normal after a while.  Keep that in mind if you have to fight him.  I will be leaving Topaz here with you, because she has a power in her axe that will subdue the power of the Stone when used against you.  Each one of the Valkron has a unique gift, and it might just help you to find out exactly what those gifts are.”
“Who is Merlin?  And who is this White Witch Beezal?”
“You will meet them as you travel the Realms before you get to the Spire of Time.  You have the blessings of all the gods in the entire universe.  Each one is behind you to win this battle, and they know that with their help you will be victorious.  Listen to your Generals, as they will not let you do the wrong thing; each Valkron is a General in his own right.  Your horse was given for you to use by the Goddess Jord, and she also gave you your weapons.  Neither the horse nor the weapons will let you down in battle, and no one will let you fall.  I will be back some time this evening before sunset, and the tigers will remain at your side.”
Warrior faded, and as he did the two Valkron came up on either side of Marina again, and Topaz was riding just behind.

* * * * *

Warrior appeared back on earth in the Colonel’s office, and she looked up as he appeared.
“I suppose you’ve heard about Marina.  Do you know where she is?”
“I have a good idea, Anna, but we will have to wait and see.  The book that the priest had, do you still have it?  And what happened to the priest?”
“The priest is dead.  He took his own life with cyanide to avoid being captured and interrogated.  The book is here in my desk.  I thought you might want it.  Will it help get Marina back?”  She opened the drawer and passed the book over to him.
“When the Sorcerer is captured and punished, I am not too sure what will happen.  For the moment, I am doing my best to look after her where she is.  I am taking the book and getting it looked at, as I think there is an incantation in it that we have to find.”
“Well I looked at it and I could see no incantation, but it was most certainly written a very long time ago.  The code used was one of the first the Russians used during the Cold War.  To make things easier it is written in a Russian language not too dissimilar from the old English Latin.  It is not a book of spells as Yuri first thought, but a book about the apocalypse.  It is just a copy of what we already know.  The prayers, chants and poems are magic tricks that only last a short time, and once they wear off things return to normal.”
“How do you know all this, Anna?”
“Because I was so upset about Marina that I fed all the words into the computer, and with the few words I knew in that dialect it gave me a read out.  The last page in the book is written backwards, and it tells everyone that has gone to the trouble of deciphering the book that it is a practical joke.”
“Have you got the print out still?”
“I thought you might want the print out as well,” and she handed him an envelope.
He put the book down and took out the contents of the envelope and read it.  He smiled as he placed it all in the envelope along with the book.  “I will be back when I have more news, Anna,” and he faded into the Mists of Time.
When Warrior re-appeared he was once more in the office of the Pope.
“Warrior, you have news of the book?”
“Yes, Your Eminence, but I don’t think you are going to like it.  The book is a hoax.  The prayers, chants and poems are just very good magic tricks that do not last.  A Colonel in the Russian army deciphered it in one night on a computer.”  He placed the envelope on the desk, adding, “It is all in there.”
The Pope looked at him and smiled.  “Is there anything I can do for you, Warrior, as a reward?”
“Your Eminence, there is nothing you can do... actually, yes, there is.  I would like to have some time in your safe room on my own.  There are three books that I would like to look at.”
The Pope smiled.  “It was written in the prediction papers that you would ask, and the books are laid out on their tables waiting for you to read them.”  He looked at the priest that was with him.  “Thomas, show Warrior the books.”

* * * * *

Warrior left the room after many hours of studying the books, but his face was expressionless.  He said his goodbyes in the Pope’s office, and then he faded and appeared in the outer world.
He could see the army in the distance, and the sun was going down.  When he eventually rode up behind Marina he could see that she was tired.  She did not see him, but she put her hand up and stopped her horse.
“Villias, we will rest here the night.  Please post sentries.”  She gazed into the distance.
Warrior watched her in the darkness as a tear run down her cheek.
“I can sense you behind me, Warrior.”
“What are you looking at, Marina?”
“I was looking at the sky and I see no stars.  What kind of place has no stars to live and die under?”
“There are stars, Marina, but you are not looking in the right places.  The stars will always shine for you.  Your eyes are tired and you must rest.  It is another long day tomorrow, and you need to be fresh to lead your army.  I will be over with your Generals when you are ready.”
Marina heard him walk his horse away.  “My Lord Odin, I understand that I will have to die and can never go back to the place you call Midgard.  I have to defeat the Sorcerer not just to save the gods, even though that is my first priority, but it was he that sent me here because of his greed.  I am tired, and I ask nothing of you except the strength to see this through to the bitter end.  I feel that I am letting you down by resting in the evenings, and I am sorry that I eat your food and drink your wine.  I know this is taking a little time, but if I go faster then I will be no good for the fight at the end.”
Marina dismounted and went over past where the Valkron were resting.  Among the tigers, she lay down, and her eyes were closed in moments.
The Valkron and the leaders of her army were all looking at her, and Sand Piper said, “The warrior Marina is pushing herself very hard.  The pace we are travelling is too great for her, and there is no reason why we should not slow down a little.  When close to her, I feel a power and a driving force that has no boundaries.  It is an awesome force.  I could never fault her faith in the gods that will in the end destroy her, and she will always get my vote of confidence.”
After watching Marina fall asleep, Hild went back to the gods to report.




CHAPTER TWELVE

Hild was in the Well of Urd and had just finished talking to the gods, and she was waiting on their command.
Odin looked to the Council.  “Your remarks on what we have just heard, please.”
Lord Heimdall was the first to stand.  “I cannot understand why this mortal is tired.  She is eating the food of the gods that has given us strength for thousands of years.”
The Goddess Frig stood up.  “I think that is the problem, my Lord.  She is eating food of the gods and not food of the Mortals.  We are forgetting that being up here does not mean she is an immortal.  Her body needs nourishment and vitamins, and all the other things that help them live.  I think we had better inform Warrior via the Valkyrie on her needs.”
Lord Vili was the next to stand.  “I thought the mortal was doing well and they were making good speed.  This young warrior must be informed that actions in the outer world are carried out at a leisurely pace, and so far she has exceeded that.  I don’t think that she realises what time and space is in the heavens, that it has no boundaries, and destinations are not a fixed point.  I must also remind you all that this warrior is under duress, yet she asks for nothing but the strength to be at the fight at the end.  I think that is a quality the gods see very little in mortals, and it is commendable.”  He sat down, and there was a rumble of small talk around the Council.
Odin started to speak: “Yes, this mortal has taken us all by surprise.  What she has achieved in such a short time is remarkable.  She has a thirst for the fight at the end of her journey, and it is up to the gods to make her life pleasant until her demise.  She has accepted her fate, but she shows us a courage that the Realms have not seen in mortals for a great many years.”
Odin looked at Hild.  “You have heard the Council’s words.  Relay them to Warrior.”

* * * * *

Morning arrived, and Marina opened her eyes and stood up.  Warrior came over with a plate and handed it to her.  “Mind, this is hot, Marina,” and she saw that on the plate was her favourite: meat stew and rice, and Warrior also handed her a mug of tea.
“Ohhh, real food.  You don’t know how much I have needed something like this.”  Marina sat down, taking her time to eat the food, and as she was eating she looked up at the people around her.
“Now this is the stuff that keeps me going.  Warrior, how much further to the Spire of Time?”
“I would think that at the speed you are travelling, another two days.  I need to point out that there is no real reason to keep up this gruelling pace.  You are doing fine, and you are well ahead of the Sorcerer.  There will be plenty of time for you to build up the defences.”
“Are you sure?  I thought that I might be just delaying the inevitable?”
“We can talk more on the subject as we go forward today.”
“What I cannot make out is that we have had no interruptions in the last few days.  I don’t believe that the Sorcerer is sleeping, because I would have thought he is chomping at the bit to show us his powers.  As we are, as you say, Warrior, only a few days away from our goal, I think there is a fair chance that something will happen today.  The Sorcerer must know by now that there is an army on the march and that it is in front of him.  Villias, I would like outriders and a scouting party ahead of us; forewarned is forearmed.  I don’t want the scouting party making contact, and if they feel that they have been spotted, then they are to get back to the main body of the army.  They would be no match for the rested filth on horseback that were sent here by that disgusting priest.  Sand Piper, do you think you could send a flying fairy up every so often, just to give us a better picture of how the Sorcerer’s men have organised themselves.”
“It will be my pleasure, Marina, and I am glad to see that you are full of energy once more, ready for the battle ahead.”
“Then I think we ought to mount up and get on our way.”
They were an hour into the journey when Warrior spoke.  “I am glad to see that you’re back to your lively self, Marina.  There is no reason to push so hard.  Things in the Realms of the gods are done in a more leisurely manner.  The gods have heard your prayers and have spoken, and I am to tell you that in no way are you a burden to them.  Your army know that you need a certain amount of rest each day, and they are thankful to be resting also.  Your army is loyal and will follow you to the ends of the universe to help you complete this task.  That briefing this morning with sharp, decisive orders showed everyone here that you are up to scratch.  You showed them that you had not lost your energy.”
“Knowing for certain that death is imminent takes a lot out of me.  I have to push myself over that hill every time I open my eyes.  It is always in the back of my mind, but I can now handle it better.  The Sorcerer will show his hand today, I am certain, but if I can, I will give him a real surprise.”
“What makes you so certain he will show his hand today, Marina?”
“I can feel it in my body.  He will either be there himself or he will send an envoy.  I have dreams while sleeping, and some I disregard, but others I know are going to take place.  I dreamt last night that Oberon will visit the army today or tomorrow, and I hope he does, because I have a few words to say to that bad fairy.”
“What do you know about Oberon, Marina?”
“I know that he is king of the fairies and leader of the bad elves.  He resides in the Underworld, and he has evil or real bad tendencies.  He owes me big time, and I will show him what I think of him when we meet.”
Warrior was looking at the fire in her eyes, and decided he would not push her to find out why she felt that way.  If the meeting took place, which he doubted, he would find out then.  He had met Oberon on several occasions, and she was right in saying he had evil intentions; he was purely and simply a bad fairy.
“I have a theory about the Sorcerer.  I don’t think he is what he makes himself out to be.”
“Are you going to tell me this theory, Marina?”
“Well, if what we know about him is correct, then he was about during the Romanov era.  He probably did have very strong powers or magic then, and all people that were about then lived in fear of them.  I believe that his power is only his arrogance, with a forceful and threatening nature.  He aggressively gives his orders to his subordinates to give them the feeling of uncertainty.  He is a cheap magician, and no different from the ones you see moving cars and planes in the cinemas.”
“What are you getting at, Marina?”
“He is not a one off, but one of many.  His only claim to fame is the fact that he has evil intent, and he is nothing more than a common thief.  Think about it.  If he were a powerful person with all the knowledge of the universe, then why is he still behind the army that will defeat him?”
Marina saw the small cloud of dust coming towards them and stopped the army.  It was Brandon that said, “It is the advance patrol returning with a small army of elves in pursuit.”
On hearing this, Warrior looked at Marina and saw a glint of a smile on her face.  The patrol pulled up, and the leader said, “It is Oberon, with at least a hundred elves.”
Marina looked at the expression on Warrior’s face, and she laughed.  “Works every time.  I wish to talk with him, Warrior.”
“I am in your army, Marina, but I will be close by.”
Oberon stopped his horse a few yards from the army, feeling confident, smiling, and full of himself.  “Warrior, we meet again...”
Marina interrupted, “If you want to talk, you creep, then you talk to me.  This is my army, and you, at this moment, are in my way.  Now either get out of the way or be pushed aside.  We have better places to be than looking at you all day.”
“Who are you?  How dare you call me names?  I am Oberon, King of the Fairies.”
“You are king of nothing, and I am Marina, leader of this army.  That is an undeniable fact.”
“Marina?  The soldiers said they had killed you.”
“Well, that goes to prove that the Mongolians are still a lying bunch of heathens, and you are still the same evil little thief doing others’ dirty work.  You have the gall to sit there on your horse telling us that you are King of the Fairies and leader of these elves, yet at the moment their true leader is behind us somewhere.  Yes, the Sorcerer is their Leader, and you are just his minion, bowing and scraping as you try to do his dirty work.”
She could see the elves behind Oberon staring at her and starting to whisper to each other.  “Yes, you elves behind this clown that calls himself your leader, he doesn’t give a damn about you or whether you live or die, because he is immortal and will come back to life if he dies.”  There was more whispers, and louder now, and Marina was smiling.
“I will teach you to call me names by destroying you,” and Oberon went for his sword.
Marina took everyone by surprise by moving forward.  With one hand she grabbed Oberon by the hair on his head and with the other she had an axe at his throat.  “Don’t even breathe, if you don’t wish to die.  I have a few things I wish to say to you, and you had better listen.  When I was small my mother said that you were the thieving shit that sent the elves to steal my dolls and toys, and my mother never lied.  I also know that the law says a King cannot kill a mortal, and I am a mortal, but for the life of me I can’t remember one about a mortal not killing a King.  Now, at the moment you are disrupting a very good conversation I was having with Warrior.  Can your elves disappear as fast as they appeared?”
“Yes”
“Well, unless you have a death wish and no longer want to be King of the Fairies, then you had better tell them to do so, and be quick.”
Oberon clicked his fingers and his army disappeared.
“Good Fairy.  Now I want you to run along and tell your master the Sorcerer that I will see him in Hell before he overthrows the gods and the Realms.
“You can tell him also that I will be here waiting for his decrepit little body to appear in front of my army to do battle.”
Marina pushed Oberon away and replaced her axe as her horse moved back out of Oberon’s reach.  Oberon was clearly shaken and sat looking at them, speechless.
“Go on, disappear, you disgusting creature, or we will ride right over you.”
Oberon did that very thing, and as he disappeared Marina looked at Warrior, smiling.  “I feel a lot better now.  Nothing like a little action to get the adrenalin circulating.”  The army behind her cheered, and she added, “I think it is about to get a little interesting, Warrior.”
“It is a fact, I believe,” he replied, and once again they moved forward.

* * * * *

Hild reported to the gods at midday.  She had just told them of the meeting with Oberon and how Marina had dreamed of the meeting.  Then she stepped aside and stood waiting for another command.
Thor stood up.  “It seems that the correct nourishment worked, and the young warrior has got her fire back.  She actually manhandled Oberon and sent him back to where he came from.  She has started to organise her army also.  Everything she has done so far has been commendable.”
He sat down, and the Goddess Jord took the floor.  “So, Marina can foretell the immediate future in her dreams.  It seems we find something new about this warrior every day.  She shows no fear, yet I can only think that she is afraid of the future and her will to see the end battle is driving her forward.  She must know that the demise of the Sorcerer will also be her own demise.
“You may leave, Valkyrie, to monitor the outer world once more.”

* * * * *

“Warrior, would you lead the army for a while.  I wish to talk to the Valkron,” and as Marina slipped back among the Valkron, Warrior moved over to take her place.
Drusilla came up beside Warrior.  “Marina seems like a different person today, Warrior.  She is very fast with her movements and weapons, and I have noticed that she is also very accurate with the axe.”
“Yes, she is all of those things, and also very intelligent.  She has wisdom far beyond what I thought possible.  She was playing with the elves today.  She was filling their minds with nonsense, and the elves with little intelligence believed her.  She rubbished him in front of them.  Her knowledge of mythology is astounding, but I think that she has believed in the gods for a very long time.
“I have been checking her feelings with my senses now and again, but there is no feeling of hate when she talks about the Sorcerer.  I sense no regret when she talks about her oncoming demise.  The way she dealt with Oberon showed him the power she has.  She had no need to physically hurt him because she knew that she could hurt him mentally, and it would be a blemish on his character for a very long time.  She was using him as a go between, and showing the Sorcerer her intent.”
“She does not seem too worried about the Sorcerer’s powers, or are his powers unreal?”
“No, they are real, but she seems to regard him as a fake and I am not going to try to change her way of thinking.”
The army rode on for a long time and when Marina was back in the front, Brandon said, “The Spire of Time is to our front.”
Marina looked ahead and saw a little pimple on the landscape in the distance.  “How far ahead is that, Brandon?”
“No more than half a day’s ride, Marina.”
“Then we will stop and rest here.  There is no point in trying to take it before daylight tomorrow.”  She could hear the army dismounting and when she looked around they were walking their horses to their designated areas.  She turned and faced forward, looking towards the Spire of Time as it faded into the night.  Warrior looked at her sitting on the horse proudly, and he could see that she was having time to herself.  He turned away.
“My Lords, I have come a long way and it is almost the end of my journey.  I see battles ahead, and I know in my heart we will be victorious.  I am not so complacent as to think it will not be a hard struggle, and life will be lost and wasted on both sides.  I would like to say now that I only have the safety and well being of the gods in mind.  I feel no hate towards the Sorcerer, only pity, as his simple mind cannot grasp the fact that he is attempting the impossible.  It is my regret that I will not die fighting, for if this happens then I have failed in my quest to vanquish the Sorcerer from this time, space and place.  I will be alive to see his plans in ruins and the Sorcerer on his way to his final resting place, where I hope he gets very little for the chaos he has caused my Earth.  I have no regrets, as my short life has been full, and I can go to my grave with my head held high.  Before I rest for the evening, I would just like to thank the Goddess Jord for letting me ride her fine horse, and also for the weapons that will be invaluable to me in my twilight battles.”
Marina turned her horse, rode towards the others and dismounted, and then walking amongst her army she spoke to them.  “In the morning when we move away from our final camp, I think we can all be sure that there are at least five hundred Mongolian horsemen ready to fight back.  We must not be complacent, but at the same time we cannot allow these inferior horsemen to hold us up.  It is they that have had it easy, and it is they that will be complacent, because they will not be expecting an army to attack them.  They will most probably be a disorganised rabble, if the others we have destroyed are anything to go by.
“I must remind you that all mortals that fall here must be dead.  They cannot remain in this place even if they survive their injuries.  To all of you that have served me in this army that I may never see again, I salute you and thank you.  May tomorrow be a victorious battle so that we can keep the Stepping Stones to the Gods sacred.  That is all.  Have a good night.”
They watched as she walked over to the tigers and lay between them.  It was not long before her eyes closed.
Brandon asked, “What was all that about?”
Before Warrior could answer, Drusilla said, “She was saying goodbye.”

* * * * *

Hild decided it was time to report to the gods.  She appeared in the Well of Urd and informed the gods word for word what Marina had said both in prayer and to the army, and also what Drusilla had said.
Odin looked up to the Council and asked, “Are there any remarks?” but there were none.  “Then may the blessings of the gods in their entirety be with Marina through the next few days.”

* * * * *

The morning arrived and Marina’s meal was waiting, and while she was eating she asked, “Warrior, I have been thinking.  I don’t think there are that many troops at the Spire of Time.  I was running over and over through my mind what I saw the first day.  I think now that there were no more than two hundred that rode forward, if that.  I think in my shock of finding myself here my judgement wavered.  Okay, Oberon was in front of us, but was that by design or by accident, accident meaning that he was on his way to meet the Sorcerer?  He seemed to me to look very shaken up when he realised it was you looking back at him.
“The other thing is that I doubt Oberon would leave any elves with the men, as he is so arrogant that he would want to control all the elves himself.  I suspect that that even the Sorcerer would not have thought we would be so far in front of him, or there was an army at all, because he was expecting just to walk in and open the door.  He had a good idea that the gods would not know he had the knowledge of where the Stepping Stones and the entrance to the Realms are, because the trouble I had finding out was unbelievable.  There might not even be anyone there, because he would not want to telegraph his plans for fear of a reception committee.”
“There is a lot of logic in what you say, Marina, and I’m inclined to agree, but it would still be wise to approach the Spire of Time with caution.”
Marina walked towards her horse and looked up at the warm sun.  “The sun is shining, the air is fresh, the Sorcerer is on the losing side, and it’s a great day for a battle.  Mount up and follow me to my destiny.”  Marina mounted her horse, and then she drew a sword and pointed it to the heavens.  “Whether we stand or fall, we will not let the Stepping Stones to the Gods fall into the hands of the Sorcerer.”
There was a big cheer as she rode to the front of the army, and Warrior looked at Brandon, who was smiling.  “Allow her some days of enjoyment, Warrior.  She is like a breath of fresh air.”
Brandon and Warrior caught up with the army and were now in their rightful place and still moving forward.  The Spire of Time was a way off, but it now towered above the skyline.  There was a large, swirling dust cloud in front of the army, and Marina stopped them.  The dust began to settle and an apparition began to form.  When the shaking stopped, the Sorcerer was looking at her.
“So you think you have out smarted me, girl.  Well, I have in mind to send you somewhere else.  I could put a spell on you that not even the gods can remove.”
“Do shut up, you old fool, and get to the point.  You’re stopping my army getting a bit of rest while we wait for you to arrive.”
“How dare you talk to me like that,” and he pointed a finger at Marina.
“Don’t you shout at me and point your finger.  You are going to do nothing, and in fact you can’t send me anywhere.  The priest was yours, and my passport to the outer world, but unfortunately you decided to leave him behind with his book of cheap magic.  You are a charlatan, a cheap circus magician, and to prove a point I will show you magic.”  Everyone watched as she pulled up her sleeves, folded her hands together, and when she opened them a bird flew out.
“Do you know what is magic about that cheap trick, Sorcerer?  Well, it is the fact that there are no birds in the outer world.  You will not put a spell on me or send me anywhere, because I sense that you are an angry man that wants to destroy me with your own two hands.  You have thrown down the gauntlet, so I will pick it up, and when you get here I will do exactly what I am going to do now.”
There was anger and hatred in his voice as he asked, “And what is that, you warrior whore?”
Marina gave a loud laugh.  “Walk all over you, Sorcerer,” and with that she rode through the apparition.
Brandon was smiling at Warrior.  “I like her, Warrior.  She has a great sense of stating the obvious and doing just that.”
They went a short way further, and then Marina stopped them once more.  “Sand Piper, would you send a fairy up, but not too close, and see if the Sorcerer’s men can be seen.”  It seemed an age before the fairy came back and reported that he could see nothing.
Marina addressed the army.  “I would like you to split yourselves up into blocks of fifty.  Each block will equal numbers of fairies of both types, elves and Valkron.  Archers, I want you all in one block, and I want you to go to the right of that hill over there,” and she pointed to her right.  “I think that whatever or whoever is there, they are hiding and will come out at speed, hoping to frighten us away.  If I put up my hand, then I wish to see you shoot three arrows each at the attacking horsemen.  I am going forward with only two groups, as I think that will be enough to draw them out.  The remainder of you, rest unless I get into trouble and call you.  There is no reason to waste our strength.”
The archers rode off, and Marina slowly rode forward with a group either side, Brandon, Drusilla and Topaz were giving her all-round protection.  They had only ridden a few hundred paces when there were screams and shouts, and about sixty horsemen came charging towards them.  Marina stopped the groups and waited, and then when she thought the attackers were in the ideal position she lifted her arm.  The sky went dark as three flights of arrows left the bowmen, and in seconds there were the screams of the unprotected fallen.  By the time the charging mass reached Marina, there was no more than twenty left.  Marina drew her swords, slicing outwards at the same time and taking the heads off the first two Mongolian horsemen, and the others were dealt with as swiftly.  Marina’s army had suffered no losses, and as she motioned them to advance she said, “Show the dying mercy by sending them to Hell.  Let no mortal live.”
Marina and the two groups rode cautiously forward, knowing there was still time for a surprise, but they stopped their horses a hundred paces from the Spire of Time.
“Villias, take your group all the way round the Spire of Time.  Be cautious, as we don’t want any surprises.”
Villias rode off, and after some considerable time he returned on the other side of the Spire and he rode back to Marina.  “There is not a horseman to be seen, Marina.”
“Then send a runner to bring the rest of the army here.”
They waited until the rest of the army closed in to the Spire.  Marina had the army completely surrounding the Spire, so that they would not be surprised from any direction.
“Villias, I would like two of your best lookouts to go over to the hill that the archers were on.  We have to know when the Sorcerer is near.”
There was another small hill to their left, fifty paces in front of the last man.  “I want all the archers behind that hill and await my command,” and then as Marina looked across where they had travelled, she realised that all the soldiers that had been killed had disappeared.
Warrior walked over, knowing what she was looking at and what she was thinking.  “That will never happen to you, Marina.  Only the evil disappear to hell.”
They stood looking into the distance for some time, and then the lookouts shouted and returned.  They galloped to the stones and dismounted.  “The Sorcerer and his army are about three thousand paces away, Marina,” one of them told her.
“Then it will not be long before he arrives, but I would very much doubt that he would start anything before morning.”
It was at that moment that a beam of light appeared in front of the army.
“What is this, Warrior?”
“It is a Creator, and they are higher than the gods.”
“So you are this mortal Warrior that dares to lead an army in the outer world.”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“I have seen enough and this has gone on too long.  There are laws stating that a mortal cannot fight in the outer world.  So what have you got to say about that?”
“Well, as I had no idea of this law, my Lord, I can’t really say a lot, can I?”
“Mortals are not even allowed to be in the outer world, and you have no right coming here.”
“I never asked to come here, my Lord.  I was posted here, for want of a better word, by one of your bent priests.”
“He was not one of my priests, Marina, and is this the way a person should be pleading for her life?”
“That’s rich.  Now you tell me that, after I’ve been standing here wondering where all this was leading.  As a matter of interest, is it a fact that all the mortals that come to the outer world are eliminated, my Lord.”
“Yes that is a fact.  No mortal has ever gone back to Midgard alive.  I cannot remember one ever coming here before you.”
“Then let’s be serious, my Lord.  What would be the point of me pleading?”
“You should be pleading to try to get me to change my mind.”
“Would you change your mind, my Lord?”
“I might,”
Marina looked at him, her heart racing, and then she pulled the axes and knives from her belt and threw them to the ground.  “I am a fighter, my Lord, and I will die with my head held high and not as a beggar.  I will never beg for anything, not even my life.  If you cannot give me my life free of charge, then I don’t want to be part of your universe.”
A beam shot out and struck her below the eye, knocking her on her back.  She felt her body and realised that she was still alive.  Then, looking over her feet, she found that she could still see the Creator, so she thought she had better get back up.
“You are now The Battle Warrior to the Gods, and your work will be never-ending.  You are part of me, and wherever you go then so too do I.  I have given you the knowledge to defeat this Sorcerer and take him to my prison where he will remain for all time.  You alone can do this, as you have the real power of the Stone.  You have all the powers of the cults at your disposal.  Follow your instincts; they and I will never let you down.  I have been watching you, and you are clever in that you do not allow the Sorcerer’s tricks to sour your mind.  It was not the priest that sent you here, it was me.  The priest said words that had no effect on anything.  Your gods are still in Asgard, so now win this battle, Marina, and get this mess cleaned up.”
Marina bowed her head.  “Thank you, my Lord.”
“Hmm.  I wonder if you will still be thanking me in a ten thousand years time.  One more thing, Marina: you can never do anything wrong, but you might make a mistake.  There is an equal amount of purity to stop you going over to the dark side.  From now on you will wear my colours and carry the mark of the Creators,” and with those words her uniform changed to a rich purple shirt with black trousers, and her cloak was purple on the inside and black on the outside.
The Creator moved in front of Warrior.  “Warrior, our war is at an end, and the reason is that there are far too many Dark Storms.  You will at times be working together, but the ultimate evil is hers to destroy or neutralise.”
Everyone bowed as the Creator faded.
Marina looked at the people around her, and said, “Well, nothing has changed.  The Sorcerer is still on his way.  We will have to stay alert at all times now, because he will throw everything at us.”
She went to pick up her weapons, but realised they were on her belt.  She checked them, and found that even they had changed.  “Wow, this is going to take some getting used to.”
Warrior walked across and asked, “Do you want Merlin at all, Marina?”
She looked at him and said, “No, not yet, unless I need to get at the Sorcerer from two sides.  Tell me, Warrior, what is a battle warrior?”
“I read about you in the Pages of Time.  You are the ultimate force against the powerful evil.  The Sorcerer is out of my league and too powerful for me, because you can only fight magic with magic.  You are leading this battle, and you will be the ultimate victor.  You have probably the most powerful Creators as your mentor, and he will never let you be defeated.  As the evil gets stronger then you will get stronger with it.  I fight wars and destroy the lightweights, but the ones you wage war on are only slightly less powerful than the Creators themselves.
“You knew the Sorcerer was powerful but you didn’t want the army to know.  Oberon was not in fear of me, he was in fear of you.  You already had a few powers, but you were unsure.  The speed you moved when speaking to Oberon was faster than the eye.  I will give you fair warning now, Marina, that the gods will treat you with caution because your power is immense compared to mine, and they are already nervous about me.”




CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Valkyrie Hild told the gods what had happened, and she waited at the side of the Council chambers.
“So, Marina is a battle warrior now, and we are not sure what powers the Creators have given her.  We have no idea if she can handle her new powers.  Is she a force that we should fear?  Will we need to treat her with caution?”
Lord Forsetti rose to his feet.  “This presents a very different situation.  It might be best if she has no reason to be in the Well of Urd while we are conducting business.
“She has knowledge of the occult, and that means she is a dangerous person to have around.  I believe it would be only fair that she should pick a god from another Realm.”
Then Lord Thor added, “The way she spoke to her own Creator shows the lack of respect she has for authority.”
The Goddess Jord stood up, and said, “I don’t believe I am hearing this conversation.  You are actually shunning the one and only person that can save the Realms.”
Lord Thor stood up as the Goddess sat down.  “I think we should vote on whether she should have a god from Asgard or whether she should search for another.”
There was low murmuring around the Well of Urd from the gods and goddesses, and Odin said, “Silence!  It is a sad day when I ask this: all those gods in favour of the Battle Warrior Marina finding another god from another Realm, stand.”  There was a rustle of clothing.  “All those against, stand,” and only the Goddess Jord and a few others were standing.  “Motion carried.”  He looked at the Valkyrie.  “Inform Marina through the Valkron.”
“It is being done as we speak, my Lord.”
Not only did the Valkron hear the judgement but so too did Warrior.  He looked over towards Brandon and took a step forward towards Marina.  “There is no need to tell me, Warrior.  I heard it for myself.  It seems that you are correct: the gods are in fear of me and my knowledge.  I have not the time to worry about trivialities at the moment, as there are things of greater importance going on in my mind.
“Deacon, your powers of the barrier: how far does it reach and how wide is it?”
He walked up to her and she could see that he was now a little nervous.  “I am not going to eat you, Deacon, and you may still call me Marina.”
“I can place it one hundred paces in front and it will cover half the width of our defences, Marina.”
“I think the Sorcerer has upwards of two thousand riders, and that is not counting Oberon and his elves.  He will most probably send a force to attack us to test our strength, but it will be a failed attempt.  I know all his secrets, and his mind is mine to read and to play with.”
Warrior walked across, asking once more, “Are you sure that you don’t need Merlin, Marina?  That is an awful lot of horsemen.  If he sent them all in at the same time we would be overwhelmed.”
“Warrior, have faith in your gods and the Creators that guide us.  He is less than five hundred paces away and itching to show me his power, and in a short while he will show himself over that brow.  Villias, go and tell the archers not to move and await my command.  They are quite safe; I give them my word.”
It was as Marina predicted.  The amassed army stood on the brow of the hill.  Marina watched as a lone rider rode down towards them.  He stopped in front of Marina.  “The Sorcerer says that if you step aside with your tiny army he will not let you feel too much pain when he destroys you.”
“Oh dear, that sounds awful.  Well, you go back up there to the Sorcerer, and you tell him that if he wishes to do battle with me one to one, then he should step out of the shadows.  However, I feel like playing with him for a while, because I would like to try out a few things on him.  I have some new toys to play with, and I do hope that horrible King Oberon is with him, only I told him to disappear today, and it means he has defied me.”
“You will be sorry you said that, because now he will throw all that he has at you.”
“I am so pleased that he is so generous, so go and tell him I am ready when he is.”
They all watched as the rider went back to the brow of the hill.  “How do you place the barrier, Deacon?”
“I just point my finger and it happens, but I can only hold it for a short while.”
“Don’t worry, because with my help we can make it last a lot longer.”
There was not long to wait as they could see at least five hundred riders racing down the hill towards them.  There was a murmur rushing around the Spire.  “Point two hundred paces in front, Deacon.”  He did as Marina ordered, and watched as she held his hand and smiled.  The leading horses smashed into the invisible barrier, and there were screams and shouts from men and beasts as the pile got higher.  There were now men lying all over the ground and horses running loose, and they watched as the dead horses and men disappeared.  When the attacking army had turned and returned to the top in disarray, Marina let go of Deacon’s hand.
“Thank you, Deacon.  As a point of interest, do you practice with that barrier?”
“No, Marina.  There has not been any reason to do so.”
“There is reason now for all the Valkron to practice their powers.  It was for times like this that they were given to you.”  Marina stepped back to where Warrior was standing.  “Warrior would you look after my army, only I have to go somewhere.”
“Don’t be too hard on them, Marina.”
Marina faded and reappeared inside the Well of Urd.  There were gasps throughout the chamber.  Lord Thor jumped up out of his seat.  “How dare you come into these chambers unannounced?”
Lord Odin asked, “What is the meaning of this outrage?”
“The only outrage, my Lord Odin, is the one that you and the gods have just pulled.  You dare tell me to go and beg a god to be my god?  I beg for nothing from anyone.  I can assure you that if I will not beg for my life, I most certainly will not beg for a god.  Why you have need to fear me, I have no idea.  It is for your Realms that I am fighting this battle, and that has been so from the start.  I have asked for nothing from you and I have been given all, so I will take this insult as a mistake on your part.
“The God I choose will want me for who I am and what I have done for the Realms.  However, he or she might not be from Asgard.  I will leave you to debate on my outrageous behaviour, but one more thing before I go: I would like to thank the Goddess Jord for going against the vote, and I need no Valkyrie to tell me what took place or who said what, Lord Thor.  I would also like to thank you, my Lady, for the food, weapons and the horse that aided my survival.”
The Goddess Jord stood up.  “You are more than welcome, Marina, and you can always visit me.”
“Thank you, my Lady, and you, my Lord Odin.”  Marina bowed and faded.
Thor stood up but before he could speak Odin cut him short.  “Sit down, my Lord Thor.  That which was spoken by Marina was from the Creator, her real mentor, and I feel ashamed.  I do not wish to hear any more about The Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina.  She may also visit Asgard at her pleasure.  If you, my Lady,” looking at the Goddess Jord, “Wish to be her goddess, then there are no restrictions.”

* * * * *

Marina reappeared near Warrior, but she did not talk about what had happened.  “The Sorcerer will do nothing until the morning, Warrior.  He did not expect his first attack to be so easily defeated, and he is uncertain of my strength.”
“Marina, the bird?”
She gave a little laugh.  “I was taught that by a circus magician.  It was nothing but illusion and the power of suggestion.  You only see what you expect to see, but in fact there was nothing in my hands and no bird.”
“The Sorcerer has many men at his disposal, Marina.  Has he already duplicated?”
“No, Warrior, those are all from Midgard.  Now I know that he never had that many when I first came here, so I think it might be advisable to find out how he got those men up here.  That priest and his chanting would not do it, because he has already met his demise.”
She saw the look of realisation on Warrior’s face,
“Yes, I know that he killed himself to escape punishment, but all that did was to send him to his own Hell for all time.  To send the number of men that the Sorcerer has here means that he has another book of scriptures more powerful than the Apocalypse Papers, and there must also be a powerful priest.  He must be found, Warrior, and destroyed before he sends more here.  I am afraid that the section will be no good to find this priest.  You might try asking the person that the first book was stolen from for advice.  That is the only clue I can give you, because these evil scriptures are ancient.  One other thing, Warrior: I will be called to Asgard once more soon, so you need to find that priest with the scriptures.”
Warrior faded, and Marina turned to the army defending the Spire of Time.  “Beings of the outer world and Valkron, this battle will be unlike any you have ever seen.  Your only purpose in being here is to defend the gateway, and there is no reason to fear anything you see, because unless you fall over and hit your head you will not get hurt.  This Sorcerer is a very powerful magician and has many tricks, but the only way he can be defeated is by using his magic against him and tiring him out.  I am far more powerful than he is, with many more tricks, but you have no need to fear me.  We have ridden a long way together and I will not let you down in the final conflict.  The Sorcerer will not do anything before dawn, as his power is limited at night.
“Topaz, your gift of light will be used many times in this conflict, and I wish you to be with me at all times on this battlefront.  Brandon, Drusilla, along with Topaz you are in charge of the army while I fight this Sorcerer, but there will be very little to do except to keep them calm.  I am being called to Asgard, but I can see the battlefield even while I am there.  I can be back here at the blink of an eye.  You and the rest of the Valkron are the celestial army, and fighting the evil is why you are here.”
Marina faded and appeared outside the gates of the Well of Urd.  Odin saw her and beckoned her in.
She walked in and looked around the Council of Gods, making note of who they were and where they were sitting.  “My Lord Odin, what has taken place cannot be undone, but a line has already been drawn.  The Realms are under siege and the Sorcerer is champing at the bit to enter the Spire of Time.  It will never happen.  His power is immense and only just falls short of the Creators’ power, but his arrogance and stupidity will be his downfall.  There are many worlds out there, and they all have their Dark Storms or Sorcerers that wish to rule in place of the gods.  They have to be destroyed or neutralised.
“On Zelta, Warrior was very lucky that Dark Storm had not realised his full potential.  He was already more powerful than all the good gods combined.  It was for that reason I was created and given the powers that I now have, so that Warrior can go about his work policing the universe.  Don’t for one minute think that I am evil because I know the occults in their entirety; that would be a long way from the truth.
“You are a god of war, my Lord Odin, so does this mean you wish to war with the other gods and Realms?  I know you fear me because of my Creator, but the Warlock is no more.  Be in no doubt, though, that you will see my Creator many times, even if it is through me.  What you see and hear of what is taking place in the outer world will not end overnight.  I will toy with the Sorcerer until his power is expended, and then I will imprison him with his own magic so that he will never be seen again.  One other thing, my Lords: I wish to be called by my name: Marina.”
Marina stopped talking and waited for their response.  “Thank you, Marina.  You have been very informative,” Odin told her.  Then looking to the gods, he asked, “Are there any questions?”
There was a silence, and then the Goddess Jord rose from her seat.  “Marina, you may dedicate your battles to me, if you wish, until you have the god of your choice.”
Marina watched her sit down, and replied, “Thank you, my Lady.”  She looked at Odin, and added, “If there is nothing more, my Lord?  Then I ask you for leave to return to my army.  The Sorcerer will soon be getting restless.”
“Yes, Marina.  Go with the blessings of the gods in their entirety.”
As Marina faded, Odin looked up.  “I think we all now have a clearer picture of what Marina, Battle Warrior to the Gods is all about.  I will not dwell on this subject any longer.  If that is all the business for the day, then we will retire.”

* * * * *

Warrior was in Rome once more, but now he had a Valkyrie at his side.  He appeared in front of the Pope’s desk.  The Pope looked up and saw Warrior.  “Is there another problem, Warrior?”
“Yes, Your Eminence.  There is a book relating to the outer world, with chants, poems and the like.  The one in question is more dangerous than the fake I recovered, and I believe that it is being used as we speak.”
The Pope looked to the priest next to him.  “Thomas, would you go and get Father Peter.  He might be able to shed light on your quest.”  As Thomas was walking out, the Pope looked to Warrior.  “Your work is never ending, Warrior, and I think that Father Peter is the right priest for you to be talking with.  He has a photographic memory, and he knows where all the books are in the vaults.”
“Interesting.  Does he also read the books?”
“No, he is too young and he has not yet learned the old language.  In fact, he has not yet studied it at all.  I know what you are thinking, Warrior, and I assure you that a photographic memory would be no good.”
Warrior smiled.  “I have to cover all the angles.”
Thomas came back in, accompanied by a young priest who could not have been more than twenty years old.  “You wish to talk with me, Your Eminence?”
“No, but this person does.  Give him all the help and information and respect that you would afford me.”
“A book relating to the outer world,” Warrior told the young priest.  “I need to look at it.”
“Yes, I know which vault that is in.  If you will follow me then I will take you to it.  May I have the key to vault number three?”
He took the key from the Pope and led Warrior out of the room and down a flight of stairs.  They walked up to a big oak door and he used the key to enter, and as soon as they were in the room he walked over to a lectern.  “That is strange.  We never leave books open for fear of contamination.”  Warrior looked, and saw an open book on the lectern.
“What is the book, priest?”
“It is a book that describes the Realms and the keywords that are used to enter, but why would Father Mc Donald want to read that?”
“Who is Father Mc Donald?”
“He is a high order priest whose task is to copy the old script into today’s language.  He left some weeks ago and His Eminence was not too pleased about it.  Do you wish to see the book that you asked about, or the transcripts?”
“Do you mean they have already been copied?”
“All the books in this vault have been copied.  I will get you the transcripts of the book you wanted.  As you see, the book is there on the shelf,” and he pointed to a thick binder, and then walked over to make sure he had the right one.  Warrior watched as the priest then went to a shelf and removed a pile of papers, bringing them back to the table.  He looked through the papers and said, “I must inform His Eminence that something has gone missing.”
“What is missing, priest?”
“The third parchment is missing.”
“What is in the third parchment?”
“I don’t know, but we can find out,” and he walked across to the book and brought it back to the table.  The priest opened the book and went through the pages, and then stopped.  “This is the part that is missing, Sir.”
“What is it about?”
The priest laughed.  “I have no idea.  I struggled to learn Italian, and it will be many years before I can read this script.”
Warrior touched him on the shoulder but could feel no evil.  He smiled at the priest and looked at the pages.  “How did you know when to stop at the right page if you can’t read what’s written, priest?”
“There is a mark on the corner of the page to the start of each parchment, and I counted three in.”
There was not a language that Warrior could not read, either old or new.  He read through the twenty pages in quick time.  Each one had a different chant or spell on it, but the most interesting was the transportation spell.  It could be used either inside the outer world or on Earth.  The final spell took even Warrior by surprise, and he closed the book.  “Lock the door, priest, and take the key back.  I will go and see His Eminence and inform him of the loss.”
Moments later, Warrior was once more with the Pontiff.  “It seems that once again your security has been careless.  A transcript of a parchment has been stolen, but don’t think about looking for it because it is not in this part of the world now.”  Warrior smiled, and disappeared.
Warrior read Yuri’s report, and he was back on the mountain where Yuri had thrown the body.  Warrior knew without looking that there would be no body of the priest.  There were the bodies of three others, partially covered in snow, but they were what was left of the third evil group.
He faded and reappeared outside the Well of Urd, and on seeing him Odin called him in.  “You have news, Warrior, and by the look of your face it is not good.  The floor is yours.”
“The priest that we thought had died on the mountain is not dead.  He is alive in the outer world with the Sorcerer.  I can’t say too much, because until I talk with Marina I know very little of how this works myself.”
Lord Forsetti stood up, and asked, “Is there nothing you can do, Warrior, or are we relying on Marina for our protection now?”
Warrior looked at him as he sat down.  “I am not sure what you’re getting at, my Lord, but it seems that I have to clear up a few things.  I am the bridge between good and evil, and I keep the status quo by holding the balance.  I fight wars against the evil that wish they were gods and who work with the evil gods.  These mortals are weighing the balance down on one side, and I put it right by destroying that evil.
“Marina, on the other hand, is a battle warrior and will fight the evil gods or their pretenders.  Be under no illusion, because she has extreme, real power that is but a hair’s breadth off being as powerful as her Creator.  I was very lucky in defeating Dark Storm, because, like the Sorcerer, he was a freak of nature.  Their powers and magic are far more real than the evil magicians that I come across, and it will take Marina’s cool head to defeat them.  She is in no need of added distractions, as her mind works at full speed continually.
“I am sure that the Valkyrie informed the Council of what her Creator said to her: “Win the Battle Marina and clear up the mess.”  To say that, means he has full confidence in her to defeat the Sorcerer, and it was he that picked her out and carried her to the outer world.  Leaving her to find her own way was a test of her strength and resolve, and she did not let him down.  The Valkron are hers to lead, and the next time you see them they too will be in the colours of Marina’s Creator.  It is written in the Pages of Time, but, my Lord Odin, you knew all of this before she arrived in the outer world.”
Odin smiled at Warrior.
The Council was silent, and Warrior spoke directly to Odin.  “With your permission, my Lord.”
“Yes, Warrior, and go with the gods’ blessings.”
As Warrior faded, Odin smiled.  He returned to his seat and sat down.

* * * * *

Warrior appeared next to Marina.  “I have some bad news for you.  The book that the priest had was a fake, and he was not pretending to send you to the outer world but actually sending himself.  The spell had already been cast to make him look dead, and I have checked on the mountains and there is no body.  The Sorcerer still has the means to draw soldiers from the surface of Midgard and bring them here.  He also has the scriptures that were stolen from Rome.  They are transcripts of the real book, and they are powerful chants mixed with what the Sorcerer knows.  I will go back down to Midgard in a moment and see if I can put a stop to the recruitment.
“It will be light soon, and the Sorcerer will have had all night to think of a plan.  I heard horses moving last night.  I am not sure, but they sounded as if they were galloping away from the area.”
It was then that Warrior’s Creators appeared.  “Warrior, Elfdom Castle is under attack by the mortal invaders.  The Queen is holding them off, but it is a hard battle being fought.”  The Creators faded without saying more.
“Take the six Valkron I give you, Warrior.  It must have been those horses that I heard last night.  Those men and horses must be tired if they have ridden all that way in a matter of a few hours.  I will be fine here, as I have it all under control.  His plan is to split our forces, not realising that I have no need of your presence in my battle with him.  You might need Merlin yourself before this day is over.  Warrior, be very careful.  If he has those incantations then he can put some really bad things in front of you.  If it is magic, then don’t try to kill whatever it is.  Get Merlin; he should be able to deal with things, as long as they are not multiplied.”
As Warrior faded, the apparition appeared.  It was the Sorcerer and he was trying to intimidate Marina with his stare.  “So you use your silly magic tricks on me, thinking that I will give up and go back home.  Well, they won’t work, because I have someone, and his papers that you thought was long gone.  I see no Warrior with you, so I can only assume you are on your own.  That little barrier the gods placed is not there any more, and I have other things far worse than riders.  It is you with the cheap magic.  I see that you have on your stage costume, but your tricks will not work on me.”
“Why don’t you realise, Sorcerer, that you are never going to sit in place of the gods and there is no possible way you can pass my defences.  Just come down here and give yourself up, and I will take you to your prison.  I can also tell you that I know the priest is with you and that he has some silly chants of his own.  I don’t need chants to stop you, and by the time I have finished with you, you will be on your knees, or I will have you running down that hill begging me to forgive you, asking me to give you peace.”
“I will show you real power, you mortal whore.  I will destroy you and then enter the Realms.  I will be using my vast knowledge of the occult to destroy you, and it will be you begging me to free your soul.”
“Wow, I do hope you use your vast knowledge, as I am in need of some entertainment while I wait for you to burn out.  I wonder if you can function as well without the priest, because there is already a place booked for him in Hvergelmir, and the serpent Nidhog is waiting for him.  You, however, will not get the luxury of a serpent as company, but in ten thousand years time you will wish you were dead.”
The apparition disappeared, and Marina was left alone, now deep in thought.  Her Creator appeared.  “You have a question, Marina?”
“Yes, my Lord, and I am sorry for bothering you, but I am not used to this Pages of Time thing.  How long can a mortal stay in the outer world before he perishes?
“Five days, Marina, but why is that important?”
“Because, my Lord, it has been that amount of time since the mortal invaders first came here, and it is for that reason he has the priest.  He needs to get a new army every five days, and I would think that the priest has used the immortal chant on himself so that he can carry out the work of the Sorcerer.  The Sorcerer cannot carry out some of the more elaborate spells without the help of the priest chanting antichrist words.  Hopefully Warrior should see a decrease in numbers while he helps defend Elfdom Castle.  Thank you, my Lord.  Your knowledge has been most helpful.”
“Marina, you are never bothering me when you are asking questions to increase your knowledge and handle your destined tasks.  I am here to nurture you, and I cannot expect you to know the why’s, what’s and where’s in their entirety; that knowledge is too much for a Warrior to carry.  I also know that you are asking yourself if you are doing the right thing in goading him.  Of course you are right, because he must be shown that after using all his knowledge he still cannot defeat you.  Follow your thoughts, as they are my thoughts as well, and you will excel in your defeat of this madman.”
He faded, and Marina looked towards the hill.  She could see movement, but it was too far away to see clearly what was happening.  “Brandon, what is taking place on the hill?”
“He has a brazier out, full of red hot coals, and there is a big stone ball resting on top.”
“What an ingenious idea.  Topaz, you had better stand next to me.  Your beam should be as wide and as deep as you can get it to go.”  It was a long time before anything happened, but when it did Marina was ready.
The Sorcerer could be seen standing next to the brazier, and then he pointed his finger at the stone.  The red hot stone shot into the air, and as it was flying towards the elves Marina they saw it triplicate.  “Beam, Topaz.”
Topaz put her axe in front of her and the light was spread out, covering the three balls of fire in the air.  Marina watched as two disappeared, leaving one heading towards them.  Marina pointed at the ball and it exploded in the air harmlessly, but before this happened there was another in the air and then the sky was full of them.  Marina was smiling as she pointed at each one in turn, watching them explode.  The more she exploded, the more the Sorcerer sent.  It was beginning to look like a giant firework display, with the sound of the exploding balls and the smell of sulphur in the air, and there were clouds of smoke billowing back towards the sorcerer.  This went on for a long time, until in the end the Sorcerer realised that he was doing no good and it all went quiet.  Marina knew that this was only the start, and from now on she could expect more of the same.  She also knew that she was lucky in that she could see what he was about to do and was ready, but he would now be more secretive and try to catch her out.
They watched as the Sorcerer walked back to the makeshift camp behind the rocks.  Topaz stopped the beam, and asked, “Will he try that again, Marina?”
“I would think not, but he will try something else in a while.  By doing what he has just done, he has drained his energy.  Although he has the body and looks of a forty-year-old man, he is over one hundred and fifty years old.  What is on the inside is not in as good shape as what is on the outside.  It will be a short time before he is ready to try and inflict more damage to us.  At the moment his book of spells is full, but as he wastes his spells he will lose his morale.  Tell the army to rest, but to remain alert at all times.  One in ten must be on lookout at all times.”




CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Warrior arrived at Elfdom Castle and saw there were around one hundred Mongolian horsemen attacking the walls.  Warrior and the Valkron rode in from their rear taking them by surprise, but the horsemen as Warrior found out were no fools when it came the fighting with the sword.  The battle raged for an age before the horsemen were tired and galloped away towards the hills a thousand paces away.
The gates were opened, and Warrior and his small army rode in.  Queen Amelia was waiting.  “We were not sure if we could hold on any longer, Warrior, and we thank you for coming to our rescue.”
“It is no good fighting defensively.  We have to be ready to hit out at them.  Get fifty elves mounted, they will be back shortly.”
“Grenfeld, you heard what Warrior said.  Get fifty elves mounted, ready for the next attack.  Will that be enough, Warrior?”
“Yes, more than enough.  Have them ready to go out through the gate at a moment’s notice.  Lookout, tell us when the horsemen are on the move.  I would think there will be a lot more of these attacks before Marina beats the Sorcerer.”
“How is the mortal Marina?  I like her; she was full of fire.”
“She is now immortal, and she is called Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina.  She has immense powers of her own.  She is at the Spire of Time defending the Stepping Stones to the Gods.”
“Warrior, they are coming again,” the lookout shouted.
“Open the gate and let us out.”
It was done in an instant, and the groups of horsemen were charging at each other.  As the gap between them narrowed to around three hundred metres, the Mongolian horsemen fell off their horses holding their throats.  Even before they touched the ground, the men and horses disappeared, leaving no one to fight.
Warrior and his small army stopped their horses and looked at the empty space, and then Warrior realised what had happened.  “Where did they go, Warrior?” one of the elves asked.
“They outstayed their welcome, and the law of the outer world destroyed them.  I think we can safely say that this is not the end, because the Sorcerer would have realised this was going to happen.  He knew that he had to send them away from the rest before this, so that it did not cause widespread panic in the ranks.  We must go back and see the Queen, and talk.”
Back within the castle once more, Warrior told the Queen what had happened, and he went on to tell her that he was leaving the Valkron with her while he went to see Marina.

* * * * *

Marina looked into the distance and could see a dark patch in the sky, but she had no idea what it was.  “Brandon, what is that cloud in the sky?” and she pointed towards the east.
“It is not a cloud, Marina.  It looks to be about twenty flying dragons.”
“Call the archers in, Villias,” she ordered, and within moments the archers were standing near the Spire.  Marina waved her hand in front of the fifty archers, and chanted.  “Now,” she told them, “Spread yourselves out around the Spire and make every shot count.”  She waved her hand once more, saying, “Arrows fly straight and true.  Now go spread out leaving no area uncovered.”
Warrior arrived just as Marina was turning to look at the cloud as it came closer, and she could now see that there were three more clouds behind the first.  “Brandon, how many in each cloud?”
“There’s the same number of dragons in each one, Marina.”
“Deacon, put your barrier up surrounding the Spire.  I have seen you practicing all morning, and you can now hold it for longer.”
Deacon pointed in the air, saying, “But won’t that stop the arrows, Marina?”
“How little you know of your gift, Deacon.  The barrier is for defence, and the arrows will fly through it.  Between each wave of dragons, rest the barrier.”
Warrior watched the dragons come closer, and it was then that he saw that each one was carrying a large rock.  In moments, the dragons were on them and the first rock fell.  There were screams coming from the elves as they were about to move.  “Stay where you are.  The rocks will not touch you,” Marina shouted.  “We are stronger than the Sorcerer will ever be.”
The rock bounced harmlessly off the barrier, and Marina could see that Deacon was struggling.  She placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Relax your body and let the force out naturally.”  Warrior saw Deacon’s face change and knew that Marina was teaching him to use his power to its full.  The arrows were not going up in waves.  Instead, the elves and fairies were marking their shots, and three dragons had fallen already.
With the wisp of a knowing smile on her lips, Marina looked over to where the Sorcerer was standing on the hill.  “I would imagine, Warrior, that I might be hearing from the Sorcerer soon.  He will not like what he is seeing.”
“Why, if you are more powerful than he is, are you toying with him?  Why don’t you just put him out of his misery?”
“He is very powerful, Warrior, and I have to draw the magic out of him.  For him to use this kind of magic shows me his strength.  I might capture him, but I doubt that I could hold him for long.”  She watched the last dragon fall and disappear.  “Rest, Deacon.  You are doing well.”
Marina looked east once more, and she could see that the next wave was almost on them, but there was still time for Deacon to rest.  As soon as the dragons were in the same position as last time, Deacon once more pointed to the sky.  Warrior looked again at Marina’s face and saw no expression, just the knowing smile that he had seen many times before.  She had turned her attention to the Sorcerer, and Warrior could see that they were staring at each other.  At the same time, Warrior could sense the hatred that the Sorcerer was generating.
As if knowing what Warrior was thinking, Marina said, “His hate will be his downfall, along with his arrogance and his temper.  I will crack his shell before I extract his soul, and then with care I shall place him where his punishment will be everlasting life.”
The third wave had been dealt with, and then Marina shook Warrior and the army by saying, “We will not need the barrier this time, Deacon.”  Marina looked at the elves’ and fairies’ eyes that now looked even bigger than they normally were.  “Archers, lower your bows.  They are not needed.”
When the dragons were almost on them, Marina looked straight at the dragons and pointed at the Sorcerer.  The army watched in awe as the dragons changed course and flew towards the Sorcerer, giving him no time to take cover.  As soon as the dragons were over him and his army, they dropped their rocks.  The Sorcerer took defensive action and created a magic barrier for himself, but the soldiers were exposed.  Loud screams and shouts could be heard, and the sound was horrific.
“Why should I perform magic when others do it for me?  I have him rattled, but it is only temporary.  He will rest tonight and will not credit me for changing the dragon’s route, because he will most probably put it down to his mistake.”
She heard the gasp from the elves, and she turned to see another apparition on the battlefield.  “You have not seen the last of me, you Russian whore.  I have you pegged and my victory is imminent.  I have only made one mistake with my calculations, but it will never happen again.  I have been playing with you, testing your worth, and I found you to be lacking.  Not once have I seen you perform your magic.  You have no powers and I know your weakness, and I will soon overthrow your puny army.  I already have another two thousand horsemen riding this way, and then your life will last only hours.”
“Hear this, Sorcerer.  I know your weakness and I can snatch it from you at any time I feel fit to do so.  However, I have a mind to let him reap the same pain that you are feeling in your desperation to be a god.  You think that I am a charlatan?  Just listen to your priest scream in pain.”
The Sorcerer laughed aloud.  “I hear no screams, whore.  Your magic is of no use against a superior adversary.”
“You never gave me time Sorcerer, and it is me that is the serious adversary,” and she put her hand out and pressed her finger and thumb together.  The screams of the priest were horrendous, and then after a while Marina opened her finger and thumb again.  She could see the look of shock on the Sorcerer’s face, and spoke to him once more.  “Yes, Sorcerer.  I could pluck him from your camp in the blink of an eye, and with him those childish chants.  I am a fair person, though, and I think it best if you show me your whole repertoire before I crush you.  I had the mark of the priest as soon as he chanted.  I not only had his mark but yours also.  When I have finished toying with you, I will ride over there and collect your dues.  Now be a good fellow and let my army rest.”  She blew at the apparition and it disintegrated.

* * * * *

Hild had relayed what had taken place to the gods and had been dismissed.
As soon as she had left the Well of Urd, Lord Forsetti jumped to his feet.  “Marina is toying with the Sorcerer, she has said so herself on several occasions.  Is she tormenting the gods because of the vote we took against her?”
Lord Heimdall was the next to speak.  “Does Marina want the Sorcerer to attack the Spire, because it seems that way to me?  Is she doing this to prove that she can defeat an army of three thousand men with a paltry three hundred elves and fairies?”
The Goddess Jord stood up and, smiling, she said, “Before everyone gets into a panic, I think we ought to hear what Marina has to say.  I am in no doubt that she will come and inform the gods of progress when she finds time.”

* * * * *

“I sense you have a problem, Warrior.  Can I help at all?” Marina asked.
“Thank you, but no.  I will have to get the section together, because the place on the mountains where the Sorcerer is getting his army from must be destroyed.  I cannot think for one minute that all these Mongolian horsemen are evil and come up here because they believe that the Sorcerer should be a god.  He has to get new riders every five days, because the first ones up here have been erased.”
“It will not matter, Warrior, and I understand your concern, but he will soon stop using mortals because they are, shall we say, accident prone.  He will tire himself using dragons and fireballs, and he will move on to direct attacks with the armies from hell.  The Sorcerer is entertaining me so well, and I have never had this much fun watching the fall of a magician.  The light will fade soon and the army can rest a little.  The Sorcerer will not attack at night because his vanity will not allow it.  He wants to see me crushed, and he wants to twist the blade, little knowing that it can never happen.
“I don’t think you will see any more attacks on Elfdom Castle, as you already realise the importance of the attack this morning.  He has not drawn any more horsemen from Midgard, or I would know, but he has opened a portal for Oberon to ride out with a large number of elves.  I will leave my Valkron there to give the Queen comfort, as I must think of the unexpected.  I can feel Oberon getting closer, but he will not do battle with me.  He is not allowed to fight, but his army will fight in his name.”
“You are an extremely powerful person Marina, but you use your powers with forethought.  I only hope that Oberon is prepared for what is about to happen, but I doubt it.  I had better get going and find the end of the portal on Midgard, because, as you say, we must expect the unexpected.”
Once Warrior had left the battlefield, Marina said, “Brandon, you are my second in command.  Take over while I talk to the gods.  Always remember this: because of the evil intent inside the Sorcerer, I will know of his movement before he moves and I will be back in the blink of an eye.”
Marina appeared outside the Well of Urd and on seeing her Odin called her in.
“The gods have some questions that they would like you to answer.”
Lord Forsetti was the first to stand up.  “Why are you playing with this Sorcerer when you should be incarcerating him?”
“I need to see all his magic, my Lord.”
“What kind of answer is that?”
“A truthful one, my Lord”
“Can you expand on that answer, Marina?”
“Yes, I more than likely could, but there is not the time available, so I will leave my answer as it was.”
“How dare you make a fool of me, Marina?”
“My Lord, let me ask you a question: what do you or any other God know about the Occult?”
“I know nothing, and I doubt very much if any other god here knows anything, but what as that got to do with my statement?”
“If, my Lord, I stood here and talked to you about my occult reasons for twenty minutes, and at the end you still did not know what I was talking about, then, my Lord, you could say I was making a fool of you.”
Lord Heimdall was the next to speak.  “As you seem to be playing with the Sorcerer, I have decided that I am going to change the location of the Stepping Stones before you have finished your game.”
“Why would you want to do that, my Lord?  I would strongly argue with you not to do so.”
“How dare you tell me what I can or cannot do?  It is being carried out as we speak, and should be changed by the morning.”
“Well, in that case I may just as well send the elves and fairies home to die, and I’ll go and find some gods that are in real need of my help.”
“You have gone far enough, Marina,” Lord Heimdall shouted.  “Warrior is not this insulting.”
“Lord Heimdall,” she shouted back.  “I am not Warrior.  Do you think the Sorcerer is stupid?  I can assure you that he is not.  He is only a hair’s breadth less powerful than my own Creator.  If you change the Stepping Stones, he will know where it is before you have completed the change.  There will be no more marches, because he would be kicking you off your seat where you’re standing right now, and putting the priest in your place.  You had better be stopping the change as we speak, because once he is here the Creators will have no choice but to destroy Midgard and the Realms.  I would think also that the Creators would keep you alive for all time, to show the rest of the gods throughout the universe what lack of trust and judgement achieves.”
In an instant, Marina left the Well of Urd, and in the same instant her Creator was standing there.  “Lord Heimdall, the Battle Warrior Marina was saying the words that I put into her mouth, and your command to change the Stepping Stones was stopped the moment you started it.  There will be no recriminations against Marina, and because of the intricate nature of her work neither will there be interrogations.  She has a hard task, and she is achieving more than I expected of her in her first battle.
“I will delve no further into this incident.  A lesson has been learnt and a line drawn.  I have no doubt that Marina will once again be here at a later date, giving you information about her progress.  I must also stress that she is nothing like Warrior.  In fact, she is the most powerful warrior in the universe.  The blessings of the Creators are with the Gods of Asgard.”

* * * * *

The Creator met Marina in the Mists of Time.  “Do not worry, Marina.  I put those words in your mouth as they needed to be said.  You are doing well, and tomorrow when you inform the gods there will be nothing said.  A line has been drawn.  You are wearing the Sorcerer down and you are not abusing your powers.  I would think that you are using them less than I expected.
“The Valkron are your army to command for all time, and they too will now wear my colours.  There are many worlds out in the universe that because of my absence are in need of your services.  Your name is in the Pages of Time, and there are gods out there that are shaking in fear of you walking their surface.  The Sorcerer is one of many, and his imprisonment is written for the entire universe to see.  My blessings are with you, Marina, and never hesitate to ask for whatever you need, as I am always by your side.”

* * * * *

Warrior was met in the Mists by his Creators.  “Warrior, we know where you were going, but on reflection we think that Marina is correct.  She would know instantly if there were mortal traffic between Midgard and the outer world.  We also think that the Sorcerer is concentrating his efforts to destroying Marina, and he will be using every trick that he knows.  He is more of a priority than the priest on Midgard or a possible portal that seems unlikely.  We think that it might be advisable for you to be at Marina’s side, because it has come to our attention that she cannot concentrate on the Sorcerer’s magic while there might be ground forces fighting.  Our blessings are with you always.”
Warrior appeared back near Marina.  She saw him arrive and smiled.  “You are back already, Warrior.  Your business was short, but I am glad you are back.  I have a feeling that I am going to need a general at some time, and my Creator tells me that you are the best.  I would like you to go to the Queen of the Elves and tell her that I would appreciate it if I could use one thousand of her best fighting elves.  I would like them to be at battle readiness at a moment’s notice, and she may draw them from all the Realms to share responsibilities.
“I would also like you to see the White Witch Beezal and ask her for five hundred fighting fairies.  I need half airborne and half mounted, also shared through the Realms.  Could you do that before morning, Warrior?  As long as they are ready for my command, then I will transport them here at a given moment.  If the Queen of the Fairies Beezal wishes to join me on the battlefield then she may, as it will be quite safe.”
“Are you expecting a big battle, Marina?”
“To be quite honest, I am expecting a few little ones, but still quite big.  I have to be prepared for the unexpected.  My Valkron can stay with Queen Amelia, as I have no wish to leave her unprotected.”
“It can be done in an instant, as I can work in the time between time.  If that is all, I will leave now, Marina?”
“Oberon must be defeated at all costs, because he is the one that is keeping the Sorcerer informed.  There will be no more mortals transported here.  I have been reading the scriptures, and the priest has used the chant to its full.  Oberon has upward of two thousand elves, but he cannot get here for two days because that is the length of time it takes them to go through the portal.  Yes, Warrior, and I thank you for your help… and, Warrior…?”
“Yes, Marina?”
“I also thank you for the time with you as a mortal, both on Midgard and in the outer world.”
“You have nothing to thank me for, Marina.  It was my pleasure,” and he faded.
“Drusilla, Brandon, Topaz?”
“Yes, Marina?” they answered in unison.
“I have been informed by my Creator that the Valkron are my army to command for all time.  The colours of your uniforms are now his.  Together, we will be battling the most evil of beings, and I will teach you how to use your powers to the full.  I know that you have the power to communicate, so you may tell the others, and, Brandon, with your power of vision, you will always be at my side as second in command.”
Once again they were in unison as they answered, “Thank you, Marina.”
Marina laughed, and said, “As I was told not so long ago, I wonder if you will still be thanking me in ten thousand years time.”
It was a while before Warrior returned, and as he did so Marina sat down with her back to the Spire.  Within seconds she was asleep, and she was immediately surrounded by the three Valkron.  Warrior saw it happen and smiled, thinking that some things never change.

* * * * *

The sun came up and Marina opened her eyes, and she was about to jump up but saw Warrior standing looking up towards where the Sorcerer was situated.  She also saw the Valkron standing alert around her, so she stood up slowly and said, “Thank you, Valkron.  I thought that now I am an immortal I would not feel so tired.”
“We all need sleep, Marina,” Topaz told her.  “Once your body adjusts, there will be a longer period between needing to sleep, and then the sleep will only be for long enough to recuperate your senses.”
Marina went over to Warrior, and he noticed that there was that same wisp of a knowing smile on her face.  “He will make a big mistake today, it will cost him much.  He won’t worry though, because before he is spent he will show me all that he has.”
“You said last night that he cannot draw from Midgard any more.  Does that mean he is unable to transport now?”
“No, it means that he cannot transport from the surface.  He has two priests with him, because the priest that was helping them to get the horsemen here transported himself.”
“How come they are not being devoured by the outer world laws after the five days?”
“The reason is, Warrior, that they give themselves the added protection of the immortality spell, not realising that even that has a limited time in the outer world.  You could say that if they read the small print they would have thought differently.  They are both destined for the Serpent Nidhog with their immortality intact.”
Warrior thought of what she had said and erased it from his mind.  He knew that he had sent mortals there himself.  “He must be finding it hard to think of ways to outfox you, Marina.  There cannot be a lot more in his memory bank to throw at you.”
“Warrior, you are not thinking straight.  He has been thinking of this for over a hundred years.  However, he was not na├»ve enough to think that he could walk straight to the Spire of Time and just take over.  He knew it would be difficult, and he also knew he would need a plan of action.  What he never thought of was that because he was not living with the rest of the world but on his own, his mind did not progress and his magic is old.  I might add, it is for that reason alone he is not sitting in the Realms now.”
Warrior thought of what Marina had just told him.  “You mean he is that powerful?  Each time you and me talk, you place a new perspective on the situation.  How long can he keep up these attacks?  Indefinitely?”
“Fortunately, no.  He, too, has only a limited time, but I am unsure of how long.  The scriptures have to be blessed in a sacred place, like a church, for them to work.  The blessings, because they are not given by the gods but taken from them, only have a limited lifespan, but there is no small print to that.  He will wake up one morning soon and the scriptures will not work, and then it is just him and me doing battle.  I would think that because he is so clever he would have realised it himself, and he will be leaving his own spells to the last.”
“If that is the case, what spells is he using at the moment?”
“He is using the ones that are written in the scriptures or, rather, his interpretation of them, but when Oberon gets here he will have more.  If you and Oberon have had confrontations before, then you will realise that he has magic, but limited.  The thing that makes him dangerous with the Sorcerer is that he has outer world knowledge.  He will point out the mythological beasts, and ones that the Sorcerer can draw on.  That was why Palendrake led you a merry dance.”
She saw the look of shock on Warrior’s face at the mention of that name, and she smiled.  “I know all about Palendrake, as he is in my memory bank.  I would think that some of the beasts that he used the Sorcerer will use also.  He has already tried the Chinese dragon, but not to its full potential.  However, Oberon will point it out to him.”
“Why don’t I just go and send Oberon and his elves back to the Underworld?”
“That is a nice thought, but you realise that each mortal has a life span.  There is also a page in the Book of Time that describes when things happen, or their demise.  You know that even if that person were just a metre in front of you, there is no way you can speed up judgment, because doing so would upset the balance of time.  For every action there is a reaction.  We are told this over and over again, because it is a red flag and a warning.  Oberon must meet up with the Sorcerer, because if they don’t meet and wage war together, I cannot expel all of the Sorcerers magic.  Each time he uses a magic trick it is absorbed by the cosmos, and the next time it is used it will be weaker and more unreliable.
“I can sense him moving about out there, rearranging his mind, but he will go for the obvious route before he realises that beating me is never going to be easy.  Brandon, alert the army, but they will not be needed and no harm will come to them.”
“If you are not going to use the army, why are they here?”
“The Sorcerer has to see something to destroy so that he can exhaust his magic.  They are innocents, and I cannot allow them to be harmed.  When his armies arrive I will fight magic with magic, but my magic has substance.”
As Marina and Warrior watched, the Sorcerer’s army of Mongolian riders were lining up across the ridgeline.  Warrior looked at Marina, but her expression and smile had not changed; she was indifferent to what was taking place.  The elves and fairies were also looking at her with their eyes open wide, and to put them at ease she spoke to them.  “You have no need to fear the mortal riders, because they will not reach us before their demise.  Stay in your positions.  You are serving your gods well.”
Marina then turned back towards the Sorcerer, and knew that it had been long enough since the horsemen had taken up their positions.  He was doing it for effect, to see what, if anything, she would change in her defences.  His impatience wore thin and the horsemen charged down the hill, but Marina did not flinch.  Warrior and the army could see that the horsemen were gaining speed and had now drawn their swords.  When the attacking army were almost at the bottom of the hill and only two hundred paces away, Marina lifted her hand and drew a line with her finger from one end of the battlefield to the other.
She clicked her fingers, and a row of stakes appeared with sharpened ends three feet high, pointing towards the horses.  Just behind them there were smaller stakes the size of spearheads, ready to catch the riders as they were thrown forward.  It had all happened so fast that the horses and riders had no time to react and stop.  As the horses were impaled on the large stakes, the riders were impaled on the smaller one.  There was a deafening silence, and Marina watched as horses, stakes and riders disappeared, leaving the battlefield empty.  Two thousand men and horses were lost at the click of her fingers, but it was inevitable that these mortals would die sooner or later.
“There are just three mortals in front of us now, and they must be feeling very lonely, Warrior.  It will be a while before the Sorcerer comes to terms with his loss, because he was not expecting that.  He will be a lot more cautious now, as he realises he is now relying on magic to win the battle.  When Oberon arrives he will be reluctant to use his elves, but the thought of sitting in the seat of the gods will drive him forward.”
“You knew he was going to use all of his men in that one attack, and you knew it a long time before he placed them on the ridge.”
“He had to try out all the cheap options before he was needed to use his brain, and the death of two thousand men was a cheap option to the Sorcerer.”  She looked at the elves and could see the relief in their faces.  “Relax.  There will be nothing more for a while, and we will be ready for him once more.”
“As you have everything under control here, Marina, I might as well go to Asgard and see the gods.”
Moments later, Warrior appeared outside the Well of Urd, just as the Valkyrie was leaving.  Odin saw Warrior and waved him in, and he looked to the other gods and asked, “Have you any comments?”
It seemed that there was a great deal of reluctance for anyone to comment, but Lord Forsetti rose.  “The Battle Warrior Marina sent a lot of souls to Hell this morning during her sharp, for want of a better word, battle.  The Valkyrie says there was no expression on her face, so I can only presume that there was no regret.”
The Goddess Frig stood up.  “My Lord Forsetti, that remark was a little unfair, as I would think that there is always regret in a life being lost, even more if it is to the evil.”
He stood back up.  “Point taken, my Lady, and I will take that remark back.”
Warrior knew that the point was that he had said it, and it would remain in the gods’ minds for a long time.  Odin had noticed it also, and he said, “Point of order: my Lord Forsetti, there will be no repeat of the childish game of scoring points.”
The Goddess Jord was now standing.  “If I might make a point to the Council, what Marina did to them was swift justice, and it was a far quicker death than the one laid out in the laws of the outer world.  I also know that a fair percentage of them were innocents that had no idea they were on the Stepping Stones to the Gods, and those have gone to their own gods in servitude.”
Lord Thor was now standing.  “Marina is carrying out her battle with precise, calculated strikes, and from what I have heard she is laughing while doing it.  She is abusing the powers that she has acquired, and giving no fair chances.  I believe that she is cruelly taunting the Sorcerer, while finding it exciting to watch him try to wriggle out of his mistakes.”
Warrior could hardly believe he was hearing these remarks, but he had not been privy to what had taken place the previous evening.  The whole episode had been cloaked in secrecy by the Creators, and even the other Realms knew nothing of what happened.  Warrior’s sharp senses were telling him something had taken place for the key gods to go to this length to rubbish Marina.  It was as he was letting these thoughts go through his mind that Odin asked, “Have you any thoughts on this matter, Warrior?”
“Yes, my Lord, if you will allow me to address the Council?”
“The floor is yours,” Odin said with a smile.
“Marina does not laugh while she executes her duties, and I have no idea where my Lord Thor would get such an idea.  I must talk to the Valkyrie about the difference between a calculated smile that she has on her face all through the day, and a laugh that they have obviously mistaken it for.  Certainly, she gives everyone a pleasant smile.”
Lord Thor jumped up.  “Are you calling me a liar, Warrior?”
“No, my Lord.  I am merely pointing out that you have been given the wrong impression.  I must also point out that there are no such things as fair chances.  The fair chance was given at birth to the Sorcerer when he could have put his mind to the betterment of mankind.  Yes, she is taunting the Sorcerer, but getting excited?  The Sorcerer is only wriggling because he cannot find a way to push Marina aside so that he can sit in Lord Odin’s seat.  As for the Sorcerer making a mistake, that is nonsense.  The only mistake he has made is underestimating Marina.  She is doing what she must, and doing it without putting her army in danger.  In fact, they are of limited use for her.  Right from the start she has not lost one soul.
“If Marina were abusing her power then I am sure that her Creator would reprimand her.  Marina is being shown in a bad light, deliberately it would seem, but to what end I am unsure.  I am a Warrior and I am powerful, but Marina’s powers dwarf mine, which is as it should be because she has to battle with evil that threatens not only the world it is on but the entire universe.”
At this point, the gods turned on Warrior, and Lord Forsetti asked, “If Marina is doing so well by herself, why is it necessary for you to be standing next to her?  The universe must be a wonderful place today, being free of trouble, and if it were me I would be resting.”
“I am where I am at the request of my Creators, and I don’t understand the reason for your remark.  I will say this, though, and that is that while I have been with The Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina I have noticed that she carries out her duties to the satisfaction of her Creator with quiet dignity.  At no time have I seen her elated at defeating the Sorcerer’s best plans.  If she is, as the gods say, taunting or toying with the Sorcerer, then I would think there is a perfectly rational reason for doing so.  I never ask her questions that might compromise her capability to carry out her defence of the Realms.  Her mind is constantly working on plans to thwart any plan or spell that the Sorcerer might cast.  I thank her for the snippets of information that she gives me, as there is no reason for her to do so except to feed my curiosity.”
Odin looked at Warrior and then the gods.  “Quite right and just as it should be.  I feel that this meeting with Warrior is at an end.”
Odin turned to Warrior.  “Go with the blessings of the gods.”
“Warrior,” the Goddess Jord spoke.  “If The Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina wishes to talk in private conversation with me, then as I am her temporary goddess she need not ask.”
“I will inform Marina, my Lady,” and Warrior faded.
He was met in the Mists of Time by Marina’s Creator.  “You defended Marina against staged questions, Warrior, and you left them in no doubt that she is powerful.  You informed them that they can expect no information from her that she thinks they don’t need, which is also correct.  You carried it out with respect to the gods, and I, along with the Creators in their entirety, am pleased that you have brought this behaviour to an end.  Our blessings are with you, Warrior.”
Warrior appeared next to Marina.
“How are the gods this morning, Warrior?”
“Pleasant; and the Goddess Jord said that if you wish to talk to her in private at any time, then as she is your goddess there is no need to ask permission first.  The gods have a hard task, Marina, and they are up against evil on a daily basis.  It is easy to understand why they seem at times in despair at seeking the truth.”
“I understand what you are saying, Warrior, and it has not fallen on deaf ears.”




CHAPTER FIFTEEN

They were looking towards the quiet hillside where nothing seemed to be happening.
“Topaz, to my side, please.  Brandon, alert the army.”
Warrior studied the hill where the Sorcerer was, but he could see nothing.  After a while, the Sorcerer walked out and placed something on a rock, but when Warrior looked at Marina she just had the same knowing smile on her face.  “Brandon, what is he doing now?”
“He has placed several arrows on a stone table, Marina.”
“Yes, this is a good old trick, but can he keep up the momentum once it is in flow?  Only time will tell.  Set your axe on widest beam, Topaz, and await my orders.  I think it is time you showed this Sorcerer your true colours.”  Topaz’s and Brandon’s uniforms changed to the same as Marina was wearing, and the only difference being that they had chain mail over their shirts.
Marina looked at Warrior.  “I will have a soul today, because he has far too many people giving him advice.”
At that moment, arrows came flying through the air towards them, one at a time but not in the same line.  Marina pointed at each one with her finger and watched them fall to the floor harmlessly.  Then there were more in the air at the same time, and she used both hands to stop their flight.  The stream of arrows stopped, and they all saw the beam of the Doomsday Stone.
“He didn’t last very long, which is a shame.  I was hoping for a better performance from him than that.  He is not using his reserves, so that probably means that he suspects my plan.”
Then all of a sudden the sky was full of arrows and the Doomsday Stone’s red beam intensified.  “Topaz, if you would, please.”
A beam shot out from the end of Topaz’s axe, and the arrows diminished in numbers.  Within moments, the sky was once again clear, and Marina said, “Put your axe down, Topaz.  It is time for me to show him my power.”
Nothing was happening until the Sorcerer shouted something, and Marina watched as one of the priests run out from behind the rocks.  He placed something on the table with the arrow, and Brandon said, “There is a small stone on the table with the arrow now, Marina.”
“The Sorcerer is beginning to get interesting and entertaining at the same time.”
An apparition appeared in front of Marina and the face of the Sorcerer emerged, looking at her.
“Well, this is unexpected, Sorcerer, coming this early in the battle to surrender yourself to me.  I was expecting you to put up a better fight than that.  Well, ok, walk down the hill and I will send you to your prison.”
“Have you lost your senses, whore?  I am not surrendering to you.”
“You have got to stop coming down here to converse with me like this in public.  The elves are beginning to talk.”
“Silence, whore.  I have not even started on you yet, but now your puny magic is offending me.  I am used to powerful people with powerful magic, and you fall far short of being that.  Why don’t you step aside and let the inevitable happen?  I am destined to go to the place that is mine by right of conquest.”
“I think you have taken a wrong turn somewhere, Sorcerer, because you have not conquered anything.  I do agree, though, that there is a designated residence waiting for you, but all the seats in these Realms are taken.”
“I have had visions of sitting looking out over the universe, and this brings me to believe that the Stepping Stones to the Gods will be only my first step.”
“Yes, I see your point, and I will help you achieve your dream, but letting you walk on the Stepping Stones to the Gods is not for me to grant.”
“You talk in riddles, whore.  If you can help me achieve my destiny, then why are you resisting me?”
“To get to the place that your dreams desire you have to show me your worth, but if you are successful in your powerful magic, I promise you this: it is within my power to make your dream turn to reality.”
“I have the most powerful magic in the universe and I have not even got warmed up.  It will be a pleasure taking what is rightfully mine when I have showed you my real worth.”
“Then get to it, charlatan – which you are until you prove to me otherwise.  Now be gone,” and she waved her hand and the apparition disappeared.  “What a nasty little man.”
Brandon said, “He is adding more rocks to the table, Marina.”
“Oh good.  At last he is starting to make a fight of it.”
They all saw the Stone shine its red beam, and in the blink of an eye the sky was black with stones and arrows coming towards them.  As they were about half way between the Sorcerer and Marina and her army, she put both hands in the air.  With one hand she clicked her finger and with the other she pointed at the Sorcerer.  To everyone’s amazement, the arrows disappeared and the stones did a loop.  The Sorcerer aw what was happening and created an invisible shield over himself, but the priest that was out in the open and screamed as he covered his head with his arms.
All the stones except the few that had been real in the first place had disappeared, and the Sorcerer walked back to the rocks leaving the priest to get up on his own.  It was then that Warrior saw Marina point at the priest and then close her hand, putting it down in front of her before she opened it.  In an instant the priest was standing before her.  “How?  What?  How did I get here?”
“Be quiet, priest.  You are in great trouble, so you had better start cooperating to get a lighter sentence.  Now, I will show you a vision in your mind of your place of residence if you don’t cooperate.”  She pointed at his forehead, saying, “This is Hvergelmir, at present your destiny.  If you wish to change it for a lighter sentence, then you will tell me what I need to know.”
The vision in his head of the snakes and the Serpent Nidhog tormenting the souls of the dead, and the priest’s face contorted in fear.
“Enough of your snivelling.  Who is the other soul with the Sorcerer?  And I mean other than the priest”
“The Sorcerer only calls him Leonard, and I swear that is the truth.”
“You swore to uphold the beliefs of the Good Book but you failed, so why should I believe you?”
“I would not tell a lie when the truth can help me.  It will help me, won’t it?” and the priest was crying.
“Yes, it has helped you, and your reward will be that you will go to Nostrand, the shore of corpses.  You will remain there until your immortality wears off and then it is up to the Creators to show you mercy if they see fit.  Be gone.”  Marina clicked her fingers, and he disappeared in a flash.
“Leonard?  Oh yes, I know him: Le Grand Negre, the black man.  So the Sorcerer is using Demons from the Underworld to help him.”
“Has this demon any magic that’s his own, Marina?”
“Yes, Warrior, so we can now expect ghostlike spectres keeping us awake.  That’s okay, because I had some sleep last night.”
“Do you know much about this demon, Marina?”
“A little.  He is a demon of the first order and Grand Master of Sabbaths.  He is the Inspector General of witchcraft and evil magic.  His normal shape is a goat’s body from the waist up, with three horns.  There are a few other things I could tell you about him, but they are irrelevant.”
“Tell me something, Marina.  I have noticed that you have no chain mail on your chest, unlike your army and me.”
“I have no need, Warrior.  I have my own protection, and I will very rarely be leading my army into a battle… at least, not a battle of the type that you and the Valkyrie fight.  The Sorcerer will come out again and fight once more today.  I have him rattled, and he is now going to try his hardest to impress me.”
The evening came, and Marina was still standing looking over towards the hill.  “Star, would you come here.”
The Valkron walked over, and asked, “Yes, Marina?  What can I do for you?”
“How long can you hold starlight, and how does it work?”
“I point and say ‘star’ and a bright ball appears where I point.  It will stay there until I say ‘star out’.  It will be as bright as the sun.”
“Then you had better stay close.  There will soon be need of you.  Deacon, you will be needed too.”
“Brandon, what is your night vision like, and what do you see over in the east?”
“There is a large cloud that looks like at least forty dragons, Marina.”
“Archers, do not look at the light, look at the dragons.  The starlight will make them glow, and may your arrows be straight and sure.  On my command, I wish to see the barrier and the starlight.
“Keep your eyes on the dragons, Brandon, and give the order when they are where they were last time.”
It was some considerable time before the dragons were close enough for Brandon to give the order.  Star put her light on the top of the Spire of Time and Deacon raised his barrier.  Rocks tumbled down harmlessly, and it was not long before the last dragon fell from the sky.  Brandon told her there were no more dragons heading in from the east.  The barrier was dropped and the light was turned off, and Marina was still looking towards the Sorcerer.  “Well done, everyone.”
The Valkyrie went back to Asgard and gave her report of the latest events, and she was told to wait for orders.
“So, Marina has told the Sorcerer that she would give him the Realms a long as he can prove himself.  Has her brain left her head?  Who has given her the right to do as she pleases?  Is there no one she answers to?”
Lord Forsetti sat down and the Goddess Frig stood up.  “I don’t remember where in the report that the Valkyrie gave there was anything about Marina offering the Sorcerer the seat of the gods.  Is it that my Lord Forsetti is now getting paranoid about Marina?  Well, I suppose at least Warrior will get some peace.”
Lord Thor stood.  “As Marina is only standing doing nothing, I think this might be a good time to call her here to explain herself.  It seems to me that the Valkron are doing all her work for her, and her title is brought into question.”
Lord Forsetti stood up once more.  “What right had she to show the priest one place in Hell and send him to a more lenient one?  I demand she comes here and states her case.”
Odin looked at the Valkyrie.  “You have heard the judgment of the gods.  Make it known that the gods want Marina in the Well of Urd to explain herself.”

* * * * *

Marina was at the front, looking towards where the Sorcerer was situated.  She was standing perfectly still, but she was watching intently.  Brandon walked to her side.  “The Gods of Asgard have sent a message demanding you go and explain your actions.”
“Then send a message back, with respects, but I have far too much on my mind that’s far more important than going to Asgard.  I have done nothing that the gods have not seen or heard about that needs an explanation.  Star, get ready.”
Once more the Valkyrie passed on the message, and Lord Forsetti was furious. “How dare she insult the gods by refusing to obey.  I want her severely punished for insubordination.”
Odin said, “Tell The Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina that I am giving her a direct order to get in front of the gods now for discipline.”

* * * * *

“Get close, Deacon.  The Sorcerer is playing games.  He is getting restless.”
“Marina, Lord Odin has demanded that you go for discipline now.”
Marina heard her Creator in her head, saying that she must go.
Marina appeared in the Well of Urd, and Lord Forsetti was the first to jump to his feet.
“You are here to be disciplined for you gross insubordination, because you refused to come here when ordered by the Council.”
“No, my Lord Forsetti.  I was ordered here by you, by Lord Thor, and by Lord Heimdall.  You see fit to meddle with things you know nothing about.  I am here now because of Lord Odin’s Summons initiated by you, and I cannot refuse.  Look at what you meddling has done, my Lord.”
Marina threw up her hand and a hologram appeared, and she shouted “Star, give me light?”  The battlefield around the Spire was lit up, and they could see that stones were raining down on the elves.
“Yes my Lord Odin.  What will you do?  Will you give them your blessing and say sorry?  Do they want your apology?  Will it stop the bleeding?  I have no more time for this foolishness and stupidity from paranoid gods.  My army is being cut to ribbons because of false discipline and idiotic rhetoric.”
In that same moment, the gods could see Marina on the battlefield once more.  She stood in the front of the elves that were getting beaten to the ground and she shouted, “Stop!” and the stones stopped in mid flight.  She put both hands in the air, and shouted, “What has been cast and done by evil magic on innocents be undone.”
All the stones that had fallen, hitting the elves, disappeared and the elves were once more unhurt; bones had been mended and the cuts were gone.  Then Marina clicked her fingers and the stones that had stopped in the air went back the way they came.  She looked towards the gods with the knowing smile on her face, and then clicked her finger once more.  She knew that the gods had seen her power, and she was then content to close closed the hologram.
At the same time as Marina’s feet touched the battlefield, her Creator appeared in the Well of Urd.
“Lord Forsetti, Lord Heimdall, Lord Thor,” they all stood up and bowed.  “Get out of the Council chambers now.  I do not wish to see you in here until after Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina has defeated the Sorcerer.  You are at the moment far too unstable to take rational votes.  Lord Odin, get your house in order,” and he faded.

* * * * *

Marina stood in the same position for a short while, and then she turned to her army.  “I do hope that everyone is fine.  What happened was unfortunate, but I was called away on urgent business, and I am sorry that I caused you suffering and trauma.  I assure you that it will never happen again, and until the Sorcerer is defeated I will pick my times away with caution.”
It was in the early, dark hours the next morning when Marina and Warrior heard the sound of galloping horses.  They were some distance away, and Marina spoke to Warrior but with her eyes still fixed on the hill in front of them.  “Oberon has just arrived with upward of two thousand elves, and tomorrow he will think he can attack because the Sorcerer will double or treble their numbers with the Stone.  I will give you an army that will be second to none, and you will command it from your horse in your colours.  I will give you all the protection that you will ever need.”
“You do realise that you cannot use armies from the seat of the gods, Marina.  It is against the universal law.  I did once, but it was an exceptional case that can never be repeated.”
“I have said I will give you an army to fight with, and so I will.  I will not leave my general wanting.  There is no sorcerer or elf that will ever defeat me in battle, whether in the outer world or anywhere else in the universe.”
The light started to filter through, and it was soon evident that the Sorcerer was relishing this part of the battle.  The elves were already sitting on the hill waiting for the Sorcerer to give the word.  As had taken place on so many occasions, the apparition appeared with the Sorcerer’s gloating face inside.
“I have given you all the chances that you are going to get, whore.  Now I will simply take what is rightfully mine.  My friend Oberon will send his elves down to destroy your puny army that will be no match for two thousand bad elves.  If I see your bits of wood sticking up, then with the stroke of my hand I will brush them aside.”
“In that case, Sorcerer, I had better put something in front of you that you cannot push aside.  After my show of strength last night I didn’t expect you to be here now.”
“Show of strength?  You have to be making a joke.  That was nothing but cheap magic.”
“Do you know, Sorcerer, I am going to enjoy defeating you.  Now stop trying to ruin my concentration.”  She clicked her fingers and he disappeared.
She then turned to Warrior.  “Okay, general, mount your horse and I will give you your army.  You only have to think of what you want done and it will happen, and the rules of combat are... no rules.”
Warrior mounted his horse and moved to between the last two boulders before the battleground, and stopped there.  He watched as Oberon started to send his army slowly down the hill.  They were almost to the bottom and five hundred paces away when the Sorcerer pointed the Stone, duplicating them.
There was a lot of laughing coming from Oberon’s elves, but in a flash there was a legion of Roman soldiers in front of the Spire of Time.  The elves stopped laughing and tried to stop, but the ones in the rear were pushing them on.  Warrior turned to Marina and smiled.  The elf army was two hundred paces in front, and Warrior thought ‘archers, three arrows on my command.’ The archers that were standing to the rear had their bows at the ready, but the marching elves were so small that they could not see what was happening.  When the elves got to one hundred and fifty paces, Warrior thought, ‘release your arrows in rapid succession.’
The sky was black, and the unprotected elves saw the arrows coming but could do nothing.  They were trying to turn and run back, but the horse elves were pushing them forward still.  There were horrific screams from the unprotected elves, and within moments of the battle starting the elves on foot were almost wiped out.  There were but a few hundred left to carry on, but these were now in disarray having lost most of the commanders.
The elves were still advancing, but now they were certainly more cautious as Warrior thought, ‘pilum, fifty paces, throw.’  Every other block of soldiers ran forward fifty paces, stopped, and threw their two-metre spear.  The pilum was uncaring, and killed horses as well as elves, but now Oberon at the top of the hill had seen enough and ordered his elves back.  As the remaining elves retreated up the hill, their comrades that had fallen were fading back to their hell.
Warrior could see that there were less than five hundred elves left to fight again.  They retreated over the hill and out of sight once more, and as they did the Romans left the battlefield in a flash, with the click of Marina’s fingers.
Warrior stepped down from his horse and walked over to Marina, but she was still looking towards the Sorcerer, noting that he had stopped using the Stone.  Warrior knew that the elves would not like what had happened, and although Oberon was their king he would have a hard job keeping them from leaving him.  He had seen the elves returning, talking between each other, and they were none too happy at being lied to.
“Do you think there will be another attack, Marina?”
“Not of that magnitude today, at least.  The Sorcerer is making mistakes, and the Stone let him down.”
“Do you mean it is losing its power?”
“No, Warrior.  It is still as strong as ever, but he used it last night to fetch the dragons, and again when raining stones.  The Stone is sleeping.  It was tired when the battle started but he was too stupid to realise.  We have one day of peace without the Stone before he attacks again.  However, he has Leonard with him, and they will now be making other plans as soon as the Sorcerer has pacified Oberon and he has licked his wounds.”
Marina turned to the army.  “I have to go and see the gods, as there will be no more movement for a while.  You have all seen my power, and I give you my word that none in my army will be harmed.  I will not allow that to happen.  Brandon, you are in command, and you must learn that as my second in command you can use the Valkron to their full capacity.  They all have powers that you and I both know, and as commander it is your responsibility to use those powers to protect the army and to fend off invaders.”
“Yes, Marina.”
“It was not your fault last night, it was mine because I failed to tell you of the power my second in command has.”
Moments later, Marina was standing in the Well of Urd.  She saw Hild standing to one side.  “Hild, I felt your powerful presence at Warrior’s side this morning.  I understand the reason.  I also understand the dedication and loyalty to Warrior’s safety that you and the other Valkyrie have.  However, while he is in the midst of my army, he is more protected than you could ever imagine.  The reason I am telling you this is because to appear at Warrior’s side in the outer world in one moment of forgetfulness could result in the wrath of the gods.  You would be well advised to stand near me, as your presence will not hinder my concentration.  I would wish you to relay that to the other Valkyrie.”
“Yes, Marina, and I understand what you are implying.”
“My Lord Odin, my apologies if you think I was ignoring you.  I meant no offence.”
“Marina, welcome to the Well of Urd, and no offence was taken.  Are you bringing news of the battle?”
“There is not a lot to say, my Lord, except that the Sorcerer is beginning to get rattled and is now making mistakes.  The Stone lost its power this morning, and it was one of the reasons for the great loss of elves’ lives.  I would hope to wear down the Sorcerer by the time the elves have regenerated and returned to help Oberon.”
“If the Stone has lost its power, does this mean he cannot use it again?” was the question from the Goddess Jord.
“No, my Lady.  When the Stone has been used as many times as the Sorcerer has used it, the Stone gets tired and goes to sleep for one of Midgard’s days.  Tomorrow, it will be as strong as ever, but the Stone is of irrelevance to me.  It is just a prop for his tricks.”
Lord Vili asked, “Is there no way while the Stone is sleeping to capture the Sorcerer?”
“My Lord, he is a very powerful and dangerous person, even without the Stone or the people gathered around him.  Soon he will have used the priest to the full, and then I will pluck the priest from under the Sorcerer’s nose.  Before you ask the question, I will say now that I have to let him use his full repertoire of chants and prayers before I can do that.  I have to wear down the Sorcerer and get him to use all his magic.  He has no idea that the laws of the universe state that once a spell has been used it will not work to the same formula again.”
Marina stopped, and the Council could see that she was concentrating for a short while.  “The sorcerer is beginning to stir, but nothing will happen in the immediate future.  He has Oberon with him, and he cannot be underestimated.  We all think of Oberon as a nonsense and nuisance at his worst, but while he is with the Sorcerer he is providing a dangerous source of valuable information.  There is also Leonard, and he is a different breed of evil, a demon, and has no fear of being vanquished as he will rise again on the Sabbath.  His powers are limited, but he can give the Sorcerer backing by fighting while the Sorcerer rests.  As a demon, he has the demonic power of throwing vanquishing balls, but to do this he would have to be in the forefront of the action.
“My Lord, I stand at the front of my army, but it is an army that will never be in my battles.  It is only there as bait for the Sorcerer, and it will not be put at risk.  It is to entice him to throw caution to the wind and make mistakes.  He has started to do that already, but he has probably reprimanded himself for that, and he will now try to control his anger and frustration.  He will fail again, because his mind is still that of a one hundred and fifty year old mortal.  I am saying this so that the gods know that if I am called and do not come, it is because I am concentrating on the battle that will be imminent.”
She stopped once more, and again they could see she was in deep concentration.  There was also the wisp of the knowing smile that had not left her face.  “There will be a demonic attack shortly, as I can sense Leonard gathering one of his armies.  It will be good to take on a sound adversary, but his interference will be to no avail.”
“Marina.”  It was the Goddess Frig speaking.  “The army that appeared this morning, was that not against the laws of the universe?”
Marina gave a real smile.  “My Lady, they were not from the armies of the gods, they were duplicates of the armies of the gods.  The reason, as you know, for prohibiting the use of the army of the gods is so that there is a defending force in the Realms at all times, but duplication is just pure and simple magic.”
The Goddess smiled back, and added, “I would not call it pure and simple, but I do know what you are saying.”
They could see that Marina was concentrating again, and then she spoke once more.  “There are stirrings in the Sorcerer’s camp and I must go soon.  I will be back to inform the gods of new developments, as time permits.”
“Marina, about....”
Lord Odin started to speak, but Marina cut him short.  “My Lord, it is cold ashes you are raking.  The blame has been taken, and the gods never make mistakes.”
Marina bowed, and then she said, “One more thing before I leave, my Lord.  The occult is not evil; it is reorganising failed orders of life.  As you saw last night, my powers are immense and I reorganised that which was not in the Pages of Time.  I am not a threat to the gods, only to the evil that threatens them.  My magic, for want of a better word, can only be used to deflect and vanquish powerful evil.”
Marina bowed once more, and Odin said, “The blessings of the gods in their entirety are with you, Marina.”  Then she faded from the chambers.
Odin looked to the Council and asked for remarks.  It was Lord Vi that spoke first.  “The smile on Marina’s face was not for fun, it was a knowing smile, and she was privy to all that was taking place within the Sorcerer’s camp.  She knows what he is about to do before he does it, and it is that which will win the battle for her.  I saw the moments of concentration that she was giving the battle below, and I feel that for the amount of time she stands looking at the Sorcerer’s camp we have grossly under estimated her workload.”
Goddess Jord stood up.  “She, like Warrior, would not let the gods share the blame for that shambles last night, and she has just told us that the gods do not make mistakes.  Well, I for one hope that we don’t make any more, because last night could have been catastrophic.”
As the Goddess Jord sat down, Odin replied, “Well said, my Lady.  Now onto other business.”

* * * * *

Marina was met in the Mists of Time by her Creator.  “You have been to see the gods, Marina, and explained the unexplainable in a way they can understand.  You also took the blame for the imbalance of the Pages of Time, which you rightfully corrected at the time.”
“Was I wrong to do these things, my Lord?”
“No, Marina, it was correct and diplomatic, and it has gone a long way to mending the rift, and you please me on each of your actions.  You know what is about to happen and it will be the first of many confrontations, and it is time to put the Sorcerer in no doubt who is the more powerful.  It is time for you to give a show of strength, pointing out to him that it is you that holds all the cards.  My blessings are with you,” and he faded away.
Marina appeared in the midst of her army and looked toward the Sorcerer, and her eyes were fixed once more.  “Brandon, what do you see to the north?”
Brandon looked over the brow of the hill.  “There are three black clouds, but as yet they are too far away to see what they are.”  A while later, he said, “It is witches, Marina, and there looks to be twelve in each pack.”
“Brandon and all you others, I am going out onto the battlefield alone.”
Immediately there were many people trying to talk all at once.  Marina put her hand in the air.  “Silence.  It has to be this way, but I cannot be harmed in any way as I have protection.  It will be done like this so that the Sorcerer realises it is me that he is doing battle with.  This is show time.”
Marina walked over to the entrance of the rocks and stood, waiting.  Without taking her eyes from the Sorcerer standing on the hill, she said, “There will be a barrier surrounding the Spire of Time and it’s protecting the army that you cannot see, but it is there all the same.  Horse,” she said softly, and it appeared.  This was a new horse, as black as the night with a purple saddle robe decorated with the crest of the Creators.  The saddle and tack was also the blackest ever seen.  The two swords in the black scabbards were also black, with only the purple metal grip and gold surround breaking the pattern.
Marina mounted her horse, and it walked out without being coaxed in any way, Warrior was not happy with the situation, but he knew it was the way of the Creators.  In the centre of the flat area she stopped, and still her gaze was not leaving the Sorcerer on the hill.
An apparition appeared to her right and the Sorcerer spoke from its centre.  “So, whore, you have given up.  You have bowed to the inevitable force of the most powerful man in your world.  After my friends have destroyed you, I will sit on the seat of that fool Odin and make the mortals wish they were on another world.”
His voice was loud and everyone could hear him, but Marina was not about to give him the satisfaction of being pulled into a one-sided conversation.  “What’s up, whore?  Is your fear so strong that you cannot speak?”  He gave a big laugh.  “Yes that is it, you are in fear of my wrath.”  Marina never flinched, and her eyes were focused on the Sorcerer in the flesh standing still on the hill, as she totally ignored the apparition as of no importance.  “Are you deaf, whore?  Do you not hear the words of a wise man in your ears?  Ignore me at your peril.”  He was shouting now in desperation to be recognised.
The apparition vanished as the first twelve witches flew over the brow of the hill.  They were all on broomsticks and they were all ugly.  They were screeching and looking mean at the same time.  They started to fly in circles around her, but at no time did Marina move.  Then one of the witches pointed a wand, but before anything happened Marina pointed a finger in the witch’s direction without looking at her.  There was a flash and fire, and the witch was no more.  This happened three more times, and then the witches started to come at her it twos and threes.  The power of Marina was unequalled, and before long the area around her was clear.
Unknown to Marina, the remaining two groups were now joined as one, but they were still some way off.  In desperation, the apparition appeared once more and the Sorcerer spoke: “It will do you no good being stubborn.  You might as well give up now, because from here on in things can only get worse.  My armies will get bigger and there will be no need to withdraw and no thought of it.  I will keep picking at you until there is nothing left.”
Marina did not even glance at the apparition.  Her eyes were still focused on the real Sorcerer.  “Answer me, whore,” he shouted from the apparition.  “How dare a daughter of Eve ignore me?  Look at me now.  I command you as your Master, now the gods are on the run.”
Even from where he was standing, Warrior could sense the Sorcerer’s hatred, evil intent and also his frustration, but at the same time he was mesmerised by the sight of Marina defying him in her magnificence.  “You will pay heavily for insulting me with your total disregard of my supreme presence,” the Sorcerer shouted again in desperation, just moments before the apparition disintegrated.
Marina was still in the same position and her eyes still looking ahead as the witches broke up into smaller groups of four.  This time they were using other tactics, with the four coming from different directions, even from the rear.  Marina’s hand shot over either shoulder, and without looking her aim was deadly.  The final eight came at her all at the same moment, and all were destroyed at the same time and the battlefield was once again clear.
She did not move, and no one could see the reason until four elves rode down the hill at her with speed.  They were in pairs and their swords were drawn.  Marina still did not move, but in the second they were in her shadow and her hands moved faster than lightning in a scissor movement.  On the outward swing she took the heads of the first two elves, and on the inward swing she took the last two.  On completion of the movement she returned the swords to the scabbards.
With a final look at the Sorcerer, Marina turned her horse and returned to the entrance of the Spire of Time.  Not a sound was heard.  They watched her dismount and walk over to the rock by the wall.  She leaned back and her eyes closed, and at the same time the three Valkron moved around her to stand guard over her.
Hild smiled and went back to the gods, very much in awe of Marina.  At the end of her report she said, “My Lord, the speed with which Marina used the swords was faster than the gods or even Warrior.  It was so fast that until the heads fell I had not realised her swords had moved.”
There was silence in the Well of Urd.  No one dared speak, and they all knew the significance of the words of the Valkyrie.




CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Marina awoke, stood up, and thanked the Valkron, and then she walked over to where Warrior was standing.  “He is conspiring with Oberon for an army of the dead, but this will be a specialist army built for their purpose.  There are no movements in the Underworld that go unnoticed when I am concentrating.”
“Will he attack again today, Marina?”
“Well, I don’t think he was going to, but then some whore ignored him,” and Marina laughed.
“Have you any idea what kind of army he is putting together?”
“No, but that is of no importance.  There are two things taking place at the same time and I nearly missed the vibrations of the occult being formed.  There is wizardry and demonic play being conjured up, so tonight should be interesting, and there will soon be a visitor here.  The armies of the elves and fairies have been formed, and I fear that some will fall defending the outer world.  You will have a vast army once more, Warrior, but it will be to the north by the Twin Falls.  The falls have been breached once more, because there are no passwords that are secret from the Sorcerer.  You will again need Merlin and Beezal, and she will be here this evening to draw orders from me.”
“Why would the Sorcerer need to deploy an army in the north, when the Stepping Stones to the Gods is here in the south?”
“All will be made clear to you when the queen of the fairies is here.  The mind of the Sorcerer is very slow and intricate and, as I have told you, Oberon is feeding the Sorcerer vital information.  It is early evening, Warrior, and I have business with the gods, or, rather, with one in particular.  I do not expect any movement from the Sorcerer’s camp until after the witching hour because that is when Leonard will be at his strongest.  Tomorrow is the Sabbath, and he will be champing at the bit to show the Sorcerer his knowledge of the occult.  Brandon, look after the army, and you know the powers so use them.  As I was tested then so too are you.”
Marina appeared in the great hall, and as soon as the Einherjar saw her, the hall went quiet.  Slowly and silently she walked to where the gods were sitting.  They were in groups, and Lords Thor, Heimdall and Forsetti, were sitting together.
Marina walked over to where Lord Odin was sitting and asked, “Am I wrong in thinking that The Battle Warrior to the Gods should not mingle with the warriors of war?  Only, I feel that my presence is in some way disrupting their merriment, and that was not my intention.”
“You are always welcome here, Marina, but I take it that this is not a social call.”
“No, my Lord, but I would ask you if I could speak with Lord Heimdall?”
“But of course, Marina, and there is no need for you to ask permission to speak with a god.”
“My Lord, you are Chief God, and I would have it no other way,” then she walked over to the table where Lord Heimdall was sitting.
“May I sit for a while with you, Lord Heimdall, as I have business of great importance?”
“Of course, Marina,” and the other two gods made to get up, and as they did the hall burst into life once more.
“My Lords, there is no reason for you to move, as I will say nothing that you should not be privy too.”
A horn of wine was brought over to Marina and she took a sip.  “My Lord Heimdall, can you tell me what the significance of the Forest of Secrets is to the Spire of Time?”
“Half of the key to the Footsteps to the Gods is buried there.”
“Do the fairies know where it is buried, my Lord?”
“No, but I know.  The key is part of a poem, but it is of no use without the beginning or the end.  Why would that interest you though, Marina?”
“It doesn’t, my Lord, but the Sorcerer is forming a large army in the north and Warrior will have to deal with it.  Two days ago I had the fighting elves and fairies formed and on a moment’s notice ready to mass as an army.  I will also add to his army three legions of Roman soldiers and three thousand Einherjar.  I must believe that you have been informed of my ability to duplicate.  The Forest of Secrets must not be allowed to fall, and no doubt the Sorcerer will have picked a good general to lead his army.
“My Lords, I am not here to threaten the gods, I am here to help them, and the occult is not evil because it is the people that misuse it that are evil.  The Warlock was not evil; he was a Creator, but he was seeking revenge for a past injustice and he is now where he rightfully belongs.  My Lords, my Creator has informed me to tell you that you may enter the Well once more with his blessings.  I bid you a good evening, and because the time allotted to our meeting was precise, would you inform Lord Odin of all that I have said.”  In the blink of an eye Marina vanished, only to appear beside Brandon.
“Marina, I have just noticed a carriage coming towards us from the east.”
“Yes I felt the presence, and that’s why I returned.  It is the White Witch Beezal.”
A little later Beezal arrived in her white carriage.  The light gone and it was almost midnight, and once out of the carriage Beezal walked over and stood next to Marina.  “He is waiting until his power is at its strongest, Marina, because he is so arrogant and dramatic.”
“Well, I had better get out there and give him something to remember me by.”
She walked over to the entrance boulders once more, and said, “Horse,” and it was next to her.
Star stepped close to her and asked, “Do you want light, Marina?”
“Thank you, Star, but that won’t be necessary.  I will make my own light.”  Then they all watched as she mounted the horse and rode out into the battlefield once more.  She rode out of the little light that the fluorescent in the Spire of Time gave out into the darkness.  Once she was out in the centre a light started to glow from the Sorcerer’s camp, and in the glow was what looked like a beast with three horns.  It measured three metres in height and there was no mistaking the goat’s head.  Leonard was posing for effect.
Warrior suddenly realised that he had no night vision, and when he asked the Valkron they told him that theirs had also gone, making it impossible for them to see Marina.”
“Warrior, the kind of darkness that you are seeing is for Marina’s safety.  She will show herself soon, and then the battle will commence.  Leonard had made himself visible in a misty light, and she is now telling him that it is her show and not his.”
At that point, Marina was lit up in a bright light.  It looked as though she was in a dome and there was light but no point of origin.  She was looking directly at Leonard and, as expected, the apparition appeared.
“So, whore, not satisfied with being tested by me you want my friend Leonard to test you, but this time you have made a mistake, as you will find out.  Look at me, whore,” the sorcerer shouted.  “I am the Master of this battleground.  You will soon be sorry you ignored me.  I have plans that you could never know about, and tomorrow I will walk in the Spire of Time and take what is rightfully mine.”
Marina took no notice of his ramblings and carried on disregarding him.  The apparition died, and Leopard wasted no time in starting his assault.  Small fireballs were hurled at Marina, but to the surprise to all those watching, Marina caught some of them and destroyed others.  That went on for a short while until Marina had what seemed to be a big fireball in her hand and Leonard had stopped throwing them.  It went quiet for a moment, and then the fireballs started once more.  As they did, Marina put the large fireball that had been in her hands to her left, as though placing it on a shelf.  At that moment a beam of red light shot out and the fireballs coming towards her were duplicated, but Marina still calmly caught some and dispelled others, melding those she caught into another large fireball in her hands.  Leonard stopped throwing them, and he stood for a long time looking at her.
“She is so good, Warrior,” Beezal commented, and looked at him, smiling.
In an instant, the two large fireballs sped away from Marina, so fast that they looked like one long streak of light.  Both balls struck Leonard, and he was vanquished by his own weapons.  As he disappeared so too did the light at the top of the hill.
There was a few seconds silence, and there was the sound of galloping horses.  They rapidly came closer, a Warrior realised they were heading straight towards Marina.  Her light went out, and at the same time the sound of the galloping stopped.
“Star, give me light so that I can show Oberon what I can do in the darkest of nights.”
Star threw her light over the battlefield, and there on the ground were twelve elves, beheaded.  Marina turned and rode towards the entrance boulders, and once there she dismounted.  She looked up towards the Sorcerer with her knowing smile intact.  Then she turned and said, “It is time to make battle plans.  Villias, Sand Piper, you had better be here also.”
Once the elf and fairy commanders were in front of her, Marina began to tell them her plans.
“The Sorcerer is forming an army of upward of five thousand walking dead, and they will be entering by the Twin Falls.  Their aim is to march on the Forest of Secrets, where somewhere inside there is a tablet buried with half a poem written on it.  That is half the key to the Stepping Stones, and if the Sorcerer gets hold of it, he might just be able to work out the other half.
“It is imperative that the Forest does not fall into his hands, so the Forest must be protected at all costs.  You will need Merlin and Beezal at the Forest from the outset, and you will have to transport Villias and Sand Piper with you.  The army must be in place by first light.  You have over two thousand elves and fairies from all the Realms.  There are three legions of Roman soldiers, and three thousand Einherjar.  The Romans and the Einherjar are expendable, but the elves and fairies are not, so use the latter sparingly as I cannot protect them from here.”
“Will you be all right here on your own, Marina?”
“I will be perfectly safe, Warrior.”
“How do we collect this army?”
“Beezal will use my name, she already knew that, and don’t forget you cannot do this task without Merlin, even if you think you can.”
“Will Merlin have to duplicate also?”
“No, he will be putting another lock on the gates of the Underworld.”
They were standing discussing when they should go, because they would be there in an instant, when the apparition appeared.
“So, you vanquished my friend.  That does not matter, because I have someone that will finish you this time.  She is the most dangerous witch known to the gods.  I will be on the Stepping Stones before evening meal tomorrow.”
“Will that be the time, Sorcerer, when you throw yourself at my mercy, because that will be the only time you come to within breathing distance of the Stones?  I have been waiting for you to give me a real test of my ability, but you are so behind the times.  This childish fun you’re having with me, throwing balls, throwing sticks, and of course there is the rock throwing, all comes down to the fact that you are not a very nice person.”
“That’s right, whore, you go ahead and make fun, but let’s see if you’re laughing tomorrow.  I have an army that will never be beaten, and it will march to the Spire of Time destroying all in its path.”
“If you have finished bothering me, Sorcerer, then be off,” and Marina clicked her fingers and the apparition disappeared.  A little while later, Warrior left with his party.
Marina settled down to watch the Sorcerer walking to and fro on top of the hill.  She knew he was worried and clutching at straws, otherwise he would not be going for the half key.  She also knew of the witch that he had brought from the Underworld, although she had no idea who it was.  He was running out of ideas, and after previously shunning the Underworld he was now relying on them, and he still had the priest with the papers.
She had tried to get at him and found that he had used one of the chants on himself and was now protected, but she knew that it would last only a limited time.  The Sorcerer was still powerful, even though he had been using up a lot of his magic.  It was no easy task getting large numbers of dead out of the Underworld and doing battle.  She had been trying to figure out what general he would use to keep the army in check, but none had come to mind.
The light was returning to the outer world and Marina knew that the Sorcerer had not slept all night.  He had been too busy working out his next strategy.  The man was evil and very dangerous, and he was not finished by a long way.  Standing where she was, Marina could feel the evil that he was generating, and all he had to do was to turn it into solid attack.  She had to take the fight out of him, but his stubborn arrogance was pushing him forward.  She also knew that it would be the arrogance and stubbornness that would be his downfall.  It would be turned into fighting to defeat, with an almost childlike rage to try to punish her.  It would be then that she would crush him and take him to his prison in person.
As Marina was looking at the top of the hill, she saw the priest for the first time since she had left Midgard.  She also realised that his protection had worn off and he was now talking to the Sorcerer.  “Brandon, what are they doing?”
“They are arguing, Marina.  The priest was pointing to some papers in his hand and the Sorcerer is now reading them.  He has pushed them back into the priest’s hand, and as you see he has walked out of sight.”
Marina was about to collect the priest when she decided to stop, as something was happening or about to happen, and by leaving the priest there she would be able to find out more about it.
Warrior was at the Forest of Secrets, and his armies were stretched out all across its northern edge.  However, it was daylight and nothing was happening, and Warrior was wondering if Marina had got it wrong and the army from the Underworld were attacking somewhere else.  He dismissed the idea, because Marina had been so precise, and the Sorcerer had more or less told them his intention after Marina vanquished Leonard.
It was mid morning and nothing had happened on any potential battlefront, and Marina decided that it was time to extract the priest.  She pointed to the hill and said, “Come, priest.  Lt no mortal or beast stop you.”
Nothing happened for a short while, and then she saw the priest walking out from behind the rocks.  He was trying to grab hold of the rocks and the small branches of shrubs, but his legs were pulling him forward.  In the end, he had to go where his legs were going, and that was down the hill towards Marina.  She watched as he tried, unsuccessfully, to tell his legs to stop.  When his legs stopped walking, he was in front of Marina, and he realised that he was doomed.
She looked at him with the knowing smile on her face but said nothing, her eyes never leaving his.  It unnerved the priest as he tried to close his eyes to break her gaze, but he found that his eyes were fixed open and he could not even blink.  Worse, for him, he was unable to move his head at all, and his heart started to race in panic.  All he could see was Marina’s eyes.
“Did you know, priest, that eyes are the window to the soul?  Well, they are, and I can see yours far below in your guts.  It is in retreat because it knows that the wrong it has done to others is unforgivable.  I can tell you with absolute confidence that your soul will not go unpunished, but that has been taken out of my hands.  Your soul will never see the fires of Hell or the land of Nidhog,” she saw his eyes light up at the mention of the serpent.
“Yes, you know of Hvergelmir.  It is the most feared place in the universe, and it is so bad that even the gods never mention its name.  I think that you should see the place as others see it, others that are less fortunate than you.  You are standing in the luxuries of the outer world where peace prevails, or, rather, peace prevailed until you brought the Sorcerer here.”
Marina touched his forehead, and in moments of the vision appearing in his head she could see his distress.  “Enough,” and she touched his head once more.  “Now I am giving you your voice back, and I need some answers or your soul will be tormented.  Why has the Sorcerer not attacked me when he has been threatening all night?”
“He is asleep, and no longer in this wretched place.”
“Then tell me where he is, priest, or there will be nothing to save your soul from Nidhog’s torment and torture.”
“He is back on Earth.”
“Impossible.  He no longer has the means to go there.”
“Yes he has.  It is in the papers and chants that are in my pocket.”
Marina pulled the papers from his pocket and read the papers, and then she looked at the priest as the papers burned to nothing in her hand.  “For your part in causing the deaths of so many innocent Mongolian soldiers, for your part in bringing the Sorcerer here to the outer world, for you being in the outer world, for daring to conspire with an evil magician to help him achieve his goal of being Lord of all, I sentence you to Hvergelmir where the serpent Nidhog will torment you until your immortality wears off.  Then, if the Creators think that you have learned your lesson, they might send you to Nostrand.”
“Wait please, you said that my soul would not be tormented.  You lied.”
“I see what you mean, priest, but I never lie.  You are immortal, so you will be alive in Hvergelmir.”
“How long will it be before I am not immortal and die?”
“Tell me, priest, what does ‘immortal’ mean?”
“It means that you will live forever.”
“Then you have answered your own question, priest.  Be gone,” and he disappeared.
“Brandon, go to Warrior.  Bring him, and Merlin, the white Witch, Villias and Sand Piper here.
“Horse.”  It appeared next to her, and at the same time she saw the others appeared in the area of the Spire of Time.
“Good.  Warrior, come with me.  You others excuse us but we won’t be long.”  She looked at the expression on Brandon’s face.  “You had better come also, Brandon.”
The three rode up the hill towards the rocks that were hiding the Sorcerer.  Once around the corner they saw him on the ground with his eyes closed.  There was no sign of Oberon and the elves.  Marina had heard him riding away during the night, just after she rode off the battlefield.  “Well, Sorcerer, you have just made a big mistake.”
“What is his mistake, Marina?” Warrior asked.
“He has left his body in soul form, but by the writings of the priest it is not that simple.”
Warrior watched as Marina pointed at the sleeping body and it rose up into the air, and then it turned to a standing position.  In a flash, a glass-like cage was around it, with four steel corner posts but still floating just off the ground.
Marina told Brandon to pick up the stone that had been by the Sorcerer and give it to Warrior.  She saw his hesitation, and said, “I will never place you or any other innocent in any sort of danger.”  She watched as he dismounted and handed the stone to Warrior.  “We must go back to the Spire now,” she told them.
Soon they were standing with Beezal and Merlin.  “Warrior and I must go somewhere, and I would like you two to stay here with the elves and fairies,” Marina told Beezal and Merlin, and then she turned to the battleground and looked at the casket that was now in the middle with an invisible shield around it.  Turning back to the others, she added, “There is no danger, because that is an inert body without a soul and it cannot harm anyone any more.  The reason I want you to stay is because it will give the elves and fairies comfort to know that they are still protected.  Hopefully, we will not be long.”
Warrior asked, “Where are we going, Marina?”
“I need information that only two people would know: we are going to see two sisters.”  Marina saw the look on Warrior’s face, and smiled.  “Yes, Warrior, I know of them, and also the one that must not be talked about.  I know all the secrets of the universe, so let us be away and find the Sorcerer, because his days are now numbered.”
They appeared on the top of a mountain outside of a cave.
“Come inside, Marina, and rest yourself while we tell you the ways of the soul.”
Warrior and Marina stepped into the cave, and Marina was ushered to a flat rock by the table.  “So, you are as beautiful as you are clever, Marina.  Yours is a far harder task than Warrior’s.  You are destined to meet each other during the wars against the evil and the greedy, many times.  The soul you seek is on Warrior’s battleground, and he is searching for the secret passage.  That is a passage to the gods that was lost not long after the gods were created.  Over time, the cooling of the Earth has caused a shifting of the strata, and now it is more visible than it once was.  He has with him, once again, the goat, but because he is now on his native Earth he is even stronger.  I know what you are thinking, Marina, that you vanquished him, and you are correct, but that was from a place that is only in the mortals’ dreams and not to be believed.”
The sister by the fire started speaking.  “You know, Marina, that the Sorcerer has lost all his powers, and he is not the person he once was.  His powers were left in the body in the outer world.  He now has the body of another, but of an innocent.  He is still dangerous though, because he can give another the formula to the spells and chants, and the one that receives them will be as powerful as the Sorcerer once was.  His spells and chants are no longer in his mind; they are hidden in stone, waiting for the touch of his soul.  This book must be found and destroyed, for without the book the Sorcerer will, after two days, return to the outer world seeking his body.  Throw the runes, sister.”
The sister emptied a bag onto the table.  Marina looked at the dice, bones and feathers, and there were also a few semi precious stones.  The old woman saw her looking, and for the first time ever, Warrior saw her smile.
“You can read what I am looking at, Marina, and yes, it is correct that the Sorcerer has just set foot on the mountain.  You have time, for he is hindered by the falling of snow and the winds that blow.  For you, Marina, time has no barriers, and snow and wind are forces that bow to your command.  Sister, what do you see in the flames of folly?”
The other sister looked toward the fire and threw something onto it, making the flames change colour.  “This secret passage was no secret to the Sorcerer, but he was not privy to its key.  He knew of the passage for one hundred and some years, but he never knew its significance.  You must take the innocent and return him, and let the Sorcerer take the passage.  If one has no body then one cannot meet one’s destiny.  The passage is long, and all takes time.  What was once lost is found, and what was found is once again lost.”
“Yes, I understand what you are saying, and I thank you for the help you have given me.”
“We will meet many times, Marina, and again we will read the ruins together.”  She smiled again as Marina rose from the table.  In all the time with the sisters, Warrior had not spoken.  This audience with them was not for him, and he walked out of the cave with Marina.
“Where on Earth would he hide the book?  And if it is hidden in stone, how would we see it, Marina?”
“Remember the caves on the mountains?  That is where he is going, and we must get into one of the caves before him.  I know where the book is, and also the passage.”
They appeared on the mountain in the falling snow and high winds.  There was a cave in front of them and Marina walked in with Warrior.  “This place is clean, Marina.  We had better check the other caves.”
“There was something strange about this cave when I was here with the section, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.  Look about the cave, Warrior.  What do you see, and what don’t you see.  Remember, this is just the same now as it was when the Sorcerer vacated it in a hurry by himself.”
Warrior looked all round the cave, and in the end he said, “I can see nothing in here, so how could I tell if something is missing?”
“No, Warrior.  You are wrong.  The Sorcerer was in this cave for almost a hundred years, so if he left in a hurry on his own, then where are his homely comforts?  Look at this stone table.  It is geometrical in shape, yet there are no marks from the chisel, and neither can you see a chisel and hammer.  Something that useful would not have been discarded,” and she looked at Warrior with the knowing smile once more.
“What are you getting at, Marina?”
She stepped close to the stone table, placed her hand on it, and the stone turned into a large wooden box.  She lifted the lid and there was the thick book of spells on top of other items.  She lifted it out and closed the lid, as the rest of the items were furniture.  “We must go outside and wait, Warrior.  The Sorcerer is close,” and before she stepped out with Warrior, she made the book disappear and turned the box back to stone.
As they stood outside the cave, invisible to others, they saw the Sorcerer walk up the valley.  They could both see that Leonard was walking with him.  Marina waited until the Sorcerer entered the cave and had his back to them, and then she pointed her finger and vanquished Leonard for a second time.  She then blew lightly at the Sorcerer and he lost his balance, stumbled and hit his head on the cave wall.  As he walked away, the body of the man he had possessed fell to the floor unconscious.  It did not seem to bother the Sorcerer.  He just walked to the stone and placed his hand on it.  Warrior and Marina watched as the stone turned into a box again.  The Sorcerer opened the lid and then screamed, throwing out equipment and small items of furniture in his panic.
Marina appeared, and said, “Is this what you are looking for, Sorcerer?”
The Sorcerer looked up and shouted, “You whore!  That belongs to me.”
Marina held the book in her hand and the Sorcerer watched as the book caught fire and disintegrated in the blink of an eye.
“The book does not matter any more,” the Sorcerer blustered.  “I have found the passage; I told you that you were no match for me, you whore.”  The Sorcerer then pulled a rock from the wall and the ceiling of the cave started to crumble.  Marina put her hand out as if grabbing, and then pulled it back fast.  The body of the man was now at her feet, and at the same time there was a deafening bang.  The mountain split and the cave was no more.
The man woke up, and Marina touched his shoulder, saying, “Go back to your time and place of disappearance,” and in a flash he was gone.
“Should we go to the gods and wait for him, Marina?”
“No, Warrior.  That would be a waste of time.”
“Then all is lost.  We have failed.”
“Not quite, Warrior.  We have to go to the outer world.  I have something I want to show you.”
When they appeared near the Spire of Time, everyone there asked the same question: “Has the Sorcerer been destroyed?”
Marina looked at them with her knowing smile, and answered, “No, he is walking the Stepping Stones to the Gods, and will soon to be exiting through the door.”  Without saying any more she walked out to where the body of the Sorcerer was suspended.
Hild had heard enough, and went to report to the gods.  As soon as she told them what Marina had said, there was panic in the Well of Urd.
Thor stood up and shouted, “Marina has let the gods down badly, and she should be now brought here and made accountable for her actions.”
Lord Heimdall stood up.  “Where is Marina now?” and Hild told him that Marina was standing next to the body of the Sorcerer.
Lord Thor shouted again.  “Then I will reiterate the Sorcerer’s description of her, and add that this ‘whore’ doesn’t even seem to care enough to inform the gods of her incompetence.”
The Goddess Jord stood up.  “My Lord Thor, you are out of order.  When is it ever been appropriate for the gods to revert to crude remarks?”  She stared reproachfully in his direction, but he was not repentant and sat defiant.
“Valkyrie, call The Battle Warrior to the Gods Marina to explain her actions.”
The message went out, and within a moment Brandon was walking out to Marina, but before he could speak, Marina said, “Give Lord Odin my apologies, and inform him that I am far too busy.  As soon as I have dealt with everything happening here, I will be in front of him.”
As soon as the gods heard this, Lord Thor was on his feet again.  “Marina is going to far, my Lord.  She has to be brought to book.”
“My Lord Odin,” the Goddess Jord spoke, “I feel that we don’t want a repeat of the other night, and I think that my Lords are too fast in their judgement.  I would have thought that if something of such catastrophic proportions had taken place, the Creators would be here to inform the gods.  Would it not be best to see what is taking place before we all pass judgement on something that is only hearsay?  Neither do we know the full story, and if there was something bad about to take place, why is Warrior not here to fight for the gods?”
“Thank you, my Lady, for helping sense to prevail once more.”  Then, turning to the Valkyrie, he added, “Go back and observe.”

* * * * *

It was almost evening when Warrior and the others heard the opening of a door behind them and a voice saying, “Yes, now to claim what is mine.”
They all turned round to see the Sorcerer walk out of the entrance to the Spire of Time.
“Let him pass,” Marina shouted, “Because his destiny awaits him.”
The Sorcerer saw where he was and shouted at the top of his voice, “What kind of trickery is this?”  He saw Marina out on the battlefield and went out, shouting at her, “That is my body, and you have no rights to it, whore.”
“Always the insulting one, Sorcerer; and so much so that others now believe it to be true.  You really have to calm down, because you don’t want to have a heart attack.  Now, you let me down because there were so many good spells in that book that you never tried, and I know the reason why.  You see, you gave yourself immortality but you forgot to put in place the little bit about aging inside the brain.  Your soul is immortal, and I have to admire you for getting that right, but your body has aged with time.  Then you made the mistake of leaving the confines of Midgard for the wide open spaces of the outer world, but leaving the book of spells behind.”
“Yes, I might have got a few things wrong, but you cannot live here in the outer world.  Mortals die here.  It beggars belief why you are still alive now, but I will be alive to see it happen.”
“Yes, well, feel free to believe it, if that is what you want to think, but you can’t leave sleeping bodies on the plains of the outer world.  If I let you do that, everyone and anyone would be doing it, and then where would we be in a fine old mess.  No, I think the best thing to do is to burn it.  It is of no use to me, and it is definitely no good to you.”
Before their eyes, the casket caught fire and disintegrated, leaving nothing to be seen.
“You lied to me, whore, because you told me that I would be looking out over the universe if I proved myself to you.  How much proof do you need that I am a better magician than you?”
“Yes, I did say that, didn’t I?  I had better keep up my end of the bargain, but you need a body first.  It is in my power to give you a body to surround your soul.  Would you like that?”
“Yes, of course, or how will people see me?  I want a nice firm body that will last as long as my mortal soul.”
“You really are clever, Sorcerer, because that was just what I was thinking.  So, stand there while I put some powder over your head.”
Marina sprinkled something black over the Sorcerer’s head and it made his body go black as the night.  He started to shrink until he could not be seen by anyone except Marina.  She bent down and picked him up, and held him in her hand as she walked over to the others, saying, “I have given the Sorcerer a body that is solid and will last as long as his immortal soul, and from within it he will be able to see the universe for all time.”  She opened her hand and they saw the polished diamond, no bigger than a pea.  She handed the diamond to Warrior.  “There is a star out on the edge of the universe that your Creators will show you.”
She then looked at the little soul jumping up and down inside the diamond.  “I know you can hear me, but we can’t hear you.  I would just like to say that you are just going to meet your destiny.”
Warrior faded, and Marina said, “I thank you for all your help, but I must go and see the gods.  Brandon, I will need you, Drusilla and Topaz to stay with me.  The rest of the Valkron must return home until needed.”

* * * * *

Marina appeared outside the Well of Urd, and Odin called her in.
“You have need to talk, Marina.”
She walked in and looked at the Council.  “The Sorcerer is no more and his soul will never be seen again.  If you are wondering, I knew that he would appear where he did, because it was the only place he could appear.  The Sorcerer never mentioned the Forest of Secrets, but he was about to bring an army through the falls.  However, he read the scriptures of the priest and mistook the meaning.  In his haste to get to the gods’ seat, the Sorcerer dismissed any thoughts of the army, thinking that he had found the easy way.  There have been mortals here before and they have had to be dealt with, because they came the same way as the Sorcerer.  That doorway is the Stepping Stones to the Gods, but it only takes you to the outer world.  When man needed the gods to fight their battles and the gods were earthbound, it was those Stepping Stones that showed the gods the way to their seats.  The passage is once again sealed and no more innocents will perish.  There is no gateway to the gods now, my Lords.  The last flight of Steps to the Gods that were in the Forest of Secrets has been sealed by the Creators, and the Realms are safe for all time.”
Lord Heimdall rose to his feet.  “Marina, if you knew all along that the Steps to the Gods were in the Forest of Secrets, then why go to the Spire of Time?”
“My Lord, I had to keep up the illusion that I knew those were the steps in question, and it was not until the Creator made me immortal and gave me the knowledge that I realised my folly.  On hearing of the army from the Underworld, I had to protect the Steps, which I did in the guise of protecting the fairies against the walking dead.”
“How many beings from the outer world have lost their lives, Marina, while you have been doing Battle with the Sorcerer?”
“None have lost a life, my lord Vili.
“I must go, my Lord, as I am being called, but can I just say one more word?  I am no more a whore, my Lord Thor, than you are a whores’ agent.”
She smiled and bowed, just as Lord Thor jumped up.  “Marina!” and when she looked at him, he added, “I deserved that remark,” and he laughed.
In the Mists, Marina was met by her Creator.  “You have done well, Marina.  You have a lot to learn, but you may have a short rest until the next time.  Go with the Valkron and talk to Lord Trogan, and put his mind at rest.”
Marina bowed as he faded away.


The End