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Facing the Twilight

by Rachel Parsons

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2, part 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 2

part 1 of 2

“Are you sound, Emissary Weston?” A log popped as if in punctuation of my question.

Envoy Weston looked up at me, blinking. Her blinks matched the rhythm to which my bosoms were bobbing as I looked down at her. I was kneeling, my legs under me, next to her on the couch. Her son was moving his head from hand to hand to the same rhythm. We could be a traveling entertainment troupe. Weston took the flagon Rosalyn offered her.

“I think I’m all right.” She sat up on the sofa, placing her free hand by her side, as if for reassurance that it was material. “That was Henry I saw?”

“Hi, Mom,” Henry said in reply. I shot him a baleful look. I had too much work to do this morning than to have to constantly revive a Terran who was squeamish around the Otherworldly.

“But how is this possible?” She bent her head back, shoved the flagon directly into her mouth and gulped. “He was reported killed in action.”

“We were just discussing that when you barged in on me. Earthbound spirits usually have unfinished business. Your son was telling me that he was not in the war. So he may have been murdered. What I cannot reckon is why he is manifesting himself now, so many years after his death.”

Weston shuddered which made me turn and look at Henry. He was dribbling his head and then spinning it on one finger. He stopped when I gave him a stern look.

“What is the last thing you remember, sirrah?”

He scrunched up his face, which looked ridiculous with his head cradled under his right arm. He looked like he was sniffing his armpit. Perhaps it was the fumes of his decay, but he simply twitched his cheeks and made no answer.

“I will have to petition Queen Freya. Perhaps she can be of assistance.”

“Queen Freya?” Weston, who had developed a nervous tic in her left eye, was touching a little box with a stylus and squeaking. “She is not listed as one of your world’s monarchs. She is queen of what, exactly?”

I did not bother asking her about her little box. Offworlders often play with such things, and seem to treat them with reverence. It was perhaps a religious ritual; they seem very superstitious in the presence of the Otherworldly.

“Queen Freya is the Mistress of the Morrigon.”

“Morrigon? You can’t possibly mean Valkyries, can you?”

“Mom, are you all right?” Henry looked at Weston with concern.

The emissary was wiping her head with a napkin Rosalyn had provided her. “It’s nothing. They told me this was a crazy place, but I thought I was prepared.”

Henry resumed dribbling his head.

“Henry, will you stop that,” his mother said in a shaky voice. She then turned to me. “He was always a cut-up, you know.”

“I see.” I did not. I had no idea what he was supposed to be cutting up. He lacked even a small dagger, unless it was concealed somewhere.

“But what did you mean about the queen of the Valkyries?” the emissary asked. “Are you suggesting prayer? I mean I suppose it could reconcile me to his death—”

I interrupted her. “When he died as a soldier, a Valkyrie would have come to take him to the Other World. The fact that he is earthbound means this was not done. I wish to confer with Queen Freya to see what went wrong.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Of course I’m serious. Why would I not be serious about conversing with a goddess of death?”

“But a Valkyrie?”

“You sound like you have never heard of the Morrigon. Do they no longer appear on Terra?”

“They are a myth. And even if they were real, how could they be here, thirty light years, I mean, one hundred eighty trillion miles, away from their origin?”

I was annoyed at her condescension. I knew Terrans reckoned the distance between our worlds by how light travels and not by the length of Heveydd the Ancient’s foot or multiples of it. Which makes it unbelievable that they deny that we can go between dimensions instantaneously through bridges of light like Bifrost, although in one of their origin myths, the one about strange strings, not the kind you tie things with, they say matter did something just like that.

I was also annoyed that she believed the gods originated from Terra. Terra is but one branch of the cosmic tree, but Earthmen act like it is the trunk, or even the tree itself.

“The Valkyries are here because they are gods and are everywhere,” I responded to the ambassador, trying to keep the irritation out of my voice. “They do not reckon distances the way we do in Midgard.”

“Midgard? But we are no longer in ’Midgard.’ Isn’t that another name for Terra in your language?”

“That is our name for the middle level of the cosmos.” Caught in the act of Terran arrogance, I thought, identifying their world with the material universe.

She looked like she was trying to solve a complicated mathematical puzzle that was beyond her. “Didn’t you people descend from the Celts, not the Norse?”

“’You people?’” Now she was really making me angry.

“I see I am making you angry. I didn’t mean to put down your religion.” She had reached her left hand behind her head and was massaging her neck, eyeing Henry nervously out of the corner of one eye.

“Put down?”

“I mean be offensive.”

“You are not offensive” — no more than expected anyway — “but I will leave you now. I will send my secretary in and you can tell her what was so urgent that you burst in on me.”

“I honestly can’t remember,” Weston said, her eyes still mainly showing the whites, and her torso oscillating slightly.

I got up off the couch, brushed off some dirt that had accumulated on it and was now on my butt. Rosalyn looked away with a guilty expression.

I left the emissary to whatever preparations she felt she still needed. Went to the royal graveyard.

It is a hundred feet or so from the western side of the castle, surrounded by Yggdrasil trees which always struck me as fitting. As a little girl, I imagined the denizens of the cemetery climbing those thin, incredibly tall gymnosperms all the way to Asgard. I know that it is only their spirits that go to the Otherworld and that Asgard is not really among the stars, which are but suns like our own only very far away, but it nonetheless was my fancy.

Rosalyn accompanied me along with Zusanna, my shifter bodyguard, who stopped and began biting her paws in a cleaning ritual as Rosalyn handed me the death sword. I held it as I mounted the stone steps that made up the staircase to heaven that was the centerpiece of the lot.

“Oh, yuck.”

“What is it, Rhiannon?” Rosalyn called from the foot of the monument.

“Bird poop.” I was scraping it off my heel.

“I will talk to the caretaker about that.” She made to leave.

“There is time for that, little one. I need you to be with me. I need you to be brave.”

I raised the sword and shouted, “Morrigon come forth. Your sister, Rhiannon, needs you!”

For a while nothing happened. So I called again. And again. Nary a sign. Not even one faint yodel. Nary a ‘Ho!’ much less a ‘Yo-Ho-To.’

Finally, dark clouds swirled out of the horizon. There was lightening, but it did not touch the ground. The bolts jabbed at each other, making an angry glitter. From a distance, the rain looked like the hair of a demented witch hanging down. Soon, the cloud hovered over us.

And I got drenched to the bone.

But still no Morrigon. No Barge of the Dead. No flying horses. No blondes in armor. And the thunder boomed but did not yodel.

The storm passed as quickly as it had come. Finally, after getting sodden and the chills, I gave up and padded back into Caer Rhiannon. There, dripping wet, making puddles on the stone floor, and madder than even the proverbial wet munchkin (not to mention wetter) I encountered a woman with long, blond hair that hung down to her buttocks, golden armor that covered her ample bosoms, and silver plates running down her legs. She had a helmet of pure silver that she doffed in my presence. She held it under her arm in a way that reminded me of Henry and his head.

“There you are, Rhiannon. I heard you call me, and I looked all over for you. What were you doing out in the rain like that? In your naked state, you could catch you death. And then who do you suppose will have to come get you?”

“You were not responsible for that rain, Freya?”

“You think the gods make rain?” She looked at me askance. “You were not so superstitious as a girl, Rhiannon. Did you lose your sense when you lost your clothes?”

“You are not the only one to ask her that, your majesty,” Rosalyn said, earning her a killing look from me.

And they say I am exasperating. I put my hands on my hips, and stepped one foot forward in a gesture of defiance.

“And so what can I do for the fabulous Rhiannon the Nude?”

“Freya, you are a goddess. You must know how I hate that sobriquet.”

“I think it is cute. Besides I am a high goddess and can call you what I choose. And it does fit you, does it not? Now what is that song the children of your kingdom sing?

Oh, yes.

She isn’t lewd
But she is no prude;
We owe our freedom
To Rhiannon the Nude.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Parsons

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