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Gwendolyn decided to start wandering the premise to see where she was, grateful that she could now walk without a worry as she was, though not a Valkyrie, able to stroll in a more casual attire than her armor. 'Though I am curious, why my mother's dress?' Pondering on the matter would be of little meaning so she was going to head back inside when she spotted a small dwarf figure and picked up some speed to catch up with, finding the dwarf in the smithy with several pieces of armor and weapon about the place as the dwarf finally noticed Gwendolyn, exclaiming a 'Ahh!' before setting his work down and walking over to the princess. "You're looking lovely, as usual!"

"Brom..." She finally noticed the piece that Brom was dealing with, gasping at the sight of it. "That's my spear... What is it doing here?"

"Hmm.... He said Odin gave him that spear." Gwendolyn was speechless at the mention, fearful that her spear was given like a trophy, but she calmed herself as she could tell that its craft was healed by Brom's hand, meaning that it would serve her again if the time called for it. "Princess, you are the king's daughter, correct?" Gwendolyn nodded as she ran a hand over the weapon, feeling its steel and touch to be soothing for her, her mind questioning why Odin would even do such a thing.

'...To give away the spear my sister handed me as she lay dying...' She shook her doubt out as she politely saw herself out, making her way back to her room as she passed another familiar face, joyful to see Myris and hugged her maid in a tight embrace. "I feel like I slept forever."

"Are you all right?" Myris's smile was great as she looked upon the princess with both devotion as a servant and the kindness of a caretaker. "I shall bring you some tea."

"I feel a bit better, knowing that you're here." Releasing the caretaker, Gwendolyn stood up and headed on with a smile before Myris departed with a few parting words.

"I will attend to you, even if I wasn't ordered to." As the Pooka servant left, Gwendolyn acknowledged the words with her own.

"Myris, thank you so much..." Now she was alone again, but this time, she was glad to see friendly faces, but as she looked about on her way, she found that there was no sign of her new husband, leaving Gwendolyn to wonder who had she been married to... At times, she found that the air was cold and normal once more as she made her way back to her chambers, overlooking the Elrit forest, amazed by its wide landscape and the stars that glowed above it before armored footsteps entered her room and she shuttered at the voice that soon followed, the same from the battlefield so long ago.

"There you are, Gwendolyn..." She turned and, to her terror, it was the black swordsman that had pinned her that day and left with a word of warning, now he was here in her room, but was not baring any ill will, though this didn't ease her heart as she thought in silence.

'Oswald... the Shadow Knight... So I have been forced to accept the enemy's elite soldier as my husband...' A glance up placed Oswald closer with a look of uncertainty on his face as she placed a hand on her chest to try ease the heart more, not of love but of fear. 'It seems I am destined to suffer...' However, she needed to be the good wife of a born killer of men and focused on him as he started to speak.

"I must take my leave soon." He walked closer to Gwendolyn, unaware of the turmoil that clashed inside her body. "But before I go, I would like to give you something." His stare was one of insecurity as he was not unsure of how to proceed. "Your hand, please..." Gwendolyn lifted her left hand and wished that it was forced, but the gentle touch under the steel gave her pause as he slipped a wondrous ring onto her finger before taking a look at it up close.

"This ring..."

"I'm sorry; I have nothing else worthy of being presented to you..." Gwendolyn anger was shortly shimmered out at the wording being given like he was not trying to win her over, but instead wanting to bridge a gap like getting to understand her more by placing her higher than him. "This is a beautiful ring that I obtained from a dragon named Wagner." Gwendolyn's shock appeared as she studied the ring again, knowing only one ring that Wagner would even have.

"... The ring Titrel...?"

"Will you accept it?" This was too much as she backed against the railing of the terrace, first married to the Shadow Knight, but then given the most valued ring in all of Erion.

"Why are you giving me something so precious?" Oswald's downcast face looked down as he was trying to make the words that he needed.

"Hmmm... How can I say this...?" Gwendolyn's heart pounded inside as she was dealing with strange feelings for this man, someone that she should be hating. "Well... It's because... I want to see you smile. To see you happy." Gwendolyn's face glowed at the comment, was he in love with her?

"I-I am a warrior. My only happiness stems from battle." She placed a wall, but inside she was hating herself for what happiness had she found on the battlefield, only death and sadness dwell on those fields of blood, as she turned and looked at the ring again as Oswald, after a quick glance in curious emotion, left her alone for the bird to return, speaking in her thoughts and opinions.

"You sound unsure. Do you fancy him?" Gwendolyn shook her head as she disregarded the event that transpired, addressing the bird with her own thoughts and belief.

"No. That man is my enemy." She poured her anger into her words as she stated the truth in her eyes. "When I think about all the warriors he has slain..." Yes, those who have fallen to his blade of death, under the banner of fairies. "I cannot forgive him, no matter how kind he is to me." Turning her back to the bird, she placed a hand upon her chest as she was certain that she was simply feeling it through a spell. "My father's spell is making me feel this way." Taking a few steps away the railing, she bowed her head in agreement with the fact presented. "'Tis not love, It simply cannot be..." Turning back to the bird, Gwendolyn made her plan. "I shall seek vengeance the moment it presents itself. That is what my father would want me to do..." The bird was not of the same mind as it pointed out a flaw that would affect the whole thing to start with.

"There is no reason for you to remain loyal to a king who has abandoned you." Turning back around, Gwendolyn faced such a error in judgement, she was banished and have lost who she was as a Valkyrie, why should she continued to heed a king's commands when she had violated her creed to him.

"I.. I just want to do what will make my father happy." Her hands clenched tight on the dress, unaware that her grip may well tear through the material without restrain.

"That is what Oswald just said to you." Gwendolyn wanted to be convinced that she was right, that the Shadow Knight is not a trustworthy man, but why would he even want to gain her trust or love if he was the master of her, the bird flying to the front of her as it continued. "He yearns for your love in the same way you yearn for your father's."

"It matters not." With a parting word and a worried expression with hand to chest, she spoke her belief. "For now, I am simply a prisoner being manipulated by my captor." As she looked over the forest, she looked at the ring as the bird disappeared. "I am a prisoner, unable to fight against my captor in any way."

"Then perhaps you need time to ease your mind!" Gwendolyn jumped as she looked about for the source of the voice, first looking to find no one that had come into her room so she looked again until the voice returned from her left. "Honestly, it is best to remain calm before deciding that you have troubles." Coming down the way from the other side of the terrace, clothed in a sapphire-blue dress shirt and silver slacks, paired with his ranger boots, Aether stepped out of the shadows and stepped down the stairs while giving a nod of approval. "Needless to say, you honor your mother with colors." Gwendolyn, stunned at his appearance, met him and ran a hand across his cheek before he grabbed it and brought it down. "Odin gave a kindness and let me live, but my services have been retired for Brigan's death." Looking over the terrace, Aether remarked the chances that they had. "Despite any form of services, my skills as both protector and blacksmith are quite valued in the eyes of Brom."

"But what of Oswald?" The look in Aether's eye told Gwendolyn what he held in silence, walking toward her bed and touching the smooth wood texture as she breathed out her worry. "He is my husband, is he not?"

"Forgive me, but I am familiar with the fires of battle, not the tides of home." Aether strode behind Gwendolyn as she opened the door to leave. "Despite the anger that we share for him, it is better that we give him a choice and see if he is worth all our belief."

"...I know." With that, Gwendolyn silently closed the door, heading for the smithery to see Oswald off.

__________

Oswald took hold of his sword and took a moment to speak with Brom who questioned his plan. "Oswald... Are you leaving so soon?"

Oswald nodded as he assure his guardian "Yes... I have a oath to keep." Noticing Gwendolyn enter, Oswald turned and greeted with a wishful expression. "Gwendolyn... Will you wait for me?"

"I belong to you now." Despite her word, Gwendolyn's grief was evident and shared in a grimace that Oswald obtained from the words. "If you command me to wait, I shall obey." Oswald walked toward his wife, Gwendolyn certain that he would be rude in his advance when he stopped a few meters away and stared at her with a hardened look.

"You are not an object. ...And I will not allow anyone to treat you thus." His words were strong as he did not touch her, simply speaking his piece of mind to the one who mattered more. "Never..." Gwendolyn's face glowed red and she stepped to the side with conflicting feelings in her heart as Oswald walked past, glancing back with a understanding look. "I take my leave. I shall be back soon." During the exchange, Gwendolyn followed a short distance and watched as Oswald mounted a black horse and rode off before looking at her new ring, Titrel.

"This ring is undoubtedly Titrel." Turning to the smithery, she paced her thoughts with a newfound plan. "This will allow the Cauldron to be activated." With the plan in motion, she had to deliver the important piece to the one person that wanted it the most. "I must take this to my father..." Taking off, she quickly found her armor and spear, changing into the battle attire and taking her dress to her chambers before taking off, a allied face tracing her movement and headed back in.

__________

Gwendolyn could feel the tension in the air as she ran up the stone ways of Nebulapolis before a voice called out. "Princess!?" A Berserker stomped toward Gwendolyn as she announced her task in the capital.

"I come with a message for the king..." But before she could say, the Berserker stomped right to her and, with a swift action, slammed Gwendolyn back across the walkway with his axe, exerting a gasp out of the Valkyrie. "What are you doing!?" Standing back up, Gwendolyn was enraged at what had just happened. "I may have been banished, but I will not tolerate such treatment."

"The king has ordered us to kill you on sight." As the Berserker advanced, several Valkyrie came forward and readied to end the banished princess who was at a loss of what is happening when the Valkyries was blasted away by a round of explosive power and Aether jumped out of the shadows before engaging the barbarian warrior in close quarters and lifting the brute into a dead state, Aether strolling over to Gwendolyn with a sour look on his face.

"Princess, what in any right mind would you even consider that going to Nebulapolis was a wise decision!?" Gwendolyn glowed with the same fire as she stated her case.

"I am here to give my father something that will aid the war for Ragnanival!"

"By the light and stars, you are so dense!" Aether slammed a hand into one of the statues, cracks running straight through the stone and causing Gwendolyn to realize that she may have overstepped a line, though not sure which one it is. Her answer soon came as Aether removed his hand, breathing slowly before he spoke again. "This is about Titrel, isn't it?"

Gwendolyn nodded as she explained her decision. "Yes, I must take it to my father in order for his goals to be accomplished..."

"Even at the cost of betraying Oswald's trust like it is some piece of parchment?" Gwendolyn took a moment to retort back, but realized what Aether meant, surely Oswald had her affections, right...? Why would trust be an thing if she was married to a man and must devote her every sense to him? Aether sighed as he walked ahead a tad while Gwendolyn was in thought. "Well, regardless of what I say, I must say that the Aesir are acting quite strange, King Odin must have a good reason to place the soldiers on high alert with a kill intent on you."

Leaving the thoughts behind, Gwendolyn came up, her eyes strong upon the castle. "Yes, but for what reason?"

"Only one way to discover it." With that, they ran through the winding towers and figures of well-versed demons.

__________

Even though it pained the Princess and the Protector greatly, they had little chance in the matter as they fought through the brutish Warriors, the noble Valkyrie and their Leaders, the simple Dwarves, who use bombs and potions, and their Gyro Dwarf allies as well as the Gargoyles that were granted life in the face of enemies. The skills that they held was quickly put through their pace as more Berserkers found them and fought to the death and the massive Dwarf Battleship made their way more troubling as it employed Dwarves, bombs and a legion of Valkyrie alongside its ally Berserker before burning to the ground and erupting in fire before the two continued on, the castle so close with all the doors opened through jeweled keys that they had obtained.

__________

The hall to the throne was hollow and empty as Gwendolyn walked through the marble room before spotting what appeared to be Odin, rushing over to greet him, but quickly leaped back as his hands came down on the spot, calling out for some response. "Father!"

"Not quite... Don't you recognize me?" What came out was truly a horror as a spirit appeared to be shifting out of Odin, the facade of a fallen traitor.

"You're Lord Brigan!" Despite the time spent asleep, Gwendolyn could not forget the monster that wished to usurp the throne, as Aether soon arrived from dealing with a few Valkyrie and hid behind a pillar, waiting for the moment to strike.

"The queen of the Underworld thinks highly of me." Neither could believe it, Brigan was viewed in a higher light by the queen of the Underworld? The thought alone is troubling. "I have been delegated to discipline King Odin, who steals jewels from her realm." The phantasm surged forth from his forced host with glee. "Observe! The pitiful king is merely a puppet to my will. This country is finally mine."

"So you're behind the chaos in this land." Gwendolyn was enraged, her father being a puppet to this monster, she will not have it as she swept a hand forward in command. "You disgust me. Leave the king at once!" Brigan merely laughed at the pitiful display.

"I'll tear off those wings of those and remove my shame for having known you." He surged forth again as if wanting to tear the wings without Odin's body. "Your soul shall become my plaything." His laugh bellowed across the chamber before he forced Odin to strike with a heavy slam, Gwendolyn dodging in time, but not swift enough as Odin surged forth with a three-punch attack, sending Gwendolyn flying before Aether opened fire, the shots hitting hard, but not enough as Odin dashed across the hall toward him with a punch. Aether jumped and, rolling through the air, landed on the other side before resuming his fire as Gwendolyn got back with a Healing Tonic, feeling its effect spread across her body and taking flight with a Ice Shot priming in her spear. Even though Brigan saw this and tried to take her out with a series of magical bolts out of Odin's mask, she was successful as the ice crept about Odin's body and was quickly pummeled him with a Needle Strike before Brigan freed himself from the chill and quickly brought forth his borrowed Psypher, the Wicked Eye Balor, and hurled at Gwendolyn and swinging it at Aether, causing it to start seeking him out. The Bullet, realizing the danger, rolled out of the way and started to charge Odin, Balor in tow, and jumped as Brigan went for a punch and instead was hit with the Balor which did nothing but annoy him so Odin started to cast a spell and, to both protector and princess's horror, summoned rotting corpses known as Ghasts to his aid. Both worked to remove the dead that stood in their path before heading for Odin once more as he swung the Balor, failing to hit both as Aether slid under the guard and fired his mortar, blasting Odin up for Gwendolyn to strike him with a Needle Strike, Ice Shot, then a flurry of blows that slammed Odin into the ground, not enough to injure him, but enough to cast Brigan out of Odin's body, the mask dissolving away as Gwendolyn rushed over to her father.

"Father... You've returned." Odin looked up and sure enough, his wizened face had indeed returned, with some look of joy under his stoic expression.

"Gwendolyn... You made it back safely." He glanced over to Aether with a nod and the protector understood that the great king was a prisoner in his own body by Brigan as he stood up and towered over them before Gwendolyn spoke, having walked up to the giant.

"I have violated your edict, but I have important information for you." Removing the ring, she offered it up to Odin, not realizing why Aether sighed in the first place as he left the chamber to wait. "Please take this. This ring... is Titrel." Odin took the small ring gently as he lifted it to ensure that it was real and was not disappointed.

"Good work, Gwendolyn..." He placed the ring inside a armored pocket as he thought about the person that had obtained it to start with. "That man... I was right to tempt Oswald."

"...Tempt? What do you mean, Father?" Odin turned his back and spoke with a strong tone as he looked at her.

"He and I formed a pact; I would give you to him if he could slay the dragon Wagner." Turning back to her as she crept closer, he spoke again. "Obviously, he succeeded. The ring is a prize from that battle..." Whether it be regret or an indifferent in his tone as he shifted off that fact of Oswald, he instead focused on Gwendolyn. "With your latest actions, you have atoned for your past transgressions." With a nod, Odin continued. "Welcome back, my child. Your honor has been restored." But this was far from Gwendolyn's mind as she walked a bit away in thought of Oswald.

'The Shadow Knight Oswald... He fought the dragon... For me...' No one would do such a impossible feat with the sole reason of her, her honor may have been restored, but what of pride...? Was she full of pride for being in her father's light again? She shook her head as she turned and addressed her father. "No... This is no longer where I belong."

"Gwendolyn..." Odin whispered out, but Gwendolyn, after walking a bit, turned and bowed on one knee as she said her regards.

"Farewell... I wish you and the heavens well..." With that, Gwendolyn turned and walked away, Odin, though a bit dismayed, realized that this what she wants right now and would not ask for more. Gwendolyn stepped out and Aether followed, noticing her hardened face and followed her home, to the old castle in Elrit.

__________

Redressed in her dress, she met Aether in the dining hall and took a seat as he himself was in the process of studying a number of weapons that had come to him from Ragnanival, the troops wishing to see Aether's handiwork again after so long. After a moment of silence, Gwendolyn coughed a tad and Aether stopped looking at a Warrior's battle axe, setting it to the side before speaking. "Well, it seems that we are residents once more, Gwendolyn..."

"...Aether." Gwendolyn sighed as she mustered the words that hanged on her tongue. "Do you think that I am truly restored in my father's eyes, I feel more of doubt than honor."

"That is the price, isn't it?" Lifting the weapon again without effort, he started to use a whetstone to sharpen the edges, wishing to access the forge again but Brom had him banned for tampering with a number of tools and weapon parts that Brom had brought along. "Not many could find their happiness, but once they do, they realize that a piece of their lives has also taken hold, leaving them indecisive with the choices." Blowing some whetstone off, he resumed the work before sheathing it and taking a Valkyrie's spear next. "I don't judge your decision as a mistake, you had it in your heart to help your father in the war and for that, you had saved him from a slavery role to KING Brigan." Aether shook as he said the name. "I wonder what is worse, the smell of that ogre when he was alive or the fear that he could possess me while dead?!" Aether shook his head like some rattle wanting to escape his life, all the while Gwendolyn tried not to laugh at his antics.

"I don't know, maybe the traitor may turn you into a 'respectable' warrior or a 'righteous' king." Aether's face dropped and pointed the spear at his charge.

"That is horror incarnate, never do that again..."

"But, Aether..." While she was still a Valkyrie, she could still poke at Aether for all the times that he did to her. "Surely, we could just let the tyrant possess you for a short time and I would knock him out of you..."

"At the cost of my own sanity, I am only hoping that brute never troubles us again." Aether returned to work and Gwendolyn simply sighed as she stood back up and headed to her room, now to wait for the man who had not won her for foolish reasons, but had killed a mighty dragon and given her a powerful ring to show that he cared...
And this is the end of Chapter 4 of the Valkyrie...

And yes, Gwendolyn may not be the sort of person to laugh or chuckle, but when you think about it, it should feel like you are part of the story if your characters get reactions and react to a number of things.

As always, Odin Sphere doesn't belong to me, the OCs do though.
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September 14, 2016
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