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Gwendolyn could just feel the hours pound on her as she started to pace. Brom had spoke to both her and Aether, stating how irresponsible they were for not telling him and that Oswald would be very upset to find out that something had happened to Gwendolyn, a fact too late as she started to feel the impact of Odin's punch in her side, though Aether was helpful in diverting Brom and giving Gwendolyn another Healing Tonic with minor sips to use to slowly heal the tender spot as she was unwilling to show it to anyone. She sighed as she sat back down and took a sip of her tea, tasting it a tad bitter from adding some of the Tonic into it, but just the same, she finished off the tea and set the cup back on its plate and sat in silence, thinking about Oswald as it has been a while since he left and was starting to feel... longing for him. She shook her head and headed up to the terrace, wishing to forget it, but even then her mind leaped from one spot to another, its tide a turmoil of feelings as Myris was serving another cup, with the notion that she would find the princess there and simply served the refreshment of soothing fragrance when Gwendolyn asked. "Has he not returned yet?"

Myris shook her head. "No, not yet." The Pooka then smiled as she watched Gwendolyn. "It seems like he's the only thing on your mind lately."

Gwendolyn blushed as she bring the tea cup up to hide it. "N-not at all..." But the Pooka just chuckled and Gwendolyn could feel the embarrassment ripple through her before the Pooka stopped and started to ponder.

"But he does seem to be rather late..." This worried her as Oswald said that he would return, sooner than what the days were dragging out to be. Even with the tea, Gwendolyn wanted nothing more than to know what was happening when Aether entered and Myris, with a bow, saw herself out while Aether took a seat across from Gwendolyn.

"The waiting must be quite hardening for you to be downing tea within fifteen seconds, not enjoying it either." Aether was posed with confidence, but he was here as a shoulder, not a barrier. "I would like to treat you to some food that the Pooka Village would serve to help ease your mind." Gwendolyn made to retort, but Aether was quick. "I know, I know, 'tis the husband that would be serving you to this pleasure, but I am doing this as a friend."

Gwendolyn hesitated and then nodded, taking Aether's hand as they arrived to the Pooka portal and came to a wondrous place, where the sky was not in sight but stone and rock surrounded the quiet village of Pookas while Aether directed them to the Rabbit Café with a light pink Pooka stood as she greeted the both of them. "What can I get you today?"

"Two Muggle Confits, thank you." Aether slide two coins of a woman on them to the Pooka and she, taking the coins, said 'With pleasure!' and left to the back as the protector pulled a chair for the princess before seating himself. "This is the first time you have ever been to the Village and I'll admit, it took me back as well." But Gwendolyn was quiet so he changed the subject. "How worried are you?"

"W-what!?" Gwendolyn shot up and stared at her guardian for how long as the sounds of the Café started to stir before she sighed and looked into her friends face. "I don't know, my heart is pounding so hard and I am finding that I long to see him again, this long wait is killing me, Aether." Gwendolyn waited for any input before she asked. "What should I do?"

"Well, the first thing to do is ask..." The Pooka returned and Aether thanked her for her service before returning back to the princess, fork and knife ready to cut into the texture. "I don't know where he went, but I have a inkling as to the place, Brom is the one who Oswald said anything about this journey." After eating some and finishing the taste, he resumed. "And I strongly believe that finding him is a needed action as I have grew accustomed to him, his strength seemingly fading from something I don't even know." Before Gwendolyn could even leap out of her seat and rush to the door, Aether steadied her action and returned her back to sit. "This is not the time to be rash, we need our wits about us before we try to find him." Finishing up, Aether stood and headed to the door. "I'll be waiting outside, take your time." With that, he left Gwendolyn to ponder and eat the sweet treat before her. She was unsure of what to do, but she was certain that she needed to know, so she ate and left for the smithery...

__________

Brom stood there in thought as Gwendolyn approached. "Please tell me... Where has he gone?" Brom turned and looked up to the woman who asked for the place that her husband had left for.

"He went to the Fire Kingdom to fulfill a promise he made to the king there." He crossed his arms again as he pondered what could have occurred. "He's been gone for some time now. Something may have happened..." He stroll off to further wonder as Gwendolyn pondered her own questions of the matter, stepping to the side of her bed in thought.

'To fulfill a promise...?' Her hand touched her chest, lack of Titrel evident on her. 'What is happening in the Fire Kingdom? My heart aches with each passing day...' She shook her head, her heart pounding so hard as if a drum that beckoned for action. 'I cannot bare it... I cannot wait like this.' With this resolve, Gwendolyn left her room to arm herself as a Valkyrie, grateful that Aether had prepared for her arrival with his own.

__________

As the name implies, the Fire Kingdom was of a hot temperance, for its location was in the depth of the Volkenon Volcano, but this did not cease the tread that Aether and Gwendolyn made as they approach the throne of the king, a shrine-like structure of multi-colored stone as a Vulcan greeted them on bent knee in her light attire. "The Great King Onyx is just ahead." Gwendolyn returned the bow and Aether nodded as they walked past, the Vulcan giving a angry look at the Bullet as they looked upon Onyx, the Inferno King, who greeted them with great energy.

"Welcome, Princess of Ragnanival." While Gwendolyn bowed on bent knee, Aether followed the same respect as Onyx stared him down with slight annoyance, shaking it off as Gwendolyn spoke.

"It has been awhile, Your Majesty." Gwendolyn glanced up as Onyx's arms fell to his sides.

"You are as beautiful as ever. 'Tis always a pleasure to welcome you to our kingdom." He raised his hand as a gesture to follow. "This way, please. Allow us to entertain you." But before they could, Gwendolyn stood and replied with interest.

"Your Majesty. I have come here seeking answers." Onyx returned the gaze as Gwendolyn continued, the Vulcans ever watchful of Aether who stood behind Gwendolyn. "I have heard that my husband Oswald has come to this land." Gwendolyn pressed more as she watched Onyx's expression. "Are you aware of this?"

"As much as I would like to say that I am not, I cannot lie in the face of such beauty." Aether's eyes rolled as he had expected some stubborn nature from the King, he was sure that Onyx would have liked to just distract Gwendolyn from the fact on hand. "He is certainly here." Onyx placed a hand on his chest as if trying to appeal himself as a man. "He is fighting for me."

"Fighting?"

"Yes. Against a dragon that is terrorizing our country." Both listened as Onyx continued with thought. "Some say that this dragon is Leventhan, the one mentioned in the prophecies concerning the world's end." He turned his head in resent as he recounted the times they spend fighting the beast in vain. "Our fire and our swords have had no effect on this newborn dragon." He turned back to the pair, Aether sensing a certain glee from the King at the next words. "I thought his Belderiver may have some effect... But since I have heard no news, I assume it was useless as well..."

Gwenodlyn, confused as to Oswald fighting for Onyx, asked with hand on armor. "Why Oswald...?" Onyx, however, simply walked up to the pair as he towered over Gwendolyn, a sense of pride in the words that he was planning on saying.

"You may not know this, but King Odin had already promised your hand... to me." Gwendolyn looked up to Onyx as he continued, her heart telling her if it was meant to happen. "It would've helped unify our conutries." He turned and returned to his spot, anger strong in his veins as he told the way he wanted. "But your father went back on his word... and instead, gave you to that tortured soul." He turned back to the pair and explained why Oswald was fighting for him. "In compensation for letting the issue drop quietly, Oswald made me a promise." Onyx placed his hand on his chest again as he continued. "He vowed to fight for his life on my behalf whenever I asked." Gwendolyn looked down as she took in this new information.

"Oswald did this for me...?" Aether could tell the conflict, but Onyx silently chuckled as he further spoke.

"He may die... He may even already be dead." Gwendolyn bowed her head in thought before Onyx offered a alternative option. "I can void our agreement and save him... if you will be my bride." Aether desired to blast the arrogant king away as he stride forth and lifted Gwendolyn's chin to look at him, a smile on his face at his certain victory. "It's up to you, Gwendolyn... as long as you become mine." Gwendolyn turned from Onyx's hold and walked a few paces, Aether worried that she would do something that she would regret in the long term when she surprised all in the shrine.

"Inferno King, you are no different than the men back home..." She turned with defiance in her eyes as she shouted her words. "I am not an object." She quickly took off with Aether in tow as Onyx returned with shock.

"What?" Dashing a few paces forward, he pointed to the fleeing pair. "Get her, Vulcans! Capture her, but don't harm her." He did not care for her protector, all he desires is Gwendolyn as the Vulcans turned into their true forms of magma and fire and started to pursue...

__________

Though Aether was laughing at the fact that Gwendolyn just flat out rejected Onyx in his court, he had to focus as Fire Spirits emerged from the fires along with Volcane, molten constructs that explode when defeated, fought through the hordes of Salamanders and their larger Elders, and battled the Vulcans that stood in their path and obtaining the Blue Flame, needed to open the door to the further depths, from the Phoenix Rider. The laughing could wait as Oswald has need of their aid...

__________

Oswald quickly pursued the fleeing dragon whelp as he tried to slay it, but it's quick movement left little to be gained as it whipped at him and attempted to blasted him with its linear breath before he knocked it down and fell to the ground himself, blood pouring out of several wounds that he had sustained, as the dragon rose up again, no wound to show for his actions. "This is useless... It seems that the Queen of the Dead has reduced my sword's power..." The dragon flapped a few inches above its weakened prey as he continued. "My body is like lead..." He bowed his head in angst that he tried in vain to stand. "To be defeated by a newborn dragon like this..." It flapped closer, Oswald realizing his time drawing close. "This doesn't look good..." But suddenly, Gwendolyn struck as she had arrived in time, blasting the dragon back as she called out.

"Oswald!" Oswald looked up in surprise that Gwendolyn had come to save him with Aether quickly assessing the situation.

"Why are... you here...?" The light was slowly fading as Oswald tried to move, but unable to do so as Gwendolyn charged into the fray, Aether keeping in tone as he made his distance. ""I...I can't make it... I can't go on..." He slumped against the ground as his ally, a mist of darkness, grabbed hold of him and moved him out of the way of the fight. As the battle started, Gwendolyn was quick in catching the newborn in a fight in flight, each exchanging blows with Gwendolyn the wiser as she often employed her shield against the tail whips while Aether continued to riddle the creature with fire before, lashing out of Gwendolyn's grapple, Levethan targeted Aether and fired a massive fireball that erupted in a blaze of power, Aether grateful that he rolled out of the way of such power.

'And here I thought this was going to be simple, my big jaw...' Aether gauged the attacks and waited for his chance, his weapon charging itself before he rolled out of the cover and fired a Psypher bomb that exploded in the dragon's face as Gwendolyn backed away, the smoke clearing as the dragon, little worse for wear continued to flap in the air before inhaling a large breath, Aether realizing what was going to occur. "Princess, take cover!" She did so in time as the dragon blasted a massive column of power in her direction, the heavy stone of cover barely holding the power back before the dragon tired and Aether could see the destruction that was made as a majority of the stone and its surroundings were completely destroyed like a blade through parchment. 'What in Odin's name are we facing off with, no dragon has this much power as a newborn.' Another curious thing was a crown that rested on the dragon's shell atop its head, a odd thing to have as a dragon. 'What is with the crown, something like that implies that someone or something placed the crown beforehand.' Taking aim, he shot the dragon down, knocking the crown off in the process as it sat up for its assault before looking about for the crown and emitting a high-pitch shriek that was painful to even hear, Gwendolyn shouting something, but Aether couldn't make out what it was until his side was struck. As it was, the shriek had attracted Elder Salamanders and one was quick enough to catch Aether off guard, whipping out at his side with the burning tail, Aether lucky that he was prepared for such attacks, but the pain still rang out. Now turning to the Salamanders, Aether quickly fired against the reptile monsters while Gwendolyn had her hands full dealing with Leventhan who was able to retrieve the crown. Gwendolyn attacked with valor and heart as the dragon, now weakened from the battle, started to give up its protection for stronger attacks while the Salamanders quickly found the reason why Aether was the Bullet as he fired a piercing shot through both of them. Aether hurried to aid Gwendolyn as the dragon was getting too close with its strikes and distracted the beast long enough for Gwendolyn to end it with a Ice Shot. Instead of dying, the wounded dragon instead fled rather than continue the fight, leaving the pair to get back to Oswald. Gwendolyn knelt next to the unconscious Oswald and assessed the wounds that he carried.

"His injures are grave. They must be attended to immediately..." Aether nodded as he lifted the heavy warrior, but before they could, another voice spoke.

"...See what his pride has cost him. Leave him be." Both looked to find the Onyx had arrived, along with his small entourage, smug as ever as Gwendolyn looked to him with anger brimming. "You have been banished for disgracing your country, but you are still astonishing." Ignoring Aether altogether, Onyx stepped closer with a smirk of want. "To be able to defeat the dragon from the prophecies, you intrigue me even more."

"Oswald has fought for you, and the dragon has been defeated." Gwendolyn was both relieved that Oswald recover and angry that Onyx wouldn't lift a single finger to even aid without some foolish reason. "We are returning to the castle." Aether nodded as he stepped past the envoys with Gwendolyn about to follow when Onyx let his calm resolve slip.

"Why...?" Aether realized that Onyx was too full of himself that him losing his control over emotions was something that Aether did not expect from the Inferno King. "Why him?" Both watched as the king blazed with anger, embers flying off his arm as he swung. "That man has been selected by the Queen of the Dead..." His expression lighten as he explained the reason. "He will eventually die as her servant. His very existence is torment." Extending a hand to Gwendolyn, he voiced his will as the correct thing to have. "Leave that doomed soul, and take my hand." As the day had been, Aether had witness Gwendolyn grow as a individual and not a wallflower of a warrior as she leveled her spear at Onyx, anger on her face at the insult.

"Your Majesty, if you persist in insulting my husband, my spear will take your hand." Gwendolyn lowered her weapon as she stood up to the being that wished to take her freedom away if she went with him. "If you do not want your life extinguished, get out of my sight!" Aether was very surprised that his charge would put up such a show of willpower, her whole being changed with the addition of Oswald and what she had to go through.

Onyx, instead of being insulted by a threat, started to laugh a hearty one as he shared gazes. "...How intense. Just like a flame..." Onyx nodded as he turned to his envoys as he continued, looking back to Gwendolyn as a parting note. " I shall pay my respects to such intensity and back down for now." Looking up, he commented the fact that his country was a bit safer and Oswald having done quite a bit in belaying the dragon. "The promise has been kept. Let us leave it at that." He, however, turned back with a wide smirk as he finished up. "But remember, you are the one that stokes the embers of my heart..." With that, King Onyx left with his guards, leaving Aether and Gwendolyn a moment of silence before heading out back to the castle.

__________

Gwendolyn found herself staring as she settled on the bed that they had placed Oswald in, gripping a hand and lifting it to her face as she studied its smooth, but tough texture. Glancing up to Oswald, her hand roamed across the bandages that now dress his body and his opened white shirt as Aether entered with a whisper. "He is not waking up any time soon, so give him room to breath or I will need to return you back to your chambers for intruding with my duty."

"Aether..." Gwendolyn spoke as she continued to observe Oswald before placing both hands in her lap as Aether pulled up a chair and started redressing Oswald. "...Tell me, what should I do for him?"

Aether stopped a moment before resuming the process, peeling the worn bandages and using new ones to cover the wounds. "I do not know, Princess, as it is be, letting him rest is in the best of his health so let us not trouble him with our troubles." Aether opened a Healing Tonic and served it in spoonfuls to Oswald to slowly heal his wounds. "You understand what Oswald has done for you, but I cannot fault you for feeling undervalued by Odin."

"...Yes."

"But that is also the reason that you would carry a pain of loss with you, for you have found a new form to which learn to love with." Satisfied with his work, he stood up and walked out with Gwendolyn, after a moment of watching Oswald once more, followed suit to speak further. "His heart will be shattered to learn that the ring that he presented to you was given to your father, but I see that a ring is merely a symbol that is borrowed, not forged." Cleaning his hands with the basin nearby, he returned to observing as a dark mist gathered at his side. "We are not heroes on the field, we are humans, we desire to win at all costs that we sometimes forget more grand things in exchange, we only need a push in the direction to complete it in the cycle we wish, not made for us to live." He sighed as the mist solidified itself into a female, drabbed in a cloak of darkness and wearing a lovely dark-violet dress as she shared in the observe. Gwendolyn was surprised that such a being would come, but Aether was more calm as he stood and shook her hand, pale white like bone. "It's been a while, hasn't it Maire?"

"Indeed, it has been too long since we have talked face to face." Both were awkward in their approach as if they had found something in the other before Maire turned and addressed Gwendolyn. "A pleasure to meet you in person, I am Maire, sworn ally to Oswald and his 'personal' Halja."

Before Gwendolyn could leave, Aether spoke up. "Maire will be here with us as we live in this castle, keeping watch for anything out of place." Though Gwendolyn was unsure, she trusted in Aether and his judgment. Perhaps she would learn what else had occurred later, but for now she had Oswald back, the one thing that mattered now.
And so Chapter 5 of Valkyrie is complete.
I will admit, it took some serious time to do it, but it is good in my view, despite the rushed ending.

As always, Odin Sphere does not belong to me, only the OCs and their interaction are mine.
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September 30, 2016
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