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Adventure to another realm; [Closed]
Topic Started: Jul 25 2016, 02:12 PM (2,322 Views)
Sophia
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Several days had passed since Eir had visited before the Valkyrie of healing sent word to Sophia and Heleth that she was ready to pick them up for their little mission to Álfheimr and asked them to meet her in an isolated location by the seaside. The younger Valkyrie arrived first, and recalled with a bit of melancholy the last time she waited by the sea for transport. It wasn’t exactly a happy occasion then, so she was very much relived that this time would be different.

Still, she was curious about how they’ll be going to Álfheimr. The Bifröst only connected Miðgarðr and Ásgarðr, so they’d probably need to traverse Yggdrasill unless the Æsir made their own version of the Naglfar. Considering how effective it was during Ragnarök, Sophia wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, though she also doubted the rulers of the other realms would be happy to know another such ship would existed.

A rainbow shimmer appeared over the water, and a moment later a longship emerged near the shore and made landfall on the beach. On it stood Eir in her usual flowing robes, and beside her…

“A…Alexia?”

The winged girl didn’t respond, not that Sophia blamed her, but her feathers bristled threateningly. Clearly Alexia’s guardians wasn’t happy to see her, and the Valkyrie was about to take a stance when Eir spoke up. “Relax child, she’s coming to help us this time.”

“Coming to help us? But I thought…”

“We came to an… agreement. In exchange for some freedoms and protection, she will help us with some tasks.” A grunt came from Alexia’s direction, and her darkened wing spread out momentarily only to retract under Alexia’s command. “…Of course, it wasn’t exactly a negotiation, so she and her guardians aren’t too happy about it. Still, it was better than the alternative.”

… The alternative… Sophia didn’t think it was anything good, so she could understand why Alexia would choose to accept the deal. Her thoughts were interrupted by Eir once more, which was perhaps for the best. “Where is your friend? I’m sure she got my message.”

“She should be here any minute now, she wanted to come after all.”
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Sota
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The road next to the seaside had a concrete walkway right next to it. every few meters, next to a palm tree there was a bench.

On one of them a backpack lied next to a girl.

Her jade hair was tied into an uncommon chain link braid.

The girl was wearing a light black dress with a white jacket kept open.
Her red skin was contrasting on the choice of colors. A pair of comfortable black boots completed the outfit.
Despite the boots, Heleth didn't renounce to her silver and gold anklets that complemented the armlets on her wrists.

One could wonder how long since she was there.
The young demon was waiting with her gaze toward the horizontal line where the sky met the blue ocean.

And then, her eyes caught sight of the rainbow.
"Heh!" a sharp smile appeared on her lips as she stood up "Time to go!" she whispered.

Heleth grabbed the backpack and made her way down, toward the beach and to the incoming longship.
As she got closer, she could spot Sophia on the shore, with two figures on them. To her surprise, both were familiar. Apparently Eir brought Alexia along.

"Well this is a pleasant surprise! Long time no see, chimaera!"
Heleth gestured with her right hand as she got closer. It definitely was good to see the Asgardians kept their word. She did look ok, maybe a bit nervous...
That...that was fishy. Or at least it was for the young demon, whose gears began to spin wildly with lots of theories on the matter.

"Good morning to you all" she then said as she got closer, bowing her head toward Eir "Are we waiting for someone else?"
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Sophia
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“Just you my dear.” Eir smiled devilishly as Heleth approached while Alexia once again didn’t respond to her greeting. Give her time, maybe she’ll warm up to them later.

… Probably much later.

“Now that we’re all here, let’s be on our way. We’re on a schedule after all.”

Sophia nodded and climbed aboard the longship, and once both she and Heleth were on board, the ship cast off and drifted towards the open sea. “Umm.. Mistress, how are we getting to Álfheimr? Are we going to Ásgarðr first?”

Eir raised an eyebrow at her prodigy. “Oh right, you’ve only travelled using the Bifröst before. Well, you’re familiar with Yggdrasill, right?”

“Yes of course, but won’t humans notice such a portal? Surely some of the supernaturally inclined people would notice.”

“Not without the proper transport they won’t. Sure once in a while a human stumbles through and ends up in the World Tree, but we quickly send them back before anything serious happens.” The hull of their ship began to glow, and Eir gestured to the bow of the ship. “We’re about to make the transition now. It might be a bit disorienting at first, but you should get used to it. You’ll be making more trips this way in the future after all.”

The younger Valkyrie nodded and prepared herself. Soon the glowing intensified and engulfed the entire ship in the same glowing light that she saw earlier. When it finally faded, the group found themselves sailing along a river with thick roots and towering ruins lining the riverbank. There were many pockets of water further inland as well, where dragonic looking creatures made their nests.

Sophia was fascinated by the sight until something else came to mind. “Should we be worried about the Níðhöggr? He lives here, doesn’t he?”

“As long as we leave his kin alone we should be fine.” Eir nodded at the dragonic creatures and their eggs. “For the most part he’s content with gnawing on one of the roots. It’s not exactly problematic, so we usually let him be.”

“I see…” Sophia was still a bit nervous, but it was more akin to flying on a plane for the first time. She trusted Eir, and at this point it was more likely that they ran into travellers from other realms instead of the Yggdrasill eating dragon. She can’t say she wasn’t slightly disappointed though. Seeing the dragon of legend would be dangerous of course, but also awe inspiring.

Ah well, maybe next time.
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Sota
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Heleth eyed the chimaera. It was pretty obvious to understand why she didn't say anything to her greeting, but at the same time Heleth had no reason to return that apparent hostility.
After all, Heleth had every reason to befriend a creature whose potential was feared even by asgardian gods.

So, while not the only guest in Sophia's mission, she was the last one they were waiting for.
Once she got on board of the longship the demon first looked for a place to let her backpack rest so that she could be free to move around the brigde.

The demon was studying what she considered an old fashioned boat as her ears listened to Eir and Sophia's exchange.
Apparently they were going to use the Yggdrasill to move to Álfheimr.

The Yggdrasill, the world tree. An ever popular concept used and abused by games, movies and books, pictured in always different ways.
Even before the ship began its transition from Earth, Heleth was already leaned on the railing, looking outside.

As the bright light faded, the demon could enjoy a unique scenery.
Once again she wondered how many of her kin were able to see it.
Giant roots surrounded the river they were into. Ruins were enveloped by them, hinting at a much more glorious past. Small draconic animals moved through.

Not a comment escaped her lips for a while as Eir and Sophia talked.

"What happened to those ruins?" she then asked, turning her head toward the pair.
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Sophia
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“Ruins leftover from Ragnarök.” Eir turned her attention to the ruins Heleth pointed out. “Yggdrasill was the only conventional means of travel between realms, so it was only natural that we put fortifications along it to give early warning to enemy movements.” Sure enough the ruins appeared to be that of walls, towers, and even some metal bars from what appeared to be a gate. “… As you can see, they didn’t exactly meet a good fate, but they did their job well.”

Their journey continued until their river joined a larger stream where many other ships and vessels could be seen. They were of varying designs, some warm and elegant, some blocky and sturdy, and some even icy and dagger-like. Despite the large amount of ships, Eir actually seemed a bit perplexed and uneasy. “… There are too few elven ships. Normally they’d dominate the Yggdrasill with their trade and transport ships… Whatever disaster that plagues them must be serious indeed.”

The comment caught Sophia’s attention. “Do we know what the nature of the disaster is? I don’t think you ever mentioned it before…”

“That’s because we’re not sure. We only received a call for help, but the messenger never said what the problem was. Lord Odin decided to send us to assess the situation, and if it’s too much for us to handle, we can call for backup.”

“I see…” That was a bit suspicious, but was understandable to some degree. Sometimes it was better to show the situation than to try and explain it, though the younger Valkyrie would have preferred to have some idea of what they were getting into.

As they sailed along they passed many branching paths where ships would enter and exit the main river. Soon enough they reached their exit, and they too left the primary river. They were notably the only ones who took this particular path, as all the other ships seemed to give it a wide berth. Why that might be they would find out soon enough as they neared the end of the river, and with another flash of light they made the transition to Álfheimr.

The quartet found themselves in a lavish, well-decorated port that was oddly deserted for its stature. Sure there were a few ships sailing in and out and some people at work, but it was clear that the port was far below capacity. The Ásgarðrian ship docked at one of the many open spaces and they were quickly greeted by a tall elven man in elegant robes that showed his high status.

“Elen sila lumen omentilmo, Eir, vanimle sila tiri.” He bowed and took Eir’s hand in his, giving it a kiss before helping her onto the docks.

“Diola lle, Arphenion, lye naa lle nai.” The elder Valkyrie gestured to her three companions. Sophia had no idea what the two said, but took her Mistress’s gesture as her cue to introduce herself and wracked her brain for what little elvish she knew to greet the man. “Sae…Saesa ome…omentien lle.” She bowed as well, hoping she didn’t end up saying anything rude by mistake.

The man’s eyes widened in surprise, making Sophia fear the worse, but his expression quickly relaxed and he gave her a calming smile. “Do not worry young one, we are fluent in the common tongue.” He opened his arms in a warm greeting. “Welcome, to Álfheimr.”
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Sota
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Right, Ragnarok.
She could have thought about that.

At any rate there was some hidden beauty even in those ruins, slowly fading away.

As her eyes roamed around, she took note of the fact that apparently they didn't know what the danger was.
Odd.
Definitely odd.

Heleth didn't say anything on the matter though, and instead looked at that slice of Asgardian reality she never saw before.
Entire different realms were trading between each other, using the Yggrdrasil as a gateway that linked them.
She had to admit it was surprising, on many ways, staarting with the fact that apparently the asgardian deities didn't deny its usage to other people.

Naturally, even that though didn't escape her lips.

For the second time that day, they were enveloped in a bright light, and Heleth's face didn't hide her suprise at the sight of the imposing harbor their ship entered into.
It was wide, definitely a large port. Yet, its size made it easier to see that there were few ships docked there.

The young demon stretched her arms above her head, and the long braid behind her stretched itself as well.
Standing behind the others, Heleth silently observed the elven man that stood on the dock, and helped Eir out of the ship.

He was tall. That was the first thing she took note of. Taller then the average human. His clothes made him look like an importan person, at the very least he was an ambassador, but given the way he interacted with Eir, he was probably something more.
Too bad she didn't get a single word out of his first sentence.

An eyebrow move slightly at Eir's gesture, and her gold and green eyes dashed to Sophia. The girl spluttered out something in that elven idiom and bowed. Heleth simply bowed her head, but didn't really move.

The tall elf widened his eyes, but he quickly reassure Sophia about her splutter speaking with words even the demon could understand.

Like the educated lady she was, she didn't do anything else and stood there with her left hand holding her right wrist in front of her moment to properly introduce herself.
Heleth looked a bit too composed, and just eyed the elf as she was waiting to see the reaction oh his face the moment he would see her.
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Sophia
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Aside from a passing glance, Arphenion didn’t pay Heleth and Alexia much mind and took their silence in stride. He returned his attention to Eir as he turned to walk towards the main building connected to the docks, gesturing for them to follow. “I apologize for not having a proper reception for you, but our resources are stretched rather thin at the moment.”

Sophia was glad that the elf chose to use the common tongue as he put it, there was no way she would be able to follow if he spoke in Elvish. This way would be best for all involved. “We understand there are more important things to address, milord. Can you explain what is happening here?” She probably should have let Eir do the talking, considering she’s the representative of Ásgarðr, but Sophia was more than a bit curious.

“There is no need for such titles, we requested your help after all.” Fortunately he didn’t seem to care that Sophia spoke out of turn, or rather it was more like he was focused on reaching their destination. “It’s a plague, as far as we can tell, but it’s not like any sickness we have ever seen before. It first started in the forests of Nimtolien where the wildlife has been dying mysteriously. There was no apparent source, and it spread so quickly that we didn’t even have time to react. By the time we realized something was amiss and sent out the healers, it was beyond our control. At that point the only thing we could do was to quarantine our world in hopes of keeping it from spreading any further.”

A sombre glance back at the group. “Of course, we haven’t given up hope just yet, which is why we reached out to the Æsir.” He smiled wryly, a sharp difference from the warm way he greeted them. “I do hope you have some idea of what to do. We are running out of options here.”
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Sota
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While Heleth didn't really do something immediately, she didn't really appreciate the dislike the elf reserved her and Alexia.

Her braid waved once.

"Well, that was rude."

He didn't even deign them of a proper introduction! He didn't even say his name! Or if he did, she definitely didn't understand when during his speech in elven tongue.
In any case, considering they shared a common language, he clearly demonstrated his distance and dislike for both of them.

"Don't you agree?" she asked Alexia for her opinion on the treatment they received, turning her head briefly toward her.

The red demon stepped out of the boat, her backpack on a single shoulder as she eyed the city with a detached expression.

Her gaze went at the empty waters of the docks and she listened to the elf speaking about the disaster that afflicted them.

Apparently it was a plague from the forests of some area, and it was spreading quickly. They underestimated the problem until it was too late to contain it, with the result that they self-quarantined their whole world.

Well...that was not what she expected. So they sent a messenger for help about a deadly disease without mentioning it? Really?
Did they want their helpers to die as well?

"Great." she just stated flatly, following the others with a blank, yet clearly irritated look on her face.
While she could probably provide some help at least with understanding what was the source of that plague, she has at the same time the feeling she was going to be dead weight, or even worse. What could she do should she catch that deadly disease?
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Sophia
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“So you asked us to come here knowing how dangerous it might be, and you only tell us when it’s too late?” Displeased was a weak word to describe the elder Valkyrie’s expression, and Eir stopped in her tracks. “I hope you realize the gravity of what you did. You are lucky that I didn’t strike you down already.”

Arphenion turned and bowed deeply. “We are truly sorry for the deception, but we couldn’t risk rejection when there is so much at stake. We also think that a goddess of your power would be immune to such a disease…” He raised his head slightly to look at Sophia, Heleth, and Alexia. “…Though we didn’t think that you would bring others with you…”

The elf looked like he was about to say something else, but a dangerous look from Eir silenced him. “Please, we are desperate. The death toll is relatively low still, but the number of sick is growing daily. We have a sample of the plant that we believe to be the culprit, but we have no idea what it is. Even if you refuse to help us, and we would not blame you, could you at least help us identify it so we have a better chance of surviving this?”

Eir angrily raised a hand towards the elf, but Sophia stopped her. “Forgive me Mistress, but I think we should help. If my friends and I are already infected, we would have a better chance of finding a cure by working with them.”

“Don’t be ridiculous girl, I’m sure I can cure you and your friends of whatever this plague is with a bit of effort. I’m just furious at the stupidity of these people. What were they thinking?” The Mistress of Healing’s eyes glared at the still bowed Arphenion, but reluctantly lowered her hand. “…But I guess Lord Odin wouldn’t be too happy with me if he knew I refused to help. Fine. Take us to this… ‘plant’ of yours before I change my mind.”

“Thank you Lady Eir! Right this way!” The look on Arphenion’s face was one of genuine relief, though Eir kept her annoyed expression. Sophia on the other hand, gave Heleth a sheepish look with mixed feelings. “…At least we don’t have to worry about getting sick. And who knows, maybe we’ll get something nice out of this.”

…Well, it was nice that she was trying to stay optimistic.




A short while later they entered a small room with a single pedestal in the center, guarded by a pair of armoured elven warriors wearing masks. On the pedestal was a glass dome covered with various markings, presumably seals to keep whatever within contained. And what exactly was within?

“This is what we think is causing the plague…”


Sophia’s eyebrows rose in surprise while Eir’s furled in confusion. It was a single indigo flower with purple leaves, but radiated energy of unknown origins… unknown to Sophia and Eir that is. Alexia’s darkened wing stirred slightly when she saw the flower, and Heleth would feel that the energy was very… nostalgic, almost as if she had grown up around it.

What could it be?
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Sota
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It seemed Eir didn't appreciate the Elves's omission of such a critical detail just as much if not more than Heleth was.

The demon had to admit it was almost pleasant to see his apologies as he bowed her head.
She was just about to think Eir would hit him, but Sophia intervened before that could happen.
Her intervention also promted a more diplomatic approach from the goddess.

Maybe it was for the better...lucky elf.

---

The blonde elf in white, green and gold led them to a room where two masked soldiers were guarding what they considered the source of the mysterious disease.
Inside the trasnparent glass dome, under the faintly lit magical markings stood a plant with purple, toothed leaves with those almost white flowers. Their starry shape with five pointy tips was impossible to forget.

"Black Moonflowers" she said as she got a little closer to the pedestal "How did they get here?"
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Sophia
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All eyes turned to Heleth as she spoke the words. “Black Moonflowers? I have never heard of such a plant, what is it? Where does it come from?”

“It is a highly poisonous flower that grows in Hell.” Alexia’s wing turned fluid and took on the skeletal face of Rakanoth, making Arphenion jump in surprise with his sudden appearance. The demon ignored him and stared at the flower, seemingly as perplexed as Heleth was. “It blooms during the night, at which time it releases a deadly toxin into the air. It’s been known to cause fever, hallucinations, and even death.”

“It grows in Hel? I admit that I’m not familiar with the plant life there, but it doesn’t look like something that’d grow in a frozen land like that…”

“Hell, you fool. The Netherworld, Land of the Damned. In other words, not one of the nine realms connected to your precious World Tree.” Rakanoth seethed at the elf, chastising him as if he was a small child.

“I… I see…” Arphenion didn’t seem to like Rakanoth’s tone at all, but held his tongue. He was the one who asked for help after all, and after what he did he was in no position to complain. “But how would it get here? We have no contact with worlds outside of the Nine Realms!”

“What makes you think I would know? I have been locked away in Asgard with Alexia for the past few months.” He glared at Eir while Alexia looked away, keeping her silence. “You’re better off asking the red devil there, if I’m not mistaken her father rules the Netherworld.”

Arphenion turned to Heleth in surprise while Eir seemed intrigued by this new piece of information. What the Valkyrie had in mind would have to wait though, as the Elf’s problems took precedence. “Please, if you know anything tell us!”
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Sota
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Rakanoth synthetically provided a suitable answer to the elf's questions, but also admitted he couldn't reasonably have an idea on how they got there.

Alexia's wing final words were that if anyone could provide some explaination, she should be the one to, given her position inside the Netherworld as legitimate daughter of its ruler.

Curse you, Rakanoth! Too much information! It was not like she had any reason to hide it, but she definitely had none to advertise it as well!

In the following second she could read surprise on all the elf's face.
The daughter of a king between demons was standing right there, just a few steps away!
Honestly, a part of her was overjoyed to see his face like that, given the way she was ignored earlier: so overjoyed that she wanted to flash him her beautiful fanged smile, but refrained from doing so.

Heleth noticed a form of delight in the way Eir looked at her as well. That information definitely brought a permanent shift in the way everyone excluding Sophia would deal with her.

Well, it was too late to do something about it.

"Honestly? I have no idea on how it got here. I know it's somewhat common in the forests near Rus lake. Maybe your forests are ideal for its growth: while deadly at night I never heard of it spreading its toxins in an amount so high to cause a widespread plague."

Heleth took a second of silence for her own considerations.

"I may simply be too young to know though. Maybe in the past something similar happened in the Netherworld as well."

"Given it's a toxin, there used to be someone that could help us." Heleth then added, yet hesitating a little "But Leraje died in Derweze some time ago..."
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Sophia
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“I see…” Arphenion was clearly disheartened by this newest piece of information. With that bit of hope dashed the elf really didn’t know where else to turn.

“What if we investigated the place where the flower was first found? Perhaps someone from a nearby settlement unknowingly brought it to Álfheimr. With your connection to Miðgarðr, which is connected to the Netherworld, it’s not impossible that someone accidentally brought it over.”

Unfortunately Arphenion wasn’t as impressed as she hoped. “We’ve already searched the entire area thoroughly, there wasn’t anything worthy of note.” He practically snapped at Sophia, all signs of his earlier respect and friendliness gone. “Another search would be a waste of time.”

“Sure, and you have a much better plan in mind I suppose?” Eir came to her protégée’s defence, giving the elf a dirty smile that caused him to recoil slightly. “Or maybe you can settle this without our help now that you know what the plant is?”

“N…no, of course not… I apologize.” Arphenion was practically cowering under Eir’s poisonous smile. The Mistress of Healing wasn’t a goddess for nothing after all, and when she wanted she can be quite intimidating… and dangerous. “I shall arrange for transportation right away.” With that he made a hasty retreat out of the room, leaving the four off-worlders on their own with the dangerous plant.

Sophia had to admit that seeing the elf squirm was rather satisfying, especially after his true nature was revealed, but she was honestly also disappointed. She had a pretty fantastical mental image of elves, believing them to a beautiful and noble people, but now it looked that was only half true.

Well, reality is often different from imagination.

For now they still had a job to do, and maybe not all elves are so stuck up. “Is there anyone else that might be of help, Heleth?” The younger Valkyrie turned to her friend. “Maybe your father might have someone familiar with such herbs working for him? Honestly I don’t know how to counteract a plague caused by this plant, even if we found out how it got here… “
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Sota
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That elf was definitely irritating. As ambassador of his race he definitely gave it a bad impression. At any rate Eir dealt with him swiftly, and that brought up a smile on Heleth's face.

The smile didn't last long, as Sophia brought her attention back to the problem.
With Leraje gone, she honestly had no idea who could she ask to, but Sophia's suggestion made a lot of sense, and her father could address them toward someone knowledgeable on the matter.

Her eyes settled on the indigo flower.
"You're right, Sophia" she then said "My father may know someone that knows about it. It's worth a try."

The demon turned her head to Eir.
"Lady Eir, I need to reach New Sheol in the Netherworld to arrange a meeting with my father about this matter. I won't ask you to follow me there, should you prefer to not do so. Unfortunately I don't have a way to reach it from here."
Her Abraxas stone worked only between Earth and the Netherworld after all, and she knew no magic rituals to jump from a plane to another.
"Does some of you possess the aility to plane travel?"
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Sophia
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“Plane travelling? Heimdallr might have some ability like that, but I sure don’t… You do realize how hard it is right? And why we needed specialized vessels like the Naglfar to travel without the Yggdrasill.” Eir scratched the back of her head.

"How about the Abraxas stone? We used them to travel between Miðgarðr and the Netherworld a few times before. Though I'm not sure if it'll work from here..."

“Well, we can head back to Miðgarðr real quick and come back once you have what you need.” She strolled back towards the harbor, waving at one of the guards as they passed him. “Tell Arphenion that we’ll be back shortly with more help, and if he has a problem with that then he can solve this crisis on his own.”

The guard stood in confusion as he watched the group leave. Explaining this to the haughty elf would no doubt be a pain…




Another trip through the branches of the Yggdrasill later, the quartet found themselves back on the beach where they started their journey. Alexia was as aloof as ever and was watching the tide creep up on the sand some distance away from where Eir and Sophia were standing around Heleth. “Take your time little one, making that elf wait a bit should teach him a lesson or two on humility.”

“… Mistress, the people of Álfheimr shouldn’t have to pay for the arrogance of their leadership. We should still hurry back with help if we can.”

“Bah, their whole race could use a lesson on humility. They think they’re so much better than the other realms just because they’re a little better looking and live longer than most. A good plague will show them.”

“Mistress… that’s a little…” Eir seemed a bit… fired up. And angry for some reason, almost as if it was personal for her…

Why that might be would be a story for another time, as the elder Valkyrie waved a hand in dismissal and returned her attention to Heleth. “Do what you need to do dear, we’ll wait.”
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Sota
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That was to be expected. Jumping from a realm to another wasn't easy. No one she knew bar Culsu was able to achieve something similar without a huge effort and long rituals to prepare for it. Culsu could do it in little more than ain instant yet she often pointed out it was tiring for her anyway.
It seemed Asgardians faced the same limitations as any other.

In the end the Abraxas Stones in their possession were the safest bet. With them they would be able to head to New Sheol if they departed from Earth.

----

Back on the shore, Heleth silently looked around to Alexia and Eir as the goddess spoke with Sophia. Apparently the mistress of healing didn't appreciate elves much after all.
The red demon wondered what was the reason of that, even after Eir dismissed her thought with a hand.

"Come closer" she spoke to Alexia "Or the stone won't be able to carry you on the other side"

Once the chimaera came next to the others, Heleth brought her hand to her Abraxas Stone, and called forth its powers.

The shore and the sea disappeared in a flash, leaving room to a large imposing building appearing in front of them. The high towers and and the two central bodies of Sheol Palace obscured the vision in front of them.
All around the external walls of that mix between a castle and a skyscraper hid the rest of the capital city away from the eyes of the group. Only the top of the tallest building appeared in the sky above.
Gargoyles and demonic statues adorned them, like imposing symbols of power.

Heleth's appearance gradually shifted, and the red demon gained an older appearance with two horns growing from her forehead. The influx of the Abraxas Stone spell was in full effect.

Their arrival didn't go unnoticed: two demons immediately approached weapons in hand shouting "Halt!"
The two came to a full stop, when their eyes saw Heleth's figure walking toward them.

"Lady Heleth!" one shouted, as both kneeled down.

The young demon made a gesture with her right hand, telling them to stand up.

"My Lady, who are they?" the other demon asked.

"These are my friends Sophia and Alexia, and with me is Eir, the asgardian mistress of Healing."

Both demons tensed, visibly nervous.

"We need to speak with my father, Lord Mastema."

"My Lady, your father is not in New Sheol at the moment. He is supervising the army on the Shedim borders as we speak."

She had to expect that. The war with the Mazikin wasn't over, after all.

"Who is currently in charge inside the palace?" She asked.

"Hello hello!" A figure appeared at the top of the short stairway that led inside the main building of the Palace. The slender figure of Culsu, the Demon of the Gates was standing with an happy smile and both hands waving at the group's direction.

It took the blink of an eye for the green haired demon to fade and reappear right in front of Heleth.

"Culsu hugs young Helly!" she shouted as she proceeded to do exactly that, much to Heleth's discomfort "Culsu missed you! It's like years since the last time Culsu saw you!"

Her eyes glanced at the group, and with a ripple drawing itself in thin air, the demon was right next to Sophia, patting her back with an overly amused smile.
"Aaaand since I saw you too! Long time no see! You didn't use Culsu's stone yet, didn't you? Culsu can feel her power hasn't been touched yet!" she definitely smiled toward Eir as she floated with a pirouette toward Alexia.

"Well Hello there! I'm Culsu!" she waved her hand "But you're not a fish! Oh! Maybe you're just an illusion?"

Heleth opened her mouth in slight disbelief as Culsu proceeded to fade one more time and reappear in front of the group.
Her feet touched the ground and for little more than a few seconds, she looked like another person.

Culsu formally bowed her head to stare at Eir respectully. That ended immediately as her amused smile reappeared.
"Culsu is surprised to feel this presence. This scent is asgardian!"

She tapped a finger on her chin "You're not a ljósálfar, are you? Of course you're not!"

Given the bow she just did Heleth had the feeling Culsu already understood.
"Culsu thinks this is a glorious day in a way!" she clapped her hands "We should have some tea!"
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Sophia
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In a flash the group had arrived in the Netherworld, in such a way that even Eir had to be impressed. “That’s quite the impressive magic, instant teleportation between realms without a complex device. I know a few people who would be very interested in talking with the one who made it possible. Who is it? A noble demon or a court mage?”

“Well…” Before Sophia could respond, the answer presented herself. As Eir stood wide-eyed in surprise, the younger Valkyrie couldn’t help but smile. Culsu’s energetic self was always an interesting sight to behold, though having her suddenly appear in front of you always took some getting used to. “Good to see you too, Lady Culsu. I promise I’ll use the stone if I need to.”

Whether the hyperactive demon heard her or not would be a mystery, as she suddenly appeared in front of Alexia who jumped in surprise as both Rakanoth and Sariel emerged to shield her protectively. “F…Fish?” Like Sophia her confused remark got no response as Culsu had disappeared again.

“Warm greetings to you, Lady Culsu. I am Eir, Valkyrie of Healing in service of the All Father Odin.” Eir returned the respectful gesture. “Tea would be lovely, but I’m afraid we’re here on business. Does your court employ an herbalist or alchemist? We have need of one familiar with the plants of your realm.”
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Sota
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"Aww, but Culsu can make some beautiful gunpowder tea!"
The demon complained briefly but she quickly regained her smiling attitute "Still, a problem is a problem."

The green haired demon began to slowly turn upside down as she was floating, a hand on her chin as she was thinking something.
"Culsu wonders about the reason of you needing to know about local plants...hmm..."
The demon completed a full rotation as she spoke again.

"Time is of the essence, right? It may mark the difference between ending under Eir's care or Culsu's."

Heleth silently pondered on such that observation. She knew Culsu was one of the many entities that led the dead to the afterlife. On the other side stood Eir, mistress of Healing. In a way they were opposites.

"Culsu doesn't like extra work. Culsu assumes Hel doesn't like it too. Tea, tea is much better. You can have tea with Culsu later!" she clapped her hands together.

"Leraje is no longer with us, but Culsu has a backup plan."
she gestured with her left hand, making a circling motion. The air waved, and began to ripple like water. A portal appeared and a garden could be seen inside of it.
"Culsu will make you meet prince Stolas. The owl knows everything about herbs!"

The demon warped next to one of the guards. "Please go tell Naamah she's in charge of Sheol Palace until Culsu is back. Culsu has to see prince Stolas now!"

The two guards gave each other a puzzled look, but seemingly complied.
Heleth could understand them. She didtched her duties so quickly it was amazing.
"Shouldn't you stay here?" she tried to object.
"Naaah! Naamah needs a moment or two with some responsibility once in a while!"
Heleth fell silent.
"Come on guys, jump into Culsu's portal!"

Stolas. Heleth knew that name: the prince came to Sheol a few times in the past, but she was too young to really remember his face.
"Let's go." she said, as she walked inside.
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Sophia
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“Any help you can provide us would be greatly appreciated, Lady Culsu.” Sophia bowed to the demon in thanks. “Though I have to ask… an owl?”

“You’re not going to last very long if you’re going to be surprised at such a thing my dear.” Eir put a hand on her pupil’s head and gave it a light pat. “We Valkyries can sometimes take on different forms if we need to, I’m not surprised if demons can do the same. Now come on, you’re the one who said that we should hurry.”

Sophia nodded and followed Eir as the Mistress of Healing stepped through the portal. But before she did she noticed that Alexia was lingering behind and hadn’t moved. Instead the chimera was staring at their surroundings with an odd look on her face. “…Alexia?”

The winged girl saw Sophia’s gaze upon her and returned her focus to the task at hand. She walked right past the Valkyrie and stepped through the portal without a word. To say that was unexpected would be a lie, but it still hurt a bit. Maybe after this they can have a little talk. With one final glance at the castle in Sheol, the Valkyrie too stepped through the portal.
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"Culsu says measure your words with the owl. He is a wise animal, with the right word for everyone. He is fussy and a bit prickly, too. But it's also a bird of prey able to strike fear into those in his presence!"
She giggled briefly adding "Sometimes he eats snakes too."

Heleth's eyes intercepted Culsu's. The meaning inside her smile was hard to read.

"Come, little Helly!" she said as she crossed the portal with the grace granted by her floating ability.

The last of the group, Heleth witnessed the portal close behind her as she walked through.

-----

They were now at the edges of a garden surrounded by tall rocky walls with a tall metallic fence on top of it.
Plants of various type populated it, all placed in some kind of geometric precision. The tallest ones were toward the walls, with progressively shorter ones as they get closer to the center of the area.

The air was fresh, but the walls surrounding the garden remove any detail about where they exactly where.

In the center of the garden stood a cirlcular base, with a telescope installed in its center. The telescope was rather big, and had a comfortable chair attached to it so that the two could rotate at the same time. As part of the chair stood a roost, and on top of it an owl with oddly long legs and night blue feathers was looking toward the group with his golden colored eyes.
With his feathers he was holding a cup of tea.

Before he could even do something, Culsu was already next to him, sitting on the chair of the telescope.
"Hello there Stolas! Long time no see! Culsu knows you love your reclusive life of isolation but Culsu brings people in need of advice from someone as wise as you!"

"Culsu..." the owl spoke with
"Yes, that's Culsu!" she chirped
"I know it's useless to tell you, but i hate to see unwanted people inside my garden. And get down of my chair."
"Aww..." she literally disappeared by falling inside the chair and reappearing mid air beside it "But Culsu knows you usually dismiss requests that do not concern you directly. You're tooooooo busy."
The owl sighed, and took a sip from the cup.
"Culsu thinks you may find this interesting. Culsu brought Mastema's daughter and some guests from the distant Asgard!"
"Oh!?"
"See? Interesting!"

A spark of curiosity appeared in the eyes of the bird, that left his roost and flew lo land in front of the group after letting his cup down on a small tray.

Behind him, Culsu slowly landed on the chair she just left, with a smirk on her face. She definitely loved to irritate people, didn't she?

"Miss Mastema, you look surprisingly grown since the last time I saw you. Greetings, my guests and welcome to my garden." the bird spoke, as he bowed slightly.
Right in front of them, Stolas didn't look particularly treathening: a big blue owl with long legs. He was around one meter and thirty centimeters tall.
"I am Prince Stolas. I heard you're seeking my knowledge on some issue? What could possibly bring people from Asgard inside my domain?"
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