Mist Revealed. Copyright 2014 Nancy Corrigan. All rights reserved.
Rune sucked in a sharp breath. The ice particles in the air seared his lungs. Pain radiated from his chest outward. His heart compressed once, then again. Another inhale brought a multitude of unknown scents. He ignored them and focused on the pungent odor that had brought him out of his death-sleep.
The eldjötnar, the fire demons, were free, and they’d begun to feed.
Rage pulsed through him, fueling the awakening. The children of Mist had been betrayed. By whom, he did not know. He would find out, however. Those who’d thought to unleash their enemies would die.
He cracked his eyelids. In increments, his eyesight returned. The sluggish beat of his heart gained strength. Tingles spread through his muscles. He forced his numb limbs to respond to his command to rise, but his body protested the movement. After a millennium of slumber, life did not return easily, even for an immortal being.
He pushed to his feet and swayed. The narrow alcove he’d chosen as his resting place stopped his collapse. He braced a hand against the rock wall. More breaths expanded his lungs and forced his blood to flow. Several minutes passed while he consciously directed the primitive functions of his body before it picked up the remembered rhythm.
He shrugged off the remaining weakness and put one foot in front of the other. He stumbled into the main chamber. Rays of diluted moonlight brightened the space. He squinted against the glare and picked out Jaron’s familiar shape at the mouth of the cave. Mist swirled around his crouched form.
Jaron turned at his approach. The flush to his skin ignited Rune’s hunger. His fangs descended, and saliva pooled in his mouth. He dragged his tongue across the sharp teeth, slicing it open, but the diluted blood did little to satisfy his craving. It only clenched his gut, the need for more a palpable desire.
He concentrated on Jaron’s silver eyes instead of the gnawing sensation squeezing his stomach. “How long have you been awake, my brother?”
“Long enough to coax a flock of Eider to share their blood with me.” Jaron extended his arm. “Come, take nourishment from me. We do not have time to draw a meal to you.”
“Yes, we must find the escaped eldjötnar and the foolish humans who freed them.”
“I’m not sure the humans were involved in the release of the demons.” Jaron jerked his chin in the direction of the opening he blocked. “Look.”
Rune closed the distance between them, glad his initial sluggishness had abated. Jaron shifted to the side, allowing Rune a view he’d never thought he’d see.
He dropped to his knees.
The endless expanse of ice and snow he’d known since the beginning of his existence no longer filled the valley of Niflheim. Mist still weaved its way along the ground and inched up the sides of their hidden mountain, but not to the extent it had.
He swept his gaze across the land and zeroed in on the spot where Surtr, the eldest of the eldjötnar, and his sons had been imprisoned in the icy tomb Rune had fashioned for them eons ago.
“Our world has melted.” And released their worst nightmare.
“Yes. Ragnarok is coming, earlier than we had planned.”
Rune flicked his gaze to Jaron’s face. “Impossible. The cycle is tied to the movement of the heavens.” He pointed to the moon and its lack of haze. “It is not time.”
“Do you have another explanation?”
Rune shook his head. “You know I do not, but I refuse to believe the rebirth has arrived. Neither do you. If you did, you’d be awakening the gods from their slumber, not be crouched here with me.”
Jaron inclined his head. “You were always the voice of reason.”
“Reason?” He chuckled. The dry bitter sound hurt his own ears. “I think you have me confused with Lyal. I’m the cold one, or have you forgotten my legacy?”
He was the only one who hadn’t grieved over the loss of their females. He’d chosen revenge instead.
Jaron extended his arm. “Feed. We waste time.”
Rune shook his head and settled his gaze on the rocky shore where once a mountain of ice had sat. In its place was an unfortunate victim’s bloated body. Birds picked at what remained of the human. Rune glanced away from the sight before memories choked him.
“I am not sure it matters. This did not happen overnight.” Which meant the eldjötnar had been free for some time. “Why did we not sense their awakening?”
“The ice has broken off in chunks and floated with the movement of the sea.” Jaron pointed toward where an iceberg floated several hundred feet from the shore.
Curses whipped through Rune’s head. “Then we have failed in our role again.”
“Whatever occurred to bring about this disaster had nothing to do with us.”
“Not this time.”
“No, not this time, but we must act quickly to prevent the demons from desecrating the neighboring villages the way they did ours.” Jaron dragged a fang over his wrist. “Now feed.”
The scent of blood hit Rune square in the chest. Instinct directed his movements. He snatched Jaron’s hand and brought it to his mouth, sinking his fangs into his flesh. Rich blood spilled over his tongue. The nourishment it provided infused him with life. He greedily swallowed the gift and did his best to ignore Jaron’s thoughts that came with the intimate sharing of blood. Rune couldn’t stop them, though. The tie to his sibling was too strong.
Flashes of images from their last failure filled his head. One moment he knelt with Jaron; the next Rune stood with his brethren at the base of their mountain home.
Roars of frustration and cries of disbelief reverberated between his ears. The slideshow started. Jaron kneeling in a river of black blood. His cousins racing through their homes looking for survivors. Friends slashing their wrists and desperately trying to save their females. He pushed those memories away and embraced the one that still enraged him—the bloated, diseased bodies of their chosen consorts. They’d been staked and left to line the path leading to Asgard.
Their greatest failure.
Rune forced his fangs to retract and licked the wound closed. A steadying breath cleared the last of the unsettling memories from his mind. “We must find them.”
“And do what?” Jaron rested his head against the rock wall. “They will not fall for our trap a second time.”
Rune shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Don’t be a fool. I would anticipate another attempt. So will they. In the end, we are the same.”
“No.” Rune pushed to his feet. “We are nothing like them.”
“Honor separates us, nothing more. The day we think differently is the day we fail.” Jaron moved to the edge of the opening. White mist swirled around his ankles, ready to welcome him. “I will awaken the others and check on our treasure troves. You will begin the search for the escaped eldjötnar. Be safe, little brother.”
With the order delivered, Jaron hopped off the ledge into the open air. He took several steps over the shimmering surface provided by the fog before the wind scattered his image. He would travel along the currents, one with the air particles and the life-giving water they contained.
Rune waved his arm and redirected a current of air to carry him south. A waiting floor of mist rose to meet him. He strode forward, dropping several feet to where the wind whipped. It enveloped him, pulled at his skin and dragged the water droplets contained within him to the surface. He released the tight hold he held over his solid form and allowed the gust to carry him.
It felt good to be one with his element, but the comforting embrace it offered didn’t diminish the worry he’d awoken with.
Ragnarok might not have arrived, but evil had.
And we’ve slept through its release. He only prayed they hadn’t awakened too late.