Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapter 37 - The Mist in the Darkness

1 reply [Last post]
httyyd's picture
httyyd
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013

This chapter is an epilogue style chapter and used in a way to conclude and answer any questions I intentionally left unanswered.  If there are still things you are curious about or are wondering about, feel free to ask.

 

But this chapter is the final chapter of The Mist in the Darkness.

 

I'd like to thank dragons, Cazi the Conquerer, Winged Warden, and Lack Lunason for being my four core readers.

 

The people I have met because of my books have started friendships I hope will last a very long time.  For they are stuck with me.  Occupational hazard if you have me for a friend.

 

I will take a small break before starting the next book.  I already have a few starting details worked out and know what I want to do.  I just need to find a title for the book.

 

Furthermore, I really want to draw a few characters and their updated looks for the new book.  So, keep an eye out for that.  If I am able to figure out a title for my book, I'll probably make a teaser thread about them and the book.

 

Thank you to everyone who is reading my book.  I am in no way slowing down, because I feel like I am just getting started.

 

Without further note, I hope you enjoy the final chapter of...

 

The Mist in the Darkness!

__________________

Rest in Peace NarixuZen.  2004-2017

Member/Group Leader of S.O.D.A.H.T

 

Click SoD Hack Watch or SoDAHT to report a hacking:

Also use this form to help better keep track of the hackers:  (click here for form)

 

Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

httyyd's picture
httyyd
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

Here is the music mix for the chapter:

If You Need Powerful Epic Copyright Free Music For Your Videos, Hear This • by Tunetank

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 37 - Epilogue

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         With nothing left to keep us here, before leaving, we secure the island and check everywhere for anyone still on the island.  The only other thing we found was in the Shadow Dragon’s old cavern cove, the dark part of the cave it came out from.  Debris from the south wall indicates the Screaming Death at one point burrowed in here.  This tunnel looks to lead out the other end of the island.

         Another reason the two dragons hated each other was because dragon eggs from both of them had been cracked or shattered.  Not only were two parents fighting of the same laying grounds, two Alpha Titans were.  As far as I can tell, the Screaming Death is a male, being bigger, bolder having a much brighter white than the mother Hiccup befriended.  To add on top of two Alpha Titan parents, two rival males were trying to protect their home.

         I know the feeling.

         On the way back to Berserker Island, Annabeth bombards me with questions of the last week.  I start at the beginning.

 

         I make a quip about my birth which Annabeth proceeds to take a pot shot at me with Anora.

 

         So, I skip forward a little bit to last week after being invited to the banquet by Stormheart.  Knowing we could use the opportunity to find either Skygge or this mystery man who we did not know at the time, I knew a daring plan would be needed to stop both of them all the while not infringing on Stormheart.

         When Annabeth, after three days, had increasingly not been home for hours on end and then on the third day not even coming back, I knew something was up.  After learning Stormheart had Harald track Annabeth to a meeting with Skygge, my fear came true.  I did not want to believe it.  I had hoped Harald was only trying to play Stormheart and me, but he has been stubborn to the point of actually being loyal to Stormheart, someone other than himself.

         The statement Stormheart made, “Don’t cloud your vision by your heart.  Use your gifted mind to look past the distractions and find the truth you are unwilling to see,” stuck with me.

         Annabeth is my Heart and will forever be so.  But the distractions by Skygge was causing me to be unwilling to see the truth.  If Annabeth was working with Skygge, she either thought it was a good idea at the time or had to because of threats by Skygge.  For as much as Vixxen warned about the thinking of, “Maybe if I just work with them, they will leave us alone,” never works, from her experience that is true to say.  But when faced with such a decision yourself, for those wanting to protect those they love, it still creates a clouded decision.  Annabeth started down the same path, but instead of leaning on Skygge’s word alone to keep his end of the bargain, Annabeth would have the backup plan of turning on him.  Praying she was doing this because she was trying to protect me, I tried to think of ways to allow her to not worry about me and just focus on stopping Skygge.  Every way I thought of put us both in danger from Skygge.  I knew I had to take drastic measure to start fighting Skygge on my own terms, not his.

         During this week, Vixxen finally got the results she was looking for in her experiments on the fog she collected from Wengo’s base when Annabeth was attacked by Skygge and then thought I was Skygge.  When the fog never evaporated completely, Vixxen knew the fog was not natural.  There were elements of it which were viking made.  She did her own investigation on the clues she uncovered and reviewed what she had seen.  Interviewing anyone who had been in, affected by, or saw the resulting affects of the fog, she came to the conclusion there was some type of antidote for the fog.  For even her own experience from the attack on Draython Cove, the fog from hardly affected her.  The one thing she concluded which was different than everyone else was the fact she ate certain herbs and honey while hiding in the compartment in the ship en route to Draython Cove.  Since Deondre’s notebooks dealt in nearly every kind of herb and spice known -some even unknown to us- in the Barbaric Archipelago, there was a good chance his notebooks could hold the answer to the fog and an antidote.

         By taking the clues found by Vixxen and the possible ingredients isolated by Vixxen in both the fog matching it with similar smells she experienced on the ship, cross referencing them in Deondre’s Book, we found the exact recipe Skygge must have used to make his Shadow Bombs.  Therefore, we made our own Shadow Bombs.

         We used this to test the side effects of the bombs and compare it to what we have already seen.  Also, to test if Deondre’s antidote worked.  He was very thorough in listing ways to experiment with this specific formula on humans as well as dragons.  What amount to use to get a brief glimpse of the formula’s power but not hurt the subject.  Being able to experiment with this formula could prove how to combat and neutralize Skygge’s Shadow Bombs if they and Deondre’s Formula are one in the same.

         The question was brought up by Heather wondering if this formula was even in Skygge’s notebook he has or did he use a completely different one.  Aiyana hypothesized to hide the contents as he did in our notebook, Deondre repeated formulas in the notebook with different information or pictures to hide the actual ones which were the ones he found around the islands.  Aiyana said it would make it even more confusing if multiple notebooks were found to have the same formulas in them to misdirect the actual value of the notebooks, even if the duplicated formulas in another notebook were the actual ones.

         Heather wondered how we could tell the difference; Aiyana answered it right away.  From her own memories of listening to Pheonix tell of her family’s history in the Greek world and Pheonix’s own experiments with the Book of Deondre he had, he told Aiyana the one thing to tell if a formula was right one or not is if the pairing of the same pictures and information repeated more than any other one, that was the actual formula.  As soon as Aiyana tested this on an everyday formula to make sure for herself as well as the rest of us, it is confirmed to be true.  Even Fira and her experience with herbs and spices further upheld several of the formulas in Deondre’s notebook with its most repeated information on uses, side effects, and antidotes.

         Now we just needed to test if the formula with the ingredients Vixxen isolated is the same formula used by Skygge.

         Turns out Skygge’s Shadow Bombs have a mental side effect which includes hallucinations and irritability in whoever breathes the smoke in.  How had I found this out?  Well, let’s just say the Twins became very scientific after being exposed to the fog.  They were already on a kick to help me on the mystery with logic and meditation, the Shadow Bomb heightened those emotions and thought processes.

         The girls who investigated the fortress east of Wengo Island were exposed to the fog in small quantities remember feeling heightened emotions in the moment, more than just seeing the sight before them.  Later on the next day, their families said they were a little irritable, but were fine the day after.

         Thankfully the Twins did not take a big sniff of the fog so we could prove the fact that a small dose of the fog simply heightens the emotions and thoughts of the subject.  Tuff unknowingly accidently opened the pin of the bomb, letting out the fog.  Once we saw him do so, he put it back, so they both twins only smelled it.  The Twins actions and thinking did not change much, but what they were doing was only exaggerated and more noticeable.

         Any thought someone would be experiencing at the time of the exposure would be heightened.  Fears, anxieties, or stress seemed to be the common thread.  Nothing else about the person now with the Twins or before with the others was anything different.

         Heather suggested that this might be how the effects of the fog went so long unnoticed.  The irritability would be excused by the circumstances of the mystery.  The viking would effectively be the same except for certain topics.  If brought up or experienced again, the episode of heightened emotions would be worse the second time.

         The Twins anticipated the next phase of the experiment and gladly volunteered for an increased exposure to the Shadow Bombs.  Throwing a bomb at them with about the same we think of the bombs Skygge made, we then saw the Twins become completely paralyzed as Annabeth has been multiple times and when a few of us were on Annabeth’s first trip back to her home since leaving it those years ago.  Furthermore, the Twins started discussing the experiment with an imaginary friend of theirs.  While that is not out of the ordinary, not recognizing each other and thinking the sibling became the imaginary friend is.

         Greater exposure would cause the subject hallucinations.  If for longer periods of time, the subject would experience violent hallucinations – Even for the Twins, more violent than they usually do.  Then the Twins started talking about their worst fears:  A world immune to being Loki’ed.  This is confirmed from anyone who knows the Twins as we all do.  That truly is their worst fear.

         The final phase which we would not dare to test even on the Twins is how the fog would be restricting the breathing of subjects.  Simply checking the Twins’ breathing after the fog dissipated, Tuff and Ruff exhibited shortened and shallow breath with a slower heartrate.  Not only that, but dilated pupils.  This would lead us to believe in extreme exposure to the fog, serious side effects could result.

         Based on, Vixxen and mine’s capture of the two robbers on Wengo Island when I first met Pheonix, Vixxen’s and the girls’ eye witness testimonies on what was left of the fortress, and what Vixxen saw on Draython Cove, any subject could suffer from suffocation which could lead to a stroke.  Both could prove fatal if nothing is done to prevent either from becoming worse.  In every case, the expressions of those exposed to great amounts of the fog had blank stares, dilated pupils, and unresponsive to any form of stimulation from someone trying to talk to them or the subject even know anyone else is around but what they think they see.

         Every phase and resulting side effect seen in our tests and our experience is supported and corroborated by Deondre’s notebook.

         Ever since the Twins used the very spices and herbs, we are using in the Shadow Bombs in their unorthodox way of making me meditate on my feelings, in the back of my mind I knew there was a connection.  But I never thought to make such a connection because I was too caught up in my own emotions, no thanks to the Shadow Bombs.  How they stumbled upon the base foundation of the Shadow Bombs is a good reminder that clues needed to solve a mystery can be right in front of you.  You just have to be willing to admit what you thought was right was actually wrong, being ready to listen instead of talk.

         I nearly made this mistake.  When Skygge’s power of suggestion about their being something between Annabeth and me caused a near fatal argument to call into question the bond we share in each other.  And it all started when Skygge first attacked Annabeth in what was thought the safest place for her to be.  From then on, Skygge pitted both of us against each other in an attempt to tear us apart.  One way or another, Skygge was going to get his revenge by destroying Annabeth and my life any way he could.

         Two days before the banquet, unbeknown to anyone, I flew to Auction Island to speak with Stormheart alone.  Harald protested but obeyed her command.  I leveled with Stormheart.  Told her everything I knew about the mystery, Skygge, and Annabeth.  Surprised I would trust her with all of these clues and details when the cryptic key to unlocking Deondre’s notebooks was her own priceless family heirloom, she anticipated my next question.  Confirming I needed her help, she questioned why she should help me.  I said I would owe her a favor.  If she thinks I am so gifted in my mind and my skills, having someone like me owing her a favor could come in handy down the road.  She questioned if it could be anything, no questions asked.  When I told her, I would definitely question it, she accepted.  Said, she would have been disappointed had I accepted, no questions asked.

         More on what I wanted her to do for me, later.

         Before I left, she warned me of what she might ask of me.  But I turned it around and said she would find something to challenge me on, yet no matter what it is, I would always do the right thing and protect my family.  I commented she has done the same, even though her methods I do not agree with, she still has the value of family being one of the most important things.

         As I walked away, she noted, “Knowing when you have to take things one step further than you have ever been willing to do before…  There may still be hope for you yet, Jarl.”

         Stormheart was right.  Although there have been some lines, I was never willing to cross, there comes times when the principles you hold closest to you, you must not take them for granted.  You must test them, review them, and see if you are the one needing to change based on right and truth in this world, not being clouded by what your past teaches you, what you have always done, or what tradition dictates.

         All week, I wanted to involve as few vikings as possible so that if my plan failed, Skygge could not use anyone else against Annabeth or me.  I at least informed our party going to the banquet, Hiccup, Astrid, Asvord, Dagur, and Heather.  But the more I tried to discuss with any of them, the more my friends and family accidently came across a meeting.  It got to the point where enough knew that Cazi said, “If you are going to do this, we are going to do this together or not at all.  Skygge may be trying to make Annabeth think she is alone in this, but Annabeth has never been alone.  We know what you are trying to involve as few as possible, but we need to remind you too.  You’re not alone in this either.  We’re not your crew for nothing.  We’re behind you, ready to support you in any decision you make.”  Then Dawn quipped, “Unless you want to jump off a cliff, in which I will push you off myself.”  I replied, “Then it will take all of us to pull this off.”

         Then when the whole week was building tension between Annabeth and I, it finally came to ahead the night before, when we all went over the plan.  After I blew up at Annabeth about everything, I was praying she was not doing, I realized now looking back Annabeth started the argument, as she had her own agenda.

 

         Telling her this as we fly back home, she admitted to it, “I could have ignored you again like I had all week.  Skygge wanted me to start the argument as soon as I got back home after my meeting with him.  When I said I couldn’t do it and was about to make an excuse, he interrupted me knowing I was still trying to find a way to work this out on both sides.  Skygge even knew I would have to pick aside.  I waited as much as I could until Skygge threatened if I did not do it by the day of the banquet he would come to our house again and do more harm than he did the first time.  I knew I had to do something, so I did start the argument.  I intentionally tried to step on the certain areas you would call me out on and bait you into certain things for me to call a double standard.  It may have started under intentional circumstances, but I know we can both agree it turned into the real thing.”

         “I am still regret how I treated you,” I fly over to her and reach out for her hand.  “Under no circumstances should I ever treat you like that.”

         Then Dawn quips again, “Unless she was going to jump off a cliff in which I would throw you off, knock Annabeth out, and then have to jump off and rescue you because Annabeth would then throw me off the cliff because I threw you off the cliff.”

 

         Dawn, always the one to have some ruthless honesty.

         Annabeth, eager for me to get to the point about how I survived Skygge’s brutal attack on me, I said I was getting to it.

 

         Everything was going according to plan when we arrived at Auction Island, though it was a bit odd knowing Stormheart and I knew something no one else did.  Still, everything seemed good.  That was until I ran into Ondott at the banquet after meeting with Stormheart and studying what she found about Deondre.

         From what we uncovered at Draython Cove, it did not make sense for Ondott to be there.  He was just as surprised to see me as me to see him.  He said he was deep undercover in the ranks of those who attacked the island.  Glad he saw me so that we could work together.  He needed a distraction from someone closing in on him.  At the time, I at least thought he was not against us.  Deciding to help him, I remained cautious because something was not adding up.

         I stick to my original plan:  Fake my death in hopes of removing Skygge’s greatest threat against Annabeth.  With me gone, I knew Annabeth would find a way to send Anora home before Annabeth committed to getting what Skygge wanted.

         There is another formula in the Book of Deondre which I took note of when studying the notebook.  It was similar to the Shadow Bombs and therefore studied it during the week.  This formula by Deondre’s own words, “Can bring a Crimson Goregutter to its knees.”  When tested on a viking, he said one of the side effects is temporary paralysis and extreme impairment of bodily functions.

         In testing, we wondered what would happen.  As he did with the other, Tuff and Ruff literally took it upon themselves to see what would happen.  Having the antidote, part Dragon Nip extract for an adrenaline boost to the system, we administered the formula to the Twins.  This formula is a liquid and can be quickly administered through the use of a needle or even one of my container darts.

         The Twins were able to talk for a few minutes before passing out completely.  They lay motionless.  Checking their vitals, no noticeable air was coming out their noses and no heartbeat could be heard.  However, once feeling around for the right pressure on both their wrists and their neck, an extremely faint pulse was felt.  According to Deondre’s instructions, a stab of the antidote anywhere on the body will quickly be absorbed into the bloodstream to restart bodily functions.  Tuff and Ruff popped up and ran straight into the side of the house.  Quite the adrenaline boost.

         Just before going into the secret meeting which Annabeth was going to be a part of, I took the formula through the use of one of my darts.  So, while Skygge thought he killed me, it was quite the contrary.  To fake my death, it had to look real.  No one including Annabeth would be expecting it.  Between the shock of the moment, the inability to focus from anyone in the room, as well as the extremely weak pulse in the subject, even if someone checked my vitals, they would jump to the conclusion I was dead.  It would take just one person to suggest I was dead, or my heart had stopped for the whole room to believe it.

         When I reached up to grab Annabeth’s locket, I also had in my hand the dart.  Annabeth grabbed my hand in which I put the dart in hers while keeping hold of the locket to hide the fact I gave something to Annabeth.  Was not sure how much Skygge would be paying attention, but for the sake of Annabeth, I had to give a clue of some kind to help her listen to my “last words” of “Trust me.”

         Once Annabeth, Skygge, and the rest left, in comes Stormheart from a hidden passageway behind the throne.  After stabbing me with the antidote, I bolt up and ran into the far wall.  Once I got my wits about me, Stormheart said, “You took quite a risk putting your life in my hands.  I could have let you lay there.”  My reply, “Yeah, but as much as you know the rest of us, I know this at least about you.  You have your own vision of honor.  You gave your word.  The times before where you threatened not to go against you, you kept your word and attacked when we tried to stop you.  Whatever your methods are, you are a viking of your word.”  Stormheart held out her hand to help me up, “I am a viking now?  Thought by now I would be a disgrace to the name.”  My answer, “Like I said, you are a woman of your word.  That’s the first step in being a viking.”

         Before leaving with Hiccup and the others, Throst came over to me and stopped me.  Told me that he wanted to help.  Straight away, I did not want to trust him because of his dragon now being used by Skygge and knowing them working together is the only way Skygge would have learned how to fly one.  But Throst said that was the point.  Skygge in that way took Throst’s dragon away from him.  Though Throst admitted since it was his dragon either maybe it was more because of what happened to Koll.

         Furthermore, Stormheart showed him what he admitted I have been trying to do since we met.  He was on the wrong side.  Though, I argued he is still on the wrong side, he said he is just working off his debt to Stormheart and then he will be on his way.  Being a part of the plan to Skygge to win Stormheart’s favor is some of the reason, but remembering what Annabeth did to him after the Triple Stryke attack.  It stuck with him.  Plus, it did not hurt the fact he thought Skygge was rather insane and needed to be stopped.  Seeing the turned sincerity once before in Vixxen, I gave Throst the same opportunity.  Doubling on Fredrick, he flew home with the banquet party.

         The next phase of the plan started, but with a slight change.  Ondott gave me the idea to go undercover as a bounty hunter of sorts Throst found.  This part of the plan originally just me a crew member to try and stay as close as I could while staying away from Skygge in fears of him identifying me.  With the change in plans, that problem was fixed by me dying my hair white and wearing a mask.  Knowing Skygge would be smart enough to recognize my voice, I would portray myself as a mute.  Throst said that if I played my part well enough and got quick results for Skygge, he would be more apt to overlook things which might be obvious to why I would wear such a mask.

         I wanted to make a good first impression, so I “stole” my own notebook which I had just the morning of the banquet completely caught up all my notes up to the point of this plan.  Obviously, I did not put any mention of the plan for Skygge would no doubt read my notebook once I gave it to him.

         One thing of note, Throst gave me something more to make a good first impression:  Stormheart’s blue gem which was in her staff.  Or at least I thought it came from that.  Turns out Stormheart has a few fake replicas she has made herself to lure would be thieves out in the open to capture.  The bits and pieces of what should be her staff still in the gem made me wonder if it really did come from the staff.  Though, Stormheart would have had Throst’s head if it did.

         Using this, the notebook, and the entrance I provided for all to see, I believe I made a better impression on Skygge than I did the first time I met him.  Although now in Skygge’s mind, he may be one of the few who twice met me for the first time.

         When Skygge sent me and Throst back to Berserker Island for the staff, this is when we both returned with my whole crew.  Whether it was Skygge’s forces he hired or the Shadow Dragon, I knew there was going to be a fight.  And as Cazi said, we all needed to do this together, especially if we were facing the Shadow Dragon.

         Throst and I flew back and sent most of my crew to find a staging ground before we set up our attack.  Some we had take on my original part of the plan to blend in with the crewmen of the ships as well as the soldiers in case we would ever need a diversion.

         Thinking we may have been late for our rendezvous with Skygge, we booked it to Wengo Island.  Everything was going according to plan until Annabeth decided to escape.  The one time I did not want her to escape, she does.

         In addition to everything we found and studied through the week even with Stormheart’s bit of help with the books, Hyrith and I found the process of waking up the Shadow Dragon.  We knew the “how” and a good idea of where the “where” could be but did not know the any of the other questions.  Seeing there was a people who thought the Shadow Dragon was a god essentially since they sacrificed to it, I could see why Skygge was doing everything he could to keep Annabeth alive.  Thinking back on it now, this may have been the only thing which kept Skygge from killing her before; maybe that “truth” Skygge alluded to before when we ran into him on Annabeth’s home island.  Kind of scary to think of it that way.  But because of this, I knew the “why.”  Annabeth was needed to flush the Shadow Dragon out to then be taken out.

         But to do that, I needed to stop Annabeth’s escape.

         Throst gave chase, but I got into position to head her off and start the next step in my plan.  Every one of my crew had taken the antidote for the Shadow Bombs, so I knew Annabeth would need it too.  For even the immunity to the Shadow Bombs the antidote gives was important.  But how could I administer it without her knowing I was alive and Skygge thinking something was fishy?  This made Annabeth’s escape an unintended opportunity neither she nor I expected but both needed.

         The only thing I was hesitant about the antidote was if it would work on Skygge’s Shadow Bombs.  Seeing it at work in our testing, I was confident the antidote worked, but I wondered if it would work with a different strand?  Because if Skygge added anything else to the Shadow Bomb, a different antidote was needed, warned by Deondre himself.  The wrong antidote combined with the Shadow Bombs might do more harm than good.  If it did more harm, then I would have single handed taken out my entire crew including myself and Annabeth.  The silver lining was that if the Shadow Bombs were the same and there was something else entirely added to affect the subject after being exposed to the fog, the antidote would simply take care of the side effects of the Shadow Bomb; however, leaving the unknown variable.

         Stopping Annabeth from escaping proved one of the more conflicting things I could do for her, because I wanted to join her.  But thinking why I started all of this reminded me I had no choice.  Or, at least the choice was a no brainer because I wanted to end this once for all for Annabeth’s sake.

         In shooting Annabeth with the dart to knock her out with the Dragon Root solution, hid the fact I also injected her with the antidote.  Skygge was none the wiser that anything else had gone on.  I left Throst to take care of Annabeth, while I watched.  Skygge rather liked me doing so, letting someone else do the brunt of the work even though you were the one to get the so-called glory.  I wonder if he saw himself in me, or rather Azor for that matter.

         Finally getting to Annabeth’s island, I was surprised how well the plan was going.  While I did not plan for Ondott-Pheonix to be the same person, it was the time I planned to have Throst reveal my identity.  Yes, my plan included something not going according to plan.  But because I knew it was a possibility, I planned for it too.  The plan planned, planned for the plan not going to plan.

         Pheonix gave me the perfect opportunity to get close to Annabeth.  Though keeping my cover even then would have been the more logical course of action, I knew I would need to give Annabeth the comfort and encouragement to follow through with this.  The only viking who could do this would be me.  And the only way she would willingly put herself in the position of the sacrifice Skygge wanted is if I had a plan.  She would not do it for anyone else but me.  Though I know she trusts me, seeing her put that much faith in action is such a boost to me.

 

         Annabeth blushed a little, even in the moonlight when I said this about her.  Then I retorted, “Because if I didn’t have a plan, not only were you never going to speak to me again, but Dawn would fine the nearest cliff.”

         Annabeth rolled her eyes, “For as much as I want to get mad at you, I can’t.”

         “Oh, don’t worry,” Dawn replies.  “You’ll find something to get mad at him tomorrow.  If you don’t, I will.”

 

         The secondary reason was this allowed me to be in position to distract the Shadow Dragon.  While everyone is focused on the fog, I used its thick cloud as cover to get right behind the altar.  Waiting idlily by while the Shadow Dragon could at any moment strike out, I banked on the premise the Shadow Dragon would stick to what it has always done.  If everything from her childhood led to her being the next one the Shadow Dragon chose, then Annabeth would fine initially.  I was waiting to catch the dragon at the right moment between it recognizing Annabeth and its next decision.  Then I would surprise it.  The sudden lapse of focus on what it would do next would give me the opportunity to protect Annabeth.  Though Annabeth doing her part to get out of the way helped too.

         From this point, the fight pretty much was everything it was supposed to be.  I had to live with the fact I would not be able to stop Pheonix and possibly even Skygge escaping but stopping the Shadow Dragon from ever forcing another viking to forfeit their life.

         What I figured would happen but prayed would not was Skygge capturing Annabeth in one last ditch effort to exact his revenge.  As Cazi attested, I made a difficult choice.  Parts of my plan from the start, some did not agree with.  In the end, they put their trust in me as did Cazi.  A great responsibility with great consequences.  But I was ready for what might happen because I was now going to show how far I am willing to go for someone I care about.

         Going to Skygge would only play into his hands, I needed to have Skygge finish the game I started, playing on my terms, not his.  When Skygge eventually returned and we met, I thought and then shortly after knew he had done something more to Annabeth.  The immunity to the Shadow Bombs I gave her is only temporary.  It will only last a few hours…  The exact time Skygge waited to come back.  I would have to give her the antidote again, but knowing Skygge, he no doubt would have given her something else to insure she would stay alive but could possibly hidein time for me to see her.  Skygge would have to account for the fact I may not be on Annabeth’s old island, so he would need the antidote for her in case I was not there.  His revenge drove him his entire life, he would not make the mistake of going too far -as he thought he did with beating me- to mess up his revenge.  He too knew about Deondre warning about how if something more than what the Shadow Bombs did was given during exposure, it would do more harm than good.  So, he waited until after before giving her something more.  The antidote he had would most likely be different than the one I had.  Skygge would be my only hope for the correct antidote if mine did not work.  Therefore, I gave Annabeth his antidote instead of mine.  If it did not work, then I knew the other one would.

         Of all the careful planning I did, the one the I knew I would have to make a choice on would be between Annabeth’s and Skygge’s lives.  The worst-case scenario would have Skygge make me choose between the two of them.  He would keep attacking us until he either got his revenge or I killed him.  The question of, “If I am willing to do whatever it takes to protect the ones I love, how far am truly going to take this?”

         Through our talk and fight, this was exactly what Skygge was trying to get me to do.  He wanted me to kill him.  For if he were not able to kill Annabeth but I killed him, it would drive a wedge between Annabeth and me.  Regardless of the justification either way, things would be different.  Me wanting to kill Skygge would be the wedge he wanted.  Because, would Annabeth or I recognize the other if we sought to kill Skygge because of who we cared about?  Would we be any better than Skygge?

         Being willing to go the many lengths, not worrying about the consequences of your actions to protect someone you care about is one thing.  Doing the same things for the right reasons is something completely different.

         I have kind of thought in the past I would not kill at all, I would only try to injure.  But what Skygge has taught me is evil may not give you that choice.  Life or death.  Take your pick.  Skygge tried to use my principles against me.

         Ever since the end of The Dragon War, I struggled with the fact my so-called “principles” may have gotten some of the Izarians killed.  Regardless of them volunteering to be the frontline defenders, had I been more adamant in going to greater lengths, maybe more families would have their loved ones.  I had no need to complain because I still had Annabeth.  Then when someone threatened me because of Annabeth, the shoe was now on my foot.  If I would do anything to protect Annabeth, what would that truly include?

         My regret from The Dragon War clouded what Skygge was doing to me.  Skygge did everything right when he was a kid yet his uncle’s principles quite frankly nearly wiped out two islands.  Grimwald was not willing to move past his principles for the sake of those he loved.  Do what needed to be done.

         Grimwald was always out for power.  He tried to force Annabeth’s father into a war Oswald did not want.  Oswald did what he did because of family.  But Grimwald wanted to wipe out the enemy to solve the problem.  Yet Oswald put his principles he thought he would always live by aside and thought of his people and his family.  Because of Oswald’s choice, Grimwald made the choice to stick to his principles and lead a path which put his whole people in jeopardy.  If Grimwald saw the Shadow Dragon the same day Annabeth did, he should have seen the great threat it was.  As much as everything should be good, pure evil is impossible to reason with.  When faced with the choice of living and dying, evil will hidebefore it ever chooses good.  So, was the case with the Shadow Dragon.

         Had Grimwald put an end to the evil the Shadow Dragon did, especially after he learned what the Shadow Dragon was, the attack on the island would have never happened…  And I would have never met Annabeth.

         The choices we make define who we are.  Present tense.  If we look to the past and let our past define the choices we make, then we are doomed to repeat the past.  I always believed and still do know we have a choice to do any one thing.

         I had a choice between killing Skygge or dying.  In the end, Skygge would have killed both Annabeth and me, or would have never stopped trying until one of us died.  If I say I am willing to put my life on the line for those I love, I must be willing to make the choice to protect them by stopping the evil once and for all.

         In the end, I was ready to stop Skygge once and for all.  I must be willing to destroy evil because of those I love, for evil will never care what it does.  But when Skygge made my choice for me and intentionally ran into my blade, Skygge made his choice.  Running into a blade is not the Skygge I thought I knew.  Whether I got through to him or not, he did not want to give up his quest for revenge just as the Shadow Dragon did.

         Then Skygge’s simple act of giving me the antidote for Annabeth was an important reminder for me.  While someone may choose to do evil, they still have the same choice to do right.  If by your own actions you have tried and you tried to teach them different, but they will not change, showing them the example of doing the right thing even if you have to hideto show it, it can be an example to them the difference between good and evil.

         When I was finally ready to strike a fatal blow, I thought of Uskyld.  I wonder if he finally remembered too.  I was in the same position Skygge was those years ago.  But this time, I had put myself in a position to protect Annabeth.  Skygge could have very well investigated the Shadow Dragon further and taken action himself instead of leaning on his principles of being independent.  Taking what he learned about Grimwald, he could have grown and become someone new, doing the right thing in taking hold of his own life and protecting himself, his sister, and his island.  Whatever we did in the past, we still have an opportunity to make the right choice now.  But if we hesitate in the wrong situation, it could very well be our last.

         This was a lesson I should have learned when Vixxen fought her way off Draython Cove.  Vixxen still gave me the opportunity to learn.  While there is still time today, we can make the choice to be a better person than we were yesterday.  The more we instead learn from out past to better understand and make choices in the present, the more can build towards our future.

 

         With impeccable timing, my recounting of the events of the week ended with our landing our dragons back at my home.  From there, everyone went on to their house on Berserker Island or continue back to Berk.  Telling Annabeth that I needed to go do something, she took our dragons towards the stables.  I saw Throst stop and talk to her prior to her entering in the stables.

         I caught Vixxen before she had gone too far so I could say, “I’d like to apologize.”

         Vixxen gave a light chuckle for it was an odd thing to say at a moment like this, “What for?”

         “Back when we found you on Draython Cove, I scolded you on what you did.  I did not understand fully then but now that I have been in that position, I treated you unfairly.  I apologize.”

         Vixxen shows a half smile and puts her hand on my shoulder, “Thank you, I appreciate it.  When faced with the decision you had will never be easy.  It is never easy to take a life.  But when the one opposite you doesn’t care what you think, you have to defend yourself, especially when the odds are against you.  You have the benefit of always being on the side of good.  The path I chose, well, you of all vikings know the choices I made.  The… The vikings I hurt.”  She glances up in the direction of the stable, sighing.  “I have to live with my past and fight every day not to dig up any old habits.  Learning as we did with Ondott being Pheonix, I want to apologize to you for thinking Ondott was the same man I knew before.  If it wasn’t for your example even when you may not understand something, you still have faith in your friends because you are not blind to the truth.”

         “No, but I was,” I insist.  “I was blind to what I saw in what you faced and I did not put the same faith in you which you put in me.  You may not realize it, but you have been a great help to me.  It was your commitment to fighting the evil you were once a part of which planted the seed which is now bearing fruit.”

         She smiled, “Never did I think you would ever learn anything from me.  I was always the one learning from you.  You may make mistakes here and there, but you don’t let it define you.  You showed me that I had a choice when I should have never received such a chance.  You may be surrounded by the night, but you are like the stars.  A star is but the mist in the darkness.  The one shining light which can chase away any evil.  I’m not sure if I could ever repay the kindness you showed me,” Vixxen grabs me for a hug.  “But your act is something I will never forget and something I will try to live up to.”

         “But if I make a mistake, be sure to be like Dawn and push me off a cliff if need be.”

         Vixxen laughs, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

         “By the way,” I say one last thing.  “I may be a star in the night sky, but with the light glowing inside of you, you are more than just an ally.  You’re a trusted friend, a part of my crew.”

         “Thank you, Jarl,” she nods.  “You’re a good…  No, great friend Jarl.  Goodnight.”

         Now even Ragnorak likes me as I dodge a playful swipe of his wing, after which I give him a small handful of Dragon Nip.  As I returned to my stables, I realized now the Dragon Nip serves as a double reminder of something saving my life.

         As I enter and give my occasional “offering” to Star Scream, I see Annabeth dumping some fish in Anora’s feed trough.  I only told her to put the dragons up, yet she has already fed them all, bedding them down for the night.  Leaning with my right side against Star Scream’s stall, I look on and watch Annabeth finish up.

         She notices me and asks, “What are you looking at?”

         “Something beautiful,” I state.

         Annabeth stands up and looks at me, “Let me guess…  It’s the fish.”

         I grin, “You know me well.”

         She puts the basket back, walks over, places her arm around me and walks with me to stand out in the moonlight.

         We have not had quality alone time in a week.  For several minutes, we merely stand gazing and getting lose in each other’s eyes.

 

         “What are you thinking about?” Annabeth asks.

         “Besides the fish, you.”

         “What about me?”

         “Wondering what you might be thinking about me telling you to trust me so many times.  Keeping you uninformed about my plan, forcing you to think you watched me hidein front of your eyes, then when my identity was revealed how I wanted you to willingly step towards the altar, and-.”

         She raises her finger to my mouth, interrupting me, “All of your decisions had merit and had reason.  The clues you left me kept me going.  As much as I saw for my own eyes what I thought was my love dying in my arms, I felt no hole in my heart.  It was the weirdest feeling.  I’m not sure if I even knew what was going on.  If you were going for a realistic reaction, you sure got it.  But in my grief, I…” she lowered her head.  “I nearly did something I would have regretted.”

         “What?” I lift her chin up.

         Taking a deep breath, she told me the moments she experienced leading up to my big reveal by Pheonix.  I embraced her and apologized for putting her through such things.

         “I’m not sure if I would have actually gone through with it or not, but the thing I clung to be your supposed last words, ‘Trust me.’  Now with it all over, I’m just glad to have you back.  You don’t know how much I missed you.”

         “Well I didn’t miss you,” my words strike the moment as she glares at me.  “I shot you, didn’t I?”

         Her eyes close as she grits her teeth, trying not to smile.

         “Poorly timed quip?”

         Still with her eyes closed, she nods, “Oh yes.  But to be Annabeth because I’m no Frank -or would it be Francis- you nearly had me in the first half.”

         “It’s going to be different having you back after basically a week apart from you,” I begin but cannot help but smile because of my next statement.  “It was kind of nice having more food for myself.  Lately, you’ve been eating like a pig.”

         Her eyes pop open.  She tries to hum to keep from reacting to my blatant attempt in trying to pick a fight.  Who knew that light blue eyes could light up a night sky with burning fire.

         I go on, “I’ve only had to go to the market once this past week.  This last month it is like I have to get enough goods for three vikings in this household.”

         Annabeth smiles big, looking at me not in a joyous manner but still smiling.  Knowing it was fake, I braced myself.

         Yep – Right jab to the gut.

         “For your information, I am eating for two.  Then I have to eat too you know.”

         I shake my finger at Annabeth, “If you have Twins, so…  Help…  Me…  I will name them Tuff Jr. and Ruff Jr.”

         “You wouldn’t dare?”

         “Hello Tuff Jr. and Ruff Jr.,” I bend down to talk to Annabeth’s bump.  “You are going to learn so much from your Uncle Tuffnut and Auntie Ruffnut…  Such things as being…  Loki’ed!”

         I whirl Annabeth around to be opposite of me, “Now watch your Daddy so you know how to do a tactical retreat.”

         As I run to the front door, Annabeth slowly turns around, “I think he means he’s running away!”

         “Why would I run away?” I counter, slamming the door at a charging Annabeth.  “I live here.”

         “Not for long,” Annabeth yells at me.  She grabs for the door handle, but I locked the door.  “Jarl Brodd Mollerson, you open this door right now!”

         “What happened to Everson?”

         “You don’t open this door, I’m gonna disown you.”

         “You wouldn’t do that.  You need me?”

         “Do I?”

         Annabeth goes off on a spiel about all the things she has done for me or anything else she could think of to pick a fight.

         “You’re couldn’t get in here even if you tried.”

         “Oh, I couldn’t, eh?”

         “You’d have to break the door down.”

         “Don’t tempt me.”

         “Who’s tempting?  You wouldn’t do it.”

         I then hear mumbling as I believe she is walking back to make some room.

         “Am I finally going to get my answer to my name choice for our twins?” I call out to her.

         “Oh, you’re getting your answer alright…,” she trailed off, complaining about what she might do to me.  Maybe it is a good thing I could not understand what she is saying.

         When I start hearing a thunder of footsteps, I unlock the door and throw it open.  Annabeth was about to throw her shoulder into the door, however, she goes flying by, flinging her arms out, of which I catch one.

         Noticing what I did, Annabeth spews out as I grab her, “You low down, good for nothing, nerf herding, son of a motherless goat, I-.”

         This time I interrupt her…  By putting my lips to hers!

         She struggles to try and talk back to me, murmuring inaudible words, I hold my lips tight to hers.  Trying to hit me in the shoulders to push off, I firmly stand my ground.  The longer I hold the kiss, the less she struggles.  Within moments, it gets to the point no longer struggles and extends the kiss.

         When I let her go, I open my eyes see two of the most beautiful topaz blue gems I have ever seen.

         Before I could let our love be rekindled…  I quip, “I wonder what Tuff Jr. and Ruff Jr. think of this moment?”

         Annabeth furrows her brow but cannot help but smile.  Her expression cannot choose between being mad or happy.

         She began to give chase to me, yet when I backtracked to go back to the door, I bumped into something.

         “Jarl look out!” she cries out.

         I turn around and at the last second to grab before hitting the ground a vase my parents gave us for a housewarming gift.  We both freeze after the near collision.  I set it back on the small shelf where we keep our boots if it is too muddy outside.

         “It’s a vase,” I nonchalantly point at the vase, while taking one step towards the door.  Annabeth folds her arms, trying her best not to smile.  “Nearly broke it.”  I take another step.  “Did you know my father says he nearly broke it one time he and my mother were having an argument.”  I take one more step to the door.

         I look around, whistle a fake tune, put my hands behind my back as Annabeth and I just stand there.  After a few seconds, I suddenly jump towards the door.  She chases after me.  Intentionally fumbling with the door handle, Annabeth runs into me.  Getting the door open, I let Annabeth out first…  Closing the door behind her while I stay in the house and hide in the coat closet.

         A few moments later, I hear the realization, “Wait a second…!”

         Annabeth barges back inside demanding to know where I am.  Not being subtle at all, I make as much noise as I can as I slam the closest door, open the front door, and slam it.

         Thinking I might have a moment to savor the moment, Annabeth marches through the door and sprints after me.

         “Just wait until I get my hands on you, I’ll…  I’ll…  Kiss you.”

         In my sarcastic tone I know she loves, I reply, “Oh, all the more reason to run faster.”

         “Why you…!”

         Annabeth and I run off into the night, not worrying about the darkness which surrounds us.  Having each other, we will always find our way back to each other no matter what is around us or stands between us!