Book 9 - The Mist in the Darkness - Chapters 25 and 26: "Only Getting Started" and "Shadows of the Past"

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httyyd
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The last chapter was more of a "I need to get to a point" chapter because I needed to set up Chapter 25.  By now, you can tell I am heavily referencing the Wraith of Stormheart expansion, but I am also taking some creative liberities to make it mesh with my mystery.  Hope you are enjoying those.

 

Chapter 26 I actually wrote a couple of months ago.  I worked with the person who created Valkarik, Ali, and Michia on this chapter.  She initially just wanted to get some ideas she wanted me to consider.  But as with any suggestion I get, I want to add as soon as I can but also set it up if I need to.  So, I got in the mood to write this chapter a while back but with the chapters now, added a little bit to it to make it flow smoother from the events of Chapters 24 and 25.

 

With all that said, I hope you all enjoy!

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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

 

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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

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

Here is the music mix for Chapter 25:

CLOSE YOUR EYES | Most Epic Powerful Music Mix | Tom Player - Close Your Eyes (Full Album 2019)

 

The Mist in the Darkness

 

Chapter 25

Only Getting Started

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         With no reason not to go right away, we all set out to leave.  We do leave a note as to where we might be in case, we too get captured.  Elsa is able to go, though Meatballs is not.  Bedding him in the stables to rest, Elsa picks one of Annabeth’s dragons:  Sirena.  A Deathsong is something even Stormheart could not plan for; having ever edge we can get could make the difference now or later.

         This will not be the fight where we take down Stormheart, as much as I want to show her what happens when you treat my family and friends the way she has.  If she attacks one member of my crew, she attacks all of us.  But with lives on the line and me not willing to test just how ruthless Stormheart can be, this has to be a rescue mission.  Our sole purpose for going is getting our friends back.  But if I can get a few punches in myself, that would not hurt.

         The addition of the Twins makes for a new dynamic just as a Deathsong.  So, on the way, I talk to the Twins.

         “Now, you two will need to be on your best behavior.  We don’t want Stormheart to think that whether Berkians or Berk-Serkians alike are anything but refined viking individuals.  Yet, if she crosses the line first, we can show her just how crazy we all can get.”

         Tuffnut thinks, “Hmm.  How will we know what the line looks like?  Will she draw a line on the ground and dare us to cross it?”

         Ruffnut guess, “I think what Jarl is saying, that if Stormheart starts shooting at us, we start shooting at her.”

         “Exactly,” I answer.  “We will try to rescue our friends without being spotted, but if there is anything I’ve learned from Stormheart so far, is that she is always one step ahead of everyone else.  She will have a way to get what she wants, and she already has a back-up plan for that.  If things start to get blowie uppie, you show them who’s the true masters of the art of the blowie uppie.”

         “Ah yes,” he pumps his fist.  “I mean.  Master Jarl, thank you for this opportunity to showcase our skills of destruction.  Stormheart won’t know what hit her.”

         I further inform the crew that me, Elsa, and Valkarik will attempt at rescuing our friends undetected.  Valkarik would go find the dragons while Elsa and I go find our friends.  But the moment things go south, Elsa will have Sirena sing out a warning call to hopefully disorient everyone in the vicinity.  That is the rest of the crew’s queue to rain down a distraction to cover our escape.  If all else fails, I will give Stormheart the heirloom.  After that, I am sure neither side will hold back, especially Stormheart.

         About an hour later, we near Vanaheim where Stormheart is still anchored at.  Half the crew waits on the island while the rest I picked now fly towards the ship.  Low as before, but this time, we aim for the rafters of the middle deck just below the captain’s lookout.  We land on top of the giant axle on the far right that the wheels, used to help propel the ship, rotate on.  Valkarik hangs from her dragon as her Flamewhipper tends to enjoy observing upside down.  Sirena perches from the side of the wheel and Fredrick pretty much takes up the entire area between the wheel and the side wall of the ship.

         Things seem quiet but there are still sounds of the Mudrakers keeping the boiler warm, typical sounds of lookouts walking the upper decks, yet no lookouts right here patrolling.

         We see below us where Elsa said Skulder was last time.  Now, we see some arms and hands leaning through the bars in.

         “Let’s go,” Elsa whispered.

         Grabbing her arm, I prevent her, “Not so fast.”

         She wants to question me, but I point out, “I don’t recall Snotlout ever having as big as hands as those.  Maybe a big mouth.  Look at the others.”

         “Their sleeves,” Valkarik notes.

         Elsa looks dejected for nearly walking into a trap.

         “You and Val go find the dragons, most likely in the armored parts of the two other arms of the ship.  Our friends will probably be close by.”

         Elsa questions, “What about you?”

         “Oh,” I shrug.  “I’ll be walking into said trap.”

         I give the two girls a head start before I swoop in and “rescue” my friends.  The figures step back into the shadows while I play it off as if they were my friends and how I am glad to see they are all right.  They let me go through the motion of unlocking the puzzle key dial.  Actually, this is the first time I have ever seen one up close, let alone try to unlock it.

         Halfway through, I do a double take on the dial and see the lettering on them.

         Greek!

         I thought to myself, “No wonder Elsa couldn’t figure out what the letters meant.  This must be why she solely relies on the sound of a high pitch click when a dial is in the right position.”

         The moment I unlock the door, I turn around as if to see if the coast is clear.  Intentionally leaving myself exposed, I let the trap spring.

         Some goon wraps his arms around mine to restrain me.  I give resistance but not to the point of fighting back.

         From within the shadows, another figure emerges.

         “You disappoint me.”

         Nikora Stormheart reveals herself.

         Walking past me and waving for the guy to bring me with him, she states, “You are so predictable.  You were touted as being a mastermind in the art of strategy and intrigue.  I have yet to see either.  While I did give Elsa strict instructions, when I saw she flew south, I knew she would contact you.  Studying your tactics, I anticipated you coming instead of Elsa.  Though, I am surprised you came alone.”

         “Who said I was alone?”

         Just then, the deafening sound of Sirena’s warning call blasts.  The volume is not the troubling part, the frequency is:  Hence why she was called Sirena.  It sounds like the siren call of your worst nightmare.

         Dragon fire begins to rain down, catching even Stormheart a bit off guard.

         I shove my shoulder into the guy holding me, rush past Stormheart as three other goons come at me.  Right cross, evade left.  Second guy, left cross, spin right.  Third guy, upper cut, block, grab, throw over shoulder into the other two.  I run up the ramp and mount Fredrick who flew there to wait for me.

         But mounting him, Stormheart calls out to me, “Who said you were predictable?”

         “Jarl?”

         “Asvord?”

         Surprised to hear her voice, I look around and spot her in a cage being dangled over the open water from a crane.

         Stormheart walks up beside me, “You have no options here.  You cannot act before I send Asvord plummeting to his doom, and I will shoot your dragon down with all my might should you try to help him.”

         “Jarl,” Asvord sternly says.  “Don’t give her that heirloom.  No telling what she might use it for.”

         “Do not be a fool; give me the heirloom and I will release Asvord.”

         Anger boiling inside of me for what she is doing to my family.  I hesitate as I wish there were another way.  But Stormheart again gets her way.  Regardless of what the heirloom is, there are more important things.

         Breathing a frustrated sigh, I pull out the heirloom from Fredrick’s saddlebag and hand it over.  As she grabs it, I hold on to it for a brief moment before letting go.

         Stormheart’s expression goes from relief back to sinister villainess, “All of this heartache could have been avoided if you had not tried to cross me.  As it is…”

         Stormheart waves her hand.  Another goon turns the crank to slowly lower the cage into the water.

         “Wait, what are you doing?!” I demand.  “I thought you were going to release her once you had the heirloom.”

         “Oh, my mistake.”

         Stormheart goes to the winch, raises her staff up, and swings it down, slicing the rope holding the cage!

         “JARL!” Asvord screams.

         “There!” Stormheart stands with her staff.  “I have released her.”

         In the moment, I did hesitate as to the shock of seeing what just happened.  But after that, I got off Fredrick and ran to the edge of the deck.

         “You might want to hurry before time runs out,” I hear her say as I jump off.  “As she is gasping for her last fleeting breaths!”

         The cage is sinking fast.  I fire my hook and reel myself in.  Asvord was already trying to reach through and solve the puzzle key dial.  Seeing me, she stops and holds her nose, her cheeks already bulging.

         The dials not meant to be solved under water.  They are sluggish to respond.  My lungs wanting to burst.  Laying my ear to the puzzle, straining my hears to hear that click.

         Two down…

         Three down…

         Four…

         Five…  The door lock springs free.

         We both reach for the handle to open…  But as we do, the mechanism somehow tries to reclose and jams.

         Heart racing, head spinning, lungs begging for air!

         Asvord’s hands drift away from mine.  Looking at her…  She is losing consciousness.

         “No!” I mouth.

         Stupid of me yet heat of the moment.

         As if my throat is being gripped by massive grip, I refuse to give in.

         Her eyes fluttering, her arms with no aim.

         I finally realize the cage is not Dragon Proof, nor is it in the best of shape.  Desperate to find a weak spot, there is a one in the center of the door.  Two folds of the metal which overlap are not welded together.   Using all of my strength left in me, I pry the two apart, creating a big enough gap for me to reach in.  The cage is big enough her body floated to the top.  I reach for her belt, pull her down, grab her by the shoulders and pull her through.

         In one motion, I swim upper wards.  My lungs demanding my mouth to open.  My strength failing me.  Gravity pushing against me.  My own will working against me.  The surface not getting any closer.

         In a last-ditch effort, I send out a prayer, “Help me.”

         A moment later, I feel a tug from somewhere.  The jolt waking me up, I see…  Lumie!

         Zipping through the water faster than even Fredrick could do, seconds later Lumie throws us up on the beach.  I immediately roll Asvord over.

         She is barely breathing.

         I use my palms to rhythmically beat on her chest.  Because she has swallowed water, her gag reflex needs to kick in and wake her up.  It is not happening.

         “Come on, Asvord.”

         “Come on Asvord.  – Wake up!”

         She is still barely breathing.

         I then think of something.  Taking my boot and my sock off, I use my sock to then hold against her nose…

 

         She starts to gag and cough, sitting up.  Helping her prop herself up, she coughs the water out that was nearly blocking her whole throat.  A minute or whatever later, she calms down and I pretty much collapse to lay on my back.

         Being solely focused on my sister, I now finally feel the Screaming Death sitting on my lungs as they are desperate for any air they can get.  Some deep breathes later Asvord pulls herself up to look over me.

         She musters a smile as she shows me my sock, “I told you…  Now, I wonder if it could even raise the dead.”

         Rolling my eyes, I give a dry but soaked chuckle.

         Asvord rubs her mouth off and nose, probably still smelling my wet, stinky foot still on her face.

         “Just glad you didn’t have to basically kiss me.  Wait, you didn’t do that did you?”

         “No,” I answer with a quip.  “I wasn’t that desperate to save you.”

         “Was the situation not dire enough that I needed to be closer to death for you to do anything you could to bring me back?  Now I feel rather insulted.”

         “I mean, you did just inhale half the ocean, so you should feel somewhat in-salted.”

         She groans and just flops on her back, “Lord, take me now.”

         Minutes pass as we see the Tempest departing and our friends flying back to the island.

         Before they get here, Asvord does say, “Um…  Thanks…  Thank you for saving my life.”

         “You are very welcome.”

         “Of all the things to bring me close to Valhalla, I didn’t think it was going to so soon.”

         “Well, without really trying, I was trying to beat you there.”

         “Hah,” she laughs a bit hard, causing her to cough a little more.  “I still almost beat you to that.”

         “Always a competition.”

         Then we both say in unison, “Wouldn’t want it any other way.”

         After we all regroup and fully catch our breath, Elsa reports that Stormheart slow clapped as the rest of them escaped.  Something is telling me Stormheart is just getting started.

         As we were about ready to leave, Valkarik spoke up, “We really need to talk to you.”

         “Can it wait until we get home?” I ask, realizing my stomach is speaking back to me.

         “It might be better if we do go back,” Valkarik remarks, then pulls something from the gear she still had packed on the back of Alpinny’s saddle, showing it to us.  “Ali, Michia, and I may have stumbled upon something which throw some more light on what’s going on.”

         I am stunned.  It is the same staff from Skulder’s scribbles!

         “Where did you guys go?” I find it had to ask something.

         “An island to the south,” responds Ali.  “But it is a pretty long story with a few other things you all need to know about.”

         “Then we should probably go home and get the full story.”

         Being the last to leave the island, I look back at the direction Stormheart went.  A fear inside of me is breaking the surface:  Of all those involved in this mystery, have we only seen the tip of the iceberg as to what everyone is capable of?  It so, a lot more lives can be on the line than just a few of my crew.  My whole crew, family, and my home!

 

Here is the music mix for Chapter 26:

"UNDER NIGHT" Most Epic Music Mix Ever | Powerful Orchestral Music

 

Chapter 26

Shadows of the Past

 

Valkarik’s Point of View

 

         Once we got back to Jarl’s house, we are surprised to find Annabeth.  In addition, those who Jarl had met at Aiyana’s house is here too.  During our trip back to Berserker Island, Jarl had caught us up on the script notes version of Aiyana’s backstory.  That sounded like a story and a half.  Kind of feel for Aiyana because of what her history is.  I too had a history I did not quite know how to tell my friends as well as talking about certain parts of my past that were too unbearable to relive even in memory form.  Sometimes I wonder if they think there is more to the story.

         “Annabeth,” Jarl states as we all enter their house.  “When did you-.”

         Jarl is cut off by Annabeth coming over to hug Jarl, “We were pretty much ready to come back you up.  I recently just got back and read your note.  Vixxen had then come over from Aiyana’s to check in on you.  Once she knew of your note, we all got the crew that was on Berserker Island to get ready to take off to back you up.  Glad you made back in one piece.”

         Annabeth kisses Jarl as a welcome home as the rest of our friends all come over to see if we are alright.  Kind of nice to see those two kissing, after all they have been through lately.  Though, if you ask me, there is still something between them that is not right.  But after the last two days plus tonight, this whole mystery does not seem right.

         Once everyone who was not with us tonight was caught up to speed on Stormheart, all are pretty much horrified Stormheart took things that far.  All wondering the same, “Where will Stormheart strike next and is this only the beginning.”

         Jarl then informs everyone me and my friends are going to tell them about our mini adventure we took down south.

         I do give Aiyana the notebook we uncovered, “We are still unsure about what it is and what it says, but after the trouble we went through to get it, it has got to be important.  As you can see, it has some Greek in it.  Furthermore, I do know a little Greek myself from my being apart of The Fifth Fleet.  Never really thought it would come in handy until now.”

         Everyone is sitting comfortably waiting for me to begin.  Dagur brought some snacks in from the kitchen to chow on while I speak.

 

*******

 

         Seeing how there was not much for us to do after meeting Harald the one time after giving him the armor, we decided to take a trip south.  Did not have much of a goal in mind, per say, but I did wonder about anything to be found on the islands surrounding Wengo Island and the one where the Dragon Hunter fort was on.

         Taking the next two and a half hours, we flew to the southwest, searching the region for any islands which looked like vikings had been there.  For as much as I was thinking there would be a lot to find, turned out there are just several islands scattered throughout the region which have only wildlife.

         Ali jumps in, “That was until we stumbled upon a deserted island.  From what I can tell, it was not very big, because I could hear the ocean lapping the shoreline on all sides.”

         “Probably wasn’t any bigger than the main village of Berk,” Michia added.

         “Still, it is a good-sized island for as little as it is,” I shrug.

         Ali chuckles, “That doesn’t make any sense.”

         “Well,” Valkarik tossed her hands to the side.  “It wasn’t big, but it wasn’t small either.”

         Michia shook his head, “Anyway, the island had a lot of sand but also some trees and a larger rock formation in the center.  From the sky, it looked like a crescent moon shape, pointing north and south.  It is bowed out facing east, but still flat on one side.  There were a couple of houses on the island.  Did not look like they had been lived in for a long time.  So, we decided to go check if there were any signs of recent traffic on the island, seeing how by all reports, traders or pirates never stay in one spot for very long.”

         I picked up, “This is my story.”

         Michia reminds, “You weren’t around for some of it.”

         “Pshshs,” I wave my hands, trying to downplay.

         Jarl took notice anyway, “You what?”

         “If certain vikings would remain quiet, maybe I could get to that point,” I specifically stare down Michia.  He just folds his arms.  “Moving on.  The northernmost house is the building we check first.  Leaving the dragons outside and entering, we find a building that is colder inside than it is outside.”

         Ali mentions, “The draft from the mist of the ocean is the reason.  That being said, no doubt there was plenty of water damage on the building because I could smell the contrast between the dry dust and the rotting wood.  The dust had the smell of not being cleaned in years.”

         Michia objects, “You let her jump in, why not me?”

         I just shush him, even though he can chime in anytime he wants, I continue, “The house was mostly barren save for a few books on the bookshelves, a bunch of scatter paper, and a few items of furniture.  We were all intently listening and looking until a bookshelf was knocked over.  It was Alpinny.  The other two dragons could not fit through the doorway, but that didn’t prevent Alpinny’s skinny Flame Whipper body from trying.  She looked content for just peering in through the window, even though she wanted to stick next to us.”

         Ali tells some more of what she observed, “After the bookshelf fell over, I could not stop listening to the creaking of the wood in the building.  By the draft I was feeling, there was either a wall out or the roof was partially caved in.”

         I confirm, “It was the roof and we too started listening more than before.  I mean, there wasn’t much else to the building anyway.  A few times a bigger gust in the wind came to blow over the building, creating a squeaking noise of some mythical monster waking up.  Thought it best to spend as little time as possible here.”

         “We had not spotted a third house from before as it was completely overgrown with vines, brush, and grass.  So, we checked it too.  Besides the failed fashion sense of going natural for the interior decoration, nothing else was really different from the other house.”

         Michia starts to chuckle, “Here comes a good part.  After the two plus hour trip to get down here and another couple of hours searching the island with nothing to show for it, somebody,” he stares me down this time.  “Was getting frustrated.  Taking Alpinny’s cue, Valkarik throws over a bookshelf.  Same result from the house reacting to the sudden change, even the wind did the same.  I had been standing next to Ali at the time who a few moments afterwards tensed up.”

         Ali says, “Yeah, the building had a response to Valkarik, ‘You throw one of my bookshelves over, I’ll throw myself down on you.’”

         “The ever so slight creak of the building progressively got louder, signaling the three of us to get out immediately.  As soon as Michia’s foot was out the door, unfortunately,” I sigh.  “The building narrowly missed him, making the house a ruined heap of wood.”

         “I- Oh never mind,” Michia wanted to retort but decided against it.

         “The final house was more inland, but this house seemed much more recent.  The other two were more like shacks whereas this one had more of a viking feel to it, though still old and weathered.  Even though it was further inland, it was still beaten down by the salt spray of the ocean.  The faint white marks scattered on the sides stood out on the better maintained building.  When we were about to enter, our dragons became a bit hostile to the idea and looked to be on high alert.  Wondering if we should go in, Michia and I stopped.  Ali was not expecting this but continued on in.”

         Michia chuckles, “I mean if Ali isn’t afraid, then I’m not.  The dragons could have just been afraid Valkarik was going to knock this building down too just by opening the door.”

         Rolling my eyes, I continue, “The moment we step into the house, a very defined smell reaches our noses,” I pause for dramatic effect.  “Death.”  While Jarl and them are intrigued, my two “friends” were less so and just wanted to get on with the account.  “Well, as the saying goes, ‘It smells as if something died in here,’ we can confidently say something did actually hidein there.”

         Ali describes, “The scent did not strike me at first, for it did not stick out in my mind.  When you pay attention to as many things as I do, sometimes the obvious is the hardest to observe.  Once I did, I tensed up.”

         Just then Jewels came around the corner of the couch and was met by one Smoky who intentionally jumped out.

         “Hey,” Ali remarks.  “Just like that.”

         At this point in knowing Ali, I have given up with trying to ask the question, “How did she know that?” Because Ali has thoroughly trained her other senses to see for her.  Still, it is amazing to watch her still be able to make sense of the world around her without her eyes.

         “The thick, putrid scent of death hung over the whole room enough that Michia had to take out his bandana to cover his mouth and nose for the time being.  Once the smell exited the house and our dragons smelled it, they started growling, showing concern for us being in the building,” Ali concluded.

         I move on, though smack him in the back of the head, “I-.”

         Michia interjects, “See what I mean.  She’s liable to take my head off for interrupting her now.”

         Sighing, I finally move on, “Leaving the door open, the air clears fast and we are able to stand the place better.”  At the moment I said that I raised my finger to point at Jarl who opened his mouth.

         He grins, “I was only thinking of a pun.  I’ll let it sit for a while.”

         I facepalm, “Can I please get on with the story?”

         “No,” Michia says.  “But go ahead.”

         I close my eyes and take a deep breath, I love these two vikings, but sometimes…  Sometimes…

         “After hearing about the clues you have found that must have a bearing on the mystery, we did start smelling the aroma of herbs.  Opening up some of the cabinets in what might have been the kitchen, there are several species of plant herbs in pots, though some of the pots have spilled their dirt and the herbs are now growing wildly in the cabinet.  I couldn’t tell you what kind of herbs, because there were several.  Even more so on a nearby desk or workshop area on the right side of the wall.  We did not think much of it then, but obviously, these could be a clue of recent use.”

         “Because,” Michia started, though expected to be interrupted.  Because I had gone on for a while, I will let the guy go.  Surprised I did not stop him, he slowly spoke before just speaking normally, “There were some blood stains on the desk.  It quickly became apparent of what we had walked into.  Not only did we just walk into a stinky room, but one which saw somebody,” Michia motioned to his neck before making one of his normal…  I mean, he made a dying expression.  “As we searched, Ali and I made a conscious effort to keep Valkarik away from the bookcases, who then made the snappy remark, ‘These are bookcases.  Totally different from bookshelves.’  After approving in my mind of the remark, we let her go onto probation.  I won’t bore you with the details of how we searched but just sum it up with what we found.”

         “Several papers with an old form of norse intermingled with this new lettering that you call Greek.  Most of the norse we were able to read, though some of it was smudged or ruined because of time.  Tools in a closet by the back door, ones consistent with Dragon Hunters.  There was still a dresser in the bedroom with a couple articles of clothing:  A couple of shirts and pants.  I can confirm it was a bachelor living there because I don’t have much more in my dresser either, save for a few pairs of socks.”

         Asvord winks at Jarl while also nudging him, “Woah, haven’t heard that word in a while.”

         “Only if they go missing, do we even think about their importance,” he jests, though receives a stare from Asvord for the obvious reason.  “That and one other thing.”

         I blankly stare at the two of them, “Ah, another long-lost sibling.”  I swiftly go back to Michia to ask, intentionally move the account along, “What else important did we find, Michia?”

         “We found this,” Michia goes back outside and brings back the staff we found.

         Jarl confirms it, “That head looks exactly like part of the ancestral heirloom that we had to hand over to Stormheart after Elsa and the Krayfin dove down into the ocean.  If you remember from Skulder’s scribbles and what the heirloom looked like, the heirloom has the shape of the wheel which controls the rudder of a ship.  Each ‘spoke’ is actually a staff which Skulder also drew as separate.  This staff might be what Stormheart is after next.”

         “Exactly,” I tell him.

         Vixxen adds, “But if Stormheart thought the heirloom was the end all, be all she desperately had to get, could it be she doesn’t even know there is more to the story?”

         Jarl took a breath, “Maybe so.  But Stormheart seems to be saying things which will cause to think one thing when in fact she wants us to because she thinks another.”

         “We recognized the staff then but only as something relating to Stormheart because of the symbol you have shown us all that is Nikora’s.  So, maybe the guy or viking who was killed was from Stormheart’s tribe.”

         “Why do you say killed?” Annabeth questions.

         I answer, “Because when we traced the blood splatter on the desk to the floor nearby, we tracked it to the corner of the room near the entrance.  A dark red stain was on a good part of the floor and up part of the corner walls.  Neither Michia or I could tell you how he was killed, but I bet if you were there, Jarl, you could tell us in a hurry how the fight happened just based on the way the furniture was.  For it looked like the place was trashed and then some of the tables and chairs broken on top of the strewn papers and crates.  We started to wonder what the two vikings were fighting over.  To take this drastic of a measure, it had to have been important and valuable.  What I can tell you from learning from you is that the extreme discoloration between the wood and the faint red color told me that the fight happened a long time ago.  Otherwise, the red would be a lot brighter even though it is dried.  Michia had the bright idea of ripping up part of the floorboard to check if the blood had soaked through all the way, which it had.  I wanted to tease him about possibly taking apart this building too, but the building was too well built to make such a claim it would come down too.”

         Ali took a turn for a bit, “With these newfound clues, we decided to search the rest of the island.  Knowing we have found a direct connection to the mystery on this island, we backtrack a bit to see if we missed anything.  After a little bit, we saw we had not missed much but took notice that all three buildings had a ton of paper lying everywhere.  Curious as to why, we keep that in mind.  The rest of the island did not have much until we headed south.  Towards this tip of the island, there is a small forest area.  In this area we found a cave opening going back into the rest of the island.  This time it was big enough for Alpinny to fit through, but too small for Albatross’ Stormcutter body and Undyn’s Thunderdrum frame.  Leaving these two behind to stand guard, the rest of us enter into the cave.  The way they described it, even I could hear it screaming, ‘This is definitely not an obvious place where something mysterious is hidden.’  It was the only place on the island that could explain why there are three houses, well one still standing while the other two were standing, would be on the island.  We started into the cave, but from my awareness, I could tell we were going under the ocean and not into the island.  A slight hum of the water above us could be heard.  Not to mention the occasional drip off the ceiling.  Michia had a killer line at this point.”

Michia jumps in to say it while I go ahead and facepalm in anticipation, “I said after noticing the drops from the ceiling, ‘Water we going to do if the ceiling caves in?’”

“I noticed Valkarik stop walking.  I can only imagine her burning a hole with her glare right in the back of Michia’s head who continued walking,” Ali snickers.  “Going in a little ways, I could hear and feel the heat of a torch being lit to my right.  Alpinny lit a torch which Valkarik took off the wall.”

         I take back over, “It is like they knew they were coming back even though they left.  While I might not be as smart as you are at mystery, it is obvious that no one has found what this island is holding in its heart.  It wouldn’t be like a thousand year old tomb would still have torches in holders at every entrance that would still work once you lit them up.  That wouldn’t be realistic.”

“But, we continued on the path which went down, flattened out, and then went down again.  When the path flattened out a second time, we noticed that the walls began to have stones laid on the floor as well as bricks stacked on the ceiling.  Whatever this place is under the island is man made.  We are not even in the main chamber yet and the artistry on the walls are unlike anything I have ever seen.  This place was not made by a viking but some other culture.  While this place could be quite old, there is still pottery around the doorway.  Once we enter the next room, there are more pottery here and there in varying shapes and sizes.  Checking these, we find that they are filled with water.  Curious as to why, we would then soon find out.  Mounted on pillars to support the ceiling, there are more viking like torches.  Lighting these, we are then able to take in the rest of the room.”

         Michia chimes in, “There are two levels now.  A main walking area and then a balcony that surrounds the place above.  I saw a fallen column which was leaning towards the balcony, so I sprinted and climbed to the next floor, which I then pulled myself up.  Valkarik made the comment I could have used a ladder which I will admit I did not see, but hey, it's more fun this way.  Can’t always bank on there being a ladder.  Straight away, I see there is a door opposite the place we came in up here.  But there is no way to progress any further.  A quick scan of the area one can tell that there is an intricate mechanism running from up there down to the other floor.  The girls did not notice from their vantage point, but since I had the high ground, I saw there were grooves in the floor.  Sliding down the column and studying these, I saw they led from the center of the room into the wall beneath the entrance.  There were smaller chambers which could hold something as there were already several rocks in some of the chambers.”

         “While Michia was geeking out, I saw some interesting things on the walls.  It was still in the same artistry as we saw before, but this time with added symbols.  Stormheart’s symbol to be exact.  I started thinking that maybe Stormheart’s purpose for being in the archipelago is more than just an opportunity to annoy everyone else.  Maybe her people once lived on some of these lands.  With what Elsa found, this is even more evident.  Furthermore, from what is depicted is that there is a very large beast, black as can be, that has wings.  I told Ali and she instantly thought of a Night Fury, but the way the art is drawn, it looks nothing like a Night Fury.  Completely sleek with next to no obvious features beyond its wings.  Either the artist did not feel the need to draw them or they were left off for a reason.  Based on what they were doing, you might think that they were serving the dragon and offering gifts, young and old alike.”

Michia corrects, “I don’t think they were offering young and old alike, the pictures clearly show their gifts were fish and what i think would be dragon nip.”

         I blankly look at Michia.  He closes his eyes and grins.

         “I clearly paused before saying that,” I rephrase.

         Jarl starts thinking, “Could be the Shadow Dragon.  Getting a look at how it is depicted could help us know what to look for.”

         Hyrith wondered, “Most of those who were on The Golden Isle never knew what the Shadow Dragon looked like, so either it was a tale lost to time or this was their attempt interpet what the Shadow Dragon would look like.  Because they drew it with wings, there must have been some type of flight component to what they thought of it to have named it the Shadow Dragon.”

         “Getting back to the puzzle,” Michia said with some excitement.  “The mechanism for opening the door was weight based, but not with rocks.  The grooves in the floor came from the center of the room and then slopped slightly down to the edge of the room.  Using Alpinny to lift me up to the top of the ceiling, my hunch was right.  There is salt build up with some stalactites formed on the top.  It has long since clogged up, but I’m betting that there would have been a stream of water that would run from the ceiling down to the floor below.  Then fill the grooves in and then run to the small chambers seeping into them causing the mechanism to lower.  But the thing is, simple weights are not enough.  Constant yet even pressure on them is needed.  The only thing that would be constant pressure would be water flowing over top.  The only way to accomplish this was shoot a hole in the ceiling allowing the ocean to fill up the grooves.  Valkarik teased me, ‘Guess we finally get to see what we would do if the ceiling caved in.  Never expected we would do it intentionally.  But we will put you-.’”

         Michia interrupts, “Going to put me in charge of solving the puzzle because I am the most visually observant one of the trio?  That’s what you were thinking, right?”

         “Eh…,” I extend my voice.  “No.”

         Ali gave a sarcastic laugh, though she was none too thrilled being left in the dark about what was going on right after the water came in, “It might have filled up more than just the grooves.  But once Alpinny unclogged the hole from the ceiling, the water came rushing down.  No one had said that the room was filling up, so I thought everything was fine.  Though the thought did cross my mind that the room could have been filling up but they did not say so to keep me calm.  That would have actually made things worse.  Not knowing that detail would have caused me some anxiety, so I was patient to find out that the water did in fact do its purpose.”

         “Once the ceiling debris was taken out of the way,” I point out.  “The initial splash made was all a little wet, but not too bad.  We had to call back up to the other dragons to tell them it was alright.  I don’t think we instilled them with confidence, but they remained where they were.  Alpinny giving a reaffirming roar I think is what did the trick.  Giving it a couple of moments, the door began to move, but then only went halfway.  Inspecting the chambers, we saw that while each had an equal amount of water rushing into them, not all of the pedals of sorts at the bottom of the chambers were all the same distance from where they were.  There was run off water which started filling up the outskirts of the room yet not getting above a couple inches of water.  There must have been a drain somewhere to keep the water in the room at a specific height.  One of the chambers were correct as there was now an opening in the wall letting water flow into the next room.  Ali had stood on one of the grooves by accident, but it was a good thing.  With her foot blocking the flow of water, the pedal in that chamber moved.  Michia got the idea that if we were to block some of the grooves from the water flow, we could change the levels of the pedals.”

         “Turns out,” Michia explains.  “There were already secondary grooves underneath the waterflow’s path.  Upon further inspection, the secondary grooves varied in width and length.  This told me that there were premade blockers which could prevent some water from flowing through.  Not only that, when I had been on the top level near the door, there were leaves imprinted above each chamber responsible for one aspect of opening the door.  Scanning the room for any more clues, we did in fact find some large blocks which some of the pots were sitting on or next to have a leaf corresponding to one of the leaves I saw on the other level.  Next we had to figure out which one was supposed to go where.  I had gone back up to look, but then realized after seeing them a few times each that each one had a similar outline, but the bump patterns on them were all different.  Just from eyeballing it, one could not tell one leaf from the next.”

         “We were stumped for a minute, but then I remembered something that the stones reminded me of.  Leaf rubbing.  The stones which had the leaf patterns on them had a darker chalky substance on them.  By using paper and rubbing a pattern with a substance to transfer onto the paper, you can make an exact duplicate of whatever object you wanted, just as long as it had a texture that could ‘rub’ onto the paper.  We could then compare and verify what stone would go where without having to remember and up and down.”

         Jarl asks Michia, “That’s a brilliant idea.  What did you think of that?”

         “Well, I didn’t think of it.  I remembered it.  I got it from Valkarik, actually,” Michia stammered for a moment, clearing his throat.  “Valkarik wants to keep helping Ali be more accustomed to, uh, her lack of vision.  So she came up with the idea of using leaf rubbing as a form of art that Ali could do.  Valkarik could find or make the item while Ali could arrange how she wanted and create her own art from Valkarik’s.”

         I no doubt blushed from Michia telling him that, but I did not really care.  Ali is my best friend and I hate to see her having to deal with not being able to see on a daily basis.  Anything I can do to bring a ray of light into her dark world I would do without hesitation.

         Looking up, I saw a knowing smile from Jarl before he said, “It is a brilliant idea, Valk.  Not to make you blush too, Ali, but we have all tried out best to include you as much as we can, I am not ashamed to say.  Off topic, but may I say that you are one of our crew.  You are just as valuable as anyone else, in some areas even more valuable.  We all benefit from you and let it be known, we love having you as a friend.”

         Ali did blush more, “Aw, come on guys.  You’re going to make me cry.  Then I really won’t be able to see.”

         As good as Ali has become without her eyesight, being able to make light of her condition is a huge step for her.

         “To not dwell on the mushy stuff for too long, back to our story,” Ali gets back on topic.  “Valkarik went to go get some of the paper from some of the buildings and return to us.  Through my help of creating the imprints for Michia to go take up and see in what order the stones go in, Valkarik then had Alpinny move each stone.  Her Flame Whipper was able to easily move the stone and then be able to pick it up with her mouth when they needed to be set into place.  We got a production line going and had the door completely open in no time.”

         Micha added, “The stones blocked some or the entire path to let some water be directed off to the side or slow the rate at which the water went down its path.  Each chamber then had differing levels of water in them or a differing stream of water flowing into them, that this solved the puzzle.  Simple concept, but extremely easy to miss.  Another thing, the mechanic for the door is pressure and weight sensitive.  If there was not a constant flowing pressure bearing down on the pedal at all times, the door would then close.  The pedals are made out of pumice, so the amount of water each pedal would soak in would determine the correct amount of weight to work each part of the gears and pulleys to open the door.  We all three made our way up the balcony and Alpinny brought up the rear when we entered the next room.”

         I retake the lead for the report, “There was a set of stairs to walk down to about the same level as the previous room, but this time, there was standing water about six inches deep.  With how dirty the water was compared to the clearer water from the ocean coming in from the ceiling in the first room, this water has been her for a long time.  I would not recommend drinking this water because who knows what kind of dirt is in it.  Come to think of it, I wouldn’t recommend drinking the ocean water either.  So, never mind with that witty comment.”

         Jarl shrugs, “Don’t worry about it, they can’t all be winners.”

         “Oh, are you saying yours are always winners?”

         “Your words, not mine,” Jarl chuckles, though I know even he knows a bad-bad joke even if he says it.  Not like the good-bad jokes and puns he normally shares.  “Please continue.”

         “The next room was like a trophy room which had six offset rooms with no doors from the main hallway.  Everything was open air, so this ‘hallway’ is about twenty feet in diameter with each little trophy room about the same across.  Nothing was in any of these nooks, so we went on.  Walking in for a couple of minutes to get to the other side, there is another hallway.  It then opens up to a larger circle shaped room.  The only light source was coming from my torch, so all we could see was darkness to start, until we came upon a pedestal in the middle.  Upon it lay a book.  A rather bulky book but less than two feet long and a foot wide.  This book is the one we gave you and Aiyana is looking at.  Inside, the contents is this Greek language with several illustrations of the Shadow Dragon, I assume, as well as some sketches of plants.  From that alone, we all three knew this was a huge discovery.  Ali stashed the book in her shoulder bag.  Another discovery that we found is how to get out.  While we were looking around the final room a bit, by the way, seeing a lot of the same artwork on the walls but faded to time, we grabbed the book and walked back to find the door we had just opened…  Was closed.  Spoiler alert, we made it out.”

         “Duh, we made it out,” Michia remarks.  “That wasn’t the end of it either.  When the panic started creeping in, we heard a blood curdling roar, but sounded muffled as if in something.  Ali pointed out that it wasn’t just in something, the roar came from the water surrounding this underground place.  The roar shook the place to the point loose debris and dust fell from the ceiling and the ground nearly knocked us over.  Almost at the same time, Ali and Alpinny both tensed up.  Even in the dim light, Ali’s face went pale.  Before we could do anything else, an explosion from the right wall occurred causing the wall and the ceiling to let a rush of water in.  Alpinny jumped in front of us to block the incoming debris and even shoot to destroy some of the flying rocks.  Water quickly started filling up the room, but Ali reacted quicker than the rest of us as she grabbed our arms and told us to hold onto Alpinny.  Once the water level was high enough we could swim out the giant hole that was made.”

         Ali with a bit of shakiness to her voice commented, “With the rush of water too much at this point, we would have to wait until the room filled up with enough water that we could go underneath the surface.  The pressure would be a lot less but the rush of the water would still be there.  Some of the longest minutes I have been through, but we made it out and flew back to our dragons.”

I go on, “The dragons had already suspected something to be wrong and had met us halfway.  Now a bit relieved to be back on our dragons, none of us can explain what in the world that roar was.  Clearly it was a dragon, but what, we did not know.  We

checked on each other after getting out of that room.  Beyond only being mildly shaken, even myself, we were all fine.  Alpinny did not really like lugging all of us along under the water, but after another couple of roars later from this new dragon, it emerges to reveal itself to be the Shellfire dragon.”

         Everyone who is listening suddenly changed their expressions drastically at mentioning said dragon.  They were intently listening but became worried while a few look rather impressed we survived, curious to how we did it.

         “It was much smaller than what size Viggo’s Shellfire was, but come on, it's still a freaking Shellfire.  It was sea blue green with tinges of red, pink, and dark blue with quite a few scars across its carapace armor and clipped horn.  Needless to say, it has been in some fights and did not care that we were riding dragons.  Michia told us that we couldn’t take on a Shellfire all on our own.  ‘Look what one titan did to aid Viggo, let alone this just being a broadwing Shellfire.’  Since fighting it was out of the question, we had to figure out a way to scare it off.  Because we did not know why in the world it came to these waters.  Nothing we could do with our dragon’s fire power could put a dent in the dragon, however, it would get its attention.  Using this to our advantage, we try to lure it away from the island.”

         “It would not budge from following us and trying to take our heads off.  The constant whistle from its plasma mortars started to become annoying.  It stayed consistent with the battle strategy of Viggo’s Shellfire:  Hit an run, only popping up out of the water to try and take us down with it.  Because it was a Tidal Class dragon, it did not want to fly in the air.  But even when we got some altitude, it still fired with great accuracy to try and knock us out of the sky.  Being the thoughtful vikings we were, we didn’t think we should lead an angry Shellfire back to Berserker Island.  So, we stood our ground to try and chase the dragon away.”

Ali spoke up, “Undyn could not get a good shot off above or below the water.  But, it would stay near the surface.  Its massive size allowed us to see its shadow in the water because of it being so close.  So, we started to drive it away from the island in hopes of flying straight up, into the clouds, and out of its range, to then double back to the island.”

         I now finish up this next part before Ali takes over, “Turns out that the Shellfire returned to the island when we thought it would just move on.  The Shellfire must be native to the island, or use it as its home.  It would make sense that it would be the protector of the island.  It was curious as to why it did not attack before, but the dragon would not go past the south side of the island.  Since we came in from the north, the Shellfire did not notice us.  Probably how the others came in.  But now, it would still follow, just that it would go out of its way to take the long way into the ocean while still taking pot shots at us.  We tried to make it take its long way around again and then try to drive it away from the island enough that it would lose track of us.  It was working for the most part, until it was like the Shellfire had seen the tactic before and circled around behind us, driving us away from the island.  Further indication that it does not want anyone on the island.  The Shellfire kept getting closer and closer to pulling us down with it, until it suddenly just stopped all together.  After a few intense moments of silence, unaware of where it might attack next, the Shellfire shot a blast towards Ali and Undyn.  Undyn avoided the shot, but this was the first time that the Shellfire followed the shot to then grab its prey while Ali and Undyn were merely trying to dodge.  I yelled out for her to move, but the shot from underneath them had caught them off guard, and Undyn was disoriented as to what was going on.  Alpinny and I dove after them.  Just before colliding with them, I jump off Alpinny to knock Ali out of the way while Alpinny knocks Undyn out of the way.  It looked like both dragons were going to narrowly miss, but when I pushed Ali out of the way, I had stopped all of my forward momentum…  And that was the last thing I remember.”

         With the listeners on the edges of their seats, Ali continues, “I too was disoriented, but I knew where I was.  However, with Undyn not over her center of gravity but falling backwards, she would not respond to my nudges from my legs or the signals on top of her head.  I was still in my saddle at the time, but could hear two sets of dragon wing flaps.  One set sounded heavy and large while the other was much smaller and lighter.  I could feel the air start to rush at me from the Shellfire’s wings but then suddenly I was knocked out of my saddle and free falling towards the ocean.  What pushed me out was a set of hands.  Now I am completely disoriented, but I can still somewhat hear what is happening.  As I turned in the air back the way I had been pushed a sudden hard impact with something where I was, I became startled.  Disoriented and confused, I then heard Michia yell out my name to get out of the way.  If he is somewhere else, then that could only mean that Valkarik is the one who pushed me,” Ali then gulped as she had a hint of struggle in her voice when she said.  “The sickening sound of her body hitting the broadside of the Shellfire with a gruesome thud.  Horrified to figure out who it was, I scream out, ‘Valk!’  That was the only thing I could do.  Freefalling, you don’t get a lot of control over your situation.  It did not sound good and I did not hear a response from Valkarik.  Though my Thunderdrum was out of control, the moment she saw I was falling, she twisted herself in the air, no doubt did a corkscrew move to level while simultaneously diving down to catch me.  I did not have to do anything but fall right on top of the saddle.  She let out her wings to prevent us both from plummeting into the ocean.  Swiftly getting my feet in the stirrups, I turn Undyn around to face what is going on.  The worst time to have indecision came to me and I did not know what to do.  At that moment, several thoughts ran through my mind.”

         “Valk could hideif no one did anything.  The realization fully sank in that Valk might hidein trying to protect me.  Like an arrow tore through my heart, I heard a body hit the water.  I was the closest so I can divert the Shellfire’s attention from following through with what he meant for me but would end up doing to Valkarik.  I don’t know where Michia is, but he will no doubt go after Valkarik, but it might be too late by then.  All in the next moment, I tensed up at the same time Undyn did.  We both had the same idea at the same time.  We would focus on the Shellfire while Michia would no doubt instantly try to go for Valkarik.  Before I could even do the command, Undyn did exactly what I wanted her to do.  She fired one of her most powerful sonic blasts to knock the Shellfire off course.  With a change in my mind of where I was without control, I took control of the situation and went after the Shellfire with no other reason but to show him the same treatment.  ‘An eye for an eye…’  I tightened my grip onto Undyn’s saddle and Undyn emitted a low, but vibrating growl.  We both as one started blasting the shellfire with everything we had left.  I completely zoned out and could only think of making the Shellfire pay trying to hurt, let alone kill, someone I cared about.  After a couple of minutes, I then felt Undyn stop and try to return back to the island.  I wanted her to continue to go after the Shellfire.  In that instance of  indecision, I heard from the shore, Michia yelling at me to stop.  As if I had awakened from a nightmare, I could not remember what I was doing in the moment until I realized I needed to go check on Valkarik.”

         “Returning to the shore, following Michia’s voice, I leap off my Thunderdrum before she lands and I race to the two of them.  Michia had already taken care of Valk and she was somewhat alert though was not really moving behind lifting her hand up to my shoulder, no doubt looking at me to say she was alright.”

         “Finally able to catch my breath, I roll to my back.  I stare up into the bright glare of light that I see.  I am still able to tell some shadows and some light, but I can never make sense of what I am seeing.  I think I’ve gotten to the point where I just ignore it and concentrate on other things.”

         Michia helps Ali out as it was not easy for her to deal with what happened to me let alone feel the way she does with not being able to see, “I told the two girls that we need to get to safety because the Shellfire won’t stay around for very long.  It was only trying to regroup.  Getting Valkarik to safety, she told us to go on without us and knew we could get the job done.  Alpinny would keep her safe.  Once Ali was back on Undyn and I got back on Albatross, I ask Ali what she was doing with going all rage monster on the Shellfire.”

         “But,” Ali speaks back up.  “We did not have time to get into an argument because the Shellfire came back.  Just from the amount of roars that could be heard and the higher intensity of them, the Shellfire was in its own state of rage.  This goes on for ten minutes Albatross and Undyn using nearly all of their shots.  They both are getting worn out and so are we.  A side has to give.  Michia would take it to the very edge before giving up, I wanted to end this right then.  Since the Shellfire went after Valkarik for my sake, I wanted to be the catalyst in taking out the Shellfire.  Because Undyn had already repeatedly tried to talk to the Shellfire, but the broadwing was too busy trying to rid the island of pests, I knew the decision was left to me.  For as much as I wanted to give the Shellfire one last blast to send it to Valhalla, I kept remembering what Valkarik would do when backed into a corner with no escape.  I told Michia to stop firing at the dragon and come hover next to me.  He thought I was crazy but did not see how this could end any better than where it was already going.”

         “The Shellfire stopped roaring once it saw we were no longer attacking.  I could hear the rushing water from below as it charged after us.  Then rearing up into the air, the Shellfire fired one last shot towards me.  I could hear the whistling get louder and louder as it flew towards me.  I stood my ground.  Well, air in this case.  Not flinching as the static from the plasma blast could be felt, the mortar whizzed past the side of my head.  Either the Shellfire was trying to hit somewhere in between Michia and I and just missed closer to my side, or the Shellfire is extremely accurate and intentionally missed me by mere inches.  Thinking the Shellfire would then stand down at this point, I was wrong.”

         “The Shellfire dove under the water and disappeared from sight and sound for a few moments.  Fearing that the same thing would happen again, I readied myself or that to happen next.  Hearing the Shellfire fire, it went for Michia this time.  But since we two were close to each other, I could be quick in response.  When the Shellfire leapt out again, I fired my grappling hook this time, hoping to latch on to something.  The latch was successful, having wrapped around one of their large horns.  This distracts the Shellfire’s focus and narrowly misses Michia.  However, having latched onto a ship-sized dragon who is one the best swimmers of the ocean world, I was ripped off my dragon and dragged under the surface of the water.  Knowing this would happen, I took a deep breath before leaving my dragon.”

         “My first thought, ‘THIS IS THE WORST IDEA YOU HAVE EVER HAD ALI.’  Just imagine me screaming this at myself.  ‘You is gonna drown from this sister.’  The moment after I went under I started hauling myself up the grappling hook line.  I was pretty sure the hook had gotten the Shellfire’s tusk horn, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do once I got to its face.  But I had to do something to stop its rampage.  With a speeding dragon and the water rushing over me, I was the opposite of haste trying to get to the head.  And ever so slowly, how much air I could hold diminished every second I was under.  I could feel my body bumping up against the dragon as we went.  The dragon did not go any deeper, but the speed and pressure of the water made me increasingly lightheaded and dizzy.  I put all of my focus into keeping myself calm.  Whatever happens will happen.  When I thought for sure I had made it to the head, I had a very weird sensation come across me.  A static-like sensation where it felt like someone’s eyes were looking straight into mine.  I stopped pulling and could feel the Shellfire sizing me up when I was close.  Everything around me seemed to slow down and the thought of running out of air escaped my thoughts.  It was a surreal moment.  It was just me and the Shellfire.  I could feel us slowing down, for real, until we were completely stopped and just floating in the water.  Had I not realized we had stopped, I probably would have passed out.  Remembering that time was running out I was extremely lightheaded for holding my breath for the last near minute.  Out of instinct I hold out my hand and try to reach out to the dragon by placing my hand next to its eye, ‘looking’ at it, and trying to reach out.  ‘Help us,’ was the sole thought in my mind.”

         “The sound of silence under the sea was deafening.  Then when I felt my lungs beginning to burst and my eyes starting to close, I then felt a thrust forward and abruptly found myself gasping for air.”
         “The Shellfire brought me back to the surface of the water and rescued me.”

         “Treading water, I retrieved my grappling hook.  The moment it was free, the Shellfire immediately dives back under and swims away to the west.  Turning that direction, I am at a loss for words at what I had experienced.  I still can’t believe that worked.  I don’t even know what I really did.  Whatever it was, the Shellfire did not come back.  A few minutes later, I heard Undyn’s joyful purr come close to me as I felt for my girl in the water.  Mounting the Thunderdrum, I strapped in my stirrups and flew back to Michia, now back at Valkarik.”

         “Once I was back on dry land, Michia and a now fully alert Valkarik asked me what had happened out there.  First, why my sudden change in behavior to go all out for revenge but then why my sudden change that not fighting would be the thing to catch the Shellfire off guard.  Then once I told what the Shellfire did, it is like the dragon experienced the exact same thing I did.  The only thing I can think of is that by both sides fighting, we were only feeding the fire.  Taking a step back for the situation and playing on my terms, fully letting go of the need to control the situation and simply reaching out, we both convinced each other to stop fighting.  At least…  That is what I hope we both learned.”

         I finish our account for Ali trails off a bit, still thinking, “By the time we rest from the battle and eat, it is very late into the evening with the sun going down.  Knowing our dragons as well as us could use a good night’s rest after the Shellfire’s assault, we stayed on the island until the next morning.  When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I couldn’t move, I was so sore.  I did not feel like I had any broken bones, but after all that, I feel like I can stay in bed for a couple of days.”

         Heather, who was off to the side, answers, “That is quite a remarkable account of what happened.  When push comes to shove, those who truly want to do the right thing can make anyone listen.”

         I notice she shot a glance at Dagur, probably remembering just how much it took Dagur to show he had changed.  But the moment it did, it created a truly special bond between the brother and sister.  Now add the same bond to Annabeth too.  That kind of relationship is very unique and special, one they should cherish.

         Ali is the sister I never thought I needed.  Michia, on the other hand, was the brother I never wanted but got anyway.  Yet, I would throw myself in front of ten Shellfires if it meant they would live instead of myself.  Seeing Ali grow throughout these last couple of days, I think something changed in her that she thought she would never see.  It was time to let go of her control and put her life in someone else’s hand.  Well, giant plasma shooting dragon’s wing.  Or mind.  Or whatever.

         My brain hurts.

         Jarl stands up, “So much has happened in such a short amount of time.  I think we all have a little better understanding of who we are and where we are to go from here, but this is not going to get any easier.  But this is a great reminder that sometimes…  Sometimes we just need to stop the need for control and just put some faith in doing the right thing.  But that trust goes both ways.  There may still be disagreements between some of us on what we will do, but the trust we have in each other will help us through.”

         After a few moments of letting that sink in, I tease, “I still can’t understand how some of the worst best puns can come from the same source of some of the best advice I ever hear.”

         Jarl frowns but also gives a half grin.  He folds his arms, “Thanks.”

         Annabeth asks, though in a soft, thinking tone, “Where do we go from here?”

         “Forward,” Jarl declares.  “The only place to go.  Aiyana will need some time to decipher the notebook.  Some of us need some time to rest, but a good night’s sleep will do us all some good.  But tomorrow, report to Hiccup.  With what Stormheart is willing to do, this goes beyond a mere retaliation for getting rid of her venom cache.  We got in her way, so, she is going to take us out.  We and our allies will all need to be ready.  Darkness keeps closing in around us, but the more of us who stand together, the more we can chase the darkness away.”

         I nod, “Yep it’s official.  I can’t understand how some of the worst best puns can come from the same source of some of the best advice I ever hear.”