The shadows increased in length as Dan walked down the hall. The people walking by him grew fewer in number. Dan knew he had to hurry if he was to speak with Vydar.
Just a short ways down the hall, Dan found a closed door with a kyrie standing guard in front of it. Dan had no doubt this kyrie was a soldier. He wore black armor, not unlike the material Darren had worn when Dan escaped.
The kyrie wore a black helmet which covered most of his head, and a simple black breastplate covered his chest. The kyrie’s arms were clothed in the sleeves of a thick-looking dark gray shirt, and he wore tough-looking pants of the same material. He was standing perfectly still, his hands folded behind him.
“May I speak to Vydar?” Dan asked, stopping in front of him.
The guard looked down at him. Most kyrie were at least a good head taller than Dan. “Vydar is currently in a meeting,” he said. “You will have to wait.” He pointed to a row of benches on the opposite wall.
Dan glanced at the angle of light streaming through the window at the end of the hall. He had gotten good at telling time based on the position of the sun in the SR, and he judged he still had at least a good hour. He went and sat on one of the benches.
Slowly, the people stopped passing by, and the hallway grew silent. The shadows grew longer. Another kyrie soldier flew up to the guard and whispered something in his ear.
“Stay there until Vydar’s meeting is over,” the guard said to Dan, fixing him with a stern look. Dan assumed the look was meant to intimidate him, but it didn’t work, simply because he had received exactly the same look from countless others in SR, and had grown used to ignoring it. He nodded silently.
The two kyrie took off and disappeared down the main hall. Dan got more comfortable on the bench. He had time.
When the light from the window was beginning to fade and the door still hadn’t opened nor the guard returned, however, Dan was starting to worry. Aviir had said he left in the morning, and he doubted he would have time to speak to Vydar before he did so.
A single low note echoed through the halls. Dan could only assume it was the curfew Aviir had mentioned. He had to speak to Vydar now, before it got any later. He stood up. He could hardly burst through the door, but he had to do something. He hadn’t heard a sound from beyond the door; was Vydar’s meeting perhaps over? Was he even still there at all?
Not knowing what else to do, Dan crossed to the door and pressed his ear against it. He could hear muffled sounds; someone was definitely in there. Dan had just resolved to continue waiting, when he heard something which made him pause.
It was a thump. A soft thump, like a heavy sack hitting the floor. Or a rug.
… Or a body.
Dan looked at the door uncertainly. How likely was it that Vydar’s meeting had gone awry and something was actually wrong? Not very. But still, Dan needed to speak with Vydar, and he could at least use the sounds he had heard as an excuse. That was all the reason Dan needed. He placed his metal gloves on the door and pushed it open, just a crack, just enough to hear by.
“Remember to do your part,” a husky voice said. Dan jumped at the sudden volume; the door must have been muffling more than he realized. “We can’t mess Fallback up. Timing is critical.”
“Do you think I would forget?” replied a calm voice. “I’m the one who came up with Fallback in the first place.”
“You’ve ‘forgotten’ plenty in the past,” the husky voice answered. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Wait,” said the calm voice. There was silence, and then the door was flung open. Dan staggered forwards and regained his balance to find himself in a small circular room. There was only one door, and three steps in the middle of the room led to a raised portion of the floor against the opposite wall, upon which a simple wooden chair was placed. Two people were in the room: one in the chair who Dan assumed must be Vydar, and one he knew on sight to be a warrior of Utgar.
Aviir had told Dan about the different kyrie, and how those serving Utgar almost all had red skin and black leathery wings. The kyrie Dan now looked at fitted the description perfectly, right down to the snarl of anger on his face.
“What is this!” he roared at Dan. “Spying on your Valkyrie?” He took a step towards Dan. “You should be struck down where you stand for such an action!” He actually raised his fist, as if preparing to carry out his threat, but then Vydar spoke.
Vydar’s voice was the calm one Dan had heard through the door, and he instantly wondered what the plan was that he had come up with, and which this warrior of Utgar’s was in on. These thoughts didn’t last long in Dan’s mind.
“Stay your hand,” Vydar said. “This is not Utgar’s palace; you will not raise a finger against my warriors.”
The red kyrie dropped his fist, though he still looked at Dan with an expression of sinister venom.
Vydar stood. “I think we are done,” he said. “It is late. We will work out the details in the morning.” He gestured to the door.
The red kyrie turned and left without another word, closing the door behind him.
The instant the door shut, Dan turned to Vydar. “What is he doing here?” he asked.
Vydar didn’t answer right away, but looked at Dan, as if he was sizing him up. Now that he looked at it, Dan realized Vydar’s face was a striking one. His hair was long, and black stubble covered his chin, giving his whole face the appearance of being surrounded by shadow. His square jaw, steely eyes, and high cheekbones contributed to the feeling Dan had that Vydar was watching him out of narrowed eyes, as if waiting to see what he would do next. Vydar’s eyes were blue, the first blue eyes Dan had noticed, and they were dark, set back beneath Vydar’s dark brow.
“He was an emissary,” Vydar said. “A representative of Utgar. He and I are working out the details of a prisoner transfer. Why are you here?”
Dan remembered why he had come. The sight of the red kyrie had temporarily driven it from his mind.
“You summoned me, right?” he asked.
“There’s someone else, back on Isado— back where I’m from. I want you to summon her as well.”
Vydar nodded slowly. “I see,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is something I cannot do. However, if you serve me well, I will return you to her when this war is over, as it very nearly is.”
“I don’t want to go back,” Dan said. “I never want to go back. I want her to join me here.”
Vydar watched him. “I can’t do that,” he said. “I—”
The door burst open.
“Ahe karef at halsaya!”
A kyrie, wearing the armor of a soldier, charged past Dan, but then paused, and spun back to face him.
“What are you doing here, recruit?” he rumbled.
Dan looked at him blankly.
“The curfew is in effect!” the kyrie practically shouted. “You should be in your quarters. Go!”
“I’m here to—”
Dan might have been used to ignoring other people, but he wasn’t used to being yelled at. He took a step back, momentarily startled.
“Return to your quarters,” the kyrie said, “or you’ll spend the night in the dungeons. Your choice.”
There was nothing for it. Dan remembered that this was all real, and that the consequences of what he did were real too. He didn’t like the sound of the dungeon; another prison was the last thing he needed. Vydar had given him his answer. There was nothing left to do here.
He turned and left the room. The sun had sunk below the horizon, leaving the hall in darkness, save for the occasional torch guttering on the wall. Dan retraced his steps, heading back towards his room.
So Vydar wouldn’t summon Heleer. Dan hadn’t really expected him to, but he had to be sure. Now that he knew, he could start figuring out how to bring her to Valhalla himself. He wouldn’t let Vydar stand in his way.