Adventuring through twisted time.
“And so, though this war between cultures was a tradition the present King took a risk that would either define his people forever or destroy them..."
“And so, you want my thoughts?”
“I admire your want for peace. I approve of it in fact. I, however, understand better than anyone that peace is not something everyone wants.”
“So you caution me. You’re afraid that by going there myself I'd be walking right into my death.”
Mama locked eyes with her son before cupping the side of his face with one hand. “This land killed Vega. Took him from us. So yes, I’m terrified because I don’t want news of the death of my son.” Luca took a deep breath. He leaned into his mother’s hand and kissed her palm. “And what do you do when the wind blows you that way?”
Mama’s chest rose and fell with the heavy breath she had just taken.
When the caravan first arrived at the border of the icy tundra if the Vikings and Valkyrie the murmurs of locals filled their ears. Many never expected the people of the wind so vastly known for living in sand and heat to be prepared for these cold lands. They were covered in furs and wrapped in scarves. All of them looking as if they were the natives of the mountains of this land. Some of them were. They were still days away from the Queen of these lands. Shrouded in all the different tales of her. It seemed that whenever Luca mentioned her he got a tale of her violence.
“She is a cold old woman who kills any man that crosses her threshold.”
“She is a beautiful seductress that kills everyone that shares her bed.”
“She is a wicked ugly woman that killed her husband just to prove she could.”
One by one the gypsies around Luca that fell for these stories “fell from the sky.” The wind didn’t support those that beloved in foul rumors. Luca huffed, not letting these stories taint his mind. He was disappointed in those of his people that let it change them. “We must be better if we are to remain wind walkers.” He stared around at his people under the light of the moon. A frown on his face that showed his grave concern to how easily they believed these rumors of this lands Queen. He blamed this war between them quite honestly. The gypsies having their own tales of every Queen before her and her. So he was not surprised how easily his people believed this hearsay. “We’re a day away. Clear your minds but more so your hearts before we meet her.” A kings command; a rarity from him.
The Valkyrie and Vikings didn’t really seem to know how to respond that as he came to court. They invited them in and gave them mead. Luca's people drank and danced and joked freely with Astrid’s. While Luca simply sat at the table in the room waiting for her to make her appearance. The liquid courage now running through his people’s veins caused them to speak truth. Revealing that Luca hadn’t lied about wanting peace. There were just three that didn’t drink. Luca and two men who guarded a large regal carrying case. But still, they did mingle and talk they just also did their job.
And then, she walked in.
Luca's almond shaded eyes locked with her cold blue ones. His gaze never wavering even as he rose as she approached. “It is a high honor to be here with you.” He put his hand over his heart and bowed faintly. His people all doing the same as if this were some sort of salute of honor for them. He sat back down once she was seated too. His eyes never wavering from hers. “I wish I could say I came to end this war by giving you what is rightfully yours…” He waved his hand to the two men guarding the beautiful case with them. They picked it up and stepped closer. Opening the case to reveal it was empty.
“…but we Gypsies never had your Goddess's wings. We were just victims of circumstance. But I will do anything for my people if it means both are people will have peace.”
The air was warm yet unsettled, and she could just about hear the musing of the party in which they had left; she was sure that her men were beginning to worry about her, particularly in these strange lands and especially in the manner in which she disappeared. Astrid listened intently as Luca spoke and was somewhat relieved when the tone of his voice began to ease and once again sound like the King she had heard so much about. The Gypsy power was something she would never understand, nevermind how much research she and her ancestors had done to get a better understanding as to why they stole their Goddesses wings; but there was a difference between not knowing something and a lived experience of the unknown.
Astrid felt like she was sitting within her Grand Hall once again, remembering the rather questionable drink he had offered her to enter some form of dream. She supposed this perhaps wasn’t as bad, what exactly could the wind do to her? Perhaps it was her naivety speaking, but she doubted it would be much; after all, she had flown in high winds. She offered up a hand and allowed her fingers to rest between his own. “I have a hard time imagining The Wind having some performance anxiety” She scoffed a little before allowing the air around her, around them to blanket them in a moment's peace; it almost felt like the calm before the storm.
She felt her eyes widen once more as the wolf came back to life, there was always a huge respect for wolves and Astrid couldn’t help but dip her head ever so slightly even though the wolf itself looked wrong in many ways. In fact, she didn’t exactly like how it eye’d the man she sat beside. “What’s it going to do? It’s sand” Astrid responded through her teeth, her jaw unmoved as she followed the wolf that stalked them; yet when it sat directly in front of Luca, she glanced between the pair, it was as if there was an unspoken conversation.
Astrid felt her hand being released and she used her forearm to shield her eyes from the sand which dispersed once it had attacked The King. The silence loomed over them in a deafening manner and she eventually sat upright once more; dusting herself down before glancing behind her to see if anyone else had followed. “Dare I even ask? What the Wind Wolf wanted from you?” She questioned, and stood to glance down at him. “It seems it wants you dead. You haven’t brought me and my people here to be some kind of Guard to protect you from some war” She was well aware of glimpses of the future, having practiced some with Kattegat’s seer; and so, she knew the feeling all too well when one experienced a vision.
Luca's breath quivered as he processed the pain. He stayed on the floor clutching his heart where the sand wolf had jumped through him. He winced and huffed finally gathering himself and struggling to his feet. "I don't believe in the enemy of my enemy being a friend because the person who coined the term was killed by that said friend." He dusted himself off and gazed towards the moon. "Who would you fight anyway? Yourselves? Since we're enemies. Or the world? Since the world is at war with my kind."
He looked down at her. Leaving her with that food for thought. "I just want peace!" There was tired desperation in his voice as he closed his eyes. He swallowed hard and sighed audibly as he opened his eyes once again. "We should get you back before your people start questioning mine and before mine think we're sleeping together." He gestured his arms in the direction of the caravan allowing her to walk first. He was quiet for a time.
"I was born a lupine. Like my twin. Like many of my siblings. Something happened, however, and it resulted in my losing my wolf and my sister losing her wind. It was all my fault. And so it seems the wind is going to make us relive our darkest memories. Deepest regrets. The wolf of sand was my wolf. That vision was a warning of what's to come."
He fell silent again placing his hand over his heart. "The pain is unsettling though. These visions have never hurt before." He was honest because he knew he had nothing to hide and believed she should be prepared and aware of what might come for her in the playa.
When they reached the caravan once again he stopped her without touching her. Still respecting his promise to her about touch.
"You should know. We sacrifice everything for our people but that shouldn't mean we can't keep some things to ourselves. Tomorrow when we enter the playa they'll be no secrets. No pains. No regrets unknown between us. I can only give my word or a blood oath if that makes you feel more confident in trusting me with what I'll learn about you. But know you are learning just as much about me." He grew silent and smiled at a few Vikings and Gypsies that came to check on them both. Waiting until they were as alone as can be again.
"And don't bring your sword." He tapped where she had her weapon hidden. Revealing he knew she had it this whole time.
"You've got a lot to consider before tomorrow. And the whole night to do so. So... Either I will be seeing you tomorrow or I won't. Regardless I won't judge you for any choice."
He gave Astrid a very kind smile and then disappeared among the drunken dancing crowd of both their people.
A rather complex expression came across her features at his comment, and his question certainly made her think. Without war, her kind would be pointless - in fact, there would have been no need for the Gods to create them; so she supposed she was somewhat in debt to war and the constant fighting across the world. She wasn’t particularly one to enjoy war, to see too many lives being lost to what often appeared as a pointless war between two very petty leaders. “I fear we are all constantly at war with the world. I see it and the aftermath of them every single day” Her words were somber, but she knew without collecting those souls, she would fall ill and consequently die. “And without enemies, I would cease to exist” Which was a scary thought, but she couldn’t even try to envisage what it was like to be a Species which was on the constant warpath with others.
Astrid nodded her head and followed his gesturing hand for them to return to the buzz of life, it was safer this way particularly as her people would like begin another war at the thought of them sleeping together. “They’d likely castrate you and your people if that happened tonight” She laughed to try and ease the tension which lingered in the air after what they had both had witnessed. The complex expression returned as he eventually broke their silence with something that didn’t make much sense to the common listener like herself. “Say.. That again? You lost your wolf? A lupine lost their wolf?” She buzzed the question around, and funnily enough she could understand someone losing the wind, but the wolf was almost incomprehensible.
“And the wolf jumped straight through you, was it an act of killing you?” She queried, and tried with her might to possibly understand what they had both seen; was that to say the spirit of his wolf was still wandering the lands, alone, becoming more and more feral? “Is The Playa part of your day to day life?” That was possibly the only thing she could think of, visions never hurt, so this was much much more.
The Valkyrie nodded gently at their people who came out to check them before they wandered away, she was prepared for the questions which were to come seeing as the King and Queen were on good terms. Terms which would confuse many of their kind. “I wouldn’t want to get blood on your very fancy suit” Astrid joked, she so far had very little information to suggest that he would betray her trust; although, it goes without saying there were elements of distrust between them. “For now, I will have to go against my ancestors and take you for your word”
Astrid was sure that very line would mean a lot to Luca, and nodded gently as she noted not to bring her sword; which in itself would make her feel naked, vulnerable even. “Goodnight, Luca” And with that, the two went their separate ways for the evening, as if the wolf had never occurred.
The next morning, Astrid was awoken by the birds as they sang and the way she was woken was far more peaceful than her wakeup calls in Kattegat. She used the colourful soaps to wash, and enjoyed the fruit which was left at her door before getting dressed; her hair braided, there wasn’t a strand untouched from intricate design. Her people were already up and waiting, apprehensively - this could very much be the last time they saw their Queen alive.
The Blonde Valkyrie pushed aside the cloth and entered the main tent.
A weary sigh exited his nose. This was sure to be confusing. He knew that ahead of time. He had also been told of how the Vikings and Valkyrie believed wolves to be an omen. He wondered if her learning he was once one would make her trust him less. There was no time to let his mind wander over this again though. She had valid questions. And Luca wanted to be as honest as possible. You could see on his face how his mind ran. Trying to figure out how he could make this make sense to a none gypsy.
"The Wind is to me what Odin is to you. If I understand your culture correctly. And when one angers the gods a consequence must be faced."
He twisted his mouth and gazed up towards the night sky. "Losing my wolf was one of my retributions from The Wind for... A regret made in the night. One I fear you will see though I dread having to relive it. A fear we seem to both be dreading." He took some bit of comfort in not being alone in this. "The Playa is sacred we will be the first in many years to actually travel into it. And you will be the first outsider."
She was one of many surprises. And the king found himself struck and honored that she would take him at his word. Fully aware it likely had nothing to do with him. "G... Goodnight Astrid." She wasn't what he expected. He did his best throughout his life to never let others' stories of her form an opinion in his head. Not even Vega's tales which were far more realistic since he was raised with the Winther family. Still, as he grew and came to know of her and her reputation. Even before they were Queen of the Valkyrie and King of the Gypsies. A portrait of what she was like began to paint itself in his mind all on its own.
The true image of her was far more... pleasant.
Sleep normally came easy for The Windwaker. But Luca found himself up stressed out most of the night. Nervous about the day and adventure to come. When his exhaustion finally took him out he was thrust awake by his family.
It was time.
But he doubted either of them were ready.
Physically Luca sat in the tent with his family and some of his people. Mentally he was checked out. Worrying about if he had taken on something bigger than the two of them could handle. He wished he could say the fear washed away once he saw Astrid but it instead sank into the pit of his stomach. He tried to hide it. The last thing he needed was for her or her people to sense his fear and lash out for putting their leader's life in danger.
He now stood with Astrid at the edge of the Playa. The only good thing. The only thing keeping him going was the view. The view of all the Valkyrie, Gypsies, and Vikings intermingled together to see their leaders off safe. That unity made it worth it and calmed him down.
"You have The Wind... Sandworm."
He chuckled. Luna never joked anymore. Not with him at least. So hearing his nickname on her tongue numbed all the worry he felt moments ago. Pulling her into a hug she eventually reciprocated. One that was interrupted by his many siblings and cousins joining in until he disappeared within the dogpile. Luna was the first one to break free. Frustrated or angry as usual. Luca was next. And he felt better now. The feeling of doom was still there but lessened.
He fixed himself as she stared out at The Playa. The heat in the distance creating a wavey haze on the horizon. Giving Astrid time with her family and people. And when she rejoined him he took a deep breath.
"I hope we find those Wings. Even if it proves our guilt. You and your people deserve that closure."
What was she doing? Genuinely? She had no idea and that was the honest but hard truth of it all; whilst some thought she was being courageous and responding to The God’s calls to find these wings, others believed it was an evil ploy by the Gypsy kind to be ridden of the Valkyrie Queen. Either one of them was possible, and she guessed part of her believed the latter more than anything, simply because she had no word from The Gods that they wanted this nor had it ever been passed down the Generations that there ever would be a mission to find them. Her people, always outraged by the Wings being stolen but never had any inkling that they would do anything about the matter; and she assumed that was what was also giving her motive. To be the first - that they know of - to try and locate them would go down in history. At the very least, her Mother would be proud and that was something.
Although there were these hurricanes of emotions within her alongside all the doubt, Astrid remained cool, calm and collected on her exterior; no one would ever assume that she was having such thoughts. Of course, if Ivarr or any of her other Siblings were here - perhaps. She gave warm smiles and hugs to those who approached her and accepted their warmest wishes to return to them safely; but also reassuring her that should she perish, not only would she be in the grand halls Valhalla, but that they would seek revenge on King Luca and all those that follow him. Of course, Astrid attempted to hush those ideas for now but thanked them for their commitment and support.
Astrid shielded her eyes from the heat which was clearly visible before them and later glanced at Luca; she could tell by the colour beneath his eyes that he had struggled to sleep the night before. “I hope so too. Either way, both of our kind deserve peace.” She leaned in closer to him. “Although, I suspect there will be groups in both parties who will continue to hate each other so I hope this journey isn’t in vain.” Astrid smiled slightly and glanced over her shoulder and waved to her people. She had a feeling, however, finding the Wings still would not be enough to end the rivalry, the war, the pure hatred between them; mostly on The Vikings Part.
She glanced back at the blinding heat of The Playa, apprehension filled her muscles; Astrid vaguely remembered Luca telling her she would be the very first outsider to enter this realm and that itself was somewhat concerning. There was no guarantee that The Playa would accept her and if so, what on Earth would it put her through. “After you, Sandworm” She whispered the nickname she had overheard from his Twin Sister and gave him a playful grin before giving him a slight nudge; all to mask what she was truly feeling. Despite all of this, The King of The Gypsies was thus far, being an incredibly polite host and even if the Wings were found, Astrid would find it incredibly difficult to hate him for something his ancestors had done prior to his reign.
Fear and trepidation trembled within his soul. He stood at the threshold of the Nowhere Badlands almost paralyzed. And though his people were here showing their support he knew what they said when he wasn't around. He knew they suddenly saw him as a traitor. And after he fought so hard to gain their trust as their King. He didn't show his true feelings. His hurt or worry because then what would Astrid do? Would she change her mind if he faltered? Would her people attack? Would The Wind help them or leave them on their own? Even now The Wind didn't blow.
Among all the noise in his head and at his back her voice stood out among it all. Clearing his mind and easing his worries.
She was his catalyst.
He gave her a reassuring nod despite the murmurs coming from behind them. As if to say he had her. He wasn't trying to trick her. Or lead her to her death. He was going with her. She would see a part of him no one else had and he knew he would experience the same for her. Was that as significant to her as it was to him? He didn't look back at everyone instead he looked forward.
He walked forward gently taking her with him. Ignoring any awkwardness that came from holding her hand. Walking for as long as it took to have their people fade and they were truly and utterly alone.