Dally laughed. "Astrid asked me to come help with your apparition situation. Besides, I want to make sure that undead gargan gets put where he belongs. Besides, those bacraut Blackbloods need to learn what is dead should stay dead. Resurrecting the past does no one any good."
Astrid nodded. "Unfortunately some spirits get past us Valkyries. Gustav has eluded us for far too long. His undeserved freedom ends tonight." She looked at Dally. "Is the den ready?"
Dally nodded and led them into the den. The stalls in this section were each as big as a barn, with titanium gates warded with spells to keep the dragons from wandering too far. Obsi rarely activated the wards, and her dragons rarely wandered. There were five stalls on each side of this section, and the ones on the right were empty. Obsi heard rustling from the first stall to her left, but when she glanced in she only saw blackness. From in the center left stall she heard Gunnar. She stopped to pet him while Dally went to the last stall.
"We have a straggler," she laughed. Cavaleris poked his head out and shook it to say "No, I'm not leaving!"
Astrid roared with laughter. "He can stay, as long as he doesn't leave that stall. We can't have any interruptions during this undertaking." Cavaleris nodded and chortled happily. Astrid went over to pet him, and he trotted to the back of the stall.
"Obsi, can you check to see if the Druid..."
"Did someone call?" Druid Tim said as he entered, carrying the supplies Astrid had requested.
"Perfect timing!" Obsi said. Tim handed the satchel to Astrid, who pulled out a sack of salt, four runes, and a small spell scroll. She motioned for the others to move back, and drew an X with a circle, then a large triangle. The base of the triangle went in front of the three stalls across from Gunnar, with the point directly in front of Gunnar's stall. On each of the points she laid a rune.
"Naudhiz, rune of need and unfulfilled desire," she said as she placed the first rune in front of Gunnar. She walked to the left most point and said, "Hagalaz, rune of destruction and chaos," as she placed the rune in the salt. In the last corner, she placed "Kaunan, rune of mortality and pain." With the scroll in her hand, she walked to the center of the triangle.
"I need each of you to stand near a rune. DO NOT DISTURB THE SALT! This could go very, very wrong if the wall is broken.
Obsi looked nervously at Dally as she carefully stood over the rune in front of Gunnar. Tim chose the left corner, which left Dally on the right closest to where they entered.
"Now," Astrid said carefully, "this is going to get very intense very quickly. Whatever you see, do. not. move. Do not disturb the salt and do not touch the runes until I tell you to. Understood?" The Valkyrie looked at each of them, and waited for their confirmation before unfurling the scroll. In a booming voice she spoke:
"GUSTAV, SCOURGE OF THE LANDS, I COMMAND YOU TO SHOW YOURSELF!"
A sickening grey fog formed at her feet, and whirled around her until Gustav appeared. He roared in anger, then turned toward Obsi. An evil grin spread across his spectral face, and he laughed. The sound made their bones ache, but not one of them moved a muscle.
"You think you can tame him?" he roared, pointing at Gunnar. "He is MINE!"
"Not anymore!" Obsi screamed. Gunnar roared and angrily stomped his feet, staring down his former master. I am no longer the coward you made of me, he said to Gustav. Cavaleris exited his stall and stood defiantly behind Tim. Obsi was startled to see what appeared to be floating, glowing spines come out of the stall closest to the door. She squinted before she noticed they were on the back of a huge black dragon. Lumina opened her mouth and stuck out her bioluminescent tongue at the ghost. The words she telepathically thought at him were, at best, not for mixed company.
Enraged by this disrespect toward him, Gustav hurled his ectoplasmic form toward Obsi, but was abruptly stopped by the salt. As he tried to figure a way out of the trap, he was oblivious to what was going on behind him.
Astrid spread her arms and wings sprouted from her back. Her plain clothing turned into magnificent armor. She threw her head back, stepped away from the center of the triangle and cried, "GUSTAV THE TERRIBLE, I CONDEMN YOU TO HEL!"
Astrid began to chant softly, and the circle began to glow. From the ground rose a red mist that turned to fire. From the fire appeared a woman. One half of her was blue and appeared almost formless and frozen, and was scarcely covered in golden armor; the other half appeared to be fire and was equally sparsely covered in black armor. She looked at Astrid.
"Why have you called me, Valkyrie Astrid?" she asked in an eerily seductive voice.
"Oh Goddess Hel, Keeper of the Underworld, I have summoned you to collect the soul of Gustav the Terrible, whom we have trapped here for you."
Hel smiled. "Well it is about time." She walked forward, and wrapped her arms around Gustav. He writhed and tried to get away, but he was no match for a Goddess. She dragged him back to the circle, then dragged his screaming ghost to hell. As they disappeared, they heard Hel say, "Thank you, Astrid, Obsidian Dall, Dallyah and Druid Tim. Your service will not be forgotten."
Astrid nodded. "Thank you, Goddess Hel." She turned to the others. "Now, each of you pick up the rune in front of you and destroy it. They will crush easily in your hands." They complied, and once the runes were destroyed, Astrid kicked the salt and broke the ward.
"You have all done well, and I thank you," Astrid said softly. "Now, I must go. But, keep your guard up. This is far from over, with the Blackbloods scouring the Narrows for dragons and riders to join them." She walked out of the Den, and Hildr appeared out of nowhere to carry her off.
The trio walked out of the den and watched them disappear into the night sky. Cavaleris pranced around Lumina, inviting her to fly around the base. The dragons took off, playing in the sky. Obsi turned around and noticed Gunnar shyly walking out of the Den.
"Go ahead, boy, go play," she said softly.
Gunnar looked up, and Lumina swooped down and hovered just above him, inviting him to join in the fun. He did, and as they flew around each other Dally put an arm around her sister.
"You did good, kiddo. He's home," she said giving Obsi a squeeze.
Obsi smiled. "Yeah, and if one of those tik Blackbloods come around here and try to take him from me..."
Once Obsi was done cursing, Dally looked at Tim and said, "Well, maybe I shouldn't let Obsi near Lumina any more. Obsidians apparently have very foul mouths!"
Meanwhile, in the Narrows, a band of Blackblood footmen came upon the frozen pieces of Fang's corpse. Frightened, they ran back down the path toward their camp. A huge horned dragon watched from the shadows. "Damn Blackbloods," he said, "that is all I need. Bad enough I have to deal with Muspell raids. But the Raiders and I will deal with all of them soon enough. They will all feel the wrath of Jarl." He made sure the cowards were out of sight, and flew off toward the Red Keep.