The Warrior Queen: Raisa
A Russian Night Witch on a path of self-discovery. A dark elf fighting for justice. Can they stop the rampaging evil before they are all destroyed?
Raisa Sorokin is a Russian Night Witch who grew up dreaming of her grandmother’s Norse tales of valor and glory, never realizing they were true. When her plane crashes, she must come to terms with her new life and the man who saved her.
Ailuin Vakas is a dark elf forced to fuel Hitler’s war for the Norse god, Óðinn, but when he shares his life force to save a beautiful Russian pilot, everything unravels as their journey of discovery is wrought with more evil than they bargained for.
As the Nazi war machine continues a worldwide path of destruction, an ancient evil infiltrates its ranks, and Raisa and Ailuin must decide which path to take, stopping Hilter and his Third Reich or saving those they love—and themselves.
Freyja quietly closed the tunnel door and leaned against the doorjamb of her living quarters, watching the small group of people she had collected over the past year as they talked in front of the fireplace. Her gaze landed on Natalya’s pretty face, radiant as she laughed at something Aleksandra said. The two men sitting beside her chosen warriors were opposites in temperament and personality, but they both adored their women.
Mikhail’s arm rested on the back of the sofa, casually draping Natalya’s shoulders. The looseness with which he held his wife showed Freyja more than words ever could just how relaxed and comfortable he was with her. After all, the two had practically grown up together.
The couple sitting opposite was another story. Their relationship, although strong, was still new. Jakob held Aleksandra close, his grip tight on her shoulder. He seemed relaxed here in the goddess’s private quarters, but she felt the tension vibrating off him from across the room. His unease, though, would lessen in time. When one lost everything held dear, time was the only healer. Well, she amended, time and love. She would choose love over time any day.
Her gaze moved to the God’s Glass, her window to see into other worlds, hanging on its black chains over the fireplace mantel. The scene in the large bronze-framed mirror flickered, and she caught site of three familiar Russian biplanes flying over the battleground between the German Wehrmacht and Russia’s Red Army. From the daring aerial maneuvers, she recognized the 588th Squadron. Out of fear, German soldiers had given the female pilots’ a new name—Night Witches.
She frowned as the last PO2 went into a nosedive. Holding her breath, she slowly let it out as the aircraft readjusted, the pilot expertly pulling the nose back up and leveling out the aircraft as the pilot flew a foot or so above the tree line.
A funny sensation buzzed in her head. Goosebumps appeared on her arms and the hair on her neck rose. “Something isn’t quite right,” she whispered.
From across the room, her best friend’s head rose. Idunn’s gaze automatically homed in on Freyja where she stood at the back of the room. Idunn pushed away from the carved marble column she leaned against and moved toward her. Like a dancer, her best friend’s movements were graceful.
“Freyja? You seem a bit out of sorts. What is it you sense that I haven’t?”
Freyja shook her head, her purple gaze never leaving the mirror’s surface, the images inside moving steadily, yet quickly, as the battle progressed. “I’m not sure…”
“Is it the same feeling you described when you choose Natalya and Aleksandra?”
“No, this is different. Much different.” She met Idunn’s worried gaze. “More like a foreboding, almost as if someone or something is threatening all we’ve done. I can’t get a lock on whatever it is. That alone is a bit unnerving. I’ve always been able to pinpoint any change or interference in Midgard’s timeline.”
Hearing Freyja mention Midgard, the old Norse name for Earth, Natalya jumped up from her comfortable position and hurried toward them, stopping in front of Freyja. “Send us in, Freya—we’ll find the problem.” Her face shone with excitement.
“No, little one. My intuition is telling me this is something more than just a change in the war’s timeline. I don’t know what I am sensing, but I will not sacrifice any of you.” She cupped Natalya’s cheek. “You are all too important to me and our cause. I will figure it out.”
A slight frown touched Natalya’s brow line, her head tilting a bit to one side. “Then why did you offer us a new life? Isn’t this what you want us to do? We go in and fix things. We are fantastic at what we do.”
Natalya, you have proven your worth to me time and again, but I will not sacrifice you like Óðinn does his followers. You and the others are too important to me.”
Freyja turned and glanced at her assistant standing in the corridor behind her, the girl’s hand clutching the brass knob of the door. “What is it, Alva?”
The pretty Huldra bowed her head, her long white braid falling to her waist. A quick flicker of movement near Alva’s feet drew Freyja’s gaze as she caught the tip of the Huldra’s tail before it disappeared underneath her ankle-length leather skirt. “My lady, there has been a development on the Russian front. Lamruil took the few prisoners he managed to steal from under Himmler’s control and moved them to a ruin named Eski-Kermen. He said to tell you the location is east of Sevastopol in Crimea, a little more than four hours walking distance from the city, should you need them.”
Freyja scowled at the girl, who took a single step back into the tunnel and ducked her head. “Why ever would he go there? The Germans surround the entire area. It’s quite a risk.”
A tiny grin played on Alva’s pink lips. “He said you would question his motives and to simply say, ‘What better place to hide than right under the enemy’s nose?’”
Idunn chuckled. “He’s right.” Pointing an elegant finger toward the Glass, the image momentarily blurred as it changed locations. Instead of the battle-scarred port town of Sevastopol, it now showed an ancient stone citadel perched on top of a high cliff. “If memory serves, those are the ruins of Mangup-Kale, which housed many garrisons of Goths, Khazars, and Ottomans. Even the Nazis used it back in ’42. It is a spectacular place and affords perfect views to observe the entire battle from the tower.”
“And where Lamruil is camped? How fortified is that location?” Freyja asked. The scene blurred again. When its crisp focus returned, she saw a long, white expanse of rock traveling through a deep river of green on top and below. As the Glass moved in, her eyes widened. “There are caves on the side of the plateau.”
Alva stepped up to stand beside her. “Yes, my lady. See the largest opening…there.” She pointed. “Look to the eastern edge of the plateau. Lamruil and the werewolves are camped behind the siege wall. Hidden staircases go down to tunnels deep inside the rock that lead to storage pits and smaller hand-carved rooms. There, Lamruil set up his headquarters in the ten-meter long underground gallery. We also found a well with fresh water from a natural spring that feeds the entire valley. It is the perfect encampment.”
Freyja chewed on her bottom lip, her eyebrows furrowed in thought. She nodded, her frown disappearing as she made her decision. “It is a good place. Lamruil chose well.” The uneasy feeling returned, sitting like a rock in her stomach. Pressing a hand to her abdomen, she glanced at Idunn. “The sensation is back, stronger than before. Idunn, I am very worried. Did we miss something?”
Her friend shook her head. “You are certain it isn’t another Night Witch?”
“How many of us are you planning on collecting?” Aleksandra asked. Freyja’s eyes widened in surprise. She had been so absorbed in her own thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the rest of the group moved to face her, the men resting their hands over their women’s shoulders. To not notice something right in front of her was troubling in and of itself, and the niggling worry she had overlooked something even more so.
“Only three, and the third won’t join us until closer to the end of the war.” Freyja’s gaze moved back to the mirror, which had returned to the battle. Night had fallen over the port town. Constant flashes of yellow-orange to red bursts of light appeared, covering the entire city as both Germans and Russians dropped aerial bombs and fired their cannons. If the God’s Glass had sound, the rat-a-tat-tat of rifles and loud booms from the tanks would fill the room. She was grateful there was no sound, though. The men’s constant screams of agony as the wounded fell or lay dying would haunt her for eternity.
The scene zoomed in, showing them several biplanes as they flew in formation toward Sevastopol.
“Look!” Natalya said in a tremulous voice. She threw a quick glance to Aleksandra then turned her gaze back to the unfolding battle. “Can you tell who it is?”
Aleksandra squinted, studying each motion of the aircraft. “See the way the right wing slightly tips downward on the bank? I think that’s Katia!” It was Natalya’s turn to squint as she stared at the mirror.
Sure enough, when the plane turned, heading back to regroup with the other two aircraft in the three-plane unit, the right side dipped down. The movement was barely noticeable but there all the same.
“It is Katia!” Natalya smiled. “She never could turn without dipping. I wonder who the other two pilots are?”
Aleksandra shrugged. “No clue. Who knows how many of our original group are still alive. With both of us gone, everyone could have been shifted around and reassigned to new units.”
“Makes sense.” Natalya met Freyja’s gaze. “Lilyann isn’t there, is she?”
“No, little one, your sister is nowhere near Sevastopol. She accepted a new role in the war against Germany.”
Natalya’s eyes closed for a moment only before popping open again, a resigned fear in their bi-colored depths. “Tell me, please.”
Idunn laid her hand on Freyja’s arm and gave it a small squeeze. “Don’t worry, Natalya. Freyja and I won’t let anything happen to your sister. Her part in this war is an important one.”
“Doing what, exactly?” Mikhail asked. “Lilyann doesn’t always think about the end results of her actions and can be…well, she can be reckless.”
Natalya shrugged. “Unfortunately, he’s right. I love my sister and don’t want anything to happen to her.”
“I know, little one.” Freyja gave Idunn a quick smile before turning back to the amazing leader of her new army. “Your sister is actually the liaison between several partisan groups. She is helping Bernard, Mikhail and Jakob’s friend, gather information. They, in turn, pass the credible intel on to the partisans who then contact the local armies. Without this coordinated effort, I’m afraid the war would take longer.”
Natalya’s eyes widened in surprise. “Lilyann is a spy?”
Freyja nodded. “A very good one, I might add.” She turned to Alva. “Return to Lamruil and the others. Tell him if the Nazis discover his current location, he needs to make his way to Inkerman where he will find an ancient monastery cave, which should serve quite nicely for his unconventional group. The Red Army currently is housed in the upper caves as they fight for Sevastopol. There is a deeper section farther back where your new friends can stay hidden until the time is right for them to make an appearance. Natalya and Mikhail, along with Aleksandra and Jakob, will meet you shortly. The Russians cannot lose this battle. If Hitler gets his hands on the oil from the Caucasus, everything we have fought for will have been for nothing.”
Alva bowed. “Thank you, my lady. If anything changes, I will report back.” As quick as a blink, the Huldra disappeared in a tiny shower of golden sparks.
“She seems happier at her new post, don’t you think?” Idunn asked. “And she’s holding herself straighter.”
“She is. I believe the change is two-fold. Firstly, she is not being bullied by her sisters for being different. Secondly, she has friends who need her.” Freyja’s gaze turned back to the mirror as another sensation stole over her, her skin prickling under the silent assault. “Familiarity,” she whispered.
“What did you say?” Idunn stared at her.
“That’s what I’m feeling—familiarity, as if someone I know is there.” Freyja focused her entire being toward the battle, trying to ferret out where the sensation was coming from. Suddenly, she knew. “It’s Freyr,” she frowned. “But not.”
Idunn groaned. “You’re killing me. What does your twin brother have to do with any of this? He doesn’t take orders from Óðinn and hasn’t been interested in anything outside of the Vanir for the last millennia, at least.”
“I have no idea. I’m getting the impression of him—a twin sense, if you will but a bit different, and nothing I have ever felt before. Since birth, I have always known where Freyr is and if he is in trouble or not. I don’t understand any of this, but what you say is true. He has been focused on trying to rebuild our home on Vanaheimr and taking care of the elves—what’s left of them. There is an obvious absence of balance now that most of the black elves are gone. Lamruil and Ailuin are their last hope.”
“Don’t forget about Cyran Daralei. He is quite handsome, don’t you think?”
Freyja scowled at her friends’ nonsense. “I haven’t noticed. He is a pain though and is constantly throwing kinks into the Lamruil’s and Ailuin’s plans.”
“Really, Freyja. Cyran is only trying to help. He is a good strategist. Not as good as the brothers, but he’s younger and still learning. Ease up a bit. Cyran isn’t as dark as the other two and still sees the good in life.”
“Humph.” Her attention turned back to the mirror once again. Her gaze narrowed, pinpointing on the lead biplane. “I wonder…”