Karissa Laurel

Worlds of Magic and Fantasy

Midnight Burning: Chapter-By-Chapter Synopsis*

*Contains all the spoilers. All of them.

One: The book opens with SOLINA MUNDY greeting VAL WOTAN in the Anchorage airport. This is Solina’s first trip away from home. She has always worked in her family’s bakery and believed she would spend the rest of her life there. Solina and Val reminisce about Solina’s twin brother, MANI, who was recently killed in a brutal attack. Solina has come to Alaska close-out Mani's estate. Val introduces Solina to MAGNI ALEKSANDER THORIN, owner of Thorin Adventure Outfitters. Val works for Thorin as an excursion guide, as did Mani before his death. Val and Mani were best friends. Val’s Jeep has broken down, so he has negotiated with Thorin to shuttle Solina back to the harborside town of Siqniq where Solina's brother lived before his death. Thorin and Val drop Solina at Mani's apartment, but make plans to meet back up for dinner.

Two:   Val escorts Solina to The Pits, a local bar and grill where Thorin hosts a get-together for his employees as a way to welcome Solina to town. Here, Solina meets SKYLA RAMIREZ, a kayak tour guide and one of Mani's former co-workers. Val flirts with Solina until she gives into her jetlag and decides to go to bed. Outside the bar, she encounters Thorin who offers to walk her back to Mani's apartment. Thorin offends Solina by suggesting her presence will only stir up more trouble. She storms off, dismissive of Thorin's warning. Later that night she is haunted by the dream that has disturbed her since the night of Mani's murder. In the dream she witnesses a wolf eviscerating her brother. The monster also speaks a strange portend about wolves swallowing the sun and the moon.

Three: Solina spends the day sorting Mani's things. She finds her brother's journal and reads an entry in which Mani expresses guilt for leaving Solina to shoulder their parents' expectations and responsibilities of running the family business. Val calls and invites Solina to accompany him on a supply run to Anchorage. She agrees and spends the afternoon with Val, Skyla, and two other co-workers. Thorin joins the group at dinner. His presence sets Solina on edge. At the end of dinner, Thorin takes her hand in parting. The touch initiates Solina's vision of a man in a helmet, carrying a huge hammer on his shoulder. Solina dismisses the vision and Val drives her home. Val warns Solina not to develop fond feelings for Thorin.

Four:  While spending another day sorting Mani's things, Solina meets Mani's neighbor, KEISHA HEMMINGS. Solina asks Keisha about the night of Mani's death. Keisha says she heard and saw nothing, which strikes Solina as incongruent. In her dream, Mani and his attacker fought, yelling and cursing. Certain her visions give her an insight the police lack, Solina convinces the detective in charge of her brother’s case, DECTECTIVE VANDERLEIGH, to let her review his investigation file. In it she finds a report about Thorin’s former employee, HAROLD HATI. The detective had tried to find and question Hati, but failed to locate him.

Five: Solina accepts Val's invitation to keep him company at Thorin's sporting goods store while he works; all excursion guides work at the store when not on a trip. Solina wants a break from cleaning Mani's apartment and she wants to review the police files she copied to her laptop. She finds an e-mail dated near the time of Mani's murder in which Mani talks about seeing a wolf-like dog hanging around his apartment. Solina thinks of the wolf in her dream but denies any coincidence. On her way to the employee bathroom, Solina stumbles upon the store's chaotic stockroom. Organization soothes her, so Solina sets about cleaning up. Thorin finds her working and offers to pay her for her time. She declines but Val takes Thorin's money and takes Solina to dinner.

Six:  Solina contemplates her attraction to Val, but rejects a potential relationship because she plans to return home soon. After their dinner together, Val returns Solina to Mani's apartment. They see the large wolf-dog watching from the shadows at the edge of the parking lot. The animal's presence disturbs Solina, but Val dismisses it as a feral mutt. Val kisses Solina goodnight, but his touch initiates a painful vision of a wolf attack. Val doctors Solina with aspirin and leaves for the night. Later Solina dreams of a man coming for her in a chariot. He calls her Sol and insists she must come with him before the wolf catches her. They ride off together across the night sky.

Seven: Keisha Hemmings takes Solina to a consignment shop to sell off some of Mani's things. Solina drops Keisha back at the apartment and sees the wolf-dog again. Seeking distraction and hoping to run into Skyla again, Solina returns to Thorin's store to finish organizing the stock room. She encounters Skyla at the store. As they work together, Skyla tells Solina that she seduced the crime scene photographer to obtain pictures from Mani’s murder scene. Skyla indicates she knows more about the case than she told the police, and she hints that the truth lies beyond the boundaries of the mundane world.

 Eight: Skyla goes on to reveal that her former acquaintance, ADAM SKOLL, once took her to a bar on the outskirts of town for a night of heavy drinking. Skyla passed out, but later woke to discover Skoll had fatally wounded another man in a bar fight. Although the victim appeared to have been attacked by large, vicious animal instead of a man, Skyla dismissed the strangeness of it until she saw Mani’s crime scene photos. Mani had succumbed to injuries remarkably similar to those of Skoll’s victim. Solina convinces Sklya to help her investigate this coincidence and insists Skyla take her back to that bar in hopes of locating Skoll. On the way to the bar, Skyla confirms she and Mani were in love and had been together as a couple for several weeks before Mani was murdered.

Nine: At the bar Solina and Skyla find a man who says he knows Skoll. Only after Solina agrees to be alone with him does the man offer any more information. He insists Solina give him a sexual favor in exchange. Instead, Solina attacks him.  Solina gets the man to confess that he believes Adam Skoll took a job on a fishing crew with the elusive Harold Hati. The uncanny coincidence excites Solina and Skyla, and they believe they've found their first lead in the case.

Ten: Solina and Skyla return to Thorin’s store and part after making plans to search for Hati and Skoll’s fishing crew. Solina receives a frantic call from Val, asking her to stay at the store with Thorin. When Val arrives he reveals Mani’s apartment has been brutally vandalized. Val and Thorin give Solina an ultimatum: return home to North Carolina or move in with Val for the remainder of her stay. Solina accuses Val of being controlling again, but eventually admits her fear and accepts Val’s hospitality.

Eleven: The next morning at Mani's apartment, Solina finds her clothes and the remainder of Mani's possessions torn to shreds. Val helps her dispose of everything and then takes her to Thorin's store to restock her wardrobe. Back at his house, Val and confesses his growing attraction and questions Solina about her feelings for him. Solina is saved from having to answer when Skyla calls. They make plans to meet at The Pits and discuss how to move forward with their investigation. Solina and Skyla agree that Adam Skoll and Harold Hatti know something about Mani's murder, but the attack on Mani's apartment makes them cautious. Solina and Skyla agree they need to lay low for a while. Skyla thinks the best way to do that is for Solina to go on an upcoming kayaking trip that Skyla has scheduled with several clients.

Twelve: Solina and Skyla spend the morning reviewing the basics of kayaking in the frigid waters of Resurrection Bay. During the practice session, Skyla reveals she was formerly an enlisted soldier in the Marines. Solina and Skyla return to the sporting goods store to stock up on supplies. Thorin aggravates Solina when he censures her for going on a trip that could make her vulnerable to attack. Later at his apartment, Val confronts Solina about her life goals and makes her admit she's only a baker in her family's business because it was expected of her.

Thirteen: On the kayaking trip, a storm sets in and sends the kayakers dashing for cover. While they wait out the storm under a grove of trees, a wolf leaps from the shadows and attacks Solina, gashing her throat and shoulder. Skyla fights the wolf while Solina struggles to maintain consciousness. Solina sinks into a warm fuzzy place, a memory of her and Mani at the beach as children. Something about the attack or the memory triggers Solina's paranormal abilities and she radiates a sudden and intensely hot light that scares away the wolf.  Thorin arrives as Solina’s consciousness fades. He vows to take Solina back to Siqniq and tend to her wounds. 

Fourteen: Solina wakes to Thorin demanding information. He has taken her to an apartment located above his sporting goods store and has cleaned and stitched her wounds. He offers to give her pain medication but asks her to clarify what happened first. Solina has no explanation, so she asks Thorin how he found her and what he was doing following her. Thorin avoids the question, saying if they work together they might find some answers about the wolf and her brother’s murder. When Solina begs, Thorin gives her the pain medicine and she passes out again.

Fifteen: During Solina's recuperation, Skyla has researched Norse mythology about wolves, named Hati and Skoll, who pursued sibling sun and moon deities, named Sol and Mani. In the days leading up to the legendary Nordic apocalypse called Ragnarok, the wolves caught and devoured the brother and sister. Their deaths initiated a cataclysmic war between the forces of good and evil. In the end, the dominion of the gods failed and their world burned to ash.  Skyla believes Solina and Mani are the modern incarnations of these sun and moon deities and Adam Skoll and Harold Hati are incarnations of the wolves. Skyla also thinks Thorin and Val are related to the Norse gods, Thor and Odin, and they know more than they’ve let on. Skyla also believes she may be a Valkyrie.

Sixteen: Solina continues to recuperate. Val returns from his backpacking excursion and insists Solina return to his home, but she refuses, saying she no longer trusts him and she knows he's withholding information. Thorin says Solina can continue to use the apartment over his store if she doesn’t want to go with Val. Val loses his temper and storms out. Thorin tells Solina that he is not Thor and Val is not Odin because the gods died during Ragnarok. He admits to having an interest in her survival and promises his protection. Thorin tells Solina to pack for an overnight trip. When she asks why, he tells her they are going wolf hunting.

Seventeen: Thorin takes Solina to Juneau via his personal yacht, which is named Mjölnir. He explains they are going to attend previously arranged business conference in Juneau where Thorin expects to encounter HELEN LOCKE. Helen’s father, Loki, controlled the wolves in the past and Thorin suspects Helen may be directing them, now. Later, Solina researches the word Mjölnir and learns about the ancient hammer that once belonged to Thor. Her suspicions about Thorin’s identity grow. She sends an e-mail of her whereabouts to Skyla and promises to get in touch soon.

Eighteen: The next morning Solina wakes to find they have docked in Juneau. After a brief shopping trip, Solina and Thorin go to the hotel hosting the dinner party. Thorin helps Solina out of the car and when he touches her, she suffers another vision. She sees Thorin in a field, wearing armor and standing  in the midst of an army prepared to battle an unseen enemy. As Solina recovers from the vision, Helen Locke arrives. Thorin introduces Helen to Solina.

Nineteen: During the cocktail hour, Solina encounters NATE MCNARY, Helen's escort. He warns Solina to stay away from Helen for her own good.  After dinner Thorin escorts Solina to Helen's private rooms so he can question Helen about the wolves and Mani's murder.  

Twenty: Cocktails in Helen's hotel room. Helen denies knowing about the wolf attacks. Solina loses her temper which ignites her supernatural abilities. She combusts and sets the room on fire, but she exhausts herself and passes out.

Twenty-one: Back aboard the Mjölnir, Thorin tends to Solina with uncharacteristic compassion. His sympathy unnerves them both. Solina discovers her supernatural fire has healed the lingering wounds she received from the wolf. Val and Skyla greet Solina’s and Thorin’s return. As the group discusses the meeting in Juneau, they are interrupted by the arrival of BALDUR, one of Odin’s favorite sons. Thorin has contacted Baldur about the recent events and asked for his help. Baldur tells them that his wife of legend, Nanna, reincarnates in human form on a regular basis as a woman named NINA. However, Nina has failed to appear within her normal time frame and Baldur is anxious to find her.

Twenty-two: Baldur thinks Helen is holding Nina hostage to bait him. Helen, also the Norse goddess of the underworld known as Hela, once had possession of Baldur but lost him as a consequence of Ragnarok. Helen has pined for Baldur ever since. The group parts and plans to regroup in the morning.  

Twenty-three:  The next morning the group agrees to go to Las Vegas, Helen Locke’s business headquarters, to search for signs of Nina and to follow up on their suspicions of Helen’s connection to Mani’s death and the wolf attack. The group postulates that Helen may be recreating events from the past in an attempt to bring about a second Ragnarok. If she succeeds, she’ll have a clean slate on which to build a new world and reign as supreme deity. The gods worry they may not survive a second Ragnarok. Keeping Solina alive becomes their imperative.

Twenty-four: The group flies to Las Vegas. On the flight, Val reveals more of his history and tells Solina he's existed longer than time. Val asks Solina to dinner and gives her his credit card to go shopping. Solina tells him that even if he's ridiculously rich, using his money makes her feel indebted to him. Val assures her that his money creates no bond between them and what he wants from her is nothing so tawdry that it can be bought.

Twenty-five: In Vegas, Thorin reserves the group a private villa at a fancy casino. Val says he can give that kind of luxury to Solina all the time if she wants it. Solina insists she's a simple girl with modest tastes. Skyla gives Solina a hard time about her relationship with Val and tries to convince Solina that Thorin has feelings for her. Solina rejects Skyla's presumptions, but Skyla schemes to bring Solina and Thorin closer together.

Twenty-six: Thorin tells Solina that Helen has called and wants to meet Solina privately. Thorin berates Solina for her attraction to Val, saying he doesn't want his future put in jeopardy because Solina and Val are distracted by a meaningless fling. Solina reminds him they are already taking a great risk by coming to Las Vegas to search for Baldur's wife. The tension between Thorin and Solina is ripe when Skyla interrupts to tell them Val has been picked up by hotel security. Solina suspects Skyla had something to do with Val's incarceration. Skyla mentions that Val had dinner plans with Solina later that night. Thorin agrees to take Solina to dinner in Val's place.

Twenty-seven: After a dinner, Thorin and Solina stroll along Las Vegas Boulevard. Thorin admits that Thor was his father and Val is Odin’s son. He confesses his father’s war hammer, Mjölnir, has been stolen from him. Although no one but Thorin can wield it, its loss weakens him. Thorin describes the look of the hammer, which can be reduced in size when necessary. He shows Solina a picture and Solina realizes Helen Locke was wearing the hammer as a charm on her necklace the night of the dinner party. Thorin says he didn't notice because he was too distracted by Solina's beauty. Thorin and Solina fight again. Solina storms off. While wandering alone on Las Vegas Boulevard, Solina is drugged and kidnapped.

Twenty-eight: Solina has been taken to a large seaside estate called the Aerie. She is greeted by SORA CHIM, leader of the descendents of Odin's original Valkyries-- women charged by Odin with selecting who may die in battle and who may live. The modern Valkyries bide in stasis, awaiting the time when the gods call on them to return to service. Meanwhile they train as fearsome fighters and preserve their ability to commune with the dead. Sora wants to train Solina in self-defense and help her learn to control her powers. When Solina asks whether Skyla, Val, and Thorin know she has been taken by the Valkyries, Sora says she left them a clue because, ultimately, the Valkyries are loyal to Odin's offspring.

Twenty-nine: For two weeks, Solina trains with INYONI, an expert in hand to hand combat techniques. She also trains with KALANI, the Valkyries' "Mistress of the Blade". Solina has not contacted the outside world because of her mixed feelings about the trustworthiness of the gods and because Sora keeps her too busy and exhausted. 

Thirty: Solina's progress in combat training is slow and her control over her powers has not improved. Solina worries her death by the wolves is inevitable. Sora convinces Solina not to give up, saying Solina can face her fate as a victim, already admitting defeat, or she can fight.  Sora uses brutal tactics to elicit Solina's supernatural fire, and Solina eventually makes progress towards controlling it. At the end of a harrowing training session, one of the Valkyries announces that Solina has visitors.

Thirty-one: Thorin and Val show up with Skyla who is eager to validate her belief that she is also a Valkyrie, but Sora denies knowledge of Skyla's ancestry. Val wants Solina to leave with him, but Thorin supports the Vaklyries' motives for taking Solina. Val catches Solina alone and expresses his worry for her, but also pressures her for greater intimacy. Solina's distrust leads her to push Val away. Val accuses her of letting Thorin get to her.

Thirty-two: Solina wakes up early, still disturbed by her latest fight with Val. She goes to the Valkyries' gym to work off her anger. Thorin finds her there and challenges her to a physical fight to show off what's she's learned. He nearly defeats her but she wins in the end by using her fire. Later on a seaside walk, Thorin and Solina discuss whether Solina should stay at the Aerie or leave with him; he wants to go back to Vegas to retrieve Thor's hammer from Helen and help Baldur look for Nina. 

Thirty-three: Solina dreams Helen will attack and kill Thorin at the Aerie, using a spear that once belonged to Odin. She also dreams that Skoll will kill her at the Aerie. Solina fears sharing her dream with Thorin and Val will create a self-fulfilling prophesy because Thorin will want to stay and fight. Solina thinks the only way to avert the tragedy is to conceal her premonition and convince Thorin and Val to leave the Aerie. She tells Skyla about her dream. Skyla suggests she and Solina hide out at a fishing cabin that belongs to her older brother near a lake in New York; there's no reason for anyone to look for Solina in such a remote place.

Thirty-four: Solina lies to Val and Thorin  and says she intends to stay at the Aerie under the Valkyries' protection. Thorin is satisfied, but Valis perturbed. Solina tries to make up with Val, but he pushes things too far, trying to assert his will over her. Solina protests and Thorin comes to her defense. Thorin and Val briefly fight, but Thorin overpowers Val and he leaves. Solina is outraged and embarrassed and accuses Thorin of interfering in things that aren't his business. Thorin says what Solina does is very much his business. Although she’s drawn to Thorin, Solina doesn’t want to lose her newfound independence to his domineering ways.

Chapter Thirty-five: Road trip. Solina, Skyla, Itzel and Kalani travel to Oneida Lake in New York.

Thirty-six: The women settle in at the tiny fishing cabin. They discuss the role of the Valkyries in modern times and explain how their devotion to the gods prevents them from forming allegiances with earthly factions. A flock of birds arrives and the Valkyries take their appearance as a bad omen. Solina has an uneasy feeling she had a vision while napping earlier, but she can't remember the details.

Thirty-seven: Kalani patrols while the other women play board games and they eventually doze off.  Inyoni rushes outside to search for her fellow Valkyrie. Solina and Skyla run for the truck, eager to escape, but Nate McNary and Skoll (in wolf form) arrive and bar their way. Hati emerges from the surrounding woods with Inyoni as his captive; he keeps a knife at her throat. Kalani is dead. Nate tells Hati to kill Itzel and he does. In her final moments, Inyoni suggesting she was the mole that gave away their location. Solina fights with Skoll and kills him, but she loses control of her powers and morphs into a being of pure light, void of awareness.

Thirty-eight: Solina wakes up sometime later, naked, cold, and alone on the banks of a lake. A park ranger investigating reports of fireworks finds Solina and tells her she’s in North Carolina, not far from her hometown. Solina has no idea what happened to her or how she got there. Eventually she convinces the ranger to take her home.

Thirty-nine: Back at home, Solina packs up to leave home before anyone can track her or find out she's alive again. She believes playing dead will keep everyone safe, including herself. She searches the internet for word of what happened at the lake or to see if there's any news of Skyla, but she finds nothing. She leaves home vowing to find a solution to the problem with  Helen and the remaining wolf.