“Tell us what you did, Loki!” Vanessa whispered in his ear and let the candle was drip down across his bare chest.
“This is torture.” He shouted.
It was torture, but without it, he never would have learned. “Enough, Vanessa. Let the poor bastard sleep it off for a while. There is plenty of time to ask your questions, he will not be going, anywhere.” Another spoke from the shadows and Loki had to struggle to see who it was.
“Of course.” The females replied, leaving him in a pile against the far wall, their footsteps the only sound that resonated in his ears.
Senna approached with a smile on her face, with Rob, Jack, Kara, Freya and Jasmine following close behind her. Gil was a little taken by the moment, but Jack was there, front and center, presenting him with a jar of freshly made moonshine. Brunhilde grinned and took the mason jar from his hand, insisting that she take the first drink. He chuckled at the face his mother made and then looked at Jack as he shook his head.
“By Odin’s remaining eye, Jack, what did you make this out of? Goblin nail clippings?”
Jack shrugged as he answered. “I make it out of what I can scrounge, my lady. I am told it gets better with age, sort of like yourself.” He let out with an evil smirk and sparkle in his eye.
“Did I really need that image in my head?” Gil groaned, getting a whiff of the homebrew.
“Wow, Jack!” He coughed a little, wrinkling his nose. “How old is it?” He added, before taking a drink of what tasted, and smelled, like gasoline. “Bloody hell!” He gagged, “Stuff could be used as a Molotov cocktail; all we need is a rag.”
“It was poured a few hours ago. Broke my still, too!” He grumbled, reminding Gil of his own dislike towards the spotlight. “But hey, look at you, a Valkyrie.” Jack replied as they embraced.
“Uh, yeah. Who would have thought?” Gil managed to choke out, avoiding any further praise by changing the subject; just as his grandfather had done. “But, look, I wanted to say thanks for your help, Jack. It means a lot to know I have someone to watch my back, someone I can trust. We still have lots of work to do.” Gil turned towards Ghost Mountain, and what he knew was lurking deep within.
This, Malice, had damn near cost him his life; on multiple occasions. There was no telling what she was capable of or how far she’d go to get what she wanted. She had to be pissed by now, what with her losing a Dragon and a whole fleet of Goblin marauders. Then there was the bastard in the cells, the one who still swore he did it out of love. What sort of love could a heathen such as Malice offer?
“It all comes back to her, son, she has filled the nights with fear, where there should be rejoicing.” Brunhilde sighed, looking off in the same direction.
The storm clouds were thick above the mountain’s massive peaks, a storm that told them both that something even darker than Malice was coming. Something, the Elves and the Valkyrie had not seen in quite some time. The Master was returning to the Ghost Keep.
“Yes, it does.” Gil sighed, shaking his head as he closed his eyes for but a moment. “I aim to see those days set free of darkness.”
“It is a noble quest, my son, and I too believe that the battle will soon again be upon us, the question is; which side will Malice take?”
Gil thought about it, his mother’s words circling his mind. “She has much to answer for, her hands covered with the blood of many an innocent…”
“Blood, that was shed by the monster within her.” Brunhilde reminded him and turned back towards the doors.
“Why did you stop the visions?” Loki called out, but his head was still spinning and the need to vomit rose higher and higher. “Why stop her from seeing the truth about me? She needs to trust me if I am to help her.” He rambled on, stumbling to climb to his feet at the foot of Tisiphone’s bed.
She rested comfortably, no shouting or whimpering. A peaceful sleep in which, for the first time in a long while, Loki caught a smile forming on that sweet face. It had been months since she’d been able to be herself, years, since the days she used to run through the halls of the Null, terrorizing every adult who got in her way. She’d been a special child and the whole of the Void knew it, and what had they done? They’d locked her away in a fancy palace and kept hidden from her a wretched and unforgiving past.
“Navina? Answer me?”
“You can see it for yourself, Loki.” The female laughed, tying back the long black locks that hung down about her face, those emerald eyes, so much like... “Do not think about my sister. She is far from your grasp.” She snapped at him, catching him with a rather, erotic image of Marena in his mind.
“Why do you people always hide them away? Why not let them learn from the mistakes of others?” Loki shook his head, the fog inside it, finally subsiding.
“You people?” Her shadow emerged from the corner and those emerald green eyes began to glow.
So, it was true. The rumors of To’llan’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. This was proof, unless…
“Marwolaeth?” Loki choked out, hoping he was wrong; but one thing was for sure, Navina carried a Host within her.
Watching her wince at the sound of that name confirmed his theory and laid to rest his fears. Malice and Marwolaeth had been one. Without the other, it was unthinkable, impossible even. They’d been joined so long, the essence was…
“Our love is where she should be.” Navina’s voice had twisted into a chorus, removing any doubt from his mind. “Your task, is to ensure that the child survives.”
“Then, you do harbor the Host of your sister?”
“Our existence is not common knowledge and we would like it to remain as such. The Verse is not ready for our return just yet, nor is our beloved ready to face the Verse.”
“And if you all keep hiding things from her…” Loki paused a moment, looking down upon Tisiphone once more, “…she’ll never be ready for what’s out there.” He returned his eyes to Navina, who had settled into a more, docile stance. “You think this Verse is a playground and all those around you are the pawns in your little games.”
“That is not it at all.” Navina’s voice had changed, the female was once again herself. “It is not even our game.” She sighed, turning to a nearby window covered in dust.
“Sure, whatever you say. That thing inside you corrupted Malice once and now it wants to do the same to her daughter.” He snarled, but Navina was quick and her grip around his throat was strong.
“Did you ever stop to think, that perhaps, we too, were pawns in a game? We were led by our masters, our minds broken and our hands in chains…” Her eyes began to glow again. “Did you ever stop to think, that perhaps, we too, were fighting for a way out?”
“It was To’llan who gave Malice the goblet containing Marwolaeth. It was To’llan, who lured Malice away from her kin and sunk her deep into darkness…”
“And it was us, who saw the Shak’Morikai through the rift and set them forth to discover a way to reunite Malice with those kin.” To’llan emerged, growling into his face like she had the night…
Loki’s mind swirled back to said night, masked in darkness and watching from a window along the outer walls of Shadowkeep. He’d suspected Marena had had something to do with botching his last attempt at rescuing Malice from the grips of hell and he wasn’t about to let her blindside him again.
He’d watched her meet with the Shak’Morikai and he’d witnessed the exchange, but he’d had no idea what was in that large brown sac, or what the Shak’Morikai had done with it. He’d followed Marena, not the five sisters with hair of white and blades that could cut through a scroll like butter.
“When your masters play games with your mind, you must learn how to play those games, so that one day, you can become the master.” To’llan’s voice echoed in his head. “On that day, we became the master, and we saw the chains binding our love, removed. It pained us to do so, nearly saw us to our death, but we did what we had to do, to protect the ones we loved so dear…” It was no longer To’llan speaking, but Navina, her words carrying just as must weight.
She now carried a Host for her sister, a sacrifice for one she loved…
“You talk about love, yet you ignore the most powerful love of all.” Loki sighed and shook his head, pleading with her to allow Tisiphone access to the mirror’s gifts once more.
“And which love is that? The love of two souls destined to be one, or the love of a mother for her child? A child she created, nurtured and swore to protect at all costs?” Navina glared at him as she pulled her hood up over her head. “Malice made two requests before she left. That I take care of my sister and that her daughter learns on her own, just as she had to.”
“And look how well that turned out. Five thousand years of darkness, is that really what Malice wants for Tisiphone?”
“If Malice is successful, there will be no darkness at all.” Navina smiled, turning towards the door and leaving Loki alone once again with Tisiphone.
Of course she would have know where Malice had gone, Marwolaeth and To’llan were bonded. They could feel each other’s presence across the Verse. If To’llan was not worried, then Malice had to be alive.
“Please, you can’t leave her hating me like this. Let her finish the story so she can see the truth. I can’t help her like this.”
“Her mind needs to rest, Loki.” Navina called back on her way out the door. “And we, have company.”
“Wait, what?” He managed to get out before the footsteps sounded down the hall. “Who?”
There was nothing more to be said as Navina was gone, vanished into the air surrounding them. Loki was once again at the mercy of whoever came through that door next and he had to keep Tisiphone safe.
“Who goes there?” He called out, mustering what little courage he had left, sitting at wits end as he was.
He knew what Malice wanted, but he could no longer go along with the insanity. Sure, Tisiphone had to learn on her own, but most students had teachers and no one was teaching her shit.
“I said, who goes there?”
“If you’ve hurt one hair on her pretty little head…” The voice came back, and seconds later the doorway was filled with a large beast of a male.
“Easy now.” Loki replied, eyeing the long black hair and storm colored eyes. “Your sister is resting.” He added, nodding to Tisiphone.
Khor looked less than impressed, towering above Loki with his arms crossed over his chest. Loki, however, was greatly impressed that the beast had recovered so quickly from his toxic ordeal.
“The moon pools have great healing properties.” Came another voice and Loki smiled at the sight of Lithia’s long, back waves and tattoo covered skin.
“I’ve noticed.” Loki grumbled, again nodding at Tisiphone. “There was a moment where I thought for sure I was a dead man.”
“Why’s that?” Khor growled.
“Because she believes I am a traitor.” Loki sighed, unable to lie to the male.
There was no point really, he could see right through him, thanks to his mother’s gifts. Khor was three-quarters El’Terran and a quarter Demon, he knew things. Loki wasn’t about to take a chance and get caught in a lie, that would do nothing to help his case.
“I could have told her that.” Khor laughed, making his way to Tisiphone’s side.
“I may have done some crazy shit, my friend, but I was loyal.” Loki snapped back. “I was always loyal.” He hung his head, remembering that night in the cell.
That fire mage had done all she could to make him talk, and he had, but only to profess his undying love for a female they, at the time, despised. Now a days, his loyalty would have been considered noble, honorable, but back then…
“You could not have cared for her alone. You may be able to heal, but her mind was far too gone for even your skills.” Lithia blurted out, her hand on Tisiphone’s head.
“Like you said, the moonpools have great healing properties.” He replied.
There was one exception to his little rule about not lying to Khor. Navina and her little secret were not exactly the sort of thing one would mention out of the blue. He had no idea how many people knew about To’llan, and he wasn’t about to incur her wrath; or Marwolaeth’s, wherever she was.
“Yes, they do.” Lithia eyed him as Markhon entered the room.
“What the…” He let out, reaching for his med-kit as he rushed to Tisiphone’s side. “What did you do to her?”
“It was not him.” Lithia replied. “It was her.”
“And in a language we can all understand, that means what?” Loki grumbled and shook his head. “Not that I’m complaining, but she went crazy back there, calling me a traitor and …” He stopped short.
“And what?” Khor growled.
“She thought I was the one to lure her mother into darkness.” He sighed. “But it wasn’t me. I swear it.”
“Not much is known of that time, and what is written, has been locked away in the vaults. How do we know it wasn’t you?” Markhon cut in, taking Tisiphone’s pulse at her wrist.
“It wasn’t me.” Loki shouted.
“Chill out.” Khor scoffed, rubbing at his eyes. “We know you’re not strong enough to accomplish such a feat.”
Loki wanted to protest, but to do so would only open the door to so many more questions and he wasn’t sure how to answer them. It was Marena who seduced Malice, or rather, To’llan, but, how did he know that? Well, if they’d been here sooner, they could have asked her themselves, but you know, shit didn’t work like that and now Loki was sitting on yet another secret; but hey, at least Malice was alive.
“What do we do now?”
“We, do nothing.” Lithia replied. “It is up to Tisiphone. It was her mind that got her into this mess, and it will be her mind that gets her out.”
“I liked it better when it was all Loki’s fault.” Khor growled, glaring at him hard.
“Yes, it’s always Loki’s fault.” Loki mimicked the beast.
“Makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re always up to something.” Khor laughed back.
“Well this, I don’t want to be up in.” Loki shook his head and looked to Tisiphone. “She needs to know what happened.”
“Then tell her.” Khor growled, “You were there.”
“I was in a cell, dammit. In a cell, being tortured and…”
“She has been watching the story of her Uncle Gil in the mirror, let her finish the story, make her own choice on how to proceed.” Lithia cut in once more. “The mirrors remember, they teach us, in their own way, how to avoid the mistakes of the past.”
“Unless of course, the mirrors were locked.” Khor grumbled. “Would be easier for us all if we could see Malice’s life, instead of Gil’s.”
“There is a lot to be learned from each story. Gil had a lot to learn when he first arrived in Almaren, an outsider in a world shaken by darkness. Tisiphone too, is like an outsider. Unaware of the tragedies and the chaos that lay beyond the stars.”
“So, Tisiphone has to find herself, in order to find her mother?” Markhon looked puzzled, but Khor simply nodded with a smile.
“Then let her discover herself, without any more damn walls in the way.” Loki shouted, tossing his hands into the air. “Unlock the mirrors.”
“The mirrors are not mine to unlock.” Lithia reminded him. “That power, rests only with those who created them, and the Order has been disband for quite some time, their people having chosen to remain in hiding.”
“Clearly, Nan found one, or they wouldn’t be locked.” Khor mumbled, sitting down beside his sister.
Before Pathen, they had done nothing but record the moments which shaped the Verse, after his reign had begun though, time seemed to reshape itself.
Upon his death, the Order had been disband and the remaining Oracles had fled into hiding, but Loki knew of two who continued the art in secluded spaces; and one had just left the room. Yes, Nan had found one, and her name was Navina. She, could unlock the mysterious mirrors used to observe past, present, and some would believe, the future. So, why hadn’t she?