“Where are they?” Khor stood before them, seething in anger.
It had been more than twenty-four hours since he’d seen Lithia last and the fact that he couldn’t find her was driving him mad. He knew she was here; he could smell her. The tracker in his screamed, she is here; so, where the fuck was she, and why weren’t these two buffoons answering him?
“Are you alright, my friend?” Loki asked, though it was clear he was speaking to the male that Khor still held by the collar.
“Uh, sort of!” The male replied, damn near shitting his pants.
“Let him go!” Markhon cut in.
“He smells like her.” Khor growled back. “Why, does he smell like her?”
“Smell like who?” The male inquired. “Lita?”
“Her name, is Lithia.” Khor slammed his back against the wall and Loki shook his head.
“You’re scaring him.”
“Good. He shouldn’t smell like her.”
“Seriously now, can’t you just ask him where she is and let him go?” Markhon grumbled and rubbed at his eyes. “We need to find them.”
“Lithia!” Khor glared at the male. “Long, black hair that hangs in waves, with eyes like the skies above.”
“Lita. She came in looking for torches the other day, traded me the cloak, in the bag there.” He tried to nod. “I swear, that is all I know.”
“And did she have others with her? Other females?” Khor inquired through gritted teeth.
“One other, with hair like chocolate.”
Khor dropped the male and went for the bag, pulling a long, black cloak from within and holding it up to his nose. He inhaled deep, groaning as the scent overtook him, and a moment later he was up in Loki’s face.
“Why is Tisiphone not with them?”
“I have no idea.” Loki replied. “They should up here, alone.” Is what the word is. They had a run-in with Vasha, Lady Ashe’s daughter, and no one has seen them since.”
“No one except the whore.” Markhon cut in.
“She claims they went into the gardens; we were heading there now.” Loki added. “If you can control your temper, you can come with us.”
“If you do not find my mate, and my sister, my temper will be the least of your concerns.” Khor warned as he made off down the darkened alleyway.
She had done her best to see that Navina was kept safe, but try as she might, she just couldn’t wake her. Was is the Host within her? Or perhaps the air in the tunnels was too thin?
“We should have stayed with the others.” She hung her head and leaned back against the rock face, slowly letting herself slide to the ground next to Navina.
It felt like hours since she’d last seen the moon outside the bloody place, this maze of darkness. She should have been accustomed to the silence, the loneliness that now surrounded her. Her time in exile had driven her damn near mad, yet the things she had learned…
The spark ignited in the center of her palm, swirling about as the flames took hold. Bigger and brighter it grew, pulsing, thumping, as if it mimicked her very own heart. She felt the life within it, could hear each beat, like music to her ears. One was never truly at the mercy of darkness, they only needed to know how to project their inner light. Their hopes and dreams, the love in their hearts, all of it manifesting into the brightest orb to light any passageway.
Now, as she stared into the flames in her hand, if she could only will it to lead their way. That she had not mastered, though the light helped to calm the anxiety growing within her. This was bad, and growing worse by the minute. Still lost, with time ticking away within the orb in her pocket, she fought to focus.
Tisiphone could not stay in that orb forever. There was a limit to such things and Lithia feared that time was almost up. If she could rouse Navina soon, she may have to carry her; but to where? She still had to figure out where they were, let alone where they were to go? How many tunnels were hidden beneath Ghost Mountain? Where did they all lead?
“You have made quite a mess of things, you know that?” She looked down at Navina, unable to stop herself from moving a stray lock of hair from her cheek. “You were supposed to help us?” She sighed, shaking her head. “Now look at us.” She added with a laugh, and set the orb of fire to float above their heads. “The sooner you wake up, the better…” She yawned, utterly exhausted, and closing her eyes, she too drifted off to the comfort of her dreams.
‘You, are called Marwolaeth?’ Tisiphone reached out with her mind, attempting to connect with the mind within her own.
She remembered stories of the mighty Host who had once lived within her mother, both heartbreaking and fill with joy. She was a warrior, a champion of darkness; and yet…
‘Please, you spoke to me before, do not be silent now.’ She called out again.
‘It was not for you that we crept from within.’ The voice returned with a growl.
‘Crept from within?’ Tisiphone was confused.
There was nothing within her. No Host, no entity to speak of. Surely, the Guild would have mentioned something like that? They would not have kept that a secret, would they?
‘She suffers…’ The voice came again and Tisiphone shuddered as the emotions washed over her. ‘She suffers, because of us…’
Sadness. Fear. Guilt. They were all there, eating away at her as she fought to control them.
‘Our beloved…’ The voices were filled with heartache.
‘Please, I need your help!’
‘You need nothing from us.’ The mind hissed back. ‘We have brought nothing but sorrow to those we cherish.’
‘I need to know what happened to my mother.’
‘We, happened to your mother. We, brought her into darkness and we ensured she followed the dark lord’s commands. We wrapped our arms around her to quash her fears and we took her in sinful embrace, in hopes our warmth would wipe away any doubt that she, a warrior like she who harbored us before, she belonged to us…’ The voice paused for a moment. ‘And what did we get for it? What did she, get for it?’
‘My mother spoke highly of you, and To’llan. I know you tried to help her, and I need to know how?’
‘She is my mother.’ Tisiphone shot back. ‘Why not?’
‘It is far too painful to remember.’
‘Try. Please? You are her only hope.’
‘Then those hopes and dreams have already failed you.’ The voice grew distant, lingering in the distant recess’ of Tisiphone’s mind; as if it tried to hide away.
‘You cannot be Marwolaeth.’ Tisiphone sighed, still stuck inside that dreadful bubble. ‘I can’t do this on my own.’ She paused a moment, rubbing at her eyes. ‘And neither can To’llan…’
‘What do you know of To’llan?’ That voice came back, filled with rage, filling Tisiphone’s chest so full, she thought it might burst. ‘What give you the right to question us?’
‘How did you find yourself in my mind? What happened to my mother?’ Tisiphone kept up with her questions, trying so hard to pick away at the wall the mind had set up around her. ‘What happened to To’llan?’
“Dammit!” Tisiphone said out loud, her voice echoing through the orb. “Speak to me, or do you fear your past?”
Again, there was nothing but silence, though a single thought swirled about, taunting and teasing her. An image of her mother, standing at the end of a long road, her eyes fixated on a single tower that loomed above a darkened fortress. The longing that filled her, damn near doubled her over, her stomach aching as the face came in to view from the highest window. It was Marena, the Host’s beloved, and within her rested To’llan, whom Marwolaeth had sworn her devotion.
She had no idea where the Host had come from, or how she’d become Hosted, but it was there in her mind, nonetheless. There had to be a way to reach her.
‘Look, I know you loved her, and that she loved you, and my mother. I only want to protect them.’ Tisiphone opened her mind as freely as she could, hoping the Host would take note and scour the thoughts within. ‘If you don’t help me, then I fear, all may be lost.’
‘All, is already lost.’ It finally answered. ‘He has taken from us all that we ever loved and now that he is gone, there is no chance to undo his curse.’
Again the Host went silent and Tisiphone screamed so loud, she thought surely, Navina and Lithia would hear her. ‘What curse? What did he do?’
‘He made us forget that which made us, whole. He took from us our memories, tried to erase our love, but To’llan would not have it and she….’
Tisiphone was on edge, so close to finding out what happened, and yet so far.
‘What did she do?’
There were no words, only visions of Marena and Malice, locked in each others arms, and then suddenly, the hands came down upon them and the ropes began to circle their wrists. Bound and gagged, unable to fight back against the chaos, they were ripped from one another, kicking and screaming as the guards carried them off.
‘That, was the first time.’ Marwolaeth let out. ‘Then again, a thousand years later, even after we have proven our loyalties, he saw fit to torture us again…’
More visions, deep, disturbing, filled with sin. He’d controlled them, using all sorts of wiles against them, though his favorite seemed to be the tonics and elixirs that stirred within in each of them a need to serve. And serve they did, as commanders and generals of his armies, lovers and whores to those he deemed of worth. They were slaves to his will and no matter how hard they tried to fight back; their dark lord had always been one step ahead of them.
‘Why? Why would he do this to you? Why would he make you suffer if he claimed to love you so?’
‘Why does any male do what he does? Because he can.’ Marwolaeth hissed and Tisiphone was made privy to one of her, darker secrets.
Marwolaeth had served her Queen with pride, lovers in every sense of the word; until the day she had woken to find herself in a jar, secluded from everything she’d ever known. She’d been so afraid, so confused. Where was her Hosted? Where was the Champion who had given herself over so such a fine warrior could thrive? It had been To’llan who came to her side. Promised to help her remember, promised to protect her….
‘She tried to help us remember, and she was punished for it, severely.’ Her words were broken, as was her heart. ‘He used us, abused us, and then when he could no longer controls us, he ruined us. Not once did he fulfil his promises, not once, did he show the love he claimed to hold for us.’
‘Why did he do it? What was his goal?’
‘We do not know.’ Marwolaeth’s voice was but a whisper. ‘We do not know…’
‘You must know something.’
‘We know he is long dead, and with him, all the answers to our past. To’llan will never be whole again. Marena, will never be whole again.’
‘We suffer what we must, to ensure that darkness, never again, grasps us in its clutches. We remained silent, in hopes that our darkness, never again, harms anyone.’
‘It is that darkness, that I fear has risen up once again in this Verse. The darkness you all sacrificed so much for, has not been destroyed.’ Tisiphone tried to explain.
‘You know not what you speak of. The darkness died with him.’
‘The darkness lives, and once again, it threatens those you love.’ Tisiphone shot back. ‘It lives and breathes as I do now, and I fear….’
‘Fear is what drives you. Like a warning bell, or a beacon to light up the night, it guides you.’
‘My fear does guide me. It propels me to seek out those who could help keep it at bay. The fear of falling taught me to walk, the fear of silence, to talk. Too long, has our Verse been shrouded in fear and I mean to shed light into the darkness that invades the morals and values of what I have come to call life. I will, find the answers I search for, with, or without your help.’
‘Why?’ Marwolaeth inquired, a tone of resentment in her voice.
‘Because right now, my fear is telling me that my mother has become lost in that darkness once more, and if you were truly a Host and living in my mind, you would know that already. So, either you are Marwolaeth, and you have become too afraid to stand as you once did, or you are an imposter, and I would beg you to be rid of my thoughts as I seek out those who truly can help me.’
‘An imposter?’ Marwolaeth growled.
‘If you can’t help me, then I will find someone who can.’ Tisiphone repeated herself.
‘And who would help the daughter of Malice fight against the darkness?’
‘You once knew them as the Shak’Morikai gen Marwolaeth.’ Tisiphone laughed, hoping to the Gods themselves that her little play on the Host’s ego would work.
‘You, would command the Shak’Morikai? The most elite assassins in all of the Shadowlands?’ Marwolaeth laughed. ‘I doubt that.’
‘Oh? And why is that?’
‘Because, the Shak’Morikai no longer exist.’ She hissed in return, and Tisiphone felt another way of guilt. ‘No one has seen or heard from them since I was parted from your mother.’
‘I know where they are.’
‘Oh, do you now?’
‘Please, help me find Malaness?’
‘Malaness?’ Marwolaeth laughed so loud. ‘A fairy-tale, child. Nothing but a fairy-tale.’
‘I know it exists.’
‘Malaness was destroyed. He, destroyed it, and all those who knew of its location.’
‘You are wrong.’ Another voice emanated from the shadows. ‘To’llan?’ Marwolaeth’s tone changed, almost immediately. ‘To’llan, please, speak to me…’
‘She is correct in her assumptions of Malaness. We know not how, but she is. This Hosted body has seen it, our beloved, she has seen them all.’
‘It is not possible. We searched for it…’
‘It is possible and we must find them.’ To’llan proclaimed. ‘We must help her learn the truth. It is the only way we will learn what happened and perhaps, undo what has been done.’
Was this what Tisiphone had been hoping for? Was this, finally, the answer to all she had been searching for?
‘Like this Hosted body, the sister of our beloved Marena, the child can see things in the mirror.’
‘Yes, Navina is an oracle, one of the best I am told. She knows things that others do not.’ Tisiphone cut in. ‘She has been teaching me how to see the visions.’
‘We know who Navina is, and the torture that has unfolded, having been so close to our love, and yet not able to hold her in our arms…’
‘We too, have suffered, unable to seek out that which used to be our own…’
The sadness crept in, slowly taking them both over and Tisiphone felt the guilt well up inside her; though it was not her own.
‘You must help her.’ To’llan spoke again. ‘For I cannot. This Hosted may be strong, but her heart is unable to withstand the horrors of what happened here. She will never make it to the portal alone.’
‘It was not your fault, To’llan.’ Marwolaeth tried to assure her, but Tisiphone could already see the tragedy unfolding before her, and she gasped.
‘Yes, it was!’ She replied in a sombre tone.
The portal shone bright before her and the howls of madness echoed off the walls around her. She saw a female standing tall, with long dark hair, pulled back into a braid. She was an Elf, though she did not wear the proper attire. She shouted at another female, in a language Tisiphone couldn’t understand and a moment later there was a scuffle. They tossed each other around, both landing some pretty powerful hits, but again and again the females rose to face one another, the hatred glowing in their eyes.
It had happened all so fast, the foot that got caught on the ledge, the portal pulsing as a nearby solar flare sent its shockwave through, and before Tisiphone could gasp again, she watched the Elf disappear into the horizon of the portals wake.
‘Mo’var……’ She heard Marena scream, blood curdling and full of despair.
Whoever the Elf had been to the her, she was gone and the sorrow gave way for anger to rise within. In a matter of seconds, Tisiphone watched as To’llan took hold and her appearance changed, an illusion of Malice, taking from the people what they had taken from Mo’var and in the end sat wallowing in a corner, afraid of what she’d just done.
‘It was not your fault.’ Marwolaeth cried out again.
‘Of all the things we remember, it is that memory, that hurts us the most.’ To’llan whispered. ‘We would ask, that if we cannot restore our memories ourselves, that you will help her through the visions of old and piece together the lives we shared.’
‘We are not oracles.’
‘But she is, and she needs your strength to help her through this. Just imagine, all of us, restored. All of our treasured memories returned and the horrors cast aside.’
‘We cannot do it alone.’ Marwolaeth cut in. ‘We will not leave you here in such misery.’
‘Our Hosted is not prepared for this, it will take time for her to process these emotions of ours. She already suffers in the shadows of this place. We cannot leave her here like this…’ She paused. ‘But fear not, for we will not be far. Just, help her navigate the stories of old; keep her from losing herself on this quest. She may be our only hope of recovering the last seven thousand years…’
Gil had spent hours waiting for Mist, but when she’d finally returned to their chambers, they had settled in for a long overdue embrace. He’d held her close as he entered her, thinking how long it would be before he once again felt the warmth of her touch? He’d ravished her body before Sif had returned, then ravished them both again before finally falling back against the pillows with his eyes closed, his mind awash with the topic of that morning.
Ayesha was said to be one of the best spies that Mist had ever contracted with, and for the most part, both of his wives seemed smitten with her; but Gil held his own reservations regarding the female, one of which being her ties to the slave trade. A nasty group of mongrels, slavers were. Greedy and vicious in their plunders. They cared not for who they used or who they abused, so long as the coin filled their pockets. Slavery may have been allowed in Misthaven, but it was clear by Ayesha’s presence that it still roamed freely, elsewhere. He could hardly blame Malice for her hatred of the trade and her outrage at the council for not condemning those involved right away.
These thoughts rocked his mind well into the wee hours of the morning, until at last, the hopes of success were but mere dreams as sleep carried him away. If only his dreams could have stayed so positive; but deep in the darkest recesses of his mind, the dark one screamed out in frustration and the vision came to life as she threw the bowl across the room.
“What must I do to kill this cretin?” Malice cried out again as her own slaves scattered in fear: all of them, save for the half-Goblin reject named Zander.
The heathen shrugged at her vexation, noting that sometimes, his mistress lacked a certain degree of patience when faced with such a problem. It would have been safer to stay silent, attracting her notice while she was in a temper was a fatal mistake; and one that Zander seemed to make again and again. It was as if he loved to see her in such a state.
Nonetheless, the bastard froze as another appeared; damn near dropping the so-called War Chief to the floor in submission. As deadly as Malice was, she was nothing compared to Anaxa, Queen of the Empire. He could toy with the Valkyrie all he wanted and Pathen wouldn’t even blink an eye, but Anaxa had lay claim to Malice and the Host she harbored within and she coveted Malice’s loyalty something fierce.
Even despite the Valkyrie’s betrayals, her secrets and her lies, the Queen held a flicker of hope that she would one day rule at Marena’s side; if she didn’t destroy the empire first. Zander had never understood this, and at times, neither did Malice, but at this very moment, as he too, entered the room…
“Have patience, our dear pet. All things will come to us in time.” He hissed as he lowered the hood of the cloak he wore.
“Of course, my lord.” His words had frozen Malice, mid-tantrum and she too, dropped to the floor in utter submission.
Zarana, his newest love-toy walked around both of them, snickering as if she considered their punishment. She wasn’t as forgiving as her dark lord and held no love for the dark Valkyrie. Malice hissed back, though did not raise her head. She knew she had failed and she knew that little whore was laughing it up inside. Well, she could laugh all she wanted, for her throat would be the first to be slit when Malice was given her leave.
“Perhaps…” The bitch spoke up, her hand at her lip and her eyes to the ceiling, conjuring her own, vile punishments. Perhaps a taste of the lash will remind them of the price of failure, my love.”
My love? Did she seriously think he loved her? He didn’t love anything, save for his precious games. This annoyed Anaxa too, and she scowled at the female, bringing Malice’s hopes up once more. Pathen was Anaxa’s pet, and she did not approve of some half-wit trying to claim her place.
“I would silence your pet, my beloved, before I give orders for Malice to do so.” She growled and the dark lord laughed.
“Easy now, my love, she merely offers a suggestion.
“May she offer it, elsewhere.” The Queen decreed and waived the whore off.
“No, Malice is far too valuable to punish.” Pathen grinned. “Perhaps we should give her one last chance to redeem herself?”
“I will not…” Malice started, but Pathen raised his hand.
“If you fail...” He growled and rotated his wrist, leaving Malice to scream as her mind was squeezed in a vice.
Those screams echoed through the fortress, causing all to cower in terror as the elite of the empire suffered before them. “That is enough.” Anaxa called out, her own hand raising to deflect Pathen’s grip. “She knows what awaits her should she fail us again.”
An image ripped through her mind, sending her into a frenzy. “No, you cannot…” She cried out. “She has done nothing wrong…” She whimpered, her words cut off as two figures flashed before her eyes.
One, her beloved, bound and gagged, stripped to the nude and serving as the court’s plaything for all time. The other, was the trickster, Loki, the male she had trusted to help her; the male who had failed her. The pain seemed to last an eternity, but when it finally subsided, the dark lord knelt down beside her, chuckling as she lay twitching on the floor.
“We understand each other. Yes?” He whispered in her ears.
Malice nodded agreeably, rising to her feet as the whore giggled in the shadows. She turned with unnatural speed and grabbed Zarana by the throat, her nails digging in deep as the female fought to speak.
Anaxa smiled and clasped her hands before her. “I do not think she likes your new toy, my love.”
“Forgive…” Zarana managed to rasp, but none were listening to her words.
There was a sharp slice from ear to ear and the sound of snapping bone followed by a gurgle as the crimson essence ran down her chin. Malice was pleased with herself, but her dark lord still scowled before her.
“Kill the traitor, my dear Malice, or you will be the next to lose your life.” Pathen spat out and turned to leave the room.
“How can you let him do this?” Malice inquired, so quietly, only the Queen could hear her words.
“Oh, noble child, there are things at work that not even I can postpone. Please, do as he bids, and one day, it will be he who suffers.” The Queen smiled back and lay a kiss of Malice’s forehead. “He keeps many secrets and we must know them all before we can act.”
“It has been five-thousand years, my Queen, how much longer must we wait? How much longer must she suffer?”
“To’llan must endure all she can, so that when the day comes for her to rule in my stead, she can do so knowing all of his games. We must bide our time, just a little longer.”
“How could you leave such a monster in charge?”
“If I had known then, what I know now, Borawain would never have been allowed entry to our court. Nonetheless, he has weaseled his way in and not even I can stop all of his tricks. He has ways of doing things, people to do his bidding…”
“But you are his Queen…”
“And I am limited in what I can do, as he planned it to be. He has taken over my court, threatened and punished my children…” Her voice started to faulter.
“Rest assured, my Queen, the day will come when he plays his last game, and on that day, you, and To’llan will be free of his madness.”
“I must warn you, Malice, that he is far older than even I ever expected. He is strong, devious and very skilled in the dark arts of war. Do not underestimate him.”
“I will not.” Malice bowed her head and the Queen kissed her again.
“See that the traitor is found and that he is brought to justice before your lord.”
“And the male who dares call himself, Valkyrie?”
“See that his end comes soon. We cannot have him lurking about as we try to dispel certain issues.”
Malice smiled, knowing what the Queen meant, and still on her knees, she bowed her head again. “I will not fail you, but…” She hesitated, afraid to look up. “Please, my Queen, allow me to see her, just once….”
As the Queen left without reply, Malice rose, her legs still trembling beneath her. She knew what awaited failure. She then looked to Zander, still on his knees with his forehead to the floor. Turning in a fury she kicked the Goblin bastard in the ribs, hard, causing him to gasp.
“I am your commander, yes?”
“There was a time when I was your….” He started, but she kicked him again.
“You will find him, Zander, for if he lives after the next full moon, you will not!”
The Goblin gave her a murderous look as he rose to his feet and ran off to obey. True, there had been a time when she’d served beneath him, literally, and Malice had no intention of ever doing that again. To be at his mercy, both mentally, physically and…
Malice shuddered as she limped towards the throne of skulls and screamed in frustration. Pathen and his games were almost at an end, she would see to it if it was the last thing she did.
“There!” He raised his hand, pointing to the brushes near the pond. “They went in there.”
“I don’t see anything!” Loki shook his head.
“Perhaps your eyes are broken.” Khor growled back, making for the scattered hedges with big, broad leaves of green and flowers that smelled so heavenly.
He could hear them mumbling behind him, his eyes darting back and forth as he followed her scent. Markhon was shocked that such beauty could be hidden in a place like Ghost Mountain, where the taverns and little shops lay in darkness and ruin. He had pictured the gardens filled with stone and cobweb to match the rest of the fortress; but even he knew that looks could be deceiving and remained at the edge of the lush grasses.
Loki, on the other hand, was rolling his eyes, Khor could feel them running up his back in spite. He claimed to know more about the secret tunnels than Khor did, and yet he couldn’t see what was clearly before him?
It was Khor who shook his head this time, reaching out to push back the leaves. He had seen the visions of Orinald and his men, the plans they’d had for Gil’s attack spread out all across the tables. Khor hadn’t enough fingers and toes to count the number of tunnels and caverns he’d seen in those designs; he only wished he had them in hand now.
The longer he searched, the more frustrated he became. He could smell her, almost feel her. She was close, her essence burning in the air around him like wildfire; but where the hell was she? Where was the entrance? Why could he not find it?
“If you search for what I think you are searching for, you are missing one, key element, my friend.” A voice took him by surprise and before he could raise his dagger, she had one arm pinning his wrist behind his back at a rather, awkward angle, and another around his neck. “That is no way to treat an ally.”
“What is this key you speak of?” Khor fought back, if only to continue his search for Lithia and Tisiphone.
“Easy now, great huntsmen, we are friends, I assure you.” The voice came again and the female pulled him back against her chest, whispering in his ear so only he would hear. “I smell Demon blood running through your veins…”
“Yeah, and?” He shot back. “You can thank my father for that.” He chuckled, still struggling in her grasp.
“But I also smell the blood of the ancients, hinted with a touch of darkness.” She went on, a little louder this time and Khor looked up to see Loki and Markhon approaching. “Do you truly know she, who has stolen your heart?”
“She did not steal it; I gave it willingly.” Khor roared, wrenching himself out of her hold and pulling a few muscles in the process. “Who do you think you are….” He stopped, finally facing the face attached to the voice. “Hippolyte?”
“You know me?” The female inquired.
“You are one of her greatest…” He stopped and laughed. “If she knew you were alive…” He paused again to rub at his shoulder, and his face took on a scowl as he narrowed his eyes at the tall, blonde-haired beauty. “What key do you speak of?”
“It is simple, the tunnels were built by Dwarves, and most likely, enchanted with runes. You may be able to smell her, but unless you carry the appropriate blood within your veins…”
“What does my blood have to do with it?” Khor growled, the warrior was making no sense.
“Dwarves spend their lives in caverns and passageways. They sweat, the cuss, they bleed…”
“You mean, he needs to produce an offering of his own blood to find the entrance?” Markhon cut in.
“Your blood is the only way to truly identify who you are, and is therefore required if you wish to use anything involving the Dwarves. It is morbid and disturbing, nonetheless, it is the only way to ensure that only the chosen may enter.”
“And by chosen, you mean…”
“Those noble enough to call the Dwarves their friends.” Hippolyte smiled.
“You know any Dwarves?” Loki teased, but the warrior glared at him.
“You, sill be silent. I have heard enough fall from your lips to last a life time.” Skuld approached with a squad of fortress guards. “Did you find anything?” She turned, looking to Hippolyte.
“I was just about to show this male the true art of tracking.” She smiled back, leaving Khor a little unsettled.
“By all means.” He stood back instead, waving towards the bushes, and the rock wall the jutted up, some thirty feet above them.
Hippolyte pulled a blade from her side, small and yet sharp, its edge gleaming before his eyes. “Give me your hand.” She held her own out to Khor.
“It is your female and kin that we seek. Let us see if you are worthy enough to continue your search for her.” Hippolyte grinned, her palm out and open to receive his offering.
Khor did as he was bid, thinking of how Lithia and the others must have had to entered in the same manner. “Fine.” He grumbled, holding out his hand, and a moment later he felt the burn of the blade against his flesh.
One drop, two more, enough to fill the palm of the warrior’s hand, and she turned towards the wall, smearing the blood across the hard surface. It took a moment, but his blood appeared to be melting the rock and before he could say anything, Markhon laughed out loud.
“I knew you were special, but I had no idea you had acid for blood.” He chuckled, but Skuld’s hand on his shoulder had silenced him quick.
“It is a test, and it would seem he has passed.”
“Who, exactly, are you parents?” Hippolyte eyed him up and down. “A Demon, and…”
“My father is only half Demon, his father was El’Terran.” Khor growled, wrapping his hand in a strip of cloth he’d pulled from his pocket. “Tisiphone is my half-sister; his blood also runs through her veins.”
“And you mother?”
“Again, an El’Terran, though she is of pure blood.”
“My, my, that does make you special.” Skuld laughed and nodded to her companion. “Shall we proceed? The others are waiting.”
“After you!” Hippolyte smiled at Khor.
“Thank you, I think!” He replied, once again picking up Lithia’s scent, but there was something else… “Stop!” He called out, raising his hand. “Last I saw, Tisiphone was not well.” He dropped his head.
He’d hoped it had passed, but as he stood at the entrance to the tunnel, he could smell the hints of her issue, littering the air. It was not safe for Loki and Markhon; or him for that matter, but Lithia was in there somewhere. His staying behind, was not an option.
“What sort of issue?” Skuld raised a brow.
“It’s rather personal.” Khor mumbled.
“If it will compromise any of us, we must know.” Hippolyte shook her head. “There should be no secrets.”
“The Shoohk believed she had started her need. Lithia and Navina were helping her… but…”
“You have Shoohk, working for you?” Skuld turned up her nose in disgust. “Truly? How can you stand their smell?”
“Is that really important?” Loki cut in, but he was silenced by Markhon.
“She can’t be in her need, for she literally, just went through it. Like, a few weeks ago.” He explained, but the look of concern upon his face...
“Trust me, it was very overwhelming; even I had to leave for a time.” Khor grumbled. “And when I returned, they were gone.”
“If she was in her need, the whole of the mountain would feel it.” Markhon shot back. “That, is Malice’s daughter, and comparable in every way, to her mother.”
“Enough, this bickering will get us nowhere.” Hippolyte sighed. “If there is a chance you will be affected, then you must stay.”
“Uh, not happening.” Loki laughed. “I promised her mother I would look out for her.”
“You have been around females in need?” Skuld inquired?
“Well, yes.” Loki grinned slyly.
“Ever been around Malice, during her need?”
“Uh, yes?” He let out again, though the grin had disappeared.
“How do you think Malice would feel if she knew you could not restrain yourself with her daughter?” Skuld laughed as Loki’s mouth hit the floor. “Or her father for that matter?”
That shut Loki up and Khor laughed. “I would not laugh to soon, for she may be your sister, but…”
“Fuck that! My mate is in there. If anything, she, will see to my urges.” He growled, eyeing the warrior hard, and she in turn bowed her head.
“Very well, but know this, I will not hesitate to restrain you myself, if the matter arises.” Hippolyte smiled and waved him on, despite the protests of the other males. “Go, back to the fortress with you. Tell Lady Ashe that we venture into the belly of her beast and she ought to get herself to portal.”
Khor heard about half of that, his mind still processing her threat. He couldn’t figure out if that was meant to be sinful in any way, but it sure felt like it. She would restrain him, herself…
His thoughts began to focus and his eyes adjusted to the darkened path before him. Somewhere, down that long, winding passageway, was his female. He could smell her, he just had to find her; and he hoped to the Gods that his sister was there too.
Gil awoke to the blood-curdling scream, echoing inside his head and covered in a cold sweat that glistened all over his body. Mist and Sif held him as he trembled, the visions flashing before his eyes once more. A figure rose up and pulled to the edge of the bed, her hands on his bent knees and a look of hard concern and fear lacing her delicate features. It was Shadow, and he fought to remember her even being there the night before; he couldn’t remember anything beyond the look of hatred on Malice’s face.
“I saw her. We’re running out of time.” He let out, his voice shaking just as badly as his hands.
“You are safe from her, she cannot touch you.” Mist spoke softly. “Gil, I want you to breathe. That is it, deep breaths. Calm down now, there you go.” Mist whispered as his heart began to slow.
Gil closed his eyes as the terror faded. His wives let him go as he got out of bed and went to the window, the cool blast of air, whipping at his face. Shadow was at his heels, as she clung to his arm. He held her close, feeling the fear inside her.
“It’s okay, Shadow. They are right. We’re safe here.” He tried to reassure her, guilty for startling her so; but that dream…
’She knows about Loki. She has sent someone named Zander to find him.’ He spoke to his wives secretly, still holding a trembling Shadow in his arms. ‘We must see if Ayesha has had any success.’
‘I will see to it.’ Sif replied with a silent smile, rising from the bed in her nightgown.
Quickly and quietly, she dressed, slipping out of the door before Gil turned back to Shadow, who by now stared out at the mountain.
“Do you want me to go so you can sleep?”
“Oh, heavens, no. You can stay and keep us company for the night.” He smiled down at her and kissed the top of her head. “I wouldn’t think of turning you away.”
Mist giggled from the bed, beckoning for both the draw closer, and without protest, Gil found himself in their arms once more. How could he ignore her request when so much could change in the next forty-eight hours? Loki was in Misthaven, and if that wasn’t bad enough, Malice was now determined to see the weasel hang, which meant, she herself, could be coming here…
“Put aside your troubles for now, dear husband.” Mist sighed as his hand caressed her thigh.
Again, he did not refuse, focusing on the sinful task at hand. He wondered, as he let his fingers drag up across her naked hip, just how he’d become lucky enough to find not one, but two wives, both open and insisting on such endeavors. There was nothing to do now but lay his lips down upon her skin and let her body writhe beneath him; intoxicating and inviting as their little Shadow escaped her hell.