“So, when are we leaving?” The small child grinned, “And do we get to ride in a spaceship?”
“Yes, Bathsheba! We will be flying on a spaceship!” Nyx told her, offering her his hand. The young female drew back, hiding behind the Angel as her Mother approached.
“I’ll hold your hand!” Ben popped up right beside him, and slid his fingers into Nyx’s.
“You’ll hold, anyones, hand!” His sister snarled at him, and rolled her eyes.
“Better be careful, Sheba, he’s a Demon, and he bites!” The young male growled at her, and then howled at the sky.
“Mother?” Bathsheba let out with a whine.
“Ben, knock that off, and Sheba, quit your whining!” Malice snapped at them both, and then shook her head.
“I’m sorry!” She told them, lifting them both into her arms like it was nothing.“I’m so sorry!” And they nestled in with their arms around her neck.
“It’s okay! Daddy will be better soon!” Bathsheba smiled at her.
“Yeah, we’re going to see Nana!” Ben added with a grin.
“Nana?” Malice inquired, staring at her son.
“Yeah! The King is Papa, so his Queen is obviously, Nana!” The young male laughed as he explained the way it worked in his mind.
“Oh really?” Lord Eroch chuckled as he made his way past.
“Yup! You see, you’re the King...”
“Well I’m more of a Lord!”
“No, everyone has to do what you say, right?”
“Okay, yes! But...” Lord Eroch tried to argue with the five year old. “So that makes you King!” Ben giggled again, and Malice put him down to walk beside Lord Eroch.
” And since you are a King, and you’re my Papa, that makes Nana, a Queen!”
“Ah! The logic of a child!” He chuckled as Ben ran off up ahead.
“So, you rule it all then?” Mia inquired, feeling a little less like strangling someone.
“You heard him, I am the King!” Her Father laughed.
“There is one person, the King must report to...” Bathsheba cut in, all matter of factly.
“Oh?” Her Mother inquired, letting her down as well.
“Of course, Mother!” She sighed, acting a little too grown up for Malice’s liking. “The people must do whatever the King asks, but the King must do whatever the Queen asks.”
“Is that so?” Lord Eroch chuckled.
“Of course, Mia told me so!” Bathsheba rolled her eyes, and turned away from them all, making her way towards the ship and her brother.
“Well, I’ll be...” Mia sighed, “I knew I liked her!”
And they all burst out laughing, until the rest of their envoy arrived. Dressed in gray cloaks, with swords at their sides, and carrying the stretcher on which Rehoboam lay covered in a blanket for warmth, were Nissa, Markus and Lync.
It didn’t take Nyx long to throw his cloak about his shoulders and take his place to carry on with a true Warrior’s walk off the battlefield; and into the ship that would carry him to safety. Rehoboam had done his part, he had paid his dues, and now he would rest; in true Valkyrie fashion.
Malice watched as the four males carried the stretcher up the ramp, and watched a little longer as her children followed their father in. With a heavy heart and a grateful soul, Malice took her first steps towards her husband.
“You go with our hopes that Rehoboam recovers quickly!” Lord Eroch told her, just before she boarded the ship.
“And know, that we will continue the fight in your stead! No hunter will rest until word of Pathen’s whereabouts reaches my ears!”
“And you have my thanks, for everything!” She bowed her head, only to gasp in shock as Madrina walked towards her.
“Are we ready?” She inquired with a smile on her face, and a cloak about her shoulders.
“Ready? You’re coming with us? But what about the young?” Malice asked.
“It’s not safe!”
“And last night proved that it is no longer safe for her here, either!” Nissa grumbled, as he returned to stand behind his mate.
“She will go to Sanctuary with you, and I will go ahead through the portal and await your arrival!”
“But that’s five days, on a cramped little ship!” Malice argued. “It’s bigger than you think!” Madrina laughed, and held out her hand for the Valkyrie.
“Come, let us see your husband!” She smiled and pulled Malice along.
With most of the family out and about with Reh and Malice, Navina had taken to scouring the book cases for hints of anything that would keep her mind off of Lync.
He had gone with them, though he had grumbled when she’d asked him too, if anything were to happen out there.
Well he didn’t know what he was, other than that he was strong, fast, and could heal himself as easily as the Vampire could. He had to go too! Markus, Lync, Kember and Malice, Rehoboam and Madrina; more so, she could keep an eye on Reh, and remain safe within her Mother’s walls, than anything.
Even Mia and Nissa had taken off, though she and the Angel had gone ahead through the portal to ready the guard in case of any attacks that might befall Sanctuary.
Who knew if the place was secure, what with the whole intruder in the Null business; it was possible.
“No, don’t think like that!” She scolded herself, pulling a book off the shelf. It had been a day since she’d said goodbye to him, and watched him climb aboard that ship.
A day, since she had watched it lift off, and soar away high into the sky. A day, since her heart had been imprisoned in a thick steel cage, and he who held the key, was so far away.
“What’cha reading?” Zahara asked as she sailed through the library doors.
“Whatever will keep me busy!” Navina sighed, “You?” “Not here to read!” She laughed, using a hair tie to hold back her hair.
“Nyx is down in the gym with Mia, figured I’d see if you wanted to place a wager?” Zahara grinned at her, and grabbed a sweater she had left on a chair nearby.
“Yeah! Nissa has the Angel guard on top of things, so she came home and found Nyx attempting to train a few rookies fresh from the Academy, and figured she could do better!”
“Everyone seems to be keeping busy, but me!” Navina groaned, and dropped the book back on the shelf.
It’s been touch and go for a while now, but you’ll get used to the constant jiggery pokery that goes on around here on a daily basis!” Zahara told her, zipping the hoodie up and pulling the hood over her head.
“So, wanna catch a fight? Even the rookies are taking bets and we’re on round three!”
“Gods, how long till we get there?” Kember groaned, watching the stars pass them by.
“Another day or two!” Lync replied, as his fingers danced across the control panel.
“How do you think I feel!” Lync snapped back at her.
“You know I hate leaving, Vina!”
“Yeah! I know!” Kember sighed, “And sometimes I hate you for being so anal, and then, sometimes I envy what the two of you share!”
“You have your thing with Malice!” He reminded her, “Or has that been put on hold while her husband is on the mend?”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” Kember sighed again, remembering what Malice had said to her about her heart, and her bed, always being open to her. Yeah sure, it sounded all fine and dandy now, but what would Rehoboam truly think about the whole mess?
“He’d be thankful he’s alive!” Lync chuckled, continuing on with his scans.
“Uh, what?” Kember inquired. “You asked if Reh would mind, and I said probably not, you know, since you’re his hero and all!”
“I didn’t, say, anything!”
“You thought it!” Lync grinned.
“And since when, did you start reading minds?” Kember shot out, “And acting like it’s no big deal? What the fuck, Lync?”
“It just happened!” He replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Right about the time we ran into those Insidian bastards on our last mission!”
“There were no Insid on our last mission!” Kember was so confused.
“What world are you living in?” “No, not ‘our’ last mission, mine and Vina’s...” But his words trailed off, just thinking about her frustrated him.
“We were on Kalvash, loading up on supplies from one of their bases...”
And we got stuck in a bunker for like, hours! We fell asleep, and when we woke up... Well let’s just say, Navina was thinking some pretty naughty stuff, and I thought she was telling me about one of her visions, until I saw the fucking shit, happening before my eyes.”
“You’ve seen her visions?” Kember gasped. “For real?”
“A few of them!” Lync replied, still monitoring the space they traveled through. “Fuck, that’s gotta be a trip!” Kember sighed. “If I could just get into Malice’s thoughts for even a second.”
“It’s a total mind fuck, that’s for sure! But once I got the hang of it...” He laughed, but Kember was just... so totally lost.
“That mission was only a few days ago, how could you ‘get the hang of it’ so quickly?
” “It’s almost like, I was born with it!” He laughed again, as if it were old news. Well, it wasn’t old news. The fucker could read her thoughts, like he was some sort of Vampire.
Wait, was he a Vampire? No, Markus would have known, and Zahara too, she would have mentioned the silver aura.
‘His, is masked somehow! Like a fog covering the city streets, it’s there, but I can’t tell what color it is.’Whatever he was, Kember had to be careful what she thought about him.
She couldn’t just start thinking about Malice, and how they had been lovers for like, weeks now. Or, now that her husband was back in the picture, there was a chance that the Valkyrie would just... But the look on Lync’s face...
“Fuck, you!” She told him, and rose from her seat, “I hate you, you know that?” She added, and made for the hall.
“ Good to know!” He called out after her, but the door had already closed behind her.
Fuck, that male could be a real asshole sometimes! Like, holy fucking shit balls, give the bastard a puppy and a thousand pounds of candy, and let the child go wreak havoc on someone else.
Of all the... Ugh! She stormed along the passageway, ducking out of the way of the bulkheads and hurrying down another corridor. Screw him, and the horse, or ship, or....
“FUCK!” She shouted. How much had he already seen? How could he not have told her? Oh Gods, did Navina know? Of course she knew, she knew everything. Well, not everything, as she couldn’t figure her own past out...
“Fuck!” “Hello?” The young voice startled her, and she felt her heart try to regain its normal rhythm.
“Hello, Ben!” She replied, when her voice had returned. “What are you doing out here? Alone?”
“Well, Mommy is in with Daddy and Maddy, and Sheba is being a royal pain!”
“Oh, is she now?” Kember grinned, kneeling down to the child’s eye level.
” A royal pain?” “Yeah! She says she is a Princess, cause Papa is a King!” He scrunched his face.
“Well, technically, she is a Princess and you are a Prince, seeing as how your Daddy, is a Prince of the House of David, on Earth!”
“I told you so!” Came another small voice, followed by a giggle.
“Oh brother!” Ben put his hand to his forehead, and slid it down his face.
“Now you’ve done it!”
“Boosted her eggo!” He sighed, and his sister burst out laughing.
“It’s Ego. E-G-O! Ego! Not eggo, ugh!”
“Don’t roll your eyes at me!” Ben snapped back at her, and a ball of light appeared in his hand.
“Don’t make me throw it at you!”
“You throw it, and I’ll tell Father!”
“You can’t tell Father, he’s not awake yet!” Ben shouted, and a moment later, the energy ball was whizzing through the air, and both children were lost amid tears.
“How could you say such things?” Bathsheba shouted at her brother, and then dodged the ball of light.
“Control your stupid toy!” She shouted again. “It’s not, stupid!” He screamed back at her, waving his hands about as he tried to grab hold of it.
“Help me, Sheba!” He cried out even louder, and Kember had to dodge the glowing orb.
“Calm yourself, Ben,” She told the child, he had to relax. “The angrier you get, the more power you give it!” She tried to warn him, but the ball of light was growing larger and spinning out of control.
“Ben?” Bathsheba screamed, and pushed her brother out of the way, just as the ball came flying towards her.
Without thinking, Kember grabbed hold of Bathsheba, and turning her back towards the orb, she waited for the searing pain to begin, hoping to the Gods that the children would be okay.
“Where are we going?” Navina asked, as she followed along behind Mia.
“The ruins up ahead, are said to be filled with tunnels! A few hundred years back, a group of Priests lived here, painting the walls with their art, and taking care of the place!” Mia told her, explaining in great detail, the lives of those who had once called this dreadful looking place home.
“They worshiped the Sky Gods, or so they called them, but that was so long ago, even before I was born.”
“Hey, over here!” Nyx called out, and Mia made her way over to what looked like a giant gaping hole. “
This is it! Nissa’s sure of it!”
“We’re going in there?” Navina let out. She hated holes. Deep, dark, and suffocating. There was nothing worse, than being buried alive; other than not remembering your past that is.
“It’s not far! The townsfolk say no one’s lived here for many years, and those that did live here for a time, swear the place is haunted!” Nyx laughed.
“My kind of place!” Mia grinned, and took off into the hole.
“I was afraid you’d say that!” Navina gulped, and closed her eyes as she followed. When she opened them again, she found nothing but darkness, and yet, as her eyes adjusted, she could see the tiny cracks in the rock, and the sun shining in from... where?
“This is insane!” She let out, only to yelp a few seconds later as Nyx’s hand landed on her shoulder.
“This is the place we were told to go!” Nyx chuckled,
“So, we go!” He laughed harder, and pushed her forward. The further she went, the more light poured in, and Navina could see more and more.
“What is this place?”
“I told you, it was a temple of sorts, built on the grounds of an estate, long forgotten!” Mia called back as she pushed something aside, and the light poured in to the passageway.
“Perfect, right where they said it would be!”
“And somewhere in here, is a Ghost! Or rather, a Host!” Nyx grinned so wide.
“What’s that?” Navina asked, as she took sight of an old garden wall, and the tree that had fallen over, leaving the wall to crumble around it. Attached to one of the branches, was a piece of red fabric, and then a yellow one, not three feet away.
“A warning to others, to stay far far away!” Nyx replied, making his way across the lush green grass.
“And yet, we’re going in there?”
“You will be safe!” He grinned at her, making sure she stayed in front of him. Safe, didn’t even cut it, as she felt like eyes were upon her. Everywhere they went, every crevice, every room they explored.
“What are we even searching for?” She sighed as she followed Mia.
“The Ghost!” Nyx laughed, coming up behind her. “So get your ass moving, before he finds you!”
Navina rolled her eyes at him, shaking her head as she climbed down into what looked like an elegant garden. But how could that be?
It had looked so fugly, from the outside; and yet now.
Elegant fountains ran free of obstructions, and tall hedges, neatly trimmed, lined the outer walls; save for where the tree had fallen. There was a pond in the center, dark red rose bushes and tall wispy green leaves mingling with all sorts of purples and oranges, pinks and yellows.
It was like a rainbow had been captured and locked away in this private space. Stone benches and pillars, statues of males and females, lavishly dressed; some wearing crowns and others, fancy hats.
“Some people say, that those statues are all lost lovers who had ventured to this garden of secrets, only to be caught by the Ghost and turned to stone for trespassing!” Nyx chuckled, as the shivers ran through her.
“Others say, that this was the winter home of Lady Khia herself, and that those poor fools are the kin to a husband to vile; she herself had turned his blood line to stone!” And he drew in his breath with a hiss.
“Lady Khia?” Navina let out, and a sudden tingle stirred within her.
“She’d be what, almost eight hundred by now, if the legends are true!” Nyx chuckled.
“What legends?” Navina’s interest had peaked, and the images popping in and out of her mind..
“That she is immortal, and even now, runs her empire from the shadows; turning her victims to stone!” Nyx watched as Navina’s eyes lit up in horror; or was it something else?
“Lady Khia poisoned her husband and lived happily with his family! Real, happy!” Mia laughed, “And immortal or not, only a Witch can turn one to stone!”
“Now there was a family who knew how to host a hunt!” The Demon was almost drooling, lost in his thoughts of Khia and her legendary league of sexual endeavors.
“Gods, to partake in a hunt such as that...”
“Why, because you get to fuck your prey?” Mia laughed, and then stopped. It was true, those hunts were the most sinful and had at one time been open to close family and friends of the sinister bastard, Markin.
Now though, it was nothing more than an annual tradition filled with half hearted princes and assholes; a show of prowess in the most revolting regard.
“Mind you...” Mia started again, “...with the adrenaline pumping, and the thrill of the hunt.”
No lie, and everyone knew it; it was the hunt itself that called Mia, not the prize. She was, a Hunter, and the search was just as important as the kill; or the fuck, as it was in that particular hunt. Okay, so it didn’t sound all bad, she’d still get to hunt.
“Admit it, Mia, you’d kill to take part in one!” He grinned back at her.
“Problem is, there’s no killing allowed in that hunt. No blood can be shed!” Mia grumbled, “My blades would be jealous!” She sighed, tossing one up into the air and catching it as it fell back towards her.
“We’ve both been denied the pleasure as of late!” She purred to the gleaming steel, before sliding the dagger back up her sleeve. Navina shook her head, and almost lost her balance as the word ‘Awkward’ bounced about her mind on full blast, and then Nyx spoke up.
“Well, It ain’t my fault that we’ve been so busy, we haven’t really...” He started, but Mia turned back and punched him good.
“Dude, not here!” She shook her head and rolled her eyes that ended in a nasty glare at Navina.
“I didn’t say anything!” Navina replied, scanning the garden for any sign of another.
“I heard you say , Awkward! And yeah, maybe it is for you, but you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t want to partake in a hunt filled with sex and sin?” Nyx growled, and ducked before Mia could punch him again.
“I didn’t say awkward...” She started to explain.
“I heard it!” He argued back. “So did I, doesn’t mean I said it!” Navina snapped at the Demon, “Fuck off!”
“Then who...” He grumbled, the markings on his neck aglow their eerie amber color.
“Me thinks we have company, my love!” Mia’s voice was low, and the shivers ran through Navina once again.
Malice was looking on, as Madrina’s hands worked on Reh’s leg. Big belly and all, she had somehow managed to get herself in those tight spaces, removing infected tissue from one of the wounds.
They had finally gotten him stable, and the rest of the trip would be ’...a piece of cake!′ She had been told. Yet for some reason, she wasn’t buying it. “He’s going to be alright, Malice!” Madrina assured her. “Mother will know what to do!”
“I never should have left them.” She started, waiting for the wave of emotion to pass before she carried on. “I should have stayed in Israel, with them!”
“And this would have happened even sooner!” Madrina sighed, but the look on her face, those rosy cheeks just before she shuddered.
“Are you alright?” Malice inquired, but before Madrina could even answer, she felt the mixture of terror and rage, emanating from Ben and Bathsheba, and Kember.
Oh Gods...” Malice went white as a Ghost, but she didn’t have time to say any more. She closed her eyes, when she opened them again, she found Kember huddled in the middle of the passageway, with Bathsheba wrapped in her arms, and a ball of light so big and so very close.
In a heartbeat, Malice was in front of them, armor engaged and wings out. Absorbing the energy the sphere was letting off. The heat alone would have melted the inner bulkheads, caused a rupture in the outer hull; and none, would have survived.
Turning about and ruffling her feathers as the final jolts seeped in, she prayed to the Gods that it had been enough. She sighed when she caught sight of Ben, huddled in one of the alcoves up ahead, and Kember and Sheba were up against the bulkhead, both in tears and clinging to each other.
“Ben? Bathsheba?” She called out. “Oh Gods, not again.” She broke down into tears with them as she fell to her knees, and then into her arms.
Malice felt the onset of the wave; like a ripple in time washing over them as she brought them closer to her chest. A peaceful belonging? A new beginning? Something had changed, but she cared not as to what; her children were safe and in her arms.
“Mom?” Ben whispered against her shoulder, “Mom, we’re sorry”
The children sobbed as she held on to them, and Kember stood back in awe.“
It’s alright, my babies.” She whispered, running her hands through Bathsheba’s curly red hair, and placing a kiss upon Ben’s freckled nose. The aura of their smiles was all she could see, the fact that they were safe, truly safe, and right in front of her.
Gods, she could only imagine what would have happened if she had not been there. It would have killed them all!
“Oh Gods!” She gasped, bringing them in for another squeeze. Yes, they were safe now, for the time being. Eyes closed, the scent of family in the air, her arms tight around her children.
A sudden gasp had her turning to check on her lover, her eyes opening just as her Witch put her hand to her mouth. Kember was shaking like a leaf in the wind, her mouth open, but covered, and her bright blue eyes, so wide.
Malice moved quickly, now focused on calming her Witch; but Kember just kept staring at Ben and Bathsheba.
It took but a moment for Malice to shake her head and realize what that wave had been; glancing back at her son and daughter.
Gone were Bathsheba’s cute little curls, replaced by long, luscious waves that cascaded down her naked back. She was taller, slender, and her voice, as she tried to speak...
“Mother?” She sounded so shaken.
And Ben, with his clean cut hair that shot up in spikes, and that tuft of hair on his chin that was trying to grow, Malice gasped again. They had changed in a matter of seconds...
“For the love of everything that is bloody sacred!” The words fell from Malice’s lips before she could stop them, and she watched as both of her children scurried to cover themselves.
Half naked, their clothes in tatters and hanging about their waists; they looked to be about fifteen years old now. But how?
Ben came forward first, his shirt wrapped about his waist and she realized that she was now eye to eye with Bathsheba; but Ben?
He was so tall, so handsome; just like his Father. Malice felt the rage within her rise and knew that she had to get it clamped down before she said or did anything she may regret in future days.
There was no need for emotions at this moment in time; not when there was so much other bullshit to deal with; so Malice became, Mom.
“Everyone to their rooms, now!” She let out through gritted teeth.
“No magic of any kind, until I figure out what’s going on!”
“But, Mom, it was an accident!” Ben insisted.“I didn’t mean to get so mad!” His voice was so much like his father’s she was finding it hard to argue with him.
“Now!” Malice roared, and pointed towards the end of the corridor. “Go, or so help me, Ben.”
The two young scattered, leaving Malice to release that breath she had been holding, and fall to her knees.
“Are you okay?” Kember asked, but Malice only laughed.
“Am I okay? Ha! Are you okay?”
She rose to her feet and took Kember by the hand. “Seriously, Kember, are you alright?”
“Me? I’m fine, Malice!” Kember smiled at her. “But your children...” “They could have killed you!” Malice pulled her close, her lips so close she could taste the sweet kiss.
“They could have...” “They didn’t! They’re just children; we’re children, I mean!”
“That’s the problem! They don’t look like children anymore, but how do we know if their abilities have advanced as far as their bodies have? We might have a pair of five year olds walking about with the attitude and hormones of teenagers!” Malice sighed, and pulled away from the Witch, just as a scream rang out though the ship.
“KEMBER?” She heard her name loud and clear, and the shudders that began as Malice turned back to her.
“What was that?”