Well, wasn’t this quaint. The portal was really only half a portal at the moment, and since no one could see or feel the shield, she wasn’t about to get her butt toasted while trying to disappear.
Shield up, meant no funky travels in, or out, of Moranis; for anyone. Making her way down the dirt road, Malice looked for anything that hadn’t been burnt or ransacked.
Damnit! Where the hell was Kember? She would have taken cover at the first sign of an attack, but where? There was no place left to hide really.
Everywhere she turned, Malice found more crumbling walls and smoldering rooftops. The Insid had done a hell of a job on this little town, and she got to wondering if anyone was still alive.
Broken windows and doors, the contents of various shops spilled out into the streets, and a barrel of ale, half corked and leaking all over the village square.
Not a soul to be found inside the small bake shop, nor in the boutique; not that they had walls to shelter anyone anymore. No Humans. No Manganese. No Insid, no nothing!
Where the hell had everyone gone with the portal looking as it did? Did they escape to the hills, or had they all been.
No, she couldn’t think like that. Perhaps the shield was down? If they had managed to screw up the portal, who’s to say they didn’t bugger with the cloak as well?
One quick blink and a few singed feathers, and Malice had learned that sure enough, the shield was still up.
Awesome, as the burn continued to rage at the tips of her wings. She’d just add that to the rest of the shit storm of a night! It was still night, right? The little issue with the shield hadn’t knocked her out, had it?
Trekking along past the scattered stones and charred remains of whatever piece of furniture it had been at one time, Malice headed towards the southern end of the village. To the tavern in which she had encountered that delightful little pipsqueak, Alaine!
What awaited her though? A bottle or two of Scotch to ease the pain, or an army of Insid, in between her and said Scotch?
Scotch it was! Hidden beneath the counter of course, and the good stuff, too! Five bottles of Scotch, mixed in with what looked like a whole hell of a lot of Rum.
“Ugh!” She let out with a shudder, remembering a not so casual encounter with a group of Pirates. Not, someone you wanted to be fighting against, or on your side for that matter.
Low life cheapskates, trying to get in on her gold digging action.
Bastards, all of them! Oh, but those were the days.
An hour or two later, and the little tavern wasn’t looking so dull, not to mention that she had fixed the issue with the ‘non-broken’ chairs; by breaking them herself.
She also took a swing at the washroom doors and then round housed the bar itself. Not bad for missing a week on the mats with Nyx! Not bad, at all.
The stairs were all torched, the stools and chairs now matched, the bar looked pleasantly, something that she couldn’t think of at that very moment, and...
She couldn’t remember the and, either! Success! She was drunk! Alone, and very drunk! Just like old times!
“Can’t you make this thing go any faster?”
“This thing, is traveling as fast as it can go, unless you think you should get out and push up through space?” Mia groaned, having been sitting next to the Witch for eight whole hours now, listening to the female blurt out random, everythings.
“I’m sorry!” Kember sighed, feeling the small cabin closing in on them. “I just...”
“Fucked up?” Mia cut in.
“Fuck off! That’s not fair, Mia!” Kember growled back at her.
“Admit it, you both fucked up!”
“I had no idea, the Valkyrie had been grounded!” Kember snapped at her. “She doesn’t tell me everything, you know?”
“You would have, if you had checked with any of us first, to ensure the mission was a go!”
“I didn’t think I needed permission!” Kember was now shouting, and Mia didn’t look impressed.
“Everyone in the Null, reports to me!” Mia glared at her. “If I don’t know where you are when something goes down, like it has on Moranis...”
“Funny, how you weren’t following the rules when you took off on Nyx!” Kember shot back. “Yeah, Madrina told me that you were gone for days.”
“Oh, did she now?” Mia laughed, “Did she also tell you, that she took off for three months? Not even Nissa knew where she was!”
“You knew where she was!” Kember cocked a brow at her.
“You’ve had tabs on both your sisters since you could all walk! You can’t tell me that you, of all people, didn’t know where she was?”
“That’s besides the point!” Mia grumbled and shook her head. “It’s my job!”
“Is it?” Kember inquired, lounging back in her seat before the monitors.
“Cause the way I see it is that even though Madrina took off, at least one of you, knew where she was; even if you kept it a fucking secret.” Kember sighed.
“But when you take off, who is supposed to know where you are?”
“I do!” Mia laughed. “And as long as I know where I am, we’re good!”
“Well, Malice is a hell of a lot older than you are, Mia! She’s been around longer, faced more battles, and she’s got magic on her side!”
“Says the Witch who swore off of magic, cause she was afraid she’d turn out like her Mother; and yet almost got herself killed going against her own words!” Mia snapped at her. “I don’t know what your issue is, Kember, but you’re getting on my last nerve!”
All I’m saying is that if you can handle yourself out there, all alone....” But Mia had to stop her. “When you first arrived, and spoke of a kiss of death upon my lips.... ” Mia shouted, “
I died, Kember! I died in that arena, and yet somehow, I came back!”
“My money is on your Mother!” Kember replied, still glaring back at her.
Well, what if it wasn’t my Mother? What if it was something else entirely? We have no way of knowing for sure, and the female would never admit it either way!”
“Madrina says a lot of things, and sometimes, her hopes get the better of her!”
“So what are you saying?” Kember was asking now, not demanding as she had before.
“What if Malice doesn’t come back? Did you ever think of that?”
Kember was silent for a time, sitting back in her seat as the stars passed by on the view screen. It was a good fifteen minutes or so, before Mia broke it up with a sigh.
“Look, I know you two have a thing going on...”
“Uh, what now?” Kember acted so surprised.
“You and Malice!” Mia laughed. “I’m not stupid!”
“More like You, and Malice!” Kember rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard the stories! Nyx has a big mouth when offered Tequila!” She added, “I know all about your little tryst in the locker room, as well as the incident in the bath house.”
Pretty sure it was you, she took in the shower room, not me!” Mia shook her head. “But it doesn’t matter, the point is, that I know you care for her, and it’s clouding your judgment!” Kember sat back, speechless.
Did she truly know? Or was Mia bluffing, just waiting for her to spill the beans?
“You know I can read your thoughts, right?” Mia chuckled, “You’re not very good at this!”
“I will ask you only once, to stay out of my head, Euphamia!”
Ouch! Full named!” Mia grinned, and continued to input a new set of coordinates and scan for possible enemy ships.
“Where are we going?” Kember let out, “This is not the way to Moranis!”
“No, this is the way to Melmar, which is beside Moranis; or did you want to bring the ship into enemy range?”
“And then what?” Kember rolled her eyes, the anxiety and perhaps a touch of anger, growing within her.
“Then we sneak ourselves in with the next batch of Warriors to go through the portal!”
“Assuming it is still there!” Kember let out.
“And if not, then we have Mother lower the shield.” Mia sighed, and then let out a yawn.
“Nyx said the portal would not acknowledge the lock, and that could mean anything!”
“But the blast...” Kember reminded her, “I didn’t come back voluntarily, Mia! Something happened near the portal!”
“So we get to Melmar and dial in from there! Not so good case, we end up donning cloaks and following the enemy in. Worst case, the portal is toast and Mother lowers the shield for us!” “And anyone else who’s waiting to get in.” “That’s a chance we’ll have to take, since Malice can’t follow orders.” Mia replied, and went back to the monitors before her.
It was getting brighter. The sun was coming in through a nearby window, or was that a fireball from some nearby explosion?
Malice couldn’t tell, not with the way her vision was blurring and that buzz was still present in her ears.
She had been asleep for a while now, passed right out after five bottles of Scotch and a few flashbacks of her not so friendly, Pirate memories.
Lifting herself from the ground, she searched for a bit of the... Fuck, she had no idea how to finish that line. Not right now, anyhow. Malice felt like she had been hit by a bus, carrying an entire tavern behind it that was fully stocked with all sorts of hideous brews. How much had she consumed? No, never mind. She didn’t want to know.
She just needed to find a little nip, before she made her way out into the real world. It was then she heard the small whimper, half hunched over what was left of the bar. A whimper so soft, it could have only come from a child.
Hello?” Malice let out, only to be greeted by a gasp and the sound of scurrying feet.
Taking off after the child, she passed by a broken mirror and took a good look at herself. Bloody hell! No wonder the young had run, she looked like she’d ridden the currents of a hurricane, hair all whipped about and dirt smudged all over the place.
Damn! Finding a piece of cloth, she dropped some water from a nearby decanter into her palm, and tried her best to ‘fix’ herself. How was she to rescue this child, if she couldn’t get close to it?
Out what was left of the door and across the ransacked street, she followed the footprint in the ash, all the way to a rickety old boardwalk and down along what used to be the waterfront.
river was a nasty looking green color, the ships that had docked, half sunk and still burning; but at the end of one dock, she found the child, shivering with tears behind a crate.
“Come!” Malice let out, offering the child her hand, but the pale blue eyes framed in rusty brown hair, shut tight as if to make her disappear.
“It’s alright, little one! I will not hurt you!” Still, the little child with eyes that were hidden beneath a cloak of filth, remained silent.
“Please? This is no place for a child!” “
This is my home!” The voice squeaked out, the voice of a young female.
“This was, your home!” Malice sighed and closed her eyes, “We must find you someplace safe and someone to look after you!”
“I want my Momma!” The voice let out, followed by another shudder as something exploded nearby.
“Come, let us find your Momma!” Malice sighed, and felt the tiny fingers clasp around her hand.
What is your name?” She inquired, hoisting the child to her feet as she remembered another child.
“Basheena!” The young let out, her head still hung as she followed Malice along the shore. What? But she had just... and the vision of her daughter passed by her eyes once more.
“Bathsheba?” Malice let out, only to watch the young nod her head. What the hell?
“And do you have any siblings?”
“No!” The child shook her head and the hood fell about her shoulders. She was small, with a little chubby cheeks and a button nose; and from what Malice could tell, hidden beneath all that muck, her hair was a sort of reddish color.
“And where did you live? Here in the village?” Malice needed to know more.
“No, we are from Melmar!” She replied through tears. “We came through the ring, my Papa was trading with someone, and then the monsters showed up! I ran, like Papa told me to! I didn’t want to end up in the temple...”
“What’s so bad about the temple?” Malice inquired, her curiosity going overboard. That was twice now, the child had mentioned something, odd... Coincidence?
“I don’t know! Papa said it was a sacred place, but those who went there got lost!” The child muttered away as they walked through the streets.
“Like the Angels...” The view reminded Malice of an old school city she had visited once; or more like, invaded. She had been working for a Commander with a knack for ‘impressive’ things, and she was one of hundreds who were sent out after the bombs had dropped, to collect said ‘impressive’ artifacts from the homes of the fallen.
Morbid? Yes. Worth it? Well, the coin was good and Malice had needed it; but the Commander was a dick, and she had made sure to dance on his ashes when he finally passed.
Humans, they never lasted long, though many had sought the fabled fountain of youth. One hundred and twenty years, max!
Or maybe the temple itself was lost?” The child spat out, and Malice stopped dead in her tracks, listening as the young female carried on.
“And those who went there, became lost, too?” “Who told you about the temple?” Malice asked again, had it been the Father? Was that what she had said? Who was the Father?
“Papa did!” The young female replied, pulling her hood back up as they rounded a corner.
“He said that Momma had visited there once...”
“And what did she see?”
“No one knows! She never came back!”
“Huh!” Malice wasn’t so sure that she was telling the truth, but they carried on walking nonetheless.
“Where are we going?” The child asked.
“I don’t know! I’m not from here!” Malice replied.
“You’re not?” “No, I am not!” “Where are you from?” She asked again, at least calmer and full of questions.
“I live among the stars!” Malice told her. “Really? Like a God? Have you seen the Gods?”
The child grinned so wide, Malice could see it beneath her hood.
“No, I am not a God!” Malice couldn’t help but laugh. “But you’ve met one, right?”
The young child stopped her, looking up into Malice’s eyes. “You know where they live, right?”
“No, I don’t know any Gods!” “Oh! I thought maybe you lived with them in the temple.” The child sighed.
“I’d like so very much to see it!” “So would I?” Malice smiled, though there was something about the child that made her hair stand on end.
“If you live among the stars, you should know the Gods!” The young female laughed, no longer consumed by the guilt of losing, well, everything.
Gone were the tears, the shakes and the shivers; replaced by an eerie sort of calm, and Malice wasn’t having it.
“I’ve heard stories!” She let out with a sigh, “That the Gods live in the center of this very Verse!” She added with a smile, and set off towards what had once been the portal.
“Really? On which planet?” The child’s eyes filled with wonder, a brighter blue than they had been before.
“I don’t know!” Malice laughed. “But I should like to visit it someday. Now come, let us find you something to eat!”
“What do you mean there are ships on the ground?” Kember let out as the alarms blared in the background.
“Just what I said! Four cruisers, and a Raider!” “On Melmar?” “And Moranis!” Mia sighed,
“They have a whole fleet in this sector.”
“And the portal?”
“Seems as if they’ve hijacked it!” She grumbled, “So much for a one stop drop!”
“But Nyx said there were defenses in place for that sort of thing!”
“There were! Look, I get you’re all worried for Malice and all, but can you tone down the vocals? My head is already pounding and I could use a nap before I snap!” Mia let out, as calmly as she could.
“What do you mean? I’m not loud!” But even that was loud, and Mia shook her head as she took the ship off autopilot and started their descent.
It didn’t take long to hide the ship, nor stow away a midst the crowds, huddled together with others on their way through the portal of Melmar.
They had lifted a few cloaks and were waiting for the last batch of troops to head through, before it was their turn to walk up the stone steps.
One wrong move, and those nasty looking Ogre guards would have a whole arsenal trained on them. Not exactly, how Mia had imagined this little adventure to go.
“Almost there!” Kember whispered, “A few more steps!”
“Thanks for that!” Mia grumbled, her head down low as she passed the first set of guards.
“Now shut up!”
“Can we go home now,?” The child let out a yawn.
Where is home?” Malice inquired, lifting the child into her arms. They had been walking for what seemed like hours.
Past tall trees and hidden ponds. It was beautiful, if not for the stench of charred everything, seeping into the air from the village.
“Melmar!” She sighed, curling into Mal’s chest and closing her eyes. Great! Just fucking great! How the hell was she supposed to get off this rock? Where the hell was she supposed to go, and get there, with the child?
We could go to your home! In, the stars...” The child yawned again, and nestled in even closer. Yeah, right! Like the others would allow a child to run rampant through the.
Mind you, Nyx was a child, and he got to roam about. Ugh, it didn’t matter either way, they couldn’t get off this stupid planet, cause someone had broken the damn portal in half.
A sudden snap of a twig had Malice spinning about, and laying the child down by the roots of a tree.
“Stay!” She told the young female, and then disappeared into the tree tops. Something made that sound.
Something was out there. Malice darted from branch to branch with ease, scouring the ground below for any signs of life; but she found nothing at all.
Whatever had made that noise seemed to be long gone, or so she thought, until she spotted the figure in a red cloak; meandering through the woods below her.
It was walking slowly, as if it were injured, muttering away in a language she could not comprehend. What was it doing here?
Alone? The sudden shock ran through her, the fear beginning to rise.
Without thinking, Malice let loose her mind and blinked herself back to where she had left her; only to fall at the young female’s feet.
She shouldn’t have done that! She shouldn’t have left her; but the darkness was falling and there was nothing she could do about it, but let it come.
Wings in vibrant colors, masking the shadow that loomed in the corner and offering a moment of solace. It was that shadow that intrigued her the most; hidden away behind the magnificent facade.
What was it? Who, was it? Why was it hidden? More wings and colors, a melody of charismatic tones filling her mind and clouding her judgment.
This was not real. It couldn’t be, but the music continued and the swarm of wings seemed to carry on as far as the eye could see; and Malice felt as if she were floating.
‘Focus!’ She heard the voice, so calm and serene.
‘Focus, Malice!’ The voice was growing louder, and she felt the wind pushing against her as the shadowed figure came in to view once more. She tried to see its face, tried to make out who it was, but the figure kept moving a midst the flurry of wings.
‘Focus, Malice! Do not let them win!’ She heard another voice, one filled with worry and concern. The figure began to move, as if drifting away, but Malice was determined to catch it, grasping hold of the feathered remnants it left behind.
‘Malice, let it go!’ She heard again, louder this time, and she recognized the voice as the fog and wings began to dissipate.
“Look, she’s coming round!” Kember grinned and clapped her hands. “She ain’t out of the woods yet!” Mia added.
“How the hell did they get to her?”
“That, I have no clue!” Mia told her, waving a vial of smelling salts beneath the Valkyrie’s nose.
“Help me get these tubes off of her.” “What, tubes?” Malice’s voice was cracked and dry but she managed to open her eyes in a big hurry when her hand ran down her arm to her wrist, and the mass of tubes and wires protruding from it.
“What the, mother, of all fucks, is going on!” She shouted, ripping them out before Mia and Kember had the chance.
“Will someone bloody well answer me? Hello? Earth to fucking, Mia?”
“Malice?” Kember let out, and the Valkyrie all but stopped, her eyes locked on the Witch before her.
“Kember?” For a moment, Mia swore she saw tears in her eyes. “It’s okay, Malice!” She smiled at the Warrior, but it was no use.
“It is so, not, okay! I wake up here, with tubes coming out of my arms, and monitors all around me.... what the, fuck?” She was still shouting, and if she didn’t stop soon, the rest of those Insidian assholes were gonna know where they were.
“We have to get out of here!” Kember told her, “I’ll explain on the ship!”
“The ship?” Malice let out.
“If we can get to the ship!” Mia added, rifling through the computer’s files.
Lift your shirt!” She spun round
“Pardon you?” The Valkyrie shot back.
“Lift your fucking shirt, Malice, or so help me, I will knock your ass in to next week!” Mia shouted at her, the amethyst coloring in her eyes glowing; pulsing with each beat of her heart.
“Lift, your, shirt!”
“Fuck! Fine!” Malice growled back, lifting the blouse she wore. Why the fuck wasn’t her armor engaged?
“Well, are you happy?” “Extremely!” Mia laughed as she ushered for Malice to let down her shirt.
“No scars!” “
fucking kidding me, right?” Malice groaned. “I’d know if I was pregnant, Mia! Unlike some people I know!”
“And what’s that supposed to mean? Who’s pregnant?” Mia cocked a brow at her, before sending a dagger into the computer’s mainframe, but Malice only laughed.
“Can we get out of here now? I’m getting creeped out!” Kember mumbled, keeping an eye on the door.
“What is this place?” Malice asked, finally taking a look around. Dark gray walls, white floors, and a black ceiling. What the fuck?
There were, as in, before Mia destroyed them, screens and monitors in one corner, hooked up to a large black box with a dagger sticking out of it. Laying on the ground at her feet, were the wires and tubes, dripping some nasty looking red liquid.
“What the fuck is that?” “Vampire Blood!” Mia shuddered.
“Say what now?” Malice choked out, unable to believe what she’d just heard.
“Vampire, blood?” “It allows the Host a better hold on the victim!” Mia told her. “
But the strength...” Malice grinned so wide, tying her hair back before pressing that funky red button. Insta-Armor, as Nyx called it.
“The stamina... God, I could battle for days!”
Seriously?” Kember let out. The sounds of footsteps in the hall had Malice’s ears perking. Ten, maybe twelve, sets of shoes pounding against the cold hard stone.
“Let them come!” Malice laughed, her eyes beginning to glow. “I will have my revenge!”
“You can get revenge all you want on the way out! Let’s go!” Mia added, grabbing hold of the Valkyrie’s arm and leading her into the bright white hallway. “
What sort of shit is this?” Malice asked, “Some wacked out mental institution?”
“Move!” Mia shouted as the first wave came around the corner, and Malice’s eyes zeroed in on her first target.