“You sent her, where?” Marena choked out as her hear began to race in her chest.
The corset she wore started to tighten about her, the room melted into swirls of gray and black and all reason seemed to have flown out the window. She’d spent a good half an hour listening to worthless nonsense, sitting pretty beside Pathen as he tried to entertain his guests; and now this?
Clearly, it wasn’t going so well, even before her emotional outburst. Most of their guests were still upset with them. After what the Valkyrie had done, she still held a command position in his armies? Sure, they were Goblin armies, the lowest of the low, but hey, she was still there; and they wanted her dead.
“The trouble she has caused...” The Shadowlords rang out in unison and Marena felt the large wooden table shake beneath her hands.
“What trouble?” Pathen rose from his seat with a laugh. “If anything, she uncovered a vile secret that could have cost you everything.”
The others mumbled and groaned, rolling their eyes in disgust, but Pathen carried on. “Look, I understand that you have suffered a great loss, my Lady, but you have already prospered. How many new body slaves did you acquire?”
It was true. The bitch’s coffers were overflowing with coin and her pleasure houses were brimming with fresh, young morsels. Too bad they were slaves.
“But I lost, my, Ra’vyns. The entire coven, put to the torch.” The female cried back as if she’d lost the world.
“And with them, the secrets they carried. Your, secrets, my dear Lady!” He smiled at her. “Had Malice not done what she did, you would still be sharing those secrets with those traitors, and who knows what they’ve told others.”
That, shut everyone up for a time. No one wanted to discuss the fact that the Shadows had been using Ra’vyns like personal messenger slaves in this new Verse. Back home, this never would have happened. The Shadows had corrupted their own system, while at the same time allowing their arrogance to jeopardize everything for everyone else. Marena wanted to laugh, but then, she was supposed to be on their side.
She didn’t want to be, but how could she fight back? Where would she go if she managed to escape? She was the Mistress of Shadow Keep. The former heir to the throne and a prisoner of Shadowlands with no memory of her life before Pathen. There was no choice. Nowhere to run to, except Malice, but even the Valkyrie had been taken from her. She would watch and she would wait until the day came and she found her way to freedom, until then, she would play the part and keep her captors happy. She needed to survive.
“My love, perhaps some more wine?” Marena inquired, needing it more for herself than the benefit of those around her.
It was one of the only luxuries she was afforded when locked away in her tower with her Host. A luxury she’d often used to drown out the world around her. Perhaps she could drown the council out, or just drown them all?
“Aye!” Pathen’s reply caught her off guard.
“My throat has parched under talk of such extreme circumstances.” The only other female in the room agreed. “To think that I had trusted them, with everything...”
Oh, she was a nasty bitch. Just looking at her made Marena squirm, her mind filling with ways to eliminate such a blemish.
“Lady Ohnassa, I assure you, it is better off this way!” Pathen tried again. “Once the Valkyrie has completed her task at hand, she will be free to ensure that every last one of the traitors is silenced before your role as loving mother, and soon to be Queen, begins!”
“It better, for even one of those secrets could be enough to destroy us.” She hissed back at him with a snarl on her face, pointing first at herself and then him. “They knew all there was to know about Seldan, and our plans for Vash. Would you like all to know the details of the Queen’s rather sudden illness?”
“She is not dying, Ohnassa, she is with child!” Pathen chuckled, inciting another round of laughter, this time from across the table. “Just a pity it isn’t mine!”
“Your kind are forbidden to bear children.” Lady Ohnassa hissed back at the male.
The room dimmed and Pathen’s eyes began to glow as he sat forward in his chair. “We, are well aware of that fact, which is why the King was taken by a Host, after, the child was conceived.” He shook his head as the voices echoed off the walls. “We, are not fools!”
“We were all fools.” Ohnassa sniveled, crossing her arms over her chest. “We must see to the Queen and her child, now, before our plans are ruined for good.”
“The matters of Rhodan and Seldan fall under your side of the bargain! We supplied you with a Host and you were to ensure its survival.” Pathen’s eyes began to glow as the Shadow female protested more. “That includes, protecting the secrets surrounding them.”
“It was your Valkyrie who threatens our plans. She was responsible for the destruction of an entire network, tens of thousands of years old. Those secrets we sought to protect, are now running around out there and the one responsible is what, playing war?” Lady Ohnassa inquired with a raised brow. “She has not been punished for her actions …”
“That Valkyrie handed you a flock of spies that you had no idea were even under your roof, and you have already punished her for it.” Marena spoke up, her eyes closed and her hand on her forehead; no longer the female, but the Host. “She gave you the males and females who betrayed you. Handed them to you on a silver platter, and you spat on her.” Her voices were loud and clear, her Host, for the first time since she and Malice had been separated, was taking her side.
“She lay with the traitors.” Lady Ohnassa stood from the table with a hiss of her own. “As did you, if I recall correctly!”
Marena was before the Shadow with her fingers wrapping around the bitch’s throat, squeezing even tighter as she glared into the female’s black, soulless eyes. “You, are a Shadow and should care not what our kind does behind closed doors. We, are your Masters and you should be thanking us for uncovering those who would betray you.” Marena’s eyes were glowing an eerie shade of green as Ohnassa fought for air.
“Enough, our love! We believe Lady Ohnassa understands now!” Pathen’s Host called out to her, his eyes glowing in kind as he faced the others. “You all understand now, right?” He spoke with the authority of Host and Hosted united as one since before the dawn of time; or so people believed.
“We would hope so, for our Queens would be gravely disappointed to learn that their lords and ladies, sent here to procure this new Verse, were also traitors.” Marena’s voices filled the room and sent chilling reminders down each of their spines. “We must work quickly, and with their wisdom, if we are to shape this new verse for them.”
There were nods of approval, but the room remained silent, even Ohnassa dared not say a word when finally released. With her silence bonding her loyalty, Marena watched as the Lady returned to her seat and felt the control fall back into her lap. Her Host, To’llan, had resigned for now and the tingles had started to ease. Once again, she could speak and move about of her own free will, but she remained in her seat with her eyes locked on the Shadow female.
“Now, we can move….” Pathen started, but Marena’s expression had changed so suddenly and she turned to him in surprise. “She hides something!”
“What?” Lady Ohnassa appeared shocked, but deep down inside, Marena could see her secret.
“You did not kill them all!” Marena replied. “You did not kill all your Ra’vyns.”
“No, their home world is vast and those here, in this Verse...” She started again, but Marena raised her hand, the distant memory of a friend, locked in the arms of her lover in her mind.
“Will not be harmed!” Marena let out, despite the raised brow from Pathen.
There would be questions later, that was a fact. He may even scold her, punish her as he so liked to do, but not here. Not now. He would never interrupt her in public.
“But they...” Lady Ohnassa grumbled, choosing to keep quiet instead when Marena’s eyes flashed that eerie green again.
“You will be paid for them, in full!” Pathen cut in. “Call it a business arrangement.”
“For what?” The Lady raised her brow and Marena wasn’t sure if it was anger or disgust. “What use do you have for traitors?” She finally finished.
“Once their minds have been purged, many things!” He chuckled and waved for another round of drinks. “So, what say you?”
It was not what Marena had expected, but when the night had ended it was clear to all, Pathen would acquire the traitorous Ra’vyn’s for his own, personal uses, and Malice would no longer be looked upon as a rebel. She was a hero who had saved the Shadows from their sinister messengers and would be welcomed back in the council chambers when she returned to the Shadowkeep. She didn’t want to mention the fact that the Ra’vyn’s would have been safer in the keep than anywhere Ohnassa would have sent them. Perhaps then, they too, could one day be free?
Malice would have approved, but the sudden joy in Marena’s chest vanished as another sitting around the table brought up… “If rumors be true, Shadowkeep has had its own sort of trouble. What of the Shak’Morikai? Have they really been released from service?”
“The Shak’ Morikai gen Marwolaeth are no longer our concern.” Pathen looked to him with rage in his eyes, leaving Marena a little more than concerned. “There services were no longer required.”
Of course he would state it as such, he wouldn’t want any on the council knowing his latest secret. He had no clue where the Shak’ Morikai were. No one did. When word had come down that they were to be disbanded, they’d disappeared, not even Marwolaeth could find them; but then, they’d sworn their allegiance to something else. Of all the things Marena could remember, that was front and foremost in her mind. Not, someone, but something else. Something greater.