Valkyrie III: Song of Darkness, The Novel Edition

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Chapter Thirteen

Mist relaxed in the soothing waters of the moonpool and felt Belvaya’s hands on her back. The Valkyries, to this day, still had no idea where the female had come from, but for as long as Mist could remember, Belvaya had always been there. More importantly she was one of the few people in the Verse who could go toe to toe with Malice; if such a thing was necessary. Who knew how bad the next wave of assaults would be? No one had seen or heard from Malice and her troops in almost a decade, and what they were hearing now was not good.
Malice had an entire armada marching towards Nasir and eventually Misthaven. She was determined to destroy everything. Overcome with emotion, tears began to fall down Mist’s cheeks and Sif and Belvaya surrounded her in a warm embrace. The two of them together, in the pools that were said to enhance your senses, it wasn’t long before the mood turned from sour to sweet.
“Hey, none of that now or that male of yours will think I punched you in the face.” Belvaya whispered in her ear, her breath so warm as it floated past Mist’s neck. “I would hate to meet the son of Brunhilde, only to have him accuse me of assaulting his beauty?”
“Did someone take my name in vain again?” The female appeared out of nowhere, gracefully gliding into the pool from the other end as she tied her snow-white hair atop her head.
She was beautiful, even with the wrinkles, which she preferred to call smile lines. She’d had a hard life, rewarding but hard, and every last one of those females in that pool knew that she’d not change any of it for the world. Like her son, she was a force to be reckoned with.
Mist rose in the waters to embrace Brunhilde first, leaving her with a kiss on her cheek. Brunhilde was like an aunt, the same age as her own mother, Ashlyn. Two of the few elders left, after the loss of the Celestial Temple to the enemy. Her wisdom was greatly appreciated, even now, as Mist prepared to include Sif in her union to Gil.
“You honor me your presence.” Mist teased. “I did not think an elder would want to join in the premating traditions!” She blushed and bowed her head. “Only Mother attended the last one!”
“That’s bullshit. I would have come too had I not been so bloody busy, and I was determined to be here for this one, even if I had to crawl my way here.” Brunhilde shot back, sarcasm written all over her face.
“You are always welcome in my home!” Mist grinned and sank back in the waters again.
“I guess this is your home too, isn’t it?” Belvaya sighed, admiring the vaulted ceilings covered in intricate works of art. “She did build this for the both of you!”
“And she will return to reclaim it one day!” Mist was so sure of herself, so proud of her plans.
If only Belvaya could have been as sure. Something was off. Something, was different this time. Why hadn’t Malice just swept in and taken Nasir? Why the march? Why the show? Was she hoping that more would join her?
“Your mind is wandering again!” Mist scolded her and a moment later she felt the warm skin brush against her back. “Let us help you forget your troubles, at least, for the time being!”
“It is true, Belvaya. This is a time for celebration and whatever that boy of yours has done to annoy you, let it go and enjoy yourself. Who knows when Mist will marry again, and I for one don’t intend to miss the party.” Okay, so Brunhilde was right.
This was a time to celebrate, but could she forget about Ahlexander? Knowing that she was the one who’d fucked up, not him?

***

Malice waited as the dreamscape played out around her and the Cat made friends with a Butterfly nearby, wondering when she’d allowed herself to listen to the critter. It was when the little beastie fell into her lap, and Malice couldn’t help but scratch behind the thing’s ears, that she knew she was in trouble. It was so warm and fuzzy, soothing in the way as she suffered through the summer breeze and the grasses growing up all around her. It reminded her of the place that she and Marena had once visited, so calm and quiet.
You could barely hear the stream in the distance, and if you watched closely, you could see the lightbugs start their dances across the sky as the sun began to set. It made her want to cry, but she’d not done that in years. Nonetheless, the feeling was there, entwined with another.
‘Malice?’ She heard his voice and a moment later, she watched as Peiper approached her little perch.
‘Hide, now!’ She told the creature, hoping no one else could hear her.
The critter had to be warned, for the male was a Watcher, and she, his Mistress of the Damned. If he was to see her talking to nothing but air?
The others already claimed she was mad. She didn’t need to add to the rumors by arguing with her imaginary friend in front of them; or Peiper. The masters had tried to ruin their bond, telling him how she would betray the men, and him. The fallen soldier had been given his orders if that were to happen; which he’d promptly shared with Malice. He’d served her for a long time now and he’d proven time and again that he was loyal to few. She was one of those few; and yet, he lied to her. He knew things. Things he shouldn’t. He knew things about her past, she was sure of it; but for whatever his reasons were, he denied it. Was it fear? Was he trying to protect her? Or perhaps, himself?
Nonetheless, she kept Peiper close. He was an excellent warrior and would lay down his life for her. For now, that would do. The future, however, was never set in stone.
“I beg your pardon, my Lady, but your pavilion is ready.” The male reported and she quickly rose from her perch, linking their arms. “What say you, Malice, Empress of the Universe?”
“I say we go to war, my dear Peiper, Commander of the Damned. We go to war.” She howled as they made their way towards her camp.
“It has a nice ring to it.” Peiper agreed with a laugh of his own, eyeing any who drew a look their way.
“How else would I reward my greatest soldier?” She laughed, feeling the Cat’s eyes upon her, lurking within her hiding place in Malice’s mind.

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