Malice sat in the mess tent, at a table surrounded by her fellow commanding officers as they shared a meal and a few rounds of ale. Unbidden, her mind retrieved a memory from long ago, eliciting a laugh.
“What is so bloody amusing?” One of them let out as he pulled his meat from the bone like a savage.
“Have you ever heard the story of how I came to serve your homeworld?” She looked to Peiper, who in turn put down his cup.
“Bits and pieces, but they kept it a secret, feared if word got out the others would think him insane.” Peiper sighed, bringing that cup back to his lips for another swig of his ale, then he continued. “The bastard took his secrets to grave, too.” She had heard the stories, but there was still an air of mystery surrounding the male and she needed to know more.
“I do remember you appearing after that white-haired woman waved her arms… and...” Another of the undead commanders choked out, coughing his way through the rest of his sentence.
“For fucks sake, man, chew, then speak. No one wants to see that slop thrashing about between your chompers!” The male across from Malice let out.
“They where beyond excited, the thought of a Goddess helping them win their sacred war….” He was chuckling as he picked up another hunk of his meat and cut it down into bite-sized pieces. “You’d think the second coming had occurred. ” Peiper broke into a full bout of laughter, then popped one of those pieces into his mouth.
Malice brought her palm to her face, groaning as the males continued to converse amongst themselves. She would give them their moment of amusement, before she lay down what really happened and set them all straight once and for all. The memories were fresh in her mind, as were the nights of punishment she’d endured when the bastard had failed.
“That was a lovely story, but it was nothing more than pseudo-science at its finest, that sealed his descent. The fool had been lucky enough to stumble upon that ring in the first place.” She sighed in disgust. “When he learned of its power, the call it could send out, he acted like a child. A school-yard bully is all he was.” Then she laughed, amazed at how quickly she could remember moments of destruction and failure, but those memories of good were so out of reach…
Peiper smiled at Malice, transfixed as she told her story. He was always fascinated by what she had to say; whether it was truth or some lie their masters had conjured up, was another story. She may not have been able to remember the past, but he could, and he would go along with her tales to keep her safe.
Peiper smiled at her and Malice smiled back, taking a swig of her ale before she spoke again. She had given the men a moment to stuff their mouths, for it would keep them quiet while she continued her tale and what an exciting tale it was indeed. Was is true? She had no clue, she never did when it came to the things Pathen told her, even when those tales came with twisted visions; just as they had done for the story she spoke of now. Had she really been there? Or was it just another lie he’d made up to get her to do his bidding?
Right now, it didn’t really matter, for she was closer to her goal than ever before. She would entertain the idiots, take Nasir and Misthaven by force, and keep a special eye on the male most loyal to her. He knew something, she just had to figure out what.
“Tell us, Malice, tell us more of the fool.”
“Well, he finds this artifact, and what do they do? Without checking it out or research anything first, he puts the bloody ring on and uses it.”
“Too bad it didn’t blow him to bits on contact.” A grumbled voice let out, but none had paid much attention to him.
“What sort of ring are we talking about here?” Another inquired, sitting in the far corner of the tent with mug in hand.
“That ring was an artifact from ancient times. A Ring of Summons. It could call upon any of my kin and see the bearer protected, their commands followed to the letter. It wasn’t supposed to be left lying around for any old bastard to activate, but alas, things get misplaced and found again by the unworthy.” She shook her head as she looked at each male that sat at the table with her. “She, who he summoned, was Sigrun. Being the benevolent being that she is, and clearly disgusted by what she had witnessed, she cast him away…” And this was where the story twisted, for Pathen claimed that he’d sent Malice when Sigrun has ignored the call. “Our lord knew fine well that I would take all the attitude and arrogance the pitiful fool was dishing out and use it to my advantage. The male all but pissed himself when I appeared, wings out and freshly trimmed; edges like razors, as many of his troops soon found out. I was to deliver a lesson on top of his requests.” She finished and took another drink, only to once again feel the presence of the Cosmic intruder within her mind. ‘Find the truth of that.’ She teased the feline silently in her mind.
The giant Kitten was quite busy indeed, stalking about in two minds at once while listening to Malice’s story and causing quite a stir.
‘You know it is a lie.’ The feline reminded the Valkyrie, but Malice ignored her.
‘Are you sure? I am evil. I am darkness. I would have fit in perfectly.’
‘I know the trials and tribulations of his horrid quest. All those people, murdered. His war for purity set the Humans back decades. His hatred, to this day, still prowls the planet Earth, hidden in the prejudice of others. It is sad, but one day, the forbidden zone will join the ranks and the Verse will finally have a chance to heal, as one!’ The feisty fur-ball came back at her.
“Waiting for the Humans to snap out of their arrogance could take a millennia.’ Malice groaned, careful not to let any at the table catch on to her secret conversations.
She was the only Hosted in camp. The only Eno’tai to brave the harshness of this war, but that was to be expected. Malice was, and forever would be, a warrior. It had cost her everything. Her love. Her home. Her people. They could never see the dance the way she had. The song her sword sang when it whistled through the air like the voices of the fallen begging to be reborn, it all called to her. It made her feel alive. She could never sit back in a gloomy old keep and bellow orders like them, she needed to feel the wind beneath her wings before that final blow. It was also the reason her new masters could not trust her. She was a wild card.
“Malice?” Peiper’s voice cut through the memories like a knife through cake, dragging her back to the here and now.
“Commander?” She replied, her voice changing to sound like his own.
Peiper laughed as Malice mimicked not only the voice but the bastard’s facial expressions too. “Damn, you could totally pass for me.”
“Our lord may have hocus-pocused me there, but it was that bastard’s mistake that saw my participation in the matter, sealed.” She laughed.
“Which was?” Another inquired, setting his fork down beside his empty plate with a look of disdain on his scruffy face.
“He wanted us to kneel and swear our loyalty to him.” She replied with a cocked brow.
A Valkyrie never bends the knee to any ruler. It didn’t matter how important or Godly they seemed, a Valkyrie…” She stopped, hanging her head. “A Valkyrie is supposed to uphold the laws of the lands, but there was nothing written about loyalties and oaths being taken to accomplish their tasks.
“And what happened next?” Came the eager inquiries from the others who sat about her.
They cared not that she’d not bent the knee, they wanted to know what and when, maybe even how, Malice had removed the fool from existence.
“Does it matter?” The old male scowled at them all. “She got rid of him, end of story!”
“Oh, Rimote, do shove off, will you?” Peiper let out.
“I will not.” He growled back, lifting his cup for a refill. “I am just as welcome in this war tent as the rest of you bastards.”
“Then keep your attitude to yourself! We want to hear her speak!” Another growled back, slamming his cup down on the table. “Carry on, oh Lady of Darkness!” He added with a nod of his head in her direction.
“If you insist?” Malice grinned, extending a set of razor-sharp claws. “I had him by the throat. Their so-called leader, dangling like a thread between my fingers.” She sighed, examining the gleam as one claw hit the candlelight. “Peiper, of course, just had to intervene.”
“We needed him, my lady. He may have been a fool but the masses believed he was their savior.” Peiper growled, as if remembering what had come next.
Malice remembered too, at least what her master had allowed her to remember. She had claimed the victory. All the bloodshed, the screams, it was glorious; according to him.
The memories of that night swarmed her thoughts as a sudden hunger washed over her and the room began to fade away. This was not the time for a lapse in mental reasoning. This was the war tent, her tent…
“I need to sleep, Peiper!” She called out as she rose from her seat and those around the table rose with her. “Set the guard to patrol the perimeters and waken me when Zander and his force of bumbling fools finally arrive.”
“Of course!” He replied quickly, ushering the others from the tent as the hunger grew more intense.
Once Peiper had departed, closing the flaps of her tent behind him, Malice tore into her satchel for the roast beast she had hidden and lay a portion of it out on the table before her.
‘Come now, Little One, I know you’re hungry. Come and get it.’ Malice called to her feline companion and felt the shudder as she fell back into her chair; her eyes closed and her mind returning to that little grassy knoll.
Across the fog, atop that grassy hill, the Cat purred, two ears popping up at the sound of Malice’s voice. ‘I am a bit far, for you to actually serve me dinner!’ It laughed. ‘Although I do appreciate the gesture, in here, though we seem close together, physically, we are miles apart.’
Malice glared at her, brows furrowed as she tried to make sense of it all. Again, the Cat purred and shook its head. Why was it trying so hard? Did it not know what a lost cause its quest had become? Nonetheless, when the Feline began speaking again, she listened close.
‘What keeps you trapped here are the strings with which the Host mind connects with your own.’ The Cat started out slow. ‘Little tendrils that wrap around your spine and tap in to your nervous system.’
‘I didn’t come here for a biology lesson.’ Malice reminded her. ‘I thought you were hungry, but as it turns out, you’re not even really here.’ She laughed as she rolled her eyes. ‘I’m back there sleeping in a damn chair while you explain things that I don’t need to know.’
‘But you do need to know them!’ It argued back. ‘You must learn and remember what was, if you are to ever break free of the illusions the Host creates for you!’
‘And what if I like those illusions?’
‘You may like parts of the illusion, but the charade as a whole, Malice, is it not like back then, with that Hitler fellow?’ The Feline cocked her head to the side, waiting for Malice to reply. ‘The innocents…’
‘I do this for, the innocents. To cleanse the channels that would see others in my place.’ Malice snarled back at her, but she knew the Feline wouldn’t understand.
She couldn’t understand. She wasn’t there. She never faced the tortures, or the pleasures that the Masters offered. A twisted game it was and Malice was so tired of playing it.
‘Then let me help you!’ The Cat called out. ‘We can seek freedom, together?’
‘How?’ Malice mumbled, hanging her head as she scratched behind her ear. ‘How do you plan on freeing us all?’ She had heard those words before, but somehow, this time, she felt a hint of hope.
She could at least listen to this thing’s plan, not that it would work. Nothing worked. She’d been trying for years and the only thing keeping her going was the fact her masters believed her to be weak; and she’d let them continue believing it. It was her only chance. If she could just get close to him, learn his secrets, perhaps even the truth? He wouldn’t let that happen, not again, but she had to try.
Even if she wanted to abandon her post and seek her freedom, Marwolaeth would never let her. Once so free-willed and yearning to learn the truth of her own past, now she slept for days at a time, consumed with anger and plotting her revenge. She too did not trust her masters, but her reasons were her own and she would follow their orders, just as Malice did. What had the Shak’ Morikai told her?
As if Malice had been thinking out loud, the feline spoke. ‘We are close, the Host and I, a single strike would see the tendrils released; but the pain will be most unpleasant. Just know, that I will be with you the whole time…’
Malice was no stranger to pain, but she wasn’t about to let the cat sever anything. ‘And I am to believe you, just like that?’ She chuckled. ‘One slice, and this will all be over? I think you underestimate my Host. She will not go so willingly. She needs me, and I fear, I need her, also. There is much we still do not know about our past selves and that bastard holds the key. She may be savage and cruel, but she is, necessary. If you see her as otherwise, then you must think of me in the same. As they say, we are one, and she may control my darker side, but she has never let any harm befall me. So, before you suggest removing her, perhaps you should think about your loyalties and where they truly lay. She is just as much as prisoner as I am, I can feel it. You will have to find another way.’
‘I have no issue proving my loyalties, so long as you acknowledge them.’ The feline purred, settling herself down as the cool breeze set in. ‘And for starters, I would like to point out that your, Peiper, is it?’
‘What about him?’ Her query went unanswered for a time, as the feline thought about what to say.
Or was it, how she should say it?
‘I fear he may betray you.’ She finally let out and bent down to smooth the fur on one of her paws.
‘How so?’ Malice now glared at her as she set herself down in the soft grass across from the multi-colored Beastie.
‘He smells like he’s hiding something bad!’
‘He smells, like he’s hiding something? Do you know how that sounds?’ Malice chuckled.
‘I do not know how else to describe it. Perhaps, like rotting Fish? Just saying…’ The cat on the grassy hill growled and not too far away a massive set of feathered wings took off into the sky from the pond below.
It soared for a bit, stretching those wings and gliding through the currents as if giving them a show, then down is swooped, skimming across the water with ease and grace. When it took to the sky once more, a Fish wriggled in its beak, wrestling for its life and causing the massive bird to set down.
‘Ha! It would seem I have found my own dinner!’ The Feline let out, her face contorting into her own version of a grin.
‘You sure about that?’ Malice inquired, eyeing the winged beast as it struggled with its prey.
‘No worries, I just have to convince that Bird that it’s going to share!’ The Cat laughed and made for her pending feast.
Malice watched with an assertive stare, eyeing first the Feline and then her target. The winged beast had all but killed the Fish, slamming it into the rocks; then again, and again. Such a cruel and yet functional way to prepare one’s prey for consumption. Malice never actually ate her targets, but she knew a few bastard’s who loved the taste of enemy flesh, roasted over an open fire. Zandar, was one of them.
‘Do not think of him!’ The Cat snapped back, her voice loud and commanding, even the Bird dropped what it was doing and flew away. ‘See? No problem!’ She panted and disappeared from Malice’s mind.