Morgan followed Vanessa down the stairs, eyeing the straps of her dress that dared to fall from her shoulder as she walked. The messenger stood in the common room, dressed in the livery of her mother’s guards and causing the young mage to frown.
From the first time they’d met, Morgan had known Vanessa was special. Vanessa’s mother, on the other hand, had other ideas. The Lady Darla, wanted her to daughter to marry. It was what a female of Vanessa’s standing was supposed to do. She had even made several attempts to arrange a marriage for her, but Vanessa had wanted no part of it.
“Your mother only wishes to talk. She’s in the keep as a guest of Lady Mist.” The messenger blurted out, his eyes never leaving the floor.
Vanessa smiled sweetly as she answered, it wasn’t the messengers fault that she and her mother rarely got along. “Tell my mother that I’ll see her in the morning. I’m busy right now.” The mage replied with a wink at her friend.
“But, my lady...” He began to protest.
“In the morning, Sirrah. Are you deaf?” Came Vanessa’s snarling reply, causing Morgan to squeeze her friend’s hand.
“Temper, Van.” The bard reminded her, a hand on her shoulder to ensure the sorceress remained calm.
A good thing too, for Vanessa was already fuming and the messenger bowed his head quickly and left.
“I wonder what boar of a male my mother wants me to marry now.” She rolled her eyes and sank back in a lounge chair. “The last one had buck teeth and only the one eye. He’d only have an eye for you… Can you believe she said that to me? As if I wanted to marry a man with one eye.”
Morgan chuckled at Vanessa’s exaggeration, but she understood the mage’s feelings. Like Morgan, she wanted more than children and husbands. She wanted adventure, excitement. Being married was like being in prison, she’d never get time to herself.
“Can we just go back to bed and pick up where we left off? Whatever lizard my mother has picked for me this time will still be there in the morning…”
“Perhaps some breakfast, first?” Maeve smiled, pretending she hadn’t heard a thing.
Malice felt the weapon buck as she squeezed the trigger. There was a huge, muzzled flash as the rounds left the weapon, sending exquisite shudders throughout her body. She had deliberately aimed low, chasing the Goblin with the bullets as he leaped behind the rocks.
Laughing, she and the others watched as Zander scurried along the ground, then up he got, making a break for a dilapidated farmhouse, not too far away. It was that, or the cliff that Malice and the horde continued to push him towards.
Climbing into the turret, she sat down in the gunner’s seat and made to load a shell into the chamber. There was a whirring sound of electric motors as she fired the beast up and traversed the gun, lining up the shack in her sights with a smile. Oh, how she’d waited for this day. To pay him back for every finger he’d ever laid against her, and Marena.
‘Goodbye, Zander!’ She let her mind voice soar, before the tremendous blast left the barrel ringing.
The farm house disappeared amidst the fireball in the distance, its wake sending a shock wave to topple all that refused to seek shelter. Laughing as the dust settled, Malice clasped her hands together and cracked her knuckles, then made for the rubble.
“Peiper, have your men bring me his body.” She paused, turning to face Zander’s second. “Azar, you’re now in command. Let us hope you do better than your predecessor. Now pack up and get your rabble moving. We make for Misthaven.”
“Is that wise?”
“Those are our orders, Peiper. With or without Zander, Misthaven must fall!” She was watching the trooper drag back the lifeless corpse.
“He wasn’t hard to find!” They chuckled, dropping him at her feet.
Malice spit on Zander’s lifeless body before kneeling down beside him, her talons razor sharp and at the ready. She needed a trophy. Proof that she had slain the bastard, not only for those beneath her command, but for those back home who questioned her loyalty.
“Heads, I win!” She chuckled, using her claws to remove the asshole’s head from his shoulders.
When she was done, she looked back towards Ghost Mountain, so far off in the distance it seemed so small.
“Get everyone to the portal. Be ready when I return!” She told Peiper, depositing Zander’s head in a brown satchel at her side.
“Return? Where are you going? What about the men?” He called after her.
“I’ll be back to help you win this war, Peiper, but first, I have a delivery to make.” Malice grinned before disappearing from sight.
The Feline stirred on her grassy mound, an itch causing her to turn into the latest memory that played out about her. From the present, with victory flowing through her veins, Malice was savoring her little slice of vengeance. Someone named Zander, though she could not find any signs of life in his name.
It was in this confused moment that she heard the call, a voice like Malice’s, but not. Soft and serene, speaking words of family and needs. Was this truly the Valkyrie’s sister? Had she heard the Feline and answered her call? Or could this be a trap, set by the Host to derail her efforts thus far?
The Feline had to be careful.
‘I am here, with Malice now. She is safe, for the time being, but detaching the strings of a Host is exhausting, and there is this matter of…’ The Cosmic Critter paused. ‘Well, she feels you abandoned her. I know it’s not true, just as you do, but she believes it and it is making the memory retrieval process quite time-consuming. I do hope you understand that I am trying to help, best I can. Please do not give up on her!’
The more the entity spoke the more concerned Mist became. She was not only in communication with them but she was attempting to separate Marwolaeth from Malice without killing either of them. A dangerous feat, even for a Valkyrie to attempt.
For that reason alone, Malice had chosen her. Mist was sure of it. One mistake and the Hand of Death would awaken. The Feline and Malice would be dead, or worse. If they failed to escape the Host’s final fight for life…
“She’s doing what to who now? I don’t know who you are, but you better bloody well stand down.” Jack let out with a growl. “What the hell is she gonna do if Marwolaeth shows up? Cute her to death?”
“Hsst.” Mist said as she raised her hand for silence.
Ashlyn did a scan of her own and as she peered into the entity her eyebrows crawled off into her hairline.
“By the Gods!” Ashlyn smiled, though the concern followed soon after, ‘Little sister? That is what she calls you, isn’t it?’
‘It is!’ The voice replied.
‘And you help her, of your own free will?’
‘And if things go wrong, where will you turn to?’ The Elder asked. ‘I can offer safe haven, if needed.’
“Marwolaeth is going to swallow her whole and cough her up like a hairball.” Jack muttered beneath his breath, reaching for the flask he kept in his pocket.