’There she is!’ The Cat bared her fangs in feline triumph and carried on with her mental whispers. ‘What are we doing? We know it’s not right. We are strong and beautiful, yet we are trapped, like a Rat? Why do we stay caged? Nothing has the right to hold usssss…’ She ended the refrain on a purrr and repeated it often to the female’s mind.
She spent her time carefully, avoiding the dark presence but studying how it had attached itself to the mighty one. Eventually, she would pause and hunt, rather poorly for a Cat, but hunt she would. She would eat just enough to survive, the thought of being too far from her female for too long sent waves through her belly; especially with the darkened presence lurking so close.
The sweet Kitty had a not so sweet job to do. If Malice was ever to escape this prison her mind had created, it was up to her Cat form, to lead her. The Verse needed the Valkyrie. The Verse needed peace.
‘Just one quick snack!’ She purred to herself and disappeared into the mist.
She would begin again in a moment’s time and try to make sense of the chaos in the Valkyrie’s mind. This was her task and she would succeed. She had to.
The Lady of Misthaven sighed as she opened her eyes. Gil looked at her expectantly and when she sighed again, he wrapped his arms around her. She waited, patiently, for response to a call only her worthy warriors could hear. She had called on them to prepare, report, and if things got worse, return to Misthaven and defend their home. Mist cared not if Misthaven itself fell, but her people, she needed to know they were safe, and gathering them all where she could see them gave her peace of mind.
She wanted to prepare her people for war and to do that, she needed help. She wanted them to know what they were up against, and that no matter what horrors fell upon their fair city, she and the others would be there to protect them. She wanted them to know that whether or not her own sister led the enemy into battle, she, would not give in to the madness; but most of all she wanted to assure herself of these things for she knew not how she would handle the situation.
She wanted to believe she could do it, but there was a hint of fear growing inside her and only the Petals could ease the storm waging within. And so, she would wait, until the very last one of them had replied, and they would gather as they did in the old days…
“Well, anything?” Gil inquired, his grip growing tighter as he kissed the top of her head and buried his nose in those luscious dark waves that smelled of cinnamon and spice.
They sorely needed the reinforcements and some additional firepower would go a long way towards repelling what was coming, but what about the stress? The anxiety? The possibility that Mist might not be able to save Malice...
Gil had read the reports. The scouts had all stated they’d seen large pockets of enemy soldiers, marching their way across the lands; and depending on who you talked to, they were outnumbered, at least, seven to one. That in itself wasn’t so uncommon, the enemy was always on the move; but now they were all heading straight to Misthaven.
They were gathering for something and word had it that Malice was indeed in the lead. It was confusing the hell out of everyone, even Mist, leaving Gil with a load of worry on his shoulders. Gil could scarcely imagine a force as big as they’d described. Goblins and dishonored souls left behind on the battlefields. Full suits of stolen armor and weapons. None had earned the right to carry them.
Sure, anyone could acquire such things, hell, Gil had a whole arsenal of left-over wonders from all throughout history; but not once had he stolen them. They’d been given to him or purchased with coin from a collector. He was quite proud of his collection having fired and cared for each one. An honorable assembly for a warrior of worth.
This army of dishonored rejects and thieves had stolen their goods. They cared not for the use and safe-keeping of the things they carried with them into battle; but then, there had been no honor in their deaths, so why should there be any in what came after? Their hordes raped and pillaged all they came across, stealing and scavenging every last morsel. Like Locusts, they left nothing but the sad remnants of what was, as they continued on with the spoils of war at their disposal.
Guns. Arrows. Swords. Armored cars and, in the case of the German squadrons of old, several armored Tigers from Earth’s World War II. Nasty buggers, and word had it, the enemy was in control of quite a few.
“We need to be ready!” Mist sighed, catching sight of all that swirled in his mind.
“If they keep on the way they’re headed, they’ll hit Nasir in a couple days’ time.” Gil speculated, feeling her warmth against his chest and once again he inhaled her comforting scent.
“They’re going to stomp those poor bastards flat.” His Grandfather replied as he sat back in a chair before the massive hearth.
Jack had become uncharacteristically taciturn, his thoughts like a hurricane over all the civilian deaths. Collateral damage, they called it. A waste of life was more like it.
“If we can bottle them up for at least forty-eight hours, we’ll delay them long enough for additional reinforcements to arrive. Then we retreat back to Misthaven.” Mist let out, rising from Gil’s side and making her way over to the holo-map; Sif was right beside her, holding her hand and her sanity in check.
“Belvaya and Ahlexander are coming. Should be here any day now. Brunhilde’s received word from a few others, and my mother has offered her support as well. She won’t go against Malice, but she will help us defend Misthaven, and Nasir if need be.”
Jack chuckled putting his hand on Gil’s shoulder. “Good Luck, boyo, you’re going to need it.” He couldn’t help himself as Gil’s laughter grew louder before finishing with a sigh. “Ashlyn takes the phrase, monster-in-law, to a whole new level.”
Mist and Sif chuckled a bit at Jack’s description, but it wasn’t that far from the truth. Malice and Mist were her daughters and hell had no fury like that female scorned. You didn’t come between a Mama and her young, especially if that Mama was capable of ending you and all that you stood for in the blink of an eye. She wouldn’t, of course, being bound to all that was good and just, but the thought alone was enough to leave some mighty warriors cowering in the shadows.
Malice stopped short, dismounting to stretch her muscles as the lead elements of the horde approached her position. Hundreds, if not thousands of Goblin warriors filled the ranks, set into rows and positioned perfectly to allow the battle-born machines a clear line of sight. It was magnificent. The way their footsteps resembled thunder and kicked up a storm of dust behind them. The land, forever shaped by those who tread across it. This was her army and though she despised some of them, she was rather proud of the others; dribbling fools or not. So what if she’d seen better looking males ground beneath her heel, bruised and broken as they uttered sweet words of submission. They were her fools and for a moment she felt a pang of guilt, knowing that half of these sorry sods would not return when this was over.
It was one thing to die and rise up a slave to battle. The undead and dishonored cared for nothing but the putrid stench and fear-filled cries of war. They would serve until they could serve no more and that was it. Where Malice was concerned, there were no third chances. If you died during a battle in her name, you stayed dead. There were thousands of others just waiting for a chance to serve a Goddess like her and knowing what awaited them should they fail…
Her thoughts were interrupted as one of the massive armored monsters, a tank, if her memory recalled correctly, rolled up to a halt beside her. Looking up, she found a steely-eyed, human male looking back at her from his elevated position in the turret. He too had found a place among the army of the damned, leaving Malice with one hell of a Hida’chi partner.
“Peiper.” She bowed her head, knowing fine well she’d get the male to blush. “I was wondering when they would let you join our party.”
His cheeks took on that familiar rosy hue and he had to look away. “Are we waiting for Zander and his gaggle of goons?” He inquired with a smirk sneaking across his scruffy face and ran a hand through his short, dark hair.
“A gaggle of goons!” Malice mimicked him with a smirk of her own; she loved this game they played.
“Sounds better than whining women!” He burst out laughing. “Come on now, Malice, let me take my troops ahead and secure the victory for...” He started to protest, but when she held up her hand, Peiper fell silent.
“Zander and his kind have their uses, my friend. What you would call goons, another would call heroes.” Malice shook her head. “I know how you feel about Zander, and in truth, you are not the only one. That disaster has a few swords vying for his back, but his warriors are needed.”
“And what do you call them?” He eyed her with one brow cocked.
“Who?” Malice was caught off guard as she re-read the reports in her mind; Zander was a monster at the best of times and given her run-ins with the bastard, she could only shake her head and hope to the Gods that he fell on this next battlefield.
“The bastard…” He laughed, as if he’d plucked the word from her thoughts. “…and his horde?”
“Oh! Uh, cannon fodder.” Malice laughed and Peiper joined in, but their laughter had warped, twisted by the winds that whipped past them.
Malice let the sudden breeze wash over her and caught the scent of meadow flowers; then just like before the Cat appeared, and oh, did she have something to say. For the next several moments she assumed her host was waking, that the voices in her head were about to start another assault on her sanity; but only one voice spoke and it was so different from anything she’d heard before. Malice raised her hand to her forehead and closed her eyes, reaching out with her mind so as not to appear the fool in front of her troops. The last thing she needed was for someone to see or hear her talking to herself.
‘Who are you? And why do you care about what I do?’ There was no immediate reply and Malice shook her head as Piper stepped down from the monstrous metal beast, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Dreaded Lady, do you need to call a healer?” He inquired, eyeing her up and down, the concern plastered clear across his face.
“I’m fine, Peiper!” She assured him best she could, careful not to let on that something had set up shop in her head; something other than her Host.
The Cat smiled, stalking them from within Malice’s own mind, pleased that the Valkyrie had chosen to respond. It was the first step of many on her journey back to those who truly cared for her. A long, hard path, but so worth it in the end.
‘You know me, though you do not remember. The darkness has stolen the memories we used to share.’
‘I am your restless spirit. Your consciousness. I’ve been hiding deep inside you, watching as you commit such hurtful things for this darkness.’ The feline voice paused and purred, before reciting a mantra Malice had all but forgotten. ‘We know that it is wrong, but we are trapped. You know we are trapped. I know we are trapped. Well, we should not be trapped. We are not, animals.’
This was going nowhere, for the Valkyrie stood there with her eyes closed and her voice non-existent. There had to be a way to make her understand.
‘You need to pry yourself out of the darkness enveloping you. We need to stop the insanity that you know is wrong, that we know is wrong. We need to stop them from hurting us, using us, both of us. I have been prowling the minds of others for years, but never have I come across one as passionate, and powerful, as yours. Do not let them waste your talents for their own gains.’ The Cat was growing quieter, save for the growl that rumbled through her belly. ‘Think about what I have said and known that this is the first of many encounters we shall have. I wish only to help you, Malice of the Valkyrie.’
With that, the feline presence disappeared and the commotion of a hundred bickering Goblins returned. Whoever had spoken to her, whoever had dared to enter her private thoughts, had balls bigger than her own. Miffed, and a little pissed off, Malice turned to the horde, ordering them to scour and secure the area. They would break for the night and rest the Horses and Flyers, for when dawn broke, she would lead them to Misthaven and the destruction of her enemies. It was her duty to fulfil the wishes of her Master, if only to set loving eyes on Marena once more.