She was flirting with death.
He was leaning against the wall beside her, whispering in her ear, speaking of delicious nothings and how he wished her soul was up for grabs. He liked collecting souls. But being a Valkyrie, so did she. It was her job. Was.
She had been out of the game for what must have been a thousand years, maybe more. He wasn't there to hit on her, either. He was an assassin. He was death. One of many bringers of death, a pest like the rest that had come before him.
She always humored them for a while, playing the relaxed and forgetful fugitive, feeling safe after such a long stint on the hit list. It was the only social interaction she would get until the next one came along to kill her. A sad life, she knew, but what else was there?
As he moved his hand to the back of his neck, laughing at her joke, her tiny flame of joy diminished. He was making his move. A knife was his weapon of choice, a small one with a catch near the end of the blade, to rip out flesh when pulled out after the initial penetration.
He swung, and missed, receiving a glass pitcher to the side of his head. Blood dripped freely, but he didn't slow, moving instead to slash at her face. A scream escaped her throat and she leapt back, covering her eye with her hand. The man sneered as she bled, licking the end of his knife.
She glared with one gold eye and snarled, a deep, vicious sound that chilled him to the bone.
Or, it would have, if he could feel such things. He had been doctored for the fight with her, his commanders having known what sort of foul beast was hidden behind the angelic visage. The target was deprave enough to burn a man alive, they had said.
And if he were able to feel, he would have noticed his flesh liquefying, dripping from his frame. It fell in discolored globs, oozing like molasses, forming into pools around his feet.
He noticed that someone was standing behind him, and he spun around, startled. The woman was taller than he was, wearing black boots with three inch heels, tight blue jeans tucked into them. Hip-huggers. Her stretchy red tank top rode up a bit over her golden tanned flesh, exposing her navel.
The man raised his striking hand, eyes widening to see that only bone remained, coiling weakly, without flesh to grip the knife which had fallen to the floor. The woman raised her hand at her side, black flame coating it like steam, casting a luminous purple hue. It reflected on her eyes, deepening the clear blue on the left, fading into silver on the right. Her hair swayed with the waves from the heat, a layer of desert gold flowing into scarlet.
He turned back towards the target, wrought with confusion, and he found someone else standing in front of him. Another young woman in dark jeans, hers with deliberate tears on her inner thighs, sun-kissed skin visible through shredded fabric. Her pale blue eyes stood out against it, contrasting heavily to her deep red hair as well, long strands falling in wispy curls down her back.
She took his other hand, lacing their fingers together as she locked their gazes together.
He didn't feel the ice coat his hand, nor did he notice it spreading slowly down, coating his arm completely. He glimpsed it out of the corner of his eye and recoiled, shoving the woman away. He looked around frantically, searching the room for the target. The flame wielder was gone, and when he spun back, the maiden of ice had also disappeared.
He roared to the heavens, alone on the wooden floor in the old, empty pub.
He was yanked around suddenly, but could see no cause.
He looked down.
A fourth female stood there, smiling, grinning up at him. She was comparable in size to the target, a heart shaped face another trait among their similarities. Even the way her ash blond hair hung straight in the back with long bangs falling angled over the left side of her face. It covered one of her stunningly bright green eyes.
He gasped, ripped from his musings when her hand dug through his chest like a spire.
She held his heart in her hand.
Her grip tightened on it, crushing it like an empty can of soda, or so the comical expression on her face said. She let it go and pushed against his chest with her free hand, sliding the corpse from her arm. It left a trail of red ooze before it was off, crumpled on the ground beside the rest of him.
She shook her hand off as she stared at him, smiling, and she crouched, taking his knife in her hand.
His spine made crunching noises as she carved through it, pulling his head, twisting it in an attempt to make it sever faster. She sighed in relief, beaming when she finished. She stabbed the knife into the corpse, since she didn't need it anymore, and she picked up the head, smiling at it, admiring the way blood trickled from the mouth and down the side, in his hair.
She held it to her chest like a stuffed animal she had just bought from the store, and she turned, skipping over to the staircase.
Traveling up, the stairway changed direction, disappearing behind the wall. She continued up, grabbing the rail in the hall when she reached it, flinging herself up over it, leaving a bloody handprint behind. She walked down the wide hall, stepping around a hole in the floor with bloodstains around it.
A room without a door was her destination, and she entered to find the valkyrie sitting on a chair. The red-head stood behind her, holding back her long white bangs as the taller girl examined the knife wound.
"It will not recover this time." the flame wielder said. Her voice was edged by an accent, vaguely Egyptian in nature, yet something else entirely; it was a remaining trait of a lost civilization. "If you would like, I will cauterize it."
The small blond peered around the woman in the red top, looking at the mutilated flesh. She cringed and held up the head, glaring at it. "You suck!" she said. She turned it so it faced the white-haired girl. "Look what you did to Sio, you creep!"
Siobhan managed to smile. "He would be glad to have wounded me, Miika," she said. "Not remorseful."
The blonde deflated, lowering the head again. She looked up a moment later. "Doesn't cauterizing hurt, Adaira??" she asked curiously. The flame user nodded. "Hold her hand." she ordered.
Miika tossed the severed head away, towards a mound of pillows. It landed softly atop them, and the blonde moved forward, taking hold of a soft white hand with her own of a peachy shade.
Screams of pain were amplified by the room, reverberating out into the hall, filling the pub. They leaked out to the streets of the ghost town, permeating through the air until as far as the forest. Birds chirped and squawked loudly, flapping away in flocks, rustling the trees with their powerful wings. A wolf howled in the distance, a long and mournful sound that was soon answered by several others.
An old door squeaked as it was opened, sunlight shining in through the space, illuminating the dusky hallway. Boot heels clicked on the granite floor of the post office as the visitor walked, layered black hair swaying above her shoulders. Dark glasses covered her eyes, and a black suit showcased the curves of her body. The clerk behind the desk sat up as she approached, carrying a cardboard box of medium size.
He wished she were holding it higher so he could see her hips, but was satisfied by the way her blouse and blazer seemed ready to burst. She stopped in front of the counter, setting the box atop it.
"Overnight, huh?" The man asked, reading the sticker on the top of the box. "To Val Hall, Inc.?? That's in the north lands, isn't it? You have payment for this?"
The woman grabbed the box, rotating it to show the intricate black seal that had been towards her body. The man stood, back stiff and gave a salute. "Yes, ma'am!" he shouted. The woman strode from the post office, taking off her sunglasses as she moved into the sunlight.
Silver and blue eyes gleamed as the black floated off like smoke, leaving red and gold hair, clothes fading off and stretching down into the dark jeans, boots, and red top. "Imbecile." she smirked.
"NO, PRAYER--!" Miika said with a strained growl.
She pushed with her back against the redhead, the taller girl holding a clear blue bowl.
"I made her some soup!" Prayer growled, feet sliding as she tried to budge the smaller girl.
"She doesn't want your flavored ice cube!" Miika insisted.
Prayer looked at the bowl in her hands and noted that it had stopped steaming. She straightened, and Miika yelped as she fell to the floor from the sudden lack of a 'wall' to push against. Prayer sighed and headed back downstairs, swirling the frozen chunk in the bowl.
Adaira took it from her as she passed, earning a scowl from the redhead.
Miika scrambled to her feet in the doorway and crossed her arms. "No entry!" She said, holding out her hand to Adaira, telling her to 'stop.'
"Step aside." Adaira said simply, and Miika slid to the right, accommodating her. Prayer glowered at the tallest girl from the hall, as Miika had quickly moved back into the doorway.
With light steps, Adaira crossed the floor, carefully lowering herself to a seated position beside the mound of pillows. She moved the spoon within the stew as steam rose from it. It even burbled once with a 'plop' as it resettled.
"I brought you some food." Adaira said. Prayer growled and tried to get in through the door, though Miika didn't budge an inch as she grappled with her to keep her in the hall. "Eat it while it's hot."
A small white hand emerged from the mound, grabbing the edge of the bowl. Adaira held the other side, the bowl quivering as it was pulled in two directions.
"You have to come out here to eat it." she said in a firm voice.
The hand slipped back into the mound.
"Come out and eat your dinner." Adaira said, and set the bowl on the floor.
Hands emerged from the mound, and Siobhan crawled out towards the food, stopping with her waist and below still hidden. Hair hung down over her face messily, no part determined. She took the spoon and ate a scoop of the food.
Adaira moved her hand, pushing up Siobhan's bangs. A single gold eye looked up at her, the other covered beneath a square eye patch. It was gray, with small holes in the fabric to let the skin beneath it breathe. Adaira smiled.
"As beautiful as ever." she said softly, letting the bangs fall back into place. She tucked them behind the small girl's ear, and Siobhan gave her a soft smile. "I look pretty badass, right?" Adaira laughed and leaned down, draping an arm over the girl's shoulders to give her a hug.
"We've been walking for days."
"I think it's time we rested."
"No... We need to get a little further."
It was like snow falling down on them, biting cold and somehow majestic. But darker.
Adaira was immaculate, everything about her seeming to repel the falling ash. She led the way, twigs on the path crackling loudly beneath her shoes.
Whereas Siobhan's feet made no sound as she followed. The soot-like snow had bled itself through her once white hair, smudging dark against oh-so-pale skin.
It would build up on the soles of Prayer's boots. She would stop every few minutes and pull it off in chunks. She brushed off the flakes that stuck to her face, pulling clumps from her hair.
It built up atop Miika, a mound of it perched atop her head, falling from her shoulders. She smiled through it, oblivious to the cold. Her shoes were the lightest, but conversely, her feet made the heaviest sounds, left the clearest footprints.
She took some from the pile on her head, mashing it into a ball with her bare hands. Prayer glanced over at her, their paces parallel in the triangular formation, Siobhan at the center. A smirk appeared on the redhead's face, and Miika threw the snowball, watching it as it shot towards Adaira.
Adaira leaned to the side, the chunk of ice whizzing past her head. It splashed to the ground in front of her as though dumped from a glass of water. Siobhan looked up as a second chunk of snow flew at Adaira, hitting the leader's back, flopping to the ground where it melted.
Adaira turned with a glare.
Prayer snickered, bouncing a clod of ice on her palm.
"Don't you dare." Adaira growled.
She jerked back as the clod of ice slammed into her shoulder, and Prayer chuckled, bouncing another that had simply appeared on her hand. Adaira flicked her wrist as though she had thrown a knife, and Prayer ducked to dodge the solid white fire.
It hissed on the ground behind her.
Prayer mimed the pull of a rug, and Adaira's feet slid out from under her. She fell to her back
Flame erupted all around her, cutting through the ash-like snow, shrieking into a circle of blue heat.
"Stop it!" Siobhan said. "This is no time to be fighting!"
The older girls ignored her, rushing each other. Miika walked forward and put a hand on Siobhan's shoulder. Siobhan looked at her helplessly and Miika smiled. The blonde was maybe an inch taller.
A solid rock wall shot up between the young women, just as they had been about to reach each other, and they slammed into it on both sides. Miika snickered as they were dropped to their backs. Both aggressors let out equally vicious snarls as the wall dropped back down, and blue and silver eyes locked onto Miika.
Their looks softened when they saw Siobhan smiling in relief, and they picked themselves up. Prayer brushed off the ice, and Adaira ran her fingers through her hair.
"We're tired..." Siobhan said with a soft look at the taller girls. "I think it's time we rested..."
Adaira and Prayer nodded their agreement.
"There's a cave a bit that way." Miika said, pointing to the forest on their left.
"Is it occupied?" Siobhan asked.
"Yup." Miika beamed. "Which means we don't have to look for dinner, either."
Miika was the first to open her eyes, green shimmers of light in the blue glow illuminating the inky black of the cave. Gray fur shuffled as she stretched, paws fanning out as sharp teeth glinted in a yawn. The gray wolf sat up, bushy tail flopping up and down on the ground as she stared into the dim blue fire.
She stepped on it, and a deep growl erupted as the flame grew brighter. A golden tail was illuminated, attached to another large wolf. Like the gray wolf that was Miika, black tribal designs adorned her face-- Adaira's face. A skeletal trident framed her face and painted her golden snout. Miika snickered and took her foot off of Adaira's tail.
"Quiet down, the both of you..." a third wolf said quietly. Her fur was black, blue eyes almost glowing in the light from the fire. Small white wings were painted behind her eyes. "Siobhan is still sleeping."
Prayer referenced the white wolf at their center, curled up, paws over her face as she breathed softly.
Adaira reluctantly quieted her growl and sat up, shaking her fur. She yawned wide and looked at Miika.
"Unbury the food." she ordered. "Siobhan will be up soon."
Miika walked through the cave, going from the lit segment to a pitch black tunnel. There was light at the end, and splashing from a rain that must have started as they slept.
She yawned again, almost tripping herself, but she quickly recovered and walked to the mouth of the cave.
Humanoid beings stood outside in the downpour, silver armor covering their bodies.
"Target has allies!" a woman shouted, drawing her sword. Black hair trailed down her back in a long braid, gold eyes gleamed.
Miika tilted her head and stared at the woman's face. Her delicate features looked familiar. The delicate shape of her jaw as it came to a point, the slope of her nose... And her eyes. It was like looking at Siobhan, but taller, and with black hair. And not quite as cute. More... Pretty.
Miika jumped back as an arrow shot down. It hit the ground where she had been. She snarled loudly, hackles raising as she bared her fangs. The earth rippled with the sound, and Miika barked.
At the back of the cave, the sound reverberated, drawing Adaira and Prayer to their feet. Siobhan's body shrank back to her human form, thick white fur strapped to her body with buckled leather. She stood straight and looked into the dark.
"We couldn't run forever." she said.
The flame from Adaira's tail died, and they walked forward, to the battle that had finally found them.
Miika snarled as a foot soldier severed a leg from her body, but she didn't bleed.
The leg on the ground lost color as rain washed over it, and it liquefied into mud, spreading out to rejoin the earth from which it had been made.
The soldier lowered his sword in shock as the liquid pool slid back up, reforming Miika's leg.
"What the hell is this thing!?" he cried.
A spire of earth shot up from beside Miika, just inside the cave. It grew from the base, lifting him high into the air from where it had pierced into his chest. The spire melted down in the rain, and his corpse fell down upon his comrades as the spire disappeared, save for what was still inside the cave.
"It's a golem!" the black haired woman shouted to the army. "Draw it into the rain!!"
"What rain?" Prayer asked, walking forward.
The rain drops stopped falling, floating in the air around them, glistening. The soldiers stared, mouths agape as the rain floated up, forming into a thin layer of ice that domed out around them.
Adaira walked out with Miika, standing between the gray and black wolves. Siobhan stepped out behind them, eye locking onto the black haired woman leading the army.
"You've lost your touch, young Siobhan." the dark haired woman said. "A man of that caliber was able to claim your eye? And now here we are, having finally cornered you like the mouse you are."
"The world is a surprising place." Siobhan said. "We both knew I couldn't run forever. Not with Asgard's best tracker hunting me down..."
"You flatter me." the woman said. "Now behave and come back with us. You may even bring your pets."
All three wolves growled, bodies shifting into their human forms.
"My friends." Siobhan said, walking forward to join them. "No... They're my real sisters, Auriel."
The black haired woman bristled. "Understood." she said. "Now that I'm not your sister, I don't have to feel bad about killing you."
She raised her sword and pointed at the four girls.
The soldiers shouted as they charged, met on equal grounds by four young women. Girls.
A sword pierced through Prayer's chest.
Her body reformed around the blade, locking it in place as ice slid down the metal, wrapping around the arms of the man that held the weapon. She was pierced from behind, but the sword passed through and into the other man. He choked out blood before the blade was ripped back out.
Prayer pulled the sword from her chest and turned before her body was slashed in half. It collapsed in a puddle of water and then rose up to reform.
Adaira walked through the army, a haze around her. The soldiers couldn't get close enough to attack without having their skin burned as their armor melted onto their bodies.
Miika had swords sticking out of her body. She spent most of her time ripping them out. The ground was too wet to accommodate her, and her feet were sluggish. She stood in place, ripping out hearts and intestines.
Siobhan had stolen a sword from her first victim, and was currently using it to fight off four men at once-- a number significantly less than the numbers surrounding each of her friends. She was confident that they would win. Adaira, Miika and Prayer were invincible. She let a smile grace her face, swinging wide to sever the head of a woman that had entered her blind spot.
Three new figures appeared at the edge of the battle field, guarded by a line of soldiers that stood back from the field of carnage at Auriel's command.
"Take them out." Auriel growled, pointing to her intended victims.
The cloaked figures nodded in unison, each leaping up into the branches of a tree. They began to chant, each spewing different words in different tongues. As the first finished chanting, Miika's body crumbled lifelessly down, like a marionette with its strings cut. Her face began to melt into the water on the ground.
"Three..." Auriel said, watching the battlefield.
Another chant ended, stopping Prayer in place. Soldier's hacked her to pieces, ice shards flinging about. Her head rolled off, the image of her human form still imprinted on what had once been her body.
The final sorcerer was sweating from the effort, energy pouring into the task at hand. Eyes glowed white beneath the shadow from the hood, and the dome of ice shattered, rain returning to the battlefield.
It exploded into steam as it hit Adaira, and Siobhan's eyes snapped over as the flickering image vanished, a golden chain and pendant dropping to the ground.
Miika's body was reduced to nothing, a glimmer of gold left behind where her head had been.. The cloud of steam melted Prayer as well, and a final golden charm was exposed to the world.
Siobhan let out a scream of despair, and a powerful wind tore across the battlefield. Rain flew horizontally as lightning cracked down in the trees, electrocuting the mages.
Thunder rolled over them as the living soldiers retreated, and Auriel walked onto the battlefield.
"It looks as though Johan taught you some things before you left that place." she said, picking up the relic that had come from Prayer's body. It was a small golden ankh-- an earring. She made her way to the remnant of Adaira, a matching ankh pendant on a necklace. The final earring joined the jewelry, and Auriel looked at the golden collection. "Quite a few things."
Siobhan stood still as the rain washed over her, blood and filth slipping from her hair and furs. Auriel could tell she was crying, even through the rain.
The black haired woman walked over to the white haired girl, and she fastened the chain around her neck, touching the pendant to put it in the right place.
"Why not just come back?" she asked, pinning the earrings on her sister as well. "You're the heir of Valkyria, I'm sure they'll go easy on you."
She tucked Siobhan's hair behind her ear, getting a clearer look at her eye patch.
"What do you say, hmm?" Auriel asked. "Come back home with your big sister?"
Siobhan hung her head in defeat.
"That's my girl." Auriel said, giving a rare smile.
She turned, walking towards the soldiers. "Units Four, Six, and Seven, gather the wounded. Three, Five and Eight are to--"
Blood sprayed over the battlefield.
Auriel closed an eye as it splashed on her face. She had whirled around instinctively at the threat of the knife, and her eyes widened in shock as she realized that she had just forced her blade through Siobhan's chest, having pushed it all the way to the hilt.
"There's no place for me..." Siobhan said. "Not... without them..."
Auriel cursed as she ripped the blade from the girl and threw it, grabbing her before she fell to the ground. She pressed her hand to the wound on her chest, dropping to her knees to better apply pressure to the wound.
"Valkyrie don't die!" she shouted. "You're just going to be sent back to the Valhalla!"
"I think I'll just..."
"Go somewhere else?" a young man asked.
Siobhan turned her head as the rain seemed to slow, looking at her golden-eyed brother as he stood just inside the mouth of the cave. Johan's white hair hung straight to his shoulders, bangs cascading over the left side of his face, as Siobhan's always had. A golden chain hung around his neck, an ankh standing out against the black from his fitted suit. Auriel looked to the cave, wondering what Siobhan was looking at.
Siobhan's lips curved up into a smile.
"Yeah..." she said, closing her eye. "Somewhere else sounds great to me..."