No Rest for the WearyEdit
Mal turned fitfully in her sleep, while her physical form may be resting her mind was by no means peaceful. Templeton chirruped grouchily trying to remain sleeping himself.
Mal wandered through the featureless, fog enshrouded landscape, lost and nervous. She could not shake the feeling she was being watched and followed though she couldn’t see anything. In the distance, a faint dull, red glow became apparent. Lacking anything better to use as a guide she made her way toward it. The closer she got to it the brighter and more menacing it became and the more uneasy she felt.
The white rat squeaked his irritation as Mal moved restlessly, jostling him awake. He scurried off to a quieter corner of the room and curled back up chattering to himself.
Mal paused as a black glowing sphere resolved from the mist. She briefly spared a thought to wonder how black is able to glow but the thought quickly fled as the sphere began to move. Tentacles of menacing glowing black sinuously extruded from the body of the sphere. They groped randomly as if searching for something. One by one, they each began slithering toward her, the black glow pulsing like some grotesque heartbeat.
Mal whimpered softly as she tossed and turned. Had anyone been present it would be painfully clear something was not right.
Mal turned and ran as fast as her feet would carry her. Glancing back, she saw the strips of darkness sluggishly drifting in her direction, slowly gaining ground. She ran, terrified for some reason that the darkness would touch her. Without looking she felt them gaining ground and she cringed, dreading their touch.
Mal bolted out of bed, ready to run as she frantically searched her surroundings. Templeton chirped at her from his perch on her pillow. She shivered, finally able to verify that she was alone save for the rat. The sense of dread she’d felt slowly melted away and she wrapped up in the comforter from the bed. She knew she wouldn’t be getting any more sleep this night. She sighed, her mind already miles away as she sought the source of these nightmares that had plagued her since she'd awaken in Dethknell.
Mal curled up into a ball cradling her head in her arms. Her head hurt and nothing she had tried made the dull ache go away. When she was around others and had things to do she could ignore it but alone with nothing to occupy her, she focused on it, which of course made it worse. She rooted under the blanked to shut out the light. She thanked the gods that the inn was empty, as noises would have made the pain worse. As it had when she still lived, the quiet and the dark worked their magic and soon she was asleep.
For a time she simply slept, her overworked mind working to sort thru her waking thoughts and put things in order. Inevitably though, as had become the norm, her unconscious mind focused on the less savory aspects of her experiences and she began to brood. The dreams started innocently enough but they soon turned more sinister and the nightmares began.
She could hear the horses screaming and a crackling roar she immediately recognized as fire. She leapt out of bed throwing on the first clothes her hands grabbed. She raced out of the house to join her father and brothers try to save their livelihood. Her eldest brother emerged from the burning wreck with two, singed horses in tow, his jacket and shirt tied over their eyes so they would be manageable. Her father shouted orders, coordinating their frantic efforts to minimize their losses. The barn cracked and groaned ominously as she did her best, if useless, effort to stop the flames from advancing. She jumped as the barn collapsed sending flurries of sparks skyward. The remaining horses were silent now and that was almost worse than their screaming.
She heard a wet crack and thud, a fearful whinny and her brother shouting from behind her. As she turned she caught sight of more people emerging from the darkness. She was briefly happy until her mind processed the details of what she was seeing, those weren’t people. She heard her father shouting as she felt boney, moist arms wrap around her. The creature’s fetid breath made her wretch and she started screaming in terror just as the horses had. Her last thought as her mind began shutting down was to hope her family got away.
She awoke with a shriek and frantically tried to figure out where she was. She was in a cage, filthy straw littering the floor. The room she was in had numerous other cages, just like the one she occupied. The stench was horrible, though almost happily after a time she stopped noticing it. The occupants of the other cages ranged form new like her to decomposing corpses. She almost crawled out of her skin when one of them turned its glowing eyes towards her. She tested the bars and though rusty, they held strong. She whimpered to herself, her head ached dreadfully and she felt nauseous. No one came to check on them, it was as if they had been tossed here and forgotten. She dozed fitfully, curled up in the back corner of her cage. As the days passed, one by one the others stopped crying and eventually stopped moving. She felt worse with each passing day, her skin loosing its healthy blush and turning grey, lucid, coherent thoughts becoming increasingly difficult to muster. The realization of what was happening came one night when she finally noticed the glow eminating from her eyes. She spent the remainder of that night curled in a ball sobbing, at least until the tears ceased flowing. It was not long after that she ceased breathing altogether and lay there unmoving.
Mal whimpered as she tossed and turned, her body outwardly reflecting the memories she was reliving again.
She wandered in and out of coherency as her conscious mind warred with the new impulses that were threatening to overwhelm her. It was during one of the rare lucid moment that she saw the first living things she had seen in awhile. The man wheeled in a cart. She watched him listlessly before she was able rouse herself into movement again. “Let me go.” She croaked. The man started a bit as he turned to find the source of the words. He chuckled as his gaze fell on her. “Persistent aren’t you? Not to worry, it will be over soon.” She watched as he gathered up a large bundle and came toward her. He opened the cages door and tossed the bundle inside before locking back up and watching her, snickering. “I’ve brought you company.” He sneered as he turned and wheeled the cart back out. The sound of the door shutting was one of the worst sounds she’d herd. She stayed curled up in her corner, drifting on the edge of consciousness. Her stomach reminded her again she hadn’t eaten in ages and she unconsciously bared her teeth softly growling. That was until she heard the bundle groan and start to move. She blinked in surprise as the contents worked their way free of the blankets that had bound him. She was looking at her father. She smiled, happy to know he was ok, relatively speaking. He cringed away from her as he saw her, he was frightened of her. “Daddy...” One word was all it took for the fear to be replaced by sorrow. He gathered her into his arms and she felt almost normal again. She fell asleep cradled in his arms as she had when she was a child. When she woke up again what was left of her sanity fled and she raged, screaming. All that was left of her father was a mass of shredded flesh, bones and congealing blood. The evidence of what she had done on her hands, face and all over the filthy cage.
Mal sobbed into the comforter, miserable and alone. How could she still walk when her family had met such a horrible end? How could she live with what she’d done with her own hands? The ache in her head had not abated at all.
Mal regarded the current state of disrepair of Undercity as she made her way to the innkeeper to procure lodging for the night. The place wasn’t very bad once you became accustomed to it. She nodded her thanks to him as she entered her room for the night. It is a very good thing the place isn’t light very brightly, the room had definitely seen better days. She flopped down on the bed without a second thought, paying little attention to the wriggling beneath her in the mattress. She was asleep almost before he head hit the pillow.
Mal snuggled into the warm presence with little thought, happy simply to feel safe and secure as she had when she was with her father. She smiled to herself as she recalled this is how she felt when Alleycat was around. She sighed wistfully, just enjoying the experience.
“That’s right, enjoy it.” A voice whispered to her as unseen fingers gently brushed hair from the side of her face. It took a few moments for her exhausted mind to register that she was no longer alone. The arms she had been cuddling in now holding her in place. Fear began to worry at her and the presence behind her chuckled softly.
“Is this how you greet an old companion?” The voice was deep and smooth. She began to notice the form she was being held against was distinctly masculine and old fears reasserted themselves. He chuckled again as he nuzzled her neck. “Let me go.” She replied in a flat monotone.
“Awww…” he pouted as he released her. Mal scrambled from the bed, heading for the door. She stopped dead in her tracks as she saw the door was no longer there. She scanned the other walls but the door was nowhere to be seen. “We won’t be disturbed.”
Mal regarded the man lounging on the dingy little bed. His physique was flawless until you looked closer and saw the tiny patches of decay here and there. He was wearing a low cut red silk shirt loosely belted at the waist and darker toned loose fitting pants. His face was finely chiseled and framed by long, silky dark tresses. His black eyes watched her intently, a smirk curling the corners of his mouth. The 18-year-old girl that once was noted to herself that he was gorgeous and exactly what she would have fallen head over heels for while she still lived.
“Who are you and why are you here?” she queried; trying to buy time while she figured out what to do.
“I’m here to help.” He stated as he blithely ignored her first question. “What makes you think I need help?”
He chuckled again. “Come now, you can’t tell me you like the dreams.” He studied her for a moment then grinned impishly. “Or perhaps you do.”
Mal crossed her arms over her chest, not moving from her spot across the room. He patted the bed invitingly. “Join me.”
Mal shook her head, “I’ll stand.”
He pouted at her. “As you wish, Dear. I came to help you. You have an issue that needs to be addressed before too much more time goes by.” Mal regarded him silently, waiting. “You have been struggling for balance, and whether or not you acknowledge it you are not succeeding. I wish to help you find your center, make you strong and allow you to reach your full potential.”
Mal quirked an eyebrow, not quite believing. “And just how do you intend to do that?”
He smiled widely, very much enjoying this. “I merely intend to guide you; it’s you who gets to do all the work, Dear. You have already the tools you will need to find your center.” He gracefully rose from the bed and padded over to her. He silently circled around and behind her again, moving close. She could feel his warmth as he moved towards her but never actually touched her.
“What devastates your opponent before they even know you are there?” He asked, his warm breath tickling the back of her neck as he spoke.
Mal gritted her teeth, doing her best to ignore his cheap tactics. “I blast their mind; give them a headache they’ll not soon forget”
He chuckled, “What follows next?”
“I set in place a vampiric embrace so their pain heals me.”
He chuckled again, the sound sending shivers down her spine. “And?”
“Then I intone the word to wrack their body with pain.”
“How does that make you feel?” he asked.
Mal was silent for a moment. She had been avoiding this realization for quite some time. “I like it.” She stated softly. A restriction she hadn’t even known was present suddenly fell away. He laughed as he riffled her hair like her father used to. “That’s my girl.”
He padded back over to the bed and settled down. “Liberating isn’t it?” Mal watched him silently, her feelings at war with themselves. “How can something that brings about such feelings be wrong?” He asked. “I will have a task for you soon, My Dear.” He stated and once again patted the bed invitingly. “Come sit with me.”
Mal slowly made her way to the bed again. He grinned mischievously as he wrapped her in his arms. “I would never hurt you, Dear.” He said softly as the single candle in the room extinguished with a soft hiss.
Malfesta’s sleeping form lies still on the bed. After a moment, a smile slowly crosses her face and she sighs happily.
This night she sleeps the entire night without incident.
Malfesta watched Tash bounce around the little room wreaking havoc with a length of ribbon she had purchased from a vendor. She smiled as she remembered Alleycat presenting to her the finely wrapped box that the Siamese cat had occupied and his sapphire blue eyes blinking at the sudden light.
She pulled the shutters closed to the light and sounds of the city outside, the room plunging into dimness. She scooped Tash into her arms and crawled into bed. Tash curled up next to her, purring contentedly at the attention. Mal closed her eyes and let the gentle ruble lull her into sleep.
Tash quirked his ears trying to locate the sound that had awoken him, patient that it would come again. Mal moved restlessly in her sleep. Awake now he opened his eyes as he silently watched her fidget. Sensing that all was not right he shifted himself closer to Mals’ sleeping form, curling up as close as he could get without actually being on her and began to purr loudly. Not long after Mal settled back down, lying peacefully and unmoving once more. Tash sighed as he closed his eyes and slept as well.