Reunited but on Opposite Sides (Jalapeno x Kimsim)

Discussion in 'ONE ON ONES IN CHARACTER' started by Jalapenohitchhiker, Aug 14, 2016.

  1. "I won't miss those mountains a damn bit, I can tell you that." Shreeta was complaining the way she always did whenever something was an inconvenience. Only this time the inconvenience was past, yet she still felt the need to continue on with describing her disgust at having to trek through the mountains. Despite the constant fussing, Malak had taken a liking to her over the years. She was four years his senior. When Malak had first joined the ranks of Hasina Pa Margia, Shreeta looked out for him the way an older sister would for her brother. He was not sure why, though he suspected she might have lost a brother in the past. He never asked her though. That was not really something he did. A person's past was their past and nothing more.

    The Grey Fortress was just ahead of them. And though they were still technically within the mountain range the area here had flattened off into a small valley. The perfect place to build a fortress, but also the perfect place to attack one. They were not here to attack the fortress itself of course. That was not how the Evashan worked. For now the plan was to sneak in, kill this Inquisitor, and get out before any alarms went off. At least that was the plan for the two of them. The rest of the unit was scattered within the mountains and performing similar tasks against other fortresses, with the exception of Captain Jaimakah. Apparently his part of the mission was classified, and he could only reveal the details to the members of the crew that were accompanying him. He had originally wanted Malak to be among them, but Superior Fatwa denied the request, insisting it was too important to trust to an outsider. Even after all these years, Malak was still seen for his differences by everyone other than the members of Hasina Pa Margia.

    "We won't have to be here much longer," he insisted, crouching down while keeping his balance effortlessly on the tree limb. They tended to stick to the trees whenever they were close to civilization of any sort. "Just have to stick to the plan and before you know it we will be out of here and back home."

    She grinned at that and lifted her hood up. "You certainly know how to negotiate. Check the south side and sweep towards the east of the fortress, and I will scout the north then sweep west. Link back up here in half an hour. If we can't find her within that time we will try again but reversed."

    With that they parted and made for opposite sides of the Grey Fortress. The night air was cool and moist as it had rained earlier in the day. By the looks of it rain would be coming again before long. Fitting for the storm the death of Thalia Cross would cause among Eledin's Inquisitors. Malak did not know very much about them, but he was well aware of the trouble she was causing for Osoria. Just over a year ago she had been the one to warn the king of the uprising within his own borders, one that was instigated by Osorian spies. And that was just the beginning. More recently she had been thwarting all attempts by the Khasan to gain a stable foothold in the region. Tonight that would end.

    A shadow in the night, Malak scaled the north wall with silence and ease. He recalled the first time he attempted such a feat he was flat on his arse in mere seconds. The miracles nothing but training for ten years could do to a person.

    As soon as he was over the wall he crept into the shadows of the torchlight and waited for the next patrol to arrive. Supposedly this was not among the best guarded fortresses. Luckily they were attacking on the night Inquisitor Cross would be present. Foolish of her to put herself in harm's way so willingly.
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  2. Thalia Cross, features hidden by a mottled cloak, seemed to almost fade in and out of sight. It was almost like magic, and it unnerved the guards posted every 30 or so paces around the fortress. Normally, Inquisitors did not make their presence known. They would keep themselves in disguise as a lord or a mere commoner. Tonight was different. Thalia had heard whispers of a supposed attack on the Grey Fortress that night. She had her doubts, but the source was reliable.

    Little did she know that the contact had been bribed heavily to deliver such a message--all to bring her here tonight. When she learns of this betrayal, there will certainly be hell to pay. But for now, it remains to be seen if she will survive.

    Wind whistled through the trees, the cool mountain air causing a shiver down her spine. It was almost the winter season, and snow was beginning to fall in the northern regions and at the mountain peaks. The moon was hidden by clouds tonight, making it difficult to see what was beyond the torchlight. No matter to Thalia, as she had adapted to listen rather than look.

    Turning on her heel, she continued her trek around the walls, ensuring that the guards were doing their jobs. While none of them strictly knew about the Inquisitors, as not many had such knowledge, they were well aware that she was someone of importance. Despite women having jobs in Eledin, hardly any of the guards could stand being under the scrutiny and command of a woman calling herself "Freya Haven." Whatever her position, however, they knew better than to go against someone with the authority of the king's seal on their breast pocket.

    Quite suddenly, she froze midway between two guards. They hardly took notice of the abrupt end of her movements, having only the wit to concentrate on what was directly in front of them. Her ears seemed to almost perk in the direction of the slightest of foreign sounds. It was a practiced and fluid movement, and it blended almost perfectly with the sounds of the forest. Almost. Whoever it was, their skill could almost certainly wreak havoc on this poorly defended fortress. Her Intel had been correct after all. Even worse, the guards would be changing soon.

    Unsheathing two throwing knives for each hand, she crouched and put all her focus into fading from sight. Where before she seemed to flicker in and out, she now disappeared altogether. She moved quickly and silently, using the natural movements of the earth to her advantage. She would end this attack before it began.
  3. Malak had heard enough about this Thalia Cross to know that she was not to be underestimated. Anyone who acted before thinking was prone to mistakenly believing a woman would not pose much of a threat. But if the rumors were true, this was one Inquisitor that was not to be trifled with. To call her dangerous would be an understatement. But the same could be said of Malak as well.

    It was not long before a pair of guards strolled past his hiding spot, and he let them pass while taking notice of their pace. He then counted that pace in his head, awaiting for the next set of guards to arrive. Before long, a second pair meandered around the corner at roughly the same pace. Malak counted thirty-five seconds between the two sets. He then waited for a third pair to arrive, which they finally did but only after thirty seconds this time. And it was the first pair gone by a second time. It seemed the fortress had the wall divided into sections, with four guards for this particular one. Unfortunately he could not determine exactly how large this particular section was beyond a rough estimate. And there was no way of knowing how many guards patrolled the other sections of the wall.

    But there was one thing that made this easier for him. Now that he knew how many guards were patrolling this area, he would have no difficulty securing it. Four was nothing to worry about as far as he was concerned.

    Malak continued to crouch in the shadows as he awaited the return of the second set of guards. As soon as they were just past his hiding place, he slide his longer steel against the throat of the nearest guard and immediately clamped down his hand over the other guard's throat to prevent him from shouting. From there it was nothing more than a simple thrust through the forehead. That left only two, which he eagerly awaited for at the bend. Before they could spot their fallen comrades, the other two guards were silenced for good, one with the short steel and the other with the long steel.

    With the area secure, Malak stepped into the moonlight to gauge a better view of the grounds. There were plenty more guards below, but no sign of any Inquisitors. Suddenly there were voices coming from the nearest corridor and he froze, listening intently.

    "... gives off this vibe that sets me on edge. She just looks at me and I get this chill down my back."

    "I heard she killed a man just for looking at her funny."

    From the nonchalant way they spoke it sounded like a pair of off-duty guards. But the sounds of their footsteps made it seem closer to four. This was an odd place for them to be spending their free time. Unless... "Shit!" he grumbled to himself. Of all the mistakes he had ever made on a mission this was by far the most boneheaded. Only a rookie would forget to think about the possibility of a shift change. They would certainly see the corpses of their fellow guards. That left Malak with no choice but to attack at once.

    "You think she is right about an attack? I mean, the scouts have seen no armies in the mountains. It's not li-arrrggghh!" The man's words were cut off as a blade took him in the chest.

    The other three guards did not hesitate to reach for their weapons, but one only had his blade half drawn before Malak's short steel carved away his vocal cords. The third guards managed to take a swing, which was easily avoided by Malak's vastly superior agility. His head came clean off with a swipe from the long steel. That left only one. Malak turned to block whatever attack came his way, but none came. Instead he felt his heart sink as the last guard put a horn to his lips and blew a resounding note into the night. It was immediately cut off with thrust into his temple, but the damage was done. "Fuck me," Malak muttered. Shreeta would never let him live this one down.
  4. As Thalia waited for the attacker, the sound of Eledin's warning horn tore her attention away. It was coming from the north side of the fortress. She grappled with her options, deciding in a mere second that she had to deal with the immediate threat. Hopefully whoever was sneaking in the shadows would be scared off. Hopefully.

    Sheathing her knives, Thalia went off at a sprint, jumping to and fro in order to avoid the chaos of the guards she encountered. Cursing under her breath, the few moments it had taken her to reach the horn's location seemed like an eternity. She slowed her pace, melting into the shadows as she assessed the situation. It didn't take long to see her fallen guards. Anger surged through her as she noted the preciseness of each kill. This was not done by any mere warrior.

    Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked for the intruder, creeping closer and closer to the middle of the north wall. Guards came from both sides, all looking for the attackers. But Thalia knew better. This attack had been wrought by one person alone, though she was sure there was at least one more at the south wall.

    Cursing under her breath, she walked into the torchlight so suddenly several of the guards raised their spears in defense. Seeing as it was the woman the king had sent, they quickly and apologetically lowered their weapons. Without hesitation, she began barking out orders. "Wake the captain and search every inch of this fortress. Travel in groups of three or four and stay out of the shadows. Hurry!"

    The guards did not waste time, fanning out in groups as instructed. Thalia herself sank back into the shadows, determined to cut off the snake's head herself.

    Though all the while, as she moved quickly and silently, something pricked at her mind. It was a thought that refused to become fully recognizable, much to her irritation. Something about this was all wrong. Why kill so few of the guards and then run off? Why were there only two? Surely they did not expect to take down an entire fortress all on their own! Unless...oh the thought slipped again! She would be damned if she let this fortress fail.
  5. After making do with the new shift of guards, Malak crept back into the shadows and waited to see who would come to the call of the horn first. He was not about to risk moving very far from here with the entire fortress suddenly on alert. It did not take long for the first person to arrive on the scene, and who would have believed it was the Inquisitor herself? Thalia Cross. It was not just the way she was dressed that gave it away, for anyone could have put on a gray cloak and covered their face. It was her movements. She slunk around almost with the skill of an Evashan. Malak might not have noticed her had she not stepped into the moonlight to examine her fallen guards.

    But something caught his eye. Something that triggered an old memory; no, an old life. Around her neck hing a jewel, one that was not so common in this part of the world. In fact it was only seen in the small region of Jwan Kai that Malak had once lived, though that country no longer existed. But in the brightness of the moon there was no denying it. That was indeed a Star of Hyun. How would she have received one of those? Suddenly memories of his life before all of this, and a sudden pent up rage began to stir in him. Forcing it down with all his might, Malak prepared to attack. He would find out exactly where she got that jewel from.

    Unfortunately he would have to wait just a little longer. There were hosts of guards coming from both sides, responding to the call. Thalia was barking out orders about searching for him, though not one of them could spot him just off to the side unless they happened to run right into the wall for some bizarre reason.

    Malak half expected her to take some guards with her. So it was a lovely surprise when she scurried off on her own search. She did well to hide herself in the shadows. To an untrained eye she was probably invisible. But Malka was far from untrained. He could see her almost as clear as day while she moved. The best assassins knew that no matter how skilled you were at hiding in the shadows, movement would always draw attention no matter what.

    He made sure to remain unobserved while following his target. Seeing her finally come to a stop at another corner of the wall, Malak crept up behind and withdrew his short steel, pressing the point delicately against her back. He could have easily killed her on the spot, but first he had an order of business to take care of. "You have five seconds to tell me where you got that jewel," he whispered, not having to try very hard to sound menacing.
  6. Thalia stopped at the corner, peering over the edge as if to find the intruder lurking on the outside. She was only a second away from turning back around when the sharp tip of steel dug into her back, causing just enough pressure to steel her nerves against the inevitable pain. "You have five seconds to tell me where you got that jewel."

    Without thought, her hand went up to the jewel, memories flooding her system as if they had just occurred a moment ago. Children laughing, people whispering, unholy screams. She closed her eyes for a brief second, the only indication that her emotions were temporarily taking control. It was not a time she cared to remember, filled with more pain than peace.

    "It's not of importance. It was a gift from a lifetime ago. I curse you into the fire of Hell if you dare steal it." Everything was becoming clear now. Thalia was no fool, but she had been made one tonight. It would be the last mistake she ever made, and there was hardly a point to hoping for another fate. From the man's accent, she supposed he was Osorian. Of course they would want to be rid of her, though she could only wonder if she was the only one being assassinated.

    "Just kill me and be damned!" she hissed, spinning around and grabbing the sharp steel barehanded. She dragged up to her heart, fully intending to look her murderer in the eyes. Pain blossomed in her hand, but she could hardly feel it. All she could notice was his eyes. Two different colors, a sight she hadn't seen in so long yet she couldn't forget them. It wasn't possible. These hard, murderous eyes couldn't be his.

    "Malak?" she uttered, her voice catching as she dared to hope even for a second. It couldn't be. It was impossible!
  7. She spoke his name. But how could she know him? Hardly anyone knew him, and he preferred to keep it that way. But she possessed the Star of Hyun, and only looking at his face was all she needed to guess his name correctly. That could only mean his worse fear had been realized, and there was no possible way he could bring himself to kill this woman. Seeing her face now, he could believe it.

    "No...," he gasped, though to himself and not her. He let the steel slip from his hand and it clattered onto the stone wall just in front of her feet. He fell back and his arse firmly hit the hard rock underneath. "You...," was all he could manage at first. "Your name is not really Thalia Cross, is it?" But he did not need an answer, for he knew it well. It seemed another lifetime ago that he had heard that name, but he would be lying to himself if he said he never thought of her after their home was destroyed. Haia Dai. Malak was the one who gave her that jewel. Never had he appreciated a companion as much as her.

    And here the two of them were, reunited but on opposite sides of a war. The irony almost made him want to laugh, but he could not. Instead numerous memories from his childhood began flooding back into his mind like a waterfall. He was reminded of a time when he did not always feel so cold. When he was actually capable of caring about others. Did he still care about her? They played together in the fields behind farmer Jaye's rickety old house. They ran though the parades at the festival of the winter solstice. More than anything, they always found themselves getting into trouble one way or another. It seemed neither of them had changed in that regard.

    Malak was surprised to find a couple of tears rolling down his cheeks. Was he crying because he finally knew what happened to his friend? Or was he crying because he had almost killed her? Or was he crying because he knew it was still his job to kill her? Suddenly his simple life of just killing without remorse did not seem so simple.

    There were guards arriving on the scene, but Malak hardly took note of their presence. His gaze was focused only on the woman in front of him, wondering what exactly he was supposed to do now.
  8. Malak. It was him. Her worst fears were realized as his short steel clattered to the ground, alerting the guards that were closing in. Her heart raced, and her hands trembled as blood from the wound dripped onto the stone. Thalia stared down at the man, shock paralyzing any action she wished to take. Duty and loyalty to her only real friend warred within her, paling her skin until it was that of a ghost. In those few quiet seconds, the two only stared at each other, and she knew the tears in his eyes were mirrored on her cheeks. Memories crashed back at once, breaking free from their carefully locked cage. The only person she'd ever truly cared about...

    She had to kill him, or he would kill her. Right? She willed her body to move, but it would not. Instead she stood there, frozen in place. She had lied to herself all those years, pretending that she had forgotten all about her dearest friend. It had been just that: a lie. In reality, she thought about him every time she felt the weight of the Star of Hyun on her neck, every time she saw it in the mirror. She had been so young, but she knew now that she had loved him. Did she still? That was a question she could not answer--not here, not now.

    And then all at once, their moment of shocked silence ended with the harsh pounding of footsteps and the yell of the guards. "They're over here!" one yelled. Within seconds, Malak was thrust onto his feet and then onto his knees, a sword at his throat. Anger fueled the actions of the men, as they wished for blood in payment for the deaths of their comrades. The captain looked at Thalia, who still couldn't seem to bring herself out of her own internal war. He looked at the guard holding Malak and nodded, ready to rid the world of the monster.


    The men froze, their heads turning towards the mysterious woman. Where before her voice had been authoritative, it now sounded absolutely desperate. Her bleeding hand was outstretched, and the pained look on her face was thankfully hidden by the cowl of her cloak. She straightened quickly, clearing her throat. "We need this man for questioning. Kill him, and we lose our only viable source of information. He is no doubt the pawn in someone else's game, but I think he has much to tell us." The words tasted like acid in her mouth, but it was the only way she could save his life. The captain looked at her skeptically, hesitating. Thalia sensed it easily, nonchalantly placing her hand on one of her throwing daggers.

    The captain was no fool, and he knew a threat when he saw one. His expression hardened as he straightened, but he knew this was not a battle he could win. In just a matter of days, this woman had instilled enough fear in his men that they would not dare go against her even despite their loyalty to their captain. He nodded to the guards present. "Take this bastard to the most secure part of the fortress. I want six guards posted at all times with six hour rotations. Am I clear?"

    They nodded, hoisting Malak up and dragging him away without any care for his wellbeing. The captain turned to Thalia as soon as the guards were gone, his lips curling into a snarl. "Do you think it wise, sir, to let this man live even a moment longer? Did you not see the carnage he caused in such a short time? We must inform the king immediately." Surely she would listen to that, as she had so claimed to be a servant under His Majesty. But it was a test--a test of this mysterious woman's loyalty. She returned his snarl with a stare that could kill, causing the older man to rethink his actions but only for a second.

    "I will inform the king myself when I take the man to Aberwelle. For now, let him rot. I will leave at noon tomorrow. Triple the guard tonight, as I fear this man did not come alone." Thalia had composed herself once more, her emotions under lock and key. For now. She truly didn't know what she would do with him. She couldn't possibly turn him over to be tortured and later executed, could she? But she had to. She had worked too hard to achieve her position, hadn't she? She couldn't throw it all away for a man she had known when she was just a child. Setting her jaw, she brushed past the captain and headed for the prison cell herself. Malak did not come alone--she knew that much--and she was not stupid enough to let him stay guarded by a mere six men.

    She only hoped she had the strength to kill him when the time came.
  9. Malak barely flinched when rough hands grabbed at him and pulled him to his feet. A blade was pressed to his throat but even that did not phase him. He was not afraid of death. That was something that should have happened a long time ago. His current employment all but required him to expect death to come for him at any moment. So to think that it could be upon him now was not what concerned Malak at this moment. All he could do was continue to stare at Haia, or Thalia as she called herself now.

    What did come as a surprise, yet not at all a surprise at the same time, was her order for the guards to keep him alive. Granted it could very well be that she wanted some information from him just as she told them. There was no telling what her plans were, and judging by the faces of the men around him, they were just as clueless.

    As they dragged him away, Malak could not stop his mind from racing back and forth between the past and present. They were friends. The best of friends. Had things been different they might have been married at some point. But now he was an assassin, and Haia was a prominent inquisitor for the enemy. He had only one job tonight: to kill her. That was always his job. Kill the enemies of the Fariha. But was she his enemy? if anything he should have thought of the Osorians as his enemies. It was the Empire that destroyed his home. It was the Empire that took away Haia from him and sold him into service. But that was so long ago, and he was no longer the same person. Apparently neither was she.

    The guards tossed him into a dark cell that only had one window to the outside. And it was smaller than his head. Not that he could see anything important at this time of night anyway. Six guards remained outside his cell, all of them keeping their eyes fixed firmly on his being. Malak crouched against the wall and let his head slump forward. Haia was alive, and at this point that was more of a relief to him than anything, even if she did plan on killing him eventually.

    Suddenly he remembered Shreeta. What if they found her too? Was she caught? Worse, what if she managed to get to Haia and finish the job that he could not? Malak flung himself at the bars, causing all of the guards to raise their weapons and eye him with nothing short of malice. They were looking for an excuse to kill him. "Please," he gasped, almost trembling, "you have to protect her. She is still in great danger." That drew more than a couple of puzzled looks from them.
    • Nice execution! Nice execution! x 1
  10. Thalia kept to the shadows as she watched Malak's cell. The guards seemed ready to do away with him and damn the consequences. She wouldn't let them. But could this man be Malak? How could fate have twisted so cruelly against them? These were questions she might never be able to answer, as life seemed only interested in vexing her. Taking a breath, she stepped out of her hiding place.

    The guards jumped at her sudden appearance, fear crossing their expressions as they stood at attention. She looked each of them over, daring them to do something rash just by the look in her eyes. They did not dare. Satisfied that no further treachery would befall her tonight, she spoke with more clarity than she felt.

    "I am going to personally interrogate the prisoner. You may take your leave outside the door. Kill anyone foreign that may try to gain entry." The guards looked at her in surprise. No guards present? Whatever doubts they had resurfaced, but they knew better than to give them any hold. For now. Without a word, they went down the hall and turned, but Thalia waited until she heard the only door into the area open and close. She turned to Malak, her eyes appraising him quickly and without emotion.

    "Why are you here?" she hissed, all the anger and hatred that had filled her over the years in her voice. It was not directed at him, however. Rather, it was directed at this damned situation. She grabbed the keys the guards had left off the hook, walking carefully towards the cell. She couldn't trust him...not yet. She reached her arm as far as it would go in order to unlock the cell door.

    Without warning, Thalia's entire body slammed against the bars with enough force to cause her vision to blacken for a moment. Acting on pure instinct, she ducked and swept her legs under, dodging the blade that sliced through where her neck had been while tripping the assailant. It was a woman, no doubt the other intruder she had heard before. The woman jumped to her feet without missing a mark, her eyes hard and murderous as she turned the blade around in her wrist.

    "I'd like him back, if you don't mind. At least I get the pleasure of finishing this miserable task." The woman's voice was thick with an Osorian accent, finalizing Thalia's suspicions. She whipped out two throwing knives without hesitation, aiming for the woman's throat and forehead. Unfortunately, she seemed to have expected the attack, as she merely shifted to the side with ease.

    "Sorry, but I don't negotiate with assassins." Thalia quipped as she kept her back to Malak, forgetting that she had already unlocked the cell. The woman laughed as she lunged with the steel, but Thalia was prepared. Using her cloak, she grabbed the blade and tried to wrench it from the woman's grasp. Just as she did, a dagger drove its way up towards her stomach. She tried to dodge, but it wasn't enough. The blade sliced into her skin, red blossoming into her tunic shirt. It was only a flesh wound, but it weakened Thalia nonetheless.

    She recovered quickly, jamming out a foot at the woman's knee. The popping sound sounded horrible enough, but she knew she hadn't hit hard enough to break anything. Finally unsheathing her own blade, Thalia and the woman began a deadly dance, back and forth as she continued to lose blood. All along, the woman was laughing. Like she enjoyed the prospect of death. It sickened Thalia to her core.

    And then, as if the gods were against her from the beginning, Thalia's steel flew out of her grasp. It clattered on the ground loudly, and she vaguely wondered what the hell the guards were doing. She clutched her stomach desperately as the woman pointed her steel at her neck, grinning devilishly.

    "You put up a hard fight, but you can't defeat me. Have fun in Hell."
  11. The butt of a spear struck Malak in the chest, shoving him back against the floor of the cell. The guard holding it spat at him with disdain. "Shove off. You're lucky the Inquisitor ordered us to let you live," he growled. Apparently they thought nothing of what had to say, not that he expected him to. But now all he could do was worry about what might happen to Thalia, which only confused him more. Should he not be worried more about Shreeta? She was, after all, his partner in this. And it was not the first mission they had together by any means.

    It was not long before Thalia arrived, and Malak's concern was somewhat relieved. But what did that mean for him? She could order him executed now after having given herself time to think it over. Or would she set him free? No, not with all of these guards here anyway. And even if they weren't, she probably did not trust him enough to let him loose within the fortress again. That was understandable enough if he was being honest with himself.

    What he was not expecting was for Thalia to dismiss all six of the guards to speak with him alone. Perhaps she wanted to talk to him as an old friend? It was more than Malak dared hope for. That thought was soon out of his head with the way she hissed at him. The answer was an easy one, though it was not so easy to say. "I came here to kill you," he muttered, not even capable of meeting her eyes as he said it. He practically whispered it.

    Suddenly she grabbed the keys and Malak's eyes widened. What was she doing? She was actually going to let him out? This made so little sense that he half wandered if he was in a daze.

    The key was in the lock and Malak heard the faint sound of it click open. Then suddenly there was chaos. Thalia went flying, and Malak looked about to see what hit her. His heart sank as he saw a figure in a black cloak: Shreeta. How did she get in? Was she already there when they brought him into the cell?

    He watched in horror as the two fought with vicious attacks, not entirely sure who he was more afraid for. It took him a few moments to remember that the cell was actually unlocked. He shoved the door open and grabbed the blade Thalia dropped, gazing at the scene before him. Shreeta stood grinning at her opponent, ready to make the killing blow. Thalia was on the ground bleeding from the open wound. Malak was at a loss. He was here on a mission, yet how could he let Thalia die? His only real friend as a child, maybe the only real friend he ever had.

    "You're the one she threw in the cell." Shreeta was addressing him, he realized. "I'll let you do the honors of taking the glory this time, Malak."

    Oh hell. This was not the position he wanted to be in. Malak stared at his old friend, sprawled on the floor with that awful red liquid pouring out of her. How could he kill her and live with himself? But how could he betray the trust of his comrades? Before this killing seemed to come so easily, and now that he was on the most important mission he had ever been given he felt the need to doubt himself.

    "Ahhhh!" he wailed, lifting the blade high above his head. But it did not come down on Thalia. In one fell swoop, Shreeta's head was lopped completely off and sent rolling on the floor.

    The sword fell from his hand and Malak fell back against the wall. He killed her. Shreeta was dead. But Thalia was alive. "But goddammit Shreeta is dead!" he cursed at himself. He did not even feel the tears falling from his eyes.
  12. Everything happened so quickly she couldn't begin to process it. Malak was out of his cell--damnit she'd just unlocked it when she was attacked--and Shreeta was offering him the honor of killing her. She shuddered, expecting no sort of mercy. He was a stranger to her now, after all, and he had come here with a job to do. How often had she betrayed those who had shown her a shred of kindness for the sake of duty? Not, not even that, just because it thrilled her. Being an Inquisitor was the only thing in her life that excited her, and now she was going to pay for her innumerable crimes over the years. Sure, it was for the "good of the kingdom" but wasn't that Malak's position as well? What he was here to do, for all purposes, was for the good of that damned empire.

    She closed her eyes, admitting defeat. Malak let out a cry of...despair...anger...triumph? She couldn't tell. And she waited, expecting the split-second touch of the blade before Death welcomed her with open arms. It never came, causing her to open her eyes in shock. And then she gasped, her eyes fixated on the head of the woman still rolling around on the floor. The rest of the body was crumpled in a heap, limbs splayed unnaturally and without life. Her gaze shifted to Malak, words she wished to say lodging in her throat. As blood continued to drip from her wound, she got to her feet, studying in a daze this man before her. Tears were streaming down his face as he muttered curses to himself. Without even thinking, her blood-soaked hand shifted up to the Star of Hyun, grasping it as if it were lift itself. It was still injured from before, but she didn't care.

    "You...why?" she finally choked out. And then in a fit of inexplicable rage, she stumbled over to him and grabbed him by the collar. Her eyes fixated on his different-colored ones, glaring into them as if they would yield some explanation. "Why did you do such a thing, damnit!" She gritted her teeth, releasing him while mustering her strength. She picked up her blade, sheathing it as she deliberated on how to handle the situation. Despite her wounds, her mind left no room for distraction as she calculated every possible outcome.

    "You're coming with me to Aberwelle, and we're leaving tonight. If you want to live, do as I say, or I'll be glad to put you in chains." Despite what he had done, she couldn't trust him. It would be foolish and naive to do so, even if this was Malak--her only friend she had ever known.