Young Malefa fearlessly walked through a series of caves. Her hair had grown down to her slim waist in glistening waves of wheat yellow and spider thread white. Her mouth had learned to curve into a sly, sadistic smirk ashes ran her hand along the wet wall of the cavern. She began to dance to her own internal music, twirling and twirling until her yellow dress flared around her ankles. Malefa giggled and the bell-like melody of her joy caught the attention of another.
“Who is that?”
“Oh! Excuse me, I didn’t know that cave was, ehem, occupied!” Malefa still danced and she held up a smooth hand to her mouth as she laughed. She paid no mind to the shadowed figure behind her.
“This cavern is my domain. My territory. You are in it.”
“Then I am a guest. You know what happened to those who refused to be hospitable to the Greek Gods and Goddesses, yes? I suppose you wouldn’t. Then let me tell you.” Malefa stopped and turned to the stranger with disturbing accuracy. “They were turned into geese and mice and things that can be cooked for supper. Or, they were cursed to become trees and statues, easily burned or broken.”
“What does any of that matter?”
“It means that you should treat your guest kindly. You never know if I might be a goddess.”
The stranger stepped out from the shadows of the deep cavern. Ginger saw a man, a very handsome man, smirk at young Malefa. He had pitch black hair tied into a top knot and a closely shaven head. He was tall and built as if made from strong wires. There was one piercing green eye in the middle of his face. Malefa did not turn and run.
“My, you’re fantastic,” she said.
“And you are rare,” the man said in a lilting purr. “My name is Raze, and you are the most intrigued guest I’ve been bullied to take care of.”
Malefa, the one transformed into a beast watching the video on the screen, wailed. She raised an oversized fist to touch the image of the handsome man, but her plump fingers passed through the screen like reaching into mist.
Ginger watched the two, Malefa and Raze, fiercely fall for one another. She saw Malefa’s parents refuse to accept the union a human and Bull Fist. She watched as Malefa and her father fought and fought until at last their violence peaked. The girl was thrown across the familial home with enough force and strength that her head fatally struck the stone flooring. Malefa died. That was that. The girl died.
“How?” Ginger asked.
As if to answer, the film showed Raze, in a rage over the death of his beloved, killed Malefa’s father and mother. He turned into the Bull Fist form much akin to what Malefa wore now, and carried his dead love across his back. He ran and galloped until his sides heaved. A night passed under his steady pace.
“He took me to another human. One with the affinity for death and necromancy,” the very much alive Malefa said half in a daze. She pined at the image of her beloved shown before her. Much to her word, the screen offered the recountance of a lovely form covered by a cloak.
“Raising the dead is not as it seems,” the cloaked human commented in a rasp. “What I can do would be more akin to a rebirth. I need blood and something to sacrifice.”
“Take anything from me. Anything!” The once proud and steady Raze pleaded.
“Very well then,” the cloaked figure cackled. “I shall consumed your sanity!” A bone white hand shot out and clasped around Raze’s throat. He choked under the pressure as spittle flew from his lips. He dangled from the human’s wrist—impossible, but there it was. The young Malefa fell from Raze’s shoulders and he shout out. The cloaked human’s other hand tore through the Bull Fist’s thick skin and into his guts. He moaned as the human dug and dug until it yanked out a single, shinning rib. “Hmn, a little homage, perhaps?”
The human let out a piercing laugh and dropped Raze.
“The necromancer stuck that rib bone into like a squealing pig. Ha ha, and didn’t tell my love that it would take both of our sanities!” Malefa laughed. “I wasn’t human after that. No, not very much human at all. I was indeed reborn, phft! But I was with Raze and that was all that mattered to me. That is until human killed him. Killed him. Killed him!! I took the lost children here to be safe. Safe…”
The screen went dark. And then a new picture appeared. It showed Malefa watching a screen, and Malefa watching a screen, and Malefa watching a screen. The Ginger in those screens held out something on her palm. She gave it to Tipper, who had secretly all this time crossing the distance towards her as Malefa hungrily observed her past through different eyes. The videoed Tipper broke open the item, filling him with a dark and fierce fire that then exploded out of his skin in the firm of ebony fire. The fire collided with a transfixed Malefa, engulfing her in flames she could not escape, where she died in a heap of ashes and smoke.
Which was exactly what occurred.
“W-w-we killed her,” Ginger exclaimed. Her phone had turned off. She felt as though she ran fifteen miles straight. Her arms and legs and lungs were overused. “I…I thought we were still watching the movie with her. I thought I still had a choice.” The girl stared at the pile of charred bones that had definitely once been a walking and talking creature a few seconds ago.
Tipper examined his own shaking hand.
“Your magic is terrifying.” He clenched his hand. “But you were right before. Malefa would have kept killing innocent people until she herself died. She literally was devoid of all of her sympathy.”
“B-but she was human. She was…normal once. Is that what I could become? Will I be like that human necromancer?”
“No.” Tipper walked over to Ginger and took her hands. “You won’t. Everyone has a choice. Raze chose to make themselves monsters so that Malefa could live again. That, that thing who could wake the dead chose to embrace its magic the wrong way, causing pain and suffering. You are different. You want to go home. You want to protect your friends and your family.” Tipper clutched her hands tight. “You’re stronger than them.”
Ginger wanted to cry. Malefa’s story had shook her to the very quick of her soul. She had seen what Malefa used to be—a girl very much like herself. And she had seen what the corrupted magic of Soielle had turned Malefa into.
“Guys,” Alastair coughed. “Hey, can you tell me what went on here? I mean, I’m glad we’re all still alive, but I’m a little confused.”
“Alastair!” Ginger yelped. She took back her hands from Tipper and ran to her friend. “You’re okay!”
“I think I’m on the lower rung of ‘okay.’” He pointed at his limp leg. “Broken leg. I’m surprised it doesn’t hurt yet, but it will.”
“How do you know it’s broken if you can’t felt it?”
“I broke my arm when I was six. I went down a slide and twisted the wrong way, landing right on my elbow. Couldn’t feel a thing for a while until BOOM!”
“Wonderful,” Tipper sighed. “Even more of a reason to get to Crat.”