The Strife: Part Four
It’s the first Sunday of the Month, and you know what that means… Story Sunday! (Okay, yeah every Sunday is Story Sunday, but you get my meaning)
We’re about to meet the lady with the changing skin. So enjoy, and catch you in the next installment!
Rava sat in the still-warm chair and gazed impassively across the table at her mother, hiding her irritation at being summoned. Her skin’s constant shifting slowed to a calm rolling of shades and she relaxed her features, allowing the black rimming to fall from her eyes and display their lightening-streaked amber. Her lips were still pressed thin, though, which betrayed her feelings towards the Strife Lord. Through the centuries the two gods had come to a place of bored animosity towards one another, and now tolerated each other’s company without comment.
Desire straightened her back, showing her superior height and using it to full effect to look down at her daughter, who offered a barely perceptible yawn of defiance in return.
“Rava,” the Strife Lord’s voice reverberated freely now that she was with her own kind. It felt its way through the building, down into the Earth below and… almost… to the sky above, before echoing back slowly to her being and settling. Her use of the command roused something in Rava that forced her compliance.
“Yes, Mother.” Always the capitals, Rava thought privately, which itself was a show of power.
“Tomorrow you perform a rite.”
Rava smiled and didn’t care that it was the wrong way to express displeasure. “So soon after the last.”
Her body had only just recuperated from the effects of the rite performed just a few months earlier. She reached out, trying to make a connection with some part of her mother’s presence and was violently rebuffed. Rava put a hand to her head, which throbbed painfully several times before leaving her with an unpleasant fuzzy sensation.
“I don’t appreciate your insolence, girl.” The Strife Lord thought of very few with capitals, Rava knew this. Still, the disrespect chafed, and she laughed.
“I’m over a millennium old.” Rava chuckled her response, allowing her echo to resonate. “And if I’m to be the vessel for Your power, I’ve every right to want to know why.”
Desire’s huff boomed in the room, turning Rava’s dull fuzziness into sensory confusion for a moment. She was much weaker than she’d initially thought, she realised. Or else her Mother had gained far more from the last rite than she’d been letting on. Either way, the display sent its message and Rava bowed her head in grudging defeat.
Satisfied with the lesser god’s behaviour, the Strife Lord ventured to be gracious. “There’s a meet in three months. I must be strong.” She offered. “Which means You must be strong, Daughter.” A rare admission of dependence, the type which kept Rava assured of her necessity. Small sacrifices, Desire thought.
She allowed her daughter a brief glimpse of the dangers they both faced at this coming meet, siphoning emotions from Rava’s consciousness at the same time. Her ruse worked and she felt her daughter’s reluctance fade away. As much as Rava disliked her mother, she also understood that she was nowhere near as powerful, or as cunning. It was in her best interests to keep Desire in her seat of power, even if it took its toll.
“Is he the giver?” Rava’s question betrayed her interest in the man she had just seen. She watched her Mother closely and saw no obvious signs of disapproval. Instead, Desire shifted in her seat, stroking her neck absently.
“Yes,” came the confirmation. “And after the rite you may keep him, if you wish.” The older god waved a dismissive hand, and Rava took her cue to leave without another word.
Exiting into the waiting area, she could still sense the residual presence of the man. It was unusual, but Rava thought nothing more of it as she walked to the elevator. She got off on the 79th floor and strode past her own secretary without a sideways glance. Once in her office though, she paused, then cooed in irritation, “Come out, Fiend.”
Rava heard the steps before she saw his form appear, striding from her desk. Malorus extended his arms and pulled Rava into an embrace so intimate that she felt a rush from the energy surging from him. When he released her, she moved to sit behind her desk, and he took his place in the chair across.
Malorus’s eyes shone with mischief and he flashed her a charming smile, but it seemed to have no effect. “So cold, mistress.” he teased. “Shall I warm you… Tonight, perhaps?”
Rava suppressed a sneer. “You flatter yourself; any warm body will suffice.” She leaned closer. “Besides, what warmth have you left?” She gave a small laugh then leaned back. Malorus adjusted his tie and sighed. Unlike the gods he served, his tics and mannerisms were very much based in the human nature his ancestors had packed on through generations of intermingling.
“I have news,” he said. “The Strife Lords are having a meet…”
“In three months, I know.” Her eyes asked what use he was.
Malorus blinked, recalibrated, then continued. “Something’s got them all very worried. Word on road is it’s the old Gods.”
Rava grimaced momentarily. “The Strife Lords are the old gods.”
“Not the oldest, apparently.” His smile was genuine, pleased with itself and with its wearer for still being useful. Useful lived, useful held private audiences with the Ravening god.
Malorus didn’t have long to idle in his usefulness. His mistress stood slowly from her chair, her skin shifting through degrees of human colouring, her eyes rimmed gold. “You remain my favourite Fiend, Malorus.” She said this as she came to stand behind him. Her hands rested on his shoulders and applied the barest pressure. The pause seemed to demand a response, so he gave one.
“Thank you, seems appropriate?”
“Indeed.” Her hands smoothed the fabric on his suit, down his arms. They stopped just before his elbows and Rava leaned down to speak her command into his ear. Even before her words came, he thought he felt the slightest shift in atmosphere, a tinge of wet earth in the air. “Keep yourself warm, Fiend.”
With that, Rava released him, body and mind. She heard him leave through the back door, pondered his loyalty a moment before turning her mind to more pressing concerns.
What was older than the Strife Lords?