Davage entered his quarters and began to pack. He rarely spent much time there anymore, and he couldn’t recall the last time he slept in his own bed. He was constantly in Syg’s quarters; that’s where he wanted to be. But with rules, regulations, and decorum, he couldn’t just move in with her, or she with him, for that matter. It would not do. Syg could not understand that.
He pulled off his shirt to change.
The Com chattered.
“Com,” he said.
“Com, sir, a message from Fleet Command has arrived for you, marked Blue.”
“Aye Com, I’ll take it here.” He flipped a switch on his Com to disable the screen. Fleet Command didn’t need to see him with his shirt off.
“Aye, sir, standby.”
The screen opened despite the fact it was disabled.
He wasn’t really surprised at what he saw.
It was Marilith.
It had been a while since her last message, when she was desperate to warn him of danger to come: that something ‘evil’ was searching for him.
Much had happened since then; much had changed.
Marilith sat back in the viewer. She wasn’t wearing any of the thick makeup she usually wore. She was very beautiful, as she always had been. And her voice—not the usual howl or shriek that she normally had to use, her voice was musical. It was the voice he had fallen in love with years ago.
“Hello, Dav,” she said, sitting up a little on her pouf. As usual, she was draped in light Xandarr veils and nothing else, leaving little to the imagination.
“Hello, Marilith,” he said.
She looked at him for a few moments and smiled.
“I heard about that foolishness in Metatron—word does get around. Did I not warn you of danger to come?”
“You did, and I thank you. I believe I discovered the thing that you said was searching for me in the dark.”
“Oh? So tell me?”
“A Black Hat named Sygillis of Metatron.”
“I’ve heard of her—very evil, very cruel. Did you fight her?”
“Of a sort. I turned her.”
“You turned her?” Marilith smiled and shook her head. “Only you, Dav.”
“Now she has fallen in love with me.”
A wave of darkness crossed Marilith’s face. “I see, and … surely you do not return this love?”
“I do. It took some time, but I indeed love her too.”
“Truly? To love a Black Hat?”
“She is no longer a Black Hat.”
“Are you certain it is not merely a fascination, a novelty … an infatuation?”
“No. I am sure. I have Zen-La’ed with her. In Metatron.”
“That is not possible. You have Zen-La’ed with me, Dav.”
“There is no hope for us, Marilith. And, as Sygillis taught me, the Zen-La is not forever.”
“The Zen-La is forever, and you have offered it to me!”
“That is simply superstition and talk, Marilith.”
“Talk … If you were here, where I am now, we certainly wouldn’t be talking, you and me.”
“And where are you, Marilith?”
She paused for a moment. “Somewhere …” she said in a dreamy voice. “I still love you, Dav. I’ve never stopped. I still dream of you every night. It harms me that I have to pretend to hate you when we both know I don’t. My public persona is … tiring to maintain. I am ready for you to come back to me. It has been too long. You are my Zen-La, and I am yours … forever.”
“And,” Marilith continued, “I think this long interruption has actually enhanced my love for you, added a bit of spice.”
Davage looked into the screen, at the image there. “And Marilith, if I were to say that I’ve come to my senses, that I am ready to be your husband, what would your response be?”
“I would be elated, but of course, should you say such a thing, I would not be able to trust you. How could I? As I have always said, you are the only person in the universe who can kill me. You would, no doubt, be attempting to spring a trap of some sort.”
She closed her eyes. “I would force you to submit to any number of terms and conditions leaving you naked and vulnerable. I would force you to meet me on some lonely, out-of-the way place. And then, bound and shackled, I would drag you off to some unknown locale, and there we would make love …”
“Why bother with a blindfold, Dav? What good would it do? Besides, I want you to look at me when we come together. I would have to keep you in chains for years as you proved yourself, though I would be as kind and gentle as I could be.” She had a look of longing for a moment. “Are you offering yourself to me? Are you submitting to what must be done?”
“I have told you, I am in love with Sygillis. I will marry her. She will be my Countess,” Davage said.
Marilith sighed and wagged her finger. “At least you had the good sense to cast aside that old battle axe Demona of Ryel, Dav—a singularly uninteresting person in my mind. Well, I suppose I’m going to have to kill her, your Sygillis of Metatron. There is no one for you if not me, you know that.”
“You might find that rather difficult, Marilith. Sygillis was a Black Hat Hammer, and a mean one as well.”
“But Dav, it’s me you’re talking to. You know perfectly well that I’ve fought Black Hats before, just like you have. Only with me, I just went ahead and killed them. You’re so sentimental.”
“You’ll find that I’ve thoroughly trained Syg in all the various failings of Black Hat battle tactics. She won’t be beat by the simple tricks that other Black Hats fall for.”
Marilith frowned. “Oh … ‘Syg,’ is it? How cute. You have never fully given me the credit I’m due. I’m you Dav—simply on the other side of the mirror. I’m just as tough, fearless, cagy, unbeatable, and unkillable as you are. I will find a way to kill her. I will find a way to win. I always do.”
“You know, Demona of Ryel never forgave you for that foolish attack on Triumph a few years ago. She was determined to hunt you down and make you pay. To bring you to justice.”
Marilith brightened into a cheerful smile. “Oh, but wouldn’t that have been fun. She wouldn’t have lasted mere seconds against me. Will you please admit that?”
“I admit you are a worthy opponent. You feel no remorse for all the death that attack wrought?”
“Should I, Dav?”
“Yes, you should. You see, that’s why we could never be together, why we traverse different paths. You say you’re on the opposite side of the mirror from me. That small, shiny space is an impenetrable barrier. That is why there was never any real hope for us. You, Marilith, could have been so much to so many people. You could have been a Queen … and yet look where we are. That’s why Pardock threw down the baton. Because you are you and I am me, Xaphan and League.”
Marilith sat there for a moment. She wiped a tear from her eye. “You really say some very mean things to me.”
“Oh, please. You are fully capable of leaving a mountain of corpses in your wake, yet your feelings are hurt by a few truthful words? Marilith, we’ve had this conversation before, and I am certain we’ll have it again at some point. You …”
“I must away, Dav,” Marilith said, more tears rolling down her cheek. “Please tell your Syg that I will be coming for her. Please have the courtesy to tell her that she is going to die. She will not be your Countess. I’ll see her dead first.”
The screen shut off and went black.
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