Margrave stands in the doorway, watching Trocia – or rather Nua, the soul possessing his niece’s body – as she crouches near a small fire she has built in the middle of her bedroom floor. The necromancer’s clothes are soaked with blood, the bare skin on her arms smeared with it. The fire burns atop the concrete, the simple woven rug tossed aside in a heap against the wall.
The light of the fire is the only one in the room. It flickers across Nua’s face, her features expressionless, like the dead that so fascinate her. That fascinated his niece, trapped somewhere deep inside. That face bears some resemblance to his own, though she has her mother’s – his sister’s – mouth and jawline. His nose, though. Definitely his nose.
Those eyes search the flames, as if they might give her some answer. Is it divination? No matter. Enough.
He walks into the room as if he owns it, because he does. He owns her as well. “You were told I wanted to see you,” he says.
Nua continues staring at the flames, but smirks, her face coming alive. “I had something to do. But you came to see me. How thoughtful of you.”
He feels his jaw muscles contract. He had almost ordered her dragged before him, but he knew what would happen then. He would have dead henchmen on his hands. Or undead. She would just reanimate them and claim she’d improved them.
“What are you burning?” he asks.
“A box,” she says.
“A box…” He pauses, then asks, “The box you arrived in?”
She nods, grinning. “You shouldn’t leave things lying around if you don’t want people burning them.” When Trocia had foolishly asked to be made into a necromancer, the demon had given her a box containing Nua’s soul, from which Nua had erupted and taken over Trocia’s body. Margrave had allowed Nua to continue controlling his niece because he needed her knowledge. He still needs it.
And she knows.
“What a lovely philosophy of life that is. Perhaps I should burn your things,” he says scornfully.
“This is mine,” she says. “What else would you burn? My rug? My bed?” She stands, looking at him sardonically, and running her fingers down the curves of her borrowed body. “This dress?” She walks close to him, raising her arms, resting them on his shoulders and wrapping them around his neck, her breasts pressing against his chest. “How about this body? Do you want to make me burn?”
He glares at her. “You stink of blood. And you’re staining my suit.”
She chuckles low in her throat. “I guess you’ll have to burn it. The smell of blood has always excited me. Like a lion or a werewolf.”
“Yes, I see it does,” he says with distaste. “You certainly lost control last night. I told you to kill the corporal’s family. There was no need to be so…messy about it.”
“Awww!” Her mock-apologetic expression is made more obscene by the four streaks of dried blood running diagonally across her face, left by her fingers hours before. “Are we sowwy those poor widdle girls suffered?” Her face twists into contempt and she spins and walks back, kicking the fire into sparks and embers. “What kind of devil-worshipper are you? Yes, I made them scream. Their father too. You told me to send a message to the Guardia – well I sent a message! A message they’ll never forget!”
“Do not raise your voice to me.” His voice is sepulchral. “If you become more trouble that you are worth, I will not need that box. I can dismiss your soul back to Hell any time.”
A flash of fear crosses her face, and she returns to him, biting her lower lip, raising a hesitant hand to his cheek. “Oh please, Daddy, please don’t. I’ll be good.” The childish tone annoys him, and he turns his face from her touch. She laughs, mocking. “You’ll send me away when I’m no longer useful to you. Which is never.”
“I’ll send you away when it pleases me to.” He sighs. “Your actions will incite the Guardia to redouble their efforts.”
“I can have another Soul Bomb ready in five days, with the proper materials,” murmurs Nua as she puts her arms around his waist, nuzzling his throat. “We’ll hit them again and again.”
“And bring down the Death Clan on our heads, along with the full force of the Guardia. No.” Margrave shakes his head, trying to ignore the pleasurable reaction his body is having to the little bites she is giving the sensitive skin of his throat. “We go silent here in Three Rats. Pull back to our stronghold in Little Falls.”
“What??” she cries. “Pull back? I want that Death Clan bitch! I want her and her little Bunnies! I want her to watch them die slowly in front of her, and then reanimate as my cold, perfect, undying toys, and then when she’s filled with despair I’ll take her soul!”
Margrave pushes her away, so that she falls back on her bed. He looks down at her, shaking his head. “My former employer’s impatience cost him his life. It did not cost me mine, and neither will I allow yours to do so. The Three Rats Guardia do not know which of their many enemies attacked them, so they will attack them all. Being reunited, together with their grief and fury, will make them difficult to stop. They will do our work for us, crippling most of our rivals in Three Rats, so that when we are ready, we can come back in and take the entire ward. Meanwhile, we will learn their weaknesses so that we can remove them as a threat. If I cannot suborn them into being my tools, their souls will go to the highest bidders of Hell.”
“But I am sure we will find a way for you to have your fun with her,” Margrave reassures the necromancer. “Now clean yourself, and your room. We will be moving out of this location tomorrow, and there will be no sign we were ever here.”