Mava put a pot of water on the stove and turned the flames on to full. Tea was more than a refreshment. It was a necessity, even if the world might end before the water for it finished boiling.
“So you’ve lived with these memories your whole life?” Gwen asked, leaning forward in her chair and resting her hands between her legs.
“More than that for me, but roughly accurate for her I’d guess,” Nyka said, throwing a grin in Mava’s direction.
“How do you live with memories for more than your life?” Gwen asked, tilting her head in confusion.
“She’d had two lives, at least,” Mava said.
“Five, I think, might have lost count though,” Nyka said. “This last one’s been the longest however.”
“That’s kind of weird, but given that I’ve apparently had two lives I guess I can’t complaint oo much. I don’t understand why we woke up at different times though?” Gwen said.
“Different rules for different folks,” Nyka said.
They were seated around the small dining room table in Mava’s apartment. Mava had never been one for extravagant furnishings. During the later years of the House of Days, she’d spent so much time in the field that she’d commandeered a permanent bunk in each of the different barracks she fought out of. The Grand Mansion of her noble estate had stood empty for years, it’s staff dwindling as the need for reinforcements consumed all of the Dayfolk’s population.
In the face of the return of the old war, and the renewal of her status as one of the Chosen of Days, Mava found herself clinging to her comfortable little apartment. It wasn’t much but it served her needs, and it was a home that no one would ever bother trying to take from her.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to live with five lives worth of memories,” Gwen said. “I’ve got one and a tiny glimpse of another and I feel like my head is going to explode.”
“There’s some aspirin in the cabinet if you need it,” Mava said.
“I think what I need are answers,” Gwen said. “What were those things? Why were they destroying everything? And what were you trying to say to them?”
The last question she directed at Nyka.
“I was trying to command them,” Nyka said. “They owe fealty to my side and, right now, the chain of command begins and ends with me as far as I know.”
“Your side?” Gwen asked, brow knit in consternation.
“She is, was?, the Grand Strategist for the Caverns of Night,” Mava said and watched Gwen’s reaction.
The young woman stiffened at the mention of the Caverns, her expression clouding over with an ancient and barely remembered rage before an understandable look of confusion took hold.
“They’re our enemies though, aren’t they?” Gwen asked.
“Yep,” Nyka said. “We defined what it meant to hate each other. We were the platonic ideal of people bent on eradicating each other even before there was a Plato.”
“And we’re having tea with her?” Gwen asked.
“That was all in the past, the extremely distant past,” Mava said. “Just like the magic you used and the monsters you killed. And all of it should have stayed there.”
“They weren’t monsters,” Nyka said. “No more than we are at any rate.”
“They were ripping cars in half,” Gwen said. “They were going to kill us.”
“And you killed them,” Nyka said. “Which, I will grant you, was in self defense and gives you a bit of moral high ground to stand on, but, the last time we all fought, we had tons of moral high ground on both sides and yet everyone ended up dead anyways. Or nearly everyone.”
“Who survived?” Gwen asked.
“I did,” Mava said. “Thanks to you.”
“You’ve lived since then?” Gwen asked. “I don’t even know how long ago that was but it has to have been thousands of years right? I mean I’ve read a lot of history books and I’ve never heard of our kingdoms.”
“They weren’t kingdoms,” Mava said. “They were more than that. Between the House of Days and the Caverns of the Night, we ruled all the Earth and its Counter-Time reflections.”
“So you’ve seen all of human history play out then?” Gwen asked, trying to catch her breath “I thought I had a lot of questions before, but this is unreal. You must know so much about how things really happened!”
“Less than you’d think,” Mava said. “Part of living this long is sleeping. A lot. I think I spent something like ninety thousand years waking up for a week or a month at a time every few thousand years. In the last ten thousand years, I’ve been more awake than I used to be, but I’ve slept through more changes than I ever have before too.”
“I slept right through the Renaissance,” Nyka said. “Woke up in England in the Victorian Age and didn’t have the first clue where all the smoke and buildings and people came from.”
“I went for a walk during the Renaissance and wound up taking a nap under the care of some incredibly kind people. Woke up to find them all gone and something called the United States had decided that the river I was sleeping in was theirs and people who looked like me needed shackles on their arms and legs.”
“Bet that went real well for them.”
“I was feeling charitable,” Mava said. “I left enough for someone to identify the bodies before I went back to sleep.”
“You slept through the Civil War?” Gwen asked. “You could have changed so much though!”
“It’s not my world to change,” Mava said. “I spent thousands of years after the Last Battle fighting to make things better. I slaughtered every last remnant of the Caverns of Night that I could find.”
“She even killed me,” Nyka said. “And did a damn good job of it.”
“But you’re not dead,” Gwen said.
“Different rules for different folks,” Nyka said. “And the important thing is that I was dead for a good long while thanks to General Sunsworn here.”
“No, the important thing is that for all the killing I did, the world didn’t become a better place,” Mava said. “Oh sure, I saved people, and stopped monsters from marauding, I did the right things, or thought I did. No matter how many monsters I killed though, there were always more, and the people I saved? Some of them I maybe shouldn’t have.”
“You couldn’t know that though right, and we don’t see monsters running around anymore, so you must have beaten them all, or at least scared them into hiding,” Gwen said.
“There’s plenty of monsters left in the world,” Nyka said.
“Just look at the news,” Mava said. “They look human. Most of them are human for that matter. But that doesn’t mean they’re not as bad as the monsters we used to fight.”
“As bad, no? Much worse, definitely,” Nyka said. “I’m sure my forces looked horrifying to you, a lot of them were meant to, but all the atrocities they committed on you were for a purpose. There was no peace between us and no expectation of mercy or quarter. They slaughtered your people because that’s what they were ordered to do. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s a damn sight better than killing you because they felt like it, or because of some delusion that they were superior to you.”
Gwen’s lips pressed together in a tight line. Mava could see her holding back a torrent of words. It was Gwena’s method of dealing with people. She always evaluated how receptive people were to her input. With those who would listen, she could explain her ideas in detail for hours. If her words weren’t going to gain any traction though, she’d remain silent.
Mava wanted to reassure her, to draw Gwena out like she had in the past. Mava had always valued her youngest sister’s thoughts. In this case though she knew there wasn’t anything Gwen could say that would convince her to take up the banner of the House of Days again.
The Last Battle was over. Both sides lost. Nothing that happened could change that. A renewal of the fighting wouldn’t decide anything meaningful, it would just cost more lives and, once again, leave the world less than it had been.
“Where do we go from here then?” Gwen asked. “I don’t want to fight, I never have, but you said it yourself, I have these memories for a reason, and burying my head in the sand isn’t going to make that go away.”
“I wish I could order you to do it anyways,” Mava said.
“You already tried to that,” Gwen said. “I’m still ignoring that order.”
“I know I laughed at that before, but it really is charming,” Nyka said. “I always knew you Elites were close, but it’s refreshing to see how much you care about it each other. The other Generals kept thinking we could get you to turn on each other, but I squashed all of the plans they came up with that relied on one of you betraying another..”
“Thank you? I guess?” Gwen said.
“Don’t thank me, the war would have gone in your favor if I’d let those idiots waste their time on you Elites,” Nyka said. “I guess it’s biting you now though since that’s why Mava wants to keep you under wraps.”
“I don’t need to be protected,” Gwen said.
“I know,” Mava said. “The Last Battle proved that. It also proved that I do need to be protected though. So, for my sake if not your own, fight the urge to go off and battle with any more of the Night’s soldiers.”
“What if they come after us?” Ally asked.
Ally was Mava’s next door neighbor. Ally hadn’t been in Mava’s apartment a moment prior. Ally also didn’t have eyes that were shot through with electricity in place of the nice, normal iris and pupil that most humans possessed.
“Uh, hi commander?” Ally said. “Long time, no see?”