Gae Lia Shulaya was the Harold of the Dawn. Cherished youngest daughter of the Shulaya family. One of the champions of the battle against Deitrum the Necromancer. She was a powerful witch. This fact was well known to everyone who knew her.
“I don’t need a bodyguard. I’m just as capable as anyone here, you know this,” I said, trying to keep up with my father as he led me through the hallways of our large estate. Despite her very tall stature, he still held the title of second tallest in the family. “Otet, please.”
“Gae Lia, you know exactly why you’re getting one. I don’t care how powerful you are, you need protection. You need to be safe,” he glanced down at me as he said this. His pace never slowed but his eyes showed pain, he’d only lost his other daughter three months ago.
She quieted at that. The pain of losing her sister was still fresh. It stung her everytime she looked at the great portrait that had been commissioned of her, her memorial portrait. Black hair with a single red streak, light gray skin with dark gray tattoos. She wore her usual steel armor with a warhammer at her side. She was beautiful, and she looked powerful.
Her father wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and gently squeezed.
“Come on my Rassvet, let’s go meet your new protector.”
The woman that stood near the entrance of the house was a formidable sight. She was almost a foot shorter than Gae Lia, but she made up for it in sheer intimidation. She was muscle bound, that was still plain to see below her plated armor. Her hair was tied back into a low ponytail and her helmet rested under her arm. She stood like a statue, her gaze focused on a family portrait that hung by the doorway. She was admittedly a pretty woman, with light green skin and darker green hair. Her eyes were like Jasper stones, and she had a pair of tusks that curled up over her top lip.
“Ms. Macabre, I’d like you to meet my daughter Gae Lia,” my father gestured slightly to me. “She is to be your charge.”
“Thank you Mr. Shulaya,” the woman bowed slightly to him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Shulaya.”
I blushed a bit at this, my pale blue cheeks turning slightly purple. “Please, Gae Lia is fine,” I tried to smile casually at this after Ms. Macabre straightened up and looked at me. I don’t think I succeeded very much.
“Gae Lia one of the spare bedrooms next to yours will be for Ms. Macabre, for convenience of course.”
I whipped my head around so fast at that, my eyes widened while staring at my father. “Otet I-”
“Please, no need to thank me,” he smiled, and his eyes crinkled a bit. “Ms. Macabre, if you require anything then our butler Zauvith or another butler will arrive. Don’t worry, he comes whenever he is needed. I must go, I’m needed for a meeting.”
He kissed me on the temple before heading out the front door.
The pair stared at each other for a moment before Ms. Macabre cleared her throat.
“So, Ms. Shulaya, where would you like to go?”
“Ah, right, well I do have some work that I need to get done today, and it’s still a few hours until dinner,” I awkwardly scratched her neck. “So, please follow me. It’s probably good to remember the path we take, it’s the easiest way to get to my...I mean our rooms.”
I began leading the way. The hallways echoed with the noise of Ms. Macabre’s metal boots as we ascended a flight of stairs. We walked down a long hallway decorated with beautiful paintings. Some depicted battles from the Goliath homeland, the revolution that my father had started. Others depicted paintings of various members of the family, usually depicted either in armor with shields and swords, or wielding magic. Almost all of them had an owlbear at their side, the staple companion of the family thanks to my older brother's skills training them. I myself also had an owlbear, but mine was only half a year old at this point. Her name was Balalaika and she only came up to my thigh at the moment.
Eventually we found ourselves at the entrance to my wing. The doorways were marked with a depiction of a rising sun, and my name etched into the doorframe. The door glowed faintly blue, and a gentle hum could be heard in the otherwise dead silence. I pushed open the doorway and you could see the room was decorated with a plush dark gray carpet and walls depicting the night sky. The room was shaped like an Octagon, each side had a doorway on it. Each was marked carefully with gold painted carvings: Study, Library, Empty, M.Macabre, Gae Lia, Empty, Empty, Bathroom. The central part of the room contained a set of navy blue couches decorated with white and gold pillows. The center contained a gold spiral staircase that led to a kitchen and dining area. The room buzzed with magic.
I took a moment to glance at Ms. Macabre’s face as she gazed around the room.
“Most of my time is spent in this wing, I get sent a lot of magical maladies and problems to solve as the family's resident Wizard. But I hope it’s comfortable enough for you.”
“I feel this will be most suitable Ms. Shulaya. This doorway is the only entrance?"
“Yes, and it’s enchanted so that only those I allow to enter may. Only my mothers or father can bypass that,” Ms. Macabre stared at me for a moment looking like she wanted to say something but stopped herself. “There’s large windows in each room but they are also enchanted. Before I get to work I’m going to fix myself a cup of tea, would you like one?”
“Um, no thank you, Ms. Shulaya,” Ms. Macabre took a glance at me.
“Alright, well if you change your mind the kitchen is up this way,” I said as I ascended the stairs.
I could hear Ms. Macabre station herself at the base. This was, in my opinion, the most awkward situation I had ever been in. I took a moment to fill my kettle and ignite the stove top before going back to my thoughts. I had gotten used to working alone, my party had split up to go about their lives after the fight was won. Rodolfo had inherited a Gelato shop from their former mentor. Jaden and Lou were mourning after the fight, I had seen them only once at a meeting they had all attended a month prior. They looked like hell. That same fight where I lost my sister, they lost their daughter.
I poured the now boiling water into a teacup and added a bag. Letting it steep I blew gently on the surface before spooning some honey in and taking a sip. I heard the clink of metal below, reminding me that my new guard was still down below. I poured the rest of the water into a teapot and added a couple bags before putting it on a tray with a spare cup and a little pot of honey. I cast mage hand to carry the tray as I descended the stairs, and after arriving at the bottom, floated it to a coffee table near one of the couches.
“I brought the pot down for later, but if you want any feel free,” I looked at Ms. Macabre who nodded. “I have to get to work so I’ll be in my study. I recommend staying out here, the smoke can do weird things to your mind unless you’re used to it. I imagine you want to keep a clear head.”
I spared her a glance before going into my study and clicking the door closed. I breathed a sigh of relief and shook my hands out to get out the nerves. I then went ahead and rolled up my sleeves and began pouring myself into my work. I had been trying to decode from undercommon for three weeks now and I had just finished collecting all the books I needed for translation.
Several hours later I emerged from my study, tired but satisfied that I had figured the spell out. It was apparently a spell variation on Fireball where instead of heat it gave off unbelievable cold. I was eager to see when I’d get the chance to try it out. Upon emerging from the room I found Ms. Macabre seated in a chair next to the door, a book in hand.
“I see we have something in common,” I said, trying to get a look at the author.
“I figured you wouldn’t mind, since it was sitting on the table,” Ms. Macabre said sliding the book back onto the end table next to her.
A Thousand and One Tales by Nalypsis Cascade
“Oh yes, that’s a good one, I just got that. It came out a couple of months ago,” I yawned out the last bit. “The author is actually a friend of a friend. Oh shoot, dinner starts soon, doesn’t it?”
I glanced at the clock and saw that dinner was set to start in about twenty minutes. “I need to change, Mamushka is not going to be happy if I come in smelling of my study,” I opened my bedroom door. “Please just give me a few minutes to change and we can head down.”
I changed into slightly more formal clothes, a dark blue that faded into a brighter pink at the hemline, the chest crossed over itself leaving a diamond shaped gap below my breasts. The fabric was stitched with silver stars and my shoulders were draped with a white gossamer shawl. For the first time today my arms were totally bare which showed off my tattoos, the markings of my people. Wrapped and twisting, capping some of my fingers and encircling my biceps. I soon stepped out of the room, and was greeted by the sight of Ms. Macabre standing guard.
“Ready Ms. Shulaya?”
“I am Ms. Macabre.”
They exited the room, and I led the way. Dinner was to be served in the casual dining room since it was just family tonight. The casual dining room was a floor down on the main level, it held enough room for twelve people to sit comfortably, more if they weren’t Goliath’s or Orc’s. When I entered I saw that Mama, Mamushka and Otet were already seated there, discussing something in the more rural version of their native tongue. I spoke it fluently of course, but it didn’t matter if I did, they were discussing something that happened long before I was born. I tuned them out for a second because I saw the slight surprise as Ms. Macabre took in the two owlbears seater behind the table. Old Baggy Wrinkles and Otulissa, Otet and Mamushka’s owlbears. Each sat on a plush emerald green bed and had plates of various meats and berries in front of them which they were eagerly lapping up.
“Don’t worry, they’re fine. They won’t bother us, that reminds me I’ll have to introduce you to mine after dinner,” Ms. Macabre’s eyes widened a tad more at this. “Come, sit. Dinner is going to be served soon.”
I sat down in one of the chairs closest to Mama and gestured to the seat next to me.
“Please there’s no truth in standing on your feet, you are welcome at this table,” Otet said upon glancing up at her. Ms. Macabre awkwardly sat down and clasped her hands together.
“Gae Lia, I assume this is your new bodyguard?” Mama inquired taking a glance at Ms. Macabre.
“Yes, Mama, this is Mrs. Macabre. Ms. Macabre this is my Mama, and you’ve already met Otet of course, and this is my Mamushka,” I gestured towards the two women respectively.
Her Mama was a muted blue, with tattoos dotting her forehead, across the bridge of her nose, and a thin line going from her bottom lip downwards. She had stark white hair and stormy grey eyes. She sat at about 7’11” and she wore intricately designed but more traditional clothing.
Her Mamushka was white as a sheet of paper, with turquoise tattoos that danced across her face and highlighted all of the angles. She also had white hair, but it was intricately drawn up and braided. Her clothing for the night was a regal velvet dress in black that came up to her neck and left her powerful arms bare. She was a giant woman, the tallest in the family at 9’3”. She practically dwarfed everyone, even almost her husband who was about a foot shorter than her.
Ms. Macabre nodded her head in respect and placed a hand on her chest, palm down, as she did.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, I promise your daughter is in safe hands with me.”
“Your record speaks for your capabilities, I figured this job should be a bit less life and death than your previous assignment.”
Ms. Macabre actually chuckled at that, “ I do hope so sir.”
I’m surprised at how attractive she is when she laughs, her lips upturned for the first time since I’d met her. Her eyes shining with a touch of mirth. It stirred something deep in the back of my skull. I suppressed that immediately. My only focus right now is my work. Distractions so I didn’t lie awake at night remembering my sister's face as she gave me permission to kill her. To set her free.
Her golden eyes were wide and pleading, blood trickling down from her lips. Her warhammer raised above her head, arms shaking desperately to keep it from swinging down as the necromancer controlled her like a puppet-
I took a sip of my drink, the sharp burn jostling me away from those memories. My family's money was in brewing and distilling, we’d even invented a new variety of alcohol which earned us a fortune. Gavodka, sold in every spirits shop and bar in Kama and beyond. We were the third richest family in Kama, behind the Genovese and Cherin’s.
“Gae Lia,” my Mamushka’s soft voice startled me out of my thoughts. “Did you get that spell worked out yet? I know it was giving you some trouble.”
“Yes I did, it was written in Undercommon originally so it took a few days for the translation books to come in. Once I had those it was fairly easy to decipher. It’s actually an attempt at making the opposite of the Fireball spell. They wanted to deal the same amount of damage on someone who was resistant to fire so they used Ice.”
Mamushka cocked her head slightly at this, “so it creates a ball of burning ice?”
I took a sip from my goblet, “in theory, but it was incomplete. I did manage to finish the spell, but I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to test it. I didn’t have time to go to one of the training rooms before dinner.”
Mamushka nodded, and took a sip of her drink. It was a silent “well done”. She was quiet that way, she spoke softly almost always. She had gotten a lot quieter in the months since my sister, her other daughter's death. The whole house felt a lot more subdued without her walking the halls. I had been forced onto a temporary leave for the mourning period. But I was restless, the images would only go away if I was working. This task was mundane but it was something to do.
Dinner arrived shortly after and it was a fairly quiet affair. Everyone soon retired, Otet and Mamushka headed off to their room for the night and Mama headed off to hers. I stood up and Ms. Macabre followed suit.
“Let’s retire for the evening,” I said, looking over at her and smiling. “I hope you enjoyed your meal.”
“I did, thank you. Your family is very kind, I hadn't expected to be allowed to eat with you all."
"Why wouldn't you? The butlers are given the option but usually they're just to busy and they use the room later."
"Huh," she looked suprised. "You know, for a Mafia family you all are very kind."
"Of course, it's a written rule thanks to my father," his past made him kind to anyone who worked for him and they earned a fair pay.
"Well I'm lucky to work for you all then."
"I'm lucky to have you as bodyguard."
She coughed, and I thought I saw the faintest traces of a blush on her face.