A million things whirled through Mallory’s mind in milliseconds.
Is this a dream? Nightmare?
No, it’s real. THAT THING is real. Heavens help me, it’s real!
As the battle spun into full frenzy around her, she found herself staring in silent horror at the massive… were-wasp? Were-hornet? She blinked, and blinked again. It really was real. She hadn’t imagined it back then!
In recent years she had convinced herself that the monster she’d seen in her nightmares was just her mind processing it all… that her mind had blocked the real sight of whoever had murdered her parents.
In recent years she had embraced her good-natured cheerfulness. Clung to it. Held fast to it, so she wouldn’t go down the path of seeking vengeance. She’d spoken of it… that there was a better way than taking revenge.
In recent years she had thought of what she would do if she ever came face to face with her parents’ killers. She had said she would forgive them. Or at least she would try. She knew there had been a reason for it all… just as there were reasons for all that she herself did. Most people wouldn’t tend to take up the gruesome work of an assassin without reason. Without pressing need at the end of all need.
She had known what kind of person she was. She was a forgiving, kind, selfless person… maybe even naive, but she was okay with that. Some might say her stance was weak, but to Mallory, it took greater strength than vengeance. Better she be naive and forgiving than petty and vengeful. She knew exactly the kind of person she was. That was why she had recoiled in horror at the sudden kills her friends had made on the amateur assassins… most of them barely any older than Mallory herself. What if she had sought vengeance for her parents’ murder? She could have ended up unwittingly serving their killer. She could have ended up there, right alongside these girls… Doc and the others could have just as easily been killing her, here.
She was too late to save the first few. But the others… those acolytes under Titus Rowe… they would live. Maybe they would heed the words she’d said to them. Because that’s the kind of person she was.
Until Helen Petley, Nora’s birth mother, shed that human skin like a suit, grew to her true massive form, and took flight.
In those few moments, Mallory suddenly didn’t know what kind of person she was at all.
She managed to keep her composure, just barely. She had felt her heart pounding out of her chest, loud enough that she could even hear it in the din of battle. For a few fleeting moments she thought she was going to have an all-out panic attack. She didn’t want to reveal to Helen that she recognized her. If Helen knew Mallory was the traumatized child of one of her old targets, she could use that against her. Mallory just managed to contain her fear.
And now she found herself standing, relatively calmly, face to face with the killer. There was no one in all of Golarion she wanted to destroy more than this woman. But… what would that mean for her? If she took revenge now… would she really be any different? It wasn’t lost on her that this was Nora’s biological mother… though any sympathy she might have once felt on that matter melted away when the “mother” took the form of the were-wasp.
So, what kind of person are you, Mallory? she asked herself. No one’s ever prepared when the opportunity finally presents itself… What will it be, Mal? Revenge? Forgiveness? As if you would ever get to leave here alive with Helen still breathing.
You’ve been hired… for a job. And the job is to kill this woman. Is it… callous murder then?
Is that the kind of person you are?
Either way… whatever the motives… Helen must die. She forced herself to slow her breathing and calm herself. She realized she had taken a step forward. She stepped forward again. Lydia, Helen’s right hand, was battered and going down fast. Mallory’s eyes on Helen the whole time, she reached out her left hand and laid it on Miri’s back, healing her wounds. Her eyes never left Helen, even as Doc was magically enhanced to an equivalent size and took her on head-to-head, trampling Lydia in the process.
Mallory drew her rapier, announced by the satisfying ringing of metal as she did.
She took another step closer, raising the rapier high. It began shining with light and blazing with fire.
She wouldn’t be able to reach Helen in the air, flying as she was, but she didn’t care. She knew Helen would come down. She just knew.
And she did. Dazed from a bad hit, unable to stay aloft.
Mallory was there waiting.
In that moment, for just a fleeting instant, Helen made eye contact with her. The light and fire on her blade faltered.
“I know what kind of person I am,” Mallory said softly. “I won’t take vengeance.”
They roared to life again.
“But I WILL deliver justice.”
With a loud cry and her rapier ablaze with holy flame, she lunged forward.