When Malice was small, she hated vegetables. She hated the bitterness of so many of them, hated the stiffness their flesh had, enemy to any little girl losing her baby teeth. There were servants back then, who would take her plate away and cook the offending vegetables into soups and stews, which she would (begrudgingly) eat.
Her father (whose face she can no longer remember) laughed, because when Malice was small Aleid was jovial, and his big battle-scarred hands were kind. Her mother smiled in a tight-lipped way, like she didn’t really want to smile but wasn’t sure what else to do.
Then her father left, and her mother was hurt, and the servants left with the money. As a child, there were a lot of things Malice didn’t understand, like war against demons and the castes of her homeland. But she heard the gossip nonetheless, and it seeped into her like black sewage.
When she was still small but a little older, her mother finally slapped her across the face and sharply told her not to be so picky, that she was wasting food and would not be able to grow strong if she didn’t get proper nutrition. That Rizuna was thinking of her daughter, and that Malice was wasting their money and her mother’s love. Malice’s whole cheek turned red and purple and swelled up, Rizuna wound up bedridden for days after exerting so much energy, and even after awkward apologies were exchanged days later, Malice made herself eat the things she hated from then on.
When Malice was small, she loved her playful father and hated her strict mother. When she was still small but a little older, she hated her traitor father and didn’t know what to do about her mother slowly falling to pieces. All throughout her final year, Rizuna was quiet and maudlin. In the end she apologized for not being able to raise Malice as a proper young lady, and Malice broke the plate she’d been holding and cried.
When Malice was older, she knew why angels fell but still couldn’t understand it.
All throughout the oral history passed down through the angels’ boroughs, there were many, many tales of rebels and dissenters who had been cast out by the dead gods and then by the Magi. The tales had to be passed down orally because all the official records and histories were restricted, and not even the humanoids could access them.
Angels fell because Asgard was rotten. It had been rotting even during Ragnarok, so of course it was still rotten now, in this age where the last big leap in technology had been something like five hundred years ago. Angels fell because there were always people who saw it, and who couldn’t let it go.
Guardian angels, soldiers, civilians, and even Grim Angels were among their number. Malice could only remember a handful of the names, those that had survived the erasure of the establishment: Aries, Marietta, Eater.
What she couldn’t understand was why anyone ever bothered rebelling or disobeying with all the weight of history demonstrating that it was a useless endeavor. Angels were powerful—they would not be the main military force of Asgard otherwise—but they were not allowed the weapons of the humanoid soldiers, and they could not match the Magi’s superior thaumaturgy.
Asgard was rotten, but there was no point in flinging your carcass atop a steadily growing pile of your forbears’ unless you were sure to get something out of it.
When Malice was older—when Malice had nearly forgotten what it felt like to not constantly flinch and twist against the burn of foreign chemicals in her veins, when Malice’s life was stretched out from surgery to surgery—she decided she was ready to place her bet.
Angels could not succeed in rebellion, in dissension. They needed a power greater than what they were allowed. Hector, at least, promised a new world order, and he was a genius.
“We shall burn down this world together,” he told her, and there was not even one ounce of warmth in his smile. He had a way of gripping her face in both his hands, applying too much strength and pushing too hard with his fingertips for it to be a tender gesture. She was never sure whether he meant it affectionately or if he was just treating her like a possession.
She’d never had a future anyway—she most certainly didn’t have one now that her whole body was a mess of surgical scars and skin that ached from injections and muscles that swelled and stiffened from being cut apart and knitted together too many times—and so she might as well give it away in the name of a cause she believed in. With Hector pulling the strings, the likelihood of success was very high.
The medicine and the semen were the bitterest things she’d tasted, but Malice swallowed them without complaint.
When Malice was older, her master awakened a pair of Grim Angels to serve as pawns in the plan.
She stood by in the mausoleum when they came out of stasis, to better act the part of fellow to them. One was a war veteran who had served in Ragnarok, blank-faced and silent; the other was still a child, one of the last true Grim Angels born, at the very tail end of the war when there wasn’t enough of the gods’ blood and flesh to spare and organs had to be salvaged from other Grim Angels’ corpses.
They left for Heaven’s Gate as soon as they were briefed, a freshly created familiar handed to the boy to save time, and Malice watched from the shadows and hated them. They were the lowliest beings in all of Asgard, and yet they had more than she had ever been given.
Still, she did not attempt to speak to them, only nodding when Hector introduced her. They were like her, cornerstones for the age of angels that would come after; as Grim Angels, they didn’t even need to know what they were a part of unless it became absolutely necessary.
Hector had promised change. That was good enough for Malice. She swallowed bitterness and looked on, impassive.