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If a woman does need a hero, she needs him today, not tomorrow. -Egwene
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
They rode into the forest until they came to an open space, a small field, half a mile outside the pale walls of Do’Saidae. They had dismounted. Nivenh’Mia stood several steps behind him, holding the reins at their head with one hand. He saw her fingers twitch nervously on her other, the only outward sign showing what she thought of the danger of opening the portal again.
The weather was turning again and Thorin scuffed his foot on the grass. It slid easily, the off and on rain throughout the last day and a half had left it slick, almost as if it was covered in a snail’s slime. It did not make walking all that treacherous, but if they were forced to fight, from past experience, it could make it that much more dangerous to find purchase beneath their feet.
He shrugged his cloak free from bunching upon his shoulder. He did not believe they would have problems, but that did not stop the small hairs on the back of his neck from tingling with a certain amount of apprehension. He turned his head, searching the surrounding forest for any sign of trouble. But there was nothing. There was no sign of trouble. Now that the pair had come to a stop, the birds and other small animals of the forest had returned to their canopy singing. There was nothing immediately evident that there was anything or anyone waiting in the wings to attack them.
He looked at his companion, the purple eyed, strangely dressed mercenary. One of her three braids rested on her shoulder, on the pale colored body-wrap of soft fabric that covered her body. Her body language was limp, her eyes were unharried. There was no sign that she had any apprehension about what he was about to do. Nor did she seem in any hurry for him to open the way to Tar Valon.
“Are you ready?”
Nivenh’Mia nodded once.
He turned away, focusing inward, reaching inward and tentatively grabbing the One Power. Making the portal was no small feat, even though it was fairly simple for him, being an Asha’man. He kept his entire attention on the making of the portal, and relied on Nivenh’Mia to alert him to any dangers that might appear.
Behind him, she remained silent, but he could feel her tension rise as the air swirled before her, but she remained silent.
The air before him swirled and rent open, and the scenery on the far side of the field changed, becoming the more familiar rolls of land outside the walls of Tar Valon. As the portal grew and stabilized, he lowered his hands. He looked into the swirling vortex, his body tense and ready.
But there was nothing and he felt the tension ebb from his body. He looked over his shoulder at Nivenh’Mia and offered her a small smile. “Looks like we could have brought the Aes Sed-“ His words were cut off as her face changed. She dropped the reins and her daggers appeared in her hands even as he turned and the nauseating smell of sulfur hit him square in the face. The chalk on chalk sound reached his ear, and a pain grew in his jaw.
The horses neighed and bolted. They took off back toward Do’Saidae. Thorin issued a curse as he backed toward the mercenary as the hyena-cat creatures advanced out of the portal toward them as the mange covered, lanky limbs appeared out of the swirling side of the vortex, same as they had the last time. They growled and the tufts of hair on the back of their neck rose as the two creatures stalked forward.
“It didn’t work,” Nivenh’Mia said, unnecessarily.
“I know,” Thorin growled, moving toward her, backwards.
“It didn’t work,” she repeated.
“They’ve come back.”
He was saved from answering as one of the creatures snarled and lunged forward. Thorin dove out of its path, and in his peripheral, he saw Nivenh’Mia do the same, in the opposite direction. Thorin rolled, drawing his blade and coming to his feet in one smooth move. He turned and faced the monster, crouching as it landed where he had been moments before. It turned with a guttural growl, and tufts of dirt and grass flew into the air.
He leapt to the side as it came at him. The second bound behind it, and he saw it charge off in the direction he saw a flash of pale pastel that he could only assume was Nivenh’Mia. He did not have the luxury of time to swear under his breath, or otherwise. He twisted, and the hoary creature’s talon-like claws barely missed his thigh. It lunged for him, its joints clicking, its maw snapped dangerously close to his person.
He struck out, slashing his sword downward with enough force, it should have decapitated the monster. Instead, it was as if he had struck granite. Pain throbbed up his arms and jaw.
As if surprised, the creature lurched backwards. Its hackles raised and it began coughing. Thorin backed up warily. Or it was laughing at him. Remembering the One Power’s lack of effect on the creatures from their last encounter, yet realizing that his current weapon was lacking, he reached out with the One Power, its fire sweeping over him, threatening to consume him. Out of his peripheral, he could see the creature recovering. It gave its entire body a shake and turned toward him, its black tongue lolling.
The tree he gripped with the One Power was twice as long as he was tall, and was as thick as his thigh. The monster yelped in surprise and, hopefully but less likely, in pain as he swung it like a club. The creature yelped as it took to the air.
Thorin released his hold and the tree followed the creature. He did not wait to see where they might land, but took off running back toward Do’Saidae. He swore inwardly, despairing that his plan to leave Saldaea had once again failed. He could not overlook the fact that his plan on taking the creatures if they appeared again had fallen to shambles. There was no sign of the mercenary. She had disappeared into the foliage.
The Wheel of Time ain't got **** on me! *looks at his shoe* Well Burn me...
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
Fern fronds slapped her knees and thighs as Nivenh’Mia ran through the forest. Her arms worked at her side, daggers slashing up periodically to slice away leafy obstacles. She glanced to her right despairingly. Somewhere over there was the road, and it was getting further and further away. When the monster had attacked her, and had given chase, she had attempted to stay on the road, to stay near Thorin so they might team up against the monsters.
But the creatures almost seemed to know this, and had instantly attacked them in a way that they dove apart, and were driven further apart. She could hear the creature behind her and to the right. The clicking of its joints and the wet panting breathing followed her. It was effectively blocking the shortest, if not easiest, way back to the road. If she veered to the left, she would reach the road eventually, but it would lead her further away from Do’Saidae.
She was not sure she wanted to lead the creature back to the fortress anyway. Even if the last time they came upon the pale walls, they had turned back. There were too many lives at stake if they did not stop.
The monster snarled behind her, and she half turned and swung her dagger back as it lunged at her. It swiped across its nose, opening a large fissure. It howled its outrage, but the wound did not slow the creature. It snapped at her and she veered again, once again further way from the road, and directly between a pair of trees growing shoulder length apart. A third had fallen and she ran up the trunk of the fallen tree.
Behind her, she heard the creature snarl in rage. Nivenh’Mia risked a looked back to see its shoulders were wider than the two trees, and it was stuck. The monster wiggled and surged and dug its nails into the still standing trunks, pulling itself through. Its claws left large gashes in the bark of the tree. With a snarl of victory, it lunged forward… and then gave another snarl, this one of surprise, when it realized that the fallen tree was not all that wide. It scrambled back to its feet and, gripping the trunk with all four limbs, it started toward her again.
Along with her tolerance for wild range of temperatures, Nivenh’Mia was also gifted with great balance, and so standing on the narrow trunk was easy, even with the weight of the other creature causing the tree underfoot bounced and shuddered.
It raised its hind end up in the air, and its maw parted. Putrid air washed over her as it hissed in her direction and crept closer. Nivenh’Mia slashed out at it with her dagger, once again parting skin of its nose. The smelling orifice was but dangling from a few shreds of loose skin at this point.
Enraged, it surged toward her. The mercenary leapt back, but there was really no where for her to go but to leap down. She did so. She did not want to be a cat treed by this beast. She tucked in her chin and rolled as she landed. Another guttural scream came behind her and she felt more than saw the creature follow her down. She had done the tuck and roll after jumping from heights more than once. Being as agile as she was, it was no big deal to come out of the roll.
Except she had not noticed that the tree was perched on the edge of a sharp drop until she tried to come to her feet. Her momentum had already started her down the incline, making her stumble and lurch as she came to her feet. She caught herself before she began a full fledge fall down the incline, but that only served to give the monster time to catch up with her. Her balance had just been caught when the creature’s front paws impacted with her chest. It gave a scream of triumph, having finally caught its quarry, but the noise quickly degenerated into one of terror as Nivenh’Mia landed, the creature on her chest, and the force behind the landing quickly causing them to gain momentum down the steep incline.
Dried leaves and brittle twigs snapped and crackled as they were disturbed, some joining in the downward slide. The monster’s hind end and tail wagged desperately as it tried to maintain its balance, while its claws on her chest made to scratch her, to tear her heart out, but it was trying to maintain its balance at the same time, so its claws did minimal damage. But by minimal, that did not by any means mean no damage.
Its yellow tongue and rotten-meat breath pounded her in the face even as the grimy teeth snapped dangerously, aiming for her neck. She blocked most of the attacks with her dagger, and even managed to get in a few sound slashes on its neck and along the soft expanse of its belly. In a matter of seconds, the air was permeated with the nauseating smell of entrails and blood. She was sure some of the later was from her.
The world dropped out beneath her, the hissing of tumbling leaves and twigs swirling around them. She licked her legs, fining purchase at the last few feet of angled land and kicked up, dislodging the creature. It howled as it was catapulted forward.
Desperately, Nivenh’Mia rolled and grasped for something to stop her and encountered a network of roots that hung out over the ledge. She gripped it madly, desperate not to follow the creature down. She could hear it screaming for another few seconds before it was swallowed by a loud wet splash. Her fingers burned as she slid to a grinding halt. In seconds, her momentum dissipated and her gentle swinging slowed to a stop.
Her heart was hammering in her ears and she hung there for several more seconds, catching her wet breath, until the blood on her palms made hanging there precarious. Her neck stung as she looked back and downward. The water below was calming, the last few ripples were making their way toward shore. The beast had disappeared.
Now that the excitement was over, her various pains were becoming evident. She suspected she was injured more than she realized, hanging there. Painfully, she shifted, reaching upward. Slowly she pulled herself back up the bank. She braced her foot against a root so she would not slip any further and rolled onto her back. Tenatively, hoping that she would not find her entrails in a rope around her waist, she prodded herself from her neck to her stomach, determining the damage.
Her body wrap had been ripped and it was dirtied with the same leaves and twigs that had followed them down. It stuck with the warm wetness that was her blood. She was bleeding from several wounds from the creature’s claws. No doubt her back would be a lovely pattern of forestry burn. But nothing appeared to be life threatening.
Not yet anyway.
With a groan, the lithe mercenary rolled, ignoring the multitude of pains that protested the movement. She pushed herself to her feet, working through the sharp pain in her arm. It could be broken, she would not be surprised. She cradled it on her chest as she began to limp back in the direction of Do’Saidae.
No good ever comes from going on vacation........
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
There was a commotion at the gate. Jeroff moved double time, his anger at being detained and questioned about Nivenh’Mia’s sudden disappearance and whereabouts by General Daerobe, bled into concern as he caught sighted of the purple eyed mercenary. Her skin was pale where it was not covered with grime. She limped into the bailey. Her clothing, usually immaculate, were torn, shredded and covered in dirt and debris and blood. Her hand appeared to be holding her clothes in a modest form. The fabric over her shoulder was already loose, and it rose and fell and shifted as the mercenary limped forward.
They paused at the same time, he paused because he needed a moment to determine from this distance just how injured she was, and how much sympathy Nivenh’Mia deserved after being subjected to the questioning by her sudden disappearance. One minute she was supposed to be going off on a General approved mission, and the next, she had gone off without the men who were supposed to follow her, instead going in the Asha’man. She had not even bothered to tell him, her co-captain and lover, leaving Jeroff stuttering and not having any answers for their commanding officer.
The horses they had ridden out on had returned over three hours ago, wide- eyed and spooked. But since no one had been told where the mercenary had gone with the Asha’man, General Daerob had decided that no one would go out searching, especially since it was suspected that Mazrael had repurposed her, and taken Nivenh’Mia along with him in another attempt to return to the White Tower. That the horses returned in such a state bespoke that something odd, and not good, had occurred. Daerob did not want to endanger his men unnecessarily until they knew for certain one way or another.
Which made Jeroff confused. How would they know what had happened, if Nivenh’Mia or Thorin did not return, if they did not venture out. Perhaps he planned to wait a day to see if they would return. And now Nivenh’Mia had returned, which should have been a relief for him, given their relationship, but other than his concern for her well being, he could feel an anger in him towards her for being kept out of the loop. They had spent the night together, they had spent the last couple of months honing their skills as a team, he would have hoped she would have enough respect for Jeroff that she would tell him where she was going.
Nivenh’Mia’s forward momentum was halted by one of the men of their squad, the young man came forward and after a few words, ending with the mercenary shaking her head and waving him off, apparently claiming she was unharmed. Nonetheless, the soldier pressed against her side, grabbing her arm and holding it on his shoulder. She gave the soldier an annoyed look, but as they stepped forward, he saw her slump, giving most of her weight onto the soldier.
Limping, they approached him, and her gaze flicked up every few steps, landing warily at him, almost daring him to comment.
Blood and ashes! He shifted on his feet as she neared. She didn’t want him to ask? What else was he supposed to say? What was he suppose to ask? ‘How about this weather?’ Bloodly likely. His blood boiled and his anger flared. “Where were you?” he demanded, stepping forward, intercepting the pair as more of their squad entered the bailey.
Nivenh’Mia let out a breath and glared daggers at him. “Leave off, Trizidad,” she said breathlessly, then gave the soldier a gentle shove, making him move again as she leaned on him.
Jeroff worked his jaw and stewed a moment before it occurred to him to follow her. “Where do you think you are going?” he demanded, taking three long steps to catch up with them.
Nivenh’Mia groaned in annoyance. “I’m a little dirty. I might need a bath,” she snapped.
He looked down at her hand where it clutched her stomach. Not all the blood was dried. “What the hell happened? Where’s the Asha’man?”
She looked at him. Confusion swirled in her gaze. Then it steeled and she shook her head. “I do not know where Mazreal is. He… We got separated. I do not know, he should have been back by now. I- I took the long way home.” She winced and pushed the soldier gently and they began moving again.
Jeroff stepped in front of her, “Slow down yourself, damnit.” He waved the soldier out from beneath Nivenh’Mia’s arm and injected himself in his place. “Let me help you, stubborn woman.”
She growled and pushed away from him, “I can walk by myself,” but his arm was already around her, his hand gripping her. She did not go far before stumbling back into him. Nivenh’Mia called him several less than favorable names, which he pointedly ignored.
“You should let me help you.”
“I thought I was.”
Jeroff smiled to himself and shook his head. “I was concerned for you, you know.”
“Concerned? Whatever for?”
He looked down at her wounds, at her hand, at her disheveled clothing.
Nivenh’Mia caught his look and shook her head. “This is nothing. I am fine.” She winced, “I will be fine,” she amended. “Believe me, they are not life threatening.”
“you look like hell, I have a right to be concerned.”
“I do not look like a corpse.”
“You almost do.”
“You still do not have the…. We are nothing enough to each other that you need be concerned.”
Jeroff felt stung. After all they had been through together…
He shrugged it off. "Wherever you went...with the Asha'man..." he looked at her face to judge her reaction, but face, even though pinched with pain, remained expressionless, focused on the door to the Heart, "Daerob considered you right. Your suggestion that we check out the movements of the enemy?"
That seemed to catch her attention and she blinked. Her purple eyes turned to him. "And?"
Jeroff shrugged, "I volunteered."
"You would have been killed."
The Trizidad made a face. "Your faith in me is disturbing."
She did not respond to that. "I will be fine in a few hours. Some water, some gauze, get me a horse and I will go."
"Your faith in yourself is even more disturbing."
Shouting came from behind them, and Nivenh’Mia pulled them to a stop, disengaging from his hold and his support and turned back to the gate. Soldiers were milling about, most of them moving out of the way as the Asha’man, dressed all in black, walked casually through the gate. Soldiers moved to close it behind him. The man did not look any worse for wear. His gait was unhampered, and there were no visible wounds on the man.
Jeroff at once felt disappointed and angry and more than just a little jealous. He had the power and sway over Nivenh’Mia that when he said ‘jump!’ she accompanied him on a mission that was not sanctioned by the General. She had not even bothered to tell Jeroff. The Trizidad found himself hating the man more now than he had before today.
“Looks like whatever the two of you were up to, you got the short end of the stick,” he said unpleasantly.
She shot him a dark look.
He grabbed her arm, the one not holding her stomach, and pulled her along, “Come on, let’s get you that bath in the infirmary. I am concerned that you excel in mummery. I am not going to chance ti just because you are a stubborn wench.”
She gave him a dark look but stopped when she spotted Mir’iam a’Del Nor venturing toward them, out of the Heart. Her white hair was pulled back with a black ribbon that fluttered in the light breeze. Her skin was pale from being indoors far too long, and she had the look of being dehydrated. Her blue eyes went from Nivenh’Mia, taking her all in, before she looked passed them to Thorin. After a moment of indecision, the amnesia thwarted Aes Sedai headed across the yard for the Asha’man, her eyes burning with anger.
Jeroff chuckled, “Apparently I’m not the only one out of the loop.”
~In singles or several at once~
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
Mir’iam looked up as the door to the library opened. The late afternoon sun bore in through the window at a sharp angle in an intense yellow-white beam of light from the high window. The last couple of days had been dreary and overcast. Justen had been out enough since the cloud cover had parted, allowing the world beneath to feel the warm caress of the sun, to feel it on his face. However, the library windows seemed to channel the light, and he entered and was forced to squint until his eyes adjusted to the higher concentration of light.
Her face lit up as Justen Trizidad appeared. Setting aside the scroll she had been reading, she rose to her feet, a smile on her face. The Trizidad had been uncertain what he would find when he returned to the library. But after the pleasurable morning he had had in the company of Joraine Sedai. That she was smiling was a good sign, right?
It was completely different from her reaction last time he had stuck his head in here, earlier this morning, and the change seemed to stop him up for a moment. “Uh, hi,” he said, uncertainty still clinging to his being. He glanced at the guard, which had changed since he had been here last. This guard looked as nonplussed by his duties and bored out of his gourd as the last one as well. Justen could not imagine why. The library was his favorite place to be in the world. With all the words around them, how was it possible for a person to be bored?
He shrugged inwardly and turned back to the Aes Sedai. “Still looking for my brother. You haven’t happened to see him, have you?”
Mir’iam’s smile widened. “I have! With good news.”
A shadow flitted across his face, before he managed a small smile. She was not ecstatic enough to have found her memory again, and he was beginning to become wary of what she considered good news. “What good news?”
She told him quickly what his brother had reported to her earlier, shortly after Justen had left her, missing each other only by several minutes or an hour. Her head in her work, it was hard to tell.
Justen’s smile widened marginally. “That’s excellent.” He looked at the soldier in the chair, who had sat forward expectantly. “I guess that means you are dismissed.”
The soldier rose, “Thank you sir,” and all but fled from the room. With the soldier gone, Justen did not bother to hide his smile of amusement. He turned to the Aes Sedai to see if she shared his amusement, but she did not seem to have noticed, as she was going back to her studies already.
Justen looked at the chair the soldier had evacuated and made a face. He had been tempted to sink down into it, to perpetuate the lazing guard. He had, after all, had a very active morning. But Mir’iam had not.
He looked at her, the dark rings beneath her eyes, the pallid pallor of her skin. When they had first found her, she had been outside, gardening on an abandon farm near where she had first woken up. Her skin had been tanned to a golden hue, and had radiated life. As he stared at her now, he struggled to find that woman again. Or the brown haired one who had hired his father’s ship almost a year ago. Neither women could he distinctively see in the white haired woman before him.
An epiphany knocked him upside the head, like a wet trout. He turned away from the chair and moved to the desk, rapping his knuckles on the hard wood, catching her attention and causing her to look up. “We are going to go outside. You have barely left this room since we arrived here.”
Mir’iam’s blue eyes blinked several times, as if he had suggested they dance on the ramparts naked. “You can’t just tear me away from my research,” she bristled.
He considered going easy on her, relaying logic to her to win the argument, but he realized his new station gave him a certain edge. “Like hells I can’t.”
She sat up straighter at his outburst, her eyes widening fractionally.
“As your guard, I say we should. How long have you been at this? If you don’t take better care of yourself, I can call the Do’Saidaean guard back, because I am not going to stand around while you study yourself to death.” He offered her his arm. “C’mon. Let’s go for a walk and go for a respectable meal.”
Her blue eyes flashed. “How dare you! You know how important getting my memory back is to me.”
“Yes, well, it is no good to remember your past if you’re too dead to use it?”
The surprised and affronted look on her face melted, taking on a thoughtful look that Justen leapt on. “So come on. What is it going to be?” He flashed her his best Trizidorian smile.
She stared at him, and over the course of a minute, the anger faded from her gaze. She finally broke eye contact. Her hand rose and rubbed the back of her neck and she sighed. “I can see you are not going to relent easily.”
He upped the shine of his smile another notch.
She pushed her chair back, rising, “Very well. But just a short one.”
“Alight…” Justen did not want to think in terms of how long they would be outside, just that she would leave the library. He was certain once the sunshine fell upon her, he would be able to persuade her into a longer jaunt.
She pointed her finger at him, “But do not think to make this a regular occurrence!”
He grabbed her hands as she moved past, heading for the door as if it had been her idea all the while. Justen drew her to a stop before him, and waited, holding her, until she stopped shifting from foot to foot and looked up at him. “I expect we’re going to get you into a healthier habit, Mir’iam. Every day, you and I. We are going to eat one meal in the dining hall, and take one respectable walk.”
She eyed him warily. Her lips worked, pressing into a thin line and plushing out several times before she said, “Define ‘respectable’.”
He released her hands and chucked her gently under the chin. “I’ll define it as we go.” She made a face and he felt her stiffen. She was going to reject his suggestion, he felt. He felt something in himself steel as well, “Take it, or leave it. Leave it,” he paused, glancing at the door, “And I’m leaving, and you will be alone. I have other places I’d care to be.”
Her eyes widened at that, and for a moment he thought maybe, just perhaps, he knew of his indiscretions with Loraine Sedai. She couldn’t, he knew, but still he had to work to keep the red from creeping up his throat. More logically, she would think he wanted to spend time with his brother, and perhaps contribute to the war efforts. Well, he did want to catch up with his brother- they had still not caught up for the drink Jeroff had promised when he had first arrived here.
She wrinkled her nose and shuffled on her feet, but he could tell the thought of him leaving truly bothered her. “Fine. Fine. Let’s go for this walk of yours.”
Justen grinned and offered her his arm.
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
Mir’iam had to admit the air outside the library was refreshing, even if it was just down the halls of the Heart. She had spent very little time traversing these halls, or exploring them. Justen seemed to fair better, and served well as her guide. After a few turns, she was considerably lost.
As he had promised, the rain had stopped. The day’s late sun could be seen through the high arched windows they passed. She was glad to hear that the sun was out, although honestly she had not realized it had been raining. They paused at an alcove and in the distance she could see the courtyard and the ramparts.
“C’mon. Let’s get out of the Heart and walk the ramparts a bit. Most of the rain puddles have dried up.”
She nodded at his suggestion and he changed their course. After several minutes they came upon the foyer and the wide double doors of the Heart.
The soldiers opened the door, seeing them approach.
All that was left were a few stubborn wet spots that shone like glass on the rock and marble surfaces. The rain had left the air clean and fragranced pleasantly, leaving her with a lightheaded and heady feeling. Her company helped. She kept glancing at her companion. Now that he was her guard, perhaps things would change between them, get back to where they had been heading. She gave his arm a squeeze and smiled at him when he looked over.
She realized she was out of the loop, having had her head in the books, and how severely she’d had her head in the books. She realized she had no idea what had been going on outside the walls of the library for the past few days, other than the gigantic apparent hide-and-seek. She felt a stab of guilt that she had not asked after the girl they had found that Justen so cared for. Mir’iam inquired on the girls health, and while a cord in Justen’s neck twitched with the stress that came with the waif’s lack of health, he reported that she was still alive.
“Your brother spoke to Daerob, and found me, if not you. Did he ever find you?”
A strange look washed over his face. It was almost guilty. “No, he didn’t. Was there more to his message?”
She shook her head. “No, not really.” Her mind was fuzzy from all the reading she had been doing and it was hard to remember their exact conversation. She remembered Thorin coming in. “Did Mazrael ever find Joraine Sedai?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. He left.”
Mir’iam stumbled. “Left?” She was glad for her hand on his arm, and it stabled her almost instantly. “I thought Daerob was not letting anyone leave…where did he go?” Though it was no secret that there was a high doubt in the air that anyone could stop the Asha’man from leaving if he put his mind to it.
He shrugged. “I only heard what I overheard by the barracks. I would have to assume he was making another attempt at returning to Tar Valon.”
“That makes sense,” Mir’iam bit her lip. She should have thought of that. She was not entirely sure why it had not occurred to her instantly.
If Justen noticed, he did not make note of it, continuing, “The soldiers weren’t sorry to see him go, though having their captain taken with him did cause some feelings of reject. Betrayal.”
“Nivenh’Mia went with Thorin.”
Her mouth dropped open. She felt hurt. She felt angry. “Without you? Without the girl?”
“It’s kind of you to remember her, in the depths of your study,” he said, and she was not sure she liked his tone. Mir’iam’s eyes narrowed at him, suspecting a barb somewhere in those smoothly said words. Justen caught the look in her eye and dipped his head. “I did not mean it that way. I know you do not want her to die.”
“I hadn’t forgotten about her,” Mir’iam argued. Though, honestly, had she thought about the girl in the last twelve hours? Or the last twenty four? She realized she had not spent any time or thought of the girl since the night Justen had asked her to watch the girl in the infirmary.
“Of course you haven’t. I am sure he has not abandoned us. Well, I could see him spitting into the wind and abandoning Do’Saidae to the Trollocs, he does not seem the kind to take kindly to being ordered around. But I doubt he’d abandon the girl,” Justen shrugged. “Or maybe he would. I am not well versed on the Asha’man, by any means. He just seemed amiable enough when we were traveling with him.” Justen shrugged. “I am sure he just wanted to make sure the monsters did not come back.”
She shuddered at the memory of the creatures she had seen from the ramparts. Just the thought made her imagine the smell of sulfur in the air. She shuddered in spite of the heat. “Maybe.”
They were heading toward the bailey toward the tower that lead to the spiral stair case when there was a commotion at the gate and soldiers raced to open the door.
“Light!” Justen breathed as Nivenh’Mia stumbled in.
Mir’iam gasped. The mercenary looked horrible, and injured. There was a limp to her gait. One of her men came forward to help her. “Should we help her?” she was not sure what she thought of the woman, she had very little interaction with the woman.
Jeroff appeared, moving quickly to her side, and bulled the soldier out of his way. “I guess we’re not needed.”
Mir’iam frowned. “I thought you said she went out with the Asha’man.”
“That’s what I heard,” Justen frowned and scanned the bailey.
They watched as his brother took her toward the infirmary. They were almost to the building when the gate, which had been on its way to being closed, opened again and Thorin Mazrael walked through the gate.
“Well he looks a little unscathed,” Justen commented dryly.
The Aes Sedai looked from the Asha’man to the injured mercenary. “They might have come together, but they did not return together.”
“Nor does it appear they split up to go on separate dates,” Justen mused mirthlessly.
Mir’iam bit her lip. By her inquisitive nature, she wanted to know more, but there was a tenseness in the air, like static, bursting into the air when Nivenh’Mia’s gaze met the Asha’man’s. She had the feeling she did not want to get between them, whatever had happened. “I- I think I have had enough fresh air,” she stumbled verbally. “I thank you for your walk, perhaps we can take another later tonight, or tomorrow morning.”
Justen frowned softly as she disentangled her arm and began walking toward the Heart.
“Your brother is there. This is possibly the best opportunity you have to catch up with him.” She smiled softly, “You know where I will be.”
“And we can have dinner later, if you would like.” She made her way back to the Heart. The guard on this side of the door opened it for her. Mir’iam was fairly certain she remembered the way back to the library. If not, she would spend much of her evening lost within Do’Saidae’s corridors.
She winced inwardly as the door to the Heart closed behind her. It was definitely not how she wanted to spend the evening. But it had seemed like one of the best times for all parties searching for each other to find each other.
~The Great and Powerful Rae~
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
“Slimy eel oxen,” Jeroff said, undoubtedly at Thorin Mazrael, who had just seconds ago brazenly strode through the arched gateway of Do’Saidae, apparently completely unfazed and his clothes without wrinkles of. He greeted one or two of the guards as he passed them, his lips moving, but she was too far away to make out what he was saying, either auditorially or by reading his lips. Whatever he said did not seem to endear the soldiers to him; they winced and edged away from the Asha’man. “He has the audacity to repurpose your given mission, and it nearly gets you killed. I loathe that arrogant bastard.”
A surge of anger rent through Nivenh’Mia, though she did not feel inclined to act out on it. It flared heat through her. Once it had burned through her core, however, she remembered something of the conversation she and Thorin had exchanged outside the walls of Do’Saidae, before the attack.
You cannot just go about repurposing people she had argued. It’s like turning an axe into something you would use in the garden.
Thorin had chuckled and replied, his eyes sparkling with mirth, [i]You are no spade.[i] The look he had given her along with the words told her he believed she was something more akin to a bladed weapon.
Nivenh’Mia shuddered, feeling cold at the thought. She had been a mercenary a long time, and perhaps, in the hands of her employers, she was a weapon that brought about the intended results in her employers favor.
So simply being called a tool, or a personal weapon, was not reason enough to dislike the Asha’man’s statement. It was the glean in his eye when he looked at her, a compelling possessiveness and ownership. One she did not appreciate. At no time had she signed into contract under him, neither in writing nor in word.
Even though she avoided those who could wield the One Power as a rule, it did not mean she was not keenly aware of how they used and often times misused their power to bend people they saw as under them to their will.
She would have to watch out, she realized.
“If I had my chamber pot with me, I would sail it at his head,” the Trizidad continued.
Nivenh’Mia sighed wearily. She was in too much pain to abide his pissing and moaning, especially when she had more than a mole’s hill worth of her own raging inside. To hell with Misery loving company.
Though it pained her physically to do so, she disentangled herself from beneath her lover’s arm. “I can make it to the infirmary on my own; I have made it this far.” She ignored the hurt look in his eyes, and the frown that followed as she continued to hobble her way to the Heart. “Why don’t you do something useful and assure our men that I am fine and will be as right as rain by the time the next dawn breaks.”
No good ever comes from going on vacation........
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
The dark haired Trizidad watched the injured mercenary move off toward the Heart, feeling the injury her words caused. Finally she disappeared within the walls and he felt the moment break upon him. Looking down, he saw his hand was covered with the dark drying dust of her blood. He unconsciously brushed it off on his shirt, the dark red blended with the dark purple of his uniform as his gaze swept the area. In short order it took in the member of his-their- squad milling about. They looked at him questioningly. He met their gaze evenly. If Nivenh’Mia claimed to be fine, and if she moved under her own power, then who was he to judge otherwise that the life’s blood that was seeping from her wounds were not mortal? With the departure of their commander, the soldiers were going back to their duties.
Upon his second look around the area, he spotted his brother. After the rejection from the mercenary, which his heart refused to completely account for, he felt a flash of joy at seeing his kin. His sense of survival, namely the one that inflated his ego, kicked into high gear and he went to his brother, drawn like a shooting star through the earth’s atmosphere. His brother had always been a willing enhancer, if by no other method than Justen’s uncertainty in things fueling Jeroff’s concrete beliefs in himself and the situations around them.
“Wot’s art, brother?” he clapped Justen on the shoulder. The blond haired Trizidad was looking almost mournfully at the door that Nivenh’Mia had traversed through just moments before. Jeroff vaguely remembered seeing a flash of white hair somewhat frequently in that direction and made a quick deduction as to why Justen was out in the yard. He leaned heavily upon his brother and tried to inject him with some mirth, ”Choices!” Jeroff swore, “Women are complicate things and they complicate things. Were you around with the Aes Sedai?” he queried.
Justen nodded and rubbed the faint stubble on his chin. The fuzz was the same color as his hair and blended with the complexion of his skin so one really only realized Justen Trizidad was sporting the makings of a beard when one of them caught the light, or they were as close as Jeroff was now.
Jeroff had the uncomfortable feeling that his brother had grown up somewhere along the way, without him. He shifted nervously under the thought as it flittered about his head. He would have swatted at it, its presences was almost like some sort of moth or butterfly fluttering around him, its soft wings tickling his skin.
He leaned more heavily upon his brother, and Justen grunted, even as he aborted such a swat at the sky and instead used the hand to pull his brother’s hair out of its pony tail. A look of annoyance fluttered over Justen’s features, but he pushed back and Jeroff knew everything would be alright. Right? He thought of the Aes Sedai and her affect on his brother, good or bad. “Midnight Blue, she’s a pale thing. Being cooped up inside doesn’t help her complexion and the white hair…it makes her look old.”
Justen’s face became flaccid and unreadable. “She is old. Aes Sedais don’t age like we do.” He frowned as if he was remembering something he had forgotten that did not please him greatly. “She is three time our age, at least.”
Jeroff clapped his brother on the back. “There, see? I have learned something. I am lucky to have you on hand to mentor me, kin.”
~In singles or several at once~
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
Justen made a face. The idea of trying to teach or mentor his brother anything was like trying to store water in a strainer. To teach Jeroff anything, one needed to hit him upside the head for anything to penetrate. If he claimed to be learning anything, it was likely a ruse to make him feel better.
Their teachers growing up in Ebou Dar, an army of personal tutors, had a hard time tying Jeroff to the classroom long enough for anything to be learned. He was always striking off on things that were less studious and more entertaining. It had given Justen twice the education Know, twice the tutelage because there were few things a teacher liked or wanted more than was for a willing student. It helped quench his young search for Know.
It was surprising that the brown haired Trizidad knew how to spell his own name.
The idea of trying to teach his brother cause him to shudder. He shook the idea from his mind and gave his brother a push, not enough to dislodge his forearm from his shoulder, before saying, “She had brown hair when we first met her,” he reminded Jeroff quietly. Remembering how she had looked upon their father’s ship made him realize how far they had come since then. The distance made him dizzy and nostalgic. That had been miles ago. To Justen, it felt like a lifetime had passed since then. He looked down at his hands, half expecting them to be old and wizen. But they were his own hands.
“Aye,” Jeroff said, straightening, “I had forgotten. I had forgotten my interest in that.” Justen watched as his brother remembered, his eyes distant and locked on one of the towers. Then he shook his head, the memory and whatever lesson it might have gleaned being thrown aside by his brother. Justen sighed inwardly even as Jeroff disentanbled himself from his brother and clapped him on the shoulder, “We should have that drink still, you and I. Do not you think that I have forgotten.”
Justen nodded, waiting for the other foot to fall as Jeroff began moving toward the barracks. It was obvious by his body language that he did not mean now, “Perhaps after supper. Now, I fear I must speak to my men and alleviate any fear that might be within their chest that their female commander is in anyway unkempt for duty.”
Justen raised his hand in a mild salute to his brother that his kin did not see. His brother gone, he looked around, trying to decide what to do next. Thorin was gone, he had not even seen where the Asha’man had gone off to. Other than that, soldiers, strangers to him, milled about doing their individual tasks, leaving Justen feeling wholly out of place once again.
With a sigh, he turned and retreated to the Heart.
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
After taking several wrong turns and getting herself hopelessly lost in the halls of Do’Saidae, Mir’iam huffed a breath and stopped before a tapestry. Carefully woven flowers of every color covered its surface at the bottom and great stags bound across the open plain. Near the top, rolling mountains had been made with earthy tones. Eagles soared in the sky between the peaks.
The Aes Sedai would have found it beautiful, if she were not so irritated with her current state. Her fingers worked the fabric at her cuff as she looked first to her left, and then behind her, trying in vain to remember some sort of familiar marker that would lead her back to familiar ground.
Unfortunately, since she had gotten here, she had been lead wherever she needed to go, be it to the library, or her sleeping quarters, or to the privy. Her sleeping quarters were the least used of the three, and as she thought about it now, turning her mind from her state of disorientatedness to that of when she had actually laid her head down upon the pillow, she wove gently on her feet. There was definitely a distinct muggy fuzziness swirling around in her mind, she deduced. Perhaps that was why all the walls looked the same.
She sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. It was as if turning her mind to her exhaustion freed it from the corner cage it had been restlessly waiting in. Justen had just been nominated as her permanent guard, in alignment to her wishes. She should have over rode her flight of fancy, the feeling that she needed to get away, and away from him, and made him keep to his duties, and lead her back to the library.
Mir’iam cast a glance behind her as a door opened and a women with wheat colored hair exited a room, a basket with cleaning supplies came into the hallway. She drew up short and her almond shaped eyes widened when she saw the Aes Sedai.
Mir’iam smiled pleasantly at the woman, which seemed to do little to put the woman at ease, “Hello. Perhaps you could help me.”
The woman, practically shaking in her shoes, bowed politely. “My—ma’am…your highnesss …er…” The woman’s face blotted red. Apparently she was uncertain how to address an Aes Sedai. Honestly, that made two of them.
“I seem to have gotten lost in your magnificent home. I was wondering if you might lead me back to the right path to the library.”
“Yes ma’am,” the servant started to go, then, thinking better of it, turned back to Mir’iam and bowed.
Mir’iam felt the weight and the weariness pull off her shoulders as they made their way down the long halls. There was a sense of relief to no longer being lost and she felt better with each step she took.
They passed quickly down the hall, the servant knew where she was going. Mir’iam wondered if her speed had to do with the company following her, or if her duties were pressing. Even though their speed was great- the servant was over half a head taller than the Aes Sedai and Mir’iam had to stretch her legs to keep up- Mir’iam did her best to look left and right, memorizing pictures and tapestries as they went. Next time she was without a guide, she would be able to find her own way back to the library.
They passed several junctions where the hall split to the left or the right, and the servant turned them twice down different halls. Mir’iam had not realized how lost she had gotten herself. The exertion was causing beads of sweat to perspire along her brow and down her back.
At one such junction there was a short hall, ending at a door with a familiar sign above it. “Wait,” Mir’iam said, coming to a halt. The servant’s footsteps ground to a halt half a dozen steps away. Thoughtfully, she considered the door. “This is the infirmary?”
Mir’iam eyed the arched doorway, nibbling on her lower lip thoughtfully. As far as she knew, the girl that spoke the strange language was still there in the infirmary. If she expired, no one had thought to tell the Aes Sedai, nor did they bother to tell her about the girl’s current state. She was Justen’s charge, after all. He was the one who, upon Mazrael’s insistence that he could do nothing for her and that it was the women of the White Tower who would be able to heal her, to argue with Mir’iam about their destination. By the girl’s health, he wanted to go to Tar Valon. By her memory, she wanted to go to Do’Saidae.
Though she had won the argument and they had found their way to Do’Saidae, it should not have been much of a detour- arriving to drop them off, they would have been on their way to Tar Valon by now via the portal the Asha’man opened, if it had not been for those creatures that had appeared. She shivered at the memory of them.
Her shuddered subsided, and was slowly was replaced by guilt. She had no idea how the girl currently faired. She had not thought to ask, so intent in her study had she been, nor had anyone bothered to keep her updated.
Mir’iam gave her head a small shake. She realized the servant was still waiting to lead her to the library. “It is alright,” she told the Saldaean woman. “Go on ahead with your day, I am going to tarry here for a bit- I am going to check up on a friend.”
The woman curtsied and hurried away. Her footsteps were disappearing down the hall as the Aes Sedai stepped forward. The door was thick, so when she pushed on it, she was surprised when it easily swung inward on silent hinges.
Beyond the door, lay a hallway, dark from lack of windows, but lit every half a dozen steps by a sconce on alternating walls. Unsure of how welcome she would be, Mir’iam walked slowly down the hall. The hall quickly opened up into a long room with cots and room dividers to give the patients in the infirmary a small sense of privacy. Though with their current lack of patients, it was easy and finding the girl was a simple task. She saw her immediately, halfway down the left side of the room.
“Madame Aes Sedai,” a woman dressed from head to toe in bleached white linen bowed to her. There was a red + on her chest, and smaller indicators of her profession decorated the hem of her habit and cowl. With the bulky white cotton obscuring most of her shape, and her cowl hiding everything but the oval of her face, it was hard to tell how old the woman was. But her eyes were kindly, even if there was a spark of wariness in their brown depths. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
Mir’iam smiled politely. She knew the woman was only being polite, but to her ears, madam and ma’am bespoke of someone of age. While she had all of her general knowledge, she had no memory past these last several months. It made her feel young. Her matron back at the White Tower had not told her how long they had been together, but by the familiar way Belkanore a’Del Nor had behaved around her, it had given Mir’iam the feeling of a long relationship. And given what she knew now about the longevity of an Aes Sedai, she supposed it was not out of the question that she might be multiple decades old.
“No, thank you. I am fine.”
She had a yellow basket draped over one forearm, laden with herbs. The crisp smell of the concoctions made here gave the room an antiseptic smell. “Will your guard be with you shortly, or…”
Ah. There was the rub. The woman did not appear afraid at first glance. Something deep within Mir’iam felt mournful that these people could be so afraid of her. Was she such a heinous monster? Certainly everyone should be keenly aware that she did not have her memories, nor this power they seemed so frightened of. “I will just be a minute. Excuse me.” She deftly side stepped around the woman and the herbist went about her business.
A smoking stick of incense sat on the bedside table.
With the appearance of more confidence than she felt, Mir’iam walked down the empty row of cots until she came to the one she intended. The chair she had had brought to the infirmary while she watched over the girl last was still sitting next to the girl’s bed.
The young girl was curled on her side beneath the covers, only her two little fists, curled beneath her chin, and her head stuck out beneath the white linen. In her sleep, the girl muttered as she shivered. Tiny beads of sweat dotted her brow. Mir’iam’s heart rent at the sight. The girl was suffering because her own goals had seemed more important at the apex of their travels. Her own goals made her seem calloused. Perhaps this was the reason the people of Do’Saidae feared her kind.
Sweeping aside her skirt, she sat in the chair. She stared at the girl as the pain of her pained existence faded, trying to hold on to that feeling. She found she could not. So many children were born; so many did not survive. What was so special about this one child that Justen Trizidad had to pick her up out of the plains like an ailing, lost puppy?
Mir’iam blinked. The pain of the thoughts brought tears to her eyes. This was madness, and beyond. Were these really her thoughts, her beliefs? Could this be part of her memory returning; was she so indifferent to human life? She shook her head. She did not, and would not believe it. “I am simply tired,” she murmured, feeling it truly for the first time.
“That,” a sharp voice said behind her with the simultaneous creak of a cot being sat upon, causing her to jump, “is not something they treat down here. Aes Sedai.” The last was said with a curl of the lip, though Mir’iam suspected it might have been a wince of pain, given that the purple eyed mercenary had been pulling a bloody strip of her clothing out of her wound as she said it.
With no sense of decency, Nivenh’Mia quickly stripped herself of the last shreds of her outfit, flinging the dirtied strips to the ground. Mir’iam looked away from the expanse of pale skin. “Captain,” the herbist did not seem to have the same qualms as she quickly stepped forward to help dress the wound. “Do you require assistance?”
“Not much,” Nivenh’Mia grunted.
“Madame Aes Sedai, shall I fetch your guard?”
“No worries,” Nivenh’Mia nonchalantly told the herbest, “I am here. I will attend her needs.”
It was surprising that the mercenary was so tactful. She could have easily said guard. Mir’iam shifted in her seat. If the herbist noticed, she did not blink at it but bowed and left to retrieve more supplies.
“Oh bog bites that stings,” Nivenh’Mia swore as she pressed the herbs and gauze onto the wound. She exhaled through her teeth.
“Those monsters, they found you and pursued you again?”
Mir’iam shuddered at the memory of them. “You did not have to do that. Tell them you would guard me, I mean.”
“I am here anyway. If it put their mind at ease, who am I to argue.”
Mir’iam looked after the herbist. She had disappeared into an alcove. “They respect you.”
“And they fear you. Why they do is more a thing of superstition than actual threat. Though as you are you are nearly as harmless as a kitten.”
Nivenh’Mia shrugged. “You could probably kill the girl there as she slept, put her out of her misery. But I doubt that is why you are here. That would be too noble.”
“Why do you hate me?”
“I do not hate you per se. I do not fear your kind, though I have an aversion to you. I have made it a habit of not taking jobs from those who manipulate the One Power.” Her purple eyes twinkled and a wry smile tugged at the corner of her lip, “You think your power gives you certain rights. And that makes you arrogant. I guess there’s the rub. I never could abide an employer cocked to the brim with arrogance.”
Mir’iam shook her head. “I don’t think anything.”
“Maybe not right now, not completely. But there is no way that years, perhaps hundreds, that you lived as an Aes Sedai can be buried completely. You’re still in there somewhere. Blight take it, I hate cotton.” Nivenh’Mia scowled at the change of clothes the herbist had left. She sighed before pulling the beige shirt over her head. It fell over her, covering her nakedness. Nivenh’Mia brushed out the sleeves and shivered.
She made a face when she saw Mir’iam watching her intently. “Alright,” the captain pushed herself to her feet. “Are you done here? I have things to do elsewhere.”
“Should you not rest, with wounds like that?”
“I have things to do,” Nivenh’Mia repeated. She glanced at the girl, “I do not have the luxury of simpering and sweating like some do. Come. I will take you back to your quarters. You look like you could use the rest. And Aes Sedai? In the future, do not ditch your escort.”
~The Great and Powerful Rae~
Re: Dara Gia, the Raven Keeper and the Whispering Stone
In the musty darkness of the dungeon, Natalynn Daebane burrowed the nail of her pinkie finger beneath that of her thumb. Caked blood and grime from the cell behind her flaked out and fell to the floor. The blood was not hers, but belonged to the remains of the boy from the kitchen she had brought down her several hours ago.
Her breath was now just returning to normal, and the quivering flesh between her legs drying and ceasing to tingle. She sighed and placed her hand beneath her breast in the aftermath of erotic emotions that had gripped her during the youths ordeal, trying to hold on to some of that feeling. Unfortunately it was too fleeting.
She ran her fingers through her hair, and more flecks of dried blood flitted through the flickering yellow light given off by the torchlight before falling to the blackness of the floor. There was still quite a bit of evidence of her exuberant last hours and Natalynn realized she would have to do a thorough search of her person before returning topside.
She had already changed her dress, having planned ahead so she might bunch the once beige linen into a red ball and toss it into the obscure corner of the deep dungeon room. She wondered with a smile what the next person to find that bloodied shirt would think. Perhaps they would must that she had been drawn down here, perhaps by a lover, and murdered. Perhaps the bones lying on the cold stone floor were this woman’s, oh fool of love!
Then again, perhaps there would be no one left to find the dress once her Lord Rhorixtaer was done with Do’Saidae. He would tear the mortar from the walls and stomp the brick and mortar to dust.
She shivered in anticipation of that time, and felt her body quicken once again. It was the second day and that Black whore her Lord kept on retainer to transport her from the dungeon to her Lord’s pavilion should be here soon. Oh to have a real man beneath her, over her, or under her once again. She sighed longingly. Her chore with Justen Trizidad would be through with soon enough.
Her whole body tingled with expectation. To her, everything around her was clearer than it usually was, every minute detail stood out. And she understood it all. Perhaps it was not expectation and excitement so much as exhaustion. Between mounting the Trizidad frequently and the three bodies she had lured and toyed with down here, she had little time to sleep and it appeared to be catching up on her. For now, the thought of her Lord kept her tensed with awareness for now.
Idly she ran her fingers over the cold damp stone of the wall behind her, her core excited by the difference in texture. The boy’s skin had been soft and pliable beneath her skin and dagger. The rock was hard and ungiving, and in some places, sharp. She imagined that the sound beneath her finger was the wall screaming out in a decadent mixture of pleasure and pain.
She shivered as her body quickened again. Natalynn curled her fingers into her palm and tucked the trembling limb into the folds of her skirt. It cooled her somewhat, but she realized if her Lord did not come for her today, she would have to wait to return to the warmer halls of Do’Saidae. They might think she had lured some kitchen swallop off to some dank corner for a tryst.
She set her head back against the cool stone wall and laughed, unafraid that the sound would travel far enough to be heard above. For the amount of times she had put herself in the blond Trizidad’s arms, there was really no cause for her to believe they’d be any more perceptive this time around. The stupid people of this border town. They deserved to be wiped out of existence.
Her laughter died away and what might have been a wet and stale confining atmosphere to another person returned to the cool tunnel. Her mirth, which had been ringing in the cavity between her ears, also receded, and another sound rose into its place. It was so low at first she wasn’t wholly sure it was not just the last rumblings of her laughter until several beats later when the low sound came again, independent.
Her spin stiffened as a chill went up it. A myriad of unlikely scenarios flitted across her mind, ranging from the ghost of the man she had joyfully murdered, to that Black bitch playing some sort of trick upon her nerves.
Then she remembered. Natalynn straightened with intrigue. The sound, his moan, man or beast, came from the cell several more times before she lightfooted it across to where his dark wooded cell door was. She ran her fingertips over the scarred wood, feeling the same wetness that was on the walls on the wood and wondered how it had not rotted in this environment. The lock was even colder, but it moved quickly, with a sharp clank at the end.
It opened easily enough and her gaze once again took in the scribbling on the wall, and the dark reaching shadows that stretched into the corners. And like last time, she could hear the raspy breathing coming from the far corner even before the lanky haired mad man emerged from the darkness.
She took an involuntary step back. She had not realized she had come so far into the room. "Stay where you are," Natalynn warned him.
He glowered at her with his black eyes.
Her gaze darted to the wall several times. Those eyes seemed to be coming at her, but by the glyphs on the wall, he had not advanced. She licked her lips nervously. He was not doing anything. He- it- was just standing there, watching her. "Who are you? What are you in here for?"
Natalynn Daebane shifted on her feet. What an odd creature. "Are you hungry? I can bring you some food."
"I don't need food," he rasped.
"Don't be ridiculous. Everyone needs to eat. I would say you more than most." She scowled and looked behind her. She had assumed that no one came down here. But what if they did? What if this prisoner was not unknown? If he were still alive, they must be bringing him some nutrients. But….there was no sign anyone but her had been down here recently. It was why she had chosen this part of the dungeon. No one and nothing should be alive here.
"I don't need food," he repeated harshly, harshly enough that she took half a step backward.
She considered perhaps she was out of bounds here. Perhaps it was better if she did not delve into this conundrum of a man. But her curiosity was piqued. And while there was darkness and danger coming off the thing in the corner in waves. But she did not feel as if she were in any danger.
She cocked her head curiously, "How is that possible?" No reply. She straightened, her mind whirling. What did a man locked in a cell in the deepest dankest part of the dungeon need, if not food, water and a thick lathering? The smell coming off of him… "Then what do you need?"
A slow smile spread over his lips. "I need you to take this collar off me, Kitten."
Natalynn bristled. Kitten? He thought her no more than a little girl, she realized. Natalynn straightened her spine and glared into the glowing orbs. She did not like the dark promise lurking in his eyes. He was dangerous and, she realized, he had survived this long without food from above. She looked around the cell, cautiously keeping one eye on him. She did not see any rat carcasses. She had not seen any vermin down here. There was nothing down here- nothing for them to eat…other than him. He was a man, she realized as the light filtered past her and her eyes got adjusted to the low light.
When he eased forward, she eased backwards, ready to bolt. "If you are not hungry, then what are you eating down here?"
"Try on my shiny gold collar and find out." It was shiny, she saw when he tipped his chin up. Gold. It was the cleanest thing on him. When everything else about him and around him suggested dankness and filth, that the gold necklace winked in the low light drew her back in. Just by looking at it, she could tell it was real gold. Full gold.
Her heart rose to beating in her chest as she realized how close she had gotten. It startled her. Natalynn jumped back toward the door. "No. I don't think so." She slid out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her. The lock resounded in its place and she backpeddled, her back hitting the wall. She stared at the door, her chest heaving. She remembered the last time when he had scared her out of her wits by rushing the door.
She shuddered when silence continued on the other side. He did not rush the door. She sighed and sank to sitting, her back pressed against the cool stone. Gradually the heat seeped from the wall, and her heart returned to its normal beat.
“What are you staring at, you ugly cow?”
Natalynn jumped and looked at the Black. How long had Mauve been standing there? She cleared her throat as she pushed herself to her feet, “Nothing I cannot take care of myself, you stupid trollop.” She gave the Black a large smile as she moved back to the door. “As it turns out, I have something that might interest my Lord Rhorixtaer.”
“Oh, so you have set up a sex room? How dour.”
Mauve crossed her arms under her ample bosom.
Natalynn slid the lock again and pressed her hand to the wood. She was not entirely sure what she was doing, or if it would work, but at the very least maybe the madman would attack Mauve. Scar her irrevocably would be great. Killing her, while it would make contacting her Lord difficult, it would diffuse the tension in her life.
The door opened, hitting the wall. Now that she knew where he was and what to look for, she saw him immediately. Slowly she moved into the room, sliding along the wall, trying not to appear afraid. Once she was fully in the room, she heard the Black, curious, follow her.
Glancing over her shoulder, Natalynn saw that Mauve had placed her hand over her nose and mouth in distaste at the stench in the room. She smiled at the woman’s discomfort. “Come forward.”
There was silence from the corner for several seconds before there was shuffling. He came toward them, pausing for a long moment just inside the radius of light streaming in from the bracket outside the room. She was just about to urge him forward, when his head lowered, causing his greasy, shaggy hair to fall forward over his face, and he stepped into the light.
He was more putrid looking than she had expected, his clothes were nothing but rags. But the body beneath the rags was not the decrepit body of someone starving in the little forgotten corner of the dungeon.
Now that he was closer, the stench of him washed over her. She found herself breathing through her mouth. “What is your name.”
Natalynn frowned. “I am sure you are mad. Mad at whoever put you down here. If you come with us, we will make sure whoever put you here is punished.”
At that, he looked up. There was something wild in his eyes and the grim grin he cracked belayed nothing of time that his clothes did. “It’s my name,” he said.
Natalynn found herself frowning again. Was that mirth she heard in his voice?
“Are you ready to take my collar off, Kitten?”
She shook her head, “Not me. My master.” She turned around, looking at Mauve, and gave the Black a push. “Get to it, you useless gutterswamp. Get us out of here.”
“You’re bringing that to Lord Rhorixtaer?” the Black looked simply green.
Be aware of everything, even when asleep. Only the dead can afford oblivion. -saying in Malkier
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