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Archive for April, 2011

Such great heights

Marlbane’s bony fingertips wrapped about the hilt of the blade left thrust in the dead goat’s side, neatly fitted between the creature’s ribs. A swift jerk and the knife came out cleanly, a faint breeze plucking at the bloodied note left pinned to the creature’s fur. Greedily, she snatched at it, her narrowed eyes absorbing the message. Her head jolted upward, looking for any signs of her erstwhile campmate. Her lips thinned. He was gone, of course; had probably left hours ago. It had been some time since she’d slept so soundly; the necessity of keeping one eye open, as it were, had been demonstrated to her multiple times. Plus, her companions were ever so much more silent in the paladin’s presence. They allowed this friendship- if it could be called such- though they did not precisely approve.

Still. It gave her something more to struggle for. A reason to fight- to fight anything at all, instead of sitting back and letting the inevitable come to pass. And in turn, it gave Them the leverage they needed to keep her from fighting Their control. A tenuous, easily disturbed covenant had been reached between the woman and her demons; she would be- allowed to keep her small shreds of meaning where she might find them. And in turn, they were allowed to guide the majority of her actions; were immortal, in their own realm. Were summoned time and again, to burst free of the nether and wreak what they would in the physical realms.

Her eyes half lidded as she studied the corpse of the goat that had been left to her, her heart clenching tightly in her chest as her features remained flat and impassive. Food enough for days, if she was careful; she would save some for him, but that aside, it was more food than she’d seen in quite some time. Her jaw clenched against the strange, strangled feeling in her heart; her eyes narrowed, a small frown pulling at her lips as she stiffened against the surge of gratitude. It was just a goat, after all…

From the base of her spine, something sinuously unfurled, languidly stretching over her mind, poring her memories idly, as if perusing the pages of a familiar book. Jhorthea cocked a mental eyebrow, a smirk touching her voice as she filtered through Marlbane’s thoughts with a purr.

Mmm, you slept with him him, did you? What of your ‘proper’ upbringing now?

There was a slight pause, the impression of a wicked smile.

You know you’d like to try it. I could teach you, would you but listen to my instruction…

The woman, physically alone, jerked a little straighter, her lips tugging down in a deep frown. Her eyes remained half closed as she pulled the stiff body of the goat closer, beginning to carefully peel away the fur and skin from the meat and bone hidden just beneath like some dazzling fruit. Her stomach clenched in anticipation as blood wet her fingertips.

“Silence your uncouth yowling, Jhorthea. There is nothing I would learn from you.”

Her voice was quiet, the sound tugged away from her lips by the thin wail of the wind through the craggy foothills. She crouched lower over the fire, focusing on her inexpert handling of the goat. Light only knew she looked like some sort of sick hermit here; it hardly mattered, then, if she spoke to herself too. Gods, but it had been strangely pleasant to share company with the man, if only to silence the Succubus’ vile outbursts and Gelham’s torment. Klathmon kept them in check… much of the time. Even so, their presence was always there; it wasn’t so bad as it had been after she’d tried to rid herself of them. In fact, it could have been downright peaceful, if she could ignore the hunger and the cold and the meddling. Also, the killing.

Jhorthea, however, was not so easily dissuaded. A thin, girlish laugh echoed in her mind as the succubus tightened her grip on Marlbane’s memories, clawing through them and dragging several to the surface. A brief moment of wakefulness in which she’d found herself comfortable pressing closer to the man, basking in his warmth and solidness; the bitterness she’d felt when he’d pointed out she’d nothing that he might wish to bed any longer as she recalled her wasted frame. Jhorthea relished these, seeming to play them again and again- the lasciviousness of the shared embrace; the jealousy she felt for a woman who might be desirable as she once had been. Other thoughts slipped through her mind’s eye as she determinedly cut away skin and fur; if he’d been a solid presence that night, how much more solid might he be in other circumstances…? The strength of him- the power of his righteous flame… to Jhorthea, Nessun Alito’s presence in their lives was a veritable playground for pornography; one which she gladly explored as Marlbane clenched her teeth.

By the time the goat was skinned and ready to be spitted, the warlock’s cheeks were dark with humiliation as the fiftieth scene played out before her mind’s eye; this one was the worst by far. Chains and bull whips, gags, blindfolds; things she only wished she couldn’t imagine. Emaciated form rigid with anger, she thinned her lips as she hacked the goat in two and spitted it, lifting the bleeding meat to cook over the fire. She trembled faintly, waiting for the all too vivid scene to end, before another voice cut in and banished the first.

That is enough.

Her stiff form jerked, relief suffusing her. Silent, outwardly impassive, she watched the heat of the small campfire taste the dripping juices of the goat. Jhorthea recoiled from the command, withdrawing with indignation and a huff. Klathmon took her place; it was as if she was seated companionably beside a friend, when he was there. She tried to swallow the lump of gratitude that clenched her throat; her head sagged forward.

He asked you something. He wanted to know what you want.

The voice was cold, devoid of any real interest in her response. He watched the flame through her eyes, taking in their surroundings with measured calm. The woman nodded, huddling closer to the fire as another sharp breeze seemed to whip through her silks.

You know what happens if you try to speak the truth. But he will not believe you dreamless and undesiring of things he might attain. Your farce of purpose will not deceive him for long, and the freedom you long for is a lie. You will find something else to want. You will tell him what your desires are, and breath no hint of what happens here.

The words were understated, the tone flat. Even as he spoke, something in her receded; her arms moved seemingly of their own accord, carefully pulling the spitted meat from the flame and dropped it flat in the dirt. She found herself rising, moving to the edge of the hill- her head tilted down, eyes staring at the distance. All of this with as much as if she were a puppet, and he a puppetmaster, he leaned her body so that the faintest breeze might snatch her to her death. Her heart began to pound- she wanted to fight back, but it was like throwing oneself against a wall.

There are consequences. Death would not be the worst. Jhorthea would have you first, you know. She’s grown quite fond of the knight.

And then she was herself again, left to her merciful silence as she scrambled back, curling against the mountainside panting. She stared miserable at the half a goat, now blackened with dirt. She knew she’d eat it anyway.

A thought drifted through her mind as she lowered her head to retrieve the skewered meat.

Oh how the mighty fall…

She couldn’t tell if it was her own or one of Them.

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Dyna groaned faintly as she stirred, all too aware of the aches and pains afforded to her by brawling and long-mended injuries.

It was mornings like this that made her feel old, as her legs slid from the warm bedding and her feet struck the stone floor of her Ironforge dwelling.  Her hand reached to tug a small, rime-grey short sword from beneath her pillow, opposing fingertips brushing lovingly over the blade of the weapon as she glanced across the empty bed with a faint frown, then shook herself and rose to her feet.

Her ribcage felt like pain and pain alone, and her nose was still swollen from the incident with the tree yesterday. Her shoulder ached, as it often had since the incident with the Delahans and the bullet. She groaned loudly, stuffing the sword by its haft into the loose belt, and paused to stretch sleepy limbs into wakefulness, rubbing the last of the sleep from eyes with a balled fist. A sharp hiss of intaken breath as her protesting torso punished the motion, and then she was limping down the stairs, waiting for the tension of her stiff, sore body to ease.

It was always like this, when she woke up. If it wasn’t the shoulder, it was the twin belly scars from when she’d been impaled, or the general soreness of her long abused skin. She felt old, at… what, nineteen? Twenty? Edd never could rightly tell her when her birthday was. How was she to know for certain?

The palms of her feet scuffed along the stone as she shuffled to the pantry, rummaging. A faint smile creased her groggy features as she caught a glint of motion; she turned to the side, barely in time to avoid the deadly axe that toppled from some precarious position she’d balanced it in some other, long-distant day. Her bare toes wiggled against the stone thoughtfully as she knelt to pick up the handaxe, smile softening. She hadn’t slept at home, in her own bed, for weeks now. It was lonely, but somehow satisfying. A luxury she couldn’t afford to indulge nightly with Barclay still wanting answers, but- perhaps on occasion…

Absent-minded, she rose on her toes to re-stow the weapon back to it’s former unsafe position, and eyed the larder poorly stocked larder. A jar of preserved beets, a moldy loaf of bread, and some very sad, withered looking potatoes met her searching gaze. She exhaled a soft sigh, scarred, knobbly fingers reaching for the beets, leaving the bread to continue molding as she shut the pantry door. Absently, she wondered how Mayru would take the sight; her lips tugged in another frown, and she lowered her head, focusing on wrenching open her jar of beets.

She eyed the preserved roots somewhat balefully through the mottled glass of the jar, then thrust her fingertips in to fish out a bit of beet, ignoring the deep red stain this left on her hands. Mechanically, she chewed, then swallowed, trying not to think too hard about meals past shared with better company. The beets tasted like dirt. Strahm had once said they were good for her, but Light, they tasted like eating all the worst parts of a garden. Still, food was food, right?

The silence of the little house felt oppressive, and she glanced over her shoulder long enough to eye the bookshelf warily.

Strahm and his secrets…

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The cold of the water was numbing, as she furiously scrubbed at the delicate silks. Her slender fingertips had become boney and knobbly, since she’d left the comforts of the city behind; the soft pads had grown calloused and dirty, and never seemed to truly come clean. And her garments; Light, no matter how she scrubbed… still the stains lingered. She didn’t have so many, that she could simply toss them aside when they became dirty.

They didn’t fit so well now, either… a bitter smile twitched at her lips. She remembered snapping at Tarquill, wanting to know the ingredients to his mana cakes- wanting to know if they’d make her plump or not. Heavens forbid her waistline should expand for a simple want of sweets!

But the gracious curves that had so drawn the eyes of those around her had ebbed away; her round hips were growing unpleasantly bony as she spread her skirts about them. The well tailored robes of yesterday now hung on her like ragged scraps, no longer fitted; always, she was aware of the burning in her belly, of the gnawing ache of hunger. Soon, cold and bitter spring would burst into bright summer; then, she promised herself, then she would find fruit and things to eat. Berries dangling like candy from scrubby branches, peaches ripening in the trees. Her diet these days consisted of what she could catch, what she could dig from the ground. It was unseemly, but she was too hungry not to cook what she could scavenge… oh, how that place where her pride had been ached.

It had been better, before. At least she wasn’t eating rats. She had been warm and well fed; had more company than the demons in her head. The lump rose in her throat, and she bent her head to the task of scrubbing. Why was blood so damned hard to get out of things…?

She’d killed, now, three times. The specters of the lives she’d ended seemed to dance at the edges of her vision. The last one had been the night before. The woman had come upon her while she was sleeping… Marlbane had awoken to touch of cold steel against her neck, an uncouth voice whispering tenderly, demanding to know where she kept her valuable stashed. It had scarcely taken a thought; the fel magics had burst from her lips, whispering energies pooling from her palms as she gripped the woman’s back. She hadn’t had the chance to use her own blood to strengthen the spells; had repelled her with absolute terror. She could’ve let the woman escape, but… the thief would only have returned to cut her throat another night. No one expected fallen, feral nobility to fight back, did they?

She was too tired to regret killing again. Too hungry. The ragged corpse hadn’t even had any food on her; the girl had been scarcely older than Marlbane herself, and just as skinny, if not more so.

Klathmon had told her she’d done well, but she was too exhausted to feel any sense of satisfaction in the demon’s praise. She was still alive, without their help.

To Sir Nessun,

The days run together, the nights go on for an eternity. I watch, always I keep watching. I see how one might come to love these hills, these rolling plains of endless grass. Looming pillars of rock, and a sky that I hope will soon turn from grey to blue. It is strange to think of such as my home now. Ever have I lived in the shelter of stone walls to guard me, heavy drapes to keep the cold from getting in.

I miss hot tea and fresh bread. I miss the simple comfort of sitting in a cushioned chair. I miss the dancing, controlled flame of a wax taper, not plagued by any breeze.

Still. This sort of life has its own benefits. Perhaps stone walls and civilized life was only ever a cage to keep one contained, trapped- burdened by politics and schemes.

I’m afraid I have little more to report. Please, tell me how I might see for you. There was no response to my last letter. I hope you are well.

If you’ve turned on me, there will be consequences, as I have done little more than become your faithful watcher in these highlands and do not deserve such treatment. Believe me, I have lied in the past; I am a skilled agent of deceit. But never once have I betrayed you, and I expect the same in turn.

Light bless and keep you,

Lady Brightmoore

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