Risk and rewards went hand in hand. That’s what Lucilla’s mother always told her, but then again, her mother was now shriveling away in the Unnamed Prison, filled with magic blooded criminals. The prison was on one of the islands off the coast of what used to be the Kingdom of Apesor but due to magical corruption, it was now a wasteland. A desert would have been a compliment. As for the islands, they were impossible to get to, they might only be a short leap from the mainland, but the waters were full of monsters. Sea serpents that sprayed burning poison that was said to feel like a glowing fire poker was being smashed against your skin. Some of the other things you never saw, and perhaps that made them even scarier. What you did see was the giant whirlpool forming beneath you, right before you were never seen again. Lucy had been there once. The walls were stone injected with silver and iron and anything else from fairy tales that the builders had thought to blend together. They had even salted the ground like Crazy Reginald, the man next door, did every winter for reasons unknown. The worst part of the place was the noise. It was not just a house of screams, but the noise there echoed like no other place. So that you never knew where the misery was actually coming from, and did not know in which direction to run away if it decided to come for you.
All that extra security because there were races left in this world with magic. Who could walk through fire and enchant with a song. It was often their eyes that revealed them. They were descendants, or leftovers, of the Ancients who came from other worlds to walk among us before disappearing again thousands of years ago. When they came, they brought magic. Touching every living creature in this world, except for the humans. So perhaps they had a reason to fear them. Except it was not the humans that built this prison, but the golden-eyed aesir.
They were descendents too, even if their kind were the only ones to hold power in Aurum, the last city of this fallen kingdom. Even if they had tiny suns burning in their eyes and plated their palaces in smooth gold, they would be no different. Their magic might be a little different, they might enhance themselves with strength and beauty instead of whispering to the trees like their neighbors, but really, none of them were different. They were all cruel. And Lucy, even as a child, could be as cruel as the rest of them.
But no, not as cruel as young Lady Cleo. At least she didn’t think so, as her dress ripped where her knees scraped the brick of Castle Row. The street lights flickered on overhead several hours early to illuminate her humiliation. They were gouged in darkness each time one of the lady’s girls leaned against it, their magic interfering with the technology that sustained it. Lady Luisa of the old Luden family, Cleo’s recently appointed best friend, was eager to assist in the throwing of rocks. Even little Lady Isabella helped, barely halfway to double digits, the orphan of one of so many prestigious families that were lost when Apesor fell. She would marry well, but never achieve any more than that. That did not lessen the pain of her excited shrieks or the sting of her pebbles. Still Lucilla knelt there and braved the barrage. Its pain sharpened into her purpose. No one else should have to go through such torment. Not like the daughter of the wealthy merchant whose leg broke so badly when they knocked her into the way of a moving carriage that it would never heal just right. Not like the human servant girl that drowned when they pushed her into the water. Not like her. Turning her eyes, which rolled like the waves of the ocean and never quite settling on the right shade of blue, to the ground so she did not inspire further pain with her defiance. These were the eyes that caused her punishment. They would say the humans were lesser because they did not have magic. Yet, magic did not ensure power. That was the lesson that Lucy learned from girls like these.
Until she also learned that magic did not always equal strength. It took a year to sharpen her mind into the tool she needed. Watching and reading. Before it began. Starting with an innocent comment on young Ruby’s dress. Because dresses of golden spider silk were usually only worn in Fepe. Spun for the nobles by their great Arachne and her servants. As soft as the fur of a newborn kitten and just as pure. The one gem in the country that lived in the shadow of the great nation of Itana. It was made worse when Ruby always dodged the question of her homeland.
Such a frail child was easy pickings for Lady Cleo and her girls. Their cruelty could come to no end. Because they could bend her further than the other children. Ruby would be able to leave for her own nation, hammer out her kinks enough to righten herself. Until she returned and they started all over again. The kinks would still be there, the weak places where Ruby would break when she finally snapped.
They went further this time. Lucy was asked to make them a potion to stimulate drowning. The spider people were afraid of drowning, but it wouldn’t kill her. There were whispers that they had the blood of an ocean god as well. Lucy could almost imagine the cold calculations in their thoughts. Clicking away like little gears. Perhaps some still had to justify it to themselves. Or maybe they just mounted crosses over their beds. So she provided a potion that glowed like the sun filtered through the clearest water of a tropical paradise that she could not picture.
Only Ruby was not from Fepe, she was from Bek. With a few offhands comments and gestures. Calculation and moves. Lucy had stitched this quilt of doom. Bek was the land of the vaempir, and that potion harmed her far more than the girls could have imagined. A potion that Lucy had never made herself, but bought from the black market of magic. Untraceable. Her guilt could never be proven.
The case was not the same for Lady Cleo and her girls. For Ruby was only nine, and would not accept her vaempir gifts until the age of ten. She did not have the magical protections or the glowing red eyes of a vaempir. No, she would never receive such a gift or curse. The simulated drowning would drive her into becoming a Pishacha. Her spine would twist, cracking into a jagged arch but that was only the beginning of her deformity. Her eyes would glow pitch black and her fingers would grow into the talons that would aid her in ruthless slaughter. The secret meant to protect her was that Ruby was the granddaughter of the Bek ambassador. A country of lethal, predatory fighters. You would see the flash of their blood eyes and be cut down before you could scream. Because of a few stupid aesir children, they had to put their little angel down. The girls never harmed another child again.
Comments (0)See all