A Harlot's Tale Ch. 05byerusian©
'Thylisa, this is..'
'Iovane...' Thylisa finished the awkward introduction.
'Welcome be, blessed Avatar. I have waited many seasons for this opportunity.' Iovane bowed gracefully, keeping her eyes locked on Thylisa's. There was a dangerous look in those eyes. Thylisa found that she could not move. She could only stare blankly into those cold, unnatural orbs.
'Welcome be, indeed,' they seemed to say.
The woman's natural grace belied her harsh, rat-gnawed appearance. She bore an air of regality, as one who had been places few dared to travel.
Thylisa was relieved when Iovane diverted her attention to Callous. The thief sat across from Thylisa seeming somewhat distant, his mind detached from his surroundings, working out some greater problem.
'I was not expecting you for another week, Callous. Something is amiss.'
Callous disengaged himself from his train of thought and proceeded to relate the tale of Thylisa's first realization of power, her flight to the Bazaar, the skirmish with the drunks, their conversation in the tavern...
Callous went on with the story with Iovane listening intently. Thylisa took a moment to gather herself. Every ounce of her rational thought screamed for her to run... get away from all of this. The thief, the witch, the Scourge... nothing was making any sense. Raped, prostituted, beaten -- nothing had ever made her feel as helpless and controlled as she did at that moment. But where to run? Her family had been massacred by the damnable elves. Not that it mattered now, the plains were far, and she couldn't even afford passage across Gelidmere. 'It's best jus' ta wait,' she thought.
Iovane turned to Thylisa when the thief had finished his story. 'My lady, you must be exhausted.' Her eyes were much softer now. She smiled tenderly at the girl.
Thylisa redirected her thoughts to her many unanswered questions. 'Mistress Iovane... I don't understand. You're a priestess of Necanta. What's brought ya ta...' Thylisa looked around the small room, piled high with flesh and rot and things one dare not describe.
'I am sorry to say, my lady, that I am no longer in the Order. The Shadoewatch excommunicated me when my ravings became uncontrollable. I am reduced to the life of a derelict, left to fend off my malady as best I can until it devours me entirely,' Iovane cleared her thoat and breathed deeply. 'It has, however, allowed me to retain some control over the fleeting winds of magic. Thus, I have been able to counteract it with certain -- unwholesome rituals. Unfortunately, Necanta has turned her face from me, denying the powers I once held as Wraithguard. My only skill now lies in what I know of simple witchcraft.' Iovane reached to a small table and lifted a narrow skull from the refuse. Bits of flesh still clung to the hideous thing that had once seen the world through bright elven eyes. Iovane smiled as she held the skull like a trophy. Thylisa thought she saw a poisonous look flash through the woman's undead eyes.
'My studies in the craft have revealed that elven flesh -- more concisely -- elven blood, has a distinct effect on the rage. Unfortunately, the ravenous hunger of my sickness seems to be less than appeased as of late. I don't know how much longer I have. My only hope lies with you, blessed Avatar.' 'Forgive me, but, what am I supposed ta do?'
'We hope that you will be able to accomplish much, in time, my sweet,' Callous said, rising from his seat. 'There will be time to discuss our plans on the morrow. For now, we should all get some sleep. We will learn to appreciate what little rest we can afford in the coming days.'
Iovane pulled the table away from the wall. Thylisa saw that there was a long rectangular trapdoor set into the floor where the table had been.
'I hope you can find some comfort in here,' Iovane said as she opened the door. Inside there was a sort of shallow pit, a rough mattress of straw mats was laid out across the bottom.
'I used to sleep here, when I afraid that the Shadoewatch would be more comfortable with me out of the works. The madness drove me from that practice...It's much too...confining in there.' Iovane seemed to be speaking more to herself than to her guests, staring into the makeshift berth. She snapped back into the role of hostess, 'I'm sorry that I can't offer more hospitable lodging, but one does as one can.'
'Thank you, Iovane. This will do nicely. I would much rather sleep here than in some musty cell in the depths of the Citadel.' Callous knelt down onto the mats and swept the dust and grit off onto the floor of the pit before he lied down.
Thylisa followed the thief onto the bed and nestled down next to him.
Iovane smiled disarmingly as she bid them good night, then slowly lowered the door. They were enveloped in darkness.
'What happens now? We can't jus' hide here forever.'
'No, we can't. We rise early tomorrow. After tonight it will not be safe here. Kaine and the Shadoewatch will be hunting us like dogs. Things haven't exactly happened according to plan, so now all we can do is improvise. I have a few ideas, but we'll discuss them in the morning. Now try and get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a very long day.'
Thylisa turned into Callous, seeking some sort of comfort in his arms. Just as she got comfortable, the thief rolled onto his side, turning his back to her. He was asleep in moments.
She sighed heavily, 'All alone, Thylisa my girl, all alone...'
* * * Barrod led his detail back to the Citadel. As they marched up the ramp from the Merchant's Quarter to the Imperial Quarter, he could feel hits guts wrenching with fear. Goar, the captain of the Scourge, would not be pleased with his report. 'No, not pleased at all', he thought to himself. All said and done, Barrod was still a proud man, and he quelled the fear that sought to dishearten him.
The sergeant led his men into the Imperial Quarter and marched towards the great iron towers that bordered the gates of the Citadel. High on the battlements, from which one could see all of Corici laid out before him, a guard shouted, 'Barrod has returned! Open the gates!'
Barrod's stormy blue eyes wandered along the impressive architecture that was the Citadel. Tall iron towers stood at each corner, connecting the dark walls, black as charred flesh. The Citadel's black iron gate was ornately carved with the seal of Coricia, a malicious hawk bearing a warhammer and lightning bolt in its talons. Necanta's eight pointed star rode its crown. This giant gate was again bordered by two high, monolithic towers.
Barrod led his men through the gate and dismissed them. He straightened his back, breathed deeply, and set off for Goar's audience chamber.
'The captain will see you now,' Goar's stiff chamberguard said as he opened the door to his master's room.
'Thank you,' Barrod said as he walked past the man to stand before his captain.
Goar was standing at a broad table with his back to him as he entered. The captain's long blue cloak, the insignia of his station, spread over his broad shoulders and hung nearly to the floor.
Barrod brought his fist to his chest in salute, 'My captain,' he began.
'Where are they, sergeant?' Goar kept his back to him. Barrod could tell by the tone of his captain's voice that he already knew the reply.
'My lord, they slipped out thr-'
'I do not have time nor patience for excuses, sergeant! Kaine wants the girl -- and the thief. Your mission was to bring them here. Is that not correct?' Goar was almost shouting as he turned to face him. In his hand he held a small crossbow.
A bolt slammed into Barrod's shoulder, he stifled a scream with hardened military bearing.
Goar began to pace, reloading his crossbow. 'What would you have me tell Kaine? 'My humble apologies, Your Eminence, but my men are not capable of hunting down a pathetic thief and a miserable whore.' Or perhaps you would rather go to him yourself...' Goar almost smiled, 'I thought not.'
The next bolt slammed into Barrod's leg, lodging itself just below his knee. The fire from his wounds fueled the sergeant's growing fury. All said and done, Barrod was a proud man, and he had reached his limit. Uttering the battlecry of the Scourge, he rushed his captain.
The searing pain in his leg caused him to stumble. He fell hard to his knees. As he hit the floor the bolt tore its way through the remaining muscle and tendons and broke through the backside of his leg.
Goar laughed as he came to stand in front of him, reloading his crossbow a final time. 'You disappoint me, sergeant.' He raised the crossbow to Barrod's forehead. There was no remorse in his eyes as he loosed the bolt into the man's skull. All said and done, Barrod was a proud man, but as the Corician proverb goes, 'proud men don't die on their knees.'
Goar strode to the door of his chambers, 'Kayle-'
'Yes, my captain?'
'Bring in the elf swine'
'Aye, my lord.'
Goar smiled as he went about making himself a drink. If the reports about this elven scum were true, Necanta's avatar would be in shackles by sunset. * * *
'That's Iovane isn't it?'
'Yes it is. Stay quiet, we don't want to alarm her.' The two had been torn from sleep by something Thylisa thought sounded like another raiding party, coming to carry them off to rot in some horrible dungeon...or worse.
'Get out!' SMASH 'Get out of my- aaaaiiiiI hate y -- INNUNA REGUNA VIE, MALESTEK!' Iovane tore a fleshy carcass from its hook on the wall. 'BERANA DIAM! GETHINID BEYAL LINIMAS!' Iovane slammed the decaying, broken body against one wall and then another. The fragile skull cracked again and again. 'DAINUU VERIL DIAM! REGUNA VIE!' She raised the corpse over her head. 'REGUNA VIE, MALESTEK!' She slammed it down hard on the hook that had been its home. Flesh ripped. Cold blood flooded from the fresh cavity in its back. She lifted the defenseless thing over her head again, ready to rip it in half on the blood-drenched, rusty hook.
'REGUNA VIE!' Iovane did not understand the words that she herself spoke. She only knew that those words were thick with rage and they made an empty ruin of her soul.
'Nooo!' She threw the hapless victim of her violent dance on the floor, where it joined the remains of its equally unfortunate brethren. 'I have the demonchild! Do you hear? I have the avatar! I will be rid of you!' She slid down the wall onto the floor, sobbing. 'I will be rid of you...'
She took the smashed, rotting head of the discarded corpse into her arms. Her tears fell onto that once childish face, mingling with blood than ran, unmissed, from the deep fractures in its skull.
Thylisa didn't know how many hours she lied there listening to Iovane sobbing. She couldn't help but feel for the tortured woman, however, she was deeply disturbed by her as well. What did she mean, 'I have the Avatar'?
* * *
Kayle led the elven slave into Goar's audience chamber. As he stepped into the room he brought his fist to his chest. Goar returned the salute.
'My captain, this is the elf boy. Do you requ-'
'No, Kayle. Leave us.' Goar silently studied the elf. His hands were bound in front of him with tight leather cords. Unlike most of his kindred, the thin creature was uncommonly short, no taller than an average man. His matted blonde hair fell over his face as he respectfully kept his gaze on the floor.
Goar clutched a wide leather strap in his hand. As he approached the wretched creature he slid is fingers along the smooth, polished leather, caressing it like a lover.
He began to circle the elf, 'What is your name, dog?'
'My lord, my name is Riverion,' the voice was scarcely more than a hoarse whisper.
Goar swung the heavy leather strap, connecting at the backside of the elf's unprotected knees. The creature dropped to the floor.
'Now that's much better. From your knees now...once more, what is your name, dog?'
'My lord, my name is Riveri-'
The strap drew blood along the elf's lean, muscled back.
Goar grabbed a fistful of the wretch's hair, pulling his head back so he could look into his eyes. As he stared into those pale blue eyes he was almost startled. There was something about those eyes, something...
'I don't think you understand. I'm going to say it one more time, very slowly. What is your name...Dog?'
'My lord, my name is...Dog...'
'Now I think you understand. So, Dog, I hear that you have a rather unusual gift. I hear that you can track a man better than a wolf tracks his prey. Is this so?'
'Yes, my lord,' the elf said.
'I have a very important task for you, Dog. If you are successful in this endeavor, you may just find yourself among your folk in Renelaun. If you fail,' Goar said as he trailed the strap along the elf's spine, 'oh, my friend...you had better not fail.'