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Prisoners

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Jehenne spilled out of the prison box with a breathless slap like a fish out of a net. She lay twitching on the stone floor; eyes wide and wild. Everything was cold and violet. She bolted up, held up her hands defensively, and spat out garbled incantations.  Her spells died in the cold air. So she turned slowly on her bare feet, trying to sense something, anything in the violet shimmering.

            Gentle hands draped a blanket around her shoulders, and a voice said in a soothing tone, “Now, now, don’t be afraid; no one’s going to hurt you. Your sight will return in a moment. Everyone’s a little blind once they get out of the box.”

            “Who are you?” Jehenne demanded. She blinked furiously, attempting to will her eyes to work. “Is this another trick?”

            “It wasn’t a trick before,” the voice said. Jehenne recognized the soft, matter-of-fact tone. She peered in its direction, blinking until the contours of a bearded face became visible. “Trasklin?”

            “Lady Moictress,” he bowed to her. “Welcome back.”

            Jehenne stood quiet, shivering. She pulled the blanket close around her body. “What’s happening? Is it time? For some reason it seems too soon…not that I’m complaining.”

            “Your sentence has been commuted, lady,” he said. “We’re letting you go.”

            “Oh,” she whispered, wondering where her anger was. Jehenne believed she had paid for her crime through service in the Nexus War. So when the Kirin Tor sentenced her to the box, it struck her as a betrayal. She set one of the guardsmen alight as they stuffed her inside. “I thought I would be in there forever.”

            “Things have changed; we’ve have had a change of heart,” Trasklin said. Her vision sharpened finally, and he looked more like the solid mage she remembered instead of a flickering ghost. Older though: his beard was mostly white with only a few streaks of black. “You are not the only prisoner whose case is being reassessed, nor the only one to be let free. Pretty much all of the lesser prisoners in fact, the Violet Hold will need room in the coming days the council thinks.”

            Jehenne knitted her brow as she looked about the room. They were in a small cell. Several other silver prison boxes rotated around her, humming. Crafted by the blue flight, Dalaranian craftsmages copied the technique and it seems perfected the boxes. Hers had already closed again, but floated quietly. “What’s going on? What has happened to quench your spite?”

            He frowned at her. “It was for your own good. I didn’t want…” He shook his head. “Let’s get you some clothes and food. I’ll bring you up to speed.”

****

            Long spiral clouds passed over the Violet Citadel. The city was moving. From the stairs of the citadel Jehenne could see the top of Wyrmrest Temple shining far to the north. A red drake would occasionally dart overhead. Soon the city would pass the Dragonblight and be out over the sea. The motion churned Jehenne’s stomach, so it was all she could do keep sips of honeymint tea down. She sat on the grass in the strangely empty Runeweaver Square. Tasklin had found her a blue apprentice robe for her to wear. A joke, but one that not so subtlety reminded Jehenne of her place. He sat on a stone bench, sipping wine and holding forth on all the world shaking events that had transpired while she was imprisoned: the return of Deathwing; the breaking of the world; the renewed war between the Alliance and Horde; the destruction of Theramore; Jaina’s ascension. Jehenne bit her lip when she heard of Theramore’s destruction. For years she rented a room on a retired ship anchored at the southern dock. Jehenne traveled so much she only kept a few keepsakes there: her mother’s wedding mask; her first inscribing quill; a painting she made of Lothwenna. Now all burnt bits floating on the sea.

            Jehenne barely listened to Trasklin after that. She cast her mind out, seeking her minions. Nothing, not even a cross word. Jehenne had expected her mind to be flooded with complaints as soon a she left the Hold, but there was only silence: neither the succubus’s lilting laugh, nor the Captain’s gruff demand for orders. She wanted to get away from Trasklin, conduct a summoning ritual, but something else was wrong. She still felt cold, unnaturally so, as if her blood had been drained and replaced with ice water. She held out her hand and spoke a single word to conjure a simple flame. Nothing happened.

            “Ah, so you finally noticed,” Trasklin said. “Been wondering when you would.”

            Jehenne cupped her hands and chanted. Still, nothing. No flame or shadow bent to her voice. She turned to Trasklin, her lip trembling in anger. “What did you do to me?”

            “What was necessary,” he said, crossing his arms. “Ever since Ambermill, when you took the demon’s fire, your life has been a series of misfortunes. I wasn’t about to just let you go on your merry way when your commission ended.”

            “You haven’t answered my question,” she said standing up. Her eyes hardened; she instinctively glided her fingers across glyphic scars on her left forearm.  

            Trasklin noticed the motion; his continence darkened. “You never bothered to find out what those prisons where for, or why our mages feared them so. It drained the fel fire out of you. Your magic is gone.”

            Jehenne felt the ground give out beneath her, but dignity demanded she not fall to her knees. She trembled, echoes of the old palsy rippled up and down her arms. “You had no right…”

            “I had every right,” he snapped. “A child of Dalaran, and one of my apprentices to boot, a consorter with demons? Or more likely their consort? No. I let live and let live go on for far too long. Someone needed to bring you to heel.”

            “I was never your apprentice,” Jehenne mumbled.

            Trasklin shook his head. “Semantics. You were under my command, and I could have had you executed years ago. But I didn’t. I think you owed me for that kindness.”

            Jehenne stared at a yellow poesy; its stem bent from when she sat on it. She didn’t want to look at him. “What of the Kirin Tor? What is to be done with me?”

            “Nothing,” he said staring hard at her face, daring her to meet his gaze. “The portal to Stormwind is open. You can leave at anytime. You are free: no longer their concern and no longer a citizen.”

            Jehenne hadn’t trusted the Kirin Tor’s promise for her citizenship being restored when they negotiated the end of her ban and start of her commission. She wasn’t surprised, but yet another promise broken still hurt. “That’s it? With so little ceremony? Things have changed.”

             “The new council doesn’t like wasting time, especially now.” Trasklin moved to her and Jehenne finally returned his gaze. “So, yes, that is it. We are quits. Whatever you do next, whatever shame you bring to yourself, will be yours alone.”

            Jehenne nodded, the cold in her bones deepening. She wished desperately for the Captain’s hand on her shoulder and greatsword pointing the way through the enemy.

****

            Like everything else, Northshire had changed greatly. No longer the quiet abbey housing lowly guardsmen and riffraff, the Stormwind Army had turned it into a full-fledged garrison. Pickpockets, street urchins, farm hands, brothel spawn, geezers, and other hopefuls crowded the recruitment tent or swung swords awkwardly at training dummies. Since the war in Northrend ended, the army was one of the few sure sources of reliable coin, so men and women from Elwynn to Booty Bay came to volunteer regardless of talent or ability. It gave Drusilla La Salle’s smirk a greater sense of withering mirth.

            Jehenne found her as always in the graveyard, leaning against the tombstone of some unknown priest. In all the years Jehanne knew Drusilla, she never could figure out why she stayed in Northshire. It seemed suicidal for a warlock to spend so much time close to holy ground. Yet still after all these years, Marshal McBride and now even the army seemed to pointedly ignore her. Jehenne suspected she had incriminating evidence on every one of them. Drusilla smiled and curtseyed to Jehenne as she approached. “Ah, Lady Moictress, it has been too, too long. You’ve grown so much from that wild ragamuffin I taught to cast a shadowbolt.”

            Jehenne bowed in return, surprised as always by the openness of her talk. “Well, it has been over a decade,” she said. In the first year of her exile, Drusilla found her wandering dazed among the other refugees from the north. She took the Jehenne under her wing and helped her learn to control the dark fire burning within her. “I like to think I’ve grown a little.”

            “Perhaps,” Drusilla said, looking Jehenne up and down. The warlock’s eyes pooled with shadow. Jehenne felt Drusilla’s gaze penetrate her flesh, seeking her soul. Her eyes poked and prodded until they found the cold, empty space aching at Jehenne’s core. Drusilla frowned and blinked the shadows from her eyes. “Mages,” she spat. “You have been ill used, dear. My sympathies, but it confirms why you’ve come to my little haunt.”

            Jehenne rubbed her chest; her skin sore from Drusilla’s gaze. “Yes,” she nodded. “I cannot find them…hear them in my head. I thought I would enjoy such quiet, but…”

            “He’s in the mine,” Drusilla said. “Made quite the little home for himself.” She pushed herself off the tombstone, took Jehenne’s hand and pulled her into an embrace. “Good luck, and don’t be such as stranger,” she whispered in Jehenne’s ear.

            Surprised, Jehanne’s arms hung limp, trembling a bit. “Um, I’ll try.” She finally put her arms around Drusilla and returned the hug. The warlock’s hair smelt oddly of apples.

****

            The imp sat on a throne of kobold skulls amidst piles useless treasure. Rusted breastplates, bent swords, jars of pickled eggs, broken anvils, vials of murlok piss, cracked busts of long dead Stormwind nobles, moth eaten histories of Red Ridge, and bags of marbles were just some of bric-a-brac that filled a dead end of the Echo Ridge mine. The imp had been busy, and his thieving as eclectic as ever. A crown of little candles glimmered on the imp’s head: each wick flaming a different color.

            The demon hissed when he saw Jehenne enter into his little room. “What would have with us?” he hissed.

            “Oh, the royal we, such pretention,” Jehenne said with a smirk. “Well you were always an ambitious imp, weren’t you, Nokuri?”

            The imp jumped up from his little throne and shook his spindly arms in anger. “Don’t say our name! You want every spirit and feckdrazell daemon to hear it?”

            “Oh why worry? It’s just us, and well, the dead kobolds.”

            Nokuri threw a skull at her, “Go away! My kingdom! I stole it! Mine!”

            The skull landed at her feet and shattered. “Do not worry, Nokuri. I’m not here for your crown or treasure.”

            “Then why are you…Oh, oh, no, no,” the imp gibbered. “I’m free, you left. I’m free.”

            “We’re never free, Nokuri,” Jehanne said, stepping toward the throne while undoing the belt of her red robe. “And if memory serves I was an indulgent mistress. You can keep your little kingdom. I just want your wits…and fire.”

            “Feh,” the imp said. “Curse your naming, just get it over with.”

            Jehenne disrobed. Red and purple glyphs marked her back, breasts and belly. She held her arms out to the imp and the glyphs gleamed and smoked, burning. “Nokuri, I name and I bind you with my blood,” she said, and with a dagger cut new line in her forearm. “I am yours; you are mine. Accept my blood and flesh as gift.”

            The imp hesitated at first, staring at her with his smoldering green eyes. Then the demon scampered down from his seat to her, climbing into her arms. She held him close, feeling his skin against hers like a scalding stone. She held the demon’s head in her hand and kissed him, keeping her mouth open and letting his fiery breath inside her. Fire streamed down her throat and into her stomach. Jehenne wanted to gag, vomit out the demon’s sulfuric breath, but she scrunched her eyes and took his flame inside her. While locked in this embrace, she did not notice the whole tunnel was now ablaze.

 

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Anka's picture

((Loved this!))

((Loved this!))