The touch of a hand on her shoulder awoke Marna, and with a cry of fear, she flung herself away from the figure beside her bed. She instinctively threw her arms over her head to protect herself from blows, but instead heard a soft voice saying, "Calm yourself, child."
"D-Della?" she whispered in sleepy confusion as she slowly lowered her arms.
"I was coming to see if you wished to go down to dinner..." the old nurse trailed off as she stared at the girl on the bed. Too late, Marna realized her abrupt movements had exposed the heart shaped birthmark on her right hip. "You....you are not Mellindre!" Della gasped as she sat down hard on the floor.
In a flurry of movement, the girl flung herself on the floor beside the old woman, clapping a hand over her mouth. "Shh!!" she whispered fearfully. "You mustn't let on that you know! They'll kill you if they find out and I don't want you to die." She slowly lowered her trembling hand and with a quick look to the door begged, "Please...don't say anything..."
"But where is Mellindre?"
"They have her..."
Della gaped at the girl in shock and stammered, "Then who..." She looked closer at the girl's pale features and glanced at the birthmark once more. "Marianna?" she whispered as she stared in disbelief.
"No!" Marna declared. "I'm just a slave girl." But the old nurse saw the doubt on her face and knew that she must find out the truth.***
Marna stood at the window, staring sightlessly into the night for a long time after Della left. She thought that she would feel better having told someone her secret. After all, she wouldn't have to pretend for the old nurse any longer, but her fear had increased instead. She wondered how long it would be before the next person discovered the truth and what consequences that discovery would bring. Sighing, she turned from the window and nearly screamed in fright. Standing in the middle of her, previously empty, room was an ancient woman staring at her with blazing eyes.
"How did you get in here?" Marna demanded.
"The one lost in darkness has been found," the crone whispered.
"But she clings to the darkness in fear of the light."
Eyes opened wide, the frightened girl involuntarily stepped back as she stammered, "W-what do you mean?"
"Unless you rip the veil of darkness from your eyes, all will be lost. You know the truth."
"I-I don't know what y-you're talking about," she cried as she whirled around to face the window once more.
"You know the truth."
"Oh shut up you old hag!" she snapped, turning back to find the room empty once more.
That night, Marna dreamed. Chaotic impressions flashed through her mind, too fast to focus on, but always filled with fear. She came to rest in a forest clearing. Before her, in the distance, she could see the castle. Behind her lay the Assassin's Stronghold. She turned towards the Stronghold, longing to go home, and heard a muffled pounding followed by voices speaking across a vast expanse.
"Take her and go, my child...."
"Where is the CHILD?!?"
"Raise her as your own, slave. Never tell her the truth or she dies..."
Marna spun around to flee the voices and came face to face with the old seer. "You must find the truth or all is lost."
"NO!" she shouted in fear.
The old woman stepped towards the poor girl and commanded, "Princess Marianna, you will embrace your destiny. Now WAKE!"
The old nurse crept into the room at first light in hopes of kindling the fire before her young charge awakened. However, upon entering the chamber, Della found her perched upon the window seat staring into the slowly lightening sky. "Why child, whatever are you doing awake?" she fussed as she wrapped a blanket around the girl's shoulders. "Come away from the window, dear. You will catch your death of cold."
Marna didn't move, but merely whispered, "You were right."
"You were right, Della," she stated. "About who I am."
"What changed your mind, child?"
"An old woman came to me last night. She told me that I needed to open my eyes. I rejected her words, so she came to me in my dreams. It's all true..."
"An old woman?" Della questioned.
"Yes, one I have not seen about the palace before. A mad looking woman dressed in gray with a wild mane of black hair streaked with white." She watched the color drain from the older woman's face and asked, "Who was she?"
"It...It sounds like the Seer who spoke the Prophecy at your birth," she answered tremulously. "But, it couldn't be!"
"Why not?" Marna demanded.
"No... It couldn't possibly... That woman has been dead these past fifteen years!"
Mellindre knelt at Jainad's side, eyes downcast and still. In truth, it was Linni who knelt there, for there was little left of Mellindre. What little remained was but a half remembered dream, unimportant and ignored. The center of her world was the woman who owned her. A small part of her begged her to resist, but she ruthlessly silenced the small voice. Nothing else mattered as long as she was pleasing to her Mistress.
"What wonders you have accomplished in these few months, High Assassin," the spy, Baneth, mused. "I would have imagined breaking the girl would take much longer."
Jainad smiled cruelly at the small figure at her feet. "Calculated savagery, interspersed with odd moments of tenderness creates such confusion that the mind can not help but give in."
"Is it wise to speak such words in front of the girl?"
"Look at her," she replied, bringing his attention to the girl's glazed eyes with a small gesture. "She was told to ignore what we discuss here, so her thoughts turn inward until I bring her back." He continued to look skeptical, so she decided to prove it to him. "Attend, Linni," she ordered sharply as she snapped her fingers in front of her eyes.
The slave girl instantly bowed her head and answered, "Yew Mistress. How may I serve you?"
"Were you listening to our discussion, slave?"
"No, Mistress," was the prompt reply and even Baneth recognized the sincerity of her response.
"Good girl," Jainad crooned, bringing a flush of pleasure to the girl's cheeks. "Now, fetch us wine."
"Right away, Mistress."
With a wicked smile, the High Assassin turned back to her spy. "You see? Her conditioning is almost complete. Her moments of remembering her former life are becoming few and far between. Soon, she will recall no other life. It will be as if she has always been here." She paused as Linni came back to the table, chains tinkling softly, bearing a tray with a bottle of wine and two full goblets. With a small bow, she placed the bottle on the table and set the goblets in front of the two Assassins. As soon as the girl had finish, the High Assassin barked, "To your knees, and again, pay no attention to what we discuss."
"Yes, Mistress," she murmured as she sank to her knees, attention turned inward once more.
Chapter 15 (continued)
While she knelt silently by Jainad's side, a war was being waged inside her mind. Why are you listening to her?? a voice demanded harshly.
She is the Mistress.
What nonsense. That's what she wants you to think.
Look at what she's done to us!
She is good to me. I will listen no more to your lies.
Linni ruthlessly silenced the other's protests, patiently awaiting her next command.
"It's true," Marna whispered brokenly, tears falling from wide staring eyes. "She is my sister... and I left her."
"Now child, you must not blame yourself," Della chided gently as she stroked the girl's hair.
"But it is my fault. She did not want to teach m, but I threatened her..." She absently wiped a tear away as she mused, "She must have known the truth. Why else would she have me seek out the story? How her heart must have broken to see such contempt in the eyes of her sister."
Jainad paced around the girl kneeling in her chambers, idly twining a length of rope in her hands. "I think you're read for the Game, my pet," she crooned as she reached out to grasp the hair at the nape of Linni's neck. Using her grip in the scarlet tresses, she pulled her to her feet and kissed her hungrily. "Mmm, yes...definitely time for the Game, sweetness," she whispered as she licked the parted lips. Tightening her hold, she pulled her girl's head back so that she could nibble on her exposed neck. She felt the shiver that ran through the slender body in her arms and smiled. How easy it was to mire the girl in her senses.
Abruptly, she released her hold and stepped back, causing the slave girl to stumble slightly before regaining her balance. "Follow me," she ordered as she spun around and walked out into the corridor. Linni shadowed the High Assassin, eyes glazed and empty of Self. Fight it! a small voice begged frantically. Shaking her head slightly, she banished the voice once more and entered the room as she was bid. "Now for the final test," Jainad thought as she ushered the girl into the room that had once served as her sister's "training" chamber. She glanced around the room to ensure that all of the players were present ten fixed her gaze on her captive's face.
Linni wondered why the room seemed familiar as she stepped through the doorway and why that made her so uneasy. She couldn't have been in these rooms before, as the Mistress had always (not always a voice insisted) kept her in Her chambers. She started when she noticed the young woman chained spread eagle against the wall. Her brunette curls tumbled around her face as she hung there with head bowed, the messy locks not quite hiding the leather ball trapped between her teeth.
Again, there was the faint unease, this time laced with the ashes of an almost forgotten fury. Disturbed, she slowly backed away from the bound girl and nearly tripped over another figure behind her. She whipped around with a small cry and stared. It was a male this time, hands and knees chained to the floor. Thin metal rods ran from rings through his nipples to rings in the floor, preventing him from lowering the front half of his body. The taut cord tied between the floor and a ring in the tip of his scarred and stretched member further immobilized him. Scars crisscrossed his frame, some old, some so fresh as to be weeping blood.
"Pay him no mind, pet," Jainad smiled as she traced the brand on his shoulder. "He is merely furniture." Tollan groaned in pain as the evil woman sat on his wounded back increasing the strain of his overtaxed muscles. For yes, it was her former Second, reduced to the level of "furniture" for the pleasure of his betrayer. An angry growl escaped the gag secured tightly between his lips, earning him a fresh stripe along the back of his legs. "Tsk, tsk, furniture should be silent. Now pet," she said turning to Linni with a gesture towards the bound brunette. "Do you like my new toy?"
"She makes me uneasy. She seems familiar, but I don't know why ."
"Do you know her?"
"I don't think so, but I don't like her," she declared with a scowl. Ileanna's eyes widened in fear and she began to struggle against the chains pinning her to the wall.
"Oh she is a bad one, my pet," Jainad told her as she rose to lead her girl closer. "After all, what kind of person swears to serve someone then betrays them for the promise of gold?" She leaned down to whisper, "I think she should be punished, don't you?" in Linni's ear. The bound girl begged for mercy, her words unintelligible, but her tone plain. Linni turned her blank gaze on her and she cringed.
"Yes, Mistress, she does deserve punishment," she replied.
"May the punishment fit the crime," the Assassin murmured as she handed her a heavy flogger. "Remember, she betrayed her people and the one she served for gold."
She nodded as she shook the tails out and the older woman sat down on Tollan's back once more. Ileanna thrashed in panic as she caught sight of those empty eyes once more. A flash of unease and anger shot across the slave girl's face, but quickly faded. As the sound of leather striking flesh began to fill the chamber, Jainad leaned down to croon in her seat's ear.
"You see how she obeys me? She is my toy now, and if you had been thinking with your head instead of that pitiful excuse for maleness between your legs, we might have shared her. Alas for you, now I alone will play with her and instead you will live the remainder of your miserable existence in torment."
"When I get free " he thought as he glared at the floor.
She saw the black look and laughed merrily. "I know what you are thinking, fool, and you will never be free. Even if you were to be rid of me, you are still a traitor and none of the others will allow you to live beyond my death," she smiled cruelly and stood.
"Hold, girl," she commanded as she crossed to where her slave now knelt, the flogger laid across her lap. She inspected the pattern of welts crossing the glistening skin of the bound brunette and smiled. "Well done, my pet," she congratulated with a pat on her bowed head. "You have a light hand, but no matter. I know how to extract the proper amount of pain for just punishment."
Tollan seethed at the words of his tormenter, focusing on his fury in the hope of dulling his pain. He knew from experience that the demoness that held him captive would not release him until he collapsed, howling in agony from the damage his bonds would wreak on his tender flesh. Already blood oozed from around piercings stretched taut with twine. Involuntary spasms occasionally wracked his frame, increasing the damage done by unforgiving steel. A pained groan escaped his lips as his limbs began to tremble, signaling his imminent collapse.
Hearing the groan, Jainad spun around to face him, eyes darkening as his pain aroused her. The tortured figure caught a glimpse of her evil smile and closed his eyes, hating that his torment should give her pleasure. The High Assassin licked her lips as she scented the other's blood in the air. This time she would watch her enemy give in to the weakness of his body and drink in his despair. She unconsciously drew closer to him as she breathed, "Yes Give in Let me bask in your pain."
Soon enough, the evil woman got her wish as his strength gave out. Tollan collapsed with an agonized shriek, pausing only for breath to scream once more, before the lance of white first shooting through his chest and groin became too much to bear and he mercifully blacked out. His torturer shuddered with sadistic pleasure as she traced the blood trickling down his chest with a finger. The twine had snapped before the piercings had torn loose, but judging from the delicious screams, the pain was sufficient.
"After all," she murmured. "The longer the rings remain, the more agony I can extract with them."
Linni watched impassively as her Mistress exalted in the misery she had caused; steadfastly ignoring the voice in the back of her mind. The voice begged her to see that the Mistress was a monster, but she knew that wasn't true. The Mistress was not evil. The man must have done something to deserve it. She has a feeling that she should know, both who he was and what he had done, but she just couldn't recall.
To Be Continued...
Back to IndexPage
Back to Friends Page
Back to Stories Page
Back to What's New