Conscription

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Threnn
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Conscription

Postby Threnn » Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:37 am

They hauled her in at dawn. She was easy enough to find - even though Silvermoon was open to all of the Horde, even though the Forsaken were especially welcome, there weren't many dead women who spent quite so much time in the city's great library, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of ancient wisdom.

Two blood knights stood on either side of her, silent as she closed her book and smiled at the magister who seemed to be in charge. "Can I help 'ee with somethin', love?"

"Davien Stonemantle?" His voice sent a chill down her spine. The malice in it, the contempt woven into the syllables of her name... She'd caused no trouble with the Sin'dorei. Had, in fact, been a model guest in their city and established a kind of rapport with the librarians. Her wares sold well on the market; enough that Lord Saltheril himself had commissioned her skills for a new set of robes to wear to his revels.

Which could only mean one thing. They weren't here on the business of the Sun Court.

Davien folded her hands and calculated her odds. She could put one on four legs, silence another, then scatter ice along the floor and run. But in the three heartbeats it would take, even if she took out the first two, the third would surely act. No, the call here was for calm. "Aye, I'm Stonemantle," she said.

"You will come with us. Stand and show me your hands."

"Pardons, love, but might I ask where y're takin' me? I certainly haven't dressed for a date." She rose slowly, keeping her hands in front of her, palms up, so they could she she wasn't waiting with a spell.

"The very suggestion makes me ill." At his gesture, one of the paladins stepped behind her and held her by the shoulders. The other grabbed her left wrist and fixed a thin silver cuff around it. Runes had been etched into it, just barely visible in the dim morning light. Davien could make out a few of them.

Dread filled her as she put their meaning together: These are words of binding. Her right hand came up to claw at the cuff, but the paladin behind her pinched where her shoulder met her neck. Her arm fell to the side, numb and useless.

The magister held up his arm, letting the loose sleeve of his robe fall back to reveal a similar cuff around his own wrist. "Turus ni thus shano," he said, and Davien felt the world go dim. Her knees sagged; only the paladin's grip kept her from falling.

"What... what have 'ee done?" But she knew damned well what the answer was. She'd studied variations on this herself. Even if she hadn't, there was no denying the sudden absence she felt, like a sound she'd grown used to at the edge of hearing had suddenly ceased.

The arcane was gone.

A shudder wracked her whole frame at his confirmation. "I've locked away your power," he said, smoothing out his sleeve. "I didn't want a fuss while we're on the way to see your queen."

"She's not my--"

"Hush. I'm tasked with delivering you to her, nothing more. I've no compunctions against putting a gag in your mouth if you insist on yammering. Now, would you like to do this with dignity, or shall we make a spectacle of it? Would you like us to truss you up and carry you across Silvermoon?"

Davien hung her head. "No need for a show. I'll not be any trouble to 'ee."

Still, they dragged her out like a prisoner, plate-gauntleted fingers digging into the flesh of her upper arms. Her hat lay forgotten on the table, the only proof she'd been there at all.

---

Heads turned as they strode down the streets of Silvermoon. By the time they'd reached the doors of the library, her escorts had allowed the tall mage to match their strides. It wasn't a matter of arrogance -- she was nearly of a height with them and therefore could not be made to scrabble along to keep up. It made no difference. The Sin'dorei they passed would know she was headed for some kind of punishment and walk more softly among the peacekeepers for the rest of the day.

Undercity was a different story. Where the Blood Elves had watched Davien's passage with curiosity, the Forsaken made noises of contempt and turned away. The bemused smile the woman had worn since the library slipped further and further, until her mouth was set in a grim line. She clasped her hands in front of her so no one would see them shaking. Her fingers danced over the cuff that sealed away her magic, but could find no catch.

Along the corridors they went, their steps echoing off the stones. She hadn't walked these halls in years, but the guards seemed to know her all the same. Some spat at her feet, some uttered curses in her wake. Most regarded her steely-eyed, marking the passage of a traitor through their home.

The throne room hadn't changed. Sylvanas stood in the center of her dias, listening to her generals' reports as Varimatharas glowered at them all. Davien remembered the blow she'd received in her last conversation with him, and suddenly wished she were shorter. The guards at her sides couldn't hide her from the dreadlord, no matter how low she slouched.

But it wasn't the Dark Lady's gaze sweeping over that drove her to dig her heels in and strain against her captors. It wasn't the malevolent glare of the dreadlord that made her whine low in her throat.

It was the hooded figure of Apothecary Keever at Sylvanas' left hand that struck a bolt of pure panic into her heart.

Her ears rang with the ghosts of screams long faded - men's, women's, children's, and, buried somewhere among them, her own. Her skin burned with the memory of alchemical fire; it crawled as though the cockroaches that came out at night were still skittering over her as they went about their nocturnal business. The taste of blood and bile and bright copper fear filled her mouth.

"No, no, no, please no," she said, and realized that the scrabbling noise was coming from herself. She'd thrashed hard enough to make the guards let go, but one of them got her around the waist before she could crawl away and set her back on her feet. The whine in her throat threatened to become a howl. Her black hair whipped back and forth as she struggled. It had long ago come free from its pins.

Then the shadows came, swarming in from the corners of her vision, soothing, calming, forcing the memories away, tucking them back into whatever box she'd kept them in, deep within her mind. To think they'd been her enemy, not so long ago. To think she'd feared them, when in truth they were hers to command.

When in truth, they'd only ever wanted to keep her safe.

Gradually, she came back to herself. Her vision cleared to reveal the throneroom nearly empty. Her guards still held her. The magister had joined Sylvanas, whispering frantically in her ear. Varimatharas stood with his arms folded, though his great wings were spread to their fullest. Keever remained at his lady's side, smiling proudly. But the generals had gone. The deathknight guards had filed out and closed the great doors behind them.

"You've been busy the last few years," said the Banshee Queen. "Spreading rumors of plague to anyone who would listen. Attempting to undermine our efforts with words but never brave enough to lead a rebellion on your own."

Davien said nothing. It was one thing to be flippant to a magister. The Dark Lady, she'd learned to her pain, was nowhere near as tolerant of a smart mouth.

"Your words are useless," hissed Sylvanas. "Your speeches change nothing. Your attempts at subversion have failed. We remain undiminished and undeterred. How does it feel, mage? To know you've come to nothing? To know you've become an object of scorn and derision amongst your own kind?"

Her head snapped up, a comment on her lips, but wisdom prevailed. She averted her eyes.

"I could open those doors and send out word that whoever enters next will be given the privilege of killing you. Forsaken would trample one another to do it and earn my favor. Do you deny that?"

"...no, Lady."

"Good. You know your place. There's that, at least." She turned to the magister and passed him a sheet of parchment. "Look at this. Certainly you've seen its like."

The Sin'dorei held the missive up so Davien could read it. She didn't need to see more than the first few words to recognize it. "Aye. It's Uthas' decree."

"Correct. Now. What was your last mission for me?"

Davien closed her eyes. "T'go t'Sorrow Pass an' stop him from crossin' the sea. I was under Narokor Ardente's command."

"You were. And he spoke for you, on your return. Ardente, and the priest Renshank. They assured me the mission had been accomplished. That all of you had succeeded." She paused, gesturing for her prisoner to speak.

"Lady, pardons, but we had no cause t'believe we'd failed. The boats that didn't burn, sank. As far as we knew, none survived. Narokor an' Renshank spoke true to 'ee."

"I'm sure they did. But you see how this complicates things, don't you? You went free on their word. I showed you my mercy, and for what?" She smiled and beckoned to Keever, who scampered off to a table at the edge of the dias and began sifting through the documents scattered on top of it. "It comes to this: many of those who fought him are now gone. You are a useful tool despite your unfortunate lack of fealty.

"Magister Duskwalker has offered to...re-educate you, much as they do with their own who fall out of line. But the effects of that process on the Forsaken mind are unreliable at best. It would be a shame if your considerable knowledge were lost in the process." Keever returned to her side and held up a packet of papers. "And I don't think we need to go quite that far, anyway. Keever?"

The Apothecary walked forward until his face was inches from Davien's. It took every ounce of will she had to keep from recoiling. The terror threatened to rise again, but she felt her shadows nearby and stayed calm.

"Amazing," said Keever, his voice flowing like oil, "what you can learn about a person with the smallest sample. A lock of hair, say, or a fingernail. A lump of skin is nice. A vial of blood even better." His eyes unfocused a bit, caught up in the contemplation of his profession. "Nice, but not necessary. Teeth, though, are wonderful. They can last for years before they rot. They're hard to break, but you can grind them to dust, if you wish. Excellent for testing how certain compounds will affect the subject in whose sweet little mouth the tooth once nestled."

He came back to himself. "Don't worry, my dear. It's not your teeth I want. I don't even have to yank anyone's out, this time, sad to say. No, no. Baby teeth work just as well, don't they? I wonder if the elves or the dwarves are so sentimental. Do they keep them when they fall out of their children's mouths the way we did?" He grinned at her, showing a row of his own yellowing teeth. From the middle of his packet, he produced an envelope and showed her its contents. "Or, perhaps I should say, the way some of us still do?"

Davien lunged forward. She wouldn't need her magic to tear out Keever's throat. But her fury was thwarted by the guards' grips on her arms. "Y'leave her alone!" she screamed. "Y'leave 'em both the nether alone!"

But Keever had already turned away, swaggering back to his mistress' side. Sylvanas nodded as he bowed to her. "A good queen must always give her subjects incentive to perform well," she said, taking the envelope from him and tucking it away. "You're going to Northrend anyway, and already planning to help bring the Wordweaver to an end."

Davien got a hold of herself. "How do 'ee...?"

"Because your Eye isn't the only one that sees. I know of Noxilite's plans. I'd say your desires and mine are quite mutual, in that regard. There's no need for open war between us. Isn't one of your pet lectures on how we all need to band together in a time of war?"

"I meant the Alliance."

"You can't always have the luxury of choosing your allies, now, can you?" She bounced the envelope on one slender palm.

"I'd hardly call threatenin' me an' mine conducive t'strikin' up an alliance."

"Oh, don't mistake me. I'm not offering an alliance. We are not equals, you and I." Sylvanas beckoned, and the guards pulled Davien forward, then forced her to her knees. "I am a queen. You're a mage who got far above her station. But you can still serve a purpose. In the morning, you will go to Vengeance Landing. You will seek out Apothecary Lysander and do as he says. Once a week, you will return here and give your report to Magister Duskwalker. If there are further orders, he will deliver them to you. Understood?"

Davien lifted her eyes from the ground. They paused on the envelope in the Bitch Queen's hand before rising to meet her glowing gaze. "Aye. Clearly, my lady."

"I'm not without mercy. Perform your tasks well, and I'll return these to you once our objectives in the North are complete. The Wordweaver and Prince Arthas."

"That... pardons, Y'r Highness. But that could take us years."

"Then it's a good thing our kind don't age, isn't it? Get her out of my sight."

The Sin'dorei yanked her to her feet. She did not match them stride for stride leaving the throne room. This time, she let them drag her along.

---

Lights spilled from the windows of the cottage as Davien walked up the path. The worg pup barked once from inside as she approached, then quieted. He knew the sound of her steps. He's not truly a pup anymore, is he? Gods, it's been nigh on three years for all of us.

She rubbed at her wrist as she climbed the steps. The bracelet had come off hours ago, but she could almost feel it there still, like a phantom weight. She told herself the small flame she conjured in her hand was for lighting her way, not simply to prove that her magic was her own once more.

The door opened, and a boy's shape appeared in silhouette. When had Jessen grown so tall? Someday, he might even tower over his aunt.

"Hello, sweetling." For now, he was still shorter than she, and therefore subject to having his hair ruffled as she passed. "Where's y'r sister?"

"In the sitting room." Ever the young gentleman, he took her cloak from her as she shrugged it off. "She's reading her new book. The one the fairies brought her." They shared a conspiratorial smile; he was twelve now, nearly thirteen. Far too old to believe in such things.

Kyree was sprawled out on the sitting room floor, one hand turning the pages of her book, the other buried in Thrall's thick fur. The worg pup chuffed again when Davien entered the room and her niece finally tore herself away from the story. "Auntie Davien! You're home! Look what the fairies brought me!" She stood up and raced over to Davien, waving the book around.

"Aye, well, y've been a good girl. 'Ee deserved it."

"Do you think they'll come again tonight?"

"Ah, now. Likely not, sweetling." She sat down in the armchair by the fire. Kyree clambered up into her lap.

"I think they will," she said, punctuating her belief with a firm nod.

"An' why's that?"

Kyree reached into her dress pocket and held up an item for Davien to see. "Because I have something to leave for them!"

She offered her aunt a gap-toothed grin. Her two front teeth were missing; one of them, she'd lost the night before last, just before bedtime.

Now the other sat nestled in the palm of her hand, a tiny, pearly reminder of what must be done.

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Itanya_blade
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Re: Conscription

Postby Itanya_blade » Wed Nov 19, 2008 12:49 pm

There was the sound of scrabbling feet as she opened the door slowly. Pill stuck her head in the door and looked around.

“All right, I know y’all are in here.” Silence. “BAH! Fine.” She walked completely into the room, dropping a bag as she turned to shut the door. She reached into her pouch and pulled out a list. She muttered to herself as she followed Destril’s instructions, placing food where he had written it to be placed.

When she was done, she cackled softly. She looked through Destril’s bundles of cloth and examined the dried bunches of Then’liath’s herbs. She opened everything she could until her curiosity was satisfied. She also ignored the sounds of the animals behind her. She was not about to just leave piles of food lying around. Sometimes pets will eat things that went bad. Easier to put out the food and clean it up right away.

When there was nothing else for her to investigate, she sat on the floor and hauled out her knitting. Davien hadn’t come home. She had been at the fire; Pill had heard her over the stones. A short “I have things to do, sweetling” and then nothing. The last thing Pill wanted to be was alone with Maggot. So when Destril had asked her to feed his pets, she had jumped at the chance. Close enough that she could check on her animals to make sure that sniveling weasel hadn’t eat them but far enough away that she didn’t have to listen to him muttering to himself every single time he did something.

She caught a flash of bright pink out of the corner of her eye and grabbed a sock that had been pulled out of her project bag. “mine! You let go.” The little wolpentinger trilled in annoyance. “Bad rabbit antelope thingy!” Pill shook a finger at it. It looked distinctly unimpressed but let go. “Go eat an elf sock. That one is for Bricu’s chicky.” She ran a finger over the little thing’s head with a smile and was rewarded with a bunny purr.

She went back to knitting. It was a comforting thing to do.


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