At length, I was brought to a small oak door, and the Lordess stopped dragging me long enough to knock. She didn’t wait for an answer before opening the door. I could hear someone scratching out a letter at the desk on the other side of the room. I smelled the ink, and the heard the writer’s tapping foot. “Lordess?” the letter-writer asked. She had a woman’s voice. “Is that you?”
Lan and Wil started after me, but before they crossed the threshold, the Lordess shouted, “Stay! Stay right there! I’ll be back in a moment.”
They started to protest, but before they could get a word in, edgewise, she closed the door after me. I could hear them fidgeting, shifting from foot to foot on the other side. Exchanging nervous whispers.
The Lordess dumped on the floor between the letter-writer’s desk and the fire the crackled in the hearth. It bathed me in an orange gloom, and chased the cold from me with stinging pains.
The room inside was cramped. Each wall was smothered in shelf upon shelf of books. The whole place reeked of their yellowed pages.
That was new.
I didn’t like it.
“I told you to tell me who was knocking,” the letter-writer said. I could still hear her scratching out her note. “I said nothing about bringing me whatever wretch they brought with them.
I heard the one who brought me here shuffling her skirts, nervously. “Majesty,” the woman addressed to the letter-writer. “You don’t understand–”
“Lordess,” the Majesty interrupted the woman who had carried me here. “Just tell me who this is.” Every word was quick and resolute. Like an owling biting through bone. “Another child dumped on our doorstep? I’m busy. I thought I told you to–”
“He was nearly a Feral, Majesty,” the Lordess said. “If this one shows as much raw potential as the other– ”
The Majesty inhaled sharply, in surprise. “Is that so?” she mused. Her chair scraped back against the stone floor as she stood. Within two paces she was crouching over me. She was younger than the Lordess, and her long black hair tickled my nose as she bent over to get a better look at me. Her fingers whispered across my cheek. Then she tucked them between two fingers and turned my head. “Pieces of his mind are still tangled in the hound’s dead consciousness,” she muttered. “This one will be a handful. And you have your own duties to attend to, Lordess.”
“You cannot mean to leave him, Majesty!” the Lordess said.
“No,” the Majesty replied. “I do not. But we’ll need to make sure he can wake up before we pay for him. She turned my face to look into her eyes. “It should be a simple matter…” I saw something silver flash in her brown eyes. She was telling me something with that look. She just wasn’t using words. It was a reminder to me. A suggestion of something I was forgetting to do. I felt my mind falling up and into her irises with every silver swirl. “…to remind him he’s alive.”
That’s it. That was the command: Be.
The silver of her eyes dominated my vision, and then seeped past my pupils. It yawned through my veins, as warm as heated milk. I felt my fingers twitching. I flexed my hands, just to remind myself that I could.
And as soon as my hands were mine again, I seized the Majesty’s hand and bit, blood welling into my mouth.
She cursed, and pressed my forehead to the floor as I thrashed. Her hand slipped from my jaw.
I was distantly aware of the watchmen knocking. Calling for information as I kicked, uselessly.
I was clawing at her arm, drawing thin streaks of dead skin with my nails. She was wincing at this as she drew my close. Not close enough to bite, but close enough that I couldn’t turn my head away from her eyes.
The silver flashed in them again. I tried to shut my eyes, but she had anticipated that. Something in her wordless command convinced me that I couldn’t blind.
No. That’s not right. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could blink. Imagine forgetting the very concept of blinking. The idea of blinking even being something I could do just didn’t occur to me.
I would not appreciate her power until some years later, when I had a proper grasp on how it difficult was to wield the Silver to such totality. Just as I had forgotten what blinking was, the very concept of moving was soon wiped from me. My jaw and head fell back and I slumped, as useless as a ball of dough, into her arms.
The Lordess had her back against the door. Her eyes were wide. “What did you do?”
“What does it look like I did?” she spat. “I had to restrain him.”
The Lordess gave situation a once-over. I was dimly aware that Wil and Lan were shouting and banging on the door. “I don’t think they’re going to go away until we pay them. Should I…?” I heard her draw her long sword about three inches from its sheath. An indication of her meaning.
“Yes,” the Majesty hissed. “But give them a warning, first. No use being uncivilized about this.”
The Lordess nodded once. She bowed and then turned to leave. When her hand was on the doorknob, the Majesty added, “Fetch Val for me on your way back. This boy needs someone to clean the detritus of that hound’s consciousness from him. And be quick about it. I don’t want my construct to fall apart before she gets here.”
I stared for hours at the ceiling, listening to the fire in the hearth. To the Majesty’s ragged breathing. To Lan and Wil’s demands for payments, silenced abruptly by the Lordess’s unsheathing blade.
Lan and Wil made wet sounds, then. Like buckets falling into a well. The silence that came after was disquieting.
“Let’s hope that Val can repair you, little one,” she said. “For your sake, at least.”
I can’t say how long I lay there. But after some silence, my head fell sideways towards the Majesty. I saw she sat, crumpled against the wall. It’s hard to say whether I did this on my own, or if it was merely some chance twitch. Regardless, when she saw, her mouth quirked up into a grin.
“You’d better be worth it, boy.”
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C. M. Perry writer and lifetime sword enthusiast. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoy his content, you can buy him a coffee through Ko-fi to support his work and help him buy sandwiches.