Ellie packed dirt into the little grave with her hands, smoothing over it with the ball of her hand, knees resting bare on the dirt as she bowed head to the ground to offer her dark prayers, to offer what tears she could muster. They were few, there was no great dampening of the earth by deluge from a wounded mother, and there would never be. The woman straightened her back, wiping stuck dirt from the liniment covering burned skin, ignoring the sting of pain that only served to make her feel more real than she had any desire to.
She scowled. So close was she to her desire, vengeance upon those who deprived her of bodies to bury. No woman deserved this agony, of burying tokens in the earth in lieu of bodies she’d brought into this world in pain and sacrifice.
Ellie hammered a wooden stake into the ground at the head of the grave.
“Anais Matthea Lycaeon, born on the Twenty-Sixth of July, aged six years.”
Anais had been a strange girl. Sickly, and prone to dizziness, the girl was all scraped knees and falling down. But she was smart, she was even-tempered, and she was eager to learn. Ellie taught the child all she knew about herbs for poisons and Anais took to it quickly. And for the child’s sixth birthday, Ellie had given a wooden training sword. And Anais loved it! Ellie would train her every time she asked, little skirts whirling as she trained. Unfortunately, on one occasion, Anais twirled a bit too much and fell to her face, breaking the wooden sword upon the ground.
Oh, she had wailed! Ellie had commissioned a small silver knife for her at that point, but she’d kept the little sword. And today, she had buried it in place of the girl who loved it.
Ellie brushed her thumbs over the second wooden stake, over the lettering carved in. Lips pressed in a thin line, she hammered it in.
“Alessandria Rayelle Konata, born on the Seventh of October, aged four years.”
Ellie bit back bitter tears. Sandy was born at a troublesome time, with Zandenin casting Ellie out. Ellie had given birth alone and unassisted, and Sandy had been her angel from there on out. An injury at birth rendered the little red-haired girl mute, but she was ever so expressive and cheerful. Everything made her happy, and she always smiled. Ellie loved her so, the gentle-handed girl with bright eyes and a wide smile. But, Sandy was occasionally saddened by her inability to sing or speak or anything of that sort. Ellie had purchased in Dalaran in stuffed Elekk toy that made the most beautiful trumpeting noise when its trunk was tugged. Unfortunately, by accident, the trunk was tugged too roughly and the mechanism broken. Oh, but Sandy had loved it so much more when it was as mute as she was! She carried it with her everywhere.
And now, she’d carry it to the After.
A final prayer for safe passage, and Ellie was on her feet and ready to face demons both literal and figurative, ready to face the family that bound her and twisted her, the family that gave her life and took it away. Ellie’s feet were bare against the dirt, but the prick of stones and plant life did not irritate as she took long strides, looking out over the still-warm wreckage and cinders of the home she opened to any and all who needed it, where gave food and love and support for addicts and prostitutes and seadogs and beggars, where she had fully intended to raise her children. The cinders made her sick, the smoky odor made her head light, but she refused to be weakened by the tragedy one more time. She held her head up, and took a final step toward the ruin.
Everything was everywhere, blackened bones of the house itself strewn amongst things she’d known and seen every day – a bit of a beam lay on what may have been her dining room table, the wall-cabinets singed and laying upon the baby-bouncer that Ellie had pulled Curi from as the fire raged. Strange, too, that Ellie could see the smear of blood she’d left on the floor when Diantony’s lackeys shoved her unceremoniously through the front door. Ugh, the Ordreds. Never able to let well enough alone. They’d had her, and couldn’t keep her, and so sought to tear away everything they loved. Ellie’s nose wrinkled in disgust, they nearly killed their own scion for revenge.
Ellie jumped, catlike, to grasp upon a ledge near the burned-away stairs, and pulled herself up to the second floor. Ellie knew what she was likely to find here amongst the brittle and blackened bones of her upper-floor. She moved like quicksilver, dancing upon precarious ledges and shifting her weight that her steps might be light as feathers. She reached her bedroom door, and with a single solid kick she laid it down, disturbed by how easily it was crushed beneath her bare heels. Likewise did her bedside table crumble apart in her hands, but she was glad to see that the box inside was untouched. She opened it, brushing her fingers over the knives held within. Once upon a time, they’d been ritual knives – the tool of choice back home in Chapel. They were beautiful things to be true, long and silver and elegant – even the serration on the larger one was elegant. She liked that one quite a bit, and favored it in her left hand, her strong hand. It was special to her, and was originally intended to be used as the tool of her demise.
Ellie held the knives in her hands, deftly stabbing and slicing at air before tucking the blades against her wrist and dashing for the window, heading through the glass and tumbling out, rolling away and coming to her feet without missing a beat, untouched and unshaken.
Oh, she hadn’t lost herself at all.
Later Ellie finds herself standing in a rented room, under an assumed name, just like old times.
She is arranging her arsenal on a ratty cotton sheet, on a cheap straw bed, just like old times.
She is paying the delivery boy to keep quiet, under pain of death, just like old times.
And at the end of the day she collects her belongings, slaying all but the baby as she leaves…
Just like old times.
Ellie is quiet as a breath as she steals away from the small inn, where she had repaid their hospitality with quick and silent deaths – it was more than others have gotten from better women than her. She leaves the infant survivor at a random doorstep, knocks heavy on the door, and is lost quickly in shadow.
She felt a little awkward, not slung with bags and her cursed apron, bogged down with sundries. She felt light, but it might have been the lust for revenge sustaining her, she wasn’t certain. The air was cold, she could see her breath, but she did not stop to bemoan her situation. Not again and never again would she cry for a life no longer hers. Shoulders back, spine straight. Chin up, there you go. Absently, she wondered if her father could help her now, that poor and broken man who used to be so mighty. Oh, but he’d always be mighty in Ellie’s eyes; her fierce and righteous father, a man of virtue who could have ignored her and didn’t. Instead, he’d laid waste to the chapel and taken her home. Oh, she wondered if she could have stayed in that secure place, wrapped in her father’s strong arms. She’d be so happy and peaceful, her head buried in books and her heart beating for knowledge and arts on the back of a horse.
But perhaps it was the only way, as her father had said. Believing it could have been any other way was foolish.
Ellie ate a small meal of chopped dates and dried beef, and took two fingers of bourbon before she stood and divested herself of clothing. She cast her clothes into the fire, and turned toward the delivery-boy’s package. She lifted the skinsuit out of its wrapping, turning it over and over in her hands with a careful eye, examining it for flaws or defects and finding none. It was solid construction, sturdy leather lined in soft chamois and covered in molded rubber, to her standards exactly, even including the relaxed articulation points. She missed structured garments, corsets were nice but this was something else entirely. Structured garments, such as this that would cover her entire body, forced a person to move more carefully, and she couldn’t imagine why they’d fallen out of favor. There was no closure to the suit, but there was a second piece. Ellie looked over it, and smiled. Well, nobody should be without a little flair, isn’t it so? The second piece looked to be sleeveless, thin and pliable, with an open front, with a high and hooded back. It was unnecessarily pretty, but she was a woman after all.
She smiled easily to see her old, beaten, and comfortable boots at the bottom of the package. These were lucky boots; she’d never been unsuccessful wearing them.
Ellie tied her hair back with an elastic, and pulled a roll of gauze from her bag, a jar of white powder – so long ago, she’d needed a pair of hands other than her own, she’d relied on a second person to help her dress, and she’d hated it. She supposed she could have called Halon in early, but Ellie assumed she’d rather set herself on fire and write a report of every life she’d taken, to be handed in to the authorities immediately. It just would not do, to be dressed by a man she’d rather like crushed against a wall. No, she’d done this enough times that she could manage, and spread the white powder over her legs and thighs, over her hips and rear, and wound the bandages tight over her chest.
Stepping into the suit, she eased it over her body and lifted it onto her arms. She crouched, she lunged, and she reached and stretched, testing the articulation points. She was pleased. Ellie picked up the overlay and stepped into it, pulling it up to cover her back and putting her arms through. Ellie unlaced her boots and pulled them on, tying them tight, and moved to where her things lay.
The way she prepared was almost ritualistic, the way she lifted each garment as if it were holy, each weapon as if it were a sacred tool of power. Ellie lifted her belt from its resting place, she loved it so – a circle of small pouches, each pouch containing something beautiful and deadly… little bombs, acids, toxins, flashes, flares, tiny blades, throwing stars… but it’s biggest feature, the one she cherished the most, was the mind-amplification dish artfully tooled into the belt-buckle. Her greatest weapon – why engage a foe with blades when she could just make them do as she desired? She secured the belt around her waist, she tightened it. Ellie moved on to the next piece of gear. Halon’s offering, his invisibility projector that worked in a way she understood despite the fact it made her head spin. She’d done as he warned, retooling it and adjusting it accordingly. It didn’t seem to work for very long and sometimes overheated but it did work in a pinch, after all.
She secured it to her body, as per Halon’s directions. It felt unnecessary, but he was trustworthy, so she went with it.
Ellie secured her knives to her belt, and pulled her death mask over her face. She left Ellie there at the campsite, and Bombergirl Eleven went on to steal a horse and rode hard to the next transport station. Briefly she considered skipping on calling in the help – she knew she’d refuse to call Rincavor after all. He had small children, a fiancée; she couldn’t live with herself if she deprived the babies of him. And she’d considered refusing Halon as well, it worried her to think that he might see her shame, might see her fall. She’d rather fail alone than let someone else witness. But when she thought about it, there was nobody else she’d rather have at her back in a time like this. Ellie touched the earpiece inside her mask and sighed. “Boss. I’m en route to the portal.” She spoke in hushed tones, but there was no hush to the urgency. “Get your head on, gear up. Meet me there at dawn –…” Ellie rolled her eye as Halon cut her off. There was a sound like a click, and a fair lot of noisy rustling – some clanking he couldn’t place, before Halon’s voice boomed through the receiver.
“Ellie, my head is always on. You stored the extra explosives? Good. Also, I’m going over the maps right now – your handwriting is abominable, by the way..”
“Something wrong with my maps? Other than my handwriting. Which is not abominable, thanks—“
“Shut up. I’m going over the maps right now, and there’s something I don’t see. The whores—“
“….consorts. Where are they housed? And if you’re entering from the roof, how are you getting them out?”
Ellie rolled her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose, before speaking. “There’s walled off sections in the compound’s main hall, on the ground story. It’s… eh, set up like stables? You don’t need to worry about that, they’ll be led through the catacombs and out via the cave that houses the phylactery. You can’t enter through there, so don’t ask.”
Halon made some sort of sound of disapproval, but spoke no more on the matter. Ellie thought, at first, that he’d gone quiet, and moved to turn off her radio, but stopped when she heard him speak too quietly to discern. Shaking her head, the girl switched her radio off and rode the horse hard. The freedom of the run, the wind taking her hair back from her face, rushing in her blood and her bones, she loved it. Machines were amazing, and oh, she loved the smell of engine oil and rubber and sulfur, but nothing could compare to riding a thousand pounds of animal, stamping down the dirt and raising a cloud of dust that moved over the ground like death.
The woman, clad in her earthy brown leathers and violet hood, leaned into the wind as she approached the transport station. She dismounted quickly and soundlessly when the horse came to a stop, and with a swat on the beast’s rear she sent it on its way. The smell of the sea in the air brought her a brief smile, but the severity of the journey weighed heavily upon her. There was no time! She pulled a small gadget from a pouch at her waist and depressed the button. A wholly disagreeable feeling came over her, electricity rushing through her body like waves of edged knives but she gave little more than a wrinkled nose as she stepped through the unstable portal that appeared in front of her as generated by the device. She never liked portals, the horrible tugging sensation at her navel paired with the dreadful feeling of falling through nothing had always left her wanting for little more than a basin to be sick into, but she hadn't the time nor the freedom for complaints such as those. Ellie steeled herself as she came out through the other side. Wholly unsurprised, she found Halon there.
Halon, the object of her affection and more often than not, her ire as well, stood mounted as he waited for her. The woman pulled her hood back and removed her mask from her face. Appraising coolly she gave a nod, speaking no words as she turned toward the Portal that would take them to the Blasted Lands. Her copter waited for her here in this dark cavern, this shadowed place where the Orcs kept their magic hidden from the view of the uninitiated. Ellie pulled her mask back over her face, pulled her hood down, and stalked toward her flying machine, toward this that she built by hand so many years before, that should never have been able to fly but did and for so many long, long miles. She jammed a key into the slot and turned, igniting the engine with a living fire that shook the entire machine, an unholy noise that was music to her ears in a way no true music could ever have been. She pulled a lever back and extended the whirling blades that lifted her into the air. She flew straight for the portal, and closed her eyes at the last minute.
Oh, that feeling, she'd never learn to love it, of that she was certain. Eyes closed, she flew straight and true as she waited for the tugging at her navel to be over, as she was expelled on the other side of the portal, ejected into that burned and barren landscape that ultimately led to another portal. Madness! She shook her head, landed her craft, and looked back over her shoulder to make absolutely sure Halon followed. It most certainly was not an opportunity to check him over, to admire a firm body covered in segmented armor, well-sculpted and protected. Ellie smirked behind her mask and slid forward in her machine, beckoning, inviting Halon to share the ride with her rather than simply following behind. Riding along with her would be more convenient, for starters, and there was less a chance of being separated which of course was awfully important, you know. Last minute, she reconsidered, and simply motioned for him to follow. He'd probably try and drive, and then she'd have to kill him - she was rather fond of him, and thus would prefer to let him live.
They wouldn't be taking a direct route to the Transport, to that beautiful airship she'd built out of the remnants of the good ship Noah Boddy, the frigate she'd... acquired. Beaten as it had been, she was loath to give it up to death, and had instead dragged it along with her to Outland during the pilgrimage, to work peacefully... which may have been folly but it had worked out at least. She thought fondly of the ship, sealed wood and canvas sails and the amazing power of so simple a thing as steam. She might not have been on the water, but she'd still be sailing, wouldn't she, and how marvelous is that? Ellie shook her head, grunting as the duo barreled toward the Great Dark Portal, and she spoke a dark little prayer as they entered in.
Ellie Dawntreader did not approve of inter-dimensional travel. And had she the time or the stomach to do so, she'd disapprove very vocally.
Spat out once again, she spent little time to regain her bearings and gunned West, toward Falcon Watch, where Noah Boddy had been tethered. She tapped her earpiece, speaking quietly.
"Hey, Boss. Remember the.. uh, surprise transport? Well... you're about to see it. She's an old lady, though, so you better damn well be respectful." Ellie admonished Halon as a mother does her young ones, biting back an out-of-place laugh as she heard him scoff over the radio. Firmly informing her that he was, in fact a perfect gentleman and had always been, Halon quickly became silent as they approached Noah Boddy. Deciding that this reaction was as good as any, the girl landed her vehicle and dismounted it, eyeing her ship. She could not help a smile. Oh, she loved this craft - it was barely big enough to be a frigate but far too large to be a corvette and was richly appointed, finely crafted of beautifully finished wood and gold lettering. It'd been crafted for an Alliance captain, but Ellie had liberated it and stripped it's numbers, renamed it, loved it gently and without condition. She'd been so sad when the ship had run aground after a particularly nasty storm, she'd honestly cried over the death of a boat. And then, piece by piece, she transported it to the Outland. Oh, she hammered plates of metal to fill in the gaps in the broken wood, tooled them elegantly. Putting the canons back together, now, that was a job and a half! But she'd done it, over the course of a decade, her ship was alive and well.
Halon appraised the ship quietly, brows raised in that way that would look ridiculous on anyone else but she found endearing, but he didn't seem to say much on the matter. Politely, and matter-of-factly - as if he were honestly convinced of her unawareness of the environment, he spoke. "Ellie, I’m not sure if you noticed this, but there isn’t an ocean. At all. There are no oceans, why are you bringing us to a ship?" Ellie didn't stay around to listen to him go on and on about the transport, shaking her head and heaving her pack onto her back, she approached the hull. There was a long rope ladder that extended over the edge, and she climbed it quickly. Where the wheel had been was now a large console, and she pulled the switches, flipped the toggles, chuckling as she looked over the edge. She yelled loudly down to Halon, a light twinge of mockery in her voice. "Oi, boss. If you don't get up here, I'll--" She heard a heavy thump behind her and looked around, rolling her eye as Halon stood on the deck before her with such the smile plastered on his face. "Welcome to the good ship Noah Body... I gotta go initialize the coal-feeder and prime the engine. Eh.. When you hear a big roaring noise, can you pull the handle down?" She pointed to a lever, alone on a console, and disappeared below deck.
Ellie lit the furnace and primed the fire with a well-sized pile of coal, and the beastly machine roared.
Up top, Halon pulled the handle down firmly, and turned to look over the deck – peculiar, it looked just like any typical boat. He didn’t think about it overmuch, though, as he set his back down on the deck and looked over the edge, across the cracked and dry landscape. His face drawn tight, he considered informing Ellie of exactly how foolish the entire undertaking was, perhaps he’d ought to smack her solidly upon the head and blow the compound into the heavens while she was unconscious but he couldn’t do that. It was easier to talk her into doing things safely with threats of doing it unsafely, than it was to do it unsafely and risking her sensibility, or perhaps it was simply too much work? His back rigid and his arms folded behind him, he righted himself. Ellie emerged from below, smudges of soot on her from the coal. Taking to the console, she kept her back to him – focused. Now, if only she could keep that focus during events and jobs that weren’t utter folly, all would be well. Halon stumbled a moment as the ship rose into the air, great jets of steam propelling it forward. Ellie hooped and hollered and bounced on her heels, and to his irritation, had the audacity to lean forward. He tore his eyes away. Perhaps it was indeed a good idea for her to be rid of the suit after this mission, then. Halon instead busied himself with checking his gear over and over again, as Ellie drove toward their destination.
Halon had been standing, going over the dossiers and maps yet again as Ellie pulled levers and signaled the ship’s descent. She let the vessel down gently not far from a well-built house on a hill. Oh, it was a strangely built house to be sure, some unholy amalgam of Human and Elven architecture that could have looked beautiful but instead entirely filled it’s purpose of being ridiculously creepy. Ellie looked over past the hill to the house and scowled. She shook, full of dread already – the Shadowmoon Valley had a terrible feeling all its own, but the air seemed sick, and her stomach turned. But, undeterred, she slid down the rope-ladder and disappeared into the dark of night with Halon watching on, keeping an eye as long as he could until Shadow took her and she melted away.
First objective, secure the phylactery. Halon checked his weapons again and affixed his shield more tightly to his back, and waited till Ellie was a fair distance away before he chose to slide down the ladder himself. Checking his position (Ellie had given him her compass, with the brief but strict instruction to ‘not fucking lose it, you ass.’), he took off toward the rock face, toward the cavern where he should have found the phylactery. The terrain was rough, so sickly colored as it was, and the magical pull in the air was thick and stifling but he was as headstrong as ever, and did not let it get under his skin, worm into his brain and cause him to reach out. He wondered, briefly, if the strange magical nature of the girl working ahead of him would cause her anysuch irritation but ultimately he realized he had to let her do as she did. He couldn’t help her right now, besides.
Halon’s feet padded quietly, as he approached the mouth of the cavern. The torches within, they could not possibly be warm and inviting lamps dancing with red-gold flame, no. Of course, like all other sources of light in this forsaken place, they were dirty green and grimy. He plucked one off the wall with little regard to its pallid glow and walked onward. His steps with their pale sound, were not entirely silent, however. Ahead of him, past a bend in the rock, a boy stood guard – he was the child of one of the hired men, no doubt, as a Scion would most definitely not be allowed in this part of the compound let alone be given such a pathetically menial, yet dangerous job. The sound of Halon’s feet startled the youth, who stood stock-still as if deciding whether or not he’d heard anything at all, the way one does when they hear a noise in a house meant to be empty save for themselves.
The Baron moved quickly up the tunnel, grabbing for the boy as he began to yell, began to flee and warn whoever was further along. He had no chance to do so, as a large hand clamped over his mouth. The boy was pulled in tight to Halon’s chest, and without any hesitation he turned the young man’s head sharply to the left. The sickening crunch of bone, the deathly wrench of flesh echoed off the cavern walls, and pulling the shield from his back, and covered himself. His feet moved careful-quiet-quick, down the stone corridor. There was nothing but silence ahead of him, as he moved ahead. But there, a few feet ahead, a man sat on the ground against the cavern wall. Asleep on the job, no doubt tasking the young man to keep watch in his stead. The Baron sent him quickly to the After, and took a few steps forward. The safe, if it could truly be named as such, was old and battered, of stone construction and with a barred metal door. It did not look sturdy, but Halon did not fool himself into believing it to be an easy job. It was magically reinforced, no doubt, and he'd have to be careful. He pulled a block of something like clay, seaforium, from a pouch on his belt and worked it in his fingers, softening it and pressing the pliable substance into the crack in the stone of the safe. A wire, embedded into the substance, trailed out and he attached it to a peculiar device. He turned on his heel and traveled down the corridor a fair way, depressing a switch that blew the enclosure open. A wash of energy so thick as to be tangible burst from the broken and abused caging.
Well of course it couldn't be simple, no, and Halon found himself unable to move, frozen not with fear but with the strange magic that poured from the blast. Strangely there was no pain from the blast, only an unshakeable tightness in his limbs. His bum leg spasmed, but he was able to right himself in only a few minutes, to be greeted by an unholy groaning from in front and behind. As soon as he had the ability to do so, he was on his feet. “I’m going to have to discuss the difference between ‘zombies’ and ‘no zombies’ with that girl.” He quipped to himself against his better judgment, but with his jaw set, he held his shield in front of him, and faced the undead assailants unwaveringly, unafraid.
Not far away, Ellie Holyfield was scaling the building. Not an incredibly impressive feat, she thought, but one that always seemed to gain a few nods of approval when she had the mind to perform for the public. Her tiny, deft little fingers found purchase in the most unlikely places; the bit of broken masonry, the window-sill, the bas-relief in the stone, the too-narrow base of a stone gargoyle (it was only stone, she’d checked.) She’d gripped the base of that statue tightly, bearing her feet against the brick. Once, twice, and on the third time she pushed off, swinging backward and bending her knees just so, to land on her feet on the roof like a kitten’s paw. She moved like silk, like death over the narrow ledge between the two sections of the house, and dropped into the gap that had always existed, that she made larger. Crossing her arms over her chest, she pointed her toes, landing on one foot and leaning into a roll.
The ‘Stables’. She scowled, she’d hated this section of the house before she was a Consort, back when she was only just an apprentice of Afflictions. She slipped between the barring, and tread carefully. They were all the same, she realized, frowning, none of them had escaped and been replaced – not that she was terribly fond of the idea of more girls falling to their charms, of course, but she’d hoped one of her girls had gotten free.
No, the only bed empty was hers. She recognized it – the corduroy bear on the pillow, the blanket in violet stripe, it hadn’t changed a bit since she’d made it on that last morning, before her patron asked her to marry him and she left this life for good. She wrinkled her nose. Mara, Tilly, Hespith, Fylo, and Tiaris, those beautiful girls she knew, and knew. She crouched next to Tilly’s bed.
Tilly was the youngest, seven years Ellie’s junior, and still so much a child that it was almost painful to see her as the favorite, sought after by everyone – the Elders, the Youngblood, the older Scions. The High Priest had made an assignation with her once, but Tilly’d never spoken of it. Ellie pulled the mask from her mouth and nose, and pulled her hood down to her shoulders. She hesitated, but only briefly, before clamping a hand over Tilly’s mouth. The young priestess’s eyes shot open, terrified, but Ellie leaned over and smiled. She spoke so quietly, brushing her fingers through soft ginger hair.
“Hey princess, guess what? Y’know I said I’d get you outta here, take you home with me? I’m doing that. But you have to real quiet. You can’t go screamin’ or nothing cus then I have to put you down. I don’t wanna do that, okay? So you gotta keep right quiet. I’m going to take my hand off your mouth, now…” Ellie did as she said, carefully peeling her hand from Tilly’s mouth. Tilly couldn’t have smiled wider if she tried, and threw her arms around Ellie, pulling her close.
Tilly’s lips crashed into Ellie’s, kissing her hungrily, fiercely, pushing her fingers through the rogue’s dark, dark hair and biting her lip, her chin, her ear in the way that had always turned Ellie’s legs to jelly and put a tingle in her belly. Ellisera sucked the priestess’s damnable pouting lip into her mouth, grinding against her body, a knee between her legs and pressing against soft heat that she could feel through the leather. But she pulled herself away, taking a deep breath. “Damn girl, save that for your patrons!” She chided jokingly, and cleared her throat. “Much as I’d love to be tongue-deep, I can’t. This is important, I gotta get you ladies out of here, but.. honey, I can’t be foolin’ around with you and Fylo no more. It ain’t I don’t like you, or nothing, just, I’m an honest girl. My man’s outside, he’s helping me get you outta here.”
Tilly pouted, cheeks brushed pink, and Ellie swallowed her desire and stood up, letting Tilly get off of the bed. The ginger dream, she frowned in such a way that she did when she wanted something, but Ellie was simply having none of it, and spoke soft. “Mara won’t leave. She’s marrying Helphaeon, and they’re leaving the compound.” Ellie rolled her eyes. A consort marrying a Scion? Unheard of. But it could be true, and this worried Ellie. She gave Tilly leave to collect her things before she went to wake the others. She started with Fylo, her other sweetheart, the deaf girl with the blackest black hair and the loveliest skin – pale blue, as Fylo was a halfer born of a whore. It was a sad process, born of a whore and a whore herself now that she had no place in the Alliance, with her too-delicate features and those bright green eyes, and no place in the Horde with her blue skin, with the too-long brows and ears that stuck out far too much. Fylo was awkward, but pretty, and Ellie loved her as a sister (if, of course, one made love to their adopted sister on a regular basis, which she did). Tilly came over, and signed to Fylo quickly with her smooth little hands.
Fylo seemed to be on board, and got out of bed to quietly gather her things. Hespith and Mara, the twin girls so clouded with drugs and magic that they were unafraid to join each other’s beds during assignations, an idea which Ellie found revolting (although to be fair, Tilly was the child of Ellie’s mother’s sister’s child, and therefore her second-cousin or some such relation that Ellie didn’t understand), were naked and tucked in close to each other. Mara’s head rested on her sister’s breast, and she stirred against Hespith’s milky flesh. Ellie was over with quickness, climbing onto the bed and straddling their waists, hands clapped over their mouths. She warned them fairly, but as soon as she peeled back her hand, Hespith thought to scream.
Oh, it would be Hespith! That jealous cow had always thought for a way to damage Ellie’s sensibilities or reputation, and it was so far beyond irritating that Ellie had often thought to kill her out of sheer annoyance, but of course she’d never done. Ellie’s hand was quick, to her waist to draw her blade and bringing the blade to Hespith’s throat, she slit it neatly. Blood rushed from the wound as Hespith choked on the last fragments of life, the gurgling noise blowing bubbles in the blood that popped and splashed against Mara’s cheeks, against her eyelids. The wakeful girls, and Mara, seemed distressed, but kept silent. Ellie turned toward Tiaris.
She was an older girl, about two or three hundred, and was something like the ‘mother’ of the consorts. She was warm, and kind, and helpful, and patient, and Ellie adored her so. Tiaris sat there on the edge of the bed, awake, and holding her satchel in her hands. She smiled, and spoke softly. “Are we to hang about here all night, my darlings? I think it’s high time we take our business elsewhere.” Oh, Ellie loved that wit, she missed it, and after Tilly and Fylo helped Mara to dress and gather her things, Ellie stopped.
There was someone missing.
Ellie looked at Tiaris, frowning. “Tia, where’s Auriana? I don’t even see her bed!”
“Ah… Sister Riana had an assignation with the High Priest, and… has yet to—“
“Lord Diantony killed her.”
Ellie frowned. She’d never gotten a chance to know Auriana, she was new when Ellie married her patron and left the compound and though she briefly wished she’d known her better, she might have been more upset to hear of her death and less able to hear of her mission. She shushed the girls, keeping them quiet, as she waited for the signal.
A Job Well Done