Thursday, December 20, 2012

Heartstring Harper - Chapter 3: Cold Comfort

"You seem like you were awfully docile there," the Beast mused quietly, more polite now than he'd been the whole evening; after what had nearly come about from the argument a few moments ago, he had no desire to risk losing her tale. "And not just docile, too. Incurious. Never even looked to see who picked you up. Why?"

Heartstring shrugged, idly twirling her glass - once more empty, in the few moments since the Elemental had brought their drinks - as she spoke.

"Who knows? I was in shock, perhaps. And, too, I'd been drugged. But I think that some of it was her using a Contract on me, or something of the sort... I did eventually find out who it was that picked me
up, though. But you'll find that out later, if we get that far."

I played for her - them, really, I suppose, for certainly there was nothing about my Keeper to make me think of them as one thing or another, but that's a hard habit to fall out of, and it seems to fit for some reason, though I don't know why - until my fingers bled, and I could barely hold my arms up. And then, at last, they seemed to smile, though how when they didn't have a face, I couldn't begin to say. It was just an air they gave off, more than anything.

After that, the girl who brought me there helped me up, showed me to a room - her room, actually; I didn't quite rate one of my own - and got my hands tended to, then got me settled into bed, though we talked a while before I fell asleep...

"I'm sorry," Lure said softly, sitting down next to Anarya, and reaching out to lay a cold hand, like that of their mutual Keeper, though hers was made of frozen metal, delicately tooled with a pattern of snowflakes, no one matching its neighbors, instead of pure ice, on her shoulder. "I wish I could have put your dreams right, not shattered them like a mirror -"

The new-taken mortal hissed a negation, shaking her head, and looking rather as though she would have slapped the Changeling, had it not been for the fact that her arms were too tired for her to lift them, now that they had rested, and her fingers still raw, though the ointment that Lure - who, for all that she had been the one responsible for this, had proven to be a gentle and attentive nurse - had put on them earlier had numbed the pain from the wounds.

"You could. If you hadn't taken me, I'd not be here, so quit trying to make yourself feel better about it. Maybe if you'd left me alone, I'd have made it, maybe not, but either way, it would have been on my head, and you could have rested easy."

"You truly think that?", Lure asked with a bitter laugh, shaking her head. "You'll learn, then. After you spend enough time here, there's little you wouldn't do to stay in favor, or at least not fall out of it. Coming back empty-handed would have left me chained up with the Pack for a month or more, little girl. And you'd best hope that you never find out what that's like, even for just a night."

There was a brief silence, crystalline, the kind of quiet one feels is simply waiting to break, shatter like a glass hitting the floor and stab into whoever is around when it does.

"Well?", Lure said after a few moments, sounding almost impatient, though also, in some ways, with a touch of relief coloring her tone. "Aren't you going to ask, then? Come on, I expected better of you, what with your quick retort earlier, when I tried to apologize for dragging you here..."

Anarya flinched, having heard the mocking pain in the other woman's voice, but nodded, shifting slightly so as to be deeper under the thick blanket as she did, scared of what might be revealed when she spoke, and hungry for the comfort to be found there, even if it was of an irrational sort.

"What are the Pack, then?", she whispered, shivering somewhat as a chill passed through her, though whether from nerves or the cold that seemed to pervade this place, even here, next to a roaring fire, she couldn't tell. "And what do you mean by 'chained up'?"

"The Pack used to be people like us," Lure explained quietly, sighing, and once more reaching out to touch the girl next to her, this time slipping an arm around her shoulders. "Now the Keeper uses them to hunt with. They've been turned to beasts and back so many times they're no longer entirely human, in some ways. They're used as punishment. She won't let us die - but she will let them feed, either as a reward for a successful hunt, or a punishment to us.

Bad enough to suffer that perhaps every six weeks, as we all do, but can you blame me for being willing to do almost anything to not have that happening constantly, every day, for at least a month?"

No comments:

Post a Comment