A/N: Of course, these stories are far from the pinnacle of the darkness in my mind, they are definitely some of the darkest work I've written to date. This story will be long, twisted, and smash our taboos to pieces. This will probably disgust, offend, and disturb. This does not contain the light tone of the webcomic. It seems to follow a certain SoD path, so that is what you should expect. The ending is up to debate as I am open to changing it as the characters move and develop on their own, but I don't suggest counting on a happy ending. The Deirdre path of the Oneiroi Series is not a happy one and will not lend itself easily to a happy ending.
You have been warned.
Disclaimer: The OotS belongs to Rich Burlew. I'm not sure if Deirdre/Tiasal belongs to me completely or only partially, but I'm pretty sure that Rich wouldn't want her anyway, so I guess she's mine.
Milēs Fortēs Cadunt
The taste of blood was still fresh in her mouth when she shakily sat on her bed, wincing at the soreness in her thighs. Xykon stood in front of her with his arms crossed, skeletal grin frozen on his face.
"Did you really need to bite his throat open? The cleaning bill on the linens will be huge."
Deirdre dizzily shook her head, leaning forward and resting her hands on her knees. "How many prisoners do we have?"
"I dunno. Ask the Necromancer chick. She's in charge of that stuff." Xykon sat beside her, running one hand through her soft, luxurious hair. Everything about the gesture was possessive, as if he was proclaiming that she was his and only his. She had sealed the deal with the murder of her father.
She leaned a little into the touch.
"You're going to need to figure out what to do with that family of yours. They're going to get annoying if all they do is sit around the dungeon."
His hand drifted to the base of the back of her neck, playing cold finger bones over the moist green skin. A tremble ran down her spine when he touched a new bruise-like mark at her pulse point, and he chuckled lowly.
"Family? I killed them."
"Oh really?" The bare teeth were less than an inch from her ear, air rushing out and making another shudder ripple through her body. "I guess that we just have some other uptight elves, half-breed, and human thrown in the cells down there. My mistake."
Deirdre frowned, trying to muddle through her significantly clouded thoughts, trying to reconcile the implications of Xykon's words with the clear memory of killing and binding her brothers and cousins, but she let the confusion float away when a cold finger bone touched her chin, tilting her head up so Xykon could see her face.
His expression was the same, but it felt like the grin was predatory.
"You're not a virgin anymore. Reddy made sure of that."
She blinked in affirmation.
He chuckled, looking her up and down. "Tomorrow, find the Necromancer Chick and see how many continents we've crushed and how many more that need crushing. And ask if there are any rebellions yet—those are always fun."
His phalange ran down her side and rested on her thigh. "Get some sleep tonight and remember to put the prisoners to work tomorrow."
And Xykon was gone.
Everyone perked at the quiet tapping of bare feet on stone the next morning, their near silent conversation quieting. A familiar green woman stepped down the stairs, running her hand lightly against the stone wall and stepping into the empty hall in front of their barred cells.
Deirdre didn't pay mind to the servant children feverishly scrubbing every inch of the dungeon clean. They never acknowledged anything but their work, so she didn't bother them.
She looked up at her childhood playmates, a smile playing across her face. Lydia was hunched over a pile of peculiarly stacked rocks, probably playing a game with herself. She had always loved games, especially logic-based ones or puzzles. Deirdre wondered briefly what Lydia's younger brother and sister were up to.
Abram was leaning against the wall, his eyes closed, his arms resting on his knees and his mouth moving slightly, as if he were speaking but there weren't words coming out. Terentius seemed to freeze in place, previously pacing his cell, and his eyes fixed squarely on the woman.
Octavius stood up robotically, walking to the bars and gasping them so tightly his knuckles were white.
"Didn't I throw you all down a mountain?"
Lydia's face scrunched up a little and she glanced up studiously from her game, but all the others were too distracted to respond.
"Tiasal, what's going on?" Terentius asked, slowly going to the bars of his cage and holding them just as tightly as his twin. "Tia…"
Deirdre's purple eyes flicked back and forth between the prisoners, her blood glowing under her skin faintly. The power of the Snarl seemed to have been absorbed more completely with her body, but the glow remained as a constant reminder of what she was capable of.
"What do you think I could use you for?"
Terentius jerked a little in surprise, eyes not leaving her. "What?"
"I can't keep you in here forever, can I? Xykon will get bored eventually and start using you as toys, but Tsukiko insists that you are valuable sources of information so we shouldn't kill you." She paused thoughtfully. "Does this all sound vaguely familiar?"
Terentius swallowed hard, but Octavius only snarled, slamming himself against the bars like an animal.
"You conniving bitch! He killed our Other Parent and you still work for him?!"
"You forgot to mention him killing my father, but yes, that sums it up." Deirdre fingered the black sapphires around her neck, tapping the cold stones. One of the servant children picked up his bucket, scampering into one of the empty cells and starting to try to scrub away hundred-year-old brown and red stains. Purple eyes followed him as he did so, and Lydia's face scrunched up a little more.
"Interrogation isn't my job. I'll leave that to Tsukiko." Deirdre casually walked up to Terentius's cell, smiling.
The phantom taste of Redcloak's blood got stronger in her mouth.
"Hi, Big Brother. Long time, no see." She reached through the bars, taking one of Terentius's hands and lightly running her thumb against his knuckle, her soft green hand tiny against his giant chocolate-colored one, just as it used to be. "We should get caught up, shouldn't we? Octy doesn't look like he's calm enough to talk much."
"Keep your paws off him!"
But Terentius didn't throw his sister's hand away. He looked dumbly at her palm, forcing another painful swallow. "B-Baby Sister…"
"We should catch up. I have so many questions and so many things to say."
"So you're going to rape and kill him?"
A familiar yet somehow warped goblin with a red cloak leaned against the wall, frowning with his arms crossed. "I guess it doesn't matter what you do. It doesn't change the fact that he's going to try to trick you the same way I did. What are you going to do to stop him?"
Deirdre's eyes darted towards the goblin for only a moment before they were back on Terentius, her expression never wavering.
The cell door unlocked and swung open without her touching it, Deirdre quietly stepping inside the cage. Terentius didn't make one move to harm or escape. She knew he wouldn't. He wanted to trick her too much.
"Here, Big Brother."
She grasped both of his wrists, tendrils of magic licking out and forming two simple metal wristbands with glowing runes on them. "These will keep you behaving well."
"…" Terentius sounded like he was trying to speak, but he couldn't.
Octavius just growled, holding the bars between them tightly. "If you hurt him, I swear I'll—"
Deirdre looked up, dangerous chips briefly visible in her eyes. "You'll have him hold me while you beat me unconscious again?"
The color drained from his face.
Abram shuddered, his face contorting for a second, before he relaxed and slipped back in a trance.
Terentius's arms slipped around her waist, bringing her in slowly, then squeezing tight.
Deirdre rested her head against his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck the way Tiasal used to, nuzzling his throat gently. "I missed you, Big Brother."
He let out a choked sob, then tightened his grip around her, burying his face in her neck. She gently ran her fingers through his hair and rubbed circles in his back, letting him cry, lovingly shushing and rocking him.
Octavius looked away, as did Lydia, but Abram stayed in his almost-not-murmuring state.
"Come on. I'll get you cleaned up."
She shifted her head a little, his sweaty hair sticking to her face, and kissed his head. The little girl holding Deirdre's leg sobbed softly, reaching out futilely for Terentius.
"I missed you, Big Brother… I'm so sorry… Kill me… Please."
Deirdre supported her brother, wrapping one of his arms around her shoulder and wiping his grimy tearstained face with her hand and leading him towards the cell door. One of the servant children walked in the cell just as they left, passing through the siblings.
It occurred to Deirdre that they hadn't had servant children since the cleric had died.
No one spoke when she led her brother to the stairs and out of sight.
Terentius didn't say or do anything. He was her doll. Her plaything. If she had thrown him on the bed and pulled his pants down, he probably would just stare. He didn't have the will to resist her.
She brought him to her room, still holding him up, and pulled his shirt off, revealing a body covered in sweat, grime, and cuts, some getting swollen and infected and some healing. She let the shirt drop to the floor.
She undid his belt, letting his pants fall, then she pulled down his underwear. That elicited a slight wince of discomfort, but nothing else.
"Come on, Big Brother."
She stood up and took his arm, leading him like a child to the bathroom and stepping into the shower with him, turning on the nozzle to have a jet of warm water spurt out.
Terentius shivered, looking away, but Deirdre didn't seem bothered. She watched the dirt, sweat, and blood wash away from her brother's body, circling down the drain, before she picked up a bar of soap and started washing him herself. He was shaking, but never once did he say a word.
She paid special attention to his chest, making sure that all the cuts were getting the cleaning they should have had a while ago. Some of the barely scabbed cuts started to bleed again, and she just quietly ran the soap across them.
The suds still washing away, she squeezed some shampoo in her hand and started washing his hair, not even needing to go on the tips of her toes. Terentius shut his eyes tightly, shaking as white bubbles dripped down his neck and was washed down into the pipes.
He still didn't say anything.
Deirdre made sure all the dirt was washed out of her brother's hair before she leaned on him gently, putting her hands on his chest and resting her face against him, just breathing, and the only things separating them were her wet dress and the droplets of water running between their skins.
She turned off the water.
Hair and clothes dripping, Deirdre stepped out of the shower, pulling her brother with her, and grabbed a fluffy white towel, giving it to him. In one of the first independent movements he made, he wrapped it around his waist to cover himself, the tips of his ears red and his eyes averted.
The woman murmured something under her breath and her skin, dress, and hair immediately dried, the only remainder being the puddle at her feet
"I'll get clothes for you."
She turned and left, shaking out her hair, and walked to her wardrobe, opening it up. Her brother wasn't particularly broad—the size difference between elf men and women was small, made even smaller by Deirdre's goblin blood—so anything of hers would fit him.
She pulled out a pair of pajama pants, and after a moment's thought, a matching night shirt, laying it out on the bed. Her late father's room should have more male clothes.
Terentius stepped out of the bathroom, still drying his hair but keeping his private areas carefully hidden. His chest was still looking red and bloody. A roll of bandages appeared in Deirdre's hand and she walked forward, patiently wrapping it around her brother's torso tight enough to stem the bleeding but not so tight to restrict his breathing. It was only when she was finished did she speak.
"Would you like me to get you underwear? I know where I can—"
Deirdre's ears perked a little at the sound of her brother's voice. It was deeper than she remembered, the rumble sending little vibrations down her body, and it sounded husky, like a smoker. Interesting.
She turned away while her brother carefully started getting dressed and opened up the drawer in her bedside table, taking out a metal case. She doubted her brother liked nicotine. He never struck her as a tobacco lover. Good thing she didn't like tobacco either.
She took an unmarked homemade cigarette out of the case, pulling a lighter from the drawer and flicking it on. The sound made her brother perk and look to see was she was doing as he buttoned up his shirt.
"You shouldn't be doing that stuff. Put it down. Now."
It was the first assertive statement he'd made since she came to him in the dungeon. Deirdre shrugged, putting the homemade-looking cigarette between her lips and lighting the tip.
The musky scent rose to the ceiling and Deirdre took out another cigarette, strolling forward and putting it between his lips. He stiffened a little, his hands freezing over one of his buttons.
"This should relax you a little."
She brought her lighter up, flicking it on. The flame appeared in a flash, making the tip of the cigarette glow and smoke.
She flipped the top over the flame.
Terentius closed his eyes and finished buttoning his shirt, taking in a long drag, and only taking the cigarette out of his mouth for a moment to blow a cloud of musky smoke up at the ceiling.
"How did you know?"
"Your voice tipped me off."
Deirdre sat down on the bed, and her brother slowly did the same.
"You shouldn't be doing this. It's horrible for your lungs. It's alright if I do it, but not you."
"I don't do it often. Only when I need something to unwind." Smoke snaked from the corner of her lips, twirling around in the air and slowly dissipating. "If your voice is anything to go by, you're an addict."
There was silence for a bit.
"I… I had quit for a while." Terentius blew out another cloud. "When we thought you died, well… I didn't think there was a reason to take care of myself anymore."
"But I didn't die." Deirdre watched him carefully out of the corner of her eye, taking another drag. "We have a lot to get caught up on."
"Yeah. We do."
Terentius rubbed the extra moisture from his eyes. Deirdre turned to face him, leaning against the bed's headboard. "How is our family? What happened after I left?"
He took a moment to gather his thoughts, still not quite meeting her eyes. "Well… it was hard. Everyone was devastated. We thought that Tsukiko had killed and soulbound you. The Order started to work harder to find Xykon, even bringing Aarindarius and the old Sapphire Guard in on it, and they sort of left the kids with Celia. Me and Eight stayed with Parent. Abram, Eight, Lydia and I went out adventuring when we were old enough and tried to find Xykon and Deir… you."
He swallowed hard, taking another drag. "What about you?"
"Oh, the usual." She blew out another immaterial snake. "I was kidnapped by Tsukiko and forced to work for the late owner of this tower, a cleric. He had more than a passing interest in his child slaves."
"He forced me to become addicted to an opiate so I would only have vague memories of what he did to me and he was able to punish me with withdrawal if I resisted. It was a very unpleasant experience. The smoking is one thing, but believe me when I say that, when needles and opiates get involved, you're way in over your head."
Terentius pulled the cigarette from his lips, shaking and pale.
"Xykon decided to use the threat of my sexual abuse as leverage over Redcloak, who he resurrected a couple months after I was captured. The cleric took a rather flippant view of Xykon's authority and tried to just take what he wanted. Xykon killed him, then he killed all of the other servant children."
His skin was white as the sheets.
"I wish he had done it sooner. The drugs were horrible to get off of." Deirdre blew out another snake and held out her arm, scars from needle marks still visible on the green skin. "I thought I would die."
Terentius gulped, carefully brushing the tips of his fingers on the inside of her elbow, counting the scars silently. Deirdre shrugged, allowing him to continue. "Xykon taught me magic. Redcloak is dead now. We're rulers of the world." She leaned forward, touching his face and caressing it lightly. "I would ask if you were proud of me, but I know you're not."
He was silent.
That was all the affirmation she needed.
She kissed his cheek. "Would you like a drink?"
"I insist. You're tense."
She stood up, walking to the cabinets built into her armoire, and took out two glasses. "I hope you like human-made sherry. My spirits are so strong that they would knock us both out, and I finished my wine with my father last night."
Terentius shifted nervously, frowning at her. "I thought you said that your father was dead."
"Oh, he is. He was disposed of last night." She glanced up from her cabinet. "Fino or oloroso? I'm afraid I don't have anything more moderate."
Terentius was pale again. "You, uh, don't seem too broken up about it. He was your father."
"And that makes me have to care about his death?"
She looked up at him, their gazes meeting, and he saw something disturbingly shattered in his sister's eyes.
"Oloroso or fino?"
Terentius gulped quietly. "Whichever is strongest."
"Oloroso it is." She straightened, holding an open bottle of dark liquid, and started pouring it into the glasses, shifting her cigarette a little between her lips. "I have to warn you: it's a little sweet."
"That's fine." He took a calming drag, the room getting thick with smoke. "I never thought I'd smoke and drink with my little sister. We shouldn't be doing this. I'm setting a bad example."
"The time to set examples is long past, Big Brother." Deirdre put the bottle away and presented a glass to him. After a moment's hesitation, he took it. "Besides, I am old enough to make my own decisions."
The woman smiled and raised her glass. "Cheers to times past."
"To times past."
They clicked their glasses together and took a sip in unison.
Terentius jerked a little in surprise before swallowing. "That's sweet. And… thick."
"Yes. I take it that you don't have sherry often?" Deirdre chuckled softly, sitting uncomfortably close to him and blowing out another snake of smoke before sipping.
"Usually just the trashy beer they have in inns and stuff." Terentius leaned back, closing his eyes and opening his mouth to let out a dark cloud to join its brethren on the ceiling. "Why did you take me out of that place? Why not Eight?"
"He seemed irritable, so I decided to give him some time. And you were always the kind one." Deirdre sipped then blew, leaning her forehead against her big brother's neck. "I missed you."
A strong arm wrapped around her waist and warm lips brushed against her hairline, loosened by the smoke and drink. "I missed you too, Baby Sister." His chest hitched slightly and his voice caught. "More than I can say."
Deirdre ran her fingers through his long, shaggy hair, playing with it slowly while they kept smoking and drinking. The smoke slipped out through the cracks in her window, twirling in the air and disappearing. Hunger gnawed at their stomachs, but neither had the motivation to do something about it.
"I promise I won't leave you again."
Deirdre blew out a cloud. "You know that I'm Evil now."
"Yeah. I know." He drank a little more sherry. "You're my little sister. I couldn't protect you once. I promise to never leave or hurt you again."
She opened her drawer and ground the last of her cigarette into an ashtray within. "I know you won't, Big Brother."
His grip on her waist became stronger and she leaned forward, kissing his cheek dangerously close to his lips, and drank the rest of her sherry. "I know you won't."
Terentius's eyes were a little glazed now. He finished his sherry and his cigarette, grinding it to dust on the ashtray, and together, they took out another pair of cigarettes and started to smoke again, Deirdre pouring them more sherry.
By the time those homemade rolls were finished, they had gone through two more glasses each. The made-for-humans alcohol was taking it's toll. Terentius put his glass on the bedside table, cuddling close to his sister and burying his face in her hair, breathing in the scent he had never forgotten.
Deirdre stroked his hair and kissed his forehead. "You're handsome, Brother. You've grown into a man over the years."
"And you've grown into a woman." Terentius nuzzled her neck, looking at her up and down. "But you shouldn't dress like that. You're showing off too much."
"Mm. You noticed?" She kissed his forehead again. "Father didn't like it either. He thought that I was selling myself short as Xykon's concubine."
Terentius looked up, trying to focus through the smog. "Has Xykon touched you?"
"We haven't slept together."
"Oh. That's good." He slung his arm around her waist, stroking her back. "My baby sister's no one's whore."
"You think so?" She ran her fingers through his hair, almost losing her hand in the green strands. "Big Brother, you'll have to work for me now that you're our prisoner. You and everyone else. Or Xykon will kill you."
"I'm okay with working for you."
She put her empty glass beside his on the bedside table. "Do you want to be my servant, Big Brother?"
He looked up at her, the glaze in his eyes evident. "Yeah."
"You want to make up for all the horrible things you did to me, don't you?"
He nodded dully.
"You'll be a good brother, then? Better than you were?"
She stroked his cheek, staring intently, and he nodded again.
"And no matter what, you'll always do what I say and never abandon me again?"
She kissed his forehead.
"Stay with me. I don't like the nightmares."
She stood and unzipped her dress, letting it fall to the floor, and pulled on a night slip. The musky smoke hung around them, clogging their minds, and Deirdre slipped under the sheets into her brother's arms.
Terentius nuzzled her hair, tightening his grip around her waist, and closed his eyes.
He didn't see the dangerous gleam in his little sister's gaze.
"My head hurts."
Terentius's head was pounding, but his vision was still clear and true to him. The Theurge he only knew from stories the Order had told him was standing in front of him, mouth twisted in a snarl.
Her face was weathered, and though magic kept her alive, she definitely didn't look young. A tattoo of the skeleton of a dragon crawled up her cheek, snapping at something at the center of her forehead, and an old crescent scar marred her arm. Her black hair was pulled in a hip-long braid streaked with gray and white, but her mismatched blue eyes remained intense as ever.
This was the woman who took his baby sister away.
"It's not my responsibility to cure your hangovers, kid," she said venomously, touching Terentius's temples and muttering healing spells under her breath.
"No, but it's your responsibility to heal my servant's infection." Deirdre, her own hangover healed, gestured to the bandaging visible under his shirt. "While we are here, you can report fully about the prisoners taken and our casualties. You didn't give them to me yesterday."
"Just because you control the Snarl doesn't make me your slave, brat," the woman with the dragon tattoo spat, obviously not intimidated. "Stop acting like it."
The woman with the dragon tattoo glared, then looked back at Terentius, healing his infected wounds. "Besides your family, we got a few generals and stuff like that. And some of those old Sapphire Guard windbags."
Terentius took a sharp breath and Deirdre perked.
The woman scowled, finishing her healing. "We got that guy who worked with your mama and tossed Xykon's phylactery in the first place."
Deirdre frowned, the little girl sniffling from her seat on the bed. "Why did he get caught…? Not him too…"
Terentius was frowning too, but he was less confused and more nervous.
"He should be dead by now, or at the very least ancient." Deirdre crossed her arms in front of her chest, something gleaming in her eyes that made Tsukiko instinctively tense. "How could he be fighting?"
"You tell me. He's probably using some crazy magic—he looks younger than I am." Tsukiko frowned guardedly, making a dismissive gesture. "Don't get any ideas, kid. Xykon's going to want to kill him as soon as he gets back from crushing resistance for fun."
"Mmm." She wasn't listening anymore. "Where did you put O-Chul?"
Tsukiko's eyes darted to the door. "Your funeral. I stuck him in the solo dungeon upstairs."
"Thank you. You're dismissed."
Mismatched eyes flared for a moment, but they flicked to the fractured glow in the hybrid's veins.
The woman with the dragon tattoo backed off and left without a word.
"You're not going to try to kill O-Chul, are you?" Terentius immediately piped up, bringing the woman's attention back to him. He didn't know how dangerous that was. "He was the one who always played with us as kids. And… and he helped save Other Parent! And—"
He went silent immediately, shocked. His sister had never used such a terse tone with him.
"It's my decision what to do with you. I'm the one with power now." Deirdre turned her eyes on him, gold light mixed in violet eyes. Sparkles of fractured multicolored light speckled the natural gold magic.
That shouldn't be happening.
She started to smile again, the light fading, and she ran a hand through his hair, brushing the tip of his ear with her palm. He stiffened with a sharp gasp and a flush ran down his face, something uncomfortable shifting in his gut, but his little sister took no notice. She just kissed his hot forehead, slipping her hands down his arms to his wrists, where the bracelets she had magically created hugged him tightly.
"Do you know what these are?"
She leaned forward so her mouth was next to his ear and his nose was against her neck, inhaling the intoxicating scent that had haunted his dreams, and her breath tickled the sensitive points, making something warm and primal tug and pool in his abdomen.
"Of course you don't. Tsukiko invented them herself, and only we and Xykon know how to make them."
Terentius swallowed hard, his gut shifting again, and he trembled lightly, suddenly aware of how adult his sister's body was and how pressed it was against his.
Her fingers played across the bands. "These keep you wherever I want you, forbid you from leaving the tower, keep you from using magic or drawing a weapon against me, and, better yet, allows me to punish you whenever you do something that I don't want you to." She interwove their fingers. "But I doubt I'll have to use that feature."
His abdomen gave a savage tug.
She suddenly separated from him, walking to the door and giving his racing heart some blessed space.
"I have a lot to do today, and Xykon and Tsukiko need to get used to the idea of you following me around before you start doing so, so explore as you wish. The bracelets keep you from going anywhere we don't want you to be, so I'm not worried."
Her smile flickered to something vaguely familiar, stark against the sharp, mysterious manner she had been using thus far.
"I'm glad you're here, Big Brother. We'll get Octy to come around."
And she was gone in a flurry of green and purple.
The wild elf swallowed hard and hugged his knees on the bed, calming his heart and ignoring the warmth in his gut.
His little sister was beautiful.
He didn't notice her at first. That was the best part of walking around on bare feet—no one heard her coming.
It was definitely O-Chul, but he was much younger than he was even when Tiasal was a child. Lines were deep in his face, but they were more from stress than anything else, and his muscles were toned and taught with a combination of work and youth, and his beard, previously brushed with snowy white in her memory, was dark blue again.
The Chaos in her veins started getting pulled slightly, like something in the air was tweaking it. It usually only did that around powerful divine magic. That was interesting.
He was also stripped down to his briefs, revealing the old white scar tissue marring every part of his body, remainders from his last stay with Xykon. He was leaning forward, frowning at the ground and tracing pictures that only he could see. Probably a plan.
"Leave him alone. Go back to your room. Smother yourself with a pillow. Never hurt them again."
"He'll try to trick you. You know that."
"Are you going to keep standing there like an idiot?"
A servant girl walked through her, lugging a bucket at her hip, and knelt at the floor, starting to scrub the old stones. She was wearing a tight little skirt—the sort Master used to tell his favorite girls to wear—and blood was trickling down the inside of her leg and splashing on the ground. It would take forever to clean the floor if she kept bleeding on it.
The man looked up sharply.
His eyes widened.
Deirdre dragged her eyes from the little girl and the glaring goblins around her, walking up to the bars and resting her hands on them. "Do you recognize me?"
He stood up, frowning. "I… believe I do." His brow furrowed and his eyes remained carefully on her face. "But the person I believe you to be died when she was a child."
"Mmm. Yes, that would make it a little difficult for her to be standing in front of you, wouldn't it?"
"I'm not standing in front of him. You are."
His eyes were still fixed on her.
"What if she didn't die, though? What if she were taken away? Maybe she was even taken to this place." She rested her forehead against the bars, meeting his gaze. He was still wary. He wouldn't believe she wasn't some sort of illusion without something a little more convincing.
"I can prove it, if you're willing to believe."
She leaned back, letting her hand go to the neck of her dress. "It's stretched a little since puberty, but the scars are still there."
A slight flush came to his face, but his eyes stayed serious, watching as she drew back the neck to reveal two puncture wounds on the side of her breast. "Do you want to see where the bottom teeth went?"
"I'm not going to ask you to show me that." His eyes lingered on the scars, still wary, and he remained silent for a moment. "Anyone who saw her body would have seen her scars. It wouldn't take very much to guess what did it." His fingers twitched slightly on the bars. "A scar wouldn't be hard to add to a powerful illusion."
Deirdre frowned thoughtfully, her fingers lightly tracing the scars at her breast.
"You saved me from the snake that gave me this, O-Chul. Remember? I had climbed up the mountain that my home was at the foot of because I was curious, even though the Order warned me about the rattlesnakes. You were the only one who guessed where I went."
She let the neck go, covering the scars again. "You startled me when I was watching the snake. I scared it and it bit my breast." A smile flickered over her lips. "You threw it away and carried me back down to home. I couldn't stop crying."
He was staring at her face now.
"You didn't mind the tears or the blood. You just kept holding me and started telling me a story about when you were a child and you fell from a tree and broke your ankle. You said that you cried then too." The smile became slightly more concrete. "It made me feel better because I didn't feel so weak for crying, because you were one of the strongest people I ever knew."
She flicked her eyes up, staring at slightly glassy dark eyes. "By the time I you brought me to Uncle Durkon, I wasn't crying anymore. I didn't have to."
The little girl beside her wasn't crying or screaming for once. She was leaning against the bars, speaking in time to Deirdre.
Deirdre reached out, grasping one of his hands and holding it tightly.
"…You are Tiasal."
His hand came up, touching her cheek, then her feather-soft hair. "You're alive. By the Twelve Gods."
He took a moment, his eyes swirling with thoughts and reactions, until his expression finally darkened.
"Have you been here with that abomination for all these years?"
"We're talking about Xykon, right?" Deirdre's smile took a slightly darker quality. "Who else would take me?"
She drew away from his touch. She had been out of his reach for longer than he knew.
"But I should be asking you questions. You're a young man. You were middle-aged when I was a child."
"I don't think I should tell you about that. Not yet, at least." He gripped the bars tightly, his brow furrowing. "Information is dangerous, little one. I don't want Xykon to think that there is a need to try to get something out of you."
"What the hell are you doing up here?"
O-Chul looked up sharply, as if he were strung to a wire, while Deirdre's glance was more languid. Xykon was standing at the door, hands glowing black. "If you're not here to help make Kentucky Fried Human, then out. You got family members to creep the hell out of. That green-haired kid looked like a virgin fresh out of Hooters."
O-Chul's face was the picture of puzzlement.
"We have a lot to get caught up on, and your grudge has waited years. I'm sure you can wait a little longer." Deirdre looked back at O-Chul, smiling. "Besides, it looks like he has information that may be useful. Without Father here to worry about such things, someone has to remind you of the importance of strategy and knowledge."
The prisoner's eyes darted to her face.
"Talk like that ended up with your dad screwing your mom like a jailhouse whore and you getting born! Do you want to make some hybrid bastard?"
She arched an eyebrow, scowling.
"Well, you're probably already knocked up already anyway. You should have probably figured out how to use protection spells before you decided to pin—"
"That's enough." Deirdre rolled her eyes, the fracturing glow in her veins strengthening. "I won't object to a little revenge, but I don't want him to die."
"What makes you think that you have any choice?"
O-Chul warily looked between Deirdre and Xykon, tensing. They were too familiar with each other for the little girl he used to know to have just been a prisoner. (And what was this about pregnancy?) He tried absorbing the knowledge, tensed and ready to attempt to distract the lich if he decided to get too physical with the young woman.
"Because I do."
White, carefully tied together magic mixing with black, flared at Xykon's hands as he drew one back and slapped her across the face.
O-Chul shouted and Deirdre hit the wall, a handprint flaring in red across her cheek, but she said nothing.
Xykon immediately slipped his hand in her hair, grasping it tightly. "Get downstairs and start working on securing world domination or by Evil, I'll rip those disgusting ears off."
Deirdre's mouth grew in a grin, sharp white teeth gleaming like diamonds, and fractured light glimmered like stone chips in her eyes.
"Of course. Whatever you want. You know that's what I'll always do, don't you?"
Her eyes sparkled as if a thousand fireflies were trapped inside and flashing in their death throws, giving out their final tiny screams.
"I'll always stay here and do what you want me to." The fireflies concentrated at her iris, moving into her pupil until there was no black left. "But I think you should be more careful about how you treat me. I like honesty. I don't like cruelty."
The phalange tightened painfully in her hair.
"Get downstairs, half-breed bastard."
Xykon roughly shoved her towards the door and she stumbled away, eyes still glowing and mouth still fixed in a Jack-O-Lantern grin, and she disappeared down the stairs.
"How dare you…"
"Shut up, paladin. You have no idea what she does to nice guys. You'll be eaten alive." Xykon turned towards O-Chul, the gems in his sockets glowing brightly as he stared for a while, deciding on his fate and weighing revenge and Deirdre's wrath against each other.
Deirdre would want him to die soon enough. That's what happened with Redcloak. She'd have her way with him, then Xykon could have his. He was loathe to have sloppy seconds, but even he understood the implications of her little fit.
"I could kill her any time I want, you know. I've only kept her around because she was useful to hang over Reddy's head, and now, she's useful against you."
The paladin's frown tightened in an effort to keep his feelings from reaching his eyes, but Xykon could tell that he understood the threat.
"Make sure she stays useful and be a little looser with your info than you were last time."
The paladin didn't even think of the possibility that Xykon was lying. He was hooked and trapped the same way Redcloak was.
A slight feeling of dark joy curled in Xykon's mind and empty abdomen. Even after all these years, he loved watching these lesser beings squirm.
"Remember that shark? It missed you."
Xykon was getting a sadistic high, but he was smart enough to know what was going on, even as he prepared to take part in one of his few joys in unlife. Too late, he was realizing that the death of Redcloak and the focus of his subordinate's delusions heralded the loss of his control over her and started to shake the careful cage of manipulation he had trapped her inside.
The only reason he had allowed her to have as much Snarl power as he did was that he couldn't take it all without going insane and she was his slave, and he had thought that that had been a safe bet to make.
He wouldn't be able to kill her as long as she had that power.
If she slipped out from under his thumb, she actually posed a threat to everything he had worked for.
Xykon didn't care what he had to do or who he had to sacrifice: he would not lose control.