Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters, world or concepts used here; all characters, world and concepts belong to Anne Bishop (except Darin, but he's based on her ideas as well).
Author's Note: I wrote this some time ago, shortly after finishing BJT's last book. I guess I couldn't quite get over that ending. Never got around to upload it because I'm not really sure if I'll keep this going or not. It was meant to be a one-shot thing, but a plot bunny comes to gnaw on my ear now and then about it. (Also, title may not be definitive…)
Please, let me know what you think of it; I'll see if I can feed the plot bunny. Thank you for reading!
A boy's Dream
Jaenelle looked down at the torn bodies on the dirty floor with contempt. She wanted to have done so much more to them… They deserved so much more. But the child was her priority. She placed a sight shield around the bodies before walking out of the kitchen and into the narrow hallway. No need for an already frightened boy to see that.
No one knew she was here, not even her husband. She would have to tell him about this, though. And wouldn't that be an interesting conversation?
A swift cautious probing of the house told her where to find who she'd come for. She glanced at the stairs leading up to the bedrooms, then moved in the opposite direction to the furthest door, at the end of the hallway.
The door to the basement was locked. Resisting the urge to simply burst it open, which would startle the boy, she used Craft to unlock it and open it completely. She wanted to touch as little of this place as she could. She stopped by the doorframe and frowned.
The stench of fear mixed with human odors, urine and moist filled her nostrils. The basement was dark, damp and cold. It looked mostly empty, except for a few shadows – probably pieces of furniture – tucked against the walls.
Giving herself a moment to adjust to the darkness, Jaenelle took a step forward, until she was standing on the edge of the first step. She felt rage bubble inside her when her surroundings slowly became clearer. The pieces of furniture were old, partially destroyed, broken, or simply forgotten; a couple of small rectangular windows near the ceiling on each side of the stairs let in the little light the basement had – barely enough to let her see the stairs clearly. They were out of reach, but iron bars made sure no one would have the chance of passing through them, unless they used Craft.
A weak sob came from the corner to her left. Jaenelle's carefully guided the witchlight to light up that side of the basement. Her heart ached when she saw the boy lying on a filthy, old mattress on the floor, curled under a ragged and even filthier blanket.
He was little more than skin and bone. His shabby hair was dark, probably black once washed. His scrawny, small body was covered in bruises and cuts. He was shivering, from fear or cold, probably both. Wide green eyes stared at her.
"Mother, p-please… I won't take any food again. I won't do it again, I p-promise! Please…" he whimpered, pressing himself more tightly against the wall.
Jaenelle could feel the potential, the power dormant in him. He could've shielded himself against the abuses, if he had gone through his Birthright Ceremony or had at least been trained.
His family had done neither. Instead, they had beaten him up, kept him out of sight and punished him. They had tried to smother his spirit and his instincts, tried to destroy the side of his nature that they feared, simply because they could not understand it.
"She won't hurt you again," Jaenelle said, taking a step down the stairs, but knowing better than to approach him just yet.
He stiffened, frozen by shock, then shifted shyly on the mattress to take a better look at her. Jaenelle pulled the witchlight a bit closer to her, so he could see her. Fear and confusion filled his eyes as he stared at her.
So young, so vulnerable… Shy and suspicious like a wild animal suddenly caught in the spotlight.
"Who are you?" He breathed, looking at the hallway behind her, wide-eyed. "What are you doing here? If they come back…"
"They won't; neither of them," Witch replied coldly. She climbed down the stairs, struggling to leash her temper. Her voice softened. "You called, Prince, so I came."
"I- I did?" He stuttered, panic filling his eyes as he glanced at the door again. "But I don't know you."
"You have a dream, don't you?" Witch asked quietly.
His mouth fell open, but his eyes were suspicious and unsure. He braced himself against the wall when she took another step towards him, as if trying to put some distance between them.
She stopped and let the witchlight hover between them, giving him time.
"What are you talking about? What are you doing here?" He sounded a little less frightened now, and more suspicious.
"I've come to take you with me." Jaenelle hesitated for a moment, not sure if for herself or for him. She had followed her heart, taken the risk of returning to Terreille by herself to come after this particular boy. He called out to her in a way she couldn't quite understand yet. "If you want to."
He looked away, and his attention was drawn to the globe of witchlight. Wander and sharp curiosity filled his eyes. He bit his lower lip, looking unsure, but Jaenelle could see the glow of intense desire in his eyes.
"Who are you?" He finally asked.
"My name is Jaenelle." She smiled and looked at him expectantly, but didn't ask his name yet.
"Could you teach me how to do that?" he blurted out, then winced, horrified, as if expecting a punishment for asking that.
Jaenelle held out her hand, her smile growing wider. "I'll teach you."
He looked at her hand for a long time, frowning, struggling between uncertainty and curiosity, between the instincts that had been brutalized and the fear that had been hammered into him.
"I have more food than I can eat in the Coach. I could use some help finishing it off," Jaenelle coaxed.
He licked his lips. The gleam in his eyes amused her. She grinned invitingly, but not demandingly.
After a long hesitation, he shrugged and struggled to untangle himself from the blanket. It took him a few more moments to gather the courage to stand and move toward her.
Slowly, and looking ready to run off at any moment, he reached out and took her hand. His was cold and shaky. Jaenelle wrapped him in a warming spell, adding a light soothing spell to it.
When she felt him starting to relax she raised the other hand to the door. "Shall we go, Prince?"
He nodded, but didn't move. "I'm Darin," he whispered shyly, eyes fixed on the floor.
Darin meant 'precious present' in the Old Tongue. Wondering if his relatives had known that, Jaenelle smiled. "Yes, you are."