Same universe as A Thunderstorm in Sto Lat. Some text taken directly from the book. Dedicated to Musafreen, who gave me prompts which I didn't follow very closely. Oops.
Certain words and phrases
keep running through my mind. Things like incarceration, cavity search, death by electrocution,
life in prison, shit like that, know what I'm saying, so do I want to come out alive...?
Igorina was a sensible girl, everyone knew that. She dressed properly for a girl her age, didn't carve up her flesh with myriad stitches like a little girl's sampler, didn't treat her hair as though it had personally offended her. Lady Brighetta was halfway considering introducing her as her daughter rather than her actual child, who was really more at home in the Igors' laboratory as it was.
The two were close, which wasn't particularly shocking. When you can't leave the grounds and everyone else is a boring adult, you're going to gravitate towards your sole peer. Lady Brighetta often wished she had given the girl a sister, someone close to her age to spend her time besides Igorina. But with her husband's ashes buried in consecrated ground, the only thing to do would be to Turn some human girl, and Turning had a whole host of issues associated with it. Nothing for it, Brighetta allowed. Maladicta might not be the polite, well-balanced lady she'd been hoping for, but she was her daughter all the same, and she was herself if nothing else.
Brighetta sighed, sipping from her glass—chilled blood, a taste her husband always thought strange. Practically taking up the Ribbon, he always said. And look where that opinion had gotten him.
One of the servant-girls ran in. "My lady!" she cried. "They've come!"
And the glass slipped to the floor; shattered on the tile.
"Gori," she whispered. "Gori, wake up. Come on, Gori. You can't be dead. If you're dead I will kill you."
As she woke, Igorina moaned, and Maladicta hurriedly put a hand over her mouth. Igorina could taste blood.
"Shh!" Maladicta hissed. "They're still here," she continued. "I don't," she broke off. "I'm not sure who's alive." She took her hand off of Igorina's mouth. "Are you alright?"
Igorina grimaced, bringing a hand up to the gash along her forehead. She was going to need stitches. "I'm fine, Mal. Really. I'd love my sewing kit, though."
The door slammed open, cracking like so much kindling. Five men, armed with stakes, silver swords, blessed water, holy symbols, and root vegetables.
"Oh, fantastic! I've always wanted someone to cut off my head and stick carrots in my ears."
Igorina's hand found Maladicta's and squeezed. Don't antagonise them, the movement said.
Maladicta had never been good at taking orders, and she smiled sweetly, lips closed over her teeth. "It's right up there next to climbing up Cori Celesti and punching Nuggan in the face."
A blond, bearded man made to attack her, but two others held him back. "Look," said the man who appeared to be the leader of the group, "we don't want to hurt you. We just want the bloodsuckers."
Realising what the humans' mistake had been, Maladicta moved to shield Igorina. "Then you want me, not her."
One of the men—the one who had tried to attack her earlier—looked like he was about to say something, but another of them whispered into his ear, and his confusion crystallised into hatred.
"You tried to trick us," he said. "You bitch."
Obviously not the brightest of an already dull bunch, him.
Maladicta feigned disinterest, but Igorina could feel the tension in her shoulders. "I've been nothing but honest with you." She inspected her nails. There was blood caked underneath them.
Igorina wasn't the only one to notice it. "She killed Walsh!" said one of the men, a sort of forgettable aging-tavern-owner type.
Nobody tried to hold back Blondie this time, and his punch sent Maladicta to the floor. One of the men levelled his sword at Igorina, effectively trapping her in the corner.
"Show me your teeth," he growled.
She scowled at him.
"This one's safe!" he announced to the others. "What should I do with her?" he asked, at the same time as Maladicta shrieked. The tavern-owner was holding one of Mal's arms down, pressing the blunt edge of his sword to her skin.
"Just lock her in the closet or something," he said dismissively.
It must have been hours that Igorina spent in that closet, listening to Maladicta scream, because she couldn't do anything else. She'd heard Maladicta scream before—it was the easiest way to attract young men in Vampire country—so that unnerved her, in all honesty, much less than it probably should have.
When she stopped screaming, that was when Igorina started to get honestly worried. Had the men managed to kill her? If she'd killed them, then she would have found Igorina by now, to let her out. Unless she was so injured that she couldn't?
But then she heard voices again. Laughter, from the men, and Maladicta's, weak and barely audible, hoarse from screaming.
"Please," she was saying, "please don't."
Igorina's blood ran cold. Maladicta never begged, not even to con a meal. She hated begging.
The men only laughed harder, and Igorina didn't hear Maladicta again.
The men let her out some hours later. She'd managed to fall asleep at some point, awoken by the rattling of the lock.
Blondie opened the door. "Now," he said, "I know that you won't be stupid and try to attack us, because otherwise I'll do to you what I did to your little bat. You're going to stay in here and sit like a good little girl until we've left, isn't that right?"
Igorina nodded. She wouldn't be able to kill all of them; what other choice did she have?
"Good girl," said another man, the tavern-owner. "Duchess knows why you're all mixed up with Vampires, but you're free now."
Maladicta looked like she'd climbed out of hell, bloodless slashes in her flesh like some parody of a cross-section in one of Igorina's medical books.
Most Vampires healed astoundingly quickly, but she was always slower than the average. Seeing as careful was one thing she wasn't, not at all, she was nearly always sewn up, looking more of an Igor than Igorina herself.
Igorina thought she might be sick. They'd mistaken the two, she could have gone through all of that, all of what had a Vampire limping, clenching shut her eyes and hissing in a half-successful attempt to hold back a scream any time pressure met the silver-brands criss-crossing her skin.
But Maladicta'd given herself up, let herself be tortured for Igorina's sake, and Igorina wasn't sure if she should be grateful or angry. You didn't have to do that, she wanted to say, they could have let you go.
But she knew what answer would come if she did say it, and Igorina wasn't ready to face that.
Maladicta valued Igorina's life over her own.
"Gori," said Maladicta, undressing. She had been undressing for about half an hour now. There were a lot of buttons.
"Yeah, Mal?" Igorina groaned and turned over in her bed, pulling the pillow over her head to block out the light of Maladicta's candle. She didn't need the thing to see, necessarily, but her Aunt Tsetsilya had the nose of a bloodhound, and was adamant that Maladicta not strain her eyes. Nothing more unappealing than a girl only three centuries with spectacles, she said. How do you expect to get a husband with those horrible things hiding your beautiful eyes? she said.
Maladicta hadn't pointed out that her eyes were roughly the colour of the River Ankh and spectacles might actually help her find a husband, nor had she mentioned her complete lack of intention to marry. She'd never hear the end of it, otherwise, even though Aunt Tsetsilya was, as she liked to refer to it, a Crazy Bat Lady, and had never, at any point in her terribly lengthy existence, shown even the slightest romantic inclination. Only one disappointment per family, Tsetsilya had said smilingly.
"We should run away," said Maladicta.
It wasn't nearly as simple as Maladicta seemed to think it would be. Two young women on their own was hard enough as it was, before you brought Vampires and Igors into the whole thing. They were halfway between vulnerable and feared, with the people who would help two homeless human girls turning them away, and the ones who wouldn't bother them for their races were braver, and made moreso by Maladicta's contempt for her aunt's opinions manifesting in a Black Ribbon.
"Mal, this is not warm," said Igorina, washing off her feet in a bucket of rainwater. There were still chips of ice in it.
"Sure it is!"
"I can't feel my feet, Mal."
Spending a Zlobenian winter in a cave was not, perhaps, the brightest idea.
Maladicta moaned. "Gori," she said, half asleep, "you have to take the ring to Narnia, it's the only place safe from the zombies."
Nobody ever told Igorina that rats hibernated. She didn't sign up for this. "'S not real," she said distractedly. "It's just a flashside."
"But the yellow carriage has a rifle!"
When Igorina woke up, Maladicta wasn't there.
When Maladicta woke up, she was covered in human blood.
They both felt an acute sense of dread.
Time to move to another country.
They stood in the room Igorina had managed to get them at a run-down inn. Maladicta held out a pair of shears she'd nicked from the kitchen.
"What are those for?" asked Igorina. They had sharper blades, and nothing so unwieldy as a pair of kitchen shears.
"They're so you can cut my hair," said Maladicta. "I'd do it myself, only, well..." She waved a hand in the direction of the mirror.
"Er... is Igor a friend of yours?" she said.
At the next table, Igor had obtained a sausage, presumably raw, from the kitchen, and was watching it intently. A couple of wires ran from the sausage to a mug of the horrible vinegary beer, which was bubbling.
"Never seen him before in my life," said the Vampire.
a point at which to stop.