Author's Notes: So this is a story that I promised a while ago to a writer friend of mine, drhicks76 of Ao3, deviantart and tumblr. Dallas is a great writer and his current story, Beautiful Jewel, is just gorgeous. If you like the idea of Mindfang/Dolorosa, and you're old enough to read something tasty, you should go check Dallas's work out. This story is supposed to take place as sort of a prequel to Beautiful Jewel. Hopefully Dallas doesn't find me too presumptive to make this story. Maybe he'll even like it!
Glimmer of Jade
Luck, or maybe fate, is why she's there. Well, not why she's there exactly, just why she's there on that particular day. After all the docks that recent criminal or political prisoners were brought through to be transferred to holding or sold into slavery weren't exactly unknown to her. It was where she came for fresh blood for her fleets, both literally and figuratively—there were plenty of less respectable medislashers that would drain a prisoner for the right fee, and who would complain when it helped out a more valuable member of her crews. No, what was lucky was the day she'd chosen to come. Marquise Spinneret Mindfang could feel it deep in her bones. This was the time she was supposed to be in, the place she was supposed to be in, and the point in her life she was supposed to be at it. What it all meant was something open to debate, but a Gambligant worth her salt—and she was worth both her salt and that of others—wasn't about to ignore a feeling coming from that deep within herself.
Besides, the Aces High had all but limped back from it's last encounter with the Royal Navy. Not that their cruiser had come out of it much better than the Aces High had. There was, at the very least, that to her advantage. Her crew hadn't let her down to the point where she couldn't walk down the dock, head held high, right into the current territory of her kismesis, one Admiral Cronus Ampora, also known as 'Orphaner Dualscar.' After all, she wanted the best lowbloods for her crews, and it was the political prisoners and lowbloods that had pissed Cronus off that were always the best to have. They took SO much pleasure in screwing Mindfang over that it almost felt like she should suspect some of them trying to win his pitch attentions over to themselves.
And there he was, halfway down the dock standing at the end of a gangplank, glaring in turn at the 'filthy land-dwelling scum' and the datapad in his hands. Just how she always found him on days like this. Sometimes Mindfang found herself wondering if he realized just how vulnerable he left himself in these moments. With his attention so powerfully riveted on the future slaves and smears on subjuggulator walls, he didn't seem to be watching any of the angles he was usually so attentive towards. Then again there were so few who were even allowed onto these offloading docks. Not that she was, just that she was pretty good at making the indigos that guarded it double over in pain. One of the first things she'd learned in this line of work was how to make the indigos come to heel as it were. Then again, she was Cronus's kismesis, which had to amount to something.
Still, it made what came next even more enjoyable.
"Croooooooonus!" she crooned out, letting her voice carry as far as she could manage, which was pretty far in truth.
It was a pleasure to see the way he flinched at the sound of her voice. The way he looked about ready to grab for his rifle but instead clung to his datapad in such a way that she could see a crack spidering its way across the screen, it was perfect. Made her want to sink her teeth into his neck and make him whimper. Also made her want to slam a fist into his gut and knock him off of the docks. Of course by doing that it would be so much harder to buy some workers. Cronus, after all, seemed to enjoy this part of their relationship as much as she did. Liked trying to get outrageous price out of her, not that he ever really did. Sure she sometimes had to pay a bit more than she liked, but never enough that it really caused her problems. After all, she was frequently paying with money she'd stolen from Ampora or his seadweller friends.
"That's Admiral Ampora to you, Mindfang," Cronus snapped, obviously quite disgruntled to have to deal her right now. Quite possibly because she'd done as much to hurt his reputation yesterday as he'd done to hurt her fleet.
"No, it really isn't. I can't think of anything admirable about you," she said, smiling wide and sweetly just like she always did to piss hiim off. "Especially considering how poorly your men did yesterday against mine."
"If mine did so bad I doubt you'd be here tonight," Ampora countered, eyes narrowing as he looked her up and down.
"I'm just getting a few trolls to pretty up my hive," she lied, still speaking sweetly. "After your last trip there I could use SOMETHING to make it look respectable again. Nothing like the stink of a seadweller to put you off of your appetite."
"Not what you were saying then," Cronus countered.
"No, if memory serves I was directing you around as if you were a land dweller just getting your sea legs. Really, Ampora, you'd think you'd have SOME experience with things like this."
Before Ampora could come up with some kind of witty reply—not that Mindfang was entirely sure he could manage that—Mindfang advanced further down the dock, sweeping past Cronus as if he wasn't even there. As she moved she took the chance to turn her power over the slow stream of lowbloods, raking through their minds swiftly in an attempt to figure out which would best serve her purposes. While it was easier to take trolls who were low on the hemospectrum and she could easily exert her will over, there was something to be said about those who showed their own potential. Those that had a fire in their minds, who hated their captors, who wanted to take the words of this Signless that was whispered about to the next level, those were the ones she wanted on her crews. Men and women who were willing to turn their dissatisfaction with the whole hemospectrum against their higher-ups fought harder and longer than others. And those who knew their only other choice was going to one of the shitty royal jails where they were be put into subjuggulator hands were more likely to go to the very edge of death for her. Really, the prisoners were a better recruitment pool for her crews than any other trolls on Alternia.
"These ones are politicals," Ampora announced, as if that made any real difference to Mindfang. She'd take anyone provided they wouldn't turn on her. And if Mindfang was sure of one thing, it was that they wouldn't turn on her. The thought would never even pass through their minds.
Speaking of minds, hers all but ran into a wall as she tried to run her mental fingers through one mind in particular. It wasn't quite the solid wall that she knew from those of ceruleans or higher, or the nearly impenetrable walls of a teal, but something undeniably close. Something she hadn't quite experienced before. To say that it got her pusher racing at the possibilities was an understatement.
"So what are they going for?" Mindfang asked, doing her best to sound bored. And if she was any judge of how well she did, then she sounded damn bored. After all, she'd had sweeps upon sweeps to perfect the sound.
"They're politicals, not for sale."
"Surely you can't mean that," Mindfang purred, rounding on Cronus and smiling. "We both know that I get what I want. And what I want is..."
There, that hard wall was back. Far closer. Close enough that she just couldn't help but turn to look for the source. And there, stepping on to the top of the gangplank, carrying herself as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders, was the source.
She stood there, paused on the brink of edge of the wood, head hanging low and an aura of sorrow floating around her so strong that Mindfang could feel it even through those walls. The troll stood there, tall, regal, composed for all of her sorrow. Despite the fact that she was in the simple, tattered tan clothes that all of the other prisoners were in, she was beautiful. Mindfang could just imagine the woman at her best, clad in the richest of gowns, gliding into any room and making even the finest of art jealous of her beauty. For a second Mindfang's pusher almost seemed to freeze, staring at the sight of the woman descending, perfectly composed outside and seething with pain inside.
"Her," she breathed, certain that it was under her breath.
"That one?" Cronus asked, sounding confused, which meant that she hadn't done too well at keeping silent. "You've got an eye for troublemakers, Mindfang. That one is one of the crew of that traitor mutant. Went by Doloross or something..."
"Dolorosa," Mindfang corrected automatically. She knew enough about the followers of the Signless to recognize the name. Now if only she could figure out how something who had managed to throw the world on its head was so riveting.
"Yeah. She's the chief of the prisoners. We're to take her to interrogation. We managed to round up the core of the commanders of the Signless's little group, except for one. The one referred to as the 'Disciple.' His bloody matesprit thing. We're hoping to get information from this one to help with the capture."
"Oh, you mean that feral troll that the Grand Highblood's pet indigo failed to kill?"
That got a nod from Cronus. "Exactly the one. She..."
"I'll take her," Mindfang repeated, unable to do anything but smile as she saw the troll in question lift her head and she caught a flash of light from beautiful, unmistakably and irresistibly jade eyes. "Sell her to me and I'll get you what you want."
"Have you ever known me to be anything but serious about purchases, Cronus?"
"And what do you think you're going to use her for? This isn't the kind of troll that you can get away with pulling oars for you. The Royal Navy would sooner see your whole fleet blown out of the water than let you put power into the hands of the likes of her."
"Cronus," Mindfang said, turning back to him with a grin, "trust me. I can get you what you want. The only question is what it's going to cost me."
There were no sounds but the slap of the waves against the dock and feet against the planks for a long moment. Then Cronus seemed to come to some sort of conclusion. He nodded to himself and started to tap some information into his datapad.
"I'm sure we can work something out," he said, grinning to himself.
He was going to charge her far more than the jade would be worth.
Somehow Mindfang couldn't find it in herself to care. All she knew was that she had to have that rare and beautiful jewel of jade in her possession. All other concerns were for later, after she could lay her hands on that flawless, sorrowful beauty.