Notes and warnings:
This story contains references to rape and to child death, offscreen and in the past. Some may find it disturbing. The story contains full series spoilers through and including Ever After.
I have noticed that most stories here that deal with Newt either make her even more evil than the typical demon is, or make her misunderstood but make Al evil, or some other combination of demonizing somebody, no pun intended. This story does not try to make anyone look particularly awful except for Ku'Sox, because canon and he totally deserves it, and a bunch of demons who have been dead for a very long time.
This is not a ship fic. The reader is free to imagine whoever they like as the person who helped cause the situation Rachel is in. :-) I am not going to say, because I don't know and I don't care.
"Rachel Mariana Morgan. Wake up."
I did, in a horrifying rush. That was Newt's voice. In my bedroom. In my church. At five in the morning.
Dammit, she'd probably destroyed the sanctity of the place again.
"Rhombus!" I was still half-asleep. It's a good idea to throw up a shield when you're half asleep and you don't know the situation, but as I came fully awake, I realized: that was Newt, sitting at the end of my bed, smiling mockingly at me. She could break my shields any time she wanted to; the only real defense against Newt was to call whoever was her minder nowadays, and since Minias had disappeared, no one had volunteered for the job, yet. I could call Al, but I wasn't going to do that unless Newt actually threatened me, since it would probably seriously torque him off.
I got my breathing under control. "Newt, is there a particularly good reason why you're waking me up at..." I looked at the clock again. Yup, it did in fact say 5:13. "...five in the morning?"
"You're a demon. Why are you even asleep at five in the morning?"
I sighed. "I stay up until three or four, but I'm not going to go fully nocturnal. You probably wouldn't either if you had stuff you had to get done during the day."
"I just don't sleep," Newt says. "It solves most of my problems."
I sighed again. Plainly it was going to be one of those encounters with Newt. "Uh-huh. Going without sleep tends to drive people crazy, but I'm guessing you don't see that as a problem."
"It's a feature, not a bug," Newt said, and slid off my bed. "This is very important, Rachel Mariana Morgan. I woke myself up just for you."
"I thought you just said you didn't sleep."
She opened my closet. "You're not going to be able to wear these things much longer," she said. "A month or two and they'll be much too tight. And these boots will probably never fit you again, not unless you use a curse to reshape yourself. But I don't really understand why you wear them anyway. They look like they'd hurt your feet."
"Did you really come here to criticize my wardrobe?" I said, and then the implications of what she'd just said sank in. Newt knows. Oh, god. Instinctively I wrapped my arms around my belly. "And what do you mean my clothes will be too tight?"
She turned back to me, expressionless. "You know what I mean," she said. "Don't worry, the men can't smell it on you yet. You'll show before any of the others can smell the pregnancy. Women can smell it long before men can."
I swallowed. I hadn't wanted any of the demons to know about the baby, not yet. The Rosewood babies were in hiding, and Trent had arranged for fake deaths and new identities for the families, but the demons knew who I was, and hiding from them hadn't worked real well when I had, in fact, almost died. I'd known I had no hope of hiding the pregnancy indefinitely, but I'd thought I had time to come up with a plan. "I'll tell Ivy to invite you to the baby shower," I said. "But I don't really think five am in my bedroom, when I was sleeping, is the right time to discuss that."
It was a horrible sound, not because it was frightening, but because it started out as a genuine laugh, something I'd rarely heard from Newt, and then she just kept laughing, doubling over like what I'd said was the funniest thing ever, except it was starting to sound more and more like sobs. I got off the bed and backed up, pulling my shield with me. "Newt? Are you okay? Do you want me to call Al?"
"If you call any man here I'll kill him," Newt said, straightening up, and got the horrible laughing under control. "Even Gally. He can't hear this."
"What? What can't he hear?"
"Drop your shield, Rachel Mariana Morgan. I'm sane today. Possibly. More than usual anyway. And no, I am not okay. Not at all okay." She leaned against my wall, her head against her arm. "I don't know how much longer I can stand this."
I dropped the shield. There wasn't much point to it anyway. "What can't you stand? What's wrong?"
She turned to me again. "I remember everything," she said, her voice cracking. "I woke myself up so I could tell you what I need to tell you, but it hurts, it hurts to remember, and every part of my brain is screaming at me to run away and forget again but I'm not going to, I'm not going to be a coward this time, but I don't know how long I can bear this..."
"Are you telling me you're insane on purpose most of the time?"
Newt laughed again, mirthlessly. "There are humans around here who use wheelchairs."
I blinked. If Newt was saner than usual today, you couldn't tell by me. "Uh, yes, but - "
"Some of them have legs that work, but it hurts so much to walk, they use a wheelchair. On purpose. Every so often if the need is great, they might grab their crutches and walk, a short while. But it hurts."
"You forget on purpose," I said. "Because it hurts to remember. But I've seen you trying to remember. Why would you do that if you were forgetting on purpose?" And then I remembered that when I'd seen her trying to remember, Minias had chastised her for using yew to forget.
"Don't be stupid, love. When I forget, then I forget why I need to forget, because if I remembered why I need to forget, then there'd be no point to forgetting." She took a deep breath. "I have a story to tell you, Rachel Mariana Morgan. It's a very important story about a girl like yours."
Like yours. Not "like you." "Are you - you can tell the sex of the baby? Are you saying she's a girl?"
"Yes. You shouldn't have any boys. It might be possible to protect girls. But not if you don't let me tell my story."
Right. Daywalking male demon bodies would be very, very attractive to the demon males cursed to the ever-after; it's why Trent went to such lengths to hide the Rosewood babies. But the demons were well aware that the only two female demons in existence were myself and Newt; while I'd met enough demons who ran around the ever-after in female forms to think that plenty of them might be happy to take a daywalker's body of either gender, I also thought that the rest of the demons would probably be deeply irate with anyone who harmed a new female demon before she was of age. Maybe. Though I hadn't planned on counting on it even if the baby was a girl.
I sighed. "Fine, Newt. If it's that important to you." The truth was I was intrigued, really, though I was trying to hide it from Newt; I didn't want to make her feel like she was doing me any more of a favor than she already thought. There'd been a lot of hints dropped, by Newt or the other demons, about things in the demons' past, things Newt might know but couldn't remember, and I was actually curious about what she had to say.
Newt sat back down on my bed. "All right then. Once there was a girl. -There always is, isn't there? The stories always start 'once there was a boy' or 'once there was a girl.' This girl was a princess, or close to it anyway, but she wasn't particularly beautiful and it didn't matter anyway because everyone could look like anything they wanted. The important thing is that the girl was powerful. And smart. Very, very smart." She had a necklace of mine in her hands, and was fidgeting with the pearls. Great. I would probably never get it back from her. "She was also sane. Back then. It's important to point that out. She was very sane, all the time."
"So, this hypothetical girl who was very sane, I'm assuming I know her?" I didn't know why Newt was telling her story in the third person, when she was obviously talking about herself.
Newt just ignored me. "The girl's mother was a Matriarch, one of the rulers of a demon clan. Her sisters were all warriors. Now what you need to remember is that women are more powerful than men, which is one of the reasons the elves were killing us. Women were warriors because if you were a woman nowhere was safe anyway. We couldn't stay grouped in safe houses, because if the elves took out a sanctuary with multiple women, that was a more dire loss, and we didn't have the resources to keep civilians safe in their own homes, so women were warriors. Or leaders. But the girl was a scientist."
'Yes, a scientist. I know you think you daywalkers invented the concept of studying how things work and experimenting to make them work better, but where did you think we got all of our knowledge? " Newt got off my bed and started pacing around my room, still fidgeting with the necklace, looking at the pearls and not at me. "The girl was a woman and she was a scientist, because she was really good at it. She invented new curses. Combat curses, fertility curses to help other demon women conceive girls or multiples or multiple girls, curses designed to destroy the elves. "
Newt a scientist. Weirdly, that actually made sense. Everyone knew that Newt had forgotten more magic than anyone else remembered. Someone had once told me that Newt had written most of the magic the demons used nowadays, but even though I knew how witches worked out new spells, and I knew how much more advanced the demons' magic was and how technical their knowledge of magic itself, the idea of a demon as a scientist was just bizarre. Somehow I had thought of Newt as... maybe just knowing these things, as if she'd always known them. Apparently not. Once upon a time she'd been a researcher working on developing curses. "Okay," I said, mostly just to express that I was paying attention.
"One by one her sisters died in battle, or were murdered by the elves. When her mother died, the woman was technically her heir, but she didn't spend nearly as much time in Council as she did in her labs. We had to win the war. She wanted to avenge her sisters and her brothers and the rest of her people, and herself for the time she had been enslaved." She looked up at me suddenly. "Did I mention the part where at one point she was a slave? That was before the war started. She doesn't remember very much about that even when she's sane. She wasn't a slave for very long; she was very smart."
I knew Al had been enslaved by the elves. I knew possibly all the demons had been. But I realized I had never thought about the fact that that meant Newt had been too. It was actually very difficult, most of the time, to imagine Newt having weaknesses outside her obvious insanity. "I understand, " I said.
Newt was still looking at me. "You can't take a slave ring off your finger. You know that. You probably didn't try it but you can't take your finger off either. Or your hand."
"That's... useful to know." I wasn't planning on re-invoking any more slaver rings, so I wasn't sure if it would ever come up, or if I would ever have gotten desperate enough to try to cut my own hand off.
"But actually you can cut off your whole arm to get rid of a slave ring," Newt said, conversationally, as if she was giving me a recipe. "It gets technically very difficult to do when you have them on both hands, but you just need to have the right curses and equipment ready and a moment when your master's asleep because you mixed her drink just a little bit strong, because the curse won't let you harm your master but getting her drunk isn't harmful at all, she does that to herself fairly often, you're just being helpful by mixing her a strong drink. And then your arms are gone but you have a healing curse so you can get them back, and then your master's still asleep but the magic that enslaved you was bound to the rings so you can kill her. You might want to wake her up first so she knows you're doing it."
I took a deep breath. "Newt, seriously, is this what you wanted to talk about?"
She shook her head. "No. Mostly the girl didn't remember much about that. That's not the point anyway." She started pacing again. "We tried many things. We tried breeding with humans, altering ourselves genetically so there could be half-breeds. But the half breeds would only be demons if the mother was a demon. Human mothers can't support two full magical auras; their bodies rejected the young unless the infants were significantly less powerful than demons are. Since we weren't short of men, breeding with human men was nonsensical, but breeding with human women made creatures who were too weak, too human, to truly be demons. We thought it was still a good idea to do it because they would still carry the recessives; the weakened half-breeds could, themselves, support two magical auras, and every so often the recessives would combine and the child would be a demon."
That was actually fascinating. And more than a little weird. I was talking to the person who had helped to create my species. Well, the species I'd been born into, the species I still considered myself part of even if I had also begun to consider myself a demon. "Wow."
She laughed again, and jumped backward onto my bed, into a sitting position, like a bouncy, hyperactive 12-year-old. Newt was small, and her body was as androgynous as a child's, but the idea of Newt being bouncy was as ridiculous as... well, as Newt laughing, which she'd just done. "The elves put an end to that. Which makes it honestly hilarious that the elves fixed it. Don't you ever laugh about that?"
"I always thought it made sense, actually. Kind of like a destiny thing. Trent's father undid what his ancestors did because I don't know, it just seems like the time must have been right." Or maybe because he'd had no idea what the link between Rosewood syndrome, witches, and demons was, and my father had been his close friend. But I wasn't going to say that.
Newt nodded. "Maybe you're right." She lay back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling. "So that was one strategy. We also made Ku'Sox. I think you're as aware as I am of the problems with that."
She sat up. "Now you must understand that every demon woman who could do it and who could bring herself to do it was having babies. Women would get pregnant and go into battle that way because nowhere was safe, winning was the only safety. We had triad marriages, mostly, two men and a woman, so that there would always be someone awake to watch her back. Some did it the traditional way, one man and one woman." I remembered being part of Al's dream, hearing him call out to a dead woman. Presumably he'd been one of the traditionalists.
"The girl didn't marry anybody," Newt continued, getting off the bed to pace again – I was getting the distinct impression that whatever she'd done to herself to restore her memories had made her uncontrollably restless – "and she didn't have any children. She enjoyed sex as much as any other demon woman, but she told the men she slept with that she was married to her work, that she thought of all demonkind as her husbands and sisters. The real reason was that she didn't want to bear children. She used contraception curses – one of the only demon women who did, and some complained, because she was now one of the most powerful demon women left and that meant one of the most powerful demons and why should those genes be lost? The truth was that she'd made Ku'Sox out of a lot of her own genes, mostly, so she really didn't think the genetic loss was an issue, and she was powerful enough that she could experiment with curses no one else could control, hone them and study them and pare them down until others could use them without them getting loose. She invented many of the weapons we used in the war." She sat down on my floor, crosslegged, looking out my window. "Sometimes she fought. Even scientists had to, sometimes. "
"I guess... in a war like that, no one would be a noncombatant, would they?"
She shook her head. "No safety ever, so you need to learn to be a warrior. Yes. And then the elves cursed us all to the ever after."
For a full half minute she said nothing else. I wasn't sure if maybe that was somehow the point of her story, if she was done speaking, or if she'd just lost track of herself again, or maybe forgotten what it was she wanted to say. It was very uncomfortable, to sit on my bed in dead silence, looking at Newt on the floor. Finally I had to say something. "Newt? Is that the story?"
She started talking again as if she'd never stopped, but her voice was hollow, far away; not literally, but the way people sound when they're trying, very hard, not to feel anything about what they're saying. "When you have no line to follow and no gargoyle to help you and you're lost in the lines, trying to make your own way out, you need to know who you are and you need to focus entirely on yourself and your own needs. Pregnant women didn't, mostly. They tried to protect their babies and they dissolved into the lines. Many mothers tried to help their children across, and they failed too. The only women who made it across were the ones who weren't pregnant at the time or mothers of young children, or who were willing to abandon their babies, born or unborn, so they could survive." She turned back to me again. "There weren't many."
I swallowed. I remembered what it had been like, to try to pull myself out of the lines. If I'd been carrying this baby at the time? No way would I have left her behind. I'd have done everything I could to save her as well as myself... and apparently, according to Newt, that would have ensured my death. "None of the pregnant women lived?"
"No. Not with their babies, at least. If they lived, they weren't pregnant when they materialized. None of the unborn made it. Nor the children already born." She stood up, staring at me. "Can you imagine this? Imagine, all the children, gone. Dead. Lost to the lines. No one over the age of about ten survived. All the mothers, either dead or bereaved, and the bereaved ones haunted by the child or children they abandoned to survive. And only ten percent of the survivors were women. Because we were all trying to be pregnant because the elves kept killing us." She looked away from me, at the floor. "Except for the scientist. She wasn't pregnant, so she made it."
God. I didn't want to imagine it. Especially not now. Children dying had always horrified me, maybe because I'd spent so much time growing up in a place where I and all my friends had been expected to die, maybe just because that's a normal reaction to the idea of children dying. People – humans, witches, living vampires, Weres – all of us normally have a visceral reaction of horror to the idea of dead kids. But now that I was pregnant, the horror was much worse. Newt's words were actually making me sick, and I couldn't stop imagining it. A world where all the children were dead. Where every father was bereaved, where every mother was either dead or had to live with the horror of having abandoned her child to save herself. Presumably a lot of the fathers had felt that way too. "Did fathers die too?"
"The ones who were trying to help young children across the lines. Yes. Anyone who tried to help anyone else, died. We lived or died alone. Altruism, heroism. The elves killed all those of us with those traits." She smiled grimly. "They thought they had killed all of the women because they never saw one of us again. They didn't realize, they had only killed almost all of us... and killed any compassion, any empathy, any unselfish love within all demonkind at the same time."
"That explains a lot."
Newt chuckled. "You are our first hero in five thousand years, Rachel Mariana Morgan. And the only reason you live is that you went alone across the lines, not alongside hundreds of others. You wouldn't have survived if there had been others around you to save. Even if you had not been pregnant yet, you wouldn't have survived."
No. I'd probably have tried to save someone. It was weird to hear Newt call me a hero; I wasn't sure if she meant it as a compliment or an insult. Maybe both.
Before I could say anything to that, Newt started to pace again. "The scientist helped to build our homes in the ever-after. She helped our society to rebuild itself. She was now the most powerful demon left, bar none, well except for Ku'Sox but let's forget him, and she was of a powerful line, heir to a Matriarch, so she had been for some time a member of the Council of Thirteen, the ruling body of the demons. Before the ever-after there had been three other women on the council, the two as powerful as she was and one slightly less, but after, she was the only one." Again she stopped, looked at me. "And the Council of Thirteen had a problem. Demon women didn't want to have babies anymore."
This time when she was silent for several seconds, I didn't interject. I was starting to see why maybe these memories were stressful for Newt to recall, so I gave her time.
"Every woman who survived either had been choosing not to have babies, like the scientist on the Council, or had abandoned her children so she could survive. There were some who wanted to replace the babies they'd lost, of course, but most were grief-stricken, shell-shocked, horrified at who they were and what they had done and they couldn't bear the thought of replacing infants who'd died because they, the mothers, had callously left them behind and saved themselves. So at this point the demon species was reproducing at a rate of, approximately three babies born after the ever-after. At all. No one else wanted babies.
"We argued, why have babies? Our species is virtually immortal. Now that the elves can't come after us, we can take our time repopulating. We can shore up our own safety, our own sanity, before we worry about having children. The men wouldn't have it. They'd lived so long with the need for all the women to be pregnant, the fear of the elves killing all of us, wiping our reproductive capacity out, that they felt there was no time. Women had to have babies now.
"Of course we refused. So they made us."
She stopped again. This time when she looked at me, the expression of childish confusion she wore when her memories, or lack of them, were playing holy hell with her mental state was back. "I don't want to remember this, Rachel Mariana Morgan. I don't."
"You don't have to," I said. "You don't have to do anything you don't want to do, Newt. It's all right."
She shook her head. "It's not all right. I have to. I don't care about you, but her. You need to know for her sake. You need to keep her safe so I don't have to."
"I'm going to keep her safe. I don't need to know - "
She interrupted me. "Yes you do yes you do yes you need to know!" In a moment, Newt had grabbed me by my nightgown, right under my neck, and dragged me down to the level of her eyes. "You need to know this, you need to. I have to tell you."
I pulled her hands off my nightgown and straightened up. "Look, Newt, I can see this is really upsetting you. If you really feel like you have to tell me this, maybe you can come back and finish the story another day? Take a break?"
She laughed again, hollowly. I'd heard Newt laugh tonight more than I had the whole time I'd known her, but none of it sounded right. "I'll never have the courage to do this again."
And then she sat down on my floor again, drew her knees up to her body with her arms around them, and started rocking, as she continued to speak. "They rounded up the women, and the girls, there were survivors as young as ten who could be cursed to be fertile right now, they put them all in a very comfortable, very beautiful prison and they slapped silver bracelets on them and they dosed them with fertility potions." For a moment she relaxed, letting her knees loose, looking up at me. "Except the Councilwoman, because of course you don't lock a Councilwoman in a rape camp. Excuse me, I'm sorry, they never liked me using that term."
I was confused. I'd thought the Councilwoman was Newt herself, based on the rest of the story, but Newt didn't seem to me to be the kind of person who could be so thoroughly traumatized by something that had happened to other people. If she hadn't been one of the victims, then why was it affecting her so badly? She continued, after a pause. "The Councilwoman protested, and argued, and threatened to use her power to smash the women's encampment and free them, but she was too much of a coward to actually do it because nine to one, men to women, and in the Council it was twelve to one. She didn't have the numbers." Here Newt started rocking again. "She made plans, though. Meanwhile, any woman who had a living mate was perfectly free to become pregnant by him, but she had to get pregnant; and those who had no living mate were to share their favors amongst all the men who didn't have a living mate either, so that all male demonkind would be father to all the children."
This time when she looked at me, she was still rocking, and her voice was harsh. "It wasn't supposed to be prostitution. We were never like you humans. Women were more powerful than men; men had never felt they were entitled to sex with demon women. Familiars, of course, but they didn't count. Most of them were captives of war. It was supposed to be about reproduction. But we learned from the elves when they were our masters, and we learned from you humans. Forcing people to have sex they don't want breaks their wills. So if there were women who didn't want to have sex with any of the available men, because they wanted to be faithful to a dead man or because they preferred other women or just because they didn't want to... all the pretty language about shared fatherhood was a way the men could rationalize gang raping the women who tried to refuse."
"Did... did all the demon men participate in this?" God. I knew that probably every single demon I knew, with the possible exception of Newt herself, had raped familiars, and that none of them, including Newt, perceived anything wrong with it... to the point where Al had shown up to get drunk with Trent and me after Ceri's death, even though he'd abused her horribly, raped her, and handed her out to other demons like he was her pimp while she was his familiar, because demon law and demon morality didn't seem to perceive anything wrong with raping or harming other people who weren't demons. But they did understand morality as it applied to their own kind. They weren't very empathic, but the fact that none of them had tried to enslave me since they'd realized I was a demon, except by using their laws against me (and except for Ku'Sox, but Newt had already said he didn't count and I knew he'd been sociopathic even by demon standards), had made me think they did actually get the idea that hurting fellow demons was bad. Was that wrong, too? Had all of them participated in abusing their own women as well as the familiars they enslaved?
"Not all. Some were children, young boys old enough to save themselves from the lines but too young for sex. Some were husbands, and they couldn't keep their wives out of the encampment but they could join them in captivity, live an almost normal domestic life with them. Some refused to participate, either because they were still grieving for a dead lover or wife, or because they thought it was wrong, or because they preferred men anyway, or because they wanted a woman who would love them, not one who would bear their children under coercion. It didn't matter, though. There were nine males for every female. There were more than enough men."
She got up off the floor, climbed onto my bed and sat there crosslegged. "Some still held out - they couldn't refuse, but they could refuse to accept that this was right, they could continue to argue and complain and insist that this treatment was wrong – because the Councilwoman said this was wrong, and she was still arguing for them, raising legal challenges, bringing motion after motion. And the men, most of them didn't want to know they were raping people. They wanted the women to submit and pretend to like it, or at least not complain about it. So the twelve men of the Council decided they had to do something."
I could see her knees edging up out of crosslegged on the bed back into their protective position in front of her, could see her look away from me, starting to rock just a little bit. I knew whatever Newt was going to say, this was the part – or at least one of the parts – she couldn't bear to remember. I'd never liked Newt very much, but the fact that she was putting herself through this because she thought I needed this information to protect my daughter made me feel like I wanted to help her, comfort her. I wasn't at all sure Newt would take it well if I sat down next to her and put my arm around her, though, and I didn't know what else to do. I wasn't sure Newt would take any attempt to comfort her well, since it would involve admitting that I knew how upset she was, and felt sorry enough for her to try to do something about it. "Newt, if you need anything... if you need a drink or something..."
"I need to say this," she whispered. She pressed her head against her drawn-up knees. "I need to tell you what happened." I could actually see her swallowing. "One day the woman went to the Council Hall to meet with her equals, her fellow leaders, and the twelve of them... ganged up on her and pinned her and bound her with silver and raped her, there on the Council table, all twelve of them. She was the most powerful of all of them, but she wasn't more powerful than all of them together, and once they got the silver on her her power didn't matter anymore. And they made an apartment for her, where she would have none of her own books, none of her own tools, and in fact no spellbooks or magical tools at all, and no familiar, they took him away, and they locked her in there and they dosed her with fertility curses in her food and drugs to dull her mind and make her unable to think her way out of this and they raped her every day until she became pregnant. All twelve of them. Every day. Because she'd layered so many contraception curses on herself, they couldn't undo them all; the fertility curses had to work their way through her, counter her contraception, before she would ovulate and they didn't know exactly when that would be and they didn't want to miss her window of conception."
Yeah. I had thought it would turn out to be something like that. My heart wrenched, and I felt sick, and I wanted to kill the men who'd done this to her, although most likely it was going to turn out she'd taken care of it herself. "God, Newt. I'm so sorry..."
She ignored me. I wasn't even sure she'd heard me, or that she could. "When they thought her will was broken, they brought her to the women's encampment to show her to the other women, to show them that resistance was impossible. But they didn't let her stay there; they were afraid she'd collude with the other women, that the others would find a way to free her." I saw her fingernails digging into her arms, clenching on them so tightly the knuckles were white and blood was starting to well up under her nails. "They didn't need to keep having sex with her, once she was pregnant, but they liked it. So they did."
I couldn't not reach out to her. What the hell, all she could do was kill me for it. I sat down on the bed next to her, and put my arm around her. The rocking slowed down, her arms relaxed a tiny bit, but she didn't acknowledge that I was there in any other way.
"The fertility curse hit hard when it hit. She became pregnant with quintuplets." She was almost whispering, but her voice was harsh.
There was another long pause. I didn't say anything, just sat there with my arm around the world's most powerful demon, the most powerful magic user on the planet most likely, who was still rocking back and forth, who was making no attempt to push me off or move away from me. I had been in some screwed-up, bizarre situations in my life, so I couldn't really say this was the most bizarre... but it had to be in the top ten.
Had she ever told anyone else any of this? Did the other demons even know? No one I'd talked to seemed to have any idea exactly why Newt was insane, and whether she'd killed all the other women because she was insane at the time or whether doing it had driven her insane. If they had known she'd been gang-raped and forcibly impregnated... they were all men, but they couldn't be that clueless. They had to know, this had to be part of what caused her insanity. Unless they didn't know it had happened at all.
"Here is a thing you need to know about pregnancy," she said abruptly. "Charmed silver binds one aura. You can't put silver on an unborn infant. But a mother cannot channel the lines through her unborn infant, obviously, because that will kill it."
My gut twisted in an entirely different way. Bad enough I'd become oversensitive to any notion of children dying since getting pregnant. The mere mention of the concept of a mother killing her unborn child, that way, by pulling a line through it... when it was developed enough to have a soul, because you couldn't pull a line through something that didn't... I shook my head without quite meaning to do it, but Newt wasn't looking at me anyway.
"She figured out a way to win." Her voice had turned into a harsh monotone, with a cadence to it like she was a teenager reading out loud in class, no emotion, just the choppy rise and fall of sound, detached from the meaning of anything she was saying. "She was drugged and she was broken and in her mind she was screaming, screaming all the time because there were parasites inside her and they were her own children and she wanted to kill them and she wanted to love them and they were inside her and she couldn't bear it, and her fellow Councilmembers fucked her over and over, at least one of them nearly every day, until she was far enough along in the pregnancy that they thought it wasn't safe for the babies. So then they left her alone, mostly, except when she tried not to eat or drink because they didn't want her to die, not when she could bear so many powerful demon children."
"God, Newt," I whispered. They couldn't know. Or they thought she didn't know, and they were deliberately pretending they didn't know either because they were scared of what she'd do if she remembered. There was no way the demons could know this had happened and not understand what it must have done to her, the connection to the way her mind had broken.
By now she had coiled back up, even more tightly than before I put my arm around her, her arms bleeding and her hands white-knuckled again and her knees digging into her chin. "Even with all that she still figured it out. The brain of a fetus is developed enough to spool power in by the point in gestation that in a human would be about 8 months, and her children were her children, genetically some of the most powerful demons among demonkind, and they'd used curses on themselves so they would father only female children, so all of the unborn babies were girls, with the heightened capacity that girls have.
"She made her unborns her familiars. She pulled the lines through them, through their auras, and filled them with power to bursting, and used the power to blast her arm off again, because the charmed silver bracelet was a bracelet. Though she might have done it anyway even if it had been a necklace. And then she filled herself and her babies with so much power it burned them out, it burned out her mind, she tore away all the drugs but she tore away her sanity at the same time if she still had any and she leveled the Council Hall and killed the Councilmen, and went to the women's encampment, planning to free them.
"Ku'Sox found her. " She paused again, silent, leaving me alone with an entirely too vivid imagination and the words she'd already spoken burnt into my brain.
She burned out her babies.
She burned out her babies. By pulling a line through them, spooling power inside them.
If anyone had told me that about anyone else, if I'd heard that about Newt before I'd heard the rest of the story, I would have despised that person. Any mother who could do such a thing had to be an irredeemable person... unless she did it because she'd been enslaved and tortured and raped by her own kind, by the people she'd been fighting for for centuries, and they forced her to bear children she'd never wanted and pulling the lines through them was the only way to free herself. God.
And then Ku'Sox. I was actually sure I didn't want to hear the rest of this story anymore. But Newt thought I needed to know, to protect my baby... and besides, if a woman, even a woman who'd been antagonistic to me more often than not, was going to tell me a story like this, a story she might have told no one else in five thousand years, I wasn't going to tell her to shut up and go away. She was the one who had to live with these memories; I just had to sit here and hear her out.
Newt started talking again. "She was in that moment more powerful than he was but he was the child she had made so it didn't matter. She wasn't afraid of him, she didn't hate him like she hated the other men. So... so he...
"If she freed all the women the same thing would happen again. The levels of power she held now would only last until her babies burned out, and since they were babies, that wouldn't take long. She couldn't protect her sisters indefinitely and the numbers were still nine to one. So Ku'Sox had suggestions. If she killed all the demon men, except for Ku'Sox, who hadn't raped any of them, the women would be safe. That was his first suggestion to her. But as powerful as she was she knew she couldn't do that, she didn't have the strength to murder every last demon man and some of them were little boys, they were still innocent, some of them hadn't raped anyone, some of them had stuck by their wives and lived in the encampment with them and tried to fight alongside her when she'd been a Councilwoman and trying to use the law, she couldn't kill them all. She could kill a lot of them, she already had, she had killed all the Councilmen and everyone in the building and everyone who had ever touched her and every man who knew what had been done to her, but she couldn't kill all the men, there were too many. So Ku'Sox had another idea. Send the women far, far away from the men. Somewhere they will be safe.
"She took the whole encampment and she sent it out on the lines, not toward the day world but in the other direction, out toward the after the ever after, out there into nothing, because if they found a way to a new world they would be safe and if they all dissolved into the lines they would be safe. No one would ever rape them again. No one would ever plant a parasite in their belly again. They would be... they would be safe... all of her sisters... would be... safe..."
Her voice started breaking toward the end, and by the time she was done, she had doubled over on the bed, like she was trying to curl herself into the tiniest ball possible, and she was shaking, and her breathing was ragged. "It's all right," I said quietly, still keeping my arm around her, my hand on her back. "You can cry if you need to. You don't need to hide it."
"I am not crying," she said, and sat up, proving that what she'd just said was complete baloney because her eyes were wet with tears. She drew in another ragged breath, and another, and then began to speak again, her voice almost normal sounding at first.
"None of the demons left alive know what happened. They know, I'm the only one left. They know it for five thousand years I am the only one left and if our kind will ever have children again one of them has to get me pregnant. But no one will ever bind me with charmed silver again. I carry curses that will dissolve the bones from anyone who ever tries, all the time."
So they didn't know. That made me feel a tiny bit better about the rest of them – Al and Dali and all of the others who mocked Newt for her insanity even as they respected her for her power, that they weren't mocking her knowing what had happened to her.
She'd wanted to keep the women safe. When the demons talked about Newt killing the women, I'd gotten the impression that she murdered them in a rage, or a fit of madness, or maybe even jealousy. Ceri had said they'd established a registry of demon DNA because Newt had been killing so many demons, they needed to keep track of who was dead. But Ceri hadn't been there and none of the demons left alive had known what was being done to Newt; her attack on the Councilmen must have looked unprovoked to everyone else. And her attack on the women hadn't been an attack at all. She'd killed them all because she'd wanted to protect them from something she couldn't possibly protect them from, and Ku'Sox had gotten to her and used her insanity against her, twisted her thinking around to make her think she was saving them when she was actually killing them all.
My heart broke, the way it got tiny cracks in it every time I saw some evidence of the way Al had suffered in the past, like when he'd dreamed of his wife or I'd learned he had once been a slave. Newt was a monster, but honestly so was Al, so were all of them, and I'd still come to accept them as my people even if I disagreed with approximately everything about their moral system, and I'd started to think of Al as a person a long time ago but I'd never quite extended it to Newt. She was too strange, too unpredictable, too frightening most of the time. But she'd wanted to protect them, and Ku'Sox had tricked her into killing them, after she'd suffered a horror so great it broke her mind already.
Part of me wanted to resurrect the bastard so I could kill him again.
Abruptly Newt turned to me, solid black eyes, glittering with tears, locked directly on mine – and she reached out to me, clutching my shoulder with one hand, her expression... pleading? "I'm not... I'm not some, some, they think I'm too insane to know what I'm doing and I don't feel anything and they don't think I can love, they don't think I have desires... but it's not true. I'm a woman, like my sisters that I... that... I'm a woman, I can still want men, I can still want love... but I can't have it. Because no matter what I try, no matter what curses I put on myself to forget, I can't, I can forget what happened, I can forget why, but the moment I forget that I can't afford to love a man and I let him touch me, I let him inside me..." She twisted her head away, and continued to turn it back and forth, over and over in long "no" gestures. "... then the memories come back and I'm there, I'm living through it again and this time there is no silver on me so there's nothing to stop me from tearing him to shreds... and then it's over and I remember I wanted him, I loved him, but it's too late... and they know I kill but they don't know why, none of them know, I killed all the ones who knew, and most of the time I don't even remember, so they think this is something they can fix, they think if they keep trying, they keep throwing themselves at me and offering me love and care and concern sooner or later I'll let one of them, and I can't tell them that none of their love matters because it's my memories, they eat me alive and I do things I never wanted to do and I can't control it and Minias..."
And suddenly I found myself with an ancient, godawfully powerful demon in my arms, sobbing hysterically, burying her face against my chest. I stroked her back and murmured, "Shh", because I didn't know what else to say. I couldn't tell her it would be all right, because it obviously wasn't.
How long had she been holding this in? She'd just admitted to me that none of the demons knew why she was insane or why she'd killed the women. Five thousand years and she'd probably never told anyone at all. Newt didn't even pretend to have affection for her familiars; I couldn't imagine her even admitting the kinds of things to them that Al had told Ceri, let alone this. And most of the time, she didn't even remember it... deliberately. Something we'd all thought was part and parcel of her insanity was actually a last ditch effort to save what little was left of her sanity.
I thought of five thousand years, never able to tell a single person about the horrors inflicted on you or the ones you'd done and why. Five thousand years, blocking your own memories so you could survive the centuries, but blocking the memories didn't block the PTSD. Five thousand years with men throwing themselves at you, trying to seduce you because you're the last woman left, and most of them were probably incompetent at it but some of them, some of them were kind and loving and you fell in love with them and you'd blocked your memories so you didn't remember why you didn't dare give in to that love. And you let them in, because you loved them, you wanted them, and it triggered you, and you killed them. And then you had to live with remembering that.
For five thousand years. The fact that Newt was alive was a testimony to a strength I wasn't sure I'd have, a strength I didn't know many people had. How did you live for five thousand years without friends, without confidants, without love? When I'd thought Newt was just insane and alien and she didn't need those things, it never occurred to me to think how lonely she must be. But five thousand years... and I was probably the only person she'd ever told. Certainly the only one who was still alive.
The demons had been joking that Newt would kill Minias for wiping her memories, and then he hadn't turned up again. Maybe she had done it for that reason. Or maybe she'd forgiven him, gathered enough sanity to remember why it was she didn't want to remember, and finally allowed him to take her to bed... and then she'd killed him. Like she had all the other demon men who'd been her caretakers, all the others she'd tried to love.
I remember falling into an utter panic at Ivy's presence, after Kisten died and his murderer wiped my memories, because the wipe wasn't complete and part of me had remembered being assaulted by a vampire. I hadn't had the power or the skill to kill Ivy, and I'd had more presence of mind than Newt did, and I'd had friends I trusted who could get through to me. Newt had the power to kill what she feared and no one she trusted who could tell her to stop.
"But that's... that's beside the point. I didn't wake myself up and remember so I could tell you about my lack of a sex life." She pushed herself away from me, finally getting herself under control, and made a gesture, and the tears were gone as if they'd never been there.
Newt got off my bed and stood up. "You were adult and adept before we ever learned you are a female demon. My sisters told me when I first met you, they sang it to me in the back of my brain, but I know they're not really there; there's nothing on the other side of the ever after. I killed them all. So I don't always listen when they tell me things, but maybe I should more often. The others didn't know. They thought you were just a witch, in the beginning." Her voice had returned to what passed for normal with Newt.
"Your daughter... will be a demon. Any child you have will be a demon, but that one is a daughter. And they will all want her. Five thousand years and the only female demons are two who will not mate with demons; they can't rape me and they probably think they can't safely do it to you either but they will do whatever they can to get their hands on your daughter, as soon as she is of age. Or earlier. They may well start early in hopes that she'll trust them once she's of age."
I shook my head. "That is so not going to happen. Trust me."
"I don't," Newt said. "My sisters couldn't defend themselves and the odds were better then. You're almost alone."
"I'm not even close to alone. I have friends and allies in this world, and they'll all help me. Your... sisters... didn't have that. I do."
"True," Newt said. "You have allies in the ever after as well. I'm watching you. And her. I will help as long as you're strong enough to protect her. But if you weaken, if you cannot defend your daughter... I can't raise your child, I can't protect her. But I can keep her safe. Like my sisters are safe."
That shocked me. After everything she'd told me, after crying in my arms, she was threatening my baby? "Over my dead body, Newt."
"Good. Because that is exactly the circumstance we're talking about. As long as you can credibly threaten me, you can threaten any other demon. I will do nothing but assist you in shielding your daughter from them so long as you have the power to threaten demons. But if that power is lost... if you die, if you lose your magic, if you are broken and can no longer fight..."
"Then my friends will help me. I have vampires, elves, pixies, werewolves, gargoyles, hell, there are people of practically every Inderland species there is who owe me favors. Plus humans. If I go down and I can't protect my baby... someone else will."
"Very good. Any friends of yours that can fight me can fight for her. What I tell you is a last resort. If there is no one to fight for her, it will come to me, and I will make her... safe. Forever." She walked over to the window. She'd been here long enough for the false dawn to start lightening the sky, the harbinger before sunrise. The closest to sunlight she could see, without possessing someone. "Because if I could have ridden the lines with them and gone away forever, if I could have sent myself the way I sent them... that would have been better."
And then she was gone, back to the ever after.
I stared after her. So Newt would be my ally in protecting my daughter as long as I or someone else was alive and strong enough to do it... and would kill her the moment she was left unprotected?
Fine, Newt. So you're still crazy. I'll take on your challenge, I thought. There is no way I was ever going to leave my child unprotected anyway. You've upped the stakes? As long as you don't stand in my way, as long as you do what you said and help me when I'm strong enough not to need much of the help... I can handle it.
I know where you come from. I know, now, what you didn't want any of the other demons to know. And if I could make Al a friend after he spent all that time trying to kill me, if I could actually bury the hatchet with Trent like I have... I can do it with you too. I'm going to make you respect me, and my daughter. And before there's ever going to be a situation where you think I can't protect her myself, you'll know she can protect herself.
No point to going back to bed; there was no way I was ever going to get to sleep. I'd known I had to make a plan to protect the baby, but I'd thought I had time to come up with one. Apparently I didn't.
I had some thinking to do.