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The Compact
#1
[[continued from The City's Dark Jewel]]

Emotion squatted like a cuckoo’s child in Oriena’s chest, sparking a darkening anger the more she became aware of the violation. Even so she had refused to follow Ilya as he had directed Kasun’s unconscious body to be hauled from the pit. Worry pierced but was brutally cast aside in favour of following the direction of the hook embedded in her chest, pulling ruthlessly on the bloody strings until she pulled it fucking free, or confronted its source.

The blade of her heels impaled the stone of the Underground. She travelled down into the dingy caverns below the club, and lower still, a storm the wise recoiled from. No sunlight ever reached this deep within Moscow’s forgotten bowels. No people lingered where she finally came to pause, either. “I know you’re there,” she purred. The storm of her gaze searched the coiling shadows above her head. Cold prickled her skin, shivering her bare arms and legs. A caress of fear she embraced for fuel. Her fingers flexed, impatient.

It started like a faint smudge of light, a trick of the eye that coalesced and grew; consuming the shadow and using it to paint features. A woman’s body, garments in slow and rippling flux. Ori’s gaze burned to drink it in, recollection tightening hatred in her stomach. The hot breath of memory stirred like a desert breeze, stinging.

“An oath was made.” 

Hair swirled in undulating tendrils, a face never quite revealing itself in entirety. The twist of smirking lips; the sharp blade of a cheek bone. Ori never saw eyes. An echo of pain reared to behold the creature again, so virulent she actually checked her lip for the tang of blood. Loss tugged like a black hole caved her chest inwards. Only fury filled the void. Hers or its, she could no longer tell.

“What the fuck did you do to me?”

“An oath was made.”

Her jaw tensed, the distance between them closing. She was on the lip of something uncontrolled, railing against the bars of this unknown cage -- utterly uncaring of how ripping free might hurt her. Ori remembered well enough what she had said in the heat of possession, the creature’s grip enough to squeeze every bloody drip of life from her soul. The flame of betrayal lit from a trail gasoline, a violent burning, now sharpened with the gut wound of the queen’s loss. 

A low laugh spilled from her throat. Darkness glittered her gaze. “To help free you from your chains,” she teased. Her lip caught between her teeth, containing the smirk, but charmed by the first whisper of conspiracy her head canted.

“Lady of Sorrow, your oath is called.” A hand reached forth, sinking into Oriena’s chest like cold mist. She watched it disappear, taking another step forward in provocation. The fire raged, but Oriena thrust herself right in, indignant for the burn. Her attention rose to the creature's hidden face, and this time the curve of her smile was deranged. “And We will have vengeance.”

It gripped her, the loss of the queen's companions, each soul plucked free like fingers ripped from a hand.

“You are wanting.

You are weak.

You were always weak.”

The words stamped like a boot crushing her heart, yanking free something ancient. It rose inside her furiously, flooding her bright with power enough to consume her whole. Oh, how the world would burn.

Agony blazed equal to the joy, as the creature slipped inside.
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#2
The world would burn, but first she would burn.

Oriena’s vision doubled and darkened, pulled under and down and back. She was aware of a cold scrape jarring her knees as she hit the ground, sharp against the scab of old wounds. A gasp left her lungs, grasping for consciousness. It was the last thing she felt.

A shadow passed. She twisted, the hem of her bloody robes caressing the bodies still warm underfoot. Just the slit of his smile flashed white beneath his helm as he circled. Her fingers flexed, chin tilted in both consideration and provocation. They fought as much as they fucked, bloodlust blurring the lines between desires. War sparked hunger as often as it sated. Her lips curved.

You will focus now. Proceed.

A flutter of darkness brought the power to her whim. He laughed, cat to mouse, but it was she who crooked the beckoning finger.

Power roared deafening beneath his skin; she saw it in the darkening of his eyes. 

A shield latticed before her, exploding fiery cinders as a welt of fire tested its solidity. She twisted her hand and the protection shattered like broken glass, pelting harmless against the plates of his armour, grinning. The second assault cut on its heels, even before the sparks died, but the weave sliced into harmless ether before it fell like a blade between her and the power. Control was among his predilections, but that had been a damn sight more ambitious.

And it would have hurt him as much as her.

She tsk’d, pulling the long blade from the sheathe across her shoulders. The sticky iron of blood flared her nostrils, pulling her grim expression into a smirk, until the festering emotions tightened a twin grip in her stomach, familiar. But it wasn’t fear. Those smirking lips caught between her teeth now. He pressed her back, a choke at the neck. Cold hit her spine, something digging into the tender spot of a bruise and eliciting a gasp that could have been pleasure or pain. She dropped the weapon as his thumb stretched to stroke her lip, smearing the blood. She laughed. That’s cheating.

Memory or vision or sheer, insane delusion, the details smoked and frayed until only the twists of the power remained, an inelegant brand on her brain. Somewhere deep Ori railed furious, a mere second allowing the capture of breath before she was plunged under.

You will learn.

Proceed.

The waters churned in this twilit world, and unseen eyes crawled unwelcome across her skin. She had been warned tirelessly against breaching this threshold in the flesh, but like most times before she chose to pay wisdom no heed when desire had her by the throat. Pale eyes surveyed the trail of the river. Dark trees clustered above like clawed skeleton fingers along the path she followed, until ahead, finally, she discovered the figure she sought crouched by the water.

For a moment Eris only watched from a distance. She had abandoned this child long ago and did not regret doing so, even now. But it did not stop the claim of another clenching a fist in her gut, not least when the man rumour suggested her daughter called father now was him. No succor had ever been granted to Eris, not even when her old world cast her out alone. The jealousy stung, though that was not why she had come.

She came only to witness proof of the betrayal, and so let it singe her heart with the first, licking flames of vengeance.

The girl sang happily to herself. Bramble snarled the wild tangles of her hair, her feet swishing lightly in the brackish water. It was only as Eris drew closer she saw the figure submerged between the girl’s knees, head lovingly cradled above the waves. Her daughter’s pale fingers wound dark flowers amongst the wet strands of hair. Twin coins of gold rested across its closed lids. “Let me in,” she crooned in lullaby. The power glowed softly with her work, drilling holes and winding pretty strings of compulsion.

Focus. You will learn.

Proceed.

“Open those enormous jaws
And let me glide
Glide down your throat.*”


Her song was haunting and discordant, snaring as prettily as the weave worming into the sleeper’s head. Somewhere distant rose the cry of wolves and the girl’s attention lifted. Wide eyes scanned the horizon as she bit down on her lip. Then she bowed low, smoothing a loving palm across that sleeping face. A quick kiss on its brow followed before she pressed her hand down, sinking the body quickly.

“Sleep now, sister. You will feel better when you wake.”

The vessel shows signs of breakage.

It needs rest. It needs sustenance.

It learns so slowly!

Death will break the compact.

We will be careful.

Oriena’s chest filled with painful breath, a fire tearing up the cavity so violently that she moaned into the stone beneath her face. Blood wet the parched cavern of her mouth, and shaking fingers trailed the wet spots from her nose and ears. Already the memories fell under a darkening wave, like the lost trail of a shooting star. But something remained, volcanic; strength and knowledge she pulled close, wondering even now at the cost. She clawed out desperately to embrace the gift (it had a name; she knew it had a name, once, even as the print of it faded). The warmth filled her up painfully. But even that was better than the absolute nothing in the pitch sheet of darkness she awoke to.

She heaved herself up, limbs aching like it was a grave she tore herself from. Groping fingers found her wallet, the flickering light of its screen like a poker twisting to jelly the sockets of her eyes. The battery was almost lifeless. How long had she been down here?

No one would come, and Ori was too proud to ask for the help no matter how desperately it was needed. Or, too scared to discover how little she was loved. The thought curled her lip, gaze rising to the weight of darkness above her head, pinning blame for that thought on a creature that had apparently fled. She was alone.

[[*lyrics for the song pinched from here]]
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