The trip to wherever she was had gone largely unnoticed by Lienna, who had spent the ride drifting in and out of a sleep-like state, roused by the occasional painful bump only to drift off into sweet unconsciousness again. Last she remembered, she was on a horse, but when her eyes fluttered open again she was in a stone room, tucked into a soft bed.
As soon as her eyes opened, Lienna closed them again, slowly and carefully rolling onto her side. Her head swam, her body ached, and she was in no mood for surprises. Whatever would come, would come, and that was the start and end of it. She was just grateful for the bed.
Unfortunately, her peace soon ended at the sound of muffled conversation nearby, followed by the opening of a door and a clear voice with a familiar tone.“My, my…. He certainly did a number on you didn’t he? Curious as he left the other one all but untouched, didn’t strike him for the devoted type. Change of heart, Lienna?”
Lienna's heart sank. Yes, she definitely knew that voice. It was the Drakkan woman from the night before. The one who'd offered them a deal. The bear who had tossed her to the wolves.
Carefully, she sat up in the bed to face the woman, pulling her blankets up over her breasts as she did so. Her eyes felt like they were full of sand, so she could do little more than squint. She caught a glimpse of her arms as she did so, once ivory, now mottled in shades of red, blue and green. They'd only get worse before they got better. "Nothing has changed,"
she croaked, looking away from her arms and towards the woman. "I'm still the slave I was brought here to be, but now presumably in the hands of a new master."
The woman only laughed once, nudging herself gracefully off of the door frame with a sway of her hip as she turned to leave. "Ah, you will be fun,"
she sighed condescendingly, disappearing down the hall.
The woman wasn't gone a minute before the door was opened again, this time by a girl who looked like nothing Lienna had ever seen before. She wasn't a Drakkan, but she was a far cry from a Gem too. Her legs looked more like a deer's than a Gem' (complete with hooves!) and her tan skin was patterned with brown and mottled with white spots. Long ears protruded from chestnut hair, twisting this way and that at every noise. Lienna could do nothing but stare.
The girl said nothing as she entered, didn't even glance at Lienna as she made a beeline to the dresser. It was then that Lienna noticed just how big
everything was. The strange girl wasn't much taller than herself, but the door frame was almost twice her height. Even the dresser against the opposite wall rose to the girl's ribs, whereas a properly sized one would only have reached her hips.
The girl hadn't come empty-handed. In one hand was a ceramic basin filled with fabric, balanced on her hip; in the other was a pitcher. She deposited both on the dresser, picking up the fabric and placing it on the foot of the bed with practiced grace.
"I brought you some clothes," said the girl, unfolding what looked like a tunic, "And there's some warm water if you'd like to wash. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
The girl stood pin-straight, the picture of a proper servant, but she had a queer look in her eyes when she looked at Lienna. A pained, yet knowing look. Lienna could tell she was trying not to look at the bruises on her arms, and she wondered how many Gems the girl had seen in her condition before. "Where am I?"
she asked the girl, completely ignoring the question.
The girl looked towards the hallway. "You're in the Dantanath Estate," she replied. "My name is Alice, I'm one of the household servants."
Lienna nodded. She recognized the name - Dantanath - as the surname of the Drakkan she'd been given to. It must have been him who came for her, probably angry that someone else had claimed his prize. "Who was that woman? I remember her from the Choosing, but why is she here?"
"That's Morganna Dantanath," Alice replied, "She's the sister of Azilon, the man who brought you here."
Lienna nodded again, twisting her covers in her hands, eyes unfocused, trained on some point far away ahead of her. So, she was back with her husband. She supposed she knew what that meant now, if last night had been any indication. "Thank you, Alice,"
she said finally, focusing once more on the servant girl, "I hope we might cross paths again."
Alice gave a curt bow of the head. "I expect we will," she replied as she turned to leave, "I'm always around.""Wait,"
Lienna called, catching Alice just before she turned down the hall, "I haven't told you who I am."
Alice simply shrugged, with a sad smile. "I suppose it doesn't matter."
~ / / / ~
Lienna must have drifted off again, because suddenly she was waking up with a horrible crick in her neck from sleeping semi-upright against the wall. With a groan, she let her torso flop forward over her legs, letting her head hang and stretch out the soreness. Of course a hundred other parts of her started hurting when she moved, but she had to start somewhere.
Leaning back once more, she thought long and hard about going back to sleep. Eventually, she decided against it; she may have wanted to disappear and sleep for the rest of her life, but she had to come back to reality sometime. That, and she was starving.
Taking a moment to brace herself, Lienna gingerly swung her legs over the side of the bed, sliding into a sitting position. She had to pause, feet dangling off the floor from the raised-too-high bed for a moment as pain shot through her body. Sitting, it would seem, was particularly uncomfortable.
She took one deep breath to ready herself and slid off the bed, pausing again and leaning against it to stabilize herself. Once she mustered up the courage, she made a beeline for the dresser, where the basin and water awaited her.
She was suddenly conscious of how absolutely disgusting she felt, and the water in front of her seemed like a gift from Naia herself. She dipped a hand right into the pitcher, and was sad to find the water had gone cold.
No matter. She simply placed her hands on the outside of the pitcher and closed her eyes, and it was only a moment before the water was steaming again.
Picking the pitcher up, she moved to fill the basin and noticed something sitting on the bottom of it. A knife, a dagger with a wicked blade and an ornately forged handle. Lienna picked it up, noticing how large it was in her hands, and turned it a few times to see the light shine off the exquisitely polished surface of the blade.
Was this a message? A challenge? She doubted it was Alice who put it there; after all, why would the servants care enough to threaten a bride? Perhaps it had been her husband. A gift, maybe? No, Lienna was sure suicide was too common among Gem brides to present the opportunity so openly. So why the dagger?
She laid it aside on the dresser, deciding to decipher its meaning after she was done. She poured her now-hot water into the basin, halting a moment to let the steam envelop her face. There was a washcloth draped over the side of the basin, but Lienna didn't need it. Closing her eyes, she let the water crawl over her like a snake, scrubbing her every surface clean and warming her like a hug from an old friend. She breathed in the steam, and for a moment she was able to relax. After some time, when the water had gone cold and she decided she'd done enough (she didn't feel
clean, but she couldn't just stand there for the days it would take her to get there) she let the water slide back into the basin, leaving her skin perfectly dry and pleasantly moisturized. She was surprised to see the water was about as clear as when she'd started; the way she felt, she expected it to have turned black with filth.
She picked up the knife again, looking it over as she crossed back over to the bed and laying it aside on the covers to see what clothes Alice had brought her. It was a dusty red, sleeveless tunic. The shoulders came to points, secured by little gold clasps. The fabric was lightweight and soft.
Lienna pulled the tunic over her head and walked across the room, where an overly tall mirror rested in the corner. The neckline of the tunic rippled around her breasts like a cowl, just low enough to expose cleavage on a more well-endowed woman than herself. The gold clasps felt cool on her bruised shoulders, and the fabric was light and airy. A gold chain was supplied as well, which Lienna used to tie off the waist, bringing the hem of the tunic up above her knees. There was a draft on her back, and when she turned she noticed the back resembled the front, except that it dipped all the way down to her tailbone. The exposed skin was mottled with bruises, some in the vague shape of large hand prints. Turning back around, she could see fingerprint bruises along her arms and a well-defined hand print around her neck.
She went back to the bed and sat down, picking up the knife once more. The hilt was ornately carved in black metal, with lines of red enamel snaking down the handle. It was then that something clicked in Lienna's mind. It was a weak hunch, but Morganna had been dressed head-to-toe in black and red when she came to check on her. Was this Morganna's knife? From what little Lienna knew of the woman, she seemed to be the type to play with her food before she ate it. Did she intend to mess with Lienna as long as she was with Azilon here?
A soft knock on the door pulled Lienna from her thoughts. It opened to reveal Alice once again, and Lienna hastily hid the knife behind her. "I was sent to come collect you for dinner," said Alice.
Lienna stood quickly, regretting it immediately as her muscles complained. [color-baa7c7]"Thank you, Alice. Will you show me the way?"[/color]
As Alice turned, Lienna called some water from the basin to her hand, drawing it into a long point and freezing it to a razor's edge.
Lienna followed Alice through the halls and down some stairs to the main dining hall, where it looked like the family was gathering for dinner. Every step was uncomfortable, alerting Lienna of yet another site of soreness. When she reached the hall, she looked around briefly for Rya; however, when her eyes fell on Morganna, she made a beeling toward her.
Approaching with her back straight and an only slightly hobbling gait, she stopped in front of Morganna and tipped her head in a small bow, holding out the dagger in one open palm. "I believe this belongs to you,"
she said, concentrating hard on keeping her tone respectful. Hateful as the woman was, it wouldn't do to disrespect a member of her husband's family. She wanted to garner favour as quickly as possible after the events of the Choosing.
She then produced the razor-sharp icicle in the other hand, adding, "I think you'll find I have no use for such things."