House of Healing

Chapter Five

Berentoth woke, looking around to see why. Then he heard it again; a slight sound, as though a knife was being dropped onto a plate. It happened again and he looked towards where he had heard it. Finally, as it came again, he could be certain it came from near his window. Standing up, he walked over, looking down. In the courtyard below Eolheim was sitting on her horse, with his next to it. She looked up at him, saying, "I'm going. Are you coming?"
Berentoth ran back into his room, pulled a shirt, a belt, and a coat on, then he headed down the spiraling staircases. She wasted no time, as he mounted his horse, talking off. For a while they rode in silence, through the villages and across the planes, the world around them still sound asleep. Once, as they came closer to the boarders, Berentoth convinced her to stop, for the horses needed a rest. She looked about, then finally slipped of her horse, content that they were away from any signs of life, and that the sun was not yet ready to rise.
"I suppose you talked to Caogh, then."
She looked at him, judging how much to tell him. "If I am indeed as the both of you say, then Straughlin is no place for me. I wish to meet your cousin, to know what I am and how to control it, how to accept it. But they would never let me leave Straughlin. We must be across the boarder before daybreak, far enough across the boarder that no one will know who I am. And tonight we must rest under cover, for I believe the barbarians now ruling Bouragh will not like a Lord and a Lady riding in unchecked."
"Tonight is Midwinter. People will be up and about at the fires all night. Why not try to blend in?"
"One, because we will wish to sleep tonight, as this night we had little, and two, I chose this night to escape the fires. I have evaded men at those fires going on five years now, for once I would that I didn't have to deal with it."
Berentoth nodded, then looked up. Standing there was a horse black as night, its rider cloaked in all black as well. He could never know how long they'd been there, for even right in front of him they were hard to see. "Lord Berentoth. You will be quite welcome in the castle, once you enter." The figure dismounted and removed her cloak. For a moment Berentoth didn't recognize her, but as she moved closer he saw it was Deria, Anala's maid.
"Deria! What are you doing in these parts? Did I not entrust my cousin to you?"
"You cousin is well, or was well, when I left her. And yet a maid. I bring news for Amethi of her lands and her sister; Anala does not wish her to worry, she sends world that she is in good spirit and health, and that the country is in good hands. But tonight they celebrate Midwinter, and I fear for our people, and for my Queen. He has been long waiting for her to come willingly to his bed, and I believe she will go tonight. She never told me in so many words, but she as good as said it. I would waste no time getting to her side, for I fear what will happen after he takes her maidenhead. She is still a child, Berentoth."
Berentoth nodded. "Thank you, Deria. And may the Goddess grant you safety and speed; Claue will be waiting when you return." Deria nodded and pulled her cloak back on, mounting her horse and riding away.
Berentoth looked at Eolheim, then jumped back on his horse. She followed, and within moments they were off again.
*** When the sun did rise they were on a stretch of land uninhabited by anything. It was completely flat; you could see for miles in any direction. At the castle they called it the dead lands. But after a few hours traveling along it and a new horizon appeared, Eolheim could see and end to the slow torture. A cloud of mist hung there, only about and hour's ride ahead, and she looked at it curiously.
"As we get closer you will be able to see the tops of the mountains through the mist. And as you travel through, you will find beauty beyond reckoning. And danger, though for us it is safe. The Goddess protects her own in many ways, but the Misty Mountains are her most cunning. Many foes are drawn in by their beauty and mystery, but few ever get to see them.
"If she does not wish you to enter her land, you will get lost, blinded forever by the mist. The first castle of Bouragh was there, among them, safe from both the North and the South, but when Straughlin turned against them, they moved out. The barbarians kept to themselves, so Bouragh saw its biggest threat in the South, and didn't wish to take any chances, for just as you can't see in from the outside, you can't see out from the inside.
"For thousands of long years the people of Bouragh have been kept safe by the Goddess, free from any threat, with the Sacred Isle there ready for any attack from the North, and the Misty Mountains keeping out foes from the South. The people didn't know what to do when the barbarians came in and took over. But the Goddess has not let them down; she never will. Instead of letting the barbarians and their ways overrun the country, she put my cousin on the throne. My cousin who spent the first ten years of her life on the Mystic Isle, who knows the ways of the Goddess as if they were her own. My cousin who is a mystyc, blessed with the Sight, and many other gifts I cannot even name, who is sixteen but can seem older than life itself at times.
"Sometimes I think it was on purpose, the barbarians taking over this land. But I am the Goddess's greatest servant, and I would have known if things were meant to change. And I too, spoke to the old crone on the hill when I was young, and she told me I would have to be ready, for Amethi's rule would face many dangers, but Amethi was born to be Queen, and in the end she would overcome it.
"Never did she speak of Anala, so I know that someday Amethi will once again be Queen of these lands. But I think the people are content with Anala's rule, despite who sits on the throne alongside her. For they sense the Goddess in her very presence, they feel the Goddess's love in everything Anala does. They feel safe, and though they love Amethi, they will not complain while Anala wears the crown."
"Why do you tell me these things?"
"Because very soon you'll be caught up in it, and it will help you to know more about the land, Anala, and the people. You need to be part of it before you ever encounter it, or you will be shunned."
Eolheim nodded, then looked straight ahead again, silent. And as the mountains drew closer she could feel their power seeping through her, beckoning her, calling her name. She would have been afraid if everything hadn't already been going wrong. As a child she had sensed she didn't fit in; as a youth she had indeed strived not to. As a young woman she had been lost, knowing her path led elsewhere, but not wanting to venture out of her comfort place. Now she was headed towards something she didn't know, but somehow she knew she belonged. It was strange, this half-fear, half-hope, but in a way it was also comforting. She had never been happy when she knew everything, when she was surrounded by family and a land she had known since the moment she had graced the earth, so it made sense to her that she would be happy when things changed.
Then the mountains were right in front of her, and she was in the mist, and her heart was beating fast. What if the Goddess did not want her? Berentoth reached over and took her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. She managed to smile at him, and as they exited the cloud she breathed in deeply, not even considering the fact that, in order to return home, she would have to make the trip again.
For hours they rode on, Berentoth warmly greeting the people in the villages, until at last, as night fell, they slipped away into the woods and set up camp. The horses were ever thankful, and drank and ate happily, but Berentoth and Eolheim both fell asleep before they could even say goodnight.
*** Back in Straughlin they were feasting, hardly considering where their youngest Princess was. Sylafreon alone was worried, but Caogh assured her that Eolheim was in good hands. Sylafreon wasn't totally convinced, but she agreed not to tell Iseldai; it was best not to worry the whole land.
So instead Sylafreon invited Caogh, Amethi, and Ilearia to her room, knowing none of them had the proper attire for such an outing as the one they were all about to take. Amethi was in good spirits, good enough that she had allowed Ailon to attend the feast, and told him if he was up to it he could venture to the fires as well. And when she began sifting through Sylafreon's dresses she decided upon a purple silk dress that came in different layers just past her knees, had a low cut front, showing off a good half of Amethi's bosom, and was sleeveless. Sylafreon blushed when she saw the dress, muttering something like, "I would never wear that. I don't even know why I have it; it's so immodest."
But Amethi couldn't have been happier with it. She went right away and put it on, and when she came back, looking as though she was just waiting for someone to take it off, she insisted the other's hurry up; she needed her hair done.
Sylafreon chose for herself a modest enough dress; it was dark blue, contrasting her blue eyes, clinging to her where it should, its collar modestly high, and its sleeves reaching to her elbows then fanning out. It had delicate embroidery along the collar and halfway down the sleeves that resembled golden ivy.
Ilearia, knowing she had no wish to meet anyone at the fires, chose a dress of light green that nicely contrasted her red hair, with sleeves and a midsection of white. She tied her hair back in a braid and wound it around her head. They all knew she just wanted to look presentable, but they knew, had Donsfold been there, he would have taken her again without a thought. Without even trying she looked beautiful, and they all prayed no man at the fires would be too forceful, for they were sure to want her.
Caogh chose for herself a dress that was mixes of yellows, reds, and oranges, that went to her ankles and was tied with a matching belt at her waist, and had a beautiful collar that was little xs, showing her skin in between. And the sleeves were slit down the middle so that they hung at either side of her arms. She would never have chosen it for herself, but the other three insisted, so she said nothing else.
In the end they pulled half of Amethi's hair up, braiding it into a bun, and leaving the remaining curls hanging beneath it. Her skin was pale from the long months spent inside the House of Healing, and her deep blue eyes shown bright. She was a sight to see, and Caogh knew that whoever it was she planned to meet at the fires would understand how truly blessed they were.
Sylafreon wanted little done with her hair that fell in perfect waves about her, but Caogh managed to put a few small braids here and there, making it look more like she had prepared it.
With Caogh they did a number of things, first splitting the line of hair along her forehead into six sections, three on each side, and braiding them, then brining them together across the back of her head, braiding one from one side and two from the other together, then the opposite just above it. Then they made a few more braids beneath them, and twisted all those braids together, giving the back of Caogh's head a look of pure elegance, though many didn't understand it, but they all admitted it was a masterpiece.
Finally done, the cover of darkness over the land, the four girls exited the castle, meeting up with Iseldai as they did so. She was clad in a dress that was almost pure white, except for elaborate golden embroidery on the collar. Her hair, like her sisters, was simply down, though she had no braids in hers. She smiled at the others, but her smile fell as she looked on Amethi. They said nothing, just continued walking, the fire in the fields getting closer and closer with every step.
Amethi rushed off the minute they reached the crowd, and Iseldai as well seemed to know where she was going. Jieron walked up to the group and bowed. Then he looked at Caogh. "My Lady Caogh, may I speak with you?"
Caogh nodded and took his arm, walking with him towards the woods. "What is it you wish of my, My Lord?"
He looked at her, his face expressionless. "You said you'd meet me at the fires. And you looked a bit uncomfortable, just standing there. I shall take you back, if you like."
"No, I would prefer to stay here, with you. But I think soon you will be the one wanting to turn back, for there are a few matters I wish to discuss with you that may not be to your liking."
They were inside the wood now, and they stopped, facing each other. "And what matters would those be?"
"Ilearia. I have spent only two days with her now, and in those days I have known her as a sweet, solid, honorable presence that I would wish with me until the end of time, yet you, her brother, seem to hate her. I don't understand it."
"My mother defied and dishonored my father. She shared a bed with a Lord from the North for many months, not even trying to hide it. She hated my father, and us, but this bastard child she bore of a dishonest bed she loved with her whole heart, and expected us to do the same. She told my baby sister that Ilearia would beat her easily in looks, and that Kaylinne would never love, while Ilearia's love would last the tides of the world. She almost killed Kaylinne when Kaylinne accidentally dropped Ilearia. Kaylinne was only three years old, given and infant she could hardly hold, and she dropped Ilearia onto a bed, knowing anywhere else would hurt her. And my mother tried to strangle her. She almost did, but my father stopped her.
"Then my mother disappeared, and on lived the child that had almost cost my sister her life; the child that showed how my father could not keep track of his own wife; the child that spelled the downfall of Kindragon. How could we love her?"
"Your mother loved this other Lord. Is it so hard to believe that a woman would share a bed with a man she loves? Is it so terrible that a child should be born of a loving bed? And the child should not be punished for her mother's actions."
"Love? What does love have anything to do with anything?"
"Love is the very base of this world, Jieron. There is no life without love."
"What would you have me do?"
Caogh looked at him for a long moment, then she said, her voice shaking slightly, "Love me."
He looked at her for a moment, a look of shock and disbelief on his face. Then he took her face between his hands and his lips met hers passionately, as though he had been waiting for this forever. And indeed, without knowing it, he had. He had been waiting for her for longer than he could remember, and the day before, when he had first lain eyes on her, he had known, deeply and fully, that she was for him. But he had never even dared hope she felt the same way. He'd been fairly convinced she hated him, but as the night wore on, and he took them a step further, letting the magic of the night take him over, he knew, deep within him, that she felt exactly the same way.
*** Back at the fires Ilearia had been asked to walk by one of the village men, and she had gone along, knowing perfectly well that she would turn him down the moment he asked her to do more than walk.
But all the same Sylafreon was left alone, staring into the growing flames. She was content, thinking of all the happiness people knew this night, when Loreine walked up beside her, and for a long time the two of them just stood there, silent, looking into the flames, then Loreine asked, "Are you meeting someone here?"
"Not unless you count yourself." Her eyes were now at the ground, for she feared what would happen if she looked into his. But he made that avoidance impossible as he lifted her chin until she was looking straight into his face.
"What if I want to count myself?"
Her breathing quickened. "My Lord, you better speak plainly, for I find my mind making wild assumptions, and I doubt that's what you intended by those words."
"I want to walk with you, Sylafreon, I want to walk with you into the woods, and into a grove, and there show you exactly what I mean when I tell you I shall never give my heart again. For my heart is given, it is given to a beautiful young woman who has honor and kindness, whose skin is softer than any I have known, and who looks even more beautiful when she cries."
With that, Sylafreon broke into sobs, for she had been crying, and she could never explain why. But when he said that she knew he was speaking of her, and she was caught between unimaginable happiness, and fear. Love was dangerous, unpredictable, and she always followed rules, did everything as it should be done. The prospect of something that was different for everyone scared her half to death. "My Lord-" But he stopped her mouth with his own, and she would find that she preferred not to speak, as the night wore on.
*** Deep in the woods Amethi was with Ailon, and she, too, found it difficult to speak as his tongue roamed her mouth, but when he pulled back she did say, "I don't believe I told you you could take your head bandage off."
He laughed, moving his hands along her body. "You have imprisoned me long enough, love. Now it's my turn to do as I like."
She smiled meaningfully into his eyes. "And what is that, my love?"
He ran his hand up her leg from where her dress ended, exposing her from the waist down. "Now, healer woman, am I well enough to do this?"
"Do what, exactly?" But she didn't need to ask.
*** "Long ago my people understood the festival of Midwinter, but even now, when it is only a time for lovers to meet shamelessly and feel magic within each other, I think they understand they are blessed."
Failentoth nodded, "Your people claim to renounce the Goddess, but She is in everything you do. The rule of women your country has held to for so long is in Her legacy, the waxing and waning of the moon still has its rituals. When full darkness comes your people still light three candles in their windows to keep the darkness from enveloping them. Indeed I believe you could never truly escape Her; Her ways were all you knew, once, so it is beyond them how to go about anything else."
Iseldai smiled, laying her head on his shoulder. "When first I met you I thought you young, almost foolish. How could a man almost two years my junior be worthy of me? But you have proved yourself, Failentoth. I find I crave your company, and your words mean so much. You are wise, and handsome, and I think, old beyond your years. But I think what I most enjoy about you is that you never tell me I'm wrong, or stupid, or selfish, as so many of my close family members remind me often."
"Lady, I have yet to meet one more selfless than you, and you are wise, doing always what is best for your people. I have yet to see you make a wrong decision. You must tell me who has said these things to you, for I shall challenge them for their life."
She looked up at him, her bright green eyes meeting his blue ones, and she said softly, "I will forgive them if you will say to me that you love me."
"I will not only say it, Lady, but I will prove it, if you would wish."

*** Anala walked to Eomyteth's room, her heart beating. He was inside, sitting at his desk, pouring over the message he had received the day before. "My Lord." She curtseyed, then looked at the floor. "You were absent from the feast. I was afraid you were unwell."
He stood and walked to her, lifting her face to look into her eyes. "I thought you were going to the fires. I did not think you wanted me there."
"But you are my husband! There is no other man I would go to the fires with."
"What about the man you spent several days with a while back?"
"My Lord, there was no man. I was on the Sacred Isle, fulfilling as task I had long left untended. I swear to you I have never known a man, I am a maid. But My Lord, I am ready now for you to change that."
"Anala, don't let the tone of this night lead you to doing and saying things you really don't wish to do and say."
"I have been waiting for this night for some time, My Lord. I have been ready for almost two weeks, but I did not know any other way to go about telling you. This is what I want, I promise you."
He looked at her for a long time, then finally gave in, kissing her long and hard, then laying her on the bed and slipping her dress off, marveling at her body. Finally he took his own clothes off and got into the bed beside her, taking her face and kissing her again, then his lips moved down, farther and farther, making her feel things she had never felt before. Then he moved on top of her, and looked into her eyes. "I am going to enter you now, but I will stop if you ask me to. At any point, I will stop."
She nodded, and he entered, slowly, carefully, as if searching for something. Then he stopped, rage filling his face as he looked at her once again. "You come to me a maid, you say?" She nodded, bewildered. "Then why is your maidenhead broken already?" His tone was a snarl, his face filled with such anger she became frightened.
"What are you talking about?"
He slapped her, hard. "Don't make it any worse, you lying bitch. You led me to think you were an innocent child so that you did not have to suffer my bed, was that it? Was I so revolting that you thought, maybe I would never touch you, never discover what lying scum you are? I have known many women in my time, Anala, some maids and some not. I know how to tell a virgin from a bitch, and you are doubtlessly a bitch. Did you think you had me under some spell, that I would never notice I wasn't breaking through?" He thrust himself hard into her, and she cried out in fear and pain.
"Eomyteth stop! You're hurting me." But he did not stop. He came in harder and faster, rage filling him to the very bones, savoring her screams and shouts of pain. She deserved it, the lying bitch. She deserved it all. When finally he was done he fell to the bed beside her, utterly spent. And within seconds he was asleep. Sobbing, bleeding, throbbing with pain both inside and out, she stumbled out of his bed, finding one of his cloaks and crawling to her room, where she fell on the floor and cried herself to sleep.
**** She woke once, and dragged herself to the washroom, where she scrubbed and scrubbed until her arm hurt, then she made it back to her room and fell in a heap on the bed, still crying. And when she fell asleep that time she had no intention of ever waking again.
You promised me you'd be strong. Don't give up now, too much depends on you. Don't let his hate and cruelty destroy you, for so many of us love you. Berentoth will come to you soon, and he will protect you and keep you safe. He brings with him one like you, one who will help you bear the burden. Do not fail them. Do not give up.
Failentoth? Anala hardly breathed. Failentoth, how did you know?
Oh, cousin, do not despair. There are many of us watching out for you, many, though we are not at your side, who will never let you leave our thoughts. Caogh felt your pain, amidst her own happiness, across the two lands she heard your misery and despair. Be strong, you have little time to wait.
Some time later Anala managed to get up and get dressed, putting on one of her garments that she had worn while in the village, one that was thick, and covered her completely. She sat at her window, looking out into the growing light, tears falling like rain. Near midday there was a nock on her door, and she opened it to find a guard who she'd never seen before. "The King demands an audience with you."
She slammed the door in his face, locking it from the inside. How dare he? How dare he treat her like he had, accusing her of such abominable things as he had, and think he could still order her around?
She could hardly walk; the space between her legs was sore and raw, so she could not close her legs, so when she walked it was still more of a waddle, and it still caused her great pain. So she sat back down on her bed, eventually discovering the only remotely comfortable position to be in was laying flat on her back, legs spread on the bed.
She did not know how much time passed until, finally, she heard the sound of the gates opening, and she got up, ignoring the pain, and ran down the stairs, then into the great hall. She saw, out of the corner of her eye, that Eomyteth was sitting on the throne, but she paid him no heed. Instead she watched the door, and the minute it opened and she saw Berentoth enter she ran to him, straight into his arms, and as he embraced her, his arms creating a shield to the world, she let all her tears flow, shaking with such emotion she felt the whole world knew exactly what was going through her. Finally he let go, steadying her with his hands on her arms. "Anala, it seems we have come only just in time."
For the first time, Anala noticed the lady beside him. She was seventeen or eighteen, with perfectly golden hair, and bright green eyes. She was much taller than Anala, but she still barely reached Berentoth's shoulder. Anala managed a small smile. "Do I know you?" She asked, scanning her brain.
"No, we have never met. Yet I know how you feel. You seem very familiar. I am Eolheim, youngest Lady of Straughlin."
Anala nodded, then turned, taking Berentoth's hand and leading the two of them to her rooms, where she sat back on her bed, the pain almost too much to bear. "Eolheim, can I ask you a favor? No, wait, you have never been here before. Berentoth, can you walk to the infirmary and get the darkest slave on the bottom shelf?"
Berentoth nodded. "Lock the door behind me. I will nock three times, leaving five seconds between the nocks. Do not open the door unless you hear that."
Anala nodded, but it was Eolheim who got up to lock the door, then she came back and knelt on the ground in front of the young Queen. "Tell me what he did to you."
"He accused me of not being a maid, screaming things at me, then he thrust himself into me over and over, harder and harder, as if he was trying to hurt me. And it did hurt, it hurt so much." She began crying again, but this time Eolheim sat down beside her and held her, stroking her hair.
"Yes, men can be cruel. Were you a maid?"
"I lay once with Failentoth, but we never went through with anything. We were young, testing, but we knew we were wrong, so we stopped before we had even started. I was a maid before last night."
Eolheim nodded. "I will do whatever it is in my power to prevent anything from happening to you again, as will Berentoth. You are safe for now; if they try to attack you they will have the Sacred Lands to answer to. Now, I must ask you something."
Anala nodded to her, curious, wishing her to continue.
"What am I?"
"You are what you are, and I will try hard to explain it as best I can, but most of the understanding comes from within. Caogh and I know what we are without being told; we were raised by servants of the Goddess and so we understood that we were different, and we know the old tales and legends, so we were able to place it well enough, but it makes sense that you would be lost. I'm going to tell you a story, and you must listen, for this story, though it may not be to your liking, is as true as life itself.

"The maiden Ilearia walked the earth once, her hair black as night, as eyes blue as the night sky, and she was lonely, o so lonely. She cried to the stars and moon from whence she came, begging for something, anything, to keep her heart from feeling its pain, but the stars and moon did not answer.
"Years past, and Ilearia grew to be an old lady, bent with age, twisted with anguish and grief, but she did not die. Slowly she began to become part of the earth, her hands and feel growing into the ground, and her hair was a sea of stars. After a time she opened her eyes and saw a mist on the water, and she walked to it, turning into water as she slid through the ocean. But the moment she stepped upon the shore she was the young, beautiful maid again, and she walked through the mists, onto and Isle that is in a world apart from this.
"She then proceeded to create the entire race of men, giving them the land to the North, then she gave birth to her two daughters, one she gave the land just below the men's land, and the other the land below that. And then she sent four otherworldly creatures she called mystycs. They were gifted with the Sight, and could slip into people's minds and tell them things. One she gave all the knowledge of the worlds, and later generations would have this knowledge through dreams. Another she gave the gift similar to that of knowledge, but not exactly the same. For the second could see into people's minds, and into their hearts, and thus gained her knowledge. The other two were the Seers, watching the future and waiting to help people along with it. These two played mind games, and bent people to their will.
"They were made to shape the world as the Goddess wished, to show people her power, but most of all, to let people know she was there, and that she loved them; that they were never alone. Over the years the race of mystycs faded; Straughlin pulled away and the men's land to the North began acts of barbarism, sacrificing all the Goddess held dear in the name of heathen gods whose purpose was malice and violence.
"The people of Bouragh alone stayed true, and for that she rewarded them. But this, Eolheim is a new era. She is no longer content with just Bouragh; too much turmoil and hate has been spreading, and the nations need peace. So in a trick of time and fate she placed four women in the land who would once again untie the lands, creating peace.
"It was an act of desperation; if the four women fail, the reign of the Goddess will be lost forever, overtaken by hate and terror. She placed the four in different households, with different goals for each in mind. I am the wife of a barbarian, and though it may kill me to ever meet his eyes again, I know that, if I can make him understand our ways, then his people will begin accepting them, and one day, when Amethi returns, I will head to the North, and make them a nation of the Goddess. Caogh will most likely remain here, though I doubt the people of Bouragh really need her. But I think her task is more finding the other two, and bringing them to knowledge of who they are. You, I think, will bring the glory back to Straughlin. The fourth though, I don't know who she will be."
"But which of the four am I?"
"Had you not guessed?"
"I had. I figured you and me were the Seers, the ones who can play mind tricks and bend people to their will. But you know so much, and yet you are almost two years younger than me. I only had my first real vision two days ago."
"I was raised in the otherworld. I have known and used my skills since I was young, younger than even Caogh." There was a knock on the door, and some yelling, and Anala heard Berentoth's voice, so she stood and waddled to the door, opening it and staring straight into Eomyteth's face. Berentoth pushed past him and handed Anala the slave, then picked her up, carrying her to the bed. Eolheim was the one who stepped out into the hall and closed to door, staring Eomyteth straight in the face.
"What kind of scum are you? To shame a child and treat her thus, at the same time claiming to be so honorable, for giving her the choice of when. You thought yourself smart then, did you not? Thought you would win her and the country with her, then get rid of her quickly. But then she came to you, and you realized she was a woman enough, and you let your lust guide you, but after that I have little understanding of what you did. She came to you a maid, she gave the most precious thing in her life to you, and look what you did to her." Eolheim's tone was icy, her stare piercing him.
"What do you know of anything woman?"
"I know you are a lying bastard that has no shame nor valor."
He lifted his hand to slap her face, but she caught his wrist, a sly smile playing at her lips. "When I was young I was different from everyone; I knew things, saw things, felt things. As a youth I tired hard to be different, not only in my mind, but with my actions. And for years I knew nothing, just looking blindly into the future, wreaking havoc whenever I could. But now I know, now I understand. I have a gift, Lord of Shame, and you will never punish me for my free tongue. For it is meant to punish you, and it will do so as long as I live. You cannot hurt me, but I can hurt you. It was stupid of you to get mixed up in such matters, for if my cousin had realized the power she held, though she knew of it well enough, you would be the one with the pain in both body and spirit. I curse your very name." She spit in his face and turned back, opening the door and closing it behind her, locking it shut.