A Tentative Subversion


Dreamers, Beware

Morgen slumped, exhausted, into his bed, his sealskin clutched close to his chest. While the selkie did appreciate the fine weave of his sheets and pillowcase and the exquisite stuffing of his mattress and quilt, he had no energy to truly savor those luxuries, as per his usual routine. He felt drained and incredibly old, and as he buried his face in his pillow – scented with expensive perfume, of course – his heart quailed at the thought of what he was about to do.

If she ever found out...

He would not think about that. If he did, he would never contact Luche, and he had to contact the succubus.

Taking comfort in the tangibility of his sealskin, of how it smelled mustily of him, even after all those years of separation, Morgen closed his eyes and calmed his racing heart. He let his mind drift to more pleasant thoughts, memories of his youth before he lost his skin, memories helped by the proximity of his skin and its scent. When he felt he had drifted far enough, far enough that he was only just aware of his room and his bed, the selkie called out, "Overlady?"

There was no answer.

Thinking he had not drifted far enough into the realm of dreams, Morgen let himself sink deeper into slumber. Scenes and sensations, scents and sounds, flowed past in the liquid, mutable way of dreams as he fell deeper into slumber.

He was teetering on the brink of awareness of his surroundings when he called out again, "Overlady? Overlady Luche?"

"Deeper," came the faint reply, husky with distance.

Morgen hesitated. Such deep sleep did not come easily, and every iota of animal sense within him rebelled, remembering the all-too lethal consequences of dreaming too deeply.

"Deeper," came the voice again, more insistent, though not harsh with command. "Come deeper."

Morgen braced himself, reasoning that his room was quite secure, that it would be unlikely to the point of completely improbable that anything would enter his room while he was so deeply asleep, that he could afford to go deeper, just this once. And so he plunged deeper, leaving behind all conscious awareness of his physical body, hoping all the while he was not making a mistake.

The flow of dreams around him changed. Where once were familiar scenes and scents, well-known sounds and sensations, now were strange things. Fragments. He only caught glimpses of them, nightmarish things, with scents so horrible, he was glad they did not linger long enough for him to fully smell them. The flow of dreams twisted and entangled into a familiar form – the succubus, Overlady Luche.

She smiled. "Welcome to my realm, Morgen." She conjured two comfortable chairs and gestured for him to sit. "Ease your mind. No one will disturb us here."

Morgen sat and tried to relax, truly, but the worry pricking at the back of his mind, that his treachery would be uncovered before it had even begun, prevented him from enjoying the soft smoothness of the dream-cushions.

Luche chuckled, a sultry, seductive laugh that only put Morgen even more on edge. "She cannot find or follow us here," the succubus told him, her voice as reassuring as honey. "Please, rest assured."

Morgen swallowed, his throat unbearably dry, even as his palms were slick with sweat. "You must understand... I have served Serena for most of my life."

"And served her so loyally. Yet here you are," Luche said, spreading her arms wide to gesture at the dream world with taloned hands.


The succubus laughed. "There is no need to become defensive, dear Morgen. After all, she betrayed you. It is only natural that you should seek out and extract your vengeance."

Morgen sat silently in the face of the succubus' predatory smile, taking the time to carefully choose his words. "Betrayal does not come easily, to my kind," he eventually whispered. A definite truth, and one that would leave a way to escape without offending the Overlady, he hoped.

Luche's smile grew to a barely-contained grin. "And yet here you are before me, with the intention to betray. The only question is whether the intention is to be realized, or whether it is to be suppressed and forgotten."

The selkie sat in a heavily perspiring silence, the costs of betrayal weighing heavily against the benefits. It was close, but in the end, Morgen found the risk outweighed by the reward.

He looked up into the succubus' eyes, trying hard not to shiver from nervousness, even as his heart seemed ready to burst from anxiety, and asked, "You are certain she cannot find or follow us here?"

Luche grinned, her sharp teeth glinting in the dreamlight. "Absolutely."

After a deep, calming breath, Morgen began telling Luche everything Serena had told him.

When Morgen woke up the next morning, he was exhausted. At the same time, he felt immensely relieved. He had survived the encounter with Luche and come out the better for it. Or so he hoped. He was playing a dangerous game, after all, and he would lose everything if he became overconfident.

With that sobering thought in mind, Morgen began his regular duties for the day, with one new addition.

There were too many of them, too, too many of them, and she couldn't stop shaking.

Behind her, his back steady against her own, her father barked out a laugh. "Scared?" he asked, his voice teasing.

Sangra only shook in reply as the two of them circled around, back-to-back, daring the surrounding enemies to attack.

"It's not like you to be scared," said her father, and she felt the muscles in his back shift with the grip on his blade.

"I'm not," she said with effort, and she wasn't. "Tired," she whispered.

"I know," said her father. "I know. Just a little longer."

"How much longer?"

"Not much. Terth's knights will be here soon."

Their conversation was abruptly ended when a soldier mustered up her initiative and triggered a new wave of attacks.

Sangra lost track of time as she dodged and parried, thrust and slashed, staying as close to her father as she could without impeding his fighting. She had almost forgotten her exhaustion in all the frenzy when she stumbled and fell. Her opponent crowed with triumph and went in for the kill. Sangra couldn't get up fast enough.

But then her father was there, blocking the blow with his shield in one hand, dragging her up by the collar with the other that still held his sword.

"Stay with me, Sangra!" he yelled into her ear, and Sangra tried to reply, to tell him she wanted to, was trying to, but her voice was dead in her throat. All she could do was steady herself on her feet and bring her sword up again, with both shaking hands.

"Good girl. We're almost done here. Almost done. You're not scared, are you?"

Sangra shook her head, and the rest of her body swayed dangerously with it. She was too tired to be scared. Too, too tired.

Her father was no longer looking at her, his eyes back on the ring of enemies around them. "It's alright if you are…" The last half was whispered, though Sangra was too tired to wonder how she heard it over the clamor of battle. "Gods know I am."

And then she was. She probably had been the entire time, had been so good at pretending she wasn't that she believed she wasn't, until her father who was never afraid of anything was. Her vision blurred and she wasn't sure if it was from exhaustion or something else she dared not think about. All she knew was that the end was near, and she couldn't stop shaking.

But still she fought, her father at her back and the enemy all around, all around, all around, and her father was no longer there behind her and she was so tired, so tired, tired…

She saw but did not feel the spear that pierced her side, just as she saw but did not hear her father cry out and try to reach her as she fell, just as she saw but did not understand as her father was cut down before her.

And then she did. But she could do nothing — nothing, except silently cry.

Sangra awoke, tears streaming into her hair and ears, her throat clogged from crying so hard, she couldn't breathe. She lurched up into a sitting position, choking on her sobs even as she tried to calm down.

The past was past. Dwelling on it would change nothing, even if it haunted her dreams. The past was past. She could only change the future.

It was a soothingly familiar mantra, and as she mentally chanted it to herself, Sangra's breathing slowed to a more regular rhythm and the tears slowed to a stop.

The past was past, even if it still hurt.

She did not know where she was, or even the time of day, when she awoke again. The room was completely dark. Her first thought was a windowless cell in the bowels of Blodsun, but Sangra quickly ruled that out. She was in a proper bed with smooth sheets and soft pillows, and you didn't find such furnishings in a prison cell.

A room, then, but where and why? Overlords were not known for their generosity or forgiveness, and she had already made on attempt on Thirilight's life, and he did not strike Sangra as the type to take unnecessary risks when it came to heroes. He had deceived Mortimer for so long, after all, and with how she had revealed Thirilight's true nature to his longtime friend, Sangra couldn't imagine why the Overlord would want to keep her alive, and in such comfort… unless he had Plans.

Sangra shuddered in the dark. Nothing good ever came of an Overlord's plans.

Her thoughts were broken by a sneeze to her right, and the suddenness of the sound made her jump. A second sneeze followed shortly. A moment later, Sangra heard the sound of cloth unfurling and the very wet sound of someone blowing their nose, followed by a congested, but dreadfully familiar, voice muttering, "Really need to do something about all the dust."

Acting purely on reflex, in one fluid motion, Sangra sat up, grabbed a pillow, and hurled it in the direction of Thirilight's voice. There was a satisfying WUMPH! as the pillow hit Overlord, and she was halfway out of bed when the pillow struck her in the back. It was then that she recalled she had no idea where an exit was, or even what direction she should run towards, much less any idea of the obstacles in the way. And so Sangra froze where she sat on the edge of the bed, hoping that the Overlord was in a non-murderous mood.

"What is it with you women and using pillows as projectiles? They're not very effective." Sangra heard the creaking of wood as Thirilight sat back down. He huffed. "Now that you're awake, at least, we can finally get down to business."

"What do you want with me?" Sangra asked, figuring she might as well get straight to the point seeing as how he hadn't killed her yet.

His voice was almost pleasant when he replied, "Several things, but first, answers. Why are you here? I should warn you," he said, his tone shifting from genial to subtly threatening, "I already know the answer. Lying would be most unwise."

Sangra turned towards the direction of Thirilight's voice before answering. Even if she couldn't see him, she still felt a little safer with her back less exposed. "I came to rescue the Princess."

"A most noble cause, but it appears you are the one in need of rescuing now. Such is the cost of coming ill-prepared—"

"I wasn't ill-prepared!" Sangra knew he was baiting her, knew she shouldn't rise to it, but her professional pride stung too much to let that jibe about her competence pass. "I had a map and supplies and a way in and out. I had a plan, and it was working, I got deep into the castle without being detected, and I would have rescued the Princess if—"

"If your map had been accurate."

"No. If I hadn't come across you." And it was true, in part.

"But you did come across me. In the bath." If only she had killed him then. "Which reminds me, you must have gotten quite an eyeful with how long you were standing there. Did you like what you saw?"

Sangra could feel her face burn as the Overlord laughed at her expense. "It wasn't like that! I was just surprised is all!"

Thirilight chuckled. "There's no need to be ashamed, Sangra. I 've been told I'm quite handsome."

"Only if you think scars are handsome, including that rather nasty one on your stomach."

A brief pause. "It seems you have forgotten the rather large on you possess yourself on your side."

Sangra clutched the side the spear had pierced so many years before. "How do you know about that?"

"No need to look so mortified—" And Sangra realized from his smug reply that he could see her, had been able to see her the entire time, and the realization filled her with a slow dread. "—I didn't peek. Mortimer has told me much about you, your past, your service to Salth… I know a lot about you, Sangra, far more than you know of me." His voice was much closer now, though Sangra had not heard him stand. "Now tell me, Sangra, why did you try to rescue the Princess all alone? Why didn't you wait for a proper rescue effort to be coordinated? Perhaps because there was no effort being coordinated…?"

Sangra remembered his warning, and the reality of his knowing made her feel small and helpless. "If you know all this already," she began, determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her shaken, "then why bother asking me?"

The Overlord's voice, although closer, was dangerously quiet. "Because, Sangra," he began, drawing out her name as if savoring the taste of it, "after you revealed my true nature to Mortimer and Salth, I lost a valuable source of information, and with how severely Mortimer was injured when I captured him and the Princess, I find myself in need of a new, more able source."

"Never," Sangra said, realizing what the Overlord had planned for her. "I will never help you."

"We shall see," the Overlord said, his voice moving back. "Or rather, you will, if you wish to see."

Sangra's breath died in her lungs as she realized what the Overlord had done to her, and she sat there, in shock and disbelief, even as she heard the creak of wood as the Overlord stood, his footsteps as he walked around her bed, the creak of hinges as the door to her room opened, and the fall of tumblers as he locked the door behind him — she heard, but did not see.

And she despaired.

AN: The document editor no longer works for me. It has not worked since November. This makes posting chapters an absolute PAIN. Hence lack of updating even though I've had this half of the chapter written since November. .

AN (Aug '12): Still alive, and still writing, albeit slowly.

Sangra's purpose in this story is finally revealed. It's funny that, back when I first came up with her character, I was still determined to write Thirry's sections in first-person, and that, despite the first-person perspective, a lot of Thirry's villanous deeds were entirely off-screen. I found myself needing a way to show that Thirry does actually do villainous things on-screen, and what better way to do that than via a different viewpoint character who is on the receiving end of his evil actions? And so Sangra was born.

Since then, a lot of things in-story have changed, such as Laurelie actually being related to Thirry (it was originally just a lie he told her to get her cooperation, but it wound up working better as a truth in the long run), and the relationship between Sangra and Thirry has grown more complex and snarled as a result. Sangra now has a fully-fledged character arc, versus the rather simplistic one I'd originally thought of, and she's grown to serve more roles in the story than just "target of Thirry's evilness".

While I do wish I could write this story much faster, at the same time, I'm glad it's taken all these years to get this far because this story has grown so much and in so many better ways than what I'd first conceived it as.

/end ramblings

AN (Mar '13): Merged Parts 1 and 2. Chapter 16 should be up (at least in part) by the end of the month.