Completed The Forsaken Child

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Rumer

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"What's the deal with the kid?"

"Caused a commotion in the square. Little fuckin' animal she is. Near tore two men apart tryin'a save her old man from a kickin'. Near killed Aemon too when we intervened - he's in the infirmary."

"Well fuck...She don' look much does she? How'd she manage it? Aemon's not an easy guy teh bring down."

"Not with weapons anyway... She's a mage.. Not our business, she won' be here long.."

"Shit.. Who's her old man?"

"He was one of ours. Stupid bastard got himself killed."

The guards voices were muffled only through the ringing of panic in her ears. They spoke as though she wasn't there, but she could feel them peering into her cell as she sat curled against the damp wall, her wrists and ankles bound and a blindfold soaked in tears covering her eyes. Rumer had no idea what would happen to her, her father had been cut down in front of her only an hour prior during a drunken brawl in Anir square, she had been trying to protect him, and she might've already killed one of the guardsmen who'd tried to grab hold of her. There wasn't a part of her body that wasn't shaking in shock and fear.

It wasn't long before there were mutterings of Dreadlords coming to collect her, even their name struck fear into her, but she supposed that was the point. The atmosphere amongst the other guards changed as she heard the clanking of armour approach, and a voice demand that they open her cell door which she heard swing open and caused her to stiffen with terror. She was dragged up onto her feet and examined whilst the guardsman explained what he'd saw happen.

"Her old man was takin' a beatin' an' she ripped wounds in the men without a sharp edge ser, we got hold of her but she cut Aemon too, slashed his neck with nought but a look - we kept the blindfold on, she don' seem able teh' cut anyone with it on.."
The Dreadlord didn't respond to the guard, and Rumer only felt a gloved hand grasp hold of her chin, turning her head this way and that before painfully gripping one of her ears. "She's a fucking knife ear. They've been cut. She's one of theirs." he announced with a growl and lifted the girl easily by the scruff of her neck, ignoring her tearful whimpering. "I'll take her." he told them, and the guards didn't oppose.

Rumer was half lifted, half dragged, blind to where she was being taken. One of theirs, he'd said, but she had no idea who they were and she wriggled hopelessly in the soldier's grip in panic. She was hoisted up onto the back of a horse, laying draped over it's back on her stomach, and taken out of of the city it seemed, she could listen, but her heart beat pounded hard in her ears and she was dizzy as the blood rushed to her head. "Where are you taking me?....where are we going?... Who are they?" the child continued to ask but the man failed to respond and only urged her to shut up.

The horse came to a stop, and it's cargo was dragged from it's back and thrown unceremoniously onto the ground, in front of a pair of feet, of whom she could only dread to think..

"This one slipped through the net." was all the soldier said, before getting back onto his horse and leaving the girl there, bound and unable to see where she was, or who currently looked down at her.
 
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Nathaira

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Despite their origins, the Forsaken were rarely allowed back to Vel Anir without explicit orders. The leaders would very much like to pretend that they didn't exist, that their problems simply vanished on their own rather than with the help of mongrels. Their unique talents were an insult, after all. Humanity was pure, great, unmatched... if a half-breed could be powerful, what did that say about their philosophies?

Such questions were lethal if asked, and Nathaira had learned long, long ago to keep her mouth shut and her mind occupied. As the other children died around her, Nathaira grew stronger, colder, focused. They wanted her to die, too. The only reason she lived was because she fought for it. She fought for it every day.

Death was her trade, and she had just completed another transaction a few days ago. Now she was back at her old home to report, debrief, and be reassigned. Who would it be this time? Another merchant king threatening the finances of one of the great houses? A warlord drumming up discontent on the border? Perhaps an elf who was developing some new magic.

No... none of these... none of these at all. A child, but not to kill... to teach. To indoctrinate and mold. She had never done such a thing before, but as the only Forsaken currently present in the keep (and quite frankly the first commandable object the Handler saw) the task fell to her.

She had felt the rune on the back of her neck strike out with its tendrils immediately. They forced her mind to obey, forced her muscles to walk down the cold hallways and to peer through the barred window in the thick wooden door.

Nathaira looked into a circular stone room, lit only by a handful of torches in sconces along the walls. The smoke drifted up into a central chimney, a fathomless void reaching up to the surface. In the center, sitting on a sad wooden stool, was a girl. She was blindfolded and bound.

Nathaira opened and shut the door, stepping forwards on silent feet. Her tongue lashed out, flicking in the air, gathering scent. Amidst the damp stone there was the scent of horse and dirt... ale... blood. Much blood. A smile spread across her face, creeping up past her lips and reaching nearly to her ears.

She approached the back of the girl's chair and leaned down. Amber eyes noted the mangled ears. An elf, and a poorly kept secret.

"Hello, pet..." she whispered in her ear. She darted around the the front of the girl and cut the bonds around her feet with her dagger. She danced to Rumer's side, flicking her tongue gently on the girl's cheek. She tasted of tears. The dagger cut the bonds around her hands.

Finally, Nathaira removed the blindfold. Rumer would not see her, she had become quite invisible. She let the girl take in her surroundings. "So pretty..." she hissed, continuing to walk around the chair. Only a child, with the bountiful blessings of youth still upon her. Large eyes, soft features. Such a shame they would scarcely see the sun again.

She reappeared at once in front of Rumer, running her fingers along an ornately engraved dagger. She licked it with a long, forked tongue, tasting the cold metal. Cold eyes darted up and down Rumer's body. She leaned down, bringing her flattened face close. She could feel the warmth coming off the child... she craved it.

"Do you know where you are?"
 
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Rumer

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Rumer had been ripped up from the ground for the third time today, people were developing a habit of carrying the twiggy little girl by the scruff like the runt of a litter and she was getting sick of it. Still, fear trumped irritation and the girl had wriggled frantically. Through her blindfold she could see only light and shadow, and the light had diminishied quickly as they travelled, boots echoed around them, a flash of torch light every few steps, stairs, more stairs, a door.

She felt the room she'd been sat in the centre of was large from how distant the sounds of her echoed cries were, it felt different from her cubic cell from a few hours ago, and she could see a few small spots of flickering orange light through the dirty rag that covered her terrified eyes. It was cold, but Rumer was busy shaking from everything else that she hardly noticed. Rough ropes burned at her fragile skin as she tried with little strength to stretch and loosen her bindings, but she'd try until they reached the bone if she had to, but a heavy door opened and shut again and she froze, feeling that she was no longer alone.

In the silence all she could hear was her own quick little puffs of breath and her heartbeat pounding in her ears, she turned her head, trying to listen for footsteps or look for a shadow but the room was much too dimly lit. Someone, something was watching her, and Rumer was very clearly panicking in her temporary blindness. Feeling something behind her, a shudder ran the length of her spine and her body went rigid, physically flinching at the closeness of the voice by her ear, and her shoulders lifted as though in defence of her face. "Who are you?".. the girl asked in barely a whisper, her voice cracking in the rawness of her throat.

With the bindings on her ankles cut free, she curled her feet in, too afraid to stand regardless of her ability to do so. Was that a tongue?! Rumer's eyes closed tightly under their veil and she turned her face, chest heaving now "What are you?!" she changed her question.. With her wrists freed, Rumer pulled them against her chest, trying to be as foetal as she could in her seated position, hoping whatever it was wouldn't touch her again.

Her blindfold fell, and Rumer took a moment to open her eyes, blinking hard against the blurriness as she looked around the room in frantic search of whatever had spoken to her, was still speaking to her. Her brain rushed with confusion, and she looked toward the door. She had been gathering her courage to run for it when the snake-like woman appeared out of nowhere so close to her, and Rumer's scream might've echoed back a thousand times in the hell hole she'd found herself in. She stared in a frozen state of horror for a short moment. Her eyes, the slits where her nose should have been, her scaled skin, her dagger, that tongue. As the woman's face pressed closer to hers, Rumer pushed herself back as far as she could until the stool tipped and she clattered hard onto her back and rolled onto her hands and knees, moving back as quickly as she could. She couldn't answer her, she couldn't even take her eyes off of her to get a good look at the place she was in, all she could do was stare, awestruck and scared shitless, waiting for this nightmare to hurt her.
 
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Norris

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Vel Anir had a sick sense of humor sometimes. Norris had never gotten to know his family name, he'd only ever been Norris since his days of training at the academy. Other Dreadlords were luckier, they were allowed to know the name of the family they were plucked from or given a surname to call their own. Some of these Forsaken were even luckier, they may even get an inkling of who their families were. Norris had always just been Norris and one day, when he accumulated enough prestige, he'd take himself some pretty young thing and father his own house. He'd pick his own name. But until that day he'd just have to settle for the name given to him. Norris.

"So what's the deal with the kid?" he questioned Genevieve who was the handler on duty when the girl was brought in. Someone up the ladder had made such a fuss that Norris' trek back towards the academy had to be interrupted for one of these half breeds.

With a curt salute at the more senior official and look of concern Genevieve imparted, "well sir, she killed her dad, some other guy. A guardsman as well. She's a bit older than the usual ones."

Rubbing his chin the senior handler looked disturbingly interested. "Been awhile since we've had one inadvertently kill like that. No wonder they wanted my opinion. Is she alone?"

Genevieve shook her head, "naw, Nathaira's in there just now, they weren't sure how long you'd be so we sent her. Sorry about that sir."

Part of him wished to reprimand the other handler. Not that she had done anything wrong, but, it kept people on their toes. Fear was a lot more useful than friendship or respect. At least in his opinion. Still, it would be misguided. Norris was a firm believer that for these half breeds it made more sense for another Forsaken to do a lot of the training. The blood of whatever inferior species that had corrupted the good Anirian stuff often made them distrustful of their human masters. And the runes that made their head's go "pop" probably didn't help either.

"No, no, it's fine. We'll let old Snake-Eyes have a turn with her. Ease her into the life for a bit until it's time for her to meet me." It was never a good idea, in his opinion, to refer to these halfsies by whatever assigned name their parents gave them. Names were important, that's why he was saving his for when it mattered. To call a half breed by their name though was insulting and cruel. It gave the impression they were equals. That their lives had any worth at all. That's why he had a nickname for every Forsaken he had ever been assigned to handle.

Norris pulled up a chair and sat his lumpy bag beside it. He pulled out a large bottle of barrel-aged whisky, his cigar tin, matches, and a large rolled up piece of fabric. He'd need all of these tools for when it was his turn to speak with the murder child. Except for the whisky, that was to pass the time while he waited outside.
 
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Nathaira

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The scream was the most familiar sound to Nathaira. Terror. Panic. Hopelessness. These were what she inspired in people. These were what her disgusting body brought out in her victims. She was an abomination. Twisted, shameful, evil. This was the lesson she learned every day during her training, with every mission, with every glance in a mirror.

She answered her own question. ”You are in hhhhhell…”

As she hissed the final word in a drawn-out rasp, her smiled spread across her face. Her cheeks split and her jaw opened wide into a horrific pit of curved teeth. The girl needed to know the horror that she would face for the rest of her life. The misery, the torture. Perhaps, if she had the will, she would be lucky enough to die.

She stepped forwards slowly, gently sweeping one foot in front of the other, looming over the girl as she crawled pitifully away. When she could retreat no further Nathaira knelt down in front of her.

”I am Nathaira,” she said in a cold voice. Long fingers reached out and cupped Rumer’s cheek. It was velvet soft, sticky from tears. ”I am your sssister now…” and she drew Rumer into an embrace. There was no warmth to her bony body, and she savored the heat coming off of the girl.

Her lips next to Rumer’s ear once more, she whispered in a tone that could almost be called sweet. ”I am going to hurt you.” She held fast, not letting the girl move, stroking her hair. ”This is your home now.” She relaxed her grip, holding Rumer at a distance, looking over her as a concerned friend. ”You musst become used to pain,” She shrugged, tilting her head. ”Or you will die.”

She released Rumer, standing back up over her. ”Now… show me what you can do, child.” Without warning she kicked Rumer hard in the side. She kicked again, aiming for the same spot. ”Show me what you can do!” she yelled. Her voice was no longer sweet, no longer cooing. It was ice.

She swooped upon the girl and grabbed for her throat. ”Protect yourself!”
 
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Rumer

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Rumer’s head shook at the woman’s answer and she scrambled backwards, another scream thrown from her lungs at the horrific sight that was the snake-like mouth. “Please..Please .. I didn’t mean to...” she pleaded in defence of her crimes, because why else would she be here? She backed into a wall and her eyes closed as the woman lowered to her level and took hold of her cheek, and she sobbed quietly.

Rumer’s worried brow creased further, confused as to what the snake woman named Nathaira had meant by being her sister now and her form went rigid once again as her boney arms wrapped her in an uncomfortable embrace. Her body trembled in the woman’s grip, her soft but cold words spoken against her ear sending her heart rate so fast that it hurt, and her eyes closed tighter to loose another hot tear onto her cheek.

Was this place to be her punishment? Sharing this prison with her? Rumer had been used to pain since the day she was born and the thirteen years that had followed, but it never got any easier, it wasn’t something she’d managed to build an immunity to, pain was pain and she’d dread it regardless of whether it was her first or fifth beating of the day.

Rumer’s teary green eyes opened on the woman as she stood before her again, her words prompting an automatic response of denial “I can’t do an—“ but it was interrupted by a sharp outcry caused by the woman’s kick to her side and she rolled onto her back, coughing as she tried to speak again only to be landed another blow and she gasped at air against her lungs’ protest. There was the familiar dreaded pain the woman had promised, and Rumer cried, grabbing hold of the woman’s wrist as she gripped hold of her throat.

She couldn’t breathe, but that’d been the point, and she tried slamming her firsts into the woman’s arms and digging her nails into her wrists in some semblance of self defence, unable to scream any more.

Today was not a good day.
 
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Norris

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Norris kicked his head back, his mouth around the lip of the bottle, allowing a generous serving of the whisky to flow down. He re-corked the bottle and exhaled to allow the liquor's burn to mellow out. Genevieve glanced at the man with a raised eyebrow before summoning up the courage to inquire, "so, sir, at what point do you head in there?"

Her question was fair, there was a decent bit of commotion. Muffled voices, the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, par for the course for a Forsaken's first visit to the underground. Genevieve was green when it came to being a handler, she hadn't learned the way things worked with these mixed blood ingrates.

She'd been a dreadlord too, though she was merely a level four. Her abilities of creating a healing gas that could expel toxins, kill infections, and speed up the healing process rapidly while useful were not ideal for dreadlord work. Not even her ability to resuscitate a heart if the gaseous substance she created was applied quickly enough. Down here though, among the horrors of the Forsaken training grounds, her abilities allowed for handlers to become more... excessive in their treatments.

"When old Snake-Eyes starts screaming, that's when I'll be needed," he imparted as he uncorked the bottle and took another deep swig. If Snake-Eyes was screaming it meant the girl was using her abilities again and he wasn't keen to let a fully trained and obedient dog die to an unruly mutt. Of course, there was another trigger, "or if it gets too quiet," he added while swallowing, "see, it gets too quiet then that means Snake-Eyes worked a bit too well and the girl's unconscious. Or the two of them are having a heart-to-heart. Neither scenario is ideal."

You could never fully control people. Not that these beasts were people but they were close enough. Thought similarly to Anirians. That was probably from their good half though. The human half. And whether it was a dreadlord or one of these beastfolk the outcome was the same. They'd be loyal to a point, do what you ask 'em, but they'd curse your name in their head or bitch and moan together when they were in private. He wanted the girl to think Snake-Eyes was her friend. Snake-Eyes was already broken in, like a good dog. But he didn't want the girl to think that Snake-Eyes was a shoulder to cry on. That Snake-Eyes could really help her beyond basic survival.

Because, frankly, no one could help her. Not now. Not while she was a part of this little family.
 
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Nathaira

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Nathaira's face was not of anger, or malice, but disappointment. Of course the girl could do something, she wouldn't be here otherwise. There were plenty of half-elves wandering the city above, Vel Anir hadn't outright banned non-humans from entering. No no no... this one was special, and it was up to her to find out why.

Her fingers held tight around her girl's throat as Rumer clawed and beat at her arm. The child actually managed to draw a bit of blood with her nails, but Nathaira didn't flinch. Perhaps she should kill her, let her face turn blue and her eyes roll back. If she couldn't fight back she was of no use to the Forsaken, and she certainly would not survive the actual training that was in store for her.

But that would be such a shame, she decided. The girl had to be given a chance, after all. She just needed a little help, she didn't understand how things worked yet. Poor lost lamb. She thought with a sigh.

Within Nathaira's closed mouth, small droplets of sweet venom flowed from her fangs. Just a taste's worth, and she swirled in around her sharp teeth. It mixed with saliva, coating her fangs. She turned to the side and spit the majority of the cocktail onto the floor. Only a trace would be needed.

With one hand still around Rumer's neck, she grabbed for a wrist, stretching the arm out towards herself. The pits along her lip and nose could see the heat radiating from the girl's flesh, made more intense by panic. She stretched her long neck down so that she was once again face to face with her prey. "Ssshhhh..." she hushed, "It'ss alright. I will help you."

Slowly, she turned her head to the outstretched arm, and with surgical precision, sunk a single fang into the crook of her elbow. She did not inject any venom, but the dilute traces that coated her tooth took action immediately. It was not enough to kill the girl, and it may or may not cause a mild paralysis... but it would hurt.

Oh, how it would hurt. If Rumer was a typical case, a firey agony would take hold of her arm. The pain would spread and would not lessen for some time. Nathaira had done her best to give as small a dose as possible, but it was impossible to say just how long the effects would last. Likely, it would be several minutes.

She released her prey, stepping back to the center of the room. She replaced the overturned stool to its upright position, and sat. Her legs crossed, resting an elbow on her thigh and her head in her hand, she watched, looking almost bored.

She waited for the pain to stop. When it had, she would return to the child and have the following words for her: "Now... I am going to do that again... unlesss you sstop me." She licked her lips in anticipation and sucked the girl's blood from her fang.
 
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Rumer

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The child tried with all she had to prise Nathaira's grip from her throat, her panic stricken eyes wide and fixed on the woman's snakelike features, pleading without the use of words. Her face was turning red now, the blood and air unable to flow as normal and her pulse pounded in her ears, she wouldn't be conscious for long at this rate, and her nails tore into whatever skin they could in defence.

Help her? This woman was twisted, more twisted than even her father and that was a feat in itself. Rumer's eyes were starting to drift heavily as her consciousness faded. An unconsciousness she'd have gladly welcomed before what had next to befall her. She landed hard, gasping for a deep breath of air only to throw it violently back out into the pit in a high pitched scream that broke her voice entirely. Melting. Surely, she was melting from the inside out? "Please stop. Make it stop!!" the child begged, her words cracking, and she rolled onto her back , gripping her arm to her chest as her spine arched from the ground in writhing agony.

Rumer had sampled all sorts of pain - blades, fire, poison.. but this. This was a different sort of pain, and it was spreading, taking dominance over her senses with sheer burning torture. Rumer rolled onto her side and threw up, the convulsing and coughing the only interruption to her crying. Within a few minutes, the pain had begun to subside, leaving the girl lying in a ceased up ball, pale, clammy and exhausted.

Nathaira's words had her onto her back again to look up at her, her chest lifting and falling quickly as though trying to compensate for the breaths that she'd earlier been deprived of. Her dark hair was stuck to her face with a cold sweat, and she lifted her hand to push them away from her eyes to better see the woman that towered over her.. "Why...are you doing this?" she breathed out, and her green eyes filled with tears as the woman threatened another round of torture. "I'll do what you want.. Just.. please."
 
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Norris

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Screams reverberated out from the room. Through the thick wood of the locked door separating the two handlers from the half-people. They were panicked, slightly whiney, and definitely not from Snake-Eye’s lips. The voice was too pure, too full of desperation to be the fully trained servant of Vel Anir.

Genevieve’s face was filled with concern. Her brow furrowed, her knee jumping, and her rapid eye motions between the door and Norris communicated that concern rather clearly. Had she not been plucked as a child the older gentleman figured she’d have made a fine mother. Were it not for her curse of magic. Perhaps, he pondered, her talents bent themselves towards healing because she was exceptionally caring despite the hardships of the Dreadlord Academy.

”Don’t dwell on it,” he interrupted the silence to speak, Snake-Eyes knows what she’s doing. And now that you’re a handler down here, having to deal with these mixed breeds... well, you’re gonna need to develop a thicker skin.”

If he were consulted on the manner then Proctor Norris would’ve never agreed with the notion of assigning Genevieve to be a handler. Let her serve one of the great houses, she was decent enough with a pole arm. Down here her kindness would do no favors. She’d end up turning to the bottle... or worse.

Norris rubbed his chin. It was rough from the scragglier bits of hair due to his multi-day procrastination when it came to shaving. ”I don’t think they prepared you accordingly. You’re about to see a lot of kids come here. Most will die in the first month. Best to get used to it.” He gestured the bottle of bronze liquor towards the younger handler and offered her a smile. ”Want some? Likely that the screaming’s only gonna get worse.”

If snake skin was serving up her venom then it was likely the kid was gonna scream bloody murder on the second dose. Third dose might cause her to blow out her vocal chords.


Norris was glad he brought a decent whisky to pass the time with.
 
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Nathaira

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Nathaira watched Rumer’s writhing with passionless eyes. That had been a very tiny dose… but she supposed that this was a very tiny girl. She had the waif-like qualities of her elven parentage, and the serpentine assassin again found herself contemplating how tragic it was that such beauty would never be seen again. Well… not by anyone that was going to live long enough to enjoy it.

The time seemed to drag on. The child was being awfully dramatic. Vomiting? She hadn’t seen that in a while. Doubts started to surface… perhaps she would not survive this place.

When the shrieking and convulsing had stopped, Nathaira stood and gave her threat of further torture. Her blood was pumping, ready for the girl’s retaliation. What would it be? There was seemingly no end to the unique magics that the Forsaken had recruited. Maybe she would be another pyromancer. The room was awfully cold, that could be nice. Then again, maybe she would send freezing water at her. She shivered at the thought. Maybe bewitchment? Her eyes were large and entrancing…

But no attack came, nor any defense, only more pleading, more crying.

Why are you doing this?

The phrase triggered a hundred memories.

”I told you,” she said with a lilt. ”I am helping you… adjust to your new home.” She smiled and knelt before Rumer’s broken body.

She reached out and touched the girl’s forehead with a long finger. ”You have a gift, a way to hurt people.” Her finger moved over the scarred ears. ”But you are a mongrel.” Her tone darkened, and her eyes appeared very distant for just a moment.

Monster. Beast. Sin.

The light returned almost as quickly as it had left, and her toothy smile resurfaced. ”That means you are one of us. Forsaken.” She picked up the girl’s arm once more, lifting it slowly but with an iron grip.

”Now, be a good girl and do as you’re told.” The grin began to spread across her face once more, thin slits opening up her cheeks. ”Attack me, or I will hurt you again. I think twice the dose, this time, don’t you?” And she leaned back in to Rumer’s arm, her mouth opening and readying for the next bite.
 
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Rumer

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Rumer didn't have the physical energy to move away from Nathaira as she knelt beside her. Every muscle in her body stung in protest of her mistreatment, but she couldn't bring herself to focus for long enough to make herself heal faster. Her father had been killed only a few hours prior, and since then she'd been bound, dragged, strangled, beaten and bitten. But it seemed, the day could get worse if she didn't at least try to do what this heartless creature wanted her to do.

Even still, after an entire life of torture, as the woman spoke of her 'gifts', it was clear by Rumer's expression that hurting people bothered her. Her gifts had not been meant for harm, they'd been meant for healing, and against all odds the child held a hope that she'd be able to use them properly one day and be as her mother had been.. "I don't understand, why you want me to hurt you.." she croaked, wasn't the point that she hurt herself? Despite what she had endured, she'd remained a sweet child, but she had also learned to do as she was bid for fear of further torment, and right now that fear was unbearable.

Rumer had been about to ask questions, what she'd meant by mongrel, who the forsaken were, why this would be her new 'home', but Nathaira was grabbing hold of her arm again and threatening twice the horror she'd already experienced. It was quite the incentive. "No! No no no please!" she was trying her best to shout but her voice was ragged and broken, and tears of dread flooded her cheeks again. Rumer closed her eyes tightly and wrapped a hand around Nathaira's wrist, gripping tightly and she focused, taking her mind back to Anir square where the so-called gift had seemed to come so easily to her as she'd watched her father beaten senseless. She had never been able to defend herself quite so well.

The touch made it easier for her for her, she could feel the woman's pulse and so concentrated on her blood flow, and manipulating it to rebel and reverse her healings. Old wounds were the easiest to open, and so she was undoubted that a woman like this would have many, she prayed she had many. The blood was to be freed, to unknit the healed flesh and escape them as though they were afresh, and without a blade, she made the attempt to burst open any scarred skin, and with the effort a few of her own opened too.. Control wasn't her strong suit.
 
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Norris

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More screaming and shuffling occurred in the next room. The pleading and repetitive "no's" caused a minor frown to touch Norris' lips. He didn't really care much if this kid died already but it seemed like a waste. If she'd inadvertently killed her own dad without any proper training then it was likely her magic was powerful. Made sense for Vel Anir to harness that raw power. Take advantage of it. Once she was properly trained and understood her new place in the world of course.

"So, how did Nathaira come to be here?" Genevieve asked, clearly growing more uncomfortable by the screaming. Probably reminder her of the days at the academy. Norris remembered the first time he tortured Genevieve. She screamed so much he was certain she wouldn't make it through the academy. But hey, life's always full of surprises.

"Do you mean how did we bring her in or what god-fearing, hard-working, red-blooded Anirian looked at a Naga and said, 'why yes, I'd like to bed with that thing tonight?" he replied with a large toothy grin. "Dunno how she was born if I'm being honest. Story I heard was some whore went to Nagai and slept with half the population. At least that's what I always tell Snake-Eyes."

Genevieve paled a bit. Norris had forgotten that's what he told the handler sitting by him too.

The senior handler uncorked the bottle once again. This time retrieving a small metal glass from his bag and placing it on the table that separated the two Anirian officials. He poured a sizable amount into the cup and slid it across the table towards the woman. He lowered his voice and in a softer tone insisted, "don't think about your own parents. Doesn't do anyone a lick of good. Drink up, get yourself ready, I'm thinking we'll be needed in there before much longer. When, or perhaps if, we do go in I want you by the door. Don't speak unless I command it. Don't use your healing unless I command it. Understood?"

Nodding her head and sipping down the whiskey the junior handler seemed more nervous than he had anticipated. No wonder she was deemed unsuitable as a dreadlord. If the girl didn't toughen up she wouldn't cut it as a handler either. Even if she just worked at the underground training center.
 
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Nathaira

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She could feel the heat coming off Rumer's arm once more, could taste her sweet sweat and tears in the air. Her mouth watered, ready to deliver the next bite into that soft flesh, but the girl's words cut through her rapture.

The poor thing was so confused. She would need to learn to put those feelings aside. There was no reason down here, no explanations. Only pain. Only death. Perhaps it would be easier once the Rune was in place. The very thought of it sent a chill down her spine.

Nathaira was, in her mind at least, good at being a forsaken. At least, good enough. She was effective, efficient, and deadly. The rune etched into the back of her neck ensured that she obeyed her masters... but she hated every one of them. It burned within her every time the magic took hold of her body, every time it froze her in place or painfully pushed her to action. The only thing that burned brighter was her fear. Norris had done his job well.

As her fangs were about to touch skin, the girl grabbed her wrist. Nathaira glanced over at the sudden contact and could see the look of concentration on her face. The smile crept further up her face. Good...

The smile broke after a moment however. Something was happening. She had been on guard, ready to spring away from fire or lightning, and in truth she doubted that such a young, frightened thing could truly harm her. Yet... this feeling... something was quite obviously wrong.

A look of concern crossed her ophidian face. "What... ah!" A sharp pain burst from her back, and she felt wet blood soak into her clothes. Strange... it was the same place she had been stabbed three months prior. "What are you - nguh!" Deep slashes opened in the arm Rumer was holding. Battle scars from a year prior, the placement exact. She... she knew what this girl was doing.

She felt a churning ache in her belly. Her mind rushed back. Two years. Stab wound. Nearly fatal. If that reopened...

She ripped her arm from Rumer's grip and shoved the girl back. "Enough!" she hissed, standing and stepping back, clutching her bleeding forearm. For a time she looked at the girl with shock, anger. Then... she smiled again. A crazy laugh started from her lips and built into a cackle. She tasted her own blood with a long tongue.

"Good!" she shrieked. "Oh, very good!" She moved forwards, doing her best to ignore the pain in her back. She could see blood on the girl as well. Apparently her gifts took their tole.

She strode to the doorway, opened the heavy bolts and leaned out. No one was around, but she knew they would be listened. "Oi, food for the child!" she called into the echoing dark. "If you pleassse," she added with a simpering sweetness. Didn't want her masters thinking she was making demands after all.

She closed the door and returned to the girl, bringing the wooden stool to her. "No more venom today," she cooed. The child had earned a reprieve, although in truth, Nathaira knew what would come for her next. She would need her strength.

She indicated the stool with a thin hand, motioning for Rumer to sit. "You did well, pet. Tell me, what is your name?"
 
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Rumer

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By the sounds of Nathaira’s realisation, it was working, and her brow furrowed as she tried to ignore all instinct to stop hurting her for fear of being bitten again if she did. She didn’t like this woman at all, and yet it went against her soft nature to inflict injury, it turned in her stomach like a rough sea of nausea and she swallowed hard to keep it at bay. But still, she’d clench her teeth and continue to call the blood forth, her own features contorting with pain as one by one, some her own little scars tore open on her arms.

Her eyes shot open again as she was shoved back and she instinctively lifted an arm to shield her face, expecting to be rattled by a fist or foot. She could see her anger, and it was obviously something she was familiar with. She pulled herself back a little more, widening her distance between the two, her timorous gaze never leaving Nathaira as she waited for whatever came next. She’d expected a multitude of things, but not laughter, nor praise, nor the call for food. Her stomach growled at the thought, and she realised it’d been a couple of days since she’d eaten anything - she didn’t trust the woman at all, but she wouldn’t refuse nourishment when she felt as weak as she did.

Venom, like a snake, of course! But how? So many questions but she dared not ask them, she’d rather not risk offending the woman. Rumer eyes her cautiously as she gestured for her to sit, and she decided there was not much choice in the matter and it was best to do as she was told, if the woman was going to her her, she’d hurt her either way.

She pulled herself shakily to her feet, and approached the woman with caution, afraid to meet her gaze again and so it remained on the floor as she sat, hand clutched to the bleeding wounds on her arm, feeling the warm wet patches where they’d soaked through her shirt. “Thank you.” she answered quietly, not fully understanding why she’d wanted her to hurt her or why she’d been tested at all.

“Rumer.. my name is Rumer.”
 
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Norris

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“It’s gotten quiet, should we ensure it’s going well?” Genevieve’s question was fair, but premature.

Before the more experienced Anirian could respond a server mentioned that ‘ol Snake-Eyes was requesting a meal for the child and herself. Norris nodded and told the server, ”very well, I think Snake-Eyes like lamb. Bring ‘em some of that and a loaf of wheat bread.” After the servant had departed Norris turned back towards his fellow handler. ”Too early still. Let them converse a bit. There’s a balance we want to strike.”

The woman across from him was confused. He could tell, it wasn’t abnormal for the newer handlers to miss out on the finer points of breaking someone. Deceiving them into thinking life will get a bit better before that expectation is shattered again.

”Don’t worry my dear, won’t be much longer now,” he said with an odd sense of satisfaction.
 
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Nathaira

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"Rumer... she contemplated the name. "A thought passed but no one is sure if you're true... how excellent." She spoke to herself. She raised her arm, admiring the slashes that had been reopened. They hurt, for sure, but it was nothing she couldn't handle.

She had been briefed, very quickly, on why the girl was here. Murder in the name of her father. It made sense, such an event would drive anyone to lash out in passion. What was odd was how long it had taken for the correct authorities to find her, to bring her here. Her ears looked like they had been cut by a butcher. Surely, she would have been recognized for what she was before now.

Nathaira didn't realize it, but deep in her subconscious a twinge of jealousy surfaced. Rumer had been allowed to live her life as a free girl, up until now. Nathaira could not remember a time when she was not Forsaken. She had been surrendered immediately, her mother killed shortly after her birth... or so she had been told. What would it have been like, she wondered, to grow up as a citizen of Vel Anir...

She shut these thoughts away. It would do no good to dwell on impossibilities. Her life was what it was... but perhaps she could help this girl. Make her journey a little more bearable. She knew that Rumer must think her a monster for the pain she had inflicted. She could only hope that the girl would realize why, over the course of her training. She hoped that the girl would realize that she sought to dampen her response to pain, to acclimate her to the horrors that awaited her. Maybe if she set her nerves on fire early she would be able to handle the trials that awaited her.

She sat on the floor in front of the child. Nathaira had been an infant when she was brought to the forsaken... she had never know any other life. It must all seem very abrupt to this girl.

"Rumer..." she repeated. "Tell me now... how did they find you? I mean... what happened before your were brought to this place?" Pity, again an emotion unrecognized by Nathaira, had taken hold. This girl represented a life unbound, yet sadly captured before it could be recognized.

Soon enough, there was a knock on the door, and a tray was slid through a slot at its foot. A bowl of gruel, a slice of bread, and a glass of stagnant water. It was as much as could be hoped for a lowly Forsaken. Nathaira brought it to Rumer. "Eat." She commanded. "You will need your strength."
 
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Rumer

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Rumer’s brow creased in confusion as the woman seemed to pick apart her name, she’d never considered it to mean anything other than a word to be called to attention or bellowed when she wasn’t doing something right. She pulled her arms in against her and folded them tightly as Nathaira sat on the floor before her, in case she decided to take notion to bite her again. The question was just as torturous, and the girl’s eyes welled.

“I wasn’t supposed to go outside.” she frowned. It had been entirely her own fault that she was here, her father had warned her. She lifted her teary gaze from the floor for only a moment but found it too difficult to maintain eye contact with the snake woman. She was unnerved enough as it was. “But sometimes I’d climb up into the thatch when father was out. I heard him streets away, and he was yelling.. I knew I wasn’t supposed to go, but I ran to the square, and I forgot my cloak.. Father was drunk, and he had two men over him and they wouldn’t stop kicking.” Rumer’s head shook and the tears she’d been trying to hold onto escaped but she quickly wiped at them. “I tried but..They think I killed my father but I didn’t, one of them pulled a knife on him before I could get this stupid thing to work. Then I couldn’t help it, they both bled out so fast..”..

Rumer paused for a moment, all of that hindsight rattling her mind with regrets and different scenarios, should haves and shouldn’t haves, if she hadn’t heard her father or had obeyed his orders to start put, he’d still have been killed, but if she’d been better at hurting people, he might not have been. And so blame was hers.. She jumped slightly as the door knocked, and wiped at her face some more as Nathaira brought her the tray of slop. Rumer wouldn't turn her nose up at food, there was nothing that wasn’t good enough for her, and by the way she ate without hesitation at the instruction, it was clear how hungry she’d been. The latter comment had sounded like a threat, but a threat she believed..

“I should’ve run but I tried to help him..” she paused again, mid bite of stale bread, realising how odd it felt to be telling another person about her gifts. Rumer has been a well kept secret for thirteen years, she’d left her miserable hovel a grand total of four times, each time under a hood with her to practise her ‘gifts’ on his bequest, on those who’d wronged him. Still, she continued, it wasn’t exactly a secret any longer. “I can heal...much easier than I can, do that. she told her and chewed on another bite “But I had guards trying to get me away whilst I was trying to fix him and I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t listen. I cut one of them, bad, I didn’t mean to I just wanted to fix him.” .. It had been the first time in her life that she’d experienced real rage, an emotion alien to her despite her trauma. She hadn’t liked it at all, and it quickly reverted back to fear and despondency.

She plucked up the courage to ask her own questions now, glancing up at the door. “What is this place? And... what are you?..”
 
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Norris

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Food was shuffled into the room and Norris uncorked his bottle once again. Raising a brow and looking at Genevieve he asked, ”want another?”

“No,” she replied, “I’d like to keep a steady head. Just the one to ease my nerves.”

Norris chuckled,”you’ll need to build up your tolerance, girl. Too many horrors down here to face ‘em sober.” This final drink was a hearty one. It required the use his sleeve to brush any loose moisture off his lip after he finished. Then, the well dressed handler placed a hand on one knee, chortled, and rose to his feet.

”Just a moment more,” he declared while grabbing his roll of fabric, cigar tin, and matches. He held on his face a sinister grin aimed directly at Genevieve.

She stared at him, concern growing, before a quivering lower lip summoned the courage to simply ask, “what?”

Norris counted down from ten, ignoring her inquiry, and once he reached zero...

”You coming?”

The senior handler burst through the door of the cell in a hearty laughter as his junior scurried in behind, standing firm at the door and closing it behind her.
 
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Nathaira

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Nathaira listened intently to Rumer's story. She watched the girl's face, saw the twists and changing emotions at each pause. She had already lived her life in the shadows, it seemed. That was good, the Forsaken would be less of an adjustment.

Her story tugged at Nathaira's cold heart. The half-naga had never known her family, she had come to the forsaken only days after her birth. How would life have differed had she been given just a few years with her parents? Again, she pushed such thoughts away. It did no good to dwell of what-ifs. This was her life, and if she thought about it too much she would spiral into madness.

Nathaira had always managed to present a happy face, always managed to find pleasure in whatever tasks she was assigned. Some saw this as mania, a twisted woman who enjoyed the suffering she caused. But what was she to do? If she did not banish the dark thoughts, if she did not deliberately ignore the true status of her life... could she go on? She had lost count of the number of times she had attempted to take her own life, only to be stopped short by the rune magic forced upon her. She was not permitted to die.

She saw the pain in Rumer's face. Her father sounded like a boor, to be honest, Nathaira knew the type. The type of man who locked his daughter away, cut her ears, and got himself killed in a bar fight was not one to be mourned. Yet still the girl cried... but she was wiping the tears away more quickly now. Good. The masters did not care for tears.

Her reptillian face lit up at the talk of murder. How delightful! This tiny creature had opened veins and killed out of hatred, anger. It had been wild and uncontrolled by the sound of it, but they would help her with that.

Healing... now that was different. The Forsaken had precious few healers, they were rarely recruited as assassins and usually didn't survive if that was their only gift. She looked at the gashes in her arm, still oozing. It would be very useful to have a healer on their missions. She wouldn't have to limp back to Vel Anir on a broken leg like she did last year. "How exxxtraordinary..." she mused.

She looked straight at Rumer and hissed in what she thought to be a comforting tone, "You were right to kill them." She hoped the girl understood this. "You are right to kill anyone who hurtss your family." She reached out a hand to Rumer's shoulder, but she moved slowly, non-threatening. "We are your family now."

More questions. They truly hadn't explained anything to her, had they? Poor lost lamb.

"Thiss," Nathaira answered, gesturing up to the room and everything around, "Iss your home now. It is where the Forsaken are made. Forged in the shadowss." She leaned in closer to the girl, it was important that she hear these next words. "The Forsaken will make you strong... but the path is pain, sssuffering. I hurt you to bring out your gifts... and thiss will not stop. Not ever. Do you understand?"

She chuckled at the girl's next question, her demeanor shifting back to dark levity. She had heard it so many times. What are you? Often it was screamed, sometimes whispered in terror. Rumer, at least, had asked with genuine curiosity, if not an understandable level of fear.

"I am Nathaira," she said again, placing a hand on her chest. "I am like you, a shameful mixture of human and beasst. My father wass Naga." Her amber eyes flashed and she opened her mouth to reveal her fangs and gaping jaw. "He gave me thesse, and these..." she ran a finger along the scales of her forearm.

"Your mother wass the elf, of course she was, an elven father would not cut you sso." She ran a finger over the jagged edges of Rumer's ears. What a pity. Aila's ears were beautiful, and Rumer's would have been such a lovely addition to her face. "She gave you much beauty. That will do you no favors here."

Then, suddenly, she froze. Her tongue had picked up a growing scent. Alcohol. Cigar smoke. The fibers of his coat. He was here. A new look had swept over her face and there was no hiding it.

Fear.

She grabbed Rumer by the shoulders, gripping hard and stared directly into her eyes. "Do what he says." She whispered, pleading. "Do everything he says."

The door burst open and Nathaira stood quickly. Hands at her side, looking at her own feet.
 
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Rumer

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Right to kill them? What a terrible thought, it'd crushed her with shame in hindsight and it weighed heavily on the youngster. Her father had made her kill before, but then she had been doing as she was told, if there was blame at least he shared in it. But this had been entirely her doing, and she never believed herself capable. Rumer couldn’t help but tense as the woman’s hand rested on her shoulder and she stole a wary glance at it "We?.." her head tilted, another terrible thought. More people who wanted to hurt her and keep her locked away, she had only just escaped that life, plucked straight out of the pan and thrown into the fire.

She listened anxiously as Nathaira explained a little about where she was, and her head shook slowly as she spoke of the pain that she would suffer. Her life had been pain, it was no life. Her heart was pounding, and her stomach knotted, threatening to disgorge the food she'd just consumed. She had to get out of here. The hopelessness was crippling.

Rumer had not been permitted to speak with anyone, she had never spoken with another living soul other than her abusive father, she had been outside of her own home a handful of times and in Vel Anir, she had never seen another creature that wasn't entirely human. Her father had never spoken of her mother, he had mentioned that her mother could heal and had forced her to learn, but he'd never said she'd been anything but human. She was ashamed to admit that she didn't know of elves or naga and so she bit down on her lip and didn't ask any more, she felt foolish enough as it was, and the fear that gripped her as she gazed into the woman’s gaping jaws of death had her regret asking.

Rumer flinched a little as Nathaira touched her ear and her cheeks reddened. They had always disgusted her father, and she tried her best to keep them concealed. For a moment the child was lost in reflection spurred by Nathaira’s words, things she’d never considered about herself, and the feeling of foolishness swelled.

Rumer saw the ophidian woman’s demeanour change quickly, and she tried to recoil as her shoulders were gripped, expecting more pain. But Nathaira was afraid, and Rumer’s heart thudded with dread at the thought of whatever could rattle the snake’s cage so much when she herself was, in Rumer’s eyes, entirely terrifying.

She had opened her mouth to speak, but her attention snapped toward the door as she heard it open, wide eyed in terror, and she took lead from Nathaira and stood just as she stood, dropping her gaze to her feet, her shoulders lifting and falling quickly with every petrified breath.
 
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Norris

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Norris walked into the room and found himself greeted by two pairs of eyes. The first were familiar, reptilian almost. Snake-Eyes herself, the two had a history and the handler was pleased to still catch that glint of fear in her pupils. Easier to predict the agents who stilled feared you. Next to her was the child, face of innocence and porcelain. She had a pretty face but Genevieve was right, she was older than most of their new recruits.

Strike of a match, stench of tobacco, and a deep inhalation precluded a mighty exhalation of a sweet, musty smoke which filled the confines of the room. Norris paced back and forth in front of the miniscule kid before him. Taking a second puff of his cigar before grinning and issuing a half-step towards the girl.

”My sincerest apologies, I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner,” he motioned towards the remainder of the half-elf’s food. ”And, a second apology for being so late. I trust Snake-Eyes here looked after you well enough, child?”

He didn’t wait for a reply. He simply dropped the rolled fabric onto the stone floor and the resounding thud against the hard flooring confirmed the bundle held more than just cloth. It’s sound carried and echoed off the barren walls while the smirk on the Anirian’s face grew more gleeful.

”See, I was meeting with the King. Had to beg him you know. On my knees, pleading that he should spare the life of the girl who ended up slaying… how many was it Genevieve? Twelve? Thirteen people? Including her own father?” Once more he didn’t wait for a response. He simply kept talking. ”So. The King asks me, very regal-like, ‘how can I be so sure that the mongrel ain’t gonna kill more innocent people in my fine city?’” Another puff from his cigar, another large grin aimed at the child.

”And, can you believe it, I’m sitting in front of His Majesty trying to think up what I can say to him? How do I get through to him, how do I save some poor girl’s life?” Norris stepped closer, to the point of discomfort before bending down, leaning his arms against his knees, and putting his face level with the half-elf’s, ”then, I come up with an idea. Formulate a plan. I promise His Majesty that I’ll see to it the girl is trained myself. Put on a leash. I promise the King of all of Vel Anir she’ll behave from now on or he can kill me himself.”

He concluded his story with a flow of cigar smoke that billowed all around the girl’s doll-like face. It was all a fabrication but he’d learned that the truth didn’t matter. The truth was malleable. What really mattered was how people felt. What they feared. And the lies they told themselves so they could sleep at night.

Rising up to full height the handler turned to look at his half-Naga servant. Her arm was mangled, he’d guessed it was the work of the mutt before him. ”Snake-Eyes! What say you? Can our little pal here behave? What kind of neat tricks is she hiding under those tiny sleeves?”
 
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Nathaira

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A child sat in a cold, dark room, not unlike the one Rumer found herself in today. She was in a sturdy chair, and her arms and legs had been tied to it with thick leather straps. Her breath trembled, and although the air was chilly, it did not fog. She had no inner warmth to give.

Nathaira, twelve years old, looked down at the floor, at the cold gray stones. Figures moved about in long coats, wearing large glass goggles and tinkering with glass vials and metal needles. Through them all, staring at the girl, was a man in a fine suit smoking a cigar.

He did not speak for some time, and Nathaira’s viper eyes darted back and forth between the other people in the room and her own feet. She dared not look at Norris. Only after the others settled and gave him a curt nod, did he approach.

He took a long puff from the cigar and blew the smoke out over her. She coughed as quietly as she could.

”Do you know why I turn the students’ magic back at them?”He asked her without preamble.

Nathaira looked up, just enough to see his tie. “To… t-to punissh them?” she whispered, her voice hoarse from fright.

Norris shook his head. ”To teach them. I have always thought that one should know what it’s like for one’s victims. After all, how can you expect to master your talents if you do not fully understand them?" He leaned down so that his face was level with hers, and she could not avoid his dark eyes. ”It isn’t fair that you should deliver suffering with your venom and not have felt its effects yourself.”

Nathaira’s breathing quickened. ”B-but… my venom doesn’t hurt me,” she whispered again. She was quite immune to her own toxins, which was a good thing considering how often she bit her tongue with her mouth full of sharp teeth.

Norris stood, wagging a finger. ”Yes, a particularly difficult challenge but one I believe we have overcome.” He picked up a vial that the other people had been tinkering with. It was full of a yellowish, clear liquid. He showed Nathaira the bottle with a wicked smile. ”All in the name of education,” he said, setting it down and turning to walk away. ”Proceed," he told his assistants.

The liquid was drawn into a glass syringe, and though she squirmed and pleaded, it was plunged into her pale green arm.

She had never felt such pain. Her entire body was on fire. Her muscles seized and locked, and soon she could no longer scream. She sat, paralyzed and in overwhelming agony, for how long she could not say. Here eyes and nose streamed, her mouth foamed. The world went out of focus and all that existed was torment.

She awoke on her back, with one of the goggle-wearing assistants crouched over her, pushing hard on her chest. “She’s breathing again,” they said impassively.

”Put her back, give her the second dose.”


Flashback written in collaboration with Norris
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nathaira kept her eyes firmly on the floor as Norris spoke. His account of the events leading up to Rumer's capture was different than the girl's own. Had she not realized the extent of her outburst or was he exaggerating? Either seemed likely, and though she would never dare contradict him outright, she knew that Rumer must be horrified to hear that she had killed so many.

It will get easier, child. Soon, murder would be second nature to her.

Norris had spun her a similar tale about her own arrival to the forsaken. Her mother had been an unspeakable whore, who'd taken the snake men to bed and borne their rotten fruit: her. She would have been drowned immediately after birth had he not intervened on her behalf. She owed her life to him, and he made sure she never forgot.

The cigar smoke was nauseating, and she kept her mouth shut tight against the foul miasma. It wormed its way through her narrow nostrils and stung her eyes and throat.

Her entire body stiffened when he addressed her, though she did her best not to show it. "Yess sir, she did quite well. It sseems she is able to reopen old wounds. She alsso ssays she can heal." She turned her arm in the dim torchlight to show off the injuries. The bleeding had slowed, but they would need tending to as soon as she was able.

She couldn't say what prompted her to speak again. It was definitely out of character, as she tended to hold her tongue and speak only when spoken to as far as this monstrous man was concerned. Yet a quiet desperation took hold of her. A certain... need.

"I should like to continue training her," she blurted out suddenly. Catching herself, her eyes wide, she quickly added, "With your permission, of course, sir." She bowed her head low, shutting her eyes tight.

Never speak out of turn. Never speak out of turn.
 
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Rumer

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Rumer’s nose tickled at the smell of tobacco, and she held her breath whilst trying her best not to sneeze. The man’s pacing had her insides squirming, and her fingers fidgeted subconsciously - her father had paced a lot whilst trying to get to grips with her gifts and their workings. She had lifted her gaze slightly at his first question, lips parted to answer but closed immediately at the unnerving sound of the roll of fabric made as it hit the floor and she stared at it. Her nausea was coming in waves now, sea sick on solid ground, and she instinctively pulled her clammy hands behind her back and clenched them into trembling little fists.

She listened to his story, his lies, and lifted her glowering face to open her mouth in protest against them, about to answer for the woman next to him but he hadn’t waited for one... Mongrel. She didn’t even know what the word meant and she hated it simply by the way in which he’d said it, the word didn’t need to be explained for her to know that it’d been filled with shame and disgust. Her icy glare turned quickly to water by the mere grin on the man’s face, and Rumer decided not to hold his gaze for a second longer, and she fell back to first position, eyes on the floor, jaw clenched shut. How lucky for her that she lacked the confidence to correct his inaccuracies.

He was trying to intimidated her and by gods it was working. Her legs weakened so much she thought they might fail her as Norris stepped into her personal space, his face so close to hers that the sickly concoction of alcohol and tobacco on his warm breath filled her with repugnance. She couldn’t bring herself to lift her eyes to him for fear they might tear up again, as though her body wasn't expressing her despair enough. She cast a glance instead to Nathaira’s feet, a woman she’d never believed she’d take any sort of comfort from, but for some reason she wanted to make sure the naga woman was still there. This man hadn't hurt her, but his air of arrogance, Nathaira's fear of him, that roll of fabric. He was worse and she knew it.

The plume of Norris’ tobacco smoke caught in her lungs and she coughed quietly, her stinging eyes watering in defence of the pollutant. She hated it, she hated him - this place, all of it. She realised how rigid she had been when Norris turned his attention back to Nathaira, or 'snake-eyes' as he’d nicknamed her. Her muscles shuddered and ached as she eased them ever-so-slightly, and she felt trickles of blood slithering down her fingers as she unclenched her fist, tiny nail indentations in her palm where the skin had broken.

Rumer listened as Nathaira spoke of her gifts, realising of course that this man was the one she’d be reporting to. Her peripheral vision showed the woman evidencing her wounded arm, and Rumer turned her head away, eyes still on the floor. It shamed her, and also terrified her that she’d be punished for it. She could do more than what they knew of, but she kept her lips firmly shut on that matter.

The child winced at Nathaira's request. Training?.. No.Torturing. She couldn’t help it, tears fell, and she was too afraid to move to clear them from her cheeks and they raced freely to her chin and dropped onto the cold stone. Either way, her suffering was to continue. She’d never believed a life worse than the one she’d had could be possible, but alas, life was full of surprises.
 
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Norris

Kind Teacher
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Norris grinned at the glistening blood decorating the half-Naga’s arm. Re-opening old wounds? What machinations did this girl possess to do that? She wasn’t turning back the clock, that was impossible. It must’ve been some sort of blood magic or the manipulation of flesh. He was keen to find out the extent of such a gift.

The healing bit was, well, useful enough. He didn’t like losing agents in the field. Took too long to raise them up properly, long time until you got a decent return for all that work. Worse still, it could raise questions. Particularly if they were working within Anirian territory. Easy to dismiss when they operated in foreign lands but here their deaths could sometimes trigger a riot.

”Interesting,” he mused in response to the girl’s powers, ”maybe she can re-open the nerve endings that let you feel your venom too. Remember how fun that was?”

He figured he’d let that little quip marinate in silence for a few seconds as he giggled to himself. Exhaling another large cloud of smoke towards the snake-woman’s face before he addressed her question. ”Yes, you should look after her. With my supervision, obviously, we wouldn’t want your brothers and sisters to get jealous after all.”

He turned his attention back to the new recruit, his head facing the ground as he continued speaking,”you’re in luck little one, Snake-Eyes is one of our best. She’ll keep an eye out for you and,” he stopped mid-sentence as his gaze returned to the young girl before him. There were tears running down her face. Tears.

”Are you... crying?”

The glee faded from his face, his eyes hardened, and his lips narrowed. He waited for a minute but he didn’t intend to let the girl speak. Instead he feigned a look of concern.

”Is it the cigar smoke? A few of my nieces and nephews here in the underground have allergy issues with my smoking.” In a blur of motion he chucked the cigar at the wall beside the half breed, allowing it to sit on the stone and slowly fizzle out. ”Or was it the story I told you? With the king. Don’t worry dear, he’s long forgotten about you. You’re here with me now and I won’t let anyone kill you. You’re in good hands.”

He drew closer. Each step deliberate. His breathing getting heavier, his pace slow and echoing off the cobbled walls.

Once he was an arm’s length away, with his reflective magic prepared in case the cornered animal tried to bite, he bent down again. This time only a slight bend so that he remained towering over her. Then, he grasped the untrained Forsaken’s chin between his thumb and forefinger before steering her teary eyes upwards to meet his. “Is it Snake-Eyes? Don’t worry Dollface, she works for me. She won’t kill you without my say so. You’ve just gotta trust me.” The faux concern shifted into another smirk that wrinkled the lines around his cold, brown eyes.

”You do trust me. Right, Dollface?”
 
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