Hullo! The last poll gizmo got broken in the shift, but I’ll bring it back in future posts, because it was fun. In the meantime you can comment if you’re so inclined. Or you could lurk in the shadows and giggle to yourself too, that’s also thoroughly acceptable. Although admittedly, this isn’t really much of a giggly instalment.
Atrocious lurked in the corner of the room whilst Ayla recovered. She’d tried making for the door again, but a look from Kira had been enough to make her reconsider that course of action. The warrior had a certain understated authority about her, and Atrocious was wary of crossing anybody else that day. Her knuckles were aching from the blow she’d inflicted on the witch and the uncomfortable feeling of guilt had settled in her stomach to stay. No matter how many times she told herself that Ayla had totally deserved what she’d gotten, she still wasn’t used to hitting people and seeing them hurt. Once the initial rush of besting Ayla abated, there was nothing but a sick feeling left behind.
“Okay, sit up slow, I’ll get you one of your potions,” Kira was saying whilst Atrocious inspected her metaphorical navel.
Ayla sat up slowly, a dark reddish bruise blooming on her jaw. The look she gave Atrocious was devoid of emotion, which was scarier than if she’d been obviously angry. Atrocious wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere she wouldn’t be hunted down. She shrank into the corner, hoping that whatever Ayla did, it wasn’t too bad.
“Fetch my lash whilst you’re at it,” Ayla was speaking to Kira, but her eyes were locked on Atrocious.
Kira returned from the adjoining room shaking her head. “I don’t think so.” She smiled and handed Ayla a little red vial. “Drink this and feel better.”
Uncorking the bottle, Ayla downed the brew quickly. The effect was almost immediate. Color returned to her face and the blossoming redness on her jaw began to recede as the potion worked its magic, rejuvenating the damaged tisses. “Fine, I’ll get it myself,” she said, rising from the bed with her customary grace.
Kira planted herself in the way, blocking Ayla’s passage. “Just sit down before you make this worse,” she said, her voice firm with a touch of steel.
With nervous butterflies beating around in her belly, Atrocious watched Kira and Ayla size one another up. They seemed fairly evenly matched, physically Kira was much more solid and equipped for struggle with powerful limbs and a toned torso revealed under the undershirt that had become untucked whilst she was attending to her friend. In contrast Ayla looked almost waif like, but Atrocious knew all too well that she was far more dangerous than she appeared to be.
The pair locked eyes for a long minute then, without a word, Ayla nodded and sat back down. It looked like she was backing down, but Atrocious didn’t trust her apparent surrender. The ice cold expression still hung in Ayla’s eyes. She was biding her time and when Kira left Atrocious knew she would be at her mercy.
“Let’s talk business,” Kira said cheerfully, blithely oblivious to the tension in the room. “You had a girl for sale, didn’t you?”
“I was mistaken,” Ayla said frostily. “There’s no-one suitable here.”
“Was she the one you had in mind?” Kira pointed at Atrocious.
“She’s not suitable,” Ayla replied. “She lacks discipline.”
“I’m not for sale,” Atrocious interjected, earning herself hard looks from both women. “I’m just saying, I’m not,” she said with an overly casual shrug given the gravity of the situation.
“You’ll be whatever we tell you to be,” Ayla said imperiously.
Atrocious suddenly felt much better about having hit her, but she pushed down the urge to gloat in favor of yet another attempt at talking the problem away. “Look,” she said, her voice coming out all squeaky and strange as she tried to be rational in the face of almost insurmountable odds. “I’m not a slave, I’m a….”
“Thief,” Ayla interjected.
“Traveller,” Atrocious finished her sentence. “This has all been one big misunderstanding. Can’t we just let it go? Call it even?”
Kira’s low chuckle told her that her little speech had failed. “She genuinely believes what she’s saying, doesn’t she?”
“Oh yes, she has no comprehension of the situation she finds herself in,” Ayla replied.
“Well at least I know when people are in a room and I don’t talk about them like they’re not there,” Atrocious snapped. Unwelcome tears were beginning to prick behind her eyelids. She just wanted to be free, but all she got was trouble, trouble and more trouble. Why wouldn’t they just let her go? She wiped her eyes roughly with the back of her sleeve, trying to hide her emotion.
She was tired, so tired, she wanted to lie down in a bed of her own and not be lectured or punished. But that clearly wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. Kira and Ayla were still discussing her as if she weren’t even there.
“She will slow you down, be a liability, I cannot sell her in good conscience,” Ayla was saying.
“She can carry some gear. She might be less trouble if she’s properly worn out by real work,” Kira replied.
Atrocious sank down in the corner and covered her head with her hands. She didn’t know which path she would be prodded down, but she didn’t have high hopes for either of the futures being debated. Whether she stayed with Ayla or went with Kira, she would still be treated like property and that was almost more than she could bear.